"That Which Happened": 9/11 Revisited

Written by Chris Floyd 11 September 2017 1187 Hits

I wrote the column below on  Sept. 12, 2001; it was published in The Moscow Times on Sept. 14. As I noted a few years ago, a lot of water – and a lot of blood – have gone under the bridge since then, but I think most of the piece still holds true, unfortunately.

Perhaps their knives were made of stone – chipped flints, sharpened to a deadly point: the earliest human technology. Stone knives would have baffled the sleek security machines, scanning for metal, for iron and steel. Perhaps that's how the guardians of the world's greatest power were defeated by a handful of men.

A handful of men, dedicated to God, willing to die for their cause – virtues celebrated throughout the civilized world. Old-fashioned men, too: this was not push-button war, there were no guided missiles streaking across vast oceans, no bomb bays opening somewhere above the clouds. This was the real thing, the raw thing, fierce and elemental. They came to kill and they came to die. They killed; they died.

And so the unimaginable has come, at last, to America. Unimaginable, that the innocent could lie dead in their thousands, buried beneath the ruins of ordinary life. Unimaginable, that the destruction that has swept back and forth across the world in great waves, leaving the innocent lying dead in their millions, should have at last spilled over the strong sea-walls that preserved the nation's wealth and tranquility. Unimaginable, that Americans should know what so many, too many, have known before: the sudden, gutting horror of mass-murdering injustice.

How did it happen? America spends $30 billion a year, year after year after year, on "intelligence." Untold trillions have been spent on "defense." The nation bristles with powerful ordnance, it "projects dominance" (as the strategists like to say) all over the globe. And yet its leaders are like blind men, raging like Oedipus, unable to see their attackers or defend their people or understand what is happening to them.

Struck and wounded, they fall back on empty rhetoric: "an attack on democracy" – as if the suspected plotters, who spent years in a war to the death with the Soviet Union, give a damn what America's political system might be. Then come the metaphysical explanations: "A new evil has come upon us." "This is a war between good and evil."

Well yes, it's evil – as the killing of every innocent person is – but it isn't new. It's as old as the hills, as old as any chipped flint dug up from the ground. It's religious arrogance, tribalism, lust for power and – let's be honest about it – a falling-out among former allies, old comrades in undercover war. Each one of these is a powerful engine of hatred – churning in the dirt of the real world, in the mixed matter of the human brain, in the murk and folly of human history.

Religious arrogance: the implacable, impenetrable conviction that absolute truth is in your sole possession. You are good, favored by God; your enemies are evil, demonic. Tribalism (or in "civilized" terms, nationalism, patriotism): the belief that your country, your people, your grievances, your interests are above all others, that your values are so important that innocent people must sometimes be sacrificed to them. Lust for power: the burning desire to impose your will on the whole world – or failing that, to bring the whole world crumbling down around you.

And a falling-out. The White House points the finger of blame at Osama Bin Laden – a demon made to order, right out of central casting, remorseless, demented, crafty, rich. Like Saddam Hussein – another sinister figure suspected of collusion in the attack – Bin Laden was once empowered by America itself. The same intelligence services that now stand blind, struck and wounded, cynically embraced these brutal renegades as pawns in the Great Game of geopolitics; embraced them, armed them, paid them, built them up into autonomous powers – then, like Dr. Frankenstein, lost control of their creatures. The used became the users, and in Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Afghanistan – and now, New York and Washington – they have killed their thousands, and their tens of thousands.

In the name of religion. In the service of patriotism. In the lust for power – to project their dominance. This is not a new evil. It's as old as the hills, and is with us always.

But atrocity tends to raze the ground of history. In the aftermath, with the cries of lamentation rising over fresh graves, it is always Zero Hour. "That which happened" – to borrow the poet Paul Celan's phrase for the Nazis' unspeakable crimes – buries what came before, effaces the paths that led us to this place, strips away the cloak of reason (a thin rag in the best of times), and leaves nothing but the bare, anguished call for revenge.

So the leaders, the blind men, assemble. They call urgently for war – against someone, somewhere; they cannot say who, because they cannot see. The intelligence services are put to work – perhaps they will find a new pawn, someone to turn against the one who has turned against them; someone new to embrace, arm, pay, empower. Perhaps the missiles will streak and the bomb bays will open indiscriminately, as before. Or perhaps it will be left to assassins, surgeons of death who will use the terrorist's own weapons of treachery and surprise to destroy the culprits – and the inevitable "collaterals."

Blood will have blood; that's certain. But blood will not end it. For murder is fertile: it breeds more death, like a spider laden with a thousand eggs. And who now can break this cycle, which has been going on for generations? Past folly undoes us, but who, in the Zero Hour, can ignore the lamentations? Who can deny the ghosts, these loved ones gone, the red food demanded by the dead?

There is no answer. It will not stop. They say the world has now changed irreversibly, that nothing will ever be the same. But it will be the same. The same engines of hatred, the same murk, the same dirt, the same mixed matter in human brains.

This is not a new evil. It's as old as the hills, and it is with us always.

"Even unto the end of the world."

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End Games: The Apocalyptic Trope That Swallowed the World

Written by Chris Floyd 05 September 2017 1812 Hits

Everywhere you look these days, you see the trope: the "end of the world" is nigh from a nuclear war. It's there in somber headlines, in weighty punditry, even in throwaway jokes in the middle of, say, a TV review: "Looks like the BBC finally has a comedy hit -- just as the world is about to blow up!" Ha ha. The current situation with North Korea is being portrayed as if it's a reboot of the Cuban Missile Crisis, with two massively armed superpowers on the brink of all-out global conflagration.

But putting aside the entirely context-less hype and fear-mongering of our media and political elites, even if there were some kind of war between the US and North Korea, it would not remotely lead to anything like the "end of the world." The US has thousands of immediately launchable nuclear weapons; North Korea has, er, none. And even if you believe Pyongyang's propaganda (and if you swallow it about their nuclear weapons program, why not believe their BS about the happy workers' paradise they have there?), you’re still left with the fact that North Korea might be able to put a weapon on a missile at some point in the future. OK, then they could possibly lob this missile (or heck, two or three of them, maybe) in the direction of the United States – which, we assume, would just stand back and watch this happen, despite having North Korea absolutely blanketed with surveillance and having the ability to destroy any launcher the instant it reared skyward. And then North Korea would be obliterated by a US retaliation.

So even if this actually impossible worst-case scenario happened, where is the global nuclear conflagration that would destroy the entire world? Is Russia – the only other country actually capable of destroying a good bit of the world – going to launch a suicidal nuclear attack on the US because North Korea launched a sneak attack on the US and the US responded? Would China launch its handful of nukes at the US, knowing it would face instant annihilation? Gormless goobers like Donald Trump and John McCain might think so. But Russia and China have already said they themselves would punish North Korea if it launched an unprovoked attack on the US (or anyone else).

Thus, even if, God forbid, there was a nuclear exchange between the US and North Korea, the world would not end, human civilization would not collapse, etc, etc. Where would the other missiles, the ones that would destroy the whole world, come from? Are people assuming that if North Korea launched one of the nuclear-armed missiles it doesn't have at the US, the US would then launch its entire nuclear arsenal all over the world in a paroxysm of destruction? This fear-mongering trope makes no actual sense. But is certainly very useful in keeping people cringing and anxious – and looking to their "leaders" to save them from the weirdo insane crazy animal in North Korea who is somehow going to blow up the entire world all by himself! Oh, Mr. President, we forgive all that Nazi-coddling stuff; just save us from the monster!

II.
And what about the aforementioned context of the current crisis? The latest racheting up began, we’re told, when North Korea fired a missile over a Japanese island: an act of “unprovoked aggression,” it was said. But what else was going on at the same time? Well, a vast “war game” being carried out by the United States, Japan and South Korea right on North Korea’s doorstep (and on the Japanese island overflown by the missile). As Mike Whitney points out, these “provocative war games [were] designed to simulate an invasion of North Korea and a “decapitation” operation to remove (i.e., kill) the regime.” North Korea had asked the US not to begin the “decapitation” games, or else it would have to respond. Thus the launch of the unarmed missile. Then, as Whitney notes, a few days later US B-1 bombers conducted a “dummy” nuclear bombing run near Seoul. This was followed by North Korea’s claim of a successful H-bomb test, and the claim it could mount a nuke on a missile.

Now, North Korea is a loathsome, tyrannical regime. It is might even be somewhat worse than Saudi Arabia, the extremely close ally of the US and the UK. (Although women can drive in North Korea, and even hold office.) But you don’t have to defend the regime to see that the current crisis is not happening in a vacuum; it is not simply some mystical motiveless malignancy bubbling up from a cauldron of pure, senseless evil.

I’m so old I can remember — way back in the 1990s — when a landmark agreement was reached with North Korea. In exchange for giving up its nuclear program, the US and its allies would provide help with peaceful nuclear power, food, development — and would, finally, begin negotiations for a peace treaty that would at last bring the Korean War to an official end. This would allow something more like normal relations to go forward.

But in the time-honored Washington fashion (just ask the Native Americans), the US began almost immediately to undermine the agreement. Promised equipment, food and aid was not delivered. North Korea too was being cagey, and every hesitation or unseemly remark on its part was used as an excuse to further “delay” the agreement’s implementation. Needless to say, the peace talks — which were and still are the chief aim of North Korea — never took place. When George W. Bush took office, he expressed his personal contempt for the grubby little North Koreans and essentially said he wasn’t going to deal with such riff-raff anymore. So the agreement died — and North Korea re-started its nuclear weapons program.

III.
Now here we are. The tiny bankrupt, isolated nation of North Korea, with, perhaps, a handful of nuclear bombs which, perhaps, one day, might possibly be mounted on missiles which, perhaps, one day, could be launched —that is, if they weren’t first destroyed on the launching pad, which they would be (and which could be done without the use of nuclear weapons, by the way) — is facing the most powerful nation in the history of the world and its vast, hydra-headed nuclear arsenal. North Korea cannot “destroy” America, much less the world; at most, it could try to jab a pin-prick at the US — at the cost of its own immediate and total destruction. (Actually, as noted, it couldn’t even do that, but let’s play the scaremongering game for now.)

So again, the question arises: what is the basis of all this media jabber about “the end of the world”? Forget our noble leaders, who spend most of their time trying to scare us into unquestioning obedience while they pick our pockets; we know what they’re up to. But why this sudden and apparently universal adoption of a baseless, empty, dangerous notion by the media? Well, fear sells, of course; you wouldn’t get too many clicks with a headline saying “Korean Situation Calls for a Nuanced and Historically Informed Approach Leading to Fruitful and Realistic Negotiations.” But it’s odd to see the trope picked up and propagated not just by the media bosses but by writers and talkers across the board, even in non-political areas.

Who knows where the current crisis will end? Certainly, the bipartisan foreign policy establishment — which, yes, includes the Trump Administration, as well as the “liberal” media and vast chunks of the “Resistance” — seems keen on bloodshed in some form or other. Or if —particularly in the liberal quadrants — they blanche at that, they surely want to see North Korea crushed and humiliated into begging for mercy from the global hegemon.

My hunch is that we will see neither — no US attack on North Korea (and certainly not a nuclear one) and no capitulation by Pyongyang. Trump has no interest in peace, of course, nor in nuance or history, or anything else aside from his own aggrandizement. But he and his family do have lucrative business interests in China, which would be threatened by any overreaction against the thoroughly containable “threat” from North Korea. And at the moment, it seems that the military junta to which he’s given power over foreign policy also seems reluctant to start shooting — although naturally they are happy to keep goosing the fear of attack and the threat of war so the grease and graft will continue to flow into the militarist swamp.

But hell is murky, as that noted political strategist Lady Macbeth once said. And in the hell we’ve made with our — why not? — empire burlesque, the outcome of the current imbroglio remains unclear … except for one key point: it will not end, it cannot end, with the end of the world.

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Spinal Crap: NYT's Contortion to Obscure Obama's Origin of Trump's Nuke Plan

Written by Chris Floyd 27 August 2017 2260 Hits

Trump Forges Ahead on Costly Nuclear Overhaul, Sweeping Aside Doubts (NYT). This is a remarkable story. Its import is that Trump is plunging forward with a reckless overhaul and expansion of the nuclear arsenal. Then it notes that in doing so, he's continuing plans & contracts designed by Obama. Then it tells us, with a straight face, that Obama designed this $1 trillion "upgrade" of the nuclear arsenal ... because he thought Clinton would win in 2016 and "drastically cut back" the plans. The spin here is a brazen insult to the readers' intelligence.

Yes, the "updgrade" of the nuclear arsenal is a reckless, costly, unnecessary and dangerous boondoggle. Many of us wrote about it in these terms when Obama set it in motion. But the absurd lengths to which the Times goes here in order to obfuscate the fact that in this case Trump is merely implementing Obama's plan are breathtaking. We're asked to believe that the highly intelligent and competent Barack Obama spent months, years, putting together a $1 TRILLION upgrade of the nation's nuclear arsenal in the belief that his successor would then slice it to bits. This is Trump-level nonsense from the Times. Why not simply report the truth? Trump is continuing a reckless, risky boondoggle concocted by Obama. He's carrying out the planet-threatening, war-profiteering agenda of the "bipartisan foreign policy establishment" so beloved by our media mavens. I'm sure the "serious" and "savvy" General Kelly and General Mattis -- increasingly beloved by our mavens for bringing "order and structure" to the wild Trump White House -- were in full agreement with Trump's move to continue Obama's plan.

Of course, I'm glad to see the NYT drawing attention to this lunacy. And it's good to see that they didn't just ignore outright the origin of the plan. But the brazen BS of the spin -- "Oh, Obama didn't really MEAN to expand the nuclear arsenal with his plan to, uh, expand the nuclear arsenal; he was sure Hillary would stop his plan later" -- is staggering.

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Omission of Sins: NYT Turns Away From Deeper Truth on Yemen

Written by Chris Floyd 24 August 2017 2538 Hits

At last, the "paper of record" runs a long, detailed story about the death spiral in Yemen. However, it seems to be short a few details. It paints the Saudis as champions of freedom simply trying to restore a democratically elected leader to office. It neglects the detail that the leader was "elected" in a "vote" (backed by the US & Saudis) that allowed only one candidate: the one favored by the US & the Saudis. It is also scant of detail on the US involvement. A few short paragraphs from the very end, it allows that the US is "a primary supplier of arms to the members of the Saudi-led coalition" but reassuringly notes " the United States is not directly involved in the conflict," despite the fact that "it has provided military support to the Saudi-led coalition, and Yemenis have often found the remnants of American-made munitions in the ruins left by deadly airstrikes." Carefully omitted are details like US military intelligence providing targeting directions for the Saudis, US ships helping the Saudis' murderous blockade and other support which -- in throwaway paragraphs buried deep beneath layers of dutiful spin -- has been well-documented in the past two years by ... the New York Times.

It also leaves out the bombing raids and ground raids being carried out directly by US forces in Yemen, ostensibly against ISIS and al Qaeda. Here another fact is politely set aside: the fact that the US-Saudi war has vastly increased the power and reach of ISIS and al Qaeda in Yemen. The Yemen forces now under attack by the Saudis were sworn enemies of the extremists, and had pounded al Qaeda to a small remnant -- until the US/UK and the Saudis stepped in and drove them back. ISIS had almost no presence in Yemen before the war. Now, both groups are flourishing mightily in the chaos, with their enemies being devastated by the US/Saudi assault.

Two other details were lacking as well. You can read the whole long story and not see a single mention of Donald Trump or Barack Obama. The latter put the full weight of the US behind this war of aggression to install a puppet leader, while the former has expanded US involvement with more ground troops and many more air attacks, most of them blunderbuss bombings which have killed many civilians. So yes, the story does provide some moving detail about the human suffering being caused by the war; but the eminently savvy and well-informed readers of the New York Times could walk away from the story without the slightest clue of their own government's direct and deep complicity in this humanitarian crisis.

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American Carnage: White Punks on Parade

Written by Chris Floyd 12 August 2017 3760 Hits

(Written on Facebook early Saturday morning; updated below) (UPDATED AGAIN): American nazis (many of them no doubt radicalized by the self-proclaimed "godfather of the alt-right," Steve Bannon) were on the march Friday night, chanting the actual Nazi slogan, "Blood and Soil." Close-ups reveal most of them to be young white college-boy types, pudgy, coddled, comfortable, smug. They're not driven by, say, economic privation or lack of opportunity or lack of education or dire threat or any of the other reasons often adduced for people turning to extremism. No: these smug, well-wadded bastards are driven solely by cankered bigotry & their delusions of racial superiority. You can look in their faces and see what quivering cowards they all are, weak and stunted souls too stupid and too scared to see themselves for what they really are. It's like an oozing sludge of Stephen Miller clones.

This is actually the beating heart of Trumpism; both of the chief presidential advisers I've just named would fit seamlessly into this group and endorse their "blood and soil" bullshit. But of course “Trumpism” is just the latest embodiment of a deep and abiding element in America’s history, culture and politics. The liberal obsession with removing Trump “by any means necessary” (see below) simply obscures — and exacerbates — this fundamental fact. You can get rid of Trump (maybe); but as long as you keep concentrating on these rancid postules that keep erupting on the skin of the body politic — while ignoring the deeper disease within — we will all keep going from worse to worse.

UPDATE (Saturday night): As expected, many many hours after the "American carnage" set loose by his supporters erupted in Virginia, Trump issued a statement condemning ... not his white nationalist Bannonite supporters, not the rise of armed Nazi militias on American streets, not the vile racist hatred of the "alt-right" who deliberately fomented the violent chaos with their armed marches shouting actual Nazi slogans. No, he issued a boilerplate message condemning ... the "bigotry, hatred and violence" on "all sides." Which "side" was showing bigotry and hatred in Charlottesville? The armed whie nationalist thugs literally marching with Nazi flags and chanting hate slogans? Or the multiracial messangers of tolerance and the avowed opponents of hatred and bigotry who came out in large numbers to resist the Nazis?

With even hard-right nabobs like Paul Ryan condemning the sickening display of outright Nazism in Virginia, Trump had to say *something*. But he said the very least, the very minimum possible in this situation. The "both sides do it" trope is actually a clear absolution of his Nazi supporters; it seeks to muddy the waters by equating *resistance* to evil with the evil itself. To all this I can only say: Damn Trump. Damn the putrid thugs who bring out the flags of mass murderers to assert their own specious "superiority." And damn our bipartisan political/media elites for their brutalizing, dehumanizing economic and militarist policies that have fed the growth of every noxious element of American society while destroying the very notion of a greater common good. Damn them all.

(UPDATED AGAIN): In Charlottesville, a car drove into a group of counter-protestors who were cheering the retreat of the white nationalist thugs. One person was killed, many were injured. Let's remember that SEVERAL Republican-controlled states have introduced bills to make it legal to run over protestors who are "blocking traffic." Let's remember the "leaders" who have been actively abetting a culture of violence and bigotry for many years. Including the "progressive" leaders who have waged nation-destroying wars, child-killing drone raids and weekly meetings to sign off on death lists of people (including American citizens) to be killed outside any legal or constitutional process. Let's remember all those who for years have taught by example that violence and brutality are "legitimate" means of advancing your political/ideological agenda. The American fish has been rotting from the head for decades, and now we are seeing it stripped raw.

 

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Dark Matter: Surrendering our Secrets to Malevolent Forces

Written by Chris Floyd 12 August 2017 3277 Hits

(This is my latest column for the print version of CounterPunch, edited slightly.)

“And if my thought-dreams could be seen
They’d probably stick my head in a guillotine.”

Thus quoth the Bard, more than half a century ago. At the time, these lines were an electrifying insight into human nature, lighting up dark corners of the psyche not usually explored in popular music. They were also a jolting reversal of the usual protest song dynamic: a righteous hero denouncing evil from a position of moral purity. Here, at the end of a long, incandescent jeremiad against a sick society, we see the “prophet” suddenly subjecting himself to the harsh judgment he had just rendered. “Yeah, this place is Hieronymus Bosch on stilts — but you should see what’s howling in my head!’

We all have a night mind, we all have thought-dreams which, if exposed, perhaps might not get us guillotined but could well kill the image we present to others — and to ourselves. And this is true even for the most liberated, hip or “woke” among us. (Like Dylan’s own sheepish confession in his memoir, Chronicles, that back in the day he’d harbored a secret liking for Barry Goldwater because the politician reminded him of Tom Mix, the movie cowboy. Now that’s perverse!)

So imagine if there were a magic machine that let us explore our own guillotinable notions — or indeed, to range through the night-mind of the whole human race, encountering lurid thought-dreams beyond our previous imagining. A magic machine where every forbidden thought or fear or desire, even things abhorrent to our own daylight mind, could be approached, encountered, explored — and this in deepest privacy, in the safe confines of our homes, our normal daily reality. Who could resist dipping — or plunging — into such a dream-world? Yes, of course, we speak of the internet.

And these explorations need not be anything aberrant, illegal or immoral in themselves, but simply retrograde to what we think of as our truest, essential self. A gentle kindergarten teacher who finds herself looking with lurid fascination at beheadings on YouTube. A kind and loving social activist who is inexplicably drawn to the revolting racist bile she sees on Reddit. A married, smalltown bank manager who peruses gay porn or transgender websites, idly dreaming of alternative lives that in reality he would never pursue.  An obsessive haunted by irrational, humiliating fears who seeks comfort – or exacerbation – down the digital alleyways of half-baked data and feverish need. The permutations are endless. Every dark impulse, every passing fantasy, every perverse or unsettling notion thrown up by the imp of the mind: all of this available, in endless profusion, 24/7, all over the world.

Now imagine if all of these self-exposing thought-dreams were being recorded by the magic machine. Imagine if this compromising material could be made instantly available to the security organs of an overweening nation-state or the overlords of a rapacious corporate power. What you would have then is an apparatus of repression, blackmail and control beyond the wildest dreams of the most tyrannical regimes, religions and ideologies in all of human history. Any dissident, any heretic speaking out against the power structure could be undermined politically, if not destroyed psychologically, by the exposure of their night-mind, their guillotine-worthy thought-dreams, by those who hold the keys to the magic machine.

And this need not apply only to those who had roused themselves to denounce publicly the crimes and rapine of the powers that be. No, even that quiet bank manager, that suffering obsessive, might draw back from making waves – or supporting any wave-makers – in the knowledge that their personal strangeness could potentially be exposed. This fearful but not unreasonable assumption is, in part, the fruit of the many whistleblowing revelations about the surveillance state and the incredibly pervasive reach of our hi-tech behemoths (Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc.) in recent years. We have all been taught to assume that everything we do and say and show on-line is being watched, stored and laid open to state and corporate scrutiny. And we are right to do so.

Yet because this magic machine has tapped into our of most primal impulses, because it offers the ever-alluring but ever-elusive promise of filling the holes torn in our psyches by our individual upbringings and by the cruelties, chaos and contradictions in any and every social, political and cultural milieu we find ourselves caught up in, we keep exploring – and recording – our thought-dreams with it. We can't stop feeding it with kompromat against ourselves, can't stop giving malevolent forces – who care nothing for us beyond what they can wring from us for their own power and profit – the key to the inner sanctum of our souls.

There is also the fact these malevolent forces have made it virtually impossible to carry out your daily life without giving them access to your lives and thoughts. Increasingly, in  order simply to function in the modern world, you must tell them who you are, where you are, what you are buying, reading, watching, listening to.

So the Laureate's lyrics are no longer metaphorical lights cast into our secret darkness. They are now the literal truth: our thought-dreams can be seen. And they can be used, should the powerful wish it, to put our heads in a guillotine.

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“Moderates” Making Inevitable Pivot to Trump as the Money Rolls In at the Top

Written by Chris Floyd 24 June 2017 7524 Hits

I reckon Mike Bloomberg took a good long gander at that GOP "Massive Tax Cut for the Super-Rich Disguised as Healthcare" bill and liked what he saw. (Salon: Michael Bloomberg says Democrats should “get behind” President Trump) Pivoting on a dime -- or rather, on a gargantuan pile of extra loot for himself -- he dropped his opposition to the "dangerous demagogue" Trump and called on Democrats to stop opposing him too. One should recall, as the story notes, that Bloomberg owns "several media outlets." So it's a safe bet that this "get with the program and get behind the president" line will soon be trickling down throughout his various media ventures.

I've said from day one -- even before Trump began stocking his cabinet with Goldman-Sachs alumni -- that the Establishment would line up behind him because he was going to give them everything they'd ever wanted, turning the country into one big neo-feudal cash cow for oligarchs and corporations. Wall Street loves him. The war profiteers and Pentagon berserkers love him, because he's drowning them in money and letting them do what they want (the same goes for the so-called "Deep State" security agencies, who are now more funding and more free from control than ever). The Congressional extremists love him because he will sign whatever nation-destroying, citizen-killing bullshit they pass. Even the mainstream media love him, deep down, because his antics have given them their highest ratings and profit margins in years. The idea that he is some kind of "anti-Establishment" figure is just ludicrous, as is the idea that the "Establishment" is going to bring him down. He cannot be removed from office unless the Congressional extremists decide to impeach him, and they are not going to do that. It's just not going to happen. They don't want to do it, and anyway, their corporate overlords and paymasters wouldn't stand for it.

Yes, Mike Pence would faithfully serve the same agenda, but the gigantic disruption of impeaching a president would throw the whole political world into turmoil -- and uncertainty. It would be like Brexit on steroids, upending the political landscape and setting deep currents moving whose direction no one could predict. Following the earthquake of Brexit, the new shock to the system that Theresa May wrought with an unnecessary election has revived a genuine leftist alternative in Britain and sent the power structure into a dithering panic. The avowed and unrepentant socialist Jeremy Corbyn is now, astonishingly, beating May in new polls on who would be the best prime minister for the country. Bloomberg and his fellow billionaires and oligarchs certainly don't want to see anything like that happening in the US.

So it's time to line up behind the Donald and "make sure his presidency succeeds" -- succeeds in its mission to destroy the last few restraints on corporate, oligarchic and authoritarian state power. The Deathcare Bill is a big first step in that direction -- and "moderate" Mike Bloomberg is now on board. Look for other “moderates” and “centrists” to follow.

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FUBAR, FUBAR über alles: Careening Toward Chaos – or Conflagration

Written by Chris Floyd 20 June 2017 7171 Hits

Just days after President Trump came out firmly on the side of the Saudi Islamic extremists in their tiff with the Qatari Islamic extremists, his State Department, led by the rape-the-environment extremist Rexxon Tillerson, has denounced the Saudis for not coming up with a justification for their embargo of Qatar — a move that Trump himself took credit for. The story is here.

This is the FUBAR form of government. This is rule by SNAFU. It also shows in stark relief the reality of the US government today. Exxon man and the generals are in charge of foreign policy. The Congressional extremists led by Ryan and McConnell are in charge of domestic policy. Steve Bannon, as he openly declared last year, is using Trump as an "instrument" to push his vision of white nationalist authoritarianism. The ignorant, infantile president, Trump, is not in charge of anything at all beyond the promotion of his own brand and the aggrandizement of his sleazy, crime-ridden family and their cronies.

Sometimes these power centers converge, sometimes they contradict each other (Trump contradicts himself on a regular basis); all of them are using the immense power of the US government to advance their grubby agendas -- but none of them, not one, give even the slightest damn about the well-being of the American people. The chaos at the heart of the American power system today makes the wildly careening Yeltsin government I saw in action years ago look like a model of reasoned statecraft.

The generals are pushing -- and provoking -- war with Iran and Russia; their sometime ally, Tillerson, wants war with Iran but rapprochment with Russia to secure lucrative oil contracts; Trump backs any country that bribes him with business deals, like Saudi Arabia and China; and the Congressional extremists, along with their allies in the cabinet, continue their crusade to kill the sick, kill the old, rob the poor and the middle-class, poison the environment and leave the country a smoking, hollowed-out ruin, all to fill the coffers of their oligarch masters.

I have written -- for decades -- about the crimes and depredations of the American power elite (including the mass murders and assassinations and corporate servitude of the great progressive god Obama); but there has never been anything quite like the monstrous chaos we now see at the heart of the American power structure. Where this out-of-control FUBAR/SNAFU form of government will lead us -- world war? nuclear conflagration? societal colllapse? authoritarian rule? -- is anyone's guess. But we are certainly living in more "interesting times" the planet has seen since the 1930s; and I think we will all know how that turned out.

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Family Planning: Trump’s Trollish Housing Pick Part of Dystopian Plan

Written by Chris Floyd 16 June 2017 7377 Hits

So: Trump appoints his son's wedding planner to head NYC's massive federal housing agency. She has no experience in housing; she falsely claims to have a law degree; she falsely claims to have gone to Yale. This is very much in line with most of Trump's appointments. People look at the series of gormless courtiers and fox-in-henhouse given important posts and say, "What's going on?"

I think two things are happening. First, Trump is trying to turn the US into a thuggish authoritarian state run by a corrupt family (such as Kazakhstan), with incompetent kinfolk and sleazy cronies taking over government offices, while the ruling family milks the country like a cash cow. Second, his vizier Steve Bannon has been explicit about his intention to use Trump's presidency to destroy the state -- "dismantling the administrative state," as he puts it; that is, a state that administers the laws and regulations of a democratically elected government. Instead he wants to see a strongman government free from all restrictions of law and dedicated to the imposition of harsh, exclusionary nationalist ethos on the whole population. Again, he is very open about this, it's not some surmise or conspiracy theory.

This is also part of a broader GOP extremism that has been openly operating for years: the idea of deliberately causing governments to become dysfunctional -- as in Kansas, by starving it of even the minimum funding to perform its functions adequately while slashing taxes for the rich and powerful -- so that the very idea of a government that addresses the common good is discredited. (Indeed, you can even hear some of these rightists denounce the very notion of a "common good" as evil.) These GOP extremists now control Congress, the White House, most state governments and, by the time Trump (or Pence) is through, almost all of the federal judiciary.

So we will have the entire US governmental apparatus in the hands of people who hate the very idea of government; who despise the very notion of a common good; who relentlessly seek to restrict voting rights in order to thwart the will of the majority who oppose their policies; who are systematically criminalizing any kind of active protest and working to extend this repression to verbal dissent (as in Trump's repeated threats to "tighten libel laws"); who believe that only the very rich have the right to influence policy and receive government benefits; who champion and excuse the use of violent force against unarmed citizens; who are committed to a hyper-violent foreign policy run largely by the military without close civilian oversight, a policy that, as our own intelligence services tell us, destabilizes whole nations, exacerbates hatred and spreads terrorism at home and abroad.

The United States can probably survive a few years (or months, as the case may be) of Trump’s third-rate thugocracy. But it is the second point — the deliberate destruction of government by extremists fiercely dedicated to authoritarian/oligarch anti-democratic rule — that is far more dangerous. This far-right radicalism has been gathering power for years (yes, even before Putin came along!), like a tidal wave building far in the distance but moving inexorably toward the shore. Now it’s breaking upon us with tremendous force. And there is no guarantee that the structures of our government and civil society — already rotted by years of bipartisan corruption, warmongering, soulless neoliberalism and plutocratic rapine —  can survive the blow.

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Red Alert: Russian Focus Might Save Trump’s Hide

Written by Chris Floyd 14 June 2017 7639 Hits

The “historic” appearances of James Comey Chameleon and Jefferson Davis Andersonville Sessions before a Senate committee have come and gone, leaving us … pretty much where we were before. Trump was made to look stupid and thuggish (not exactly front-page news); his GOP apologists and enablers employed even more ludicrous justifications for said stupidity and thuggery (“Hey, the kid is still green, he didn’t know he was doing anything wrong — not that he did do anything wrong, mind you.”); media outlets reaped tons of ad revenue; twittery was rampant on every side. We all had a jolly good time. But as for the ostensible object of the exercise — learning more about possible Russian interference in the electoral process, and any part Trump’s gang might have had in colluding with this and/or covering it up — there was not a whole lotta shaking going on.

That’s to be expected. For I don’t believe we are ever going to see confirmable proof of direct collusion between the Trump gang and the Kremlin to skew the 2016 election. I don’t doubt there is a myriad of ties between Trump and nefarious Russian characters, all of whom will of necessity have some connection to Putin’s authoritarian regime. And there may well be underhanded Trump gang ties of corruption to the state itself. But I don’t think a “smoking gun” of direct collusion with Trump’s inner circle in vote tampering exists. If it did, it would be out by now. It’s obvious the intelligence services and FBI were all over the Trump campaign, looking into Russian ties from many angles.

I’m not saying the Russians didn’t try to tamper with the vote. (Although, as a patriotic American, I doubt they can tamper as well as we can.) I’m not saying it’s not important or not worth looking into. I’m just saying that if you put most of your focus and resources and political capital on the bet that you will find some smoking gun of direct collusion between Trump and his circle with the Russian state — evidence so direct and overwhelming that even the GOP extremists in Congress can’t overlook it — then you are going to be disappointed. You will not bring down Trump, who, despite mountains of dirt thrown on him, will still walk away and claim vindication.

Meanwhile, away from the “dramatic hearings” and the all-day permanent Red scare of the “Resistance,” the Trump White House and the Congressional extremists are quietly, methodically, relentlessly transforming the United States into a hideous oligarch-owned, burned-out, broken-down, looted-out, chaos-ridden, far-right dystopia. Right now, the Senate Republicans are trying to push through, in secret, a “health-care” bill that is scarcely less draconian than the universally hated House version, and like that bill, consists of two main parts: a gargantuan tax cut for the very rich and taking away healthcare coverage for millions upon millions of ordinary citizens, including the most vulnerable people in the nation.

And what did we hear Monday from Democratic staffers? That the Senate Democrats are NOT going to wage a fight to the death to prevent this monstrosity from being inflicted on the people; they’re not “going nuclear,” using every possible tactic and procedural rule to derail the Trumpcare bill, or at least stall it long enough to raise a public outcry against it. And why not? Why, because the Republicans have promised that no sanctions will be removed on Russia without the Democrats getting a chance to vote on it in the Senate. This is the kind of misplaced priority I’m talking about.  

I won’t even get into the fact that progressives and liberals now venerate the intelligence services they used to rightly condemn for decades of lies and deceit and misinformation and covert murder and, yes, manipulation of our electoral process (not to mention those of other nations.) And let’s put aside how every “anonymous leak” from an “intelligence source” is now treated as gospel — even though it comes from the same “intelligence sources” that anonymously leaked all that “credible” evidence of Saddam’s WMD way back in caveman times. And told us that Gadafy was about to unleash genocide on his people and was sending in rape squads jacked up on Viagra, etc., only to sheepishly admit later these claims had been all false … after Gadafy had been sodomized and murdered in the street by NATO-backed Islamic extremists, even as Hillary Clinton laughed out loud and declared, “We came, we saw, he DIED!”

Let’s put aside the fact that former head of the FBI — who has spent years waging war on Black Lives Matter and concocting fake terrorist plots to entrap mentally ill loners in order to garner good PR for himself — is now a liberal hero, even a “sex symbol,” because he was fired by a lunatic fascist that no one with a shred of honor should have been working for in the first place. Let’s put aside that former CIA honcho James Clapper — who has lied under oath to Congress about the CIA’s Putin-style hacking of the US Senate to stop release of reports on, er, CIA torture, who lied repeatedly about Saddam’s non-existent WMD when he was a key player under George W. Bush, and who is now repeatedly saying that Russians have some kind of genetic defect that makes them inherent, unredeemable scheming lowlifes — has also become a much-lauded liberal hero. Let’s put aside the abandonment of principle and common sense the “Resistance” has shown toward the bankrupt morality and demonstrable mendacity of these men and their institutions. And how anyone who expresses the same skepticism toward these “organs” that they have been expressing for decades — no matter who is in power —  is now regarded as a Putin apologist, a Kremlin stooge or, more and more often, an outright, active traitor.

Let’s put aside all this for now, disheartening as it is, and focus on this: if the intent is to bring down Trump, then there is ample material just lying there for the taking — evidence of blatant criminality and corruption that could be taken up right now, keeping Trump and his whole sick crew tied up in prosecutions, investigations, special committees and independent prosecutors out the wazoo. The man had known Mafia figures with him at his New Year’s celebration in Mar-a-Lago just months ago, for God’s sake. You don’t have to pry piss-tapes from the Kremlin to bring down a mook like Trump.

Of course, part of the problem is that a genuinely wide-ranging and thorough investigation of Trump’s criminal corruption would doubtless expose the deep rot at the heart of our system, the incredibly complex entwining of the underworld and the “upper world”:  the dirty deals, the tax dodges, the sweetheart contracts, the cut-outs to maintain “deniability,” the bribes, the “gifts,” the special arrangements, the corporate espionage, the interpenetration of state and corporate power at every level, even in warfare and diplomacy — in short, all of the “corrupted currents” that lay behind the gilded facade maintained by our bipartisan elites and their servitors in the political-media class. If you start to pull too hard on the stinking threads of Trump’s criminal entanglements, who knows what else might come undone, who else might be exposed?

We saw during the last campaign this reluctance to really go after Trump for the string of dodgy deals and frauds he’s left across a decades-long career. Every now and then there would be a quick jab, but even these would usually be obscured by Trump’s artful use of blathering idiocy on Twitter. Was he defrauding veterans and cancer patients with his patently fraudulent charities? “Look there! Trump just said McCain was a loser for being captured in Vietnam!” Didn’t Trump commit criminal fraud in scamming people out of millions with his fake Trump University? “Look there! Trump’s tweeting racist attacks on the judge!” And so off we’d go, fixing on the galling spectacle of Trump’s character, while the focus on actual crime and corruption would recede. This reluctance was evident in both the GOP primary and in the general election. I kept waiting for the gloves to come off on Trump’s dirty deals, but they never really did. The focus remained on his sleazy character, not his legal dangers; and Trump had long known that the spectacular sleaziness of his character was the mainspring of his popularity, both as a celebrity and candidate. (And yes, this sleaziness and corruption was well-known even when Bill and Hillary were wrapping their arms around Donald at his wedding years before.)

Be that as it may, there is still probably more than enough material on the surface for our elites to bring Trump down without going too deep into the corrupted currents where their own murk might be stirred up. Heck, there might even be enough honest players in the political circus to lead a multi-front attack on Trump’s corruption without worrying about themselves being exposed. If you really want to bring Trump down — and in that way, cripple or at least hamper the ravages of the extremists who are using him as their tool — then it seems to me this more straightforward approach would be far more likely to succeed than waiting for some spy to come in from the cold and put incontrovertible proof of direct collusion in our hands.

But I don’t see any sign of this happening anytime soon, if ever. The focus will remain on the Russians, who despite being genetically inferior lowbrow swindlers are nevertheless capable of orchestrating practically every event in the world, including, I guess, the rise of Rupert Murdoch and the rightwing media machine, the politicised fundamentalist churches and the thousands of sinister ideological outfits bankrolled by weird billionaires, all of which have spawned an entire alternative universe in which millions of people now live, feeding on lies and smears and hatemongering that fuels their prejudices, their fears, their resentments and their anger, and corrodes their sense of commonality and community with their fellow citizens. I would venture to say that the deliberate cultivation of this vicious and violent alternative reality — along with the creation of the Electoral College in the 18th century, and the vote suppression laws passed by billionaire-funded extremists in state legislatures that disenfranchised millions of anti-Trump voters — had more to do with Trump’s victory than any phishing expeditions or email leaking by the Russians.

Again, I’m not saying that the latter didn’t happen; it may well be that the people who lied to our faces about yellow cake and aluminium tubes and vials of sarin and CIA torture, the people who wage drone wars on farmers and wedding parties, the people who persecute the mentally ill for their own aggrandizement while stirring up needless fear and hatred are now being honourable and truthful in every single thing they tell us. I genuinely hope so. If they produced that smoking gun from the Kremlin tomorrow and brought Trump down, I’d be over the moon. But I don’t think that is going to happen. And I fear we will find that a great deal of ruin has been done — and many more promising avenues of attack have been ignored, perhaps for good — while we chase ghosts in the shadowlands of espionage.

But hey, don’t listen to me. I not only write for a publication which was put on a McCarthyite list of “subversives” trumpeted in the Washington Post (before it had to backpedal), I actually even lived in Russia once, which as we know — in an age where Louise Mensch is regarded as a credible source by the “Resistance” and all things Russian are tainted — means I am obviously a Kremlin agent or a Putin fanboy trying to save Comrade Trump from the forces of righteousness. What’s more, I know people who still live in Russia, some of whom are even — gasp! — genetically Russian. (Please don’t tell liberal hero James Clapper!) So of course, all of these people must be Kremlin tools as well — even though they are putting their lives and livelihoods on the line every day fighting Putin’s tyranny, with a courage I doubt we’ll see from many of our “Resisters” when Trump finishes with Muslims, immigrants, African-Americans, the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the insulted and injured of every stripe and finally come for the “real” people who read the New York Times and watch Rachel Maddow.  For these days it's simply impossible to be associated with Russia in any way, or to question the credibility of our security organs in the slightest, or to suggest possibly better alternatives for removing Trump’s copious rump from the Oval Office, without being shunned by polite progressive society.

So take what I say with a pinch of bread and salt. (The traditional Russian offering of welcome — oh damn, I gave myself away again!) But if the focus stays largely on Moscow, don’t be surprised to see Trump sitting on the White House toilet playing with his tweeter four years from now while Steven Bannon and Richard Spencer plan his re-election campaign.

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False Dawn or New Hope: As May Limps on with Right-Wing Pact, Labour Unity is Key

Written by Chris Floyd 09 June 2017 7995 Hits

Well, it was nice while it lasted. Like many others, I rejoiced through the night at the astounding UK election results, which seemed to presage a much needed, much longed-for paradigm shift in the poisonous bipartisan neoliberal consensus that has imprisoned the politics of the UK (and US) for so many years. But this morning finds us in what might be an even worse situation, as a wounded — and woefully incompetent — Theresa May limps to the palace to form a government that will be utterly at the mercy of the right-wing sectarian cranks of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party.

And since the government-forming deal won’t be a formal coalition, the DUP will be able to extract whatever concessions they please from May, who will obviously do anything to cling to power. They have already made clear to May that their price for keeping her in office will be a “hard Brexit” in Northern Ireland: no special concessions for the unique situation there — the only place where an EU nation will have a land border with Brexit Britain. Thiswill almost certainly mean that armed border controls will have to be set up. And this in turn will almost certainly mean a renewal of strife and division in Northern Ireland after a generation of relative peace and easy flow back and forth between the UK-controlled counties and Ireland proper. The DUP fears that any special arrangement will pull Northern Ireland even closer to Ireland — which would, of course, threaten their own little power base.

We can still hope that the Parliamentary Labour Party will now embrace the paradigm shift that millions of people made yesterday in voting for a bold Labour manifesto aimed at the greater common good, not the harsh, inhumane dogmas of the failed neoliberal consensus. If they do that, if they build on the momentum and enthusiasm generated by the remarkable campaign and its renewed focus on, yes, the many not the few, then they will be able to thwart or at least hinder the worst depredations of what will be an even more right-wing government. May will now be the weakest UK leader in decades, at risk of falling at any moment if the DUP withdraws its support. She and her hideous policies will be susceptible to pressure at every single step — if Labour hangs together, if the PLP will stop viewing the leadership, the party membership — and millions of Labour voters — as enemies to be undermined and overthrown.

So despite the euphoria of the long night, we should remember that we are still in murky waters, with a rickety, right-wing Tory-DUP alliance in government. If Labour can maintain its campaign for the common good with unity and energy, then the election can still be what we all thought it was during the night: a new beginning. If not, if Labour falls into internal strife, if its inveterate, neoliberal die-hards continue to put their failed ideology ahead of the interests of the country and the world, then we will have seen a false dawn, with much darkness yet to come.

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“What Will We Tell the Children?” Two Concerned Dads Face a Very Modern Worry

Written by Chris Floyd 06 June 2017 8009 Hits

As a father concerned about the impact of the daily dose of dreadful news that my children must contend with, I am in full sympathy with Donald Trump Jr. as he frets about his children seeing a disturbing picture of their Grandpa made by a comedian. As he put it:

Donald Trump Jr.
And I'm counting down having to explain it to my 8 and 10 year olds who I'm sure will see/hear about it at school.

Seeing this tweet, I hastened to commune with Mr. Trump’s concern about his children’s feelings, and the upsetting things they must see and hear constantly with their family in the public eye so prominently. Here are my replies:

Chris Floyd‏ @empireburlesque
Well, what did you tell them about that picture of Daddy killing a nice friendly elephant then cutting off its tail?

Chris Floyd‏ @empireburlesque
Well, what did you tell the kids about Grandpa saying he likes to grab women's genitals and put his tongue down their throats?

Chris Floyd‏ @empireburlesque
Well, what did you tell them when Grandpa said if Aunt Ivanka wasn't his daughter, he'd be dating her? That must've been kinda weird!

Chris Floyd‏ @empireburlesque
What did you tell them when Grandpa was sword-dancing with Islamic extremists and taking money from them for his businesses?

Chris Floyd‏ @empireburlesque
Well Junior, what did you tell them about Grandpa saying avoiding the clap was "my Vietnam?" Did you say, "Be like Grandpa, kids!"

Chris Floyd‏ @empireburlesque
What did you tell them when Grandpa said of a married woman that he "moved on her like a bitch" but couldn't nail her? Were they proud?

Chris Floyd‏ @empireburlesque
You should have LOTS of practice explaining away horrible things associated with your family by now, L'il Donnie!

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