The Deep State Publicized

There may be an unexpected silver lining to the ongoing train wreck that is the Trump Administration, now under fire from virtually all quarters for a variety of reasons, some of them well-based but many of them not.

Where, back a couple of months ago, only the tinfoil-hat conspiracy-mongers spoke about the “Deep State” at all, and bien-pensant commentators downplayed any such an entity, now it is the Trump Administration which openly accuses the Deep State, by name and title, of engaging in a campaign to unseat a democratically-elected leader of the Executive Branch.

Here is The Real News network on 17 May, less than a month ago:

The series, the daily scandals that we’re talking about — the Comey letter today, the leak to the Russians yesterday, on and on — are kind of distracting us from the bigger picture. Not only the question of, you know, what are our common interests, if any, with Russia, and can we seriously work towards them, but also, what are we going to do in the Middle East, and what are we doing in East Asia? These pivotal foreign policy strategic issues aren’t getting much attention because of the daily soap opera. You’re absolutely right.

Let me just add at the end here — I know we’re running out of time — I’ve noted the accidental clumsy careless leak that could’ve had tragic consequences of the first Bush president. We might also note that the second Bush presidency, that administration leaked like a sieve from, you know, exaggerated false intelligence on Iraq to the identity of Valerie Plame, a CIA operative, when it suited their purposes. And the Obama administration wasn’t a lot better. People like McCain and others were furious at some of the leaks, whether it was the Stuxnet cyber war tactic that was used against Iran, to a whole series of other military facts that were leaked selectively by the Obama administration to serve their purposes. Let’s just remember this context. Mistaken leaks, strategic leaks, dishonest leaks go on all the time in Washington, and against that backdrop, let’s not fall off the cliff here over Trump sharing some intel about terror attacks with the Russians, about our common enemy, the Islamic State in Syria.

After, mind you, the Comey firing, and from a stoutly progressive source.  Naked Capitalism had the same angle of attack — the Deep State is a category error.

Today, however, the same source writes:

Lambert here: Putting legal and ethical issues aside, if a special counsel ends up taking Trump down, Comey will be credited with having performed a feat hitherto unknown in politics: Taking down the presumptive front-running candidate in a Presidential election (at least according to the dominant faction in the Democrat Party), and then taking down the candidate who was elected instead. In my view, that will give Comey (along with his faction in the “intelligence community) open veto power over any future Presidential candidate, should he choose to exercise it, a change in the Constitututional order. I mean, the story of the quadrennial trek to visit with The Last Honest Man in Washington on his front porch practically writes itself. Comey is only 56.

What has just happened is, the line-up is no longer a covert struggle but one which is declared and open.

From the point of view of those who realize the trappings of democratic control of the imperial levers of power are simply rhetorical nods in the direction of traditional symbols, performed for the purpose of making onlookers more comfortable with the  control which is anything but democratic, this openly-declared struggle is an, as I said, unexpected benefit of the generally sad interregnum that the Trump Administration increasingly appears to be.

Posted in Elections, Empire, Global, Pacific Green Party, Ronald Reagan, U.S. Constitution, US Senate, War | Leave a comment

Lessons from Colonialism

While my two teenaged sons, Michael Kepler and John Dominic, were attending the much-anticipated Free Speech pro-Trump rally in front of City Hall this last weekend, getting onto the front page of the British newspaper the Guardian, I went to a prisoner-support group which was holding its first-ever meeting in Portland.

First, let me add the click-bait by reproducing the picture the Brits went with:

— and point out that the wearer of the black t-shirt saying “Free Speech is more important than your feelings” is Michael Kepler Meo; and the head an inch or two of which is visible above and behind the helmet belongs to John Dominic Meo.

I think it fair to say that this is an unlikely venue to promote the change we want to see in the world. Rather, although it draws all the attention, it certainly seems more than likely to produce net negative results.

The group with whom I met, on the other hand, is quite shy of publicity: we realized, after some consideration, that the proposed activity in support of prisoners which we had at first considered would only terminate any effort to contact and support those members of our group who were still within the walls. So I am not going to provide pictures or names in this post, although, given the tools available to the Surveillance State, it is certain that the effort will do nothing to conceal whom i’m talking about from a government effort to find out.

What’s the problem we want to address? Well, as is already recognized, this country has gone off the deep end in incarcerating its citizens. One way of looking at it is to compare countries by crime rate versus incarceration rate. Here is a chart, with the incarceration in the vertical scale and number of victims of crime on the horizontal.

from the Washington Post of 7 July 2015

We are an outlier, orders of magnitude more likely to imprison our citizens.

Not only that, but we lock up brown and black people much more easily, and for longer periods of time, than those we see as white.

African-American males are six times more likely to be incarcerated than white males and 2.5 times more likely than Hispanic males,

says the current [22 June 2017] issue of the New York Review of Books, quoting a report to the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

How shall we address it? The prison authorities, here in the local state prison (one thing I wonder whether we might do is, consider expanding our charge to include people in local jails) have been okay with activities to help prisoners learn to read books. Organizing to protect their rights, support for their own efforts to improve their conditions of living and working, and anything that draws attention to their condition at all, is quashed — indeed, is prohibited in writing by the authorities of anyone requesting visiting privileges.

So we talked for a couple of hours about how to address the problem(s) confronting us. We listened to a video of national leaders of prison reform; the consensus was, that particular tactics could be adopted and changed, as the opportunity comes and goes, but that we would be undercutting our efforts to obtain real change if we were satisfied with attempts at co-operative efforts within the present obviously oppressive system. In the most general terms, we recognize that capitalism oppresses, and that locking people into cages oppresses, and that the two are connected, and that we’re engaged in a much broader effort than simply bringing books into prisons. Although, as we have so far seen, that’s a start.

A most suggestive parallel came this morning from an unlikely source, my old collection of the scholarly Journal of Modern History.  Its September 2012 issue has an article by an Oxford academic on the silence of the British press during the 1930s while British colonial response to Gandhi’s campaign of nonviolent resistance produced hundreds of victims of police brutality — including house burnings, arbitrary detentions, and killings.  The answer the author arrives at has a lot more to do with general world view than specific efforts by the colonial establishment.

“The metropolitan press certainly did not silence Indian voices in 1930s Britain,” writes Nicholas Owen of the Department of Politics and International Relations at Oxford University.

On the contrary, publishers and editors were probably keener than ever before to bring them forward as newsworthy native informants, providing insight into, though more rarely analysis of, Indian affairs. . . .  The case study presented here . . . questions the assumption that knowledge of the violence practiced by colonialism led naturally or easily to an anti-imperialist politics.  My account of the Raj suggests that an ethical case could be made for imperialism that was actually strengthened by exposure of its violence.

What had to happen for the British to relinquish control of India was for the citizenry in general to turn away from an imperial world view.  That came with the Second World War.  What has to happen for real change in the prison system in the U.S. is for us to change the attitudes of the whole country about incarceration.

Confirmation that the problem will not be addressed by bureaucratic tinkering (as the unrest in India was not) comes from the aforementioned New York Review article.  Changes in drug laws are not to blame, the author states.  Citing statistics collated by a professor at Fordham Law School, the National Legal Director of the ACLU indicates that

the vast majority of those in prison for drug-related offenses — by one measure almost 95 percent of this group in state prisons and 98 percent of this group in federal prisons — have also been convicted on more serious charges, including violent crimes.

If we released every prisoner who has been sentenced solely for a drug crime, we would still be the world leader in incarceration.

Consequently there must be some other driving reason for the increase in incarceration, he argues, and finds it in the decisions of thousands of country prosecutors to bring serious charges against those arrested.

Lots of indicators show that this author is not to be entrusted with setting our agenda, the agenda of those who are horrified at the incarceration of so many of our fellow citizens; just note, for example, the phrase above quoted, “have also been convicted on more serious charges. . .”  Drug offense are felonies, or at least the ones we’re talking about are, and as the article author himself admits

In the District of Columbia, for example, a first-time conviction for selling a small amount of cocaine can lead to a 30-year sentence; a second conviction can result in up to 60 years behind bars.

In those circumstances, the qualifier “more serious charges” seems meaningless — there are capital crimes, I suppose, but no one is trying to reduce the convictions of murderers. In fact, drug charges are very serious indeed, and that is part of the problem; but here is an argument asking us to set aside that fact while arguing that the drug offenses are not the crucial issue.  Similarly, all through the article, this David Cole is restricting our view to trimming around the edges.

A potentially more promising suggestion is either to insulate prosecutors from political control. . . or to change the politics of district attorney elections by supporting reform candidates in those contests.

Michelle Alexander, the author of The New Jim Crow, used to work as an attorney for the ACLU, and it is part of her experience that that kind of advocacy does very little, if anything, actually to address the core issues of mass incarceration.  We want to have clearly in mind that mass incarceration, which was adopted within our lifetimes, can be overturned, but not by arguing that the bureaucracy, which profits in manifold manner from it, ought to change.  Like colonialism, it needs to be opposed altogether.

Posted in Bradley Manning, Brian Willson, Dan Handelman, Economics, Education, Elections, Empire, Fascism, Free Speech, Inequality, John Schweibert, Lloyd Marbet, Police, Ronald Reagan, Spiritual life, U.S. Constitution, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Yet Another Unnecessary Death

So far we have only the police story, which goes as follows.

May 10, 2017 23:10
The Portland Police Bureau and East County Major Crimes Team are in the early stages of an officer-involved shooting investigation that occurred early Wednesday evening. No officers were injured in the encounter that left one person deceased.

On Wednesday May 10, 2017, at 7:03 p.m., a caller to 9-1-1 reported that a male in his 20s was threatening people on the TriMet Flavel Street Transit Station. Transit Police Division officers responded to the scene and shortly after arriving were involved in a foot pursuit with the suspect. During the foot pursuit, which led onto a bridge over Johnson Creek on the north side of Flavel Street, there was an encounter with the suspect and one officer discharged his firearm, striking the suspect who fell to the ground.

A cropped photograph of Terrell Johnson, whom the Portland police shot and killed, alleging he was armed with a knife. I do not know why my effort to cut-and-paste produced a cropped image. Sorry.

The Oregonian story repeats this (lack of) information, almost word for word.

Update 11 May 2017, 7:30 pm

From Dan Handelman of Portland Copwatch, we have the following, citing an update of a Portland Mercury story:

the Portland Mercury’s article which reports both on another shooting that happened this morning– of a pit bull, who lived– and the names of the officer (Samson Ajir #50621) and civilian (Terrell Kyreem Johnson) who were involved in last night’s shooting. Johnson was 24 years old and houseless, and was perhaps living with mental illness. Johnson allegedly “displayed” a utility knife, which does not sound threatening, and even if so, perhaps this is the kind of situation a Taser was created for? The number of people with mental illness and/or in crisis who’ve been shot by the PPB is too great to count, but here’s a short list of persons who were houseless shot and killed by the police and their alleged weapons since 2010:
–Jack Dale Collins, 58 3/22/10, art knife (Xacto blade)
–Thomas Higginbotham, 67, 1/2/11, knife
–Merle Hatch, 50, 2/17/13, broken receiver from a telephone
–Nicholas Davis, 23, 6/12/14, crowbar
–Christopher Healy, 36, 3/22/15, knife
–Terrell Kyreem Johnson, 24, 5/10/17, utility knife

The statement, as Mr Handleman points out, speaks of the display of a utility knife, which, Mr Handelman then personally regards as not sounding threatening.

That’s part of my irritation with Portland Copwatch and Mr Handelman — I really find the death of a homeless man armed with a utility knife to be totally unjustifiable rather than something the police should have used a taser for. I expect the police to surround, restrain, and disarm a mentally challenged suspect who is armed with a utility knife, and not kill him. The death of a suspect in such circumstances ought to result in the termination of the employment of the officer involved.

Posted in Dan Handelman, Fascism, Inequality, John Schweibert, Local government, Police, U.S. Constitution | Leave a comment

The Bombing of Syria, on general principles

A purported picture of the air base near Damascus bombed by the United States on 6 April 2016

I don’t have a lot to say about the most recent American war crime. It does go to show, however, how little it mattered in the 2016 election (you recall, I hope, how in that election, as in every single election in my lifetime, the partisans for the Republicans and Democrats talked of the “most important election in a generation”) whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton won.

In a certain sense, they both did: Trump won the electoral college, and Hillary won the popular vote.

It did not matter. With Hillary as President, there would have been a bombing of Syria yesterday. With Trump as President, we got the same result. The War Party is still in control of the United States and its actions.

Posted in Afghanistan, Bradley Manning, Brian Willson, Dan Handelman, Elections, Empire, Fascism, Iran, Israel, John Schweibert, Ronald Reagan, Saudi Arabia, Spiritual life, U.S. Constitution, Vali Balint, War | Leave a comment

Deaths from Despair

Frequently in this space, a graph is more eloquent than anything I might have to say. Here is the graph from the most recent Deaton-Case study on the death rates, by age cohort, of white with only a high-school education in the United States:

As the birth dates get closer to the present, you can see how steeply the rate of deaths from drugs, alcohol, and suicide increase.

Posted in Economics, Education, Elections, Empire, Fascism, Healthcare, Inequality, Permaculture, Spiritual life | Leave a comment

War on the Poor

There has been, since the 1980s in the United States, an economic war conducted by the wealthy against the lower half of the economic hierarchy.

Thomas Picketty and Emmanuel Saez provide the statistics.

The real success of this war, however, has been the success, by the spokespeople for the wealthy, of the campaign to get everyone to believe that lower taxes will help everyone. In that increasing share going to the very rich we see the ultimate beneficiaries of the constant refrain that taxes are evil.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Same Old, Same Old

Green Party activists, especially those motivated by anti-war sentiment, have no difficulty demonstrating the alignment between the Republican and Democratic parties, upholders both of the American Empire, through brutal military means.

David Swanson imagines Trump’s budget originating in the thought,

If I cut everything that everybody values out of the budget but move the money to the military, my spineless war-adoring opponents will tie one hand behind their backs before they even try to put up a fight.

The “spineless war-adoring opponents” include the AFL-CIO, the Sierra Club, and church leaders:

Here’s Richard Trumka, top labor leader in the United States, opposing Trump’s budget at length, without ever mentioning the existence of the U.S. military. Here’s the Sierra Club, top environmental group, doing the same. Here are 100 Christian “faith leaders” doing the same thing.

The Congressional leaders of the Democratic Party are as silent on the question of military build-up as are the leaders of liberal opinion.

Most of the Democrats in Congress, and even more so the media coverage of them, are following the same line as the liberal organizations. Schumer gives no indication that the military exists at all. Pelosi gives a brief nod to her desire that it remain somewhere around its current gargantuan size, pushing the idea that it’s good for us but that we wouldn’t want to have too much of that good. Sanders has a reasonable statement on his website, but news reports depict him as droning on about tax cuts for billionaires and cuts in services, as if that were what was happening here. Someone should ask Sanders to compare the wealth of U.S. billionaires to the size of U.S. military spending in a single year, and then in 10 years.

There is of course a plain enough reason for this striking anomaly. The liberal Establishment, including most prominently the leaders of the Democratic Party but extending to non-governmental lobbying groups, are not upset with a state of constant warfare, such as we have had continuously since the end of the Second World War. We do not question the American Empire.

Empires have always had to be aggressively expanding, in order to maintain their viability; once they stop expanding, they are subjected to attack. The classic example is Hadrian’s Wall, protecting Roman Britain from the unconquered Picts.

Hadrian’s Wall marked a turning point in Roman Britain. It marked the point at which the Romans first marked a limit to their conquest of Britain. Although the Romans would advance again into Scotland and build the Antonine Wall, the advances were short lived and within a few decades the border was again back on Hadrian’s Wall; where it would stay until the very end of the Roman occupation of Britain.

Where once the historical quiver had to rely on the arrow of the Roman world, the rise of more cosmopolitan interests in the last half century provides a broader perspective. The current issue of Journal of World History includes a long review of Jeroen Duindam’s 2016 survey Dynasties: A Global History of Power:

Duindam . . . surveys the features of the dominant form of political regime that governed the world’s parts and shaped their interactions: heritable monarchies prevailing over large and expanding territories with a common commitment to the promotion of the bonum publicum. It is a majestic work of amalgamation and cross-regional research, weaving an astonishing amount of detail into a narrative of global commonality. Dynasties, for all their vernacular expressions, had some shared features . . . By the end of the story, two themes emerge. One is that dynasties sustained themselves by expanding: pushing outward from Peking, Madrid, Delhi, Tenochtitlan, or Kiev was an important means to externalize tensions; conquering, grabbing, and plundering on the fringes helped to dissolve internecine conflict back home. The aura of indomitable power covered epic intrigue and habits of war-making.

Until and unless we connect the brutal oppression the United States imposes on its subordinate states abroad with the similar oppression practiced upon the lower ranks of our population at home, we will never confront our problems at their roots. No major political figure today does that which Martin Luther King did, back in 1967, or that President Eisenhower did, in 1961.

Posted in Afghanistan, Bradley Manning, Brian Willson, Dan Handelman, Economics, Elections, Empire, Fascism, Gar Alperovitz, Global, Inequality, Iran, Israel, John Schweibert, Marxism, Pacific Green Party, Permaculture, Police, Ronald Reagan, Spiritual life, U.S. Constitution, US Senate, War | Leave a comment