Monday, July 30, 2018


The fine folks at one of Youtube's only decent political channels, Some More News (subscribe why don'tcha?), have put together a wonderful video that incorporates the invaluable research of Robert O. Paxton, author of the classic The Anatomy of Fascism, as well as the always-profound insights of the late, great Umberto Eco, whose essay on "Ur-Fascism" has enlightened decades of political observers.

Clip and save! Share with your pals, and those you feel should be aware of these things! Also, buy Paxton's tome from the above link, and I get a few shekels tossed into m beggin' cup!

Saturday, July 28, 2018


In a profoundly disturbing think piece first published at the Paths and Bridges philosophy blog titled "Notes on Syria and the Coming Global Thanatocracy", author Jules Etjim (get it?) has produced an essay of such stunningly high quality that, in my current exhausted state, I couldn't possibly praise with the level of enthusiasm and stunned humility it deserves. So I'll leave it to some excerpts from the first third...

The Coldest Monster 
In Thus Spake Zarathusta, Nietzsche called the state the coldest monster and we might add there is no state as cold as a thanatocracy. At present few genuine thanatocratic regimes actually exist but even using the most stringent definition (we use the loosest here), Syria unambiguously qualifies. Syria is a thanatocratic state whose kleptocratic ruling elite have tried to maintain their rule by freely resorting to genocide, systematically torturing and killing people on an industrial scale while using death, directly and indirectly to husband the populace in an escalation of governmental strategies to winnow targeted demographics and destroy those social ecologies felt to nourish rebellion. The genocidal destruction or disaggregation of some social groups by the thanatocratic state is accompanied by efforts to hothouse other demographics seen as compatible with the one overriding imperative: survival of the ruling elite. ...
Thomas Hobbes in Damascus 
... The Syrian revolution (and the ‘Arab Spring’) is the most important historical event since the collapse of the Soviet Union but has received little of the attention it deserves. This is perhaps because the ‘Arab Spring’ whose ground zero was Tunisia, encountered powerful headwinds after the early period of rising struggle between 2010-11. The Egyptian revolution was fatally thrown back when the country’s first democratically elected President, Mohamed Morsi was removed after only a year in office, in a counter-revolutionary coup d’etat staged by Egypt’s military. Another reason for the Syrian revolution’s neglect is the failure of the global left, especially in Europe and North America, to build a solidarity movement in its support. Rather insofar as solidarity was extended to any party in Syria, Assad’s thanatocracy has been the main beneficiary. The global left has been largely indifferent to the crimes of a regime where life is subordinated to death and biological precarity is the rule – with physical, social and cultural death imposed on incomprehensible numbers of people. 
Despite the suffering of its people, Syria is commonly observed through the prism of post-truth and nihilistic scepsis. Much of the global left has joined the burgeoning ranks of cranks on social media peddling conspiracy theories promoting the demonstrably false view that Assad’s murderous regime was the target of attempted US regime change while viewing Assad’s revolutionary opponents through the spectacles of orientalism and Islamophobia. This diabolical consensus omnium parroted Assadist propaganda portraying Assad as an embattled secularist fighting opposition dominated by Salafist jihadis. In seven years of Assad’s brutal struggle to smash the ‘Syrian Spring’, few have tried to acquaint themselves with what is actually happening in Syria or listened to the voices of ordinary Syrian’s – people who despite their suffering are literally either invisible or ciphers for the paranoid fears and anxieties of the global North’s citizens. 
In an arresting appropriation Yassin al-Haj Saleh invoked the seventeenth century political philosopher Thomas Hobbes to grasp the danger that faced the Syrian revolution, the morbid signs it was descending into a “primordial” ‘state of nature’ because of the brutal counter-revolution of Assad’s ‘neo-Sultanic’ state (as Saleh later characterised the Baathist state). Ominously, Saleh believed the revolution had begun to mirror the counter-revolution in the course of defending itself. Adversity engendered a struggle dominated by the “politics of survival” while the ‘state of nature’ was in principle antithetical to reason – the foundation of any politics. The fall into the ‘state of nature’ foreshadowed the destruction of politics and politics was the lifeblood of any revolutionary struggle as it embodied the autonomy and self-determination of the people. 
Descent into the ‘state of nature’ indicated society was “losing its self-control” and the crystallisation of a social trend present in the revolution itself. Within months the open, “civic minded” nature of the revolution’s early days apparent in the role of a variety of civil society groups, the visible activism of women and so on, started to erode as the people fought Assad’s “brutal power.” Saleh argued the degeneration was apparent in the readiness to resort to arms for self-defence and the growth of religious influence that saw inherited identities displace more inclusive, secular identities within the anti-Assad camp. Inevitably there was a transition from slogans repudiating Salafism while underlining the democratic aspirations of the revolt to slogans with more traditional Islamic or religious connotations. In the revolution’s early weeks, the street protests were “civil, emancipatory, and humanist” but quite rapidly the revolution’s “public face” began to speak the “language of Islam”. 
In subsequent years Saleh revisited the changing role of violence in Syrian society – the atomisation of the populace brought about by Assad’s ‘torture state’ and the problems the revolutionary camp faced as violence as self-defence became more indiscriminate and threatened to demoralise and undermine the revolution itself with the transition to “ultraviolence” or “militant nihilism” as Saleh would characterise it, in particular connecting the latter to the millenarian goals of religious fundamentalism in his own evolving evaluation of the political role of Salafism. 
Reflecting on Assad’s “killing machine” Saleh pointed to the impact of earlier military and civil conflicts in the region, the civil conflict in Lebanon and the coalition invasion and occupation of Iraq, to illustrate the elective affinity between civil war and sectarian war or what Thomas Hobbes called the ‘war of all against all’ – the ‘state of nature’ where hatred fed hatred and killing led to more killing in a mimetic cycle similar to the cycle of violence and bloodletting Rene Girard thought defined the periodic sacrificial crisis that visited any society. ... 
This is deep, dark, thinky, heady stuff, folks. Definitely not the stuff of lullabies and sweet dreams. But if you think you know anything about the Syrian crisis and/or the odd global paralysis that allows it to metastasize unabated, then you owe it to yourself to digest this essay and grapple with its theses and observations. Because it seems obvious to me that this dead-eyed raptor is coming home to roost...

Did you hear the one about the semi-pro online alt-right troll who thought everyone who didn't worship Trump was a pedophile and stabbed his father to death after an argument (even though his parents paid for the roof over his head and everything else for the entire 33 worthless, do-nothing years of his "life" up until that point)? No? Well, here's Joseph Bernstein, everyone's favorite son-of-a-Nazi-hunter Buzzfeed contributor (which is no longer the embarrassing CV entry that it once might have been) to give you the full rundown in his comprehensive article, Lane Davis' Civil War. After a suitably cinematic set-up, the article begins:
I knew Lane. I knew him as a guy who kicked around some of the pro-Trump, anti–social justice internet communities that I’ve reported on since 2014. Like a lot of people in those volatile spaces, Lane bore grudges, which made him useful as an occasional source. Unlike a lot of people in those spaces, and despite being a fabulist, Lane understood how to weaponize information, which made him even more useful, and a little scary. From early 2016 to summer 2017, we emailed regularly and talked occasionally. As with most sources, Lane had some tips that were good and some that weren’t. But even if nothing he told me ever led to a blockbuster story, he was smart and he understood his world well — talking to him was never a waste of time. I thought I understood him about as well as I needed to.

Last October, a conservative blogger discovered a local news story about Chuck Davis’s killing. He spread the word on Twitter, including another shocking detail: Before stabbing his father to death, Lane had loudly accused his parents of being “leftist pedophiles.” 
There’s a whole universe in those two words, one that Americans unfamiliar with the rhetoric of the internet culture wars might not recognize. 
The right-wing media has long tried to discredit identity politics by claiming the concept is a slippery slope that ends in the recognition of inherently ridiculous groups. A few years ago, though, a new class of social media bomb-throwers started to seize on pedophilia as a particularly inflammatory identity. On Twitter and in places like 4chan's /pol/ board, they began to claim that acceptance of pedophilia was the true, secret goal of liberal politics, the hellish endpoint to Black Lives Matter and transgender bathroom laws. This line of attack became frighteningly literal in 2016, when a man with a gun showed up at a Washington, DC, pizza parlor that online conspiracy theorists claimed was the hub of a massive pedophilia ring — run by Democratic Party officials. A month later, another man showed up at a nearby pizzeria claiming he was there to “save the kids” and “finish what the other guy didn't.” 
That’s the language Lane reportedly summoned as he was about to stab his father. A spate of articles quickly followed, thick with a “murder by internet” subtext.
Joseph is a skilled writer and journalist, as most of his big stories show. After reading the rest of the above article, you can find and follow him on Twitter.


"Can you fucking believe these clowns?!"
And finally today, for anyone who'd forgotten what a REAL witch-hunt looks like, Congressional Republicans were more than happy to remind us during their ludicrous, Stalinesque interrogation of former FBI agent Peter Strzok. As usual, Esquire's Charles P. Pierce has the most... 'colorful' analysis of that pathetic debacle available anywhere. Somewhere close to the end of his essay (but not quite), he writes:
There’s no real point in recapping the highlights. The videos are going to be in regular rotation for quite a while now. It was, as it was called at various points in the hearing, a kangaroo court, a show trial, and a travesty of a sham of a mockery of a sham of two mockeries. But it was designed to be that. It was a performance piece. It was not a very well-cast one, and several of the lead actors fell into the orchestra pit, but it managed to run from curtain-up to curtain-down. 
And there’s still the basic fact out there that the president* of the United States needed money to shore up his failing businesses, and he went to Russian oligarchs in league with a KGB goon at the head of an authoritarian nation to get it, and that we don’t know what he owes, and to whom, and what he’s willing to do to settle his debts.
But really, you should read the whole thing, even if only for the terrific zingers and hilarious nick-names Pierce gives the Republican morons who disgraced themselves so thoroughly in this exercise.


Check out the story below for more links and details!


The fallout from the Helsinki summit has been so spectacularly awful for Donald Trump and his cult, it almost feels as though we are approaching a turning point of some kind. Can the American theater of New Fascist International's war on liberal democracy be experiencing the first serious rumbles of the existential doom it so richly deserves?

I probably don't have to go over all the ways in which the summit was a disaster, as I assume most of you follow the news pretty much as closely as I do, and from as wide a variety of sources. Suffice it to say that, for the first time since his election, even his fellow Republicans were aghast at how he (to paraphrase notoriously Trump-skeptic Senator John McCain) "abased himself abjectly before a tyrant" like no President in living memory.

Here's a CNN report that contains McCain's full statement, and further reporting on how other Republicans, including many Trump partisans, reacted to this pathetic, humiliating debacle:

If the Helsinki summit was the only thing that happened last week, it would still have been the worst week of Trump's regime by far... for Trump personally, as well as for his criminal enterprise. But it wasn't the only thing that happened. Not by a long shot.

For instance, there was that whole Maria Butina spy scandal and the related "Kremlin bribing Trump and compromising the entire GOP via dirty cash donations to the NRA" news, which broke just as Trump was boarding Air Force One on his way to Helsinki. That was what you might call a pretty big fucking deal.

Then, the world found out that Trump's long-time fix-it man, Michael Cohen--once a bonafide MAGA cultist who vowed to take a bullet for Trump, but who seems to have flipped once he realized that Trump wouldn't piss on him if he were on fire--was taping their conversations for years, creating a treasure trove of audio recordings... potentially devastating recordings that are now in the hands of the closest thing that the USA has to a superhero, special counsel Robert Mueller. No wonder Stormy Daniels' lawyer (and all around pain in Trump's ass) Michael Avennati can't seem to wipe the satisfied smirk off his handsome face lately.

He's also a professional race car driver!
Cohen flipping has a lot more potential fall-out than just exposing what everybody already knew about the Stormy Daniels case: that Trump did, indeed, cheat on Melania just days after she'd given birth to his son; that he knew all about the hush money payments and ordered them personally; that he lied his ass off about it and tried to hide his tracks via the creation of multiple LLCs (fraud and obstruction and, most likely, serious campaign finance crimes and potential felony tax code violations). It has the potential to expose so much more. Such as the fact that he's gone through the same cycle over and over again, with multiple women--including one we already know of, Playboy model Karen McDougal--some of whom got pregnant and were paid to "take care of it".

Trump with trophy wife, daughter-wife, and Karen McDougal (r)
And then of course there's Cohen's assertion that he was in the room when Trump gave the go-ahead for Don Jr and Jared K to meet with a Kremlin-connected lawyer who had promised to provide some ill-gotten dirt on Hillary Clinton, contradicting two years of the President's constant denials and lies about every aspect of that meeting. No wonder Trump threw one of his patented POTUS Twitter tantrums over the mildest of provocations by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani:

Look folks, those are only the very biggest of the developments that have come down the pike over the last week and a half or so. I've skipped over a number of important stories, like how Trump laughably attempted to claim that he meant to say "wouldn't" when he said "would" regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election, or his disastrous, slapdash "trade war" tariffs, which have led to his having to cough up a $12 billion dollar deficit bailout to offset the damage being done to farmers by his idiotic policies. There was his attempt to claim that Russia was no longer targeting US elections, his tampering with the official White House transcript of the Helsinki press conference (only corrected after a week of outrage) to hide the fact that Putin confessed to wanting Trump to win the 2016 election (which, when combined with everything else we know, is essentially a confession to election rigging). This particular "gaffe" added a soupcon of bitter irony to Trump's later claim that yes, he believed the Russians might well try to mess with the 2018 mid-terms... but on behalf of DEMOCRATS! Then he invited Putin to Washington, only to have Putin say "No thanks... but you should come to Russia though", a total power play further exposing Trump's bitch-boy status. The list just goes on and on.

But as bad as the Big Picture story of the Helsinki summit was, there was even worse crap tucked away in the details. Those of you who've been following American politics with any degree of depth beyond just the surface stories over the past two years will understand exactly how awful the implications in this unrolled Tweet-storm are, and those of you who don't, should take the time to make it so you do. READ AND GROK!!!

So there you have it, folks. Only time will tell if this was a bad week for Trump, or for the American experiment, itself.
By the way, if you're active on Twitter and you're a sincere, legitimate Trump fan, and you're a real human being, and not a stage-managed fake persona or a bot, you should probably be aware of the fact that you are in a tiny and dwindling minority, and that you're being made to feel a false sense of 'safety in numbers' because of the huge amount of stage managed fake personas and bots currently polluting social media like meme rats spreading the MAGA plague.

Repent. The End is Nigh.


One of the strongest compositions on Roger Waters' career best solo album Is This The Life We Really Want?, this tune is finally available on Youtube, so any remaining skeptics can see one of the reasons why they NEED to own this album for themselves.

And if you're not convinced by this one, try Bird in a Gale, another favorite of mine from this album...

Be sure to listen soon, and download the audio if you like them, because they won't be up for long!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018


Download it. Read it. Clip and save it. This Johnathan Chait article for New York Magazine is causing some stress among the leftier-than-thou pseudo-intelligentsia of the Glenn Greenwald-trusting, RT-paycheck-cashing variety, but let those puppies whine, as this train rolls past them into the history books of the future.

It begins thusly:
On June 14, 2016, the Washington Post reported that Russian hackers had broken into the Democratic National Committee’s files and gained access to its research on Donald Trump. A political world already numbed by Trump’s astonishing rise barely took notice. News reports quoted experts who suggested the Russians merely wanted more information about Trump to inform their foreign-policy dealings. By that point, Russia was already broadcasting its strong preference for Trump through the media. Yet when news of the hacking broke, nobody raised the faintest suspicions that Russia wished to alter the outcome of the election, let alone that Trump or anybody connected with him might have been in cahoots with a foreign power. It was a third-rate cyberburglary. Nothing to see here. 
The unfolding of the Russia scandal has been like walking into a dark cavern. Every step reveals that the cave runs deeper than we thought, and after each one, as we wonder how far it goes, our imaginations are circumscribed by the steps we have already taken. The cavern might go just a little farther, we presume, but probably not much farther. And since trying to discern the size and shape of the scandal is an exercise in uncertainty, we focus our attention on the most likely outcome, which is that the story goes a little deeper than what we have already discovered. Say, that Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort told their candidate about the meeting they held at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer after they were promised dirt on Hillary Clinton; and that Trump and Kushner have some shady Russian investments; and that some of Trump’s advisers made some promises about lifting sanctions. 
But what if that’s wrong? What if we’re still standing closer to the mouth of the cave than the end?
 Here's the unroll of a great Tom Nichols Tweetstorm about this article. You'd do well to read both.