Tag Archives: death

The Death of the Republic

Mr. Fish / Truthdig

The deep state’s decision in ancient Rome—dominated by a bloated military and a corrupt oligarchy, much like the United States of 2017—to strangle the vain and idiotic Emperor Commodus in his bath in the year 192 did not halt the growing chaos and precipitous decline of the Roman Empire.

Commodus, like a number of other late Roman emperors, and like President Trump, was incompetent and consumed by his own vanity. He commissioned innumerable statues of himself as Hercules and had little interest in governance. He used his position as head of state to make himself the star of his own ongoing public show. He fought victoriously as a gladiator in the arena in fixed bouts. Power for Commodus, as it is for Trump, was primarily about catering to his bottomless narcissism, hedonism and lust for wealth. He sold public offices so the ancient equivalents of Betsy DeVos and Steve Mnuchin could orchestrate a vast kleptocracy.

Commodus was replaced by the reformer Pertinax, the Bernie Sanders of his day, who attempted in vain to curb the power of the Praetorian Guards, the ancient version of the military-industrial complex. This effort saw the Praetorian Guards assassinate Pertinax after he was in power only three months. The Guards then auctioned off the office of emperor to the highest bidder. The next emperor, Didius Julianus, lasted 66 days. There would be five emperors in A.D. 193, the year after the assassination of Commodus. Trump and our decaying empire have ominous historical precedents. If the deep state replaces Trump, whose ineptitude and imbecility are embarrassing to the empire, that action will not restore our democracy any more than replacing Commodus restored democracy in Rome. Our republic is dead.

Societies that once were open and had democratic traditions are easy prey for the enemies of democracy. These demagogues pay deference to the patriotic ideals, rituals, practices and forms of the old democratic political system while dismantling it. When the Roman Emperor Augustus—he referred to himself as the “first citizen”—neutered the republic, he was careful to maintain the form of the old republic. Lenin and the Bolsheviks did the same when they seized and crushed the autonomous soviets. Even the Nazis and the Stalinists insisted they ruled democratic states. Thomas Paine wrote that despotic government is a fungus that grows out of a corrupt civil society. This is what happened to these older democracies. It is what happened to us.

Our constitutional rights—due process, habeas corpus, privacy, a fair trial, freedom from exploitation, fair elections and dissent—have been taken from us by judicial fiat. These rights exist only in name. The vast disconnect between the purported values of the state and reality renders political discourse absurd.

Corporations, cannibalizing the federal budget, legally empower themselves to exploit and pillage. It is impossible to vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs or ExxonMobil. The pharmaceutical and insurance industries can hold sick children hostage while their parents bankrupt themselves trying to save their sons or daughters. Those burdened by student loans can never wipe out the debt by declaring bankruptcy. In many states, those who attempt to publicize the conditions in the vast factory farms where diseased animals are warehoused for slaughter can be charged with a criminal offense. Corporations legally carry out tax boycotts. Companies have orchestrated free trade deals that destroy small farmers and businesses and deindustrialize the country. Labor unions and government agencies designed to protect the public from contaminated air, water and food and from usurious creditors and lenders have been defanged. The Supreme Court, in an inversion of rights worthy of George Orwell, defines unlimited corporate contributions to electoral campaigns as a right to petition the government or a form of free speech. Much of the press, owned by large corporations, is an echo chamber for the elites. State and city enterprises and utilities are sold to corporations that hike rates and deny services to the poor. The educational system is being slowly privatized and turned into a species of vocational training.

Wages are stagnant or have declined. Unemployment and underemployment—masked by falsified statistics—have thrust half the country into chronic poverty. Social services are abolished in the name of austerity. Culture and the arts have been replaced by sexual commodification, banal entertainment and graphic depictions of violence. The infrastructure, neglected and underfunded, is collapsing. Bankruptcies, foreclosures, arrests, food shortages and untreated illnesses that lead to early death plague a harried underclass. The desperate flee into an underground economy dominated by drugs, crime and human trafficking. The state, rather than address the economic misery, militarizes police departments and empowers them to use lethal force against unarmed civilians. It fills the prisons with 2.3 million citizens, only a tiny percentage of whom had a trial. One million prisoners work for corporations inside prisons as modern-day slaves.

The amendments of the Constitution, designed to protect the citizen from tyranny, are meaningless. The Fourth Amendment, for example, reads: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” The reality is that our telephone calls, emails, texts and financial, judicial and medical records, along with every website we visit and our physical travels, are tracked, recorded and stored in perpetuity in government computer banks.

The state tortures, not only in black sites such as those at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan or at Guantanamo Bay, but also in supermax ADX [administrative maximum] facilities such as the one at Florence, Colo., where inmates suffer psychological breakdowns from prolonged solitary confinement. Prisoners, although they are citizens, endure around-the-clock electronic monitoring and 23-hour-a-day lockdowns. They undergo extreme sensory deprivation. They endure beatings. They must shower and go to the bathroom on camera. They can write only one letter a week to one relative and cannot use more than three pieces of paper. They often have no access to fresh air and take their one hour of daily recreation in a huge cage that resembles a treadmill for hamsters.

The state uses “special administrative measures,” known as SAMs, to strip prisoners of their judicial rights. SAMs restrict prisoners’ communication with the outside world. They end calls, letters and visits with anyone except attorneys and sharply limit contact with family members. Prisoners under SAMs are not permitted to see most of the evidence against them because of a legal provision called the Classified Information Procedures Act, or CIPA. CIPA, begun under the Reagan administration, allows evidence in a trial to be classified and withheld from those being prosecuted. You can be tried and convicted, like Joseph K. in Franz Kafka’s “The Trial,” without ever seeing the evidence used to find you guilty. Under SAMs, it is against the law for those who have contact with an inmate—including attorneys—to speak about his or her physical and psychological conditions.

And when prisoners are released, they have lost the right to vote and receive public assistance and are burdened with fines that, if unpaid, will put them back behind bars. They are subject to arbitrary searches and arrests. They spend the rest of their lives marginalized as members of a vast criminal caste.

The executive branch of government has empowered itself to assassinate U.S. citizens. It can call the Army into the streets to quell civil unrest under Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act, which ended a prohibition on the military acting as a domestic police force. The executive branch can order the military to seize U.S. citizens deemed to be terrorists or associated with terrorists. This is called “extraordinary rendition.” Those taken into custody by the military can be denied due process and habeas corpus rights and held indefinitely in military facilities. Activists and dissidents, whose rights were once protected under the First Amendment, can face indefinite incarceration.

Constitutionally protected statements, beliefs and associations are criminalized. The state assumed the power to detain and prosecute people not for what they have done, or even for what they are planning to do, but for holding religious or political beliefs that the state deems seditious. The first of those targeted have been observant Muslims, but they will not be the last.

The outward forms of democratic participation—voting, competing political parties, judicial oversight and legislation—are meaningless theater. No one who lives under constant surveillance, who is subject to detention anywhere at any time, whose conversations, messages, meetings, proclivities and habits are recorded, stored and analyzed, who is powerless in the face of corporate exploitation, can be described as free. The relationship between the state and the citizen who is watched constantly is one of master and slave. And the shackles will not be removed if Trump disappears.

By Chris Hedges/Truthdig

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Fatal Stabbing of Black Student at University of Maryland Investigated as Possible Hate Crime

The FBI is helping to evaluate whether the fatal stabbing by a white student of a black student visiting the University of Maryland will be prosecuted as a hate crime, university police said Sunday.

Richard Wilbur Collins III was with two friends on the university’s campus in College Park when he was approached by a man and stabbed in the chest with a knife Saturday morning, University of Maryland Police Chief David Mitchell told reporters.

Image result for richard wilbur collins
Image: twitter

The 23-year-old had been commissioned as a lieutenant in the US Army two days before his death and had been set to graduate from Bowie State University (BSU) on Tuesday in a ceremony at Maryland, Mitchell said.

The University of Maryland student suspected of Collins’s killing was a member of a Facebook group named Alt Reich, Mitchell said.

More from KTLA

Posted by Libergirl

The Resurgence of ‘Stand Your Ground’ Laws and What It Could Mean for Black Citizens

The criminalization of Black people and the use of white vigilantism as a weapon of violence against us are by no means a new concept in America. After all, violence and the very palpable threat of death have followed Black people for 400 years in the land of the free.  However, in recent years, part of that legacy of anti-Black violence had assumed a new name: Stand Your Ground.

Beginning in Florida in 2005, through the efforts of conservative lawmakers, the National Rifle Association and the American Legislative Exchange Council, states across the country enacted Stand Your Ground laws. The legislation allows armed people to use deadly force, invoking self-defense as a justification for killing someone they believe poses an imminent threat. Often, these laws justify the murder of Black people by whites. Between 2012 and 2016, Stand Your Ground bills have failed in state legislatures. But now, in GOP-controlled states, these laws — likely motivated by racism — are making a comeback. Black lawmakers, who represent 10 percent of state legislators, are fighting the resurgence of these laws born from segregation fear and ignorance, as The Trace reported.

While U.S. law traditionally followed the “castle doctrine” — which says the home is one’s castle and allows a person to defend his or her home through deadly force without legal consequences — this new breed of legislation has enabled the use of deadly force outside of the home or anywhere, whether or not the alleged perpetrator is armed. Within the context of racial justice, Stand Your Ground has proven highly problematic in a nation that views Black people as a threat to public safety, and where white people have relished the opportunity to deputize themselves in the policing and taking of Black lives.

Stand Your Ground was implicated in a number of high-profile cases involving the racialized killing of Black teenage victims. Two of these incidents took place in Florida in 2012, including the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, and the fatal shooting of Jordan Davis over loud music by a white man named Michael Dunn at a Jacksonville gas station. Studies have shown that these laws have made it easier for whites people to kill Black people with impunity.  According to a 2012 study from the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center, whites who kill Blacks in Stand Your Ground states are far more likely to be found justified than in jurisdictions without the law — 354 percent more likely as opposed to 250 percent. A 2015 study in Social Science & Medicine revealed the extent of racial bias in Florida’s Stand Your Ground statute. According to the report, the race of the victim predicted whether the defendant was convicted, with a jury conviction twice as likely in cases involving white victims vs. non-white victims.

In addition, Stand Your Ground statutes, also known as “shoot first” laws, have resulted in more bloodshed. For example, according to a 2012 Texas A&M University study, instances of murder and non-negligent manslaughter increased by 8 percent in states with Stand Your Ground laws, translating into 600 more homicides per year.

A study last year from the American Medical Association found that Florida experienced a 24.4-percent increase in homicides and a 31.6-percent increase in gun-related homicides from 2005–after implementing Stand Your Ground– and 2014.

Black people have not benefited from a law that was not meant for them. The case of Marissa Alexander was a salient example. “Stand Your Ground” was not available to Alexander, who ultimately spent three years in prison and two years under home confinement in a plea deal for firing a warning shot to ward off her abusive husband. She was initially sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.

More than 20 states have implemented Stand Your Ground laws. Following four years of legislative inactivity — during which time the Black Lives Matter movement came into being and, with it, heightened awareness of racial justice issues — Republican-controlled state houses are once again enacting these laws, as The Trace reported. Black Democratic lawmakers are on the front lines of the resistance against the laws, but they are witnessing their waning power in many states, including rural districts. Missouri was the first to make this move, followed by Iowa just recently. Florida, the first Stand Your Ground state, is poised to pass an even more stringent law according to the Tampa Bay Times. The Florida House of Representatives voted for a revised and approved Senate bill that favors shooters, shifting the burden of proof in pre-trial hearings to prosecutors, who must now prove that someone invoking Stand Your Ground should not be immune from prosecution. The NRA supported the bill, while state prosecutors, gun control advocates and the entire Democratic caucus opposed the measure. Marissa Alexander testified in support of changes to the law, while Lucia McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis, expressed her opposition to the measure.

“One shot and a 12-minute verdict got me 20 years,” Alexander said in February before a state Senate committee, as the Florida Times-Union reported. “In my own home. Concealed weapon license. White-collar worker. I had just given birth to an 8-month-old, 4-pound, 12-ounce premature baby.”

“You’re going to have an inordinate number of cases now that are going to be brought forth to be tried,” said McBath, as reported by News4jax.com. “More people are going to try to use ‘Stand Your Ground’ as their lawful defense for shooting first and asking questions later.”

By David Love

Posted by The NON-Conformist

The Dance of Death

The ruling corporate elites no longer seek to build. They seek to destroy. They are agents of death. They crave the unimpeded power to cannibalize the country and pollute and degrade the ecosystem to feed an insatiable lust for wealth, power and hedonism. Wars and military “virtues” are celebrated. Intelligence, empathy and the common good are banished. Culture is degraded to patriotic kitsch. Education is designed only to instill technical proficiency to serve the poisonous engine of corporate capitalism. Historical amnesia shuts us off from the past, the present and the future. Those branded as unproductive or redundant are discarded and left to struggle in poverty or locked away in cages. State repression is indiscriminate and brutal. And, presiding over the tawdry Grand Guignol is a deranged ringmaster tweeting absurdities from the White House.

The graveyard of world empires—Sumerian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Mayan, Khmer, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian—followed the same trajectory of moral and physical collapse. Those who rule at the end of empire are psychopaths, imbeciles, narcissists and deviants, the equivalents of the depraved Roman emperors Caligula, Nero, Tiberius and Commodus. The ecosystem that sustains the empire is degraded and exhausted. Economic growth, concentrated in the hands of corrupt elites, is dependent on a crippling debt peonage imposed on the population. The bloated ruling class of oligarchs, priests, courtiers, mandarins, eunuchs, professional warriors, financial speculators and corporate managers sucks the marrow out of society.

The elites’ myopic response to the looming collapse of the natural world and the civilization is to make subservient populations work harder for less, squander capital in grandiose projects such as pyramids, palaces, border walls and fracking, and wage war. President Trump’s decision to increase military spending by $54 billion and take the needed funds out of the flesh of domestic programs typifies the behavior of terminally ill civilizations. When the Roman Empire fell, it was trying to sustain an army of half a million soldiers that had become a parasitic drain on state resources.

The complex bureaucratic mechanisms that are created by all civilizations ultimately doom them. The difference now, as Joseph Tainter points out in “The Collapse of Complex Societies,” is that “collapse, if and when it comes again, will this time be global. No longer can any individual nation collapse. World civilization will disintegrate as a whole.”

Civilizations in decline, despite the palpable signs of decay around them, remain fixated on restoring their “greatness.” Their illusions condemn them. They cannot see that the forces that gave rise to modern civilization, namely technology, industrial violence and fossil fuels, are the same forces that are extinguishing it. Their leaders are trained only to serve the system, slavishly worshipping the old gods long after these gods begin to demand millions of sacrificial victims.

“Hope drives us to invent new fixes for old messes, which in turn create even more dangerous messes,” Ronald Wright writes in “A Short History of Progress.” “Hope elects the politician with the biggest empty promise; and as any stockbroker or lottery seller knows, most of us will take a slim hope over prudent and predictable frugality. Hope, like greed, fuels the engine of capitalism.”

The Trump appointees—Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions, Rex Tillerson, Steve Mnuchin, Betsy DeVos, Wilbur Ross, Rick Perry, Alex Acosta and others—do not advocate innovation or reform. They are Pavlovian dogs that salivate before piles of money. They are hard-wired to steal from the poor and loot federal budgets. Their single-minded obsession with personal enrichment drives them to dismantle any institution or abolish any law or regulation that gets in the way of their greed. Capitalism, Karl Marx wrote, is “a machine for demolishing limits.” There is no internal sense of proportion or scale. Once all external impediments are lifted, global capitalism ruthlessly commodifies human beings and the natural world to extract profit until exhaustion or collapse. And when the last moments of a civilization arrive, the degenerate edifices of power appear to crumble overnight.

Sigmund Freud wrote that societies, along with individuals, are driven by two primary instincts. One is the instinct for life, Eros, the quest to love, nurture, protect and preserve. The second is the death instinct. The death instinct, called Thanatos by post-Freudians, is driven by fear, hatred and violence. It seeks the dissolution of all living things, including our own beings. One of these two forces, Freud wrote, is always ascendant. Societies in decline enthusiastically embrace the death instinct, as Freud observed in “Civilization and Its Discontents,” written on the eve of the rise of European fascism and World War II.

“It is in sadism, where the death instinct twists the erotic aim in its own sense and yet at the same time fully satisfies the erotic urge, that we succeed in obtaining the clearest insight into its nature and its relation to Eros,” Freud wrote. “But even where it emerges without any sexual purpose, in the blindest fury of destructiveness, we cannot fail to recognize that the satisfaction of the instinct is accompanied by an extraordinary high degree of narcissistic enjoyment, owing to its presenting the ego with a fulfillment of the latter’s old wishes for omnipotence.”

The lust for death, as Freud understood, is not, at first, morbid. It is exciting and seductive. I saw this in the wars I covered. A god-like power and adrenaline-driven fury, even euphoria, sweep over armed units and ethnic or religious groups given the license to destroy anything and anyone around them. Ernst Juenger captured this “monstrous desire for annihilation” in his World War I memoir, “Storm of Steel.”

A population alienated and beset by despair and hopelessness finds empowerment and pleasure in an orgy of annihilation that soon morphs into self-annihilation. It has no interest in nurturing a world that has betrayed it and thwarted its dreams. It seeks to eradicate this world and replace it with a mythical landscape. It turns against institutions, as well as ethnic and religious groups, that are scapegoated for its misery. It plunders diminishing natural resources with abandon. It is seduced by the fantastic promises of demagogues and the magical solutions characteristic of the Christian right or what anthropologists call “crisis cults.”

Norman Cohn, in “The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Messianism in Medieval and Reformation Europe and Its Bearing on Modern Totalitarian Movements,” draws a link between that turbulent period and our own. Millennial movements are a peculiar, collective psychological response to profound societal despair. They recur throughout human history. We are not immune.

“These movements have varied in tone from the most violent aggressiveness to the mildest pacifism and in aim from the most ethereal spirituality to the most earth-bound materialism; there is no counting the possible ways of imagining the Millennium and the route to it,” Cohen wrote. “But similarities can present themselves as well as differences; and the more carefully one compares the outbreaks of militant social chiliasm during the later Middle Ages with modern totalitarian movements the more remarkable the similarities appear. The old symbols and the old slogans have indeed disappeared, to be replaced by new ones; but the structure of the basic phantasies seems to have changed scarcely at all.”

These movements, Cohen wrote, offered “a coherent social myth which was capable of taking entire possession of those who believed in it. It explained their suffering, it promised them recompense, it held their anxieties at bay, it gave them an illusion of security—even while it drove them, held together by a common enthusiasm, on a quest which was always vain and often suicidal.

“So it came about that multitudes of people acted out with fierce energy a shared phantasy which though delusional yet brought them such intense emotional relief that they could live only through it and were perfectly willing to die for it. It is a phenomenon which was to recur many times between the eleventh century and the sixteenth century, now in one area, now in another, and which, despite the obvious differences in cultural context and in scale, is not irrelevant to the growth of totalitarian movements, with their messianic leaders, their millennial mirages and their demon-scapegoats, in the present century.”

The severance of a society from reality, as ours has been severed from collective recognition of the severity of climate change and the fatal consequences of empire and deindustrialization, leaves it without the intellectual and institutional mechanisms to confront its impending mortality. It exists in a state of self-induced hypnosis and self-delusion. It seeks momentary euphoria and meaning in tawdry entertainment and acts of violence and destruction, including against people who are demonized and blamed for society’s demise. It hastens its self-immolation while holding up the supposed inevitability of a glorious national resurgence. Idiots and charlatans, the handmaidens of death, lure us into the abyss.

By Chris Hedges/Truthdig

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Trump: McCain ‘doesn’t know how to win anymore’

09_donald_trump_39_gty_1160.jpg
Image: Getty via Politico

President Donald Trump revived his feud with John McCain on Thursday morning, tweeting that the Arizona senator “doesn’t know how to win anymore” and shouldn’t have called a U.S. raid in Yemen a failure.

“Sen. McCain should not be talking about the success or failure of a mission to the media. Only emboldens the enemy! He’s been losing so long he doesn’t know how to win anymore,” Trump wrote in a series of tweets Thursday morning. “Just look at the mess our country is in – bogged down in conflict all over the place. Our hero Ryan died on a winning mission ( according to General Mattis), not a ‘failure.’ Time for the U.S. to get smart and start winning again!”

More from Politico

Posted by Libergirl

More than 700 people have been murdered in Chicago this year

Murders in Chicago have already topped 700 this year, police said on Thursday, as a surge in violence in the third largest U.S. city has sent the number of killings to its highest point in nearly two decades.

There were 77 murders in November, according to the Chicago Police Department, bringing the number of murders to 701 for the year to date.

Murders have surged 55 percent from the same period last year, according to CPD spokesman Frank Giancamilli. The murder rate is the highest since 704 people were killed in 1998 and 761 in 1997.

The number of murders in Chicago, a city of 2.7 million, exceeds those in Los Angeles and New York combined, according to data from the respective police forces. Both cities have considerably larger populations than Chicago.

More from New York Post

Posted by Libergirl

 

Why the Idea of Abolishing the Police Isn’t So Far-Fetched, According to Activists

Amid countless incidents of Blacks dying at the hands of police, the push for sweeping police reform is stronger than ever before. However, a group of grassroots organizers in Chicago is opting to take a different route — by abolishing the police altogether.

According to the Chicago Reader, grassroots groups around the city are already making moves to put their abolitionist ideas into practice. However, they insist the notion isn’t as crazy as it sounds.

The idea began with a local activist named Jessica Disu, who appeared on a televised Fox News town hall discussion on the recent killings of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and the deadly police ambush in Dallas. The time came for Disu to voice her unpopular opinion as fellow speakers touted false claims that Black Lives Matter endorsed the killing of police officers.

“This is the reason our young people are hopeless in America,” she said. “Here’s a solution: We need to abolish the police.”

“Demilitarize the police, disarm the police,” Disu continued amid boos from the crowd. “We need to come up with community solutions for transformative justice.”

More from Atlanta Black Star

Posted by The NON-Conformist