Worth a Read

Published at 22:00 on 29 December 2016

This. (It’s not the best-designed web site. Click on the three dot-dash symbols at upper left if it seems to end mid-work without showing the whole thing.)

Yes, Derrick Jensen is something of an asshole (check out some of his rants about anarchists and transgendered people if you don’t believe me). No, I don’t buy his claim that the only viable alternative to civilization is stone-age tribalism.

But, that said, the guy (and his co-authors) does have some valid promises about this civilization being so destructive that it must be ended, the sooner the better, in part because the official mechanisms of power are pretty much useless for the purpose of arresting and reversing the destruction.

Update: Note that this endorsement of the book with the title Deep Green Resistance is not an endorsement of the organization by the same name. The latter appears to be dominated by a cult of personality around Derrick Jensen as much as the Revolutionary Communist Party is by a cult of personality around Bob Avakian.

James Mattis, Butcher of Fallujah

Published at 09:10 on 26 December 2016

On first glance, Mattis seems to be an atypically good pick, given the general hideous nature of Trump’s cabinet picks.

Then you get to what I called at the time the Rape of Fallujah, a deliberate attempt on my part to draw parallels between what Japanese fascists did in Nanking during World War II. I wasn’t exaggerating when I coined that phrase; at the time well in excess of 90% of the casualties were civilians. According to Wikipedia, when the dust settled the civilian casualty rate was between 71.5% and 77% of the total casualties.

Guess what? James Mattis was in charge of that operation.

Update: Democracy Now has a piece on the Rape of Fallujah here.

Despair is Also an Enemy, and Alliances Matter

Published at 08:21 on 21 December 2016

What we need is realism. Sometimes that means accepting an unpleasant fact, but sometimes that means refusing to fall into false despair.

One such instance of despair is assuming there’s nothing that can be done about Trump; because given how Republican-dominated the government will be, there will be little we can do about it. This ignores the reality that Trump has at least one huge easily-observable vulnerability: his sociopathy.

He’s exceedingly self-centered, small-minded, selfish, and irritable. This is war, and in war your job is to determine and exploit your enemy’s vulnerabilities.

In war, you should also in general simply know your enemy, period. Our enemy is not just Trump, it is the larger Republican Party which is deciding to ally with him. That party is overwhelmingly conservative, and conservatives tend to place great importance on nationalism and patriotism. The latter is also a vulnerability we can exploit.

When an incoming president has the foreign entanglements that Trump has, to the point that he tweets disparagingly about protesters, news reporters, parents of deceased veterans, Broadway actors, and so on — yet refuses to say anything at all about Russia, this pushes some hot buttons for your typical conservative. We can use this to our advantage to split the Republicans in Congress and turn some of Trump’s own party against him and ally instead with us.

It may sound strange for a radical leftist to advocate making common cause with conservatives, but recall that this is war and war often requires making common cause to forge alliances with people you have many disagreements with. Churchill and Stalin had disagreements that paled in comparison to those I have with traditional American conservatives, yet managed to forge an effective alliance which defeated the Nazis.

If successful, it wouldn’t be a lasting alliance (the one with the Soviets promptly collapsed after World War II ended), but that’s not the point. The point is to neutralize a common enemy; both the Left and traditional conservatism are better off if they are slugging it out in an open society rather than being brutally repressed in a fascist state.

Frustrated With the Left (Particularly Liberals)

Published at 10:14 on 19 December 2016

The frustration is the general lack of activity in regards to the threat Trump poses. Attitudes tend to range from fatalism to denial (the latter typically accompanied by attempts at normalization of the situation). I am not alone; those I have met who agree the situation is urgent are also frustrated at this same thing.

Part of it, particularly amongst liberals, may be the desire to avoid facing painful and unpleasant realizations about one’s own worldview. Realizations such as:

  • Liberals have been wrong about the right to keep and bear arms. Arming oneself is wise in the present situation, and it is dangerous that those on the Left have generally eschewed doing so, resulting in a situation where those who most need to be able to defend themselves now tend to have the least ability to do so.
  • “Urban liberal elitism” is not just a meaningless buzz-phrase lobbed by conservatives. It is very much a real thing which has caused very real problems. There is a lot of despair outside of liberal urban bubbles which privileged urban liberals haven’t been good at all at acknowledging. This has motivated the despairing to back a fascist demagogue.
  • Liberal politics has been insufficiently class conscious, because identity politics has substituted for class politics. (Note that identity politics is a good thing, but it’s no substitute for class politics. Both are needed.) This problem is most acute at the upper echelons of the Democratic Party, but many Democrats in the base have accepted it in the name or realpolitik, setting aside their own personal beliefs. Again, this has created despair which Trump has exploited.

The first two in particular tend to be painful and inconvenient for many liberals to face. But facing them must be done.

Facing ones’ own faults may be hard, but in that difficulty lies a silver lining: because the faults are one’s own, one doesn’t need to get any other side’s buy in to fix them, therefore they are relatively easy and simple to correct. If, that is, one is honest and faces them.

Finally for Today, Which is More Likely?

Published at 07:30 on 16 December 2016

  • That the DHS and DNI would, in violation of the Hatch Act, issue a phony security statement about Russia being involved in hacking designed to compromise the presidential election, and
  • That Russia’s cable channel Russia Today just happens by random chance to back Trump, and
  • Internet trolls and fake news paid by the Russian government just by random chance backed Trump, and
  • Trump himself just by random chance happens to have business ties to the Kremlin, and
  • Just by random chance, multiple advisors and cabinet members Trump has chosen have close ties to Russia, and
  • Just by random chance Trump praises Putin.

Or is it more likely that the Intelligence Community is not lying and the other stuff on the list above is not just random coincidence?

You don’t have to have a Top Secret clearance to realize Trump is most likely a toxic mixture of Neville Chamberlain and Vidkun Quisling. It’s pretty obvious just based on publicly-available information.

Where Trump is Correct

Published at 07:16 on 16 December 2016

As I just wrote, the world is a messy and complex place. As loathsome as Trump and what he stands for is, there are some things he is correct about. One of them is the funding of NATO.

It is true that other NATO countries do not spend as much per capita on their militaries as the United States does. Therefore it is also true that those countries are to some degree getting a free ride at our expense. That this is happening is a legitimate topic for public debate, one that has generally been absent from the national rhetoric.

Therefore some questioning of this state of affairs is in fact completely appropriate. What is not appropriate is to do so, as Trump is doing, in the name of facilitating an appeasement of Russia.

Understanding Stephen Cohen

Published at 06:59 on 16 December 2016

Stephen Cohen is a Russian historian of some note who is presently pooh-poohing all the evidence in favor of the Trump Regime being a Russian-manipulated threat to our freedom. His dissenting views have caused him to be the target of no small amount of hate for some time.

He’s wrong, of course. Putin is indeed a threat. However, it’s interesting to examine history a bit and determine just why he persists so stubbornly in his wrongness when (being an intelligent and educated person) he should know better.

There’s a huge truth that underlies his beliefs, the truth of Russophobia. The latter is a very real thing, and played no small part in the West dismissing any commitment to freedom and democracy and backing strongman politics in Russia after the Soviet Union collapsed.

There was this bias, shaped by decades of Cold War rhetoric, that saw Russians (and Slavs generally, and Eastern Europeans more generally) as something slightly less than the full human beings Western Europeans are. Being an ignorant and insufficiently-cultured people, they weren’t really responsible enough to handle full democracy. Like children need parents, they needed a nice big dose of authoritarian control. So creating an imperial presidency for Yeltsin was seen as a reasonable thing to do.

It almost happened to Poland in the 1990s. A few years after the fall of the Iron Curtain, the Poles, frustrated with economic “shock therapy” that was making the masses suffer, elected a socialist government. There was much hand-wringing about how the stupid Poles were too dumb not to vote ex-communists back into power. (Poland had been a one-party state. That the politicians of all parties, not just the socialist one, were ex-communists was of course conveniently ignored.) Thankfully, not much came of it. The “ex-communist” bogeyman was shown to be the phantom threat it actually was when the socialists eventually lost an election and promptly proceeded to hand over power to the victors, just like any political party should do in a democracy.

But I digress. The rise of Putin soon enough proved that in supporting the creation of a strongman presidency in Russia, the West had created a Frankenstein’s monster.

This was actually convenient for the American Right, who had run into a problem: pure capitalism is an unstable economic system which has difficulty producing much economic growth, because it lurches destructively from boom to bust. Interventionist economic policy is needed to stabilize it, but such policy is ideologically inconvenient: once you’re doing it, you’ve ceded the ability to cling morally to the principle of laissez-faire and you’ve opened the door to social democracy or modern liberalism. The Cold War had provided an out for the Right: military Keynesianism; spend on Cold War military programs instead of social ones to stabilize the economy.

So the response to the failure of Russophobia was not a questioning of how anti-Russian bias had fostered unwise support for a strongman, but an embrace of even more Russophobia. Previous promises made about not expanding NATO eastward were reneged on multiple times. The new NATO countries were required to modernize their militaries (which gave the US military-industrial complex new markets). Plus the fear could be used to rationalize more militarism at home, too.

It is this which Cohen has been fighting all these years. Unfortunately, the real world is a messy and complex place. As I wrote earlier, a Frankenstein’s monster had been created. It’s now clear just how much a threat that monster is.

Is it a monster created by Western hubris and Russophobia? Yes. Is it a monster that a less bigoted and Machiavellian foreign policy decades ago could have avoided? Probably, yes. But, it is also a present danger that now must be faced. The genie is now fully out of the bottle.

I find the return to a new Cold War loathsome, too. However, at this point in time, it’s probably the least loathsome of several bad options available. The West made its bed and must now lie in it.

One Possible Scenario (among Many)

Published at 22:38 on 15 December 2016

One possible scenario of how Trump could be an abject foreign-policy disaster (due to his pro-Russian influence) is given here. I was, in fact, thinking of a Russian intervention in the Baltic States when I wrote:

We will, however, probably arrive at such a stage where a shooting war (between nuclear-armed nations, which should truly horrify all reading this) becomes inevitable if we shrink from confrontation at this time. We are at a cusp of history, much like the world was when it had to choose whether to confront or appease Hitler of his territorial ambitions.

How We Got Here

Published at 11:07 on 14 December 2016

The Story Goes Way Back

Because the story goes way back, the account given here will of necessity be incomplete. The racial prejudice that facilitated the alt-right is very old, going back to the days of Negro slavery and Indian removal and indeed before. A full exposition would include most of world history and human psychology, and thus be vastly longer than any single blog post could accommodate.

The Events of 1993

In 1993, the Soviet Union had already collapsed. The collapse happened far more suddenly and with far less advance warning than most observers thought possible. Just a decade earlier, the USSR was a world superpower, still locked in its decades-long stare-off with the USA. Now, it had collapsed, leaving no small degree of chaos in its wake.

The living standards of the Russian people were in a free-fall, and many Russians were blaming the headlong rush into capitalism being advocated by then president Boris Yeltsin for the collapse. Socialists still controlled the parliament, and were using their control to oppose Yeltsin’s pro-capitalist desires.

Yeltsin’s response was to stage what can only be described as a coup d’etat. It wasn’t described as such by the vast majority of Western media, of course, but that’s basically what it was: Yeltsin ordered the army to shell the parliament building and then proceeded to forcibly dissolve parliament.

In the wake of that show of force, he managed to get a new constitution written and approved by popular referendum which created the same imperial presidency that Vladimir Putin uses to rule today. In this, he had the solid support of the capitalist West, who once again opted to choose capitalism over democracy when it comes to a nation outside of the First World. The regret only came later, when Putin started using that power in ways contrary to the West’s desires.

Therefore, the West created Putin. Please keep that in mind for the rest of this article, lest you be tempted to dismiss it as nothing more than vulgar Russophobia and a lust for a new Cold War.

Enter George W. Bush

Running an empire requires a powerful and secretive executive branch, particularly so in a nation that got its start by revolting against the premier imperialist empire of its day. A web of executive power, secrecy, and mass-media propaganda in favor of empire must be used to manage and control a public opinion whose natural trend will be in inconvenient directions. Therefore, an imperial presidency has evolved since the end of the Second World War.

This presidency was always a potential threat to our domestic freedom; as Lord Acton once observed, power corrupts. It turns out that imperialism is not only  a threat to freedom abroad, in the nations on the receiving end of it. Under the administration of George W. Bush, the corrupting tendency of such power bore fruit in the form of a  regime that lied its way into an avoidable war that destabilized the Middle East and paved the way for the rise of the Islamic State.

Enter Barack Obama

First, two illustrations:

Liberals voted for this.
Unfortunately, they largely ended up with this.

Obama’s biggest failings both relate to the imperial presidency that facilitated Bush’s abuses of power. First, he did little or nothing to scale back and repudiate the abuses of power that Bush began. He kept the powers of extraordinary redition. He kept the ability of the president to order extrajudicial executions, even extrajudicial executions of US citizens. He did virtually nothing to prosecute unlawful abuses of power under the Bush Regime, thus setting an almost unspeakably dangerous historical precedent that such abuses should go unpunished.

Worse, he expanded the power of the imperial presidency. Frustrated by an uncooperative Congress, he opted to implement policy by executive fiat. He vigorously oppressed domestic dissidents such as Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden who tried to expose government abuses. How bad was Obama? Just consider this:  According to the ACLU, Obama collectively sentenced whistleblowers to twenty one times more prison time than all other prior presidents combined.

Enter the Alt-Right

The alt-right is a relatively new movement, but as mentioned in the introduction its roots are very old. One characteristic of the alt-right is its illiberal desire for a charismatic, authoritarian leader. It pretty much must advocate such a thing, as demographics in the USA will make it increasingly difficult for white supremacy to get a popular mandate.

Although the alt-right arose due to internal political forces, its admiration for the strongman style of leadership caused it to naturally see Putin’s Russia as something of a model. Putin, using an authoritarian presidency originally created with the approval and encouragement of the West, naturally in turn saw the alt-right as a valuable ally in destabilizing and influencing US politics.

It must be underscored that despite its current level of dangerous influence over the new administration, the alt-right is a relatively small movement. It also must be underscored that the alt-right is nothing less than a neofascist movement which advocates white supremacy and an authoritarian government.

Enter the Manchurian Siberian Candidate

As Michael Moore has observed multiple times, Donald Trump’s ideology is primarily Donald Trump himself, full stop. He will advocate whatever policies and movements he believes at the moment will best maximize his personal power. Donald Trump saw — correctly — that the alt-right would be a useful group to pander to.

Most conservatives would have enough conscience to find such pandering distasteful and would eschew it. For openers, the alt-right is a profoundly unconservative movement; it has little or no regard for traditional American ideals which conservatives value, and welcomes the idea of extreme, sudden change (so long as that change is the sort the alt-right desires, of course). But Donald Trump is a sociopath and not a conservative, so he eagerly made that alliance.

In doing so, he fell under its influence by appointing some of its members as advisers. In doing that, he fell under the influence of a hostile foreign power. Worst of all, thanks to his predecessors and his own sociopathy, he will have at his disposal the most power vested in a single man this nation has ever seen.

Enter the “New Democrat” Hillary Clinton

Against a traditional liberal Democrat, Donald Trump would have had no chance. His faux populism would have fared very poorly against a more genuine concern for the poor and working class. But traditional liberal Democrats are an endangered species these days when it comes to candidates that survive the primary process, thanks in no small part to the “New Democrat” faction started by the Clintons themselves.

It wasn’t just the thumb on the scale by the Democratic National Committee, it was a widespread attitude of defeatism amongst rank-and-file Democrats that a more class-based politics was a relic of the past to be consigned to history’s dustbin which prompted many otherwise liberals to vote for Hillary because she was the more “responsible” and “electable” candidate.

In reality, of course, Bernie Sanders did surprisingly well in the primary, particularly among many of those same Rust Belt voters that later either stayed home, left the president box of their ballots unmarked, or held their nose and voted for Trump. Had it instead been the New Democrats having to hold their noses and vote for Sanders, we would be talking about a vastly different (and vastly more hopeful) situation.

Where From Here (Medium Term)?

In short, the imperative is to confront Russia. It will probably be necessary to “burn” valuable intelligence sources by declassifying evidence in order to build a strong case for doing so. So be it; preserving our national security requires doing so, and intelligence sources exist not for their own sake but in service of this larger goal.

As someone who loathes the idea of a new Cold War with Russia, it pains me to type these words. I have for over twenty-five years disagreed with the immoral and short-sited policies, rooted in bias against Slavic peoples and the non-rich, which devalued the Russian people and paved the way to Putin becoming the threat that he now is. But the fruit of such foolishness having been borne, there I really see no alternative.

Note that by “confront” I do not mean “initiate a shooting war.” We are thankfully not yet at a stage where a shooting war is inevitable. A return to a protracted stare-off, as unpleasant and risky as it may be, is not a shooting war, and is vastly preferable to one.

We will, however, probably arrive at such a stage where a shooting war (between nuclear-armed nations, which should truly horrify all reading this) becomes inevitable if we shrink from confrontation at this time. We are at a cusp of history, much like the world was when it had to choose whether to confront or appease Hitler of his territorial ambitions.

Where From Here (Short Term)?

Unfortunately, in the short term we are headed to a president taking office who can best be described as a mixture of Neville Chamberlain and Vidkun Quisling. It is going to be necessary — again, probably by “burning” intelligence sources — to expose the hostile foreign influence this president is acting at the behest of and remove him from power via the impeachment process, the sooner the better.

In this, the Emoluments Clause of the US Constitution, together with Trump’s numerous foreign business entanglements, plus his selfish refusal to disinvest from his business, can reasonably be expected to be a great help.

Doing so will, of course, require significant Republican cooperation. And this is the watershed moment that Republicans have in front of them: to make a choice between Chamberlain conservatism and Churchill conservatism.

In this section I have dropped Neville Chamberlain’s name twice up to this point. Just in case some are unaware of it, I will point out that Chamberlain was indeed a conservative and not a liberal or a socialist, as many Americans tend to believe. He chose to appease fascism because at least fascism was not communism and thus would help, in his mind, make Europe safer for capitalism. He was one of many conservatives who served as a handmaiden for fascism. Churchill made a rather different, wiser (and initially more unpopular) choice.

One man stands today in judgement as one of history’s biggest fools, the other as one of history’s greatest heroes. It is up now to American conservatives to choose whose example they wish to repeat.

Odds of Another 9/11 Scale Attack are Increasing

Published at 08:18 on 12 December 2016

That’s because of this (full story here):

President-elect Donald Trump is receiving an average of one presidential intelligence briefing a week, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter, far fewer than most of his recent predecessors.

As I wrote last month:

[Odds of another major attack] are remote without at least some degree of collusion, either active (an orchestrated false flag) or passive (deliberately ignoring a threat in hopes of getting a good pretext for war and repression) on the part of the Trump regime. Unlike in 2001, the 9/11 attacks are now part of history; there is simply no valid excuse (such as Bush’s incompetence) for any subsequent administration to not be vigilant against the possibility of repeat attacks on a similar scale.

It would appear, therefore, that Trump regime’s plan does indeed involve enabling and then using a national security crisis as a pretext for repressive domestic measures.

Update: Here is Michael Moore saying some of the same things I said above. Given that Moore has proven himself more accurate than pretty much all Establishment pundits put together this year, that’s a pretty big seal of approval.