Monday, November 30, 2015

American ISIS

Friday, a citizen of the United States perpetrated a terrorist attack that left three dead and over a dozen injured. Three guesses as to which god he cited as inspiration.

"Allahu akbar!"

Admittedly, Robert Lewis Dear only invoked the “dead baby parts” meme conservative presidential candidates were pimping earlier this season. Whether Dear was avenging said dead babies in the name of Jesus or Allah hasn’t been explicitly stated yet but come the fuck on.

People with a little awareness are going to be pointing out the obvious terrorism of things like this and the murder of George Tiller and the past bombing of clinics - and no one in power will do a goddamn thing about it. Because Robert Lewis Dear and others like him are useful idiots to American Erdogans up until they go postal.

Ted Cruz is already offering prayers to the same God who gave Dear his marching orders. Because once the GOP base snaps they cease to be part of the broader conservative movement - a movement startlingly similar to the reactionary Sunnis who've been mass murdering French people this year. Shooters like Dear are instead declared lone nuts, whose behavior was impossible to predict despite fitting a clear profile again and again. Because that's a lie American conservatives need to believe even more than the notion Jesus actually likes them.

Also, Matt Walsh is a cunt.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Bombing Islamic State Will Not Save Europe

Now that everyone’s finally on board with stamping out those dastardly villains in IS, Parisians can sleep easy again right?

Hoo boy… Gather ‘round, kids. It’s time to talk about rage massacres.

It’s a crime that’s very familiar to Americans simply due to its ubiquity. Angry young man, possibly with a friend, storms into some public place with a legally acquired automatic weapon and kills a dozen or so people before committing suicide, whether traditionally or by cop. It’s been going on for close to thirty years, inspiring reams of poor analysis and hand-wringing, but it’s still a fact of American life.

There’s even been some genuine insight to come out of this phenomenon: Going Postal by Mark Ames, which became required reading for every American after the bottom dropped out of the housing market in 2008. Harsh economic conditions coupled with culturally normative bullying was consistently the common factor among spree shooters in America, until cretins like Elliot Rodger and Dylann Roof started getting their ideas from 4chan.

Although that’s closer to the motives of the Paris shooters than whatever critique of Western imperialism Counterpunch has been on about for the past two weeks. Not to say you can’t blame the rise of IS and similar salafist outfits on the West’s history of back those same reactionaries when they were fighting the Muslim world’s leftist movements, but those guys are either too old or too dead these days. The jihadis menacing Europe come from the very same towns they bomb and shoot, making them less Osama bin Laden and more Harris and Klebold.

I said pretty much the same thing in the first week of hysteria and I’m going to keep repeating it since everyone has quite wrongly decided to blame Paris on Syrian refugees. You can vaporize Mosul and Aleppo with whatever big ticket munitions the NATO air forces have been itching to use and you won’t come anywhere close to actual or future terrorists. They’re all back in Brussels, plotting which public place to next showcase their disaffection with Europe, the West, and modernity in general.

Where that disaffection comes from may be easy to see but it’s near enough to impossible to fix. The immigration debate in Europe is more a failure of integration than the weight on social services reactionaries like to claim - said services need the immigrants because the natural-born population is aging faster than its reproducing. So you’ve got a de facto underclass of EU citizens subsidizing a decaying generation that sneers at them, which is already a nasty formula for insurrection.

Then mix in the shocks to middle-class sensibilities that have been going on since the 1960s in both the US and UK. The Sexual Revolution may have only turned sex into a commodity, but that’s still going too far for a lot of men - whatever their religion - who define themselves by traditional gender stereotypes. As neighbors and family said of Jihadi John, “He liked his football.”

The Charlie Hebdo attack should have made this clear, that reactionary salafists are more offended by women drivers and irreverent humor than the many Western imperial crimes in the Middle East. It takes a degree of middle class comfort and anxiety to get worked up over something like blasphemous cartoons in the first place and the Paris attacks were explicitly targeted at people daring to have a good time. Jealousy and Victorian priggishness makes for a lethal combination, especially in the fetid minds of young men. And unless the EU decides to simply liquidate those same young men, the comfortable citizens of Europe are going to be facing many more rage massacres from their own citizens, loudly proclaiming jihadist motives while clutching their blue balls.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Mating Habits

Just when the noise over the glorious wonders of communications technology gets too loud, something like this comes along:
I opened my messages to remind myself what exactly I had sent. There it was, at 10:02 p.m.: “I can’t stop thinking about what I’m now referring to as ‘bench time.’”

O.K., so it was a little confusing. Deep into my third glass of wine, I had thought I was being coy, but the result was somewhat inscrutable. It wasn’t even clear I had enjoyed the experience. Was it possible he thought I was traumatized? Did he think I was accusing him of something?

No, that was ridiculous. He probably had noted my text, smiled, felt as aroused as you can be by a text as vaguely sexual as mine was, and gone to sleep, dreaming of me.

It reads like a neurotic on a speedball. Woody Allen, plus estrogen. It paints a horrendous picture of modern life but unintentionally, as the author is clearly going more for the Stuff White People Like self-deprecation that passes for wit among comfortable yuppies. And in the process, she shows just how miserable modern technology has made dating.

I know I’m one to talk. I met my wife through OK Cupid of all things. But that was a happy accident, like a surprise kitten or drunken anal sex. The exception that proves the rule - the rule being that honest connections are very rarely made through social media and dating apps. Rather than a brave new world of sexual libertinism, this has only lead to the fretful over-analysis of every little keystroke as demonstrated in the above article.

Did it used to be this bad? Probably. Definitely. That might be the ugliest reality about the Web 2.0 era, that all the miseries of life we knew until Steve Jobs was declared the new religion are all still very much in force, no matter how many apps on your iPhone.

Depending on who you ask, Millennials are either having less sex than the flower children of the 60s or they’re having much much more. If you’re reading this, you’re dissatisfied with your personal experience either way. Either not enough or not good enough - rather, whatever porn and erotic fan fiction has taught you to define as “good enough.” The true legacy of the Sexual Revolution was turning physical intimacy into just another commodity to be consumed, like Doritos or presidential candidates. You might have an enviable sex life from the perspective of someone else and still be wishing for a simpler time. Or more booty calls through Tinder.

People have a habit of taking their own lived experience as having some intrinsic meaning. It doesn’t, of course. Human existence is one big Monte Carlo game, and your experiences are no more or less significant than that of six billion other homo sapiens. But that’s not a good mindset, according to marketing. So you’ve been sold on the notion that doing A and B while avoiding C will somehow fulfill that evolutionary drive you have to go out and breed. And maybe you do need to do A and even B, but the particulars of courtship are as random as the results. And random results do not mesh with a constructed personal narrative, inevitably leading to angst as the same guys who brag about their dating app conquests also experience much more impotence.

You also get lots of angry people trying to find some reason why they’re not getting rich or laid. They’ve done all the things “society” says will lead to a roll in the hay, or a corner office, so if it’s not happening then the game must be rigged. Or something. Because the advertising soup that passes for popular culture will never admit to the reality that you can do everything right, play by the rules, cross every T and dot every I, and still get mangled by an exploding crock pot for reasons that never had anything to do with you.

But if you take a step back and accept your lack of control, suddenly everything is much more manageable. The world is not fair and this is not the worst thing that can happen to you. And for fuck’s sake, put down the smartphone already.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

In the Land of the Four Eyed Kings

Since Eddie Snowden went and told everyone that the NSA was actually doing it’s job, encryption has been a big deal among people in the know. That is to say, it has been made a big deal by people who like to think they’re in the know. Chief among these is the DOD-funded Tor Project and its many Twitter evangelists who embarrass themselves in 140 characters or less.

But one niggling little fact never seems to pop up in all the cypherpunk nattering on social media. One of those inconvenient and very uncomfortable facts, namely that no one in the current privacy movement is threatening to those in power.

Really. Take a look at the who’s who in crypto or whatever the people trading kiddie porn through Tor call themselves. Filter out all the natsec contractors and you’re left with maybe a few randos who escaped from Reddit. A government with a billion dollar military isn’t scared of such a crowd. Even a government without an air force wouldn’t be scared of such a crowd.

Still, you’ve got encryption and privacy getting headlines because unobserved porn browsing is very important to people with money. And not just money, but a stake in the game we call capitalist society. Cypherpunks, for all their posturing, are as wedded to this nation and its bloated security services as any oil exec or arms contractor. Possibly moreso since the absolutist freedom they espouse is only possible when other pressing needs - like food and shelter - are so ubiquitous as to be wholly taken for granted. The closest to homeless anyone in this movement has ever gotten is Julian Assange’s coach surfing in Europe, which is a hardship shared by every half-bright grad student on the East Coast.

And while I’ve said it before, it bears repeating that hiding your “revolutionary” rhetoric in the latest crypto-tool is worse than useless. Real opposition to tyranny has been and always will be a very direct and confrontational act. And that means blood. Your blood, my blood, the police state’s blood - all of it getting spilled out there in the streets. Like in Ferguson. And Baltimore. And every other effective mass movement of the past century.

The crypto kiddies won’t ever do that. Their metric for success begins and ends with no bleary-eyed government functionary seeing what they’re grabbing with bittorrent. The ruling class just doesn’t care about that, despite the scare stories surrounding the RIAA. And since the encryption movement will never violently oppose said ruling class, they are simply of no concern.

They want to be a concern. That’s clear from all the tough talk twerps direct at Yasha Levine, who escaped real pogroms and oppression in Soviet Russia. American culture long ago decided suffering - that is the appearance of suffering - is a desirable thing. It makes you look cool and edgy to the other twenty-somethings living in basements. And there ain’t no suffering more sexy than being one of the Elect battling some dystopian superstate through computer wizardry. The tech culture brainwave that leads to a dozen versions of Python that still don’t work is also why these upper middle class milquetoasts are so insistent that they are fighting the good fight: "I just want to be special :("

Friday, November 20, 2015

This is John Galt

Jeb Lund finally figured out Ben Carson: the good doctor is so far up his own ass he’s in negative space.

Ben Carson might be so brilliant and talented that he cannot detect how often he's being an absolute moron.

This also puts Carson’s neck and neck race with Fuckface von Clownstick Donald Trump into perspective, as we see them not as ridiculous clowns but as the end-state of a national belief in the inherent superiority of material success. While Trump’s purported skill as a businessman is up for debate, his success is a truth no one will dispute. Similarly, Carson reached the top of his profession by being a very very good neurosurgeon long before he climbed into the GOP clown car. And neither man has had to tolerate others telling them "no" since before most of you were born.

This is what Ayn Rand’s unbounded egoist heroes really look like. Unfettered by the whims of society or archaeological records, Trump and Carson are pursuing the highest office in the land because they are simply used to getting what they want. Neither will ever actually reach it - and boy will their resulting tantrums be a sight to see - but the sheer ridiculousness of their campaigns is only possible because they have been so successful. Americans will not argue with success, so no one has ever told these potential emperors that their junk is hanging out.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Going Postal Goes Global

“The pussy licks itself as the world burns.” ~ Greek proverb

There’s nothing like a big-ticket terrorist attack to make the West completely lose its marbles.

One hundred and twenty-nine dead in Paris. An act of war, according to Hollande, which it is indeed. But an act of war by a failed and decaying “state” that has been nothing but a temper tantrum since its inception.

French airstrikes have hit the latest trailer to claim to be Islamic State’s HQ. They’ll hit some more before the week is out and that will both be enough and not the end. Because Islamic State is an absolute failure as a world or even regional power but a rousing success as a meme. I frankly still have doubts that al-Baghdadi or whatever his successor is going by had much of a hand in the Paris attacks. Evidence backs me on this too, considering at least one of the shooters was a French national. This was less a behind-the-lines raid and more a rowdy fan club trying to get some attention.

This is what a Belgian looks like.

Which you’re not supposed to admit in polite company but it’s absolutely necessary to putting things like Islamic State in perspective. They’re not going to be a real state - ever - and they’re more of a danger to other Muslims, but all you’re going to hear the rest of the year is how Islam and the West are in some sort of grand conflict. Because of half a dozen yahoos who couldn’t get dates.

The West has never really understood Islam. Not because Islam is inherently alien but because the Western powers have been gloriously stupid for the past 1500 years or so. While Saladin, a shrewd and practical ruler, was busy gobbling up Syrian rivals, the princes of Christendom launched one ill-fated operation after another to claim some Levantine fishing village. Fast forward through most of the High Middle Ages and you’ve got Slavic and Balkan rulers consistently dying, their lands changing hands, because they couldn’t stop squabbling among themselves long enough to put up a united front against the Ottomans.

And if you want to see how the 19th Century imperial powers fucked everything up… well, look at Syria. The three-way civil war between inland Sunnis, coastal Shia, and the Kurds on the Turkish border are the fault of French and British colonial governors who liked to stoke the tribal hatreds, keep the locals too divided to ever kick out the invaders. The Brits were pulling this shit as recently as Yemen in the middle of the Cold War, getting glowing articles in Time about their reactionary proxies fighting “for Allah and the Imam.” Those same proxies formed the primordial ooze of every modern salafist nutcase from al Qaeda to ISIS.

The history of Islam versus the West is really a history of one-sided narcissism and Euro-racism. And it continues to this day: Look how goddamn long it took the US to support the Kurds of Kobane. Look how long it took them to finally support the Peshmerga in Iraq. Look how NATO quietly looks away when Turkey starts bombing the same Kurds who were kicking ISIS ass up and down the dessert. Look how European and American racists are losing their shit over Syrian refugees when ISIS gets most of its recruits from those same Western countries.

Between 250 and 400 jihadists in the area are thought to have come from [Belgium], which has a population of 11 million.

Britain and Australia are big contributors too. As is France. Mohammed Emwazi, popularly known as Jihadi John, came from an upper middle-class London neighborhood. Why hide among refugees when you’re already a born and bred citizen?

Why a French or Belgian citizen would take up jihad rather than clubbing and cocaine has less to do with Islam and much more to do with why any young man embraces a reactionary creed: the sense of individual purpose and power. Those 19th Century colonial outposts were a dumping ground for such young men in Europe and since they’ve closed, we make jokes about how Belgium is only known for chocolate and child-molesters. Blackwater, Rhodesia - I’ve covered this all before - violence by young men for personal validation is quite common throughout the world, whether inspired by Islamic State’s black flag or the unhinged manifesto of Elliot Rodgers.

You won’t hear that in all the hand-wringing coverage over Paris. The bodies are still too warm for any serious analysis by the “serious people” - mostly because it would reveal that a hundred and twenty-some Parisians died not in a modern Pearl Harbor but in just another Columbine. For all its bluster and for all the paranoia among wealthy white folks, Islamic State is nothing more than the lashing out by the detritus of a broken middle-class.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Lessons Still Not Learned

I've said it before and I'll say it again, American elections come down to very simple demographics. This week proved me right - again! - but all the paid opinion-makers are trying to spin it as indicative of cultural trends or something.

It's not. Let's just get that clear: Americans do not change with the times and they sure as hell don't change their minds.

A single election is a textbook case of sampling bias as factors that have nothing to do with policy or the irreversible decline of the American Empire decide who shows up at the polls. Mid-Terms draw a different crowd than the presidential election which draws a different crowd than doldrum years like 2015. But take them all together and you'll see a pattern as constant as the Northern Star.

The South is the Confederacy. It's been clear to anyone willing to look since 2004, but every state in the larger red blob of Dixie Culture is just getting meaner and stupider every year. Their local and congressional politics all come down to which White Protestant can bluster better while taking it up the backside from every moneyed interest. And your average cracker is okay with this, because everything is Obama's fault anyway.

Democrats own the coastal enclaves. That was the only lesson to be drawn from the 2013 elections so of course nobody respectable would mention it. Chris Christie is as popular as he ever was with the Republican faithful - which isn't saying much - but the Washington Post would like for you to believe New Jersey voting out three Republican dog catchers is a blow against his campaign. WaPo also printed an indictment of Denmark's economy based entirely on the critique of a traveling food critic, because they're just really fucking stupid.

There's some acknowledgment that voter turnout was less this year than during a presidential run -  a retroactive admission that the Tea Party surge of 2010 was just a fart in the wind - but you can still expect some opinion pieces over the next few weeks about how Bush III needs to woo the homophobes back from Carson or whether or not "values voters" might swing the country Republican next year.

They won't. They can't. Because they're dying faster than fruit flies. Despite Houston's refusal of wealthy gay professionals, the reactionaries of the Bush Years are losing more and more ground to younger, browner people. This doesn't mean America is looking at a succession of Democratic administrations, simply that the aggrieved old white people who cry about socialism while collecting Medicare are headed the way of the dodo, and their policies are following.

Good riddance.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Broken Empire

There has been a single theme running through the presidential debates of late that can best be summed up with a line from the only good TV show of the past fifteen years: "All of this has happened before and all of this will happen again."

Ben Carson, a guy who says crazy shit and has no past experience in politics, is currently leader of the GOP pack. Sound like a similar situation from four years ago?

Admittedly, Carson doesn't look like he's going to implode as spectacularly as Herman Cain but then neither did Herman Caine. Similarly, Rick Perry got pretty far as a racist blowhard before collapsing under his own weight just as Michelle Bachman started as every Tea Party crazy's hero before turning in lame performances alongside the rest of the field and eventually folding due to her rampant scandals. And through it all, everyone kept saying Romney was done and should just go home.

It may not play out exactly like that in 2016. Trump could possibly overwhelm the GOP machine with his racist populism, offering bitter proof that elections are indeed still decided by the people. Chris Christie might not suffer a massive coronary or another indictment by next November, just as Rubio may look like a grown-up and Cruz may actually get a vote. But all of that is as likely as Carly Fiorina sticking in the race past December.

On the opposite side, you've got nothing but the inevitability of Clinton II. Yes, Bernie Sanders has been fun to watch. No, he is not pushing the Clinton Machine leftward. If anything, the farcical Benghazi committee proved Hillary can keep on keepin' on and her opponents are simply too ridiculous to stop her. Obama went into Election 2012 with a similar centrist record and mopped the floor with White Obama - imagine what's gonna happen when 2016 comes down to Bush III versus Clinton II. Their policies are close enough to constitute incest. It'll be the first election decided purely on nostalgia for past administrations: "Did you prefer NAFTA or the PATRIOT Act?"

Yet this zombie dance is amped up as the most important election of our time. Just like the last election, and the election before that, and so on. No matter who wins next year, American troops will still be in Syria and school kids will still be shooting each other for various spaz reasons that have nothing to do with politics as discussed on the Sunday morning shows and much more to do with the harsh economic realities not even Sanders could hope to remedy. And that latter is just providing more excuse for the huge natsec blob to trip over its own feet.

Like the FBI's latest addition to childhood trauma: a video game! It teaches you not to be a puppet by getting you to be paranoid of your swarthier classmates, because Islamic State has been behind so many school shootings in America. It's not just a creepy, Orwellian attempt at conditioning fear into the youth, but it's as completely wrong and divorced from reality as the words that come out of Rand Paul's mouth when he goes off script.

This is the new normal, America. Declaring the old ideas to be the future while blaming foreignors for the failed capitalism devouring our lives. Thank God for Vladimir Putin.

*   *   *

UPDATE: I'd just like to give Ben Carson credit for imploding even more ridiculously than Herman Cain :D