Tag Archives: capitalism

On Funerals and Postmortem Snubs

This is how one understands imperialistic hypocrisy. President Obama and other heads of state went out of their way to attend the funeral services for the medieval, oil drenched, head-chopping King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who mercilessly persecuted religious minorities, crushed political dissidents and maintained a system of misogynistic, theocratic oppression. Obama even cut short an important state visit to India to attend. The eulogies for this monarchial monster gushed from the lips of most of them, calling the King a “friend” and “visionary.”  In contrast, several heads of state, including Obama and Justin Trudeau, have declined attending the funeral of Fidel Castro. 
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Castro was not a saint.  No leader is.  In fact he was, by many accounts, an authoritarian leader.  And his failings are not above condemnation or critique, from the early persecution of the queer community and political dissidents to his marginalization of devout Catholics.  But all of this cannot be understood in the vacuum created by the quislings of the corporate media.  And Castro did offer apologies and amends for many of his early mistakes and outright cruelties.  All of it however, like anything, is meaningless without context.

Before Castro the island nation was governed by Fulgencio Batista, a US backed, mafia associated dictator who came into power via a coup and whose regime tortured and murdered up to 20,000 people.   In the years since the revolution to oust Batista, and his class of robber barons and fascists, the United States spent every waking hour imagining ways to subvert the Cuban government including an attempted invasion (the Bay of Pigs) and terrorist plots aimed at innocent civilians.  One plot was successfully carried out against a Cuban airliner.  All 73 passengers aboard Cubana de Aviación Flight 455 were killed when timebombs were detonated by CIA backed militants.  Incidentally one of the CIA affiliated terrorists, Luis Posada Carriles, is living comfortably in Miami, Florida.  Under Castro it is estimated that there were upwards of 5000 killed in the revolution (far fewer than the American revolution) and a little more than a two hundred via execution in the years that followed.

Torture is never justified, murder should always be condemned, and those of us who have not taken one life have every right to criticize. But when comparing the sheer numbers of one government to another one can see that this postmortem snub by certain world leaders has nothing to do with Castro being a “dictator” and everything to do with his defiance of US and Western capitalist hegemonic power.  The US alone is responsible for millions of deaths the world over through its aggression and support of repressive and despotic governments.  And its internal death toll via police and prison violence is an international embarrassment when it comes to the staggering deaths and incarcerations of people of colour.  In other words, it has no leg to stand on in judging any other government.

fidel-castro-1964-elliott-erwittCastro’s successful defiance of ruthless US imperialism is unmatched and praiseworthy, surviving over 600 assassination attempts several of which were orchestrated or supported by the US.   And the triumph of the Cuban people to build a society with an internationally renowned universal healthcare system (they send medical teams all over the world) and free education (literacy rates are at 99.7% compared to 86% in the United States) even under a brutal and inhumane US embargo is a testament to their resilience, spirit and will.  Unlike the monstrous monarch from the medieval house of Saud whose regime is slaughtering thousands in neighboring Yemen, Castro’s Cuba did lend support to the struggles against racist apartheid in South Africa and Palestine, but never invaded or launched a war against any other nation.

The onslaught of negative coverage, outright lies and propaganda soundbites about Cuba since the death of Fidel Castro is not surprising to daily observers of the machinations of the US corporate press. They have served as a mouthpiece for American imperialism since their inception and cannot change who they are intrinsically.  This is, of course, why they are so keen on exposing so-called “fake news.” Of course that “fake news” does not include the lies they told on behalf of the Pentagon and a murderous military establishment that spurred the criminal invasions and destruction of countries like Iraq or Libya and beyond.

Now that Castro has died the US corporate media has been feverishly painting the late President with every villainous color they can find. Interestingly enough they never did this when the murderous fiend of Saudi Arabia died even though his legacy was drenched in gallons of beheaded blood.  But the “good King” was a dear friend to US business interests, so the press spent their time praising the medieval despot for “advancing women’s rights” even though his kingdom had scores of women and others executed for the so called crimes of witchcraft or apostasy.  But grasping irony or seeing blatant hypocrisy is not a gift of the ruling elite.

To be sure, it is probably best that these leaders do not attend the funeral of Fidel Castro.  If they did the stench of their hypocrisy might overshadow the space as it did at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service.  And after all, who could tolerate watching Bono again and the sickening spectacle of elitist selfies?
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Kenn Orphan  2016

The Omnicidal Madness of Empire

The atrocities being committed by militarized police on behalf of the Fossil Fuel Industry against the unarmed Water Protectors of Standing Rock Sioux is beyond appalling.  A horrifying page of history is being reopened which may signal a more radical fascist turn for the US in general.  With barely a peep from a weak and sycophantic corporate media, jackbooted thugs in armored trucks are firing water cannons on protectors in sub freezing temperatures, using flash grenades that can cause blindness and burns, and firing rubber coated bullets which have already maimed many.

water-cannons-used-on-water-protectors-at-standing-rock-sioux-in-subfreezing-temperatures-source-twitterThis hideous face of Empire is nothing unique.  It is the same banal, raw, aggression and power seen all over the world.  The militarized police of the Dakotas share their unoriginal brutality with the Israeli Defense Force in Palestine, and the Indian Army occupying Kashmir, and the Indonesian military forces against the indigenous people of Papua New Guinea.  The aim of Empire is always the same: to crush, exploit, rape and plunder the vulnerable of the earth and the living earth itself for the gain of power and coin for a select few.

President Obama’s tepid response to what is happening at this very moment at Standing Rock Sioux is nothing less than complicity in the crimes of Empire.  And it is chilling to think about a Trump regime which will most assuredly ramp up the violence and state aggression to a new and more horrifying level.  He can do this thanks to expanded powers the Obama regime has enabled and empowered.

standing-rock-sioux-water-protectors-attacked-source-news-unfilteredI would be saddened but not be surprised in the least if drones were employed by the coming regime.  Water protectors could easily be labeled with vague, all encompassing terms like “enemy combatants” and “terrorists” because they threaten “US interests,” code words for corporate industry plunder and exploitation via the State.  Targeted assassinations of US citizens are now completely legal thanks to the Obama administration.  In fact, US citizens have already been assassinated without due process.  Indefinite detention is also now completely legal and there is no reason to think that a Trump regime would not use these powers and even expand upon them.

This signals a major shift in the US that is nothing less than monstrous.  And it forces a choice on the rest of us. We must either stand on the side of the Water Protectors or we lend our tacit, albeit apathetic, support to the omnicidal madness of Empire.  This avarice fueled insanity will not stop at Standing Rock Sioux; and there is no middle ground when it comes to this.  Our fragile biosphere is imperiled like never before.  Water is life and we must passionately protect it.  Otherwise we will all suffer the immeasurable misery and self annihilation of doing without it, and that potential nightmare is sooner than anyone could ever imagine.

Kenn Orphan  2016

Trump Surprise?

Since Donald Trump began his ascendancy toward the throne of American Empire last week I have been increasingly  puzzled by the level of astonishment I have noted from a wide spectrum of people.  I mean really, is the rise of Trump that much of a shock to people?  It makes me think that most of the confounded have not been across the American continent in recent times and still hold fast to some sentimental flotsam of Disneyfied Main Streets as being hard truths.  I drove across the country, north, south and middle, with my sister in the process of helping her move this past year.  Trump’s rise is not a surprise to me, and it is not an enigma.  It is the logical end of economic neoliberalism, the final and most brutal form of capitalism, in living, albeit orange-tinted, color.

a-texas-townAs we drove I saw the economic malaise, demoralization and ecological degradation in town after town in the heartland caused by neoliberal policies championed by Democrat administrations.  Of course, the Republicans are the main political nest of capitalist robber barons, but the Democrats, once the party of working people (or so they claimed) promised something better.  Instead, they abandoned the working class by throwing unions to the wolves and embracing Wall Street banksters and corporate hucksters wholeheartedly.

The result of this was obvious.  Still holding a bucolic beauty, vast swaths of the nation have been sacrificed and hold an alienated landscape laden with misery where the core of each town is littered by payday loan shops, liquor stores, thrift stores and pawn brokers.  The church in these communities is frequently maligned and ridiculed by the wealthy, coastal, urban elite.  But, while it is often misguided and many times promotes a fevered bigotry, it is the primary refuge for many abandoned and downtrodden people, providing food, clothing and emotional support.  If a town is “lucky” it is bisected by an interstate which automatically inserts a corporate colony of banal mediocrity.  It is a familiar formula of disenfranchisement in ones own home, with a McDonalds, an Olive Garden and a Cracker Barrel flanked by a Chevron and a Quality Inn.  I say “lucky” because these are usually the only places for viable employment in such townships.

corporate-formula-by-kenn-orphan-2016Economic neoliberalism is a vague and elusive term for most people.  But it can be summed up in three words: privitization, austerity and deregulation.  These three words can also be vague, and that may be by design.  But it isn’t too difficult to dissect:

-Privitization means taking the commons, that which belongs to all people, that which is public, that which is sacred, and dividing it among a handful of wealthy investors.

-Austerity means taking the common wealth, that which has been accumulated by the hard work of the people, and dividing it among a handful of wealthy investors.

-Deregulation means taking the laws and statutes designed to protect the commons and their precious resources like air and water or protect the health and safety of workers, and watering them down or dismantling them to make it easier to privatize and impose austerity so as to accumulate even more wealth for a handful of wealthy investors.

poverty-in-the-us-photo-from-al-jazeeraYou see, it was the sold-out Democratic Party and Liberal Class elites who, in their slavish service to Wall Street neoliberalism, ignored the plight of non-urban, working class people.  They were expendable.  “Deplorable,” if you will.  And in promoting an establishment oligarch, one with a long career of pandering to Wall Street and war mongering on behalf of corporate interests, through party chicanery and outright deception they only succeeded in enraging the base of their own party and alienating further these people whose livelihoods and institutions were gutted and sacrificed on the altar of Wall Street greed.

Now some may ask how does this explain the racism? Or the xenophobia? Or the misogyny?

Let me tell you a short story…
In its rush to dismantle the commons which were intended to benefit All of the people, a relatively small group of very wealthy people decided to gut or make redundant all of the institutions that did not serve the purpose of creating capital (wealth) for them.  Colleges and universities became apprenticeships for industry and training schools for obtaining jobs only.  Critical thinking and study for the betterment of all society was not seen as useful for wealth accumulation for this handful of wealthy investors.  (Has anyone applied for university recently? Or graduated with a degree in the arts or humanities? Or didn’t graduate yet has a student loan to repay nonetheless? Debt is enormous and options for repaying them few. Neoliberalism does not countenance a thoughtful or enlightened electorate. It only seeks cogs for its machine, no others need apply).  But I digress.

Homeless Veteran NCHAll this in turn enabled the unchecked growth of a militarized police/prison/surveillance state which incarcerates and persecutes scores of non-violent debtors or drug offenders, mostly young, mostly Black or Brown, but many white, rural and poor.  And this system then marks them unfit for employment or for voting rights often for the duration of their entire lives.  When so many people are feeling alienated and disenfranchised from the society in which they were supposed to belong is it any wonder why racism and misogyny persists and is growing?

Neoliberalism also fueled the US imperialistic war machine which lined the pockets of profiteers and fueled a rapacious, xenophobic aggression.  This is the same machine which bamboozles young men and women with scant economic or educational opportunities into “defending US interests” – code words for being cannon fodder, a term buried by the ruling elite, or mercenaries for neo-imperialistic corporate power (see Vietnam, Laos, Iraq, the Balkans, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, and on and on and on).  Of course militaristic jingoism is nothing new in the US. It has played well for decades at nearly every single sporting event getting slicker with more techno flash every time.  With jets tearing the sky into shards over packed stadiums festooned with red, white and blue everything, crowds of young, disenfranchised white, straight males are encouraged to buy into the lie that bombing brown people elsewhere to smithereens will somehow defend their homeland.  The organized murder game is often their only option for employment or educational advancement.   But sadly most are forgotten when they return to the homeland damaged or in need.

New Orleans after Hurricane KatrinaWith scant opportunities and permanent debt enslavement these “deplorables,” as the vanquished Hillary Clinton dismissively painted them, have become easy prey for the chicanery of slick snake oil salesmen like Trump, et al.  If, and most likely when, these masses begin to realize they have been duped yet again, and this time by someone whom they thought was one of their own, their rage will be nothing less than terrifying.  With climate change poised to wreak untold havoc and misery on the biosphere and the economy we should all find this beyond sobering.

magazine-rack-at-walmartI say all of this not to dismiss the fears of many people, especially people of color, immigrants, women and Muslims. These feelings of fear many have are justified, but all of this is not due to the rise of an unabashed racist to the throne of the American Empire.  This is the very nature of American imperialism without the veneer of polite, Liberal class parlance to cloak it.  The notion that the United States was ever a pluralistic, multicultural society is a myth not founded in reality. Indeed, it would be ludicrous to suggest that any nation formed via the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous population and built from the forced and coerced labor of other ethnic and racial groups could somehow transform itself into a different animal.  It is time to jettison these fallacious ideas while we still have time.
black-lynching-photo-from-atlanta-black-starIndeed, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence and several viable reports that suggest that there has been an uptick in white nationalist aggression. But truthfully, the culture of hypermasculine, white supremacism has always simmered under the surface of American society.  Keep in mind how the United States was founded.  Who was enslaved?  Who was dispossessed of their land?  Keep in mind that lynchings via white mobs and the forced internment of Japanese Americans by the US government were not so long ago.  In times of economic upset, social unrest, war and ecological crises this Lernaean Hydra, surreptitious in the best of times, emerges with gusto and especially so under a charismatic leader.

Is Trump that leader? Perhaps. I honestly don’t know. And I would not be so presumptuous to assume he and his minions are not capable of the most unimaginable horror, especially since he has not failed to surprise or even shock so many thus far. But his rise should not come as any surprise to anyone who dares to take an honest look at the American experiment. This not the first time that the tide of fascism has washed over American shores.  It has been here all along, and many of us have been sleeping while it was nourished by the neoliberal economic policies that hollowed out what was left of the commons, relegated millions to the margins of Empire, decimated entire nations in never ending wars of plunder, and made way for a vengeful and terrifying barbarism.  Trump’s rise is not an anomaly.  It is, indeed, the fulfilment of a long, despicable legacy that persists.  And until we begin to face that monstrous fact, and ditch the failing political structures which aided this legacy, he and his ilk will also persist until there is nothing left to save.

Kenn Orphan 2016

Where Were They?

I get the anger, the rage. I really do. Trump is vile and the aggressive racist and misogynistic culture he emboldens must be vehemently opposed. Pence may be even worse with his religious right nuttery. But I am forced to wonder if most of these Trump protestors would have stood with me when I protested with Occupy Wall Street? Or when people in passing cars hurled threats and middle fingers at me when I protested Israel’s murderous onslaught of Gaza supported by the US? Or when I marched for transgender equality amidst rising violence in America against that community?

I cannot help but wonder where many (if not most) of these people were when when the sitting President boasted about being “really good at killing people” or having a “Tuesday Kill List” or deporting more undocumented people or prosecuted more whistleblowers than any other US president? Or when his Secretary of State (the vanquished Hillary Clinton) pushed to decimate Libya and ghoulishly celebrated its leader being sodomized with a knife in the street by a mob? Or when Chelsea Manning was being mercilessly persecuted for exposing war crimes by the same administration? Where were most of them when the US backed the rightwing coup in Honduras or the CIA backed coup in Ukraine? Were these things simply not unjust enough because they happened under Democratic administrations?
trump-protests-in-chicago-photo-source-nbc-newsAre these same angry people uniting with Standing Rock Sioux? or Black Lives Matter? Certainly some are. But do the vast majority of them really want a representative democracy and the end of corporatocracy? Or do most merely hope for maintaining a miserable status quo and a facsimile of democracy designed and manufactured by the ruling duopoly and mainstream media?

Don’t get me wrong. I am glad to see that people are awakening to activism.  And I stand firmly against the brownshirt intimidation and violence emboldened by this frightful new day. But the weak as dishwater American Liberal class needs to take a good, hard look at themselves and their complacency at and complicity in the monstrous crimes of the ruling duopoly.  And they need to do it quickly instead of pontificating on how stupid everyone else is for not standing behind their awful selection for leadership.  The current protests only communicate a clear message to the reactionary right that the Liberal class only cares about electing a big “D” into office.

When this becomes a protest against militaristic aggression, capitalist plunder, apartheid, systemic racism, suppression of indigenous rights, ecological devastation and Empire itself, and not merely about the outrage of having a dimwitted narcissistic proto-fascist in the Oval Office instead of a war mongering corporatist I will join them with gusto.

Let me know when that happens.
Kenn Orphan 2016

The Day After

Donald Trump. Photo by Joe Raedle, Getty Images.This morning I woke up to a flurry of grief and panic on my newsfeed. The unlikely became likely and my prediction about the oligarchy sweeping their Queen of Wall Street Wars into power did not come to pass. Instead, a racist, misogynistic megalomaniac ascended the throne of the American Empire. When the mourning period is over perhaps the Liberal Class will take a good, hard look at the reasons for this without going to the all too easy standbys e.g. third party voters ruined it, or this is the fault of the radical left (of which I am a part) who criticized Clinton instead of supporting her, or some inane conspiracy theory regarding Russian interference.

The hard truth is that the Liberal Class sold out to corporatocracy and became fully invested in the neoliberal economic order, the last and most brutal form of capitalism, decades ago. In doing this they became drunk on their sanctimonious laurels while huge swaths of the nation languished, trade deals disenfranchised the working class and the social safety nets and public institutions were gutted. And yes, that all happened under Democratic leadership. They did not oppose the corruption within their own ranks and, as a result, became distrusted and reviled.

If the Liberal Class cannot see that “lesser evilism” is a failed tactic now, they never will. Hillary Clinton was one of the most detested candidates in Democratic National Convention history, but that did not stop DNC elites like Debbie Wasserman Schultz from propelling her into the spotlight through outright chicanery. To add insult to injury the DNC ridiculed, alienated and marginalized its base, including young voters and Bernie Sanders supporters. It is the Liberal elite who are to blame for this monumental loss. Only someone as reviled as Clinton could lose to a buffoon like Trump. Whether or not they will ever see this, however, is doubtful.

But we must move on from all of this, and quickly.  The coming Trump Regime will probably increase misery for Muslims, Latinos and Black and Brown communities,as well as for the press and whistleblowers.  They have all suffered greatly under corporate Democrats.  President Obama’s deportation record, prosecution and persecution of whistleblowers, and drone bombing history are a testament to this.  But Trump’s racist demagoguery has emboldened a whole host of latent frightening actors, from white nationalists to wannabe brown shirts, who now have a mandate to unleash an even more malicious culture of terror.  We must stand in solidarity with people of color, immigrants and other minorities, and protect them wherever we see injustice.   And we must also passionately defend independent journalism.  Deregulation of industry is also certain since it is clear he has no regard for the natural environment or safety in the workplace.   This is what makes environmental activism more vital than ever before.

Now comes the struggle to move beyond. We are facing the greatest challenges we have ever faced as a species. With increasing frequency, climate change, military aggression and biosphere collapse stand ever poised for utter calamity and sheer devastation. But the corporate controlled, war profiteering Democratic Party was unwilling to rise up to meet these monumental, existential crises with integrity and gusto.  It sided with Wall Street and war profiteers.  It has rightly been relegated to the dust bin of history. Let’s leave it there.

It is urgent that we build a new movement of real progressives, disillusioned liberals and leftist radicals like myself while there is still time left to do so. It is also time for Liberal Class elites to smack the smugness off their faces and build bridges of solidarity with Black Lives Matter and Standing Rock Sioux and Palestinian rights activists and Pipeline obstructionists and prison rights advocates and a whole host of radicals who have been working hard against the injustices of Empire.  The establishment politicians and ruling duopoly failed them, we must not.

The day after the period of mourning is over I hope you will join me. There is much work to be done and the time is quickening.

Kenn Orphan  2016

The Ones I Care About

Today I could not care less about who any American votes for or if they vote at all. Truly. I could not care less about the orange tinted megalomaniac or the Queen of Wall Street Wars. I could not care less about the corrupt duopoly or smug pundits. I could not care less about undecided voters or apathetic hipsters. I could not care less about celebrity festooned galas or rehearsed consolation speeches.

Today I choose to care about people like Berta Cáceres. She was an Indigenous Honduran environmental activist who was savagely murdered in her home by mercenaries of the right wing coup government that Hillary Clinton championed as Secretary of State and still defends to this day after scores of brutal murders like Berta, of Indigenous, environmental, LGBTQ and human rights advocates. She was almost wholly ignored by the US corporate media and virtually ignored by most of the so called progressive, liberal media, but I care about people like Berta today and every day.

berta-caceres-source-gristShortly before her murder Berta spoke these ominous words:

“We’re coming out of a coup that we can’t put behind us. We can’t reverse it. It just kept going. And after, there was the issue of the elections. The same Hillary Clinton, in her book, Hard Choices, practically said what was going to happen in Honduras. This demonstrates the meddling of North Americans in our country. The return of the president, Mel Zelaya, became a secondary issue. There were going to be elections in Honduras. And here, she, Clinton, recognized that they didn’t permit Mel Zelaya’s return to the presidency. There were going to be elections. And the international community—officials, the government, the grand majority—accepted this, even though we warned this was going to be very dangerous and that it would permit a barbarity, not only in Honduras but in the rest of the continent. And we’ve been witnesses to this.”

When I see Clinton’s face I see Berta. When I hear Clinton speak about protecting and advancing the rights of women I hear Berta. And behind her I see millions of other women and others, mostly brown, black and red, who were slaughtered thanks to American imperialistic aggression or enslaved and impoverished thanks to American corporate pillage. I see sweatshop workers in Haiti slaving at their desks for Hanes where the US State Department under Clinton fought against a decent living wage. Or women in Libya attempting to hold their families together following the assault on the sovereign nation that Clinton championed against Gaddafi. The same “intervention” where she ghoulishly celebrated the aforementioned leaders gruesome murder at the hands of a mob. I see Palestinian women who have no voice thanks to decades long Israeli apartheid aided by the American taxpayer, a support which Ms. Clinton has vowed to increase in spades. I hear the faint voices of grandmothers at Standing Rock Sioux who are watching their children put in dog cages and shot with rubber bullets by a militarized police force, while Ms. Clinton remains silent.
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Why do I focus on Clinton? Why not focus on the racist, misogynistic narcissist whose penchant for authoritarianism is legendary? Because American Liberals have given her a pass because she is a woman, or by either incredulously ignoring her obvious and egregious record or for the lie of “lesser evilism.” And because it is Clinton who will most likely ascend the throne of American Empire. That is almost assured. And because her resume is splattered with the blood of neocon aggression and the tears from neoliberal capitalist exploitation. Her agenda has been pre-formed in a chasm of corporate chicanery with war profiteers and earth destroyers calling the shots.

Americans can vote for whomever they wish. I really could not care less anymore since I have made my peace long ago with the fact that the entire thing is a sham anyway. As Green candidate Jill Stein eloquently said, the choices between a “proto-fascist and a corruption queen” are outrageous. And the absurdity of all of this is only the first sign of a dying Empire lashing out and writhing as it succumbs in fits and starts. It is emblematic of a culture of profound pathology corrupted by materialistic consumerism and horrendously disconnected to the ancient wisdom of a now perpetually assailed biosphere.

No matter who is selected for the puppet throne the only way forward now is activism outside the sham and the spectacle and the blood stained halls of Washington. And I choose to look to Berta and my fellow comrades for my inspiration in that regard, rather than the dung heap that is the American political and social class.

berta-caceres

Kenn Orphan 2016

The End of the Charade

This is going to be a sort of political rant, so for those of you who are sick of or hate that sort of thing I encourage you to scroll on.

It is a rant regarding the charade which is finally coming to an end.  It is about the selected puppets of the ruling elite in the American Empire who will be paraded before the world a little more before its subjects are told that they have “chosen” one of them to lead.

Here is the deal.  I should be happy for the absurd theatrics finally being over, right? But the thing is, I’m not. I shouldn’t give a damn either, right? I no longer live in the heart of the most ruthless and powerful Empire the world has ever known. But the thing is, I do.  America IS, in fact, the most ruthless and powerful Empire the world has ever known. And its machinations have effects very far from its contested borders.

trump-vs-clinton-photo-newsweekI guess I fear what I know is coming next.  If Hillary Clinton is crowned those of us on the far Left who weep will be ridiculed, maligned or chided for not celebrating with gusto the first female President and the continuance of American aggression and dynastic rule. If in some bizarre anomaly the orange tinted creep sweeps to the throne those of us on the Left who denounced Clinton’s horrific war mongering and corporate loving record and refused to play the inane game of “lesser evilism” will be pilloried and blamed for enabling it all.

In all truth I will be thoroughly shocked if Clinton is not selected.  Even George W. Bush, the vile war criminal of the previous administration, has given tacit endorsement of Hillary Clinton in a letter condemning Trump. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention, but it is remarkably simple to condemn that repugnant man with fire retardant flesh tone. And this letter speaks volumes because Bush knows full well that it will bolster Clinton in the neocon circles of the oligarchy. Scores of conservative newspapers have lined up endorsing Clinton also. So with Clinton nearly a shoe in, I know what else is coming.

 

With the Obama regime as historical precedent, it is safe to assume that white American liberals will shrug indifferent shoulders and fall asleep once more as their government drones children and grandmothers picking okra in their fields or subverts democratically elected governments in the Middle East or Africa or Latin America.  They will become champions of reactionary nationalism as a Clinton administration leads the nation into open conflicts with nuclear armed Russia.  They will once again turn their heads from the decades long Israeli apartheid regime as Clinton pledges even more support to the hard right despot Netanyahu.  They will stay silent in criticism of Clinton’s promotion of fracking or dismantling of social security, something which can be done without much protest under a Democrat.  But they can continue to post noncommittal memes on Facebook and Twitter expressing outrage or solidarity with black or brown or red people besieged by a racist system without demanding the dismantling of the very system of capitalist exploitation that is the source of their misery in the first place.

They will rest on the laurels in smug slumber since, in that case, a woman with a big “D” will be sitting in the Oval office. And we should all applaud that, right? First woman president of the American Empire and all?  Never mind that a woman named Jill Stein who, while far from perfect, had much greater progressive credentials. Never mind that Margaret Thatcher was also a woman, and one who had a remarkably similar neoconservative resume to Clinton.  Never mind that Ms. Clinton supported (and continues to support) a rightwing coup in Honduras that has taken the lives of scores of indigenous, environmental and LGBTQ people, including indigenous environmental activist Berta Cáceres.  Or pushed Obama into decimating Libya, once the richest state in Africa, and ghoulishly celebrated the gruesome murder of its president. Or in Haiti where she aided in the creation of a sweatshop economy on behalf of American garment corporations upon an already historically oppressed and humiliated people.

But really, who seriously believes that the privileged white Liberal class in America gives a rat’s ass about those foreign black and brown people?  How many white Liberals care about black, brown and red people here, the ones right at home labeled “super predators” by the Queen in waiting only a few years ago, or ignored by her at Standing Rock Sioux?

berta-caceres-murdered-by-the-right-wing-coup-government-that-hillary-clinton-supported-and-defends-to-this-day-photo-source-latino-rebels

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protests-against-clinton-in-haiti-photo-source-nytForgive me if I fail to celebrate with the Liberal Class if Clinton is anointed Empress. It is beyond question that Trump is a racist vile creature of narcissism and arrogant stupidity. But if self described “progressives” think the Bloody Queen will promote a left friendly agenda that will stop military aggression, the collapse of the biosphere due to blatant rape of the earth by corporations, and cease support for Wall Street then they have been drinking a Kool-Aid far more lethal than any flag waving, Trump supporting, walking head wound.

In any case, we on the true Left must somehow stomach it all and struggle on against militaristic imperialism for the sake of building a more compassionate and just world while there is still time left.  And I couldn’t be more serious about the “while there is time left” part.  We are running out of that one precious resource rapidly thanks to climate change, the ever present nuclear menace, global pandemic and biosphere collapse.  But after all, if we are still in possession of a conscience what else can we do?

End rant here.

 

Kenn Orphan  2016

The Oligarchs, the Liberal Class and a Basket of Deplorables

This past summer when I had a little time on my hands I decided to watch “The Hunger Games” again (yes, I watch and like certain movies out of pop culture and I am not ashamed to admit that).  Suzanne Collins did an amazing job at creating a mirror image of the real world we live in today.   But I think the most accurate is in her representation of the wealthy and vapid citizens of the Capitol of Panem.  To me, it appears to be a reflection of how out of touch the elites of the Liberal class are with the everyday plight of ordinary people.  Their place in a crumbling society does more to protect the excesses of the Oligarchy than champion the rights of the oppressed.   And it is their smug lack of self awareness that may very well do them in.  This is just an analysis, or an observation.  But before I go on I should clarify terms.
capitol-citizens-still-from-the-hunger-gamesI distinguish the Liberal class from leftists in that the latter cannot, in good conscience, ever support the current corporate plutocracy, or its wars for capitalistic imperialism and wanton plunder of the planet for obscene materialistic profit.  And when I use the term Liberal class I am referring to that small group of pundits, celebrities, journalists, socialites, fashion and culture gurus and career politicians within the current order, not people who hold progressive values like women’s and LGBTQ rights or racial equality.   The Liberal class believes in these things also, or at least they say that they do.  But they are unwilling to do anything that would endanger the institutional structures of capitalism that are the primary engines of misogyny, homophobia and racism, because doing so would upend their privileged, elite status.

The Oligarchy is not too unlike that of any other era.  They possess tremendous power and own most of the planet’s material wealth. They are an untouchable class of wealth, albeit usually inherited or ill-gotten, who dominate the entire industrial capitalist scheme.  They are the .001% in a new Gilded Age and they tolerate and even mingle with the Liberal class only because they defend and promote the economic neoliberal order which fills their coffers.  Most revel in an inbred feeling of pseudo-supremacy, and many have a loathsome sociopathic quality to them.  Although they own most of the corporate media, silence is golden to them.   As in all things there are shades and nuances.  No one person is a clone of another.  But there are some things worth generalizing.
the-mellon-family-one-of-americas-richest-photo-by-jamel-toppin-of-forbesThe Liberal class has had the luxury to decry injustice in American society (and the world for that matter) from afar, in plush salons, high end clubs and trendy cafes thanks to their defense of a system that allows for an Oligarchy and aggressive neo-imperialism.  Their answer to social injustice is generally rooted in tepid reforms that do little, or more often resembles a smug, dismissive ridicule common to satirists like Andy Borowitz (1) and narcissistic, billionaire celebrities like George Clooney.

To them protesting misogyny is pushing the agenda of a woman candidate who has shown a remarkable likeness to the late political dominatrix Margaret Thatcher, instead of expressing solidarity with women in Honduras, Haiti or Libya who are being murdered or prostituted as a result of this same powerful woman’s actions.   Protesting homophobia is supporting Caitlyn Jenner, an over paid, over publicized transgendered Republican, rather than whistleblower Chelsea Manning, who has been publicly ridiculed for her sexuality and is languishing in prison for exposing the war crimes of the Empire.  Protesting racism is celebrating the eight year term of the first Black President, even though he has drone bombed innocent civilians, mostly brown and black people afar, excused torturers and war criminals from the previous administration, increased the surveillance state, and prosecuted more whistleblowers (including the aforementioned Manning) than all US Presidents combined.

hillary-clinton-speaks-at-a-lbgt-for-hillary-gala-in-new-york-on-friday-source-smhThe third category I wanted to talk about was recently referred to by Hillary Clinton at a well heeled fundraising gala in New York when she labelled half of Trump supporters “a basket of deplorables.” (2)   This, of course, only deepened the divide even more so in the minds of common people in regions of sacrificed America as sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild so eloquently explains.(3)  They already feel alienated and humiliated with few prospects for a brighter future, but they used this description as a badge of honor.  And although an ugly strain of racist fascism runs deep in a large section of Trump supporters, there are other factors at work that the Liberal class chooses to overlook.

When they are labeled like this, or see memes on social media insulting their intelligence they are more inclined to hate the Liberal class even more so, not alter their opinions and have a “come to Jesus” moment.  They may not be able to explain the source of their misery, but they live with the realities of economic neoliberalism, the most barbaric stage of capitalism, which the Liberal class has allowed by capitulating to the Oligarchs over and over.  And it isn’t only the white working class. When Black Lives Matter activists interrupted Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders speeches they were met with a barrage of vitriol and anger from a cadre of assorted Liberal elites chiding them for being rude (4).  How they compare protesting the modern day lynching of people of color to being ill-mannered to the powerful is a feat of obtuse absurdity.  But this is an illustration of just how disconnected they are to reality.
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a-black-lives-matter-activist-silently-protests-hillary-clinton-at-a-funraiser-in-south-carolina-photo-source-salonIn his recent article “The Courtiers and the Tyrants”  veteran journalist and antiwar activist Chris Hedges explained how clueless the liberal class is when it comes to how many ordinary Americans actually see them:

“The Democratic and the professional elites are an easy and often amusing target. One could see them, in another era, prancing at a masked ball at Versailles on the eve of the revolution. They are oblivious to how hated they have become. They do not understand that when they lambast Donald Trump as a disgrace or a bigot they swell his support because they, not Trump, are seen by many Americans as the enemy. But these courtiers did not create the system. They sold themselves to it. And if Americans do not understand how we got here we are never going to find our way out.” (5)

If Hillary Clinton is anointed Empress of the American Empire the Liberal class will sigh in relief.  They can continue to shop at Barney’s, attend well heeled openings at the Guggenheim and complain in acceptable forums, financed by the Oligarchy, about injustice and civil rights. But they will be asked to do little more than this.  The institutions that make society livable and promising will continue to be steadily gutted, privatized and de-valued.   If Trump is somehow able to seize the throne they know their privilege will remain largely in tact, but they will not be so free to express their thoughts except in discretion at private cocktail parties.  Every last institution will be debased in such a way that they offer nothing to the enrichment of humanity, but merely serve as a brutal bulwark for the wealthy against the masses.  The Liberal class also knows how capricious authoritarians can be and that the silent Oligarchy will abandon them in a heartbeat at first sight of a brownshirt.

the-hunger-games-catching-fire-president-snow-played-by-donald-sutherland
donald-trump-photo-credit-newscorpIn Suzanne Collins “The Hunger Games” the citizens of the Capitol were completely out of touch with the suffering, brutality, poverty and repression of the other districts.  They lived comfortable, self-obsessed lives snug to the halls of power. They dined and vomited their meals like the ancient Romans did, so that they could keep feasting even while the masses starved. They were easily swayed by sentimentality and distraction. President Snow, the fictional tyrant of Panem, was far more refined and intelligent than the bombastic narcissist Trump, but his rival, President Coin, was no less ruthless and revealed a comparable penchant for blood lust and authoritarianism.

fictional-president-coin-of-the-hunger-games-and-hillary-clinton-photo-credit-rebloggyTo be sure, one would be foolish to reduce current events to a dystopic, scifi novel (or a Hollywood movie) primarily written for teenagers.  And we would be doing a disservice if we ignored nuance and context. But we are at a deep moment in human history. The biosphere is teetering on the edge of collapse thanks to the excesses of the privileged few in the West.  The nuclear menace has never left us.  This is the kind of moment where factors may begin to converge and create the potential for a monumental shift in the dominant paradigm. But this can go either well or very, very badly.  The wave of justified animus toward the ruling establishment is growing in many communities across the nation, black, white and Native American.   But just as this rage could be channeled into progressive social and ecological transformation, it could also lead toward violent fascism.  And the recipe of that includes economic downturn, ecological devastation and social unrest.

As in fictional Panem, the Liberal class of the American Empire is out of touch to the everyday miseries of ordinary working people and prefer to smugly dismiss them as stupid or backward or simply misinformed, while defending the very institutions that contributed to the destruction of civic life and the commons in the first place.  It is unlikely they will wake up in time to avoid the coming fires of revolution. We can only hope that that “basket of deplorables” Hillary Clinton described will be more merciful than the Oligarchs the Liberals have defended all this time.  Speaking of them, they will likely fair better.  They will have slipped away silently into the night long before a single match is lit.

jennifer-lawrence-as-catniss-in-the-hunger-games-photo-still-from-movie
Kenn Orphan 2016

(1) http://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report/many-in-nation-tired-of-explaining-things-to-idiots

(2)  http://www.cnn.com/2016/09/09/politics/hillary-clinton-donald-trump-basket-of-deplorables/

(3) http://www.democracynow.org/2016/9/28/what_drives_trump_supporters_sociologist_arlie

(4) http://usuncut.com/black-lives-matter/clinton-holds-campaign-speech-in-atlanta-to-discuss-race-throws-out-black-lives-matter-activists-video/

(5) http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_courtiers_and_the_tyrants_20160918

On Presidential Debates, Political Theatre and Shadow Puppets

Tonight’s US Presidential debates between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will be watched by many around the world, but it would be hard to argue that any of them will be watching with hopes for something of substance.  Some of the most important topics facing humanity (and countless other species for that matter) may be touched upon, but not in a way that gives them the respect, attention and the intelligent discourse they deserve.  And most thoughtful people understand that this a farce anyway.  Banal, manufactured outrage will be the main entrée served.  A stale, unoriginal and rehashed dish as the recipe demands.  The questions will be carefully vetted to exclude content offensive to corporate interests.  And no third party candidate, not one, will be permitted into the debate despite the glaring unpopularity of the two selected candidates.  So if any of this is true why would anyone watch it?

 

Here are just four major, existential issues that may or not may not be addressed, and how the two candidates measure up:

Climate change is a verifiable fact accepted by 97% of the scientific community, mass species extinction is accelerating and caused by human activity, and the collapse of the biosphere may be imminent thanks to the rapacious greed of industry, the military industry and consumerism.

Trump incredulously peddles the inane lie that global warming is a hoax made up by China and he would like nothing more than to implement policies that would turn the already beleaguered American landscape into one resembling Xingtai.  He is an obvious human supremacist, wedded to capitalist plunder of the earth.

Clinton has taken boat loads of money from the fossil fuel industry and did her best to promote fracking worldwide via her position as Secretary of State.  Her view of Iraq as a business opportunity also signals that she has no intention of doing anything to alter the current earth destroying economic model.

xingtai-china-photo-by-itv

Police violence against unarmed, black people is rife and blatant as cities are erupting in justified protest.

Trump has made heinous statements about Mexicans, Muslims and people of color.  He is unabashedly totalitarian in his outlook and style and has said he thinks more, unquestioned police power is the solution to an already thoroughly corrupted system.

Clinton enthusiastically supported and promoted her husbands racist economic and crime policies which primarily targeted people of color and created the incarceration industrial behemoth that has ballooned the prison population to what it is today.  She supports neoliberal economic polices which decimate poor communities, especially communities of color.  She has also been very tepid in her support of Black Lives Matter.

 

Protesters, marching against the killing of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, hold placards towards members of the New York Police Department on motorbikes in Manhattan, New York, U.S., July 7, 2016. Picture taken July 7, 2016. REUTERS/Bria Webb - RTX2KE8I

Militarism is a growing threat and the nuclear annihilation menace never went away.

Trump’s positions have aligned perfectly with plumping even further an already bloated and smug military industrial complex.  His finger on the proverbial “button” should also keep any sane person awake at night.

Clinton has a trail of bodies following her from wars, coups and interventions she has voted for, championed and supported from Iraq to Libya to Honduras.  The military industrial complex, including profiteers like Lockheed Martin, Grumman and Boeing, are very keen on her and she gets high marks on her foreign policy from war criminals like Henry Kissinger and Bill Kristol.
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The divide between the uber wealthy and the rest of us is growing faster than anyone can keep up with.

Both Trump and Clinton travel in circles of the monied, elite class, attending each others weddings and golf dates, buying up real estate and enjoying high priced, celebrity festooned galas honoring their philanthropy. Both are thoroughly entrenched in oligarchy and enjoy enormous wealth plundered via the most brutal form of economic tyranny: neoliberal capitalism. Which thrives on austerity for the poor, privatization of all things public, and de-regulation of industry and labour. It is a scam of the most cruel kind.

A vacant, boarded up house is seen in the once thriving Brush Park neighborhood with the downtown Detroit skyline behind it in Detroit, Michigan March 3, 2013. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder cleared the way for a state takeover of Detroit, declaring that the birthplace of the U.S. automotive industry faces a fiscal emergency and that he has identified a top candidate to assume its management. Friday's declaration by the Republican governor virtually assures that the state of Michigan will assume control of Detroit's books, and eventually decide whether the city should file the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. REUTERS/ Rebecca Cook (UNITED STATES - Tags: CITYSCAPE REAL ESTATE BUSINESS POLITICS) - RTR3EJDQ

 

Tonight the most absurd form of political theatre in a corporate, plutocratic state, the Presidential Debates, will be held with much media fanfare.  Tomorrow conservative blowhards will litter the talkwaves with bizarre conspiracy theories about Hillary’s health or her Benghazi affair.  Liberal pundits will chide anyone on the left that calls out Ms. Clinton’s ultra-conservative, war mongering, Wall Street loving credentials as being a secret Tea Party, Trump supporting misogynist.  Trump’s blustering buffoonery will be lampooned as the notorious ramblings of a pathetically obsolete, yet somehow lovable, casino don.  And the corporate elite class will sit back in plush board rooms and on country club golf carts grinning smugly after giving us masses a dose of innocuous pablum that they hope will at most numb our interest in the political process, or at least disgust us at the sorry state of government.  But we should see it for what it truly is: one more attempt to distract us from their lucrative exploits in fear mongering, division, arms dealing, slave labor economics, third world extortion, and earth destroying for profit.

The value of theatre, as opposed to the Hollywood deception of it being all about entertainment, is to move one’s consciousness.  This will do neither.  It will not ignite a mass movement with the imagination for a just, fair and pristine world suitable for everyone to live in.  Nor will it spark a movement to make actual, measurable, meaningful change.  What it will do without a doubt is produce an infinite glut of social media clickbaits and memes, punchlines for comedians and themes for over the top op-eds expressing artificial outrage at one comment or another.  Context, nuance and critical thought be damned.

So I ask again, if any of this is true why would anyone watch it?

I, for one, am over these shadow puppets on the cave wall.

Kenn Orphan 2016

Ushering in the Closing Chapter of the Human Species

The epic assaults being carried out against the vulnerable around the world at this very moment will determine the fate of our species and the living earth itself.  To the powerful this statement is hyperbole at its extreme, but to those of us on the other side there is no condemnation that is too exaggerated when it comes to the destruction of communities and of the biosphere itself.  The attacks are taking place along ancient rivers in the American Dakotas, in the life drenched rain forests of Ecuador, in historic olive groves in Palestine, in the melting tundra of the Arctic circle, in the sun baked Niger Delta, and in the war torn or misery laden shanty’s of Aleppo, Kolkata, Jakarta, Nairobi and beyond.  These may seem like separate instances to some, but they are a part of a global struggle and the outcome will in all likelihood determine our collective future and that of millions of other species that we share this planet with.

This screen shot from a Democracy NOW! video purports to show security dogs used Sept. 3, 2016, to drive back protestors who had overrun the Dakota Access Pipeline worksite north of Cannon Ball, N.D. Images Courtesy Democracy NOW!

indigenous-leaders-from-ecuador-protest-chevrons-deliberate-pollution-of-the-rainforest-photo-from-new-york-timesI believe that the intersectionality of these conflicts are indicative of a broader struggle over guiding principles and mythologies.  Some may see this as an oversimplification, and while I would agree that we should be careful to consider and respect nuance, context and individual histories, there are some general themes which may unite us while there is still time.  These conflicts have been with our species since we began to walk upright.  But now they are global in scale and there are two sides that should be identified above all others.

One side values living beings over profit, and sees protection of the water and the soil and the air as the most fundamental responsibilities of any society.  It values cooperation and generosity above individual ambition.  It shuns all forms of violent coercion, land theft and repression.  It is against aggression and wars of conquest.  It is the way of Community. The other is based upon the dominance of the physically powerful and suppression of the weak. It sees the living planet merely as a means for amassing material profit.  It commodifies everything, living and non.  It values avarice and ruthless competition over cooperation. It believes the only viable way forward is through suppression of dissent, ridicule, marginalization of the poor and the downtrodden, jingoistic nationalism and organized State violence.  It is the way of Empire.

palestinian-protesters-stand-amid-blazes-set-by-settlers-to-their-olive-groves-photo-source-transcend

canadian-paramilitary-forces-attack-indigenous-elsipogtog-mi-kmaq-first-nation-and-local-residents-as-they-blockaded-a-new-brunswick-fracking-exploration-site-photo-from-common-dreams

activists-in-port-harcourt-nigeria-photo-source-earth-first-journalThe language of Empire is duplicitous.  It employs the parlance of pale euphemisms like sustainability, austerity or free trade to obscure its true authoritarian and feudalistic intentions.  It encourages nationalistic sentimentality and racial and ethnic division to obscure the reality of its imposed classism.  It objectifies the living planet through clever marketing and branding with such subtle ease that it becomes ever more difficult to decipher and parse.  But in the end the Empire cannot cloak the stench of a dying world forever with catchy jingles, cynical ploys, shiny new objects, paranoid bigotries or vapid distractions.

In their quest to maintain and grow their coffers, the powerful see the dissolving ice cap as a strategic business opportunity for geopolitical advancement.  They see the growing difficulty in extracting high quality petroleum as an excuse to erase ancient mountaintops, pierce deep ocean trenches and scrape away primeval forests for less viable and more earth damaging fossil fuels.  They see growing inequities between us and the handful of people who own half the world’s wealth as opportunities for enhanced security walls and surveillance.  They see hunger and famine as a chance to litter the world with pesticides and chemically or genetically altered food or factory farms which are little more than massive concentration camps for sentient beings.  They see flattened forests and fouled rivers as a way of moving indigenous peoples into overcrowded, cordoned off corporate colonies for easier exploitation, social control and abandonment.  And if they continue on their path the world they are forging will rival every other civilization in history in atrocity, repression and misery.

President Clinton And President George W. Bush Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Trump and Clinton. Getty Images.

Oil Executives. Source: Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesThe war the Empire is waging is not about isms or ideologies, it is about power, exploitation and wealth.  And to those of us being assaulted the cause is as urgent as it is dire.  It is literally about life and death.  We see the rising tides of an ever imperiled, acidic sea. We walk in the fallow fields where there may be no crops harvested tomorrow.  We breathe the acrid air choked out by smokestacks of insatiable, blind industry.  We see the walls and borders and checkpoints and guard dogs and police tanks and surveillance cameras and detention camps burgeoning as if unstoppable.  We hear the drums of imperialistic war being beaten every day of every year.  And we stand in shock at the unquenchable lust for wealth that stain the halls of power even as they dig our dusty mass graves.  When we sound the alarm or even raise concern about any of this we can expect to be ignored, chided or silenced by the powerful in the media, corporations, the military or political establishment or even clergy.  We anticipate being co-opted by the ruling oligarchy or by cynical corporate interests.  But we are weary of this kind of marginalization and we aren’t going down without a fight.

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ST. LOUIS, MO - MARCH 14: Ferguson activists march through downtown during a protest on March 14, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri. St. Louis and the nearby town of Ferguson have experienced many protests, which have often been violent, since the death of Michael Brown who was shot and killed by a Ferguson police officer in August. On Wednesday evening two police officers were shot while they were securing the Ferguson police station during a protest. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Officials observe indigenous people protesting in BrazilThe powerful will not stop waging their war this year or next.  It will undoubtedly play out and grow for the next few decades even as the planet’s ecosystem’s spiral and crash, because dollar signs and dominance are all they truly understand.   This is not just another chapter in some unending saga of the human story.  It is not something that any resident of planet earth can afford to sit out.   If they are victorious this war may very well usher in the closing chapter of the human species and far sooner than anyone could ever imagine.  We must join with each other if only to ease each others suffering, or bring one small amount of justice to the oppressed, or to protect one small river way or field or stretch of beach.  This war they are waging is against the living planet and their own future whether they realize it or not.  But even if they do not care about their children’s future, we must.

a-native-american-woman-sits-on-a-bluff-in-north-dakota-at-the-pipeline-protest-source-the-guardianKenn Orphan 2016