Tag Archives: war

The Enemy of Our Enemy is Not Always Our Friend

With the ascendancy of Donald Trump to the throne of the American Empire there has been mounting opposition from what has been referred to as the “Deep State.”  This is a term that refers to the idea of a shadow government which pulls the strings behind the scenes of the public face of the elected government.   The CIA, NSA, FBI, DHS, and DoD, among others, are often sited as the key players here and even a tertiary glance at history will attest to why this is so.   To be sure, this term has been over used by unhinged talk show hosts like Alex Jones, and it often provides cover for a thinly veiled and utterly reprehensible antisemitism.  But it isn’t a “conspiracy theory” to note the great power that these agencies and whom they represent have over American foreign and domestic policy.  Their opposition to Trump is not so much ideological as much as it is about influence.  To them Trump is an unpredictable, egotistical mess with mental instability on a grand scale.  This makes him virtually uncontrollable and that terrifies the elites.
donald-trump-and-the-deep-state-source-whowhatwhyThe Capitalist class has enjoyed the riches gleaned from neoliberal economic policies for decades; and Trump’s anti-globalism and xenophobic talk threatens their bread and butter.  To be sure, their thievery is as abhorrent as Trump’s coming kleptocracy; and both signal the death throes of global capitalism. But the Liberal class and even some on the Left, have been aligning themselves with the oligarchy in order to derail and depose Trump.  That they are inadvertently supporting increased militarism in a world where nuclear annihilation is still a menace, war profiteering for the wealthy elite, and the return of a new Cold War hysteria is of no concern to them.  One must wonder if they have really thought any of this through.

Let’s face it.  Trump is vile, but he is an easy target. His rise provides those of us on the left with a convenient, external decoy to lob all our fears and failings at.  And although he may be emblematic of the essential rot that typifies late stage capitalism the powerful institutional forces that are seeking to depose him wish only to do so in order to sustain the very machine from which he emerged.  A machine of absurd consumption of dwindling resources and war profiteering for the benefit of a few, on a planet whose biosphere is in a state of collapse thanks to the relentless marauding and pillaging.

It’s true that Trump has gathered around him a collection of religious extremists, racists, xenophobes, misogynists, science denialists, Islamophobes and militarists. But his overt bullying, déclassé style and grotesque vulgarity are really the only thing which distinguish him from the powerful elite whose plutocratic tyranny long preceded his infamous meteoric rise.  They have always championed the bloody plunder of the Capitalist order of things because it has maintained their hegemonic control and filled their coffers with untold fortune. Granted they generally did this with the veneer of respectability through exploiting identity politics; but this was a diversion they used to placate the sycophantic Liberal and bourgeois classes while they fattened up on ill gotten gain and carpet bombed the poor of the world.  Make no mistake, their Machiavellian machinations are one and the same with the orange tinted megalomaniac who is about to sit in the Oval Office.  It is his loathsome, distasteful and scurrilous demeanor they find most displeasing, not his love of Capitalism.

capitalism-source-rationalwikiIt is ironic to me that so many are looking to this very same corrupt establishment to lead the opposition to Trump and his band of thieves. Certainly politics makes strange bed fellows, but few seem to question what will happen should they succeed in deposing him.  Do any of them really think the CIA, DHS and all the other nefarious institutional players will cede power to the people, especially in a time of economic strife, ecological failure and geopolitical wrangling?  Do they remember who it was who has led wars and directed coups to topple democratically elected governments around the world?  Do they realize who it is these institutions really represent?  Do they care?  The answer is not too difficult to find.

An insidious and pervasive authoritarian fascism is embedded in every institution that controls or influences the US and it will not cede anything willingly to anyone. They protect the robber barons, industrialists and the aristocracy and their opposition to Trump is rooted in a defense of class privilege, not a love of democracy.  And the Liberal class has always stood as a bulwark of defense for this system, carefully guarding their own privilege to hold a seat at the table while casting crumbs to the grubby masses.  In desperation they will look to virtually anyone to protect this privilege against its inevitable decay.

Without a doubt the Trump regime is poised to speed up the unraveling of the American Empire.  The idea that a narcissistic buffoon like him could have such power would be comically absurd were it not so disastrous for the climate, the water and already marginalized and oppressed people.  But every administration, Democrat and Republican, in the last few decades has led us to the Age of Trump.  Indeed, President Obama created the conditions for a more aggressive fascism with the sweeping powers he granted to the Executive branch.

Now Trump will be able to detain or assassinate any American citizen without due process and will be able to crush dissent with impunity thanks to “anti-propaganda” measures designed to limit, intimidate and curtail freedom of the alternative press. Obama also led the way in deporting more undocumented people than the previous administration, prosecuting more whistleblowers than all US Presidents combined, increasing aid to belligerent regimes in Riyadh and Tel Aviv, supporting right wing coups like the one in Honduras which has caused the murders of scores of indigenous and environmental rights activists, and pulverized the poor in seven nations with over 26,000 bombs in his eight year reign. Trump will likely succeed him in this blood soaked legacy, but to sugarcoat this horrific past and its impact on the future would be both intellectually dishonest and ethically impoverished.

trump-protests-in-chicago-photo-source-nbc-newsTrump, his minions and the new brand of authoritarianism must be opposed and the Left needs to mobilize quickly.  But this cannot be done effectively unless the system which produced him is recognized as the real menace.  It is the global Capitalist class which are the “men behind the curtain” so to speak.  Aligning with the powerful to oppose the powerful will only end up serving their interests alone, and it will merely feed a machine that is hellbent on leading our species, and every other, toward certain destruction.   Indeed, this kind of tactic will be a no win situation for everyone.

 

Kenn Orphan 2017

 

Syria: Making Sense of the Senseless

Like many of you, I have seen the reports emerging from Aleppo, Syria (east and west) in the last day, and I have been attempting to sort through the deluge of info. The images and videos are heartbreaking, confusing and conflicting. And my Facebook newsfeed has shown me a great split of reactions. Undoubtedly this is a complex situation with many historic, social, ethnic and political nuances and intricacies.  I have studied the Middle-East much of my life, worked with refugees from the region, and have several Syrian friends (on both sides) and others who worked with Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) in the war torn areas including Aleppo. Even still, I find it difficult to parse out the full truth in this age of utter absurdity, half truths, falsified or shoddy journalism and outright surreal propaganda.   This is how I am making sense of the senseless so far.
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Syria cannot simply be viewed in a vacuum.  In the global picture it is a proxy war between the US, Nato and Russia. And it is not a fantasy that foreign mercenaries and militants did unfortunately infiltrate the popular uprising against Assad.  This is not surprising since the entire region was radically destabilized over the course of decades from US/Nato meddling, wars and CIA operations to subvert democracy.  Where Syria sits on the map leaves it open for opportunists radicalized by the exploits of imperialist wars.  Samantha Power’s (US Ambassador to the UN) nauseating hypocrisy yesterday notwithstanding, the US has already been at war against Syria, dropping over 20,000 bombs in the last year alone.  And Power conveniently absolves her and her betters of the shame of decimating Iraq and Libya, and aiding Israel and the Saudis in their murderous massacres of civilians in Gaza and Yemen respectively.

Annette Hornischer / American Academy in Berlin / Kissinger Prize / 2016 06 08

Russia has had a bloody hand in this imperialistic game of chess from the start too. It sees the crumbling edifice of the American Empire. It knows that it is an arrogant beast drunk on its own hubris, yet despite its alarming madness it is armed to the teeth with nukes and has circled its borders and China with dozens of military bases. As any empire, even an ancient and faded one, Russia is asserting itself on the world stage and reinserting its influence on its own long held client states in the region. For the American Empire it is Israel and, to a lesser extent, Saudi Arabia. For Russia it is Syria and, to a much lesser extent, Iran. To be sure, both Empires could not care one bit about the people in their client states. This is a chess game of psychopaths, authoritarians and tyrants, and they are in it to win even if everyone loses in the end. In essence, it is the powerful, big players and small, who have been responsible for the misery and carnage and I shall give not one of them a pass. It is the people I care about, not any one of their leaders.
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My heart breaks when I read the reports and see the innocent victims in Aleppo. No, they are NOT all “head chopping” terrorists.  In fact by many reliable estimates violent radicals make up only a small percentage of the total sum as many of them fled the city months ago. The vast majority are simply trying to survive and have been caught in the middle, just as civilians in Yemen and Gaza. Regardless of their politics, the people in East Aleppo are flesh and blood human beings with hopes, joys, fears and dreams, deserving of dignity, compassion and safe passage.  Only the most hardened of cynics could see the mountains of ghoulish evidence and turn a smug shoulder of indifference to it or ignore the monstrous crimes of Assad.
It may seem ironic to some, but I have understanding for those Syrians who may be celebrating in West Aleppo and Damascus too. Their nation has been under siege and their entire way of life has been either shattered or threatened for at least 6 years.  Can anyone of us blame these people for celebrating what might signal, accurate or not, an end to this horrific war?  Would any of us be any different were it us in their shoes?  I cannot celebrate with them because I cannot celebrate heaven while there are still those suffering in hell. But their hopes and fears should not be dismissed either.  Most Syrians love their ancient nation, the cradle of civilization.  But violent extremism is not an inflated fear.  It is as real to them as the brutality of tyrannical dictatorship.
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Forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad stand atop a damaged tank near Umayyad mosque, in the government-controlled area of Aleppo, during a media tour, Syria December 13, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

How can we, as non-Syrians, make sense of all of this?  I cannot speak for anyone but myself.  And my principles remain unchanged.  My solidarity is not with the powerful.  It will never be.  It will always be with those who suffer, the vulnerable, the oppressed, the persecuted.  It is antiwar, ALL war.  It is anti-imperialism, ALL imperialism.  These are the principles I will continue to champion regardless of how murky things may become in the dire days ahead.

But I will confess that, personally, I am tired of the grandstanding, ad hominem slurs, demonizing, straw man fallacies, bullying and petty fight picking I see going between activists on all political fronts.   When it comes to this issue I am choosing to listen only to ordinary Syrians on which ever side they may fall.  Their voices, while they matter the most, have been the most muted in all of this and I cannot help to think that this is by design.

Kenn Orphan  2016

Fake News in the Epoch of Propaganda

Since the fiasco of this last US Presidential election cycle the corporate press has been busy launching a crusade against “fake news” and scrambling to understand why it is that so many people despise and distrust them.   Unsurprisingly, they have many fingers to point, but not one of them is toward themselves.   In the last week we have endured self righteous, nauseating screeds by elitist blowhards like Dan Rather and Christiane Amanpour imploring the press to “step up” now that the fascist Trump has been swept to the throne of American Empire.  Their egregious lack of introspection is baffling given that only six companies own nearly 90% of all media and has been the mouthpiece for and defender of Corporate State sponsored plunder, murder and mayhem for decades.
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Without a doubt Trump is horrifying.  And now this megalomaniac who wears his racist, misogynistic ignorance as a badge of honor, has sweeping powers granted to him from the Obama presidency.  So the question to them is where were they when President Obama was expanding these Executive Branch powers?  Where were they when he was drone bombing wedding parties and ambulances? Were they too busy boozing it up at the White House Correspondents Association Dinner and laughing at the President’s joke about using these drones to take out the Jonas brothers?  Where were they when he said he was “really good at killing people,” or when he codified the indefinite detention of American citizens by military tribunal, or when his regime was assassinating American citizens all without due process?
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somalia-drones-obamaWhere were they when his administration excused the torturing criminals from the previous Bush regime?  Or prosecuted more whistleblowers than all US presidents combined, like the mercilessly persecuted Chelsea Manning who exposed US war crimes?  Or deported more undocumented people than any other US President?  Or when the news of his “Kill List” surfaced?  Or when his Secretary of State pushed for decimating Libya and ghoulishly celebrated the gruesome murder of its president on one of their news segments exclaiming in true imperialistic form: “We came, we saw, he died?”  Their coverage of all of this was either weak as dishwater or buried in back pages, but they had no trouble reporting “news” related to celebrities or sports, or inflating crises and stoking paranoia as in the instance of the human tragedy of Ebola in West Africa.
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The same corporate news imploring the public to shun “fake news” had no problem peddling propaganda that led to the war on Vietnam and Iraq and Libya.  It downplayed the cruelty of the medieval kingdoms of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and the decades long system of apartheid in Israel.  It has spent its lifetime being the mouthpiece for Empire, Inc. and made a career of manufacturing outrage, vapid celebrity obsession and paranoia, spinning the planet killing lies of the fossil fuel and war industries, and spreading Pentagon lies which have cost millions of lives and contributed to one of the biggest mass migrations in human history.  It has suppressed existential news related to Fukushima and climate change, virtually ignored systemic racism and the prison/surveillance machine, and is turning a blind eye to the unfolding atrocities at Standing Rock Sioux.  And yet somehow with all of this it has the gall to expect people of conscience to feel sorry for it, forget about these lies and omissions, and believe them now when they cry foul after that cloak of deception has been lifted.

The hubris of the powerful dances with willful ignorance in the most stunning of ways indeed.

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

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 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?

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libya-a-failed-state-photo-source-sean-kilpatrick

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

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.
aleppo-syria-photo-credit-al-jazeera

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

One Dark Night in Orlando

Practically any member of the LGBTQ community understands the power and sense of place that the night club holds.  It has always been a place where one can let down their guard for a few hours, dance like crazy with friends and feel the joy of being free.   All that was shattered in Orlando on Sunday, June 12, after a gunman opened fire in the crowded dance club “Pulse” in Orlando, Florida.   But it wasn’t just shattered there, it was shattered everywhere.

LGBTQ people, in whatever culture or society they belong to, identify with each other in very tangible ways.  Even in the most tolerant of societies it is dangerous and often lethal to be outward about ones sexuality in public.  Holding hands, kissing or dressing in accordance with your gender identity often leads to slurs, threats and violent assaults.  Most of these go unreported or are dismissed, but they occur every single day.   The club offered a sanctuary from the dangers of the street.  Now that has changed.

Grief following the massacre at Pulse dance club in Orlando Florida. Source APIn time the club will once again become a place of freedom and the joy of expression. But for now the global LGBTQ community is in mourning.  Every tragedy like this inhabits its own sphere of injustice, sorrow and pain; but they are related to one another in that they emerge from a common place, the dark underbelly of supremacist thinking.   This kind of thinking can unhinge a small few who may already struggle with mental illness and its stigma, and have relatively easy access to extremely lethal weapons.  But it is not limited to homophobia.  It is a vicious infection that fuels all paranoid bigotries, including Islamophobia.

In the aftermath of this tragedy Muslims from all over have come forward to denounce the actions of this man who self identified as being a Muslim.  They should not have had to do this since no one asks Christians or Jews or Buddhists or Hindus to denounce violence done in their names.  But many volunteered to assist with helping families and loved ones and many more gave blood for the victims even though it is the holy month of Ramadan and doing so meant not being able to replenish their bodies until after sundown.  It is this kind of solidarity that we must focus on.  It is this common humanity that we must choose to believe in.

Not in My Name, Muslims condemn Orlando attack.In the coming weeks and months this atrocity will be exploited by pundits and political leaders.  Indeed, it has already begun. The language of discrimination and bigotry is being employed to stoke fear and suspicion at home, and justify more war and military aggression abroad.  It is therefore imperative for people of conscience to expose the fear mongering for what it is and shun it.

The LGBTQ community is in shock.  It has witnessed unspeakable horror and it is hurting.  But it will heal.  And I have every confidence that it will emerge stronger and embrace its intrinsic humanity more than ever before.

Kenn Orphan 2016

Grieving in Silence

When I was in my early twenties I never thought that in my lifetime I would see the death of the Great Barrier Reef and scores of other coral reefs around the world.  I never thought I would see the temperature of the North Pole reach 50 degrees Fahrenheit above normal, or gigantic nation-sized shelves of ice simply break off and fall into the sea in Antarctica.  I never thought I would read about scores of species dying en masse, washing up on shores, or going extinct every single day.   I never thought that plastic in the seas would outweigh marine life by mid century, or huge swaths of forest succumb to pine beetles and blight.  Now twenty years on I have witnessed all of that and more, and most of it has happened in just the last few years. I often find myself being overwhelmed by an enormous tide of grief that envelopes my entire being; and it doesn’t countenance being ignored.

But I live within a society that values denial over truth.  And lately I have begun to relate more to Edvard Munch’s iconic painting “The Scream.” It seems to me to be the perfect emblem of our times, an anthem of despair silenced by the absurdity of the status quo.   I realize that many of us feel this deep sense of sorrowful terror; but many more can do little more than cry out in that private, interior space that our culture has consigned us to.
The Scream by Edvard Munch.Many traditions have a public means for displaying private grief.   Years ago, in Europe and in the Americas, those who were mourning the death of a loved one announced their grief to others by wearing a piece of black cloth around their arm or by placing a black wreath upon their front doors. Today much of that has been rejected as being too morbid or depressing Perhaps part of this normalization is due to our evolutionary heritage; but certainly the distractions of our industrialized culture have numbed most of our senses and reinforced the myth of our separateness from the natural world.  How else can the absence of outrage or public lamentation regarding the unfolding ecocide be explained?

I, like almost everyone else I know, go about my day in the routine that has been assigned to me by society.  I get up in the morning, take the drugs that keep my blood pressure in check, eat something processed, wash up and merge into the busy and confining passages that define modernity.  Living within this labyrinth discourages any introspection. There simply isn’t enough time, ever.  Thoughts about our place in the universe, or our mortality, or the meaning of it all are summarily dismissed in this culture.  In the media or in popular entertainment this subject is usually only included as a form of comic relief.  “What is the meaning of life?” has become the crux of jokes.  We are chided or ridiculed for thinking too much and sent to a cubicle to perform as a useful cog in the machine of industry; and then to another cubicle to shop for items we are told we need or that will “enhance” our lives, and then to a cubicle that we are charged money to live in and sit in front of yet another cubicle that tells us what to think, how to feel, and what is important.

Cubicles via The Repetitive Swan.This is the only way that it can all work.  It is the only way that the natural world can be compartmentalized and commodified.  It is the only way that the killing ideologies of militarism, nationalism and capitalism can go unquestioned.  Now, of course, we can see it has worked all too well as we march head long into extinction with nary a concern.  But the tower of mythology that supports every aspect of industrial civilization is beginning to crumble beneath the weight of its own hubris and apathetic indulgences.  We ignored the planet’s boundaries, and now those boundaries are closing in on us fast.

The world will look very different in just a mere decade or so.  This is not a prophetic declaration, it is a certainty that is easy to demonstrate.  Our leaders, when they are not in outright denial, reinforce the absurd notion that we still have plenty of time to stop climate change even as it is abruptly shifting before our eyes.  And sustainability is nothing more than a lie of consumer capitalism.  What, after all, is worth sustaining?  A societal model that requires an economy that must grow regardless of the ecological and social costs?  Or that tolerates mass species extinction?  Or that allows for endless military aggression to ensure a constant flow of minerals and fuel to produce objects which will end up in a landfill or in the ocean for eons?  If depression and neuroses are companions of cancer and heart disease in this model of sustainability, is this really worth preserving?

The stark truth is that there is little collective will to change the path we are currently on as a species.  Its trajectory is solidly towards collapse of the biosphere.  And even if monumental changes were implemented tomorrow by the powers that be it would not stop the seas from rising, or stop the process of ocean acidification, or resolve the plastic soup that churns at its center, or solve the never ending meltdown at Chernobyl or Fukushima, or prevent the release of methane from the seabed, or stave off famine for millions of people, and bring back thousands of species now gone forever.

Greetings from California by Joe Webb.I realize that this entire essay is antithetical to the zeitgeist of interminable optimism that defines our age.  In truth, I gave up trying to fit into this model a long time ago when I saw it as merely a kind of collective psychosis.  I write because, selfishly, I must.  It is my silent scream outward from a dark, interior pain of alienation, frustration and sadness.  I am not looking for a magic elixir or a pharmaceutical or an intervention to medicate or block out this pain either.  I want to feel it because it exists and because this is a culture that I wish to separate myself from; and I think we must all feel it and show this publicly while we still have time.  I don’t think that doing any of this will spare us the calamities that appear to be waiting for us just down the road, but maybe it can help us reclaim a sense of meaning to it all that has been robbed from us by an insipid, manic and brutal system of mindless consumption, and vacuous distraction.

I see what is unfolding and I cannot help but feel great sorrow.  My scream of anguish, though silent, can no longer be inward.  I am in mourning.  I grieve all that has been and will be lost.  And I will place a black wreath upon my door and wear a black cloth around my arm for all the world to see, not because I am brave, but because I simply cannot grieve in silence anymore.

Kenn Orphan  2016

The Future Belongs to You

Recently, I’ve seen calls from the Democratic Party, and many of their supporters, for progressives and the Left in general to “unite” behind Hillary Clinton. This is nothing new for those of us who have been around a few elections cycles; but for millennials this is becoming a lesson in how this sham of a democracy works. You see, the Democratic Party elite have been lurching toward the right for decades.  They may be progressive when it comes to social issues for political reasons, like LGBTQ and women’s reproductive rights, but they, along with their Republican counterparts, have forged an unbreakable bond forged in the gilded towers of the elite.  It is called oligarchy.  And there is not a shard of light between them when it comes to wealth, war and the preservation of empire.
The Trumps and Clintons show the face of oligarchy. Photo from New York Times.The reality is that the vast majority of the American public does not vote in any of its shows, er, elections. Maybe they are apathetic, maybe they see it for the farce it is. But in any case they have checked out of the political process allowing the corporate, wealth class to take hold of all power in this country.  The result, of course, is a plutocracy where the police are militarized, prisons are over flowing, the environment is imperiled and the wars of plunder are unending.

The call to unite from Party officials, campaign public relations and Hillary herself may be desperate, it may be cynical, or it may be a sincere rallying call for some, but it is not unique in the least. And it requires absolutely no real commitment to social, economic and environmental justice from those who are calling for it. It seems they can easily give a pass to Hillary’s war mongering, or undying love of neoliberal capitalism, or her promotion of fracking and the funding she gets from the fossil fuel and private prison industry.  They can overlook her support from Wall Street and multinational corporations too.  And they expect everyone else to do the same.

But in the past week we have seen some Hillary supporters shut down Bernie Sanders Facebook pages by posting porn and other objectionable things on them; and we have learned that a pro-Hillary super pac is funding social media trolls to attack anyone who dares criticize the bloody queen of chaos.  Grant it, there has been some of this on both sides, but the Clinton campaign has been far better funded; and this is what makes these calls of unity the supreme insult on top of injury for many people.

Occupy Movement protestor. Source Gawker.But there is hope. I have faith in millennials who have taken to the streets and organized. Whether it be Black Lives Matter or Climate Change activism or BDS, the energy for change is unmistakable. They have shamed my generation. They have shown us that “reform” is just a code word for the status quo and that revolution lies outside the two party hegemony, not within it. If they keep up their agitation of the establishment they may just topple this empire of lies, corruption and death. And in a time of looming climate chaos, we need this more urgently and soon.

But don’t wait for Gen Xers to help you out.  With some notable exceptions, most of us have eased into comfy armchairs and will not take to the streets unless it is to go for a latte. The future belongs to you, and I’ll be right there in the streets with you.

Activism among millennials. Photo from Photo Stock.Kenn Orphan 2016