Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Charleston, South Carolina Church Massacre & The Immorality of Forgiving the Unrepentant

[The Alabama Governor ordered the Confederate flag to be removed from state grounds there today.]

Relatives of the nine people slaughtered by white supremacist murderer Dylann Storm Roof in the historic  Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, told him in person at his court arraignment that they "forgive" him for his vicious act despite the anguish he has caused them. (No indication in news reports that he gives a damn about the torment he is making them suffer, or regrets cutting short the lives of nine perfect strangers who welcomed him into their presence in their church, despite the fact that they, as southern blacks, had every reason to shun a  white like Roof barging into their social circle uninvited. He apparently didn't thank the relatives for their forgiveness, either.)

This is, from one angle, exceedingly bizarre. it was less than a week since the slaughter. Roof had not apologized for his murders. He is, as of now, remorseless. He isn't wracked by guilt. He hasn't done anything to atone for his crimes. He hasn't even asked for forgiveness. All the evidence indicates that he considers himself a righteous warrior in a race war he hoped to spark.

Yet here are the relatives, presenting him with the gift of forgiveness on a silver platter, at his arraignment, no less.

Really, this is objectively absurd.

Forgiveness given automatically, unearned, has no weight and is morally worthless. Forgiveness without remorse, repentance, or even apology is cheap indeed. And how much can something gotten so easily be appreciated by the recipient? Certainly a hate-filled, deranged bigot like Roof isn't going to be moved by such a magnanimous gesture. (I can think of few people less worthy of such a generous gift.)

It is also unjust to the repentant. It treats those who go through the hardship and pain of acknowledging to themselves the evil they did, the harm they caused others, who have to endure guilt and shame and humble themselves by asking for forgiveness and trying to atone for their crimes, exactly the same as the guiltless and unrepentant who deny or even revel (overtly or secretly) in their crimes.  And it discourages instead of encouraging reflection, remorse, repentance, and atonement on the part of the guilty. So the effect is objectively  harmful both to society as well as contributing nothing to the redemption and rehabilitation of the evildoer. (Yet these fine Christians think unearned forgiveness can magically redeem the "sinner." Or they throw it into the lap of "God," a supernatural imaginary being, to judge, punish, redeem, or whatever, the offender.)

And forgiveness prior even to punishment is especially pernicious.

Forgiveness eases the mind of the maldoer. In this case, it can only reinforce Roof's conviction that what he did is nothing bad.

Forgiveness is a form of absolution. Roof has no reason to apologize now (except to try and lessen his sentence) since he's already been forgiven.

Now, I understand why the relatives did this. They are deeply immersed in a form of the Christian religion. This form exhorts its followers to love thy enemies, turn the other cheek, hate the sin but love the sinner, cast no stones.

I can also understand why for reasons of their own mental well-being, they might take this path.

I remember the story of a priest who belonged to the anti-apartheid movement. The racist terrorist secret police of the regime (supported until almost the end by the U.S.) sent him a letter or package bomb that blew off his hands and blinded him. Yet he described his feelings and it was surprising to hear that he did not feel anger or hatred. I found this frustrating yet realized for his own mental health it was probably for the best. Most of us would be consumed by anger and hatred, and suffering intense frustration from our inability to punish the culprits. I know I would. The priest presented this as a higher spiritual path. I saw it as a psychological adaptation which was healthy. The "normal" psychological reaction of most of us would create masses of emotional scar tissue, analogous to the physical scars that grow after a horrible burn.

That's not to say that either the priest or the relatives of Roof's victims consciously analyzed their reactions this way. It is more instinctive and intuitive than consciously planned.

But in terms of politics, the health of society, and the advancement of civilization, the forbearance of these victims is harmful. Therefore it behooves the rest of us to not forgive or forget the anti-human actions of fascist and racist scum, and WE should bring retribution to them. Just is a social obligation, not a personal burden on victims (a tleast that's how it should be).

Roof will get deserved punishment. The South African racists never did. I believe that has deleterious consequences to this day.

Now here's a challenge for people who think of themselves as progressives, or reformers, or leftists.
Ronald Reagan has been apotheosized by the U.S. propaganda system. Among his many crimes was his diehard support for the apartheid regime. Congress had to override his veto to impose sanctions on South Africa.

Nelson Mandela was imprisoned because the CIA set him up and tipped off the apartheid secret police to his whereabouts. He was also listed officially as a "terrorist" by the U.S. government until 2008.

Hardly any Americans are aware of these facts. Why is that?

Because virtually no one ever mentions them.

Why aren't YOU mentioning them? Over and over? Repetition is what causes people to remember

You are either an opponent of this gangster system, or you aren't. If you constantly help cover up their crimes, you should stop pretending to be in opposition. Even if you believe in reform, there will never be reform without confrontation with the dirty truths of the power system. Reform only comes from mass discontent and outrage.

Now do your duty or stop faking it.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Nine (More) Die So Southern States Will Stop Flying the Banner of Slavery (Maybe)

In the aftermath of the massacre of nine people inside the historic Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina, by hard-core white racist Dylann Storm Roof, South Carolina's reactionary Republican Governor Nikki Haley has called for the Confederate battle flag to be removed from the state Capitol's grounds (while simultaneously denying it symbolizes racism and slavery- how's that for having it both ways?)
Yet another small advance of "racial progress" in the U.S. that has had to be paid for in "black" blood.

On the other hand, the return for the approximately 4,000 lynching victims in the U.S. between around 1890 and 1940 was about zero.

"Blacks" have been paying in blood for centuries in the U.S. for struggling against oppression, or just to live. To sit on any seat on a bus, to register to vote, to eat in a restaurant- people were murdered just to do those things. (And almost all the murderers went completely unpunished, save for a couple imprisoned as old men.)

The reason I put "blacks" in quotes because I really feel unnatural referring to people as a color, and to group and separate them on that basis, as if they were jellybeans. Blacks, whites, browns, yellows, and reds. These colors are supposed to describe "races." But biologically, which is to say scientifically, which means objectively, homo sapiens is just one race, the (supposedly) human race.

Even saying "a white killed nine blacks" is to reinforce the artificial separation and dehumanization.

That is not at all to deny the virulent racism of the murderer. His ideology is clear and manifest, and cannot be ignored. It was his motive for his political crime, an act of terrorism with the political goal of sparking a race war, as Roof himself stated beforehand.

But of course, FBI secret police boss James Comey immediately denied the crime constituted "terrorism." How did he know, and so soon? Because it wasn't "political," he absurdly said.

On the other hand, the FBI considered the Occupy Movement "terrorist," and Keystone XL pipeline opponents "terrorists," and so on, notwithstanding the fact that these are non-violent and officially ostensibly legal people and activities. Once again "terrorism" in the mouths of the rulers is shown to be completely political and ideological in its usage with no meaning other than to demonize those they choose to demonize.

As for relocating the proud banner of white supremacy and the heritage of slavery, it is not clearly a done deal that the Confederate rag, the notorious, long-standing emblem of white supremacy and black enslavement, will be removed from the capitol grounds in Columbia, SC, and flown a bit farther away. When the reactionary scum lawmakers enacted that "compromise" in 2000 which removed the rag from the Capitol itself and moved it to another spot on state grounds, they made it a felony to lower the rag, and required that if any future legislature wanted to take it down, a two-thirds vote by the state legislature would be needed. So we shall see. (Although there is an argument that one legislature cannot bind future legislatures in this manner.)

Moves announced by a couple of politicians to remove the Confederate emblem, the so-called Stars and Bars, from the Mississippi state flag, and from the flag of Georgia, which added it to its state flag in 1956, are even more uphill.

On the other hand, sectors of Big Business have been induced to act. Walmart, the world's largest retailer, has announced it will stop peddling Confederate rag merchandise. (No word on whether they're pulling Swastika merchandise. Just kidding; presumably they don't sell those. Nor hammer and sickle flags and belt buckles and bumper stickers and knick-knacks, or Rising Sun emblems to commemorate Japanese imperialist "heritage.") Other large retailers are following suit.

There's two ways to look at this; glass half-empty, or glass half-full. One could say it's a small, symbolic step. But symbols matter. And the fact that at least some Republican politicians, the party of white racists (but not only white racists, hence the delicacy of the matter for Republican politicians) are stepping forward to call for a downgrade in the status of the Confederate emblem, does point to an evolution in general racial attitudes.
The desire to avoid alienating white racists is obvious in the mealy-mouthed evasions of the likes of Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz, while the evangelical zealot Michael Huckabee has been positively loathsome, as usual.
At the same time, much guff that is standard apologia for the Confederacy has been trotted out over the past few days. That the Confederate flag doesn't stand for slavery (but in deference to the hurt feelings of blacks, we'll see about making it less prominent, some politicians like Haley are in effect saying). And that undying canard that the American Civil War wasn't about slavery, but about "states' rights."

Nonsense. Just read the secession statement of South Carolina, for example. It's an angry screed against northern states are aren't sufficiently vigorous (in the slaveholders' view) in capturing and returning escaped slaves to their so-called rightful owners. (Very few slaves managed to escape in actuality, as a percentage of the millions of enslaved humans.) Far from states' rights being the motive for secession, it is hostility to the rights of northern states to decline to enforce slavery on their territory that prompted the eleven Confederate states to call it quits from the U.S. and start a war by besieging Fort Sumter with cannon fire.  (As a mark of U.S. depravity, legally the slaveholders had the better argument. They could cite both the U.S. Constitution and the Fugitive Slave Act as trumping the rights of individual states to be lakadaisical about seizing and returning "fugitive" slaves. But some states were quite enthusiastic about enforcing slavery- such as New York. Even free blacks were seized, deemed "escaped slaves," and handed into the clutches of the redneck barbarians.) Far from being forced out of the Union, the Federal government and administration of Abraham Lincoln bent over backwards to coax the southern states to first remain part of the U.S., and then to rejoin it. The abolition of slavery was never the goal of the north, as Lincoln himself stated. It was only under the exigencies of war that Lincoln declared slaves to be free in the rebel states, issuing the Emancipation Proclamation two years into the war, in January 1863.

Here's another thing. Americans are indoctrinated to think of the rebel army of the Confederate States of America as "gallant" and "noble." No more gallant and noble than the Waffen-SS. But about as fanatical and certainly as racist.

[I have two other essays in the works on this matter. One is on the questionable morality of "forgiving" an unrepentant evil-doer, as some relatives of the shooting victims have publicly done. Another will deal with the parallels between the killer Roof and the Norwegian racist mass murderer Anders Breivik. And when will we see a media investigation of Roof's family? I have a question about his middle name, "Storm." Is that a family name? If not, it's an unusual name to give someone. The word has significance in fascist and white supremacist circles. Stormfront is a prominent American white supremacist propaganda outfit. And "storm" is a moniker and concept popular with fascists. Hitler's army of street thugs, the Brownshirts, were called StormTroopers. The word "storm" crops up time and again in Nazism and its military. Storm conjures up fury and power. It represents sudden, violent, all-encompassing change in the environment. It is easy to grasp the emotional resonance the term has with violent, fanatical racists and fascists with a burning desire to remake the world in their own anti-human design.]

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

NATO Poohbah Resorts To Mysticism In Latest Verbal Attack On Russia

The U.S. announced a few days ago that it is sending hundreds of armored vehicles and equipment sufficient for a 5,000 troop expeditionary force, to Poland, Bulgaria, Estonia, and other eastern European and Baltic  nations, to “reassure” its “allies” (clients and lackeys) against Russian “aggression.” [1] In apparent response, Russian president Vladimir Putin has subsequently declared that Russia will deploy an additional 40 intercontinental ballistic missiles this year. (ICBMs are long-range missiles- note the name, Intercontinental. So they are not even directed at eastern Europe!)
This Russian announcement prompted NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg  to bloviate that this coming Russian deployment is one of the reasons for the NATO buildup. In other words, the cause of something in the past lies in a subsequent event. The future caused something to happen in the past. [2]

In the universe as most of us experience it, events that occur later in time do not cause events earlier in time.

But apparently the laws of physics are not binding in the world of Western imperialist apparatchiks. And no propaganda statement is too obviously ludicrous not to be treated as true by Western media propagandists. And Stoltenberg knew this or he never would have made his absurd statement.

Whatever one thinks of Putin’s move, it CANNOT POSSIBLY HAVE CAUSED SOMETHING TO HAPPEN IN THE PAST. Unless one is a flaked-out mystic. Maybe Stoltenberg should cast a spell on Putin with some eye of Newt and a bat wing. Or use some magic crystals to ward off the Russian evil.

1] “Russian aggression” refers to Russian support for the eastern Ukrainian separatists, and the reunification of Crimea and Russia, first voted for by over 90% of Crimean residents who participated in a referendum and then ratified by the Russian parliament, the Duma, is called “aggression,” and frequently painted as a precursor to a Russian invasion of the Baltics, Poland, etc.- an absurd, paranoiac fantasy used to justify a revival of the so-called “Cold War” by “the West,” that is, the U.S. and its European “partners” and other hangers-on like Canada.) 

2] A European civilian traditionally acts as a U.S. puppet “head” of NATO. NATO is actually run by an American general at all times, and always has been.  The secretary-generals are always picked for their reactionary attitudes and fealty to U.S. imperialism.

Stoltenberg’s statement was : "This nuclear saber rattling of Russia is unjustified, it’s destabilizing, and it’s dangerous. And this is something which we are addressing, and it’s also one of the reasons why we now are increasing the readiness and the preparedness of our forces. And we are responding [sic] by making sure that NATO also in the future is an alliance which provides deterrence and protection for all allies against any threat."

Friday, June 05, 2015

U.S. Political Trials Becoming Increasingly Kafkaesque in Age of Obama

We've already seen the sick charades staged in the U.S. military gulag in Guantanamo Bay, occupied Cuba, the so-called "military commissions," where the defense lawyers are bugged and tapped and even the courtroom is surreptitiously controlled by the CIA, as a military "judge" there learned to his surprise when the CIA suddenly cut off the transmission line from the room. "Evidence" obtained through torture is liberally used- in fact is most of what they have to "incriminate" those on "trial."

Then we had the military court martial of Chelsea (then Bradley) Manning, for exposing U.S. war crimes in Iraq to Wikileaks, most notoriously the murder of two Reuters journalists and over a half dozen other unarmed civilians in Baghdad, attacked in broad daylight by a bloodthirsty U.S. helicopter crew as the victims were walking casually on the street, and the attack on a van with children in it which stopped to try and help the wounded victims. (The crew sadistically chortled that that's what they get "for bringing children to a battle" (sic!). "That's right," seconds another crewman. [1] In Manning's legal crucifixion, evidence was tightly controlled, and reporters had severe, repressive restrictions placed on them and were subjected to intimidation. (I mean real reporters. The power establishment media was mostly AWOL from the trial. They saw their role as minimizing public sympathy for Manning, and thus mostly confined themselves to reporting prosecutorial hysteria and government propaganda as fact.) [2]

Now we have the spectacle, in a domestic entrapment-and-frame-up case, being the latest episode of FBI Political Terror Theater, of defense lawyers being openly barred from seeing evidence. In the past, prosecutors would have to secretly violate their obligation to disclose evidence to the defense. This sort of prosecutorial misconduct was routine in America, in both Federal and state proceedings. But just as the secret police and military have new "authorities" to do "legally" what was formerly illegal, such as warrantless searches and seizures and mass surveillance (and torture and assassinations, let's not forget, even though the establishment prefers we remain unconscious of this New Normal most of the time and act like everything's fine- how prescient the movie "Brazil" has proven to be!) so too do prosecutors and courts now "normalize" what once was done more or less covertly and denied. [3]

The prosecutors in the case of Adel Daoud have gotten the judge to agree that the defense cannot know what "evidence" was in the affidavits the government used to obtain various warrants. (Such affidavits are routinely filled with lies, distortions, and gross exaggerations. Since they are filed in secret, without challenge, generally before an arrest during the "investigative" stage of a case, the government can get away with this. So they do.) This even though the defense lawyers had to get so-called "security" clearances from the government itself. In other words, the government had right of approval over who would even be allowed to defend the defendant. (The defendant in this case, as in most productions of FBI Terror Theater, is a hapless and helpless puppet. He's the puppet that gets beaten repeatedly over the head by a character wielding a baseball bat, to extend the metaphor.) [4]

 For example, for at least a decade, the Drug Enforcement Administration has had a entire secret unit devoted to laundering illegally obtained evidence by fabricating how they got the information. They call this "parallel construction," and has been standard practice by Federal "law enforcement" agencies for years. Even though these are known facts, no Federal judge has ordered the disbandment of this unit, sanctioned any Federal agents or prosecutors for them, dismissed any cases or barred testimony from the agencies doing this systematically. Often the information comes from the National Security Agency, the supersurveillance Pentagon arm. The military is barred by law, the posse comitatus act, from law enforcement functions. As usual, those in power pick and choose which laws they feel like obeying. Another dead letter law is the law that created the CIA, which barred it from domestic operations, something it ignored from the day it came into existence.
In the Daoud case, apparently the prosecutors aren't satisfied by how drastically the playing field is already tilted in their favor. Besides refusing to allow the defense access to critical information and documents, they are also insisting that the judge virtually gag the defense lawyers during the trial. There is a list of issues and items that the prosecution is demanding the defense be prohibited from mentioning during the trial. [5]

Of course, precluding a viable defense in political trials is a hoary American tradition. It goes back many decades. During the repression of the 1960s and '70s, a favorite shout of judges at defendants who tried to defend themselves by bringing some reality into the proceedings would be "the government isn't on trial here, YOU are!" Meaning, Don't mention what the government is doing or has done, don't mention their lawbreaking, don't mention their crimes that led to your resistances and protest. More recently, John Kiriakou, the former CIA officer persecuted for publicly criticizing torture, has explained that he had no choice but to take a plea deal after the judge in his case ruled in pre-trial hearings against any viable defenses and Kiriakou's lawyer told him they had no defense left.

This framework of frame-up has been institutionalized. Daniel Ellsberg points out that he couldn't have defended himself if his case had gone to trial. (What happened was that the fact that the Nixon regime offered the judge a bribe in the form of a promised appointment as FBI director, and when this fact became public, the judge felt compelled, reluctantly, to dismiss the charges because of government misconduct. And he had discounted the burglarizing of Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office by Nixon's plumbers to get dirt on Ellsberg, the siccing of Cuban fascist exiles on Ellsberg, who beat him up, the plot by Nixon's henchmen G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt to assassinate Ellsberg, etc. It is understood that Edward Snowden would be precluded from offering any viable defenses should he ever be dragooned into a U.S. court for a show trial.

We can expect things to get worse and worse during the never-ending War on Terror. The "trials" are sick farces, show trials, where no real defense is permitted.

1] Search for "collateral murder video" on youtube, Wikileaks, etc. The longest version is about 17 minutes. The military, AFTER the video forced them to "investigate," declared that the murderous helicopter crew thought their victims were armed. Why that gave them the right to kill them on the spot, or to shoot up a civilian van that stopped to help, is not explained. Of course it's not true anyway, as the video shows us what the killers were seeing, and clearly these men aren't carrying assault weapons- most are carrying nothing at all. The journalists had camera. The crew chose to falsely report to the remote flight controller at base that their victims were armed.

2] For a discussion of the repression of reporters by the military in the Manning trial, see for example "Bradley Manning Awaits Verdict After Trial Ends with Prosecution 'Smears' & Harsh Gov’t Secrecy," Democracy Now, July 23, 2013.

For the use of "secret evidence" the defense and the rest of us weren't allowed to see, read "'He Wanted To Help America': Manning Attorney in First Extended Interview After 35-Year Sentence," Democracy Now, August 22, 2013.

3] Of course, torture by the U.S. is nothing new. They've done it for centuries. They trained foreign fascists in torture techniques for decades during the so-called "Cold War." (Which was their cover and alibi for waging global class warfare.) Domestically many police have tortured, as in Chicago where it was institutionalized, and apparently still exists in milder (?) forms at the police semi-black site uncovered by the Guardian (UK; U.S. media doesn't have much taste for uncovering the crimes of their own police) but brushed aside for years  as just guilty defendants lying. Nowadays torture isn't denied outright but defined away as "enhanced interrogation techniques," or maybe "harsh" ones. Once in awhile some U.S. media outfit will even say "brutal." (The Guardian has a whole series on the Chicago PD black site where "off the books" prisoners are taken for abuse and interrogation, held incommunicado. Start with "The disappeared: Chicago police detain Americans at abuse-laden 'black site', " February 24, 2015.

4] "Very Mention of Snowden’s Name Makes Prosecutors Tremble," The Intercept, June 4, 2015.

5] Details of what the defense is barred from mentioning at ibid.

An example of the cynical political uses of "terror plots" to justify increased state power, surveillance, control, and inevitably repression is illustrated in the article "How Dianne Feinstein Misled Congress About How 'Useful' NSA Spying Authorities Were In Stopping Plots," techdirt, August 1, 2014.

In fact, hardly a day goes by without more evidence piling up to prove my points. It has recently emerged that two government agents in the Silk Road website case are themselves under indictment for serious crimes. The defense was kept in the dark about this, and the judge then barred them from mentioning it in court, thus denying them the right to impeach the credibility of the accuser, the government. This is considered a "fair" trial in the U.S. The judge imposed a draconian sentence of two life terms, plus additional years, without parole, on the Silk Road defendant, Ross Ulbricht.
The establishment likes to pretend that its judges are impartial, favoring neither the defense nor prosecution. In fact, the overwhelming majority of American judges, on every judicial level, are effectively part of the prosecution. They bend over backwards to ensure that jurors won't waver or be swayed by defense arguments and will "do their duty" and duly convict. This is why well over 90% of criminal trials result in convictions here.

For good measure, the indicted agents also tricked Ulbricht into "hiring" them to kill someone they duped him into thinking had stolen $820,000 from his site which the agents themselves had stolen. The "murder" wasn't carried out, but Ulbricht is facing trial for being lured into the agents' plot. The agents were DEA and Secret Service men. It appears there are other corrupt agents involved, at DHS. [See "The Silk Road founder's life sentence appeal may rely on an alleged $800,000 theft by federal agents," Business Insider, June 4, 2015, and "Criminal Charges Against Agents Reveal Staggering Corruption in the Silk Road Investigation," Forbes, March 31, 2015.] The theft occurred the very same day a Silk Road employee was forced by the Federal government to turn over his administrative account to them, which they then used to steal the bitcoins without a moment's delay. Like you'd expect to happen in Mexico or Afghanistan. This of course in no way derailed the "investigation." Silk Road, contrary to lurid media depiction, was basically a site for buying and selling outlawed drugs people use for pleasure. This is considered a monstrous crime by our rulers. (Even though many of them have used such substances, including presidents Clinton, Bush II, and Obama, and vice president Gore and many, many others. Hey, I'm not going to call them hypocrites. That's shooting fish in a barrel. Anyway I think cynics is more on the mark.)