The victims in Orlando were killed because of who they loved, who they desired, and for no other reason. The massacre was not “an attack on our country.” It was a savage hate crime against gay people by a known homophobe (and aspiring policeman) trained in the use of weapons by the world’s largest corporate security firm. Although like so many “lone wolf” terrorists (and would-be terrorists), the Orlando killer was “on the FBI’s radar,” we don’t yet know — and may never know — if he, like many of his predecessors, had been encouraged and enabled by the FBI to pursue a terrorist action. But that he was driven primarily by hatred of homosexuality seems certain.
My latest column from the CounterPunch print magazine: The tangled tropes of Trump are many and various. Most have at least a tincture of veracity in them — although the phenomenon of his candidacy is so vast and gaseous it’s not surprising that some discharge from it would fall, like mist, or a wet clump of coagulate matter, on scattered bits of the truth here and there.
Another day, another Trump delegate calling for the violent overthrow of the government. This sort of thing used to be frowned upon, I believe, but now is simply par for the political course. The odd thing, of course, is that if Obama wasn't black, he would be a conservative's dream. He's opened up more offshore drilling than Bush, expanded fracking, deported more people than any president in history, killed thousands of Muslims (and is currently bombing seven Muslim countries), raised military budgets, cut federal taxes to their lowest levels in 60 years, cut social programs, spent almost 8 years trying to strike a "grand bargain" with Republicans to cut Social Security and Medicare (until this week when, in his last months in office, he's suddenly decided we should increase Social Security), worked hard to derail public healthcare in favor of a program drawn up by a conservative think-tank and first used by a Republican governor, put troops on the Russian border, beefed up US military presence in Asia to threaten China, supported right-wing coups in Latin America, gave Wall Street trillions of dollars in bailouts and credits, refused to prosecute any CIA officials for torture (despite admitting "we tortured some folks"), jailed more whistleblowers than any other president, pushed fanatically pro-business trade treaties, and so on.
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.