The Karamazov Question: From Iraq to a World in Hell

Written by Chris Floyd 20 March 2017 5300 Hits

To mark the anniversary of the onset of the launching of the horrific war crime against Iraq, I’m reprinting a piece I wrote a month after the invasion. The question examined here is still being asked of our leaders; and regardless of party or ideology – or even Nobel Peace Prizes – they all keep giving the same answer.

The Karamazov Question
Variation on a theme by Dostoevsky

“They have put too high a price on harmony; we can’t afford to pay so much for admission. And therefore I return my ticket.”
Ivan Karamazov, The Brothers Karamazov, Book Five, Chapter Four: “Rebellion.”

A man appeared in the doorway of the Oval Office. He wasn't noticed at first in the bustle around the desk of the president, where George W. Bush was preparing to announce to the world that the "decapitation raid" he had launched on Baghdad a few hours before was in fact the beginning of his long-planned, much-anticipated invasion of Iraq.

A woman fussed with the president's hair, which had been freshly cut for the television appearance. A make-up artist dabbed delicate touches of rouge on the president's cheeks. Another attendant fluttered in briefly to adjust the president's tie, which, like the $6,000 suit the president was wearing, had arrived that morning from a Chicago couturier. As for the president's $900 designer shoes – which, as a recent news story had pointed out playfully, were not only made by the same Italian craftsman who supplied Saddam Hussein with footwear, but were also the same size and make as those ordered by the Iraqi dictator – they had been carefully polished earlier by yet another aide, even though they would of course be out of sight during the broadcast.

In addition to all of this activity, the president's political advisors and speechwriters were also making last-minute adjustments to the brief speech, while giving the president pointers about his delivery: "Keep your gaze and your voice steady. Project firmness of purpose. Confidence, calmness, character. And short phrases, lightly punched. Don't worry, the breaks and stresses will be marked on the teleprompter."

It's little wonder that no one saw the man as he advanced slowly to the center of the room. He stood there silently, until the sense of his presence crept up on the others. One by one, they turned to look at him, this unauthorized figure, this living breach of protocol. He was, in almost every sense, non-descript. He wore a plain suit of indeterminate color; his features and his skin betrayed no particular race. He had no badge, no papers; how had he come to be here, where nothing is allowed that is not licensed by power?

Then, more astonishing, they saw his companion: a two-year-old girl standing by his side. A mass of tousled hair framed her face; a plain red dress covered her thin body. She too was silent, but not as still as the man. Instead, she turned her head this way and that, her eyes wide with curiosity, drawn especially by the bright television lights that shone on the president.

A Marine guard reached for his holster, but the man raised his hand, gently, and the guard's movement was arrested. The aides and attendants stepped back, then stood rooted, as if stupefied, their ranks forming a path from the man at the room's center to the president's desk. The president, brilliant in the light, alone retained the freedom to move and speak. "Who are you?" he asked, rising from his chair. "What do you want?"

The man put his hand tenderly on the back of the girl's head and came forward with her. "I have a question for you, and an opportunity," the man replied. "I've heard it said that you are righteous, and wish to do good for the world."

"I am," said the president. "I wish only to do God's will, as He in His wisdom reveals it to me. In His will is the whole good of the world. What is your question, what is your opportunity? Be quick; I have mighty business at hand."

The man nodded. "If tonight you could guarantee the good of the world – peace and freedom, democracy and prosperity, now and forever; if tonight, you could relieve the suffering of all those who labor under tyranny and persecution, all those who groan in poverty and disease; if tonight, you could redeem the anguish of creation, past and future, now and forever; if tonight, you could guarantee such a universal reconciliation, by the simple expedient of taking this" – here the man suddenly produced a black pistol and held it out to the president – "and putting a bullet through the brain of this little one here, just her, no one else: would you do it? That is my question, this is your opportunity."

With firmness of purpose, the president grasped the pistol and walked around the desk. With confidence, calmness, and steady hand, he pressed the barrel to the girl's head and pulled the trigger. Her eyes, which had grown even wider with her smile at the approach of the nicely dressed man and his rosy cheeks, went black with blood in the instant shattering of her skull. Her body spun round from the force of the shot – once, twice, three times in all – then fell, her mutilated head flailing wildly, in a heap on the floor of the Oval Office.

At that moment, the man faded, like a dream, into nothingness. The aides and attendants, unfrozen, stepped back into their tasks. The room was again a whirl of activity, like a hive. The president – the dematerialized gun no longer in his hand – strode confidently back to his chair. He winked at a nearby aide and pumped his fist: "Feel good!" he exulted.

The speech went off without a hitch. The hair was perfect, the voice steady, the phrases short and lightly punched. No one saw the blood and bits of brain that clung to the president's $900 designer shoes; they were, of course, out of sight during the broadcast.

First published in The Moscow Times on April 20, 2003.

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The ICEmen Cometh: Madness, Blindness and the Anti-Immigrant Cargo Cult

Written by Chris Floyd 27 February 2017 8746 Hits

The New York Times has a story about the consternation of a small town in rock-ribbed Trump country after one of its leading citizens, Mexican native Carlos Pacheo, was hauled off by armed immigration officers. The good townsfolk still “firmly believe” that “illegals” need to be deported, you understand, but it turns out that their long-time friend and public-spirited fellow citizen is one of the “good ones,” a special case for whom their hero in the White House should perhaps make a special exception.

(I’m not belittling their desire to save their friend from deportation — more power to them if they can keep him in the country with his wife and children. But seeing how this humane impulse exists simultaneously with their ardent desire to deport all the other “illegals,” I can’t help but be reminded of Josef Goebbel’s remark to Hitler about the difficulties he was encountering with the racist Nuremberg Laws. He said the policy itself was widely supported, but enforcement was hard because “every German has his favorite Jew” whom they think should be treated as an exception.)

Many Americans seem to believe that if you just got rid of Mexican restaurant owners and all the “illegals” who clean hotels and offices and do other grunt work for peanuts, then somehow, magically, a cornucopia of secure, high-paying jobs will suddenly appear. How this will happen is never made clear; undocumented immigrants aren’t holding such jobs, they never “took away” those jobs in the first place — and their absence won’t bring them back.

America’s working class (and middle class) communities have been devastated and undermined by the rapacious greed of rich white All-American elites, who’ve spent stripping the country’s assets — its land and its labor force — by sending away jobs to maximize their own profit, by hiding their own bloated profits in tax havens (or gaming the system like the mobbed-up casino boss in the White House), by gorging themselves on corporate welfare and “incentives” and tax cuts from the politicians they’ve bought, by draining the treasury with endless wars and military operations that destabilize the world, erode security but make huge profits for fat cats. They gutted thriving businesses and starved public bodies of funds, leading to a greatly diminished quality of life for millions of people. The “New Democrats” like Bill Clinton and his successors clearly aligned their party with these developments, meaning they could offer no real alternative, no good solutions when this inherently unstable, unjust system was hit by a reality bomb in 2008 and began to crumble.

And now a mobbed-up casino boss has stepped into the vacuum, promising to fix it but using hatred and chaos to distract from his real purpose: letting the same rich white All-American elites who created the situation to tear the remaining bits of meat from the American carcass to fill their own bellies while the country sinks further and world burns. But somehow, these Trump voters believe that sending armed goons into homes and restaurants — even hospitals — to drag immigrants away is going to solve all this. Meanwhile, those same New Democrats will tell you that it’s all Putin’s fault, and if only the good guys of the CIA will step in, we can get back to having leaders who make pretty speeches while drone-bombing weddings, bailing out Wall Street, overthrowing governments, raising military budgets and, er, deporting millions of people, and everything will be OK.

There is a kind of madness, and a kind of blindness, abroad in the land — and absolutely pervasive throughout both political parties — that I can’t recall seeing before, at least not at this level. It’s as if every political and institutional bulwark against authoritarianism and oligarchy has either been deliberately destroyed or has inexplicably disarmed itself. And here is Trump, whose administration embodies authoritarianism and oligarchy in their most naked, berserk forms. Yet Americans keep believing that “getting rid of illegals” — or, on the “left,” getting off some “really killer” satirical lines at the Oscars — will change things. And so the madness and the blindness go on.

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Message to the Alt-Right: A Lesson From History

Written by Chris Floyd 27 February 2017 7651 Hits

UPDATED BELOW: History teaches us that there is only one sure way to defeat fascism: put millions of fascists in the ground. Let us hope that today's "alt-righters" and "new nationalists" and all the seeping pustules of hatred -- from the White House down to the nastiest, cringing anonymous internet troll -- consider this historical lesson, so we don't have to go through it again. But let them also know that if we do have to go through it again, then by God, that's exactly where they're going: into the ground.

UPDATE: The reactions to this post — most of them coming elsewhere, not in the comments here — has been … instructive, let us say. Most of them have shown either an overwhelming historical ignorance or an astonishing lack of reading comprehension skills or just the usual hate-troll spinning to feed their own wounded sense of self-importance. There’s also the fact that some of the comments elsewhere were from self-declared “alt-righters” who also clearly stated that the war against Nazi Germany was “mass murder.” Make of that mindset what you will.

What caused the kerfuffle? A single paragraph stating a simple fact: that the last time fascism became a huge force in the world and began attacking people, it had to be put down through a massive world war, fought by millions of people of many nationalities, beliefs, ideologies. It required the defeat of the massive fascist army of Nazi Germany, which lost millions of men. This is a historical fact. In order to defeat armed and aggressive fascism back then, millions of fascists had to die. Of course, there were alternatives to this grim fate: they could have surrendered, or not become fascists at all or not attacked other countries and so on. But these were roads not taken.

Now, the second part of this single paragraph states another plain fact: that if the fascism which many alt-righters and “white nationalists” seem to be longing for rises again to the same degree, then there will again be millions of people of many nationalities, beliefs and ideologies who will rise up and fight to defeat them once more, just as in World War II.

How hard is that to understand? Is it even a controversial statement? We had to fight a war against an armed and aggressive fascism to defeat it once before; and if it happens again, we will fight it again in the same way. It’s a simple statement.

Again, there are plenty of alternatives to this terrible scenario. Here's one: don’t let your “alt-right” or racial prejudice or nationalist beliefs lead to armed and aggressive fascism. Don't take them to their extremes and then try to seize power to impose them by force. No one is REQUIRED to go out and become a full-blown Nazi and take over countries with ideologies of hate and exclusion and use your army to impose your beliefs on others at home and abroad. If that doesn’t happen — and pray god it doesn’t — then there will be no second war against armed and aggressive fascism. Would that really be so hard to do?

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The Scum Also Rises: Obama-Protected Torturers Back on Top

Written by Chris Floyd 23 February 2017 7606 Hits

In 2002, the CIA captured a man in Afghanistan who had been working at a “terrorist training camp” that had originally been founded by — the CIA. They accused him of being a member of al Qaeda. He wasn’t, but he had lots of information about the organization, which he willingly supplied under ordinary questioning. But factions in the CIA were convinced he knew more. So they ordered him to be tortured, horrifically, relentlessly. The agent in charge of the torture mocked the victim for only “acting” like he was losing his mind as the torture went on. The agent’s office made plans on how to dispose of the body if the torture went too far.

When they finally accepted that the prisoner wasn’t lying — that he wasn’t al Qaeda, that he knew nothing of any terror plots, that he had been working with jihadi groups organized by the US during the Afghan-Soviet war — the agent in charge sought to destroy the evidence of his torture. Eventually, she and another CIA bigwig illegally destroyed all the tapes. This led to a Senate investigation — which the CIA tried to subvert by hacking the computers of Senate staffers.

That CIA torturer, mocker and destroyer of evidence has just been named Deputy Director of the CIA. Her name is Gina Haspel. The whole story is told, in damning detail, by ProPublica here.

At any time in the previous eight years, she could have and should have been prosecuted. But we were told by Obama that we shouldn’t prosecute CIA torturers and lawbreakers; we should “look forward, not backward.” Well, here we are, in the “forward” time, and what do we see? Lawbreaking torturers formally enthroned in the top ranks of the intelligence “community.” What horrors await us now, with an avid, mocking torturer at the center of power under a president who says he loves torture even if it “doesn’t work,” because “they deserve it anyway”?

I certainly don’t want to cast any aspersions on the beloved former president, who was so cool and rational and reasonable and moral and good and all, but I do think we might possibly have been better off had he actually faithfully executed the laws of the United States as he swore to do, and rooted out the torturers and lawbreakers who have now, like fetid scum, risen back to the top.

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Private Madness in a Time of Public Lunacy

Written by Chris Floyd 14 February 2017 7604 Hits

We all have our private madness
I'm no exception to the rule
I know those waves of inner torment
So all-consuming and so cruel

I have seen the world fading
All its fullness drained of hue
And the long wait for its returning
Never knowing when it's due

If there was a god to pray to
If I had a soul to heal
You would see me every evening
Go down to the church and kneel

©2017 by Chris Floyd

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Blood Will Tell: Trump and Sessions Strike Historic Blow for Civil Rights

Written by Chris Floyd 09 February 2017 8618 Hits

WASHINGTON – President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order today overturning the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, saying former President Abraham Lincoln’s action had been “hugely unfair” to Southern property owners. 

“Free enterprise more important than political correctness!” Mr. Trump tweeted immediately after signing the executive order. “Beanpole Abe should know better! Sad!”

After Mr. Trump’s phone was gently prised from his hand by recently named Chief Operating Officer and Grand Vizier of the United States of America and All Its Dominions (Present and Future), Steve Bannon, the President read a prepared statement announcing the formation of a new Reparations Committee to “deal with the gross injustices arising from the abuse of federal power during the War for States’ Rights.”

Mr. Trump named Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Andersonville Sessions as chairman of the committee. Mr. Sessions, present at the signing, told reporters that the Justice Department will create a new Civil Rights Restoration Division, with a staff of more than 5,000, to “locate each and every descendant of those honest, law-abiding American citizens who had their property confiscated from them by an overweening government in Washington, and give them fair recompense for their tragic loss.”

The Trump Administration has set aside an initial $350 billion for the Reparations Fund although Mr. Sessions said the ultimate cost of the program could run as high as “a trillion or more” once estimates of the “projected post-war losses” are factored in.

“We’re talking about families whose property could have multiplied many times over, down through the generations, providing immense economic value — all of which was taken from them,” said Mr. Sessions, his voice shaking slightly with anger. “We will now right this injustice whose pernicious effects have festered for far too long in American society.”

When asked how the reparation program would be funded, Mr. Trump suddenly shouted, “Mexicans!” But after a whispered word from Vizier Bannon, the President deferred to Attorney General Sessions. “This guy, him, the guy standing over there, white hair guy, he knows all about it,” said the president.

Mr. Sessions said the program would be funded by a special surtax on Americans of African descent. The Reparations Fund will be “a model of fairness and diversity,” Mr. Sessions added, due to a “weighted” gradation of the surtax.

“We recognize — indeed, we celebrate — the fact that, in the words of the Negro spiritual often sung by that great conservative leader, Martin Luther King, ‘we have overcome’ the racial barriers that once unjustly separated Americans,” said Mr. Sessions. “We know there’s been a whole bunch of race-mixing going on out there in the woodpile over the years. We certainly don’t want anyone to pay more than their fair share, especially those who may have ancestors unrelated to property and its confiscation.” 

Thus the amount of the surtax will be adjusted according to “the ratio of Negro blood to non-Negro blood” in the person’s genealogy, Mr. Sessions said. “If you’re half-black, then you’ll only pay half the surtax. If you’re a quarter black, then only a fourth, and so on down the line. It’s very fair, and it won’t pose an undue burden on anyone. Why, your octoroons probably won’t pay more than a few dollars a year!”

“That’s enough, General Beauregard,” the president said, rising. “Hannity’s coming on. I just want to say that I’m very proud to fix this historic wrong by Mr. Lincoln, a great man to be sure but something of a loser nonetheless, who couldn’t even finish out his second term. I know people say he was the tallest president, but believe me, I’m actually much taller, even when he had that big hat on, OK? I have many African-American friends, many many African-American friends, who are black, and I’m a great friend to all the blacks, and I know they will join me in welcoming this amazing program that will do great things and is getting more and more recognition, I notice. Thank you.”

(Written as a satire, but probably a prophecy....)

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Historical Ignorance, Spineless ‘Dissent’: The Dangers of Decorous Resistance

Written by Chris Floyd 05 February 2017 8971 Hits

Lee Fang of The Intercept put up a tweet on Saturday that was so stunning in its historical ignorance and dangerous in its implications that I was driven to write a few brief replies. I’ve copied them below, cleaning up the format for easier reading, but not changing the wording. I’ve added a few further points afterward.


Lee Fang ‏@lhfang
Lefty riots in 1968 gave us Nixon, LA riots gave us the 1994 Crime Bill, riots over a message board troll will help Trump win reelection



Chris Floyd ‏@empireburlesque
@lhfang I lived thru the Wallace campaign in the South & I know EXACTLY why so many Dems deserted the party then. It wasn't 'lefty riots.  The 60s 'lefty riots' were anti-war; HHH was pro-war, for god's sake. Wallace cost Dems the South & the election because of racism — just as LBJ said it would when he signed Civil Rights Act. Wallace appealed to bedrock racism & broke the “Solid South.” I saw it with my own eyes: neighbors abandoning century-old party allegiance because of busing, fair housing laws, etc. It had absolutely nothing to do with "lefty riots" against the war. I was there. I saw the racism in action, rising to the surface.

Yet even then, the election was whisker-close. It's just the height of ignorance or lazy thinking to say "lefty riots" gave us RN. And what "lefty riots' are you talking about? When police attacked protestors in Chicago & elsewhere? Kent State? Or are you confusing the inner city riots over those 'long hot summers' with some kind of "lefty" anti-war action? And how did lefty riots give us the Crime Bill? What are you even talking about? Some 'lefty riot' FORCED Clinton to sign that bill?

Now here you are joining Trump, FOX, Breitbart in the hysterical inflation of a minor incident into some 'Enabling Act' type threat. If this is the kind of thing we're going to see from "dissident" venues like The Intercept, then god have mercy on us all.

Just a brief follow-up. Wallace’s openly racist campaign won five states outright in the South, and drained enough Democratic votes in six other Southern states to give Nixon narrow victories there. This accounted for 98 electoral votes, which would have put Humphrey over the top.

It’s true that if Wallace hadn’t run, some of his voters might have gone to Nixon, although it’s scarcely credible that all of them would. Especially in the Deep South, where — as I know from experience — there was a deep, cultural, even visceral revulsion against Republicans. In my small, rural Tennessee town, with a population of 900 or so, there were only two families — two — who traditionally voted Republican. But in 1968, my family was one of the few in town who didn’t desert the Democrats for Wallace. And I never heard a single one of those switchers mention “lefty riots” or even anti-war protests as the reason for supporting Wallace.

But even in the absence of Wallace, the reason some of these voters might have gone to Nixon was that Nixon too was running a racist campaign, albeit with dog-whistles and code words instead of Wallace’s bluntness. Again, it wasn’t “lefty riots” that provoked them — it was the same “white panic” that we saw displayed in the 2016 campaign: the fear that “white supremacy” was slipping away, that minorities were getting “uppity,” that society was changing in ways they didn’t understand and certainly didn’t like. 

But beyond the speciousness and shallowness of Fang’s comment lies something more pernicious: the adoption of the neo-fascists’ own narrative, blowing up a very minor incident into a huge symbolic event that can be used to justify an authoritarian crackdown — or, in Fang's word, lead to Trump’s re-election. Why Fang wants to leap into bed with Breitbart and Bannon on this narrative is a mystery, but it certainly gives far more aid and comfort to the enemy than any actual “lefty riot.” It also helps the ongoing right-wing effort to elevate a nasty, hateful, third-rate twerp like Yiannopoulos into some kind of national figure.

We know this nasty twerp was planning to name undocumented immigrants from the stage  — putting their lives and liberty in grave danger. Just as he outed a transgender student from another college stage a few weeks earlier. Why should he be given platforms at publicly supported universities to carry out such nefarious activities? Why isn’t there more outrage among our billionaire-backed dissidents about these College Republicans or Fascism Forever clubs (or whatever the morally constipated young folks are calling themselves these days) who are enabling this kind of hatred, this kind of evil? 

In any case, it’s ludicrous to turn this grubby episode into a somber, chin-rubbing “debate” about free speech. The nasty twerp has a $250,000 book contract from one of the biggest publishers in the world. He can snap his fingers and have his every noxious belch broadcast to millions of people via a vast network of neo-fascists like Breitbart, Limbaugh and the slimeballs who whore for Rupert Murdoch. His fascist mentor Bannon is running the White House. He has the bloated orange oligarch in the Oval Office defending him. Nobody is infringing the free speech of this nasty twerp. The only thing that happened was a minor ruckus caused university officials to cancel his paid appearance. Anyone who’s wringing their hands over a man with instant access to the world’s media being “deprived” of his free speech is a damn fool.

I don’t agree with “Black Bloc” tactics — not least because the “Bloc” is obviously riddled with informants and provocateurs. But I don’t think fascists should be treated with kid gloves either. We’re talking about people who, like Yiannopoulos, are openly, adamantly intent on causing real harm to actual human beings. It’s not an abstract debate. It’s not a game. It’s not reality TV. These ugly, hate-oozing fascists mean business; and by god, so should we.

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Tweeter & the Monkey Man 3: Another Colloquy with the PUTZUS

Written by Chris Floyd 04 February 2017 8396 Hits

Below is another carefully curated selection from my long-running discussions with the learned Theban in the White House.

Donald J. Trump ‏@realDonaldTrump 
MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!



Chris Floyd ‏@empireburlesque
@realDonaldTrump MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! IMPEACH FILTHY CROOKS WHO USE PUBLIC OFFICE FOR PERSONAL PROFITS!


Chris Floyd ‏@empireburlesque
@realDonaldTrump MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! PUNCH A NAZI IN THE FACE!

Chris Floyd ‏@empireburlesque
@realDonaldTrump YES! I WILL GLADLY CONTRIBUTE TO THE PRICE OF YOUR PLANE TICKET TO ANY OTHER COUNTRY IN THE WORLD! GET THE PUTZ OUTTA HERE!


Chris Floyd ‏@empireburlesque
@realDonaldTrump Trump can't take it; Putzie-Führer goes on vacation after two weeks of taking orders from his boss, Bannon. Weak!

Chris Floyd ‏@empireburlesque
@realDonaldTrump Dope-addled Donald Trump can't cut the mustard. Impeach him now & send him to de-tox, for his own good!

Chris Floyd ‏@empireburlesque
@realDonaldTrump MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! PUT DOPE-ADDLED POTUS ON DETOX PROGRAM!


***
Donald J. Trump ‏@realDonaldTrump
Hope you like my nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch for the United States Supreme Court. He is a good and brilliant man, respected by all.

Chris Floyd ‏@empireburlesque
@realDonaldTrump Yes, he's your kinda guy all right: Fascism Forever. But of course, YOU didn't pick him, Putzie. We all know it was Bannon.


***
Donald J. Trump ‏@realDonaldTrump
Iran was on its last legs and ready to collapse until the U.S. came along and gave it a life-line in the form of the Iran Deal: $150 billion



Chris Floyd ‏@empireburlesque
@realDonaldTrump Trump was on his last legs until he let Bannon take over his life. Now he's just a hair-doping weakling following orders.


***
Donald J. Trump ‏@realDonaldTrump 
Interesting that certain Middle-Eastern countries agree with the ban. They know if certain people are allowed in it's death & destruction!



Chris Floyd ‏@empireburlesque
@realDonaldTrump Taking your lead from Saudi Arabia now, are you, Herr Putzie-Führer? Or did your boss Bannon tell you to say that?


***
Donald J. Trump ‏@realDonaldTrump
Iran is playing with fire - they don't appreciate how "kind" President Obama was to them. Not me!


Chris Floyd ‏@empireburlesque
@realDonaldTrump Look, Don, we know about the hair-dope thing. But missiles aren't really a penis substitute, you know.


***
Donald J. Trump ‏@realDonaldTrump 
Yes, Arnold Schwarzenegger did a really bad job as Governor of California and even worse on the Apprentice...but at least he tried hard!


Chris Floyd ‏@empireburlesque
@realDonaldTrump I notice yr fixation on Arnie's hardness. The side-effects of your hair-growth dope really bother you, eh? #TrumpNotHard


***
Donald J. Trump ‏@realDonaldTrump
We must keep "evil" out of our country!


Chris Floyd ‏@empireburlesque
@realDonaldTrump You mean we must keep fake evil -- "evil" -- out, but let real evil (no quotes) in? Mission accomplished: you're the POTUS!


***
Donald J. Trump ‏@realDonaldTrump
When a country is no longer able to say who can, and who cannot , come in & out, especially for reasons of safety &.security - big trouble!


Chris Floyd ‏@empireburlesque
@realDonaldTrump Are you going to say who can go OUT of the country now, Herr Putzie-Führer?


***
Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump
The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!


Chris Floyd ‏@empireburlesque
@realDonaldTrump The opinion of this so-called president, who doesn't know how the judicial system works, is pig-ignorant & will be ignored!

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Bloodsport: Trump Carries on Presidential Tradition, Notches First Child Murder

Written by Chris Floyd 30 January 2017 10115 Hits

Trump keeps another campaign promise. During the race for the presidency, Donald Trump said he would “go after the families” of terrorists. On Sunday, his 10th day in office, he did just that: he killed 8-year-old Nawaar al-Awlaki, the daughter of US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, an accused al Qaeda operative killed by Barack Obama in 2011. (Obama later killed al-Awlaki’s teenage son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, in what the US called a “mistaken” drone strike on an open-air cafe. Abdulrahman was not even alleged to have any connection to terrorism.)

"She was hit with a bullet in her neck and suffered for two hours," said the eight-year-old's grandfather, as Reuters reports.  Nawar died in a ground raid that also saw the first US serviceman killed in the vicious US-Saudi war against Yemen. The Saudis are trying to re-install one of their puppets in Yemen, after he was ousted by Houthi rebels. The Houthis are sworn enemies of al Qaeda, and had greatly reduced the terrorist group’s presence in Yemen before the United States — ostensibly also the sworn enemy of al Qaeda — joined with the Saudis in a ruthless onslaught that has killed thousands of civilians and brought millions of people to the brink of starvation. The US-Saudi war also opened the door for al Qaeda to flourish again in Yemen.

And so now the US is carrying out more and more operations in Yemen — against al Qaeda. (While arming and supporting al Qaeda and related forces in Syria.) No, it doesn’t make sense — outside the brutal logic of imperial machinations, where violent extremist groups are just counters to be played, this way and that, on one side or the other, in the never-ending game of domination.

Trump has not skipped a beat in taking up the counters that Obama left behind. It was the Peace Prize President who enmeshed the United States neck deep in the Saudis’ bloodbath —while expanding the death-drone policies of George W. Bush (who killed an American citizen in the first US drone missile attack in 2002 — in Yemen). Now the game goes on, most likely with renewed force, as Trump pursues his stated intent of becoming even more directly involved in the imperial bloodletting in the Middle East.

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No Comeback for Torture – It’s Never Gone Away

Written by Chris Floyd 26 January 2017 9778 Hits

Donald Trump used his first nationally televised interview as president to declare his firm belief that “torture works.” Of course, as innumerable studies have shown, torture doesn’t “work” at all – if by “work” you mean the gathering of credible information. However, for Trump's purposes, torture will work very well indeed.  Thomas Jones, writing in the London Review of Books, points out this apt quote from Why Torture Doesn’t Work: The Neuroscience of Interrogation by Professor Shane O’Mara:

“The usual purpose of torture by state actors has not been the extraction of intentionally withheld information in the long-term memory systems of the noncompliant and unwilling. Instead, its purposes have been manifold: the extraction of confessions under duress, the subsequent validation of a suborned legal process by the predeterminedly guilty (‘they confessed!’), the spreading of terror, the acquisition and maintenance of power, the denial of epistemic beliefs.”

Gosh, it sorta makes you wish there had been some magical way for somebody -- say, the most powerful man on earth -- to have prosecuted American torturers during the last eight years, setting a clear, public example that such blatant evil would never again be tolerated in a civilized society. It's just so unfortunate that the White House and Justice Department were left empty from January 2009 to January 2017, and there was no one around to, you know, actually uphold the law. Darn the luck, eh?

But of course, there WAS someone in the White House during those years — and he and his minions used torture on an extensive scale. For example, it has been well documented that many thousands of children (and adults) have been psychological scarred by living under the constant threat of drone attack. This has been particularly true in Pakistan, where medical staff tell of children traumatized by the fear of the drones that constantly bombarded remote villages, especially in the earlier years of Obama’s presidency. Often the drones would simply sit in the sky above a village for hours on end, coming back for days on end, floating, buzzing, liable to let loose carnage at any moment. It is an exquisite form of torture, the equivalent of tying someone up then walking round and round them day and night while pointing a hair-trigger pistol at their head. And Obama inflicted this on hundreds of thousands of people, day after day, year after year. To what purpose? Why, the “spreading of terror,” of course.

It was also done on a smaller scale. Take the case of Chelsea Manning. The use of solitary confinement has been ruled an act of torture. Manning was subjected to this torture repeatedly. (As are thousands of ordinary prisoners across the country every day.) There was no other reason for the use of this torture in the high-profile Manning case than “the spreading of terror”: a stark warning to anyone else who might be thinking of revealing American war crimes to the world. Obama’s treatment of Manning was repulsive, base and evil — yet you’ll never see Meryl Streep waxing with moral outrage about it.

(And now Trump too has been bashing Manning, labelling her outright as a “traitor,” although of course she wasn’t charged with or convicted of treason. Trump’s words — the President publicly calling someone a traitor — could easily lead to Manning’s death, as some “patriot” out there takes it upon themselves to carry out the “proper” sentence for a “traitor.” She could also face death or maltreatment even before being released — due to Obama’s bizarre decision to delay her release until May, giving her five months under Trump’s tender care.)

But let’s be clear: whatever he does, Trump will not be bringing torture “back”: it’s never gone away.

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Infinite Jest: Liberals Laughing All the Way to Hell

Written by Chris Floyd 17 January 2017 11896 Hits

Saturday Night Live had a really funny ha-ha joke the other night. Making fun of Trump’s whiny tweet asking “Are we living in Nazi Germany?” the funny ha-ha SNL news guy said brightly: “Of course not! At least Nazi Germany had the guts to take on Russia!”

You see how really ha-ha funny that is? Sure, more than 25 million people died as a result of this display of “guts,” and sure, the Holocaust was greatly accelerated by the invasion, which brought millions of more victims within its evil purview, and yeah, OK, it was an act of naked, insane aggression that had as its explicit aim the murder (directly and by starvation) of 40 to 50 million Jews and Slavs — but Hitler sure gave it to those Russkies, right? Trump could learn from that example, right? See how ha-ha funny that is?

Especially from the funny ha-ha folks at SNL — who paid Trump to be the host of their show while he was conducting the most racist, hateful political campaign in modern American history. They normalized his hatred, they gave him a national platform to show he was an all-right guy with a sense of humor, no big threat, no big deal. They normalized him, lionized him, helped him reach millions of people who pay little attention to the news. Now, of course, they’re “leading the resistance” with “cutting-edge comedy” — Alec Baldwin puckering his lips and fawning on a shirtless Putin — and with really funny ha-ha stuff like saying Trump should totally be more like that gutsy Hitler guy and "take on Russia."

Meanwhile, Trump and his minions and the Congressional extremists are already rolling back every law and regulation they can lay their hands on in a slavering frenzy to poison the earth, remove all restrictions on corporate rapine, strip millions of health care, roll back decades of hard-fought civil rights advances, double the military budget and build a Berlin Wall on the Mexican border. It’s a full-bore Barbarossa on the wellbeing and common good of the American people (and the world) — but who cares about that? According to the funny ha-ha guys at SNL — and practically the entire Democratic Party and the so-called liberal media — what Trump should really be doing is “taking on Russia.” And if he does that — what? Will none of the other things matter? Will that make him “legitimate” in John Lewis’ eyes?

Of course, Trump’s bashing of Lewis was ignorant and racist and sinister and wrong. But look at the reality. Trump won the presidency because of a years-long, systematic, all-out vote suppression crusade by Republicans, aimed directly at African-American voters. It is not even debatable that hundreds of thousands of African-Americans across the country were locked out of voting by the GOP-passed laws — including in the crucial swing states. But that didn’t make Trump illegitimate in Lewis’s eyes. Trump’s victory was also due to the convoluted, anti-democratic Electoral College system set up in the 18th century to mollify the demands of slave-owners. But that didn’t make Trump illegitimate in Lewis’s eyes. Trump’s sickening racist campaign didn’t make him illegitimate in Lewis’s eyes. Trump’s egregious corruption didn’t make him illegitimate in Lewis’s eyes.

No, the one thing that roused John Lewis to anger and caused him to declare that Trump is illegitimate is the fact that US intelligence services have released reports alleging that Russia may have been involved in hacking emails which, by revealing the truth about collusion and vote-rigging in the Democratic primary, made the Clinton campaign look bad. That’s the only thing that makes Trump illegitimate in Lewis’ eyes. These are, of course, the same intelligence services that hounded Lewis and Martin Luther King Jr. for years; the same ones that supplied the lies for Bush to “take on Saddam” like Hitler did Russia with a war of aggression; the same agencies that were caught lying about hacking the United States Senate a couple of years ago trying to quash a report on CIA atrocities.

But now we must implicitly believe them. We must pick up the sword they have given us, and we must have the “guts” to “take on Russia” — just like Nazi Germany did. We are told this in serious tones by serious people like Obama’s CIA chief John Brennan — the same John Brennan who played a key role in cooking intelligence about Saddam’s non-existent WMD program. He was instrumental in a process that led to the killing of hundreds of thousands of innocent people in a hellish spiral of death and chaos that is still going on today. But we must believe this man now — this proven liar, this dishonest dealer, this warmongering spy. We must believe when he tells us that we have to “take on Russia.”

But of course, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. So in addition to the very serious words of very serious serial liars like John Brennan, we also get the same message — “Take on Russia! Take on Russia! Take on Russia!” — in more easy-peasy palatable forms, through venues like the funny ha-ha crew at Saturday Night Live. Take on Russia — just like the Nazis did! Ha ha! Hee hee! Sure, we helped normalize Trump by putting him our hip cool funny ha-ha TV show — but look at us now, sticking it to the Man, leading the Revolution and, yes, above all, “taking on Russia”!

I don’t like Putin. I didn’t like Putin when George Bush was looking into his soul and embracing him as a partner. I didn’t like Putin when a Kremlin-connected bank gave Bill Clinton $500,000 for a single speech after he helped Russia gain a huge share of the American uranium market. (This was direct payment of “Russian gold”, straight into the pockets of a man whose wife was the head of U.S. foreign policy at the time. Is this not at least as questionable as Trump’s unsuccessful feelers for Russian business deals? And does this direct Russian monetary influence make Clinton’s former presidency “illegitimate” in Lewis’s eyes? I’m guessing not.) I don’t like Putin today. But I don’t think I have ever seen such a full-scale, all-out demonization and “Othering” campaign like the one going on now, not just against Putin and his loathsome regime, but Russia and Russians in general. Not even the run-up to the Iraq War was so blatant and blunt and racist. At least in the public propaganda, the Iraqi people themselves weren’t demonized, but depicted as victims of a tyrant. (Of course, we know what the Dick Cheney-led oil-grabbers REALLY thought of the filthy Arabs sitting on oil that God meant for fat white guys from Wyoming.) But more and more we see the stance, the assumption, that the worthless Russian people deserve whatever’s coming to them for supporting Putin. (Oddly enough, one sees the same take in “liberal” circles about U.S. regions that voted for Trump: “those people” deserve whatever they get, they’re scum, they deserve to die.)

Where is all this headed? Does it begin with funny ha-ha jokes about invading Russia like Hitler did — and end with actually invading Russia like Hitler did? What is it that our newly converted CIA liberals and New McCarthyite progressives really want? War with Russia? On what grounds? Do they really think Russia is going to invade Poland? (It was the other guy who did that, remember — the new hero of the funny ha-ha SNL guys.) Do they want nuclear war over Crimea — while they happily do business with Tibet-gobbling China (whose regime is actually more repressive than Putin’s)? Everything in this broad-ranging anti-Russian campaign sounds and feels like the run-up to the Iraq War (as Patrick Cockburn points out). So is that the ultimate aim — war? Is this what our good liberals and progressives are signing up for? Will they be laughing all the way to the fall-out shelter? “At least we took on Russia, ha ha ha ha!”

Yes, let’s have an investigation of alleged Russian meddling in the election. Let’s throw in the alleged meddling by Ukraine too. We might also look at alleged meddling by Israel, South Korea, Turkey (that perennial back-door meddler and buyer of congressfolk), by Taiwan, Saudi Arabia (which gave millions of dollars to the family foundation of one of the candidates who wasn’t named Trump) and any other nation whose covert operators might have been plying their trade to influence events in 2016 (as they do in every election). I would be very happy if nefarious Trump connections were found. I'd be happy to see him be the first president ousted for treasonous pre-election dealings — especially after presidents like Nixon and Reagan (the treacherous “October Surprise” that the CIA chief turned VP candidate G.H.W. Bush negotiated for him with the Iranians) got away with their treason.

But let’s also, for God’s sake, look at the real reasons why Trump’s presidency is illegitimate. Let’s focus on the real damage he is actually doing and will do. Let’s have genuinely open investigations of any foreign meddling — while we also have a full-blown Church Committee-like probe into America’s incessant and pervasive meddling and rigging of elections all over the world, year in, year out, decade after decade. (Including the mass-murdering “regime change” interventions which could be seen as somewhat worse than hacking the emails of political hacks.)

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Of course, I’m falling into an old journalism trope here. I’m saying “Let’s do this, let’s do that” — offering some positive alternatives after a negative analysis — when I know that none of this will be done. The Democrats will continue to believe that they are as pure as the driven snow, and that their CIA-fed demonization campaign against Russia is nothing like Bush's bad old CIA-fed demonization campaign against Iraq. Their McCarthyism — which sees Kremlin agents behind everything, including anti-fracking campaigns and the Occupy movement and skeptical analyses of CIA reports — is nothing like the bad old McCarthyism that saw Kremlin agents behind everything. Like John Lewis, they will continue to be incensed by an alleged email hacking while sidelining actual, factual, real-life, in-your-face evils like voter suppression and the ravages awaiting from the Exxon-Goldman Sachs-Christian Nationalists Trump has loosed upon the nation.

They won’t look at the evils done in their progressive name by the progressive president they now mourn. They won’t look at Yemen, Libya, Honduras, or how their champion became the greatest arms dealer in the history of the world, or how he deported more than 2 million people (including thousands of children fleeing the coup regime he and Hillary Clinton backed in Honduras). They won’t look at how he saved the gilded wreckers of the economy and let millions of ordinary people lose their homes. They won’t remember the reports in the New York Times where Obama admitted that he allowed ISIS to grow in order to meddle in the electoral process in Iraq and get another government there more to his liking. They won’t remember the NYT story outlining — in hushed, reverent tones — the death squad that Obama personally ran in the White House, meeting weekly with security chiefs to finalize death lists of people to be assassinated that week — without trial, without defense, without warning. They won’t recall Obama’s approval of “signature strikes,” allowing numerous operators “in the field” to kill unknown people — not even named “terrorist suspects” — if they are spotted, by drones, carrying out “suspicious behavior” … like putting shovels in a truck. They won’t recall the brutal neoliberalism of his trade policies, his Stasi-like expansion of the surveillance system, his unprecedented persecution of whistleblowers, his cowardly protection of CIA torturers.

They won’t look at any of this, they won’t remember any of it, they won’t learn a damn thing from it. They will spend the next four years railing about Russia (and, ha ha, trying to get Trump to “take on Russia” like Hitler did, ha ha hee hee) while fighting like hell to get back to the system that gave us all the horrors named above.

Trump’s rise has proven once and for all that that that system is broken. Something different is going to take its place. It could be Trumpism — it could be something even worse. Or it could be something better. It would be nice to think that our Democrats and liberals and progressives and enlightened media types would leap wholeheartedly into an effort to build this better system on the blasted, rotten ruins of the old one, instead of trying frantically to resurrect it in its worst aspects. But, laying aside old tropes, I don’t think they will. There is much that could be done, but I don’t think they’ll do it.

I would be happy to be proved wrong, of course. I find few encouraging signs among the generations now in ascendance — but I do see a fire and an openness to genuine change in some of the younger generations, including my children. If we can hold on until it’s their time, if we can shore up enough fragments against the ruins until they can shape the world, there might be hope. We owe them that.

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Sitzkrieg on the Potomac: The Phony War Between Trump and the Deep State

Written by Chris Floyd 15 January 2017 10559 Hits

I keep trying to get my head around the much-bruited notion that Trump and the Establishment (or the Deep State) are at war with one another. While lurid headlines might give that impression, in actual fact, Trump has appointed the most “Establishment” cabinet imaginable, pandering to every aspect of our elites’ agendas.

He’s put an oil man in the State Department. He’s put rabidly pro-war figures in charge of the Pentagon and national security. He’s given control the economy and most domestic policy to that avatar of the Establishment, Goldman Sachs (at current count, six GS executives or alumni hold top spots in his inner circle). He’s given control of the Energy Department to one of the energy corporations’ most faithful courtesans. He’s given control of the intelligence agencies to people who have long advocated draconian expansions of the agencies’ powers. He’s promised the techno-lords of Apple and Facebook and Google (and others) that they will reap billions upon billions of dollars in a “tax holiday” that will let them bring home the loot they’ve stashed in overseas tax havens. He’s promised to vastly expand military spending, pleasing the all-powerful war profiteering lobby. He’s promised to lift environmental restrictions on industry, pleasing the Koch Brothers to no end. Even the mainstream media — much of which is ostensibly opposed to Trump — knows it will go on reaping bumper profits from his fulminations, as they have done since the beginning of his campaign. The list goes on and on.

I would like to see demonstrated in what way Trump is at war with — or poses the slightest threat to — the Establishment, the Deep State, the ruling class, or whatever you want to call the power structures on the commanding heights of American society. No doubt there are factions within the seething morass of the military-industrial-intelligence complex with various motives for undermining Trump; this is the case with every presidency now. (Recall how the Pentagon rolled Obama into a large “surge” in Afghanistan by pushing their agenda in public beforehand, forcing him to either go along or look “weak” in the first days of his presidency.) Some factions might be protecting their turf against the newcomers that any new president inevitably brings in; some factions might be trying to bring Trump to heel in case he might oppose or curtail their activities; some factions just might not like the cut of his jib; there are, as always, myriad reasons for factional infighting and rodent-rogering and sinister gamesmanship among the vast intelligence “community.”

But the idea that Trump, of all people — and his appointees, of all people — are going to somehow attack or damage or seek to undermine in any way the Establishment seems fairly ludicrous to me, given the actual appointments he has made and the actual policies he has consistently proposed. But as long as we all keep chasing every burp of his twitter feed or spit-spewing bluster of his public statements — while treating every nocturnal emission of the intelligence factions as gospel truth — we’ll stay lost in the fog of this phony war … even as our elites (Trump very much included) continue to devour the world and take us further into darkness, division, ruin and strife.

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