Canada’s Regime Change Efforts in Nicaragua Rife with Hypocrisy

Canada is supporting US efforts to overthrow Nicaragua’s government.

A recently leaked USAID document highlights “the breadth and complexity of the US government’s plan to interfere in Nicaragua’s internal affairs up to and after its presidential election in 2021.” The stated aim is to replace president Daniel Ortega with “a government committed to the rule of law, civil liberties, and a free civil society.” Highlighting Washington’s aim, Ben Norton notes, “the 14-page USAID document employed the word ‘transition’ 102 times, including nine times on the first page alone.”

Recently Canada’s representative to the Organization of American States, Hugh Adsett, joined five other countries in calling on the OAS’ Secretary General to organize a special session focused on human rights and democracy in Nicaragua. At the recent OAS meeting Adsett criticized Nicaragua, saying the Covid-19 pandemic “should not be used to weaken democracy”.

Ottawa has supported a number of OAS resolutions and initiatives targeting Nicaragua’s government. Along with the US, Paraguay, Jamaica and Argentina, Canada was part of the 2019 OAS High-Level Diplomatic Commission on Nicaragua, which Managua blocked from entering the country. The commission claimed there was an “alteration of constitutional order that seriously affects the democratic order” in Nicaragua. But, the group failed to win majority support at the OAS General Assembly.

Ottawa has severed aid and sanctioned officials from a government former US national security adviser John Bolton listed as part of a “troika of tyranny” (Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua). Ortega’s government is part of the Venezuela-led Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America (ALBA), which is a response to North American capitalist domination of the hemisphere.

Since the Sandinistas’ won power in 2007 poverty rates dropped substantially in the nation of six million. The government expanded access to electricity in rural areas and doubled the proportion of electricity from renewable sources to over half. Access to drinking water has increased as have health indicators improved. Women’s role in parliament grew sharply and Nicaragua’s murder rate remained a fraction of its northern neighbours. According to a July 2019 UN report, there were 8.3 murderers per 100,000 Nicaraguans compared with nearly 70 murders per 100,000 in El Salvador and Honduras.

A little more than a year after his third consecutive election victory a protest movement challenged Ortega’s presidency. Ostensibly what unleashed the uprising was a social security reform pushed by the International Monetary Fund. But, pension benefits were largely maintained with the government offloading most of the cost on to employers. Despite a relatively working-class friendly reform, many student organizations and NGOs aligned with the major employer federation, the wealthiest Nicaraguans and the conservative Catholic church to oppose the government. Many of these groups were financed and trained by the US government’s National Endowment for Democracy, USAID and Freedom House, which is close to the CIA. The movement was greatly influenced by Washington, which has long been powerful in the small, impoverished country.

The protests quickly turned violent. At least 22 police officers were killed and as many as 300 lost their lives in politically-related violence during 2018. The North American media and internationally connected NGOs blamed the government for all the rights violations. But, this was absurd, as the death toll of police highlight. It was also public knowledge that opposition rebels had been attacking government supporters for years. In March 2016 the New York Times published a long sympathetic story headlined “Ortega vs. the Contras: Nicaragua Endures an ’80s Revival” about a small number of anti-government rebels targeting police stations and Sandinistas in rural areas.

Still, Canadian officials blamed the government — either implicitly or directly — for the violence. Between April 23 and July 18, 2018, Global Affairs put out at least four press releases critical of the situation in Nicaragua. Chrystia Freeland’s statements became steadily stronger with the former foreign minister eventually demanding an immediate end to the “violence, repression, arbitrary detentions and human rights violations” and for “the government of Nicaragua to help create the conditions for safe, peaceful, and constructive discussions.” Subsequently Canada’s foreign minister questioned Ortega’s democratic legitimacy. In June 2019 Freeland declared, “Canada will continue to stand with the people of Nicaragua and their legitimate demands for democracy and accountability.” But, Ortega won the election in a landslide and it’s hard to imagine that he suddenly lost all support.

In March 2016 the New York Times reported, “Mr. Ortega enjoys strong support among the poor” while eight months later The Guardian noted he “cemented popular support among poorer Nicaraguans.” At the end of 2016 Ortega was re-elected with 72% of the vote in an election some in the opposition boycotted.

The Liberals raised the conflict in Nicaragua in international forums. At a Women Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Montréal in September 2018 Freeland said “Nicaragua” was one of “the pressing issues that concern us as foreign ministers.” The “situation in Nicaragua” was discussed between Freeland and foreign minister Aloysio Nunes at the third Canada-Brazil Strategic Partnership Dialogue a month later.

In August 2018 the Liberals officially severed aid to Nicaragua. Canadian funding for five major government backed projects was withdrawn.

Ten months later Canada sanctioned nine Nicaraguan government officials, including ministers and the president of the National Assembly. Individuals’ assets were frozen and Canadians were prohibited from dealing with said persons. The sanctions were adopted in co-ordination with Washington. “United States and Canada Announce Financial Sanctions to Address the Ongoing Repression in Nicaragua”, noted the US State Department’s release.

The Liberals’ stance towards Nicaragua contrasts sharply with its words and actions towards its Central American neighbour Honduras. While Canada condemned Ortega, severed aid and sanctioned officials, it maintained friendly relations and aid spending after Juan Orlando Hernandez defied the constitution by running for a second term as president and then brazenly stole the election.

The Liberals regime change efforts in Nicaragua are part of a broader pro-US/corporate policy in the hemisphere rife with hypocrisy.

US Foreign Policy Elite Wants Biden & Detests Trump Because President Failed to Launch New NATO Missions to Justify its Existence

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One reason for the extraordinary hostility of the foreign policy insiders’ brigade toward President Trump is that he has not wasted his time conjuring up new missions to justify NATO’s continued existence.

Instead, he has promised to withdraw 12,000 US troops from Germany and, to add insult to injury, he has demanded that NATO member states increase their financial contributions toward the upkeep of the military alliance ostensibly there to “protect” them.

This is sacrilege to a foreign policy elite that have spent the last 70 years worshiping at the altar of NATO.

“US troops aren’t stationed around the world as traffic cops or welfare caseworkers—they’re restraining the expansionary aims of the world's worst regimes, chiefly China and Russia,” Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., fumed.

Former National Security Adviser Susan Rice expressed alarm about the “continued erosion of confidence in our leadership within NATO, and more efforts that call into question our commitment, and more signals to the authoritarians within NATO and Russia itself that this whole institution is vulnerable.”

Trump, according to Nicholas Burns, former US ambassador to NATO and current adviser to Joe Biden, has cast America’s military allies primarily as a drain on the US Treasury, and he has aggressively criticized Washington’s true friends in Europe—democratic leaders such as France’s President Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel—even as he treats Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Kim Jong Un, and other ‘authoritarians’ around the world with unusual tact.

Seventy former Republican national security officials recently issued a statement accusing Trump of having “disgraced America’s global reputation and undermined our nation’s moral and diplomatic influence.” And—horror of horrors!—Trump “has called NATO ‘obsolete.’ ”

Not only has Trump failed to spell out a new mission for NATO, the one mission of sorts he has come up with—extraction of more funds from NATO member-states—is calculated to cause mutual recriminations within the alliance. Trump regularly boasts that he has cajoled NATO to cough up an additional $130 billion a year “and it’s going to be $400 billion,” he recently warned.

To the denizens of Washington’s foreign policy think-tanks, pressuring NATO member states to come up with more money is a dangerous business. It could have the undesirable effect of forcing them to wonder whether devoting scarce resources to NATO—particularly now following the Covid economic downturn—is a sound investment.

NATO desperate to find reasons to justify its existence

It is no secret that ever since the fall of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, NATO has been desperately searching for a reason to justify its existence. The alliance has expanded its membership from 16 to 30 in 20 years, while failing to put forward a convincing reason, other than inertia, for staying in business.

To be sure, there were and are threats—cybersecurity, mass migration, human trafficking, narcotics, nuclear proliferation, international terrorism—but it was never clear how a narrowly-focused military alliance would be able to address them unilaterally. NATO has thus been forced to engage in some vigorous head-scratching.

During the 1990s, we had the “humanitarian intervention” craze. This led to the NATO bombing of Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1994 and 1995 and, more horrifically, to the bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999. Neither operation achieved anything that could not have been achieved years earlier—and without the use of force.

In 2001, NATO got in on the Global War on Terror. After 9/11 NATO, for the first time in its history, invoked Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, declaring that the terrorist attack on the US was an attack against every NATO member.

When the United States retaliated by invading Afghanistan in October 2001, NATO was on hand to assist. In December, it established something called the International Security Assistance Force, the nebulous mission of which was to “assist the Afghan Government in exercising and extending its authority and influence across the country, paving the way for reconstruction and effective governance.”

Next came Iraq. Despite the vocal opposition of France and Germany to the 2003 invasion, NATO, in no time got involved. In 2004, it established NATO Training Mission-Iraq, the aim of which was supposedly to “assist in the development of Iraqi security forces training structures and institutions so that Iraq can build an effective and sustainable capability that addresses the needs of the nation.” One of its tasks was to train the Iraqi police. However, as WikiLeaks’ Iraq War Logs disclosure revealed, Iraq’s finely-trained police conducted horrific torture on detainees. Neither NATO’s Afghanistan nor its Iraqi mission covered itself in glory.

With the Democrats returning to power in Washington in 2009, NATO was back in the “humanitarian intervention” business. Its bombing of Libya in 2011 destroyed government, law and public order, institutions that before the intervention had ensured that the people of Libya were able to go about their daily lives free from the fear of death, not to mention the spectacle of slave markets.

The “humanitarian intervention” in Libya having ended in debacle and war crimes (including the execution of Muammar Gaddafi) in which NATO was clearly involved, it was back to the old Cold War mission of “containment.”

Following the February 21, 2014, coup in Kiev and the reincorporation of Crimea into Russia, NATO’s new mission was very much like its old. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen promised that: “We will have more planes in the air, more ships on the water, and more readiness on the land. For example, air policing aircraft will fly more sorties over the Baltic region. Allied ships will deploy to the Baltic Sea, the Eastern Mediterranean and elsewhere.”

Six years on, it’s clear that there simply aren’t enough armed conflicts in the world to justify the continued existence, not to mention huge expense, of such a gargantuan military organization. NATO has therefore resorted to seizing on the latest fashionable social and cultural issues to prove how up-to-date it is.

More NATO as solution to Climate change?

For example, NATO has added “climate change” to its repertoire. NATO’s 2010 Strategic Concept declared that “Key environmental and resource constraints, including health risks, climate change, water scarcity and increasing energy needs will further shape the future security environment in areas of concern to NATO and have the potential to significantly affect NATO planning and operations.”

One would have thought that the most effective way NATO could contribute to minimizing global warming would be to cut back on armaments, military exercises and naval and air patrols. But no, apparently the solution to “climate change” is more NATO, not less.

Then came the issue gender equality. “Achieving gender equality is our collective task. And NATO is doing its part,” said Mari Skåre, the NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security, in 2013. In March 2016, on International Women’s Day, NATO held a so-called “Barbershop Conference” on gender equality. Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg took the opportunity to declare that gender equality was a frightfully important issue for the alliance because “NATO is a values-based organization and none of its fundamental values—individual liberties, democracy, human rights and the rule of law—work without equality….We learned in Afghanistan and in the Balkans that by integrating gender within our operations, we make a tangible difference to the lives of women and children”.

Definitely a “tangible difference to the lives of women and children”: As a result of NATO’s bombing campaigns in Yugoslavia and Libya, thousands of women and children lost their lives. In Libya, for example, NATO helped deliver perhaps thousands of women into the hands of ISIS.

This is how Human Rights Watch in 2017 described the record of ISIS rule in Libya:
In the first half of 2016, fighters loyal to ISIS controlled the central coastal town of Sirte and subjected residents to a rigid interpretation of Sharia law that included public floggings, amputation of limbs, and public lynchings, often leaving the victims’ corpses on display.
Trump’s failure to articulate a new mission for NATO, combined with his desire to extract more and more funds from the 29 member nations, puts the military alliance in a very vulnerable position. With no new mission and no obvious threats to Europe on the horizon—or at least none that NATO seems capable of addressing—its member states, sooner or later, are bound to question the value of belonging to an organization, with such high membership fees and so few benefits. No wonder the foreign-policy cognoscenti are fulminating and praying for a Biden presidency.

One of the reasons the foreign policy crowd detests Trump is that he hasn't wasted his time trying to invent some "new mission" for NATO. Where Trump differs from his predecessors is that he hasn't bothered trying to invent some new reason for NATO's continued existence: Clinton had Yugoslavia, Bush Afghanistan & Iraq, Obama Libya. Trump hasn't identified any "new mission" for NATO. Maybe because there isn't one.

Reprinted with permission from RT.

How ‘Silence is Violence’ Can Became Compelled Speech

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Below is my column in the Hill newspaper on the rising concern over compelled speech on our campuses and our streets.

Here is the column:

“Silence is violence” has everything that you want in a slogan: Alliteration. Brevity. Simplicity. It also can be chilling for some in the academic and free-speech communities.

On one level, it conveys a powerful message that people of good faith should not remain silent about great injustices. However, it can have a more menacing meaning to “prove the negative” – demanding that people prove they are not racist.

In a prior column, I warned of the thin line between speech codes and speech commands, as people move from compelling silence to compelling speech: “Once all the offending statues are down, and all the offending professors are culled, the appetite for collective suppression will become a demand for collective expression.”

The line between punishing speech and compelling speech is easily crossed when free speech itself is viewed as a threat. It is not just the many cases of journalists, academics and others fired for expressing dissenting views. Even expressing support in the wrong way can be a terminal offense, like declaring “all lives matter” rather than “Black Lives Matter,” as in the firing of University of Massachusetts-Lowell Dean of Nursing Leslie Neal-Boylan or Vermont principal Tiffany Riley. While most of us support Black Lives Matter, it has become an official position of many schools — and variations are not tolerated. The concern is not only the establishment of orthodox values but the forced recitation of those values.

We are now seeing that fear realized.

This week, a mob surrounded diners outside several Washington restaurants, shouting “White silence is violence!” and demanding that diners raise a fist to support Black Lives Matter. Various diners dutifully complied as protesters screamed inches from their faces. One did not — Lauren Victor, who later said she has marched in protests for weeks but refused to be bullied. The mob surrounded her, and Washington Post reporter Fredrick Kunkle identified a freelance journalist as one of the people yelling at Victor and demanding: “What was in you, you couldn’t do this?”

It is the very mantra of orthodoxy: Failing to utter certain words, prayers or pledges is deemed a confession of complicity or guilt.

That demand for public affirmation was on display again Thursday when Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and his wife were threatened by a mob after leaving the final event of the Republican National Convention. The couple was ordered to “Say Her Name,” referring to Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician shot by police in Louisville, Ky. Notably, some media suggested the mob did not know who Paul was; they just demanded that he say the name if he wanted to pass.

Forced speech can occur in a variety of direct and indirect ways. The University of Southern Maine’s president, Glenn Cummings, proclaimed “we must never tire of declaring that Black Lives Matter” and asked students and faculty to add their names to a public anti-racism pledge. After objections, the school said it would keep the list non-public. The concern was that some faculty and students may not support Black Lives Matters as an organization, or have other disagreements with the pledge — yet, failure to be on the list would indicate they are racist, or at least not sufficiently anti-racist.

The University of California issued a “guidance document” requiring students to reject racism, sexism, xenophobia and all hateful or intolerant speech, including a mandate that students stop others from referring to the “Chinese virus” or “Wuhan virus.” While the use of those terms is controversial, it also is heavily laden with political meaning for people on both sides of the debate over the pandemic.

Syracuse University moved more directly not just to bar but to require some forms of speech. Professor Keith Alford, the university’s diversity and inclusion officer, declared students would be punished for simply witnessing “bias-motivated” incidents and “acts of hate.” That was a response to a student group’s demand for expulsion of “individuals who witnessed the event or were present, but did not take part.”

The transition from speech codes to commands is based on the same notion of “speech as harm.” Just as speech is deemed harmful (and thus subject to regulation), silence is now deemed harmful. UC Berkeley Law Professor Savala Trepczynski, executive director of the Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice, wrote that “White silence is incredibly powerful … It’s not neutral. It acts like a weapon.” It is certainly not unreasonable to call out others for not supporting important causes. Indeed, I have criticized faculty for remaining silent as colleagues were attacked or fired for voicing dissent about systemic racism, police abuse or other subjects. However, once both speech and silence are deemed as equally harmful, individuals are subject to public demonstrations of faith and fealty.

Even being insufficiently alert can result in demands for termination. Nearly 2,000 people signed a petition to fire Marymount Manhattan theater arts associate professor Patricia Simon after she appeared to fall asleep briefly during an anti-racist meeting held on Zoom. Student Caitlin Gagnon started a petition which accused Simon of “ignoring … racist and sizeist actions and words of the vocal coaches under her jurisdiction.” The message seems clear: You cannot be woke if you are not awake.

The concern over speech codes becoming speech commands would have been viewed as utterly absurd just a few years ago. Now, even calls for civility in dialogue have been denounced as racist dog whistles. Trinity College professor Johnny Williams condemned those who call for civility as “uphold[ing] white supremacist heteropatriarchal capitalist power.” When MSNBC host Joe Scarborough criticized those confronting people at restaurants and called for civility, University of Mississippi Professor James Thomas denounced civility and declared: “Don’t just interrupt a senator’s meal, y’all. Put your whole damn fingers in their salads.”

It is the ultimate expression of entitlement: People either must conform to your values or face public condemnation and threats. Your salad is no more inviolate than your speech. In a world where silence is violence and civility is complicity, there is little room for true free speech.

Reprinted with permission from JonathanTurley.org.

My Journey to Socialism: From 9-11 through the Great Recession

Here are three questions I would propose to the people who read this article:

  • Other than being a Red Diaper Baby, what is the process by which people came to socialism and how did they handle the disapproval of their families and long-term friends?
  • How does having a framework for capitalism make it easier to understand what’s going on?
  • In spite of their grand visions, why are many American socialists so hard to be around?

I Live Two Lives

Coming out

I recently found a letter I wrote to my liberal “Friends and Family” on September 23, 2001. In it I expressed my horror at the direction in which I saw our country headed. Looking back at it now, I feel a tenderness for that little blooming flower who was just dipping her toes into the water of socialism. In this letter I talked about how horrifying it was for me to watch the mainstream media inferring that most Americans supported Bush and his policy of “wanted, dead or alive” (yes, he really did say that.) However, I still believed that we should “find our enemies and punish them, but in a civilized way. I encouraged my friends to listen to alternative media, to not shop at stores that do not practice social responsibility. I encouraged my friends to “have a dialogue” with me about it. Most of them didn’t, and I’ve lost a few along the way.

Many of my liberal friends would tell me that Bill Gates was doing wonderful things by giving much of his income to charities to make the world a better place. They never questioned why one person should be in charge of making the decisions about what charity gets what amount of money and not another. Nor do they question the very premise of why one person can have that much money.

One of the things I’ve done in order to accommodate the two worlds I straddle is to create two separate Facebook pages. One is my Suzy Creamcheese page, taken from the Frank Zappa song and proposed by my partner after I kept referring to it as my “Fit for Friends and Family” page. The other is my political page. On Suzy Creamcheese I post about personal events in my life – moves, our new home, grandchildren, social interactions, jokes and observations. On my political page, I post what I really think about what’s going on in the world, as seen through the lens of a socialist.

I created my political page in 2011 as my political views started shifting further to the left and I discovered that many of my friends and family were offended by some of my posts. I was pretty excited about sharing my involvement with Occupy, protests and other leftist groups. However, these posts received tepid response, at best. One of my friends even wrote “Barbara – you need to rest. It’s hard work being a rebel!!!” Some responses were more confrontive, questioning my involvement and actions. To these I gave often lengthy responses, usually not appreciated. In 2016 I was accused by one friend of being responsible for Trump’s election because I refused to vote for Shillery. Even though I gave that friend the boot, I decided it would be more satisfying to keep those posts to my political page.

Right now, as I watch the posts on my Suzy Creamcheese page, I’m disgusted by the numbers of friends who are ecstatic over Biden’s pick for VP – Kamala Harris. It’s hard to imagine any politician, black or white, who has done more to harm blacks through her hard-core defense of keeping people in prison even when they have been unfairly convicted because of her “tough on crime” position.

In 2011, the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Plata that California’s prisons were so overcrowded that they violated the Constitution’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. Three years later, in early 2014, the state was ordered to allow non-violent, second time offenders who have served half of their sentence to be eligible for parole.1

Added to this is the liberal insistence on “Voting Blue No Matter Who”. I want to say to them – could the DNC have picked an even weaker candidate than Biden? But as he’s already said to his wealthy donors – “nothing would fundamentally change”.

I’m finding that I’m spending less and less time on my Suzy Creamcheese page and much more time on my political page. Big surprise.

From Flatland to Spaceland

Flatland is a book written by Edwin A. Abbott in 1884. The story revolves around people who are living in a two-dimensional world – Flatland. They know nothing of the third dimension. When the protagonist in the book, a square, who Abbott names Square, in a dream visits a one-dimensional world that is populated by points and called Lineland. Since the points cannot see Square in two dimensions, they try to kill him when he attempts to help them to see that there is another dimension besides the one in which they’re living. Ultimately, Square has a vision of a three-dimensional world. In the beginning he is only able to perceive a circle. In time he is able to see this world for himself – Spaceland. As he discovers that the leaders of Flatland, while being aware of Spaceland, are so fearful of letting the public know about this that anyone who tries to talk about it is considered a heretic and is either killed or sent to prison. Still, Square wants to spread the word. So, he returns to Flatland and tries to convince his fellow citizens that there’s a whole other dimension that exists called Spaceland. No one believes him, they think he’s crazy and the leaders of the state, seeing him as a threat to their power, arrest and imprison him.

Becoming aware of another dimension from which I could make sense of how our government is run, and all aspects of society, brought me into Spaceland – and there’s been no going back. My introduction to socialism taught me another way to imagine how societies could be organized which would include enough food, shelter, education, healthcare and jobs for all. There could be a world in which the citizens formed councils, with rotating members, so all decisions about societies were made by its citizens, with the focus being on taking care of all of them equally. My introduction to Spaceland came with the aftermath of the attacks on the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, when we were living in Oakland, CA.

I call our world Flatland, not because we call it so, but to make its nature clearer to you, my happy readers, who are privileged to live in Space. Doubtless we cannot see that other higher Spaceland now, because we have no eye in our stomachs.  It fills all Space, and what It fills, it is.

— Flatland, Edwin A. Abbott, 1884

Framework for capitalism

I learned, though my studies, that there are actually two types of capitalism. The first is from the profits made on paper – the finance capital of the banks. The second is industrial capitalism that comes from the production of real goods and services, including the infrastructure.

Understanding industrial vs financial capitalism

Most people think that making profits is a good thing, not understanding that much of the wealth that is generated by these profits comes from the bets – in the form of stock options – that capitalists place on whatever company is selling the goods and services. That fictitious wealth is not backed up by anything concrete, like gold. Therefore, when confidence in a particular company or industry is lost, their value will go down and the workers will be out of jobs. All the people who are not capitalists who invested in that company will also lose all the money they invested in it. Having a framework showed me that the stock market has little or nothing to do with the real capitalist economy which is getting worse and worse.

International politics is about controlling resources

Whether the 9-11 attacks were the result of a U.S. false flag operation or not, the outcome was clear. On September 11, 2001, attacks on America killed nearly 3,000 people. Osama Bin Laden, the head of Islamist terror group al-Qaeda, was quickly identified as the man responsible. While Bin Laden was executed in his hideout in Pakistan in 2011, we’re still fighting the war in Afghanistan today, supposedly to wipe out al-Qaeda and the Taliban. However, it’s much more likely that the reason is to strengthen political and military efforts to change policy elsewhere and to say to the rest of the Middle East, a large supplier of oil to the U.S., we’re the most powerful nation on earth so don’t mess with us. Or as Donald Rumsfeld put it on the evening of 9/11, “We need to bomb something else to prove that we’re, you know, big and strong and not going to be pushed around by these kinds of attacks.”

Racism is a social product of capitalism, not a psychological problem

Within a capitalist society, racism is encouraged on the job as a way to divide and conquer the working class. It’s important for the capitalists to do that because the working class is the most likely to make a revolution, as has been proven throughout history, but this can only be done if they are united. Many people think racism is a result of stupid thinking or ignorance. Understanding capitalism within a framework helps us to understand that there is something in it for capitalists to divide the races. If the races fight each other rather than joining together to fight the capitalists, the capitalists have a much better chance of keeping wages low. We can see this division not only being kept alive today, but actually becoming much more acceptable in right-wing circles, given the openly racist views of our current president and the actions of the police against demonstrators, particularly Black demonstrators.

Different social classes have different world views – we are not all middle class

Classism can be understood as including far more than the three classes that most people think of: working class; middle class; upper class. In fact, there are at least 6 classes which include the lower class, working class, middle class, upper-middle class and upper class, the upper-upper class.

When my daughter, who was raised by me in a solidly middle-class background, was planning her wedding, she envisioned a modest ceremony followed by a small celebration. She was convinced by my upper-middle class daughter-in-law, who had never had to work for a living – that she needed instead to have a big, blow-out affair. My daughter felt shamed into trying to do that until my partner, Bruce, and I talked with her. We explained the differences in class positions between her and her sister-in-law and that, in fact, my daughter and her fiancée could not afford a huge wedding, nor could I afford to help her pay for one. Neither could they afford to take out a loan which would have to be paid back over time or worse, to pay for everything on credit. We managed to get through to her and she ended up having a wonderful wedding on the beach in Santa Cruz, officiated by a friend, with a small gathering of friends in a reasonably-priced restaurant afterwards.

Many family conflicts that occur after siblings move out can be understood as social class conflicts which people pretend do not exist because, after all, “we’re family”.

Class politics, not individual personalities, are what controls political parties

I used to think that if I just voted for the Democrats, they would do the right thing. Then I learned from reading William Domhoff’s Who Rules America that Congress is actually controlled by lobbyists. Even if when elected to office they may have principled beliefs about wanting to provide a better life for all, once they’re in office they learn very quickly that in order to stay there they must do the lobbyists’ bidding. When reforms are put into place, they are quickly weakened or overturned. As soon as FDR started introducing the wonderful reforms of the Great Depression, capitalists started working to undercut them almost immediately. That practice has only become more extreme today.

Addressing the pressing need to halt climate change is not profitable for capitalists

I used to wonder why the US was not more active in controlling climate change until I understood that it’s not profitable for the upper-upper classes that own the companies that contribute to it. Scientists have been telling us for decades that our way of life is creating global warming, particularly from gas and oil emissions. In fact:

The U.S. military produces more greenhouse gas emissions than up to 140 countries.2

While many of us watch and agonize over this, carefully composting our food scraps and using recyclables while trying to limit our driving, these actions are but a butterfly in the face of a tsunami.

Everything — everything — took on a new meaning for me and I was able to connect all of it up to the inherent problems of capitalism; gender relations, wars, police repression, the stock market. The framework within which we live is capitalism, the basis of which is to make a profit, almost always at the expense of the workers and the planet.

Framework for Socialism

Once I learned that true socialism means that the community as a whole makes the decisions about what gets produced, how much gets produced, how much the workers are paid and what is done with the profits, it was hard for me to understand why working folks would not want that. However, because the mainstream media promotes socialism as the anti-Christ, most of them fear it, or think it’s not realistic. One question I’ve frequently been asked in discussions about socialism is to name a country that has succeeded as socialist.

It’s critical to understand that a single socialist country cannot thrive on its own if most of the world is based on a capitalist system. Then I would point to some of the countries that are practicing at least some form of socialism and how they compare favorably to capitalist countries in the form of free health care, jobs for all, education for all, low cost housing and increased literacy. These countries aspire to this and include Norway, The Netherlands, Denmark, Cuba and Venezuela. As far as the lack of political diversity in parties in these countries, it is understandable that opposition needs to be limited because capitalists will use any opportunity to overthrow a socialist government. The United States, with only two parties, is not exactly a bastion on political choice. Looking around the world today I would challenge a reader sympathetic to capitalism to name one country that is capitalist and provides a better life for most people.

In order for us to win the population over to socialism is to have a plan. To simply frame it within such a broad and utopian sounding way without presenting a coherent and understandable way to bring this about will not convince anyone. In Bruce Lerro’s article “Do You Socialists Have Any Plans? Why We Need Socialist Architects“, he outlines the need for a coherent plan for socialism, in order to convince people that socialism is a better alternative than capitalism.

9-11 – No Blood for Oil

As soon as the news came of the World Trade Towers being hit, something in me changed forever. Watching the news was surreal and terrifying. Talk of war began almost immediately, with “W” putting the blame on Afghanistan – with absolutely no proof. What was even more alarming was watching how people reacted to it – many of whom jumped on the bandwagon of war.

 Making signs

Shortly after the attack, my partner, Bruce – a life-long socialist – talked me into going to my first demonstration. Together we made signs to bring with us – “No War on Afghanistan”, “War is not the Answer”. Making the signs was so much fun. We got old cardboard cartons from the grocery stores along with some long lightweight sticks from lumber stores to hold them up. We brainstormed ideas for what to write. Bruce’s signs always had much more content than mine. I went for the fewer words, the better.

First demonstration

The gathering was held in Palo Alto, CA, just outside the Stanford University Campus. We had to park our car some distance from the crowd and I felt self-conscious carrying our signs. A political science faculty member, Joel Benin, gave an impassioned speech. I don’t remember what he said, but I was captivated. It was so sane, so true. People around us began chanting and we joined with them – NO WAR – NO WAR. This wasn’t a big demonstration, only a couple of hundred people, but everyone was in agreement that we could see where this drive to war was going, and we wanted to try to stop it. I didn’t grasp the full implications of where my country was headed or what would be my involvement in the fight to stop it. Ultimately, that was the beginning of my journey to socialism.

ANSWER and San Francisco march, January 18, 2003

On my birthday in 2003, as Bush started beating the drums to go to war against Iraq, shifting the blame from Afghanistan to Iraq with no evidence, a newly formed organization called Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER) organized a march in San Francisco which was attended by over 200,000 people. Bruce and I worked to make new signs to carry with us –and headed off to BART to join them. I learned that this rush to war had nothing to do with protecting our country and everything to do with having access to oil.

Try to imagine getting off the train at the Embarcadero station, climbing the stairs to the streets and being immediately engulfed by thousands of people, all holding signs, all chanting. Suddenly, the crowd started to move. We couldn’t see where the crowd started or where it ended – it was enormous. Together we marched, smiling and giving the power sign to strangers, with this huge mass, up Market Street. We marched to Civic Center – a walk that would normally take about 20 minutes but on that day, it took hours. People were singing, chanting, marching. A wonderful brass band joined us and marched alongside us, with people dancing in front of them. All along the sidewalks stood police with batons lined up watching us. All I could think was “what do they think we’re going to do?” Now I understand they were protecting Macy’s, the financial district and all the other corporate properties. As I began to learn about power hierarchies, I understood that they were also probably frightened. There were a whole lot more of us than there were of them. I walked up to them and started taking pictures, which was pretty naïve of me at the time. Today we see protestors trying to film demonstrations being beaten with billy clubs, tear-gassed, dodging flash bombs and worse by what has since turned into a militarized police force, dressed in full combat gear. We, the people, have become the enemy of the state.

Alternative media

I soon came to learn that the media that everyone in the US believed, including me, which presented itself as unbiased journalism, was anything but. Because their broadcast and print media are funded by the upper-upper middle class that does not want any kind of insurrection presented as a good thing, they’re very careful about how they frame their coverage. I learned how I had been indoctrinated into believing that Russia, China, Venezuela, Cuba were all bad. Nothing positive was ever reported about them.

During the time of the post 9-11 attacks, I discovered alternative media. Every morning I would listen to Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez on KPFA’s Democracy Now radio program. I would turn the radio on first thing in the morning to hear the latest developments of the anti-war movement, not wanting to hear them filtered by corporate media.

Waking Up 

We started attending demonstrations and talks, many sponsored by ANSWER. Through those talks I learned of the cruel, inhumane treatment of Palestinians by Israelis. A talk we went to by Elias Rashmawi was transformative for me. We met new people, made new friends and acquaintances, from anarchists to council communists to Leninist-Trotskyists.

Between 2003 and 2008 there were very few mass uprisings in the US. It was during this time that I began reading to learn more about capitalism and its alternatives – especially socialism. Some of the books that helped me to put a framework around what was happening included:

  • Romance of the American Communism by Vivian Gornick
  • Iron in Her Soul: Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and the American Left by Helen C. Camp
  • The Powers that Be: Processes of Ruling Class Domination in America by William Domhoff
  • Capitalism Hits the Fan and Democracy at Work by Richard Wolff
  • Alexandra Kollontai: A Biography by Cathy Porter
  • Parecon: Life After Capitalism by Michael Albert
  • Class by Paul Fussell
  • After Capitalism by David Schweickart
  • Introduction to Political Economy by Sackrey, Schneider and Knoedler

I bought a special bulletin board, which is still on my desk today, to hold the photographs of the radical women in history I admire and whose biographies I’ve read – Clara Zetkin, Alexandra Kollontai, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Rosa Luxemburg.

Working at Oakland Private Industry Council (PIC)

During this period, I left my long career in management in the corporate world to get an MA in career development and start working in the non-profit sector. My first substantial job was as a career counselor at a public career center in downtown Oakland that is part of the Career One Stop system. This experience was a major adjustment for me as I found myself helping former prisoners, immigrants, disabled workers and many working-class folks. I listened to their stories of struggle and their frustrated attempts to find work. I helped them learn how to talk about their past prison records and gaps in unemployment and find job training services. This experience had an enormous impact on me and brought me out of my comfortable, middle-class life. With them, I was able to see first-hand the mess the capitalist system had made of so many lives.

Coerced furloughs at California State University

2008 brought a tsunami to capitalism in the form of the stock market crash, the international banking crisis and the fallout during what was called “The Great Recession”. Many people lost their jobs, their homes, everything they had. I had a fairly decent sized nest egg in the form of an IRA which I lost 25% of during the crash. The country and the world were reeling. Workers were reeling. But in some places it took a long time for the recession to spread. For California State University it wasn’t until 2011 that they took action.

I was working at CSU East Bay (formerly CSU Hayward State) as a career and academic counselor when we were called into a meeting of all faculty and staff. We were given no notice of this meeting and most of us had never experienced anything like this. It included everyone working at both the main and branch campuses.

As we walked from our offices or the parking lot into 3 separate auditoriums to accommodate us all, we noticed the large numbers of city police as well as campus security surrounding us. While they seemed friendly and answered in a vague way when I asked why they were there, it certainly had an air of foreboding and hostility. Once seated in the auditoriums with our workmates, we watched either live or through a monitor as the university president began speaking.

His opening remarks were fairly boiler-plate – thanking us for being there (as if we had a choice) and telling us how much he appreciated all the hard work we do. Quickly, he turned to the tanked economy and told us that funding had been cut by $500 million to the entire Cal State system.

Then – boom. He told us that there would be furloughs, pay cuts, reduced hours and layoffs. Who knows what he said after that because we were all in shock. When I came back down to earth I heard him say that everyone should now go back to their departments and campuses to learn each individual’s fate. Now it made sense why they had the cops there – preparing for workers’ reactions. But no, we all remained good little cogs in the wheel and did what we were told, in shock and silence.

As people returned to their departments, many had to wait for hours to learn they had been laid off. When they were given that notice, they were watched as they gathered their belongings and were escorted off campus. Our branch campus learned we would have a partial furlough for all of us which consisted of working 4 8-hour days, rather than five. For most of us it was a relief, but for some it created financial strain.

As the days, weeks and months wore on we learned that the layoffs and furloughs didn’t translate to less work, but more. We were still expected to fulfill all our duties – just in 8 hours less time. We were also expected to pick up the duties of others who had been laid off. The departments stopped hiring adjuncts and simply gave more classes to full-time faculty and lecturers, at the same pay. While we proles were struggling, we learned that during the 2009-2010 academic year when the budget crisis should have been addressed, the administrative executives were getting enormous raises. It didn’t take long for the anger to begin to boil. But, as with anything else in the world of academia, action came slowly. The strongest union, the CFA, organized demonstrations and pickets, all of which I took part in.

2011 – Occupy Oakland

After the 2008 financial crisis and the following recession, Occupy Wall Street burst on the scene in September 2011, sparking a fire that began to spread across the country and the world. We immediately joined with Occupy Oakland and Occupy San Francisco. Those were some of the most thrilling – and frustrating – times of my life. One of the most encouraging things to see today is that Occupy still exists and is rumbling back to life in some cities.

November 2, 2011, Occupy Oakland coordinated to shut down west coast ports to make a statement that we would not go back to “business as usual”. The shutdown was a way of protesting the treatment of longshoremen and truck drivers, who were forced to work as independent contractors and fired for wearing union t-shirts by port owners EGT and Goldman Sachs.  We marched with 200,000 others from Oscar Grant Plaza to the ports. While the ILWU did not openly support the blockade, the rank and file and many former labor leaders did. Clarence Thomas, secretary/treasurer of the ILWU, was fully committed to this blockade, as he had been for many past blockades. I’ll never forget the power of the first speech I heard from him which began – “I’m Clarence Thomas – the REAL Clarence Thomas”. Jack Heyman, also with the ILWU, was another powerful and persuasive speaker.

We joined a few committees that came out of Occupy Oakland, including Strike Debt and the labor committee.

Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism

In August 2012 as Bruce and I became more disappointed in the Occupy movement committees, many of which did not seem to embody the values of Occupy, we decided that it was time to form our own organization. At first that seemed like a lot of work to me, and I also wondered how we would get people to join us. We had many meetings, just the two of us, to hash out the answers to these questions. Our main purpose was to provide a forum for exposing capitalism and spread the word to the public.

In April 2014 our first step was to create a website, Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism. Through our Occupy contacts we found a wonderful tech guy who, with our input, created the website that we still have today. The creation of this was so much fun. The first area we wanted to cover included telling people who we are and what we’re about. It included our mission statement – which was to become one of many eddies for:

  • Exposing the predatory, incompetent and irrational practices of capitalists to direct human social life.
  • Engage in collective political actions that throw a monkey-wrench into and slow down or disrupt the profit-making mechanisms of the system.
  • Weave and expand the fabric of a growing body of workplaces under worker self-management.

How do we want to do it?

We aim to educate:

  • Electronically by posting news stories once or twice a day; writing perspectives of our own which we post frequently.
  • Engaging in face-to-face settings, either by forming groups ourselves or by joining other groups working towards our common goals.

Bruce did most of the writing while I learned – with very little instruction – how to navigate and manage the site. My strong editing skills were then put to good use. We then got serious about spreading our message through Facebook and Twitter

During that same year we also started having regular meetings in our home with people we met through Occupy and other groups. We started with a book club, then moved on to a forum. We had a core group of about 6 people. One of the most important people in our group was a friend from South Korea. He was the one who convinced us that we could have a much broader audience by focusing on our electronic outreach.

By 2016 Bruce, who had previously dismissed Facebook as trite, was persuaded by me to create his own Facebook page and exploded onto the scene, joining numerous groups and sharing our daily posts to these groups and posting his own observations of the decay of capitalism. We now have 3,300 followers on Facebook. We were able to attract a large number of followers by “promoting” our articles. However, when FB caught on to many of the words we were using – socialism, anarchism – revolution – they refused to stop taking our money to spread the word. We call it censorship, Facebook calls it moderation. 

Writing Articles

As a result of my reading books about socialism and, in particular, important women socialists, I began to write articles. My first article was written in 2016 around all the hysteria of voting for Hillary because she’s a woman. Anyone who looked at her record could see she was nowhere close to being a liberal. She was a warmonger, laughing when Gaddafi was killed even though he and Libya had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. Gaddafi was a threat to US imperialism because he wanted to empower Africa and create a new African economic system. She was quoted as saying, “We came, we saw, he died” after being told of his murder.

My very first article, Feminism is Bigger Than Gender: Why I’ll be Happy in Hell Without Hillary got quite a bit of attention. It was picked up by respected leftist online journals like CounterPunch and was shared widely in social media. I got plenty of feedback, mostly good, but also some attacks. I was learning to see what life is like for an “out” socialist in a capitalist society. Being told by one FB friend that I was the reason that Hillary lost to Trump earned her the boot from my page.

That article was followed, among others, by:

Democracy at Work

We went to a talk by Marxian economist, Richard Wolff in 2015. I was amazed by how he was able to explain capitalist economics in simple terms. We read his books Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What to do About It, 2009 and; Democracy at Work, a Cure for Capitalism, 2012.

In Capitalism Hits the Fan, Wolff explains how the deep economic structures in the relationship of wages to profits, of workers to boards of directors, and of debts to income account for the crisis.

In Democracy at Work he points out the lack of democracy in the economy and in politics. He proposes real democracy with workers directing their own workplaces, as the basis for a genuine political democracy. As examples, he describes worker-owned cooperatives in which the workers own the means of production and decide together what they will produce, how much they will produce, how much they will be paid and what they will do with their profits. These cooperatives exist all over the world, the largest is in the Catalan region of Spain called Mondragon. Many people think that all worker cooperatives are small – bakeries, grocery stores, artists’ coops. But Mondragon Corporation has 266 companies, employing 80,818 people. They even have their own university with 5,000 students. 

Spaceland – Having a Framework:

My participation in both the 9-11 and Occupy protests pushed me further towards understanding how capitalism is at the root of most, if not all, of the problems we’re facing in the U.S. as well as all over the world.

Once I had a framework for understanding world events through the lens of socialism, there was no going back. All the pieces of the puzzle began to fit together. That framework incorporates every aspect of human life. I couldn’t wait to meet socialists! What are these folks like who are making the revolution?

Socialists are No Bargain: Anti-social Socialists

Working with people who are socialists has been surprisingly difficult. My picture of socialists was very naïve. I imagined that they were skilled at welcoming and encouraging new people to their organizations, that they would be great at supporting each other.

We were very disappointed by the quality and organization of some of the meetings that formed from Occupy Oakland, finding many of them off-track and with members who didn’t have the basic social skills like asking a person “How are you? How are things going?” They lack skills like tracking things a person may have told you and following up with a question like “what’s happening with that project you were working on?” Or they wear either old jeans and t-shirts or mismatched, strange clothes and hats and look like something out of a movie that could be called “Your Worst Nightmare Blind Date”. They are skills like showing up to meetings on time and remembering to tell others if a meeting is cancelled.

In 2018 we moved to Olympia, WA. We didn’t know anyone here, so we started trying to build community before we got here, joining a number of socialist groups we found through Facebook. Along my journey to Spaceland, I discovered how many socialists don’t know how to be….social. Many of the members are extremely socially awkward. It’s the strangest thing and I have no answer for it, beyond thinking that their entire worlds are focused on the struggle. But over and over, from all the people we met through ANSWER, Occupy, Olympia Assembly, the IWW, United Public Workers for Action – UPWA, even in Northern California Bay Area Worker Cooperatives – NoBAWC – people seem to lack the basic social skills. One new comrade replied “nice try, FBI” when I asked him his last name.

I discovered that young anarchists can come tearing into your house, eat you out of house and home, and disappear for long periods of time. They come into your lives for a brief time, then disappear, often to resurface 18 months later. They’ll schedule a phone call with you and then forget and sleep through it. I also learned that there are many cranky old Leninists and Trotskyists who are only too happy to sell you their newspaper and then go into a rant about why whatever talk or demonstration you’re attending is a joke and why you should join their party. They’re also happy to quote long phrases from the 5th International.

I understand that many of them are so focused on helping to change the world that there’s just not room for social niceties. I want to try to convince them that, without those warm social interactions, it’s going to be hard for them to draw people into socialism. I still love all of them, though, cranky or not.

Socialists are often a combination of Pointland and Spaceland. They’re damaged, and they’ve never learned the rules and regularities for social engagement like my family and friends have on Flatland.

 Conclusion

Once you’ve entered Spaceland, there’s no going back to Flatland. So even though I still inhabit two worlds, I view everything through the lens of Spaceland – which can be very challenging. Maybe one day I’ll simply fuse my two Facebook accounts into one, sit back and watch the sparks fly. In fact, those sparks have already begun as I’ve started introducing some unwelcome views on what a joke the Democratic Party is and how far they’ve fallen from the liberalism of FDR. But I’m prepared – let the prairie fire begin!

  1. Daily Beast, February 11, 2019.
  2. Newsweek, June 25, 2019.

CDC Bombshell: Only Six Percent Of ‘Covid Deaths’ From Only Covid!

Over the weekend the Centers for Disease Control dropped a bombshell report on coronavirus/Covid deaths: of the approximately 165,000 "Covid deaths" less than ten thousand died from Covid. The rest - a vast majority - had on average 2.6 serious additional diseases, with the addition in most cases of extreme advanced age. Is it time to begin litigating the damage done to the US and the world from the lockdown policies? Also today: the "largest protest in German history" over the weekend, as estimated millions turned out to oppose mandatory masks and lockdowns. Similar protests took place in London and in Spain. In the US...mostly silence. Today on the Liberty Report:

Escalation in Portland

If there is a point at which we realize we are taking our lives in our hands by just going downtown and marching in the streets, this might be it.

Last night a man was shot to death near the Justice Center in downtown Portland, where protests have been taking place every night for over three months. Details are still coming in, but it appears the deceased was a heavily-armed member of the far right. Another member of the far right was just arrested this morning in the working class Portland suburb of Milwaukie. He was arrested for having fired into a crowd the day before with live ammunition, apparently, in a separate incident from the killing at the Justice Center.

For those of you who might just be tuning in here, I’ll try to set the stage.

Prior to Trump, prior to the pandemic, Portland was a city experiencing multiple crises, as with many other cities across the country, but perhaps more so. Between the last two censuses Portland lost more than half of its Black population due to gentrification, a phenomenon known to many as ethnic cleansing. During that time, Portland also achieved #1 status in the nation in terms of the numbers of Black people killed by the police, per capita. Portland also achieved the status as the most rent-burdened city in the country, as determined by the cost of rent relative to the average income of renters in the city. For many comfortable homeowners living in the hills of west of downtown and shopping in the malls of Beaverton, the reality that they were living in a city that was experiencing multiple acute crises may have passed them by. We live in a very divided city, in so many ways. Just take a day-long walk down Burnside Boulevard from the hills west of downtown to the desolate trailers in outer southeast, and you’ll get the picture of the class structure of this society.

Prior to Trump, prior to the pandemic, groups like Don’t Shoot PDX and a multiplicity of other networks focused on police brutality, institutional racism, gentrification and the unaffordability of housing for most Black and working class people were active on the streets, online, and in electoral politics. While the state government is dominated by the interests of big landlords, like the Democratic Party everywhere, in local government on the city and county levels, increasing numbers of solidly progressive people have been getting in, in the city council as well as among elected officials in the judicial branch, such as the District Attorney who just dropped the charges of so many protesters who have been arrested over the past months.

Long prior to Trump, Portland was a hotbed of conflict between fascists and antifascists, between militant believers in white supremacy and militant antiracists. As with cities like Minneapolis, there is a lot of history to this conflict. The streets of Portland, as with the streets of Minneapolis and other cities, were contested ground. Oregon was founded as a white homeland, and Portland was a national home to organized racism for a long time, until relatively recently, and the supporters of these groups have not all moved to Idaho.

The combination of Trump’s election and the social forces he continually strives to unleash, the pandemic, the growing numbers of blatantly racist police murders across the country, the economic crash, the apparent withdrawal of any more real help from the federal government, and the complete incompetence and/or captured-by-the-landlords nature of the state authorities in Oregon and elsewhere, have altogether created a massive powder keg. Add to that a tremendous increase in gun sales over the past several months across the country, very much including Oregon. Add to that wannabe vigilantes speaking at the Republican National Convention, and real vigilantes in Wisconsin being praised by the president, with the blood still fresh on the streets of Kenosha.

OK, stage-setting over.

It’s always been mythology that in the USA the First Amendment gives people the right to peacefully protest. It’s always been mythology that when people commit acts of civil disobedience, such as marching or sitting down in the street, that they will generally be gingerly carried off with one cop taking each limb, carrying the arrested to an awaiting vehicle, and carefully placing them inside it. It’s always been mythology that when there are two opposing groups of protesters, the police are there to act as a neutral party to keep them from hurting each other. Under certain circumstances, peaceful protests go off without a hitch, police escort marchers in the streets, and they keep protesters from killing each other, but there’s nothing predictable about any of these things going that way. In fact, most often, they don’t go like that at all, in Portland, or in most US cities.

And yes, most US cities are Democrat-run, as Trump is so fond of pointing out. There are reasons for that. Unfortunately, these Democrats, like their Republican counterparts, are largely also wealthy landowners, such as Mayor Ted Wheeler, and/or politicians paid off by corporations, incapable of doing anything more than mouthing progressive slogans while they screw the entire working class over and over again with their actual actions. And what is especially telling is that in these progressive hotbeds, the police forces are full of unaccountable human rights abusers and members of the far right, and most of each city’s budgets goes to them every year. And despite the fact that these police departments are constantly losing lawsuits brought against them by the citizens they kill and maim, their killer cops not only almost never go to prison, but they almost all keep their six-figure jobs as our armed protectors.

While it is mythology that there’s anything like a set of rules to adhere to for proper protesting etiquette, to avoid getting attacked by police or fascists, for example, or to get positive media coverage, or any media coverage at all, it is true that there are general tendencies in a given country at a given historical moment in terms of how things will go the vast majority of the time. And to the extent that it was generally the case that you didn’t used to have to worry about people shooting at each other with live ammunition at protest rallies in front of a federal courthouse in the center of a city in this country a few years ago, this expectation is increasingly not valid.

Whoever shot the heavily-armed member of the far right downtown last night, the context was that other members of the far right were spraying crowds with gunfire, a massacre of protesters had just been committed in Wisconsin by a member of the far right, and hundreds of beefy white people with big flags throughout downtown Portland were involved with vehicular assaults on pedestrians and other vehicles, and lots of people were spraying each other with bear mace, hitting, and kicking each other.

Although no one has been killed by a politically-motivated left-winger or anarchist in the United States in decades to my knowledge, while members of the far right kill us regularly at this point, if it indeed is the case that this man was killed in the course of a conflict with a counter-protester, this really shouldn’t come as any surprise. Many people we might broadly define as antifascists embrace armed self-defense and do shooting practice regularly, from Anti-Racist Action to the John Brown Gun Club, and new groups like that seem to be forming daily, along with neighborhood associations forming for people to defend one another from the coming waves of evictions.

Knowing that the police are either unwilling or unable to effectively police events such as the Trump Cruise and ensuing urban combat that we saw last night, given that going downtown to protest, whether you’re protesting in a way that the authorities deem to be “peaceful” or “violent,” you are risking your life by being there.

Of course, you’re also risking your life every time you cross a busy street, or ride your bicycle down one. And when you’re in a crowd of enthusiastic, community-minded protesters from all walks of life, of all ages, catching up with each other, playing music, shouting at the mayor, and taking over the streets, it’s easy to feel invincible. At least for me it is. It’s easy to rationalize away fear, and perhaps for some of us more than others, easy to feel like these bad things can’t possibly happen to me. But if they happen more and more often, people start to change their orientation.

Standing on the precipice we’re all standing on right now here in the USA, my mind delivers me historical parallels, as a sort of desperate measure, trying to make sense of it all. I’m not sure how relevant any of them are, but any of them might be. There are too many different factors that go into creating the future.

But at least in retrospect, some things seem clear. Retrospect is good like that. The massacres at Kent State and Jackson State, along with so many more killings by the authorities of Black radicals especially, in no small part gave rise to networks such as the short-lived Black Liberation Army and the Weathermen. Developments like these tend to reinforce the maxim that violence is made inevitable through the suppression of more peaceful means.

Similarly, in Northern Ireland there was a civil rights movement, that sought equality for the oppressed Catholic minority in the Occupied Six Counties. The movement was consciously modeled after the civil rights movement in the US. Like its counterpart in the US, it was met with tremendous violence, which ultimately took the forms of racist pogroms in 1969, the burning of hundreds of homes by anti-Catholic mobs, a massive propaganda campaign of fake news brought on by the authorities, vilifying the largely Catholic movement, and ultimately a massacre of movement organizers by British troops. All of these events of 1969 and 1970 ultimately led people to conclude that peaceful marches were not working if they would just end in massacres. And this understanding gave rise to the armed resistance movement that followed, which in turn gave rise to a conflict that took the lives of thousands of people over the following quarter century.

There are those examples of fires being fueled by the authorities. Then there are other examples, when governments with intelligent leaders who know they’re in a race against time act decisively. A somewhat random example that comes to mind is how at the end of the Second World War, after years of a terrible occupation that involved a famine and many thousands of deportations and executions, with many more shipped off to work as forced laborers, after the Netherlands was liberated by Allied forces from Canada, the US, Poland and elsewhere, but also in no small part including by Dutch resistance forces as well, the first thing the government did when it came back from exile was collect all the guns that were now all over the country. They were desperately concerned that after all these years of Nazi occupation, there could be terrible conflict in society between those who resisted in some form, and those who collaborated to one degree or another. If there were to be such conflicts, they wanted to make sure that they did not involve firearms.

My orientation is admittedly Eurocentric. I’ve spent most of my adult life somewhere between North America and Europe, and much less of it anywhere else in the world. One of the guests I interviewed for one of my livestream shows/podcasts recently, an Argentinian anarchist and professor at the University of Massachusetts, Graciela Monteagudo, says the fascist comparisons aren’t so relevant, that the divisions in US society and the incompetent, corrupt state ostensibly at the helm of it are much more like a typical kleptocratic banana republic than a well-oiled fascist fighting machine.

Either way, if there is a point at which we realize we are taking our lives in our hands by just going downtown and marching in the streets, this might be it. What comes next, I don’t know that anybody knows – I sure don’t. I only know a little, mostly selective tidbits about what has happened before. The time and place we’re in now is not like those other times and places, however. It’s new, and in so many ways, as they never tire of pointing out in the news, unprecedented.

Trump Must Back Iraq Withdrawal Promise With Action

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Earlier this month, while meeting with the Iraqi Prime Minister, President Trump reaffirmed his intent to remove all US troops from Iraq. “We were there and now we’re getting out. We’ll be leaving shortly,” the president told reporters at the time. 

Although President Obama should never have sent US troops back into Iraq in 2016, it is definitely well past time to remove them as quickly as possible.

Over the weekend, the Administration announced it would be drawing down troops currently in Iraq from 5,200 to 3,500. That’s a good start.

One big roadblock to finally leaving Iraq alone is President Trump’s de facto Secretary of War, Mike Pompeo. Although he’s supposed to be the top US diplomat, Pompeo is a bull in a china shop. He seems determined to start a war with Iran, China, Russia, Venezuela, and probably a few more countries.

Unfortunately there is a pattern in this Administration where President Trump announces the withdrawal of troops from one of the seemingly endless conflicts we are involved in and an Administration official – often Pompeo – “clarifies” the president’s statement to mean the opposite of what the president has just said.

When the president was questioned over the weekend about a timetable for the US withdrawal from Iraq, he turned to Pompeo for an answer. Pompeo’s response did not inspire much hope. “As soon as we can complete the mission,” said Pompeo. What is the mission? Does anyone know? Aside from “regime change” for Iran, that is.

At his speech accepting the Republican Party’s nomination for re-election last week, Trump declared, “unlike previous administrations, I have kept America OUT of new wars -- and our troops are coming home.” That sounds good, but how can he achieve that goal if the people he hires to carry out that policy not only disagree with him but seem to be working against him?

The US invasion of Iraq 17 years ago was correctly described at the time by the late NSA Director Bill Odom as “the greatest strategic disaster in American history.” After a relentless barrage of lies about former US ally Saddam Hussein having “weapons of mass destruction,” the US attack and destruction of Iraq did not bring the peace and prosperity promised by the neocon war promoters.

Instead, the US “liberation” of Iraq killed a million Iraqis, most of whom were civilians. It destroyed Iraq’s relatively prosperous economy. It did not result in a more peaceful or stable Middle East. The US had no idea how to remake Iraqi society and in picking and choosing who could participate in post-invasion Iraq the US helped facilitate the rise of al-Qaeda and ISIS. A secular Iraq had been turned into a sectarian incubator for terrorists and extremists. And the biggest winner in the war was Iran, who the US has demonized as an enemy for over four decades.

Yes, General Odom was right. It was a strategic disaster. Turning the US into a global military empire is also a strategic disaster. Trump’s promise to bring troops home from overseas wars sounds very good. But it’s time to see some real action. That might mean some people who disagree with the president need to be fired.

American Workers Have Been Given a Raw Deal Throughout the Trump Era

Although Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed that American workers are “thriving” during his presidency, this contention rings hollow.  The mishandled coronavirus pandemic, of course, has created levels of unemployment, hunger, and misery in the United States not seen since the Great Depression.  But even in the years before the pandemic, when Trump claimed he had created “the greatest economy in history,”  that economy left American workers far behind.

During pre-pandemic years, the labor market was shifting, producing a rising percentage of workers concentrated in low-paying jobs.  A study released by the Brookings Institution in late 2019 reported that 44 percent of American workers (53 million people) earned low wages, with median annual pay of $17,950 per year.  Low-wage work was often precarious, with unpredictable schedules, reduced benefits, and unsteady employment.  Low-wage workers usually remained stuck in these jobs, and even workers in the middle class were “more likely to move down the occupation ladder than up.”  Unable to cover their living costs, substantial numbers of Americans worked at two or more jobs.

Overall, wages remained stagnant during the Trump era, with gains in take-home pay eaten up by inflation, leaving “real wages” for workers the same as 40 years before.  By contrast, the compensation received by their bosses rose dramatically, leading to an executive-to-worker pay ratio of 339 to 1.

Millions of American workers also suffered injury and even death on the job.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2018 alone private sector employers reported 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses.  Fatal work injuries numbered 5,280.

Moreover, despite legal restrictions on child labor, it remained remarkably widespread.  According to the U.S. Labor Department, in 2017 there were 2.5 million child workers in the United States.  Child labor was particularly common in agriculture, where it was perfectly legal for a 12-year old to work 50 to 60 hours a week in the fields, exposed to toxic pesticides and extreme heat.  When Human Rights Watch interviewed child tobacco workers in four Southern states in 2019, most reported symptoms consistent with acute nicotine poisoning, including nausea, vomiting, headaches, and dizziness.

American workers faced other kinds of mistreatment, as well.  Enormous numbers filed official complaints of gender, race, age, and religious discrimination.  In late 2017, a Pew Research poll of U.S. working women found that 42 percent said they faced gender discrimination on the job.  Another survey, conducted in 2018, reported that 38 percent of women and 13 percent of men claimed that they had experienced sexual harassment at work.  McDonald’s, one of the largest employers in the United States (with over 800,000 employees), became notorious for the sexual attacks experienced by its workers, who even staged a nationwide strike over the issue.

Perhaps most significant, American workers were largely stripped of a key protection against exploitation:  labor unions.  Thanks to union activism, union members are more likely than other workers to have good wages, employer-provided health insurance, paid vacations, sick leave, and pension plans.  And even workers without unions gain when union agitation leads to improved working conditions and pro-worker legislation.  But unscrupulous U.S. employers effectively used legal and illegal tactics—including harassing union organizing drives, firing union sympathizers, and waging vicious, anti-union campaigns—to deprive workers of union representation.  As a result, although nearly two-thirds of Americans approved of unions and roughly half of unorganized workers said they would join one if they could, union membership in the United States fell to an all-time low, with severe consequences for workers.

But how does the record of United States compare with that of other advanced industrial countries?

In 2016 (the last year for which comparative statistics are available), the death rate for U.S. workers on the job was considerably higher than the rate in comparable nations—more than twice as high as in Japan, three times higher than in Canada, and more than five times higher than in Sweden.  Moreover, in 2019, U.S. unemployment insurance benefits were considerably lower than in many advanced industrial societies.

Among the three dozen industrial nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the United States, in 2019, was exceeded only by Latvia in having the highest percentage of low-wage workers.  This is not entirely surprising, as the U.S. minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 an hour since 2009, placing the United States behind Luxembourg ($13.78), Australia ($12.14), France ($11.66), New Zealand ($11.20), Germany ($10.87), Netherlands ($10.44), Belgium ($10.38), Britain ($10.34), Ireland ($9.62), Canada ($9.52), and Israel ($7.94).

Furthermore, American workers put in many more hours on the job than did their foreign counterparts.  At the beginning of 2020, full-time U.S. workers had a longer work week than full-time workers in 24 OECD nations.  In addition, the United States remained the only country with an advanced industrial economy that did not guarantee workers a paid vacation.  The European Union guaranteed workers at least 20 paid vacation days a year, with some countries mandating as many as 30.  Although the United States had no legally mandated paid holidays, most advanced industrial countries offered at least six per year.  As a result, close to one in four Americans had no paid vacation and no paid holidays, while the average American worker in the private sector received only 10 paid vacation days and six paid holidays—far less time free of employment responsibilities than in almost every other country with an advanced economy.  The United States also remained the only advanced industrial nation that failed to guarantee paid maternity leave to workers.

When it comes to unions, the story is much the same.  American unions represented a much smaller portion of the workforce than labor organizations in comparable societies.  In 2019, when union membership in the United States fell to 10.1 percent, it stood at 90.4 percent in Iceland, 66.1 percent in Sweden, 54.2 percent in Belgium, 34.3 percent in Italy, 25.9 percent in Canada, 24.2 percent in Ireland, and 23.2 percent in Britain.  Union membership in OECD nations averaged 16 percent.

Not surprisingly, in a 2020 report, the International Trade Union Confederation, representing 200 million workers in 163 countries, ranked the United States as the worst among the nations with the world’s leading economies for workers’ rights.

Against this backdrop, it’s hard to take seriously Trump’s claim that U.S. workers have thrived during his presidency.  Indeed, even before the disasters wrought by the coronavirus pandemic, American workers received a raw deal.

O, Homo Contractus, Where Art Thou?

“Deep State” derives from a John le Carré spy novel.  It is an expression bandied about rather frequently these days. It’s in danger of losing its meaning the more it becomes just another little buzzword from Hiveworld, busy bobbing among the festive fields of corn-cockle until exhaustion sets in.  There is a real, non-fictional Deep State, and it’s important that we come to understand what it is, before we are driven shallow by the incessant digital stim of the trite and trivial from the cybersphere of internet ‘updates.’

One of the more mature and sober descriptions of what the Deep State is, and what it does, came from former GOP congressional staffer Mike Lofgren in a discussion, back in 2014, “The Deep State: Hiding in Plain Sight,” with Bill Moyers.  Lofgren spent 28 years working on the Senate and House Budget committees.  He described the Deep State as “a hybrid of corporate America and the national security state.”  It is a place, says Moyers, “where elected and unelected figures collude to protect and serve powerful vested interests.”

“We’re having a situation where the Deep State is essentially out of control,” Lofgren tells Moyers. “It’s unconstrained. Since 9/11 we have built the equivalent of three Pentagons around the DC metropolitan area, holding defense contractors, intelligence contractors, and government civilians involved in the military-industrial complex [MIC].”  Ostensibly, they all work together to keep America safe under the emotional rubric of “Never Again.”

But there’s more.  The Deep State has literally declared the Internet a battlefield. There’s no democracy on a battlefield.  To help keep the Internet safe from perceived enemies, the MIC, or Deep State, has contracted with corporations, such as Amazon, Google and Facebook to police the cybersphere by gathering information on each and every human online and sharing it with the government.  Thus, the Deep State spends a lot of time searching for and stalking the alleged spies and traitors amongst us, while the corporations are given the green light to exploit and play with our deepest desires. In short, the Deep State is at war with privacy. We are the last frontier. (Think of your obesity as ‘economic expansion,’ and an act of ‘patriotism’. Ten hut!)

In “Anatomy of the Deep State,” a follow-up essay to the Moyers interview, Lofgren writes:

That the secret and unaccountable Deep State floats freely above the gridlock between both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue is the paradox of American government in the 21st century: drone strikes, data mining, secret prisons and Panopticon-like control on the one hand; and on the other, the ordinary, visible parliamentary institutions of self-government declining to the status of a banana republic amid the gradual collapse of public infrastructure.

I thought of Moyers and Lofgren’s discussion as I reconsidered “Homo Contractus,” perhaps the most important chapter of Edward Snowden’s recently released memoir, Permanent Record.  Snowden, the repentant whistleblowing Deep Stater, expands on and clarifies the inherent corruption and darkness of Deep State doings, and paints an inescapable picture of a dystopian nightmare underway.

Gone are the days of public service, of wanting to be a shiny, unhailed cog in the machinery of American Exceptionalism — flaws and all — such as Snowden’s father and grandfather had gladly been.  “I had hoped to serve my country,” writes Snowden. “but instead I went to work for it. This is not a trivial distinction.”

Moyers and Lofgren provide us with an abstract overview of the situation, but Snowden brings the nuts and bolts. To get around congressional hiring limits, Deep State agencies hire private contractors who are off the books — no real public accountability for deeds, and, in most cases, we don’t even know who they are.  Lofgren has estimated, “There are now 854,000 contract personnel [as of 2014] with top-secret clearances — a number greater than that of top-secret-cleared civilian employees of the government.”  They are virtually a whole sub-species of worker that Snowden refers to as “homo contractus.”  They run the surveillance state show — some of them looking for enemies of the state, and others on the look-out for enemies of Deep State doings. In the war zone, they call the shots without any input from the public.

Members of Congress go along with this arrangement, says Snowden,  because “[Deep State] directors and congresspeople are rewarded, after they retire from office, by being given high paying positions and consultancies with the very companies they’ve just enriched. From the vantage of the corporate boardroom, contracting functions as governmentally assisted corruption.”  Private companies wait for public servants to obtain top security clearances, then they poach them through Job Fairs, where public servants are offered huge salary increases doing the same job for a private company — and, as Lofgren’s statistic indicates, many are jumping the ship of state to go yachting with the corporates.

Take Snowden, he was hired at such a fair by a BAE sub-shell company called COMSO (Snowden never learned what the acronym stood for).  At the interview he negotiated his salary up, at the recruiter’s insistence, because a 3-5% kick-back to the recruiter, from the government, made it worthwhile. He went from $30K to $60K in the negotiation play. Says Snowden, “Bumping up salaries was in everyone’s interest—everyone’s, that is, except the taxpayer’s.” He was a contractor, but he was doing the same work as a public servant. Later in his career he was hired by Dell computers, then Booz Allen Hamilton, each time merely switching business cards, but working at CIA headquarters for the CIA, a homo contractus spook among the spooks. No public accountability.

Snowden says homo contractus brings with it a different kind of energy — something “sinister.”  Not governed by a sense of public service, a certain arrogance and elitism become the filters of their deeds.  The military-industrial complex is bound together in a negative agreement — homo contractus hiring is a skirting of the law, and a profit-making arrangement.  Contractors, says Snowden, often see their work as “inherently apolitical, because they’re based on data, whose prerogatives are regarded as preferable to the chaotic whims of the common citizen.” In other words, they know better than democracy.  Snowden adds, “That can be intoxicating, at least for a teetotaler like me. Also, all of a sudden you have not just the license but the obligation to lie, conceal, dissemble, and dissimulate.”

Out of this comes governmental policies that push and sustain the interests — not of the commonweal — but of the parallel government that exists between private players and the Deep State.  The net result is a revolving door between the ever-expanding Intelligence Community and private companies, each sharing in the spoils of the public purse.  So, we read of DARPA directors jumping to Google, and Google’s work with drones for the Pentagon. Amazon ends up devising  web services for the CIA, and Jeff Bezos’ other project, The Washington Post, becomes the conduit of choice for anonymous intelligence agency leaks.  We discover that Facebook sells the information of its users to private firms, and experiments with human emotions that may have relevance to intelligence agencies.

It can get even more sinister.  If the Deep State wants to go to war, without public approval, and for profit motives, it can use its technology to spy on individuals to uncover compromat, such as what the Bush administration ordered in 2003, just before the invasion of Iraq, when it tried to dig up dirt on UN Security Council members to strong-arm them into voting for war. When their deeds were leaked, the US went to war anyway — backed only by phony WMD claims.  Hundreds of thousands of casualties have ensued.

It may yet get even more sinister.  Many of the cybersecurity firms that operate today are manned by analysts and techies who are themselves products of homo contractus. Crowdstrike features ex-FBI agents. They were also “politically aligned” with the DNC, which is interesting, if for no other reason, than it was the FBI’s James Comey who did as much damage as anyone to Hillary’s campaign. It raises the question whether there were homo contractuses on duty during the events that unfolded. You just don’t know: Edward Snowden’s business card read “Dell,” but he worked for the CIA. Hmph.

More bewildering was the testimony that Kevin Mandia of Mandiant gave before a Congressional subcommittee on intelligence back in 2011.  It was double-take stuff:

The majority of threat intelligence is currently in the hands of the government. Indeed, more than 90% of the breaches MANDIANT responds to are first detected by the government, not the victim companies. That means that 9 in every 10 companies we assist had no idea they had been compromised until the government notified them.

Gobsmack time.  But it gets better. Mandia has reported in the past an incident where he slid a folder across the desk of a skeptical corporate executive (he was confident in his company’s security integrity) and the exec is described as being shocked to find in the folder deep secrets of the company.  Mandiant was hired.

Mandiant’s Kevin Mandia broke his cyberteeth at the Pentagon as an intelligence officer.  After fumbling around for a few years, including a stint at ManTech — a cybersecurity company full of ex-spooks — he and his Mandiant associates are said to have solved the puzzle of the New York Times and Washington Post breaches in 2014, which ended up in the indictment of a cadre of soldiers from China — America’s preferred enemy at the time.  From there, things blossygossled. Mandiant got famous overnight, one thing led to another, until Mandia found himself being bought out by cybersecurity company FireEye, a CIA-funded start-up, for a billion bucks. Mandia was made FireEye’s Chief Operating Officer.

Again this highlights the opacity that masks the Deep State doings when it employs homo contractus. We don’t know what they get up to, despite being on the public dollar, indirectly.  Mandiant, like CrowdStrike, was responsible for evaluating the server breach at the Democratic National Convention in 2016.  As Mandia has already acknowledged, he has in the past received insider information from the government, regarding breaches at corporations.  One wonders whether CrowdStrike or Mandiant, or any other cybersecurity contractor, received a tip-off regarding the DNC breach, and that’s why it was never forensically examined — although that didn’t stop an ‘opinion of cause’ being issued by three intelligence heads, leading to the MSM’s under-critical acceptance of Russian hacking.

Further, as if we need more worry, such a homo contractus arrangement with the Deep State, already undemocratic, appears to be metastasising overseas.  The CIA and NSA are helping repressive regimes, like Saudi Arabia and the UAE, build their own bespoke and state-of-the-art (naturally) surveillance regimes, and watch indifferently as these tyrants with too much dinosaur money use the technology to spy on “enemies,” including dissidents.  How un-American.

Already, there has been cause for alarm, as companies like DeepMatter, employing ship-jumping analysts from the NSA, go after American dissidents and journalists too.  The NSA and CIA are virtually beyond law in these countries.  What they couldn’t get away with in America, they can do with impunity in SA and the UAE. Even Google’s work with Dragonfly, a project designed to give China a search engine devoid of human rights queries, suggests we are now in the business of exporting panopticon products.

As Mike Lofgren told Bill Moyers a few years back now, the Deep State is “the red thread that runs through the history of the last three decades. It is how we had deregulation, financialization of the economy, the Wall Street bust, the erosion of our civil liberties and perpetual war.” We’ve been warned now for a few years by the likes of Moyers, Snowden and others.  None of them are conspiracy-theorists. Snowden certainly believes we have entered into dystopia territory.  Which would mean democracy is finished as a global solution to population management.

Only the self-proclaimed gods of digi-stim know what happens next.

The Sentencing of Brenton Tarrant: Jailing the Man, not the Great Replacement

Brenton Tarrant was sentenced last week.  The Australian national who butchered, with relish, 51 individuals in Christchurch at Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre, found himself facing something unique in New Zealand: jail for life without parole.  He pleaded guilty to 51 charges of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one of terrorism.  He also faced a tsunami of victim impact statements – over 200 in all.

The High Court Justice Cameron Mander was not too willing to delve into the substance of Tarrant’s ideas that saw noxious fruition on March 15, 2019.  They constituted merely a “warped and malignant ideology” with moorings “in religious and ethnic antipathy and intolerance.”  What concerned him most was the method. “You slaughtered unarmed and defenceless people.”  Tarrant “maimed and wounded and crippled many others, your victims included the young, and the old, men, women and children.”

It is true enough.  Tarrant was unsparing, pitiless and relentless.  He had hoped to kill more worshippers, intending to strike a note of fear among “non-Europeans.”  He had also prepared for the slaughter well in advance, having undertaken a reconnaissance mission to Al Noor Mosque two months before, sending a drone to identify points of entry and exit.  Such readiness went back as far as 2017, when the Australian had settled in New Zealand with nefarious purpose.  “You came to this country to murder.”

The sentencing of Tarrant served a sequestering purpose.  According to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, “he deserves to be a lifetime of complete and utter silence.”  Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison echoed the sentiment.  “It is right that we will never see or hear from him ever again.”  New Zealand authorities are not merely content on keeping him in permanent incarceration on home soil.  They insist that he be returned to Australia.

No one got to receive a full airing of the mindset of Tarrant the ideologue, his own views about the inundation, expunging and racial deletion of white Christians at the hands of the followers of Allah.  There has, in fact, been a concerted effort across social media platforms and publications to expurgate and limit discussion on Tarrant’s cock-eyed view of the world, scribbled out in the rambling manifesto The Great Replacement.  The intention is to avoid the dissemination of hate and incitement; the consequence is its concealment, bowdlerising the views of a mass murderer and limiting its dangerously broader appeal.

The plagiarised title of Tarrant’s tract is itself loosely based on Renaud Camus’s self-published book of the same title from 2012, though Camus himself had little time for the methods of Tarrant, the efforts of “someone who had failed to understand my work.”  But had he?  Both Camus and Tarrant are, at first blush, striking juxtapositions: the former, an ardent, confessional homosexual aesthete and laureate of the Académie Française; the latter, a personal trainer from Grafton, New South Wales who had travelled to Europe on his father’s inheritance money to bear personal witness to immigrant “invasion”.

While not having the cast iron stomach for Tarrant’s bloodiness, Camus was delighted by the notoriety his ideas were getting.  As to whether he resented “the fact that people take notice of ethnic substitution that is in progress in my country?” he posed rhetorically to James McAuley writing for The Washington Post, he was unequivocal.  “No.  To the contrary.”

Tarrant’s language, as expressed in the manifesto, clings to the raft of European identity.  “The origins of my language is European, my culture is European, my political beliefs are European, my philosophical beliefs are European, my identity is European and, most importantly, my blood is European.”  He sees himself, incoherently and ramblingly, as “an Ethno-nationalist Eco-fascist.  Ethnic autonomy for all peoples with a focus on preservation of nature, and the natural order”.  He sees enemies everywhere: German chancellor Angela Merkel as “mother of all things anti-white and anti-Germanic”; Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as “the leader of one of the oldest enemies of our people, and the leader of the largest Islamic group within Europe.”

This streakily misguided, not to mention linguistically and culturally deluded reading, is something that finds voice across the White Supremacist family.  It made an appearance in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017 with chants of “Jews will not replace us.”  Ditto in October, 2018 at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, were 11 were slain by Robert Bowers claiming to be targeting those who “bring invaders in that kill our people.”  But Tarrant’s preferred target of hatred was not some fabled international Jewish conspiracy but Islam.

These are not the isolated mutterings of a noisy fringe.  They are also entertained by certain political leaders not averse to teasing out the race, culture and even religious card, if it advances a cause.  In Europe, Geert Wilders of the Netherlands’ far-right Freedom Party rallies with the cry that, “Our population is being replaced.  No more.”

The notion of a great replacement has found freight in the views of Hungary’s Viktor Orbán.  Orbán’s fear is demographic inundation by swarthy, non-Christian outsiders.  Christianity, he explained last September at the Third Demographic Summit in Budapest, needed to “regain its strength in Europe.”  Population decline was “a general European phenomenon” that arose from the First and Second World Wars, both of which he regards as “brutal civil wars”. To arrest such population decline by accepting non-Europeans would be “effectively … consenting to population replacement: to a process in which the European population is replaced.”

Such views are heartily shared by former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who wrote adoringly of Orbán last year as “the first European leader to cry ‘stop’ to the peaceful invasion of 2015 and is now trying to boost Hungary’s flagging birth rate.”  At the centre, then, of this cultural and racial cosmos lie a set of ideas that share a threat with Tarrant’s own form of murderous retribution.  They are all concerned with existential replacement.

The trial, however, left those watching it with a sense of simplicity: wickedness confined to the dock; victims seeking spiritual and emotional compensation through various forms of anger, sadness, forgiveness or lack of.  It was procedural, formulaic and decidedly clear: Tarrant had butchered and must pay the bill.  But there was little stomach for confronting his central contention, less than his method, which has found an audience not merely in the White Supremacist fold, but in public offices from Washington to Budapest.