Category Archives: Language

Israel’s Chief Stooge at Westminster shames us again

As Prime Minister, I am proud to say that I support Israel. And it is absolutely right that we should mark the vital role that Britain played a century ago in helping to create a homeland for the Jewish people.

Thus spake Theresa May the other day as she welcomed members of the Jewish community to 10 Downing Street. But by focusing on creating a homeland for the Jewish people she’s also celebrating the hell that Balfour’s Declaration created for the gentle Palestinians and for the rest of the region. “Born of that letter, the pen of Balfour, and of the efforts of so many people, is a remarkable country,” said May, apparently blind to the reality.

Right now we’re on the run-up to the centenary of what is arguably the biggest foreign policy blunder in British history: the Balfour Declaration. In 1917 Arthur Balfour, foreign secretary, bowed to Zionist demands for a homeland for the Jews in Palestine and gave an undertaking that set the world on course for long-term turmoil and, for the native Palestinians, unspeakable misery, dispossession and displacement. It was a criminal conspiracy. And Balfour was an A-list idiot who bragged that he wasn’t even going to counsult the local Arab population about this theft of their homes and lands.

Yet he remains a hero of the Conservative Party which, led by Theresa May, plans to celebrate this hundred-year “running sore” — as Lord Sydenham called it — in great style, inviting Israel’s prime minister Netanyahu to the festivities. That’s if the warmonger isn’t under arrest by then on imminent charges of corruption back home.

“I will always do whatever it takes to keep our Jewish community safe,” May added. “Through our new definition of anti-Semitism we will call out anyone guilty of any language or behaviour that displays hatred towards Jews because they are Jews. We will actively encourage the use of this definition by the police, the legal profession, universities and other public bodies.”

She was referring to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism.

BDS “unsucessful”? Really?

One of May’s Cabinet minsiters, Sajid Javid, told the World Jewish Congress that the UK would celebrate the upcoming anniversary with pride. “Someone said we should apologise for the Declaration, to say it was an error of judgment. Of course that’s not going to happen.” To apologise, he said, would be to apologise for the existence of Israel and to question its right to exist.

Instead, he emphasised the UK government’s intolerance towards any kind of boycott of Israel. “I’ll be 100 per cent clear. I do not support calls for a boycott, my party does not support calls for a boycott. For all its bluster, the BDS campaign is most notable I think, for its lack of success….  As long as I’m in government, as long as I’m in politics, I will do everything in my power to fight back against those who seek to undermine Israel.” The UK, he said, has maintained close diplomatic, trade and security ties with Israel since its inception, and is counted upon by Israel to vote in its favour at the UN and other international institutions.

As Noam Chomsky has aptly observed: “People who call themselves supporters of Israel are actually supporters of its moral degeneration and ultimate destruction.”

Israel lobby stooges like May and Javid continue trying to ram their pro-Zionist nonsense down out throats despite the fact that last time they attacked the successful BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement, warning that her government would “have no truck with those who subscribe to it”, they came spectacularly unstuck. 200 legal scholars and practising lawyers from all over Europe put May in her place by pointing out that BDS is a lawful exercise of freedom of expression and outlawing it undermines a basic human right protected by international convention. Her efforts to repress it amounted to support for Israel’s violations of international law and failure to honour the solemn pledge by States to ‘strictly respect the aims and principles of the Charter of the United Nations’.

May needs a crash course in human rights

Top legal experts were recently asked for their views by Free Speech on Israel, Independent Jewish Voices, Jews for Justice for Palestinians and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Their verdict was that those in public life cannot behave in a manner inconsistent with the European Convention on Human Rights, which provides for freedom of expression and applies not only to information or ideas that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive, but also to those that “offend, shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population”.

What’s more, there is an obligation to allow all concerned in public debate “to express their opinions and ideas without fear, even if these opinions and ideas are contrary to those defended by the official authorities or by a large part of public opinion, or even if those opinions and ideas are irritating or offensive to the public”. Article 10 says that everyone has the right to freedom of expression including “freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.” Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says the same sort of thing, subject of course to the usual limitations required by law and respect for the rights of others.

Eminent human rights lawyer Hugh Tomlinson QC has sharply criticised the anti-Semitism definition touted by May. Firstly, it isn’t a legally binding definition so doesn’t have the force of a statutory one. And it cannot be considered a legal definition as it lacks clarity. Therefore any conduct contrary to the IHRA definition couldn’t necessarily be ruled illegal.

He says it was “most unsatisfactory for the Government to adopt a definition which lacks clarity and comprehensiveness” and suggests the Government’s decision to adopt the IHRA definition was simply a freestanding statement of policy — a mere suggestion as to a definition of anti-Semitism that public bodies might wish to use. But no public body was under an obligation to adopt or use it, or should be criticised for refusing to. He warned that if a public authority did decide to adopt the definition then it must interpret it in a way that’s consistent with the European Convention on Human Rights mentioned above.

A further obligation put on public authorities is “to create a favourable environment for participation in public debates for all concerned, allowing them to express their opinions and ideas without fear, even if these opinions and ideas are contrary to those defended by the official authorities or by a large part of public opinion, or even if those opinions and ideas are irritating or offensive to the public”.

According to Tomlinson, then, the IHRA definition doesn’t mean that calling Israel an apartheid state that practices settler colonialism, or urging BDS against Israel, can properly be characterized as anti-Semitic. Furthermore, a public authority seeking to apply the IHRA definition in order to prohibit or punish such activities “would be acting unlawfully.”

Retired Lord Justice of Appeal, Sir Stephen Sedley, has weighed in by criticising the IHRA definition for lack of legal force. “It is not neutral: it may well influence policy both domestically and internationally.” He added that the right of free expression, now part of our domestic law by virtue of the Human Rights Act, “places both negative and positive obligations on the state which may be put at risk if the IHRA definition is unthinkingly followed”. Moreover the 1986 Education Act established an individual right of free expression in all higher education institutions “which cannot be cut back by governmental policies”.

Sedley felt the IHRA definition was open to manipulation. “What is needed now is a principled retreat on the part of government from a stance which it has naively adopted.”

As for Javid’s crack about not having to apologise for Israel’s existence, he must have forgotten that in the wake of the 1947 UN Partition Plan, which granted the Jews territory within defined borders, they declared statehood in 1948 without borders, grabbing as much extra land as they could by armed terror and ethnic cleansing.  The new state of Israel’s admission to the UN in 1949 was conditional upon honouring the UN Charter and implementing UN General Assembly Resolutions 181 and 194. It has failed to do so and to this day repeatedly violates provisions and principles of the Charter.

When the UK Conservative Government makes pronouncements on foreign affairs it pays to consider that 80 percent of its MPS are claimed to be signed-up members of Friends of Israel and this is a stepping-stone to higher office. Conservative Friends of Israel, according to their website, are active at every level of the party.

It is sad that so many of our politicians are so spineless and so insecure that they feel the need to herd together under the flag of what the UN has called a racist state.

American Propagandist Warns of Russian Propaganda

After President Donald Trump’s detestable performance at the United Nations General Assembly last week, the New York Times had an opportunity to counter the president’s heedless belligerence with a message of diplomacy and dialogue. What it did instead was publish an op-ed from discredited former ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, Obama’s unforgivable appointment and one of the principal arm-twisters that convinced an irresolute president to get behind an invasion of a sovereign state (Libya) on the basis of manufactured lies too incredulous to believe. This unrepentant jackanape had the temerity to pen an article calling on Americans to heed George Washington’s ancient warning to be “constantly awake” to the specter of foreign influence, a prelude to the establishment goal of outlawing foreign media and exerting a stronger grip on the information flow in the digital space.

With any Power essay, her smart media handlers make sure that her photo is always a central element of her pose. She perpetually appears in a posture of earnestness, her face displaying a kind of inveterate sadness born of too much knowledge of humanity’s dark side. Her somewhat emaciated cheeks, particularly in black and white photographs, lend her the self-abnegating glow of an ascetic or religious eremite. Having absorbed the image of this saintly spirit, readers then move to her missive.

Shuttering Dissent

Power, whose presence in the UN was a carmine monument to hypocrisy, quickly summons the hysterical phantom of Russian election interference as her theme. As any good paid propagandist would do, Power tells us we can focus on the technical details of the hacking, influencing, meddling, and manipulating, but we shouldn’t overlook other vile means by which foreign powers ruin our democracy by “aiming falsehoods at ripe subsets of our population–and not only during elections.”

Here Power reveals her multiple goals. First, she aims to shift the narrative away from the collapsing scenery of the Russian hacking allegation, since the technical facts now show that DNC emails were leaked by an insider, not hacked by a foreign agent. This is what the mainstream press has been slowly doing for months now, moving the debate from the phantom hack itself to the influence of so-called propaganda platforms funded by Russian government, namely RT and Sputnik, and several thousands bots of unknown provenance on social media. In truth, the majority of the intelligence community’s report on the hacking was forced to point fingers at RT and other sources, which proved nothing but adequately deflected attention from the false claims of hacking. The narrative thus moves from hacking to influencing, a softer accusation but one that will be enthusiastically peddled by the likes of Power.

The influence narrative is also easier to sustain, since it is quite possible that RT influenced some voters, though its impact on the outcome itself was likely benign given the extraordinary weight of domestic propaganda that overwhelmed the American mediascape through the electoral season. But RT provides a much-needed counterpoint to Washington media, which all peddle the same caricatures of the world at large, in which America is a shining city on a hill, the envy of nations, noble in intent, a just arbiter of disputes, ever hopeful, yet ever disappointed by the chronic recidivism of ‘developing’ nations.

Second, Power seems to support the false dichotomy that some of us are vulnerable and others are not. Those in power have the full knowledge required to separate the wheat from the chaff, while average citizens haven’t got the requisite toolset to the do the job themselves. Not only is this false, as progressive independent media outlets demonstrate daily, but it is deeply elitist. It is also the foreground of her third and ultimate aim: to outlaw foreign news media in the United States that doesn’t parrot the State Department’s shapeshifting of reality.

Demonizing the Ruskies

Power provides some tasty bits about former USSR leader Yuri Andropov’s ‘active measures’ (as opposed to static measures) in the Eighties. Had Andropov, a smart Soviet who lasted only 15 months in power due to illness, survived in power, the Soviet Union might still stand. But he was up against the tidal force of Ronald Reagan, a vicious anti-communist who declared the USSR an “evil empire” (points for phrasing if nothing else), launched a Star Wars initiative, and explored first-strike options as Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) dissolved in the cold past.

Having dutifully dissed the Soviets, she assumes that Russia information aimed at American audiences is de facto propaganda because she assumes that Russia is an adversary. She sadly relates that citizens get their news from social media more than ever, and concludes that they probably can’t decipher real from fake news without the assistance of “umpires” that, ostensibly, would not teach them to separate fact from fiction, but would simply elide what they judged factitious from the news stream altogether.

Power then seconds the Facebook claim that Russia may have spent $50-100,000 in paid media to spread anti-Clinton stories, although the social network offered no evidence. She makes similar claims about Russian activity in Europe. “Russia “appears” to be using the same tactics abroad and is “believed” to have committed cyber attacks and has been “accused” of fabricating stories.

The Bane of Partyism

The former ambassador, who once rightly called Hillary Clinton “a monster”, comically laments the loss of “mainstream consensus” of the sort that existed during the McCarthy era, when groupthink had its firmest grip on the American conscience. She blames “partyism”, apparently an inelegant replacement for “partisanship” as another cause of our fractured corporate narrative. (Note that ‘partisanship’ is consistently derided and is a pejorative term in the corporate press. Lockstep is preferred.) One can see Power’s fingers trembling as she hammers out the incredulous news that Republican voters’ esteem of Vladimir Putin rose 20 percent in the last two years. (Perhaps here she hurled her wireless Apple keyboard at the wall of her well-appointed DC loft). She finds it “worrisome” that a majority of citizens now question the veracity of corporate-sponsored mainstream news.

To her credit, Ms. Power does call out the fact that, in their brief and scurrilous prime, ISIS produced 38 pieces of media a day. All governments and would-be governments will produce pro-government propaganda, Russia included. But they will also report facts. Michael Parenti, in his book Blackshirts & Reds, has a chapter detailing the terrible collapse of social supports in Eastern Europe that immediately followed the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the happy introduction of cutthroat free-market capitalism. Nearly every source he uses comes from American mainstream media. The question is how the facts are spun, what facts are omitted, and what falsehoods are introduced. For much of the mainstream media, the collapse of social infrastructure and the violent suppression of communist organizations after the fall of the Wall were presented as forms of “democratization” by the west.

A look at RT will quickly demonstrate that it is comprised primarily of principled Americans exposing the lies of their own corporate media, and providing much-needed facts and insight into the actions of the U.S. government. This is necessary and useful counter-check on the false narrative constructs of the corporate-owned media, which citizens rightly distrust. The channel may be funded by the Russian government, but that doesn’t mean all of its content is propaganda. It should be cautiously approached, just as a corporate-owned venue like the Washington Post should be cautiously approached. But each claim should be received on its merits. The New York Times and Washington Post have truthful articles all the time, but they also produce enormously influential propaganda. We have to take an evidentiary approach to what we read, noting its source, its sponsors, and its context. This is the essence of democratic ideal–people deciding for themselves. But Power thinks we need umpires to make these decisions for us.

The Virtue of Skepticism

Unsurprisingly, Power proposes what social philosopher John Stuart Mill warned us to question. He said the freethinking mind should be characterized by, “…an extreme skepticism about the right of any authority to determine which opinions are noxious or abhorrent.” We have lacked this skepticism for decades, but it is finally on the rise. Still, we are still often guilty of placing our complacent, lazy faith in the op-eds of mainstream publishers, largely because we think they are independent. The Russian-created RT, formerly Russia Today, is considered to be an alarming propagandist front for Kremlin mischief mainly because it is openly funded by the Russian state, an undisguised concession to the likely slant of its coverage. But all our corporate media need do is peddle its dogmatic rubbish under some private masthead for the masses to buy in. This is the astonishingly low bar one needs to cross to convince the public of one’s autonomy. But nominal independence from the state does not mean genuine independence from capital. It is the corporate sector that controls the narrative in the United States.

Power calls out the “bipartisan” nature of the new Alliance for Securing Democracy, a thought-cleansing front established as an unconvincing nonpartisan defender of democracy. The Intercept calls it a well-funded national security advocacy group” that further concretizes the Democratic Party’s alliance with “extreme and discredited neocons” from the Bush era. The group is led by Clinton and Rubio advisors Laura Rosenberger and Jamie Fly, respectively, and sulphurous spin doctors like Bill Kristol and establishment hawks like Michael Morrell, Michael Chertoff, and the noxious Mike Rogers. This formation is a good indication of how corporate parties react when pushed from the left: they try to discredit the left-wing and secure right-wing support.

In sum, the former ambassador’s perspective distills to this: social media and partyism have created narrative gaps through which foreign media may slip. This is bad. We need umpires to decide what we read in order to re-establish mainstream consensus. It is bad when people lose faith in the corporate news. We must all be vigilant against foreign powers practicing “the arts of seduction.” This sounds like a lot like censorship and a subtle effort to undermine the first amendment, which few, if any, people in positions of power truly support, Rand Paul excepted.

Obama, who oversaw spying on the Republican presidential campaign, prosecuted whistleblowers with a vengeance, sanctioned mass surveillance of Americans and outsourced it when it violated standing laws, was perhaps the most anti-free speech president of the last 100 years. In fact, this alliance is a natural outgrowth of the dissembling Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act built into the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and signed by President Obama. Power is a vestige of this regime of control and, ironically for a supposed feminist, shares its paternalistic ideology. She ought to be laughed off the op-ed page. Unfortunately, the papers she writes for are peddling the very imperial falsehoods she pretends to care about.

The Criminal Injustice System: Beyond Platitudes and Bleeding Hearts

Aotearoa (New Zealand) has a lot of serious problems. Neoliberal reforms have been imposed against the will of the people here and it is only our pride and our racially informed sense of kinship with imperial power that keeps us from recognising that we are a neocolony – a privileged neocolony perhaps, but a neocolony nonetheless.

Recent decades have been an affront to our sovereignty and our progressive and socialist history. We were the first country with a 40 hour working week, the first to allow women to vote, the second to have a comprehensive public health system, and the first welfare state. It cuts against the grain, therefore, that in 30 years we have gone from a country with no poverty or unemployment and near the worst income inequality in the OECD (7th worst in 2014). With relatively low wages and one of the highest costs of living in the world, neoliberalism is ripping apart our social fabric. We have a housing crisis that is worse than those hitting the US, UK, Australia and Canada, but it is even more of a shock because 30 years ago the idea of homelessness and of people begging in the streets was simply alien to us.

Make no mistake, neoliberalism has fucked this country, and I do blame the US and the UK along with those traitor scum politicians who serve the empire and not their own people. But in one key respect, neoliberalism was pushing against an open door. Neoliberalism seeks to shrink the social support offered by the state but it also seeks to grow the coercive powers of the state – the police and the prisons. The latter harmonises much more easily with traditional Aotearoan values. We are a punitive people. We are not ruled by fear of malefactors to the extent that the US seems to be, but we still have a strong attraction to “law-and-order”.

Our prison population has traditionally been high, but as incarceration rates have grown in other countries we have kept our place in the leading pack (excluding the US which is in a league of its own). We imprison people at nearly twice the rate of Canada; 45% higher than England and Wales and 30% higher than Australia.

The punitive culture in Aotearoa is partly the product of settler-colonial relations. The nature of colonialism is to obliterate autonomy. In Aotearoa the British achieved this in the same manner in which they did in India. First is the process of dividing the locals, using diplomatic trickery, and co-opting collaborators. The second is military conquest, which is only achievable because of native forces. The third is the realm of police, judges, truancy officers, land surveyors, bureaucrats, and lawyers. It is a telling part of our history that the reputed “last gasp” of the decades-long New Zealand Wars was when a column of 120 armed men was sent to arrest a leader, Hone Toia, who refused to pay a dog tax. The judge who imprisoned Hone Toia made it clear that he was demonstrating the reach and power of the government.

The story thereafter will be familiar to other settler colonial societies, Compulsory schooling became the mechanism for literally beating and torturing the language and culture from Māori children. There was a school-to-borstal pipeline, particularly for Māori boys. This was the beginning of a self-sustaining circle of institutional racism. The result is that even though Māori are only 15% of the total population, they make up more than 50% of the prison population. Even Al Jazeera has made a documentary about the “Locked-Up Warriors” of our country.

However, at the risk of weakening the sense of crisis (which is very real in absolute terms) I feel obliged to point out that in proportion to indigenous populations Aotearoa actually has a lower indigenous incarceration rate than Australia and Canada. Australian aboriginals are the most imprisoned people in the world, ahead of US African-Americans. None of this should detract from the significance of Māori imprisonment here, where indigenous people make up a much larger part of the total population.

The prison is clearly being used as an ongoing tool of colonial control, even if it is only the momentum of the past that keeps it so. Yet I would argue that treating this as a race issue alone will not help. The racism of the system shows that it is an unjust system, but getting rid of the race element will not fix the injustice. We have a massive social problem with Māori incarceration, but if we fix the racism inherent in the system will it really fix a system that is so open to racism? Where would that leave us with regards to class and poverty? In this day and age do we really think we can address a racial disparity if we don’t also address inequality?

Native Affairs

Māori TV is a gift to all Aotearoans because it is our only public service mandated TV broadcaster. They produce some very good television – albeit at the cheap end of the spectrum. Yet I was sceptical of the Native Affairs episode on “Locking Up Māori”. I had the strange feeling that they would acknowledge the role of racism and poverty but then circle back around to the normal mindless position of showing stories of individual prisoners finding redemption with the help of guitar-toting redeemers.

Well, colour me un-fucking-surprised.

Of course, there is something to be said for reminding people that structural and personal racism are real factors behind imprisonment rates. When Marama Fox recently dared to use the term “racism” as a cause of Māori incarceration in The Spinoff’s “Great Debate”, the audience guffawed in incredulity. Clearly some people out there need a bit of educating. Therefore it might seem like a good deed to highlight the structural racism and social drivers that lead to high rate among Māori, but viewers of Native Affairs are probably not the ones that need telling. If you are not familiar with Native Affairs, it is just what it sounds like – a current affairs programme dealing with issues relating to Māori. The name is an ironic reference to the Ministry of Native Affairs – an historic institution of racial paternalism, land theft, and ethnocide.

Marama Fox (Māori Party Co-Leader) was quite expressive in the “Great Debate”

Given their viewership, it is less significant that Native Affairs addressed structural issues, so neglected in the mainstream, than that they took that as a starting point for a narrative that herded people back into alignment with mainstream thinking – like a sheepdog ensuring our wayward brains don’t wander too far from safe pastures.

First they identified the empirically proven drivers of incarceration as being poverty and poor education. Crucially they assert, without the same evidential backing, that “in Aotearoa cultural disconnection is a third factor.” They may or may not be correct in this. As I will discuss later it is not whether the latter is true or not that is at issue, but rather the way in which adding the element of cultural alienation sets up a narrative centred on the individual offender. It is a path back to old habits of thinking; the modern equivalent of the 19th century Samaritan’s self-righteous efforts to save the souls of the benighted sinners who have fallen from the Godly path of lawfulness.

Soon after this introduction the programme also broaches the subject of structural racism in the justice system. Māori are more likely to be stopped by police. Under the same circumstances they are more likely to be charged. If convicted they receive harsher sentences and are more likely to be imprisoned. Cumulatively it is this layered racism that is probably the biggest factor in Māori imprisonment.

So if poverty, under-education, and racism among police and judiciary are the best known significant drivers of Māori imprisonment then a documentary should surely focus on changing social policy, ending structural and personal racism in education, reforming the police and judiciary. The prisoners (referred to constantly in the programme as “these people”) are not the real authors of their fate in this regard. Yet instead of having the intellect and the guts to embrace what the statistics tell us, the participants cleave to facile moralism – depicting the narratives of each prisoner as being driven by transgression and the consequences that follow from it.

The social science shows clearly that focusing on changing prisoners is stupid. It tells us unambiguously that we are not being honest about what acts do or do not deserve punishment and why we expect prisoners to embrace guilt, remorse, and the need to change themselves. People are married to the fictional reductionism of crime stories in books, TV, and cinema. Through constant sensationalism in the news people are made overly fearful of the capacity for violence among convicted criminals, feeling safer if they think that people are being locked away. This is a heuristic error that vastly exaggerates the ability of any prison system to enact what is called “specific incapacitation” by isolating the offenders from society. It also fails to account for the ability of the prison system to engender violence.

Native Affairs should have shown the efforts to reform those in authority, and highlighted where such efforts do not exist. The onus should have been on police, politicians, teachers and judges. We should have seen them struggling to overcome their racism and their moral and intellectual failings. Exemplars should have described their journey of overcoming their unthinking abuse. In the documentary we meet the victim of a cruel self-righteous and almost certainly racist judge. This judge ruined a young man’s life. He caused immense harm and pain. but where was that judge or one like him talking about their journey to redemption – complete with guilt and remorse for destroying futures, for ripping apart social bonds, and for wasting inordinate amounts of taxpayers money?

I am aware that our prejudices are deep. It is easy to see a tattoo-covered ill-spoken prisoner as a wrongdoer, but few people can envision the judge as being a dangerous and vicious parasite, profiting from suffering that they help perpetuate. Yet if you strip away our personal fears and our social prejudices; if you judge the judges on the fruits of their actions rather than their benevolent rhetoric and evinced good intentions, it is authorities such as these that need fixing, not our prison population. So, dear reader, I am going to walk you through some things. I am going to show you that incarceration and criminality are not strongly linked; and I am going to help you learn to fear and loathe the genteel. Regardless of the existence of individual dangerous prisoners, collectively those in prison are the victims of violent injustice, not the other way around.

Lipstick on a Pig

On the surface, The Opportunities Party has an admirably progressive criminal justice policy. They aim to reduce our prison population to half the projected number in 2027. There are two problems with this: arrogance and reductionism. The arrogance comes from presenting evidence already widely understood and proclaiming that other politicians are too stupid to get it. The reductionism is in reducing a complete socio-political problem to a single track of statistics without any sort of critical self-awareness. I don’t want to be unfair to TOP, who do link criminal justice to broader issues of poverty and inequality, but even that is a very narrow way of looking at much more profound questions of guilt and innocence; justice and injustice; transgression and obedience. The weakness of their position is easily demonstrated with a question: if it is so stupid and counterproductive to lock up 10,000 people, why do you want to keep 6000 people in prison?

TOP are trying to solve a “problem” without asking why it arose initially. Why are we so punitive? I have suggested that some of it comes from our colonial past, but it has a contemporary and historical scaffolding that exists independently of that. We blame our populist right-wing politicians fear-mongering at election time and emotive pressure groups like the Sensible Sentencing Trust; we blame talk-back radio and racist muddle-Nu Zillind, but it takes two to tango.

Our politics are not shaped by one side of a political divide, they are shaped by the way our political discourse divides issues into two vested camps and creates a static establishment orthodoxy that serves both.

While Hegel, followed by Marx and Engels, proposed that social forces create a dynamic “dialectic”, it is far more common in our time for “opposing” ideologies to become entwined in mutually sustaining inertia. Arrayed against the self-righteous sadists who demand that convicts must suffer are an equally facile bunch of liberal journalists, left-liberal politicians and NGO do-gooders who (by choice or by constraint) are mainly about looking as saintly as possible without really rocking the boat.

Our problems run much deeper than the attitudes of right-wing people. The rituals that surround our criminal justice system should be a clue that something is wrong. Rationality does not need to don special robes and use dead languages to give itself gravity. The system itself is not a measured and enlightened social institution, it is a quasi-religious instrument of authority. On close examination it maintains a strange irrational pretence of omniscience and still functions as if the court and the judges within it were touched with divine power.

Fixing our criminal justice system will require much more that a white-hatted technocrat Sheriff riding in on his high-horse to tell all us dumbshit yokels how to live our lives. The problem with people like Gareth Morgan is that their disdain for the intellects of others makes them incredibly naïve about social institutions. Just because a given institution purports to serve a given function that does not mean that that is it’s sole function, or main function, or even a real function. Some social institutions do the opposite of their pretended function. To put it another way, Gareth Morgan wants to put “evidence-based” lipstick on a pig that he is too stupid to smell.

Controlling and Punishing Social Inferiors

Our institutions have multiple historical roots but the tendency to echo the past (even when we can see clearly how inhumane and unjust the past was) has to be explained in contemporary terms. We are not so different than our cruel, stupid, superstitious and hypocritical forebears and much that we think of as the cast is actually still as much with us as it has ever been.

To begin with there is the religious and pseudo-religious moral impulse to view matters of criminality as an expression of sin – a form of moral transgression. This comes from the belief that the law is a moral framework and even when it fails to be so obedience to the law is a moral imperative in itself. This is an authoritarian viewpoint that is not actually morally sound. It is an irrational impulse and you do not have to delve too far into history to see that morality and obedience to the law are distinct and may be at complete odds with each other. By consensus we now recognise many laws from different places and times as immoral – for example, race and gender legislation that make chattels of racial groups, wives and daughters; apartheid laws; or the Third Reich’s racial laws.

Then there are the politicians, bureaucrats and social workers who see their jobs as being the imposition of their will on the behaviour of others. At base any attempt to change an individual or group of individuals is an attempt to control those persons through the exercise of one’s own will. This may be both a personal inclination that attracts people into positions of such power and a situational product of our institutions of power. Our society hands people in these situations hammers and instructs them to treat certain individuals as nails. For example, social workers may as a group lobby for social change, but their day-to-day hour-to-hour activity is to try and change individual people however futile that may ultimately be in the bigger picture. By contrast, some politicians have a clear pre-disposed inclination to enjoy exercising power over others. Bill English was recently asked what cause he would take to the streets to march for, and he responded that he would march for the right to govern us. This is just a small glimpse into the state of derangement that veteran senior politicians fall into. They do not see governance as the exercise of shaping institutions in order to allow the will of the people to rule, but rather see governance as creating and using institutions to control and “govern” the people. To them that is what governing is, and they see no contradiction between that and what they refer to as “democracy”.

These contemporary controlling impulses find rich and fertile soil to flourish in our inherited criminal justice system. Centuries of penal reform have changed the sharp brutality of sadistic 18th century barbarism, into the duller grinding inhumanity of today. The criminal justice system that we have today may be the most gleamingly polished turd in human history, but underneath it is still an inherited institution of class warfare (repurposed to serve also as an instrument of racial oppression).

When the historian George Rudé examined early 19th century English “criminal justice” system, he found an institution devoted to perpetuating the social order of class and ethnic division, not an institution of “justice”. This was occurring at a time that saw an increasing conflation of poverty and criminality. The enclosure of common land and the loss of small-holdings, along with agricultural reform and industrialisation, had seen a growth of poverty in England and a breakdown in the medieval “Poor Laws”. Not coincidentally, this era saw the creation of the first professional police force. Many of the lower classes were transported first to North America and then to Australia and there was not a great deal of distinction between committing a criminal act and being criminalised and punished due purely to indigence.

The end of the transportation era saw the rise of a three-part system of prisons, debtor’s prisons, and workhouses. The workhouses were cruel and exploitative. The clear, if irrational, ideological foundation was that the poor must be made to suffer if they were to receive sustenance. The moralism of the era demanded that they redeem themselves through suffering, tinged by Calvinist beliefs that poverty was a sign of sinfulness and God’s disfavour.

Trapped in the “Safety Net”

Social reformers worked to end this inhumanity, and seemingly they succeeded. Yet they did not succeed as well as they might have hoped. Decades after the abolition of workhouses George Orwell lived the “down and out” life in England and what he found was a new form of cruelty and a new way of trapping people in poverty. Those who sought shelter and nourishment were forced to prove that they were not merely lazy scroungers living the high life at the expense of their betters. Thus they were forced to remain imprisoned in locked cells for their shelter and then forced by law to walk many hours to get shelter for another night. Needless to say they could not work and could not have social or family connections. With no way of earning money their attire, and particularly footwear, was appallingly poor for those who had to spend each and every day walking and exposed to the elements:

One could not, in fact, invent a more futile routine than walking from prison to prison, spending perhaps eighteen hours a day in the cell and on the road. There must be at the least several tens of thousands of tramps in England. Each day they expend innumerable foot-pounds of energy – enough to plough thousands of acres, build miles of road, put up dozens of houses – in mere, useless walking. Each day they waste between them possibly ten years of time in staring at cell walls.

It was an expensive and self-defeating exercise. The sadism of it was less newsworthy (or Dickensworthy) than the workhouses, but was it really much better? Things may have improved now, but maybe not as much as people think. In many ways we are slipping back. Poverty and its effects are intensifying and incidents of people trapped in implacable cycles of futility and suffering are on the increase.

We have never gotten over the idea that those who need help can and should be controlled. We think it acceptable that unemployed beneficiaries should be drug tested (and sanctioned for failing) and an overzealous campaign against “contamination” has seen many people lose tenancy in social housing due to traces of methamphetamine being found. Effectively that means that the less fortunate in society have a greater degree of state control in their lives than the more fortunate.

Many people undoubtedly think that it is beneficial for the unfortunate to have the guiding hand of a benevolent state to guard them from their own self-destructive impulses. It is for their own good, after all. In reality that is as much of a self-righteous delusion as the Victorian missionary’s belief in reforming the sinner. There is an increasing recognition that the neoliberal state systematically produces homelessness and that forcing special conditions on recipients of housing or other welfare acts to reproduce the vicious circle enforced on tramps in Orwell’s time.

One response to the structural injustice created by neoliberalism is the movement known as Housing First. Even PM Bill English proudly claims credit for “Housing First” initiatives. Unfortunately English is about as capable of grasping the essence of Housing First as Vlad the Impaler would be capable of grasping Nonviolent Communication. In theory, though not as it is widely practised, Housing First is supposed to provide unconditional tenure. Yet under 3 terms of National Party government, with English as leader or deputy, the government’s own social housing agency has been going in the opposite direction.

Neoliberalism reproduces the trap enforced on Orwell and his down-and-out compatriots, but with a much greater masquerade of benevolence. It actively encourages the underlying cause of social ills through deregulation, austerity, erosion of worker conditions and the devaluation of labour in relation to capital. Neoliberalism helps poverty, precarity and socio-economic exclusion to flourish, encouraging the disease but making a show of treating the symptoms. The long walks and the cold cells of 1930s England are replaced by the equally futile system of grants and supplements, constantly exposing people to a capricious and arbitrary system where they must pointlessly engage in a bureaucratic struggle to gain the money and service required to live in a system that is designed to give minimal support. The basic “safety net” support is insufficient in itself and yet is still contingent on conditions and impositions that can be extremely difficult for destitute people to live up to.

On the Native Affairs programme they revealed that the Howard League works to get inmates their driver’s licenses. This is a crucial and worthy effort, but it is a piecemeal step. The need for a driver’s license is a symptom of poverty, social exclusion and racism in the education system. It is not the only barrier affecting inmates and if they have to keep reaching out for help over each thing the process itself becomes demoralising and debilitating.

We have begun to have real conversations about the reality facing those on benefits today, and with luck that will continue, but for the last 40 years the gravitational pull has been to become ever more and more aligned with the US. By withdrawing support from the most needy due to infringements of a pseudo-moral code of behaviour we risk following the US footsteps of creating a criminalised underclass, a “school-to-prison pipeline” and a racial caste system. In many aspects the US is already in a Dickensian state. For example, Eric Garner, who was killed by NYPD, was a career criminal who lived by breaking the law – he sold loose untaxed cigarettes and lived off the meagre profit margin. He wasn’t selling them at the time of his killing. He wasn’t even on his normal turf and was doing nothing wrong, but a cop recognised him from his own neighbourhood. Garner got angry at being harassed when minding his own business, and the police reacted with brutal and escalating violence that intensified when Garner was struggling for his life.

It feels as if we are not far away from the point where we too will tolerate the life and death of our own Eric Garner, seeing both the “criminal” and the poor person as somehow less human, not worthy of a right to a dignified life and ultimately not even worthy of a guaranteed right to life of any sort. In the NZ Herald Paul Little has recently asked how Dickensian we have become:

Under the so-called three strikes law, Raven Campbell, a prison inmate who pinched a guard on the buttocks – his third offence – was sentenced, as that law required him to be, to the maximum term of seven years jail.

Social housing agency Tamaki Housing issued an eviction notice to the five children of Mabel Pe just weeks after her death. They were given three weeks to vacate the home where they had lived for 10 years.

Housing New Zealand issued an eviction notice to a family of seven, including two blind children, after their grandmother died. [3 of the children also suffer PTSD after losing a mother to cancer and a father to suicide shortly thereafter.]

In the last quarter of 2016, the number of people applying to Work and Income for hardship grants to buy food was 112,000 – an increase of 14 per cent over the equivalent period in the previous year.

Wendy Shoebridge, who was discovered dead in her home the day after she was told she faced charges over benefit fraud, was later found not to have committed any fraud, according to evidence presented at the inquest into her death.

We are seeing the rise of conditions of ever greater social division, a restructure in the relations of capital to labour and a massive upward redistribution of wealth. The transformation is akin to that of the mid-19th century, described by Karl Polanyi as The Great Transformation, and the response of our welfare and criminal justice systems is the same. It is not to ameliorate the conditions of those who are suffering the most under the change, but to preserve the social order. In effect this usually means inflicting greater suffering, hence the rising prison populations and the growing precariousness of those on benefits. If we don’t face up to those facts, how can we hope to make things better with our evidence-based culturally-sensitive “progressive reforms”. Quite apart from the fact that much of the “reform” only seeks to get incarceration rates back to where they were decades ago we cannot hope to effect positive change if we do not face up to the in-built malevolence and injustice in the system.

Crime Rates and Imprisonment Rates are not the Same Thing

To return to Native Affairs: Almost immediately after having established that Māori are imprisoned at rates disproportionate to their offending, without skipping a beat the narrator of “Locking Up Māori” reverts to the mindless conflation of imprisonment and crime rates, almost as if the journalist is incapable of processing the meaning of what is coming out of her own mouth.

The disconnect between crime and punishment is something that we as a society are not dealing with at all. It is far greater than the disparity in offending rates and imprisonment rate between Māori and Pākehā because there is also a massive class dimension that reinforces the racial dimension. Everything about our notions of crime is freighted with class disparity.

To begin with there is a much larger problem of prejudicial enforcement than merely who gets stopped by police more when driving or walking. Whole sectors of society are virtually invisible to law enforcement when it comes to certain sorts of crime. Most notably, bourgeois and wealthy people can reliably get away with committing drug offences. Many politicians have used illegal drugs, but few of those oppose prohibition. They are not volunteering to be punished themselves, but they are happy for others to be punished for doing the same thing they were not punished for.

The system is incorrigibly unequal and unjust. Ironically, many prisoners are victims in childhood or adolescence of serious criminal offences against them. Many, as we now know, were abused while in state care. Repeated offences of sexual abuse and severe physical abuse against vulnerable children in one’s care are amongst the most serious crimes we can imagine, yet those who perpetrated such heinous offences are afforded effective impunity while the victims often end up imprisoned for far less grave crimes.

Our need to see certain infractors punished is shaped far more by our sense of social order and hierarchy than it is by legally defined criminality. Researcher Emily Baxter conducted research for a project she called “We Are All Criminals”. In interviews with people she draws out the crimes they have committed and maybe spared little thought for because they suffered no consequences. She then gets them to reflect on how their lives might have been different had they been apprehended and reflect on the role that class and race play in making the difference between what might have been a youthful adventure for them, but could be the start of a descent into social exclusion for others.

The fact is that we are all criminals. Only a miniscule number of people have not committed crimes that individually or cumulatively could bring about a custodial sentence. If you think you are one of the rare innocents, then you probably need to interrogate you memory more vigorously.

There are also crimes which are hard to detect and prosecute. Nobody disputes that rape is a very serious crime, but the great majority of rapists will never see the inside of a court, let alone a prison. We accept that reality because we cannot change it, yet it is hard to say how it can be just to imprison a minor thief or a cannabis user when rapists walk free far more often than not.

Further still there is the massive disparity in prosecution and even in the legal status of equivalent crimes that corresponds with differences in socio-economic status and power. The most obvious example at the moment is the disparity between those who commit tax evasion and those who commit benefit fraud. Tax evasion costs the government 33 times as much as benefit fraud, but the response is the inverse of what should be rational. Academic Lisa Marriott gives us these points:

  • We investigate a higher rate of welfare recipients than taxpayers. Around 5 percent of welfare recipients are investigated in an average year, compared to around 0.01 percent of taxpayers.

  • We have greater numbers of criminal prosecutions of welfare fraudsters than tax evaders. In a typical year, there are 600–900 prosecutions of welfare fraudsters and 60–80 prosecutions of tax evaders.

  • A higher proportion of prison sentences are given to welfare fraudsters, for a lower level of offending, compared to tax evaders. For an average level of offending of $76,000, 67 percent of welfare fraudsters received a prison sentence. For an average level of offending of $229,000, 18 percent of tax evaders received a prison sentence.

Marriott also compares two cases: “To summarise: welfare fraud of $3.4 million, where all was repaid (and more [$6.7 million was paid]), resulted in 10 years in prison — while white-collar crime of $4.3 million, where none was repaid, resulted in less than two years in prison.”

Another disparity is in the treatment of employers who steal from employees and vice versa. “Theft as a servant” is considered very serious because it is a breach of trust. Stealing from your employees, though, is a different story. I guess the logic is that because employees don’t have a choice to entrust their wages to their employer there is no breach of trust when the employer steals from them. Wage theft is commonplace in Aotearoa yet criminal penalties such as imprisonment, home detention or even community service are unknown. There is a push to impose criminal penalties such as prison on offenders, but not because we treat all other thieves in this manner, but because the offending is now reaching such a level of exploitation that it is linked with enslavement – yes, enslavement, another thing we could not have imagined happening here even ten years ago.

Stealing hundreds of thousands from people poorer than you, who have no choice but to trust you, and whose labour is the source of your own wealth isn’t even treated as criminal. That is how fucked and how biased the system is.

And then there are those who more or less get to decide for themselves what the law is and whether or not they are allowed to steal from others without penalty. Meteria Turei, co-leader of the Green Party, bravely admitted to having lied about having flatmates in order not to lose some of the benefit she received while she was a single mother studying law. This was to raise awareness of poverty and precarity. She was hounded by the media relentlessly and felt compelled to resign just a week and a half after Andrew Little’s resignation (another party leader resigned the next week, by the way, just to keep the journalists on their toes). People asked why Turei had to go for taking a small amount so that she could afford to raise a child, while our wealthy PM Bill English took much more by deception. A “fact-check” assured people that Turei was naughty, because she broke the law, while English did not. Simon Wilson then “sense-checked” the fact-checkers comparing the crimes of Metiria Turei with the perfectly legal acts of PM Bill English who claimed hundreds of thousands of dollars as a member of Parliament in order to cover the cost of living in a place he clearly did not live. Some of Wilson’s conclusions:

  1. Bill English must have known that he and his family did not live in Southland. But the system allowed him to pretend that they did, and he took advantage of that.

  2. He got away with it by arguing that his lawyers had told him it was OK.

  3. When he was found out, the system continued to protect him.

In fact, as Wilson further explains, the legality of the acts was not actually tested strongly: “He denied he had broken the law and the auditor general agreed. She appears to have been particularly persuaded by the fact he had relied on legal advice that his position was tenable.”

But wait, there’s more! Because ultimately the most criminally guilty people in the world don’t just go free, they are rewarded for their crimes. The worst criminal bankers on Wall St and in the City of London are not jailed, they are paid handsomely to retire, to stay on, or to work in government. Corporations can become a law unto themselves, causing thousands of deaths in Third World countries though pollution or using government forces to massacre  those who stand between them and profit. From the days of United Fruit in Guatemala, to Shell’s involvement in the slaughter of people in the Niger Delta. No criminal charges.

Nor are there charges for murders carried out by the CIA, let alone other crimes. The whole existence of the clandestine action arms of agencies such as the CIA is based on lawbreaking. One old pre-digital estimate suggested that the CIA was committing crimes at a rate of 80,000 per day, dwarfing any non-governmental organised crime outfit. With computerised surveillance there is a near unlimited potential for individual crimes to be happening at dizzying speed.

Then there are the mass murderers. Since the death of Stalin, those with the most blood on their hands have mostly been Western political leaders. Johnson, Nixon, Kissinger – even Ford and Carter – Brzezinski, Reagan, Thatcher, Bush(es), Clinton, Blair. It is estimated that 20 million have been killed due to US-led aggression since World War II, frequently with crucial UK participation. They also have high levels of involvement in other acts of mass-murder. They backed the slaughter of 1 million in Indonesia and the subsequent genocide in East Timor. They gave diplomatic cover to the genocide in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). They trained and backed those carrying out the genocide in Guatemala. Third world dictators cannot even compare in terms of the number of dead they have caused. Yet Henry Kissinger, perhaps the biggest murderer of them all, is a fêted elder statesman, treated like a rock star guru by the political elite. These people are by any reasoned standard more despicable and fearful than the very worst of our prison population.

So, when you see the stats that show that social forces such as racism and poverty are the main causes of imprisonment, do not immediately think, yeah, but people need to be held accountable for their actions. The worst people in the world are not held accountable for their actions. Normal people are not held accountable in the way that those who fall foul of the criminal justice system are. It is a capricious system full of racial and class prejudice and rampant injustice

Argument from Consequences

As mentioned, the Native Affairs programme that fulfilled my low expectations of journalistic endeavour included “cultural disconnection” as an unproven third factor driving Māori incarceration. How much it is true that “cultural disconnection” causes imprisonment is definitely an interesting topic, but in the programme it becomes the central factor – the focus of the programme’s call to action. Without seeming to be aware of what they were doing, the makers of the programme use the topic of “cultural disconnection” to leave poverty and poor education as background factors in a narrative driven by notions of individual reform.

There is certainly something quite powerful in the question by one prisoner who asked why it took coming to prison for him to find out about his own identity. The colonial system literally stole the sense of self from many Māori and it is heartbreaking that it might take imprisonment for some of those to benefit from reconnecting. But now the viewers have been taken back into their comfort zone, the place where no one can see the forest because they are too busy looking at all the trees. Unlike those factors of class and race which allow for the actions of others to be a cause of imprisonment, “cultural disconnection” can only be interpreted as a cause of criminality in the prisoner themselves. The notion leads us back to the belief that it is still their criminal transgression that drives their fate and what we really need to do is to help them to stop being so angry and naughty.

It is as if the journalists are programmed by cliché. They will always find a way back into the comfort of tinkering reformism that maximises the sense of doing good but minimises any real clash with the status quo. In this case, cultural disconnection brings the focus right back to criminal acts by prisoners. It is actually a little bit ridiculous, because as wonderful as it may be for Māori inmates to connect with tikanga Māori, it is not why they are in prison and nor should they be penalised if they do not want to embrace Māoritanga. When you get right down to it, they are suggesting that you can fix a racist system by getting the victims of racism to change, not the racists. There is an obvious parallel here to those who think that the way to prevent rape is for the potential victims to alter their appearance and behaviour.

Yet people seem to find it impossible to let go of the notion that prisoners have personal responsibility for their fate. To be reformed they must go through the ritual of penitence and agree that it is they that must transform. It is true that, apart from those wrongly accused, they must have contributed at least one “wilful” criminal act to find themselves behind bars, but between the disparities in policing and sentencing we can see that in most ways the criminal act is not the greatest factor contributing to the imprisonment.

It is tempting at this point to separate violent from non-violent offenders. Then, in pragmatic terms, we could abolish drug prohibition and end custodial sentences for non-violent crime. That would lower prison populations and instantly curb the worst injustices coming out of the racial biases of the criminal justice system. But as much as I feel that drug prohibition is morally insupportable (and that too is a conversation that needs to be dealt with in full) I also think that blunting the worst excesses of an unjust system still leaves an unjust system.

The fact is that even in committing a criminal act an offender is acting as a product of circumstances beyond their control. People resist understanding this, but it is abundantly clear in the statistics. In violent offending, the unchosen circumstances of birth and upbringing are clear predictors. Growing up exposed to and especially victim to violence does not always mean that a person will become violent, but it is such a strong statistical association that it cannot be ignored. And there are other factors such as sensory deprivation in infancy, exposure to lead and other toxins, traumatic brain injury or other neurological conditions. The more we study the factors that influence behaviour the more we must admit that we are all products of circumstances that we do not control.

It is not just the social sciences that problematise our punitive understanding of criminality. While many philosophers still try to justify the existence of free will, neuroscientists are increasingly able to pinpoint the chemical processes of decision-making. If someone spikes you with a drug it will affect your decision-making. If someone controls the information you receive, it will affect your decision making. If you are abused as a child, it will affect your decision-making. Free will is a delusion. Even our current understanding of physics suggests that the universe is shaped by stochastic (individually random and unpredictable) subatomic events. Because these shape the real world and ultimately affect our lives it is impossible to reconcile the nature of the universe with free will.

Free will was an excusable explanation for a complex phenomenon in the same way that explaining lightning as bolts cast by a god was excusable before the process was properly understood. It makes sense that we would feel that free will exists even without proof, but it is a religious concept not a rational concept. Basing criminal justice decisions of the concept of free will ultimately makes no more sense than treating criminality as demonic possession. Yet the concept of free will underpins our notions of criminal culpability.

We cling on to a model of individual guilt and just punishment because it works so well with our emotions and social conventions. When bad things happen we want a sense of reciprocity and we also want to feel protected from those who might threaten us. On the more sinister side, we also have a tendency to persecute those who are perceived as alien, defective, diseased, or just a burden to our social collective. This is nothing to do with justice. On the contrary, it is one of the ways our evolution has sowed within us conflicts between compassion and brutality; xenophobia and solidarity; inclusion and exclusion.

Our sense of reciprocity, however, is perhaps the greatest impediment to a more enlightened approach because this innate tendency is bolstered and magnified by the narratives in which we constantly immerse our consciousnesses. I refer here to books, film, TV and so forth. In our stories transgressions seldom go unpunished, guilt is seldom in doubt to the reader or viewer, and there is almost always the implication that somehow the punishment ends the narrative arc, tying up the story with a nice little bow. However, this is not just true in fictional narratives, it is also the structure used almost exclusively in news reporting and documentary.

In reality neither safety nor reciprocity can be achieved through the criminal justice system and social exclusion is both undesirable and harmful. Despite this, they are powerful desires and the reason we cling to the idea of free-will is that without free-will we cannot have individual criminal culpability. Without that sense of culpability, we cannot package reciprocity, safety and social exclusion as a function of “justice”.

We cling to the idea of wilful individual responsibility when logic and evidence both tell us it is a delusion. We do not want to deal with the consequences of not having the ability to pronounce guilt because it would deprive us of our ability to see the criminal justice system as having inherently positive outcomes.

Ritual Sacrifice

There is something disturbing about the way we as a society created a sudden and new official Truth once a judge or jury has pronounced guilt. Suddenly doubt is officially banished, facts are certain.

There is a time between the verdict and the sentencing when the convict becomes a species of outlaw. Their penalty and path back to citizenship is undetermined and actions which are not crimes may affect their penalty as much, or more, than the actually criminal act(s). This outlaw status, by some mysterious rationale, becomes retroactive. Everyone has a right to deny charges against them without penalty, but once they are found guilty a magic time machine allows judges to reward “early guilty pleas” because the special powers they have make everything fair (and apparently there is no contradiction at all in discriminating in favour of those who admit guilt because it is not the same as discriminating against those who maintain their innocence).

It is just as problematic that once guilt is established there is an expectation that the convict must now align themselves with the official Truth and make a ritual obeisance before the court by admitting guilt and expressing remorse. This is not a rehabilitative process and it is not a parole hearing, this is part of the sentencing, so it is actually quite difficult to say, in terms of justice, why remorse at the time of sentencing is so important. The practical effect of coercing a show of remorse from a convict is that it forces that person, and often their supporters, to readjust their narrative and to reify the Truth established by the court.

One of the strangest parts of the ritual, from my perspective at least, is the breadth which judges give themselves in rendering judgments. At this point in the proceedings there can be no objections or arguments. It is pure soliloquy. It is quite normal for judges to tell those found guilty what their motives were, what they were thinking, and what they feel currently, as if the judge were some form of omniscient telepath.

As with everything here, I do not have to delve deep into the past to find exemplars. A case I find problematic is that of Gustav Sanft who killed his 2 year-old daughter. At sentencing just a few days ago as I write his wife pleaded: “I know people want to see Gustav punished for this accident, I see it everyday in him that he punishes himself. All I can ask is have mercy on Gustav. Our babies need their daddy at home, that is where he belongs.” The judge, however, decided that Sanft was not experiencing real remorse but rather “self-pity”. He sentenced him to 4 years and 4 months imprisonment.

The judge said: “Your denial you pulled the trigger is something you have latched onto, perhaps to help explain to yourself, and others, the terrible consequences of that morning.” This leaves us with two unpalatable options. One is that the judge, despite feeling at liberty to characterise the mental states of others, is so ignorant that he is unaware of the effect of adrenaline on short-term memory. If Sanft did pull the trigger there is no reason at all to expect that he would remember doing so. The other option is that the judge doesn’t actually care what Sanft believes. Either way, the emphasis on this detail is disturbing. The prosecution did not rely on his having pulled the trigger and the jury’s verdict does not confirm the fact.

If Sanft were more calculating and cold-blooded he might simply have told the judge what he thought the judge wanted to hear. Ultimately he cannot be considered more guilty of the original crime because he refuses to admit to something he may not even remember. I cannot say what sentence might have been given if Sanft had admitted the act, but the judge himself has made it seem that a very important factor in sentencing is submission to the judgment of the court. It is hard not to feel that what is required of Sanft is not completely different to an auto-da-fé – the public penance required and coerced from those condemned by the Inquisition which reinforced to onlookers the righteousness and honesty of the convictions and subsequent punishments.

Michel Foucault opens Disclipline et Punir with the horrifying theatrical spectacle of the public execution by torture of an attempted regicide. Foucault made the case that the theatrics of power did not disappear with penological reform, they just became more regular and less overtly objectionable. In that much, at least, he is correct. Much of this ritualised display is a show of power designed to maintain and reproduce the power that is exercised.

The Disconnect

We understand that the outcomes of our criminal justice system are measurably and demonstrably bad. The individual stories of those caught in the system, though most people are blissfully ignorant of them, can be extremely harrowing. People’s punishment may lead to much greater suffering than the crime they committed. In most cases the family of prisoners suffer despite not having committed a crime, and the cost to the taxpayer is excessive – stealing from the sort of spending that might be genuinely helpful to people.

We acknowledge these harms yet we seem to think that the basic system doesn’t need fixing. It has been more than 250 years since Cesare Beccaria wrote On Crimes and Punishments, and yet in many ways we have not yet lived up to his vision of a humane system in which punishments served rational utilitarian purposes. Perhaps it is an impossibility; punishment and humane rationality may not be not reconcilable.

We need to end the vestiges of noxious feudalism within our court system, but to do that we may have to go further. We need to end the fictions of guilt and innocence and the even more dangerous fiction that we can safely create an absolute Truth and justly act as if doubt does not persist. We need to move beyond our primitive senses of vengeance and reciprocity and recognise that punishment is never just.

We need to abolish prisons. It may be that some people must be specifically prevented from harming others, but in the vast majority of cases we know that imprisoning some people is not a way to prevent harm.

Even in a case of “preventive detention”, which aims at the specific incapacitation of those who are deemed an unavoidable danger to others, we have seen recently that the criminal justice system may enable crime instead of preventing it. In another NZ case that was in the headlines just days ago, a man who had been sentenced to preventive detention after having been convicted of raping (on separate occasions) a woman and a girl was found to have subsequently raped three cellmates. One was repeatedly raped for a week. Another was knocked unconscious and then raped. The man threatened to kill his victims and told them he had nothing to lose because he was a “lifer” due to his preventive detention sentence. In other words the attempt at incapacitation seems to have actually become a factor leading to the violence.

The double-bunking that facilitated these rapes was introduced under Minister Judith Collins who dismissed concerns over rape, then later made a prison rape joke (as did the PM of the time John Key). These details reveal that the most “law and order” minded people are ultimately, if unconsciously, concerned about social order, not justice. The very reason that they are so assured in their “tough on crime” stances is that they have a Manichean view of Us “good” people and Them “bad” people. Such people often commit crimes, quite serious ones, but they don’t consider themselves to be criminals. Criminals are the racial and class Other. The baddies from the cop shows.

Prisons are mechanisms of social control, one of the ways that the neoliberal state is keeping lower class people in their place as the system begins to fail them. You might think that if we get rid of prisons, change the court system, and if we stop singling out some as the officially Guilty, then we will have a sense of broad impunity that will lead to a lawless orgy. It is a challenge, true. Yet we are almost all criminals, and we accept as a matter of course that those who have committed the most heinous acts must continue to live among us. Some, particularly rapists, will never even have to talk to a policeman. Some may be acquitted because of reasonable doubt rather than innocence. Some will have been convicted, but apart from a very small number who die in prison, those people will still be part of society. Prisons can’t change that. They can and do make things worse in a number of ways.

The problems of the criminal justice system, and the politics and power behind the discourse of criminal justice, are absolutely pervasive. I can almost take exemplars from the headlines of any day on which I write on the issue, and indeed I did so. There is no cherry-picking here, this gross injustice is the daily reality of our society and it needs to change.

This has been my idiosyncratic argument for abolition; born of my frustration at the half-arsed bullshit that journalists keep spouting; born of my frustration at all the things never talked about, the assumptions and the complacency. I hope it adds new dimensions, but I should also point out to readers that there are far more developed views out there. Abolitionism has a very long history with many renowned proponents such as Emma Goldman, Nils Christie, Ruth Morris and Angela Davis. I urge readers to engage with the prison abolition movement, including People Against Prisons Aotearoa. The costs of not abolishing prisons are growing.

If Ever There Were Deplorables . . . .

They – those Clintonistas-Kissingeristas-Friedmanistas-Obamaistas-Romneyistas-Adelsonistas-Sorosistas-Trumpistas-Zbigniew Brzezinskistas — are the deplorables. Really, for 60 years on this planet, in this precarious walkabout, I have trudged through the sooty rain of capitalism plaguing the land, as the rich and the generals call to duty the soldiers of pain, yearning to be enforcers, witnesses to the dystopia of their dreams. Money changers, bureaucrats, oh they are Eichmann’s. Israeli Jews, many Little Eichmann’s all encapsulated in post-pre-future chrysalis of genocide. The leeches and the lechers, USA-EU-Canada-Japan-Australia, fat-cats in bankers’ suits, their armor forced arbitration clauses, decapitating mortgages, foreclosures on both physical minds and the civic body. Is it a flash mob shock we have many connotations for the money changers in Houston, as they might like to see themselves, landlords, or the lords of penury? They have been calling in next month’s rent for the laid to waste humanity after Harvey. It doesn’t matter if the child is on chemo or the grandmother is freshly buried, these debt bond holders extract each microgram of fungible fleck from the newborn or vegetative.

These masters of the bank-roll call in the chips, with SWAT teams at their beck and call. One week after Harvey’s Houston devastation, the plague of predatory capital comes in like syphilis ($99 for bottled water, arresting poor for breaking into stores for water and food, etc.) – threatening to call in the debt police, chiding the homeless now with bad credit reputations. The money-mongers are calling in IOU’s, rents and debts one week after the plague of rain-wind-petrochemicals, “all natural,” with the Anthropocene pushing headwinds heavily. All those 40,000 Homo Sapiens Sapiens annually coming to Baghdad on the Bayou, Houston, nomads with no home roots, looking for scratch and mortgages in the land of oil, plastic, hardened polymers, tints, paints, glues, resins – the magic of better living through carcinogenic chemistry.

How many now in Portland or Boise or Santa Fe recriminate the misbegotten wanderers for settling into the black heart of evangelical Texas? I’ve heard, “It’s their fault for living on a floodplain . . . their fault for living in hurricane alley . . . their fault for . . . .” How many boast of their little and big cities/suburbs being oh so clean and green and planned and resilient (not-not-not-not!)? The lunacy of the controllers and money grabbers is we are now all the same, all living in unplanned, poorly planned, money interest planned Houstons/variations on a theme. We are all Haiti and plastic tarp habitation; we are all the mother of all dead zones Gulf of Mexico; we are glacierless, desiccating Peru; and we are all barrier reef bleaching Australia and burning Greenland.

Yet, the educational building blocks – oh say ye schools – have been transformed into factories, prisons, held captive by the trite and superficial this, and the agnotology that; and the coin of the school realm is money, that is, getting it, scheming for it, living for it; derivatives that kill entire countries’ economies (people); cost basis analyses and economies of scale until we are all thinking about Mars as the New America; schools about throughputs, and gouging money through the intended consequences of pollution, wage slavery, unprotected workplaces, neutron bombed public services/public amenities/public commons!

The great Heil Hitler stiff arm isn’t just Heil Trump or Heil Duterte or Heil Ukraine or Heil Deplorable Stars and Bars Lovers. The Heil is more forcefully thrown to the military, the Heil is raised to the madness of Rambo police stations, and Heils begrudgingly lifted to the insanity of four-hour single occupancy vehicle round trips, daily, to jobs doling out $15 an hour. Heil Heil Capitalism!

The Heil Hitler is thrown to Koch Brothers (Home Depot, Georgia Pacific, et al) and Walmart and Baskin Robbins and Chevron and United Grocers and JP Morgan Chase and Facebook and PayPal and Boeing and Marriott and UPS and Amazon and, well, those are the fascists, the deplorable companies who extract slave labor from humanity, who tilt the balance of fairness like giant tapeworms, eating at the Mom and Pops, eating at the bricks and mortars, eating at every Small-town USA, eating at Corn Cultures in Mexico, eating at every tribe and un-American culture on planet earth. The Heil Hitler is to the data servers, cloud servers, Google, the giant NSA-CIA-Mossad-Interpol captains and majors sucking the soul from humanity’s collective ability to think on our own, stand on our own, and do on our own.

I am always in awe of the death of each politician, and how each one is both zombie and devil, court jester and able middle man – count the number of attorneys general wanting the DACA (Dreamers) program ended (suing the bumbling Chapter 11 President as a volley over the bow – pure theater) – and another governor, all republican, all (except two of the eleven originating from Idaho) citizens of that boomerang of Confederacy.

Each one (each politician) is a plague unto his or her constituency. They all exhibit the sociopath’s wile, and all politicians possess no disgrace at living in a world of Dow-DuPont, Boeing and Raytheon, Monsanto and Exxon. No spines, and the jig was up a century ago, or way before, as each and every legislative lord and romping representative has sold more than soul and spirit to the devil. They have become the devil’s offal, the leftovers of engorgement, and they are all the same, these conservatives-libertarians-liberals-lefties-righties-capitalists.

Imagine how solid their pedigrees are, as they let cities burn, witness the heavy metal lead impregnating souls, turn a blind eye to the towers of pig shit and lakes full of chicken guts, and deny the power of perchlorate from phalluses of destruction (rockets/missiles/bombs bursting in air) misting crops and water and lungs to eventually seize the cognition of generations of children and dry up the intellect of unborn children of the poor, even robbing the immune systems of the kids of the middle classes.

No scandal, no dirge for the polluters, no indictment for the facilitators of cancers and spiritual abandonment. These people who see the world (the 80 percent of us) as deplorables get kudos, raises, promotions and their own little bankrolled slices of heaven while the deplorables – us — duke it out for the few bits of support from the vestiges of a social contract that was never ratified, nor signed, but just hinted at when the robber barons and thieves of Wall Street-Mining-Finance came rolling in with their wagons of snake oil and withering prestidigitation blared loudly in-on-over their Media.

The politicians have the blood of shaved glass coursing through their veins, the very blood the lawyers’ guild has learned to thrive on, and then, well, litigation and silencing and jailing when some of us bray and call a spade a spade. We are double- and triple-deplorables when we reference the United States as Un-united (they love it that way, ununited workers, ununited students, ununited radicals, ununited citizens, ununited neighborhoods, county votes, state constituencies, that is, the TRUE deplorables of NSA-Demo-Publicanism-Fortune 1000-ers).

Daily, the veil of this society as a true satellite of Israel interests comes immolated off, yet, here we are, Zionists-White Supremacists in Office, and tilting the right to be, the right to breathe if we dare call out the scam!

Chicago Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa,  a young populist politician who is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, has been forced off a gubernatorial ticket that he only recently joined, after coming under fire for his ties to DSA and the group’s support of the Boycott, Sanctions, and Divestment movement.

Ramirez-Rosa joined Democratic state senator Daniel Biss’s gubernatorial ticket in late August — setting up Biss’s campaign as the unapologetic left edge of a Democratic primary in a field that includes a billionaire and a member of the Kennedy family.

Ramirez-Rosa came under fire this week from a prominent member of his state party, but not for his support of democratic socialism. Illinois Democratic Rep. Brad Schneider penned a Facebook post on September 3 citing the alderman’s views on Israel and particularly his “affiliation with a group that is an outspoken supporter of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel” — namely, DSA — as a cause for concern. He wrote that he had spoken to both Biss and Ramirez-Rosa and decided to withdraw his endorsement of the campaign.

Ramirez-Rosa’s statements on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have been critical of the status quo but hardly extreme. “You know, for too long the U.S. government has subsidized the oppression of the Palestinian people, and it’s time that that’s stopped,” he told the Real News Network during an interview in June 2016. “And we have seen a shift internationally in favor of justice for the Palestinian people. You know, people stand with Israel, but they also want to make sure that Palestinian people have [justice].”

As if a picture, this one slice of the Democratic Party, doesn’t paint a thousand words. This is the new normal in the new millennium, in this Loose Change kind of post-9/11 world where the AIPAC and Southern Poverty Law Center  are the coin of the same realm – we have this sophisticated and thuggish kettling of criticism against war-monger Israel, their duplicitous connections to fascism and genocide. Erasure, a convenient system ramified by Madison Avenue-War Parties-Lords of War. Put Israel in that Group of Dozen Globe Topplers: and one headline is worth a thousand books on The Holocaust:

Israel Revokes Citizenship of Hundreds of Negev Bedouin, Leaving Them Stateless: Some were citizens for 40 years, served in the army and paid their taxes, but had their status canceled with a single keystroke and no further explanation

The controllers, all those after-America-contact USA war racketeers, they have gestated a rare family line and in-lock-step breed of people and followers of the MBA-legal-Madison Avenue kind. There are tomes and miles upon miles of history written about their fine crafty ways, and how they form as colonies of disease to deploy the weapons of mass destruction AKA structural violence and parasitic capitalism.

They have in common through the centuries of their manipulation and madness a collective belief in the deplorables’ (our) vulnerability or unworthiness. We are their marks, and we are worthy of every Ponzi-Pyramid-Adjustable Rate Mortgage scheme, felony, rip-off, scam, financial ruination dreamed up by their MBAs and lawyers and titans of ledgers and transnational extortion. Today, 2017, they have cloned themselves to do incredible global nanosecond speed feats of prestidigitation seeding the air and crops and food staples and mind calories with the fogging and disease-generating tools of a society dovetailed into treating the diseases they promulgate and ruling the system that can only be fairly called failed state and disaster state predatory capitalism.

How many books, radio feats and book TV episodes are we going to read, hear and view about those ex-generals or captains or LGBTQ lieutenants/soldiers, who now have turned a new leaf? What sort of breed are we in America, when, I, as a 16-year-old in 1973 had read those words from Mr. Butler, AKA Major General Smedley Butler, “War is a Racket”? That’s 1935, fellow travelers! when it was published. Every high school student, college plebe should have been given the transcript, or have had it tattooed on their foreheads if each one even feigns to deviate from the thesis of this piece, a chunk of writing by a war monger turned plowshares pusher.

This two-star general’s pulled quote easily bookends my essay’s main thrust – we can be rotten soldiers and detritus in these shadow governments’ and Star Chambers’ machinations, OR, we can resist, any way possible: underhandedly, as Antifa, in the hacktivist style, suckling our newborns, in the offices, in the schools, on the streets, in the courtrooms, on the battlefields, in the monkey-wrenching corridors, maybe in the boardrooms, but hardly ever in the chambers of the politicians.

Chapter One — War Is A Racket

WAR is a racket. It always has been.

It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.

A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge
fortunes.

In the World War [I] a mere handful garnered the profits of the conflict. At least 21,000 new millionaires and billionaires were made in the United States during the World War. That many admitted their huge blood gains in their income tax returns. How many other war
millionaires falsified their tax returns no one knows.

How many of these war millionaires shouldered a rifle? How many of them dug a trench? How many of them knew what it meant to go hungry in a rat-infested dug-out? How many of them spent sleepless, frightened nights, ducking shells and shrapnel and machine gun
bullets? How many of them parried a bayonet thrust of an enemy? How many of them were wounded or killed in battle?

Out of war nations acquire additional territory, if they are victorious. They just take it. This newly acquired territory promptly is exploited by the few – the selfsame few who wrung dollars out of blood in the war. The general public shoulders the bill.

And what is this bill?

This bill renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all its attendant miseries. Back-breaking taxation for generations and generations.

 

Why I Don’t Speak of 9/11 Anymore

Tuesday, September 11, 2001, was a non-teaching day for me.  I was home when the phone rang at 9 A.M.  It was my daughter, who was on a week’s vacation with her future husband.  “Turn on the TV,” she said.  “Why?” I asked.  “Haven’t you heard?  A plane hit the World Trade Tower.”

I turned the TV on and watched a plane crash into the Tower.  I said, “They just showed a replay.”  She quickly corrected me, “No, that’s another plane.”  And we talked as we watched in horror, learning that it was the South Tower this time.  Sitting next to my daughter was my future son-in-law; he had not had a day off from work in a year.  He had finally taken a week’s vacation so they could go to Cape Cod.  He worked on the 100th floor of the South Tower.  By chance, he had escaped the death that claimed 176 of his co-workers.

That was my introduction to the attacks.  Sixteen years have disappeared behind us, yet it seems like yesterday.  And yet again, it seems like long, long ago.

Over the next few days, as the government and the media accused Osama bin Laden and 19 Arabs of being responsible for the attacks, I told a friend that what I was hearing wasn’t believable; the official story was full of holes.  It was a reaction that I couldn’t fully explain, but it set me on a search for the truth.  I proceeded in fits and starts, but by the fall of 2004, with the help of the extraordinary work of David Ray Griffin (see How Bush And Cheney Ruined America And The World) and other early skeptics, I could articulate the reasons for my initial intuition.  I set about creating a college course on what had come to be called 9/11.

But I no longer refer to the events of that day by those numbers.  Let me explain why.

By 2004 I was convinced that the U.S. government’s claims (and The 9/11 Commission Report) were fictitious.  They seemed so blatantly false that I concluded the attacks were a deep-state intelligence operation whose purpose was to initiate a national state of emergency to justify wars of aggression, known euphemistically as “the war on terror.”  The sophistication of the attacks, and the lack of any proffered evidence for the government’s claims, suggested that a great deal of planning had been involved.

Yet I was chagrined and amazed by so many people’s insouciant lack of interest in researching arguably the most important world event since the assassination of President Kennedy.  I understood the various psychological dimensions of this denial, the fear, cognitive dissonance, etc., but I sensed something else as well.  For so many people their minds seemed to have been “made up” from the start.  I found that many young people were the exceptions, while most of their elders dared not question the official narrative.  This included many prominent leftist critics of American foreign policy.  Now that sixteen years have elapsed, this seems truer than ever.

So with the promptings of people like Graeme MacQueen, Lance deHaven-Smith, T.H. Meyer, et al., I have concluded that a process of linguistic mind-control was in place before, during, and after the attacks.  As with all good propaganda, the language had to be insinuated over time and introduced through intermediaries.  It had to seem “natural” and to flow out of events, not to precede them.  And it had to be repeated over and over again.

In summary form, I will list the language I believe “made up the minds” of those who have refused to examine the government’s claims about the September 11 attacks and the subsequent anthrax attacks.

  1. Pearl Harbor. As pointed out by David Ray Griffin and others, this term was used in September 2000 in The Project for the New American Century’s report, “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” (p.51).  Its neo-con authors argued that the U.S. wouldn’t be able to attack Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. “absent some catastrophic event – like a new Pearl Harbor.”  Coincidentally or not, the film Pearl Harbor, made with Pentagon assistance and a massive budget, was released on May 25, 2001 and was a box office hit. It was in the theatres throughout the summer.  The thought of the attack on Pearl Harbor (not a surprise to the U.S. government, but presented as such) was in the air despite the fact that the 60th anniversary of that attack was not until December 7, 2001, a more likely release date. Once the September 11 attacks occurred, the Pearl Harbor comparison was “plucked out” of the social atmosphere and used innumerable times, beginning immediately. Even George W. Bush was widely reported to have had the time  that night to allegedly use it in his diary. The examples of this comparison are manifold, but I am summarizing, so I will skip giving them.  Any casual researcher can confirm this.
  2. Homeland. This strange un-American term, another WW II word associated with another enemy – Nazi Germany – was also used many times by the neo-con authors of “Rebuilding America’s Defenses.”  I doubt any average American referred to this country by that term before.  Of course, it became the moniker for The Department of Homeland Security, marrying home with security to form a comforting name that simultaneously and unconsciously suggests a defense against Hitler-like evil coming from the outside.  Not coincidentally, Hitler introduced it into the Nazi propaganda vernacular at the 1934 Nuremberg rally. Both usages conjured up images of a home besieged by alien forces intent on its destruction; thus preemptive action was in order.
  3. Ground Zero. This is a third WWII (“the good war”) term first used at 11:55 A.M. on September 11 by Mark Walsh (aka “the Harley Guy” because he was wearing a Harley-Davidson tee shirt) in an interview on the street by a Fox News reporter, Rick Leventhal. Identified as a Fox free-lancer, Walsh also explained the Twin Towers collapse in a precise, well-rehearsed manner that would be the same illogical and anti-scientific explanation later given by the government: “mostly due to structural failure because the fire was too intense.” Ground zero – a nuclear bomb term first used by U.S. scientists to refer to the spot where they exploded the first nuclear bomb in New Mexico in 1945 – became another meme adopted by the media that suggested a nuclear attack had occurred or might in the future if the U.S. didn’t act. The nuclear scare was raised again and again by George W. Bush and U.S. officials in the days and months following the attacks, although nuclear weapons were beside the point. But the conjoining of “nuclear” with “ground zero” served to raise the fear factor dramatically.  Ironically, the project to develop the nuclear bomb was called the Manhattan Project and was headquartered at 270 Broadway, NYC, a few short blocks north of the World Trade Center.
  4. The Unthinkable. This is another nuclear term whose usage as linguistic mind control and propaganda is analyzed by Graeme MacQueen in the penultimate chapter of the very important The 2001 Anthrax Deception.  He notes the patterned use of this term before and after September 11, while saying “the pattern may not signify a grand plan …. It deserves investigation and contemplation.”  He then presents a convincing case that the use of this term couldn’t be accidental.  He notes how George W. Bush, in a major foreign policy speech on May 1, 2001, “gave informal public notice that the United States intended to withdraw unilaterally from the ABM Treaty”; Bush said the U.S. must be willing to “rethink the unthinkable.”  This was necessary because of terrorism and rogue states with “weapons of mass destruction.”  PNAC also argued that the U.S. should withdraw from the treaty. A signatory to the treaty could only withdraw after giving six months notice and because of “extraordinary events” that “jeopardized its supreme interests.” Once the September 11 attacks occurred, Bush rethought the unthinkable and officially gave formal notice on December 13 to withdraw the U.S. from the ABM Treaty.  MacQueen specifies the many times different media used the term “unthinkable” in October 2001 in reference to the anthrax attacks.  He explicates its usage in one of the anthrax letters – “The Unthinkabel” [sic].  He explains how the media that used the term so often were at the time unaware of its usage in the anthrax letter since that letter’s content had not yet been revealed, and how the letter writer had mailed the letter before the media started using the word.  He makes a rock solid case showing the U.S. government’s complicity in the anthrax attacks and therefore in the September 11 attacks.  While calling the use of the term “unthinkable” in all its iterations “problematic,” he writes: “The truth is that the employment of ‘the unthinkable’ in this letter, when weight is given both to the meaning of this term in U.S. strategic circles and to the other relevant uses of the term in 2001, points us in the direction of the U.S. military and intelligence communities.”  I am reminded of Orwell’s point in 1984: “a heretical thought – that is, a thought diverging from the principles of Ingsoc – should be literally unthinkable, at least as far as thought is dependent on words.”  Thus the government and media’s use of “unthinkable” becomes a classic case of “doublethink.”  The unthinkable is unthinkable.
  5. 9/11. This is the key usage that has reverberated down the years around which the others revolve. It is an anomalous numerical designation applied to a historical event, and obviously also the emergency telephone number.  Try to think of another numerical appellation for an important event in American history. The future editor of The New York Times and Iraq war promoter, Bill Keller, introduced this connection the following morning in a NY Times op-ed piece, “America’s Emergency Line: 911.”  The linkage of the attacks to a permanent national emergency was thus subliminally introduced, as Keller mentioned Israel nine times and seven times compared the U.S. situation to that of Israel as a target for terrorists. His first sentence reads: “An Israeli response to America’s aptly dated wake-up call might well be, ‘Now you know.’”  By referring to September 11 as 9/11, an endless national emergency became wedded to an endless war on terror aimed at preventing Hitler-like terrorists from obliterating us with nuclear weapons that could create another ground zero or holocaust. It is a term that pushes all the right buttons evoking unending social fear and anxiety.  It is language as sorcery; it is propaganda at its best. Even well-respected critics of the U.S. government’s explanation use the term that has become a fixture of public consciousness through endless repetition.   As George W. Bush would later put it as he connected Saddam Hussein to “9/11” and pushed for the Iraq war, “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”  All the ingredients for a linguistic mind-control smoothie had been blended.

I have concluded – and this is impossible to prove definitively at this time because of the nature of such propagandistic techniques – that the use of all these words/numbers is part of a highly sophisticated linguistic mind-control campaign waged to create a narrative that has lodged in the minds of hundreds of millions of people and is very hard to dislodge.  It is why I don’t speak of “9/11” any more. I refer to those events as the attacks of September 11, 2001, which is a mouth-full and not easily digested in the age of Twitter and texting.  But I am not sure how to be more succinct or how to undo the damage.

Lance deHaven-Smith puts it well in Conspiracy Theory in America.

The rapidity with which the new language of the war on terror appeared and took hold; the synergy between terms and their mutual connections to WW II nomenclatures; and above all the connections between many terms and the emergency motif of “9/11” and “9-1-1” – any one of these factors alone, but certainly all of them together – raise the possibility that work on this linguistic construct began long before 9/11…. It turns out that elite political crime, even treason, may actually be official policy.

Needless to say, his use of the words “possibility” and “may” are in order when one sticks to strict empiricism.  However, when one reads his full text, it is apparent to me that he considers these “coincidences” part of a conspiracy.  I have also reached that conclusion.  As Thoreau put in his underappreciated humorous way, “Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.”

The evidence for linguistic mind control, while the subject of this essay, does not stand alone, of course.  It underpins the actual attacks of September 11 and the subsequent anthrax attacks that are linked.  The official explanations for these events by themselves do not stand up to elementary logic and are patently false, as proven by thousands of well-respected professional researchers  from all walks of life – i.e. engineers, pilots, architects, and scholars from many disciplines.  To paraphrase the prescient Vince Salandria, who said it long ago concerning the assassination of President Kennedy, the attacks of 2001 are “a false mystery concealing state crimes.”  If one objectively studies the 2001 attacks together with the language adopted to explain and preserve them in social memory, the “mystery” emerges from the realm of the unthinkable and becomes utterable. “There is no mystery.” How to communicate this when the corporate mainstream media serve the function of the government’s mockingbird (as in Operation Mockingbird), repeating and repeating  and repeating the same narrative in the same language; that is the difficult task we are faced with, but there are signs today that breakthroughs are occurring.

Words have a power to enchant and mesmerize.  Linguistic mind-control, especially when linked to traumatic events such as the September 11 and anthrax attacks, can strike people dumb and blind.  It often makes some subjects “unthinkable” and “unspeakable” (to quote Jim Douglass quoting Thomas Merton in JFK and the Unspeakable: the unspeakable “is the void that contradicts everything that is spoken even before the words are said.”).

We need a new vocabulary to speak of these terrible things.

• Reprinted from the Journal of 9/11 Studies

Fantasticalism and the Future of a Dying Planet

As a tender of youth – 16 to 21 year olds, as my clients are in foster care, held by the state or some other guardian, or on their own, but still labeled as foster youth – I find the topics of our time more magnified by the presence of the ever-vaunting capitalist mindset about time, work, energy, technology, digital supremacy, patriotism, consumerism, punishment, surveillance, worthiness.

I also find that as a 60-year-old, many of my colleagues look to me sort of like a revolutionary looks at a Molotov or stick of dynamite, or, shoot, a pipe bomb. My anti-authority jostling and over the top presence and de facto contribution to their own contexts and perspectives (fearful, individualistic, tied to obedience and compliance) add something in their lives they have never had, or only read about.

Revolutionary comes in many forms, and there’s no use sorting out the forms I have taken over the years in a monkey wrenching sort of milieu, but what I see is few have the presence of mind and historical knowledge behind the mind and the years traveling to other spiritual climates than just the United States of Israel-Disney that I have.

Power to Persuade and Organize Lost in a Sea of White Noise

Daily, from my youth or some state official’s mouth, I am admonished for not being in a higher more powerful place in the hierarchy of things. “You should be running this non-profit . . . . You should be Portland’s Mayor . . . You should be getting millions in grants to do the amazing things you have outlined for young people to not only survive this onslaught of stupidity, but to thrive.” Many variations on a theme.

What I found is most people do not know how to dream and to hold in head space the very concepts of systems thinking, holistic engagement and universal social justice. Most people can’t break out of bad eating and bad cultural diets, let alone break the chains of polluted media and necrotic education and gangrenous capitalism/consumerism.

The dreams I talk about are tied to restorative justice – restoring ecosystems, managing urban centers, repairing agricultural lands, stitching back together the fractured lands left for mega species, replanting jungles, feeding the poor, opening up the concept of “it takes a village to raise a child and steward the old, sick, infirm, and less fortunate.”

Dreams about pushing cars back into the junk heap of humanity, creating bicycle cities, reinventing community public transportation.

Dreams about universal health, health clinics of robust stature in each neighborhood. Schools that teach the healing arts and visual arts and food arts.

You know, walkable cities, organic food, retaking the commons from the private toxin producers, driving the current capitalist model of government into the mud and reshaping humanity as a collective society of people who do not have to toil at three jobs just to pay the money changers-renters-financial thieves-pimps/prostitutes/whores of debt.

What is the Current Change of Life on Earth, and Who is Really Surviving?

This situation on planet earth is dire and needs real thinkers, and people by the billions signed up. Forget the billionaires and the point one percent who control more than half the wealth in communities, and who own (sic) the power to change and transform into something more than a “Call of Duty XIII” of man against woman, child against man, woman against woman dystopian world largely magnified by the perversions of Hollywood-Fox News-The Judiciary-Senate-Executive Branches-Titans of War/Industry/Consumption.

These people get the ink, digital time, so to speak, and the TED-X views and billions thrown at them for being caviar eaters and jet setters. These are collapsing times – war, more war, economic war, emotional war, medical war, industrial war. Wars against free press-speech-commerce-travel. War against coral reefs, fisheries, tides. War against lakes, ponds, rivers, the water cycle. War against intelligence, time, reading, knowledge. War against humanity, international law, universal rights of humanity and nature.

Yes, this is the big picture time for young people to be exploring and contemplating, even if all these problems and all these daily perversions coming into their news feeds cause them to feel sad, lonely, alone, overwhelmed, used/abused/discarded.

The child in Gaza is the elderly in LA, both digging crumbs from the garbage bins. The bombed out school in Yemen is the lead-laced water of Detroit. The murdered black men (mostly) in America by the fascist cops are the raped/tortured/murdered environmental leaders in Honduras, Mexico, India, All of Africa.

Knowledge with Ethics with Universal Rights with Rights of Nature

I invoke the basis of knowledge and bearing witness to my youth because they have been wrapped in a cellophane of ignorance three generations back before their conception. To know is not to watch and to think is not to forget.

So, when this creepy infantilism that costs us dearly rises – we are going to move to Mars, fly to Mars, colonize Mars, remake Earth on Mars, market Mars, dream of Mars, immigrate to Mars – the mere positing of this racist, elitist Brave New World bullshit eats at our collective soul, from the child wanting to go into science, to the NASA superstar, to the billionaires, to the celebrities and politicians, to the media, to the consumer of Hollywood crap.

Serious times – schools are now almost completely turned into zombie zones, houses of compliance and coding. Cities have infrastructure degradation that makes Bulgaria look like a 22nd Century country. We have a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico as big as a continent. We have oceans rising, glaciers receding faster than Donald Trump’s frontal cortex. We have a celebrity culture that is entertaining (sic) each new generation into a death spiral. Autism and on the spectrum births will hit 20 to 30 percent of all births in the US of Israel by 2040. We have a billion guts messed up. Anxiety on the rise. Malnutrition in the billions of people, either not enough or too much.

We have people living under blue Walmart tarps in Haiti seven years after the 7.0 earthquake. We have Palestinians murdered by economic and structural violence from a society flying the flag of a genocidal religion (that is, remade in a new Zionist economic fundamentalism).

We have Google and YouTube censoring site after site. We have the thought police and PC brigades and knee-jerkians inhabiting both sides of the false dichotomy of democrat (liberal) and republican (conservative).

The Sixth Mass Extinction, future pandemics because of rampant viruses created by industrial meat production. Children born with no brains because of chemicals, pesticides, fumigants, pharmaceuticals.

Yet, we have to see daily on TV/Netflix/News these grotesque ideas of leaving the planet Earth to save humanity before it’s too late.

The Martian Chronicles Are Dead Sea Scrolls

That’s what Stephen Hawking said recently, and while many look to the eggheads and mathematical loners and scientific geniuses as leaders of humanity (not), these schemes of colonizing the Moon, Mars and Alpha Centauri are racist, elitist, defeatist, dangerous, malarkey – but the problem is these ideas take funds away from solutions here on earth. The very concept of millionaire actors and celebrities weighing in and then these billionaires looking to rocket profits into space, these conceptualizations are the pure definition of insanity and inhumanity.

Even with earth’s total melt of ice, even with the oceans warming, the cool currents might still rise, and humanity might get smart and plan, fix, retrench, simplify, live close to nature, and receed. We have terra-reformed the planet by these inventions – all run through the calculus of fossil fuel burning – from mining rare earth metals for batteries and solar panels and nuclear plants, to the ores and ancient fuel sources for our supersonic war machines, everything we consume, all the plastics and polymers of a modern world, mined and cooked and plied and titrated from a fossil fuel universe.

Those Martian billionaires who purport to know how humanity can save itself are the gas guzzlers of humanity, their ecological footprints the Sasquatch of our times. These jet setting great thinkers, looking for “alternative energy sources” are in it for the pure PROFIT. And these are cut from the same cloth as industrialists making money off gas chambers, wars, droughts, the casino capitalists funding the disaster opportunist, or what is called disaster capitalism/shock doctrine.

Every single letter and comma and thought typed out, uploaded, cloud stored, spoken over Verizon-AT&T, every bank account, retail transaction, driver’s license ordered, every visit to the doctor, every book checked out or purchased via Bezos Amazon, every moment on the road or in a mall, all of it recorded, stored, parsed and analyzed, through the tools of the Brave New World. We are talking about Peter Thiel (Trump’s gay Jewish man working on tracking all undocumented Americans’ lives) of Pay Pal (which other companies exist for on-line buying??), or Zuckerberg of Facebook (Mengeles bio-metrics a la white Jewish billionaire!), every search through Larry Page or Sergey Brin (the Orwellian liberal self-identified Jewish info channelers), every order through Jeff Bezos (self-invoked citizen of Israel)  . . . . BlackRock Capital’s Larry Fink (dual citizenry stitched into investment kingdom, USA/Israel) controls more assets — $4.6 trillion in investor funds — than the annual US federal budget, and five times the assets of Goldman Sachs.

Think hard how a trip to Mars is going to reverse the inhumanity and Mafioso Madness of Capitalism run through a handful of elites in the world? Not one scientist or billionaire infant sees humanity’s major problems on earth solvable or worth a pittance of energy!

Celebrity Eugenicists, Dachau Developers, Zombie Makers 

Here, just to make sure we know where these people stand, from Richard Branson, Kris Jenner, Susan Sarandon, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Obama, Trump and the other mindless musketeers:

A. “Obviously, you are going to want scientists initially,” Branson said.

“You’re going to want physicians, you’re going to want comedians, you’re going to want fun people, beautiful people, ugly people — a good cross-section of what happens on Earth — on Mars.”

B. Basically, as Christian Davenport wrote, Bezos wanted to run a series of deliveries to a crater near the moon’s south pole — cargo for future human habitats.

“I’m excited about this and am ready to invest my own money alongside NASA to make it happen,” Bezos wrote to space officials, though he also urged NASA to provide “incentives to the private sector” to help make his lunar cargo delivery dream come true.

C. Lucy Lawless was a no. But Kris Jenner of Kardashians fame said: “Absolutely — adventure, seeing the solar system, great episode for the family, opportunity to share Zestra with life on other planets.”

The entrepreneur (Musk) pitched an “incredibly ambitious timeline,”

Davenport wrote, with the first launch in 2018, and many more for decades to come, until the city is up and running.

D. Musk showed the crowd a video of a rocket with 100 people taking off from Florida, fueling up in orbit and plopping them down on the Red Planet. Imagine those on the regular.

E. Zuckerberg wants to explore a whole different star system, Alpha Centauri, which is so far away it takes light — the fastest thing in the universe — more than four years to get there.

F. He’s teamed up with Stephen Hawking and Russian celebrity Yuri Milner, the Atlantic reported, who announced from the top of a skyscraper a $100 million research program they’ve dubbed “Starshot.”

G. Let me explain. The key challenges for a successful Mars colony involve generating energy, food, water, and shelter on a hyper-sustainable and cost-effective basis. But these are also the key challenges for the rest of us on Earth between now and in 2035.

So I want to send Bill Gates or, at least, his thinking about energy technology, to Mars.

H. When Trump became president, he decided Obama’s plan to land on Mars before 2040 was way too slow.

So he signed a bill in March that funded NASA with nearly $20 billion. The next month, he called the International Space Station from the Oval Office and said, verbatim: “Who’s ready to go to Mars?

An astronaut, in space at the time, told Trump they’d be ready in the 2030s. Trump replied: “We want to try to do it during my first term, or at worst during my second term, so we’ll have to speed that up a little bit, okay?”

I. Kids may be the only ones who are as optimistic about these missions as NASA administrators are. They know we’ll get “boots on the ground” on Mars within their lifetimes. Some of them might even be the astronauts who make it there.

The rest of the general public is another story. Importantly for NASA, they’re the ones who need convincing to drive that final push to get us there, said Tony Antonelli, who’s now the chief technologist of exploration systems for Lockheed Martin’s civil line of space systems.

“We will not go until the American people and the international community are ready and decide that it is a priority,” he told Tech Insider. “I really think what we’re missing is a sense of urgency, a sense of purpose, and just pushing out and doing it.”

Little kids know it will happen. NASA and its partners are ready to go. Now the public has to get on board to convince their representatives in Washington, too.

“We have nearly enough information to be able to support humans going to Mars,” NASA’s Planetary Science Director Jim Green said at the festival. “It’s not a matter of if. It’s a matter of when.”

Here, the sources for this fantasy, the infantilism:1

So, Bezos is a propagandist who owns the Washington Post and Amazon dot Steal, hiding billions offshore, and as is the routine, he is the vanguard for American ideas and culture.

Obama has done what for wedding parties and brown people in the Middle East and what’s his science creed and great big brain on climate change going to do? How much is $400,000 a speech going to do to help humanity?

But the former president’s departure from office was also marked by the mother of all parties: a celebrity-filled White House romp two weeks before Inauguration Day that went past 4 a.m. and included guests like Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney.

Mr. Obama’s first few months after leaving the White House were spent kitesurfing with Richard Branson, the billionaire founder of the Virgin Group, and soaking up the French Polynesian sun with Oprah Winfrey, Bruce Springsteen and Mr. Hanks on a yacht owned by David Geffen, a billionaire and Hollywood mogul.

Mr. Obama and his family now live in an 8,200-square-foot, nine-bedroom home in Washington valued at $6 million. The house, which rents for an estimated $22,000 a month, is in one of Washington’s richest neighborhoods, surrounded by ambassadors, executives and other members of the political elite.

And Trump and his anti-education agenda, what power he has to ignite scientists and media moguls?  How did Trump rise so quickly to political fame, and is there a Star Chamber really tied to billionaires getting away with not following the law, ethics, human scale empathy, and illegal wars? Here, David Cay Johnston who has written the incredible book on Donald Trump — La Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, New York Times, more! PT Barnum, Trump.

Democracy Now:

Juan Gonzalez: David, I wanted to ask you about this issue which we discussed previously with Wayne Barrett, as well, on the issue of Donald Trump’s relationship to the mob and his connections over the years to mobsters. And you’ve also looked into that, as well.

David Cay Johnston:  Yes, and it’s not just the traditional Mafia families in New York. First of all, Donald Trump’s father had a business partner who was a mob guy. I’m sure Wayne talked about that. But Donald has done business with people with the Russian mob. He’s done business with con artists. The guy who supplied his helicopters and managed his personal helicopter, called the Ivana, from his first wife back then, was a major cocaine trafficker, who actually handled the drugs. And after he went to prison, Donald wrote a letter pleading for mercy for him, so he got 18 months as the head of the ring. The little fish who delivered the drugs, they got 20 years. Donald continued to do business with him after he was indicted. Donald has done business all his life with mobsters and criminals, because it’s a way to make money.

Yet, who rises to the top and controls the narrative, the money, the future? Inside Job, highly recommended if you have not already viewed the documentary:

Anyone who has ever lived or worked in a corrupt dictatorship knows what happens. When the system is rigged, when ordinary citizens are powerless, and when whistle-blowers are pariahs at best, three things happen. First, the worst people rise to the top. They behave appallingly, and they wreak havoc. Second, people who could make productive contributions to society are incented to become destructive, because corruption is far more lucrative than honest work. And third, everyone else pays, both economically and emotionally; people become cynical, selfish, and fatalistic. Often they go along with the system, but they hate themselves for it. They play the game to survive and feed their families, but both they and society suffer.  ― Charles H. Ferguson, Inside Job: The Rogues Who Pulled Off the Heist of the Century

Things Always Go Haywire When Contemplating the Obscene Rich — Robots

Image result for robots eating peopleImage result for robots eating people images

It — writing this essay, that is — started as a look at a Counterpunch article recently, pushing robotics as some sort of great next big thing to push humanity into a great land of leisure and Marxist socialistic world.

The Rise of the Robots and the End of Capitalism?” by Dan Corjescu talks about significant (sic) advances (sic) in the tools of grinding and burning earth, moving goods, shipping arms and bombs via air, generating uranium-derived electricity, tooling around in fast cars, harvesting oceans and forests more mechanically. . . all . . . as advances . . . for humanity! Dan purports the next new wave of helping man (woman, child) from working so hard will be robots. How capitalism will fall with the rise of robots, because all we 7.5 billion (or 10 billion by 2050) will have time to knit hats, sew ideas, and develop great big epic dramas in our air conditioned amphitheaters.

Recently, there has been much speculation concerning automation and its anticipated effects on human life. This philosophical essay seeks to broaden, as much as possible, the ongoing surge of supposition. It will seek to contextualize the impending “rise of the robots” within a broader framework that includes potential future advances in genetics, industry, space, and science in general. Furthermore, it will seek to understand these trends with reference to some philosophical ideas that have been provided to us by Marx and, to a lesser extent, Hegel.

To begin with: let us ask two rhetorical questions. Did the car, airplane, nuclear power, the internet, and the computer end work as such or did it transform it? Secondly, can we consider these technological breakthroughs to have been in the profoundest sense of the word “revolutionary”? I think, without much undo reflection, that the answer to both these questions should be in the affirmative. Yes, in the Twentieth century, the nature of work was qualitatively transformed.

It is without question that these machines/processes dramatically increased the productive powers of the human race. They helped to significantly contribute to a dramatic rise in the standard of living of millions of people throughout the world, although certainly not all of them. And they did this within the social, political, economic system known as liberal-world capitalism.

Look, I enjoy thought experiments, ALL the time, but this article is as so many times in modern thought experimenting, without an inch of real ground-truthing, and is so off the unholy mark, that it is a reverse thesis — capitalism is the underpinning of any revolution in robotics.

He talks about how advanced we are in genetically re-engineering Homo Sapiens Sapiens with all this great scientific breakthrough.

He states how we are on the precipice of bringing down energy prices and finding new sources of clean energy.

Next, astroid mining and space tourism (hearkens back to the Mars shit above here, no?).

I don’t know where guys like Corjescu live, but not on the streets, in the urban decay, in the fields of toxic harvest, the bellies of women giving birth to mutants, in the jungles (what’s left of them), or under the rubble of coal fields from mountain tops removed. Is he in Gaza, India, Appalachia, Houston, Haiti, South America?

Is this just more white man’s mumbo-jumbo of pretending the 1/3 of world is not living (sic) on $2 a day, that the earth’s atmosphere and glaciers and tillable lands and clean water sources are not collapsing?

This is the cock-eyed nature of a world where expressing futuristic orgasms and dreams of a new White Hope, the Digital and Artificial Intelligent libertarian  leeches, makes it thus.

How could anyone think the robotics people (pure capitalists, manipulators, mind controllers, Brave New World lovers, people eaters, Soylent Green is People lovers) have any agenda other than profits, gating in their worlds with 24/7 surveillance a la Blackwater mercenaries while corralling in our worlds, and knowing there will be no Blade Runner out there ready for a Bruce Willis door kick in.

Thus, the “rise of the robots” is a false specter haunting the contemporary imagination. Robotization, not any more than genetic engineering, or fusion energy, or asteroid mining or even quantum computers will not do away with work per se; quite the contrary it will, as it has always done, radically revolutionize its nature. New types of work will be created to meet new material conditions. To be sure, the new work will require more education and more skills but that is a good thing. Dull work, “meaningless” work, dehumanizing work will more rapidly than gradually become a thing of the past. In fact, we can view this transformation as revealing a fundamental trend inherent in capitalism and the general scientific organization and basis of society. An ever more complex society requiring ever more skilled and informed workers. A world where instead of working as it were on the outside of things we are working more from within their centers.

Dan does it again — oh, those jobs not yet imagined, just waiting for us to retool our cultures, our capitalist democracies. No more rich and poor, but just us and robots! Bull-shit! See how robots solve the problems (NOT): Robots and fisheries. Robots and poverty. Robots and food. Robots and culture. Again, man without any understanding of sustainability and eco-socialism and the Age of Dumb, well, a writer can say anything, propose all sorts of thought experiments, that have as little relevance to the world — people want food and clean water. That is, the majority of the world wants a place to call home — no drones, no bankers, no World Bank or White Man’s Burden. They want disease to be abated, a broken bone set, light to read by, and animals for husbandry and land for food.

Maybe exploring this writer’s very unique pedigree is the place to begin my thought experiment about thought experimenters but that’s another article . . . one I could parse and discuss maybe around where his ideas of a Brave New I-Robot World comes from — Dan Corjescu has a PhD in Philosophy from Sofia University Bulgaria. He teaches at Neu Ulm Hochschule in Bavaria Germany.

Another view, here, to end this piece — As Moshe Vardi, a computer science at Rice University in Texas, puts it:

We are approaching the time when machines will be able to outperform humans at almost any task. Society needs to confront this question before it is upon us: if machines are capable of doing almost any work humans can do, what will humans do?

  1. WP; The Conversation; Business Insider; Smithsonian Magazine; NASA News; Former NASA Deputy Administrator

Language Wars

If it is a truism that after a war the victor writes the history, then it could be argued that the victor also chooses the language in which the history will be written. If it is a war of the colonised against the coloniser then the language takes on a special significance as typically the coloniser imposes their language on the colonised.

Paulo Freire described the way in which cultural conquest leads to the cultural inauthenticity of those who are invaded. They then start to take up the outlook of the invader in terms of their values, standards and goals. In Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Freire wrote that cultural invasion would only succeed if the invaded believed in their own cultural inferiority. When convinced of their own inferiority they would see the coloniser and his culture as being superior. Over time, as people become more alienated from their own culture they would see only positives in the culture of the invader and desire to become more and more like them, “to walk like them, dress like them, talk like them”.1

However, post-revolutionary, post-colonial situations are complex and reversal of cultural norms a difficult process. The African writer Chinua Achebe wrote about the problems of communication in post-colonial African countries asserting that African writers wrote in English and French because they are “by-products” of the revolutionary processes that led to new nations-states and not just taking advantage of the global French and English language book markets.2

This then leads to a difficult situation with competing groups, some using the native languages for the first time on a state level competing with the remnants of the old order who may only be able to speak the language of the former coloniser. As new nation states, post-revolution, usually have more pressing practical problems that need to be dealt with, and in a language the majority can understand, the cultural aspects tend to be put on the back boiler until some time in the future when they may even be forgotten about entirely.

Yet, the regularity with which language issues crop up around the world today is significant and points to a sharpening of political tensions. As inter-élite competition increases, language becomes a battleground upon which political power is augmented or maintained.  The Italian political theorist Antonio Gramsci identified the problem very clearly when he noted that the rise in language issues meant that something more serious was bubbling below the surface. He believed that the makeup and widening of the governing class and their need to have popular support led to a change in the cultural hegemony in society.3 This usually happens when different ethnic or language groups in society become dissatisfied with the services and benefits the state bestows on them and assert a new identity based on language and ethnic history.

In most post-colonial situations language issues centre around struggle over which languages will be taught in schools, the language used in parliament and national media, and even place names and personal names. In a recent article by Aatish Taseer, he writes about the changing politics of India where place names have become sites of contention.  He notes the fact that there are many competing ideas of history and even “names reflect that very basic need of having the world see you as you see yourself.” He believes that a former self-confidence in India has given way to a new oversensitivity and a desire to control India’s image.

Taseer sees the source of this oversensitivity as the strengthening of Hindu nationalism which has undergone changes in recent years. In the past people referred to Varanasi by its multiple names including its Muslim-era name Banaras and its ancient Sanskrit name, Kashi. The rise of Hindu nationalism has politicized culture and, according to Taseer, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has been built on a weaponized idea of history. Ignoring Muslim sensitivities as a minority ethnic group in India, the B.J.P. president, Amit Shah, described the Muslim period as part of a thousand-year history of slavery in Goa last year.

This monolithic view of Muslims and Muslim culture only serves to stereotype and demonise Muslims and imply that a minority group is oppressing a majority rather than the other way around. The maintenance of power by a linguistic and/or political majority by imposition of its beliefs and linguistic norms on a minority has a long history in Ireland since the formation of the Irish Free State in 1922. While initially the conservative nationalist forces which won the civil war after British withdrawal (except for the northern 6 counties) brought in some measures for the protection and promulgation of the Irish language (Gaelic), the project declined and soon became associated with the radical nationalist ideology of the defeated forces instead.

The weakness of the current situation for Gaelic can be illustrated with an example of a conservative backlash which played out in Dingle in 2011, a popular small town in the southwest of Ireland. The difficulties and complexities of name change could be seen in the decision to officially rename the town ‘An Daingean’, its original Gaelic name. As place names in Ireland are in English (Anglicised versions of Gaelic names) and Gaelic, they can become focal points for cultural conflict as Gaelic speakers try to move away from historical colonial influence. The local people fought back and after six years the President at the time, Mary McAleese, reinstated the town’s name back to the Anglicised version ‘Dingle’. Many of the local people saw the Anglicised name as a tourism brand and feared a loss of business through tourist confusion with its Gaelic name.

Similar preference for the language of the colonizer can be seen in a recent article on Algeria in The Economist. In the article the competing school languages of French and Arabic were joined by Berber, made even more complicated by the lack of decision on which of its six dialects to teach. Berber is spoken by around 25% of Algerians and was only recognized last year despite independence from France in 1962. The writer notes that “Algeria’s French-speaking élite prefer their old masters’ lingo.” One adviser to the education minister, Nouria Benghebrit, stated that Arabisation was a mistake and that Algerians “shouldn’t confuse the savage, barbaric colonialism of France with the French language, which is a universal vehicle of science and culture.”

These negative overtones towards Arabic and Berber have parallels in Ireland that Gaelic speakers will recognise from Irish history. In the late nineteenth century, the increased support for Gaelic provoked reaction from various quarters particularly in the academic field. T. W. Rolleston, speaking at the Press Club in 1896 described the language as unfit for thought or consideration by educated people. Supporters of Irish and other aspects of Gaelic culture were seen as parochial traditionalists looking backward and trying to hold back the tide of history.

The struggle for the recognition of Irish as a modern language meant suffering the indignity of a challenge from Rolleston to prove that a piece of prose from a scientific journal could be translated into Irish and then back into English by another translator, without loss of meaning. This was duly carried out successfully by Hyde and MacNeill, two leading Irish nationalists, and accepted by Rolleston. (Of course, the strong historical connection between Arabic and science should also be mentioned here.)

The dubbing of Gaelic speakers as ‘parochial traditionalists’ is still used to swipe at people who assert their linguistic rights [Gaelic is the first official language of Ireland alongside English], won through many decades of political and cultural struggle with the state. The association of Gaelic with radical nationalism has always been a thorn in the side of conservative Anglophiles in Ireland.

Linguistic issues around the world are shaped, as in Ireland, by problems such as negative attitudes, the difficulties of learning new, or old, languages, and élite control of the state and the education system. As Gramsci notes, when cultural conflicts arise we can be sure that something more serious is happening entailing a closer look at local ideologies of inter-élite and class struggles. In Ireland, the fortunes of the Gaelic language rose and fell according to the cultural and ideological needs of the ruling class. The language movements were harnessed when considered a political threat and dismissed when weak.

This can be seen globally where the role of language can be positive or negative depending on the politics of the groups involved. Language is not inherently progressive or reactionary but acts as a carrier of culture as well as a means of communication. Openness towards diverse and different languages and cultures in society implies openness and tolerance towards different groups and a guard against monolithic simplification and racist provocation. When language issues arise they can also demonstrate that for minority groups, the survival of their language depends just as much on social and economic issues (emigration, unemployment, poverty) as the rights it is accorded by the state.

In Ireland, the refusal to accord linguistic rights by British colonialism to Gaelic speakers played an important part in the move of cultural nationalists to political nationalism and the subsequent War of Independence. Colonisers and conservative dominant élites both learned that their own ‘parochial traditionalism’ could be the author of their downfall in the play of history.

  1. Paulo Friere, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (London: Penguin, 1990) 122.
  2. Ali A. Mazrui, The Political Sociology of the English Language: An African Perspective (The Hague: Mouton, 1975) 218.
  3. Antonio Gramsci, Selections From Cultural Writings. Eds. David Forgacs and Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, trans. William Boelhower (Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1985) 183-184.

Does Capitalism Exist?

My starting point here may seem rather remote from the question posed in the title of this essay, but certain background subjects must be given attention before addressing that question.

Thorstein Veblen [1857–1929] closed his “Some Neglected Points in the Theory of Socialism1 with this paragraph (p. 74):

Certainly, the fact that constitutional government—the nationalization of political functions—seems to have been a move in the right direction is not to be taken as proof of the advisability of forthwith nationalizing the industrial functions.   At the same time this fact does afford ground for the claim that a movement in this direction may prove itself in some degree advantageous, even if it takes place at a stage in the development of  human nature at which mankind is still far from being entirely fit for the duties which the new system shall impose.  The question, therefore, is not whether we have reached the perfection of character which would be necessary in order to a perfect working of the scheme of nationalization of industry, but whether we have reached such a degree of development as would make an imperfect working of the scheme possible.

If we ignore here the fact that Veblen should have said “socialized nature” rather than “human nature,” what’s implicit in the above statement is that we’ve grown used to thinking of there being a political realm and an economic realm in our society.  We have, that is, become used to thinking of two distinctly different spheres in our society.  However, by Veblen asserting that there had been a nationalization of political functions in our society, he in effect asked why there could not be a nationalization of economic functions as well.

Veblen pointed out that a “nationalization” of political functions seems “to have been a move in the right direction . . . ;” but that that fact should not be “taken as proof 2 of the advisability of forthwith nationalizing the industrial functions.”  Veblen then added that the “nationalization” of political functions that had occurred does “afford ground for the claim that a movement in this direction may prove itself in some degree advantageous . . . .”  That is, there was enough evidence in support of the claim that the “nationalization” of political functions had been a “good thing” to give consideration of the possibility that a similar “nationalization” of economic functions could be a “good thing” as well.

By claiming that there had been a “nationalization” of political functions, Veblen was asserting that a process had been initiated in the political realm that could be—if so chose—continued by simply expanding that process into the economic realm.  Although the word “process” does not occur in the above passage, the concept is implicit in the passage—and indicates the important role that the concept of evolution played in Veblen’s thinking.

Implicit in the concept of “process” is that change is a fact of life, and an implication of that fact is that our descriptive words, because they imply stasis rather than change, may become obsolete and, thereby, misleading.  This fact has been recognized in the field of what might be termed “classification science,” where the “logical division” procedure of classification—which has been the dominant procedure for centuries—has increasingly been recognized as having limitations.3

An example of a logical division classification is the Dewey Decimal System that was designed for use by libraries.  With this system, first general categories are identified, then subcategories under each category, subsubcategories under each subcategory, etc.  The result is a hierarchy, with the most specificity existing at the lowest level in the hierarchy.

Such a classification can be termed an a priori classification, to distinguish it from the a posteriori type of classification.  Here’s a brief clarificatory discussion:

These terms are used with respect to reasoning (epistemology) to distinguish “necessary conclusions from first premises” (i.e., what must come before sense observation) from “conclusions based on sense observation” (which must follow it). Thus, the two kinds of knowledgejustification, or argument may be glossed:

(a) A priori knowledge or justification is independent of experience, as with mathematics (3 + 2 = 5), tautologies (“All bachelors are unmarried”), and deduction from pure reason (e.g., ontological proofs).

(b) A posteriori knowledge or justification is dependent on experience or empirical evidence, as with most aspects of science and personal knowledge.

The key point in the above discussion is that a posteriori knowledge has an empirical basis; so that an a posteriori classification would have its basis in empirical data. To illustrate this, assume that (a) our observational unit is national economies, (b) for a given set of variables, observations have been made on each national economy, that (c) a mathematical grouping procedure (e.g., principal components analysis) has been applied to the observations, that (d) two “principal” components have been discovered, and that (e) the graph above displays the results of the analysis.

Although real-world data have not been used in creating the graph, I suspect that had such data been used, the results would have been rather similar to those depicted on the graph.

Visual inspection of the graph is likely to lead most observers to perceive three groups (3 units in one group, 7 in a second, and 5 in the third), with three isolates. Now if we are “reading” this graph with such concepts as “capitalist,” “socialist,” “communist,” etc., in mind (highly likely!), we are likely to be puzzled by the results of our analysis. Concepts such as “capitalist,” etc., lead us to expect “tight” clusters on the graph, with one of the clusters clearly warranting the label “capitalist.” However, we perceive no “tight” clusters!

Some implications of this “exercise” are that:

  1. Real-world economies differ one from another; and even if we feel comfortable labeling some economies as “capitalist,” it’s clear that even “capitalist” economies are not clones one of another.
  2. The graph might even cause some to ask whether “capitalism” even exists (to allude to my title)!  Is “capitalism,” one might ask, a word without a real-world referent?!  A word, therefore, that should be expunged from our language?!
  3. An economy as perceived by, e.g., Adam Smith [1723–1790] decades ago differs greatly from any now-existing economy.4 As Veblen might say, change in economies is simply a fact of life.

Language was created in the first place to enable communication between people.  However, the nature of one’s language affects how one perceives things, and also how one thinks about things.  Regarding the latter, a point of relevance for the present essay is that language tends to cause us, quite “naturally,” to create logical division classifications—i.e., classifications that can lead us to “misread” the real world!

Of perhaps even more importance is the fact that language enables the formulation of ideologies—which misrepresent and, therefore, mislead.  Whether a given ideology was deliberately created or not, ideologies function to create a “fog” which serves the (apparent) interests of some at the expense of others—those “others” not being able to see this, because of the “fog” that prevents their seeing clearly.  The importance of that “fog” being compounded by the failure of the press to inform us adequately.

One might view the Veblen statement quoted at the beginning of this essay as an effort to dispel the “fog” surrounding the word “socialism.”  In a sense, he succeeded here in Milwaukee—where “Socialism meant honest, frugal government5—but not elsewhere in the United States.

Could that be part of the reason why the claim was made last year that our species might go extinct by 2026?!

  1. This article was published in 1891, in The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.
  2. I added the emphasis.
  3. This article about Pauli Murray proves my point!
  4. Although Smith is often touted as the creator of the concept of “capitalism,” Smith did not use that term.  For a discussion of the term, see this, for example.
  5. When I returned, in 1976, to Wisconsin (the Milwaukee area) from Ohio, I made a point of visiting former mayor Frank Zeidler [1912-2006] in his office.  I felt blessed to be in the presence of that great, wonderful man!!

From Clintons to Goldman Sachs, the Winners Take All

And I love all people, rich or poor. But in those particular positions, I just don’t want a poor person. Does that make sense? Does that make sense?

From the criminally insane leader to his insane captives, at Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Wednesday [6/21/17], as Trump was stumping for the health (sic) care (sic-sic) death bill the Republicans are pushing with the blessings of the kleptocracy that is the millionaire-billionaire class (sic). That’s us, folks, poor people – looking at a cool 150 million of us in the USA, or maybe even more! He wants zero voice or self-agency from us poor, huddled tired masses!

Lately, I’ve been thinking hard about the law of time, and how fractured we are as Western Nuclear-tipped Civilization, leagues away from any sort of humane equilibrium, which if we look at white society, something the white race has been disconnected to for thousands of years, and how Western (civilization) time has warped everything, from how we live and work, and how we fornicate and defecate, how we treat our families, neighbors, the earth.  Easy to wander into philosophical and extraterrestrial thought — how we have pushed the 13 moons and 20 sequence tied to the Mayan calendar into a broken system of 12 (months) and 60 (seconds and minutes):

Jose Arguelles knew this number was the key to the tzolkin, the 13 x 20 (= 260) “time matrix” upon which the Mayan calendar is based. Utilizing Oliver Reiser’s hypothesis of the psi field as a kind of DNA thought belt located in the radiation field, while finding the design key to place the DNA in the Tzolkin matrix, Arguelles was able to unlock a great system of codes underlying the programs governing the historical manifestation of civilization and its imminent transformation into a stage of galactic civilization and consciousness – the noosphere made manifest.

In Projects Prometheus and Krishna, Appendix II to his fascinating synthesis, Oliver Reiser takes full cognizance of the contribution of Vladimir Vernadsky and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Reiser cites Vernadsky’s calling attention to the process of social synthesis, “whereby mankind become a single totality in the life of the Earth, and the psychozoic era of the earth’s biosphere be transformed into the noosphere.” Taking account of the sequence of spherical shells constituting the whole system earth – the barysphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere and biosphere – he writes, “Now, at long last, the processes of cultural evolution have generated another envelope, superimposed on the biosphere, i.e., a ‘sheet of humanized and socialized matter,’ which is the noosphere.”1

This discussion of the noosphere now seems new agey, especially in a time of tweets and intellectual retardants not only escaping all the orifices of the man in orange-glow-worm toxicity, but by followers, who would dare laugh with or validate this horror of a man’s premise that he only believes the rich are human enough to be in the corridors of both power and the economy. All those eggheads ratcheting up the nerve gas formulas, the smart bombs, the drone-enhanced surveillance, and the nuclear tipped nightmare missiles of this class of people. America, the business (sic) mentality (dog eat dog, let all businesses rule) tied to everything the digital kings serve us, the workers, trapped in their ever-expanding Excel Spreadsheets and microprocessor gulags.

Collective consciousness, hmm. Looking for an alternative form of energizing positive thought and conscience? Hmm, pretty out of the mainstream Kick Ass Now, Shoot First, Ask Questions Never thinking that has captured this Wonder Woman endless bang-bang shit that serves as hog sty consumption.

It’s the same thinking and attitude toward the poor, that is, those on the other side of strap pulling the gunny sack of gold – neoliberal, liberal, highfalutin new rich, Hollywood syphilitics, Democrats, Politically Correctives, Corrosive Corporate Media and the Mindless Mush Heads of the Suburbs. They bullshit their ways to Sundance or this or that crappy TED Talk/conference, but in the end, they too do not want your local ex-con, ex-druggie, ex-offender, current-homeless, continual recovery bloke and gal anywhere near the chambers of control over their shit-storm companies and non-profits and higher and lower educational institutions.

These people — Trump or ClintonX2, GatesX2 or Any X/Y/Z Philanthropist — never-ever bring the poor and disposed and dispossessed and down-trodden and diseased and disheveled and drunk and drugged and deranged to the table. Instead, we have these insane people — like every white mutated soul roaming the corridors of power, politics, military, industry, the press, medicine, psychology, and entertainment – propping up their bullshit superficiality and absurd self-absorption. They speak for “those people,” the “other ones,” anyone “not of our caliber-pedigree-upbringing-educational/economic standard.”

Is this one of the most blatantly rich/sick (monetarily) administration ever, and those yahoos in Iowa or Georgia or you name it anywhere U-S-A chanting, U.S.A. . . . U.S.A., like the maniacs they are in real time, is it the most corrosive? This battlefield today of missing IQ elites and this idiocracy ruling the people, is it so new, so unnerving today in 2017? Just go back, young man, young woman, and see that road show of lying, bombing, stealing, killing, thieving presidents, tall, squat, square jawed and flabby.

This is a country of vapidity and false valor. Hokum’s and hussies. Whores and pimps groveling for one elite after another elite/chosen peoples. Surface to Air Delight in Every Bombs Bursting in Depleted Uranium-Coated Air.

So, when I think hard about how wicked this economy has always been, and how blood-sucking the people running the little shows – bureaucracies – and then the big engines of pollution and garbage – corporations – ARE, I understand there has to be another field of alternative forms of thinking and communicating, whether it’s telepathy or collective consciousness. Anything but this hocus-pocus marketing crap of the Freudian nephew creation (Bernays).

How many people have poo-pooed the harmonic convergence or the concept of universal disharmonics? How many know we are living in this out of sync globe, with faulty mathematics and broken time-clock chronology, so misaligned from and with the universe it’s obvious for anyone with a brain and heart to see and feel — while the pestilence of nuclear-biological-propaganda wars shapes our out of balance closed system, a cosmic disorder that has over millennial created these Caesars and Mammon worshipers, these Trumps and Carnegies, these weapons of cultural destruction, slavery and the Sixth Mass Extinction.

Trump, Obama, Dell, Zuckerberg, Hitler, Mussolini, Rothschild, Pharaoh, Emir, Ford, Genghis Khan, Rabi, Pope, Minister, General, Admiral, Queen, King – these are the culmination of out of whack thinking, breathing, living and dying. Can we really admonish this warped mind, the missing link of a Trump, his racist-sexist-war monger-slum landlord- little big Mafioso-perverted version of misanthropy? Is he not the culmination of the hard soil that grows no love — the caliche planted by generations of bankers and ministers of pain, by the land thieves and empire seekers, all those twisted people who occupy the political pigsties of the world? From the Old World to this Genocidal New World.

Ahh, the real law is the law of time and the principles of a noosphere where humanity can merge with the energy of the biosphere to attain a new consciousness, one that had already been ebbing and flowing in different cultures and native tribes way before the mutated white race flogged the earth with his/her/its out of synchronicity superstition and clock of horrors which have continually shaped white civilization around the black ideas of war is peace, truth is lies, death is life.

I see the hollow hearts of America, the industrialists and digital kings, those hearts ticking in numeric derivative sequence as Artificial Intelligence shapes the future of this plagued world. These manipulators, and the technocrats and patent lawyers, all are living off the flesh of other worldly beasts.

This is a story of stories – social worker now, and my journey begins each day and never ends, as one life is layered upon the layers of my soul, and then another set of circumstances overcomes, and then the entire field of Maya corn is planted over and over in my worst nightmares.

I am working with biological and foster parents. Let it be known that most of the bastards (sperm donors) and receptacles (women) have millions of years in hell to pay for the germination and gestation and incubation and unholy labor and daily abuse of their offspring – beaten, starved, pimped out, sexually assaulted, raped, bridled and chained to these adults’ ectoplasm of sin-shame-salaciousness.

It takes more than a village to re-raise a village or a child. These horror stories are like white lightning in the soul of their DNA, and my youth are struggling, whipped by PTSD and acquired traumatic developmental delays/disorders/ disabilities.

I was with one of my youth today at the end of a shift when it struck me how plagued and maladjusted these captains of industry and so-called leaders really are. I am a social worker for young people in the clutches of foster care, where most are wards of the state, held into place with the fences that are guardian parents and the grips which define many levels of bureaucracy.

Two months ago, I was servicing older homeless people – addicts, ex-felons, sex offenders, the mentally harassed, one day at a time adults. Many of my friends’ stories at the last non-profit are tied into abuse at a very young age – fathers and mothers, stepparents and siblings, strangers and family members raping, beating, humiliating, denigrating and plying youth with drugs and prostitution and minute-by-minute consternation and condemnation.

You don’t wake up one morning and say, “I want to be addicted to meth, and I want all my teeth to fall out in 15 years, and I want all my possessions stolen, and want my life to be welded to a turnstile of constant court-jail-prison-fines-restitution homelessness.” So, most of my peeps a few months ago in another job with another non-profit tie into what the hell went wrong in a child’s life that brought him or her to the streets, to gangs, to the pipe and cooker, to the gun and the knife, to the abuse and the violence, and to the sexual assaults and criminality?

Try a big bad daddy and mommy and slew of wrong people at the right time of development.

Every day the clock ticks in disharmony, and the pigs juggle botulism balls and masquerade as officials and servants of the public when, in fact, they are worse than heroin-coke-booze-gambling-sex addicts all rolled up into one scabby man or emaciated woman. These pigs run the show, and we have to react to their presence in the cultural ether, and the noosphere, with so much potential, is being short-circuited by the millions blathering on TV, the millions holding seances with their millions of bucks in their 10,000 square-foot well-appointed elite prisons working on project after project to addict the next and the next generation to their flaccid Facebook and Amazon dot com worlds.

That we even sit on thumbs and let the latest baboon president, Trump, say what he says . . . .

  • 26,000 unreported sexual assaults in the military-only 238 convictions. What did these geniuses expect when they put men & women together?
  • “It’s certainly not groundbreaking news that the early victories by the women on ‘The Apprentice’ were, to a very large extent, dependent on their sex appeal.” — HowToGetRich, 2004
  • “You know, it doesn’t really matter what [the media] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.” — from an interview with Esquire, 1991
  • When a lawyer facing Trump in 2011 asked for a break to pump breast milk for her infant daughter, The Donald reacted very poorly.“He got up, his face got red, he shook his finger at me and he screamed, ‘You’re disgusting, you’re  disgusting,’ and he ran out of there,” attorney Elizabeth Beck told CNN. Trump’s attorney does not dispute that his client called Beck “disgusting.”
  • “My favorite part [of ‘PulpFiction’] is when Sam has his gun out in the diner and he tells the guy to tell his girlfriend to shut up. Tell that bitch to be cool. Say: ‘Bitch be cool.’ I love those lines.” — TrumpNation: The Art of Being The Donald, 2005
  • “I have black guys counting my money. … I hate it,” Trump told John R. O’Donnell, the former president of Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino, according O’Donnell’s account in his 1991 book Trumped! “The only guys I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes all day.” Trump, according to O’Donnell, went on to say, “‘Laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is, I believe that.”
  • Speaking to Time magazine for a profile published in January 1989, Trump was asked to give an estimate of his total wealth. “Who the f knows? I mean, really, who knows how much the Japs will pay for Manhattan property these days?” he asked in response, using a racial slur for the Japanese.

Khizr Khan, the father of the late Army Captain Humayun Khan, spoke out against Trump’s bigoted rhetoric and disregard for civil liberties at the Democratic National Convention on July 28. It became the most memorable moment of the convention.

“Let me ask you, have you even read the U.S. Constitution?” Khan asked Trump before pulling a copy of the document from his jacket pocket and holding it up. “I will gladly lend you my copy.”

Khan’s wife, Ghazala, who wears a head scarf, stood at his side during the speech but did not speak.

In response to the devastating speech, Trump seized on Ghazala Khan’s silence to imply that she was forbidden from speaking due to the couple’s Islamic faith.

“If you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably, maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say. You tell me,” Trump said in an interview with ABC News that first appeared on July 30.

Ghazala Khan explained in an op-ed in The Washington Post the following day that she could not speak because of her grief.

“Walking onto the convention stage, with a huge picture of my son behind me, I could hardly control myself. What mother could?” she wrote. “Donald Trump has children whom he loves. Does he really need to wonder why I did not speak?”

. . . . and that we even validate his big bellied thugs chanting U/S/A, this Ugly Sick America, USA, sick and ugly America, while we hunker down and hold chins to sternums, well, this is the reaction of the Rachel Maddow-loving Har-Har-Har Liberals, a la Stewart and Colbert.

I’ve seen enough of the lambasting, the entertaining us to death, the Facebook billion flickers of foolishness, and the endless swill and sewage that is an America high on corporate sodium pentothal.

Many Americans of the white persuasion ARE the evil seeds or evil breeders of this Trump World, where money, meanness, madness, and tossing grenades at every crowd possible to get a rise out of them is the daily blue chip special served up in their corridors of shame and horror they call families.

  1. Cosmic Humanism, p. 557

Police State/Corporate State: The Devil is in the Details

Isaac Asimov quote: The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.

Police state, corporate state, denuded duncery state — a blistery bunch of 80 percenters lost in a carnival of debt, malignant food, maladjusted education and the folly of a full-throttle powerfully propagandist media like a proverbial copper girdle wire around our collective consciousness. That So Called Liberal (sic) Press (sic) playing triple dirges for the death of any emaciated version of democracy with a capital D for dollar.

Feeding frenzy of the old and new rich class, and a lot of wannabe’s lusting after lotto, You Tube fame, anything from the comfort of plasma 72 inch Big Brother.

Isaac Asimov’s I Robot, going on 70 years soon, and that’s the way of the Zionist drone hucksters, those lovely glassy-eyed Jeff Bezos, Zuckerberg, Gates, Dell types, and the entire class of probiotic Kombucha libertarians who have no interest in climate change, clean oceans, the growth in poverty, wars, pestilence, resource theft, toxins, on-the-spectrum child birth rates skyrocketing, art, revolution, real human to human relationships, nature, other species, blue skies, discourse, food sanity, clean water, education.

Read this from NewsSpeak, err, Newsweek rag:

The world’s top tech companies are in a race to build the best AI and capture that massive market, which means the technology will get better fast—and come at us as fast. IBM is investing $1 billion in its Watson; Amazon is banking on Alexa; Apple has Siri. Google, Facebook and Microsoft are devoting their research labs to AI and robotics. In September, Salesforce.com announced it’s adding AI, called Einstein, to its business software. Its value, CEO Marc Benioff said at the launch, will be in ‘helping people do the things that people are good at and turning more things over to machines.’

AI will lead us into the mother of all tech revolutions. The last time anything came close was around 1900, when the automobile, telecommunications, the airplane and mass electrification all came together at once, radically changing the world from the late 1800s to the 1920s. Such times are particularly frightening. ‘A society that had established countless routines and habits, norms and regulations, to fit the conditions of the previous revolution, does not find it easy to assimilate the new one,’ wrote economist Carlota Perez in Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital, her classic book. ‘A sense of impotence and frustration accumulates and a growing incongruence is experienced between the new and the old paradigm.’

Amazingly, these people are many cards missing from a full deck of humanity. Shelter, baby, sane sanity, and calm, less frenetic anxiety, less is more, and more is monstrous — obvious necessitates in any hierarchy of needs paradigm. More time for humanity to do what, is the question about these libertarians who think robotics and computers will turn us all into Athenians? More reading and schooling and community-it-takes-a-village action? Right! To help thy neighbor in endless bouts of humanitarian sharing? Right! To bring distribution of health, education, nourishment, and sanity to the rest of the world? Right! So, the goal of AI and robotics is, drum roll, to grease the palms of the millionaire and billionaire class and their classless middle managers and technocrats.

More:

The danger of artificial intelligence is in its behavior, and whether it is conscious or possesses other attributes of human thought is irrelevant. Computers that can drive cars and fly airplanes certainly pose dangers to humans and in fact Google has gone to great efforts to design safety into their self-driving cars. Computers that can run the entire world economy and provide constant companionship to all humans will pose great danger to humans.

Malicious motivation is irrelevant to many of the dangers posed by super-intelligent machines. There are two forms of ‘wireheading’ to guard against: computers that delude themselves about their observations of the environment and computers that modify the source of approval for their actions, for example modifying humans. There are also dangers from what Omohundro described as ‘Basic AI Drives.’ Super-intelligent machines may be tools of competition among humans, who will be careless about these dangers because they are caught up in the heat of competition.

And, Bill Hibbard, academic and AI tinkerer, is many times quoted as someone questioning AI, but let’s look at this, from James Barrat, author of Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era:

That’s the cornerstone of an idea called the ‘intelligence explosion,’ developed in the 1960s by English mathematician I.J. Good. At the time, Good was studying early artificial neural networks, the basis for ‘deep learning’ techniques that are creating a buzz today, some 50 years later. He anticipated that self-improving machines would become as intelligent, then exponentially more intelligent, than humans. They’d save mankind by solving intractable problems, including famine, disease and war. Near the end of his life, as I report in my book Our Final Invention, Good changed his mind. He feared global competition would push nations to develop superintelligence without safeguards. And like Stephen Hawking, Stuart Russell, Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Steve Wozniak, Good feared it would annihilate us.

‘They’ll become self-protective and seek resources to better achieve their goals. They’ll fight us to survive, and they won’t want to be turned off.’

The crux of the problem is that we don’t know how to control superintelligent machines. Many assume they will be harmless or even grateful. But important research conducted by A.I. scientist Steve Omohundro indicates that they will develop basic drives. Whether their job is to mine asteroids, pick stocks or manage our critical infrastructure of energy and water, they’ll become self-protective and seek resources to better achieve their goals. They’ll fight us to survive, and they won’t want to be turned off.

Omohundro’s research concludes that the drives of superintelligent machines will be on a collision course with our own, unless we design them very carefully. We are right to ask, as Stephen Hawking did, ‘So, facing possible futures of incalculable benefits and risks, the experts are surely doing everything possible to ensure the best outcome, right?’

These conversations intrigue the controllers and their minions, especially in our institutions of higher learning where a scant few are also the controllers of the narrative and worse, the curriculum. Imagine the dialogues around poverty, resource theft, cultural immolation with farmers, activists, revolutionaries, the parents of 11 million babies dying a year from treatable (mostly caused by malnutrition) disease.

Imagine the former prisoners talking about reform and the enslavement of their lives and families’ lives by the punishment society, largely ramped up by the very inventions of the robotics-AI-Big Data yahoos, espousing their idiocy at conferences in the Rockies and at the foot of their superconductors. Imagine the millions of lost human lives caused by the financialization schemes dreamed up by computer whizzes. The model of terror for New Orleans, Detroit, Flint, across the land and globe, the Bhopal-driven corporations utilizing the best and the brightest and their inventions of creative human destruction. The political classless sucking on the crack pipe of power and money. Imagine, these conferences and interviews INTERSECTING with the age old problem of the rich and haves and the majority, poor and haves not, never in the same room. From that mush-making propaganda and infotainment and dirty entertainment, to the daily dehumanizing life cycle of drive-thru’s, Amazon Fresh deliveries, tellerless banking, on-line K12 and college, and the endless Windows and Screens of mush that sucks any agency and verve out of the average person as they navigate the endless bureaucracy of the modern 21st Century/Beyond Kafka Road Show of Stiff Arm Saluting to the Digital Gods.

Can anyone see the efficacy of actually calling upon us, the masses, the ones stuck on the hamster wheel of generational poverty, generational indebtedness, generational running from the repo man (now some cyber security systems embedded into all the tools of democratic life – DMV, Labor, Medicine, Insurance, Credit Bureaus, Background Agencies, Drug Screeners, Fact Checkers).

I have spasms of the old Molotov way, when I hear these supposed eggheads, and our superficial lust for another Turning or Watson.

Oh, these billionaires and their underlings, the geniuses, sure, driving this absurdity of technology, colonizing Mars and Uranus, endless projects of tinkering, while coral reefs melt, farms dry up, millions perish yearly, while these captains of industry fly their AI-captained drones into the orifices of the dying while sending out gigatons of meaningless junk into both the ether and on our highways and byways.

Food, Shelter, Safety, Education, Health? Shit no, if you are not part of the White Jewish-Christo-Emirate Class –

Big questions derailed in this punishment society scrambling to make sense of 100 years of robber barons and elitists running the show, the neo-con, neo-liberal, neo-fascist, neo-libertarian, neo-gulag show: Where do I live, social worker? Portland, Oregon, where rubber and spewing diesels rule the day and night, 24/7?

At least 10 states (California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Texas, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Arizona, Florida and Colorado) offer less than 30 affordable rental units for every 100 potential renters. Will Mexico pay to build a wall to stem the American exodus south?

Image result for The Gap Figure five units affordable and available
You think those mental tinkerers give a shit about people, of the soil, pushed away from the lands – rivers, beaches, islands, mountains, deltas, steppes, savannas, fjords, ice-fields, hills, canyons, forests, deserts, jungles, cloud islands, plains — to solder the shit of their digital orgasm, and to glue, hammer, weld, galvanize, ionize, nanosize, titrate, liquefy, saw, mill, percolate, mine, harvest, spray, tap, refine, package, burn, acidify, synthesize, denature, distill, stitch, sew, de-ionize, plow, scrape, smelt, sluice, pulverize, butcher, hoe, excavate, fertilize, fumigate, decapitate, denigrate, assemble all the other supplies, junk, consumer items, raw goods, commodities, toys, weapons, propaganda tools for the vaunted minority in the First World.

The digital creeps love inventing and marketing the toys of lobotomy and anti-social thought control – one giant replicator for Call of Duty and variations on a theme . . . and all the crap that pits people against people, race against race, religion against religions, class against class, gender against gender, nation against nation in this clawing and shooting and pummeling cultural slipstream that teaches each next generation the devaluing of ”the other.”

The controllers this side of the next Kool-aide batch coursing through each and every home’s tap water spigot are having a hay day, as Americans are floundering now more than ever, waiting for the next 3.0 iPhone, pining over the next Ridley Scott movie of salvation, at the ready to stump the Trump in meaningless spasms of attacking just his side of fascism, leaving the rot-gut democrats and libertarians to continue their giant tapeworm of destruction to grow and grow.

Now, especially, this abomination out of the closet (Familia Trump) — reflective of the stupidity and tough-guy-in-the-mirror/on-Twitter-Kardashian-wanna-be but never really able to back machismo that is America the Red-White-Blue of the continuous hematoma in the pericardium — IS holding the sputtering heart of America, and Trump and Company, LLC, Kosher Certified, are drawing the ire and bombastic support of the leveling Americans with a little “a” for abomination. All these spasms, or even silent nightly sweats, after this last shit-hole election, when all along, the blackness of Capitalism has been the rancid pustule smothering each next generation – Baby-Boomer, Yuppie, Millennial, Gen X,Y, Gen Zed, Zombie. Always with us, days of genocidal floodgate openings, first nations the real genocide purloined by all manner of cultures, religions, shit-bag people — always here in the place called Turtle Island: those robber barons, slave holders, financiers from over the pond, Rothschilds, the 1.3 percenters called the Chosen People, shifting massive trillions through their sluices of pain, collective punishment gulags, legal gymnastics and technological Kendo moves their forte now. Colluding Talmud-citing, Bible-Thumping, Manifest Destiny-humping peoples from another womb.

As I lay Dying, William Faulkner  –

And the next morning they found him in his shirt-tail laying asleep on the floor like a felled steer, and the top of the box bored clean full of holes and Cash’s new auger broke off in the last one. When they taken the lid off her they found that two of them had bored on into her face.

Soylent Green is people, you’re goddamned right. Money, derivatives, the billionaires’ four-timing shuffle, the perversions of debt and credit, the heavy sack of coagulated blood hanging like a dowager hump on every family’s next and next generation.

Now daily the liberals, the so-denatured Americans of the little-to-the-left-of- center adherents of the continuous never tell a lie Georgy Porgy Washington, they cluck and claw and turn pink about this Mafioso President, the one on TV, paid for and delivered by the American people-Nielsen Ratings-Arbitron-$50,000 a second commercial satisfaction. They all tune in, now don’t they, happy Capital Americans. The un-Holy Publishers print his vile, art of the deal, publish the vile of every one of them – traitor, general, politico, POTUS, and shyster peddling invented history and deafening feats of pseudo psychology and mainstream entertainment.

We are all the rump and laughing stock in his apprentice way of raping entire classes of people, this POTUS Numero Four-Five. Like a .45 stuck in the craw of every American and Third Worlder!

In the mix, though, the controllers, they keep ladling pap or pabulum, pushing the spine loosening pacification into each bronchial of our lives — respect for all peoples, bring in the consensus crew, respect all opinions, all people while they kill us with their smiles.

Imagine, we should be teaching who to hate, how to hate and in all the meaningful ways, how to utilize hate into action. Imagine, we teach these toddlers and the college ones and all of us in these sappy companies to do the opposite of what should be – thou shalt hate and seek justice for crimes perpetrated by the elite onto humankind.

WTF! So, we unteach anger, unteach retribution, unteach action, unteach revolution, unteach how to spot a precipitant. Every minute we should be auguring that ability to fight back, and rebuff, not only the fascism of the Holy Republican Party and a Trump or Netanyahu, but to hate the entire sociopathic nature of corporations-militaries-punishers-bankers-investors-renters-technologists.

Instead, we get pundits and middling folk attacking anyone who might go out and march and scream and shout and dervish in the streets when the police state comes down hard like Gestapo, their weapons of Zionism glimmer in the sweat of the mace and industrial tear gas.

I see them go to Costco, see them find more days off lifting false dreams in their Disneyland world, their American evil seeding of cultures with the poison of travelers checks and exceptionalism . . . . like resistant tuberculous, the Americans hit those beaches and slum-poverty tours, cruises, enclaves in Costa Rica, anywhere on earth, the westerners end up like leeches looking for more soft flesh.

Americans . . . Germans . . . Canadians . . . Brits . . . Australians . . . .

From sea to shining oil slick sea!

Interestingly, I go back to Andre Vltchek, on one of his American book and film tours, “In the USA – “I Cannot Write!”:

I was shocked by the state in which I found the United States.

I left many years ago. I left New York, which was, for more than a decade, my home. I never returned, except to launch my books and films, and to see my friends. I never stayed for long time. Two weeks, this time, was the longest in years.

This visit broke me. It exhausted me. It thoroughly depressed me.

I saw clearly how grotesque pseudo-morality, disgusting religious concepts and hypocrisy influenced and ruined entire nations, client states, worldwide, especially in Asia and Africa.

Yes, I believe in collective guilt. Holding US citizenship, I share the guilt. And therefore, I work non-stop, not to wash my hands, but to stop the madness.

I am convinced that the West, the white race and its lackeys abroad, have no right to rule over this Planet. I saw enough to back my conviction.

The West is finished, its culture dead. What is left is unattractive, even horrifying. There is no heart, no compassion, and no creativity. And those billions of people beyond the Western realm should not be dying, while forced to support the aggressive individualism of the post-Christian, post-Crusade colonialism and fascism of Europe and the United States.

Ahh, living the dream, daily, watching people running around in tights and redneck t-shirts, everyone looking like they are in a Walmart clothing competition. Or the fake ones. All the inside jokes, the memes, from Facebook to the next recipe for spicy hot wings, these Americans lavish in the trash of the airwaves, Netflix, and the entire Madison Avenue tripe fed to this country of ennui, NASCAR, polluting football, and endless buffets.

I easily find how much I drown daily – my comeuppance —  the fruity intercourse-interchanges with the people I work with, those neighbors, the frightened ones, and the idiots running the streets with their lifted-up pick-ups with six-foot by eight-foot USA and Trump Makes America Great flags streaming like swastikas ablaze.

So many corners turned, USA, the world of half-assed thinking and doing, until we come to today, POLICE STATE USA, thanks largely to the colluding Press, and my daily reminder, how one of my professions ended up in the sewage pit. From Robert Parry, Consortium News:

It was on Dec. 9, 2004, when the mean-spirited mainstream media’s treatment of investigative journalist Gary Webb led him his career devastated, his family broken, his money gone and his life seemingly hopeless to commit suicide. It was a moment that should have shamed all the big-shot journalists who had a hand in Webb’s destruction, but it mostly didn’t.

Oh these precious decades like Rip Van Winkle narcolepsy of the collective soul, until we are all soiled by this lazy, anxiety-filled hibernation:

As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air – however slight – lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness.

— Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas

It’s easy to go on and on about this police state, and the policing by the corporations – swabs on cheeks, background checks, no time off, work 24-7, black out those holidays, no excuses for terminal gridlock, wage thieves. This is the mortician on duty and manning the radio and air ways – you are guilty until pronounced dead. You are suspect until you’ve given pound of flesh and left kidney for the cause of Capitalism. You are shit out of luck because we have the backing of the Sixth Fleet, a million marching SWAT teams, endless surveillance of every waking blink and snoring seizure.

It all comes down to basic rights, right?

In a blistering dissent in Utah v. Strieff, Justice Sonia Sotomayor blasted the court for holding ‘that the discovery of a warrant for an unpaid parking ticket will forgive a police officer’s violation of your Fourth Amendment rights.’ Sotomayor continued:

‘This Court has allowed an officer to stop you for whatever reason he wants—so long as he can point to a pretextual justification after the fact. That justification must provide specific reasons why the officer suspected you were breaking the law, but it may factor in your ethnicity, where you live, what you were wearing, and how you behaved. The officer does not even need to know which law you might have broken so long as he can later point to any possible infraction—even one that is minor, unrelated, or ambiguous.

The indignity of the stop is not limited to an officer telling you that you look like a criminal. The officer may next ask for your consent to inspect your bag or purse without telling you that you can decline. Regardless of your answer, he may order you to stand helpless, perhaps facing a wall with [your] hands raised. If the officer thinks you might be dangerous, he may then frisk you for weapons. This involves more than just a pat down. As onlookers pass by, the officer may feel with sensitive fingers every portion of [your] body. A thorough search [may] be made of [your] arms and armpits, waistline and back, the groin and area about the testicles, and entire surface of the legs down to the feet.’

If you still can’t read the writing on the wall, Sotomayor breaks it down further:

‘This case allows the police to stop you on the street, demand your identification, and check it for outstanding traffic warrants—even if you are doing nothing wrong… So long as the target is one of the many millions of people in this country with an outstanding arrest warrant, anything the officer finds in a search is fair game for use in a criminal prosecution. The officer’s incentive to violate the Constitution thus increases…’

Need any lessons on spread eagle poses, downward facing dog body cavity assists, frog march locomotion tips, and upside facing black boot gymnastics? God, the American Psychological Association, here, mealy-mouthing:

While much was known about psychologist involvement in detainee abuse prior to the PENS (Psychological Ethics and National Security) report, what has become progressively clearer is that the methods used by interrogators, guided by Behavioral Science Consultant Teams (BSCTs), have been intentionally shaped by psychologists. Many of the most objectionable interrogation strategies had been re-designed by psychologists from U.S. military programs, primarily the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) program, originally intended to protect U.S. soldiers from undesirable thought reform.

According to international definitions, and the understanding of the SERE program itself, SERE-based interrogation procedures constitute torture. Official reports and numerous journalists over the last several years have provided extensive documentation depicting how these SERE techniques were used in U.S. interrogation practices by SERE-trained psychologists, both in DOD and CIA detention facilities. Yet, however despicable, psychology should never let these ‘enhanced techniques’ cause us to ignore the only somewhat more subtle techniques prescribed in the Army Field Manual, the common guide for all U.S. military interrogations. In the Army Field Manual, allowable interrogation tactics include deception, fear escalation, ego harm, isolation, and psychological disorientation. Regardless of whether these techniques are ethical for professional interrogators, they are morally problematic for psychologists, given the clearly circumscribed ethical underpinnings of the profession.