The Thin Blue Line Between. . .

Posted: December 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

This is a bit of a link blitz, but it’s important because recently, we’ve seen a series of disturbing developments regarding the expansion of police, surveillance and national security powers coming our way that are both frightening and very dangerous, so bear with me.

Not so recent was President Obama’s arrogation of the government’s right to indefinitely detain people at the Guantanamo Bay concentration camp, which he had signed the order to close. He called this arrogation “prolonged detention” but it was a distinction without difference, though none but the true believers (suckers) could really be so blind as to see it as anything but.

Lol, suckers. Every single fucking one of you. . .

Fast forward a bit to December, 2011 when the United States Senate passed “S. 1867 As Amended”, which would allow for the indefinite detention and torture of US citizens, by a vote margin of 93-7 in favor. Keep in mind that this is all against a backdrop of routine police violence against people for shockingly minor crimes,  how Republicans are now being trained to talk about the Occupation Movement, the federally coordinated violent crackdown of the Occupation Movement, the addition of the Occupation Movement to terrorist watch lists for challenging capitalism as an economic system that, while historically necessary, now endangers the future of the human species, and the encouragement of viewers of reactionary media outlets to kill those in the Occupation Movement who challenge capitalism as an economic order that fails to provide anything resembling economic security.

I remember my father telling me once to be careful what I put online. This is, absurdly enough obvious to me, because anything I enjoy privately or post on Facebook, evidently is always a good determiner of my professional fitness or strength of my personal character, but I remember the moment at which I realized that I had a limit to my electronic paranoia. At the admonishment that I be careful of what I put in an IM or a text message, methods of communication that are implicitly private, I knew that I had reached the point at which I no longer had any more fucks to give. The same goes with the hideously contrived “War on Terror”. I, in all sincerity, would rather live in a free country in which I might face the off-chance of being blown up by a terrorist car-bomb or gas attack while enjoying my Second Amendment rights to hopefully kill them before I hit the ground, than live in an omniscient national security police state in which the feds are legally permitted to snatch me out of my bed in the dead of night and disappear me to some CIA black site, labeled a terrorist after writing a blog post in which I call the President an asshole.

The important lesson that I’ve taken away from this personally is the fact that there is no fundamental difference between the Democratic and Republican parties. That I’m on the left means that I’ll support an individual Democratic candidate, an Elizabeth Warren, or an Alan Grayson, but I’m done with the two-party political system for good, institutionally speaking, and I challenge anyone, whatever your political orientation might be to reject it too and build an independent political coalition that can challenge this entrenched and cancerous corruption on our body politic.

Advertisements

Here is a poster that I found particularly excruciating to find hanging up in a public school classroom:

An excruciating poster to find in a public school classroom.

For most of my life, as I’ll bet for the most of yours, we’ve had this canard drilled into our skulls that if you can’t change the material circumstances in which you find yourself, you should just smile, simply change the way you think about it, and unquestioningly accept the status quo and everything will be all better. Don’t view the glass as half empty, view it as half full and be thankful for it. Despite its creepy Orwellian suggestiveness, this way of thinking can actually be very useful in order to help someone keep a resilient mindset in the correct contexts in which when obsequiousness is not the ultimate expectation. Just to take myself as an example, though I’m educated and a state certified professional, I have next to nothing; I have little more than a 15 year-old car, a bed, a cot and an un-hinged door to serve as a dining table, but it’s also 36 degrees at night and I have a warm place to sleep, an internet connection, any one of my collection of firearms within an arm’s reach and food in my fridge; I’m cozy enough. Call me an ascetic, but I think of myself as a fan of simple pleasures. Times are hard, but there is simply no point in moping about it to the point of indolence; I see entirely too many people on the street corners and under bus benches at night with far, far less. What I, or anyone else does about our respective or collective situations is what matters, and I’ll come to that very soon.

There is a far more insidious undertone to the message of this poster, especially when I see the contrasts between the two faces on this poster. When I hear defenders of the neoliberal capitalist economic order respond sneeringly to the meekest protest of economic inequality with the assertion that millions of people on Earth would kill for a minimum wage job in the US, I can’t help but think of such a mindset in implicitly threatening terms. I cannot help but take that as a sign of how deeply the most ardent and interested defenders of capitalism eternally strive to immiserate the whole of the human species save for themselves. I cannot help but think of it as anything but a mindset that is to be beaten, shot, gassed, or pepper-sprayed into the faces of those who do fight back against such a concerted, coordinated and highly organized effort to scour into the face of humanity a permanent economic order by which a scant few enjoy tiny islands of exquisite luxury at the expense of a vast, unending, unchallenging, unalterable ocean of the impoverished. I cannot help but hear the implication that, if the working class demands any better than what the Earth’s greater proportion of the world’s immiserated would allegedly kill them for, that the capitalist class would have their state agents kill them instead for such ungratefulness.

With the brutal police crackdowns on the Occupation movement, many of which, it should not be ignored, have been orchestrated by mayors elected on a Democratic Party ticket, I now can’t help but view this poster as an implicit threat of what will happen if you don’t shut the fuck up, move your tents to the doors of Wal-Mart the night before Black Friday, and smile cheerfully as people brawl and degrade themselves over $2 waffle-makers, or watch in horror as a bunch of cops bash a grandfather’s face into the floor for allegedly shoplifting.

It infuriates me that we are engineering a generation of schoolchildren to embrace hyperindividualism and to rejoice as their last collective act is to immolate the social halves of their respective human selves in a mutual suicide-pact in order to play the grand capitalist lottery of mega-success and fall upon each other as predators in that hopeless game, the rules of which are written and rewritten by a ruling class that can only stand to benefit from a working class that has self-atomized upon lines of race, gender, sexuality, nationality, ethnicity, or any other subset of the identity politics which I so passionately hate as they are irredeemably crippling to our collective working-class interests.

In a small act of protest, I propose a radically different alternative ethos by which the generations of human beings damaged by decades of neoliberal capitalist indoctrination can purge the mode of thinking that has made a virtue of selfishness in order to nullify our ability to recognize our common interests as working-class people who comprise the vast majority of human beings in existence.

In short, I propose that we think upon these lines:

“If you can’t change it, we all can change it.”

For anyone who insists that American metropolitan police forces aren’t being militarized, do not look at this picture of a Tampa Police M577 armored command post car. . .sponsored by BAE Systems.

Thanks to Maddow Blog for pointing this one out.

26 Problems

Posted: November 7, 2011 in Uncategorized

And the war on reproductive rights continues with Mississippi poised to pass Proposition 26, a ballot initiative that would declare that a fertilized egg is a legal person under the state Constitution, criminalizing most forms of birth control and fertility treatments. I’m just old enough to remember how ten years ago, an abortion ban that did not include exceptions for health and life of the mother, rape, or incest, was a bridge too far; today such omissions are standard fare in the perpetual and savage attack on reproductive rights by religious and social conservatives and reactionaries.

Shall a woman be made to provide monthly samples of her menstrual blood to test for the presence of un-implanted and fertilized eggs? What would the consequences be should such a test come back positive? Shall a woman who sees her OB/GYN because of a miscarriage be shackled to a gurney and probed to see if it’s a cover for an abortion such as is currently the practice in some South American countries? How would the state catalogue each detected case of an unfertilized egg not coming to term? Shall they each be named?

I’m not simply being inflammatory here, nor am I setting up a straw man argument. In 1965, the state of Connecticut had on its books, a statute that prohibited married couples from possessing contraceptives or any information thereof. The Supreme Court held, in a 7-2 decision, that this statute violated the right to marital privacy, and established that there is in fact a fundamental and substantive right to privacy protected by the Constitution. Writing for the majority, Justice William O. Douglas wrote “Would we allow the police to search the sacred precincts  of marital bedrooms for telltale signs of the use of contraceptives? The very idea is repugnant to the notions of privacy surrounding the marriage relationship.”

The specifics differ between the case of Griswold v. Connecticut and Proposition 26, but the question that presents itself here is still the same: how far is the state willing to go to enforce such statutes? Which methods of enforcement are too revoltingly invasive?

How far is Mississippi willing to go?

20111103-083429.jpg

I’m not sure there is a point to this, much less a valid one. The first order of business for any ruling class power facing a popular insurgency is to deny that the wretched of the Earth have any legitimate grievance; the immiserated, the homeless Veteran, the recent graduate with no employment prospects and mortgage-level student debt loads, the laid-off; dismiss them as communists, terrorists, ingrates, malcontents, mobs, and traitors that just need to go get a job even when there are none to be had. Tell people without shoes to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. If that doesn’t stick, send in the police-spies and provocateurs to fabricate an excuse for the Oakland PD to shoot, beat and gas people.

Wages have remained stagnant for 30 years and the racking up of wealth has the US literally at third-world levels of wealth and income inequality; when it ranks near the Ivory Coast in wealth and income inequity, it’s no longer hyperbole to say that the US is now the wealthiest third world nation on Earth. People are rightfully pissed that the capitalist class played speculative games with the economy and got bailed out after they burned it to the ground while the working-class got booted out of their jobs and their homes in droves because of it.

If the only response to this is to tell them that they’re worthless because they didn’t fight in World War II, the cartoonist and anyone who agrees with it aren’t paying attention. Today’s grand struggle is the class struggle and the struggle against reactionary forces that are trying to roll back every working-class victory of the 20th century in the daybreak of the 21st. Those who have nothing left to lose have realized that they now have a world to win.

I shouldn’t have to do this, but in Texas, I feel that I must sadly do so anyway; I’m going to preface this by saying that I’m not a pacifist, nor am I categorically against the death penalty; some people on this world need to and deserve to die; I have no qualms in taking a human life in the defense of myself or those I care about. It is however, sufficient to mention only three entities in order to lay the foundation for the case I’m about to make here: the Houston PD Crime Lab, Cameron Todd Willingham, and Troy Anthony Davis.

I won’t take up space with an exhaustive account of their stories here, but in short, here we have a government agency that, either through sheer incompetence, or, I suspect, deliberate manipulation of evidence, compromised hundreds of DNA and blood samples in order to secure convictions. We have a man who was put to death, not for a crime that he didn’t commit, but for a crime that probably didn’t even happen, according to a review board of fire experts that was stepped on and effectively silenced by Gov. Perry, letting a certainly innocent man be executed so that he didn’t appear “soft on crime”. We have a man who was executed on the eyewitness accounts of 9 people, 7 of which so far, have recanted their testimony. To date, there is no physical evidence linking him to the crime.

Too many people, sadly enough, find comfortable the morally and intellectually lazy position of the law and order sadist; those who gleefully want to inflict the maximum of suffering on the accused not to mention the convicted and the condemned, regardless of the facts of the case, or factual or legal innocence, simply because it makes them feel good or morally superior. Such people have the same distressingly and repugnantly cavalier attitude to the deliberate destruction of human life as those upon whom they heap mountains of righteous scorn, most often proudly ignorant of the facts of any such given case.

Invariably deployed in each death penalty case by the law and order sadist are the typical appeals for some nebulous and poorly-defined conception of justice or some condescending plea of closure from those who have never lost a loved one to murder and don’t understand that to “kill them back” doesn’t bring back that loved one, nor does it do anything to soothe their loss. What is always ignored, of course, is what the family of the accused or convicted or condemned must feel when they all know for a fact that their loved one is to die for a crime that is not theirs to account for, or for a crime that never took place. The factual innocence of the condemned is of no consequence; their legal guilt is enough to slake the blood-thirst of the law and order sadist.

The fundamental question that the issue of capital punishment unavoidably throws at its partisans on either side, time and again, is whether it is morally acceptable to execute the innocent in order to preserve and validate the system. Should an innocent person die as a cost of doing such a ghoulish business? Ernest van den Haag (google the name and be prepared for revulsion), a legal scholar of William F. Buckley Jr’s National Review once mentioned that, even if an innocent person was executed, the relevant point had been made; that the state and the community was prepared to kill and that was just fine with him. Whether or not the “right” life had been snuffed out in the pursuit of vengeance made no difference; the demonstration alone was enough.

Despite the crimes I myself at times warmly imagine necessitating capital punishment, the way in which the multitudes of states in the Union carry out the death penalty, Texas in particular, is unacceptably broken and probably irreparable and irreformable. As breathtakingly cynical as I am, I still have my own moments of hopeful optimism and naiveté; hope springs eternal, even in someone like myself, who is too young to be as old as I am. I nonetheless would like to think that the execution of the innocent is not acceptable to anyone; a crime itself the hideousness of which is, at least to me, so obvious as to be nearly self-evident. I say, with out shame, or irony, or any reservation or purpose of evasion that, if we as a society, any part of us, are comfortable with and approving of, knowingly or not, executing the factually innocent in order to preserve a system of punishment that ostensibly executes only the legally and factually guilty, then it is necessary to admit that we are not merely executing the rightfully condemned; we are instead performing ritual human sacrifices so that blood-thirst be slaked, and reflexive outrage be soothed.

This is not a state of affairs that stands any human society in good stead, much less one that claims the mantle of leadership of the free world. We would do well by ourselves by at least placing this practice on hold, indefinitely if necessary, until we have a criminal justice system in place that can assure 100%, that everyone put on death row belongs there. We owe to ourselves nothing less than this.

Posted: September 28, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

Jon Stewart was in rare form for the opening segment of The Daily Show last night. As it turns out, were at Third World levels of income inequality, losing out to such luminaries of the Earth as Iran, Ivory Coast and Cameroon, though I’m sure Rick Perry would also call it treason to point that out.

Check out part two, in which we learn that The folks at Fox News and The Heritage Foundation evidently think that you aren’t -really- poor if you have a fridge or a microwave. I especially like the bit in which Fox News suggest you aren’t really poor if you have air conditioning, which, as summers get worse every year (though luckily climate change is -clearly- a hoax), air condition is a lifeline now more than ever today , as the elderly seem to have the audacity to die in their homes without it.

There is indeed a class war going on, and the super-wealthy are winning. In our time of crisis, they’re going in for the kill and austerity is the weapon. What side are you on?

I was deeply pleased to see this clip mainly because Matt Damon isn’t the typical weak, wimpy, cowering Democrat; he actually makes an impassioned defense of the working class and in this case, American teachers. There are a few points that I thought important to examine…

This clip begins with the insidious Libertarian/Objectivist notion that job insecurity is an incentive which makes people work harder. It’s a softer way of saying that you should keep workers in a constant state of fear of losing their jobs to extract more surplus labor out of them in the process of production, be it cars or an educated workforce. High unemployment is actually good for the capitalist class because it provides them a reserve army of labor; employers use this to pressure the working class to accept working conditions on their terms or be fired and replaced by the roughly 20% of workers (in the US) who are unemployed or involuntarily underemployed.

Tenure is job security, not invulnerability from firing or layoffs. Tenure means that you get due process before being terminated and that you can do your job and enjoy a degree of academic freedom without having to worry about being arbitrarily fired, say, because the boss is in a bad mood that day or because he or she just doesn’t like the color of your tie, which is the state of affairs in what are obnoxiously termed “right-to-work” states. In Texas, for example, It’s just your luck if the boss spills his coffee on himself and decides to take it out on you by throwing you out on the street and barring you from the unemployment benefits you paid into while working.

The throwaway statistic that the cameraman pulled out of his ass about 10% of teachers being bad was just that, a throwaway statistic, and Matt Damon was absolutely right to call him out on it. I don’t doubt that every profession has it’s dirtbags, but presuming for the sake of argument that the cameraman was right, what other profession is subject to conversations which suggest that the other 90% of it’s members should be treated badly on the basis of the professional conduct of the 10% of those who are dirtbags?

What Libertarians and Objectivists either can’t understand, or ignore outright, is the fact that greed and the profit motive isn’t the be-all, (though probably end-all) of human existence, and is actually quite destructive to human life and livelihoods, as we’ve been learning so painfully for so long. Some tasks are so important to society that they should be done for their own sake and some people enter professions because they want to do them for their own sake as well. People who become classroom teachers know they won’t become rich doing such a job but they do it anyway out of love and dedication and the least society can do is ensure them a livable salary, working conditions that ensure student success rather than turning education into a political standardized test numbers game, and a comfortable retirement after 30 or 40 years of service. It’s important to remember that Texas teachers, for example, don’t get Social Security; short of gambling in the stock market with a 401(k), TRS is all they have to look forward to regarding a secure retirement.

The fight over how we treat teachers in this country is a microcosm in the broader fight over a much larger and more critical question: Does the economy exist to serve the people, or do people exist to serve the economy? Are people merely pieces in a wealth production machine, or are people an end unto themselves?

Professional victims in the Tea Party combined forces with the National Organization for Women recently to defend a crazy woman against a head-scratchingly benign photo on the cover of Newsweek. Sure, she has a wild-eyed look about her, but Michelle Bachmann is a wild-eyed conservative.

The National Organization for Women rushed to her defense anyway because the cover photo was apparently unflattering and would somehow dissuade future women from entering politics or running for public office. What annoys me about this is that somewhere along the line, calling a crazy woman out as crazy or an ignorant woman as ignorant, who is running for office, somehow turned into an act of sexism. This episode actually has me imbued with a bit of respect for Ms. Bachmann for shrugging off the whole affair.

This event conjures from my memory a moment that  isn’t that much removed from recent history. The PUMA (Party Unity My Ass) women were the kind of feminists who would rather vote for John McCain because they were just that pissed off that Hillary Clinton didn’t win the Democratic primary; they wanted to see a woman in the White House no matter what it cost them.

This is the essence of identity politics; when you would consciously choose to shoot yourself in the foot in every way imaginable in order to empower someone just because they looked like you, or shared the same set of genitalia, or slept with the same kind of people, or drove the same kind of truck. This is not serious politics and you deserve exactly what you get if this is how you conceive of it.

I originally posted this as a response on a friend’s Facebook, but I’ve been thinking about the controversy surrounding the label of Anders Breivik since I first caught wind of it; that we’re even debating such a point is absurd and maddeningly frustrating to me.

If Anders Breivik was a swarthy, bearded Muslim who had done this to further the interests of Islam, there would be no question as to whether or not he was a Muslim terrorist.

However this tall, blonde, blue-eyed, nordic man expressly said that he murdered children and bombed government offices as part of an effort to protect European Christendom from the invasion of the Muslim hordes and this is astonishingly met by hemming and hawing over whether he’s a Christian terrorist by the western media. Some remarkably question whether he’s even a Christian.

This man has expressed Christian motivations for what he did, so why labeling him a Christian terrorist is even remotely controversial is bizarre. I’m by no means making any sort of defense or excuse of Islamism (I have plenty of venom for that brand of religious idiocy), but when you kill people hoping to spark a new Christian Crusade against Islam, you are a Christian terrorist.

And Anders Breivik is a Christian terrorist, period, and this stupid display of relativism needs to stop. People like him are arguably the most sincere believers and that needs to be recognized for the sake of human civilization, especially in the age of nuclear weapons. Furthermore, he and his desires should serve as reminder to us that we have the right to remember what the parties of god do, not just when they are beleaguered and isolated cells of extremists seeking to benight all of humanity under the boot-heel of a totalitarian theocratic state, but also what they have done, still do, and will do when they posses state power.

Posted: July 27, 2011 in Uncategorized