This month, I have been mostly reading the usual:
- America’s Gun Fetish — Chris Hedges in MintPress News:
Guns made my family, lower working-class people in Maine, feel powerful, even when they were not. Take away their guns and what was left? Decaying small towns, shuttered textile and paper mills, dead-end jobs, seedy bars where veterans, nearly all the men in my family were veterans, drank away their trauma. Take away the guns, and the brute force of squalor, decline, and abandonment hit you in the face like a tidal wave. Yes, the gun lobby and weapons manufacturers fuel the violence with easily available assault-style weapons, whose small caliber 5.56 mm cartridges make them largely useless for hunting. Yes, the lax gun laws and risible background checks are partially to blame. But America also fetishizes guns. This fetish has intensified among white working-class men, who have seen everything slip beyond their grasp: economic stability, a sense of place within the society, hope for the future and political empowerment. The fear of losing the gun is the final crushing blow to self-esteem and dignity, a surrender to the economic and political forces that have destroyed their lives. They cling to the gun as an idea, a belief that with it they are strong, unassailable, and independent. The shifting sands of demographics, with white people projected to become a minority in the U.S. by 2045, intensifies this primal desire, they would say need, to own a weapon.
- Biden’s New Press Secretary Almost Calls Saudis A ‘Regime’ — Caitlin Johnstone:
In the official White House transcript of Jean-Pierre’s interaction with a reporter inquiring about Biden’s upcoming meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the press secretary’s comment reads as follows: “Of course, he will be — they will discuss energy with the Saudi government.” However, if you watch a video clip highlighted on Twitter by Kawsachun News’ Camila Escalante, you’ll notice Jean-Pierre gets tripped up before the word “government”, with a more accurate transcribing reading something like, “Of course, he will be — they will discuss energy with the Saudi re — uhh, err, government.” Which is hilarious, because for imperial spinmeisters the word “regime” is traditionally reserved for governments which are not aligned with the US empire, because it suggests that they are undemocratic and authoritarian. The theocratic monarchy of Saudi Arabia is most certainly authoritarian and is the exact opposite of democratic, but because it is aligned with the interests of Washington that pejorative label is typically avoided at the upper echelons of imperial narrative management. Whether or not a government will be affixed with this label has far less to do with its level of oppressiveness than with whether or not it cooperates with imperial agendas.
- Red Line Through HTTPS — xkcd by Randall Munroe:
- The American Abyss — Timothy Snyder in the NYT Magazine (Jan 9th, 2021):
In this sense, the responsibility for Trump’s push to overturn an election must be shared by a very large number of Republican members of Congress. Rather than contradict Trump from the beginning, they allowed his electoral fiction to flourish. They had different reasons for doing so. One group of Republicans is concerned above all with gaming the system to maintain power, taking full advantage of constitutional obscurities, gerrymandering and dark money to win elections with a minority of motivated voters. They have no interest in the collapse of the peculiar form of representation that allows their minority party disproportionate control of government. The most important among them, Mitch McConnell, indulged Trump’s lie while making no comment on its consequences. Yet other Republicans saw the situation differently: They might actually break the system and have power without democracy. The split between these two groups, the gamers and the breakers, became sharply visible on Dec. 30, when Senator Josh Hawley announced that he would support Trump’s challenge by questioning the validity of the electoral votes on Jan. 6. Ted Cruz then promised his own support, joined by about 10 other senators. More than a hundred Republican representatives took the same position.
- The Enigma of Peter Thiel: There Is No Enigma — He's a Fascist — John Ganz:
Peter Thiel is a fascist. There’s really no better word for what he is. But, for some reason, people have trouble grasping this or just coming out and saying it. In his biography of Thiel, The Contrarian: Peter Thiel and Silicon Valley’s Pursuit of Power, Max Chafkin writes, “The Thiel ideology is complicated and, in parts, self-contradictory, and will take many of the pages that follow to explore, but it combines an obsession with technological progress with nationalist politics—a politics that at times has seemingly flirted with white supremacy.” Let’s see, we’ve go some futurism, nationalism, maybe a little bit of racism here and there…hmm, what does that all add up to? What a mystery this guy is!
- Bad Kingdom (1972) — Scarfolk Council:
- Moneylike — Cory Doctorow in Locus Magazine:
In this story, money came from the people, a bottom-up consensus phenomenon in which we all agreed to a coinage, and therefore money comes from the people. This story has a corollary. If money comes from the people, then taxes represent an incursion upon the people by governments, who impinge upon the private space of consensual, bottom-up trading activity with a top-down disruption. But this isn’t a history, it’s a folk-tale. A legend. A fantasy
- The Guardian Churns Out Embarrassingly Awful Empire Propaganda — Caitlin Johnstone:
Because of its apparent respectability and ostensible place on the leftish side of the political spectrum, The Guardian plays a crucial role in manipulating public perception in a way that advantages the empire. Whether that’s smearing people who question the imperial line on Syria, smearing Assange, or smearing Jeremy Corbyn, it provides a pathway into the minds of a crucial sector of the population who would respond to such manipulations more critically if they came from conservative publications. In reality The Guardian is no less propagandistic than the Murdoch press, and is frequently more destructive due to its ability to market right-wing horrors to an unsuspecting demographic who otherwise wouldn’t buy what they’re selling. It pushes the same agendas, and it serves the same empire. The Guardian is just Fox News for people who eat organic produce.
- Your Man in Saughton Jail Part 2 — Craig Murray:
Think of every sensible thing you think you know about prison. Think of education, training, rehabilitation. It is all completely ignored by the Scottish Prison Service. I am telling you I saw none of it at all in Saughton jail. Nothing, zilch. What I saw was levels of security and cruel and harsh conditions that differ little from Victorian times, apart from the plumbing. All prisoners are subjected to utterly unneccessary levels of security and physical discomfort. In the cell block next to mine was kept Peter Tobin, Scotland’s most notorious serial killer, repeat sexual abuser and murderer of little girls. He was kept in precisely the same conditions and security levels as the shoplifter and the seller of little packets of cannabis. Peter Tobin was held in exactly the same conditions as me, a journalist in jail as a civil prisoner.
- Matt Wuerker:
- How the far-right is turning feminists into fascists — Jude Ellison S. Doyle in Xtra:
When I first started asking about the connection between anti-trans politics and the American right wing, my concerns were simple. I’d covered abortion for several years, and some of the tactics being used by organized transphobes—noisy “protests” outside clinics, or doxing and harassing doctors—were similar enough to the “pro-life” movement’s that I expected some groups were working together. I was right; there was a connection, which I’ve covered already for Xtra and other outlets. What I did not expect was that asking researchers to situate anti-trans activists in the context of the broader right would turn out to be one of the scariest questions I’d ever ask. Every researcher I spoke to told me that the situation on the ground was far worse than I thought. Anti-trans activists had not hitched their wagons to the American right wing. The far right was using transphobia to advance their larger agenda, and that agenda was both more violent and a lot more successful than I knew.
- It is Critical that the Housing Bubble is Safely Deflated — Geoff Davies:
Economist Steve Keen has proposed an escape route that would bring prices down while preserving the equity of present home owners. There are two parts. First, a reversion to regulating bank credit, Menzies-style. Second, a monetary reset to deflate the debt bubble. Part One: regulate bank lending. This could be done by squeezing credit until prices stabilise. Alternatively or as well, Keen proposes that mortgage loans be capped at a multiple of what the property could be rented for, though rents are now also increasing. Part Two: a monetary reset. The essence of Keen’s proposal is to convert around half of housing equity into bond equity, so house prices could drop by half but present owners would not lose the equity they have. At the same time mortgage holders can pay down their debt to something more manageable.
- Doonesbury — by Gary Trudeau:
- The Pointless Keir Starmer — Craig Murray:
This Tony Benn quote from the 1980’s has come into vogue because it is prophetic, and the process appears now complete: 'If the Labour Party could be bullied or persuaded to denounce its Marxists, the media – having tasted blood – would demand next that it expelled all its Socialists and reunited the remaining Labour Party with the SDP to form a harmless alternative to the Conservatives, which could then be allowed to take office now and then when the Conservatives fell out of favour with the public. Thus British Capitalism, it is argued, will be made safe forever, and socialism would be squeezed off the National agenda. But if such a strategy were to succeed… it would in fact profoundly endanger British society. For it would open up the danger of a swing to the far-right, as we have seen in Europe over the last 50 years.' Starmer is in one sense the apotheosis of this process. Not only has he acted to purge the Labour Party of socialism, he also offers so very little of a meaningful alternative to the Tories that there is very little danger of the Tories being voted out of office. Not only is he a safe right-wing backstop, he is a self-redundant safe right-wing backstop.
- Imperial Narrative Control Has Five Distinct Elements — Caitlin Johnstone:
Mental narrative plays a hugely prominent role in human experience; if you’ve ever tried to still your mind in meditation you know exactly what I’m talking about. Babbling thought stories dominate our experience of reality. It makes sense then that if you can influence those stories, you’re effectively influencing someone’s experience of reality. The powerful manipulate the dominant narratives of our society in approximately five major ways: propaganda, censorship, Silicon Valley algorithm manipulation, government secrecy, and the war on journalism. Like the fingers on a hand they are distinct from each other and each play their own role, but they’re all part of the same thing and work together toward the same goal. They’re all just different aspects of the US-centralized empire’s narrative control system.