When the State Floods the Zone, Reform Is Dead

Arthur Silber

Imagine that there is a special class of American citizens. This special class is made up of individuals from private business, in fields such as agriculture, finance, the internet, academia, and utility companies. These people have certain responsibilities and, in exchange, they are granted certain privileges. These people are dedicated to providing information that, in their view, might be related in some way to possible threats to "national security." They are encouraged to report all such information they may come across, including information about their fellow employees. Imagine that there are tens of thousands of such "special" people, spread across the entire United States.

Members of the special class are given phone numbers for the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI. When they call to report "suspicious" behavior, and when they identify themselves as members of the special class, they know they "will be listened to." Were you recently angered by a decision by your boss, and did you mutter something about wanting "to give that bastard what he deserves"? Or perhaps you were chatting with one of your neighbors, and you casually and unthinkingly remarked that you'd like to see some of the politicians in Washington "get what they have coming." If a member of the special class heard such comments, you may already be known to the State, and in a decidedly unfavorable way.


Stop Doing the Vicious Work of the Ruling Class

Arthur Silber

Chris Floyd: All Systems Go: The Core of the Acquittal - The acquittal of George Zimmerman for his killing of Trayvon Martin has already sparked a torrent of fervid commentary -- millions of words -- and will no doubt produce many millions more in the days and weeks to come. But good sense and insight have been near-impossible to find in the roiling surges of this tsunami. One place where you can find these rare commodities is -- as you might expect -- Arthur Silber's blog. Silber has posted a powerful essay on the case and its implications, extending and deepening a likewise excellent piece by Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic, which Silber builds upon to striking effect. You should read the whole piece -- read the whole of both pieces -- but be prepared for some counter-intuitive conclusions, the chief of which is this: in the Trayvon Martin case, the system did not fail; the system worked, it did what it was supposed to do. The problem is that what it is supposed to do is to maintain and replicate the brutal, violent and, above all, dehumanizing injustice encoded in the core of the national culture. Trayvon Martin's life was broken on the hard, metallic spikes of this core; an unspeakable personal loss. But the travesty was not the case itself -- an inevitably ambiguous affair (an unwitnessed encounter between two men, one of them left dead) hobbled with a daunting burden of legal proof required to produce a guilty verdict. No, the real travesty is the system that produced the volatile circumstances of that fateful night, and all of the seething, hateful, fearful, alienating currents that lay behind the encounter. But read the eloquent insights of Silber and Coates for more.


"Intelligence," Corporatism, and the Dance of Death

Arthur Silber

You may at first think the following is a bad joke, but I assure you it is not a joke at all. At the very end of this NYT story about Booz Allen and the complex interconnections between nominally "private" business and the national intelligence community, we read:

But the legal warnings at the end of its financial report offered a caution that the company could be hurt by “any issue that compromises our relationships with the U.S. government or damages our professional reputation." By Friday, shares of Booz Allen had slid nearly 6 percent since the revelations. And a new job posting appeared on its Web site for a systems administrator in Hawaii, “secret clearance required.”

Yes, that appears to be Edward Snowden's old job.

Crappy spy fiction doesn't look quite so crappy now, does it? In many respects -- in fact, I would argue in every critical respect -- the spy business is actually that dumb.

In an earlier post about surveillance stories, I discussed the profoundly offensive elitism involved in the argument that "special" people in both government and journalism, people endowed with understanding and judgment that is the envy of the gods and forever denied to all us ordinary schlubs, should decide what information will be provided to the motley mass of humans who merely pay for all of it, and for whose benefit all this godlike work is supposedly undertaken. Talk about idiocies: "We're doing all this for you! You're too stupid to be told most of what we're doing!" Put it on a bumper sticker, baby, so we can throw rotten eggs at it.


The Klown Quotient Increases

Arthur Silber

In one of my posts about the Boston experiment -- that charming exercise by the Terrorist States of America to determine how easily martial law might be imposed and just how much Americans will love brute State violence when it is deployed here at home (and our terrorist leaders now know that most Americans will love it adoringly and without question). I spoke briefly about the degree of competence most people wrongly attribute to those in positions of authority and power. In commenting on how profoundly mistaken that typical view is, I wrote:

"The Killer Klowns of Death who patrolled Boston and environs last week are exactly as competent as that young, doubtless 'well-intentioned' guy who took your order at lunch -- and got it wrong. Now that should scare the shit out of you."

In my usual fashion, I was far too generous in my assessment of the Killer Klowns in question. (This is because, despite some critics' view that I am too bitter and angry -- an egregious vilification directly targeted at the most tender reaches of my soul -- I am a goddamned Mary Poppins.) That earlier piece devoted several paragraphs to a discussion of the fact that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was outside the perimeter within which the authorities conducted their search, the perimeter they viewed as "solid." While the authorities initially maintained that Tsarnaev was outside the perimeter, it appears that he was actually inside the perimeter:

Police officials initially said the boat was in the backyard of a house just outside the perimeter of the area where investigators had conducted door-to-door searches all day. But Commissioner Davis, of the Boston police, said this week that the boat had been inside the perimeter.

“It was an area that should have been checked,” he said. “We are not sure how long he was in the boat. There was a pool of blood near where the car was dumped about four or five blocks away from the boat."


An UnChristmas Story, 2012

Arthur Silber

"Yes, sir. We've been tracking them for the last week. They've been traveling through an area controlled by that terrorist group we're watching. Every night, they've stayed at the homes of people who are family relations or friends to someone we suspect of being a terrorist. All of them are involved with those protests about taxes, the land appropriation policy, and the forced labor program. As you know, sir, some of those protests have been very violent."

"Tell me again what they look like."

"Well, sir, as best we can tell, they're pretty scraggly and dirty. And swarthy, you know? They certainly don't look like regular folks or decent people, you know, not like us. And of course, they're carrying those suspicious looking packages."

"You still don't know what's in them?"

"No, sir. We haven't been able to figure it out for sure. We've caught glimpses of things that look like they might be drugs. And a few glints of something that might be precious metal. As you know, that all fits the terrorist profile."


Let Us Now Speak Plainly

Arthur Silber


A Palestinian woman and her child run for cover after an Israeli air-
strike hit the northern Gaza City on Friday.
(M. Longari/AFP/Getty)

The most striking and significant quality of our national conversation "is one of overwhelming, oppressive and suffocating unreality. It is as if everyone knows, but will never acknowledge, that we may speak only in code, and that we may only utilize the safe, empty phrases that we have agreed are 'acceptable' -- phrases and language that are safe precisely because they have been drained of all correspondence to facts. It is as if everyone realizes, but will never state, that we are engaged in an elaborate charade, a pageant of gesture and indication, where substance and specific meaning have been banned. ... [T]he truth is not merely unpleasant, an uninvited guest who makes conversation difficult and awkward. Truth is the enemy; truth is to be destroyed."

Gaza is a concentration camp. It is not like a concentration camp. It is not a metaphorical or figurative concentration camp. It is a concentration camp. Our culture, our political leaders, and the cacophony of voices in the media have all agreed that this truth must never be spoken. If one wanted to be momentarily charitable about people's absolute refusal to recognize the obvious, one might argue that a land area of approximately 140 square miles, containing a population of roughly 1.7 million people, could not possibly be a concentration camp. But size and the number of prisoners are not the distinguishing characteristics of a concentration camp. The most essential characteristic of a concentration camp is what is permitted, and what is not. Only one question matters: Under what conditions are the people within its borders permitted to live?

Israel controls most of Gaza's land borders, just as Israel controls the air space above it and the waters that border Gaza on the west. The sole exception is the small border with Egypt, and Israel subjects that border to attacks whenever it chooses. In essence, nothing is permitted in or out of Gaza without Israel's permission.


Welcome to the Age of Hell: Entrenching Murder as the American Way

Chris Floyd

The Washington Post has just laid out, in horrifying, soul-slaughtering detail, the Obama Administration's ongoing effort to expand, entrench and "codify" the practice of murder and terrorism by the United States government. The avowed, deliberate intent of these sinister machinations is to embed the use of death squads and drone terror attacks into the policy apparatus of future administrations, so that the killing of human beings outside all pretense of legal process will go on, year after year after year, even when the Nobel Peace Laureate has left office.

They have even come up with a new euphemism for state murder: "disposition." The new "counterterrorism matrix" is "designed to go beyond existing kill lists, mapping plans for the 'disposition' of suspects beyond the reach of American drones," the Post reports.

In other words, it involves expanding and varying the menu of arbitrary murder, mixing the blunderbuss of drone blasts and night raids with more selective "bullet-in-the-brain," "bomb-in-the-car-engine," "polonium-in-the-pea-soup," and "doping-and-defenestration" approaches. Arbitrary murder by unaccountable elites and their spies, paid for by money taken from ordinary citizens who have no say in and no knowledge of what is being done in their names (and who will be the victims of the inevitable blowback from the state terror and murder campaign): this is now being "codified," officially, formally, as the American way.


The Nauseating Grief of Diseased America

Arthur Silber

Introduction by Chris Floyd: Arthur Silber writes with power and eloquence about the Aurora killings -- and the monstrous hypocrisy of our national "leaders," who mouthed saccharine pieties about fragile and precious life is, and how tragic it is that innocent lives are so cruelly taken from us...this while raining down terror and mass murder on innocent human beings all over the world. Go [on], read the whole thing.

Some years ago, I saw a man in profound emotional distress. The sobs which wracked his body had caused him to collapse to the ground, so weak did they make him. Every few minutes, he emitted a howl of pain, a sound so piercing and unnerving that I hope never to hear its like again. People passed the man in the street. A few of them would pause for a moment, looking awkwardly in his general direction, as if they thought that perhaps they should offer aid in some manner. Then they all walked on. The man remained on the ground, helpless in his immense pain.

After approaching him very slowly, taking care not to move too quickly or unexpectedly, I gently took him in my arms. "I'm here," I kept repeating. "I'll help you in any way I can. I'm here." I held him for many long minutes, softly murmuring the phrases over and over. He eventually began to breathe somewhat more normally. "I'll help you if I can. Please tell me what I can do."

"It's just..." He offered the words so tentatively that I could barely hear them. "It's just...?" I quietly asked. After a few more minutes had passed, he managed to tell me what had upset him so deeply.


The Nightmare Gathers Force

Arthur Silber

In writing about the ongoing crisis facing Greece (and Europe generally), commentators often advance the notion that what is occurring in Greece in particular provides a preview of what will happen in the United States if we continue on our current path. Conservative and neoliberal writers (but I repeat myself) proclaim that this necessitates governments becoming far more brutal in their dedication to "austerity": that is, the ruling class must be extravagantly ruthless, without surcease, in depriving those who are without power, wealth and privilege of every means of sustaining their lives. One of the assumptions of our "betters" is that truly deserving, "good" people will nonetheless manage to survive, and perhaps thrive, even in the midst of resources and possibilities for action that diminish daily. We are told that this is one of America's greatest virtues: anyone who is hardworking and dedicated, who genuinely "makes the effort," can succeed -- because, of course, the ruling class's success has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that they have long been favored by privilege and power, often from birth. To the contrary: the ruling class is the ruling class because of their magnificent virtue and hard work. They deserve their privilege, power and wealth. And you? If you can't manage to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps -- even though the last bootstrap was destroyed a generation or two ago, and even though you are unable to grasp a bootstrap or anything else since the ruling class cut off your hands -- well, you deserve to die.


The United States of Gary

Arthur Silber


US troops peeing on dead / dying Afghan resistance fighters.
Screenshot from the You Tube video. The original video has
been removed from YouTube in an act of blatant censorship.

When I was 11 or 12, I was stopped by one of the neighborhood kids as I walked home one day. Gary was in my grade; even at that age, I knew he was remarkably stupid. He was also much stronger than I was. Gary was very athletic; I was not. He had a sizable group of friends; I did not. I was overweight, and I knew -- everyone knew -- that I was "different" from most other kids in at least several ways. Gary and I had never had much to do with each other; that day, for some reason, he decided that he had some business to conduct with me.

"Where have you been?," he asked, in a manner suggesting I'd answer if I knew what was good for me. I told him I'd been at my piano lesson. He looked at me with a puzzled expression and thought about it for a moment or two. "I don't want you going to piano lessons any more." Gary said it as a simple declaration of fact: this is what he wanted, and it would happen. I looked puzzled in my turn; I wondered what on earth he meant. Gary noted my expression, and he took a step closer to me, his face tightening with distaste and disapproval. "You aren't going to any more piano lessons. If I catch you going to one, I'm going to beat the crap out of you."

I looked down at the ground without speaking. I couldn't make sense of what he was saying. I understood the words, but why did this have anything at all to do with him? Why did he even care? After a few moments passed and I still hadn't said anything in response, Gary said: "Do you understand what I'm telling you?" He was leaning into me by this time, and his threatening manner convinced me that the first beating would take place then and there if I didn't answer. "Yes," I said. "I understand." "Good," he replied. "No more piano lessons." And he turned back toward his house, dismissing me.


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