Looking for a Dry Roof from Which to Bray

All it takes for a society to express fear, paranoia, confusion, and a sort of mad country (riffing on mad cow disease, bovine spongiform encephalopathy) mental disease is a toxic brew of narcissism, propaganda, amnesia, planned and perceived obsolescence and a transnational economic barbarism against the collective masses, and we end up here:

Leaders (sic) in USA, Canada, Mexico, most of Latin America, most of Europe, Australia, Japan, Israel and Middle East are as nasty and ethically/morally arrested developed as any of the lots in power-on thrones-in war rooms at anytime during the development (sic) of “civilization,” so much so that’s it’s hard to tell which tentacle of a Trump-styled sea monster really has hold of our collective frontal lobe.

These are the days, yessiree — anti-intellectualism, nationalism, demagoguery, disparaging one group after another—Mexicans, Muslims, African-Americans, Asians, women, and any and all competitors. These people in America, like Trump, throw low blows and distribute piles of lies and spread their pandemic of white male billionaire disease, and he rises in the polls, by the very people he and the neoliberals and neocons and Christian-Zionists call parasites, or, deplorables. Adversaries are quickly branded “losers” or “flunkies” or “dopes” or “lowlifes.”

I want to lay down, but these countries are like uncles who touch you when you’re young and asleep. Look at all these borders foaming at the mouth with bodies broken and desperate…I spent days and nights in the stomach of the truck; I did not come out the same. Sometimes it feels like someone else is wearing my body.
― Warsan Shire, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth

Anyone can postulate just how long it took, really, for humanity – most certainly the hoards of IKEA-loving developed tooled and armed first world and their groomed despots — to succumb to the adage of we are just apes with nuclear bombs (or monkeys with algorithms, surveillance tools, psychological war weapons, and gobs of fossil fuels).

Five decades of collective community abandonment, collective mean styled capitalism, collective delusion; four decades of a collective cult of personality (nothingness), collective imploding of services, public health, welfare, safety; three decades of collective reverse mortgaging education, food systems, public transportation; ten decades of collective see-hear-speak no evil in the midst of massive evil-crimes against humanity/crimes against the globe/crimes against nature/crimes against common sense?

The Humanist: Some people are genuinely afraid.

Chomsky: They are genuinely afraid. The fear is genuine, and you can’t ridicule people’s genuine feelings. In fact you have to sympathize with them, ask where they’re coming from. In this case I think you can understand it. If you’re crushing somebody under your jackboot, you have to have a reason. The reason can’t be “I’m an evil monster.” The reason has to be either “I’m doing it for their good,” which is the usual reason, or else “I’m afraid of them and if I don’t do it they’ll go after me.” That’s a very prevailing attitude. It can be manipulated and cynical, power-hungry political figures working for concentrations of power do it all the time.

Germany, remember, was the most civilized part of the world. It was the peak of Western civilization, the center of the arts, the sciences, and literature. If you wanted to study physics, you went to Germany. Within a few years, it turned into a society of raving maniacs. Why did they destroy the Jews? Out of fear. Because, in their minds, the Jews were going to destroy them. They were defending not only themselves, but the Aryan race against the Jews.

The Humanist: That brings us back to the human animal, apparently a very fearful animal.

Chomsky: Humans are capable of many things. Some of them are horrible, some are wonderful.

The very simple acts of meanness from bureaucracies and the leaders, or so-called leaders, are demonstrative of the scaling up of the barbarity and banality of evil the elite and their minions with their trillions in offshore bank accounts and cachets of diamonds and Great Lakes full of oil have parlayed from this collective lack of empathy. Little Eichmann’s pushing the collective mouse click of despair, and smaller ones with a badge and uniform and pure hatred of blacks-Latinos-gays-demonstrators-people.

In Spokane or Tucson, LA or NYC, the agents of human disposal are hard at work – boulder sized concrete detritus spread out under Interstate 90 in the heart of Spokane so vagabonds or local homeless can’t spread their tents and belongings out of the freezing rain. Three hundred dollar tickets for asking a stranger to spare a dime in El Paso or Ventura – both the panhandlers (sic) and the givers subject to fines, handcuffs, jail.

True, jail, or worse by just imagining (no, this is not a thought experiment) the few of us who fight back, with words, principles, telling off some Gestapo cop with 17-bullet clips on semi-auto German pistols and their three foot batons and their Kevlar vests and their rapid fire 12 gauge shotguns and their reinforced SUV’s and their sixty foot streams of pepper spray and their hydra-headed Tasers and lobbed shock grenades and rubber bullets and bean bag launchers and their noise throwers, flame throwers, tanks, weaponized drones, conveys of armed Humvees and armored command centers.

In Santa Monica you can’t use a public curb to parallel park the old RV or hitched-up trailer. No overnight parking. No living in dignity. No sleeping here, or …? Multi-thousand dollar fines and impounding of those last vestiges of a home before hitting the tarmac with discarded yoga mat.

These fascists, knee-jerking Anglo-Caucasians, pushing over food carts in Atlanta or Albany. All American Flag Wrapped wingnuts swastika-tagging food marts owned by Sikh-Vietnamese-Korean-Punjabi in every town and big city, from Pacific to Atlantic. Those 24-hour ticking time bombs of insults, retrograde reporting, falsifications called Mainline Media, failing not even just the humanity test in falsifying what social injustice is, but rubbing out any semblance of reality, as if each and everyone of them with coiffed hair and sweaty lips is Blanche Dubois and Walter Middy on Steroids-Growth Hormone Replacements Fake Journalist/Person.

In 2014, 64 communities had citywide bans on public camping, up from 40 in 2011. And the number of cities that prohibit sleeping in vehicles jumped from 37 in 2011, to 81 in 2014 and the number of cities that prohibit sitting or lying in public spaces increased from 70 in 2011, to 100 in 2014. Often called “sit/lie” laws, they prohibit the homeless from sitting or lying down on any street, sidewalk, entrance to a story, alley or other public place. This is the age of shitting on thy neighbor and throwing huge chunks of stone in our greasy collective glass houses: more and more cities are passing bans on begging, loitering and sharing or giving food away in public places, which hurts non-profit, community, individual food give-away programs, and pantries or churches who give food to the homeless on the street. The penalties vary by city and law and can include fines or jail time.

Here, read the report on, Ending the Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities

Hell, I worked for one of Portland’s largest homeless and recovery non-profits, and the dude we called our boss, from one of the top five investment (sic) companies, told us social workers to call the cops if we felt threatened, and he believed anyone leaning up against the bricks of our office should be roused by the cops, as Portland has laws against leaning against buildings (you know, this constant rain 6 months out of the year Mini-Metropolis), so god forbid the poor and homeless might get a few minutes of respite under an overhang.

Poverty pimps – you don’t have to resort to the Urban Dictionary to understand the connotations of that phrase, but here, read!

The term “poverty pimp” is defined as a derogatory label for an individual or group which, to its own benefit, acts as an intermediary on behalf of the poor. Literally, a poverty pimp is an individual or group who solicits for the poor, or it can mean, a welfare system procurer. Poverty pimps gain a higher quality of existence from exploiting the poverty of others.

Under the American system of inter-linked public and private social services the poor get helped but not in any effective way; the big bucks go for overhead. As always, a lot of anti-poverty money is going to people who are not poor. There are whole classes of people who live off the services provided to the poor.

Ahh, the flipped over America – liberals living off the pain of the poor, and the elites, the bankers, the chosen ones in the renter class, legal class, penitentiary class, they make the big bucks on servicing the poor, forcing them to live lives of toil, legal financial obligations killing them, and so many other things coupled with the very idea that a mark is born every second, and a sucker (read poor, forced poor class) is born every nanosecond.

My own work here, at DV, or LA Progressive and a monthly magazine speaks to the shackles poor people trudge around, from a liquor store-gun shop on every corner, to PayDay Loans in every census track, to fence-line communities sucking in the carcinogenic of the hissing, steaming, fogging by-products of the refinery-industrial sized farming industries. Read, my, “Six Degrees of Separation!”

The High Cost of Being Poor,” now eleven years old, from Barbara Ehrenreich, but relevant, by just ramping up the pain and the stats by a factor of five! And this one by Dave Johnson is three years old, good, informed, and yet, keep adding onto the misery these two writers reported — more than half of Americans are near poor, and the one paycheck away from poverty/homelessness /destitution/basement surfing/car sleeping/opiate sucking/booze sucking/suicide is not a story the left-right-in between want to deal with, and those deplorables voting for Trump are most probably not in this huge grouping of Americans working as wage slaves and precarious/temp/ multi-gig fellow citizens who would see the entire shit hit the fan with a bad fall, cancer diagnosis, busted head gasket, death in the family, and jump in the rent even 10 percent.

These purveyors of cultural sickness, country-wide hipsterism, nationwide values – the Mainstream Press – come on hard at us, precarious ones, fellow Americans, or whatever they think we are:

Republicans constantly talk about how good the poor have it. In 2002 the Wall Street Journal called the poor “Lucky Duckies” because they are “the beneficiaries” of the progressive tax system and pay little or no taxes. But the reality is that it just plain sucks to be poor. It’s actually more expensive not having enough money to get by.

Even the pop psychologists who are touted by Alternet and Salon, two pro-Hillary sites, have to weigh in on Trump and our collective psychosis. Here’s one — “Duke Psychiatrist: America Is Having a Nervous Breakdown: Author Allen Frances puts Trump on the couch, and reveals how we might regain our sanity”:

The 20 richest people in America have more wealth than half the country. 20 people have more wealth than half the country. The message is real. The Democratic Party has been remarkably inept in connecting with its natural voters. The Republican Party has sold propaganda very successfully, and Trump is the epitome of someone who is the worst possible messenger for a reasonably important message. He’s a false prophet. Every move he’s made has betrayed the people who voted for him. I think that the hope over the next months will be that his falling popularity, from 45 percent to 35 percent, that we’ll see a gradual erosion of people who realize that he was not the man they thought he was. That the hope they rested in him [was] misplaced, a buyer’s remorse, and he will become more and more isolated in office and as a result, will be able to do less damage.

Shame, blame, recrimination, prejudice, racism, speciesism, genocide. This is the fabric of a society weened on the hind tit of war games, wars, football on Sunday, cults of patriarchy, disaster capitalism, parasitic money making. This is the end line of those fed on Hollywood lies, normalizing murder, fetishes around looking-feeling-tasting-sounding-smelling like some Disney character. Every day in America, more than half the people are tackled by their own fears, their own lost lives, hoping for some cleaning of the slate, massive restart button, personal-national tabula rasa. Lusting after the good old days of slavery, seeding those first nations’ blankets with smallpox days; those glory days of bombing brown people, ripping off the soul of Mexico; those halcyon days where bombs bursting in air is the theme from sea to shining sea.

Everyday I have youth, boy do I have youth, and it’s not just the Trumping of the Worst Presidents on Earth — all 45 — that eats at these 17-to-21 year olds. It’s not the constant bombardment of the gut with the bio-waste of modern (sic) diets eating at the very fabric of their sanity.  They sort of get it that their prostate cancers and breast removals in four or five decades might be tied to the cheese in Cheetos or triple-deck cheeseburgers.

These youth are worn out at age 18. They are gassed and fatigued. Their poverty and their family pedigrees, all of that, with the shit-storm that is America being our CLASS chiseled country, all of that plus the stupidity of industrial education, the plague of low paying job futures, and the absurdity of the heroes/super heroes they adore making the greenbacks they lust after but really know it’s all smoke and mirrors and Hollywood fascism and Pro-Sports elitism and Music Mental Depravity. It’s the daily examples of burned out infrastructure — nothing for youth, except the impending days of wine, vodka, beer consumption when they hit 21. It’s the absurdly lacking public transportation. The clarion call to get hitched up with car loan, over-priced (usury) rentals, and the endless Twitter and SnapChat of more and more expensive pieces of shit smart-dumb phones and sick loan shark level phone and data plans.

Is this the paradise of the blind, the lost generation, the data-info-knowledge fatigue/paralysis generation? Is this the one last thrust of the masses in America to push away those One Percenters and the purveyors of the Christian-Zionist white racist flogging of the other races?

These young people know they have been lied to. They know they are in the same rooms-hallways-corridors-churches-malls-warehouses-classrooms of the great con game impresarios. They know their future is looking like chronic asthma, diabetes, brain fog, loss of motor-bodily-cognitive functions.

Who in their right mind would not BECOME opiate addicted under this shit hole operation, capitalism, and the con men of the last spasm of unfettered capitalism? Which child living under this web and flaming net of exploitation-disparities-abandonment wouldn’t rather choose/enter into the controllers’ house of torture a la Spanish Inquisition? Better to wig out, check out, burn out, veg out. The bastards are high in number, and the body count is rising. Here, Hedges burns it good, in his piece, “How Careerism is a Big Part of Our Social Predicament“:

The greatest crimes of human history are made possible by the most colorless human beings. They are the careerists. The bureaucrats. The cynics. They do the little chores that make vast, complicated systems of exploitation and death a reality. They collect and read the personal data gathered on tens of millions of us by the security and surveillance state. They keep the accounts of ExxonMobil, BP and Goldman Sachs. They build or pilot aerial drones. They work in corporate advertising and public relations. They issue the forms. They process the papers. They deny food stamps to some and unemployment benefits or medical coverage to others. They enforce the laws and the regulations. And they do not ask questions.

Good. Evil. These words do not mean anything to them. They are beyond morality. They are there to make corporate systems function. If insurance companies abandon tens of millions of sick to suffer and die, so be it. If banks and sheriff departments toss families out of their homes, so be it. If financial firms rob citizens of their savings, so be it. If the government shuts down schools and libraries, so be it. If the military murders children in Pakistan or Afghanistan, so be it. If commodity speculators drive up the cost of rice and corn and wheat so that they are unaffordable for hundreds of millions of poor across the planet, so be it. If Congress and the courts strip citizens of basic civil liberties, so be it. If the fossil fuel industry turns the earth into a broiler of greenhouse gases that doom us, so be it. They serve the system. The god of profit and exploitation. The most dangerous force in the industrialized world does not come from those who wield radical creeds, whether Islamic radicalism or Christian fundamentalism, but from legions of faceless bureaucrats who claw their way up layered corporate and governmental machines. They serve any system that meets their pathetic quota of needs.

Why do people leave their homelands, and seek the very Turtle Island of many of their own societies’ problems, desperation, despair?  “No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark,” is one way to look at it, coming from poet, Warsan Shire.

There is no land of milk and honey now that the beasts of any nation have been sucker punched and dumped into the shipping canals of the Goldman and Sachs, the countless ones in Fortune 400 circles, by the 20 richest, meanest people on planet earth! Or the richest in America! How good are they? How shapeless are they in their Lost Paradises? And how many levels down the Dantean flaming ladder will they fall? If ever? That is the question, to flail and flog, or not to!

Colonialism only loosens its hold when the knife is at its throat.

— Frantz Fanon

Replace “colonialism” with capitalism, Wall Street, Military-Financial-Big Pharma-Insurance-Ag-Energy-Surveillance-Prison Complex!

Ron Paul: Anti-Russia Campaign Stems From Bias and Desire to Limit Free Speech

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The investigation into the alleged Russian meddling in the US elections and the supposed use of social media by Moscow to sway public opinion is just a “witch hunt,” former US Congressman Ron Paul told RT.

“The people who promote this witch hunt do not care about what [the former US presidential candidate] Hillary [Clinton] was doing and they are very biased against the Trump campaign,” Paul said, adding that he believes that the “real problem” lies precisely in this bias.

He also said that the Washington lawmakers involved in Russia-bashing close their eyes to repeated meddling by the US in the internal affairs and electoral processes in many other countries.

“I would like our government to talk about our involvement in campaigns, most recently in Ukraine, [where] we participated in a coup,” the former Congressman said.

“So far, they have not shown me the ad that was pro-Trump and was paid for by the Russian government,” the politician said, referring to the fact that, after 10 months of investigating, the US authorities still failed to find any solid evidence of collusion with Moscow by Donald Trump or his campaign team.

The anti-Russian hysteria was stirred up in the US to draw people’s attention away from real problems, Paul said, adding that he is more concerned about a crisis in US relations with Russia as well as US actions in Syria.

He also denounced the anti-Russian campaign as “fearmongering.”

The former politician said the “hundreds of thousands of dollars” that Russia allegedly spent on social media ads to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election are just “a small amount of money in comparison to the billions that are usually spent on the campaigns."He added that control over the media eventually plays a more important role than money.

Trump infuriated US media outlets because he switched to Twitter, breaking their information monopoly in the process as well as the ability to portray anyone, who does not play into the hands of the establishment, as someone who has to be stopped, Paul said.

Turning to the accusations leveled against RT by some US officials, Paul said “CNN [also] has access to other countries and they do things similar to [what RT does], and they are involved in other countries [public life].”

“That is what happens when the empires feel that they are challenged,” the politician pointed out, adding that the authorities in the US are “very determined to control the information.”

Paul (R-Texas) served in the US House of Representatives for over 20 years, and ran three times for the GOP's presidential nomination, most recently in 2012.

Reprinted with permission from RT America.

Congress Relying On Debunked ‘Guilt By Association’ Online Tool To Track ‘Russian Influence’

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As we previously warned, the latest McCarthyite scam called "Hamilton 68" is increasingly serving as a go-to source for major media outlets and more disturbingly, now even members of Congress. This week Republican Senator James Lankford (Oklahoma) added another layer to the seemingly endless 'Russiagate' conspiracies - he claimed Wednesday during a hearing on threats faced by the US that Russia is using the NFL anthem kneeling controversy to drive a wedge through the American populace.

Lankford, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, made the bizarre claim that, "We watched, even this weekend, the Russians and their troll farms, their internet folks, start hashtagging out #TakeAKnee and also hashtagging out #BoycottNFL,” during a hearing on threats faced by the United States. Lankford, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, explained further that, "They were taking both sides of the argument this weekend... to try to raise the noise level of America and make a big issue seem like an even bigger issue as they are trying to push divisiveness in this country."

Representative Adam Schiff of California, a Democrat, has also been a leading congressional voice demanding investigations into supposed Russian social media manipulation and election meddling. Stories in Reuters and the New York Times this week which uncritically amplified the claims, referenced the Hamilton 68 online platform as a key source of information for congressional investigators. Reuters described the online tool as:
A website built by researchers working with the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a bipartisan, transatlantic project to counter Russian disinformation, showed tweets promoting both sides of the football debate from 600 accounts that analysts identified as users who spread Russian propaganda on Twitter. A Senate aide said the website was viewed as credible among congressional investigators.
But a cursory glance at Hamilton68 - which is mostly funded by the US and NATO states (Bill Kristol is on the project's board, need we say more?) - reveals that both its list of "600 accounts" and methodology for determining these accounts as purveyors of "Russian disinformation" are largely hidden from public view. As we concluded when we initially profiled the platform and the organization behind it, the online tool is lacking in any semblance of scientific data-driven analysis, and its conclusions are thus meaningless. It exists to give gullible audiences the illusion that a data analysis driven tech tool produced via a "bipartisan" think tank has meticulously and objectively proven the "there's a Russia connection lurking behind every corner" conspiracy theory.

But the senselessness of Senator Lankford's shrill and bizarro assertions hardly needs much comment: he's essentially claiming that nefarious Russian-backed social media accounts promoted two contrary positions at a moment when much of the American populace itself was doing the exact same thing through millions of tweets, Facebook posts, and online message boards. As Mark Zuckerburg pointed out this week in what was surely a disappointing moment of truth for promoters of Russiagate conspiracies in general, "campaigns spent hundreds of millions advertising online" which was "1000x more than any problematic ads we've found."

It's important to remember that Hamilton 68 dashboard's "monitoring" of content primarily features what it calls "second tier Russian propaganda." As we previously reported this involves the following:
It tracks and stores information about others who have no connection to Russia but who 'on their own initiative reliably repeat and amplify Russian themes.' This is what the German Marshall Fund calls a 'network' of second tier disinformation distributors.
If an article, tweet, or headline is trending among "Russian influence" accounts - which in this case means Alliance for Securing Democracy's secret list of 600 twitter accounts - the trending URL appears on the dashboard's front page. Essentially this is simple guilt by association, as we described:
What does this 'network' of people with no connection to Russia but who amplify Russian 'themes' do?

It 'reflects Russian messaging priorities, but that does not mean every name or link you see on the dashboard is pro-Russian. The network sometimes amplifies stories that Russia likes, or people with like-minded views but no formal connection to Russia.'

So, according to the self-proclaimed alliance for securing democracy you might not even know it when you are pushing Russian state propaganda!
So if even if stories from mainstream or establishment news organizations like The Washington Post, Bloomberg, or Reuters happen to be tweeted frequently by "Russian influence accounts" these mainstream sites appear on Hamilton 68's dashboard. Again, given that originating account identities are not revealed, the information is meaningless - it's but a mere reflection of what happens to be trending all over social media at any given moment.

Indeed here is an example of sites the tool was tracking within the first week Hamilton 68 was launched at the beginning of August. The below dashboard pane is accompanied with the descriptor: "Top websites tweeted by a monitored set of accounts related to Russian influence campaigns." Both Bloomberg and The Washington Times and other mainstream and long established outlets appear somewhat regularly on this dashboard which claims to identify Russian meddling.

But the dashboard more often targets hugely popular independent news sites like Robert Parry's Consortium News, The Federalist, Breitbart, and WikiLeaks. As The New York Times mentions, "Of 80 news stories promoted last week by those accounts, more than 25 percent 'had a primary theme of anti-Americanism.'" It is impossible to know what, according to the site's designers, "anti-Americanism" means, but it no doubt involves articles which are critical of US foreign policy. This means that if a Washington Post or Reuters article, for example,highlights "staggering" Iraqi civilian deaths under US coalition bombings, that article would likely register as "anti-American" by the platform and its creators. By such methods, the Washington Post, Reuters, and numerous independent sites are brought under suspicion alongside RT News and Sputnik. But "anti-American" could also simply mean any article produced by a site that Hamilton 68's creators don't like. Again, the data is meaningless. 

Indeed, on Thursday both The Intercept and Antiwar.com were top trending sites on the Hamilton's 68 dashboard. Ironically, The Intercept has take various editorial positions concerning Russian hacking allegations, and last June published a rather sensational headline, Top-Secret NSA Report Details Russian Hacking Effort Days Before 2016 Election, which ended up making only a small splash, but landed NSA leaker Reality Winner in jail.

Thursday's (9/28) list of Top Trending Domains advanced by what Hamilton 68 identifies as Russian backed social media accounts. Antiwar News and The Intercept were trending.

Antiwar.com was founded as far back as 1995 for the purpose of opposing American militarism and interventionism. It was one of the early and consistent few news and activist sites which opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Starting in 2011 it came under FBI investigation after what the FBI admitted was a "mistake". The site's founders, who were also personally under FBI monitoring for their "anti-war views", estimate that they had lost at least $75,000 per year after donors pulled their support while citing fears that the FBI might monitor them too. Antiwar was forced to sue in federal court just to clear its name and reputation, and yet the damage is long lasting and not fully quantifiable.

Similarly, as Hamilton 68's methodology is based entirely on guilt by association, it could potentially do some real damage to the independent sites it targets. This is an increased possibility given that highly visible outlets like the New York Times, Reuters, and NPR are now citing it. And this is precisely what it aims to do: silence dissenting voices and independent thought. But like the first round of McCarthyite hysteria, this too shall hopefully pass, and history will not look kindly on those engaged in this shrill and absurd witch hunt which doesn't appear to be relenting anytime soon.

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

Joan Tafalla: “In Catalonia, it is all in the hands of the popular initiative”

The recent years of economic crisis in Spain have had two major consequences in the political landscape: the arrival of progressive political movements and the collapse of the two-party system. At the same time, a sovereignty movement, with the ability to mobilise large sectors of society, has emerged in Catalonia. As the referendum approaches, the central government has multiplied its efforts to stop it from taking place, raising again the spectre of franquismo in the collective memory. This has been met with widespread opposition and paradoxically a growing wave of solidarity with the right to self-determination has been seen. In light of all this, the holding of the referendum will take place in very uncertain circumstances, besieged on one hand by denouncements, seizing of electoral material and arrests from the central government, and on the other with large mobilisations and calls for disobedience from the Generalitat (the Catalan government). What is at stake on October 1st in Catalonia? To address this we have interviewed Joan Tafalla, History professor and member of Espacio Marx.

*****

Alex Anfruns: The Spanish government has reinforced the police presence in Catalonia. Do you think this may put a stop to the referendum? In which way?

Joan Tafalla: I think the strong police presence in Catalonia will be overwhelmed by the large masses that are participating in the process, organising in this moment, occupying schools and keeping them open until Sunday. The Mossos (police force of Catalonia) have been ordered to shut down schools and keep them closed, and the remaining police forces from the state are deployed in Catalonia to maintain law and order. But this deployment will not be able to contain or dissuade people from their expressed will to vote.

AA: How would the Catalan society react if faced with the impossibility of casting a vote?

JT: Catalan society is something larger and more complex than the popular movement for independence. In what concerns the latter, I have said: it will overwhelm any effort from the repressive forces of the state to contain it. There is the possibility that the local Catalan police will act in a way that is not too forceful and even somewhat permissive, at least until Sunday at 6 in the morning.

With respect to the sector of Catalan society which, for multiple reasons, does not take part in the popular independence movement we are yet to see their reaction after almost seven years of this independence process. It is still early to know which attitude this segment of the population will adopt. We only have the data from a recent poll from the Centro de Estudios de Opinión: the sectors which are economically weaker and most recently arrived in Catalonia show a high level of rejection towards the goal of independence, but not towards settling the matter through a vote.

AA: What consequences could the referendum have for the other peoples in the Spanish state?

JT: I think that, as an essentially democratic movement, the movement for self-determination is now causing a certain breach in the regime created by the transition of 1978. It is probable that its example will allow for a reactivation of the independence movements in Galicia and the Basque Country. Now, in the remaining regions of Spain it may generate a certain resurgence of Spanish nationalism, that may allow the PP (Popular Party, currently in government) and the PSOE (Socialist Party, main opposition party) to hide their corruption and their inability to present any future prospects for Spain.

In any case if Spain wants to preserve its unity as a political country (formed in turn by various countries and peoples) it can only do it if it manages, in a democratic way, to remove the Popular Party from power and open a constituent process that gives the peoples the right to self-determination. And once their will is heard, a free union in a Federal Republic can happen. The future of Spain, as a political entity, can only happen through a radical, democratic and de-centralising constituent process.

AA: What is the social composition of the independence movement?

JT: I have talked about a popular independence movement. But this description does not describe the independence movement in its entirety. Along with popular and working class sectors in the independence movement there are bourgeois sectors (essentially petty and medium-scale bourgeoisie), which have been leading the process up to now, and as such imprint their ideological and cultural orientation.

Certainly the big Catalan bourgeoisie is not for independence and is looking for a pact between elites that will re-establish the balance of power between the multiple fractions of the Spanish bourgeoisie, which has been broken.

AA: What are the economic interests at stake?

JT: The reasons for the break among the dominant classes are various: the unbalances in the commercial and fiscal balances, or the intensification of the industrial/commercial competition between different Spanish territories. For example, the competition between the Madrid and Barcelona airports, the issue of the Mediterranean corridor or the management of the Barcelona and Tarragona ports… at a time when Catalonia has ceased to be an industrial locomotive in Spain.

All of this suggests a number of conflicts and complex interests that make it so that the solution of the conflict is resting on corporate interests that are very contradictory. In summary, the globalisation of the economy leaves little room for a pact among the elites.

If on top of this we add the clumsiness with which this process has been handled, from a political standpoint, the situation becomes even worse. Add to that the mobilisation of popular sectors, which will not be easily brought back down… and we realise that we have an uncertain scenario in front of us.

AA: Is there a lesson from history that might be useful to recall in this context?

JT: The modern political nations are imagined communities created on the back of bourgeois revolutions. In Spain the creation of the political nation was flawed, in complete opposition to what happened in France or Germany. It has often relied more on coercion than on hegemony.

If Spain is to survive it needs a radical change, a democratic break that the elites are unwilling to stomach. It is all in the hands of the popular initiative.

• First published in Investig’Action

Iran Forging a New Path in Spite of the US’s Best Efforts at Sabotage

Prior to his election as President of the United States Donald Trump had been highly critical of the agreement reached between China, France, Germany, Russia, the US, the UK and Iran and the European Union aimed at preventing Iran from enriching uranium to the point where is could manufacture nuclear weapons.  He repeatedly referred to the agreement as “a horrible agreement”, the “stupidest deal of all time” and “the worst deal ever.”

At his now notorious address to the United Nations General Assembly in September he extended his attack to Iran itself, calling it a “corrupt dictatorship” and a nation “on a path of poverty, bloodshed and terror.”

The vast majority of the delegates present treated such overblown rhetoric with the contempt it deserved.  Only Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu voiced support, as one would expect given Israel’s hostility to the Iranian government and Netanyahu’s cartoonish presentation to the UN some years earlier, as well as more serious actions such as the assassination of Iranian scientists and electronic warfare through the Stuxnet virus.

Trump and Netanyahu are not alone among the neocon establishment in voicing what Iran’s President Rouhani, a Ph.D. from Scotland and democratically re-elected in a landslide earlier this year, called “”ignorant, absurd and hateful rhetoric.”

In June of this year Trump’s UN Ambassador Nikki Haley addressed the influential American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in a speech remarkable for its lies, distortions and obfuscations about Iran and its politics.

The nuclear issue that Trump and his ilk find so distasteful is the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) negotiated by the abovementioned group of nations, including the US, and endorsed unanimously by the Security Council (again including the US) in July 2015.  That agreement established a rigorous inspections framework within Iran by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in exchange for which the US and other nations were to remove sanctions that had significantly hindered Iran’s development and modernization.  In fact, Security Council Resolution 2231 of July 2015 specifically removed all the earlier sanctions resolutions (1696, 1737, 1747, 1803, 1835 and 1929).

Under the JCPOA the IAEA carries out regular inspections, the last as recently as September 2017.  It has found Iran to be in compliance with its obligations under the JCPOA, a view echoed by General Paul Selva, the Vice-Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, in July 2017.  Following Trump’s UN speech the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini made a point of stating that “the nuclear agreement was working.”

The JCPOA provides a mechanism for investigating alleged violations by Iran.  All a complaining nation has to do is provide evidence to the IAEA of a reasonably based suspicion that Iran is in violation of the agreement and the IAEA has wide and intrusive powers to investigate.

In fact, no evidence has ever been provided.  Wild, politically motivated allegations with neither a factual nor even a reasonable suspicion basis do not constitute the faintest foundation for abrogating an agreement that enjoys overwhelming international support, and as Mogherini says, “is working.”

What then, lies behind Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric?  There are, I suggest, a number of factors at work.  The first of these is the troubled relationship between Iran and the US in the post World War 2 period.  In 1953 a joint CIA-MI6 operation overthrew the democratically elected government of Mohammad Mossadegh on behalf of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (now BP), which the Iranian government was planning to nationalize.  The Americans installed the regime of Shah Pahlavi, and also, significantly, trained the brutally ruthless Savak Secret Police that enforced the Shah’s dictatorship.

The Islamic Revolution of 1979 in turn overthrew the Shah.  Relations between the US and Iran have ranged from poor to abysmal ever since.  The US has inspired, financed and trained a series of anti-government groups, including the MEK, a group designated as terrorist by the State Department. Iranians are very mindful of America’s support for Saddam Hussein in the Iraq-Iran war of the 1980s when Iran suffered a million casualties.  That history needs to be remembered when reading American allegations about Iran’s alleged sponsorship of terrorism.

A second factor arises from the US’s hegemonic ambitions in the greater Middle East region, and control of its vast oil and gas reserves.  General Wesley Clark revealed in an interview in September 2011 the existence of a plan he had seen dating back to at least 2001 of a policy intention of overthrowing seven countries in the region in five years (Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Syria).  Confirmation of the plan is found not least in the fact that six of the seven have already been attacked by the US or Israel, with only Iran thus far relatively unscathed.  The attack on Iran has been of a hybrid warfare nature, including sanctions and sponsorship of terrorism.

Quite apart from Clark’s Pentagon list, there is also a 2009 report by the Brookings Institution entitled “Which Path to Persia.”  That report clearly indicates that the US should engineer a situation that would portray Iran as a party squandering a peaceful resolution of the nuclear issue and therefore having to be attacked “more in sorrow than anger”, thereby keeping the international community on side.

Bear in mind that this cynical ploy was set out six years before the JCPOA was signed.  Trump’s current policy stance of which the rhetoric is a vital part, clearly has its genesis in the Brookings Institution report.

The third factor arises out of the beating that the US and its terrorist proxies are currently receiving in Syria.  The attempt to overthrow the sovereign government of Syria began in earnest in 2011.  The former Vice President of the US, Joe Biden, acknowledged in October 2014 that Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE and Turkey were the first foreign countries to intervene in Syria’s war.  He should have also acknowledged the US’s role. While lacking direct military intervention the US was certainly a major player in training, arming and financing various terrorist groups, whom they ridiculously claimed were the “moderate opposition” to the Assad government.

Iran, which has had a mutual defence treaty with Syria since 2006, did not intervene until 2015, along with Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and Russia.  All three are in Syria at the invitation of the Syrian government, unlike the presence of the US, Australia, the UK and others whose presence is in violation of international law.  The Australian government, for example, has made various spurious claims as to the justification for its involvement in the so-called “coalition” but has refused to release the legal advice it falsely claimed it was seeking before making a decision.

The fourth factor is perhaps the most significant.  After UN Security Council Resolution 2231 was passed in July 2015 Iran was able to begin re-establishing its central role in Eurasia.  Apart from a number of European Union countries rushing to sign deals with Iran, there has been a progressive rapprochement with Turkey, itself orientating away from the European-NATO axis, and more particularly with Russia and China.

Iran is a crucial link in the North South Transportation Corridor (NTSC), the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) where it will convert from associate membership to full status, most likely within a year, and also the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).

China and Russia are both making major investments in Iran and closer defence links will be an inevitable corollary.  Some defence agreements have already been reached with Russia, and the superior S400 anti-missile system is being installed.  With Chinese and Russian military support a direct American attack on Iran is even more unthinkable than in the past.

It is this relative impotence in the face of a rapidly changing geopolitical structure that frustrates Trump, Haley, Pompeo and Mattis, all of whose visceral dislike of Iran is well documented.

This is not to say that Trump will unilaterally withdraw the US from JCPOA.  Given the US’s well-documented contempt for international law and Trump’s cavalier disregard for treaty obligations some unilateral move cannot be discounted.

The major difference this time is that the Europeans, the Turks, the Chinese and the Russians will simply ignore this latest illustration of America’s self-destructive behaviour and, as the JCPOA says (Preamble viii) work “in good faith and in a constructive atmosphere based on mutual respect, and to refrain from any action inconsistent with the letter and spirit of the JCPOA that would undermine its successful implementation.”

The Ecosocialism of Joel Kovel

It should be a given that no memoir is inherently “strange.” Every life is lived uniquely and has its own special qualities, drawn out at length (or not) by the writer. In The Lost Traveller’s Dream, Kovel has managed to summon up a spirit that transcends as well as living within its, or his, own time. This is a life “beyond,” something possible at any time but valuable especially in an era of collapse, catastrophe, and perhaps improbable hope.

Joel Kovel, to be brief, has been a prestigious and best-selling writer on psychotherapy, a militant left activist from the middle 1960s onward, an eco-theorist and an explorer of the world just beyond our sense perceptions. He offers us the details most precious to him, the saga of his own family (or families), his shift from one intellectual emphasis to another, his growth in politics but also his political conflicts.

Memorably, more than few times in this memory book, he steals mainstream prestige away from himself. This is not exactly self-sabotage, although careerists would surely think so. He contemplates the rewards alongside the political (and personal) costs and chooses…not to be rewarded. Indeed, he sometimes chooses to be anti-rewarded, not perversely but with political purpose.

Thus we come back to the middle class secular Jewish lad  from Long Island going off to Yale in the later 1950s. His identity group is mildly leftwing, including future New Press founder Andre Schffrin. His future is in the budding psychotherapy field, and in A Complete Guide to Therapy, he is on the literary (and career) fast track. Alas, he does not like where it seems to be taking him.

The US invasion of Vietnam, as for some of his generation but more of the ones following shortly, distances him from his liberal sponsors. He enrolls in the Left, carrying him and his would-be career to far places. His second marriage, to left media activist Dee Dee Halleck, settles the matter, in a sense.

But there is that professorship later on, at Bard College, traditional home of bohemian intellectuals. He does his work and likes his job. And then the College becomes the plaything of a high powered neoconservative, with the financial connections that nearly extinguish faculty resistance around Kovel.

Add to this Kovel’s commitments to ecosocialism, his intellectual explorations and editorial energy, and you have a professor who seems, to conservatives and many liberals alike, to be the sore thumb that sticks out. He became an ecological theorist of note, shocking those academics whose inclinations are never really toward “radical” solutions to global warming or the death cry of rivers. He offered, more and more, a philosophy of struggle and transcendence. No wonder he finds himself cashiered, bounced, in time to live a retirement of militant resistance.

Some of the many details of this heavily detailed book carry us toward St. Francis on the one hand and the Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua on the other. Or rather, to his own surprise, these two seemed to be the same hand after all. A militant atheist since youth, Kovel was taken with the connection of ecological visionaries from the distant past and present. St. Francis had, after all, broken with his own wealthy family and set himself for a life with the poor. This saint did not actually defect to the heretics suffering persecution or break with the Pope persecuting them. His was, finally, a sort of in-house rebellion. The Sandinistas would certainly have preferred this option, but faced a scolding Pope who desperately feared Liberation Theology and the “People’s Church” that had arisen during the Revolution.

Kovel is drawn, understandably, to the charisma of Ernesto Cardenal in particular, and through that connection, ponders a leftwing religious mysticism that still intrigues him. Given the sad fate of a Central American revolution too close to the US to win like the Vietnamese, Kovel had another paradise of sorts, far further North. That is: Vermont, also full of utopians. The Bread and Puppet Theater had and has a creative vitality that could easily be called spiritual. That Kovel never quite relocated politically to Vermont is attributed, in part, to the well-known fractious sentiments of eco-anarchist Murray Bookchin, the sage of Burlington known best, in later days, for personal attacks on Bernie Sanders. It would not have been a happy partnership.

Kovel chose instead upstate New York. This brought him into the Green Party, reaching ballot status in the state by the late 1990s. The Greens possessed wonderfully odd characters, the oddest perhaps Al Lewis (of The Munsters)—when out of disguise an ancient Red. Kovel himself ran for the US Senate against Alphonse D’Amato and Chuck Schumer, the latter an emerging Democratic centrist in the pocket of the Israel Lobby. At a high point of Green activity, Kovel dreamed of running for president on the Green ticket. This time, in 2000, Ralph Nader stood implacably in the way.

That Kovel afterward took over Capitalism, Nature, Socialism from James O’Connor (reviewer acknowledgment: I have had an intermittent column in this journal for twenty years) in 2003, seeing the journal through rocky times to another editorial team. By the end of his tenure, Kovel had done his work. Travel, socialist and ecological discussions across geographical zones, and more rumination have all followed. The Lost Traveler’s Dream ends up as close to William Blake as to Marx, a logic embedded in this book from its first pages.

Paul Buhle’s latest comic is Johnny Appleseed.

University of New Haven and Saudi Police

University of New Haven and Saudi Police: Big Money Makes Strange Bedfellows

In America, college students are just arriving on their campuses- some for the first time- ready to start the new academic year. They have a wide range of interests and goals, from bringing about the latest medical breakthrough to wanting to change U.S. foreign policy. Some may even want to become President. One thing they all have in common though, is that they have just entered a time in their lives where they will explore, learn, and- most importantly- be able to express themselves.

At the same time as millions of American college students begin to express their newfound views, people their age on the other side of the world are forced into silence. In Saudi Arabia, alternative political views are crushed by an oppressive regime that stamps out even the slightest form of dissent.

These two seemingly opposite worlds, the United States and Saudi Arabia, have a disturbing new connection. The president of University of New Haven, Steven H. Kaplan, has recently signed an agreement in June 2016 to collaborate with instructors at King Fahd Security College in Riyadh for the development of baccalaureate security studies program. The course of study will offer three specialization tracks: criminal justice, homeland security, and intelligence studies, all of which will be used to “enhance security in the Kingdom [of Saudi Arabia], the Middle East, and globally.”

While there is something to be said about cross-cultural collaboration, the question of what this collaboration entails must also be explored. Saudi Arabia has a history of infringing upon its citizens’ natural born rights to life and freedom of speech, expression, and religion in the name of homeland security. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) inflicts severe punishment, including execution, for the alleged crimes of witchcraft, apostasy, and homosexual acts. The government of Saudi Arabia has such a tight grip on the freedoms of its citizens that even the use of social media is regulated strictly. Its Anti-Cyber Crime law criminalizes social media use that includes the “production, preparation, transmission, or storage of material [that] impinges on public order, religious values, public morals, and privacy.” This “crime” carries a punishment of up to five years in prison.

The Saudi government’s actions that attempt to crush dissent constitute major human rights violations. Winner of Europe’s Sakharov Prize and Saudi Arabian citizen, Raif Badawi, is currently in prison for ten years with an additional sentence of 1,000 lashes for creating a blog titled “Free Saudi Liberals.” How can we be sure that the new security systems developed by the union of these two universities won’t be used to track bloggers like Badawi? How can we be sure that the skills taught in this program won’t be used to hunt down and arrest women for committing “crimes” such as violating the strict dress code? The answer is we cannot.

As Americans, if we truly believe in freedom and the values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as the core of our identity, then how can an American university aid in shaping the instruction of security officers within the oppressive Saudi regime? The University of New Haven should not assist the King Fahd Security College in creating the next generation of oppressors. One New Haven local is so upset by this union that he was motivated to create the Coalition to End the U.S. Saudi Alliance and is pressuring the university to cut ties with Saudi Arabia. Support this crucial message by signing his petition.

Movies of the Semi-Great Depression

95 million Americans are out of the workforce, millions are losing their wholly inadequate Obamacare, half can’t afford a $400 emergency and the Satanic minions in Washington DC just approved $729 million more to move the rubble around in Afghanistan. Trump ups the obscene military budget by $56 billion but the righteous US Congress rebels — and increases it to $80 billion. The American monster is hungry, angry, restless for its war fix — what people will it destroy next: Iranians, North Koreans, Venezuelans? There’s no relief anywhere from the madness of America.

It’s a semi-Great Depression and I’m sometimes asked to “resist” by joining Russophobic “progressives” in rallies against “hate” instead of tying protests to demands like: Medicare for all, gut the Pentagram, abolish the CIA, get out of southwest Asia and break up monopolies like Google and Amazon. Call me when the plan is to hang neocons on meat hooks and bankers on lamp posts while singing “The Night They Drove Old Bridgehampton Down.” Otherwise, I’m doing what my mother and grandparents did for five cents each to briefly escape the real Great Depression — go to the movies. Wanna go with me?

500 Years: Life in Resistance: Indigenous Guatemalans do what the lowliest serfs in the world — the American working class — would never do: raise holy hell against their military and government and attempt to hold leaders accountable for war crimes even if it takes decades to bring the perps to justice. The Mayans are inspiring and courageous as they haul US-supported dictator and mass murderer Efrain Rios Montt into court in the last installment of director Pamela Yate’s Guatemalan trilogy. 200,000 Guatemalans killed, entire villages deliberately massacred and many thousands “disappeared,” Rios Montt’s dictatorship was the inspiration for Bruce Cockburn’s “If I Had a Rocket Launcher” — and guess who Rios Montt attributed his great “success” to? He told ABC News: “Our soldiers were trained by Israelis,” who supplied arms, intelligence and operational training.

Icarus: Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova puts on a slinky dress and picks up the film’s director at a Moscow nightspot and brings him to a hotel room where human chimney Sergei Lavrov jumps out of a closet and drops him with a blast of nicotine smoke as Vlad the Impaler scurries out from a hole in the baseboard and shoots up the poor guy as part of a blood-doping scandal.

Well, that’s the movie I would have liked to have seen. Instead, Icarus is about Vladimir Putin directing the blood-doping of Russian athletes when he isn’t hacking into Hillary Clinton’s emails or laying waste to America’s terrorist mercenary army in Syria. (Last week we learned that McCarthy-ite meatheads Rob Reiner and Morgan Freeman are now fronting an all-in-the-neocon-family organization called the Committee to Investigate Russia — Max Boot, David Frum, Norman Ornstein, congressional perjurer James Clapper, etc. — to keep the Russia hysteria on full boil.)

Ingrid Goes West: Cautionary tale about a lying, dog-napping suicidal stalker and her entirely believable success in inserting herself into the lives of a social media star and her hangers-on living la dolce bullshit in Venice, California. We watch in amazement as the resourceful Ingrid joins up with the (it turns out) unhappy, cruel, shallow, tedious people that she’s been following on Instagram. Angelenos will delight in local skewerees like Cafe Gratitude. Can’t think of a better movie about social media.

Unleashed: With a plot that’s been hiding in broad daylight, this tale of a jilted young woman who moves across the country to start anew in San Francisco hit all the right rom-com spots. One night her dog and cat escape from the apartment and are magically transformed into two adult male humans who teach her, anonymously, about love and how to recognize it before transforming back into non-humans. Competing with each other for her attention, the newly-human duo still behave a whole lot like their former selves: the “cat” falls into a job as a very feral runway model and the “dog” is prevailed upon by yuppies in a park to train them on indefatigable running and grabbing thrown objects in their mouths, among other canine pursuits. And, of course, good money is paid for this “coaching.”

Crown Heights: Real paid movie critics — the kind that you and I don’t like because they buttress capitalism — quibbled with this film’s pacing and felt the characters didn’t come alive. However, we mostly only care about whether a film beats the daylights out of capitalism — and this film about a wrongly convicted man sent to prison and the court battle to free him, works perfectly fine.

My gut reaction to Crown Heights was that we whites should be disqualified from having anything to do with determining the fate of black people, whether it’s policing their communities or serving as their judges, juries or wardens. On reflection, though, there are no guarantees: Wilson Goode, former Milwaukee county Sheriff David Clarke and thousands of other black sell-outs also oppress the black working class, keepin’ it unreal for American capitalism which absolutely couldn’t function without them.

Based on a true story (unfortunately), major heroics in Crown Heights are performed by the man’s best friend to free him and he still ends up doing 20 years for a crime he didn’t commit. Eyewitness testimony without supporting forensic evidence is shown to be an open field for cop-induced false confessions and prosecutorial misconduct. An excellent touch throughout is archival footage of assorted enemies of the working class — Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Pataki — spouting off about getting tough on crime. Their racist enthusiasm creates the perfect climate for more innocent people sent to prison. As Malcolm X said: “If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”

Sidemen: Long Road to Glory: Although not packing the emotional wallop of Standing in the Shadows of Motown, Sidemen gives long overdue props to Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf’s sidemen: Pinetop Perkins, Willie Smith and Hubert Sumlin. What’s jarring about it is comedian Marc Maron’s very white narration, especially when the film has black voices with real presence like Guy Davis. Guess it could have been worse — Obama could have narrated it… Weirdly and sadly, all three of these musical giants died within nine months of each other in 2011.

The Skyjacker’s Tale: Did somebody mention white cops beating black people into giving false confessions? If there was a massacre of white people at a Rockefeller-owned golf course in colonial St. Croix, Virgin Islands in 1972, well, it would be obvious that a local Black Panther organizer must have done it — it just takes a few more beatings to make it true. And even when the cops and prosecutors admit to the torture, well, no problem: the judge lets the case go forward anyway and the all white jury convicts and the defendants go to prison for decades — some are still there — except one, who escapes custody, hijacks an airplane in 1984 to Cuba, serves time for that crime in Cuba and now lives freely there, though still on the FBI’s most wanted list. The skyjacker, Ishmael Muslim Ali, worries in this documentary that Cuba and the US may be getting too chummy and he may get sent back to the belly of the beast. But that’s doubtful with Trump fronting the empire. Bless the empty hole in his chest, Trump’s just not cool like Obama. Trump’s just a flaming siren warning the world, every day, to arm up, be on guard and never trust or cooperate with America.

Detroit: It’s not well known but DW Griffith, Leni Riefenstahl and Allen Dulles had a three-way which resulted in the births of film director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal, the ruling class tools who brought us The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty and, now, a film with the 1967 Detroit riot as a backdrop.

Hollywood hogs at the torture trough, Boal and Bigelow can always be counted on to give us contextual-less history, one dimensional POC characters and the put-upon goons of empire (cops, soldiers, CIA agents) who just get pushed to the limit by dark-skinned people. After watching two hours of white cops terrorizing and murdering blacks in the Algiers Motel incident, we are stunned to find that the movie ends and there will be no comprehensive look at the working class rebellion that the Detroit police, Michigan state troopers and the Michigan National Guard couldn’t put down. It took the 82nd and 101st Airborne to finally end the uprising. Hollywood wouldn’t want the working class to get any ideas about how much power we really have if we choose to exercise it. Black people exercising their Second Amendment rights is a horror movie all by itself.

An Inconvenient Sequel: I guess we can never have too many scenes of Greenland melting and Houston flooding but this film didn’t feel like a success. I mostly remember Al Gore waddling around to various climate change gatherings and patting himself on the back as a lone I-told-you-so voice — kind of like those awards shows that give something to someone because they’re just about dead.

As with An Inconvenient Truth, Gore never mentions the destructiveness of animal agriculture on the environment, the fact that it contributes more greenhouse gases than all transportation combined. Instead, he turns the spotlight away from wealthier, whiter nations and shines it on poorer, darker coal-burning countries like India, a fact not appreciated by an Indian government representative who calls out the developed nations’ Tocquevillian attitude of: The rich as well as the poor have no right to burn coal. (And Agent Orange can’t even assent to that, believing as he does in making dark Satanic mills great again.)

Like numerous politicians when in office, Mr. Aw Shucks was a neoliberal austeritarian who did nothing to make things better, instead being part of endless planet-destroying and money-wasting wars. At one point Gore picks up a portrait of his anti-Vietnam War father, Senator Al Gore Sr. who, in 1970, was the first Democrat targeted (successfully) for defeat by Nixon’s racist “southern strategy,” a tactic later embraced by Gore Jr. and Bill Clinton’s Democratic Leadership Council. It’s that kind of movie. The betrayal of an older leader/politician by their more reactionary offspring — like Jerry Brown — could be an entire movie.

(Everybody’s hysterical about Trump leaving the Paris climate agreement but with no enforcement mechanism and the wealthier nations unwilling to help the poorer ones, it’s nothing more than an AA meeting with impassioned speeches about getting sober — sometime — while washing down coal-fired brownies with light sweet crude in a haze of fracking gas.)

Dolores: The amazing courageous, mostly 1960s and early 70s life of United Farm Workers co-founder (along with Cesar Chavez) Dolores Huerta. A very refreshing thing in the film is that it doesn’t pretend that people can “have it all,” as gripping interviews with several of Huerta’s often ignored children attest. Huerta was an indefatigable labor organizer, activist, negotiator and strategist who served and lived with the farm workers — but she was severely taken to task for it at the time by family, friends, some comrades, enemies and the media.

As with Crown Heights, there are clips of white politicians (some of the same ones) proudly displaying their racist bloodlust along with the white growers and cops beating strikers, same as it ever was. During a peaceful protest when she’s 58 years old, a cop jabs a baton into Huerta’s chest and breaks several ribs resulting in emergency surgery to remove her spleen and months of hospitalization. Farm workers were murdered just like black and Native activists in the taming of the American working class. Nixon buys thousands of tons of grapes for the US military in Vietnam in a deliberate attempt to crush the farm workers’ boycott.

No film about a 1960s icon would be complete without that icon’s living death and we get that toward the end of the film as the master of war and surveillance, Wall Street bailouts and Main Street foreclosures, the destroyer and mass deporter-in-chief of 2.5 million immigrants, Barack Obama, puts the medal of freedom around Huerta’s neck in 2012, just as he did with Bob Dylan, a perfect platform for the recipients to be strong, demonstrate integrity and class solidarity, rebel, refuse, decline and excoriate Obama’s wars and attacks on the world’s working class. But that’s not who Huerta and Dylan are. That’s who we think they were and wish they were. (Huerta had formally placed Hillary Clinton’s name in nomination at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.) Dylan and Huerta were “honored” in the same ceremony as war criminals Madeleine Albright and Shimon Peres (he did so much for America!) How’s that for in your fucking face — that you, and the things that most people believe that you ever stood for, are completely irrelevant to the current world! You’re so safe that this stooge of billionaires knows that you will be silent about his hopey-changey four year crime spree. The suave condescending last nail in the 1960s coffin even stole “Yes, we can” (“Si se puede!”) from Huerta. What a diabolical Trojan Horse from the capitalist class to the American working class was Obama…

Besides, the UFW story unraveled a long time ago with Chavez engaging in red-baiting, real estate development using non-union construction workers and, in a completely crazed bid to appeal to Filipino-American farm workers, endorsing the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines. In the film, the Teamsters sign “sweetheart” contracts with the growers to undermine the UFW but (not in the film) the UFW — bereft of Marx and international solidarity — patrols the US border in 1973 to keep out immigrants. WTF. (A little white boy and his liberal mom in 1960s Ohio dutifully stop buying grapes and believe that vegan Cesar Chavez is the second coming of Jesus, completely unaware of, well, a whole lot, but especially the UFW’s contradictory and reactionary stands on immigration.)

California Typewriter: Warm, completely engrossing documentary about the history of the typewriter, some of its very famous fans (Tom Hanks has 250 typewriters) and a little mom and pop typewriter repair business in Berkeley whose owner frequents flea markets to get good deals for restoration and resale — accompanied by an artist acquaintance seeking typewriters to tear apart for sculptures. The struggling repair and resale shop, the title’s California Typewriter, ends up being saved by online promotions, a website, social media and in-store “type-ins.”

The paper drafts, the staccato keys and the ringing of the carriage are contrasted with the relative silence, auto-correct, lack of satisfaction when the keyboard is struck and the often eternal first and final draft of computer writing. Typewritten pages show the creative process better, says musician John Mayer. Historian David McCullough likes typewriters because they are slower than computers, saying most of his hours of “writing” aren’t spent typing, they’re spent thinking.

The film is a perfect meditation on art, creativity, friendship, collectors, collectibles, the struggle to keep great things in a world which has no use for them and what might be called the “unrealness” and — paradoxically for something that could exist forever — the disposability and meaninglessness of the digital world. It made me think of a related issue: What’s more enjoyable: scrapbooks and photo albums of 35mm pictures or digital computer galleries?

The Farthest: This documentary about the scientists and engineers who worked on the Voyager 1 and 2 space probes had me amazed and choked up from start to finish. Interestingly, The Farthest wasn’t made by Americans but by an Irish director (Emer Reynolds) and crew.

Approved and funded in 1972 by America’s greatest political villain who apparently did the most good (Nixon), the Voyagers launched in 1977 and are now 13 billion miles away, the first human-made objects to leave our solar system and enter interstellar space. When speaking of their work and space exploration, the Voyager engineers become poets. So many fascinating sounds and visuals: raging storms on Jupiter the size of two Earths, Neptune’s moon Triton that blasts icy geysers, the active volcanoes on Jupiter’s moon Io…

The Voyagers carry the Earth’s greatest hits, the famed “Golden Records” and the directions and record players for any aliens to play them: songs of humpback whales, Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode,” Bach, Beethoven, greetings from humans around the world in 55 languages. There are also 115 images including the Great Wall of China, Jane Goodall and chimps, sunsets, elephants, a breastfeeding mother. As our own solar system will die in two million years, the Golden Records are expected to be the only evidence we ever existed.

All of the information transmitted from the Voyagers is based on less computing power than contained in a hearing aid. Although the Voyagers’ cameras stopped working a long time ago, the probes will send back data for another decade. Carl Sagan had the thought to turn the Voyagers’ cameras back toward the Earth to show a blue dot in the vastness of space, saying, “I think this perspective underscores our responsibility to preserve and cherish that blue dot, the only home we have.”

How do we cherish the blue dot? We first abolish capitalism — and kill any motherfuckers who stand in the way of that. After all the voting and chanting and marching and letter-writing and strikes and sit-downs and die-ins and lobbying and boycotts and consciousness-raising and tax-resistance and self-immolations and the agonizing about nonviolence and peace and fealty to the bogus capitalist-created “law”… the masses are going to understand that, though the capitalist class can commit crimes against the working class and we can commit crimes against each other, it’s impossible for the working class to commit crimes against the capitalist class… We’re going to discover that self-defense always meant killing these bastards immediately before they destroy the blue dot — the head of a pin in a sunbeam — and every angel, real or potential, dancing on it. The capitalists have made it very clear that they aren’t going to stop destroying. Ever. They can’t — their entire system is based on it. What should rational people do with a murderer who’s left a long bloody trail, who tells us he’s going to continue to murder every chance he gets and never stop?

Aren’t you glad at the escapism I provided by going to the movies with me?

Wasted Lives: The Worldwide Tragedy of Youth Suicide

The pressures of modern life are colossal; for young people — those under 25 years of age — they are perhaps greater than at any other time. Competition in virtually every aspect of contemporary life, a culture obsessed with image and material success, and the ever-increasing cost of living are creating a cocktail of anxiety and self-doubt that drives some people to take their own lives and many more to self-abuse of one kind or another.

Amongst this age group today, suicide constitutes the second highest cause of death after road/traffic accidents, and is the most common cause of death in female adolescents aged 15–19 years. This fact is an appalling reflection on our society and the materialistic values driven into the minds of children throughout the world.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that in total “close to 800,000 people die due to suicide every year, which is one person every 40 seconds. Many more attempt suicide,” and those who have attempted suicide are the ones at greatest risk of trying again. Whilst these figures are startling, WHO acknowledges that suicide is widely under-reported. In some countries (throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, for example) where stigma still attaches to suicide, it is not always recorded as the cause of death when, in fact, it should be, meaning the overall suicide figures are without doubt a great deal higher.

Unless there is fundamental change in the underlying factors that cause suicide, the WHO forecasts that by 2020 – a mere three years away, someone, somewhere will take their own life every 20 seconds. This worldwide issue, WHO states, is increasing year on year; it is a symptom of a certain approach to living — a divisive approach that believes humanity is inherently greedy and selfish and has both created, and is perpetuated by, an unjust socio-economic system which is at the root of many of our problems.

Sliding into despair

Suicide is a global matter and is something that can no longer be dismissed, nor its societal causes ignored. It is the final act in a painful journey of anguish; it signifies a desperate attempt by the victim to be free of the pain they feel, and which, to them, is no longer bearable. It is an attempt to escape inner conflict and emotional agony, persecution or intimidation. It may follow a pattern of self-harm, alcohol or drug abuse, and is in many cases, but not all, related to depression, which blights the lives of more than 300 million people worldwide, is debilitating and deeply painful. As William Styron states in Darkness Invisible:

The pain of severe depression is quite unimaginable to those who have not suffered it, and it kills in many instances because its anguish can no longer be borne. The prevention of many suicides will continue to be hindered until there is a general awareness of the nature of this pain.

Any suicide is a tragedy and a source of great sadness, particularly if the victim is a teenager, or someone in their twenties, who had their whole life ahead of them, but for some reason or another could not face it. As with all age groups, mental illness amongst young people is cited as the principle reason for, or an impelling cause of suicide, as well as for people suffering from an untreated illness such as anxiety, anorexia or bulimia; alcohol and drug abuse are also regularly mentioned, as well as isolation.

All of these factors are effects, the result of the environment in which people — young and not so young — are living: family life, the immediate society, the broader national and world society. The values and codes of behavior that these encourage, and, flowing from this environment, the manner in which people treat one another together with their prevailing attitudes. It must be here that, setting aside any individual pre-disposition, the underlying causes leading to mental illness or alcohol/drug dependency in the first place are rooted.

Unsurprisingly young people who are unemployed for a long time; who have been subjected to physical or sexual abuse; who come from broken families in which there is continuous anxiety due to job insecurity and low wages are at heightened risk of suicide, as are homeless people, young gay and bi-sexual men and those locked up in prison or young offenders institutions. In addition, WHO states that, “Experiencing conflict, […] loss and a sense of isolation are strongly associated with suicidal behavior.”

Lack of hope is another key factor. Absence of hope leads to despair, and from despair flows all manner of negative thoughts and destructive actions, including suicide. In Japan, where suicide is the leading cause of death among people aged between 15 and 39 (death by suicide in Japan is around twice that of America, France and Canada, and three times that of Germany and the UK), the BBC reports that, “young people are killing themselves because they have lost hope and are incapable of seeking help.” Suicides began to increase dramatically in Japan in 1988 after the Asian financial crisis and climbed again after the 2008 worldwide economic crash. Economic insecurity is thought to be the cause, driven by “the practice of employing young people on short-term contracts.”

Hope is extremely important, hope that life will improve, that circumstances will change, that people will be kinder and that life will be gentler. That one’s life has meaning. Interestingly, in the aftermath of Princess Diana’s death in 1997, suicides in Britain increased by almost 20 per cent, and cases of self-harm rose by 44 per cent. To many people she was a symbol of compassion and warmth in a brittle, hostile world, and somehow engendered hope.

The list of those most vulnerable to suicide is general and no doubt incomplete; suicide is an individual act and flows from specific circumstances and a particular state of mind. Generalizations miss the subtleties of each desperate cry. Some suicides are spontaneous acts, spur of the moment decisions (as is often the case in Asian countries, where poison is the most common method of suicide), others may be drawn out over years, in the case of the alcoholic, for example, punctuated perhaps by times of relief and optimism, only to collapse under the weight of life’s intense demands once more.

It is these constant pressures that are often the principle causes of the slide into despair and the desire to escape the agony of daily life. They are all pervasive, hard to resist, impossible, apparently, to escape. Firstly, we are all faced with the practical demands of earning a living, paying the rent or mortgage, buying food, and covering the energy bills etc. Secondly, there are the more subtle pressures, closely related to our ability to meet the practical demands of the day: the pressure to succeed, to make something of one’s life, to be strong – particularly of you’re a young man, to be sexually active, to be popular, to know what you want and have the strength to get it; to have the confidence to dream and the determination to fulfill your dreams. And if you don’t know what you want, if you don’t have ‘dreams’ in a world of dreamers, this is seen as weakness, which will inevitably result in ‘failure’. And by failure, is meant material inadequacy as well as unfulfilled potential and perhaps loneliness, because who would want to be with a ‘failure’?

These and other expectations and pressures constitute the relentless demands faced by us all, practical and psychological, and our ability to meet them colours the way we see ourselves and determines, to a degree, how others see us. The images of what we should be, how we should behave, what we should think and aspire too, the values we should adopt and the belief system we should accept are thrust into the minds of everyone from birth. They are narrow, inhibiting, prescribed and deeply unhealthy.

The principle tool of this process of psychological and sociological conditioning is the media, as well as parents and peers, all of whom have themselves fallen foul of the same methodology, and education.

Beyond reward and punishment

Step outside the so-called norm, stand out as someone different, and risk being persecuted, bullied and socially excluded. The notion of individuality has been outwardly championed but systematically and institutionally denied. Our education systems are commonly built on two interconnected foundations – conformity and competition – and reinforced through methods, subtle and crude, of reward and punishment. All of which stifles true individuality, which needs a quiet, loving space, free from judgment in which to flower. For the most sensitive, vulnerable and uncertain, the pressure to conform, to compete and succeed, is often too much to bear. Depression, self-doubt, anxiety, self-harm, addiction and, for some, suicide, are the dire consequences.

There are many initiatives aimed at preventing suicide amongst young people – alcohol/drug services, mental health treatment, reducing access to the means of suicide – and these are of tremendous value. However iff the trend of increased suicides among young people is to be reversed it is necessary to dramatically reduce the pressures on them and inculcate altogether more inclusive values. This means changing the environments in which life is lived, most notably the socio-economic environment that infects all areas of society. Worldwide, life is dominated by the neoliberal economic system, an extreme form of capitalism that has infiltrated every area of life. Under this decrepit unjust model everything is classed as a commodity, everyone as a consumer, inequality guaranteed with wealth and power concentrated in the hands of a tiny percentage of the population — 1% of 1%, or less, in fact. All facets of life have become commercialized, from healthcare to the supply of water and electricity, and the schooling of our children. The educational environment has become poisoned by the divisive values of the market place, with competition at the forefront, and competition has no place in schools and universities, except perhaps on the sports field: streaming and selection should be vetoed totally and testing, until final exams (that should be coursework based), scrapped.

All that divides within our societies should be called out and rejected, cooperation inculcated instead of competition in every area of human endeavor, including crucially the political-economic sphere; tolerance encouraged, unity built in all areas of society, local, national and global. These principles of goodness together with the golden seed of social justice – sharing – need to be the guiding ideals of a radically redesigned socio-economic paradigm, one that meets the needs of all to live dignified, fulfilled lives, promotes compassion, and, dare I say, cultivates love. Only then, will the fundamental causes of suicide, amongst young people in particular, but men and women of all ages, be eradicated.