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Roaming Charges: Darkness, Darkness

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A malign darkness has descended on the land and I’m not talking only about Trump. Look toward North Dakota, where petro-cops are committing atrocities daily with impunity, far removed from the cameras of the cable networks, beyond the salons of Washington now filled with frenzied chatter about how to adapt to the new dispensation, unnoticed by the remote-control protests outside Trump Tower.

Early this week, mercenaries armed with water cannons pulverized tribal protesters in the freezing night. There’s an arrogant symbolism to the image of rent-a-goons terrorizing tribal protectors of water with violent blasts of water. Across the decades, the targets of this kind of brutality don’t change much: Indians, blacks, Hispanics, the homeless, striking workers. And neither do the vicious tactics of repression: attack dogs, cages, numbered tattoos, mace, water cannons, rubber bullets. All these and more are being inflicted at Standing Rock.

A Lakota elder recounted his experience of standing in front of one of the mercenaries. “He smiled at me and then shot me in the kneecaps.” A 13-year old girl was shot in the face with a “rubber” bullet, knocked unconscious, her head bloodied and bruised. A female protester was struck by a concussion grenade, mangling her arm so badly it may need to be amputated. All in a night’s work for the thugs of big oil and their government cops. Still, the people refuse to be dislodged.

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None of these outrages against tribal people, or the fragile landscape of the high plains, has aroused much attention from the press or political leaders of either party. Of the leading Democrats, only Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker and Al Franken have spoken out against the crimes being committed before our eyes. The others have remained mute, marinating in money from the pipeline’s financiers. The  sound of their silence is the sound of complicity.

As for Obama, he started his administration by bailing out banks and doing nothing for homeowners facing foreclosure. He ends it by sending eviction notices to tribal people fighting for their homeland.

The US Army Corps of Engineers eviction notice warns the Standing Rock protestors that after December 5th they will assume all liability for what happens next, which sounds very much like a shoot-to-kill order to me. At the very least, it is a green light for an escalation of violence on the part of the oil mercenaries, local sheriffs and National Guard. But what kind of long-term liability for their lives and their future do they assume if they agree to leave at this point?

+ As we begin to enter what may prove to be a darker darkness than the one we’ve been living in, I re-read Jean-Paul Sartre’s sobering long-essay, Paris: Under Occupation. It extends in more vivid and concrete terms some of the abstract concepts grappled with in Being & Nothingness, particularly the painful “nothingness” reflected when you notice the sudden absence of faces, fixtures at the Café Flore perhaps, that were familiar to you, other writers, troublemakers, dissidents, members of the Resistance picked up by the Nazis, who simply never returned. I found this passage, written in prose as direct as a Raymond Chandler story, particularly chilling:

“You would phone a friend one day and the telephone would ring and ring in the empty apartment. You would ring his doorbell and he wouldn’t come to the door. If the concierge broke in, you would find two chairs drawn up together in the hallway with German cigarette ends between the legs.”

As Trump gears up to unleash his Deportation Force across the land, I think of our Mexican-American friends and acquaintances and those familiar faces from the bus stops and the grocery check out lines. Will there come a day when we will suddenly feel the chill sensation of their absence from our lives, wondering where they’ve gone, how they were taken and what we could have done to protect them?

+ Recall when W. vowed during the 2000 campaign to retreat from the interventionism and “nation-building,” which were the hallmarks of his father and Clinton’s administrations, while at the very same time Cheney was quietly assembling a cabinet of rabid neocons? Same thing is happening now at the gilded aerie of Trump Tower, with Pence, Bannon and Jared Kushner vetting the players.

+ It came as no surprise that Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who is regarded by many of his former colleagues at the Defense Intelligence Agency as a borderline personality on the level of the Jack D. Ripper character in Dr. Strangelove,  was tapped as Trump’s National Security Advisor. Like many generals in the post-World War II, Flynn is hellbent on earning a star during a world war, even he has to help usher one into being. Flynn, who has called Islam a “malignant cancer” on the face of the planet, has co-written a book with the deranged Michael Ledeen, called The Field of Fight. In it, Flynn asserts that we are now engaged in a world war with Islam and “we [ie, the West] are losing.” Flynn and Ledeen refer to this global conflict as an “apocalyptic war” that must be fought to the death.

Trump, and some of his anti-interventionist admirers, may do a double-take when they read Flynn and Ledeen’s views on Vladimir Putin’s Russia, which they see as a dictatorial state, which, in league with the Iranians, is leading “an international alliance of evil countries and movements that is working to destroy us.”

+ While Flynn was at the Defense Intelligence Agency, his office circulated a memo to female staffers called “Dress for Success,” which urged them to “avoid the plain Jane look” and advising that “makeup to helps women look more attractive.” The memo also encourages women make clothing choices with the idea to “accentuate the positive/disguise the negative.”

Under a Trump regime, a cautionary codicil may have to be appended to the memo warning women employees that if they don’t want to have their pussy grabbed they should go for the plain Jane look, wear less makeup and accentuate the negative.

+ Staffers on the Hill refer to Trump’s pick to lead the CIA, Rep. Mike Pompeo, as Pompeo Maximus. Although Democrat Adam Schiff vouched for Pompeo as a “serious and smart” guy, his reputation in Washington is that of a political thug: a verbose bully who believes bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550-e1477943826411the West is engaged in a Holy War against Islam to save Christianity. “Muslims,” Pompeo said in a speech to an evangelical church in Wichita in 2014, “abhor Christians and will continue to press against us until we make sure that we pray and stand and fight and make sure that we know that Jesus Christ is our savior is truly the only solution for our world.”

+  If Pompeo is Trump’s Pompey Maximus, then Trump himself seems poised to be the American Imperium’s Marcus Crassus, the filthy rich general who lined the Appian Way from Rome to Capua–a distance of 104 miles–with the crucified bodies of slaves and gladiators during the Spartacus Revolt, before seeing his legions slaughtered by a much smaller force of Parthians at the Battle of Carrhae while Crassus ruled as Imperator of, yes, Syria. The mouth of Crassus’ decapitated head was filled with molten gold before being presented to the Parthian King Orodes II.

+ Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis is the leading contender for Secretary of Defense in a Trump Administration. Mattis, the former head of CentCom, implemented the disastrous COIN strategy in Iraq. A Marine, Mattis is known for his brutal tactics and harsh tongue.  “The first time you blow someone away is not an insignificant event,” Mattis said a few years ago.  “That said, there are some assholes in the world that just need to be shot. There are hunters and there are victims. By your discipline, you will decide if you are a hunter or a victim.”

Mattis is one of those generals who seems to speak in out-takes from the film “Patton.”

+ Progressive icon Tulsi Gabbard made the now obligatory pilgrimage to Trump Tower to share her thoughts on Syria with the Trump High Command and flash her credentials for a spot on his foreign policy team, aka Wehrmacht West. Recall that Gabbard, like Trump, shamefully backs the GOP’s mean-spirited plan to block the entry of Syrian refugees into the US. Gabbard apparently views three-year-old Syrian kids as mini-terrorists.

Gabbard’s vaulting ambition has led her to seek to collaborate with known quantities like Michael Flynn, Flynn’s co-author the whacko Michael Ledeen, Maddog Mattis, and Pompeo. Liberals always seem to fall for war veteran pols who come home and criticize the prosecution of the ongoing war, like John Kerry or Tammy Duckworth, without really paying too much attention to the kind of war they are anxious to fight. In Tulsi’s case, it is very much the kind of war that we saw under the Carter administration, Third Way warfare, where proxy armies are used to keep US casualties and fingerprints at a minimum, fully modernized with the widespread application of drones. Who will join my “TulsiNotMyProgressive” protests?

+ Former Sanders PR flak Symone Sanders told CNN this week that “we don’t need any more white people leading the Democratic Party right.” Almost certainly true (depending on who the non-“white” person is), also almost certainly not the headline you want, if you ever desire to win blue-collar states, like Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, that are 75-80 percent “white”. My friend Michael Donnelly, who grew up in Flint, re-wrote Symone’s remarks in a more palatable fashion: “In my opinion, we don’t need rich people leading the Democratic Party again.”

+ There’s word that Trump has been skipping out on intelligence briefings since his victory, perhaps because of a scheduling conflict with new episodes of Project Runway. In any event, good for Trump. Those intel briefings are almost always a case of garbage in, drone strikes out…

+ For the first time in history, millionaires now hold the majority of seats in the US congress. Think of the financial sacrifices these selfless citizens are making just for the opportunity to serve their corp–, I mean country….

+ Obama will go down as a president who assiduously courted the favor of the opinion press and jailed the whistleblowers and truth-tellers.

+ Shortly after it was revealed that Julian Assange was beating Trump in the online poll for Time’s “Person of the Year” award, the NSA intercepted this message from Donald Trump to Vladimir Putin: “Goddamn it, Putin, I thought we had an agreement. Stop hacking the polls. The accolades are mine, I tell you, ALL MINE!”

+ What in the world is Jill Stein up to?  She is trying to raise more $2 million for recounts in WI, Michigan & Penn, recounts that presumably aren’t about getting a bigger vote total for the Green Party, but trying to find “lost” votes for HRC. If HRC isn’t willing to stand up for her own voters (assuming there are lost votes) why the hell should the Greens? What’s the goal? To be able to say: “I didn’t cost Hillary the election, I tried to win it for her?”

This smells of Stein’s campaign manager David Cobb to me, who in 2004 really wanted the Greens to run a stealth campaign so as not to be tarnished by reelection of Bush. (Indeed, the Wisconsin recount has nothing to do with the Green Party itself. The executive committee voted 5-3 to reject Stein and Cobb’s request that they sponsor the recounts.) Shortly after the 2004, elections Cobb spear-headed an audit of the returns from Ohio, the state that sank John Kerry. Many of the Greens are simply disaffect liberals, who really want to be teleported back to the Democratic Party of the 70s and 80s.

Nearly 100 million eligible voters didn’t vote. Stein would be better served spending some of the $2 million turning them Green, organizing their own party, providing legal support for Standing Rock protesters, investing it in the Powerball lottery or almost anything other than auditing the vote for Hillary. But if, as with Sanders, Stein uses that $2 million (or even $200,000 or $20,000 or $2000 or $200) to help the candidate she rightly assailed as a threat to peace, the environment and working people during the campaign, then  Stein will have defrauded the very people who supported her.

The end result, even if successful in revealing some hijinks in the voting machines, as in Ohio 2004, will be to make more “legitimate” the very electoral process that kept the Green Party off the ballot in many states and locked it out of the debates. I don’t see that as any kind of win for independent parties. It will only serve to improve and restore confidence in the two-party system that crushes every aspiration of the Green Party’s own members.

If Stein/Cobb recount initiative is really about preserving integrity of the democratic process, why only investigate states HRC narrowly lost and not the ones–NH, MN–she narrowly won?

+ There are still calls to “wait and see what happens with Trump.” I think the lesson of at least the last two regimes is that if you wait to see what happens, the worst is certain to happen. Trump put his cards on the table by picking Bannon, Sessions, Pompeo and Flynn for his inner circle. There’s no disguising their venality. The rest is window dressing.

+ Ah, yes, Friendship Heights, Maryland! I know it well. Neither friendly nor especially high altitudinally-speaking, but the leafy neighborhoods of this DC suburb have housed economic Nazis (many of them working at the World Bank and IMF) for decades and is now entertaining the American facsimile of the real thing. Restaurants that host these little Nuremberg rallies are spreading moral salmonella with each plate of pasta…Of course, it wouldn’t count as a real Nazi-chic party without an opportunity to take a selfie with Tila Tequila.

+ A federal magistrate called John Primomo welcomed new US citizens down in San Antonio, Texas by warning them that if they don’t like Trump they should “go to another country.” In the spirit of full-disclosure, Judge Primomo could have also counseled them to go to another country if they wanted a job, health care, clean water or a pension.

+ With Mark  Zuckerberg’s pledge to cleanse Facebook of “Fake News”, I wonder whose links he’ll abort first: the New York Times or the Washington Post?

+ 30 minutes of porn on CNN? Try 30 years!

+ The Nation magazine is planning a cruise where leaders of the “left” will try to figure out what wrong in the election, still unaware that Nation cruises were one of the things driving what went wrong in the election.

+ If 6 was 9, Hillary might have won.

 

+ It’s looking more and more unlikely that Trump will jettison ObamaCare. No surprise here. ObamaCare was drafted by the rightwing Heritage Foundation. Then 1000 lobbyists went to work on it. ObamaCare started out bad  and got progressively worse, not progressively progressive. If repealed, 100s of insurance company CEOs would be joining the protesters in front of Trump Tower. I say dump it fast and move on to single payer.

+ If Trump is really serious about confronting domestic security risks, he could start by an Extreme Vetting of people with NRA memberships, followed swiftly by the soulless folks who run HMOs.

+ Nikki Haley, Trump’s UN ambassador nominee, knows almost nothing about foreign policy. She got her degree in accounting, dabbled in the fashion industry and served as an unremarkable governor of an unremarkable state. In other words, she’s a vast improvement over the violent know-it all Samantha Power.

+ You have to give a strange kind of credit to Trump. His election has served as kind of psychological magnet, pulling out into the open the secret bigotry of elected officials across the country. What was once subliminal is now explicit. These ultra right politicos suddenly feel liberated to post their racists rants and “sieg heil ” selfies on Facebook and Twitter. Two days later they’ve been fired and publicly humiliated.

+ I hope Trump keeps up his late night Tweeting after he assumes power. It will be like reading the transcripts from the Nixon tapes in real time.

+ Lacan: “The Christian injunction ‘love thy neighbour as thyself’ must be ironic because most people hate themselves.” That explains a lot.

+ That old hack Robert Samuelson and Alan Greenspan, rising from his coffin at dusk, are making the rounds of the editorial pages promoting the privatizing of Social Security and Medicare, two old featherless vultures, feasting off the last bits of flesh on the bones of the New Deal and the Great Society.

+ The AFL-CIO has endorsed Nancy (Net Worth: $48 million) Pelosi’s bid to hold on to her position as Minority-Leader-for-Life. In a way, you have to admire the AFL’s stubborn willingness to go all the way down with the sinking ship, taking its members down with it….

+ Speaking of the walking dead, Henry Kissinger emerged from his cryogenic tank to re-assure the world that Donald Trump is “carrying no baggage”  as he prepares to enter the White House. As with all pronouncements from Kissinger, believe the opposite.

+ A new report from something called the Journal of Counseling Psychology confirms the obvious (which is what these kinds of publications tend to do) in concluding that misogynists are more likely to be “mentally ill.”  It is revealing that homosexuality was considered a mental disorder by the DSM for many decades, while misogyny was considered a standard condition for heads of state, corporations and households. Back to square one. Of course, we all know that misogynists cost Hillary the election, as well as its corollary disorder Misogyny-by-Proxy Syndrome, which clouded the minds of the women who voted for Stein, Johnson and Trump….

+ Tim Kaine, the Invisible Man, retreated back into the shadows last week. He had to issue a press release announcing his relocation a few days later because no one had noticed.

+ Thomas Friedman has a new book out titled “It’s All Going to be OK.” In an act of self-dealing worthy of the Trump Foundation, the New York Times reviewed it and found it to be, well, okay. Feel better? Dumb and Dumber…both wrapped up in the pages of one writer!

+ I’ve long thought that Søren K’s Fear and Trembling should be mandatory reading for all school children on Thanksgiving, since it’s a piercing mediation on the very first Thanksgiving, when Isaac said to Abraham, “Thanks for not slitting my throat, dad.”

+ As for Thanksgiving recipes, I think Lee “Scratch” Perry got it right in Roast Fish, Collie Weed and Cornbread. It sounds must tastier than turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes and with the collie weed you’ve met your daily minimum requirement for green vegetables.

+ If you dig Kamasi Washington (who will be playing in Stumptown in a couple weeks at the venerable Roseland) check out his pal LA trumpeter Josef Leimberg’s dynamic and intensely chromatic new cd Astral Progressions, which may remind you of the Bitches’ Brew / Jack Johnson era Miles Davis, with some hip hop thrown in to season the mix. Fabulous record. Washington himself comes in with a great solo near the end of this track.

Sound Grammar

What I’m listening to this week.

Girls in Airports: Kaikoura
Jeff Parker: The New Breed
Ash Walker: Echo Chamber
Kadhja Bonet: The Visitor
St. Lenox: Ten Hymns From My American Gothic

Booked Up

What I’m reading this week.

Hitler: Ascent, 1889-1939 by Volker Ulrich
They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement by Wesley Lowery
Paranoids by Ralph Steadman

The Necessity of Impurities

Primo Levi: “In order for the wheel to turn, for life to be lived, impurities are needed, and the impurities in the soil, too, as is known, make it fertile. Dissension, diversity, the grain of salt and mustard are needed: Fascism does not want them, forbids them, and that’s why you’re not a Fascist; it wants everybody to be the same, and you are not. But immaculate virtue does not exist either, or if it exists it is detestable.”

More articles by:

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His new book is Bernie and the Sandernistas: Field Notes From a Failed Revolution. He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net or on Twitter  @JSCCounterPunch

CounterPunch Magazine

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