when the status quo frustrates.

Whipping your own side is a form of masochism (which is fine, if you’re into that kind of stuff, I guess)

Friday, March 12th, 2010

The US House of Representatives debated whether to end US military presence in Afghanistan by the end of this year.

No surprise, of course, the resolution in question failed, 65-356. But perhaps its real purpose was to give legitimacy to a debate even occurring at all.

In fact, much of the debate from the “no” side came in the form of questioning whether the debate should have happened at all, including speculation that Rep. Kucinich and others had “forgotten about 9/11″ and that they were deliberately trying to undermine America in seeking to end the eight and a half year war.

The last thing any kind of vested interest wants is to start talking about change. But don’t you worry, change-haters– not only the bill got squashed, but press coverage of it was kept to an absolute bare minimum. Nothing to see here. No uncomfortable ideas need pollute the already divided public’s thoughtways here. Any play it did get was devoted to rationalizing what a bad “strategy” it is for peace activists to pick any fight they’re not absolutely sure of winning. Because, after all, “appearances do matter.” It’s interesting to me that this kind of thinking is exactly what gets the United States “bringing democracy” to only the countries that it does. But perhaps I digress.

So what about that there quiet press? What do you think, Trollblog?

…the Times is willing to publish good reporting as long as the topic written about does not have critical day-to-day, life-and-death importance for our lives. So for topics the Sulzbergers regard as peripheral and fluffy, we get good stuff. But when the chips are down and the rubber hits the road, on war and peace or unemployment and depression, other considerations intervene, and the Times becomes the propaganda organ of an unexpressed neo-con, neoliberal non-partisan “centrist” agenda.

The media have chosen sides, and it’s not our side. We have to recognize this before we can deal with it. Even if all of the Democrats and liberals magically wised up about this overnight, I still doubt that we’d be able to overcome the systematic media opposition. But they haven’t wised up; they’re still hoping and praying that their holy fathers, Czar Sulzberger and Czar Graham (or maybe Czarina Weymouth) will hear their pleas.

Fortunately for the Czars, their Cossacks are loyal and up to the job.

Interesting choice of the word, “Cossack”. And will you look at that– reigniting just by chance a couple of days before the house vote on the Kucinich-sponsored bill whether to pull out of Aghanistan, the ongoing campaign to label as “unserious” and “ineffectual” anyone who is seen to fight for anything resembling a meaningful change was given its regular booster shot just in time. The official purpose of this particular Democratic party whipping is to keep Dems in line about the health care bill, and I believe that it probably really is just a fortunate coincidence for those with a neocon agenda, but still the timing is just exquisite, isn’t it? Whistle so blown, out trots Markos Moulitsas and attendant heelnippers.

Charlie Davis:

When not helping raise money for the same party that endorses locking up hundreds of thousands of Americans for non-violent drug offenses — and whose rule has brought us progressive achievements like the surge in Afghanistan and the official policy of killing citizens without so much as a judicial rubber-stamp if they travel to sufficiently swarthy countries and associate with the natives — Moulitsas is busy enforcing Democratic orthodoxy and party dogma, his latest threat of an ineffective primary challenge coming against poor old Dennis Kucinich for the sin of failing to endorse the White House and congressional leadership’s corporatist, pharmaceutical-insurance-complex-boosting joke of a health care reform bill.

“[I’m going to hold] people like Dennis Kucinich responsible for the 40,000 Americans that die each year from a lack of health care,” Moulitsas declared on MSNBC this week. Tough words. Now, here’s who he promised to support primary challenges against after 189 House Democrats voted to extend the war in Afghanistan, against a measure offered by the dastardly Kucinich, thus ensuring NATO forces will continue killing Afghan civilians at a healthy pace: ____________. That silence is a reflection of an awful strange and morally dubious set of priorities.

I’m going to hold people like Markos Moulitsas responsible for, I don’t know, EVERYTHING BAD IN THE WORLD. People like him, who beat down and belittle anyone who dares to actually act on the strength of the convictions that he claims to share, are the ones who keep all the shitty things shitty.

The really ironic thing is how Kucinich only gets into trouble because he’s doing his best to work within the system. Being a Democrat sure can be a problem sometimes, can’t it.


Monday, February 1st, 2010

An interpretation of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, represented as a pyramid with the more basic needs at the bottom.

A restavec (or restavek; from the French reste avec, “one who stays with”) is a child in Haiti who is sent by their parents to work for a host household as a domestic servant because the parents lack the resources required to support the child. (wikipedia)

I came across this article today, about a 9-year-old restavec named Sende Sencil.

Beaming, and in clean clothes for the first time since the earthquake, Sende, who was thought to be an orphan, returned to the hospital’s tents with the doctors.

As they walked, a man approached them on the street and reached out to grab Sende.

“I’m looking for her. She’s my family,” the doctors remember the man saying in broken English. “I’m taking her home.”

Pediatricians Tina Rezaiyan and Liz Hines, had been looking forward to the day when Sende’s parents might come to claim her, but this was not what they’d anticipated.

“She was trembling and hiding behind us. She was so scared of him,” said Hines, a second-year pediatric resident at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

Flashback to 1982: Walking home from school with my best friend, Sheila.* We’d been best friends since the first grade; we walked home from school every day together, hand in hand–though not that day, because one of her arms was in a cast and she needed the other one to carry her books. My eight-year-old self didn’t even notice the cast; it had been there for a few weeks, it was part of the scenery. Only my thirty-six-year-old self stares at it, remembering how Sheila got it.

“So can you spend the night tonight?” Sheila asked me.

I could, and I did, though even my eight-year-old self dreaded it a little. Not a lot, because Sheila was there and she was my best friend and we always had such fun–putting her mom’s 45s on the plastic record player upstairs and setting it on “78″–who needed an actual Alvin & The Chipmunks record when you had a stack of 45s and a record player with a “78″ setting? And eight-year-olds think that what they see and live is the way it is for everybody–they don’t resist the system because they aren’t even aware that there is one. But the night Sheila’s stepdad broke her arm was still fairly fresh in my memory, and I had no cozy feeling that I was entirely safe from him either–he’d hurt me before too, though nowhere near to the degree he hurt Sheila.


Memorial Day

Monday, May 25th, 2009


Just a harmless theoretical scenario.

Let’s imagine that the worst fears of many liberal conspiracy theorists come true. A staged terrorist attack leads to a fascist coup, and in the confusion Dick Cheney becomes President of the United States. Of course, not everybody takes this lying down, so Cheney turns the military and police directly against the people of America. Civil war. Within a couple of years, a million Americans are dead– about two thirds of them adult men, the other third women and children. Millions more are injured, maimed, or shell-shocked by the destruction of all they held dear; roaming the land, squatting in burnt out suburbs, dispossessed, starving, homeless. Bodies of the dead line the highways.

After a while, the situation stabilizes some. Cheney steps down, but his neocon coterie still control the guns. Quasi-democratic elections resume, but the winning parties always serve at the pleasure of the military. Resistance and even peaceful dissent is dealt with mercilessly, with imprisonment and torture, er, ‘enhanced interrogation’ of the offending parties. There are frequent whispers of rape and race-driven arrests, and the only judicial oversight is in the form of rubber stamp kangaroo courts.

If you were a civilian in a situation like this, would you be one to “Support the Troops”? If people you knew had been killed by the military? Friends? Your parents? Your children?

After all, it’s not any individual soldier’s fault what they are commanded to do. And many of them, as young men and women, had no other path forward out of economic misery. A large percentage joined up before the military coup and thought they were just going to be defending their own country in a more traditional manner. Perhaps you have friends or family who are soldiers, not just victims. Does it really do any harm to attend parades celebrating the troops? To simultaneously wear black armbands to remember the dead, and yellow ribbons to give moral reassurance to the ones who killed them?

Let’s leave fantasy land and come back to reality. The real question is: Does revering the troops no matter what only serve to uphold the status quo?

If not, why not?

Q: When is a democracy not a democracy?

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

A: Let’s let the official Team Obama Unnamed Source explain.

The US and its European allies are preparing to plant a high-profile figure in the heart of the Kabul government in a direct challenge to the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, the Guardian has learned.

The creation of a new chief executive or prime ministerial role is aimed at bypassing Karzai. In a further dilution of his power, it is proposed that money be diverted from the Kabul government to the provinces. Many US and European officials have become disillusioned with the extent of the corruption and incompetence in the Karzai government, but most now believe there are no credible alternatives, and predict the Afghan president will win re-election in August.

…A diplomat with knowledge of the review said: “Karzai is not delivering. If we are going to support his government, it has to be run properly to ensure the levels of corruption decrease, not increase. The levels of corruption are frightening.”

Another diplomat said alternatives to Karzai had been explored and discarded: “No one could be sure that someone else would not turn out to be 10 times worse. It is not a great position.”

Well, I’m glad that the Obama administration at least gave serious consideration to regime change.

…Other recommendations include: increasing the number of Afghan troops from 65,000 to 230,000 as well as expanding the 80,000-strong police force; sending more US and European civilians to build up Afghanistan’s infrastructure; and increased aid to Pakistan as part of a policy of trying to persuade it to tackle al-Qaida and Taliban elements.

…The risk for the US is that the imposition of a technocrat alongside Karzai would be viewed as colonialism, even though that figure would be an Afghan.

Naw. That’d just be silliness! After all, the figure would be an Afghan!

Hey, anyone mind if I just go ahead and install Noam Chomsky as prime minister of the US? I mean, Obama is not delivering.


I will not dance to your war drum

Saturday, January 3rd, 2009

So I’ve been gone awhile. Work managed to swallow my life, and it’s a long story, but…I will be back in due time.

But I’m back today to break my silence, because today Israeli tanks entered Gaza after air strikes that killed 400 or so people just weren’t enough.

Across the world, people protested. Here’s Toronto’s demo:


It went on much longer than this: thousands and thousands of people. But it isn’t enough.

This is what’s happening. Right now. And while a little over half of Israelis support what their government is doing, only 19% think that a ground invasion is a good idea.

We, here in the West, are complicit. Canada was the first country to refuse to recognize the results of the Palestinian election, after all, the first to cut aid in 2006. And the U.S., of course, largely funds the weapons currently raining down on the people of Gaza. We perpetuate this horror, or, rather, our governments do, and I don’t know any course of sane action beyond taking to the streets and screaming at them until they stop.

Suheir Hammad:

The Freedom Bandits ride again

Monday, November 3rd, 2008
Beware my freedom licks

Exactly four years ago to the day (it’s already November 4th in my time zone), the Freedom Bandits made their world premiere.

I was spending a few months back in Austin, Texas, in an interlude between my time in London and my move to Japan. While I was there, theater director friend Joanna Garfinkel got me involved with a political theater festival set to open on Election Day, 2004. If I wrote something, she promised, she would direct. So I wrote a one-act play, a dark slapstick political satire rock musical called “Freedom Bandits”.

It was about a mild-mannered emo rock band from Canada (portrayed by Jay McElfresh, the charismatic frontman for the Awesome Cool Dudes; Nick Travis, an old school rock’n'roller whose day job was as Guy Forsyth’s bass player; Punkass Marc; and myself) who are on tour in the American south during the run-up to the 2004 US national elections. The band members get branded as international terrorists by overzealous local police, and soon enough they are on a cross-country run for the Canadian border, Homeland Security in hot pursuit.

To aid their escape, they adopt the disguise of the “Freedom Bandits”, an All-American hard rock band, and posing as such they win a talent contest for the “most patriotic song”– and inadvertantly record what goes on to be a megahit single in the process, If They All Were American. Through an unlikely sequence of events, our plucky band of Canadians are soon faced with a choice between safely returning to Canada… or risking their lives to play a special concert which could very well decide the fate of the US Presidency, and the world.

We premiered it while the results were literally still coming in on the Kerry-Bush race. The play had two endings, and so, in its first performance– since Kerry appeared to be in the lead at the time– we performed the “Kerry wins” ending for what turned out to be the first and only time. (Alas, it made for a much more dramatically satisfying ending to the play than the “Bush wins” ending we had to do for the other performances.)

The best part? I later discovered that I had actually, through my psychic powers, based the play on a true story.

The whole thing was really a blast. We all decided afterwards to make a music video of If They All Were American, as kind of a going-away project just before I left for Asia. Joanna, Marc and I amassed a cast of fifty in what promised to be a joyfully ironic display of over-the-top These-Colors-Don’t-Run Americana. Unfortunately, less than a week before we were set to shoot, Jay suddenly learned his dad had terminal cancer, and he dropped out of the filming to go be with family. Without our lead singer, it just didn’t feel right going on. So we scrapped the project, and during my last three days in America, Marc and I made a short film instead.

All that remains of this once-promising music video is a lone recording of the song. It, unfortunately, has only a temp track on top with me singing, which was meant to be replaced by Jay at a later date. But it’s better than nothing, and to this day I’m still proud of the song itself.

So, without further ado, I present the only song ever recorded by the late, great Freedom Bandits. An anthem for a superpower’s battered soul. Ladies and gentlemen, for your listening pleasure:



Q: How is a bombing raid in the Great War on Terror like an old-school southern lynching?

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

A: The ones doing the killing never seem to care if the intelligence it’s based on is actually true.

Q: Why not?

Brad Hicks: (emphasis mine)

If you studied American history prior to about 2000, even if you studied it at the college level, you were almost certainly taught something wrong, because the truth was one of America’s last, best-kept secrets. And it has to do with lynching. You see, if you studied before then, one of the things you were told about lynching was that lynching was usually motivated by anger, by hatred, by exaggerated fear of “impurity,” by anger over Reconstruction, by irrational over-reaction to minor black crimes. But then a historian made a lucky find, one that unlocked a whole field of study. A set of records, more or less accidentally compiled, gave us a longer and more comprehensive list of lynchings than we had. A very macabre set of records.

…That made it possible to research not just a few lynchings, but hundreds of them, and to compile statistics on what had happened before and after them. And the terrible, but fascinating, bit of secret history turned out to be the immediate aftermath of over half of those lynchings. Over half of those lynchings turned out to involve black men who owned their own successful farms and/or businesses. And the day after the lynchings, those farms and businesses were sold to white neighbors, in closed auctions, for pennies on the dollar, and the surviving real heirs were run out of town. And in a terrifyingly large number of those cases, historians were able to show one or more of the following facts. The buyer was the person who made the initial accusation against the victim. And the buyer was a relative of one or more of the following: the mayor, the chief of police, the local minister and/or the municipal judge.

I want you to get this through your head, and never forget it. Lynching was not a hate crime. Lynching was an economic crime.

On August 22, the US Military targeted civilian homes in Azizabad, Afghanistan. Depending on which accounts you choose to believe, they either killed 92 innocent civilians, including as many as 60 children; or 30-35 Taliban militants plus “only” 5-7 innocent civilians. (So I guess that would make it okay then.) Ludicrously, US Military sources have been claiming that the discrepancy is due to Taliban convincing the villagers to fake the evidence, even suggesting that they built fake mass graves to fool UN inspectors and international reporters.

The US military said that its findings were corroborated by an independent journalist embedded with the US force. He was named as the Fox News correspondent Oliver North, who came to prominence in the 1980s Iran-Contra affair, when he was an army colonel.

…right. Well then it must be true, because it’s not like Ollie North ever lied on behalf of the US government or anything.

But that’s not where I’m going with this.


Anti-war *IS* feminist

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

Would people stop insinuating that I don’t care about women just because war is what I get the most worked up about right now? (I’m not just talking about on this blog. For some reason it seems to have become a common refrain lately.)

Being anti-war and being feminist are not mutually exclusive. After all, it’s impossible to support gender equality for women who you’re killing, or even for whom you’re just creating a constantly life-threatening environment. War zones, even once they’re ex-war zones, are where rights for women go to die.
The image “http://www.chris-floyd.com/war/images/girl_jpg.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

(All pictures from here.)

Though I have argued that Obama appears to share McCain’s bloodthirsty imperialist core, it’s absolutely true that war is not the only issue that our choice of president could affect in meaningful ways. So, despite the fact that Obama has always been pretty lukewarm toward feminism, it’s also true that McCain has been downright hostile to it. Obama as president would surely be better for American women in general.

Women in Iraq, on the other hand — or in any other countries we’re raping to serve the business interests of the Great and Powerful Patriarchy — I’m pretty sure they won’t give a shit. Living in a war zone means the very fight for survival comes first. The things that feminists (quite rightly) fight for in America must seem like impossible dreams to Iraqi women who are forced to sell their bodies in order to keep their children from starving to death. Why is this our problem? Because we’re the ones who put them in this situation.

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Since America invaded Iraq, an estimated 1.2 million Iraqis have been killed as a direct result. Surely everyone realizes that this means we’ve killed over half a million women in the bargain? I know it’s hard, but please take a moment and try to imagine what it would be like if some new threat (misogynistic terrorists, militant MRAs, whatever) had arrived on the scene five years ago and begun violently killing over half a million American women, with more killing still to come. Or if that seems like I’m rigging the argument too much, just make it over a million people of both sexes. Or, to make it even more analogous to Iraq, we can just say 3% of our population (9 million people, give or take).

Any which way you cut it, there would be absolutely no other topics of discussion in America. It would be priority number one to deal with. There would be no compromises that allowed the killing to continue at a slower place, no half-solutions which involved convincing the killers to target Canadians instead of Americans or somesuch.

The image “http://www.chris-floyd.com/war/images/iraqiwoman2_jpg.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

But it’s hard for Americans to imagine that this is really happening to people just as human and important to themselves as we are to ourselves. Our compliant propagandistic press doesn’t show us life on the ground in Iraq. True critics of this war– those who say it’s wrong on every level, not just the way it’s been “poorly managed”– are marginalized and derided in our national discourse.

The image “http://www.chris-floyd.com/war/images/iraq6_1apr2003_jpg.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.
Let’s face it, the reality of war is just not pleasant to think about. Let’s watch HBO instead.

UPDATE: Ampersand points out that my assumption of 50% female casualties is off by quite a bit. Now I’m certainly no statistician, but if I’m analyzing the Lancet study (pdf) correctly, provided that the male/female death ratio has stayed more or less the same since 2006, we’re looking at 20% female mortality. Which means “only” about 240,000 female deaths directly caused by US involvement so far. (As opposed to 960,000 males. A particularly sick case of “The Patriarchy hurts men, too”.)

Master of Jiu Jitsu

Monday, July 21st, 2008

We’ve started a little conversation in the back room that I figured I’d take back to the main table.

Where we left things: I asserted that McCain and Obama are both warmongers, it’s just that McCain is honest about it.

QUIN: [Obama] can say he doesn’t want South Korea-style military bases, [that he's for] autonomous Iraqi govt, all the rest, but it’s all empty rhetoric unless his actual plan calls for pulling all US presence out of Iraq. Currently, it’s nothing even resembling that.

THENE: No, but it’s markedly different from the McCain approach. You’re the first person I’ve ever seen even make the argument that there’s no difference between the two in that regard – even if we can’t know what either would really do until one of them takes office.

It’s true, we can’t know. But, when was the last time a politician on the national level turned out to be MORE liberal once s/he attained office than what they promised in their campaign?

I’m not actually arguing that there’s no differences between McCain’s and Obama’s plans for Iraq. The biggest thing that sets them apart is that McCain is a fairly transparent opponent, whereas Obama and the other savage mules are more like jiujitsu masters. McCain just goes for the direct attack and says “We’ll stay in Iraq, you’re just smelly hippies”. But Obama deftly steps to one side, saying “I’m on your side, don’t worry, I’m change you can believe in” and then just stays in anyway. (more…)


Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

Folks, the internet has been won.

Background: Something Awful commentators react to recently-released footage of then 16-year-old Omar Khadr being cruelly interrogated by Canadian officials at Guantanamo. Their reactions range from sympathetic to death threats—these soft children of privilege who never leave the comfort of their parents’ basement, let alone face unending hell in an illegal American gulag.

Anyway. GvB responds by baking cookies for the torture apologists.

Here’s the cookies being scooped out onto the sheet just before they head into the oven. I really like Anolon jelly-roll baking sheets because they seem to heat evenly and the high sides make them useful for a lot of baking tasks, but none of you would know that because you feed like animals from a trough of violent sensationalist news and glory in the abuse of fundamental human rights. You discuss the semantics of what it means to truly torture a person as if you had the faintest inkling of what it means to suffer. Mercy is foreign to you. You are ignorant savages so far removed from principles of human decency that if you were suddenly thrust into the resurrected presence of the framers of the Constitution, they would immediately begin spewing blood from every orifice and their souls would yearn for the grave. :)

You need to read the whole thing, because there are pictures. And also, delicious, delicious cookies.

Open Government in Action (laughs evilly)

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008


Wikileaks has obtained a sensitive US military counterinsurgency manual. The manual, Foreign Internal Defense Tactics Techniques and Procedures for Special Forces (1994, 2004), may be critically described as “what we learned about running death squads and propping up corrupt government in Latin America and how to apply it to other places”. Its contents are both history defining for Latin America and, given the continued role of US Special Forces in the suppression of insurgencies and guerilla movements world wide, history making.

The document, which has been verified, is official US Special Forces doctrine. It directly advocates training paramilitaries, pervasive surveillance, censorship, press control and restrictions on labor unions & political parties. It directly advocates warrantless searches, detainment without charge and the suspension of habeas corpus. It directly advocates bribery, employing terrorists, false flag operations and concealing human rights abuses from journalists. And it directly advocates the extensive use of “psychological operations” (propaganda) to make these and other “population & resource control” measures more palatable.

If this gets confirmed as real, and doesn’t get the complete media blackout treatment, it’s HUGE. Yeah, yeah, I know. Fat chance. But I gotta keep on dreaming…


Peak Banana

Monday, May 26th, 2008

I don’t like bananas, but even if I did, I wouldn’t eat them. United Fruit, the reason that we have the bananas that we have today, is basically the template for ruthless, evil corporations, pursuing unimaginable profits as the cost of human rights and the environment.

Within the next few decades, short of a scientific miracle, the bananas that we’re used to will cease to exist. That’s also United Fruit’s fault, incidentally. Check out Johann Hari’s fascinating article on the subject.

Is there a parable for our times in this odd milkshake of banana, blood and fungus? For a hundred years, a handful of corporations were given a gorgeous fruit, set free from regulation, and allowed to do what they wanted with it. What happened? They had one good entrepreneurial idea – and to squeeze every tiny drop of profit from it, they destroyed democracies, burned down rainforests, and ended up killing the fruit itself.

Anyway, it turns out that the banana-as-we-know-it is not so much the atheist’s nightmare:

…as it is a freakish creation of mankind’s greed and cruelty. Sorry, Kirk Cameron!