June 16, 2009

Thumbs Up (for the moment): Now Shut Up! And Pay Up!

Quite a piece of work, this Mr. Obama:
President Barack Obama, under growing criticism for not seeking to end the ban on openly gay men and women in the military, is extending benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees. Obama plans to announce his decision on Wednesday in the Oval Office, a White House official said Tuesday. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the president hadn't yet signed the presidential memorandum.


The decision is a political nod to a reliably Democratic voting bloc that in recent weeks has grown frustrated with the White House's slow movement on their priorities.

Several powerful gay fundraisers withdrew their support from a June 25 Democratic National Committee event where Vice President Joe Biden is expected to speak. Their exit came in response to a June 12 Justice Department brief that defended the Defense of Marriage Act, a prime target for gay and lesbian criticism. ...

The legal arguments -- including citing incest and sex with minors -- sparked rebellion among gay and lesbian activists who had been largely biting their tongues since Obama won election.


John Berry, the highest-ranking gay official in the administration and the de facto human resources chief for the administration, told a gay rally last weekend that Obama planned to take action on benefits soon.

Berry, who heads the Office of Personnel and Management, has repeatedly told reporters that he expected the White House to turn to legislation to give domestic partners access to federal health and retirement plans.

But Obama so far has sent only one piece of legislation to the Hill -- a pay-as-you-go measure that is part of his wooing of fiscally conservative Democrats.

Instead, Obama will use his signature instead of legislation to achieve the benefits parity sought by same-sex couples.
Let's add it up. Obama won't exert even the smallest bit of leadership in repealing the loathsome "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

Obama refuses to display any leadership with regard to other extraordinarily blatant forms of government discimination against gays and lesbians, and instead his Justice Department files a repellently ignorant brief in support of the constitutionality of the vile Defense of Marriage Act. (And yet, he taught constitutional law! I will only suggest that you consult some of the leading bloggers for proof as to the intellectual rigor and integrity often associated with teaching law.)

But Obama will sign a presidential memorandum, thereby providing some equality in the manner of a personal indulgence. Thus are fundamental matters of fairness transformed from formal legal recognition of equality into questions of the favoritism displayed by a hugely powerful ruler. It should always be remembered that those who are favored in this way on one occasion may be harshly punished when the tide turns in the other direction.

It's all enough to make you think he wants to be an emperor. Equally awful is the fact that a disturbingly large number of people seem to have no problem with that prospect.

Hope! Change! No one ever convincingly demonstrated it was hope grounded in reality, however tenuous the connection, just as no one ever convincingly demonstrated it was change for the better. You filled in those elements all on your own, if you did.

June 13, 2009

You're on the Battlefield Right Now

My head began exploding when I read the opening paragraph of this NYT article:
A plan to create a new Pentagon cybercommand is raising significant privacy and diplomatic concerns, as the Obama administration moves ahead on efforts to protect the nation from cyberattack and to prepare for possible offensive operations against adversaries’ computer networks.
It's impossible to say which is more disturbing: that the Pentagon will be in charge of this "cybercommand" monstrosity, or that the U.S. government -- which, as all good Americans know deep in their hearts, wants only peace and sunshine and puppy dogs and kitty cats and ponies! for all humanity (if not for any sizable number of actually existing individual persons) -- is yapping about "possible offensive operations against adversaries' computer networks."

I mean, hell. Hell. All those bullets, bombs, missiles and nookleear thingamajigs aren't enough? We gotta attack evil, terroristic 'puter networks -- and do so offensively? Whatever.

And then the few remaining bloody bits of my brain simply dissolved into gooey slime when I read these two paragraphs in the middle of the piece:
Some administration officials have begun to discuss whether laws or regulations must be changed to allow law enforcement, the military or intelligence agencies greater access to networks or Internet providers when significant evidence of a national security threat was found.

Ms. Leed said that while the Defense Department and related intelligence agencies were the only organizations that had the ability to protect against such cyberattacks, "they are not the best suited, from a civil liberties perspective, to take on that responsibility."
"Not the best suited, from a civil liberties perspective..."

This is first-class comedy material. Truly, it is. I doff my blood and goo-encrusted cap to these Comedy Clowns of Mirth and Merriment.

Let us also note the concluding paragraphs of this masterpiece of black comedy (you know, when blood dries, it often turns black; I'm just saying, no reason to be concerned -- they're only trying to help and protect us):
Frida Berrigan, a longtime peace activist who is a senior program associate at the New America Foundation’s arms and security initiative, expressed concerns about whether the Obama administration would be able to balance its promise to respect privacy in cyberspace even as it appeared to be militarizing cybersecurity.

"Obama was very deliberate in saying that the U.S. military and the U.S. government would not be looking at our e-mail and not tracking what we do online," Ms. Berrigan said. "This is not to say there is not a cyberthreat out there or that cyberterrorism is not a significant concern. We should be vigilant and creative. But once again we see the Pentagon being put at the heart of it and at front lines of offering a solution."

Ms. Berrigan said that just as the counterinsurgency wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had proved that "there is no front line anymore, and no demilitarized zone anymore, then if the Pentagon and the military services see cyberspace as a battlefield domain, then the lines protecting privacy and our civil liberties get blurred very, very quickly."
In other words, you're on the battlefield this very minute, and your computer might be a deadly weapon. In these circumstances, it's remarkably shortsighted and selfish of you to think your computer is yours and that you're entitled to some nambypamby notion of "privacy." What world are you living in? The Pentagon will decide what you're "entitled" to. Or not.

With due respect to Ms. Berrigan, it's a little late in this game for any of us to be expressing "concerns" about whether the government, most decidedly including the administration of the Prince of Hopetastically Hopey Hopeiness, is going to be keeping "its promise to respect privacy." I repeat: what world are you living in?

I analyzed the broader issues involved almost a year ago, in "No One Is Safe: FISA Is Only the Prelude to Nightmare." The theme of that article was this: "The selective focus on FISA misses the crucial larger picture in a way that ensures that the ruling class's hold on increasingly tyrannical power will never be consistently or seriously challenged -- which is, of course, precisely what the ruling class wants. ... [I]f the protests about FISA remain the sole (or even the major) focus of [the] complaints about the surveillance state, the protesters will make a very large gift to those who wish to oversee, regulate and control every aspect of our lives."

The heart of my argument will be found in this passage. I repeat it, because I think a great many people still fail to understand this issue fully:
With regard to FISA and issues of liberty and privacy in general, let me now ask you a few questions. How long do you think it would take you to identify, read, and understand every provision in every statute, regulation and other authorization that gives surveillance powers to the government? Furthermore: Would you know each and every place to look, or how to determine what those places were? Additionally: With a staff of 20, or 50, could it be done, even if you were provided with limitless time and limitless funds?

I submit to you, without qualification or reservation, that you could not do it. No one could. Consider that most legislators in Washington aren't even aware of much of what's in the bills they so eagerly vote on. Consider the prohibitive length and complexity of legislation that comes before Congress. That's true of what is going on now. If you tried to track down every piece of legislation, every regulation, every administrative agency ruling, and every other pronouncement still in effect that allows the government to surveil and otherwise keep track of you, me, the guy down the street, the woman next door and the man in the moon, based on alleged concern with and the need to protect us all from the ravages of drugs, "illicit" sex, any and all other suspected criminal activity and, natch, terrorism, how on God's green earth would you do it? You couldn't. I further submit to you that the only reason you appear to have some precious remnants of freedom left, and the only reason you remain at liberty, is that the government hasn't comprehensively focused on all the powers it already possesses and hasn't come anywhere close to utilizing them fully and consistently. This is the moment you should fall to your knees and thank whatever gods may be for the miraculous, close to perfect incompetence of the pathetically ineffectual blockheads in Washington.
I now add a few further comments on that last point. Many people frequently praise Obama, or Hillary Clinton, or many other Democrats on the grounds that they're so much more able and "competent" than Republicans. Let's assume that's true. Given the staggering and frightening powers that the government already possesses -- powers which, as my earlier discussion emphasizes, already allow the government to do whatever it wants, whenever it wants, to whomever it wants -- the fact that they may be "competent" should terrify you.

If the Obama administration is determined to continue and expand America's wars and foreign interventions for the purposes of control and domination, and it is, competence only makes the ensuing devastation and murder that much worse. This is especially true for the victims of America's campaigns of destruction abroad. If you're minding your own business in the Middle East or Central Asia, or Latin America, or Africa, and someone decides you're in the way of America's imperial plans, the last thing you want is to be hunted down by a competent killer. Your obliteration is almost certain.

In the same way, if the Obama administration is determined to consolidate and expand the scope and reach of the surveillance state, and it is, the fact that those who may wish to keep watch over a huge range of online activities, all in the name of "cybersecurity," of course, know what they're doing should not be a source of comfort for you. It should fill you with dread. And always remember: just as the government will never hesitate to manufacture an alleged justification for its overseas campaigns of terror, so too the government will find some reason, even if it has to concoct it out of less than nothing, if it decides to go after you.

Confronted with a government of already massive, ungraspably broad and invasive powers, powers which only increase by the day, you should pray as fervently as you can that those who would track your every keystroke, every email, and every moment of internet activity are the most colossally incompetent, ignorant fools the world has ever seen.

And when they are not, when they are competent or, far worse, even expert at what they are doing, that's precisely when you should run for your life. Of course, where you can go to be left alone might be a problem of some significance, assuming you can even manage it. But I think you take my point.

Aw, they're only trying to protect us. Of course. As I remark from time to time, it is a grievous error to think that those who possess enormous power of this kind seek power for some other end, whether you imagine that end is "national security" or "peace" or whatever other propaganda slogan they may throw at you. No: power is the end. It is the purpose, and the only purpose: power for its own sake. That's the whole pathetic, detestable truth.

I respectfully suggest that you never, ever forget it.

June 12, 2009

Shorter Me & Other Stuff

About the preceding post: in an email exchange with a friend, I just remarked, "For &#(*@^&#% sake, can't these people even remember that we're talking about the @$%@$&^&^%# DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY?!?!?!?! I mean, ^%$**&^%@^%%@$^&!!!!!!"

But, see, I don't like to be that, er, rude all the time (there were actual words in my email). And I like to fill in a little evidence. So, therefore and thusly...

Many thanks to the kind and generous folks who have responded to this. All okay on the meds front now. Food for the next several weeks is covered, too. Thank you! But a few overdue bills remain outstanding, and I'm always happy to put by just a little reserve for next month, which always arrives much faster than anyone anticipates, including me. (I'll never be able to make a dent in the hospital bills, for less than a 24-hour stay and a bunch of tests, but nothing else at all. The final total is even more than I had thought two months after the hospitalization, since a couple of more bills came in. The grand, overall, maybe final, total total: over $15,000.00. Sheesh. But as is said, you can't get blood from a stone, or a tomato from Legos, or sex from a blog ... wait. I think you can do that last one ... hmm ... say, what if ... gosh! I'm mumbling IN PRINT, aren't I? Nevermind. Hahaha.)

Many thanks again to all, for your kindness and support.

Tribal Politics: Principles, Liberty and Peace Need Not Apply

The consistently perceptive Jesse Walker offers some sane and -- dare I say it? yes, I dare -- principled commentary about a couple of recent murders and the ensuing enthusiastic efforts to breathe legitimacy and wisdom into the Department of Homeland Security report on domestic terrorism. Those efforts burble forth from an assortment of liberals no less, as Walker documents in his opening paragraph, as well as from those who now worship at the Shrine of Obama (such as the reliably awful Andrew Sullivan), both because the Shrine of Bush became unpopular, which fate is worse than any other, and because life without a Shrine, any widely celebrated Shrine will do, before which to prostrate oneself is unendurable. In the Age of Obama, the breathtakingly rapid abandonment of ideas that liberals (and assorted others) had once proclaimed to be central to their existence is as odious as it was predictable. It also replicates almost perfectly the similar abandonment of principles by many conservatives and alleged libertarians during the late, unlamented Age of Bush the Younger.

Walker writes:
So the Department of Homeland Security, a bloated and dysfunctional agency that shouldn't exist in the first place, should spend its time tracking the possibility that a criminal kook with no co-conspirators will decide to shoot a doctor or a security guard? From preventing another 9/11 to preventing unorganized shootings: Talk about mission creep.
Walker goes on to offer additional valuable observations which I omit here, for which you should consult the original.

Walker's last paragraph is the one I want to focus on:
Why did the DHS report come under such fire? It wasn't because far-right cranks are incapable of committing crimes. It's because the paper blew the threat of right-wing terror out of proportion, just as the Clinton administration did in the '90s; because it treated "extremism" itself as a potential threat, while offering a definition of extremist so broad it seemed it include anyone who opposed abortion or immigration or excessive federal power; and because it fretted about the danger of "the return of military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities." (Note that neither the killing in Kansas last month nor the shooting in Washington yesterday was committed by an Iraq or Afghanistan vet.) The effect isn't to make right-wing terror attacks less likely. It's to make it easier to smear nonviolent, noncriminal figures on the right, just as the most substantial effect of a red scare was to make it easier to smear nonviolent, noncriminal figures on the left. The fact that communist spies really existed didn't justify Joseph McCarthy's antics, and the fact that armed extremists really exist doesn't justify the Department of Homeland Security's report.
Toward the conclusion of my historical review in "Blinded by the Story: Liberals and Progressives as Political Creationists," I discussed Clinton's deplorable "anti-terrorism" program. In large part, I relied on an article by the indispensable Jim Bovard, "The Hypocritical War on Terrorism," an article that dates from 1996. I remind you of just part of what Bovard wrote:
President Clinton is continuing to agitate for new powers to suppress terrorists. He is demanding more powers for wiretaps, more powers to prevent people from using encryption for their e-mail, more powers to classify normal crimes as terrorist offenses, and so forth. As usual, Clinton's solution to every problem is more power for himself and his cronies. Clinton has scorned opponents of his terrorist proposals, claiming that they want to "turn America into a safe house for terrorists."


Further evidence of Clinton's hunger for more power is clear in his proposed antiterrorism bill. David Kopel and Joseph Olson recently observed in the Oklahoma City Law Review:

"The new terrorism bill defines virtually any crime as 'terrorism,' whether or not related to actual terrorism. 'Terrorist' offenses are defined as follows: any assault with a dangerous weapon, assault causing serious bodily injury, or any killing, kidnapping, or maiming, or any unlawful destruction of property. Snapping someone's pencil, breaking someone's arm in a bar fight, threatening someone with a knife, or burning down an outhouse would all be considered 'terrorist' offenses. Any attempt to perpetrate any of these terrorist crimes would be subject to the same punishment as a completed offense. Even a threat to commit the offense (i.e., 'One of these days, I'm going to snap your pencil') is likewise labeled 'terrorism.' The extra federal power created by the legislation is superfluous to genuine anti-terrorism. It was already a serious federal felony to make a real terrorist threat, as by threatening to set off a bomb, or to assassinate the president."

Clinton and Democratic congressional candidates this year are making political hay over the fact that the Republicans have not yet kowtowed to this particular Clinton power-grab.
My earlier essay has much more. A great many people remember none of this. Such omissions from memory are terribly convenient for those who wish to amass more power for the State, now that their tribe is in power once again.

An article by Justin Raimondo amplifies some of the same points made by Walker, and adds some new ones. We should note, as Raimondo does, the definition of "rightwing extremism" offered in the DHS report now championed by liberals:
Rightwing extremism in the United States can be broadly divided into those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.
Raimondo then observes:
If, say, the Chinese government issued a "report" on Chinese "extremism" targeting "anti-government" groups that reject the highly-centralized Communist state system "in favor of state or local authority," limousine liberals like [Joan] Walsh — and Nancy Pelosi, her Sinophobic fellow San Francisco Democrat — would be screaming bloody murder, waving the bloody flag of Tiananmen, and generally bloviating about the lack of basic liberties in China. Oh, but it’s okay if we do it – or, more specifically, if Janet Napolitano does it — because, you see, we’re the exception, the anointed, the Good Guys. And that means we get to do anything we damn well please.
To add a somewhat different phrase to that last point: "we get to do anything we damn well please" -- provided that Democrats are in charge.

For that's all that's involved here: the adoration of one's chosen political tribe, to which anything is permitted -- while nothing is permitted to any other tribe, except by reluctant and rare permission. In fact, I made this precise point almost three years ago, in an essay about the lies of "humanitarian" intervention similarly championed by liberals. From "Liberal Hypocrisy in the Name of 'Humanitarianism'":
I realize that in our current cultural atmosphere, where everything is politicized and every debate is a conflict between "us" and "them," intellectual consistency is too much to expect from anyone. Nonetheless, it must be noted that the level of hypocrisy and bullshit is truly overwhelming. Almost anything is permitted if "our" gang does it -- and almost nothing is allowed if "their" gang does it, even when "it" is, in principle, the same exact thing. It is a measure of the lack of seriousness in our political debates, and of the fact that obvious hackery is allowed to pass as in-depth commentary, that this game continues without challenge. And I wouldn't care that these propagandists relegate themselves to the edges of intellectual respectability and far beyond, but for the fact that a hell of a lot of people get killed along the way, and that we thereby create an even more dangerous world.
Much more on these issues will be found in my recently begun series on contemporary political tribalism, particularly in this installment. For our purposes here, note my third point especially: "The basic dynamics of all tribes are the same." See the full essay for the details.

For those who have been paying attention, this utter lack of consistency and principle has long been evident among liberals. Consider the thunderbolts of damnation hurled at Bush and the Republicans generally in connection with all the lies about Iraq. Some of us offered equal if not greater damnation on this point, the difference being that we meant it and apply that judgment regardless of who is or was telling the lies.

Many liberals are not so choosy. Many of them continue to repeat to this very hour the numerous lies about Clinton's Balkan interventions, beginning with the first and most notable lie: that the U.S. had to do something, because a genocide was going on. Except that it wasn't. Adoration of one's tribe permits the sanctification of all those lies told by fellow tribal members, especially when they advance the tribe's own power. And see the Laura Flanders article excerpted here, for proof as to the enthusiasm with which many allegedly "antiwar" progressive organizations support the Empire's wars now that Democrats direct them.

On the broader point, also see another essay, concerning the "false narratives" that many liberals repeatedly declared to be so damaging and destructive:
So all that earlier (and present) concern with false narratives was not concern with false narratives because they were false. No, indeed: it was concern with false narratives that didn't help Democrats. But if false narratives are believed to affirmatively help Democrats, according to some especially vile series of political calculations (which are usually wrong, as they are with regard to impeachment)...well, as Dear Leader might say, bring 'em on!
In his column, Raimondo makes a further point, one that carries especially ironic and bitter significance for me. Excerpting posts and comments at Daily Kos and Crooks & Liars, Raimondo shows how these same liberals are eager to clamp down on political speech that they happen to disfavor and disapprove, now that Democrats are firmly in charge of all the major levers of power. They characterize such speech as "hate speech," but all proffered definitions of that phrase are necessarily and purposely elastic, conveniently expanding to include all speech that those in power wish to demonize and prohibit. One test that immediately reveals the hypocrisy and intellectual dishonesty involved consists of asking a single question: How would these people react if Bush and/or Republicans proposed doing the exact same thing? Any honest observer knows full well that many liberals would be the first to condemn it in the strongest terms.

And in fact, that's precisely what they once did. In addition to general observation, I know this directly from my own experience, because of a post of mine that many liberal blogs eagerly linked when it first appeared. For just a few of those links, see here (also from Crooks & Liars, just to focus and deepen the irony). "The Light of Reason" was the title of an earlier incarnation of my blog. I had to republish that particular essay, as I've had to republish many others, when my blog archives became corrupted. That entry from 2005 -- "The Censorship Campaign Gets a Boost: Nothing but Good News 24/7, Please ... and Don't Make Us Make You!," and now found at that link -- concerned certain desperate and hysterical attacks on an entirely unremarkable bit of reporting ("Newsweek Lied. People Died." Malkin shrieked). In part, I wrote all those years ago:
Censorship is what they're after, and don't let them tell you otherwise. They announced this goal unmistakably at least a year ago. (Here's the classic, regret-filled formulation: "And here's a question: Freedom of the press, as it exists today (and didn't exist, really, until the 1960s) is unlikely to survive if a majority -- or even a large and angry minority -- of Americans comes to conclude that the press is untrustworthy and unpatriotic. How far are we from that point?") Of course, they "regret" that censorship might be necessary. It's a terrible shame and all that. But damn it, if magazines like Newsweek ARE GOING TO GET PEOPLE KILLED...well, what can we do? We obviously have to shut them up. They brought it on themselves. It's their own damned fault. Of course, we'd like to have a free press, but THEY'RE GETTING PEOPLE KILLED!
When Bush and the conservatives made these arguments, liberals and progressives couldn't condemn them quickly or harshly enough. But now that we have a Democratic president and Congress, the prospect of censorship is not only fine -- it is the goal. After all, if you "reject[] government authority entirely," or if you even "reject[] federal authority in favor of state or local authority," YOU MIGHT GET PEOPLE KILLED. You're obviously a terrorist, or at least a terrorist sympathizer -- even if you reject the initiation of violence by anyone in any circumstances, and even if you regard violence as justified only in response to a direct, immediate threat to your own life and person (and then, only in direct proportion to the seriousness of the threat involved).

But now that Democrats are in power, many liberals and progressives insist that we need not trouble ourselves with any of these issues. For many people, the tribe is all. For our tribe, everything is allowed. Thus are principles, integrity, honesty, consistency, decency, and respect for the value of human life banished from our political debate.

And thus we come closer to hell.

June 11, 2009

If It's Good Enough for Those Bastards...

I see that National Review Online is having its Summer Webathon. Deeply touching. Now I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure that most, if not all, of the swamp-dwellers at NRO lead lives of considerable comfort. And I know that these same denizens of the deep have lots of friends and acquaintances with financial resources on an impressive scale, certainly impressive to those of more limited means, and definitely to those of us who survive on almost nothing. But I suppose I could be mistaken.

I'm also confident in saying that they undoubtedly have health coverage, or at least the means of access to decent health care, surely so in any instance of medical crisis that is regarded as an emergency (such as, just to pick a random example, atrial fibrillation). But hey, I might be wrong!

It's all very moving. One donor just wrote to Ms. Lopez: "NRO is the oxygen mask that I have put on as our country enters stormy weather and violent turbulence. Thanks for the lifeline." And a $100-donor writes to her: "In this age of free-riding I am a free-rider no more!" Aren't you moved? See, you are. To the bathroom, you say? That's not nice. A few words of appreciation do come to mind. I'm always respectful of others and their convictions, no matter how ignorant and destructive those beliefs may be. Faced with this profoundly meaningful spectacle of human compassion and support, I therefore can only say: Jesus Fucking Christ.

So, anywho. Oh, wait. I almost forgot. I have the highest reverence for the founder of National Review, that illustrious and learned gentleman who continues to inspire these superlative writers today. In fact, I wrote a tribute to that goddamned saint; you'll find it right here: "Our Saint of Buckley: Derided, Defiled and Condemned." See what a swell guy I am?

Many thanks to the 18 or so people who responded to my end of last month request for help with rent and a few basic bills. NRO undoubtedly received 18 donations within the first minute or two of their donation drive. But then, we're working from rather different baselines. I managed to pay June rent and a couple of long overdue bills (including a phone bill I had deferred as long as I could; I finally had to pay it since, among other things, I continue to make do with a dialup connection -- if the phone service goes, I also go bye-bye). Now, though, I'm perilously close to broke.

I have to refill my heart medications next week. At the moment, I can't afford to do so. Since I've completely altered my diet and also changed (or eliminated) a few unhelpful living habits, going without the meds might not matter. But it's probably an experiment best avoided. That might be even more true since I've doubled the daily dose of one medication three times in the last week or so. I can do that, in fact I should do that, when the fibrillation symptoms (dizziness to the point of almost falling to the floor, nausea, etc.) return, as they have recently. So I should probably refill them. And then, you know, food.

On the other hand, I could write ceaselessly about the Glory of God, about the moral imperative of bombing the crap out of poor, defenseless people around the world, about how Women Are Evil and therefore can't be allowed to have sex unless granted permission and/or until they're married, at which point they must carry every Sanctified and Fertilized Egg to term, or about the God-Anointed Sacrament of White Supremacy (once Saint Buckley's theme).

Consider it done! If necessary. Over to you.

As always, my sincere thanks for your consideration. I can be an ignorant, war-mongering conservative! I can, yes, I can! It works for Obama. Why not for me?

June 10, 2009

The Normalization of Violence, Torture and Annihilation

Here's a story to brighten your day:
A YOUNG boy is still "barking" for his dog to come home after police tasered, then shot dead, the family pet on their front porch.

US police in Cincinnati killed Jack, the Bullock family's Chihuahua-mix pet, after an officer was bitten on the hand, WCPO reports.

The small dog had been Tasered, then shot at twice by police.

A third gunshot killed the dog.

Scott and Sharon Bullock discovered the dog's blood and three bullets on their porch after returning from a funeral last Friday.

They called the local police station and discovered what had happened to Jack, who was a birthday present for their 12-year-old son.

They said they were told that two officers had cornered the dog, when it began biting one on the hands. Police said the officers had "no option" but to shoot the dog.

Mr Bullock said his five-year-old son was distraught by the killing. "He 'barks' for him," Mr Bullock. "He'd 'bark' and Jack would always come to him, so he's outside going 'Bark bark bark,' hoping he's gonna come back.

"It's heartbreaking."

His wife said the child had cried himself to sleep after the shooting.
Here's another version of the incident, which includes the police department's explanation and defense of the alleged necessity for lethal violence. It concludes with this:
Last night the family told 9News they wondered why the officers didn't call the SPCA to catch the 5 lb. dog.
A couple of armed, adult police officers -- and a five-pound package of deadly terror. Death was obviously inevitable. Better it was the dog, wouldn't you agree?

I read several news reports about this story. The key aspects of the incident are undisputed. Why on earth didn't the officers call the SPCA? That organization is expert at this kind of thing. Occasionally, a dog or other pet will have to be killed, but that outcome is comparatively infrequent. Or perhaps I should say, it used to be comparatively infrequent. Maybe the officers didn't know that Chihuahuas are generally high-strung -- but a basically functioning adult should realize that if two grown men, who are strangers to the dog, corner the animal, trying to capture and subdue it, the dog is going to be more and more scared. And it will fight back with everything it has. (This tends to be true of all animals, including the human variety, as I had thought almost everyone understood.) What these officers did was precisely the wrong thing to do -- assuming that a peaceful, non-deadly outcome was the goal.

But was it? You might well wonder. It reminds me of a different incident I recently discussed, involving a similar dynamic: "[I]n the great wisdom of the [Transportation Security Administration], a final solution was needed. Total destruction certainly fulfills that requirement." In that case, the frightening agent of terror was a piano -- not just any piano, but a custom-made concert grand belonging to a world-famous musician. But "the glue smelled funny." You can never be too careful. Annihilation is easiest. When nothing moves any longer or even exists, you needn't worry about possible dangers.

From time to time, I check news reports about taser incidents, which is how I happened across the Chihuahua story. Perhaps you don't care all that much about a little dog, even though he was clearly delivered straight from your worst nightmare. So how about a 72-year-old great-grandmother?
A feisty 72-year-old great-grandmother was tasered after a police officer pulled her over for speeding. The Travis County, Texas dashboard camera captured the altercation between officer Chris Bieze and Kathryn Winkfein that happened last month.

Bieze said Winkfein was physically "non-compliant" after he pulled her over for driving 60 mph in a 45 mph speed zone on her way to Austin, Texas.

The video, which was released this week, shows Winkfein refusing to sign her speeding ticket.

She then got out of her pick-up truck and then the confrontation got nastier.

"Give me the f--king ticket now," she said. "Get over here now," Bieze replied.

Bieze then shoved the woman. He said it was to keep her out of traffic whizzing by.

"You're gonna shove me?! You're gonna shove a 72 year old woman," Winkfein said. But Bieze would do more than just shove Winkfein.

"If you don't stand back, I'm gonna tase you," he tells Winkfein.

"Go ahead, taser me," Winkfein replied.

"Stand back or you're going to be tasered! Put your hand behind your back," Bieze warns Winkfein.

After warning Winkfein a half dozen times, Bieze makes good on all of those threats.

"Get on the ground! Get on the ground," Bieze can be heard yelling as Winkfein screams."Now put your hands behind your back." "Put your hands behind your back or you're going to be tased again," Bieze continued.
Here's one more taser story:
The son of a prominent KSL employee died Tuesday in Washington County after a police officer deployed a Taser when the man ran down a road in what authorities called an "agitated" state.

Brian Layton Cardall, 32, was traveling with his wife south on State Road 59 near Hurricane on Tuesday afternoon. According to KSL.com, the vehicle pulled over to the side of the road when Cardall, who recently had been struggling with mental health issues, began having an "episode."

Cardall left the car and ran down the road, and his wife called police, said Washington County Undersheriff Jake Adams. A Hurricane police officer who responded to the scene deployed a Taser on Cardall, who lost consciousness, Adams said.

Cardall was treated at the scene but he was pronounced dead after being transported to Dixie Regional Medical Center in St.George, Adams said.

The Washington County Sheriff's Office did not immediately release further details about the incident.
One of the defenses of the increasingly common use of tasers is that tasers are preferable to guns; after all, the argument goes, guns are more dangerous and likely to kill than tasers. Tasers are safer. Except, as Cardall's death and many other taser deaths prove, tasers are often deadly, too. As far as the 72-year-old woman is concerned, I'm sure more than a few people will be heard to say, "She can't complain. She asked for it." And she did say, "Go ahead, taser me." So she deserved what she got.

A lot of people said exactly that about the taser incident involving Andrew Meyer, which occurred while John Kerry blithely stood by and did absolutely nothing. No one else who was present did anything to stop it either. And a number of people who said Meyer got "what was coming to him" were self-identified liberals and progressives. See "Obey or Die," for the details. The final part of that essay provides several typical examples of commentary on the Meyer incident.

In an earlier essay in that "Final Descent" series, I discussed in some detail "what a taser is and what it does." By way of summary, I wrote:
In brief: tasers can kill people, or cause very serious injury; tasers are "commonly used...to gain compliance" -- from people who are usually unarmed and who pose no serious threat whatsoever; and tasers are frequently used on suspects who have already been subdued and immobilized.
Recall the police officer's complaint against the 72-year-old woman: she was "physically non-compliant." She had to be made to obey. So he tasered her -- which means, he used torture to force her to do exactly as he demanded (if you doubt it's torture, I again direct you here), torture which easily could have seriously injured or even killed her. Thus, my title: "Obey or Die."

Let's note the broader aspects of the culture in which this common deployment of violence, torture and death occurs, all of which is utilized to ensure compliance and obedience. Bullying and violence are among the chief "virtues" embraced by the United States generally. These are among the major lessons taught to our children -- and they learn those lessons tragically well.

After itemizing some of the basic lessons imparted by our culture in "Bullied, Terrorized and Targeted for Destruction: Our Children Have Learned Well," I observed:
The greatest virtue is to feel nothing, or as close to nothing as possible. There is one exception: you can feel unreasoning, unfocused rage, and you are free to act on it. You may lash out in any direction you choose. The innocence of your victim is irrelevant.

Our government acts in this manner repeatedly. Our political leaders all applaud it, and offer a lengthy series of "justifications" for our unending national cruelty.
Our national leaders are fond of telling us that war is always "a last resort." This, of course, is a lie, one of the most terrible lies the United States regularly employs as it continues its campaigns of destruction, while it embarks on new ones. The U.S. government has repeatedly manufactured threats where none existed, often creating them out of absolutely nothing. This particular history stretches back more than a century, and it continues today with Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and whatever country next finds itself in the crosshairs of America's imperial agenda.

And most Americans don't care all that much. How often do you hear or see mention of more than a million innocent people murdered in Iraq, a genocide of historic proportions by any minimally civilized standard? With less than a handful of exceptions, all national politicians have supported and continue to support this criminal war and the occupation of Iraq. For the last couple of years, the Democrats could have defunded the barbaric occupation of Iraq; they refuse to do so, for they support this program. This also means that, in the last election, tens of millions of people, all those "good" Americans who are so noble and peace-loving, voted for a war criminal. It didn't matter whether you voted for McCain or Obama: both of them were and are war criminals. But almost no one will tell you that. And it's not just me who says so, but the Nuremberg Principles, the very principles which the United States was once largely responsible for devising and which the U.S. never hesitates to apply to everyone else, but never to itself.

Many Americans, including many of those progressive organizations that once claimed to be anti-war, today enthusiastically support the Empire's wars of aggression and domination -- now that Democrats control the machinery of death. These people were never anti-war: they were against wars run by Republicans. They're murderous, lying, hypocritical bastards. And the Obama administration regularly continues to issue threats against Iran, North Korea and anyone else who refuses to do exactly what the U.S. demands.

Very few people object. As this essay and many others attest, I unequivocally condemn the growing use of tasers. What happened to the individuals in the stories noted above, and to the dog, and to all those people and animals in many similar stories, is disgusting and unforgivable. But a great many people have very little basis for objection. Far worse crimes are committed by the U.S. government every day, and the Obama administration acts to ensure that additional crimes will be committed for years to come.

Not only do most people do nothing; they support this system of violence, cruelty and death. As I often ask: why do you offer support in this way? The overwhelming majority of people wait for someone or something else to change events that they contend are out of their control, disregarding the fact that voting for a war criminal is not the act of an innocent bystander. When one is confronted by evil of the magnitude represented by the continuing actions of the U.S. government and military, to argue that fewer murders or the better camouflaged use of torture is an "improvement," or that Obama represents a "lesser" evil, is to reveal the bankruptcy of a person without a moral compass. In addition, Obama has already demonstrated that his crimes may well equal or even surpass those of the previous administration, or those that might have been committed by McCain. And if you are willing to accept and support evil on this scale, what crimes won't you accept? Where exactly will you draw the line? When torture is openly utilized within the United States itself, on a daily basis? When torture and death visit your next-door neighbor -- or you? As these taser incidents demonstrate, we've already arrived at that point. So much for the "lesser" evil.

To wait for someone else to change events and dynamics of this kind also badly misdirects the focus from the widespread nature of the problem, and from where change must always begin. As I wrote at the conclusion of "Bullied, Terrorized and Targeted for Destruction":
Our children learn all this, and many more lessons of the same kind. Of course, they are often vicious bullies. Our government is a murderous bully on a scale that beggars description; most politicians are bullies; the majority of adults are bullies to varying degrees. Why wouldn't these children be bullies? It's what they've been taught. In the most crucial ways, it's all they've been taught.

These children are the perfect embodiments of the central values of our culture. They have learned well.

But, many people will say, this is monstrous. We must teach these children that such behavior is deeply wrong, and that they must change. To all such people, I reply: Then change yourselves. Change your values, and change the way you think and act. Children will see those changes, and their own behavior will alter accordingly in time.

Change yourselves. Start today. Start right now.

June 09, 2009

Why "Obscene"? Those Who Bury the Dead Know Why

Yesterday, I began a consideration of Obama's Cairo speech. I characterized that address as "obscene" in its overall perspective and in many of its particulars, in addition to which, as I noted, the speech was replete with distortions, misrepresentations and outright lies.

One of the major reasons for my choice of the word "obscene" might be expressed in a different way, and it concerns the vast chasm separating Obama's words and the realities of American foreign policy on the ground. Obama has already made indisputably clear that he has no intention of altering those realities in any significant way; to the contrary, he is fully committed to expanding America's imperial agenda.

For an excellent overview of the facts concerning that imperial agenda, I recommend to your attention Chris Hedges' latest article: "Hold Your Applause." If these issues concern you, the entire article merits your consideration.

Here are a few key excerpts:
We may thrill to Obama’s rhetoric, but very few of the 1.3 billion Muslims in the world are as deluded. They grasp that nothing so far has changed for Muslims in the Middle East under the Obama administration. The wars of occupation go on or have been expanded. Israel continues to flout international law, gobbling up more Palestinian land and carrying out egregious war crimes in Gaza. Calcified, repressive regimes in countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia are feted in Washington as allies.


The Bush White House openly tortured. The Obama White House tortures and pretends not to. Obama may have banned waterboarding, but as Luke Mitchell points out in next month’s issue of Harper’s magazine, torture, including isolation, sleep and sensory deprivation and force-feeding, continues to be used to break detainees. The president has promised to close Guantanamo, where only 1 percent of the prisoners held offshore by the United States are kept. And the Obama administration has sought to obscure the fate and condition of thousands of Muslims held in black holes around the globe.


Muslim rage is stoked because we station tens of thousands of American troops on Muslim soil, occupy two Muslim nations, make possible the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine, support repressive Arab regimes and torture thousands of Muslims in offshore penal colonies where prisoners are stripped of their rights. We now have 22 times as many military personnel in the Muslim world as were deployed during the crusades in the 12th century. The rage comes because we have constructed massive military bases, some the size of small cities, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Kuwait, and established basing rights in the Gulf states of Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates. The rage comes because we have expanded our military empire into neighboring Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. It comes because we station troops and special forces in Egypt, Algeria and Yemen. And this vast network of bases and military outposts looks suspiciously permanent.
My reference to "those who bury the dead" in the title of this post comes from Hedges' concluding paragraph:
Obama, whose embrace of American imperialism is as naive and destructive as that of George W. Bush, is the newest brand used to peddle the poison of permanent war. We may not see it. But those who bury the dead do.
I seriously question Hedges' use of the word "naive" in this context (and with regard to any of its various meanings), for several reasons I'll go into another time (probably as part of some upcoming essays). But in light of the considerable virtues of Hedges' article, this is a comparatively minor quibble. Hedges' piece is one of very few I've seen that focus on the excessively violent and bloody facts, as opposed to the pleasing cosmetic sheen that Obama skillfully manipulates to cover up the very ugly truth.

I will still examine certain lies told by Obama in more detail, offering evidence demonstrating why they are lies. But Hedges' article is an excellent overview of the truth that is being denied by most people, and by almost all commentators.

P.S. Certain of Hedges' observations recalled for me some comments I made in an entry on January 1 of this year. In that essay, "The Same Year of Hatred, Cruelty and Violence, Endlessly Repeating," I excerpted a Mike Whitney article concerning Obama's repellent and criminal silence during Israel's campaign of murder in Gaza. In introducing the Whitney piece, I wrote:
[T]hose who engaged in numerous rationalizations and lies to justify their support of Obama should take the lesson: you supported a war criminal. A man who is a war criminal himself can hardly be relied upon to point out the crimes of others. Mike Whitney describes the nature of the evil embodied by Obama...
If you still wonder why Obama won't support investigation and prosecution of the criminals from the Bush era, that's why.

Earlier in that same essay, I offered a brief summary of the nature of the United States today and how we arrived at this point. I repeat it here because of its relevance to some upcoming articles I'm preparing:
For more than a hundred years, the foreign policy of the United States government has been directed to the establishment and maintenance of global dominance. To this end, violence, overthrow, conquest and murder have been utilized as required. (See "Dominion Over the World" for the sources and development of this policy.) More and more, oppression and brutalization have become the bywords of domestic policy as well. Today, the United States as a political entity is a corporatist-authoritarian-militarist monstrosity: its major products are suffering, torture, barbarism and death on a huge scale.
As some of us have been pointing out for quite a long time, it is this monstrosity that Obama is fully committed to continuing, and even expanding. But he will do all of it, which is to say he will continue to commit the same crimes and perhaps even worse ones, with more skillful cover and better public relations.

Tragically, for a great many people, that will be enough to fool themselves into believing that our situation has "improved," and that it has "changed." They can try to make peace with their consciences as best they are able, assuming a conscience is still operational.

But as Hedges notes, it is not so easy for those who bury the dead -- or, I would add, for the dead themselves.

Your Indignation and Outrage! Do Not Become You

I've been intending to offer a few thoughts concerning The Universe-Shattering Controversy about Wise Latinas. It would appear that this is The Most Important Issue Ever, or at least since the one the day before or the equally shattering debate that will erupt tomorrow about a matter of similarly momentous dimensions.

"Gosh, Arthur!" you might object. "You should be serious about these questions. After all, the Majesty of Objective Law and Perfect Judging is imperiled!" Huh. Well, I do understand the depths of the outrage that has been expressed, very often by white, privileged (straight) men. O the terrible pity of it! My heart breaks unto a million pieces. C'mon, it does. I'm not entirely unfeeling, you know. Fate can never be more cruel than when it turns on white (straight) men enjoying lives of immense comfort. After all, they earned their privilege and comfort. Being white and male (and straight) had absolutely nothing to do with it. Betcha you can't find any historical or cultural evidence to suggest otherwise, not even the teensiest eensiest bit! The fact that white, privileged (almost always straight) men have run every damned thing since, like, forever is due solely to the fact that they're better than everyone else. You know that, you just don't want to admit it. Phooey on you!

As to the shocking and unacceptable remarks from Ms. Sotomayor ... huh. Again. As is typical in such instances of Profound Outrage! issuing from the fount of Detached, Objective and Impartial Privilege (usually, although certainly not always, White, Straight Male Division), what Sotomayor said was primarily remarkable for not being in the least remarkable. What she said was common sense, as Kerry Howley discusses here. I'm not sufficiently familiar with Howley's writing to state the extent of my agreement (or lack thereof) with her views more generally, but she's entirely correct on this point. When the continuation of unchallenged privilege is the issue, common sense tends to be disfavored. I understate.

About the "wise Latina woman" remark, Howley writes: "This seems completely innocuous to me; being Hispanic in the United States means exposure to both a dominant and minority culture, and one might expect such exposure to favorably affect the process of deciding difficult, marginal cases." Howley later observes: "[T]his a good speech. She aspires to impartiality but isn't deluded enough to pretend that the totality of her life experience will have no bearing on the act of judging."

Revolution, sister! Yet for many white, privileged (straight) men it certainly seems like revolution, which tells you only how impossibly constricted their own views are. Do you think their insulated lives of privilege might have something to do with that? Could be!

Howley also refers to "pseudo-religious romanticism about objectivity." I recently discussed this question at some length, particularly as related to the nature and operation of the law; see "Concerning the State, the Law, and Show Trials" for the details. With regard to the law, my major argument was this:
I stress the man-made aspect of law, because it is so often neglected or emphasized too little. As I said in the earlier piece, laws are devised by particular people, in particular circumstances, with particular friends and interests. As we proceed through this discussion, we will see a few notable examples of this phenomenon. And those people who devise a system of law are members of the ruling class; that is why they are devising the laws, and not others. Thus, law is the specific means by which the ruling class utilizes the power of the State and directs that power to the ends they desire.
As a matter of historical record, the ruling class in the United States has been made up of white (straight) men almost exclusively. In the last decade or two, that has slowly begun to change, but it remains true for the most part even today. As others have noted, one of the primary mechanisms by which the ruling class (those same white, privileged, usually straight men, if your attention momentarily wandered) seeks to perpetuate its privilege is by maintaining that its own views, methods and goals are Objective, True and Good -- and, by inevitable implication, that the views, methods, and goals of everyone else (all those who are not white, privileged, male and straight) are inherently inferior. In other words, and as I noted above, you should docilely accept the rule of your betters because they are, in fact, better.

No wonder they're so upset.

Many of these same reactions found expression during the Great Outrage! just over a year ago concerning Jeremiah Wright. During that episode of ahistorical, largely ignorant protest against similarly common-sense observations offered by Wright -- observations which for the most part would not be regarded as controversial in the least, if only more people thought and acted as adults (and knew something of history, which a shocking number of people don't) -- almost everyone took part in Outrage! Fever. It was an Outrage! Festival (Carnival or Circus might be more to the point). I analyzed the major points of contention in "Obama's Whitewash."

The outrage prompted by Wright's statements was so widespread and nearly universal because it challenged most people's notions of privilege on a more fundamental and comprehensive level than will be found in the Sotomayor controversy. Wright challenged the basic precepts of the American mythology, the idea that the United States is "uniquely" Good in the world and, indeed, in all of history, and that Americans are uniquely virtuous and well-intentioned. You can see the similarity in the two examples: Sotomayor challenges the notion that the traditional ruling class is uniquely entitled to rule, while Wright called into question the idea that the United States is uniquely qualified to dictate events around the world, including those actions that are permitted to all other nations, and those that are not. If Sotomayor is correct, it is those who are part of the ruling class (or who aspire to be) who are most imperiled and challenged; if Wright is correct, the overwhelming majority of Americans feel similarly imperiled and challenged.

In "Obama's Whitewash," I excerpted a valuable article by Tim Wise: "Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama and the Unacceptability of Truth: Of National Lies and Racial America." The first passage from Wise that I included was the following one. You can alter the names and identities as required (and not that much alteration is needed), and these observations from Wise are equally applicable to the Sotomayor controversy:
For most white folks, indignation just doesn't wear well. Once affected or conjured up, it reminds one of a pudgy man, wearing a tie that may well have fit him when he was fifty pounds lighter, but which now cuts off somewhere above his navel and makes him look like an idiot.

Indignation doesn't work for most whites, because having remained sanguine about, silent during, indeed often supportive of so much injustice over the years in this country--the theft of native land and genocide of indigenous persons, and the enslavement of Africans being only two of the best examples--we are just a bit late to get into the game of moral rectitude. And once we enter it, our efforts at righteousness tend to fail the test of sincerity.

But here we are, in 2008, fuming at the words of Pastor Jeremiah Wright, of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago -- occasionally Barack Obama's pastor, and the man whom Obama credits with having brought him to Christianity -- for merely reminding us of those evils about which we have remained so quiet, so dismissive, so unconcerned. It is not the crime that bothers us, but the remembrance of it, the unwillingness to let it go -- these last words being the first ones uttered by most whites it seems whenever anyone, least of all an "angry black man" like Jeremiah Wright, foists upon us the bill of particulars for several centuries of white supremacy.

But our collective indignation, no matter how loudly we announce it, cannot drown out the truth. And as much as white America may not be able to hear it (and as much as politics may require Obama to condemn it) let us be clear, Jeremiah Wright fundamentally told the truth.
In the same way, Sonia Sotomayor "fundamentally told the truth." Many people don't want to hear it. Such denial is one the hallmarks of America today, as it has been throughout all of America's history -- that is, America's history as authorized by the ruling class.

With regard to Sotomayor's remarks that have caused so much Outrage!, let me add some further fuel to the fire. (I admit that I have a weakness for provoking Outrage! from privileged, pampered, straight white men. I surrender to temptation too often, for I am imperfect.) I wrote an essay on some of these themes over four years ago: "Living on the Inside ... and Living on the Outside." I haven't read that essay for a long time, and I just briefly skimmed it. I don't see any observations that I would disown today, but certainly my views have become much more radical in the intervening time. I haven't identified myself as a libertarian for several years; anarchy for me, baby! For some of the reasons, I again direct your attention to, "Concerning the State, the Law, and Show Trials," in particular for my views concerning the nature of any State.

As I also regularly note, I am well aware that anarchy is not coming to my neighborhood or yours any time soon, and I do not believe such a change would be desirable or advisable, until and unless a significant number of individuals alter their basic attitudes and modes of behavior. Nonetheless, I maintain that an appreciation of what is possible is necessary to a fuller understanding of many of the immense, frequently destructive problems and conflicts that harm so many lives. (And see "The Tale that Might Be Told," for an imagining of how such changes might occur. I caution the reader who assumes that every blog entry advocates a specific political program and course of action that "The Tale that Might Be Told" was never intended to be any of that. It's a story, perhaps with a lesson or two, but you will decide that for yourself.)

I mention "Living on the Inside ..." in this context because of a comment I had left to a post by someone else; it was that comment that I used to explore these questions in the full essay. My comment from early 2005 reads as follows (it was in response to a post concerning Lawrence Summers' deeply awful comments about the alleged differences between women and men), and I stand by this fully today:
[L]et me be very, very blunt (and undoubtedly ruffle more than a few feathers): unless they work very, very hard to capture a profoundly different perspective, one informed by a lifetime of experience in a culture which is largely hostile to them -- the kind of experience felt by women, blacks and gays for example -- white, heterosexual men simply do not get it. It's as simple as that. No, I am not endorsing subjectivism or saying that it is not possible to ascertain the truth. I am saying only what I did say: unless they try very hard, white, straight men just are unable to understand the perspectives and reactions often experienced by those who are not white, straight men. And that is absolutely true.
I developed these ideas in the essay that follows, as well as in many additional articles since then (including "We Are Not Freaks").

So to those who speak the truth in a culture which is largely hostile to it and seeks to deny it many times a day, I say: Rock on, sisters and brothers! And to those who are so indignant, so threatened, and so Outraged!, I say: You know what you can do with all that.

June 08, 2009

Please Go and Read This


I humbly apologize for all my severely critical words concerning Obama, especially my describing his Cairo speech (the subject of the linked post) as "obscene" earlier today. Never again will I indulge my pathetic hatred for all that is Noble, True, Good and Virtuous.

I am shamed. Deeply, deeply shamed.

P.S. Certain of my detractors will agree that I'm far too arrogant to say, except for indecipherable mutterings under my breath, that I wish I had authored an article by another writer. But I will say to Mr. Caruso: I wish I had written that.

P.P.S. And I've taken this as a reminder to correct a longstanding oversight. Mr. Caruso is hereby added to the blogroll.

Still Lying After All These Years Months

Another day, another "betrayal" by the Obama administration:
The U.S. Supreme Court refused to question the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that prohibits openly gay people from serving in the military, turning away a constitutional challenge to the ban.

The rebuff spares President Barack Obama’s administration from the awkward task of mounting a legal defense for a policy the president says should be repealed. In urging the Supreme Court not to hear the appeal, administration lawyers said a lower court was correct to uphold the policy.
The Obama administration thus continues its policy of choosing the wrong and indefensible side on every legal question of significance. This is yet another example of the chasm between Obama's proclaimed intentions, which are almost universally regarded as noble and admirable, and his actions, which contradict his own so-earnestly proclaimed intentions at every important juncture.

Another version of the story adds an important aspect about the administration's "reasoning":
In court papers, the administration said the appeals court ruled correctly in this case when it found that "don't ask, don't tell" is "rationally related to the government's legitimate interest in military discipline and cohesion."
This is, you might say, a lie. The "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy is not "rationally related to the government's legitimate interest in military discipline and cohesion." It is, however, "rationally related" to the method and purpose of disgusting discrimination.

For much more on these questions, see a new article by Shikha Dalmia, "Obama's Betrayal on Don't Ask, Don't Tell." You might want to read all of it; I include here a few points I found of particular interest.

After noting that most of America's NATO allies allow gays and lesbians to serve openly, together with the fact that "the cause of gay rights" is rapidly gaining widespread acceptance in the United States, Dalmia identifies the source of pressure on Obama to leave this detestable and destructive policy intact:
However, 1,000 retired military officials recently sent a letter to the president urging him to stand by Don't Ask. They say that the military's sole purpose is to wage and win wars, and that requires military cohesiveness. To foster that, they insist, the military needs flexibility to set its own rules even if these rules are at odds with fundamental constitutional values and social trends.
I assume that active military officials are discouraged (or perhaps even prohibited) from making such public pronouncements, but I think it is also probably safe to assume that most such officials and officers actively serving today have similar views about maintaining this policy. If you always remember that Obama seeks to advance America's imperial agenda of domination and occupation around the globe, you'll appreciate that support from the military is indispensable to his goals. This is one constituency he cannot afford to antagonize.

Nonetheless, as Dalmia goes on to document, the claim regarding "military cohesiveness" can find almost no supporting evidence. I also remind you that the identical claim was once made about blacks serving in the military. Bigotry of this kind may never be eradicated; it finds different targets and victims, but the dynamic of condemnation and even demonization goes on. But when no facts support this policy, and when public opinion has widely shifted on this question (all of which Dalmia discusses), it is loathsome for Obama to behave in this manner.

Here are two further brief excerpts from Dalmia's conclusive case against the Obama administration's dishonest and false arguments:
If the presence of gay soldiers were disruptive for the military, tolerance for gays would be falling among troops. In fact, post-Don't Ask, tolerance has gone up significantly. A 2006 Zogby poll of returning Iraq and Afghanistan vets found that 72 percent were "personally comfortable" around gays. This is significant not only because it is in line with broader public opinion, but it reflects their experience with known gays among NATO troops.


But while both public opinion—and evidence—are lining up in favor of repealing Don't Ask, President Obama is going in the opposite direction. The White House's civil rights Web site in recent weeks has significantly watered down the strong language it was using to signal its commitment to scrapping the law. Even more troubling, Obama did nothing—not so much as utter a whisper of protest—when West Point grad Dan Choi, an Iraq veteran and an Arab linguist, was fired recently for revealing that he was gay.
The title of Dalmia's article talks of Obama's betrayal, and in my opening sentence, I also used the word -- but I put it in quotes. I did so for one dispositive reason: if one paid attention to everything Obama said over the last few years -- and if one understood what the policies he embraced meant when translated into action -- one sees that none of this constitutes "betrayal." That would assume that Obama was genuinely committed to certain of the goals announced in his speechifying, which we are ceaselessly hectored to believe is always soaring, inspirational and transcendent. But if you understood all the factors in play -- see here, here and here as a few examples, and just today, here -- you understood long ago that Obama was and is the perfect embodiment of the establishment, and of the existing corporatist-authoritarian-militarist system that determinedly throttles the United States to death, as it lays waste to various regions of the world.

As I noted in several earlier posts about the abomination of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" -- see here, here and here -- none of this surprises me. It's what I expected, because Obama lies. He lies all the time, on every matter of consequence. It's what he does.

Finally, I offer what might prove to be a handy tip in the years to come (years, for pity's sake; may the non-existent gods deliver us from such determined representatives of mendacity). Don't try to keep a list of all of Obama's broken "promises." Instead, keep a list of the promises you think he made that he's kept. In this manner, your work will be brief and undemanding.

At the moment, I can't think of a single issue of importance that would appear on a list of promises Obama wanted us to believe he was making, and that he has kept. Not even one.

Nonetheless, he has kept one commitment, the overriding one that was obvious from the beginning but that he notably restrained himself from offering explicitly: that he would faithfully serve the interests of the ruling class, that he would increase their already massive power and wealth still more, and that he would entrench them and their particular interests so that they would become impervious to all serious challenge.

That promise has certainly been kept, many times over in his still-brief tenure. And it will continue to be kept in the days to come. So have a drink, or partake of other diversions that you may prefer. It's never too early in the miraculous Age of Obama.

P.S. As an important clarifying matter, I should state that, given the purposes for which the U.S. military is presently employed (purposes which have remained unchanged since World War II, and which Obama has no intention of altering), I see no valid reason for anyone to want to join any branch of our armed services. I explained my reasons in detail in, "No, I Do Not Support 'The Troops.'"

However, the deeply awful "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy still represents an especially heinous example of profoundly unjust systemic and institutional discrimination. That such a policy is actively supported and implemented by the highest levels of the federal government is unforgivable. For a discussion from a somewhat different angle of the causes and operations of systemic and cultural discrimination of this kind, see "We Are Not Freaks."

Annals of Worshipful Mindlessness

The preceding post begins a consideration of the realities underlying Obama's speech in Cairo; I will shortly begin to analyze some of the momentous lies Obama offered last week (hardly a new development for The Awesome O).

As American political culture continues its rapid descent into gibbering, adolescent inanity (no offense intended to adolescents, many of whom are notably more mature, informed and basically sane than almost all prominent shapers of opinion and "news"), my view that Obama's speech typifies the ongoing, murderous obscenity of U.S. foreign policy is a far outlier. Far more common were the astoundingly stupid comments recently offered by Chris Matthews and Evan Thomas. This has already received wide notice, as it should given the dramatic revelation of the profound mental impairment that afflicts our leading commentators.

Here's the relevant part of the conversation (that link is offered solely because of the lengthy transcript provided; I would never dream of linking to that particular site for any reason having to do with the analysis it offers itself, except perhaps for a rare instance of the broken clock principle):
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Evan Thomas is editor at large for Newsweek magazine. Evan, you remember '84. It wasn't 100 years ago. Reagan and World War II and the sense of us as the good guys in the world, how are we doing?

EVAN THOMAS: Well, we were the good guys in 1984, it felt that way. It hasn't felt that way in recent years. So Obama’s had, really, a different task We're seen too often as the bad guys. And he – he has a very different job from – Reagan was all about America, and you talked about it. Obama is ‘we are above that now.’ We're not just parochial, we're not just chauvinistic, we're not just provincial. We stand for something – I mean in a way Obama’s standing above the country, above – above the world, he’s sort of God. He’s-


THOMAS: He's going to bring all different sides together.
If it weren't for the rather consequential fact that the United States can obliterate all of humanity many times over, America would be the laughingstock of the world. Don't ever think that the members of the ruling class, including our idiotic commentariat, forget for a second the fearsome destruction the U.S. can unleash whenever it wishes. They certainly don't let anyone else forget it; it's their ultimate trump card. If others won't act in precisely the manner the U.S. demands, we can always kill them -- just as we have repeatedly for over a century, often in staggeringly awful numbers. I'll be expanding on that point in the continuation of the earlier essay.

And even though many have noted the above example of nearly perfect idiocy (at any rate, as nearly perfect as imperfect humans are likely to achieve), another example of a similar perspective largely escaped notice. This instance is not as dramatic, but for numerous reasons (historical, cultural and otherwise), I find it even more disturbing.

In a story about the Obamas' "date night" that included attendance at a Broadway play, we learn the following:
Then it was up to Broadway, where they had tickets at the Belasco Theatre for "Joe Turner's Come and Gone," a play by August Wilson about a man coming to terms with the history of slavery.

"I'm nervous, excited, honored," said Andre Holland, who plays character Jeremy Furlow, before the show. "It's like in Shakespearean times, when the king would come to the show."

Although the play's up for a Best Revival Tony Award, the first couple got the biggest standing ovation of the night as theatergoers applauded and took photos of the dashing duo for 10 minutes before the show began.
Shakespeare is most closely associated with Elizabeth I, not with James I, who succeeded her during the latter part of Shakespeare's life. But let's focus on the broader point: that the president's attendance was "like...the king...com[ing] to the show." This is part and parcel of the undue reverence and obeisance offered to the U.S. president ("the biggest standing ovation of the night"), as the ultimate representative of authority, a notably mistaken and dangerous state of affairs. Given the actual behavior of almost all U.S. presidents for the last hundred years (and longer), including the numerous wars and interventions they have instigated and the millions of innocent people they have caused to be murdered, to say nothing of their actions on the domestic front, those presidents may be entirely deserving of many responses; reverence and obeisance are decidedly not among them. To the typical demand that we must "respect" the office and person of the president (by which, most people mean far more, and much worse, than "respect"), I emphatically state: to hell with all that.

And to see this attitude in an actor who appears in a play "about a man coming to terms with the history of slavery..." Well. The multiple colliding facts concerning momentous historical matters and the resulting ironies have momentarily caused my brain to freeze up. Since I am temporarily at a loss for words on this point, I direct you to: "No, There Are Many Things About It that Are Profoundly Awful," about the empty and exceedingly dangerous symbolism of Obama as America's first black president. Follow the links there and at the beginning of another essay, "Silenced: Barack Obama and the End of Struggle Toward Truth and Freedom," for much, much more.

This reminds me of a comment of Barbara Tuchman's, in an excerpt from The March of Folly that I included in, "Battling the Ghosts of Vietnam" (the earlier essay offers the longer passage and context):
The irony of history is inexorable.
So it is, and there you go.

Obama's Obscene Speech in Cairo: Lies in the Service of Death

The world has always offered certain apparent pleasures that are best enjoyed under particular conditions: a mind that deliberately and systematically avoids every difficult question of fact, just as it rejects inquiry into all instances of divergence and contradiction between proclaimed intentions and continuing patterns of action; a willingness to succumb to the easy, sentimental allure of contentless phrases and slogans, provided one joins the pretense that pretty-sounding utterances carry nobility and significance; an approach to analysis that voluntarily restricts itself to the familiar, the conventional, and the comfortable. In a passage from The March of Folly excerpted here, Barbara Tuchman quotes George Orwell on the general nature of this refusal to engage in serious thought:
Refusal to draw inference from negative signs, which under the rubric "wooden-headedness" has played so large a part in these pages, was recognized in the most pessimistic work of modern times, George Orwell's 1984, as what the author called "Crimestop." "Crimestop means the faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought. It includes the power of not grasping analogies, of failing to perceive logical errors, of misunderstanding the simplest arguments ... and of being bored and repelled by any train of thought which is capable of leading in a heretical direction. Crimestop, in short, means protective stupidity."
Most of Barack Obama's pronouncements require Crimestop as the indispensable analytic tool -- if, that is, one wishes to invest those pronouncements with importance, originality and courage.

This is never more true than on the occasion of a major policy address by Obama. It was certainly true of Obama's heralded speech on race in America. At the beginning of a detailed consideration of that speech, I quoted several especially dreadful examples of what ought to be regarded as embarrassingly Crimestopped "appreciations" of what we were told was Obama's soaring and inspiring rhetoric. Some commentators have perfected this approach to The Wonder of Obama; see the third example here. Our stupefyingly trivial and ignorant political culture is happy to provide plentiful rewards for one's willingness to emit such gurglings on a regular basis. If you enthusiastically associate your name with phrases such as "the triumph of word over flesh," you may be provided a major platform at the Washington Post. O glory unexcelled!

The task of analyzing one of Obama's major speeches is likely to deter many of those who would undertake the work of deconstruction. The reason is simple, and terrible: the lies are so numerous and comprehensive that one hardly knows where to begin. I suspect some might decide not to begin at all. In this manner, the strength of the lies increases, as the truth recedes always farther into the mists of distance. Toward the end of "Obama's Whitewash," after setting forth many of the reasons for my conclusion (although certainly not all of them), I wrote:
Almost every politician lies, and most politicians lie repeatedly. Yet in one sense, Obama's speech is exceptional, rare and unique -- but not for any of the reasons offered by Obama's uncritical, mindless adulators. It is exceptional for this reason: it is rare that a candidate will announce in such stark, comprehensive terms that he will lie about every fact of moment, about every aspect of our history that affects the crises of today and that has led to them, about everything that might challenge the mythological view of America. But that is what Obama achieved with this speech. It may be a remarkable achievement -- a remarkable and detestable one, and one that promises endless destruction in the future, both here and abroad.
All of this applies with equal force to Obama's speech in Cairo last week. Time and space prohibit a detailed examination of all the lies told by Obama. We will focus only on some of the more critical ones.

As a broad, preliminary matter, consider this statement from Obama last week, identifying the overall perspective that serves as the foundation for United States foreign policy:
Of course, recognizing our common humanity is only the beginning of our task. Words alone cannot meet the needs of our people. These needs will be met only if we act boldly in the years ahead; and if we understand that the challenges we face are shared, and our failure to meet them will hurt us all.

For we have learned from recent experience that when a financial system weakens in one country, prosperity is hurt everywhere. When a new flu infects one human being, all are at risk. When one nation pursues a nuclear weapon, the risk of nuclear attack rises for all nations. When violent extremists operate in one stretch of mountains, people are endangered across an ocean. And when innocents in Bosnia and Darfur are slaughtered, that is a stain on our collective conscience. That is what it means to share this world in the 21st century. That is the responsibility we have to one another as human beings.
This passage is nearly identical to one offered by Obama two years ago in another major foreign policy address; I discussed that earlier speech in detail, in "Songs of Death." I characterized the following as "the diseased heart of Obama's address"; note the similarity and continuity of Obama's views, which are also those of America's ruling class and the foreign policy establishment:
In today’s globalized world, the security of the American people is inextricably linked to the security of all people. When narco-trafficking and corruption threaten democracy in Latin America, it’s America’s problem too. When poor villagers in Indonesia have no choice but to send chickens to market infected with avian flu, it cannot be seen as a distant concern. When religious schools in Pakistan teach hatred to young children, our children are threatened as well.

Whether it’s global terrorism or pandemic disease, dramatic climate change or the proliferation of weapons of mass annihilation, the threats we face at the dawn of the 21st century can no longer be contained by borders and boundaries.

The horrific attacks on that clear September day awakened us to this new reality. And after 9/11, millions around the world were ready to stand with us. They were willing to rally to our cause because it was their cause too – because they knew that if America led the world toward a new era of global cooperation, it would advance the security of people in our nation and all nations.
My remarks concerning Obama's speech in 2007 can also be applied to President Obama's latest proclamations:
While I do not minimize the (possibly) serious dangers of avian flu, it must be acknowledged that this is a novel justification of the notion that the U.S. must continue to maintain the greatest military in the history of the world, as Obama goes on to insist. It appears we must be able to invade, nuke or otherwise coerce every nation on earth into doing our bidding -- so that the world will be safe for healthy chickens. And here I had thought the Marx Brothers all were dead.

This is the Open Door world carried to impossible, entirely unrealizable and ridiculous extremes. The door is not only open: the door and the entire structure in which it had been installed have been obliterated. The United States must be the global hegemon so that every human being eats well, is properly educated, and has a good job, until every society and culture is thriving and properly "democratic" in the form we alone will dictate, and until there is a (healthy) chicken in every pot.
I also noted that this perspective seeks to "justify almost any intervention, anywhere, any time." Given the realities of our world at present, especially when coupled with the boundless, murderous determination of the U.S. ruling class, you can leave out "almost" from that phrase, and you will never need to apologize for the omission. For our governing class, the "right" of the United States to force everyone else to do our bidding, using whatever means they deem necessary regardless of how many people must die, is absolute -- for, as Obama and every other national politician who wields power regularly declare, "America is the last, best hope of Earth." And on Earth: "America is God. God's Will be done."

Too many people still fail to appreciate that Obama and the ruling class in general believe this as sincerely as they believe anything. Moreover, they mean it -- and they will do whatever it takes to achieve their aims. You disbelieve these basic truths at your great peril, as millions of people around the world have tragically come to understand.

Imagine that the person who proclaims himself to be your devoted lover tightly embraces you, so fixedly that you can barely breathe. Imagine that he gently murmurs in your ear that he adores you, that he seeks only that which will bring you fulfillment, that he wishes to do nothing except what will make you happy. As he hypnotically intones these soothing phrases over and over, while his embrace continually constricts your ability to move until you finally cannot move at all, he slowly and methodically stabs you in the back. He interprets your agonized gasps of protest as recognitions of his love and devotion. Indeed, he must so interpret them, for he has convinced himself of the genuineness and nobility of his intentions. Since he regards the sincerity of his proclaimed intentions as an absolute beyond all question, he thinks you must view him as he himself does. How could anyone fail to believe he means what he says?

As your life inexorably drains away, you confront the horrifying, final recognition: that your lover has repeated this precise pattern countless times, over more than a hundred years. You are only the latest in a long, bloody series of victims. Your last moments of consciousness fill with the pain and horror of the knowledge that you cannot be saved any longer -- that, in any event, there is no one to save you. Your lover cannot be stopped, until there are no victims left.

How would you characterize a person who would act in this manner, who would commit endless murders while always being convinced of his own superiority, of his "right" to dispose of the lives of others, even when those lives number in the millions? Perhaps you would say that he is a brutal serial murderer, without conscience or remorse, without even the smallest appreciation of the unique value of a single human life. You would be entirely justified in describing such behavior as obscene -- just as the foreign policy of the United States is obscene, just as Obama's speech last week was obscene in its overall perspective, as well as in many particulars.

To understand this, it is necessary to appreciate some of the central lies told by Obama. That will be our first task. Once we have performed that duty, we will examine certain dualities, and how those dualities serve as a foundational element in Western thought. This traditional emphasis on dualities -- and the dichotomy between intentions and actions is only one example -- needs to be understood so that we can grasp why so many people offer so much undeserved praise to Obama.

Most of us only listen to the words, and we view the words as of much greater importance than the actions of the person who utters them. But in my imagined scenario, what do you think is ultimately of greater significance to the person who is murdered by her lover? His proclamations of undying devotion, or the fact that he has murdered her? You may wish to believe that, as she dies, her final thought is, "Ah, but the words were so beautiful..."

That certainly would not be my last thought. Would it be yours? Was it the last thought of over a million murdered Iraqis, or of the growing number of people now dying in Afghanistan and Pakistan?

Lies are the weapon of those who would destroy us. Lies convince us to lower our defenses, and to open ourselves to the murderer's embrace. As we expire from our fatal wounds, we finally realize that lies will not save us.

But lies helped to kill us -- as they have killed so many in the past, as they will kill again.

(To be continued.)