Late Night: Hag to NYT: Drop Dead

Drop Dead
There are many reasons to loathe the New York Times: its columnists, its obsequious wealth porn, its egregious bias toward Israel, its “view from nowhere” political coverage, and on and on. But until it sends a reporter out to analyze your own home town, it can sometimes escape you that it is utterly incapable of getting ANYTHING right.

The other day some Grey Lady jackass who had evidently watched a few episodes of “Portlandia” in lieu of research, languidly typed a few hundred words about how, despite the fact that Portland continues to attract young, talented people from everywhere, they were all slackers looking to “retire,” and a reckoning of some sort would soon be coming unless we all changed our shiftless, hippie ways.

Of course, Citylab promptly debunked all, and I do mean all, of the “facts” in the article more thoroughly than I intend to here, but the ignorance of the NYT about what makes cities live or die amounts to either deliberate deception or willful ignorance from the supposed “paper of record.” A steaming pile of neoliberal BS served up as news.

When I was a kid, I would always notice the population figure on the “Entering Portland” signs and they were in the high 200’s, topping 300 only when I was in high school. Thirty years later, it’s nearly 600,000.  Of course, because I’m not a New York Times reporter and have free time to read on occasion, I do know that growing cities are prosperous and shrinking ones are not, pretty much as a rule. Cranes: Good; Abandoned buildings: Bad.

Yes, a lot of really dreadful places are growing, too, but in dreadful ways that are both environmentally unsustainable and corrosive of quality of life.  Portland adopted the scary UN plot of Agenda 21 about 30 years early, and dang it, it worked.

Of course, we only learned from our mistakes: misguided “Urban Renewal” and freeway building decimated historic districts and tore neighborhoods apart, but we stopped one freeway, removed another, and strictly restricted sprawl, which had the happy aftereffect of keeping close-in real estate values (and the urban tax base) healthy.

All of this is pretty much common knowledge, not just to Portlanders but the many who continue to aspire to join us, and yet it managed to elude the dogged reporting skills of a weekend visitor from that hocked building on 42nd street.

I guess I should just be glad it wasn’t Maureen Dowd on a reefer bender; that would have been worse, and is still possible if things go well in November. (more…)

Late Night: The New Pearl Harbor

Time flies, whether you’re having fun or not.Lynda Barry

Freedom’s enemies are formidably prepared for the battle, and continue to emerge victorious in the war at home, where the real skirmishes are fought.
This thought has been haunting me lately as we approached the 13th anniversary of The Day That Changed Everything (for the worse).

The stark images from the day itself, so overplayed yet ambiguous, seem insignificant now compared to what followed, which is so much more dreadful than anything I could have imagined at the time.

My earliest indication that something terrible was afoot was when my 7-year old nephew, just a few days later, blandly explained to me that “they” did it because “they hate us for our freedom.” Naturally, I nipped that notion in the bud, countering that “they” had a lot of much more concrete reasons to hate us: occupying their lands, stealing their resources, and blindly supporting Israel, but I was shaken by the idea that just days after 9/11, children were already being actively indoctrinated to believe such utter hogwash.

Now that kid is 20 years old, and all of America has seemingly regressed to the second grade, minus any extraneous freedoms that might even plausibly spark global ire. Heck, Egypt and Iran are now legitimate critics of our utterly sullied human rights record.

At the time, I correctly feared disastrous military adventurism, but incorrectly assumed it wouldn’t last until AARP caught sight of me, but here we are. What I never suspected, though, was that hatred for our freedoms did drive the War on Terror, and that battle has been decisively lost.

Thirteen years ago, if I had known that torture, summary executions, indefinite detentions, tanks in our streets, and a nominally liberal President taking us to war, repeatedly, at whim would be the new normal, I would have probably just ended it all then, when I could have left a more attractive corpse. But it’s too late for that now.

The challenge is dealing with a society in which the freedoms that we once considered our birthright are vanishing before our eyes, and an increasingly loud chorus of “leaders” proclaim this to be, at best, a grim necessity, or at worst, a needed return to Traditional Values.

From the standpoint of the non-billionaire American, voting means little; no leading politician of either party will take a stand against the the cascading depredations of our oligarchic police state and its galloping impunity.

Courageous leakers, outraged journalists, and activists willing to tangle with a system diabolically stacked against them have had some impact, but freedom’s enemies are formidably prepared for the battle, and continue to emerge victorious in the war at home, where the real skirmishes are fought.

I wonder what they teach seven-year olds today?

Late Night: War Games

As the Mighty Wurlitzer of war cranks into gear yet again, I can’t help but wonder if war itself has become the singular cause upon which all news media agree, and no matter the opinion of those affected by it, they’re naturally going to sell any old war with just this sort of embarrassing fervor.

It’s understandable, I suppose, for the bloated multinationals who control what we see, hear, and read to choose war as a business proposition. Ratings surge, careers are made, and reporting costs are all but negligible when the aggressor is more than happy to provide all the talking points needed to fill time and space between boner pill ads.

And, minus a fresh war to obsess over, some actual world occurrences might intrude that invariably upset either the parent company, advertisers, or both. Real, ongoing threats, like the rampant authoritarianism, environmental collapse, and elite impunity that are making life increasingly intolerable for everyone on earth are so glaringly obvious that some distraction is clearly needed, and that need is all but constant.

But honestly, can’t they find a distraction less costly, immoral, and deadly than war? After all, since the media invariably supports and reports only from the perspective of the better armed, it isn’t as though such wars are all that interesting; even from the rotted standard of “good TV.” Instead, they tend to resemble the South Dakota/Oregon game last weekend, when the stadium all but emptied at halftime.

Did anyone ever doubt that the Israeli massacre in Gaza would produce nothing but lots of dead Palestinians, further land grabs, and global denunciations summarily quashed by a cowed and compromised US government? If so, Nigeria has an email to send you. And is there the slightest possibility that dropping a bunch of bombs in the general direction of ISIS will have any effect other than to further inflame tensions where they seem to be plenty inflamed already?

Of course not. But none of that matters to those who wear pancake at work. Utterly discredited hawks from the last few wars are the only “experts” allowed to appear, and even the mildest skepticism is treated as treason.

Hilariously, POLITICO “reported” today that Glenn Greenwald had, with the Snowden revelations, damaged “America’s brand.” The misguided wars, torture, and spying he and others revealed were curiously exonerated in this undoubtedly ongoing endeavor.

Had they asked the same question to the actual perpetrators, enablers, or cheerleaders, it might have even been interesting, and convenient, too since many of them were already in the green room.

But it would have been awkward, and we can’t have that. (more…)

Late Night: Fascism for Dummies

“Fuck you, Boys and Girls.”
As the Police State tightens its grip, often literally, on powerless populations, one casualty has been language itself. The vocabulary of authoritarianism turns out to be pathetically small; from Jerusalem to Ferguson, the same words and phrases fall like rain, as though no one could be bothered to haul out a thesaurus once in a while to mix things up.

Instead, we are treated to kindergarten jingles designed for rote recitation, usually expressing the opposite of the truth.  What does it mean when a heavily armed occupier “fears for his life” at the sight of a teenager, whether unarmed and fleeing, or at worst, wielding a rock or knife?

Or when Israel claims it has a “right to defend itself,” when it is the most militarized country on earth, who do they think they’re fooling? And how, with a straight face, can virtually all English-speaking politicians repeat such arrant nonsense?  Carpet bombing is a lot of things, but it is certainly not defensive.

Killing in cold blood, of course, requires Herculean efforts at euphemism to seem respectable, but it’s increasingly clear that authoritarians everywhere have so cowed the media and brainwashed the public that nothing is too lame and infantile to utter in public.  When sidewalk executions become “officer involved shootings,” and “failure to comply” becomes a Capital crime, we’ve arrived at our current Police State via Sesame Street.

It isn’t hard to conclude that insulting our intelligence is intentional; another reminder of the more general contempt for the broader public held by those in power.  Deliberately infantilizing the public with fact-free baby talk is just another tool to obtain compliance, albeit more subtly than a tear gas canister, but crudely effective, nonetheless.

Still, the mind-numbing catchphrases of a dozen years ago were at least more cleverly crafted:  They hate us for our freedom. We have to fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them here. We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.  I could go on, but the vintage BS sound almost Shakespearean compared to the garbage we’re hearing now.  I think that’s pretty telling, and alarming.

(Hag will be attending a same sex wedding this evening and will thus be scarce in comments)

Late Night: Man vs. Machine

When I was in college, I took a two part class called War in the Modern World, as a conscious departure from the social history that was my focus of study. The experience was eye-opening, and continues to be.

By “modern,” it referred to the period from the US Civil War to the present (the early 1980’s), based on the fact that the Civil War was won by pure industrial might, and the victor was the belligerent that could out-produce the other and hurl the most materiel and men onto the pile.

Prior to the Civil War, less wealthy and powerful countries could occasionally beat better financed and larger foes by sheer force of will and superior strategy. By the late 19th century, however, wars became wars of attrition; whoever ran out of fuel and munitions first, lost.

All these years later, militarists everywhere continue to embrace this theory, with the disastrous results we see today. Time and again, countries “blessed” with oversized militaries overestimate the power of overwhelming force, and snatch strategic defeat from the jaws of tactical victory. The actual battlefield victories, and horrendous casualties they entail, don’t amount to a hill of beans in the end.

But in the process, while blood and treasure are flushed down the toilet for no good reason, some powerful people make money, dissent is quashed, and no one is ever held accountable for the waste and destruction. Lather, rinse, repeat.

The worst offenders, the US, Russia, and Israel, have tethered their entire economies to their respective military-industrial complexes, and stepping back from the abyss has become impossible, both politically and economically. Guns and butter are essentially the same thing, as military spending is the only acceptable economic stimulus left standing in this age of austerity for the many and prosperity for the few.

Handily, a bloated military and constant conquest serve twin goals; they create an insecure and jingoistic populace and a military perfectly suited to keeping the lid on unrest while the cash drawer is emptied. This drearily predictable dynamic is currently reaching its apogee in all three countries as social goals are steadily abandoned in favor of constant, futile attempts at conquest of the unconquerable: the human spirit.

The expensive and profitable machinery of war is thus being turned on whomever can be suitably demonized at the moment, although the aggressors know full well that any “victory” will be pyrrhic, even if it looks good on TV. But the makers of the machines are happy, so the innocent civilians of Gaza, Ferguson, Ukraine, and everywhere else are mere props in the Kabuki theatre of war.

Welcome to war in the post-modern world, where there are no victories, but plenty of spoils. (more…)

Late Night: Exhuming McCarthy

Nothing to see here, move along
Rather unsurprisingly, social media has put a richly deserved whupping on Israel’s already tattered global reputation in the face of its current rage-gasm against illegally occupied Gaza.  Tweeted pictures and stories from Gazans themselves managed to leap over the high wall of the establishment media and shock the consciousness of, get this, even some Americans.

Naturally, this hasn’t gone over too well with either Netanyahu or the well-oiled propaganda machine we call the Israel lobby, which has responded with the usual smear campaigns against celebrities, journalists, and anyone else who would dare to question the despicable behavior of the IDF and its increasingly unhinged supporters.

Reporters have been fired or reassigned, celebrities have deleted tweets, and mainstream media have changed headlines, all to assuage the tender feelings of the Zionist carpet bombers and eliminationists. “Liberal” California Senator Barbara Boxer even resorted to filibustering a Tampa teen brutally assaulted by Israeli police when he attempted to tell his story before C-Span cameras.

But now, the desperation that would be familiar to any cornered rat has led the Zionist thought police to go after academia, as thought police do.

A well-regarded professor of indigenous studies formerly at Virginia Tech, Steven Salaita, was preparing to join the faculty at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, having been offered a tenured position to teach there, and then, evidently noticing his rather brownish hue, some Judeofascist started pawing through his twitter feed, which contained many impassioned denunciations of the ongoing massacre.  Something ensued, but it was the opposite of hilarity.

The cowardly administrators at UI, for obscure, ever-changing reasons that utterly strain credulity, decided to un-hire him.  Yep, after he’d resigned from Virginia Tech and was merely awaiting pro forma approval from the Trustees.  Oh, they’re not against academic freedom or anything, they were concerned about civility, or something. On fucking TWITTER!  Later, concern for the dainty sensibilities of Jewish students (who today are less pro-Israel than ever), was tossed against the wall to see if that would stick.

Let me tell you something: it won’t.  As anyone smart enough to get into college in the first place will tell you, college professors aren’t there to protect students from understanding the world as it is, and Israel is a racist global pariah that is slowly collapsing under the weight of its own contradictions.  Any professor, particularly one teaching Indigenous Studies, for Pete’s sake, would be doing his students a disservice to gloss over this fact because “civility,” or anything else.

change.org petition demanding Salaita’s reinstatement has gathered over 60,000 as of this afternoon, spurred in part by the tireless efforts of Corey Robin and many others; I signed it, and you should, too.

College activism brought down Apartheid in South Africa, and it will, eventually, bring down Apartheid in Israel, too.  The Israel Lobby recognizes this, and that’s why Salaita had to go. (more…)

Late Night: The Untouchables

In American life, there is a large and growing number of institutions that act with utter impunity, are coddled by a fawning media, and no one, certainly not our supine elected officials, can dislodge them from their lofty perch, from which they shit on us all like cackling birds aiming at a just-washed car.

The Banks

Universally loathed by their customers and haughtily scornful of the meekest attempts to curb their power, they scoff at our lapdog government and timid DOJ, even as they commit serial acts of theft, fraud, money-laundering, and perjury.

Electing a nominally liberal President clearly doesn’t change this; worse, it actually exacerbated the problem as it cemented bank-fellating policies into the ethos of both parties.

Big Carbon

Despite winning the Presidency by running against the Drill, Baby, Drill crowd, Obama has done less than nothing to curb carbon output. Fracking, strip mining, mountaintop removal, and even offshore drilling after the BP disaster will be Obama’s legacy, despite his pretty words. Democrats in congress are no better; in coal and oil states, they’re indistinguishable from Republicans.

Education “Reformers”

Though the odious Michelle Rhee has worn out her welcome, bashing public education can always afford new spokesmodels, with all the billionaires bankrolling it so feverishly.

While only Republicans openly advocate getting rid of public schools, Democrats actively supporting it are about as plentiful as nuns in a strip club. Meanwhile, underfunded schools continue to do limp along, losing all but the poorest students to private and parochial schools and lessening public support in the process.

The Telecoms

Even more widely despised than the banks, spying, fleecing, and shoddy telcos continue to be lavished with immunity from antitrust and other laws that bind non-corporate “people,” providing the worst service for the highest price on the planet. And why wouldn’t they?

The Intelligence “Community”

Doesn’t that sound homey? Like a potluck dinner with headsets. Just today, John Brennan admitted committing perjury before Congress, and didn’t bother to check with the President about whether he’d be keeping his job, much less be prosecuted, for this crime. And he needn’t worry, since he’d already gotten away with torture and merely lied in trying to cover that up.

Despite widespread, nearly universal revulsion at the obsessive and unconstitutional behavior of the NSA, everyone agrees that nothing will change there, either.

Israel

Even as the much of the planet is aghast at the accelerating genocide Israel is carrying out with US weapons, one member of Congress, Keith Ellison, has spoken out against it. That’s right, one. As blood runs in what remains of the streets in Gaza, politicians of both sides blame the victims and send more weapons to the perpetrators.

Meanwhile, any critics, even celebrities, are ruthlessly pummeled for betraying an ounce of sympathy for the Palestinians under ruthless collective punishment.

I could go on, but is it even necessary? There are many more proud scofflaws enjoying not just freedom, but active government support, throughout our society, and there isn’t a damn thing we can do about it. This, in a country that jails more citizens, and for the most paltry “crimes,” than any other on earth.

As Charlie Pierce likes to say, “This is your Democracy, America. Cherish it.” (more…)

Late Night: An Eye for an Eye

{!hitembed ID=”hitembed_1″ width=”350″ height=”197″ align=”right” !}

The grotesque spectacle of the two-hour torture yesterday of an Arizona murderer was made considerably more revolting by the bloodthirsty commentary provided by the victim’s family, and eagerly echoed by Arizona officials.

You see, no matter how barbaric the execution was, the crime was worse, so who cares? Really? Something now popularly called “closure” for the victims’ loved ones, i.e. a retributive display of frontier justice, is now required by the public (and the media), supposedly to avenge the crime.

At the risk of belaboring the obvious, one gruesome death does not, in fact, wash away the others, it merely perpetuates a cycle of violence that makes a cruel mockery of our founding ideals.

Moreover, it’s the predictable result of a political movement, that of “Victim’s Rights,” that has plainly gotten out of hand.

As the bastard child of Nixon’s Law’n Order hippie punching and the media’s obsession with violent crime, “Victim’s Rights” became the evergreen cause of ambitious politicians and overzealous prosecutors as the last century ended.

The destructive impulse of turning the criminal justice system from a means to protect society at large into a carnival of revenge for the victim’s imagined benefit officially became bipartisan way back in 1992, when then-candidate Bill Clinton showily presided over an Arkansas execution in the middle of his campaign.

Not for him, Michael Dukakis’ principled but un-telegenic rejection of state-sponsored murder, even if the victim were his own wife. No, like all Democrats since, Clinton took to the violent impulses of the right like a duck to water, because, after all, who wants to advocate for murderers, and potentially lose the trailer park vote?

Of course, the steady diet of lynch-mob incitement Americans had been fed for decades was seen around the world for the counterproductive barbarism it was, but it took September 11 for it to blossom into the global cataclysm we see today.

We all became victims, and easily graduated from demanding executions to cheering preemptive war, torture, and extrajudicial killings. Worse, we set an example for repressive governments around the world, even as more civilized nations moved in the opposite direction.

Thus, to enable a few cynical politicians to further their careers, and a shoddy, monopolistic news media to avoid topics of actual consequence, we’ve now joined the world’s worst governments in their medieval practices, to the point where we can’t even buy the drugs required to keep our death factories running on the world market.

Yes, naming new, repressive laws after slaughtered innocents was an easy way to get votes, but I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that the price has turned out to be a bit high.

Late Night: They Needed Killin’

It’s a little depressing to acknowledge, for the umpteenth time, that a disturbingly large number of our fellow human beings simply can’t abide the very existence of a lot of us, and really aren’t at all ashamed of this.

Today it’s Israelis vs. Arabs, Teabaggers vs. well, everyone, and alleged Russian separatists vs. airplanes in the sky. But that’s just today; people who can’t get a proper beauty rest knowing that somewhere, someone they don’t like continues to breathe, or let their children play on a beach, without becoming bugsplat, seem to be flourishing like kudzu. Their targets, not so much.

Hint: If your belief system requires that many people you don’t even know must suffer and/or die for your own personal comfort, you might need to check into a rubber room. This includes sexy yet casually genocidal selfie-sending Israeli youths just as much as god-bothering American sociopaths shooting abortion doctors, assaulting LGBT people, harassing immigrant children, brandishing weapons in public, and on and on.

And there simply is no basis for saying that both sides do it; dehumanization and its associated eliminationism is exclusively a phenomenon of the right. One of the chief targets of both groups, here and abroad, is their own people who show any sympathy for the hated Other.

Thus, we see neo-Nazis all over the world also attacking a vaguely defined “left” that prevents them, in their murderous minds, from getting rid of their dusky-hued enemies once and for all. See, we’re not racist, we hate white people, too!

But what, in the end, would ever satisfy such demented urges? Do the Zionists really think it’s possible to somehow just get rid of millions of Palestinians? How closely can you “mow the lawn” before only dirt is left? Do the white supremacists at our border think the same of even larger numbers of immigrants from the south? Do the bible bangers think LGBT people and their slutty straight sisters could be similarly eliminated? These disgraceful people need to be asked these questions every time they are allowed a public forum, which is far too often, and that’s pretty much the opposite of what is happening.

Just today, an Egyptian American reporter was removed from Gaza by NBC News for what can only be his accurate reporting, which is strictly verboten in the US media.

Worse, President Obama told horrified Muslim guests at a deservedly boycotted White House Iftar (!) dinner that Israel would continue bombing them, the NSA would continue spying on them, and if they didn’t like it they could pound sand. (Sand, get it? That Nobel prize winner of ours sure is a card…)

Not in so many words, of course, but it was revealingly closer than usual. And too close for comfort. Until the bipartisan tolerance for bloodthirsty authoritarianism and the media’s complicity in it ends, more innocent people will continue to die.

For nothing. (more…)

Late Night: If Not Now, When?

{!hitembed ID=”hitembed_1″ width=”325″ height=”244″ align=”right” !}
I know that for many years, Israel has served as a necessary evil for the American foreign policy elite; when you want somebody to help in any nefarious pursuit, they’ve always been mensches. Reagan tapped them for arms sales, Nixon for war support, and everyone else for Police State pointers. But really, is it worth it anymore?

As DSWright wrote earlier today, it is time to defund at a minimum, then sanction and divest their racist pants off, but the likelihood of such a thing happening is on par with seeing a kosher pig fly past your window. Israel is now so inextricably tied to the American right and its similarly eliminationist goals here that we just can’t get rid of it. Maybe if they burned a random Palestinian teen alive and the police then beat his younger American cousin nearly to death on video and then held the victim in custody for some manufactured crime? Uh, nope.

Or what if they then bombed whatever is left in Gaza that wasn’t already rubble into more rubble, with fanboys (and girls!) watching the spectacle from the surrounding hills?

That’d also be no.

Why? Well, because what is happening now is no surprise to anyone with two brain cells to rub together, and that includes Sheldon Adelson, Dick Cheney, and many even lesser lights who police the borders of national dialogue. The “audience” for such bloodthirsty Islamophobia both in Israel and here at home is decidedly not those affected by it enough to notice.

Just like the War on Terror, the ongoing war on the Palestinians is merely a shiny object to get ordinary people to look the other way as the respective and overlapping oligarchies of both countries loot the treasury and trample civil liberties. And so what If a whole lot of people die (there) or rot in jail (here), that’s just icing on the cake. The next potentially uppity peasant will learn to STFU.

And even if I had the slightest faith that President Obama might, in view of the current situation, join the civilized world and tell Israel to take a hike (which I don’t), he is simply too cowardly to do so. Worse, very few Democrats would even back him up against the inevitable Republican charges of Nazism and whatnot.

Decades of Pro-Israel UN vetoes that shamed us as a country, coupled with a media and establishment committed to concealing from the public what Israel has been becoming for fifty years, has led us to this pass, all are equally committed to its continuation. No facts on the ground will change this, because both Israel and the US share a common enemy that indeed poses an existential threat: Democracy.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend.