*My column in the latest CounterPunch Magazine.* Last month I saw a picture, a photograph that burned down the Potemkin village of American politics that tends to rise in even the most skeptical mind during the fever dream known as the presidential campaign. We all get caught up in it, especially those of us who've been following politics for decades, and were marinated for many years in a mainstream perspective. I myself was raised as a "yellow dawg" Democrat in the South. The idea, of course, was that no matter who the Democrats nominated -- even it was a yellow dog -- you voted for them. My father -- perhaps to his credit? -- carried on with this ideal long after almost all of his fellow white rural Southerners had abandoned the Democrats for the dog-whistle racism of the modern Republican Party.
As long-time readers know, the Empire Burlesque website is a bespoke creation of our remarkable webmaster, Richard Kastelein. He approached me years ago and offered to build a website from scratch and host it on a private server, which would keep it free from government or corporate interference. That’s just what he did, and he has kept it running in high gear for 11 years now. However, as we all know, freedom ain’t never free. The private server costs money to maintain (and defend from attacks), and for all these years this cost has been borne entirely by Rich, who also hosts a number of other important sites on it.
In the Guardian, Zoe Williams captures the test-obsessed, ranking-addled, childhood-destroying insanity of the UK education system very well. Who is telling the government that this ruthless quantification is good for children? Not teachers, not education experts, not academics; every study and measure shows how destructive and detrimental it is, to students, to teachers, to communities. So who are they listening to, our leaders who care so much about our Big Society? As in America, they're listening to the testing profiteers, to blinkered ideologues (who can forget Michael Gove's great plan to improve education by giving every school a brand new Bible -- with his own name in it?) and, above all, to predatory investors (like the Murdochs, among many) who see the lives of our children -- their minds, their education, their very childhood -- as nothing more than so much raw material to mine for their own profit.
When I was 18, I worked for the Tennessee Department of Conservation at the Cedars of Lebanon State Park, a summer job where a few teenagers helped the park’s permanent workers clean up the picnic areas and campgrounds and ball fields. I mostly helped two ageing characters who’d gotten their sinecures through political patronage. Both were near retirement, and were seeing out their working years with some easy work in pleasant surroundings. They had a black boss they didn’t much like — a park ranger — but they kept their racial sideswipes to a minimum, at least for those days.
The Devil is loose in Mississippi, dressed up like a preacher and hollering God's name. The Guardian reports it here. Growing up in the South, I knew many people who felt that interracial marriage "conflicted with their sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions." Many also sincerely believed that ANY mixing of races -- at lunch counters, water fountains, hotels, churches, schools, toilets, etc. -- also conflicted with their "religious beliefs or moral convictions." That's why we had the Jim Crow laws. This new law in Mississippi makes ALL of that possble again, and more. If you can refuse service to same-sex couples on religious grounds, you can refuse it to interracial couples, mixed-religion couples, unmarried couples, divorcees -- to anyone doing ANYTHING that you believe is a sin and don't want to be associated with. There is serious evil afoot here, and it goes far beyond "political correctness." It is the re-introduction of state-backed hatred and bigotry, using an obscence perversion of the ideal of "religious liberty" to mask its true and deeply pernicious nature.
So one of Trump's "top strategists," Stephanie Cegielski, has resigned in protest over his recent tweet on the atrocity in Lahore, and written an open letter to his followers denouncing her boss. This has been seized upon by various "progressives" as a great cudgel with which to beat the Donald about his goodish head. One of his own inner circle, giving him a "brutal" beatdown! Surely that will shake the rabble to their senses!
The atrocities in Brussels -- and they are horrific, criminal atrocities -- are not occurring in a vacuum. They are not springing from some unfathomable abyss of motiveless malevolence. They are a response, in kind, to the atrocious violence being committed by Western powers on a regular basis in many countries around the world. And just as there is no justification for the acts of carnage in Brussels (and Paris and Turkey and elsewhere), there is likewise no justification for the much larger and more murderous acts of carnage being carried out by the most powerful and prosperous nations on earth, day after day, year after year.
March 20: 13 years to the day since the invasion of Iraq. Sure, people had their disagreements about it back then, but isn't the world a better, safer place these days? Look at how freedom and democracy are flourishing all over the Middle East! I think we should all take a moment and silently thank George Bush and Hillary Clinton and all the supporters of that glorious endeavor for ignoring the millions upon millions of us who said it was a criminal, immoral act of monstrous folly that would lead to years of ruin, chaos, death and destruction. Thanks, Dub! Thanks, HRC! Well done, guys!!!
Does Bernie Sanders know what Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama did to Honduras? Does he care? Last week saw yet another savage murder of a Honduran activist for democracy -- one of hundreds such atrocities since Clinton and Obama blessed a brutal oligarchical coup there in 2009. But Sanders said nothing -- says nothing -- about this damning legacy of his opponent. It's an extraordinary omission by someone presenting himself as an alternative to the failed elitist policies of the past.
(This a slightly expanded version of my latest column in CounterPunch Magazine.) The greatly benighted land of old Blighty is now embarked on yet another of the fundamental turbulations that have marked the latest era of "Conservative" rule. Not content with having nearly destroyed the island's ancient union by driving the Scots to the very brink of independence, the gilded goobers of the British elite have now engineered a referendum on leaving the European Union which, if approved, will necessitate a reordering of national life on nearly every level ... including the distinct possibility of, er, destroying the island's ancient union by driving the Scots into independence.
The Drug War, like the Terror War, is essentially a vast machine for profiteering by the purveyors of weapons and tools of repression. Like the Terror War, the Drug War demonstrably exacerbates the problems it purports to address, and has led to widespread chaos, death and state corruption of almost unfathomable levels. And Hillary Clinton, almost certain to be the next president, is deeply complicit in both of these malevolent enterprises.