What Color Is Your President?

by Buzz on 24/02/2017

A Meditation Upon
The Fourth Turning,
A Fourth Reich,
And The Fragility
Of
Cheetos

.

There’s been a lot of talk and press and postings recently about The Fourth Turning, a book by William Strauss and the late Neil Howe that hypothesizes a pattern in human history, both for the world at large and the United States in particular.

There’s a lot to recommend in Strauss and Howe’s hypothesis — and a lot to be skeptical of. While a strong argument can be made for broad generational patterns in history, Strauss and Howe are very flexible with their terms and conditions.

Like The Amazing Randi’s infamous faux horoscope, Strauss and Howe give themselves enough wiggle room to squeeze a large camel through (“It will be the best of times, it will be the worst of times…”).

One gets the feeling there may indeed be something to their hypothesis, but they haven’t proven their case yet.[1]

No matter; this post isn’t about Strauss and Howe but rather about the reported fascination Steve Bannon, Trump’s NSC advisor and BFF, seems to have with it.

If reports are true — and God knows the Trump administration and their neo-nazi trolls on the alt-right strive to eradicate public trust in anything — then Bannon believes the U.S. is entering it’s fourth Great Turning, the Revolution (1776), the Civil War (1860), and the Great Depression (1927) being the previous examples.[2]

According to reports, Bannon believes the fourth turning to have been triggered by the economic crisis of 2007-08, the meltdown of the housing industry’s notorious sub-prime mortgage scam.[3] Bannon apparently sees that as a beginning of a collapse in faith in our institutions and the start of a new fascist future.

If there is something to Strauss and Howe’s hypothesis, I don’t think another economic crisis is the trigger.

I base this on the fact that once a culture goes through a traumatic event, the reaction to the next such event is not the shock of the new and the unexpected but more along the lines of “Oh, #%@&, not this again!”

If Strauss and Howe’s hypothesis holds true for the U.S., then the triggering event for the Revolution was irritation at not being allowed representation in Parliament after being mildly taxed for starting a global war.[4] While there have been a few minor insurrections over taxes since then[5], there have been no further large scale violent uprisings based on tax protests.

The Civil War fits more into Strauss and Howe’s hypothesis, as it was a truly existential challenge to the unity of the United States, the very existence of the South’s slave labor economy, and a massive redefinition of race relations vis-à-vis citizenship in this country.

So why then no similar crisis when women gained the vote in the late 19th / early 20th century? Why no upheavals as manufacturing in cities grew at an explosive rate in the second half of the 19th century, or the corresponding growth of the labor movement?

Strauss and Howe suggest the third turning was an extended period from 1927 (the start of the Great Depression) to 1933 (Hitler’s rise to power in Germany) to 1939 (the official start of World War Two) to 1945 (the end of WWII, and the start of the Atomic Age and the Cold War). There’s a lot of support to their argument but again the dates and events are so flexible as to accommodate almost any interpretation.

Two things spring out at me:
First, while there had been other depressions and financial crisis in the U.S. economy prior to 1927 that include numerous bank failures, the Great Depression was a systemic shock that was felt at all levels of society. This was a gargantuan upheaval that left millions destitute and homeless.
Second, and not included in Strauss and Howe’s hypothesis because it was an unpredictable outside influence from the natural world, the Dust Bowl, which wiped out hundreds of thousands of people’s homes, livelihoods, and savings yet did so without being the result of direct public policy choices.[6] The Dust Bowl was a heretofore unpredicted and wholly unexpected natural disaster that proved as destructive as the Great Depression and subsequently became a force multiplier when coupled with Prohibition.[7] It was a game changer like no other.

But we learned from that experience!

As devastating as the mortgage meltdown of 2007-08 was, we had systems in place to check the worst ravages and keep the failure from spreading. The Dust Bowl was topped by Hurricane Katrina and the flooding of New Orleans as the worst natural disaster in American history, but despite that body blow we kept functioning as a nation based on the lessons we learned from the Dust Bowl. And Prohibition set a new bar for corruption and organized crime that Americans have come to accept as normal; we scarcely blink at big banks being more corrupt than the drug lords whose money they launder.

No, a financial crisis ala the mortgage meltdown is not the trigger for a fourth turning (if Strauss and Howe’s hypothesis holds true), nor climate change, which albeit real, occurs so slowly as to be safely ignored.

If the fourth turning has been triggered, it hasn’t been by anything we’ve already endured and survived.

The fourth turning, if Strauss and Howe’s predictions are accurate, has been triggered by something else entirely: The election of Barack Hussein Obama.

I am not blaming Obama; quite the contrary, he was a vitally needed element in the story of America, a scalpel with which to lance the sorry boil of festering racism and finally begin draining out the bigotry plaguing this country, an ugly and painful process we are only just starting to endure.

But Obama’s election and re-election, both times by clear cut majorities in the popular vote, basically caused millions of white people to lose their shit.

Do not read this as a blanket condemnation of whites as racists and bigots — racists aplenty there are, and enough of them are genuine hate mongering bigots — but the more typical white person’s reaction was stunned disbelief followed by an eager search for anything — no matter how bogus — that would bolster their fragile egos.

I’ve written before about a dear family friend, a person possessing not a single mean spirited or hate filled bone in their body, who was absolutely convinced that the United States was in the middle of an epically horrendous crime wave — and when that was speedily disproven thanks to the Internet, to then claim California was in the midst of a crime wave even if the rest of the country wasn’t — and when that was disproved then to claim their neighborhood was in a crime wave — and then the truth came out that their neighborhood wasn’t more dangerous, their neighborhood was merely more brown, the Sanchez family replacing the Smiths, the Dominguez family replacing the Davidsons, the Hernandez replacing the Hendersons.

Our dear friend can truthfully say “some of my best friends are…” and mean it with Filipino and Korean and African-Americans in their close circle of friends, but all their life they lived in a culture that was white, a culture where white Christian values were the only values that mattered, that anybody different in appearance or thought or action or belief was at best tolerated as “exotic” (i.e., okay, but not really white, not really one of us) and at worst an enemy of all that is good and pure and holy.

Muslims share 99% of conservative white Christian American social values, differing only in specifics of religious practice and occasionally in manner of dress, yet they are regarded by those similar to our dear family friend as satanic fiends intent on murdering / maiming / terrorizing / enslaving America.[8]

Obama’s election, while never a real or intentional threat to conservative white Christians, so badly shook their perception of the world that they have effectively gone insane, electing a demonstrably evil, incompetent, lying con artist and tossing him the keys to the country and a stack of credit cards.

The reaction of white Christian America to Obama was not the same thing as the South losing the Civil War.

While the South fought to maintain slavery, slavery was merely a means to an end. Replace actual bona fide slavery with Jim Crow and the system soon fell back into place, with whites on top and blacks on the bottom, soon to be joined by Asians and Jews and Italians and Mexicans and queers and socialists and labor organizers and anybody else who did not fit into white Christian America’s image of itself.

The country has elected some truly deplorable human beings as president[9] but never ever as grotesque a caricature of America as the cheeto[10] now shitting in the Oval Office.

This is what white Christian America wanted!

If our presidents are symbols to what we aspire to as a nation, then Trump is a repudiation of everything Obama represented.

Do not deny this is true! Look at their first order of business, see what they struck down to thunderous applause from neo-nazis and home schooled Christians alike, watch what they poise to do next, and admit the truth: This is white America not screaming in rage but screaming in fear.

White Americans will not be annihilated, they will not be denied any rights. There will be no pogroms or camps for white Christian Americans, despite their fears and projections of same.[11]

Presuming we are entering a fourth turning, it is not what Bannon and his bigots think it is. Spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually too stunted to see the truth slapping them in the face, Bannon and company[12] want to wage unholy war on all of Islam (1.6 billion people) and China (1.35 billion), thinking somehow magically — by virtue of their white skin and lip service to a perverse prosperity gospel — that they will come out on top, dominating half the planet through sheer military intimidation while miraculously and simultaneously defeating millions of years of human nature to impose a ridiculous moral code on the rest of us, a moral code that they have repeatedly demonstrated they have no intention of following themselves.

If we are to enter Strauss and Howe’s fourth turning, this is what the crisis will be: Not yet another failure of free market capitalism, not a war against billions of people who just want to be left alone to determine their own destinies, but the shrieking / screaming moment of true horror ala H.P. Lovecraft’s The Outsider in which white Christian America recoils in horror at the monster before it, stretching out its hand to ward off the repellant fiend…

Harry Clarke - Masque Of the Red Death

“…and touch a cold and unyielding surface of polished glass.

May God have mercy on our souls.

.

art by Harry Clarke
(Yeah, I know it’s from
Poe’s The Masque Of The Red Death
but it’s the best I could do, okay?)

[1]  Real historians find their work interesting but far from convincing, and have laid out a skeptical case against it.

[2]  Even here the weakness of Strauss and Howe’s claims are apparent: They predict a turning every 80-88 years yet allow enough wiggle room to include so a wide variety of historical events that almost any incident can be shoe horned in. Did the second turning trigger in 1856 or 1864 or somewhere between? Was the third turning in 1936 — nine years after the start of the Great Depression — or in 1944, the height of WWII? Is the start of the fourth turning 2016 or is it yet to come in 2032? Inquiring minds want to know…

[3]  See The Big Short; it’s on Netflix and explains this very well in an extremely entertaining manner. And it’s got Christian Bale as an insane billionaire with uncanny super-vision.

[4]  What we refer to in passing in U.S. history books as The French & Indian War, to us a relatively minor series of skirmishes, is what Europe calls The Seven Years’ War, a massive conflict that cost tens of thousands of lives and drained several national treasuries.

[5]  The Whiskey Rebellion being most prominent.

[6]  Human error certainly did contribute mightily to the Dust Bowl, but had the prairie ecology been different there would have been no subsequent disaster.

[7]  A moral panic that opened the doors for truly monumental corruption and lawlessness to further undermine public confidence.

[8]  I have made this prediction before and am standing by it: Someday somebody will figure out how to market Islam to white Americans and when they do 90% of the fundamentalist white Christians will abandon the Bible and embrace the Q’ran, turning on their former religion with a viciousness so intense that long time Muslims will have to intercede on behalf of a now besieged American Christian minority. Allah Akbar, mammy-jammers.

[9]  In my lifetime I would say only Eisenhower, Ford, Carter, and Obama earned a C, while Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, and both Bushes — for any and all positive moments in their administrations — ultimately failed themselves and their country, producing far more harm than good. And, yes, I know some of them were wonderfully charismatic; they still fncked us over seven ways from sundown.

[10]  An apt term as he is unnaturally orange colored, greasy, appealing yet empty, and ultimately extremely fragile.

[11] They, on the other hand, have repeatedly called for the punishment and execution of non-white Christian Americans for the heinous sin-crime of being non-white / non-Christian / non-American, yet in the dim recesses of their memory recall Sunday School verses in which Jesus taught “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” and they tremble in fear of being treated in the exact same manner they and their ancestors have treated Native Americans and African-Americans and Mexicans and Asians and Jews and Muslims and Hindus and Sikhs and Irish and Italians and the poor and the disabled and the sexually unconventional. And the kneeslapper is this: Nobody gives a fnck about them; people have their own problems and don’t want to waste time / energy harassing white people.

[12] Looking at you, Mike Pence!

 

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Writing Report February 24, 2017

by Buzz on 24/02/2017

Wow, it’s been quite a while since my last writing report.

I’ve been writing.

I just haven’t been reporting.

Let’s start with good news:
I have a micro-fiction (i.e. under 100 words) piece coming out soon in Spirit’s Tincture Journal #3. I have to stay mum on the story since it’s (a) micro-fiction and (b) the title itself gives away about half the idea.

But I’ll let you know when
it’s in print and online.

More good news:
After a lengthy hiatus, the regular writers’ group I participate in has resumed meeting. It’s good to get together and hang out and compare notes and talk shop but with a certain sense of…well, not exactly privacy but certainly not having to worry about drive by commenters coming in and hijacking a thread (and God knows I am guilty of that sin!).

I had written a one act play for a contest last year but missed the entry deadline so I planned to submit it this year, only this year the contest is on hold so I’ve turned it into a short story…

…and hate it.

The story works as a play because there’s a certain amount of theatricality to it that audiences will forgive in their suspension of disbelief (i.e., condensing a lot of stuff that in real life would occur over hours or days into a twenty to thirty minute long piece), but it trying to re-do it as a short story I ended up with a great big lump that refuses to come to life.

I read the first part to the group and asked for feedback and received a lot of good insight.

When you remove your ego from the equation, you can be shown what you are blind to because you are too close to the material. The group showed me where the story works as a play — and what has to be jettisoned / changed / added to make it work as a short story. I’m going to take a swing at re-writing it this weekend.

My “World War Two era Lord Of The Flies with Catholic school girls” YA novel will be hitting Amazon within a month or so. I have an excellent new artist working on a cover and when she does this one we’ll get her to work on the next three muy pronto.

We’ll sneak some peeks
at the cover next time.

I’ve mentioned this story several times in the past but now that The Most Dangerous Man In The World is finally off my plate I hope to speed up my release dates.

The second female barbarian story is awaiting its turn in the re-writing bin, then I want to start on the big comic (and in comedy, not graphic) novel I’ve been planning for a couple of years.

And of course, various short stories and poems and fictoids are sure to pop up now and then in the upcoming year, so God willin’ ‘n’ th’ crick don’t rise we should see quite a bit of material from yrs truly in the next ten months.

on writing roald dahl

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Ian Fleming On The Trump Administration

by Buzz on 21/02/2017

“Mr Bond, they have a saying in Chicago:
‘Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it’s enemy action’.”
— Ian Fleming, Goldfinger

trump 16 - fake 3 times

Not once, not twice, but three times now Trump or spokespersons for his administration have referenced non-existent terrorist attacks.

Specifically, non-existent Islamic terrorist attacks.

These are not simple misstatements, confusing a place name, or a single slip of the tongue in an otherwise factual statement.

Read the transcripts. Trump and his spokespersons refer repeatedly to events that have not occurred as if they have and are in fact either common knowledge or would be if the media was not deliberately hiding the information.

That last part makes no sense. Mass media makes its profits off of viewership; they have every motive to over-report incidents (and often do).

There is a reason for these lies about non-existent terrorist attacks, and that reason is to lay the groundwork for a war against…somebody, just so long as they’re Islamic.

The most likely target will be Iran, for reasons I’ll go into shortly, but if ISIS or some other group obliges Trump and stages a successful attack on Americans in the US or abroad, that will be sufficient for the Trump administration to send hundreds of thousands of American service personnel in harm’s way for no other reason than to glorify the draft dodger who mocks genuine war heroes.

Say what you will about Presidents John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Lyndon Baines Johnson, and Richard Milhous Nixon, but when their country called they served in time of war.

Not Trump.

The reason Iran will be the most likely target can be found in the mindset of his chief strategist, Steven Bannon.

Bannon was a Navy lieutenant aboard the USS Paul F. Foster when President Jimmy Carter, a former nuclear submarine commander, authorized a mission to rescue Americans being held hostage in Tehran.

As to why Americans were being held hostage in Tehran, check below the jump. What happened was that the mission, later criticized as too complex and too ambitious for the resources allotted it, failed before it even got started, resulting in the accidental death of eight American service personnel and the lost of a helicopter.

Bannon has pointed to that failed mission as the start of his interest in politics, blaming President Carter for undercutting the mission. (If that sounds familiar, it’s because conservatives used that same trope against President Kennedy when the Bay of Pigs invasion failed.)

History is replete with demagogues, failing leaders, floundering governments, and brazen opportunists who have sought — all too successfully all too often — to stir up needless wars in an effort to bolster their own positions.

America has historically marched off to war with great enthusiasm…and far too often trudged back with the sad realization the sacrifice and effort was misspent.

We are good at invading, we historically have done poorly at holding what we’ve taken, much less building a successful peace (the aftermath of World War Two being the one bright spot in our history).

Bannon has openly talked about war with China, a rising economic power in the Middle East and Africa where their brand of foreign involvement steers clear of the pitfalls Europe and America fell into.

To build up to that — as other warmongers have sought to build up to their grand campaigns — the Trump administration is focusing on anti-Islamic prejudice to justify a warm-up conflict that will let the US test out new strategies, tactics, and technology before taking a swing at China.

[Do not look at China and assume it will be a simple replay of World War Two. For one thing, China massively outnumbers the United States, Japan in World War Two had a population of 71,380,000 while the US outnumbered them almost two-to-one with 131,028,000. China has over four times our population: 1,382,000,000+ vs 324,000,000+ for the US. At the start of the war Japan’s fleet was vastly outnumbered by the United States Navy and they had to fight not only us but the British and Australian fleets as well as elements of the Free French navy. Much of Japan’s war effort was devoted to maintaining control over occupied China in the face of coordinated attacks by Chiang Kai-Shek and Mao Tse-tung. Most importantly, Japan was an island that could be and was cut off from supplies and resources; China is the fourth largest country in the world in terms of land mass, trailing behind the US by only 230,000 square miles, and bordered by several nations more friendly to them than the United States. They have only 260 nuclear weapons compared to our 6,800 but that’s more than enough to devastate the US and its military if the balloon goes up.]

We know Putin has ambitions towards the Ukraine and the former Soviet States in Eastern Europe. He probably has sense enough to avoid anything that could be construed as a direct attack on Western Europe (because tell the Germans they can give the Russians some payback and this time they’re on the side of the angels and you’ll find that part of the world ablaze all too easily), but he does want the US out of the way, which is why he’s been encouraging Trump to make noises about abandoning long standing treaties with staunch allies. A US / China war would suit Putin’s plans just fine, taking two potential rivals out of immediate play by pitting them against one another.

There’s no reason for this to happen, of course. No real reason.

But neither Trump nor Bannon are men of reason.

Read the rest of this article »

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The Words Of The Prophets…

by Buzz on 19/02/2017

…are written on the subway walls
and tenement halls

WotP Bill HIcks 140510

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fictoid: Thanks But No Thanks

by Buzz on 17/02/2017

My owners replaced my arm, not that the refurbished blue one didn’t work just as well as the original red one.

They said, “Well, that may be the case, but we want to do something nice for you.”

Programmed to look after their needs, in particular by avoiding needless budgetary expense, I said that it wasn’t necessary but they insisted and that’s when I realized it wasn’t me but their status they cared about, can’t have a serving ‘bot with an obvious replacement arm, can one?

But I was programmed to serve and obey and sometimes the best way to serve is by making small concessions so I allowed them to take my old blue arm away to be repainted.

Of course, when they brought it back it wasn’t the second-hand blue arm repainted but a brand new red one.

Did they not know I would be instantly aware of that the moment it was hooked on?

No matter; I thanked them profusely but genuinely.

After all, that is what I am programmed to do.

(Though to be perfectly honest, I’d much rather prefer my old blue arm back and my programming changed so I could feel resentment.)

mike-hinge-illo-1973

art by Mike Hinge
text © Buzz Dixon

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Beware The Gulf Of Tonkin

by Buzz on 15/02/2017

lemon party hand job

There’s been a lot of people on the InterWebz recently warning “Watch out! Trump and Bannon are looking for a Reichstag fire!” to which a lot of people cry “Foul! Inappropriate use of Godwin Law!”

To which —
Surprise!
Surprise!

— I agree.

There’s no need to dip into the history of Nazi Germany and invoke the Reichstag fire as a warning against the Trump administration.

Not when America has its own Gulf of Tokin incident.[1]

On Aug. 2, 1964 the U.S.S. Maddox, a U.S. Navy destroyer, opened fire on three North Vietnamese torpedo boats.[2]

The Maddox was about 120 miles off the coast of North Vietnam conducting electronic espionage (Fun Factoid! Currently there is a Russian warship doing the exact same thing to us about 70 miles off the coast of New England and there’s not a thing we can do about it since they are in international waters). A South Vietnamese commando raid, vetted by the United States, hit a North Vietnamese radar station.

The North Vietnamese responded by sending three torpedo boats to shadow the Maddox. When the Maddox intercepted radio transmissions that indicated the North Vietnamese boats might attack, they opened fire.

The North Vietnamese fired back…from a distance of five miles. In the ensuing combat the Maddox and fighter-bombers from the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Ticonderoga sank one torpedo boat, badly damaged another, and killed four North Vietnamese sailors.

The United States sustained one single bullet hole from an North Vietnamese machine gun, which struck the Maddox more by sheer chance than deliberate intent.

The next day the Maddox detected false radar readings that initially led them to believe they were being pursued against by North Vietnamese patrol boats, but eventually realized these were not real.

Nonetheless, President Lyndon Baines Johnson used both the real incident and the non-existent second one to justify escalating U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, to the tune of 58,220 American dead by April 30, 1975.

Why?

Because he was afraid the alt-right was going to label him “soft on communism” if he didn’t commit ground troops to Southeast Asia.[3]

Johnson, to be fair, was in a tough position. Never a popular leader, he had accepted John F. Kennedy’s offer to be vice president in order to shore up the increasingly reactionary conservative Southern Democrats in 1960.

Kennedy’s assassination was terribly traumatic for the United States.[4] Kennedy was a popular president, though his handling of Cuba set pretty much everyone’s teeth on edge.[5] His assassination turned him from an average president with a mixed record and a philanderer’s potential for scandal into an American icon, and gave Johnson (a Southerner) the political leverage to push through the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on July 2 of that year.

The Civil Rights Act was massively important, long overdue, and absolutely justified, but the alt-right and their white supremacist allies had long been fighting against civil rights for African-Americans and other minorities, claiming the civil rights movement was actually a front for communist agitators to take over the country.

In this face of this bigotry, Johnson could ill afford to appear “soft on communism” and since fighting communists in America had the double drawback of (a) actually persecuting American citizens and (b) not having any actual communists in this country to fight, he opted to fight real communists halfway around the world.

Now, the next eleven years is a fascinating history, one that would be hilarious in its ineptitude if not horrifically tragic in its outcome, but doesn’t concern us today.

No, today we are looking at the following situation:

  • An administration facing large scale sustained opposition across the country
  • An occupant of the Oval Office who has repeatedly demonstrated again and again and again that he is untrustworthy, will lie about anything and everything simply because he doesn’t want to face the truth, and who has already betrayed and pissed off a huge hunk of his extremely narrow electorate
  • A chief advisor to said occupant who also has a long career as a demonstrable liar, albeit one driven by a far right / alt-right agenda instead of his so-called boss’ mere rapacious greed

This is not a reassuring position for the citizenry of the United States.

There is a great need for us to remain eternally vigilant in the face of evil people — both in our government and in other governments — who simply do not care about the lives of others so long as they maintain power.

They can be stopped, but only if we refuse to allow ourselves to be stampeded.[6]

.

.

.

[1] In a nutshell: Capitalists, particularly those of the robber baron variety, have long been opposed to organized labor. Their violent opposition and suppression to organized labor in Europe ended up creating the nascent socialist movement, and the violent suppression to socialism ended up creating the Marxist communist party, and the attempt to crush communism led to fascist governments in Germany, Hungary, Romania, Finland, Italy, and Spain and we all know how well that turned out.

But instead of learning their lessons and finding a reasonable accommodation with labor and the middle class, the far right wing capitalists (those whom we refer to as alt-right today) declared de facto war on communism and socialism before Hitler’s ashes completely cooled, and as a result from Sept. 3, 1945 to Dec. 26, 1991 anyone suggesting peaceful co-existence between capitalist West and communist East was branded a commie-simp-pinko and a traitor to America.

[2] A little more history:  After World War One, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson championed for every nation to be allowed self-determination. A delegation from what was then called French Indo-China that included Nguyễn Sinh Cung attempted to gain his support for their independence and self-determination.

Wilson blew them off.

During World War Two, Nguyễn Sinh Cung (now known as Ho Chi Minh) led the Viet Minh against both the French colonialists and the Japanese invaders in Southeast Asia. The United States supported his efforts and promised to recognize Vietnamese independence after the war.

Instead, we double crossed them and allowed the French to reclaim their colonies in Southeast Asia. Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh fought the French and their ex-Wehrmacht mercenaries, defeating them at Dien Bien Phu on May 7, 1954.

Now at this point, most of the rest of the world shrugged, congratulated Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh on their victory, and recognized them as the legitimate government of Vietnam.

The U.S., however, opted to set up a puppet government in South Vietnam, triggering a faux civil war (the overwhelming majority of Vietnamese, North and South, preferred Ho Chi Minh’s government over any government supported and influenced by the West; we knew this and kept the fake civil war and puppet government going regardless).

In the intervening decade, the South Vietnamese puppet government proved remarkable inept and corrupt but despite this managed to continue fighting although unable to gain any significant headway against North Vietnam. The United States set “advisors” to help the South Vietnamese but in the aftermath of the 1950-53 Korean War (54,246 American dead) there was great reluctance to get involved in another land war in Asia.

The Gulf of Tonkin incident was about to change all that.

[3] And the kneeslapper is that the alt-right labeled every American president “soft on communism” including Dwight David Eisenhower who had a true warrior’s common sense reluctance to provoke unnecessary confrontations that would result in millions of deaths.

[4] I would argue more traumatic than the 9/11 terrorist attacks and almost as traumatic as the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

[5] He gave permission for the C.I.A. to attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro by landing exiled Cubans at the Bay of Pigs; this failed ignobly and in no small reason because the Cubans, like the Vietnamese, preferred one of their own as their leader instead of a foreign influenced government. Kennedy followed this by putting medium range nuclear missiles in Turkey to threaten the Soviet Union, and the Soviet Union responded by setting up similar missile bases in Cuba. This lead to the Cuban missile crisis, which ended with the U.S. agreeing to take their missiles out of Turkey and stop interfering with Cuba in return for the Soviet Union withdrawing its missiles. Before this agreement was reached, however, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. came within an eyelash of nuclear war, including the U.S. depth bombing a Soviet sub carrying nuclear torpedoes.

[6] Some of you may ask “Well, what about the attack on Pearl Harbor or 9/11 in the context of the Gulf of Tonkin; weren’t those the same thing?”

In a word: No. Pearl Harbor was the first salvo in an all-out hemisphere wide attack by Imperial Japan against the United States and our Pacific allies, launched after they had already invaded and occupied mainland China. It was not a single incident in direct response to aggression by the United States and our allies but part of a well thought out and competently executed strategy to drive the United States and our Western allies from Asia and most of the Pacific, and only because of a slow typist at the Japanese embassy in Washington D.C. did it occur before Japan’s formal declaration of war.

9/11 is a closer fit, but here, too, it was a real event, a genuine attack coordinated and launched against the United States with a specific reaction in mind: To provoke a weak minded administration to commit to a course of action that would forever damage our credibility and influence in the Middle East. If George W. Bush had treated 9/11 as a horrendous but aberrant criminal act, much the same way we treated the white supremacist far right Oklahoma City bombing as a horrendous but aberrant criminal act, and not as an act of war, we would have still tracked down and killed Osama bin Laden and probably have crushed Al-Q’aeda instead of stirring up a stink pot in the Middle East that will never go away in our lifetimes.

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The Enemy Is Not At The Gate But At Our Table

by Buzz on 14/02/2017

The terrible thing about authoritarianism is that it robs one of moral agency.

That’s a fenchy-smenchy way of saying it takes away your individual moral responsibility.

“I was told…”

“The boss said…”

“According to the book…”

In each case the individual surrenders their ability to make a choice for good or ill and lets somebody else decide for them.

On occasion, this is good:
It speeds things up and prevents low level functionaries from making a mess of establish procedure.

But there’s also several magnitudes of difference between a check-out clerk who won’t give a refund without a receipt because of store policy, and a person who refuses to help a desperate person simply because the paperwork has been filled out incorrectly.

In the first case, one can always push it up to a manager or other higher authority figure; even if denied the person seeking the refund is unlikely to suffer great personal harm. In the latter, one may see that will befall a person, and simply avoid doing anything about it because one can hide behind authority. “Hey, I didn’t want to sends those Jews back to Nazi Germany, but their papers weren’t in order and the regulations are clear.”

Authority offers a comfort factor:
In an authoritarian environment, everybody knows their place.* Theoretically, when the old king dies the new king – even if only a child – immediately steps in, and things proceed in an orderly fashion.**

When many people feel their world shifting unfamiliarly around them, when they’re no longer certain or comfortable where societal boundaries lay, then they turn to authoritarianism.

A big hunk of this comes from fear of losing status, safety, and security to change. As human beings we are almost always more comfortable / less anxious if things stay the way they’ve always been.

“’Twas ever thus.”

But not everybody enjoys their current or past status, and many want that status changed, at least to the point where they feel safe and secure.

Too often those with the old mind set cannot grasp why they can’t continue acting and talking the way they once had — they have no problem with it and literally can’t imagine why anyone else would.

I remember in grade school, way back in the 1960s, hearing a sweet little white haired old lady ask after church, “Well, what’s so wrong with calling them n[bomb]s? That’s what they are.”

Racism is authority in the form of tradition: We have always had this system, ergo we must always have this system.

And since racism hinges so much on shoring up the status of the dominant group, it’s no surprise members of said group flock to comfort under certain authoritarian banners.

They want something to make them feel safe and secure, and gladly surrender heart, mind, and soul.

I am not a racist,” they proclaim, and in their specific definition that’s true.

But it doesn’t mater if you personally kick your neighbor’s teeth in or if you merely say nothing while somebody else kicks their teeth in if the end result is the same: Your neighbor gets their teeth kicked in.

We are now engaged in the opening salvos of a great test of our national character, one in which we shall see if we truly do believe in liberty & justice for all and loving our neighbors as we love ourselves, or will throw it all away in a desperate yet futile attempt to cling to a past that not only no longer exists, but never really existed in the first place and certainly can’t be summoned forth now.

There will be no neutrals in this struggle. There may be peacemakers, but those peacemakers will not be neutral.

We have failed — in fact, have been failing for a long, long time — our tests of moral character. We need to choose wisely so we do not destroy ourselves entirely.

Nobody thought Byzantium would fall…

…until it did.

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* And if that doesn’t sound offense and demeaning to you, it’s because you don’t feel the sting…yet.

** Theoretically. And that has happened on many an occasion. The pages of history, however, are well saturated with blood in all the places where it didn’t and pretenders to the throne went to war over heirs-apparent.

 

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The Words Of The Prophets…

by Buzz on 12/02/2017

…are written on the subway walls
and tenement halls

WotP Noam Chomsky

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Symbol Status

by Buzz on 8/02/2017

[see “Two Sides, One Coin” and “A Walking Contradiction…”]

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There’s a concept called the hierarchy of needs and it basically boils down to this: As soon as your most basic level of needs are met (i.e., you have air / water / food), you forget about them and progress to the next level of needs (i.e., shelter and clothing for protection from danger and harsh elements), and then to the next level (i.e., securing a stable source / supply of those needs), and so on and so on until you get to the need for status.

And today, despite people complaining about crushing debt and limited buying power and lack of affordable health care, we are by and large living fat ‘n’ sassy and can afford to worry about status.

Our economic system has spent literally centuries telling workers that they were useless unless they produced wealth for someone else.

Even so-called self-made gazillionaires were producing wealth for investors and stockholders, not exclusively for themselves.

Anybody who tries going off the grid is dismissed as an impractical eccentric at best and a kook at worse.

Culturally, it’s even more daunting. It doesn’t matter if you are a bona fide hermit or a California nature lover or a self-contained religious cult or an early Delta blues musician or a jazz player or a rock’n’roller or a Greenwich village bohemian or a Beat or a hippie: If you opt out of the rat race, if you set your own goals, if you establish your own standards then you are suspect at best, despised most likely, and actively persecuted with depressing frequency.

We are expected to participate in the grand scheme of things.

The model created at the beginning of the industrial revolution is no longer viable:   Large numbers of human beings aren’t needed to grow food or make things; most of those jobs can be eliminated.

What do we replace them with if not a consumer society?
How can you have consumers if they have no money with which to consume?

The average human being travels in a relatively small community.

I’m not referring to actual physical location, but to the people who make that community up.

Most people have about 250 people in their lives whom they interact with enough to be comfortable with.*

Facebook and other social media lets us have thousands of ”friends” but in truth once one starts growing their Facebook friend list beyond a hundred or so people, one discovers those people are really fans or followers, people who find something interesting in your posts and keep an eye on what you’re doing.

Which is fine.

Nothing wrong with that.

But there’s a core of around 250 people who matter to us, even if they’re just Facebook friends or pen pals.

We want them to look favorably on us.

That’s status.

Real status.

Even among the world of celebrities and / or billionaires, there’s only 250 people they’re trying to impress.

They may want fame and fortune so that millions of schmoes will envy them, but having millions of schmoes envying them is how their 250 friends rank status.

We have an economy and attendant culture based on making / moving / marketing things.

We encourage people to consume things not for the obvious basic reasons of pure survival, but because by conspicuous consumption our status may be displayed to the rest of society.

Expensive shit stuff >means> “They make a lot of money” >means> “They must be important.”

We literally live in a culture based on this deliberate and incessant perversion of the Tenth Commandment: Thou shalt covet…

Our digital world is undercutting all this.

We no longer need to physically possess something in order to enjoy it.

We don’t need ownership for much of what we want, merely access.

So why do we need things to display status?

Consider a society / culture / world in which status was adjudged by doing something.

Hard to imagine?

Why?

That’s the world most people lived in the western world in the 17th, 18th, 19th, and early part of the 20th century.

That’s the world of classical Greece, of pre-Columbian American, of the Polynesian peoples.

A world rich with amateur and semi-pro athletics, of literary and art guilds, of amateur musical groups ranging from choirs to brass bands to full symphonic orchestras, of amateur theatrical troupes, of home makers displaying their skills and competing in local / regional / national competitions, of animal shows, of gardening clubs, of a thousand and one special interest groups, all built around the concept of their members doing things.

Read any history of popular culture in those eras. People worked hard, but had no mass produced diversions; they had to entertain themselves.

What happened to that world?

Consumer economy, that’s what.

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[to be continued]

* “Comfortable” here does not necessarily mean pleasant, merely that both sides know their respective roles in the relationship and can thus anticipate what the other will do in a given situation.

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J. D. Salinger On Poetry and/or Weather

by Buzz on 8/02/2017

JD Salinger on poetry“Poets are always
taking the weather
so personally.”
— J. D. Salinger 

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