In the warm twilight of a spring evening 15 years ago, in the quiet, green garden of Rhodes House at Oxford, I watched Bill Clinton give an impromptu talk to a group of graduate students who had gathered around him with their glasses of wine after an official function earlier in the day. (I was there in a service capacity.) He was pushing the same line he espoused last week while campaigning for Hillary, when he declared that he had “killed himself” to get a state for the Palestinians at the high-stakes Camp David summit in 2000. At one point in the twilight talk at Oxford, he quoted — or claimed to quote — Yasser Arafat as testimony to his altruistic efforts: “Arafat told me, ‘Mr President, you have done more for the Palestinian people than all the Arab leaders combined!’” Sadly, the pressures those short-sighted Arabs brought to bear on Bill’s friend Yasser thwarted Clinton’s painstaking and heroic labors on the Palestinians’ behalf, and the summit failed.
Baghdad attacks: At least 69 killed in suicide attacks and car bombings in Iraq capital. JeSuisBaghdad hashtags? Iraqi flag colors on Facebook statuses? World leaders rushing to the scene to show solidarity? No? No. It's just another day for the Iraqis, living in the open range for violent extremism created by our invasion (on false pretenses) and our other interventions in the region. These victims of terrorism don't count because: a) they're Muslims, so nobody cares; b) the truth that Muslims are the primary victims of Islamic terrorism upsets the wildly popular notion that all Muslims are terrorists; c) acknowledging the actual consequences of what we have done in Iraq would make it hard for Americans to go to bed at night believing they're God's little sunbeams in the world's bestest nation that's never done anything wrong. And we can't have that. Far better that multitudes of innocent people die for our crimes, just as long as nothing disturbs our self-righteous slumber.
Here’s a headline for you: “GOP Senator Wants to Make Sure the Full CIA Torture Report Never Sees the Light of Day.” And why does he want to do that? Because our sexually anxious overlords get off on torture. It makes them hard. It makes them feel tough. It makes them forget what cringing, servile ass-kissers they’ve had to be — for years on end — in order to slither and slime their way to the top. That’s it. That’s all of it. All the other ‘reasons’ they adduce for protecting the practice — and practitioners — of torture are just bullshit. They love it because they are weak, sick, damaged wretches dead to their own humanity.
*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.