Stress Test: Childhood as a Raw Material for Investor Exploitation

Written by Chris Floyd 18 April 2016 13270 Hits

In the Guardian, Zoe Williams captures the test-obsessed, ranking-addled, childhood-destroying insanity of the UK education system very well. Who is telling the government that this ruthless quantification is good for children? Not teachers, not education experts, not academics; every study and measure shows how destructive and detrimental it is, to students, to teachers, to communities. So who are they listening to, our leaders who care so much about our Big Society? As in America, they're listening to the testing profiteers, to blinkered ideologues (who can forget Michael Gove's great plan to improve education by giving every school a brand new Bible -- with his own name in it?) and, above all, to predatory investors (like the Murdochs, among many) who see the lives of our children -- their minds, their education, their very childhood -- as nothing more than so much raw material to mine for their own profit.

Williams is particularly and painfully right about the ongoing struggle of parents to assure our children that their entire self-worth -- and their dreams and ambitions for the future -- are not dependent on their SAT scores or GSCE results, and the difficulty of trying to find the proper balance between encouraging them to work hard and do well -- for their own sakes, for the development of their own minds -- while trying to tamp down the high pressure and unnecessary anxiety induced by this irrational and inhumane testing regime.

I've had children in primary or high school for more than 30 years, in two countries; and throughout that time, in both the US and UK, I've been amazed at the vast disparity between the never-ending gush of sentimental pieties about "how much we care for our children" -- and the callous indifference shown in the actual practice of the actual systems in which we place them. That disparity seems to grow greater, and more pernicious, with each passing year.

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Dry Bones: Racist History Returns With a Vengeance

Written by Chris Floyd 06 April 2016 13815 Hits

When I was 18, I worked for the Tennessee Department of Conservation at the Cedars of Lebanon State Park, a summer job where a few teenagers helped the park’s permanent workers clean up the picnic areas and campgrounds and ball fields. I mostly helped two ageing characters who’d gotten their sinecures through political patronage. Both were near retirement, and were seeing out their working years with some easy work in pleasant surroundings. They had a black boss they didn’t much like — a park ranger — but they kept their racial sideswipes to a minimum, at least for those days.

Both were men of profound and “sincerely held religious beliefs and moral convictions,” as the saying goes. (Or rather, as the language of the new Jim Crow law in Mississippi goes.) They often held forth on weighty matters of faith and morals as we cruised the park in a truck, emptying trash cans and spending long (very long) breaks beside the big Cedar Park swimming pool, full to the brim of bikini-clad young women enjoying the fine Tennessee summer. Two expositions of their faith have long stood out in my memory.

One was the story of a fallen woman, a prostitute, who in her despair and moral anguish had turned to the church of one of my stalwart Christian colleagues. He told of how one Sunday, she came into the church after the service had started: shyly, hesitantly, seemingly ashamed of herself as she took a seat in a back pew, still wearing the clothes of her previous night’s labor: short skirt, tight top, platform heels. (He was particularly assiduous and copious in his description.) The startled congregation hardly knew what to make of her — and she hurried out quickly at the service’s end.

But she kept returning, for the next few weeks, always in the same fashion: coming in late, furtively, still in her Saturday clothes, keeping to herself in the back, hurrying out lest she scandalize the faithful by her very presence. Obviously she was yearning for the Lord to pull her from her life of sin. But no one in the church approached her, no one emulated the Saviour with the woman taken in adultery and said, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

And so, said my colleague, he took it upon himself to rectify the situation. Seeing how the story was tending, I found myself revising my perhaps too-hasty opinion of him. Perhaps, I thought, he was a man of broader, deeper character than I had hitherto surmised.

Then he went on with his story.

His solution to the appearance of the prostitute in the church house was not to welcome her, speak to her, tell her of God’s grace and forgiveness. No, it was to step forth boldly before the congregation and declare that such a wanton creature should not darken the door of the Lord’s house; she should be barred from coming back ever again.

“We never saw that whore again.” This was told in tones of quiet satisfaction, the tones of a man who had humbly but bravely done his duty. To say that I was gobsmacked is to riot in understatement. I had a hard time believing he had read the same Gospels that had been read to me — and that I had of my own volition eagerly read — since my earliest childhood.

(This same colleague told another interesting — albeit more secular — story that has also stayed with me. In brief, it was how he had spent years in the service of the local political machine buying votes on election days: “Ten dollars each for whites, five dollars each for the niggers.”  He had worked his local district for decades like this. Oddly enough, the previous summer, I’d worked for another state agency, picking up trash on the highways, where another aged colleague told the same tale, although he worked a different district.)

The theological disquisition of my other colleague in the state park was not quite so vivid, although it too stayed through almost 40 years since those halcyon days. One day, while making our rounds, the talk turned for some reason to interracial marriage. Of course, it goes without saying that these two Christian gentlemen considered such a thing as completely and utterly retrograde to their “sincerely held religious beliefs and moral convictions.” There was not any question about it; anyone involved in such filth was bound for hell — as was any nation that countenanced such evil. This was standard fare for that time and place, a sentiment I had heard expressed by most people around me since I was first able to discern the meaning of human speech.

Given the ubiquity and all-pervasiveness of this sentiment, it’s not likely that it alone would have a lodged in my mind for long a time. But what I found curious was how this stalwart’s sincerely held convictions regarding the purity of marriage transcended ordinary notions of race altogether. To be sure, he strongly held forth that he didn’t believe in marriage between “white people and Mexicans;” that was, again, de rigueur for our milieu. No, what struck me was that he went on in his religious-nationalist fervor: “I don’t believe no white should marry no French, or Italian, or Russian, or English neither!”

I think it was this last that impressed me most deeply. Not even the English were white enough for this good white Christian American! Even the English — the very avatars of whiteness, who had carried their “white man’s burden” to the four corners of the earth in the god-ordained crusade of Empire — were not really white … because they weren’t American whites! Or, to be more specific, they were not Southern American white people, because doubtless this stalwart would have considered, say, Italian-Americans in New Jersey or Irish Catholics in Boston to be far less than white. (And don’t even get him started on the Jews!)

Many years later, I myself married one of these ungodly non-white people: an Englishwoman, no less! My colleague had long flown to mansions on high by that point, but I must admit he crossed my mind as my English bride and I plighted our troth in the ancient environs of Oxford.

I was reminded of these long-gone co-workers by today’s stories out of Mississippi: a state where I once worked in the piney swamps of Meridan, the city where they tried — and freed — the killers of Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner. These were the civil rights workers who’d gone down to Mississippi in the Sixties to ensure that everyone had the right to vote — and the right to be served at businesses open to the public without being turned away because of someone’s “sincerely held religious beliefs and moral convictions” that certain kinds of people were beyond the pale.

Many people died and many more suffered to take us out of that pit of hate and despair. And by the time I was riding with the stalwarts — 13 years after those murders — their attitudes seemed quaint, outdated, broken vestiges of a vanished past. I laughed at them, and kept laughing for 40 years. But as that famous Southerner William Faulkner once said, the past is never dead; it’s not even past. And so the good stalwart white Southern Christians of modern-day Mississippi have reassembled the dry bones of hatred and prejudice and made them walk again. A whole new army of Jim Crow zombies.

The laugh was on me, on all of us. Despite all the deaths, all the suffering, here we are again: if not at the absolute beginning, then close — too Mississippi goddam close — to it. The old battles must be fought again. The self-righteous peddlers of prejudice, the hawkers of hatred, the weak and stunted souls who turn away the suffering, who cling belligerently to the accidents of their pigment and their national origin in a vain and pathetic attempt to keep their own terrors and chaos and shortcomings at bay — they are back with renewed vigor, and we must take them on again.

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The Devil Done Got Loose in Mississippi, Pulling Jim Crow From the Grave

Written by Chris Floyd 05 April 2016 12815 Hits

The Devil is loose in Mississippi, dressed up like a preacher and hollering God's name. The Guardian reports it here. Growing up in the South, I knew many people who felt that interracial marriage "conflicted with their sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions." Many also sincerely believed that ANY mixing of races -- at lunch counters, water fountains, hotels, churches, schools, toilets, etc. -- also conflicted with their "religious beliefs or moral convictions." That's why we had the Jim Crow laws. This new law in Mississippi makes ALL of that possble again, and more. If you can refuse service to same-sex couples on religious grounds, you can refuse it to interracial couples, mixed-religion couples, unmarried couples, divorcees -- to anyone doing ANYTHING that you believe is a sin and don't want to be associated with. There is serious evil afoot here, and it goes far beyond "political correctness." It is the re-introduction of state-backed hatred and bigotry, using an obscence perversion of the ideal of "religious liberty" to mask its true and deeply pernicious nature.

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Progressive "Triumph": Neofascist Message Pusher Disappointed in Messenger

Written by Chris Floyd 29 March 2016 12813 Hits

So one of Trump's "top strategists," Stephanie Cegielski, has resigned in protest over his recent tweet on the atrocity in Lahore, and written an open letter to his followers denouncing her boss. This has been seized upon by various "progressives" as a great cudgel with which to beat the Donald about his goodish head. One of his own inner circle, giving him a "brutal" beatdown! Surely that will shake the rabble to their senses!

Somehow I doubt if Trump supporters will be swayed by her message; they seem impervious to any punctures in their bubble of delusion. But frankly, why should we respect the "insights" of someone who was inane enough to "believe" in Trump in the first place? And not only that, but eager to work for him? Someone who was "excited" by his misogynist attacks on female reporters, excited by his "politically incorrect" statements -- Mexicans as murderers, barring Muslims, "bringing back waterboarding and worse," "too bad we can't beat up protestors anymore," tweeting false stats from racist websites to push "black on white crime" fearmongering, etc., etc. She was excited by all this, and helped propagate these messages for months on end.

And now, only now, with his ridiculous statement about Pakistan -- which was certainly no more ridiculous and megalomaniacal than many other statements she has been happy to promote -- she suddenly finds he has gone too far? This is hard to believe. She was very happy -- excited, eager -- to help Trump inject virulent poison into the political debate day after day. Even if, as she now claims, she did it only to help launch a "protest" campaign, not actually elect Trump, what does it say that she was happy to do such things -- under any circumstances, for whatever reason?

It's good, I guess, that she has stopped helping propagate the messages of hatred, ignorance, violence and division which she was "excited" about pushing until last week. But her evident lack of common sense, common decency, intellectual acumen or depth of insight -- as amply demonstrated by her ardent, "devoted" service to Trump in the first place -- certainly undermines her effectiveness as Trump critic, to say the least. For even now, she expresses not the slightest regret for the vicious tropes she helped propound. Obviously, she still believes that Mexican immigrants are murderers and rapists, that we should build a "Great Wall" and "make the Mexicans pay for it," that we should ban Muslims from entering the country, that we should target the families of suspected terrorists, that we should torture people and so on. There are no regrets at all about the neofascist message she's been pushing -- just disappointment in the messenger.

Well, don't worry, Ms. Cegielski. Thanks in no small part to your own efforts, you can be sure the next unvarnished neofascist to seek high office will display all the "serious" policy chops you require in a "strong leader" who will "make America great again." Trump is but a forerunner for the apotheosis to come. So keep the faith!

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Zero-Sum: The Savage Vision Driving a Terror-Ridden World

Written by Chris Floyd 22 March 2016 13622 Hits

The atrocities in Brussels -- and they are horrific, criminal atrocities -- are not occurring in a vacuum. They are not springing from some unfathomable abyss of motiveless malevolence. They are a response, in kind, to the atrocious violence being committed by Western powers on a regular basis in many countries around the world. And just as there is no justification for the acts of carnage in Brussels (and Paris and Turkey and elsewhere), there is likewise no justification for the much larger and more murderous acts of carnage being carried out by the most powerful and prosperous nations on earth, day after day, year after year.

The Western powers know this. For many years, their own intelligence agencies -- in study after study  -- have confirmed that the leading cause of violent "radicalization" among a small number of Muslims is the violent Western intervention in Muslim lands. These interventions are carried out for the purpose of securing the economic and political domination of Western interests over lands rich with energy resources, as well as their strategic surroundings. That they have not even the slightest connection to "liberating" people from religious or political persecution, or making the world "safer," is glaringly transparent. They are about domination, pure and simple.

Indeed, this point is scarcely disputed, although champions of domination claim it is a good thing. For decades, one has heard the argument from American exceptionalists that "if we don't do it" -- that is, if we don't dominate the world militarily and economically -- "then somebody else will." The implication, of course, is that such a "somebody else" will be far worse than our own divinely blessed, goodhearted selves.

There is a fiercely primitive worldview underlying this philosophy (which is held almost universally across the American political spectrum, and in those countries who cling to the coattails of American dominance). It says that violent domination is the only reality in human affairs: one must dominate, or be dominated. One must eat or be eaten. One must kill or be killed. There is no alternative. If "we" don't dominate -- by force if necessary, doing "whatever it takes" -- then it is a given that some other power will do so. Domination and power are all that exists; the only question is how they are distributed, and who controls that distribution. And there is no price too high to pay in order to gain -- or maintain -- that control.

You can see how this primitive belief plays out in domestic politics too. More and more, politics across the Western democracies (and other nations as well) are revolving around the question of who should dominate in a society -- or more specifically, who feels their domination over society is being threatened. This dynamic is driving nationalist movements across the board. In the United States, it is expressed in the panic and dismay felt by an increasing number of white people -- especially but by no means exclusively white males -- that their "natural" domination of American society is slipping away. They want to "take our country back," or else they'll be overwhelmed -- dominated -- by a flood of unworthy others: African-Americans, Mexicans, Muslims, homosexuals, women, etc. This self-pitying fear has been rife in right-wing discourse for decades, and has now burst into the open, and into the mainstream, with the likely nomination of Donald Trump as presidential candidate of a major party.  

Again, the dynamic of domination is key: since nothing exists outside this dynamic, since there is no other way, then one group MUST dominate the others. The idea of equal citizens working, living, and sharing together is a fantasy in this worldview. If blacks or immigrants or women or gays are perceived to have gained a small share in the national life, then that share must have been "taken" from the dominant group. And since, in this view, domination is the goal of all groups, since it is the organizing principle of human life, then those upstart groups are not just seeking a fair share of society's bounty and freedoms and opportunities; no, they are actually aiming to subjugate the dominant group. In this extremely limited worldview, life is always a zero-sum game. To give someone else more opportunity means less for yourself, and your kind. The freer someone else is, the less free you are. There is only so much to go around. You will find more sophisticated and empathetic worldviews on grade-school playgrounds, or in wolf packs.

And so we come to the foreign policies of Western nations today. They are all, without exception, built on the goal of securing effective control (in whatever form) of economic and strategic resources for the benefit of their own power structures. Again, it is beyond dispute that these policies do not involve trying to make the world a better, safer place so that their own citizens might pursue their lives in peace. These policies manifestly do not involve trying to achieve "security" for their own people. Those who advance these policies knowingly and deliberately accept the fact that they will invariably cause destruction abroad and "blowback" at home. They know and accept that these policies will destabilize the world, that they will radicalize some of those who suffer from them, that they will lead to less security at home, that they will drain public treasuries and leave their own people to sink in broken communities with decaying infrastructure, mounting debt, shrinking opportunities, bleak futures and despairing lives.

They know all of this is true -- not only because they can see it happening with their own eyes, as we all can, but also because their own experts tell them, time and time again, that this is so. But they accept all this as the price that must be paid to advance and maintain their dominance. In the words of Madeline Albright, when she was confronted with the fact that the US/UK sanctions on Iraq had at that time killed at least 500,000 children, our leaders believe this price "is worth it."

In private, they no doubt tell themselves that it is the domination of their good and "special" nation, or the domination of the worthy "values" of "Western civilization" that they are trying to secure with their policies, by doing "whatever it takes." But in practice, of course, the chief beneficiaries of these policies are invariably the ruling classes of the nations involved. This has become much more brazenly evident in recent years, as the conditions and prospects of even the middle classes are so clearly deteriorating. There is little room left to pretend that the "rising tide" of militarized hyper-capitalism is "lifting all boats" when even those who once benefitted from expanding opportunity (in the post-war boom) are now sinking. (The poor, of course, have almost always been invisible.)

The people in Brussels -- like the people in Paris, and like the far greater multitude of victims in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, etc -- are, yes, "reaping the whirlwind" of Western foreign policy. The criminals who carried out the most recent attacks have adopted the mindset of our Western elites, who teach the world, day after day, that the destruction of innocent lives is an acceptable price to pay in order to achieve your objectives. You can and must do "whatever it takes" -- even if whatever it takes is, say, the death of half a million innocent children. Or a war of aggression that leaves a million innocent people dead. Or drone-bombing a wedding party. Or sending missiles into a hospital. Or sitting in the Oval Office -- your Peace Prize gleaming on the mantelpiece -- while you tick off the names of victims on your weekly "Kill List."

We wonder how these terrorists can commit such barbarous atrocities as we see in Brussels -- even while most of us happily countenance, even celebrate, far more extensive and continuous atrocities committed by our leaders in pursuit of domination. Then we pretend that the former has no connection to the latter. Yet the targets of these foreign policies live through a hundred Brussels attacks, a dozen 9/11s every year. We teach violence to the world -- brutal destruction of individual lives, of societies and communities, of entire nations -- yet are shocked when the world responds in kind.

I will say it again: there is absolutely no justification for the murder of innocent people such as we saw in Brussels today. None. But crimes of equal horror -- killing innocent people, disrupting the lives of millions of others, and filling them with fear -- are being carried out, routinely, and on a much larger scale, by the leaders of our Western nations and their allies. This too is equally unjustifiable, and is worthy of the same level of rejection and outrage we rightly apply to the Brussels atrocity.

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Let us now praise those who helped make the world a better place in March 2003.

Written by Chris Floyd 20 March 2016 12760 Hits

March 20: 13 years to the day since the invasion of Iraq. Sure, people had their disagreements about it back then, but isn't the world a better, safer place these days? Look at how freedom and democracy are flourishing all over the Middle East! I think we should all take a moment and silently thank George Bush and Hillary Clinton and all the supporters of that glorious endeavor for ignoring the millions upon millions of us who said it was a criminal, immoral act of monstrous folly that would lead to years of ruin, chaos, death and destruction. Thanks, Dub! Thanks, HRC! Well done, guys!!!

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No Bern Notice: The Imperial Myopia of Candidate Sanders

Written by Chris Floyd 10 March 2016 14468 Hits

Does Bernie Sanders know what Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama did to Honduras? Does he care? Last week saw yet another savage murder of a Honduran activist for democracy -- one of hundreds such atrocities since Clinton and Obama blessed a brutal oligarchical coup there in 2009. But Sanders said nothing -- says nothing -- about this damning legacy of his opponent. It's an extraordinary omission by someone presenting himself as an alternative to the failed elitist policies of the past.

The only Sanders reference to Honduras that I've been able to find is some justified criticism of the draconian treatment of Honduran refugees by the Obama-Clinton team. But he never tied this back to why there has been a flood of Hondurans fleeing their country -- most of them children, sent on a perilous journey by desperate parents hoping to save them from the hellish conditions wrought by the coup. Political repression and rampant gangsterism -- including the abandonment of broad swathes of society to the ravages of poverty and gangs -- have driven the nation to its knees. Last week's murder of indigenous activist Berta Cáceres is but the latest bitter fruit of the Obama-Clinton betrayal of democracy.

Clinton -- with a heart as hard as that most adamantine of all elements, neoconium -- obviously doesn't care. (Although at least she has refrained from looking on the latest murder and crying, "We came, we couped, she died!") One assumes that Sanders, who over the years has opposed various American depredations in Latin America, might not be so sanguine. But as of this writing, a week has passed since Cáceres's murder without comment from Sanders. However, his Senate colleague from Vermont, Patrick Leahy, did condemn the killing -- and the wasteful, land-grab dam project that Cáceres opposed. Perhaps now that Leahy has provided some Establishment cover, Sanders could bestir himself for a word or two on the Cáceres case.

But the reticence to attack Clinton on the substance -- and the essence and the goals -- of American foreign policy is very much a hallmark of the Sanders campaign. For example,his only word about the American-backed campaign of slaughter, ruin and starvation being conducted by the Saudis against Yemen has been a lament that the Saudis are wasting good ammo in Yemen when they should be "getting their hands dirty" against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Yes, apparently the proper "democratic socialist" position is that the world needs more violent intervention by the greatest purveyors of Islamic extremism in the world. We need more killing -- and more military expansion -- by one of the most repressive regimes on the face of the planet. This is where the "progressive left" is at these days.

Again, this is an extraordinary position for someone who is calling for a "revolution" in American affairs. For although Sanders wants the Saudis to do more of the "dirty" work of killing people in the Middle East, there's no suggestion on this part that the United States won't continue to supply the weaponry and logistics and intelligence for the "Sanders Surrogate" wars he envisions, just as it is doing now in Yemen. This same resistance to any fundamental change in America's militarist imperium runs through all of Sanders' foreign policy stances. Which means that his plans for a "revolution" (really mild reform) in domestic affairs are doomed to failure, because the War Machine will continue to dictate policy -- and budget priorities. Dennis Riches put it well in this quote from MintPress News:

Although Sanders claims to seek a more democratic government and hopes to remove the influence of money from politics, Riches said he avoids talking much about this complex topic because doing so would involve admitting how much the U.S. national economy depends on a massive military and endless foreign wars.

“Doing the right thing would require a complete abdication of America’s self-assigned role as master of the global order, and this would also entail a re-imagining of the domestic economy,” Riches noted.

There will be no "revolution" -- there will not even be any genuine reform, beyond mild tinkering at the margins -- without such an abdication and re-imagining. But this is not on offer from any of the "major candidates" now vying to be the temporary manager of the corrupt and violent American imperium, including Sanders.  

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Meanwhile, the horror in Honduras goes on. As so often over the years, John Perry of the London Review of Books provides excellent background on the situation there. He notes that the Cáceres murder is part of an American-backed ethos that puts "business" before any and all other concerns -- community, environment, individual human lives.

In this case, even the decidedly unsentimental Chinese investors -- and the equally bottom-line World Bank as well -- concluded that the dam project opposed by Cáceres was not worth pursuing. But local oligarchs, backed by the coup regime, decided to plow ahead. Perry sets the scene:

After the 2009 military coup, Honduras was declared open for business. Utopian projects for charter cities to bring in foreign entrepreneurs are still on the drawing board, but Honduras’s mineral resources have already attracted investors. To serve hundreds of new mines, 47 new hydroelectric projects were given the go ahead two months after the coup, overriding the legal protection for indigenous lands. One of them, Agua Zarca on the Gualcarque River, with dams generating 22 megawatts of electricity, would destroy Lenca farmland and villages. The Lenca community of Rio Blanco and the Council of Indigenous Peoples of Honduras (COPINH), co-founded by Cáceres, were determined to stop the dams being built.

They blocked the access road for construction traffic for a whole year in 2013, eventually forcing the Chinese firm Sinohydro to give up its contract. The World Bank also withdrew funding. The community seemed to have won, at the cost of activists being killed or injured by soldiers guarding the construction site.

Then last July, DESA, the local firm that holds the concession to dam the river, decided to go ahead by itself. A new phase of struggle began, with peaceful protests met by violent repression and bulldozers demolishing settlements in the valley. Threats against the leaders, and Cáceres in particular, increased. She was granted special protective measures by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, but the Honduran government never properly implemented them.

So just two months after the coup, 47 dam projects got the green light, to serve hundreds of new mines. Yet Hillary's defenders (you can read their obsequious offerings by the yard at Daily Kos) now tell us that she and Obama only supported the ouster and exile of the democratically elected Honduran president in 2009 in order to "prevent a civil war" in the country. It was pure altruism, on the level of high statecraft. It had nothing to do with, say, grubby business interests and powerful investors (including the not-at-all Washington-connected World Bank) needing a "green light" to move the pesky redskins off their land and gut the earth for more extraction profiteering. Such considerations did not enter into the mix at all.

(Even if one takes the argument of the Clinton apologists at face value, it's still a remarkable scam: Rightwing oligarchs threaten civil war if they don't get what they want; you give them what they want; and hey presto -- you've "saved" a nation from civil war! Why didn't Abe Lincoln think of that?)

The violent repression took its accustomed course:

In the small hours of the morning on Thursday 3 March, armed men burst through the back door of Cáceres’s house and killed her in her bed. They also injured a visiting Mexican activist, Gustavo Castro. At around eight o’clock, police and army officers arrived, dealing aggressively with the family and community members who were waiting to speak to them. As they left the scene, they insinuated that the motive was robbery. Cáceres’s body was wrapped in plastic and thrown in the back of an unmarked truck. ...

It is all part of a sickening pattern, played out over and over in Honduras, as elsewhere in the American imperium. As I wrote back in 2010:

Since the installation of these throwbacks to the corrupt and brutal 'banana republics' of yore, Obama's secretary of state, the "progressive" Hillary Clinton, has spent a good deal of time and effort trying to coerce Honduras' outraged neighbors in Latin America to "welcome" the thug-clique, now led by Porfirio Lobo, back into the "community of nations." Let bygones be bygones, Clinton says, as Lobo's regime murders journalists (nine so far this year), political opponents and carries on the wholesale trashing of Honduran independence (such as sacking four Supreme Court justices who opposed the gutting of liberties and the overthrow of constitutional order). After all, isn't that Obama's own philosophy: always "look forward," forget the crimes of the past? Every day is a new day, a clean slate, a chance for a new beginning -- indeed, for "hope and change."

In other words: let the dead bury the dead -- and let the rich and powerful reap their rewards.

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Spoiled Ballots: Yet More Rotten Choices from Modern Democracy

Written by Chris Floyd 10 March 2016 9879 Hits

(This a slightly expanded version of my latest column in CounterPunch Magazine.) The greatly benighted land of old Blighty is now embarked on yet another of the fundamental turbulations that have marked the latest era of "Conservative" rule. Not content with having nearly destroyed the island's ancient union by driving the Scots to the very brink of independence, the gilded goobers of the British elite have now engineered a referendum on leaving the European Union which, if approved, will necessitate a reordering of national life on nearly every level ... including the distinct possibility of, er, destroying the island's ancient union by driving the Scots into independence.

(By the by, does anyone remember when "conservative" meant "cautious, averse to change"? Now, on both sides of the Atlantic, so-called conservatives do nothing but advocate "disruption" and "revolution," giddy with notions of endless upheaval and permanent crisis, happy to shred traditions, decimate communities, gut institutions, exalt ideological fervor and unhinged emotion over rule of law. The more correct term for this kind of behavior is "radical," of course. But this peculiar brand of radicalism aims not for social betterment but to reshape society toward a single aim: the endless enrichment of the rich, using the fears and prejudices of the hoi polloi as fuel for the latter's own despoliation.)

And thus it is in Britain's latest convulsion. The "Brexit" vote is, in so many ways, the very model of a major modern democracy: it offers voters a "choice" between two crappy possibilities and says, "Good luck with that, suckers!" For although the EU has shown itself to be an organization devoted chiefly to the rapacious imposition of destructive corporate will (no more so than in last year's brutal beatdown of democracy's birthplace, Greece), the plutocratic poltroons pushing for Britain's EU exit are, if anything, even worse.

The Brexiters have no objection at all to the EU's most pernicious activities. Indeed, they seized on the agony of Greece as a fearmongering bull-roarer to frighten the folks into the Tory camp in last year's election. "OMG, if we don't keep drinking the bitter medicine of austerity, if we don't keep knocking Grandma's crutches away, we're going to turn into Greece! Aieee!" They are in full accord with the EU's ball-busting brand of capitalism.

No, what they object to are the few protections the EU still provides for the non-plutocratic rabble (perhaps out of nostalgia for its idealistic origins in the aftermath of WWII, when people thought a closer union might keep the highly advanced nations of Western civilization from massacring each other every few years). What the Brexiters hate with a visceral passion are the EU's human rights laws, its regulations against feudal exploitation of workers (a practice known fondly as "flexibility" in British boardrooms) and, above all, its immigration policies, which Brexiters believe have swamped their pure and holy island with grubby Eurotrash and dangerous darkies from even farther afield.

Led by such stalwarts as the Trumpish Boris Johnson, the Le Pen manque Nigel Farage, and the creepily Heepish Michael Gove -- a man who gives Ted Cruz a run for his money in the personal warmth department -- the Brexiters dream of a rump Little England, free of sissy-mary restraints on the lord of the manor's ancient rights to order his affairs as he sees fit, without any folderol about the rabble's "rights" -- much less any interference from Johnny Foreigner!

For example, Gove -- a long-time Murdoch minion who delivered much of Britain's public school system into the hands of privateers, grifters and religious cranks -- says Brexit will allow Blighty to "regain its moxie" and play a bolder role on the world stage. It goes without saying that Gove, like most leading Brexiters, is an unabashed nostalgist for the lost glories of Empire, constantly hymning the great civilizing effect of that enterprise whose true nature was perhaps best summed up by the title of Mike Davis's remarkable and harrowing book, Late Victorian Holocausts.

Jeremy Corbyn, whose astonishing election as Labour leader was one of the few outbreaks of genuine democracy in modern times, is reluctantly supporting the campaign to remain in the EU. Like many, he recognizes full well what the EU has become, but still sees some wan hope in what it could be. This may be a grasping at straws, but some see it as preferable to be being trapped on a tiny island permanently dominated by unrestrained Victorian Holocausters.

And so, again, voters are left with nothing but narrow, unpalatable choices: vote for this set of corporate hucksters -- or this other set of corporate hucksters who are probably worse. (The same choice American voters will almost certainly be confronted with in November.)  Either way you're screwed, mate. Ain't life grand?

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Blood Money: Four More Years of Drug War Horror with HRC

Written by Chris Floyd 03 March 2016 11075 Hits

The Drug War, like the Terror War, is essentially a vast machine for profiteering by the purveyors of weapons and tools of repression. Like the Terror War, the Drug War demonstrably exacerbates the problems it purports to address, and has led to widespread chaos, death and state corruption of almost unfathomable levels. And Hillary Clinton, almost certain to be the next president, is deeply complicit in both of these malevolent enterprises.

Clinton's extensive and eager involvement in the genuinely insane hyper-militarizataion of American policy in the so-called War on Terror is well-attested. Indeed, she boasts of it, trumpeting how she urged a reluctant Obama into destroying Libya, for example: a "great victory" which she famously celebrated by crowing over the rape and murder of Libyan leader Moamar Gaddafi: "We came, we saw, he died!" The neocons who pressed for the war of aggression against Iraq -- which Clinton supported -- are now flocking to her banner, as are the war profiteers and their Wall Street allies. And why not? Clinton is the most hawkish Democratic candidate since Henry Jackson. The blood money will continue to flow like the Nile in flood under her watch.

But Clinton's role in the Drug War is perhaps less well-known. Jesse Franzblau remedies this with an excellent article at CounterPunch, noting her instrumental role in the slaughterfest and corruption feast that the Drug War has spawned in Mexico. Franzblau writes of the $2.5 billion Merida Initiative:

Negotiated behind closed doors in the last years of the Bush administration, the plan was originally proposed as a three-year program. Yet Hillary Clinton’s State Department pushed aggressively to extend it, overseeing a drastic increase of the initiative that continues today.

Much of this aid goes to U.S.-based security, information, and technology contracting firms, who make millions peddling everything from helicopter training to communications equipment to night-vision goggles, surveillance aircrafts, and satellites.

This aid comes in addition to the direct sales of arms and other equipment to Mexico authorized by the State Department, as Christy Thorton pointed out in a 2014 New York Times op-ed. Those sales reached $1.2 billion in 2012 alone, the last full year of Clinton’s tenure. Indeed, as the Mérida Initiative has grown, Mexico has become one of the world’s biggest purchasers of U.S. military arms and equipment.

But while sales have boomed for U.S.-based contractors, the situation in Mexico has badly deteriorated. The escalation of U.S. counter-drug assistance in the country has paralleled a drastic increase in violence, fueling a drug war that’s killed more than 100,000 people since 2006.

Turning Mexico into a major fountain of war profits: quite another accomplishment for a secretary of state whose skills have been lavishly praised by no less than Henry Kissinger, her close friend and advisor. Franzblau goes on to lay out, in grim detail, how Clinton's State Department, openly flouting U.S. law, increased its cooperation with Mexican military and law enforcement units known to be perpetrating horrific human rights abuses:

Human Rights Watch reported in 2011, for example, on widespread cases of torture in Guerrero going back to 1994. The group noted regular abuses by police and military forces, including “cases of homicide, torture, and extortion” overseen by the judicial police chief in the northern part of the state. The same report highlighted strong evidence of the involvement of military officials from Chilpancingo in cases of kidnapping and disappearances in 2010, as the U.S. embassy was clearing officials for training from the same military base.

The payoff for these illegalities has been sweet for the future president:

Notably, several of the contractors that profited from U.S. security assistance in Mexico — such as General Electric, Lockheed Martin, and United Technologies Corporation, which owns Sikorsky — reportedly contributed to the Clinton Foundation. And according to the transparency group Open Secrets, Clinton currently tops the list of all 2016 presidential candidates in campaign contributions from the military contracting industry.

By the end of Clinton's first term in 2021, we will be in the 20th year of the Terror War -- and the 50th year of the Drug War. How many more lives, how many more communities, how many more countries will be laid waste by these inhuman engines of greed and power -- and their "progressive" champions -- in that time?

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Keep a Vital Light Burning: Help for Arthur Silber

Written by Chris Floyd 15 February 2016 8072 Hits

Again, apologies for the dearth of blogging. A lot of reasons for this, but I hope to get back to more activity in these precincts soon. (Meanwhile, you can check out quick shots on my Twitter feed.) But today I just want to note that Arthur Silber continues to struggle with catastrophic health problems and financial straits. If you have anything to spare, head over to his place and give him some help. [Link: http://powerofnarrative.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/damn.html.]

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Grazing in Heaven: A Martyr for the Barons' Rebellion

Written by Chris Floyd 27 January 2016 9264 Hits

RIP, LaVoy Finicum, hero of the Oregon Bund. You died so that one day -- and may it be soon, almighty God! -- all wealthy armed extremists whose sweetheart contracts with the federal government undercut poorer ranchers by skewing the free market for grazing fees will be able run cattle on every wildlife refuge across the width and breadth of this great land, and desecrate Indian relics wherever they find them.

Never forget that this is the glorious cause for which a noble martyr widowed his wife and orphaned his children, and for which he had expressed his fierce willingness to take the life of anyone who tried to stop him. Those who already have money and land must be able to leverage the gains from their cozy federal deals to acquire even more money and land at public expense. Otherwise, your children and my children, and their children's children, will never be truly free. For who among us can know liberty when the slightest fetters are placed on the godly greed of our cattle barons?

Now, sweet prince, take your ease in the wide and fenceless pastures of Heaven. Be assured that we shall not -- we cannot -- we dare not rest until all the land stolen by murder and plunder from the Native Americans is safely in the hands of monied white men packing heat and sporting camo. We shall overcome!

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Note: And just for the record, no, I don’t approve of police killing or heavy-handed tactics by the federal government (even regarding land use). But it seems foolish to pretend that this Bundyist op in Oregon is anything other than a Barons’ Rebellion, for their own aggrandizement – although of course it has also attracted the support of many others for whom the term “federal government” is a trigger word with a single, fearful meaning: DATOM! (Darkies Are Taking Our Money!)

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