Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas at Ground Zero

“Wars have a funny way of taking on a life of their own” wrote Mark Ames after Turkey shot down a Russian plane and World War III became a very real prospect.

It’s taken a backseat to Donald Trump’s strip mall fascism and the Clinton II machine devouring all in its path, but Obama might be facing a real war between First World nations in his final year. And all because of Syria.

There are parallels to another war a hundred years ago: uppity peasants, great power treaties no one ever expected to act on, and a single incident turning into a snowball of death and destruction. To his credit, Obama hasn’t made any firm commitments to Turkey in the event Putin puts Ankara on his list. But then, he and the US at large isn’t about to abandon a NATO member, no matter how pants-crappingly stupid they’re acting.

It would be easy to blame this all on the Turks - they’ve been coddling ISIS all through the Kobane campaign - but that would be letting the rest of the Western powers off the hook. And as we’ve established, the Western powers are fucking idiots.

We’re talking about the groups that have smiled and made nice with the House of Saud, the most reactionary power since the Victorians went out of business and the biggest net exporter of jihadism from the Maghreb to Chechnya. Even now, DC is talking about punitive measures against Iran for less than what North Korea has been doing every year since 2006. Iran is the only effective counterweight to Daesh in the Middle East, but Bibi don’t like ‘em so they’re official enemies of democracy. The Saudis don’t like ‘em neither, cause Israel and The Kingdom are both firmly on the wrong side of history.

They could afford to be wrong up until now thanks to being America’s most valued proxies, but that’s rapidly changing:

In the first half of 2016 we should be contemplating a situation where the S-400s will be targeting and covering the whole Turkish-Syrian border. This will be the moment when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will completely lose his marbles.

The US and Europe could have quashed ISIS when it was just starting in 2013 - or at the very least scolded the Saudis until they turned off the cash flow. But everyone was busy worrying that some of the many thousands to die in Syria might have been gassed by Assad’s forces, rather than just lined up against a wall and shot. This isn’t “chickens coming home to roost” though, this is geopolitical bungling that could see Russian bombers taking more detours over the Turkish border, everyone provoking each other until either Trump or Clinton II takes the reigns and decides to look tough...

A full nuclear exchange is still unlikely, since Putin isn’t suicidal and the American ruling class is terrified of anything that might curtail their donations from Wall Street. But don’t be surprised to hear about US troops shooting at other white people for a change in Ukraine once the new president-elect is sworn in.

...and a happy New Year!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

A New Hype

It says something about the creative bankruptcy of the whole enterprise that the first joke spoiler I thought of for the new Star Wars turns out to be correct.

Han Solo dies. Nominally to make way for the new generation of heroes but likely a) because JJ Abrams is limited enough in his imagination to think this will be shocking and b) Harrison Ford didn’t want to get dragged along for three more of these films. He looks half-dead in the trailers as it is.

I honestly cringe every time I see that. It’s such a perfect synecdoche for the whole Star Wars 2.0 phenomenon: repackaging beloved pop culture of yesteryear to be sold as the newest Disney product.

They don’t even bother to advance the plot from the original trilogy. That hard won battle where the teddy bears killed all the Space Nazis and Luke reconciled with his father? Flushed down the tubes, now we’ve got a New Empire and New Alliance to re-enact the battles presented on the screen thirty years ago. Why? Why not?

Maybe the studio accountants were scared too many new ideas might rub people the wrong way, like with the prequels. Those films attempted to tell a new story in the same universe but are reviled for bad dialogue, wooden acting, and bleeping-blooping effects that are seizure inducing. The new plot, even with its inherently reactionary politics, was the lesser problem.

What is there to say about Star Wars Another One? If you liked the originals, you’ll like this? Why not just watch the originals instead of rehashing them, right down to the death of the white haired mentor?

Because then there wouldn’t be a New Thing for geek culture to mindlessly consume. Star Wars is perfect for that because it has always been spectacle without substance:

The story of the hero and the great evil can admit no particularities; the Galactic Empire doesn’t have anything as crude as an actual name; the Rebel Alliance isn’t burdened by anything so weighty as an explicit ideology. All we are allowed to know is that one side is good and the other is villainous — we’re told, in those scrolling-text intros.

In this context, you see how killing off bandit hero Han Solo is both the laziest and safest “twist” Abrams and company could do. It takes all possible drama from a galaxy spanning war and reduces it to bathos over an archetype that was already moldy when George Lucas first presented this human centipede of EE Smith and Dune back in 1977. All in service of a narrative that has happened before and will happen again. And again and again...

And on the same day America embraced this Big Mac of a movie, Hillary Clinton and the DNC orchestrated the demise of the Bernie Sanders campaign.

Friday, December 11, 2015

The American Yeltsin

Everyone is still having a fit over the overt racism Donald Trump has been spewing for… well, his entire life. But specifically his demand that Muslims be locked from entering the US. Even if they’re US citizens, if they’re friends of Muhammad than they ain’t allowed.

While this is racist and fascist and all sorts of ugly, it’s also just plain ridiculous. Like every other “policy” Trump has presented, it amounts to TV’s biggest blowhard yelling at a perceived problem and that’s the end of it. Too many rapist immigrants? Deport them all, logistics be damned! The Chinese are beating America at green energy and other infrastructure investments? Negotiate them down, somehow! Income inequality? You should be paid less anyway, so sayeth The Donald!

Every proposal Trump makes is as shallow as his hair, so it plays well to the spiteful morons who support him. How much he means it and how much he’s just playing to the ignorant screwheads who still think Bush II did a good job is a question Trump himself couldn’t even answer. While his campaign is serious, he remains a profoundly un-serious candidate.

So let’s talk seriously for a moment about what would happen if he actually won. Not just the nomination, but the general election. Would a Trump presidency really be the Fourth Reich we’re all worried about?

Nah, not really. It would suck from one end to another, the biggest bummer in American presidential history since Dubbya’s second term. If you’re not white and stupid you might as well run for Mexico now, where you’ll get more respect and more conscientious police. But no one is likely to end up in a government extermination camp and, despite his posturing, there won’t be any wars besides the usual colonial skirmishes that Clinton II wholeheartedly supports.

But if you do get ground up into soap, it will be by a for-profit entity. Trump’s history as a business man consists of the sort of corporate raiding and chicanery that not even Mitt Romney would tolerate. A man whose only proven skill is declaring bankruptcy to his own advantage is not going to start pogroms by executive order, he’ll just sell the material to do so to the lowest bidder.

That’s the real danger of a Trump presidency: the outsourcing and offshoring of the instruments of government will accelerate exponentially. The short-fingered vulgarian won’t stoop to exterminating Muslim Americans himself, he’ll just let some other billionaire asshole buy up half the National Guard armories in the country. Then it’s all just private enterprise and self-starter initiative when a Somali family gets riddled with bullets.

And don’t think there aren’t many Americans itching to mass murder their fellow citizens. Inequality is already driving a boom in rage massacres and racism always finds convenient scapegoats for real economic distress.

Anyone but Sanders or Jill Stein in the White House will ensure that same stress persists. Exacerbating the racist dimension only serves Trump’s interests now during the primaries, when he needs to win over the rubes . Trump’s real goal once sworn in will be the same as Boris Yeltsin: selling off everything not nailed down and securing a tidy profit for himself. It makes good business sense and that’s the only sense that’s allowed anymore in America.

Friday, December 4, 2015

How Mark Zuckerberg Causes Mass Shootings

While the ruling class in the Western democracies debate the merits of bombing yet another poor country, US citizens spent the week murdering each other again. The non-shooting at UNC Chapel Hill was overshadowed in the same day by an attack in San Bernardino targeting social services because pure nihilism drives these American jihadis.

That might be a loaded term, seeing as the perpetrators were an Illinois-born Pakistani-American and a Saudi respectively, but their motives were pure American: an “office dispute” between Syed Farooq and one of the many victims in the office park. That little detail will get lost in the paranoid noise over what the GOP clown car will declare a terrorist attack, thus compelling them to get balls-deep into another Middle Eastern country that was never involved.

Of course, every mass shooting in America is an act of terrorism but the political correctness of the right demands we never use the “T” word when the Second Amendment is involved…

But even gun control on the scale of the United Kingdom wouldn’t stop this sort of thing from happening. The motivation, the many many office disputes at the root of these All American massacres, is a byproduct of the extreme capitalism the US has embraced since Reagan and is best exemplified by the self-satisfied mediocrities of Silicon Valley.

While fourteen people were dying for your Second Amendment rights in San Bernardino, Facebook maven Mark Zuckerberg announced his new not-a-philanthropy. He sure tried to make it look like a charitable organization, adopting the same his-and-her naming convention as that Bill Gates tax write off and offering up some noblesse oblige platitudes alongside family pictures, but all in support of an investment vehicle. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is an LLC and under no legal obligation to actually perform any acts of charity. Zuckerberg spent the day bragging about donating his many billions of dollars to himself.

And the rubes ate it up.

Major media companies have been working overtime to emphasize Farooq’s Muslimness, much as they tried to paint Major Nidal Hassan as some crafty al Qaeda sleeper agent. That both were American with American grievances - which they expressed in the most American way of all - doesn’t get as much airplay because it invites uncomfortable questions...

“Sometimes, you don’t earn enough to buy things for what the children need for school, or food for the house, or personal expenses … like house payments or bills.”

The environment that drove Farooq is the same post-industrial hellscape immediately familiar to every American outside the coastal urbanite enclaves. A place of tract homes, big box stores, and toxic bitterness over an economy that has left you behind. The Reagan revolution still continues, transferring wealth upward whether in tax breaks, federally mandated private insurance, or just good ol’ fraud.

Like Zuckerberg’s purported “charity” company. He stands to make back his investment to himself with interest in the very near future, while maybe squirting a few research dollars into one of Silicon Valley’s dead-end Singularity projects. A government with actual social welfare in mind could have taken that 45 billion and given everyone real universal healthcare - with free college as a chaser - but even a Democratic White House is more interested in Reagan’s failed neoliberal experiment than in providing for the general welfare.

For proof, just look at the other folks in Zuckerber’s tax bracket. Like former Massey CEO Don Blankenship, who will maybe serve a whole year in jail for killing 29 people. Or Cerberus Capitol's Stephen Feinberg, a literal vampire who got a federal bailout and invested in Bushmaster right before the Newton shooting and turns a hefty profit on farming human plasma from impoverished Mexicans bussed across the US border. If that sounds sociopathic, that’s because it is. Neoliberal capitalism is not some free and fair market but a deliberate system designed by and for sociopaths like Blankenship and Feinberg and Google.

Syed Farooq and John Lewis Dear are terrorists. They’re also the logical result of a socio-economic system that conflates wealth with worth as a human being.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Things You Cannot Say on

There is probably no “respectable” political rag in America more craven and reactionary than The Hill. Billed as the paper everyone in Congress reads, one look at it’s front page explains why those screwheads are so utterly out of touch. The Hill is both stridently provincial in its analysis and avoids real news like the terrorist attack on Planned Parenthood so it can breathlessly rehash whatever slap fight some staffers had the previous afternoon. It is the apotheosis of the neoconservative brainwave, an adaptive combination of the mean and the stupid.

And its readers are bitterly opposed to any conflicting viewpoints appearing in the comments. Here are the Things You Cannot Say on

And just for perspective, here are some things you can say:

Suddenly the blatant fascism of Donald Trump makes perfect sense, don’t it?