It’s Not Sexy

The destruction of the movement to protect the rights of the oppressed majority in Central America is not currently fashionable.  Why our First Black President has already gone there and apologized for “excesses,” has he not?

Yet, of course, the slaughter continues:

Since a 2009 military coup against the democratic government of President Mel Zelaya, Honduras has become the most dangerous country in the world for environmental and human rights activists.

On Oct. 17, two more prominent rural organizers, José Ángel Flores and Silmer Dionisio George, were assassinated in Colón. Flores was the president of the Unified Campesinos Movement of the Aguán Valley (MUCA), and George was a well-known leader from the same organization.

This follows the Oct. 9 assassination attempts against Tomás Gómez Membreño, the general coordinator of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), and COPINH community leader Alexander García Sorto.

What we are seeing is, of course (certainly in Honduras; by extension in much of Central America) the local allies of monopoly capitalism, otherwise the servants of American imperialism, carrying out the anticipated wishes of the soon-to-be-elected Establishment Democrat, Hillary Clinton.  When she was Secretary of State she went on record as supporting the coup against an elected president of Honduras.  All perfectly legal, she said; no coup occurred; having a new election instead of returning the elected president avoided wider bloodshed.

Sure it did.  As we can see.

On the one hand, I am unhappy with the knee-jerk support some pretty authoritarian regimes get from progressive circles in the United States (I name no names in this case, since views can honestly differ) simply because they assert that they’re against American imperialism.

On the other hand, I am equally unhappy with the low priority shown the day-to-day slaughter of genuine political activists who are proceeding to empower the majority of peoples in Central America, against the violent opposition of supporters of corporate interests.

Guatemala’s long civil conflict was marked by the dispossession and displacement of Indigenous communities. Peace did not stop this pattern. Over the past decade, Guatemala’s sustained economic expansion, marked by an increasing focus on mining gold and silver and harnessing hydroelectric power, has been accompanied by the continued impoverishment and exploitation of Indigenous peoples.

Mining royalties are growing at an annual rate of 10 percent, but Indigenous villages in regions directly affected by extractive industries do not share in the benefits. Instead, they bear the serious environmental and health costs stemming from the diversion of water sources and the contamination of rivers. The resulting dislocation of Indigenous farmers aggravates longstanding conflicts over land titling and tenure that remain unsettled, despite repeated government pledges to resolve the disputes.

This is what a United States foreign policy which is beholden to corporate interests, the foreign policy followed by the Republican and Democratic Party incumbents without exception, means in practice.

Posted in Bradley Manning, Brian Willson, Economics, Elections, Empire, Global, Inequality, John Schweibert, Pacific Green Party, Permaculture, Reservoirs, Ronald Reagan, U.S. Constitution | Leave a comment

On the Streets of Eugene

My son Michael Kepler Meo attended one of the Conversations on Race we have here in Portland, one in which the Albina Ministerial Alliance on police accountability and the Chief of Police, along with several of his deputies, appeared.  He spoke about how, never mind the color of the detained person, Portland police have a long history of treating detainees brutally, if not killing them outright.

The deputy chief, at my son’s table, agreed with that.  My son was positively impressed.  Yet, a day or so later, we have this scene from downtown Eugene, Oregon:


Posted in U.S. Constitution, Local government, Police, Inequality, Gun Control, Education, Empire, John Schweibert, Oregon state government, Fascism, Dan Handelman | Leave a comment

The Era of Good Feeling

(The title is ironic)

Just as Donald Trump, now that he is going down to a well-earned resounding defeat, talks about being “unshackled,” so now that Your Intrepid Reporter is convicted of violating a restraining order taken out against him by his own wife, and of trespassing numerous times against Fred Meyer, a grocery chain whose large store is across the street from his home, and is prohibited, in the terms of his probation from serving more time in county jail, from entering Starbucks, Peets Coffee, and even talking to his next-door neighbor, he can rest assured that what he says in this post will not be taken seriously by anyone.

So.  What does a historical perspective have to tell us about the present-day situation?  After all, historians are (possibly incorrectly) famously persuaded that their labors in the record of the past offer some gleam of understanding of the present.  I was impressed by a 1996 tribute to the life work of a favorite historian of my own, Arnold J. Toynbee (o, by the way, “Hellenic” means here “the civilization which conquered the ancient Mediterranean world,” so you could substitute “Roman Empire” for it):

Toynbee’s dissatisfaction with Greek humanism was at the core of his critique of the modern West, which he viewed as a depressing revival of Hellenic secularism and a repudiation of Christianity, for him the essence of Western civilization. Toynbee maintained that since the Renaissance the West has revived the very practice that ruined Hellenism — the deification of the state.  Modern nationalism, he insisted, is the modern form of city-state or empire worship; if it is not eradicated, the modern West will suffer the same fate as Hellenism.

— which point of view certainly rings resonantly with the shredding of the Constitution to which we are subjected in this place and day.  We allow the President tyrannically to kill his political antagonists, without demur; we allow the federal government to surveil our location, communication, and most intimate acts, without thinking.  Indeed, the very concept of resisting government surveillance is, as Orwell predicted, hard for us to articulate.  Our government is divine in our eyes.

But enough of viewing with alarm: you’ve heard it all before.  What is happening before our eyes in the Election of 2016 is, I submit, the beginning of a non-partisan era, on account of a sweeping aside of the Republican Party, with all thinking people voting Democratic.  Of course, as usual, I have a certain distance from the literal meaning here.  The same thinking people who brought us the Vietnam War are bringing us the second Clinton Administration, with its hypocritical assurance that all the good and great agree upon the surrender of autonomy to the wealthy corporations.  Not to mention its constant harping on the necessity for force in our foreign policy, beginning with bombing Syria.  Hell, bombing every one who might possibly disagree with global American hegemony.

We have had a one-party state before in the history of the United States, during the 1930s under the (you might say) Second Roosevelt Administration; but I think we might get a better sense of the political collapse to which we are witness today by recalling the Era of Good Feeling, the one-party state which followed the end of the unsuccessful War of 1812.  The Federalist Party was so discredited by its failure to cope with the growing population of independent farmers in the Western territories, that it was inactive for a couple of Administrations on the national scene.

[Supporting historical example from ex-CIA analyst Paul Pillar:  If (Your Intrepid Reporter assumes “when”) Hillary Clinton is victorious next month, she will be the first non-incumbent Democrat to win an election to succeed another Democrat since James Buchanan won in 1856. Buchanan also was the last previous president to have been secretary of state.]

It is possible, mind you, that my historical analysis is not the most insightful; but the main point is, we are witnessing the advent of a one-party national state, where (in the present instance) the Democrats are the consensus choice of all responsible people.  That was true in 1815, that there was only one really national party, and not in 1936; it is true today.

And we are in that dangerous position with a full-blown deification of the national government.  Mind you, now Big Brother (well, perhaps it’s more like Big Sister) is watching you:  Peace is War; Ignorance is Strength.  I forget the third one, but it’s not that important.  A one-party state in a situation where the government is unconstrained by either a respect for legal limit, nor by any effective political opposition.  Another, more recent period, is the post-Civil War Gilded Age.

That’s what I see happening.

Well, you might say, it’s only for one election; the Republicans can come back right away.  And it is true, you know, the future can surprise even the well-informed.  Nonetheless, the Democratic Party dominance is based on demography: the minorities — itself a misnomer now — are truly repulsed by the Republicans, and the progressives (the young) have nowhere else to go.  It’s not as if the Republicans, after Trump, can claim to have changed their spots.  They’re the party of Deplorables, are they not?

Corporate rule and endless war, if your don’t like them, are firmly in the saddle (as has been the case for as long as I can remember).  We have gotten used to calling the status quo peace and prosperity.  What I see before us is enormous corruption.

Posted in Barbara Ellis, Brian Willson, Economics, Elections, Empire, Fascism, Global, Inequality, Jim Robison, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Constitution, Uncategorized, US Senate, War | Leave a comment

Campaign Follies

I shared with my intimates lately the fact that the campaign of 2016 looks to me a lot like that of 1964.

Back then LBJ tarred Goldwater as a warmonger, all the while planning, as soon as the election was over, to escalate the invasion of Vietnam.

The intellectual elites pitched in, as they always do.  A well-received book abjured as to how Goldwater’s politics were “paranoid,” since, in place of asking everyone to share in the federal trough, he wanted to talk about national interests, those that rose above sectional or group ones.

This year we have the anti-Semitic charge, where whenever Donald Trump inveighs against the “globalist elite,” Clinton supporters inform us he’s attacking Jewish people.  The Counterpunch website recently called out this brand of slander, and, interestingly enough, was then praised for it by Trump-supporting far Rightist Steve Sailer.

I don’t imagine this exposure of dirty pool by the Clinton camp will have any more effect on the election than charges of deception by the Democrats had in 1964.  It is not yet “mainstream” to question spurious charges of anti-Semitism.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Action at City Hall

News photograph of an arrest , Portland Mercury 12 October 2016

News photograph of an arrest , Portland Mercury 12 October 2016


A survivor of the many demonstrations at Berkeley in the late 1960s, including the arrest of thousands during the Peoples Park riots, I’ve stayed at my house while there were demonstrations and arrests at City Hall over the renewal of the contract with the police, detailed in my last post.

The final vote proceeded, contrary to state law, out of the presence of members of the public, and those who had come to witness the indignity were herded out of the building by police officers.  Dan Handelman of Portland Copwatch comments

I have been doing this for a long time. I don’t ever remember City Council recusing themselves to a location where the public could not enter. I’m amazed how much they’re willing to use repressive tactics to shut down opposition to their policies. And in some ways, I’m most disturbed how they’re putting out half-truths and misdirection to make their rhetorical points. I’m reminded of the fight we had about the City’s appeal of Judge Simon’s order on the DOJ agreement, where the Mayor’s media person actually accused me of lying when I read him language right out of the City’s own court filing.

Your less-intrepid-than-he-used-to-be Reporter notes that the appeal respecting the City’s refusal to accept Judge Simon’s order was also concerning just this question, of the lack of accountability of the police in our city.

Historically, we can go back to the repeated unleashings of the army [June 1848, May 1871] to clear working-class demonstrators from the streets of Paris, to see similar defenses of middle-class privilege in the face of demands for social justice.

In the U.S. recently, of course, we have had considerable notice that our police forces are militarized and acting as the operating edge of repression.   Donald Trump found millions of frightened voters willing to support his racism by stressing the need for authoritarian measures.  The movie Do Not Resist, which won a Tribeca Prize when released this month, includes the following sadistic take

Based on substantial on-the-ground reporting, “Do Not Resist” is both unsettling to watch and necessary to see. The film begins in Ferguson, Missouri, on a rainy night of protest in August 2014 that erupted into a melee of tear gas and screaming. It then quickly moves to a seminar with Dave Grossman, a law enforcement guru who gives trainings on lethal force and the application of a warrior mentality in the name of the law.

“The policeman is the man of the city,” Grossman begins, before explaining that cops he’s spoken to routinely describe their first on-the-job kill as a prelude to the best sex of their lives. “Both partners are very invested in some very intense sex,” Grossman says. “There’s not a whole lot of perks that come with this job. You find one, relax and enjoy it.”

It is a feature of our imperfect human nature, that we respond to discomfort by authorizing the beating of those we find uncomfortable; our own city is clearly moving in a well-worn direction.

Posted in Brian Willson, Dan Handelman, Elections, Empire, Fascism, Free Speech, Local government, Oregon state government, Police, Spiritual life, U.S. Constitution, War | Leave a comment

Faith in Government

After my spouse of over twenty years swore out a restraining order on me, claiming she was in fear of her life, and went even further, testifying before a hearing of civil commitment to the effect that I was not sane, and after the political party on whose behalf I was agitating, sufficiently impolitely to get arrested for disturbing the peace repeatedly, repudiated me and my efforts, I pled guilty to a couple of misdemeanors (one of which was ignoring the restraining order), and came back to my own house resolved to lay low for a good long while.

That has included not posting my political opinions on this blog.  But there have been few to no readers in quite a while now, and I figure it’s more or less ignored, this blog, so my expressions of opinion — it does do the soul good to express oneself, I think — won’t be followed by anyone who would take them seriously, and I can talk to myself in public, so to speak, without considering myself or anyone else considering me, actively engaged in politics.

Today the veteran peace activist David Swanson examined one of the features of this political season, the full-bore Anti-Russia Propaganda, in the instance of this week’s cover story of Time magazine.  The full piece is here, but a sample is enough:

Come on! Nobody has faith in U.S. democracy. That’s undermined every day by the U.S. government, as Time’s own pollsters are perfectly aware. Most U.S. residents believe their government is broken, and they’re perfectly right. Russia’s government could use a lot of improvements too. But only one of the two is building missile bases and engaging in military “exercises” on the other one’s border.

Now as I believe readers of this blog have concluded by now, I am prone to question every generalization, including the generalization that I am prone to question every generalization.  My elder son accuses me of extending far too much credibility to conspiracy theories, although my view is that history is full of successful conspiracies.

In the quotation I would immediately be moved to protest that everyone living in my city believes that the local government is operating okay, and they pay their taxes and clean their yards as ordered by the zoning authorities (something else that has gotten Your Intrepid Reporter into more trouble than it is worth).  Even if we believe that Congress and the President both lie and cheat constantly, we’re willing to support the police and fire departments in their effort to catch crooks and stop our houses from burning.  That is, we support our local government, by and large.

However, look at what the local government has been doing in the question of police accountability.  In today’s Portland Tribune, we find a report (to be fair, the report, otherwise unpublicized, appeared in an opinion piece) concerning a City Council hearing on the new police contract:

Perhaps the most damning testimony came from Tom Steenson of the Community Oversight Advisory Board (COAB), which recently voted to recommend the Department of Justice find the city in non-compliance in the city’s settlement agreement (the result of United States v. City of Portland). Steenson cited among their reasons for the recommendation the city’s refusal to fill the seven vacancies on the 15-member COAB board (which often leaves the board without a quorum at meetings) and its cancellation of its twice-annual meetings with the COAB.

After the COAB recommended the Department of Justice find the city in noncompliance, Steenson alleges the DOJ forced the board into a minimum 60-day recess. Due to the recess, the 44 recommendations on accountability measures the COAB gave the city, after conducting six to eight months of community forums and nationwide research of best policies, cannot now be considered.

Too late to make it into the Thursday edition’s hard copy is a report on protesters being arrested when the City Council deliberated further on the police yesterday.  That is what you would expect, surely, when the citizens have lost confidence in the government: they will proceed to disrupt hearings, demonstrate in the street, and make trouble generally, since the workings of government are manifestly broken.  Here’s the report by Portland Copwatch.

In fact, if he had just agreed to take testimony on the amendment today, the meeting would have been over before the decision was made (about 1:20 PM) to move the meeting to tomorrow. Council went into recess at about 11:15 AM. During those two hours, multiple police officers including a swarm of Homeland Security cops flooded the building. The front doors were chained shut. People were allowed to leave through the back entrance but not allowed to re-enter. I stayed in the Council Chambers as Don’t Shoot PDX people surrounded Teressa Raiford to protect her from being arrested for failing to leave when the Mayor told her she was excluded. (Kif Davis and Laura Vanderlynn were arrested, and Joe Walsh was excluded but not arrested.)

Members of the government apparatus, as well, have their doubts about the rush to put in place the new police contract.

City Auditor Mary Hull Caballero and Independent Police Review Director Constantin Severe have echoed that call, saying the tentative contract needs changes.

All of the citizen groups are opposed; the apparatus of the city government which was put in place in answer to a lawsuit by the federal Department of Justice is opposed; the independent City Auditor, acting as overseer on police accountability, as well as her deputy with authority for the department charged with conducting reviews, are opposed.  Yet the mayor, who ran for election on the basis of a platform of sweeping reform of the police, is proceeding to ram the new contract through the Council.

So, in summary, no, David Swanson is not exaggerating when he says that every day the citizens of this country are confirmed in their lack of confidence in their purportedly democratic government.  As Gandhi once said about Western Civilization, so we might today say about democratic government,

“It would be a good idea.”

Update 18 October 2016:  In Michael Munk’s blog today he demonstrated the mass media dismissal of the recently-revealed hypocrisy of the Clinton campaign, thusly:

This is what we’ve called the Snowden Cycle (, 7/24/16)—a PR trick employed by those attempting to downplay the NSA revelations in 2013. Obviously, this situation is different, but the spin is the same: Claims of illegal surveillance were either ignored or dismissed as conspiracy theories, then, when the NSA leaks documented widespread domestic spying and unconstitutional overreach, the response from the same pundits was, “Yawn, we already knew that.”
But we didn’t really know that, we simply assumed that, and there’s a world of difference between the two. The fact that Clinton is cozy with much of the press, told climate change activists to “get a life,” and touted TPP in front of Goldman Sachs despite going on to oppose it in public may have been assumed, but now it’s something we know to be true. This, on its face, is significant.

This is our next President, and the press coverage once she is inaugurated (or should I say, coronated) will doubtless be similar to the coverage now: that is to say, we will continue to have every reason not to believe what our government says.

Posted in Afghanistan, Cameron Whitten, Dan Handelman, Empire, Fascism, Free Speech, John Schweibert, Local government, Pacific Green Party, Police, War | Leave a comment

Who to Believe

Not long ago, the veteran Portland-based progressive peace activist Brian Willson posted a report on a purportedly impartial non-governmental organization which in effect spreads lies about the UN and the Assad government in Syria.

On this basis, one would doubt reports that the United States has chosen to support any humanitarian effort there.

This morning, the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel discussed a well-publicized interview with a source, purporting to be a commander of the Nusfra front, which is to say, a rebel group which has received assistance from the U.S., where the man interviewed claimed that the U.S. was supporting al-Quaeda in Syria.  The link is to the English-language version of the article.

What the reporter for Der Spiegel did, in sum, was to show that this interview was a falsification, and he did it in classic fashion.  His investigation was completely transparent, starting with the evidence for the location of the interview, in which he examined photographs available on the Internet of the area in which it was supposed to have taken place.  Contradictions arose.  Then he looked at the statements made by the “commander”: he seemed to be ignorant of the facts of the siege of Aleppo.  Finally, there are folks living in the area who claimed to know the voice of the interviewee, and the man whom they identified is a thug in the pay of the Syrian government.

As is the case with responses to other falsifications, it is revealing what the interviewer said when Der Spiegel came to him with their evidence of falsification.  The interviewer, a former member of the German federal legislature, corrected the initial statement of where the interview took place, then corrected the correction, and finally refused further comment.  Enough said.

Critical examination of claims made by both sides reveals lying and deceit.

Posted in Brian Willson, Empire, War | Leave a comment