Fire and Ice: Another Ignored Outrage at Standing Rock

Written by Chris Floyd 21 November 2016 8042 Hits

On Sunday night, militarized police attacked the Standing Rock camp — yet again — this time in a vicious water cannon assault in sub-freezing temperatures. Hundreds of people — unarmed people — were injured in the attack. As a report from the camp notes:

"The attacks came as water protectors used a semi-truck to remove burnt military vehicles that police had chained to concrete barriers weeks ago, blocking traffic on Highway 1806.  Water protectors’ efforts to clear the road and improve access to the camp for emergency services were met with tear gas, an LRAD (Long Range Acoustic Device), stinger grenades, rubber bullets, and indiscriminate use of a water cannon with an air temperature of 26 degrees Fahrenheit. Some flares shot by law enforcement started grass fires which were ignored by the water cannons and had to be extinguished by water protectors. Law enforcement also shot down three media drones and targeted journalists with less lethal rounds."

The pipeline is being built on unceded Indian land. It was originally due to run near Bismarck, but officials there rightly concluded it was too dangerous for the water table, and would put the lives and health of many people at undue risk. So it was rerouted through sovereign Sioux territory instead; the lives and health of 'those people' don't matter. And so a huge armed and armored force of law officers — as well as strong complement of armed corporate mercenaries — has been sent in to enforce this illegal action on behalf of corporate profit.

Standing Rock now the site of one of the largest, longest-running peaceful demonstrations in US history -- and is being almost entirely ignored by the US press. In fact, journalists have been arrested there for trying to cover the story; just last night, police shot down three media drones trying to get pictures of the water cannon attack (in sub-freezing temperatures). Every tweet of the twerp in his fake golden tower is front-page news; but the historic protest at Standing Rock is not even worth a mention.

Meanwhile, those great progressives, Barack Obama and Loretta Lynch, do nothing. Jeff Sessions might as well be in the Attorney General’s chair already; he could hardly be less scornful of the mass violations of civil rights, legal rights, treaty rights and human rights going on at Standing Rock than Lynch and Obama.

 

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Hand Job: Joe B Stands up for Trump

Written by Chris Floyd 16 November 2016 8214 Hits

Alas, poor Joe. Where be your memes now? Your gambols? Your flashes of Trump-bashing merriment that were wont to set the internet on a roar? IRL, it seems, you are carrying Donald's water, telling us the White House will be "in good hands." Quite chapfallen, are we? Now get you to ambition's chamber and tell her, let her paint an inch thick, to this fawning, scuttling favor she must come. Make her laugh at that.

 

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Tears of Rage, Tears of Grief: Blum Lays Bare Empire’s True Nature

Written by Chris Floyd 07 November 2016 7908 Hits


Bill Blum is firing with both barrels in his latest Anti-Empire Report, blowing holes in the Potemkin village of the Potomac Empire, laying bare its true nature, even as the electoral eagles scream about which factotum will be allowed to sit in the Temporary Manager’s chair for the next four years. Read it and weep tears of rage, tears of grief.

(Image: "The Tempter," by Chris Floyd)

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Broken Light: Work, for the Night is Coming

Written by Chris Floyd 06 November 2016 7553 Hits


(Excerpt from the book, Empire Burlesque. Originally published on the blog in 2005.)

I.

Black milk of daybreak, we drink it at evening.  
– Paul Celan, "Deathfugue"

The children were walking to school. The young people were going out to a dance.  The children stepped on a booby trap planted by a soldier. The young people were shredded by a suicide bomb. They were all blown up, destroyed.

One moment, the force of life animated their biological matter, their brains seethed with billions of electrical impulses, the matrix of consciousness brought the entire universe into being, within them, within each of them, each solitary vessel of knowing.

The next moment, only the matter remained: inert, coagulated, decaying. There was no more knowing, no more being; the universe had come to an end.

Why?

We drink it at midday and morning; we drink it at night.

They would have us believe it is because Ishmael warred with Jacob. They would have us believe it is because this or that Divine Will requires it. They would have us believe it is because ethnicity or nationality or religion or some other arbitrary accretion of history and happenstance must override both the innumerable commonalities of all human beings and the radical, irreplaceable uniqueness of each individual.

They would have us believe anything other than the truth: that everyone and everything will die; that all nations, ethnicities, religions and structures will fall away into rubble, into nothingness, and be forgotten; and that even the planet itself will be reduced to atoms and melt away, like black milk, into the cold deeps of empty space. And in the face of this truth, nothing matters ultimately but each specific, fleeting instance of individual being, the shape we give to each momentary coalescence of atomic particles into a particular human situation.

That's all we have. That's all there is. That's what we kill when we murder someone. That's what we strangle when we keep them down with our boot on their throat.

We drink and we drink.

Is it not time to be done with lies at last? Especially the chief lie now running through the world like a plague, putrescent and vile: that we kill each other and hate each other and drive each other into desperation and fear for any other reason but that we are animals, forms of apes, driven by blind impulses to project our dominance, to strut and bellow and hoard the best goods for ourselves. Or else to lash back at the dominant beast in convulsions of humiliated rage. Or else cravenly to serve the dominant ones, to scurry about them like slaves, picking fleas from their fur, in hopes of procuring a few crumbs for ourselves.

That's the world of power – the "real world," as its flea-picking slaves and strutting dominants like to call it. It's the ape-world, driven by hormonal secretions and chemical mechanics, the endless replication of protein reactions, the unsifted agitations of nerve tissue, issuing their ignorant commands. There's no sense or reason or higher order of thought in it – except for that perversion of consciousness called justification, self-righteousness, which gussies up the breast-beating ape with fine words and grand abstractions.

And yet the breast-beating and the blathering of fine words go on and on – prosperity, freedom, holiness, security, justice, glory, our people, our homeland, God's will be done, we will prevail.

We shovel a grave in the air where you won't lie too cramped.

Beyond the thunder and spectacle of this ape-roaring world is another state of reality, emerging from the murk of our baser functions. There is power here, too, but not the heavy, blood-sodden bulk of dominance. Instead, it's a power of radiance, of awareness, connection, breaking through in snaps of heightened perception, moments of encounter and illumination that lift us from the slime.

It takes ten million forms, could be in anything – a rustle of leaves, a tang of salt, a bending blues note, a sweep of shadows on a tin roof, a catch in a voice, a glance, the touch of a hand, a line from Mandelshtam. Any particular, specific combination of ever-shifting elements, always unrepeatable in its exact effect and always momentary. Because that's all there is, that's all we have – the moments.

The moments, and their momentary power – a power without the power of resistance, defenseless, provisional, unarmed, imperfect, bold. The ape-world's cycle of war and retribution stands as the image of the world of power; what can serve as the emblem of this other reality? A kiss, perhaps: given to a lover, offered to a friend, bestowed on an enemy – or pressed to the brow of a murdered child.

Both worlds are within us, of course, like two quantum states of reality, awaiting our choice to determine which will be actuated, which will define the very nature of being – individually and in the aggregate, moment by moment. This is our constant task, for as long as the universe exists in the electrics of our brains: to redeem each moment or let it fall. Some moments will be won, many more lost; there is no final victory. There is only the task.

We drink you at morning and midday; we drink you at night

II.

So do we counsel fatalism, a dark, defeated surrender, a retreat into bitter, curdled quietude? Not a whit. We advocate action, positive action, unstinting action, doing the only thing that human beings can do, ever: Try this, try that, try something else again; discard those approaches that don't work, that wreak havoc, that breed death and cruelty; fight against everything that would draw us down again into our own mud; expect no quarter, no lasting comfort, no true security; offer no last word, no eternal truth, but just keep stumbling, falling, careening, backsliding, crawling toward the broken light.

And what is this "broken light"? Nothing more than a metaphor for the patches of understanding – awareness, attention, knowledge, connection – that break through our darkness and stupidity for a moment now and then. A light always fractured, under threat, shifting, found then lost again, always lost. For we are creatures steeped in imperfection, in breakage and mutation, tossed up – very briefly – from the boiling, chaotic crucible of Being, itself a ragged work in progress toward unknown ends, or rather, toward no particular end at all. Why should there be an "answer" in such a reality?

What matters is what works – what pulls us from our own darkness as far as possible, for as long as possible. Yet the truth remains that "what works" is always and forever only provisional – what works now, here, might not work there, then. What saves our soul today might make us sick tomorrow.

Thus all we can do is to keep looking, working, trying to clear a little more space for the light, to let it shine on our passions and our confusions, our anger and our hopes, informing and refining them, so that we can see each other better, for a moment – until death shutters all seeing forever.
    
We drink and we drink.

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Barrel Bomb: The Cataclysmic Close of Campaign 2016

Written by Chris Floyd 02 November 2016 9152 Hits

Well, here we are: at the bottom of the barrel under forty feet of slag. In a few days’ time, we’ll know our fate: the five-alarm fire of Trump Rule (oh, how those police unions are chomping at the bit!) or the Clinton Age of Hyper-War (oh, how those neocons are chomping at the bit!). In either case, the entrenched coagulation of corporate interests and war profiteers that have strangled the peace, prosperity and prospects of the American people will not be budged an inch. The change that people are so desperately hungry for — so hungry that that some of them might well elect an Establishment insider whose sinister clowning makes him appear to be a ‘rebel’ — will not come. Thus their bitterness will grow deeper, more sour, erupting more and more often in physical violence: from militarized police against protestors, from Trump-empowered racists (if he wins or loses), from extremist militias, from angry, maddened people on every side. And of course there will be more — much more — of the horrific, never-ending, globe-spanning violence of the bipartisan Terror War that churns on and on, no matter who is sitting temporarily in the White House.

There’s no use in pretending that’s not what we face. But there’s also no use in pretending that this situation is somehow sui generis, some terribly unlucky conflation of unforeseen circumstances coming together at this particular time. It is in fact the culmination and embodiment of the deliberate choices of the most powerful forces in society: the choices to enrich themselves beyond all reason and extend their military and economic dominance over the earth.

It doesn’t matter that many if not most of the practitioners and functionaries of this system “believe” in its rightness. It doesn’t matter that brutal neoliberal nostrums and extremist imperial notions have become religious dogmas for those who see themselves as the “meritocracy.” It doesn’t matter if the leaders and factotums genuinely believe in the “exceptionalism” they preach or if they are cynical power-seekers. It doesn’t matter if they actually believe their rapacious financial machinations are reflections of the “natural law” of the “the market” that will eventually benefit all, or if they know themselves to be what they really are: ugly souls disfigured by greed. The end result has been the same: a long series of deliberate choices by a bipartisan elite that have hollowed out the lives and communities and futures of millions of Americans, and created a living hell of war, ruin and hatred over much of the earth.

This is a system that has delegitimized itself, a system that has undermined its own institutions. Through its own actions, it has rotted out the foundations of trust and reason which once upheld it. Some might say, “Oh, but there’s been a decades-long, concentrated effort by right-wing billionaires and corporate forces to foment ideological and religious extremism to undermine the legitimacy of secular government, which might restrict their profiteering or let more people have a share in power.” And that’s true. But it’s been accompanied at every step by the collusion and cowardice of the putative opposition. The so-called New Democrats, exemplified by the Clintons, jettisoned concern for the common good to embrace “centrist” and “technocratic” policies: i.e., to adopt the neoliberal dogma that unbridled pursuit of private profit by a connected elites will somehow, someday, lead to general prosperity. The idea that the party should fight to improve the lives of ordinary people in the here and now, to fight for their quality of life in a genuine, substantive way,  came to be seen as old-hat, a quaint and fusty notion of has-beens and dreamers who didn’t understand the way the world really worked. A true, savvy “moderate” knows you must compromise every ideal, show yourself to be a willing and avid servant of the monied interests and the militarists, in order to gain power so you can … make a few cosmetic changes around the edges, a few little social improvements here and there (but only — of course! — in “partnership” with private interests), but never, ever challenge the system at its core.

This is the only deal in town: outright, unvarnished right-wing rule, or simpering, cowardly “moderate” management of a violent, rapacious system. That’s been the choice on offer since 1976. That’s the choice on offer today. The only difference is that the system has metastasized to a monstrous degree over the years: lacking any genuine opposition, the system has grown more violent, more rapacious.

Establishment collusion — and Democratic cowardice — finally and completely degraded and delegitimized the American electoral process 16 years ago, when the Supreme Court — with two members who had direct family ties to the Bush campaign — stopped a recount that would have resulted in the actual winner of the election to take office. This outrageous action was accepted by every single organ and institution of the American system. (With the momentary exception of the Black Congressional Caucus, whose members tried, in vain, to get a single Democratic senator to challenge the result.) Instead, Americans were encouraged to applaud the fact that power had changed hands “without tanks in the street.” That is, we were to celebrate that an actual coup d’etat had taken place before our eyes without the slightest show of resistance.

Once in place, the coup regime — staffed at the highest levels by extremists who a year before had publicly called for a vast militarization of American policy and society, even if the public had to be “galvanized” by “a new Pearl Harbor” — led the nation into a disastrous war based on false pretenses, a vast crime that not only killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people but has led directly to unbridled turmoil, extremism, conflict and corruption around the world. The elite-supported coup regime instituted torture programs and death squads, and launched an orgy of war profiteering unprecedented in world history. The regime then presided over the worst economic collapse in generations.

Not a single member of the regime was ever tried — or even investigated, at even the most preliminary level — for a single crime committed during its time in power. There were no high-profile Congressional investigations into the hideous carnage and ruin and instability they wrought; not even a “Chilcot Commission” into the origins of the war, as the UK belatedly launched. Instead the regime’s leaders and top factotums were heaped with honors and wealth. Today their endorsement is eagerly sought — and gained — by the “progressive” Democratic candidate for president.

In 2008, the desperate electorate turned to a figure presented to them as an outsider who would at last bring real change. He had the trappings of difference — a black man with a Muslim name, who spoke eloquently of peace and social justice, who most people thought was far to the left but voted for him anyway. But Barack Obama was of course a meritocratic “centrist” to his core. Riding an enormous wave of popularity, and a strong Congressional majority, he proceeded to … bail out Wall Street fraudsters and finaglers with tax money and create a health care system based on the plan of a rightwing think-tank that prioritized corporate profit — and probably killed the chance for a genuinely public health care system for generations, if not for good. He also doubled down on the Terror War, expanding it to more countries, extended Bush’s death squads, helped destroy nations like Libya and Yemen (thus spawning more chaos and terror), expanded illegal surveillance of the populace (and the world) to an extent beyond the wildest dreams of the Stasi or KGB. And after saving Big Money from itself and securing the guaranteed profits of the healthcare-insurance corporate complex, he spent most of his time on the domestic front trying to strike a “grand bargain” with Republicans to cut Social Security and Medicare.

Again, all hopes of any real change were thwarted. So now the nation swings from being ready to embrace a perceived leftist to the brink of voting in a bellicose rightist as it seeks the genuine change no one will give them. Of course, after the scorched-earth tactics of bipartisan neoliberalism and the inevitable moral degradation and brutalization that comes from year after year after year of vicious aggressive war, the choice for Trump is more nihilistic. It’s as if people believe positive change is no longer possible — so let’s tear everything down and see what happens. (This is the actual, open philosophy of the Breitbart gang, who are now directing Trump’s campaign.)

Even if Clinton wins, this nihilism will still be rampant. And given that she happily embodies the bipartisan Establishment now roundly despised on all sides for its many depredations, the nihilism will grow even worse — especially as she has given no indication whatsoever that she will even try to make substantive changes in the neoliberal-militarist system that is strangling us. Quite the contrary.

So yes, this has been a campaign like no other — but mostly because it has brought the systematic decay of the Republic into the sharpest possible relief, and has shown, more clearly than before, that the neoliberal-militarist ascendency offers no hope for a better life, a better world; indeed, that it offers nothing at all — except more violence, more bitterness, more ruin, more degradation for us all.

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The Burlesque is Back in Town

Written by Chris Floyd 21 October 2016 8198 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 8750 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 8343 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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