Dark Matter: Surrendering our Secrets to Malevolent Forces

Written by Chris Floyd 12 August 2017 8877 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 13148 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 12772 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 12951 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 13311 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 13653 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 13637 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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Design Fault: Counterterrorism’s Egregious Failures Don’t Faze Our Leaders

Written by Chris Floyd 04 June 2017 15779 Hits

I think anyone who takes an objective view of the abysmal record of failure on the part of the official who as Home Secretary and Prime Minister has been in charge of UK counterterrorism policy for many years must agree with the declaration of Theresa May following the London attacks: "enough is enough." Well said, Mrs. May. We must repudiate these failed policies and all those who have pushed them, of whatever party or ideological stripe.

On both the micro level of singular acts of terrorism by individuals and the macro level of geopolitical strategy -- such as the close alliance with the sectarian Saudi tyrants who have been the primary purveyors of Islamic extremism around the world for decades -- the UK's "counterterrorism" policies have been egregious, atrocious failures. This includes the decisions by May and other government officials to run "ratlines" of radicalized Britons in and out of Libya and Syria -- and back -- in order to carry out cynical geopolitical agendas of regime change and domination. (Among these UK backed agents of destabilization, of course, was the recent suicide bomber in Manchester.)

I certainly agree that we have had "enough" of these wretchedly counterproductive policies, and the inhumane, ruthless power gaming that lies behind them. To continue with these policies -- or even worse, to "double down" on them in some witless, blunderbuss way -- guarantees there will be an unending series of incidents such as the one in London Saturday night. This might suit the military-industrial-surveillance complex that is devouring the societies of the UK and the US, where war and terror and fear have become vast engines of profit and power for private companies and governments alike. But it will be, as it has been, ruinous and deadly for the peace and prosperity of the citizens these governments purport to serve.

In this century alone, the US and UK have helped destroy two largely secular, multicultural regimes that had stood as bulwarks against the kind of Islamic extremism peddled by our allies, Saudi Arabia: Iraq and Libya. A third such country, Syria, has been the target of an ongoing regime change war in which the West and Saudis are openly backing al Qaeda allies and other extremists. This bipartisan policy of fostering extremism for geopolitical ends was also used in Afghanistan, where a thoroughly secular regime was overthrown by Islamic extremists armed, paid and organized by the US, UK, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

This is not to praise those regimes, but to speak in the terms our leaders themselves have adopted: that Islamic terrorism is the primary threat to our civilization and thus counterterrorism is an overarching priority. If countering Islamic extremism is your priority, then supporting Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya is, to put it mildly, the wrong policy. If it is your priority to combat Islamic extremism which threatens to radicalize citizens of your own country, then giving massive, continuous, unquestioning support to the brutal tyrants who have exported extremist Islam all over the world for decades is, to put it mildly, the wrong policy. If it is your priority to defend your civilization from radical Islamic extremism, then launching war after war after war in Islamic countries with secular governments — and aiding extremist militias in those countries, like al Qaeda, al Nusra, ISIS, and the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, founded in the 1990s with support from the West to launch terrorist attacks against the Gadafy regime — are, to put it mildly, the wrong policies. If it is your overarching priority to prevent the spread of hatred, radicalization and revenge, then committing mass murder in drone strikes on villages, weddings, farmers and children is, to put it mildly, the wrong policy.

Viewing all this history, and viewing the actual, visible record of officials like Theresa May (and her bipartisan UK predecessors and US counterparts) on counterterrorism, we are left with only two possible conclusions. One, that all of these highly educated, accomplished and successful individuals — across the range of party affiliations — are dithering, blithering idiots, incapable of recognizing the clear, manifest, repeated failure of their counterterrorism policies, year after year after year. Or two, that quelling and countering terrorism is NOT actually an overarching priority for our leaders; that they know full well these policies lead to more extremism, more terrorism — as their own intelligence services have repeatedly told them — but carry on with them just the same.

Therefore we are left with a further conclusion, which I’ve noted before, but which becomes clearer and clearer with each new terrorist attack and each new doubling-down on the same failed policies by the West: for our leaders, for those on the commanding heights of our bipartisan power structures, the game is worth the candle.  The pursuit of their geopolitical power-game agendas means more to them — much, much more — than the lives and well-being and security of their own citizens. If there is no change in these broader policies, no change in the inhuman, inhumane agenda of domination, then no amount of tinkering with “Prevent” programs on the local level — much less even more authoritarian repression on the national level — will stop the outbreak of sickening evils like the London killings.

Until more people recognize the fact that our own governments have been absolutely crucial to the rise and spread of violent Islamic extremism — both directly, in their alliance with Saudi Arabia, and in the many, many instances of their arming and abetting Islamic terrorists; and indirectly, in carrying out policies which they KNOW will produce radicalized extremists — then we will not even begin to address the problem, much less start to solve it. And this includes recognizing —and questioning — the agendas of our elites as well, to ask why their barbaric quest for dominance and control over others is worth the lives of our sons and daughters, our fathers and mothers, our brothers and sisters, as well as the lives of the countless innocents they kill, year after year, in foreign lands.

This is the world our leaders have created with their deliberately chosen policies, in full knowledge of the consequences. Until we recognize this — until we say “enough is enough” to  these policies and alliances and covert collusions and brutal agendas that stoke the fires of extremism — there will be no end to this madness. It will only grow worse.

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The Whirlwind and the Candle: Terror as a Policy Tool

Written by Chris Floyd 26 May 2017 14558 Hits

Right after the Paris attacks in November 2015, I wrote two articles about the historical context and the continuing policies that led to the nightmare. (One of articles was denounced in Parliament by the prime minister and others.) Unfortunately, the articles are still entirely applicable today, with only small amendment: substituting “Manchester” for “Paris.” I very much fear they will be applicable for a long time to come. I've put them together below.

I. Age of Despair: Reaping the Whirlwind of Western Support for Extremist Violence

We, the West, overthrew Saddam by violence. We overthrew Gadafy by violence. We are trying to overthrow Assad by violence. Harsh regimes all — but far less draconian than our Saudi allies, and other tyrannies around the world. What has been the result of these interventions? A hell on earth, one that grows wider and more virulent year after year.

Without the American crime of aggressive war against Iraq — which, by the measurements used by Western governments themselves, left more than a million innocent people dead — there would be no ISIS, no “Al Qaeda in Iraq.” Without the Saudi and Western funding and arming of an amalgam of extremist Sunni groups across the Middle East, used as proxies to strike at Iran and its allies, there would be no ISIS. Let’s go back further. Without the direct, extensive and deliberate creation by the United States and its Saudi ally of a world-wide movement of armed Sunni extremists during the Carter and Reagan administrations (in order to draw the Soviets into a quagmire in Afghanistan), there would have been no “War on Terror” — and no terrorist attacks in Paris tonight.

Again, let’s be as clear as possible: the hellish world we live in today is the result of deliberate policies and actions undertaken by the United States and its allies over the past decades. It was Washington that led and/or supported the quashing of secular political resistance across the Middle East, in order to bring recalcitrant leaders like Nasser to heel and to back corrupt and brutal dictators who would advance the US agenda of political domination and resource exploitation.

The open history of the last half-century is very clear in this regard. Going all the way back to the overthrow of the democratic government of Iran in 1953, the United States has deliberately and consciously pushed the most extreme sectarian groups in order to undermine a broader-based secular resistance to its domination agenda.

Why bring up this “ancient history” when fresh blood is running in the streets of Paris? Because that blood would not be running if not for this ancient history; and because the reaction to this latest reverberation of Washington’s decades-long, bipartisan cultivation of religious extremism will certainly be more bloodshed, more repression and more violent intervention. Which will, in turn, inevitably, produce yet more atrocities and upheaval as we are seeing in Paris tonight.

I write in despair. Despair of course at the depravity displayed by the murderers of innocents in Paris tonight; but an even deeper despair at the depravity of the egregious murderers who have brought us to this ghastly place in human history: those gilded figures who have strode the halls of power for decades in the high chambers of the West, killing innocent people by the hundreds of thousands, crushing secular opposition to their favored dictators — and again, again and again — supporting, funding and arming some of the most virulent sectarians on earth.

And one further cause of despair: that although this historical record is there in the open, readily available from the most mainstream sources, it is and will continue to be completely ignored, both by the power-gamers and by the public. The latter will continue to support the former as they replicate and regurgitate the same old policies of intervention, the same old agendas of domination and greed, over and over and over again — creating ever-more fresh hells for us all to live in, and poisoning the lives of our children, and of all those who come after us.

***
II. A Game Worth the Candle: Terror and the Agenda of our Elites

People see the carnage in Paris, and cry, “When will this end?” The hard answer is that it is not going to end, not any time soon. We are living through the horrific consequences of decisions and actions taken long ago, as well as those of being taken right now. The currents and movements set in motion by these actions cannot be quelled in an instant — not by wishing, not by hashtags of solidarity or light shows on iconic buildings … and certainly not by more bombing, destruction, repression and lies, which are the main drivers of our present-day hell.

There will be no end to rampant terrorism soon because our leaders are not really interested in quelling terrorism. This is simply not a priority for them. For example, in the past 12 years they have utterly destroyed three largely secular governments (Iraq, Libya and Syria) and turned them into vast spawning grounds for violent sectarianism. They did this despite reports from their own intelligence services and military analysts telling them that the spread of violent extremism would almost certainly be the outcome of their interventions. But for our leaders — both the elected ones and the elites they serve — their geopolitical and macroeconomic agendas outweighed any concerns over these consequences. Put simply, to them, the game was worth the candle. They would press ahead with their agenda, knowing that it would exacerbate extremism and terrorism, but doubtless hoping that these consequences could be contained — or better yet, confined to nations seen as rivals to that agenda, or to remote places and peoples of no worth to our great and good.

Our leaders are not opposed to terrorism, neither as a concept nor as a practical tool. Over the past several decades, our leaders and their allies and puppets around the world have at times openly supported terrorist violence when it suited their aims. The prime example is in Afghanistan, where Jimmy Carter and his Saudi allies began arming and funding violent jihadis BEFORE the Soviet incursion there. In fact, as Carter’s own foreign policy guru, Zbigniew Brzezinski, has openly stated, the United States began supporting Islamist terrorism in Afghanistan precisely in order to draw the Soviet Union into the country. Despite fierce internal opposition in the Kremlin, the Soviets finally took the bait, and sent in troops to save the secular government it was backing from the fundamentalist rebellion.

Ronald Reagan continued and expanded this policy. The same type of men now in charge of ISIS and al Qaeda were welcomed to the Oval Office and praised by Reagan as “the moral equivalent of our founding fathers.” They were given arms, money and training in terrorist tactics by our military and intelligence services. They were given textbooks — prepared, financed and distributed by the US government — to indoctrinate schoolchildren in violent jihad. The creation of this worldwide network of Islamic extremists was aimed at weakening the Soviet Union. This was the overriding geopolitical concern of the time. Any other consequences that might flow from this policy — creating a global infrastructure of sectarian extremism, seeding a radical minority with arms, funds and innumerable contacts and connections with state were considered unimportant. But we are now living with those consequences.

These are not the only examples of course. For instance, the United States supported — and went to war for — the KLA in Kosovo, a group that it had earlier condemned as terrorists for years. The cultish terror group MEK —which not only carried out deadly terrorist attacks in Iran but also murdered American government officials — is now honored and supported by top politicians from both parties in Washington. The United States now calls al Qaeda associates in Syria “moderate rebels” and provides arms to their allies. The United States is deeply involved in Saudi Arabia’s horrific attack on Yemen against the Houthis, who had been bottling up al Qaeda in the country. Now, thanks to US bombs and guidance — and participation in a blockade of Yemen that is driving the country to starvation — al Qaeda is thriving there again. The violent extremists that the West knowingly and openly helped in NATO’s destruction of Libya are now exporting weapons and terrorists throughout Africa and the Middle East.

Again, in almost all of these cases, Western leaders were specifically warned by their own experts that their actions would exacerbate extremism and violence. And again, with this knowledge, they decided that their geopolitical agendas were more important than these consequences. This agenda — maintaining and expanding their political and economic dominance, and preserving the power and privileges that a militarist empire gives to those at the top — was more important than the security and welfare of their own people.

In this, they are as one with the leaders of ISIS and al Qaeda. They too know that the chief victims of their actions will not be the elites of the West but the ordinary Muslims going about their lives in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, India and elsewhere. But their own similar agenda — power, privilege, domination — outweighs any concerns for innocent human lives.

This is the abysmal, despairing tragedy of our times. Our lives, and the lives of our children and descendants, do not really matter to our leaders; certainly not more than the agendas they pursue. And so despite the horrors we’ve seen in the past few weeks — and yes, the bombing of the Russian airliner, the mass murders in Beirut and Baghdad are every bit as horrific and grievous as the attack on Paris — nothing is likely to change. Our leaders are not even beginning to take the steps necessary to even begin addressing the consequences of their morally demented agenda and at last begin the long process of reversing the current of violence and extremism that assails us. Instead, at every turn, they are adding to the flow of death and madness, despite the stark, undeniable evidence of the consequences of their actions.

They say they are at war with terrorism. It’s a lie. They use terrorism and terrorists when it suits their agenda. They say they are “at war” with ISIS, an enemy which they tell us represents an existential threat to human civilization, and whose destruction is now our “highest priority.”  It’s a lie. In a real war against such a threat, you would make common cause against the common enemy, even if you find your allies distasteful. Thus the mutually loathing capitalists of the West and communists of the Soviet Union (and elsewhere) made common cause against Nazi Germany.

If we were really “at war” with ISIS, if its military defeat really was an overriding concern, then the West would form a military coalition with Iran, Russia, Turkey, the Syrian government and others to carry out this goal. It is obvious that for the West, the overthrow of the Assad government is far more important than defeating ISIS or bringing the conflict in Syria to an end by diplomatic means.

Instead, our leaders give every indication that they will continue the policies that have brought us to this dark and evil place. With the near-total ignorance and amnesia of our media class, there is little hope that public opinion can be mobilized to insist on a new course. And so, at some point soon, we will see more iconic buildings bathed in the colors of a Western nation (but never one from the Middle East, whose peoples suffer more, by several orders of magnitude, from the decades of extremism fostered by the West). And this will go on, year after year, until we decide that human life, human dignity, human freedom are more important than our leaders’ agendas of greed and domination.

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Old News, Fake Shock: Foreign Fiddling in US Elections is Bipartisan SOP

Written by Chris Floyd 13 May 2017 15644 Hits

Here’s a true story. Many years ago, in the mid-1990s, I was involved in a tech start-up company. The founder brought in a venture capital guy to seek funding. Mr. Venture Cap once spent a long afternoon regaling us with the story of how he & his pals secretly laundered millions of dollars in foreign money, through Liechtenstein, for the 1992 Bush campaign. (Yes, money from foreign states and companies flowing in covertly to influence a US election; imagine that!) He made it clear this was just routine procedure; he wasn’t bragging about the act of smuggling foreign cash into the electoral process itself – the boast was how MUCH he’d brought in, how good he was at it.

Of course, anyone interested can read of similar efforts throughout modern US history. The well-documented, far-reaching efforts by the UK in 1940, for example, to skew the field for pro-British, anti-isolationist candidates (not just with money, spying & media manipulation, but also with several notorious “honey traps” for leading US officials); or efforts to influence elections and policies by Nazi Germany, including big cash payments to some US Senators and passing money & intelligence through stateside corporate allies. The covert electoral interventions by Turkey, Israel, the Saudis, the old-time “China Lobby,” among others, are likewise well-attested.

The fact that this is a common practice that’s been going on for a long time (including the continuous, massive “infringements of national sovereignty” that the US govt has made in elections all over the world for decades) doesn’t mean it’s good. And it won’t be good if it is ever proved that Russia followed this time-honored practice in 2016. But I do think it would be better and more productive for everyone to quit pretending that foreign attempts to influence US elections (and vice versa) are some kind of unprecedented horror that has suddenly hit the nation like an asteroid from outer space. They're not. 

But we can’t deal with the actual, endemic problem — which is part and parcel of the larger problem of an electoral system that depends on big money and partisan control of the voting process — if we can’t see it clearly. And if you think it will end if they finally find that video of Putin handing Trump a bag full of rubles, you’re in for a surprise.

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Curtains for Comey: Rocketing Through the Looking-Glass With the Troller-in-Chief

Written by Chris Floyd 10 May 2017 20085 Hits

Whatever else you can say about Trump (don't get me started), he's a first-class troll: citing Comey's handling of the Clinton email probe in the last days of the campaign as his reason for firing him! The very action Trump had long praised as a "gutsy" move by Comey, one which redeemed him in Trump's eyes. That's some high-grade mendacity there, transparently false, yet told with a straight face, and pretending it was on advice of the Attorney General. 

People will say it's a bad move by Trump, drawing even more attention to the Russian probe the FBI was carrying out. And in conventional terms, it is a stupid, self-defeating act. But it could also be seen as part of a long-term Trump team strategy to tear everything down, rendering the nation's institutions, laws and established procedures to piles of ruin, covered with steaming piles of bullshit, absurdity and chaos. And what happens to nations and societies in ruins? Why, "strong leaders" must step in, with a strong hand -- a free hand -- to "do what it takes" to "restore order." 

Trump has actually been pretty open about his desire to be such a figure, and of course his vizier Bannon is even more candid about his desire to "destroy the administrative state" and build a new, nationalist order. We're not just through the looking glass these days -- we've shattered it to pieces and are rocketing into the unknown at a thousand miles an hour. So I'm not sure similar scenarios from the past (Nixon's 'Saturday Night Massacre,' for example) are reliable guides as to how this will play out.

Meanwhile, under cover of the carnival noise, Trump’s generals are getting ready for a new “surge” in Afghanistan, arming the Kurds (threatening conflict with Turkey), massing tanks and material in on the Syrian border in Jordan, massacring more civilians in Yemen and Somalia, and in general getting ready to make major murderous mischief across the planet.(Even more than the usual never-ending bipartisan-backed belligerence, I mean.) Not to mention setting the berserkers of our militarized police loose on the populace, under the watchful eye of the tiny Confederate general Trump made Attorney General. And preparing to transfer $5 trillion from the public purse to the super-rich. And seeking to strip millions of people of healthcare in order to … give tax cuts to the super-rich. And so on and on and on. 

Trump is spreading so much ruin so quickly across so many fronts that the firing of an FBI Director is little more than a sideshow. But you can bet it will be the focus of the “Resistance” — as some of our media-political elites like to call themselves these days — as the other depredations roll on.

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