Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Worst Person of the 20th Century

No, not Hitler. This piece of shit:


Milton "Grand Vampire of Neo-Liberalism" Friedman

Chris Hedges and David Harvey with more on this malignant midget.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Changed

The best documentary so far on the Dallas background, mostly made from outtakes of Assassination Weekend: reporters primping themselves before going on-air; color home movies of the entire motorcade, not just Dealey Plaza; local security warnings announced before Kennedy's arrival; corridors of the panicked Parkland Hospital; the sinister suffocations of the police department and Sheriff's office. Rare and fascinating stuff from pre-Technology Land.

The movie takes no POV on what happened that day or why. One thing stands clear: Lee Harvey Oswald was a tough motherfucker. Through the two days under arrest and before his public execution and silencing, Oswald never backed down, never stopped complaining about his treatment or lack of legal representation, never lost his cool, never made a single political pronouncement, and never admitted guilt. This isn't a man who's just committed political murder. This is a man with terminal confusion.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Darkness at Noon

"Kennedy is moving toward something that is not shrewdness or craft, but what the politicians don't have: depth, humanity, and a certain totality of self-forgetfulness and compassion, not just for individuals but for man as a whole: a deeper kind of dedication. Maybe Kennedy will fully break through into that some day by miracle. But such people are before long marked out for assassination."
-- Thomas Merton, November 18, 1962
John Kennedy's decision to turn toward peace regardless of the consequences to himself is reason for gratitude. We should think of him around Thanksgiving Day, which always falls around the anniversary of his death. And sometimes, as it does this year, on the anniversary itself of the gift of his life. If he had not turned and given us that gift, the world would now be a nuclear wasteland. The fact that he did turn -- and was murdered by an unspeakable power which continues to rule us more strongly than ever -- raises profound questions about our own need to face the same darkness, and to accept the consequences. As he did.

Monday, November 19, 2018

The Girl We Left Behind


Of course, there were more than two Rosemary Clooneys. This lovely and emotionally complicated woman had many rooms to her mansion, creatively and otherwise. Yet there is a dividing line in the forward movement of her life that most people can agree upon -- her 1968 breakdown, coming after years of a Catholic holding-together of a marriage to the brutal and ever-cheating Jose Ferrer (a marriage and remarriage, resulting in five children) while falling ever deeper in love with arranger Nelson Riddle -- the final breaking point her presence at the Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles, June 5th, 1968, witnessing the National Security State elimination of her close personal friend Robert F. Kennedy.

For years after she did not perform. In '77 she came back - dramatically different look, dramatically different sound. Most jazz fans seem to prefer the post-breakdown, slatternly, husky, wearied Rose. Not a chance.

The young Rose was a blue ribbon for blonde ladies in black. Her eyes were blue with a pannier of diamonds, wistful, looking out with tenderness, offering up, timidly, a little love. And they would glow. It is not common for blue eyes to glow in the dark of modestly-lit rooms of bars or clubs or recording studios, but Rose's light came from within. Her sound back then was full of red cheeks and Christmas, the color of it on most songs as startling as a view of wild red berries in a field of snow. And something more, a warning: with each song she seems to be burning a piece of the distant past, ash deep within her purity thickening from a membrane to a shroud. If love is a state of grace and must be protected by sacramental walls, then Rose did all she could to do the protecting.

Friday, November 16, 2018

100


And on a scale of 1 to 100, this episode pretty much hits the top: "One Hundred Terrible Hours" from 5/5/65.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Winding Lee

Monday, November 12, 2018

Emily

I dwell in Possibility
A fairer House than Prose
More numerous of Windows
Superior of Doors

Of Chambers as the Cedars
Impregnable of Eye
And for an Everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky

Of Visitors, the fairest
For Occupation, this
The spreading wide of narrow Hands
To gather Paradise

-- E.D., 1862

Friday, November 9, 2018

The Midterms

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Heroes of Their Time


And ours.

Jim DiEugenio on the time when it was still possible for the powerful to protect the powerless. (And those who lie about that time.)

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

DO NOT


The great C.J. Hopkins says it:
It looks like we have got ourselves a horse race! That’s right, folks, once again, it’s time to start playing with those forecast maps on Real Clear Politics and FiveThirtyEight, and obsessively following the fluctuating poll numbers of congressional candidates you have never heard of competing in districts you couldn’t locate if someone held a gun to your head. You need to start doing this immediately, if not sooner, as the stakes in these midterms could not be higher. Nothing less than the continued existence of “American democracy” hangs in the balance, so the ruling classes need every last one of us to get out there and vote for somebody!
The fact that it only marginally matters who that somebody that you vote for is should not dissuade you from voting for somebody. Voting for somebody is your civic duty, and is no less important than rooting for a sports team, or maintaining a personal favorite color, or celebrity, or brand of hemorrhoid creme. Remember, if you don’t vote for somebody, somebody else is going to win, and we can’t afford to let that happen!
Now, your choices this year are particularly exciting, despite the fact that they are exactly the same as in every other US election since approximately the 1970s. Yes, that’s right, once again, it’s the Transgender Panethnic Communists of Color versus the Old White Cisnormal Capitalist Nazis, and what a spectacle it promises to be! The Old White Cisnormal Capitalist Nazis (hereinafter the “OWCCN”) currently control … well, pretty much everything (i.e., the House, the Senate, and executive branch), and so the Transgender Panethnic Communists of Color (hereinafter the “TPCoC”) are hungry, and are looking for some serious payback after getting their butts kicked in 2016. Rumor has it, the TPCoC are preparing to unleash a “Blue Tsunami” on vulnerable OWCCN incumbents, take control of the House of Representatives, and then not impeach the ass clown President they’ve been telling everyone for the last two years is both a traitorous Russian intelligence asset and the resurrection of Adolf Hitler.
And, if that isn’t exciting enough for you already, they’ve got all kinds of other life-and-death issues to emotionally pressure you into picking a team to fanatically root for on social media, and then getting out and voting for somebody. How blatantly to humiliate illegal immigrants, how affluent you have to be to obtain an abortion, how much interest banks can charge when you pay for your chemo with an Amazon card, and which pronouns law enforcement officers are required to use to refer to people whose homes they barge into and unintentionally murder, are just a few of the many “hot-button” questions requiring your democratic input.
Other questions, like whether to invade or just strategically bomb Iran or Syria, or some other non-ball-playing Middle East country, or pour billions more in military aid into Israel, or sell billions in weapons to Saudi Arabia, or foment a coup in Venezuela, or maintain almost eight hundred military outposts in over seventy foreign countries all around the world, are questions that do not require your input. The global capitalist ruling classes, the corporations they own and operate, their friends in the government and the intelligence agencies, and the corporate media will take care of all that. Same goes for those Wall Street banks, and the next looming global financial crisis, and those mass extinctions, and this wacky weather. The grown-ups with the fancy suits and haircuts are handling all that complicated stuff. You just worry about all those other issues, and get out there and vote for somebody!
Seriously, though, for those unfamiliar with the ins and outs of U.S. politics, our election cycle, and these midterm elections, and thus do not have the slightest idea what I’m even referring to, here’s what’s going on in a nutshell …
On November 6, 2018, Americans will be returning to the polls to exercise their inalienable right to choose between two corporate-financed, ruling class-vetted political stooges competing for the chance to pretend to represent them in the House of Representatives and the Senate, and in various gubernatorial, municipal, and somewhat lesser distinguished chambers. A selection of non-ruling-class-vetted candidates will also appear on a handful of ballots. Americans will be free to vote for such candidates, as long as they realize they are just wasting their time, and possibly damaging the “serious” candidates, which the corporate media will remind them they are doing at every available opportunity.
See, unlike in backward European countries, where some semblance of a parliament still exists, and there are actual campaign finance restrictions and limits on televised campaign advertising, in the United States, where everyone is free, voting for non-ruling-class-vetted candidates, in a midterm or any other election, is about as effective as voting for a sandwich … or for, you know, some narcissistic billionaire ass clown who swears he is going to “drain the swamp,” and build “a beautiful wall,” or whatever. The system is designed to guarantee that no matter which ruling class stooge you vote for, and even if you vote for a character like Trump just to stick it to the establishment for once, it makes no difference … or, OK, very little difference.
The reason for this is not a big mystery. When a seat in the Senate goes for ten million dollars and a seat in the House for over a million, and there are no real restrictions on campaign financing, and the corporate-owned media decide in advance which candidates will be given airtime, and considered “serious” by the mainstream pundits who work for the handful of corporations that own the vast majority of newspapers, television and radio stations, and internet platforms that control the flow of information to the American public … well, it would kind of be a little odd, wouldn’t it, if authentic anti-ruling-class candidates were allowed to enter and compete in that system?
Most Americans understand this, which is why nearly half of them do not vote. It’s humiliating enough to be forced to live, and attempt to support a family, and so on, in a savage, neoliberal marketplace with virtually no social cohesion whatsoever, and in which the only real operative value is money, without also having to debase themselves by participating in the simulation of democracy that the capitalist ruling classes need to maintain in order to pretend that they are not just social parasites with a lot of goons and guns.
Which brings me to the point of this essay. See, normally, I try like hell to avoid telling people what to do in my columns, but, after my last one, a number of readers wrote in asking for advice, so I’m going to make an exception, just this once.
Here’s my advice. You’re not going to like it.
Do not vote. For anyone. At all. Tell all your friends not to vote for anyone. Join the hundreds of millions of Americans who refuse to participate in the simulation of democracy. Take time off from work to vote, and then do not vote. Go see a movie, or have lunch with someone you haven’t seen in a while, or take a nice, long walk in the woods or something. Whatever you do, do not vote. Seriously. Please stop voting for these people. They’re not your friends. They mean you ill. They will shake your hand, kiss your baby, then sell you to the first pharmaceutical lobbyist, or military industrial lobbyist, or Israeli or Saudi Arabian lobbyist, that waltzes into their office with a check, or that threatens to turn their voters against them.
You probably think I’m kidding. I’m not. Do not vote in these midterm elections. Or in any other American elections. Not while the system remains as it is. If you really want to vote, move to Europe, where at least there are still parliamentary structures, and a decent variety of political parties, and some restrictions on campaign financing and advertising. All you’re doing when you vote in America is reifying a simulation of democracy, and so perpetuating the system as it is.
Oh, and while you’re at it, if you happen to work for any of those pharmaceutical companies, or any of those weapons manufacturers, or their suppliers, or for an investment bank, or a hedge fund, or private equity firm, or any other company, corporation, firm, consultancy, or department of government that is central to keeping the American political and economic system going as it is, quit your job and do something else. Seriously, go into the office today (or get up from your desk right now) and quit, and go find something else to do with the gift of your sentient life on this planet. I realize that might be a scary proposition, but that’s what it’s going to take to change things, a lot of people deciding they have had it and are not going to play the game anymore.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Land of Pigs


Chris Hedges:
At the age of 10 I was sent as a scholarship student to a boarding school for the uber-rich in Massachusetts. I lived among the wealthiest Americans for the next eight years. I listened to their prejudices and saw their cloying sense of entitlement. They insisted they were privileged and wealthy because they were smarter and more talented. They had a sneering disdain for those ranked below them in material and social status, even the merely rich. Most of the uber-rich lacked the capacity for empathy and compassion. They formed elite cliques that hazed, bullied and taunted any nonconformist who defied or did not fit into their self-adulatory universe.
It was impossible to build a friendship with most of the sons of the uber-rich. Friendship for them was defined by “what’s in it for me?” They were surrounded from the moment they came out of the womb by people catering to their desires and needs. They were incapable of reaching out to others in distress—whatever petty whim or problem they had at the moment dominated their universe and took precedence over the suffering of others, even those within their own families. They knew only how to take. They could not give. They were deformed and deeply unhappy people in the grip of an unquenchable narcissism.
It is essential to understand the pathologies of the uber-rich. They have seized total political power. These pathologies inform Donald Trump, his children, the Brett Kavanaughs, and the billionaires who run his administration. The uber-rich cannot see the world from anyone’s perspective but their own. People around them, including the women whom entitled men prey upon, are objects designed to gratify momentary lusts or be manipulated. The uber-rich are almost always amoral. Right. Wrong. Truth. Lies. Justice. Injustice. These concepts are beyond them. Whatever benefits or pleases them is good. What does not must be destroyed.
The pathology of the uber-rich is what permits Trump and his callow son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to conspire with de facto Saudi ruler Mohammed bin Salman, another product of unrestrained entitlement and nepotism, to cover up the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, whom I worked with in the Middle East. The uber-rich spend their lives protected by their inherited wealth, the power it wields and an army of enablers, including other members of the fraternity of the uber-rich, along with their lawyers and publicists. There are almost never any consequences for their failures, abuses, mistreatment of others and crimes. This is why the Saudi crown prince and Kushner have bonded. They are the homunculi the uber-rich routinely spawn.
The rule of the uber-rich, for this reason, is terrifying. They know no limits. They have never abided by the norms of society and never will. We pay taxes—they don’t. We work hard to get into an elite university or get a job—they don’t. We have to pay for our failures—they don’t. We are prosecuted for our crimes—they are not.
The uber-rich live in an artificial bubble, a land called Richistan, a place of Frankenmansions and private jets, cut off from our reality. Wealth, I saw, not only perpetuates itself but is used to monopolize the new opportunities for wealth creation. Social mobility for the poor and the working class is largely a myth. The uber-rich practice the ultimate form of affirmative action, catapulting white, male mediocrities like Trump, Kushner and George W. Bush into elite schools that groom the plutocracy for positions of power. The uber-rich are never forced to grow up. They are often infantilized for life, squalling for what they want and almost always getting it. And this makes them very, very dangerous.
Political theorists, from Aristotle and Karl Marx to Sheldon Wolin, have warned against the rule of the uber-rich. Once the uber-rich take over, Aristotle writes, the only options are tyranny and revolution. They do not know how to nurture or build. They know only how to feed their bottomless greed. It’s a funny thing about the uber-rich: No matter how many billions they possess, they never have enough. They are the Hungry Ghosts of Buddhism. They seek, through the accumulation of power, money and objects, an unachievable happiness. This life of endless desire often ends badly, with the uber-rich estranged from their spouses and children, bereft of genuine friends. And when they are gone, as Charles Dickens wrote in “A Christmas Carol,” most people are glad to be rid of them.
C. Wright Mills in “The Power Elite,” one of the finest studies of the pathologies of the uber-rich, wrote:
"They exploited national resources, waged economic wars among themselves, entered into combinations, made private capital out of the public domain, and used any and every method to achieve their ends. They made agreements with railroads for rebates; they purchased newspapers and bought editors; they killed off competing and independent businesses and employed lawyers of skill and statesmen of repute to sustain their rights and secure their privileges. There is something demonic about these lords of creation; it is not merely rhetoric to call them robber barons."
Corporate capitalism, which has destroyed our democracy, has given unchecked power to the uber-rich. And once we understand the pathologies of these oligarchic elites, it is easy to chart our future. The state apparatus the uber-rich controls now exclusively serves their interests. They are deaf to the cries of the dispossessed. They empower those institutions that keep us oppressed—the security and surveillance systems of domestic control, militarized police, Homeland Security and the military—and gut or degrade those institutions or programs that blunt social, economic and political inequality, among them public education, health care, welfare, Social Security, an equitable tax system, food stamps, public transportation and infrastructure, and the courts. The uber-rich extract greater and greater sums of money from those they steadily impoverish. And when citizens object or resist, they crush or kill them.
The uber-rich care inordinately about their image. They are obsessed with looking at themselves. They are the center of their own universe. They go to great lengths and expense to create fictional personas replete with nonexistent virtues and attributes. This is why the uber-rich carry out acts of well-publicized philanthropy. Philanthropy allows the uber-rich to engage in moral fragmentation. They ignore the moral squalor of their lives, often defined by the kind of degeneracy and debauchery the uber-rich insist is the curse of the poor, to present themselves through small acts of charity as caring and beneficent. Those who puncture this image, as Khashoggi did with Salman, are especially despised. And this is why Trump, like all the uber-rich, sees a critical press as the enemy. It is why Trump’s and Kushner’s eagerness to conspire to help cover up Khashoggi’s murder is ominous. Trump’s incitements to his supporters, who see in him the omnipotence they lack and yearn to achieve, to carry out acts of violence against his critics are only a few steps removed from the crown prince’s thugs dismembering Khashoggi with a bone saw. And if you think Trump is joking when he suggests the press should be dealt with violently you understand nothing about the uber-rich. He will do what he can get away with, even murder. He, like most of the uber-rich, is devoid of a conscience.
The more enlightened uber-rich, the East Hamptons and Upper East Side uber-rich, a realm in which Ivanka and Jared once cavorted, look at the president as gauche and vulgar. But this distinction is one of style, not substance. Donald Trump may be an embarrassment to the well-heeled Harvard and Princeton graduates at Goldman Sachs, but he serves the uber-rich as assiduously as Barack Obama and the Democratic Party do. This is why the Obamas, like the Clintons, have been inducted into the pantheon of the uber-rich. It is why Chelsea Clinton and Ivanka Trump were close friends. They come from the same caste.
There is no force within ruling institutions that will halt the pillage by the uber-rich of the nation and the ecosystem. The uber-rich have nothing to fear from the corporate-controlled media, the elected officials they bankroll or the judicial system they have seized. The universities are pathetic corporation appendages. They silence or banish intellectual critics who upset major donors by challenging the reigning ideology of neoliberalism, which was formulated by the uber-rich to restore class power. The uber-rich have destroyed popular movements, including labor unions, along with democratic mechanisms for reform that once allowed working people to pit power against power. The world is now their playground.
In “The Postmodern Condition” the philosopher Jean-Fran├žois Lyotard painted a picture of the future neoliberal order as one in which “the temporary contract” supplants “permanent institutions in the professional, emotional, sexual, cultural, family and international domains, as well as in political affairs.” This temporal relationship to people, things, institutions and the natural world ensures collective self-annihilation. Nothing for the uber-rich has an intrinsic value. Human beings, social institutions and the natural world are commodities to exploit for personal gain until exhaustion or collapse. The common good, like the consent of the governed, is a dead concept. This temporal relationship embodies the fundamental pathology of the uber-rich.
The uber-rich, as Karl Polanyi wrote, celebrate the worst kind of freedom—the freedom “to exploit one’s fellows, or the freedom to make inordinate gains without commensurable service to the community, the freedom to keep technological inventions from being used for public benefit, or the freedom to profit from public calamities secretly engineered for private advantage.” At the same time, as Polanyi noted, the uber-rich make war on the “freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, freedom of meeting, freedom of association, freedom to choose one’s own job.”
The dark pathologies of the uber-rich, lionized by mass culture and mass media, have become our own. We have ingested their poison. We have been taught by the uber-rich to celebrate the bad freedoms and denigrate the good ones. Look at any Trump rally. Watch any reality television show. Examine the state of our planet. We will repudiate these pathologies and organize to force the uber-rich from power or they will transform us into what they already consider us to be—the help.