Category Archives: Legal/Constitutional

Stop Press: No Left Turn

When one is stuck in traffic with an old car, in my case a 1962 Mercedes diesel, with no power anything, and merely 45 bhp to deal with younger cars, there is no temptation to aggressive driving. Despite the fact that a Mercedes is a classic man’s car, there is no machismo with a vehicle that tops at 120 km/h. However, what driving such a car makes obvious is just how few good drivers there are on the road despite, or perhaps because of, the advances in automotive technology.

Today’s drivers take no note of safety intervals or speed limits because they do not know what a braking distance is. Modern technology has bred something like autism, not only through contaminated vaccines, as a state of culture. Dementia is also not confined to the aged but clearly is a kind of lifestyle now.

For the last four years people writing, also in these pages, have reiterated ad nauseum the chant that the reigning POTUS is “the worst ever” in addition to other insults disguised as political analysis. As I wrote in 2017, what these people truly mean is that Donald Trump says what they really think but would not dare to say. He also speaks the language of ordinary power — not his but the power that the Anglo-American ruling elite can muster from the heartland — with its killer Iowa farm boys — to the urban metropolises on either coast with their thousands of underpaid, overambitious scriveners serving every segment of the American Dream machine — from Right to farthest Right. The Left in the US was killed off, banned or exiled by 1974. Everything else under that banner is mere sentimentality.

As the so-called Left — in that sense Mr Trump was only using domestic terminology — set out to prove, together with the sponsorship of other government agencies, that indeed a coup d’etat was possible without a US Embassy, it became apparent — at least from RoW — why the US Empire will never be ended by Columbia’s progressives.

I could go into far greater detail but I have written enough over the past years to explain myself.

Here I would like to highlight the most grievous moments of dishonesty. As I noted above people who sit in modern motor vehicles and believe that their road travel is driving are deluded. They cannot even hear their engine. They do not feel the speed. They are not able to detect the differences between their own cocoon on wheels and the rest of the environment with its diversity.

Since the AP presumed to declare the victor in this year’s POTUS contest, everyone from the FT to the usual “leftie” writers that post here, blatantly disregards the US Constitution and the election laws in force. Even in the 19th century there was an instance where the Electoral College chose a candidate who had not obtained the majority of the popular vote.1 That is a legal risk of the fundamental law that the so-called “Left” has yet to change. The reigning POTUS has every right to remain in office and to exhaust every remedy to assert his claims — by no means irrational or unjustified given the four years of uninterrupted threats by his opponents to use any means to remove him — that what was no doubt the greatest single electoral fraud in US history is tried and duly adjudicated.

I find the word hypocrisy weak because it suggests that the people who say one thing and do another are engaged in a petty offense. I do not believe that the “Left” of which I write here is hypocritical. Rather they believe as little in law or democracy as those whom they oppose. The adamance with which on one hand Mr Trump’s charges are dismissed and on the other hand simultaneous apologies are given for the fascists who dominate the Democratic Party (personified in the Bush-Clinton gang) shows, or ought to show, that what presents itself as “Left” or “progressive” in the US (and among their foreign friends) is just the low budget imperialism with which German Social Democrats supported the slaughter of World War I.

I could name names. However, I just had lunch and that would only add to my dyspepsia.

If those who feel they have overtaken the “worst person” on the road that ends at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue are already celebrating, they should recall that in the course of four years Mr Trump has survived even impeachment proceedings. The campaign against Mr Trump did not increase the number of Democratic Party hacks in Congress, but reduced it.

Perhaps I am too obsessed with slow moving vehicles and historical comparisons. However, it is worth recalling that the Democratic Party was the party of slavery and Jim Crow. It was a Democratic president, Woodrow Wilson, who extended Jim Crow to the federal civil service and assured its enforcement in the military. It took a war the US started in Korea and nearly lost (that war is also not yet over) to force an otherwise segregationist Democratic POTUS to order integration of the US military. It was the Democratic Party that dominated the corrupt urban political machines that suppressed Black and immigrant voters in the North and ran the Klan in the South. It was the Democratic Party that defeated Radical Republicans, ended Reconstruction and perpetuated the racist system in the US for another century.

So where these people who look to the Democratic Party get the nerve to claim any decency at all escapes me. Some poignant remarks from Malcolm X come to mind:

It isn’t a president who can help or hurt; it is the system. And this system is not only ruling us in America, it is ruling the world. Nowadays, when a man is running for president of the United States, he is not running for president of the United States alone; he has to be acceptable to other areas of the world where American influence rules. … the shrewd capitalists, the shrewd imperialists knew that the only way people would run toward a fox would be if you showed them a wolf.2

I can only conclude that those who revel in the supposed defeat of Donald Trump are like those drivers in new technology-saturated cocoons to which I initially referred. They have no sense of speed, or safety intervals, braking distances or even how the machine in which they sit actually operates. They do not understand the electoral mechanics and have no respect even for the formal legal structures — they have never been able to change and hence are equally obliged to accept.

They are irresponsible, reckless drivers who should never be trusted on the roads to democracy — anywhere.

  1. Note: In the 1876 US Presidential election Democrat Samuel Tilden won the popular vote against Republican Rutherford B. Hayes. Hayes was elected by the electoral college. In 1888 Democrat Grover Cleveland won the popular vote against Republican Benjamin Harrison but lost in the electoral college.
  2. Meeting of the Pan-African magazine Présence Africaine, 23 November 1964.

The post Stop Press: No Left Turn first appeared on Dissident Voice.

What We Are Up Against: Fascism In The United States

Are you or do you know an emerging activist who needs support? Popular Resistance and the Kevin Zeese family are launching the Kevin Zeese Emerging Activists Fund with an online celebration on his birthday, this Wednesday, October 28, from 7:30 to 9:00 pm Eastern.  Learn more and buy tickets here.  We will begin accepting applications after October 28.

Last week, I wrote about what is needed in this moment and urged people to look more deeply, beyond the Biden-Trump spectacle, to understand where we are as a country and what we must do to change course. I cited the work of Gabriel Rockhill. Read his three recent articles in Counterpunch and the fourth in the series here at Black Agenda Report for an enhanced understanding of how we got here and what we are up against.

This week, I delve more deeply into the question of where we are and what Rockhill means when he writes that “…liberalism and fascism, contrary to what the dominant ideology maintains, are not opposites. They are partners in capitalist crime.” What it all points to is that the path away from fascism to a future that respects human rights and protects the planet requires a mass movement working to create systemic change.

Listen to my interview with Gabriel Rockhill on Clearing the FOG (available Monday) and aired on WBAI in New York City and WPFW in Washington, DC.

From History.com.

Liberalism and Fascism

Liberalism, meaning liberal democracy, and fascism, which can become authoritarian but this isn’t a requirement, are forms of governance that both exist and serve to protect capitalism. John Curl, in “For All the People,” explains that prior to the founding of the United States, a real democracy movement of collectives, cooperatives and communalism existed, established by the settlers out of necessity. Of course, indigenous peoples have used these democratic structures throughout time.

The settlers’ communal practices threatened the oligarchs, the major land and slave owners, because the people had real power that couldn’t be controlled by the colonial governments. Thus, the founding Constitution, which exists today, was written to prevent participatory democracy and to establish property rights, and later corporate rights, over human rights. In 1776, the capitalist state was born.

In a liberal democracy, a mostly western institution, elections are held and those who hold power are supposed to represent the interests of the people and protect their rights. Fascism can take different forms in different circumstances, but it uses violence, repression and control to maintain power. Both liberalism and fascism can and do exist at the same time for different populations in the same country.

Rockhill explains in the interview that liberal democracies give the illusion of protecting the rights of people, but they only do so as long as the people are compliant with the capitalist system. In reality, the system serves the interests of the few while exploiting the working class and poor and degrading the planet. This is what we refer to in the Popular Resistance School as the official policy, what we are told something does, versus the operative policy, what it actually does.

In theory, in liberal democracies, people can choose to participate in governance through elections where different perspectives are represented and compete for power. There are checks and balances, including the rule of law, that prevent the ruling class from trampling on the people’s rights. That sounds good.

In practice, in the United States, voter suppression, suppression of third parties and an unaccountable voting system prevent full participation in the process, create a limited choice for voters and have the potential to rig the outcome. The checks and balances and rule of law have been undermined over time as those in power write laws to legalize consolidation of power, theft from the people and assaults on civil rights.

For the past few decades, using executive orders and laws like the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, the power of the presidency has grown. Congress, through legislation such as the Patriot Act and the National Defense Authorization Act, allows mass surveillance of the population and restrictions on our rights to due process. Studies show that Congress represents the interests of the wealthy elites and polls find the approval rating for Congress is extremely low, currently at only 17%. This couldn’t be more evident when looking at Congress’ current failure to protect the health and economic security of the people during a time of multiple serious crises while the wealthy have amassed more riches.

Fascism uses state actors, law enforcement and the military, and non-state actors, vigilantes and civil society groups, to violently suppress people. This can be blatant violence such as is occurring against black and brown people and those who support their struggle or it can be the structural violence of gentrification, discrimination and incarceration. People who support fascism are propagandized to believe they are protecting their rights while they are actually protecting the interests of the wealthy class. Once fascism achieves state power, through the process of liberal democracy, it may turn to authoritarianism. Rockhill describes how Hitler and Mussolini both rose to power through the governance structure, not outside of it.

Fascism is used when liberal democracy fails. Fascist elements have existed throughout the history of the United States. Think of the slave patrols that preceded the institution of police and white supremacist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and the American Legion. It has been used to suppress dissent whenever segments of the population rise up to demand their rights. It is no coincidence that the “War on Drugs” and mass incarceration followed the rise and successes of the civil rights movement. It is no coincidence that the attack on worker rights and unions followed the period when taxes on the rich were very high and the middle class was growing.

The middle and upper classes live in the illusion that they are served by liberal democracy while the poor and working class, especially for people of color, are controlled through fascist practices of detention, segregation, lack of rights and violence. Those fascist practices will be unleashed against the middle and upper classes too if they recognize the charade and rebel. Capitalism knows no limits. We are living in end-stage capitalism and a falling empire.

From Al Jazeera.

Building a culture of resistance

Once we understand who and what our opponents are, we can strategize and organize to defeat them. Our foes are not the personalities, Trump and Biden, but the systems and institutions they represent. No matter who is elected in November, the systems stay the same. We need to find ways to work outside those systems to create the world we want to see. This requires building a culture of resistance, a culture of non-cooperation. If we are successful in building popular power, the systems will change either through what is referred to as “victorious retreat,” which means the power holders acquiesce to the demands of the people, or through attrition where new institutions built by the people grow and replace the old systems as they fade away.

The current struggle is being defined as Trump versus Biden and many progressives are convincing themselves that a Biden presidency is a step on the path we are seeking. There are serious risks for the struggle no matter who wins.

President Trump is open about what he is doing in empowering the extreme right and having no regard for human life. He sharpens the contradictions by showing what he plans to do and often in response, the institutions that make up our government and the people push back, forcing him in some cases to back down.

As we experienced under an Obama-Biden presidency, and Biden has differentiated himself from Obama by declaring himself in opposition to the needs of the people while Obama at least gave the pretense of believing in human rights, the administration was effective at dividing and weakening opposition to it. It convinced people it was doing one thing while it actually did another.

An example that I am very familiar with is the health reform process in 2008-2010. There was majority support for National Improved Medicare for All by the public and super-majority support for it by Democratic voters. The administration, working with major labor unions, ‘progressive’ organizations and faith-based groups, created a distraction, which it called the ‘public option’ and convinced people that this was achievable and would lead to Medicare for All. This divided the movement for universal health care. Tens of millions of dollars were poured into this effort and towards the end of the process, we witnessed that even this tiny crumb was never intended to be in the final legislation.

The resulting “Affordable Care Act” forced people to purchase private health insurance or pay a fine. Government resources were spent to aggressively market and subsidize health insurance products, even hiring salespeople called “navigators.” In return, people received health insurance that did not guarantee they would receive the healthcare they needed or protect them from financial ruin. Health insurers found ways to work around the regulations and their profits, along with those of the pharmaceutical, private hospital and other medical industries, soared.

The unanswered question is whether a Biden-Harris administration will be as successful at hoodwinking and dividing progressives as they enact an agenda that will continue to cut social services, degrade worker rights, pollute the environment, foment wars and repress dissent.

The actual struggle is not Trump versus Biden but putting people and planet over profit. It is people power versus the power of wealthy elites and corporations. We can only win if we organize and mobilize. Failure to do so means we will certainly continue on the destructive path we are on. Victory requires political clarity, a bold vision of a different future and building a culture of resistance, which means both stopping harmful policies and practices and creating new systems to meet our needs. We must and we can make what seems impossible in this moment inevitable.

The post What We Are Up Against: Fascism In The United States first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Britannic Impunity: The UK Overseas Operations Bill

It was praised by Michael Clarke, former Director-General of the Royal United Services Institute, as “clear and entire laudable” – at least up to a point.  The UK Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill would “give [British] troops serving overseas much-needed extra protection against fraudulent or frivolous claims against them of criminal behaviour.”  It was also part of a commitment made by the Conservatives that British personnel would be padded with more legal protection against the nasty designs of future litigants.

Veterans minister Johnny Mercer had his lines in order, and they were not particularly convincing.  “This legislation is not about providing an amnesty or putting troops above the law but protecting them from lawyers intent on rewriting history to line their own pockets.”  For Mercer, Britannia is exceptional, a cut above the rest, suggesting, in the lingering wisdom of British imperialism, that they are just a bit more exceptional in hypocrisy than others.

The Ministry of Defence has been feathering grounds for such changes arguing that unnecessary claims have been made against its personnel.  They include compensation claims for unlawful detention regarding operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.  To this can be added 1,400 judicial review claims for investigations and compensations on the basis that human rights have been violated. Of these, 70 percent assessed by the Iraq Historic Allegations Team were dismissed as having no case to answer.

Instances such as those of solicitor Phil Shiner are cited, that ever zealous creature who was found guilty on five counts of dishonesty by the Solicitor’s Disciplinary Tribunal in February 2017 for tampering with evidence submitted to the Al-Sweady inquiry into allegations of atrocities in Iraq.  Shiner was accused of showing a “clear disregard for the rules” in terms of his actions, having circulated “deliberate and calculated lies” regarding alleged atrocities by British soldiers after the commencement of the Iraq War.

The Bill has a particularly odious provision that serves to impose a five year time limit on prosecuting crimes that span offences committed by UK personnel while serving in overseas theatres, including a whole range of reprehensible offences, potentially including genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.  Operations “dealing with terrorism” and peacekeeping endeavours will also be covered.

What is being proposed is, in effect, a statute of limitations on grave criminality, a presumption against prosecution. Out with such solemn declarations that genocide is so reprehensible a crime as to defy time itself.  In with more practical, paperwork limitations shielding abuses from legal review.

This would be part of what is described as a “triple lock” against unwanted suits against UK military personnel, the two other features involving a range of considerations prosecutors would have to give “particular weight to” against pursuing a case, and a requirement to obtain the consent of the Attorney General, or Advocate General in Northern Ireland, before commencing any prosecution.  The Bill would also impose a duty on the government to consider derogating from the European Convention on Human Rights regarding significant overseas military operations.

To round it all off, Part II of the Bill also adds a time bar on civil claims against the Ministry of Defence by both survivors of torture and UK soldiers themselves who might have a grievance with their employer.  Claimants will also be barred by the time limit despite being unlawfully detained or impeded in bringing forth their actions.

Should it become law, the Bill will jar with obligations arising under the Geneva Conventions.  The Additional Protocol 1 of 1977 is a stand out on that score.  A range of other international legal instruments also risk being breached, including the Convention Against Torture.  As the legal action charity Reprieve argues in its submission to parliament on the Bill, “This risks effectively decriminalising torture when committed by UK forces overseas more than five years ago.”  The organisation even notes that the proposed law would run counter to a 300 year old tradition stretching back to the Long Parliament’s Abolition of the Star Chamber in 1640.

The legal establishment is also concerned.  In the sober words of the Law Society, “the proposal to introduce a presumption against prosecution amounts to a quasi-statute of limitations.  Introducing a time limit risks creating impunity for serious crimes and the proposal would be an exception to the normal law for a category of criminal matters that does not exist anywhere else.”

Another submission on the Bill, written by Samuel Beswick of the University of British Columbia, points to a potential violation of the Equality Principle found deep in the immemorial foundations of UK constitutional law, spectral as it is: “that everyone is equally subjected to the ordinary law of the land: that the Crown and government officers do not benefit from more favourable rules than apply to the British people generally.”

Such concerns have not been the preserve of legal bleeding hearts and anti-torture charities.  The Judge Advocate General Jeff Blankett has also expressed deep reservations.  In the middle of the year, he wrote to the Secretary of State for Defence noting “significant misgivings” about a bill “ill-conceived” and dangerous in potentially bringing “the UK armed forces into disrepute”.

As for David Greene, vice president of the Law Society, something more flame-on-the-hill was at stake, and he had little desire for snuffing it out.  “Our armed forces are rightly known across the world for their courage and discipline.  Proposals to prevent the prosecution of alleged serious offences – including murder and torture – by service personnel outside the UK would undermine this well-deserved reputation and could break international law.”

The Bill is a classic, long overdue unmasking of the impunity that is British military power.  More than a Freudian slip, it is an elucidating admission.  In praising the standards of British military professionalism, Greene ignores the country’s thin record in prosecuting its own nationals for crimes committed in foreign theatres.  Clive Baldwin, Senior Legal Adviser to Human Rights Watch, points to the butcher of Amritsar Brigadier General Reginald Dyer as a case in point.  The killing of hundreds of unarmed men, women and children on April 13, 1919 at Jallianwala Bagh did little to even provoke an apology from the UK.  The most severe rebuke Dyer faced was enforced retirement.  “You might want to rewrite history, but you can’t,” sniffed the High Commissioner to India, Dominic Asquith, during commemoration proceedings held last year.

The deployment of torture in Kenya through the 1950s in response to the Mau Mau revolt against British rule barely stirred the prosecutor’s brief.  In 2013, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague recognised in the Commons “that Kenyans were subject to torture and other forms of ill-treatment at the hands of the colonial administration.”   Sincere regrets were offered, including £19.9m in compensation.  But defiant to the last, Hague insisted that the UK had no legal responsibility for the actions of the colonial administration.  Britannic contempt is deathless.

In focusing on such exceptional instances of manipulation as Shiner, the Bill is a riposte to British responsibility for more recent abuses in such theatres as Iraq.  Despite public inquiries and court rulings finding British forces culpable for abusing detainees, in some cases killing them, few prosecutions have been filed.  The death of Iraqi citizen Baha Mousa in September 2003 in Basra, the result of 93 surface injuries, led to an inquiry and a smattering of Court Martial proceedings. It also saw the first open admission by a British soldier to committing a war crime, though Corporal Donald Payne denied manslaughter and perverting the course of justice.  Six other colleagues from the 1 Queen’s Lancashire Regiment were ultimately acquitted.  Payne was jailed for one year.  A meagre return.

With the passage of this Bill, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Global Britain will abandon any pretence to Queensberry rules, or rules of any sort. The jungle is there for the taking, and other powers in the jungle will finally be able to point this out.  Clarke, sounding sorrowful, uses the standard understatement: that this Bill “opens up some intriguing possibilities for our adversaries, who love to claim international legitimacy for their blatantly illegal behaviour.”  It might be a suitable epitaph for British power for long stretches it has been exercised: legitimacy claimed for blatant illegality.

The post Britannic Impunity: The UK Overseas Operations Bill first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Mile Markers of Tyranny

You can map the nearly 20-year journey from the 9/11 attacks to the COVID-19 pandemic by the freedoms we’ve lost along the way.

The road we have been traveling has been littered with the wreckage of our once-vaunted liberties, especially those enshrined in the Fourth Amendment.

The assaults on our freedoms that began with the post-9/11 passage of the USA Patriot Act laid the groundwork for the eradication of every vital constitutional safeguard against government overreach, corruption and abuse. The COVID-19 pandemic with its lockdowns, mask mandates, surveillance, snitch lines for Americans to report their fellow citizens for engaging in risky behavior, and veiled threats of forced vaccinations has merely provided the architects of the American police state with an opportunity to flex their muscles.

These have become mile markers on the road to tyranny.

Here is what it means to live under the Constitution, post-9/11 and in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite the clear protections found in the First Amendment, the freedoms described therein are under constant assault.

The Second Amendment was intended to give the citizenry the means to resist tyrannical government, yet Americans remain powerless to defend themselves against government agents armed with military weapons better suited to the battlefield.

With the police increasingly training like the military, acting like the military, and posing as military forces, it is clear that we now have what the founders feared most—a standing army on American soil—in violation of the Third Amendment.

The Fourth Amendment has been all but eviscerated by an unwarranted expansion of police powers that include strip searches and even anal and vaginal searches of citizens, surveillance (corporate and otherwise) and intrusions justified in the name of fighting terrorism, as well as the outsourcing of otherwise illegal activities to private contractors.

The government conveniently manages to disregard the Fifth and the Sixth Amendments’ assurances of due process, a fair trial, and property rights in its so-called war on crime.

Not surprisingly, the government continues to attempt to undermine the power of the jury to nullify the government’s actions—and thereby help balance the scales of justice—under the Seventh Amendment.

The Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against “cruel and unusual” punishment provides little protection from a government that condones torture tactics and the death penalty.

The Ninth Amendment’s affirmation of the people’s rights has been turned on its head by a federal government that sees itself and its powers as supreme.

As for the Tenth Amendment’s reminder that the people and the states retain every authority that is not otherwise mentioned in the Constitution, that assurance of a system of government in which power is divided among local, state and national entities has long since been rendered moot by the centralized Washington, DC, power elite.

If there is any sense to be made from this recitation of freedoms lost, it is simply this: our individual freedoms have been eviscerated so that the government’s powers could be expanded.

Mind you, by “government,” I’m not referring to the highly partisan, two-party bureaucracy of the Republicans and Democrats. Rather, I’m referring to the Deep State—the corporatized, militarized, entrenched bureaucracy that has set itself beyond the reach of the law and is unaffected by elections, unaltered by populist movements, and staffed by unelected officials who are, in essence, running the country and calling the shots in Washington DC, no matter who sits in the White House.

This is a government that, in conjunction with its corporate partners, views the citizenry as consumers and bits of data to be bought, sold and traded.

This is a government that spies on its citizens.

This is a government that is laying the groundwork to weaponize the public’s biomedical data.

This is a government that uses free speech zones, roving bubble zones and trespass laws to silence, censor and marginalize Americans and restrict their First Amendment right to speak truth to power.

This is a government that allows the president and the military to arrest and detain American citizens indefinitely.

This is a government that saddled us with the Patriot Act, which opened the door to all manner of government abuses and intrusions on our privacy.

This is a government that has established a standing army made up of militarized domestic police.

This is a government that has allowed private corporations to get rich at taxpayer expense by locking people up in private prisons for non-violent crimes, while providing Corporate America with a source of cheap labor.

This is a government whose gun violence poses a greater threat to the safety and security of the nation than any mass shooter.

This is a government that has allowed the presidency to become a dictatorship operating above and beyond the law, regardless of which party is in power.

This is a government that speaks in a language of force.

This is a government that justifies all manner of government tyranny and power grabs in the so-called name of national security, national crises and national emergencies.

This is a government that believes it has the authority to search, seize, strip, scan, spy on, probe, pat down, taser, and arrest any individual at any time and for the slightest provocation, the Constitution be damned.

In sum, this is a government that routinely undermines the Constitution and rides roughshod over the rights of the citizenry.

This is not a government that believes in, let alone upholds, freedom.

So where does that leave us?

As always, the first step begins with “we the people.”

Those who gave us the Constitution and the Bill of Rights believed that the government exists at the behest of its citizens. It is there to protect, defend and even enhance our freedoms, not violate them. Our power as a citizenry comes from our ability to agree and stand united on certain freedom principles that should be non-negotiable.

It was no idle happenstance that the Constitution opens with these three powerful words: “We the people.” “We the people” have the power to make and break the government. We are the masters and they are the servants. We the American people—the citizenry—are the arbiters and ultimate guardians of America’s welfare, defense, liberty, laws and prosperity.

Our national priorities need to be re-prioritized. For instance, some argue that we need to make America great again. I, for one, would prefer to make America free again.

The post Mile Markers of Tyranny first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Great Election Fraud: Will Our Freedoms Survive Another Election?

Never has our future been more unpredictable, never have we depended so much on political forces that cannot be trusted to follow the rules of common sense and self-interest—forces that look like sheer insanity, if judged by the standards of other centuries.

― Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism,  1951

And so it begins again, the never-ending, semi-delusional, train-wreck of an election cycle in which the American people allow themselves to get worked up into a frenzy over the misguided belief that the future of this nation—nay, our very lives—depends on who we elect as president.

For the next three months, Americans will be dope-fed billions of dollars’ worth of political propaganda aimed at keeping them glued to their television sets and persuading them that 1) their votes count and 2) electing the right candidate will fix everything that is wrong with this country.

Incredible, isn’t it, that in a country of more than 330 million people, we are given only two choices for president? How is it that in a country teeming with creative, intelligent, productive, responsible, moral people, our vote too often comes down to pulling the lever for the lesser of two evils?

The system is rigged, of course.

It is a heavily scripted, tightly choreographed, star-studded, ratings-driven, mass-marketed, costly exercise in how to sell a product—in this case, a presidential candidate—to dazzled consumers who will choose image over substance almost every time.

As author Noam Chomsky rightly observed, “It is important to bear in mind that political campaigns are designed by the same people who sell toothpaste and cars.”

In other words, we’re being sold a carefully crafted product by a monied elite who are masters in the art of making the public believe that they need exactly what is being sold to them, whether it’s the latest high-tech gadget, the hottest toy, or the most charismatic politician.

This year’s presidential election, much like every other election in recent years, is what historian Daniel Boorstin referred to as a “pseudo-event”: manufactured, contrived, confected and devoid of any intrinsic value save the value of being advertised.

After all, who wants to talk about police shootings, SWAT team raids, asset forfeiture schemes, private prisons, school-to-prison pipelines, overcriminalization, censorship or any of the other evils that plague our nation when you can tune into a reality show carefully calibrated to appeal to the public’s need for bread and circuses, diversion and entertainment, and pomp and circumstance.

But make no mistake: Americans only think they’re choosing the next president.

In truth, however, they’re engaging in the illusion of participation culminating in the reassurance ritual of voting. It’s just another Blue Pill, a manufactured reality conjured up by the matrix in order to keep the populace compliant and convinced that their vote counts and that they still have some influence over the political process.

It’s all an illusion.

The nation is drowning in debt, crippled by a slowing economy, overrun by militarized police, swarming with surveillance, besieged by endless wars and a military industrial complex intent on starting new ones, and riddled with corrupt politicians at every level of government.

All the while, we’re arguing over which corporate puppet will be given the honor of stealing our money, invading our privacy, abusing our trust, undermining our freedoms, and shackling us with debt and misery for years to come.

Nothing taking place on Election Day will alleviate the suffering of the American people.

Unless we do something more than vote, the government as we have come to know it—corrupt, bloated and controlled by big-money corporations, lobbyists and special interest groups—will remain unchanged. And “we the people”—overtaxed, overpoliced, overburdened by big government, underrepresented by those who should speak for us and blissfully ignorant of the prison walls closing in on us—will continue to trudge along a path of misery.

With roughly 22 lobbyists per Congressman, corporate greed will continue to call the shots in the nation’s capital, while our so-called representatives will grow richer and the people poorer. And elections will continue to be driven by war chests and corporate benefactors rather than such values as honesty, integrity and public service.

Just consider: while billions will be spent on the elections this year, not a dime of that money will actually help the average American in their day-to-day struggles to just get by.

Conveniently, politicians only seem to remember their constituents in the months leading up to an election, and yet “we the people” continue to take the abuse, the neglect, the corruption and the lies. We make excuses for the shoddy treatment, we cover up for them when they cheat on us, and we keep hoping that if we just stick with them long enough, eventually they’ll treat us right.

When a country spends billions of dollars to select what is, for all intents and purposes, a glorified homecoming king or queen to occupy the White House, while tens of millions of its people live in poverty, nearly 18 million Americans are out of work, and most of the country and its economy remain in a state of semi-lockdown due to COVID-19 restrictions, that’s a country whose priorities are out of step with the needs of its people.

Then again, people get the government they deserve.

No matter who wins the presidential election come November, it’s a sure bet that the losers will be the American people if all we’re prepared to do is vote.

As political science professor Gene Sharp notes in starker terms, “Dictators are not in the business of allowing elections that could remove them from their thrones.”

To put it another way, the Establishment—the shadow government and its corporate partners that really run the show, pull the strings and dictate the policies, no matter who occupies the Oval Office—are not going to allow anyone to take office who will unravel their power structures. Those who have attempted to do so in the past have been effectively put out of commission.

So what is the solution to this blatant display of imperial elitism disguising itself as a populist exercise in representative government?

Stop playing the game. Stop supporting the system. Stop defending the insanity. Just stop.

Washington thrives on money, so stop giving them your money. Stop throwing your hard-earned dollars away on politicians and Super PACs who view you as nothing more than a means to an end. There are countless worthy grassroots organizations and nonprofits working in your community to address real needs like injustice, poverty, homelessness, etc. Support them and you’ll see change you really can believe in in your own backyard.

Politicians depend on votes, so stop giving them your vote unless they have a proven track record of listening to their constituents, abiding by their wishes and working hard to earn and keep their trust.

It’s comforting to believe that your vote matters, but Franklin Delano Roosevelt was right: “Presidents are selected, not elected.”

Despite what is taught in school and the propaganda that is peddled by the media, a presidential election is not a populist election for a representative. Rather, it’s a gathering of shareholders to select the next CEO, a fact reinforced by the nation’s archaic electoral college system. In other words, your vote doesn’t elect a president. Despite the fact that there are 218 million eligible voters in this country (only half of whom actually vote), it is the electoral college, made up of 538 individuals handpicked by the candidates’ respective parties, that actually selects the next president.

The only thing you’re accomplishing by taking part in the “reassurance ritual” of voting is sustaining the illusion that we have a democratic republic.

In actuality, we are suffering from what political scientists Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page more accurately term an “economic élite domination” in which the economic elite (lobbyists, corporations, monied special interest groups) dominate and dictate national policy.

No surprise there.

As an in-depth Princeton University study confirms, democracy has been replaced by oligarchy, a system of government in which elected officials represent the interests of the rich and powerful rather than the average citizen.

We did it to ourselves.

We said nothing while our elections were turned into popularity contests populated by individuals better suited to be talk-show hosts rather than intelligent, reasoned debates on issues of domestic and foreign policy by individuals with solid experience, proven track records and tested integrity.

We turned our backs on things like wisdom, sound judgment, morality and truth, shrugging them off as old-fashioned, only to find ourselves saddled with lying politicians incapable of making fair and impartial decisions.

We let ourselves be persuaded that those yokels in Washington could do a better job of running this country than we could. It’s not a new problem. As former Senator Joseph S. Clark Jr. acknowledged in a 1955 article titled, “Wanted: Better Politicians”:

[W]e have too much mediocrity in the business of running the government of the country, and it troubles me that this should be so at a time of such complexity and crisis… Government by amateurs, semi-pros, and minor-leaguers will not meet the challenge of our times. We must realize that it takes great competence to run a country which, in spite of itself, has succeeded to world leadership in a time of deadly peril.

We indulged our craving for entertainment news at the expense of our need for balanced reporting by a news media committed to asking the hard questions of government officials. The result, as former congressman Jim Leach points out, leaves us at a grave disadvantage:

At a time when in-depth analysis of the issues of the day has never been more important, quality journalism has been jeopardized by financial considerations and undercut by purveyors of ideology who facilely design news, like clothes, to appeal to a market segment.

We bought into the fairytale that politicians are saviors, capable of fixing what’s wrong with our communities and our lives when, in fact, most politicians lead such sheltered lives that they have no clue about what their constituents must do to make ends meet. As political scientists Morris Fiorina and Samuel Abrams conclude:

In America today, there is a disconnect between an unrepresentative political class and the citizenry it purports to represent. The political process today not only is less representative than it was a generation ago and less supported by the citizenry, but the outcomes of that process are at a minimum no better.

We let ourselves be saddled with a two-party system and fooled into believing that there’s a difference between the Republicans and Democrats when, in fact, the two parties are exactly the same. As one commentator noted, both parties support endless war, engage in out-of-control spending, ignore the citizenry’s basic rights, have no respect for the rule of law, are bought and paid for by the corporate elite, care most about their own power, and have a long record of expanding government and shrinking liberty.

Then, when faced with the prospect of voting for the lesser of two evils, many simply compromise their principles and overlook the fact that the lesser of two evils is still evil.

Perhaps worst of all, we allowed the cynicism of our age and the cronyism and corruption of Washington, DC, to discourage us from believing that there was any hope for the American experiment in liberty.

Granted, it’s easy to become discouraged about the state of our nation. We’re drowning under the weight of too much debt, too many wars, too much power in the hands of a centralized government, too many militarized police, too many laws, too many lobbyists, and generally too much bad news.

It’s harder to believe that change is possible, that the system can be reformed, that politicians can be principled, that courts can be just, that good can overcome evil, and that freedom will prevail.

Yet I truly believe that change is possible, that the system can be reformed, that politicians can be principled, that courts can be just, that good can overcome evil, and that freedom can prevail but it will take each and every one of us committed to doing the hard work of citizenship that extends beyond the act of voting.

A healthy, representative government is hard work. It takes a citizenry that is informed about the issues, educated about how the government operates, and willing to make the sacrifices necessary to stay involved.

Most of all, it takes a citizenry willing to do more than grouse and complain.

The powers-that-be want us to believe that our job as citizens begins and ends on Election Day. They want us to believe that we have no right to complain about the state of the nation unless we’ve cast our vote one way or the other. They want us to remain divided over politics, hostile to those with whom we disagree politically, and intolerant of anyone or anything whose solutions to what ails this country differ from our own.

What they don’t want us doing is presenting a united front in order to reject the pathetic excuse for government that is being fobbed off on us.

So where does that leave us?

We’d better stop hanging our hopes on a political savior to rescue us from the clutches of an imperial president.

It’s possible that the next president might be better, but then again, he or she could be far worse.

Remember, presidential elections merely serve to maintain the status quo. Once elected president, that person becomes part of the dictatorial continuum that is the American imperial presidency today.

If we are to return to a constitutional presidency, “we the people” must recalibrate the balance of power.

The first step is to start locally—in your own communities, in your schools, at your city council meetings, in newspaper editorials, at protests—by pushing back against laws that are unjust, police departments that overreach, politicians that don’t listen to their constituents, and a system of government that grows more tyrannical by the day.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the only thing that will save us now is a concerted, collective commitment to the Constitution’s principles of limited government, a system of checks and balances, and a recognition that they—the president, Congress, the courts, the military, the police, the technocrats and plutocrats and bureaucrats—answer to and are accountable to “we the people.”

This will mean that Americans will have to stop letting their personal politics and party allegiances blind them to government misconduct and power grabs. It will mean holding all three branches of government accountable to the Constitution (i.e., vote them out of office if they abuse their powers). And it will mean calling on Congress to put an end to the use of presidential executive orders, decrees, memorandums, proclamations, national security directives and legislative signing statements as a means of getting around Congress and the courts.

As historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. concludes:

I would argue that what the country needs today is a little serious disrespect for the office of the presidency; a refusal to give any more weight to a President’s words than the intelligence of the utterance, if spoken by anyone else, would command… If the nation wants to work its way back to a constitutional presidency, there is only one way to begin. That is by showing Presidents that, when their closest associates place themselves above the law and the Constitution, such transgressions will be not forgiven or forgotten for the sake of the presidency but exposed and punished for the sake of the presidency.

In other words, we’ve got to stop treating the president like a god and start making both the office of the president and the occupant play by the rules of the Constitution.

Popular Movements Can Overcome Authoritarian Policing

Portland protests say Go Home Feds as protests grow (by Noah Berger, AP)

Today is the 60th day of protests since the murder of George Floyd. This weekend, people marched in cities across the country in solidarity with Portland and in opposition to the US becoming a police state.

President Trump sending troops to cities added fuel to the nationwide uprising against racist police violence. Protests have grown not only in Portland but in Seattle, Chicago, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Omaha, Austin, Oakland, San Francisco, New York, and Washington, DC, among other cities.

Trump is not a ‘law and order’ president, he is a chaos and disorder president. He is mistaken to think that increasing conflict in cities throughout the country will save his failing 2020 campaign. Just as his hyped attack on Central American caravans backfired before the 2018 mid-term elections, this escalation is also backfiring as people are mobilized to stand against Trump’s authoritarianism.

While Trump’s actions are the focus of current protests, Portland demonstrates there is a long history of police violence that preceded Trump. Mayors have allowed police violence and Joe Biden, when he was Chair of the Judiciary Committee, authored legislation that led to over-policing and encouraged police militarization. While Trump sending in militarized troops to cities needs to be opposed, police violence is bigger than Trump.

Federal troop pushes a mother back during a demonstration against the presence of Trump’s federal enforcement (Reuters)

Trump Sends In Federal Troops, Escalates Violence

While federal officers protect federal buildings across the country that is not what Trump is doing. He is using the excuse of protecting federal buildings as cover for sending in federal troops to dominate cities.

On June 1, President Trump made his plan clear, warning governors that if they did not get control of the cities, he would send in troops. He told governors “You have to dominate, if you don’t dominate you’re wasting your time.”

June 1 was also the day that National Guard troops in Washington, DC fired tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets into non-violent protesters in Lafayette Park across from the White House so Trump could walk across the park for a widely denigrated photo-op holding a bible in front of St. John’s church. Trump said last week that he sent personnel to Portland because “the locals couldn’t handle it.”

The presence of federal troops in Portland and being sent to other cities is based on an executive order signed on June 26 to protect “Federal monuments, memorials, statues, or property.” Homeland Security director, Chad Wolf, created a task force made up of Border Patrol, Coast Guard, U.S. Marshals, and other agencies. Three different operations have been announced: Wolf’s “Protecting Americans Communities Task Force”; the Department of Justice’s crime-fighting “Operation Legend” announced on July 8; and “Operation Diligent Valor,” which includes the Portland police mission.

Legal analysts and commentators are debating whether the actions of federal troops in Portland are legal. The government argues they are merely protecting buildings and when they go blocks away they are investigating who damaged buildings. The Oregonian questions that writing, “Even if the federal agencies have legitimate license to defend the courthouse, ‘The real question is: Is it being used as a pretext?’”

It is evident from federal troop actions in Portland that this generalized federal policing is beyond federal authority.

Reports and videos of unidentified Border Patrol agents in camouflage grabbing people off the street, stuffing them into unmarked vehicles, and driving off are unconstitutional, illegal actions.

Oregon officials including the governor and Portland mayor have asked Homeland Security to keep its troops off of Portland’s streets but Chad Wolf has refused. Oregon’s senators have also opposed Trump sending paramilitary squads to Portland.

Some, including the District Attorney of Philadelphia Larry Krassner, say federal troops should be prosecuted when they violate the law. The Oregonian reported that Steven Wax, a former Federal Public Defender, called on Oregon’s US attorney and the Multnomah County district attorney to convene grand juries with subpoena powers to investigate alleged criminal acts by federal officers. Potential charges could include kidnapping, assault, and racketeering conspiracy, he said. The district attorney and attorney general are conducting a criminal investigation focused on the injury of a protester, 26 year old Donovan La Bella, on July 11 who was shot in the head with an impact munition near the federal courthouse and subsequently needed surgery.

Oregon’s attorney general, the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, state legislators, and others have filed at least four lawsuits against federal agencies. US District Judge Michael H. Simon issued a 14-day order barring federal officers from targeting journalists or legal observers and said in court that he was disturbed by several images of federal officers using force against non-aggressive demonstrators. He noted the July  18 baton-beating of 53-year-old Navy veteran Chris David who tried to talk with federal officers outside the courthouse and the injury of La Bella.

As our guest on Clearing The FOG, constitutional lawyer Mara Verheyden-Hilliard makes the point that courts need to protect the rights of all people to protest and not make journalists and legal observers a separate category with greater rights than others.

The Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC) carries weaponry of the sort usually used in Afghanistan or Iraq (John Rudoff)

Paramilitaries Instead of the Military

We describe these federal agents as “troops” because that is what they are. President Trump threatened to use the Insurrection Act to deploy armed services to states but people in the military and legal scholars opposed him. Instead, Trump has sent militarized troops from civilian agencies into the cities.

The Department of Homeland Security sent Border Patrol Tactical Units (BORTAC) from Customs to Portland. BORTAC is an elite paramilitary unit that includes snipers and other highly trained troops who often operate outside of the US and are based along the Mexican border.  These “Specialized Response Teams” wear the US Army’s camouflage and use military gear. BORTAC units have been deployed to war environments, including Iraq and Afghanistan. While not a violation of Posse Comitatus, which forbids the use of the military in domestic law enforcement, they subvert the intent of the Act.

An internal Homeland Security memo found the federal troops were not trained in riot control or mass demonstrations. It also stated this kind of federal action was “going to be the norm” so training was needed. Trump has promised to send troops to “Democrat” cities in an election year spectacle.

In addition to on-the-ground troops, the US is using the US Air Force ‘Cougar’ surveillance plane over Portland.  The Intercept reports the flight data shows tight, circular surveillance flights over Portland. Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Government Secrecy Project, asks “What is their mission? Under what authority are they operating, and who authorized them?”

Trump is using police as a prop in the 2020 election with Portland as a campaign stage. The campaign seeks to win votes in the suburbs, which he won by 4 percent in 2016 but is now losing by double digits. Trump’s re-election campaign has spent over $983 million in 2020, more than the $878 million spent in his entire 2016 campaign. Despite this spending, he is behind Biden by landslide margins in all of the battleground states. He fired his campaign manager and is obviously getting desperate.

Trump is mimicking the ‘law and order’ campaign of Richard Nixon but this is a different era when police violence and racism are on video for all to see. Protests after police murdered George Floyd took place in cities of all sizes and in many suburbs. A national consensus is developing that racist police violence exists and it must end. Images of militarized police shooting and tear-gassing unarmed protesters is likely to backfire against Trump.

Portland protester enveloped in tear gas waves US flag (Nathan Howard for Getty Images)

Police Violence is Bigger Than Trump

Before the federal troops arrived, Portland police were using extreme violence and chemical weapons against protesters. The Portland Police Bureau already had a temporary restraining order for its violation of protesters’ free speech rights and another for arresting journalists and legal observers. Another court ruling largely prohibited local police from using tear gas, but that has not stopped federal troops from doing so. When Mayor Ted Wheeler, who also serves as the police commissioner, came to the courthouse protests people jeered him and signs called him ‘Tear Gas Ted.’ Wheeler was teargassed himself by the federal troops.

The Intercept describes how the Portland Police Association has dominated elected officials for decades. In meetings with the mayor, one police union president would put his gun on the table. The union contract protects racist cops making it hard to fire those who’ve used deadly force. When the new contract was being considered in 2016, people protested at City Hall and the police rioted forcing protesters outside where police in riot gear then surrounded the building as city officials approved their union contract.

The NY Times reports that of the 35 cities in the United States with populations larger than 500,000, Portland is the whitest with 71 percent of residents categorized as non-Latino whites and only 6% are Black. This stems from the state being founded as a state for white people. A 19th-century law called for whipping any Black person found in the state. In the early part of the 20th century, Oregon’s Legislature was dominated by members of the Ku Klux Klan. As the destination of Lewis and Clark, Oregon symbolized the conquest of the American West and the subjugation of Native peoples.

Police violence in Portland is disproportionately against Black people including being stopped by police and targeted with the use of force. Slate reports, “When the police chief banned chokeholds in 1985 after officers killed a Black man with the hold, officers made T-shirts that said, ‘Don’t Choke ’Em. Smoke ’Em.’ In 2012, the Justice Department reported that the PPB had an unconstitutional ‘pattern or practice’ of using excessive force against people with mental illnesses.”  The Portland police have also been sympathetic to right-wing, white supremacist organizations when they demonstrated in the city.

With this history of white domination, some would think racist policing would not be a political issue but the evidence of racist police brutality has struck a chord not only in Portland but across the country. Portland has had a strong protest movement over inequality, neoliberalism, wars, and more. The police have a long history of using violence against protests resulting in court settlements for victims. Now, opposition to racism, capitalism, and fascism has led to a unified movement.

The Wall of Moms, followed by a Wall of Dads, combating tear gas with leaf blowers, has been joined by a wall of veterans. Veterans are challenging the federal troops, telling them they are following illegal orders. Other affinity groups forming “walls” include grandparents, chefs and lawyers. People have made shields and are wearing helmets and gas masks to protect themselves against federal violence. Some are using hockey sticks to hit tear gas containers back toward federal troops.

Most local officials have opposed Trump’s threats to send troops to their cities and have threatened litigation. Lori Lightfoot, a neoliberal Democratic mayor, initially opposed federal troops coming to Chicago but, after a phone call with Trump and a promise that troops would work under the control of the US Attorney with a very limited role, she changed her mind. Lightfoot, a former federal prosecutor, has faced protests at her home for this.

Alliances with federal police can be problematic. Separate from the current controversy, Albuquerque, Atlanta, St. Paul, San Francisco, and Portland all pulled out of federal-local task forces because federal agents have violated local rules regarding racial profilinguse-of-force policies, and requirements to wear body cameras.

While Trump is putting himself at the center of current police violence, the reality is police violence is bigger than Trump. The system-wide challenges with policing are deeply entrenched. Police defend the status quo including racial injustice and class inequality. Whenever political movements develop to respond to racial and class unfairness, the police have undermined their politically-protected constitutional rights. Now that the conflict has heightened, it is time for the people to resolve it.

Retired US Army major intelligence officer Jenine Betschart (center) protests outside the Multnomah County Justice Center along with the ‘Wall of Moms’ as night fell on the city (Daily Mail)

People Can Protect the Right to Protest and Limit Police Powers

Militarized police violence is the wars abroad coming home. Strategic tactics like the Wall of Moms and veterans in broad opposition to militarized federal police demonstrate how movements can stop Trump’s authoritarianism, limit the actions of police and protect the right to protest.

At the beginning of this century, mass protests in Washington, DC against corporate trade agreements led to violent responses by DC and federal police. Litigation by the Partnership for Civil Justice followed. The result was large monetary awards to protesters but also agreements between the parties that put in place “best practices” to protect the right to protest in Washington, DC. Now both local police and federal police are bound by these agreements.

We interview Mara Verhayden-Hilliard on this week’s Clearing the FOG Radio (available Monday night) about whether the current protests could also lead to the protection of our rights. The overreach of President Trump and the violent reaction of local police is an opportunity for change. To succeed requires smart litigation that protects all protest, not a hierarchy protecting media or legal observers, and the litigation must act in synergy with the people.

People cannot give up the streets but must oppose violent police with strategic tactics that continue to pull people to support the movement and oppose police violence. Our goal is to transform the concept of public safety to mean programs that meet people’s basic needs and build a national consensus for policing that is defundeddemilitarized and democratically controlled. Already the movement has changed the opinions of people in the US.  We must build on that success, and continue the pressure for change no matter who is elected president.

Privacy, Auricular Confession and Computer Viruses

The original business with personal secrets

The unilateral declaration of independence adopted by the slave traders and slaveholders in congress assembled, otherwise known as the American Declaration of Independence, is one of the most successful psychological warfare instruments of modern history. Alone it did not win the fight of the colonial elite against its cousins in Great Britain. However, once the British regime was forced to cut its losses after the defeat at Yorktown, this propaganda document became the source of the most powerful delusion since the inception of Christendom based on the myth of an obscure crucifixion.

This instrument, for white supremacy the equivalent of the ten commandments attributed to Moses, has formed the basis of the religion in whose thrall millions of people for whom Christianity is perhaps meaningless or trivial have been held for over a century. That is not much time seen from the entirety of human history. However, given its global proliferation, penetrating areas where even Christianity could not win, it is remarkable to say the least. The brilliance with which an ideal whose fulfillment has been denied to more than the majority of the world’s population is still preserved is an expression of the insidiousness of the system of white supremacy. As James Baldwin told Cambridge students in 1964, he was raised “rooting for the cowboys” in American Western films — until he realised that he was, in fact, one of the “Indians”.

Most of the world consists of “Indians” — it is “Indian Country” as the US Cavalry called it whether in Dakota, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan.

We find that we are being told to root for those whose entire social model is based on our subjugation or, if need be, extermination. Since we all learned to be “cowboys” we think that those who rule us are the Cavalry who will save us from the “Indians” — if we follow their orders and stay in the wagon train, wear our masks, keep our distance — and keep our mouths shut, only to prevent the dispersion of particulate infectious material, of course.

Let us be clear about one thing. The US Empire cannot collapse as long as its citizens at home are willing to travel throughout the world terrorising other countries. However, this capacity is rapidly being exhausted. Hence the cannon fodder at home is superfluous. At the same time if everyone is policing herself or himself for fear of infection or some other invisible fate, then there simply is less need to have troops around terrorising the world. Instead the terror can be performed more compactly with pharmaceutical teams operating in geographically quarantined territories, isolated by the collapse of international transport — except for the select.

As I have written in the past the actions implemented by the coordinated intelligence and policing forces worldwide aim at retraining masses of people to live with less work, less money and less social contact (such contact subject to constant surveillance — aka “tracing”). This is simply policing and population control without any health advantage whatsoever. Of course, there are various opinions — like other exit points on the human body — as to whether masks, gloves, and distance restrain disease proliferation. Yet this plurality of opinions is deliberately maintained because the more opinions in circulation the less chance that common sense will prevail. This is also a factor in deniability. People waste their time trying to decide which priest to believe, while their jobs disappear and their homes are confiscated.

But to come to the point, the principal objection raised to many of the incipient measures — contact tracing, health monitoring or the Gates ID2020 concept in its various forms — is that it would intrude on the privacy of individuals. However, there is no privacy in the West. Rather there is a religious belief in privacy (the individual equivalent of secrecy). Where does this belief originate? Western privacy is a reaction but actually a compliment to the Roman Catholic practice of auricular confession. The confessional defined the “private” as the scope of potential deviance from conformity to the Catholic universal doctrine which was defined as “sin” or “heresy”. Sin could be forgiven by confession to a priest. Heresy could only be punished — it was left to god to deal with the heretic once he was executed by the secular arm.

Privacy is really only the general privilege of the ruling class to conceal its wealth, methods of theft and murder, evade taxes, and prevent you from knowing how and why you can work yourself to death and still not own your home or the food on your plate. It immediately disappears — privacy that is — once you make a claim on the regime. To get a pittance for your family as an unemployed person you have to confess everything. The owners of the world can print four trillion dollars a day and no one has to answer a single question.

The “virus” is the contemporary manifestation of “sin”. We are all sinful and therefore the ridiculous number of infections reported. Many will die — that is the purpose of “sin” to rationalise the murder of our fellow human beings by priests/doctors/soldiers/police. Not to believe in the “virus” is heresy. You wondered why, since you linked your first PC to the internet, you are constantly plagued by viruses. Did it ever occur to you that the company that made the software also owns the viruses? You could dismiss this “planned obsolescence”; e.g., the fact that there are no more original spare parts for your three year old computer or car, by claiming that a new product was “progress”, another step on the stairway to heaven.

But now the producer of the most virus-laden software in the world tells you on TV that you will never be free of the virus his friends developed that can kill your grandmother or your child with cancer (from some other industrial poison).

And you are happy now. If you were a white man, you might have been created equal. If not, well, tough luck. You have a secret, not for long. If you aren’t infected yet, just check your computer…

Are We Up Against the Wall Yet, Alma Mater?

If all values are system values, what do we make of trending lawsuits filed by students against their college campuses? Is it something like the demand of an air traveler who gets downgraded from first class to coach? The analogy seems to have merit. At least it reminds us of flying.

Campuses have about five categories of bills they send to students: tuition, student activity fees, parking, meal plans, and housing. Tuition goes to the academic budget. Student activity fees go into the infrastructure of extracurricular life, student organizations, counseling, libraries, health services, etc. In public debate, the term tuition often collapses all five categories into one.

On the more obvious side, meal plans and housing should be refunded if students are ordered to leave campus. But this means that funding for food service workers and housekeeping staff suddenly goes to zero. Bundled with any refund of this type–however obvious–will be a question of layoffs.

Parking also seems like an obvious refundable claim. But again, parking services are self-funded through fees, and any refund is going to delete money that was budgeted for payroll.

Student activity fees get complicated, but the general theme is applicable. Wherever a campus is collecting fees, they are funding staff workers, and wherever fees are refunded, budgets for salaries begin to disappear.

Activity fees are complicated, because many services remain open to students, particularly counseling and emergency services, even if staff are working at a distance.

Which brings us to the difficult question of tuition itself, the money paid for academic, um, tuition. Students are correct to argue that online education is not the full experience of in-person education. For some fields of study, the difference can be a wide one. Drama, fine art, chemistry lab, etc., involve experiences that may be impossible to simulate online.

Students complain on the internet that moving their math classes online was especially difficult, which is an interesting thing to think about. Here we see the value of real-time personal attention to student questions and posture. The teacher can see everyone slumping down and make adjustments on the spot. Eye contact, unmediated by Zoom, is a wonderful teaching tool, and we can thank the pandemic for the crash course in the embodiment of it all. Teaching math is a deeply embodied transaction. Is that why my high school math teachers were coaches, too?

Literature was also mentioned by students on the internet. They missed the spontaneous discussion of the assigned materials, even if they were perfectly suitable for online delivery. Stanley Fish once asked, “is there a text in this class?” It all sounded so postmodern at the time, but here comes the pandemic, and we more plainly see how the text may be a kind of occasion for higher education, but never the education itself. There is a good reason why we continued to hold classes for several centuries, long after the printing press made it possible for everyone to read the books on their own.

As students were abruptly shifted from classroom to laptop, the feel of shock was widely confirmed. It was like being downgraded from first class.

However, we should not let the structure of our rant obscure the value of online education for those who need it most. Think of the soldier overseas, the working mother of three, or the 19-year-old who already has classes on campus plus a job as night clerk at your local hotel. Or perhaps the unemployed worker who wants an educational upgrade right away. Students such as these have competing pressures to consider, and online education is their preferred vehicle.

Two questions are important to ask about the difference between online and in-person instruction. Is there any difference in delivery cost? Did your online literature class leave your professor behind when it moved from class to laptop? Did the academic sector of campus find itself doing less work? Were teachers fired on the spot so that online classes could be lumped together into even more mind-numbing aggregations of distance packages? If the cost of delivering semester credits remained the same, how is it fair to demand refunds of tuition–when tuition is defined as the academic portion of the bill?

The second question is, what choice did the schools have? There are several related questions: If the pandemic made the move to online education necessary, and if online instruction involved the same payroll, and if other students were receiving online instruction by choice prior to the pandemic, just how much money do we think the school should pay back? Should the schools have simply refunded tuition to all classroom enrolled students and stopped trying to help them complete their semester credits?

And if schools have to re-budget their credit-delivery tuition to a lower amount, how do you expect them to make up the difference? Larger class sizes? Fewer instructors? Surely you are not expecting across-the-board cuts to administrative salaries? Do you really think that’s how things work?

At any rate, I think students will likely benefit from the recent right-wing shift in our national courts. There was already a culture war on liberal sentiment, the liberal arts, and liberal education prior to the pandemic. Lawsuits that demand refunds for the academic emergency seem to play into a picture of colleges as elite liberal leeches who probably deserve a whipping of some kind.

Recalling our thesis of system values, the student lawsuits also represent a dialectical moment when higher education in America is viewed increasingly as the student’s problem to finance. The state has been shaving its share of commitment for many decades now–at least since Reaganomics–transforming a system of public finance into a system of student debt, a.k.a neoliberalismo. In this social moment, student lawsuits are social expressions of pushback against this system of values, where Alma Mater, or nurturing mother, is dragged into court for a sad family feud.

Meanwhile, all the student energy directed against local campus administrations has had the effect of deflecting pressure from the national stage just as several trillions of dollars have been allocated for COVID-19 relief. And according to the usual calendar of campus politics, the game is over. Once finals are done and grades are in for the Spring, college student activism usually goes into hibernation for at least several months.

We have seen no evidence that widespread student discontent was ever effectively delivered to the doors of Congress in the form of an appeal for direct federal relief. This may be a failure of media coverage or research on our part. Instead, we have seen Congress allocate modest relief funds for college students and campuses. In an election year, Congress would, in theory, be most susceptible to students organized to advocate and vote. But the pressure was never brought to bear at the Congressional level, where the real money is.

Forbes reporter Adam S. Minsky, Esq., reports that progressive Democrats wanted to award $30,000 in student loan relief across the board. As the final package of the HEROES Act was being negotiated prior to the House vote of May 15, the dollar amount of student loan relief was cut to $10,000, and the scope of relief was restricted to borrowers who demonstrated some defined forms of hardship.

There is money in the House-passed HEROES Act that can flow to public campuses, but the amounts are less than what organized higher ed interests groups had asked for. And this is another sign that the higher education community was unable to mount much of an organized voice at the national level during March, April, or May, preoccupied as they were with the day-to-day work of getting semester credits completed, slashing budgets for the next academic year, and generally contemplating the lifeboat ethics of who gets shoved off.

Meanwhile, back in the nation’s capital, the majority leader of the Senate and the President of the United States both promise that none of this modest HEROES money, in support of the public sector or higher ed, is going to see the light of day. If students are able to claw back funds through lawsuits, and if the HEROES Act dies in the Senate, the legacy of 2020 will be what?

The American tragedy here is that Mencius was correct. The personality of the ruler flows down through the kingdom. We have become a flock of bickering grackles. Above us, we fail to notice if that sky remains devoid of any farsighted, graceful eagle. If all values are system values, what system will we reach for after final grades are in?

Police State Uses Crises to Expand Its Lockdown Powers

You can always count on the government to take advantage of a crisis, legitimate or manufactured.

This coronavirus pandemic is no exception.

Not only are the federal and state governments unraveling the constitutional fabric of the nation with lockdown mandates that are sending the economy into a tailspin and wreaking havoc with our liberties, but they are also rendering the citizenry fully dependent on the government for financial handouts, medical intervention, protection and sustenance.

Unless we find some way to rein in the government’s power grabs, the fall-out will be epic.

Everything I have warned about for years—government overreach, invasive surveillance, martial law, abuse of powers, militarized police, weaponized technology used to track and control the citizenry, and so on—has coalesced into this present moment.

The government’s shameless exploitation of past national emergencies for its own nefarious purposes pales in comparison to what is presently unfolding.

It’s downright Machiavellian.

Deploying the same strategy it used with 9/11 to acquire greater powers under the USA Patriot Act, the police state—a.k.a. the shadow government, a.k.a. the Deep State—has been anticipating this moment for years, quietly assembling a wish list of lockdown powers that could be trotted out and approved at a moment’s notice.

It should surprise no one, then, that the Trump Administration has asked Congress to allow it to suspend parts of the Constitution whenever it deems it necessary during this coronavirus pandemic and “other” emergencies.

It’s that “other” emergencies part that should particularly give you pause, if not spur you to immediate action (by action, I mean a loud and vocal, apolitical, nonpartisan outcry and sustained, apolitical, nonpartisan resistance).

In fact, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has been quietly trotting out and testing a long laundry list of terrifying powers that override the Constitution.

We’re talking about lockdown powers (at both the federal and state level): the ability to suspend the Constitution, indefinitely detain American citizens, bypass the courts, quarantine whole communities or segments of the population, override the First Amendment by outlawing religious gatherings and assemblies of more than a few people, shut down entire industries and manipulate the economy, muzzle dissidents, “stop and seize any plane, train or automobile to stymie the spread of contagious disease,” reshape financial markets, create a digital currency (and thus further restrict the use of cash), determine who should live or die…

You’re getting the picture now, right?

These are powers the police state would desperately like to make permanent.

Bear in mind, however, that these powers the Trump Administration, acting on orders from the police state, are officially asking Congress to recognize and authorize barely scratch the surface of the far-reaching powers the government has already unilaterally claimed for itself.

Unofficially, the police state has been riding roughshod over the rule of law for years now without any pretense of being reined in or restricted in its power grabs by Congress, the courts or the citizenry.

The seeds of this present madness were sown several decades ago when George W. Bush stealthily issued two presidential directives that granted the president the power to unilaterally declare a national emergency, which is loosely defined as “any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government functions.”

Comprising the country’s Continuity of Government (COG) plan, these directives, which do not need congressional approval, provide a skeletal outline of the actions the president will take in the event of a “national emergency.”

Mind you, that national emergency can take any form, can be manipulated for any purpose and can be used to justify any end goal—all on the say so of the president. Indeed, the U.S. military has reportedly already been given standby orders under COG for this present coronavirus pandemic.

So what is the bottom line here?

We are, for all intents and purposes, one crisis away from having a full-fledged authoritarian state emerge from the shadows, at which time democratic government will be dissolved and the country will be ruled by an unelected bureaucracy.

Thus far, we have at least pretended that the government abides by the Constitution.

The attempts by each successive presidential administration to rule by fiat merely plays into the hands of those who would distort the government’s system of checks and balances and its constitutional separation of powers beyond all recognition.

Remember, these powers do not expire at the end of a president’s term. They remain on the books, just waiting to be used or abused by the next political demagogue.

So, too, every action taken by Trump and his predecessors to weaken the system of checks and balances, sidestep the rule of law, and expand the power of the executive branch of government has made us that much more vulnerable to those who would abuse those powers in the future.

Think on this: the presidential election is right around the corner.

Suddenly, the improbable possibility of any incumbent president attempting to extend the police state’s stranglehold on power by using current events to justify postponing or doing away with an election—forfeiting the people’s rights to govern altogether—and establishing a totalitarian regime seems less far-fetched than it did even a few years ago.

The emergency state is now out in the open for all to see. Unfortunately, “we the people” refuse to see what’s before us. Most Americans, fearful and easily controlled, would sooner rouse themselves to fight for that last roll of toilet paper than they would their own freedoms.

This is how freedom dies.

We erect our own prison walls, and as our rights dwindle away, we forge our own chains of servitude to the police state.

Be warned, however: once you surrender your freedoms to the government—no matter how compelling the reason might be for doing so—you can never get them back.

If we continue down this road, there can be no surprise about what awaits us at the end.

The America metamorphosing before our eyes is almost unrecognizable from the country I grew up in, and that’s not just tragic—it’s downright terrifying.

Democracy – Not!!

As I listened to some Trump Administration crony recently drone on about “American democracy” I recalled with sarcastic irony President Obama in Cuba lecturing Raul Castro on democracy. At the same time Republican officials in the State of Arizona and several other states were working to block as much citizen access to the voting booth as possible. There is nothing new here. When it comes to promoting “democracy” around the world the United States Government has a pretty dreadful record. Our role in assisting the overthrow of elected governments is on-going. Be it Iran in 1953 to Honduras under Obama and Clinton. As usual not a whisper from the corporate media. As pointed out by political theorists “media” is simply the propaganda vehicle for the dominant ideology.

The democratic republic established by our constitution in 1789 muddles along as a shadow of what it aspired to be. We are not a democracy. We have become an oligarchy (i.e., rule by the rich). Many Americans blame “Citizens United”, the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing bribery in our political system. The court has blessed a corrupt system making a mockery of democracy and gave the green light to the rich to buy politicians at every level of government. In a real democracy money does not count as freedom of speech.

Take a look at how we “elect” the President of the United States. We know from the 2000 election the people don’t elect the president. Something called the “electoral college” does — using the total number of Representatives and Senators from each state and at times the perverted legal logic of the U.S. Supreme Court! Clinton received three million more votes than Trump in 2016 but Trump is “elected” under a system designed to give slave holders more power when the constitution was ratified in 1789.

How about Congress? For starters take the United States Senate. Consider Wyoming has fewer than a million people while California has nearly 40 million. Both states have two Senators – would anyone in their right mind call that equal representation or democracy? I think not! Additionally California has one of the ten largest economies in the world while Wyoming ranks down there with the third world.

Twenty-five million more citizens voted for Democratic Senate candidates in the last election yet the Republicans have more U.S. Senators and legislative control. Thanks to Senate rules and the filibuster Senators coming from states making up only 27 percent of the total population of the country can kill any legislation. And do the math on how low population state U.S. Senators effect the electoral vote. One hundred of those votes for president are totally unrepresentative of the people. This is how it works out when low population states vote one way and a majority of the population goes another. California senators represent people and Wyoming – cattle! How does a majority prevail in such an undemocratic system? The answer is that it doesn’t and it is getting worse by the day.

Consider the House of “Representatives” — so called! Thanks to Republican gerrymandering of congressional districts in 2010, millions more Americans voted for Democratic candidates as their congress person only to have the Republicans take control of the House! Now good old Democratic Party incompetence can be blamed for some of this problem. The National Democratic Party was asleep at the switch in 2011 when the Republicans redrew districts guaranteeing their candidate would win. Take the State of Pennsylvania – Congressional Democratic candidates won over 100,000 more votes than Republican candidates statewide but fewer than one-third of the congressional seats.

And this was repeated all over the country. The Democrats took control of the House of Representatives in 2018 only because they increased their popular vote by almost 10 percent over the Republicans and they need to do better in 2020 to keep the House and retake the Senate. Trump and Republicans don’t care about majority voting. That is why they put all their effort into their right-wing base in the states that gave them a minority victory in 2016.

Take a moment to review our “democracy”, shall we? A congress that does not even begin to represent a majority of the people; a campaign “contribution” system that operates on bribery; a media owned by a half dozen corporations only concerned with profits and a professional military (opposed by the founding fathers) has replaced a citizen army. We have more people in prison than any other western country — we torture suspects. Election laws are written so only two parties have a chance at being elected. The constitutional right of the working class to join a union (First Amendment Freedom of Association and industrial democracy) is gone.