The Burlesque is Back in Town

Written by Chris Floyd 21 October 2016 646 Hits

Just a quick note to say that thanks to the Herculean and indefatigable efforts of the site's co-founder and webmaster, Rich Kastelein, Empire Burlesque is back up after a particularly vicious and prolonged hacking. There are new posts coming, but I wanted to let people know we are back in business, again, thanks to Rich. In case of future hack attack of any great length, you might check out my other, less political website, which I will use for Empire Burlesque-type posts whenever this site is down. The other site is Bright Terrible Spirit.

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Tonkin 2.0: 'Attack' on Ships Justifies US Escalation in Yemen

Written by Chris Floyd 13 October 2016 1241 Hits

So, just as the world was finally taking notice of the US-Saudi carnage in Yemen — following the mass slaughter of civilians in an attack on a funeral on Oct. 8 — suddenly, for the first time in the 19-month conflict, US ships in the Gulf of Tonkin — sorry, the Red Sea — were fired upon (or "threatened') by off-target missiles. Now, in thundering righteousness at this unprovoked outrage (unprovoked if you don’t count 19 months of slaughter and blockade which have killed thousands and put millions at risk of famine), the US — which had “only” been funding, arming, targeting, supplying intel and enforcing the inhumane blockade — has now directly entered the fray, firing missiles into Yemen to destroy three radar sites (which had been left inexplicably untouched in the previous 19 months of relentless US/KSA bombing).

Here’s a key passage from the NYT story:

“Before Thursday’s attack, Secretary of State John Kerry pushed for a peace deal in Yemen, arguing that the United States could be an honest broker because it was not directly involved in the Saudi-led bombing campaign.The military response could now make that a more difficult position to take."

Putting aside the hoot-worthy claim that the US could be an “honest broker” in a war that literally could not be taking place without extensive involvement of the United States on behalf of the religious extremists of the Saudi tyranny, here we see — once again — the militarist extremists of the US power structure scuppering even wan attempts at a diplomatic approach. We saw this just a few weeks ago in Syria, where a ceasefire crafted through diplomacy with the Russians was suddenly shattered by an “accidental” US attack on Syrian army positions.

It’s clear — clear beyond all reasonable doubt — that America’s militarist extremists are determined to subvert or destroy any attempt at peace that does not end in total American dominance. They can at times work subtly and patiently — witness the long, steady rehabilitation of the radical neocons of the Bush era, now openly embraced by the “progressive” Obama and Clinton — and, when possible, they prefer to work by proxy, to avoid stirring up the stupid herd of rubes (aka the American people) who supply the tax money and cannon fodder for their extremist agenda. But when they must, they will act swiftly, brutally and directly to kill moves toward peace. That’s what happened this week in Yemen.

Thus another proxy war slides into direct involvement, without any declaration or debate. Thus more and more civilians are slaughtered in the name of geopolitical power games, leaving behind anguished, grieving, angry survivors, prey to anyone who offers them a venue for retribution. All this, we’re told, is done in the name of “national security.” But here’s a question no one asks in the howling hell-circus of our presidential campaign: after 15 years of this, 15 years of “counterterror war” destroying entire nations, uprooting millions of people and killing multitudes of innocent people, 15 years of bipartisan policies which our own intelligence services have repeatedly said exacerbate “radicalization” terrorism at home and abroad — is our nation more secure?

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Castroturf: Crude Red-Baiting Hides True Trump Danger

Written by Chris Floyd 30 September 2016 2422 Hits

For many years, the iron-clad American embargo of Cuba was decried by liberals and progressives as counterproductive and inhumane. People who broke the embargo or tried to get around it -- like Ry Cooder with the wonderful Buena Vista Social Club project -- were hailed as heroes by liberals. But now it's being treated by those same liberals (and the media) as some kind of sacred principle that should never have been breached in any way -- because Donald Trump once spent some money there, indirectly exploring business opportunities at a time when there was much talk in Washington (among liberal circles & the Clinton Administration) of normalizing relations. (Of course, Trump, huckstering hypocrite that he is, was also publicly denouncing normalization at the same time he was seeing if he could profit from it.) Now the Clinton camp says Trump was going "against the national interest" by even remotely dealing with Cuba. So the embargo -- long condemned by liberals, and actually lifted by progressive champion Obama -- was in "the national interest" after all, it seems, and anyone who circumvented it in the slightest way is some kind of commie traitor. (Hope Ry is heading for the border; I'll bet he spent a little money while he was in Cuba way back when. Wait till Newsweek gets going on him!)

Trump’s manifest corruption and criminal associations have been plain for years, decades. Whole books — very thorough books with copious amounts of evidence — have been written about it. But the media — and, strangely enough, the Clinton camp — have almost totally ignored all this. Why? Because most of his corruption is bound up too closely with the power structure at large? (He’s a paid-up member of the elite, after all.) Is it the fear that if you pull too hard on some of those threads, you never know who might come out, and who the dirt might stain? Who knows? But instead of a powerful, full-blown focus on Trump’s long, sordid, well-documented corruption, we get this kind of piddly shit — Trump sent a guy to Cuba one time, OMG! — which is blown up into truly ludicrous McCarthyite Red Scare goonery.

This seems to be the main plank of the Clinton campaign. “The Russians are coming! Commies! Castro! And Trump’s one of them! Aiiieee!” None of this hurts Trump with those who are supporting him, or thinking about it. He is running pretty openly as a fascistic authoritarian (which they like, apparently); they know he’s not a “commie” or a Russian agent. In any case, the positions Trump has taken — the racism, the “law and order” calls for unleashing the police on minorities, the obsession that other countries “are laughing at us” and somehow cheating us on trade deals, etc. — are all things he has been talking about for years, long before the arrival of Putin; indeed, even before the fall of the Soviet Union. By focusing on Putin as the dark mastermind of the Trump campaign, Clinton is actually obscuring the very real danger that Trump poses all by himself with his long-held positions. The idea that this 70-year-old public figure who’s been babbling fascist tropes for decades is somehow a puppet of the Russians just makes the Clinton campaign look stupid.

The Clinton campaign’s simplistic, throwback red-baiting is both politically counterproductive — and genuinely dangerous for the future. For one thing, she is undermining her own legitimacy if she wins the election; after all, we’re constantly told that Putin “is putting the integrity of our election” at risk with his unstoppable, all-pervasive hacking. So if she wins, does that mean Putin wanted her to? The defeated Trumpists could easily make that claim, using her campaign’s own cartoonish version of an all-powerful Putin against her.

But more than that, Clinton’s crude, bellicose McCarthyite stance will make it almost impossible to deal with Russia in any kind of thoughtful, productive way. Instead, at every turn, she reinforces Putin’s own narrative: that Russia needs his strong hand because it’s under constant, imminent threat from a Russophobic America. Liberal reforms will have to wait as the country girds to fight for its very existence. And to support this “strong hand,” he turns to the most bellicose and nationalistic forces in the country. If, as the New York Times tells us this week, echoing the Clinton line, that Russia is now “an outlaw state,” then how can there possibly be any kind of productive, effective negotiations with Moscow? There is only one way to deal with nations condemned as “outlaw states” by the Washington power structure: they must be taken down, one way or another, like Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Serbia, Syria. How can we ever negotiate in good faith with an outlaw dictator who is subverting our political process and trying to take over the world?

The stark and stupid terms of Clinton’s retro Red-bashing is making open conflict with Russia an ever-increasing possibility. In the long-term, this would be a disaster of unimaginable horror. In the short-term, it only strengthens Putin at home, bolstering repression and authoritarian control, while doing absolutely nothing to help untangle the many thorny issues between Russia and West.

Yet here we are. The Cuban Embargo was once a target of liberal opprobrium; now it’s a “national interest” that should have never been breached or challenged. Four legs good, two legs better.

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The Train Wreck and the Artful Dodger: More War Either Way

Written by Chris Floyd 27 September 2016 2341 Hits

My quick take on the debate (at 4 o'clock in the morning). 1. Trump was even more of a train wreck than I expected (no doubt in part due to the, uh, sniffle-producing stimulant he apparently took before the show). 2. Clinton performed more nimbly than I expected and will probably win the election. [I'm speaking of performance, not substance.] 3. But in any case, we are in for more war, and much more horror and chaos in the years to come, for there was general agreement between both of them to continue the militaristic insanity that in the last 15 years has only produced more terror, fear and suffering at home and abroad.

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Some Premature Praise for a Future Progressive Hero

Written by Chris Floyd 24 September 2016 2600 Hits

Looking forward to ex-Pres Obama's 'controversial' statements supporting Palestinian rights. I know they'll be bold & powerful. * Looking forward to ex-Pres Obama's scathing attacks on Wall Street, once he is no longer in power. Bet he'll make Liz Warren look tame! * Looking forward to ex-Pres Obama taking a knee on the sideline beside Kaepernick, after he's left office. What an impact that will have! *  Looking forward to ex-Pres Obama's surprising denunciation of fracking as an "unconscionable assault" on the environment. MSNBC will cheer! * Looking forward to ex-Pres Obama's NYT op-ed decrying New Cold War bellicosity, calling for "reason & respect" in policy toward Russia. * In short, looking forward to all the bold "progressive" stances ex-Pres Obama will take -- once he's unable to do jack shit about any of them. (Today’s twittering @empireburlesque.)

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Waiting for Clooney: No A-List Love for the Victims in Yemen

Written by Chris Floyd 23 September 2016 2847 Hits

In more news no one gives a damn about, the Saudi-American slaughter in Yemen continues apace: 19 more civilians killed by our bombs, dropped by our freedom-loving allies, the anti-Semitic, woman-hating extremist religious tyrants. That very  day, our bold, freedom-loving US Senators voted to approve the Peace Prize president's undeclared war against Yemen by defeating a move to block further arms sales to the Saudis. Meanwhile, "nearly half of Yemen's 22 provinces are on the verge of famine," which is being deliberately fomented by a US-led blockade of the desert nation. But don't worry; when the famine reaches genocidal proportions, you can bet George and Amal Clooney will host a big, glitzy A-list fundraiser, with their good friend, former President Barack Obama, making a special appearance to ask the guests to "dig deep" to support the poor victims in Yemen. Won't be a dry eye in the house!

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Accomplished Peace: Dangerous Dreams in Dire and Pious Days

Written by Chris Floyd 22 September 2016 2220 Hits

"They say we need the law to keep us entertained/While their talons rip our precious meat./So dire and so pious as they lay us out,/Good enough for God himself to eat...." 

Pouring out in portions of accomplished peace
glorious images of her face
Her son sang the fragments of the broken songs
From the depths of the Lascaux caves

The first soul, the first soul,
The first soul was a woman in the unformed seas
The first soul, the first soul,
Pouring out in portions of accomplished peace

They say we need the law to keep us entertained
While their talons rip our precious meat
So dire and so pious as they lay us out
Good enough for God himself to eat
The first soul, the first soul,
The first soul was a woman in the unformed seas
The first soul, the first soul,
Pouring out in portions of accomplished peace

What you conceal behind honest doors --
parchments, origins and hours --
will never be recovered by your wounded name
that died in the trampled flowers

The first soul, the first soul,
The first soul was a woman in the unformed seas
The first soul, the first soul,
Pouring out in portions of accomplished peace

©2016 by Chris Floyd

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Into a Rageful Darkness: Campaign 2016, and Beyond

Written by Chris Floyd 15 September 2016 2814 Hits


Anxiety is power.
It always has been.

Fear and uncertainty
cloud the operations
of reason.

Fear and uncertainty
cripple the lineaments
of sympathy.

Fear and uncertainty
induce shame,
which in turn

induces an inward hatred
that spews outward
in anger and hate.

The brain is wired
in its core
to flood consciousness

with chemical agitation
in the presence of threat,
real or imagined.

The ability to harness
and direct these drives
is a royal road

to power over others,
who in their diminished state,
cannot discern the damage

being inflicted upon them
with their own assistance,
their unknowing connivance.

This is an age
of hyper-anxiety:
some of it harnessed

to pernicious effect;
but much of it
now coursing wildly

with no direction,
beyond all sense,
all sympathy,

into a rageful darkness.


©2016 by Chris Floyd


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Missing Plank: Who's for the Poor?

Written by Chris Floyd 15 September 2016 2696 Hits

I spent so many years out there/Trying to figure out the truth/In party plans and platforms/And that old voting booth/I sought a grand solution/I don't do that anymore/There’s just one plank in my platform: I’m for the poor...

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Imperial Submission: When Dissidents Take a Turn to Empire

Written by Chris Floyd 09 September 2016 3998 Hits

(My latest column for the print version of CounterPunch.) O dark dark dark, they all go into the dark, the vacuous, vacuumous void of the imperial penumbra: the rock-ribbed dissidents, fiery oppositionists, staunch anti-imperialists, eminent afflicters of the unjustly comfortable; the lifelong exposers of ideological bullshittery, distinguished voices decrying repression and hate, chairmen of many activist committees, generous denouncers of profiteering, brave and battered souls who put their bodies upon the gears of the odious Machine again and again -- all go into the dark. They bow their heads and say to the Machine, at last: protect us.

This year has seen depressing recurrences of a syndrome first exhibited -- in typically brazen form -- by Christopher Hitchens in the first days after 9/11: stalwart figures of political dissent submitting reluctantly (or in Hitchens’ case, gleefully) to the power of the militarist American state as the only force capable of mounting a last-ditch defense of humanist values against the imminent, overwhelming existential threat of Islam.

Some of these coat-turning figures are the usual “reformists” and careerists whose “dissent” was always epidermis-deep; their submission to the state rates nothing more than bemused scorn. But what of someone like Bill Blum, who has informed and inspired so many of us for decades with his uncompromising insights into the true nature of the odious Machine as it has chewed its way around the world, killing millions, spouting lies, fomenting extremism, repressing freedom at home and abroad? If Blum too could succumb to Hitchenitis, would such a blot not seem "like a second fall of man"?

And yet it has come to pass. The terrorist atrocity in Nice was apparently the last straw for Blum. After that horrific attack -- by a mentally troubled, wife-beating, doped-up wretch who, it seems, might have been preyed upon by Islamic extremists in the same way the FBI picks troubled souls to foment terror plots it can then 'foil' (or not) -- Blum declared that it was time to drop "political correctness" and "support Western military and economic power to crush the unspeakable evil of ISIS."

Well, I suppose if the wielders of "Western military and economic power" were not actively pursuing -- with copious amounts of energy, arms and money -- strategies which they know exacerbate the "radical Islamic terrorism" that Blum apparently believes everyone but he and Pam Geller are too scared to mention, there might be the sliver of an argument in this position. A specious argument, to be sure -- "the problems caused by violent Western intervention can be solved by more violent Western intervention "-- but an argument nonetheless.

But as Blum himself has detailed with devastating accuracy over the years, the United States and its allies have enabled such forces for decades. And it has been evident for years that their main objective in Syria is regime change, not the defeat of ISIS. It's also been evident -- as Blum has documented -- that they don't give a rat's ass about "radical Islamic terrorism" except as a means to advance their foreign and domestic agendas: supporting it here, opposing it there, ignoring the monstrous consequences and laughing all the way to the bank.

But Blum doesn't stop with supporting military action against ISIS. He wants a full-bore campaign of domestic repression launched against all Muslims within reach of those ever-benevolent Western powers. Blum says Muslim culture "must be severely curtailed. The West must oversee the classes in Islamic schools in France, the UK, the US, et al ... Even if it means sending spies into the classes, outfitted with recording devices. The teachers of these classes, if they have any connection at all to anything smacking of radical Islam ... should be fired."

(Maybe these new civilization-saving spies can pass along the names of suspect teachers to the White House for consideration on those "Terror Tuesdays" when the president decides who will be arbitrarily murdered that week by the protectors of humanist values.)

And even if, as in many cases, "the perpetrator of some horrible terrorist act was not even religious or never attended a mosque," it doesn't matter, says Blum. The mere fact that they might have been "raised in the atmosphere" of "Muslim culture or environment" is enough to justify subjecting every Muslim to repression, surveillance or even "purging." (This despite the fact that Muslims are, overwhelmingly, the chief victims of radical Islamic terrorism – and of “Western military and economic power” as well.)

Blum says he knows all about Western atrocities -- Iraq, Vietnam, Hiroshima -- but ISIS is worse than all of this, presumably because of that irredeemable "Muslim culture or environment." So we must now support the Machine -- the "culture or environment" of American militarism -- that perpetrated those atrocities in order to destroy a group that would not exist without the interventions of "Western military and economic power." We must take it on trust that after decades of the brutal, inhuman, murderous operations documented by Blum, this Machine, this murderous system, will now save our "values" from destruction.

I’ll continue to read (and re-read) Blum’s work with respect and attention, as always. But it’s sad to see him enter this shadowland, where the shade of Hitchens is sitting by the wraith of Whittaker Chambers and chuckling, “What took you so long, Bill?”


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