Tuesday, November 12, 2013

America is a Cabaret, Old Chum

Vhere are Your Troubles Now?


Ladies und gentlemen, willkommen to the Kit Kat Klub in beautiful Los Angeles, California where even za hood has palm trees! As you know, three weeks ago it was windy for two straight days and last week it was overcast and sprinkled briefly but we've talked it out, we've recovered and we're ready to party again! Don't let the sports on the giant plasma screens or the live dancers distract you from this book review. Stop texting for a moment and let me pour you a Tony Montana, a line of Whole Fools gluten-free, organic, totally vegan, absolutely fair-traded Bolivian marching powder. Vhere are your troubles now?

I just finished reading Robert Gellately's Backing Hitler: Consent and Coercion in Nazi Germany. Published in 2001, the book's central point, buttressed by diaries and newspaper accounts of the time, is that the German people knew exactly what the Nazis were doing and approved of it. Gellately makes clear that the Nazis were constantly calibrating what they could get away with with the German people and that, in the early years of the dictatorship anyway, dissent sometimes made a difference.  

On many pages covering the early years of the dictatorship, one's mind is constantly jumping back and forth between what the Nazis did and what's been going on in America, not just since 9/11, but over the past 50 years. As Mark Twain said, history doesn't repeat but it often rhymes.

Here's a little stream of consciousness about the Nazis then and America now, inspired by Gellately's book: 

The Germans have the Reichstag fire, America has 9/11. In response, Hitler wraps up Germany with the Enabling Act and the all-purpose Reichstag Fire Decree. In America it's the ready-made Patriot Act (the FBI wish list considered too reactionary to include in the plenty reactionary crime bills of 1994 and 1996), the Military Commissions Act and the National Defense (sic) Authorization Act. The police become more -- to use Gellately's words -- "invasive, arbitrary and murderous." 

Flying down the autobahn or American highways, the signs of fascism are there but sometimes a blur: no left turns, selective terror, collective punishment, scapegoated minorities, the glorification of police and the military (film, television, sporting events.) The ruling class can't compete intellectually for its collapsing social system so it resorts to the criminalization of dissent. The nation's sacred founding texts must be abandoned. We've just had it confirmed, thanks to Edward Snowden, that the 3rd Amendment has been efficiently shit-canned along with the 4th, 5th, 6th and 8th as the NSA's cerebral storm troopers are now "quartered" in our cell phones and computers.

"America, America show us the sign your children have waited to see…"

What's that singing about -- is it someone's birthday? God, they look like Boy Scouts. OK, back to the book…

The Nazis don't avoid the press but use it skillfully with photos of concentration camp inmates exercising and playing sports -- think of embedded reporters and the "tropical paradise" with the "three square meals a day" that Gitmo's defenders tell us about. The Nazis easily win over journalists -- in the present, the most vicious critics of government whistleblowers are "journalists" like Jeffrey ToobinDavid Gregory and Bob Schieffer. Gellately: "The press greets Dachau as bringing new hope for the Dachau business world." An "economic turning point," Germany's "most famous place," exclaims one newspaper. American communities compete for prison construction. We need jobs, we need half the population spying on and guarding the other half. See how America "works"? If it takes millions of people locked up to preserve capitalism, so be it.

Doctors jump wholeheartedly into the Nazi's torture, euthanasia and genocide and now we have American doctors, psychologists and anthropologists who have assisted torture and indefinite detention. We see people doing anything for a little more comfort, a little more advancement. Hitler had The Triumph of the Will, we have bootlicking propaganda like The Hurt LockerZero Dark Thirty and The Fifth Estate. Of course, staying silent in the face of atrocities is always popular. A little terror goes a long way. 

We see Hitler and other Nazi leaders, at the pinnacle of a gigantic murderous enterprise, taking time from their busy days to reverse punishments from judges out in the hinterlands. A purse snatcher is given ten years in prison and it somehow comes to Hitler's attention and he has the man shot. In America, Rumsfeld makes suggestions about torture techniques on "detainees" and Obama has his Star Chamber terror Tuesday. Obama brags to aides in a new book that's he's "really good at killing people." What's the sense of being in power if you can't be powerful and exercise your abominables? 

The Nazis constantly legalize their crimes -- and citizens, abandoning all critical thinking, go along with whatever is the almighty "law." "Anyone who wanted to resist," says Gellately, "was in the difficult position of having to act illegally." "Inequality before the law was justified in the name of the anti-Communist (me: anti-terrorist) crusade." "The new regime shifted the scales of justice away from the rights of citizens in favor of the powers of the police…" And Himmler (or is it Feinstein, McCain or Lindsey Graham cracker?) says: "Good citizens have nothing to worry about."

"The morning will come when the world is mine…"

God, I wish those assholes would sit down and shut up. They're so rude!

In June of 1934 the German people accept the first mass murder of the dictatorship: not of Communists or "asocials" or Jews but the summary execution of 100 Storm Troopers who were "moving too fast" even for Hitler. Nobody protested. The German people often "lead" the Nazis, keeping the Gestapo and Kripo busy by informing on neighbors, business and romantic rivals and even relatives for jealousy, revenge or financial gain. If you see something, say something, says Homeland Security, a bureaucracy that didn't exist 12 years ago but now has 230,000 employees and 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition -- five hollow-point bullets for every American. Why so many? Maybe they plan on committing wholesale "puppycide" also.

One of the architects of the new Nazi system of "justice," Dr. Werner Best, says no lawyers should be allowed in court as the usual "procedural forms of the judiciary were totally inapplicable for the struggle against the enemies of the state under the current circumstances." ("9/11 changed everything!" It got us in touch with our inner Eichmanns!) Dr. Best again: "In its struggle against clever, determined and ruthless enemies… to destroy an enemy whose behavior cannot be predicted (me: those crazy Muslims) -- the Gestapo also cannot be bound by the letter of the law." Reichdefermentmeister Dick Cheney's dark side soul mate!

"There exists no private sphere anymore," says Reichminister Hans Frank. Or was that Reichminister Keith Alexander? J. Edgar Hoover sends agent Edmund Patrick Coffey to visit Kripo headquarters in January 1938 and Coffey expresses his "great pleasure" about the Kripo and the rest of the police. This, after years of widely known atrocities. Gellately: "A never-ending series of crime and punishment stories was published during the Nazi era." Like Mutual of Dick Wolf's Wild Law and Order Kingdoms which enthrall white viewers with tales of the scary dark-skinned Other?  

Journalist William Shirer, on ordinary Germans who saw nothing wrong with the destruction of Poland: "As long as the Germans are successful and do not have to pull in their belts too much, this will not be an unpopular war." (As long as American troops aren't getting killed, as long as we've got flying killer robots slaughtering brown people and paid for by government money printing… Sure, why not?)

"Tomorrow belongs, tomorrow belongs, tomorrow belongs to me!" 

Shut the fuck up and sit down! You aren't anybody! Shit doesn't belong to you! Jesus! Sorry about that. This place just isn't what it used to be…Hell, let me stand up and sing a song: 

Google is IG Farben as Facebook is Siemens as Yahoo is Daimler as Microsoft is Krupp as Apple is BMW and these fascist collaborators past and present are altogether -- yeah! 

Yeah, I know, I'm tuneless but that doesn't interfere with my enjoyment of singing. And speaking of Google, executive chairquisling Eric Schmidt is shocked, shocked that spying is going on -- spying that the government didn't let him in on for once! But what he really hates is other nations attempting to protect themselves from the NSA, warning that these governments might "balkanize" the internet. As for the NSA, Herr Schmidt won't "pass judgment" on it -- instead, it's the resisters to the NSA and Stasicon Valley who are the problem. He co-wrote a book with a former advisor to Condoleezza Rice -- ripped apart by Julian Assange -- that's been praised by more war criminals (Henry Kissinger, Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Madeleine Albright and Michael Hayden) than you can shake a Nuremberg noose at. 

Gellately on Nazi surveillance: "Barrington Moore has pointed out that the 'one prerequisite' for expressions of disobedience to take place is that there be 'social and cultural space' which 'provides more or less protected enclaves within which dissatisfied or oppressed groups have some room', so that they can meet and talk and mobilize for action." The government infiltrated the Occupy movement months before its first event and completely routed it within six months. America's "freedoms" are bullshit -- whenever they are tested, they face swift and spectacular smack downs: union organizing, protesting at political conventions (in cages, out of sight of the conventions), reporting on and documenting cruelty to animals (ag-gag laws, the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act), being secure against unreasonable searches, having due process and adequate counsel, or freedom from cruel and unusual punishment (years in solitary confinement.) 75% of Americans want Medicare for all -- and have for the last five decades -- but despite us being so "free," somehow, we can't make that happen.

Back to the old-timey Nazis… Heydrich stresses the need to know the whereabouts of "the enemies of the state" in the event of war. The Gestapo begins arresting people in 1941 that they had listed on index cards from as far back as 1935 -- nothing, of course, compared to the data storage center in Bluffdale, Utah. "Release of prisoners from protective custody will in general not take place during the war," says one Nazi functionary, echoing the present day perpetrators of the never-ending war on/of terror. Both Hitler and Himmler "wanted to send anyone who committed three or four crimes to a concentration camp for good." Four crimes -- whoa, Hitler and Himmler were more lenient than 26 American states who lock people up and throw away the keys with three strikes laws! Be proud, America, you're tougher than Nazis! Gellately: "The 'community of the people' and hence police considerations to protect it, took precedence over the rule of law and individual rights." American fascism update: Blacks and Hispanics in NYC are not part of the "community of the people" so stop and frisk has been perfectly "legal."

Also interesting are the contrasts between the Nazis and the American ruling class. At one point before the war, things are going so well for the Nazis that Hitler seriously considers disbanding the Gestapo. Is there any level of government in America that would entertain giving up any police power? Hitler also enacts numerous amnesties in the early years of the dictatorship where thousands of people are released from incarceration. With the world's greatest prison gulag, both in absolute numbers and percentage of the population, Barack Obama has pardoned a whopping 39 people in five years. Looking at many of their penny ante crimes, you might say it was "mighty white" of him. Meanwhile, Obama and the fascist edifice that he fronts won't give the 74-year-old cancer-stricken Lynne Stewart a compassionate release because she dared to defy that edifice and so must be crushed, as Chelsea Manning must be crushed, as truth and justice must be crushed by the immutable moral "rightness" of money, that clinking clanking stinking skanking sound that makes the world go round, as codified in Citizens United and numerous other fascist-friendly Supreme Court decisions.  

It might be protested: "We can't have fascism in America -- we don't have any concentration camps or mass executions." My answer: We have as many prisons and torturous "Control Units" as the ruling class needs. The ruling class doesn't need mass executions because the "homeland" is thoroughly pacified and conquered. Instead, America's obvious fascism is projected beyond its borders -- it doesn't have any borders, really -- with 1,000 worldwide military installations, JSOC death squads operating in 75 nations, drones taking the place of armies (as we never really "withdraw") and no appreciable domestic opposition to any of it. Explain to the parents of Pakistani children blown to bits by our drones or the detainees held for years in black sites without charge or trial that the American people don't support fascism. 

It might be protested: "But Hitler killed six million Jews and others!" Yes -- and he was also responsible for 15-20 million civilian deaths in the Soviet Union. America's leaders, however, spread out the corpses over decades: hundreds of thousands of Koreans, three million Southeast Asians, a million Iraqis, and millions more in proxy wars in Africa (six million alone in the Congo) and Latin America. "Good Americans" tell themselves -- if they think of it at all -- that the millions of innocents that our government kills are "accidents," "tragic mistakes," "unavoidable," and "collateral damage." We don't mean to kill millions of innocent people decade after decade -- things just go wrong. Unless, of course, we're playing the sanctions home game with Madeleine "The Price is Right" Albright and 500,000 dead Iraqi children -- then we think it's "worth it." 

It might be protested: "But there is no charismatic leader." True -- the quality of capitalism's shills is very low and they are widely loathed. And that's a good thing -- witness what the ruling class gets away with when they have silver-tongued dissemblers like Clinton (NAFTA) and Obama (NDAA) working for them. (Here's hoping, with Obama, that we've reached peak mystification.) But America hasn't had its humiliation years like Weimar Germany -- yet. Suppose we lose our reserve currency status, interest rates soar as does unemployment and tens of millions more Americans are out of work. (When Hitler came to power, 40% of Germans were out of work.) At that point some tough-talking confident pseudo-populist telling us that… oh, I don't know… Canada and Panama are the cause of all our problems and he has a plan to regain our former "greatness" -- well, that might be music to many ears. 

It might be protested: "But we don't have Hitler's evil racist ideas." (Set aside that he got most of them from the American eugenics movement.) My answer: we have enough of our own racist ideas to last us a good long while, we have 500 years of white hatred and violence toward people of color. The collective punishment of stop and frisk is one strand in an ever-spun web of fascism against blacks encompassing police brutality and summary executions, mass incarceration, racist sentencing disparities and applications of the death penalty (itself a tool of class terror), redlining, gentriciding (hey, it's not just for Palestinians!), the CIA letting the Contras smuggle cocaine into major American cities in the 1980s and fueling a devastating epidemic (see Gary Webb's Dark Alliance), the racist salvos from nearly every Scapegoater-in-Chief in my lifetime about "welfare queens," "big bucks," various Sister Soulja moments, "ethnic purity" and "black intrusion" (hardly anybody remembers peanut Carter's multiple infractions) all the way up to Barack Go 'Bama who, in one of his many magical speeches of misdirection (they're always for white people), scolded black fathers on Father's Day with his imaginary ideas about their real lives, and then we can take the way back machine to the infiltration and disruption of black leftist groups (the picked-on-first Communists in the Nazi analogy), culminating in the selective terror of targeted assassinations of their most powerful speakers and leaders. And all of the preceding happened just since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which was supposed to kickstart "equality." And through it all, white America, the "good Americans" in this case, mostly wondered: "What's the fucking problem? Slavery's over." 

Godwin's law says that whoever first brings up the Nazis to win an argument loses immediately. I like Godwin's law but here's another one that ought to be remembered: whoever brings up the Nazis last usually gets turned into a lampshade. Looking around the Kit Kat Klub, though, I think most of us made up our minds back in Chelsea that, when we go, we're going like Elsie

published 11/9/2013 at Dissident Voice

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Honey Obadger


He Don't Give a Shit

This is a brief description of the American honey obadger, sometimes confused with the African honey badger of this famous youtube video

See the American honey obadger running around the Middle East. Oh, my God, he looks lost, he doesn't seem to belong there… What's he doing now… Oh, oh, look at him, he's taking his paw and drawing a "red line" on Syria -- he's bringing the Middle East and maybe whole world to the brink of war -- he don't care. But now he says, "Oops, never mind." Honey obadger don't give a shit. 

Honey obadger weeps barackodile tears for dead Syrian children while Afghani children dangle bloody and disfigured from his mouth. Honey obadger rips the faces off Pakistani children for breakfast and accepts Nobel Peace Prize for lunch. Honey obadger don't give a shit. Honey obadger's a real bad ass from 20,000 feet above and 10,000 miles away. Honey obadger can even run backwards, especially from Russian bear. Honey obadger don't care, he don't give a shit.

Honey obadger goes crazy in prime time with the whole world watching -- he agonizes and feels the pain of people who died in World War I while he obliterates Yemeni children in the present. Honey obadger cynical and psychopathic as hell, he don't give a shit. Honey obadger tells American people: don't worry about retaliation for wrecking Syria, everybody hates us anyway. Keep hatred alive! Keep hatred alive! He learned that at Harvard. Honey obadger tells the world he can kill anyone, anywhere, anytime but says democracy is strengthened by letting Congress agree with him about murdering innocent people who never attacked America -- honey obadger loves himself some US Constitution. 

Honey obadger listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the most hypocritical and insufferable of all animals in the political kingdom. Honey obadger has a silver tongue, really big ears for hearing everything said everywhere in the world, lives (politically) almost exclusively on killing Muslims and blends in well with whatever people want to believe they're seeing. Often called the Rorschach obadger, he's both the two faces and the empty vessel. But honey obadger don't care, he really doesn't give a shit. 

Oh, my God, Israel's screaming at the honey obadger: "Yeah, you do all the work, you kill all our enemies for us while we sit back collecting your money and creating new enemies for you to fight. Thanks for Iraq, stupid. Thanks for Libya, stupid. Don't let us down on Syria, stupid." Oh, my God, look at the honey obadger have his badgerhood taken from him on a regular basis by Israeli politicians -- but he don't care, he don't give a shit. He knows the Syrian government gassed its own people because Israel told him so. Honey obadger not really black, not really white, decided he's more comfortable just being a Zionist. Honey obadger prides himself on "exceptionalism."

In Syria, honey obadger kills side by side with cannibals -- oh, that's soooo disgusting -- and people who behead Christians and "moderates" who post illustrations on their Facebook page showing jihadi dreams of burning down the US Capitol. He just takes whatever and shacks up with whoever he wants, he's one nasty ass honey obadger. He don't give a shit, he don't care. He's got neo-con work to do: he must destroy Hezbollah for Israel but he can't do that till he wrecks Syria first and then on to Iran. The obadgers and the obushes change but the inexorable plan remains (wrecking Iraq, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Lebanon, Somalia and Iran.) Honey obadger don't care, he don't give a shit. Oh, what a crazy fuck, nothing can stop the honey obadger.

The American honey obadger: one of the freakiest creatures produced by late monopoly capitalism.

published 9/13/2013 at counterpunch.org

Monday, July 15, 2013

A Perfect Symmetry


Burn, Baby, Burn


Can't we all just get along, whites and blacks, and agree that Barack Obama is a racist? Not that he hates white people like the Tea Partiers claim -- it's black people that he can't stand. Whether he's trashing black males on Father's Day or softening them up with verbal body blows for the worldwide economic race to the bottom at a Morehouse College speech or indifferently presiding over the greatest destruction of black wealth in 100 years or simply singing a tune of betrayal of a longtime friendship ("Jeremiah Wright was a bullfrog -- and no friend of mine!"), Obama is just not into you, black America. And now we have his statement on the Trayvon Martin verdict.

"The death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy," says Obama in his cliched, bloodless, pacifying, bullshit, don't-give-a-fucking-damn truth-betraying statement. An armed racist not merely looking for trouble but causing it is not a tragedy -- it's an atrocity. It's a crime. "I know this case has elicited strong passions." He doesn't feel these strong passions himself but he has heard tell of them. Figuratively, he doesn't really know what all the shooting's about. Literally, he kills innocent people like Trayvon Martin nearly every week. BFD. Obama and George Zimmerman are both vigilantes -- they just have different budgets. 

"We are a nation of laws and the jury has spoken," so STFU uppity black America (or what's left of it) says the judge, jury and executioner who sits down every Tuesday with his crime family and decides who they're going to murder next, including America citizens. Says the man who will let no jury speak for the people thrown into the hole of Gitmo for years without charge or trial. Says the man who won't make restitution to these innocent men or let them go even when they are cleared for release. Says the man who won't prosecute CIA torturers or Wall Street fraudsters. Says the man who illegally spies on the entire world to supposedly protect Americans -- but he didn't protect Trayvon Martin or any of the other black people who are gunned down every 28 hours in America by racist police, security guards and peckerhead vigilantes like Zimmerman, according to the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement.

"We should ask ourselves if we're doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities." What the fuck are you talking about, Obama? "Widen the circle of compassion"? That's the way we animal activists talk when we're trying to get speciesist bigots to treat chickens and squirrels better. These non-humans don't have their laws yet, unfortunately. Human beings do have laws on the books which are supposed to protect us. White racists don't have to "widen the circle" of their "compassion" -- they have to abide by laws and not take them into their cold death-dealing hands. And when they violate those laws they should have the book thrown at them the way Trayvon Martin most assuredly would have had he killed Zimmerman. God, I just had a horrible thought: Obama's probably working both sides of the street with this quote -- he's probably ragging on black people to show more compassion for the armed racist white vigilantes in their communities. Way to go, President Rorschach! You're not only the two faces but the empty vessel as well.

All that this "little man" racist had to do was follow the police dispatcher's directive to stop following Trayvon Martin -- and Martin would still be alive. The majority of white gun owners I've known have always been on the edge of their seats, eagerly waiting for some black male to color outside the lines so they could blow his fucking head off. That's the racist reality of America. But we have to pretend -- with the exquisite guidance of this half-assed, half-black, half-baked Democrat -- that America is a post-racial society and we're past all of that. The world calls bullshit on you, Obama. The most gratifying protests of the verdict were Americans burning the American flag in the streets of Oakland just to make absolutely clear the complete break with this wretched murderous government and the solidarity with people in other countries who are victims of it also. They're not our enemies, Obama. You and Bush and Nancy Pelousy and Feinstein and McCain and Lindsey Graham cracker and James Reinhard Heydrich Clapper -- all of you are our enemies. It's so perfectly symmetrical now. It's the American government versus every person in the world. 

"We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis." (See the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement above for who's causing a good bit of this violence.) This crime wasn't about "gun violence." Trayvon Martin didn't have a gun or kill anyone. A racist vigilante did -- and the state gave its blessing. The coward Obama won't address this racist killing. Instead, his meaningless disembodied statement is in keeping with his tendency lately to refer to himself in the third person when he's discussing his own crimes of drone murder and eavesdropping. Shredded scorched Muslim bodies are now just airy debating points. He implies that Trayvon Martin was part of some unfortunate unpreventable situation, as if Martin was caught in some random crossfire of bullets instead of being caught in hundreds of years of calculated racist state-sanctioned murder. Barackus Obombus Caesar has spoken: forget about justice, you fucking slaves. 

These routine racist verdicts aren't about the past -- they're looking ahead to the future, to keep giving Amerikaners permission to keep on firing as they become a minority in "their" country. We're gonna go down bravely slaughtering unarmed people of color whether it's in Florida or Yemen or New York or Afghanistan or Cincinnati or Somalia or Detroit or Pakistan or Oakland, right to the bitter end. And an obsfucating black American president will always be ready to blow the hopium of excuses and stasis and surrender right into our faces.   

Lastly, we'll know when the American working class starts to get well, whether it's about racist violence or totalitarian surveillance: we won't all go to work the next day like nothing ever happened. We may burn the fucking country to the ground and start over or we may do something else. But we won't go to work. We will bring this ridiculous inequitable invasive violent criminal illegitimate shithouse to a standstill. 

That's it for today, Amerikkka. I'm done with ya. I got the poison of you out of my system for another few weeks. (Days?) See ya soon.

published 7/15/2013 at counterpunch.org

Saturday, May 11, 2013

I Am the Rhombus Goo Goo G'joob


Roller Coaster Wars


I made a present for you today. I built you a roller coaster and we're going on the very first ride. You can thank me later.

Because I've always found the "dark rides," the haunted house rides, neither scary nor fun nor innovative, I thought I'd remedy this with your custom coaster. Your coaster is called the Inferno in tribute to the defunct Dante's Inferno at Brooklyn's Coney Island. 

Because I'm like the Pentagon, I have an unlimited amount of money to make you the greatest coaster in the world, one with all the bells and whistles and none of the whistle blowers. I am the Rhombus goo goo g'joob. I located your coaster back in the motherland (Ohio) on America's Roller Coast: Cedar Point in Sandusky, right along Lake Erie. Your coaster is made of wood, the lift hill is 1,000 feet tall and the first drop is 1,500 feet so it goes deep into the earth to give us that going-to-hell feeling. And no sissy ratcheting lap bars which keep us immobile -- we have fuck-the-insurance-companies fixed lap bars so we can get popped up out our seats a lot -- "air time" in the vernacular. At various points we’ll be standing and feel like we're flying. But remember: it's a dark ride, it's all enclosed, though there are strobe lights, black lights, flames and illuminations. Your coaster meets the qualifications of a Coaster Classic by the American Coaster Enthusiasts.

I want you to take note of how uncluttered the entrance is to your coaster, how few rules and regulations are posted. Imagine had your coaster been placed at King’s Island in Cincinnati where every single commonsense safety measure has to be spelled out for the genetic misfires coming across the river from Newport, Kentucky. There, right next to the height requirement sign, you might get admonitions like this: “All firearms must be secured while ride is in motion. King’s Island is not responsible for any items lost or stolen or heads blown off, any heart attacks, back injuries or pregnancies that occur while riding. Shooting people, including black people, is strictly prohibited and may be cause for removal from the park.”

Great company though you are, it wouldn’t be as much fun if it was just you and me so I packed this coaster with some wild and crazy guys and gals: Dave, Julie, Taylor, Lisa, Mark, Joan, Sam, Mary, Mike, Dina, Tory, Linda, Rox, Raheim, Anteneh, Jeffrey and Josh. I also convinced Arthur Silber, Sam Greenlee and Linh Dinh to ride plus the 2016 Glen Party presidential ticket: presidential nominee Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report and vice-presidential candidate Glenn Greenwald. The Glens, replacing the Greens who never really caught fire, were originally going to flip a coin to see which Glen/n would get the top slot but I successfully made the case that it was about goddam time for America to have its first black president. Like the Lizard King, the Rhombus can do anything: I can bring back the dead, so I gave the sacred back seat to Alex Cockburn and Joe Bageant. And because he’s already been gone way too long I brought back Hugo Chavez and to give him someone to screamemente with I also brought back Che Guevara. These haunted house rides are usually “ghost trains” in name only -- to do the supernatural right, it always takes us agnostics and atheists.

The outside entrance of your Inferno is a replica of the United States Capitol. As we clickety-clack up the lift hill we have plenty of time to appreciate just how high up we are. Feel the breeze, the ebb and and flow of the wood as it "breathes." Boy, some of those nails need pounded in a little more. A bright sunshiny day. You would never know what horrors await in the Inferno. Look at the fleas and ticks: Avalanches, Sierras, Tundras, Yukons, Sequoias. We're in the first car because, like the late great Screechin' Eagle at Americana, this is a front car ride, this is where the best air time will be.

Now we're at the summit. We're about to bust through the Capitol's saloon/whorehouse swinging doors (your coaster has a bit of a Wild West motif) and peer into the darkness. Hands up, comrade! The only thing I'm going to rob you of is your fear. 

What? You want to hang on? You won't put your hands up? I have to explain the facts of life to you, right now, just before unwrapping your present? I made you this great baba ganoush of a coaster and you're not going to try it? Jesus Christ...We ride with our hands up because we are participating in a work of art, a coaster is a living sculpture where the number, distribution and weight of fellow passengers and the weather can effect what kind of ride we'll have, we're like in that Robin Williams movie, a kind of What Heaves May Come, we're letting ourselves go so that we may experience the line, the design, the mind, the freedom that some creator chose to have -- if you hold on and brace yourself, you're working against it -- you'll never know what you could be experiencing or what the holy designer had in mind. Convinced? Good.

Is it going to be fast? Damn straight. I hired dozens of former Blackwater mercenaries at $120,000 per season to grease the tracks early every morning to make sure we have a fast ride. I know that sounds like a lot of money but I am the Rhombus. They get to do that fun shit they used to do -- like rappelling -- and they don't have to worry about getting strung up under the coaster supports or dragged down Route 250 here in beautiful Sandusky, hearing the world anthem: "Death to America! Death to America!" 

Start whooping, comrade! Here we go! Whee! Hey, look back real quick there's something I want to show you. The saloon doors are still letting in enough light so that you can see this: I made the angle of descent 85 degrees so it gives us the illusion that the whole back of the train is going to fall over on those of us in the front part! See it? So cool! OK, face forward, the scary monsters are coming.

Whee! Alriiiiight! Oh yeah! Plunging into the darkness, where will it stop…? We're going to go through a couple of enormous camel backs at the bottom of which, on either side of us, I made long halls of mirrors except that they're really forests of mirrored spires and funhouse glass but what you'll notice is that they function really well as cages. This is special material paid for by the taxpayers and developed by the Rhombus. I’m going to give it away to my cronies at Kennywood, Knoebels and Holiday World so they can make a bundle – these fantabulous parks deserve a bundle -- but that’s down the road. The exhibits are going to come fast and furious and will look quite ghastly and distorted. 

OK, look right: There's John Kerry, the man who shot both peasants and pheasants in the back and could never make up his mind whether he was a war hero or war criminal. He lost a presidential election to one of the stupidest and most hated figures in American political history -- WTF. Salute him, comrade, all several dozen of him, it doesn't matter if we can't tell which one is the real one, he's reporting for duty in there somewhere and he was against droopy faces before he was for them! See how bloody Kerry’s exhibit is: it represents the Iraq War that he supported and every Arab that Israel has ever killed that Kerry has always justified. But it's all fake blood! It's ketchup! Heinz ketchup! Kerry could no more be in your funhouse than he could be in the United States Senate without wife Teresa Heinz’s money. In fact, in exchange for some signage, she donated all of the ketchup for your Inferno and that’s a lot of ketchup. Because all of your exhibits hungered for blood and because Ronald Reagan said ketchup was, after all, a vegetable, ketchup is all that we're feeding them.   

Quick, look left: there's former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She's not nearly as scary as usual because she's still not up to speed from her recent stroke. Anyone who saw her crazed face over the past four years, screaming for Iranian blood, knew that her head could pop at any moment and it finally did. Of course, Bill's with her. 


“Did you know that Bill Clinton's a vegan?" say my excited animal lovin' friends. To which I reply, "Did you know that his ending of welfare as we know it gave us a homeless population like we've never seen it? Did you know that his 'humanitarian' bombing of Kosovo set the model for Libya? Did you know that his deregulation of the financial industry paved the way for the greatest transference of wealth from the working class to the capitalist class in the nation's history, that the 'good times' of his entire bubbalicious presidency were a mirage for the working class? Did you know that he was chosen by the ruling class to gut the working class with NAFTA because a Republican president never could have pulled it off? Did you know that NAFTA made it possible for Clinton's buddies at Archer Daniels Midland to dump cheap subsidized grain on Mexico and drive thousands of peasant farmers off the land and across the US southern border? Did you know that Clinton, as a wholly owned subsidiary of Tyson Foods, let slaughterhouses regulate themselves so they sped up slaughter lines, resulting in epidemic levels of salmonella in meat and millions of animals killed while fully conscious, all of which is still going on today? But now he's a vegan, praise Jesus! Did you know that he well represents America: individual 'salvation' for the privileged who have destroyed many parts of the world wholesale and then are lauded as role models. Didja know?"  

Well, it’s a starry night here in your coaster. See all the twinkling lights and glowing planets? We're coming up to the second hill. This thing is really rumbling. Hear that? Stand up and get down, comrade, they're playing our song: “Roller coaster of Love -- say what …" It's the Ohio Players' "Love Rollercoaster," vintage Dayton street funk, as sung by the recently deceased Leroy "Sugarfoot" Bonner. “Roller coaster of Love – say what…”

Now we’re in the galaxy of the giant plasma screens: There's one of America's greatest artists, John Miller, the god of wood, the 1920s coaster sculptor virtuoso who gave us the “safety ratchet” that makes the clickety-clack sound and makes sure a coaster won't roll back down the lift hill if the chain breaks. He also invented the "unstop" wheel under the coaster track to keep the trains from flying off. Nobody's perfect! And here's some of Miller's masterworks: the aforementioned Screechin' Eagle where I and a friend had 30 rides on its last operating day before being demolished. There's the Coney Island Thunderbolt which survived four fires but couldn't survive a heathen nation that doesn't appreciate great art. This was the coaster that Woody Allen's fictional family lived under in the movie Annie Hall but it was the real life house where coaster owners Mary Timpano and Fred Moran lived for forty years. On the sad day of the wrecking ball, Timpano regaled reporters with stories of finding false teeth in her yard and other objects dislodged from riders and the rattling of her living room with every ride. There's the dead and gone Geauga Lake Big Dipper -- air time central, comrade -- and Kennywood's still existing, still thrilling Racer, Thunderbolt and Jack Rabbit, and there's Elvis' favorite coaster, the Zippin Pippin, the site of many peanut butter, ‘nanner and Seconal sandwiches and midnight rides with the King. And John Miller gave us all of those things…

And there's Ron Toomer, the man of steel, who designed Cedar Point's perfect cloud-dwelling Magnum XL-200 with the best turnaround in all of coasterdom – the famed pretzel loop -- and there’s Ron’s dearly departed, beloved and vicious Drachen Fire and there’s one of America's greatest sculptures, the Loch Ness Monster at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg. Yes, John Miller and Ron Toomer did more for America than any painters or conventional sculptors ever did, they put us in the center of their art and let us feel it, not just visually or mentally or spiritually but physically. I bow down, guys -- one day we’ll get that rot out of the Guggenheim and MOMA and get some flying turns and trick track in there. 

“Priest! Priest!”

Hear that? Somebody’s calling for a priest -- things must really be dire down here at the bottom of the second hill and hall of mirrors…Whoa, look who it is – it’s the Pillsbury drone boy, Harold Hongju (pronounced “hung you”, as in “hung you in a stress position”) Koh, the liberal lawyer darling who waxed indignant about torture and war crimes when Bush committed them but waned when Obama became the perp-in-chief. With ethics as pliable as his doughy face, Koh's the man who set up Obama's legal justifications for violating other nation's sovereignty and drone murdering people without charge or trial, far from combat zones and including American citizens. One of his most Orwellian statements was saying that bombing the hell out of Libya didn't constitute "hostilities" because there were no American boots on the ground. Using his Harvard-educated logic we could say that Russia hitting America with ICBMs during the Cold War or al-Qaeda leveling the Twin Towers on 9/11 wouldn’t/didn't constitute "hostilities" because there were no Russian or al-Qaeda boots on the ground in America. Right wing fascists are entirely superfluous in America -- all of their work is done by “liberal” professors, lawyers and politicians. I put this freak down here for the rest of his days but that's not why he's calling for a priest. Look on my side of the track: 

It's John Brennan. Professor Koh once referred to death squad leader (i.e., CIA director) Brennan as being like Obama's "priest" when he would sit down on Star Chamber Tuesdays and help Obama decide who they were going to murder next. One of the scary terrorists on their kill list was a 17-year-old Yemeni girl. That's right: a Yemeni teenager can cause the hilarious insecure reactionary cowardly fearful obedient gone baby gone nation of America to throw away hundreds of years of civilizing legal precedents in a heartbeat. In 2008 Brennan’s views on torture were considered too atrocious for him to head the CIA but when cretins like Obama and Koh moved all debate about “terrorism” and civil liberties further to the right, Brennan became a-okay. During his confirmation hearing, Brennan refused to answer Sen. Carl Levin's question of whether water boarding is torture. "I'm not a lawyer," said the 17-year-old-Yemeni-girl-whipped Brennan. Brennan said drone strikes on civilians were "rare instances" but here's a list of children, their names and ages, killed by American drones in Pakistan and Yemen. Maybe Brennan is a kind of priest -- a pedocide priest!

Our turnaround is an upward spiraling helix and the theme is Saturn and its rings with the body of the planet being Neocon Monkey Island. As we ride the rings we see the neocons are surrounded by walls, razor wire and electrified fencing to make them feel like they're in their true home, Israel. (Your coaster has a bit of a rampaging mass murdering bloodthirsty worthless fucking Satanic bastard motif.) Look at them popping up out of their holes: Lindsey Graham, John McCain, Joe Lieberman, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Condoleeza Rice, Elliot Abrams, John Bolton, Donald Rumsfeld, William Kristol, Charles Krauthammer, George W. Bush and others. See them "securing the realm" by playing in their own shit? Where else can you see such a collection of enemies of humanity, promoters of constant war and destroyers of civil liberties? Look at them swing on the monkey bars -- kinda looks like an al-Qaeda training camp which is appropriate since they've used religious fanatics to wreck secular governments the world over and always created more "terrorists" than they've ever killed. I warned you there were horrors in your Inferno.

This next element is called a triple-down head-chopper. It's going to look like we're going to get decapitated by these cross beams but it's an illusion because just before we hit them I've dropped the track down severely so we just miss them. One, two, woo hoo, and look at the third one: it's Henry Kissinger hung upside down like a bat. This is where all future American presidents will have to make their post-inauguration pilgrimage to ask his wise counsel about how to get away with any contemplated genocides -- the big picture stuff. See his forehead, that's where riders will slap their chewing gum if they stand up and they're really fast. Fuck the insurance companies! Why Kissinger? Because I think Kissinger is immortal -- an immortal dumpy vampire, probably known back in his Transylvanian days as Schlub the Impaler. He was old when I was kid and he was killing Vietnamese and Cambodians, he was old when he was killing Chileans and he was old when he was killing the Timorese. But he never fucking dies. And he always looks about the same. A bona fide monster for your haunted ride.

This next section is special. Look right: I did away with the mirrored spires for this exhibit and made a terrarium with bullet proof glass. I put… wait a minute… oh, no… I tried to make this really cool for you: I put Antonin Scalia and Dick Cheney in there. After being pestered by the ACLU, I gave these two primates some enrichment, I gave them two AK 47s, two Glocks and a thousand rounds of ammunition. But all I see is a pair of shoes and a black robe and Cheney lying next to his water bowl. Dammit, comrade, Cheney ate Scalia! And then he had a heart attack and died! That guy would do anything to get out of going vegan! Didn't he know that Scalia was probably poisonous! All we can do is use this as a learning experience: just because two species are very similar it doesn't mean they’ll get along in close quarters. What a drag!

Look left (ha ha): there's Barack Obama: no smoke, no mirrors, not funny, just the man who said he greatly admired Ronald Reagan and chose as his Senate mentor the neocon Joe Lieberman whose horrendous objectionable (back then, two years ago) totalitarian dreams he made real. There's his "historic" Cairo speech which he may as well have begun by saying, "Shalom, assholes!" There's his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech where, while attacking a half dozen different countries, he made a defense of war and dissed Martin Luther King -- because Obama's in the business of repudiating the 1960s (e.g., the Vietnam War Commemoration Project), black militancy and dissent of every kind. There he is debating Hillary Clinton during his first presidential campaign where he said he intended, if elected, to chase Afghan peasants into Pakistan, thus destabilizing and warring on Pakistan -- the equivalent of Nixon telling the American people he was going to bomb Cambodia instead of doing it in secret. There's Obama at his ruling class coming out party, telling David Brooks that Social Security should be on the chopping block. Hear the haunted echoes and hollow sounds of his supporters who either defended him to the end or, perhaps, lamented his broken promises and lies -- hey, Obombazombies, you should have been afraid when he told you what he "really thinks," what he "really believes" in. It was all there in the open. 

There's Obama, always breaking new ground for the ruling class, doubling the million dollar bounty on 65-year-old Assata Shakur, setting her up for a drone strike in Cuba and her supporters for charges of "providing material support" for terrorism. And there's more prizes in this Crackerjack box: Obama sabotages any normalization with Cuba and, diobamacally, implies an equivalence between an escaped political prisoner like Shakur and the mass murdering former CIA agent Luis Posada Carriles who's walking around free in Miami and whose bombings killed over 70 innocent people including the entire Cuban fencing team. Obastard had to reach back 40 years to provide bumfuck America with a new "terrorist" villain of the month. The FBI billboards of Shakur are, in reality, Big Brother intimidation for the American working class. They're for our "benefit." I smell sulphur, comrade. 

As we head back to the station I want to kick around some ideas with you. That's the end of the exhibits -- there's plenty of room to add more. The ride back features severely banked turns and very low-to-the-ground rabbit hops taken at speeds in excess of 90 miles per hour. A kind of Mighty Canadian Minebuster on steroids.

Oops, holy shit, let me put you out, comrade. It slipped my mind, but I made the track dip down into Lake Erie and, a few times each day -- totally at random and for old times' sake -- I set the lake on fire for a few seconds. I guess we're a little singed. Many parks brag about their water rides but I thought you should be the first to have a fire ride. It is the Inferno, you know? That's why I made the cues so long for the front seat -- people are gonna be lined up for hours waiting to experience what we just experienced. You laugh, but wait and see. 

Your coaster is actually a prototype for my dream of adding a little something to the Chicago skyline and transportation system. We'd take elevators up to the top of the Hancock building, walk out of the open air observatory onto a platform and get into the coaster cars. The track would snake around the building a couple times before entering a seeming death spiral cork screw and at the last moment it would break loose into some camel backs above Michigan Avenue, fly down to Grant Park, turn around over Lake Superior, hug Lake Shore Drive, then roar back to the River North and end up at Reza's on Ontario where, for a quarter, Reza patrons could pelt us with the best falafel balls in America -- one of those win-win situations we read about but seldom experience. Let other parks have water cannons on the ground to blast riders above -- we can do better. To the city of Big Shoulders, I will bring a present from Philly, city of Broad Asses.

So here's what I'm thinking (and don't touch the lap bar -- it's God's will that we slam into each other): you've heard of roller coaster wars between Cedar Point and Six Flags Magic Mountain in California, both of them competing to build taller, longer, faster, more innovative coasters. Well, I propose mothballing the Pentagon and turning that trillion dollar a year budget over to putting coasters and amusement parks all over America. You might say: "How can you spend tax dollars on roller coasters when there are so many crying social needs going unmet? Most people don't even like roller coasters and wouldn't get anything out of it."

My answer: You and me and the rest of America don't care anything about crying social needs -- if we did we'd be rioting and burning this country down. We care about being amused. The working class isn't outraged or getting anything out of the $15 billion we spend every month in Afghanistan even as the ruling class whacks Social Security. And all we get for that $15 billion a month is 1.5 billion Muslims hating our guts. So don't tell me America will miss this money if we spend it on coasters. 

You see, I'm envisioning bringing back the dead, the masterworks: the Idora Park Wildcat, the Crystal Beach Cyclone, the Coney Island Thunderbolt, the Geauga Lake Villain and Big Dipper and, by God, the Americana Screechin' Eagle. I'm proposing to give teenagers 75K a year with full benefits and a pension for guessing peoples' ages and weights when they enter the amusement park -- that's better than paying them a few years later to gun down Afghan children. We've got the money, the money is always there, just like the $15 trillion handed over to Wall Street -- it's just a question of if the working class wants to take it and put it into the economy -- or not. The money is there for bombs and drones and killing and torture and surveillance and spying on Americans. The money is there for holding the working class down -- I'm trying to give the working class some air time for crissakes! 

Well, whaddya think? That's it, we're back out in the sunshine again. It's a beautiful day here in America. It's good having the monsters contained in the Inferno. Hey, let's ride one more time and then we'll go. Just one more, come on… At some point we have to go back in there anyway and part out Cheney -- his pacemaker must be worth something on eBay. I can't make any promises about the flames from Lake Erie, though -- that could happen again. Are you game? Awesome. I told you there was nothing to be afraid of!  

published 5/10/2013 at counterpunch.org

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Rainbows for the Ruling Class


Barackodile Tears 



One of the great things about America is that it's easy to be psychic here. This is the land of psychic opportunity. Anyone can hang out a shingle and predict the future. Anyone can read a palm that's greased. If you want to know what's going to happen next in America, all you have to do is ask yourself: what's the most outrageous, ironic, perverted and soul-crushing thing that can happen in any given situation? Whatever that thing is, that's what will happen. And you won't have to wait long to see your prediction come true. 

So it was that last week San Francisco Pride announced that jailed war crimes whistle blower Bradley Manning would be an honorary grand marshal for this year's LGBT Pride Celebration. Before practically anyone had a chance to note how principled and inspiring Manning's selection was, the decision was rescinded. Kevin Gosztola at firedoglake has an excellent overview and Glenn Greenwald has a list of all the corporate criminals that SF Pride takes money from and doesn't find objectionable.

Most interesting to me was the slavish worship of authority in SF Pride president Lisa L. Williams statement announcing that Manning would not be an honorary grand marshal: "Bradley Manning is facing the military justice system of this country. We all await the decision of that system. However, until that time, even the hint of support for actions which placed in harms way the lives of our men and women in uniform — and countless others, military and civilian alike — will not be tolerated by the leadership of San Francisco Pride. It is, and would be, an insult to every one, gay and straight, who has ever served in the military of this country." 

This is the same military "justice" system that gives out free passes and wrist slaps to the torturers of Abu Ghraib and the rapists and murderers of the children of Haditha, Iraq. The same system of "justice" that discourages female soldiers from reporting rape -- and not a handful but the 20,000 servicewomen that even the Pentagon estimates are sexually assaulted every year, as noted in the 2012 Oscar-nominated documentary Invisible War. So, yes, Ms. Williams, we eagerly await what the mass murdering rape-friendly torture enterprise has to say about a brave young person who blew the whistle on its crimes. 

By exposing war crimes, Manning was actually doing his duty and nothing he did put the lives of American troops in danger. He caused embarrassment to the American empire because he showed that war crimes are routine. Everyone who raised hell with SF Pride's original decision doesn't, and can't, name one instance of Manning putting a soldier's life in danger because there weren't any. If anything, Manning helped hasten the departure of America from Iraq and saved US soldiers’ lives. When the working class finally vanquishes the capitalist class, there will be monuments built to Manning -- and molded clear plastic Bush and Obama heads used as urinals in hospitals. When you're admitted to the hospital, a nurse will ask, similar to paper or plastic: "Democrat or Republican?" (After the revolution, hospitals are gonna be fun places that keep peoples' spirits up.)

When reading Williams' statement, keep in mind what Manning did: he made available to WikiLeaks an on-board video of American helicopter gunners mowing down two Reuters news staffers and several Iraqi civilians, including children and first responders and then joking about it. WikiLeaks released the film almost three years after the crime occurred. SF Pride is more incensed at Manning for exposing this atrocity than the commission of it. What wonderful Barackodile tears Williams cries for the "civilians" that she falsely implies that Manning ever put in danger. How repulsive can you get? (Barackodile tears are tears shed by America's historic first black president about dead, generally white, children gunned down in massacres while he simultaneously murders brown-skinned children in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, etc.)   

Last week I wrote about unclassconscious people wandering around nowhere and in emptiness and mistakenly believing that they're on the "left." I called them desolationists. The dead end identity politics of SF Pride, which sells out a peace hero like Bradley Manning to curry favor with the American ruling class, is what I had in mind. The empire loves your tameness, irrelevance and cowardice, SF Pride. You don't bother the American ruling class -- a five foot two, 105 pound soldier does because he has a conscience and because he didn't make comfort the guiding principle of his life. He went against the most powerful force on earth, the American military, and knew that he would pay an annihilating price for it. That's why so many soldiers are so venomous toward Manning -- he's got much more courage and honor than they do and they know it. Pro-Manning comments are trouncing anti-Manning comments in online LGBT publications like Washington, DC's Metro Weekly and the San Diego LGBT Weekly. So who, exactly, is Ms. Williams representing? Perhaps the Whitey House because, according to her bio, Williams "organized satellite offices for the Obama campaign."

The American empire, its resource wars and racist occupations, the blowback it provokes and the inevitable reduction in civil liberties -- these aren't "issues" that have "two sides." Congratulations, SF Pride, you're totally assimilated with the America that is fearful and timid, the America that glorifies authority and welcomes fascism, as we just saw in Boston. Maybe you'll feel better when a gay soldier's boot is on your throat and you're hearing them assert their equality: "I'm just doing my job. I'm just following orders." Perhaps SF Pride will go all the way and appoint a gay soldier critical of Manning as the Grand Martial Law Marshal.

It would be awesome if thousands of participants at this year's June 29-30 Pride Celebration wore Bradley Manning masks and kicked in a dollar each to his defense fund. SF Pride needs repudiated in a big way. And now I feel a psychic vision coming on: if SF Pride knew that thousands of participants were going to wear Bradley Manning masks, they would ban all masks for "everyone's security." They would say that they must be able to identify everyone and that they have a responsibility to keep everyone "safe" -- they, like most Americans, just don't feel any responsibility about stopping their representative government from slaughtering innocent Muslims. Up against the wall, turn your head and cough -- and have a great time. And don't ever forget: constantly bombing people keeps you free and safe. Can't you feel the freedom closing in around you? 

published 4/29/2013 at counterpunch.org


I Think I Hear My Can Opening


The Desolationists


You've heard of the "isolationist" right but I want to tell you about the "desolationist" left. 

The desolationists rose up recently, decrying Obama's "gaffe" of calling California Attorney General Kamala Harris "by far the best-looking attorney general in the country." ("Gaffe" means someone in power absentmindedly telling the truth, like Chuck Hagel saying that a United States Senator's first job is to represent America, not Israel. OK, maybe this was more of a misunderstanding on Hagel's part than a true gaffe but he did say it.) 

The desolationists wrote many columns analyzing Obama's Kamala Harris comment in the same week that they failed to notice the two Afghan children he killed and seven adult civilians he wounded the preceding Saturday, the four Afghan policemen and two civilians he killed on Thursday and the eleven Afghan children and one woman that he killed the following Saturday -- over six times as many people as were killed at the Boston Marathon. It was a banner week for the pedocider-in-chief. Years ago, Iran's Ahmadinejad was mis-translated as saying that Israel should be "wiped off the map" but Barack Obama actually does wipe completely innocent people off the map -- every week -- and he doesn’t shed a tear about them. But desolationists will imagine that Ahmadinejad does more damage to the world than Barack Obama. 

Cornered about Obama’s awful positions and record, desolationists say they had to vote for him because he will, at least, preserve Roe v. Wade, ignoring the ample evidence that access to safe and legal abortion (and even contraception) has done nothing but constrict during his rule. A couple weeks ago a federal judge appointed by Ronald Reagan rebuked Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for preventing women under 17 from having access to emergency contraception. The judge called Sebelius/Obama's actions "politically motivated, scientifically unjustified, and contrary to agency precedent." Still, desolationists feel better that Obama isn't some anti-science Republican yahoo. After all, Romney and Bush and Cheney and Tamerlane and Genghis Khan were all worse. (Obama campaign song in election contest against Tamerlane: “Ain’t No Mountain of Skulls High Enough!”) 

Desolationists are content to fight over God, guns and gays, arenas where they can shoot right wing crazies in a barrel while ignoring bi-partisan systemic evil. Desolationists have no class consciousness and no international solidarity, especially with people of color. In the end, they seldom get what they want. Hence, their state of complete emptiness and/or destruction. Desolationists believe that America's non-stop bombing of other nations is either no issue at all or just one among many and probably not nearly as important as being pro-choice or supporting gun control or marriage equality. If you tell a desolationist that constant war means a police state at home they think you're alarmist because desolationists prize order above nearly everything, generally aren't Muslim, definitely aren't radical and never have their innocuous verbalizations interfered with by the state. Desolationists love identity politics, they believe symbols are victories and progress looks like Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Wall Street shill Eric Holder and the supreme twofer, the African American mad humanitarian bomber Susan Rice. Desolationists are greatly troubled when oppressed people use violence to defend and advance their interests against the capitalist class and its agents.  

Desolationists believe it's a big achievement that gay people have the same opportunity as straight people to slaughter innocent brown people on behalf of the American empire. Same way with "feminist" desolationists who celebrate women in combat roles in the military. One day these "feminists" will look back puzzled that the American government skipped right over Margaret Atwood's A Handmaid's Tale, where women were segregated as sex slaves and breeding machines, and went directly to making America's women war slaves while most of the menfolk will kick back on the home front drinking beer and watching sports. You go, girls! If we knew how to bake cookies, we‘d send them to you in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, wherever you‘re defending America’s values of aggressive war, resource theft, bolstering corrupt dictators and liquidating land reformers, union organizers and popular liberation movements. Capitalism will pervert everything eventually, including feminism. In fact, desolationists believe the delusion that feminism is stronger than capitalism.

If you want to see desolationists up close and despicable check out the Alliance of Women Film Journalists who presented actress Jessica Chastain with the award for "Humanitarian Activism -- Female Icon Award" for her character of "Maya," the CIA torturer and killer in the movie Zero Dark Thirty. No, really, this isn't an Onion-like satire. The award is "presented to an actress for the portrayal of the most positive female role model… a woman who is heroic, accomplished, persistent, demands her rights and/or the rights of others." You know, the rights of others to be kidnapped and tortured to death as enshrined in the Geneva Conventions and the Nuremberg Principles, the right of a woman to assimilate, emulate and validate the absolute worst qualities of a white male racist -- and undoubtedly sexist -- goon for capitalism. The AWFJ also gave awards to Zero Dark Thirty for best film, best director, best original screenplay, best actress, best editing and best woman director. One of the rare AWFJ awards that didn't go to trashing Arabs went to trashing Persians -- Argo won for best adapted screenplay. The only way you award Zero Dark Thirty so thoroughly is if you hate Muslims or see them as, say, three/fifths of a human being. For a deeper look at Zero Dark Thirty, Abu Ghraib and how "feminism" is used in service of the American empire, check out Matt Cornell's excellent The Torturer as Feminist

Why should the CIA spend its hard-earned drug money on front groups when organizations like the AWFJ do the heavy propaganda lifting? Is it too paranoid to imagine that one day all nominees for the best picture Oscar will be CIA productions, either covertly or overtly? This would just be an extension of the FBI orchestrating most of the recent “terror plots” or infiltrating leftist groups in the early 1970s to such an extent that FBI agents eventually rose to "leadership" positions in these groups and then disbanded them. Freedom, democracy, “choices” (shot or hung), everything in America is a mirage. Nothing matters because nothing is real. The past is wiped clean every day. It’s a cardboard cut out country and the only thing behind the official apparitions is money.

And there's the desolationists, saying for months that they'll "hold Obama's feet to the fire" about resisting Republican cuts to Social Security when it's Obama himself who first put these cuts on the table and now has put them into his budget, the first Democratic president to ever do so. Obama says he wants to put your grandma on Friskies so that someday, maybe, your children can have Fancy Feast. I think I hear my can opening right now, nine years into the future. That will be the desolationists' war cry: Please, Barack, take Friskies off the table! With blacks standing down indefinitely, the working class doesn't have the requisite rage to stop Obama from taking the first swings of the wrecking ball to Social Security. (“Wrecking ball” – where have I heard those words? Oh yeah, thanks, Bruce Springsteen, for campaigning for this Wall Street stooge -- you're gonna have a whole fuckload of newly impoverished Americans to wail about while racking up kudos from the cock-and-bull rock and roll press. Talk about desolationists!) 

Workers are probably going to go gentle into that chained CPI night and die anonymous overlooked deaths of a thousand cuts. By then, Barack Obama will be long gone with a multi-million dollar book deal and speaking engagements, a foundation and, who knows, maybe he'll devote his later years to cramming South Africa-like bantustans down the throats of Palestinians or being a globe-trotting grand bargainer for American capital in Africa with a pen in one hand and an AFRICOM drone joystick in the other. Who the ruling class gonna call? Oballbuster, that's who.

published 4/19/2013 at counterpunch.org

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Forty Years of Rabbit Food


How I Learned to Start Worrying and Care About the World



Forty years ago today, March 1, 1973 I became a vegetarian. I was 16. There was no glorious last supper before my truce-ifixion with non-human beings – my farewell to flesh was a leftover bologna sandwich.

I had been thinking about becoming a vegetarian for awhile and decided that I would tie it in with the March 1-7 nationwide boycott of meat because of high prices. In the radical whirlwind of the early 1970s it wasn’t unthinkable for meat eaters to join collectively, deny themselves gustatory pleasure for a week and try to effect change. (Roe v. Wade had just overturned state abortion laws and the American Indian Movement was occupying Wounded Knee. Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon appeared and Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In exited. That May Day 1.6 million British workers engaged in a one day strike against government austerity measures. Think we’ll get that many on the street against Obama’s upcoming austerity measures? I bet the NAACP will lead the protest! I'm starting a competing NAACP myself -- the National Association for the Advancement of CounterPunchers. You can join here.) Today, Americans accept living like peasants because we are allowed to eat like kings, feasting on rich animal-based foods 21 times or more a week – and we’ve got the obesity, heart disease, diabetes and health bills to prove it.

Because of my mother, animals were seen as fascinating and being able to help them was a blessing. Despite that, we weren’t vegetarians and the “issue” of eating animals never came up. (Mom was even a vegetarian for awhile in her teens and her father was a longtime vegetarian in the 1940s and 1950s. He died when I was very young and I only have one memory of his presence: When I was three -- and probably in a sugar cookie-fueled frenzy -- he let me wrap and tie up every object in the living room and dining room with balls of string, every chair and table leg, the bookshelves, the couch, the banister post leading up the stairs, one giant crazy web that took hours to make. When my mother came home from work she wondered what the hell was going on because it was impossible to walk. She told me later -- I didn’t remember -- that he said, ”It’s OK, he’s using his creativity.”) At one point as a child, I thought hamburgers were laid like eggs or meat was shit that somebody doctored up for human consumption. My mother tried to get me to eat a variety of foods but if I didn't like something I'd wait till she left the kitchen and then throw it in the trash, later telling her how great it was. Sometimes I'd outsmart myself and she'd give me more and then I'd have to dump it twice or, worse, eat it -- I especially hated these "draws." The thing that I threw away the fastest was pork chops. Being a culinary artist came very natural for me: when I was trusted enough to use the oven I'd throw a few hot dogs under the broiler till they ripped open and turned black on the outside. Then I'd toast the buns, slather them with peanut butter, add the ripped black hot dogs and feast away -- what the yum!  

I was the only vegetarian I knew. I think I lived on peanut butter sandwiches, canned peas and Kraft macaroni and cheese for the next five years. I didn't know a damned thing about health (who does at invincible 16?) Somebody could have told me I was gonna die but it didn't matter -- I wasn't participating in meat eating anymore. So, it's five years later and I'm a lacto-ovo vegetarian, happily ensconced in the land of milk and honey, thinking my ethical work is done here...I'm working the night shift at a hospital, I'm 21 now, I'm sitting in the kitchen on my lunch break and I'm powering down those single serving (huh?) hospital ice creams, I've got a giant mess of them on the table, all vanilla… Flashback: God how I loved vanilla ice cream, I'd dump a half gallon of vanilla ice cream in the biggest bowl we had in the house, a bowl that I didn't know why we had because it was only ever used for my vanilla ice cream epics and I'd decorate that white monolith with as many Chips Ahoy chocolate chip cookies as it took to eat both of them in sweet harmony, I was the cookie jeweler breaking them up in halves and quarters and eighths with my spoon and it always, perfectly evenly Edenly, took the entire bag and that was my idea of an after school snack... But back to the hospital: I'm reading Peter Singer's book, Animal Liberation, where he talks about egg production and veal calves and the dairy industry, and I looked at that collection of  empty ice cream cups and said to them: "Well, that it's for you." Except for being unintentionally snookered by servers at restaurants two times about dairy and once about chicken fat in rice, I haven't had an animal product since Nov. 15, 1978 and it's the best decision I ever made. Looking back on my excesses I'm reminded of Dr. John McDougall's contention that moderation is bullshit and doesn't work because humans are risk-taking creatures prone to excess and that, instead, our junkiedom should be embraced in the healthiest ways possible, whether it's eating mountainous plates of brown rice, baked potatoes and vegetables or finding physical activities that we can be crazy about for our entire lives.

So what motivated me to take the plunge into vegetarianism? My mother created the right ethical conditions but it actually took the boom-boom gang to push me over the edge. The Hindus say that you teach Aries Rising children about gravity by letting them jump off the roof and that's what had to happen to me. I had to be confronted and challenged and I had to feel it. As I was growing up I used to get into arguments with adult hunters, telling them how wrong and cruel they were and one of these guys had the presence of mind to tell me I was a hypocrite because I was eating animals, that I was paying someone down at the slaughterhouse to do the dirty work for me, but it was me killing them just the same. Even though I didn't know anything about health and nutrition I immediately offered a bullshit defense about how hunting and meat eating were different and how we humans had to eat meat. To not change, to stave off the unwelcome prospect of having to change, to not face my hypocrisy, I was an instant Clarence Darrow. But the truth of what he said hit me strong, my internal compass was broken but it didn't stop -- it was spinning wildly: Holy fucking shit, I'm in spiritual trouble here even though I don't believe in God. Here I was: a happy well-adjusted traitor to the human race but it turns out I've been doing wrong! And doing wrong to my holy of holies...The hunter made the salient point that I was just as low down and fucking worthless as he was! And he was content with it! He was happy about it! I was the one in crisis! After that, I shut my little big mouth for awhile and regrouped. At 16 I told my mother what I was doing and she was totally supportive. It was one more way that I was like my left wing piano-playing grandfather and she wished, as I, that he and I could have known each other. Within a few years, tiny expensive guerrilla pints of Vanilla Almond Bark Tofutti, sent from the Big Bad Apple, would infiltrate sleepy Springfield, Ohio and the resistance was secure. My mother followed me into vegetarianism and was a vegan for the last 20 years of her life.

Some ninnies think hunters should get some points for killing their own "food," that it's "less hypocritical." Wrong. We don't need more people who kill sentient beings. We don't need destroyers, we need creators and healers. Give me your ethically tired, your hypocrites, your huddled weak-asses, your spiritually lazy who claim they are too sensitive and can't bear to see the photos and films of the cruelty that they pay for and cause -- give me these people because they're actually much easier to reach and turn around than the ones who routinely get their hands bloody and inure themselves to violence and injustice, especially if money is involved. America is one giant monster-making machine, from school dissection to teaching kids to hunt, from spanking and bullying to 4-H where the tears of each bawling Judas are quickly dried up, dammed and hardened by filthy lucre, the child's first experience of selling out their "friends" to be murdered, the alienation moment, their first betrayal of the first working class (non-humans) and what it "feels" like to grab a rung in the capitalist hierarchy. 4-H needs replaced by a new program of 4-Rs: rescue, rehabilitation, relocation and refuge. 

Anyway…Thanks, hunters. Thanks to you confronting me about my hypocrisy, you set in motion the most worthwhile learning adventure in my life. From that gut reaction of me hating what you do and seeing that I was too close to you, I changed, and I learned to eat differently. Once vegan, I plunged into Middle Eastern, North African, Indian and Vietnamese cuisines. I eventually learned to cook, I learned how most of our agriculture isn't for humans but for fattening up poor creatures who are Satanically brought into the world to suffer and be brutalized and terrorized and then hideously killed all for the sake of the crown of creation's taste buds. Tell me how special and noble you are, again, O speciesist bigots! Tell me how you deserve life everlasting! Tell me how you ever showed elementary compassion for innocent creatures by refraining from eating them! Tell me how atrocities done to your pleading selves are not atrocities when done to the animal nations! I learned about deforestation, desertification, overgrazing, the welfare-rancher bums and their genocidal wars on wildlife. I read great books like Ivan Illich's Medical Nemesis and learned how improvements in hygiene, nutrition and sanitation in the early part of the 20th century were more important to human health than all the treatments and "cures" ever concocted in labs. I learned that there were mini-Marxes walking among us in the fields of philosophy and nutrition, thinkers whose main points have never been refuted like Tom Regan's The Case for Animal Rights and the health writings of Dr. John McDougall. I wondered and looked at what the world's religions had to say about animals when, previously, I didn't give a damn about what they said about anything. I was voracious and indefatigable because that's what the animals required to be their defender -- their tormenters needed to be beat back everywhere: politically, intellectually, socially, culturally. I learned about the Dr. Frankensteins of the forests and fields, the "game managers" who manipulate wildlife habitat to produce ever greater numbers of animals to be shot by hunters and the other Dr. Frankensteins in the labs, performing superstitious rites in order to have "confidence" about releasing lucrative and usually harmful potions onto the world. You hunters turned a kid who hated being called on in class into a debater, a campaigner, a picketer, an organizer, a legislation testifier, a cruelty documenter, a hunt saboteur and a consultant to cities, colleges and commercial real estate owners about how to pigeon-proof buildings (yeah, you never know where things will lead.) Way to go, guys! I didn't get a chance to thank you back in the 70s, so I'm doing it now.

Today's veggie birthday missive will fly away on the wings of Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being which came out in 1984, the feverish heyday of the animal lib movement. Or maybe it will be like a bird shitting on your head. The movie version of this astoundingly original and beautiful book didn't have the guts to include how the death of a dog affects the main characters' lives or Kundera's powerful meditation on non-human beings in general. But a spoilsportsman like me is never gonna let you forget it: 

"There is no certainty that God actually did grant man dominion over other creatures. What seems more likely, in fact, is that man invented God to sanctify the dominion that he had usurped for himself over the cow and the horse. Yes, the right to kill a deer or a cow is the only thing all of mankind can agree upon, even during the bloodiest of wars.

"True human goodness, in all its purity and freedom, can come to the fore only when its recipient has no power. Mankind's true moral test, its fundamental test (which lies deeply buried from view), consists of its attitude toward those who are at its mercy: animals. And in this respect mankind has suffered a fundamental debacle, a debacle so fundamental that all others stem from it."

published 3/1/2013 at counterpunch.org