Several years ago, we ran a series on why the work week should be much shorter than it is, focusing on the reasons why it’s artificially long, and how short it could be if the economy were organized more fairly and more rationally.

We’re updating the series and expanding its focus beyond that of the work week to irrationalities and unfairness in the entire economy, and how those of us who work for a living get royally screwed.

We’ll run the first installment on Wednesday.

Stay tuned.


Things have gotten more sedate. I’m not happy about that. Neither are most of my neighbors.

On the positive side, since I moved here 25 years ago, it’s extremely rare to hear gun shots. A quarter of a century ago, it was a nightly occurrence. For the most part, they were a good quarter to half mile away so I paid them little attention, other than thinking, “that ain’t good — but it’s south of Grant, so screw it.”

Now, it’s been months since I’ve heard shots. This is a good thing.

On the other hand, there’s way less partying than a couple of decades ago, which is a bad thing.

Then, we’d have band practice in my living room, playing pretty loud, and no one ever called the cops. Even when we played until midnight.

And the neighbors would have parties on weekends going until 2:00 or 3:00 am, with pickups parked in the front yard, doors open, blasting rancheros, banda, and norteños. It was glorious. No one gave a shit, or at least no one would call the cops.

Beer, bacanora, mota, and the occasional blast. Such fun. We were mostly in our 20s, 30s, and 40s then.

Now, we’re in our 50s and 60s, and the kids — who I’ve known since they were actually kids — on the east side have taken over the house.

My neighbor on the west side, a good friend who I’ve known for over 20 years, is by himself now. His wife, Angie, of decades died a few months ago, and he wanted to talk tonight so we buried the better part of a case of Bud Light (the official beer of Tucson) over a couple of hours.

I found out something touching while talking with him tonight: she actually liked me. I thought she hated me. Over the years, I had a string of (literally and unfortunately) crazy girlfriends, which they found quite amusing (“Charles has another one!”). About 15 years ago, after Angie’s younger sister got divorced, she and I looked at each other and went “Oh yes!” until Angie told me, and presumably the equivalent to her sister, “Stay away from her!”

At the time, I was really offended and thought she said that simply because I was white. I was wrong. She was trying to protect her sister. The awful part is that if things had worked out I’d have happily married her sister.

C’est la vie.

After returning home, I went over to a party with my neighbors on the east side of the house. They were celebrating the upcoming birth of their daughter, due in November.

More beer, more mota, and good Mexican food.

Of late, life is more sedate, but still pretty good.

¡Salud!

 


(We received this from our Venezuelan comrades connected with El Libertario. It begins with a note from our compañeros/as announcing a series of pieces on the current rebellion and repression — arrests, beatings, and torture — of anarchist and other protesters by the “revolutionary” Maduro regime, and expressing thanks to those who spread this information.)

Beginning on April 4, 2017, a popular rebellion has been developing against the dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro. We’ll shortly be sending out a series of interviews with compañeros/as who have been detained and tortured for protesting. We appreciate the translation and dissemination of these interviews in other languages.

Anarchist Detained and Beaten in Cagua in the state of Aragua


In April, one of our comrades in Cagia was arrested in Cagua for participating in community defense against the attacks from the Bolivarian National Guard and the Araguan Police (PoliAragua). In order to safeguard his physical well-being, we’ll use the name Libertarian Fighter here.

We spoke with him after he came out of detention. At present he’s well physically and in good spirits. In this interview he talks about his month-long detention and what position anarchists should take on the popular rebellion.

To Begin with, what led to your detention?

They arrested me on Monday April 24 around 8:00 pm. We were ambushed by the Araguan police. The demonstration began with complete calm. It was a sit-in, in which the people had been blocking an intersection since 6:00 am. The GNB and PoliAragua had been there since quite early watching to see if we were making a disturbance. They moved on us around 6:00 pm after we moved from the intersection to the entrance of Cagua. Suddenly a GNB truck arrived and anti-riot police spewed out of it. That was when they started to threaten us and fire tear gas shells at us. We didn’t back down, and confronted them.

You couldn’t see the street because of all the tear gas they had fired. Then things became more violent. They began not only launching tear gas at us, but brought in motorcycle cops. We saw them drag off, on the other side of a bridge over a canal, a woman by the hair.

I crossed the canal and found myself facing a wall of police. There was no way out, and instead of surrendering I launched myself against them, arms crossed in front of me [presumably to ward off blows to the head], and took off running.

I was escaping when they found me, grabbed me, and began beating me as I tried to defend myself. They threw me down, and when I rose, I struck them as I could until I could no longer fight.

One of them then said, “We’re going to throw you from the bridge, asshole.”

They took my i.d. and cell phone and forced me to sit on the sidewalk until a policewoman arrived. She spoke by radio and then told them to handcuff me and take me where she directed.

They let the other detained demonstrators go then. I was the only one they hauled off.

Then more detained demonstrators arrived, two of them badly beaten, one so badly that he couldn’t eat for three days after because of facial injuries.

They then took us to the command post without notifying our relatives, but someone saw them do it .

They gave us a few more blows, and then hauled us off.

We arrived at the central command post, where they led us through a passageway where other cops insulted us and struck us. They took us to an office where they didn’t even give us water, and advised us that we couldn’t have anything before throwing us in a cell three meters long by one-and-a-half meters wide (7 feet X 3.5 feet). There were sixteen people in all in that jail.

They let some of us go that night. Some were public officials’ relatives, others were minors. In the end, 12 were left. The following day they took me and several others to the palace of justice and from there to the other command base where sentence was pronounced.

We remained there another day, and after that took us to the CICPC where they wrote us up. There I heard the charges against us: terrorism, aggravated assault, carrying firearms, resisting arrest, and public disturbance. They produced planted evidence of six liters of gasolune, each liter in a molotov cocktail, rocks, and teargas bombs. They claimed that we had used these to attack a police patrol and to wound several policemen.

But a CICPC investigator I overheard, among those who were going to charging us, said that they knew we weren’t criminals and that maybe we didn’t deserve this and they could let us go without charge. Instead they too us to the new central police command, and then the following day to the palace of justice, but the judge, and they postponed the hearing to the following day. At that point the prosecutor couldn’t provide proof and I asked that we be released on bond. The judge refused and instead and ordered us held for 45 days while the police investigated. I asked where they were going to send us.

This is the third time I’ve had problems with the police. The jails are hell. I talked with the other guys being detained and they said it would be best if we were held at the site where we were originally taken, but they took us to another. When we arrived there, we were greeted by the same cop who had kicked in the face of one of the kids I was arrested with. The cop said, “Look who we have here, the same damn negro who we’re gonna put against a wall today.”

But the commander arrived and said they couldn’t keep u there, and they took us to another police station. When we arrived there they told us they would put us in with others being held on political charges. It was a small cell and barely held the 22 of us. I hadn’t slept since being detained, and I managed a few seconds sleep on my feet, as during all the days I’d been held I hadn’t slept at all. I was super tired.

The following day they opened the cell door and took out the elderly people being held, and so we were finally able to get a little sleep. Finally in the afternoon they opened the cell door and told us that if they found enough locks they might be able to transfer us to another jail where we could get some sleep.

They made a call asking for more locks, and in the evening they took us to a different [larger] cell, and I was finally able to lie down to sleep, until it started to rain in the early morning hours and I awoke to find water all over everything. But I was so tired I went back to sleep sopping wet while lying in a puddle.

Over time, prisoners were being released on bail, so the police had room to make sport with other prisoners. Forty-eight days had passed, when one night a cop arrived at 11:00 pm and said that they were calling Alayon, a prison in Maracay. We asked if they were going to transfer us. He said no, and made a cell phone call, telling us, “You’re lucky I’m here, you vermin from the street. Look at yourselves. I’m going to do you the favor of getting your release papers, because at this hour no clerks will deliver them.

He went and found them, and they allowed us to call our families so they could come and get us. That’s how things ended on a Friday near to midnight.

How was the time you spent behind bars?

Our familes brought us food in the morning, mid-day, and night. We only had problems with one of the guards; he was always “losing” the food, clothes, toilet paper or other things sent to us, or the sunshade for visits on Saturdays.

For bathing, they brought in tubs twice a week and opened up the taps. We didn’t have a bathroom as such. We had to piss in a channel that ran through the patio, and had to shit into bags, so there were mice and cockroaches all over us at night.

How do you see the protests in Aragua?

The protests in Maracay are true street battles, even though the people are suppressed at times through, I suppose, fear or fatigue. But they haven’t stopped. It’s just that some times are more incendiary than others. In Cagua, things were happening for a time, but they’re quiet now. I think we should take to the streets without asking the stage managers of the [right wing] “opposition.” The people don’t come out without asking one of them first. The day I was detained, I got involved in a discussion with one of them and I said that we were out in the streets for the people, not for some political opportunists. He frowned and then gave me a pat on the back. After letting him know what I thought, I got back out into the demonstration.

What do you think of the young people in the resistance and what they’re demonstrating?

The young people in the resistance, especially those on the front lines of the protests, aren’t with the political bands. They just want better living conditions, even thought they don’t seem to be able to articulate it. They want out from under the present government, but don’t seem to know what they want after that. Clearly, there are others who have political consciousness, but that’s yet to come to the rest, [and it’s necessary that it does] to avoid other authoritarians to come.

What brought you to participate in the popular rebellion?

I came out to protest because of the fact that everything, wherever you look, is being destroyed in this [Bolivarian] process.  Things we’ve already forgotten, like the water we bathe in should be clean, not mixed with polluted water. We get sick and there’s no medicine. Things are dangerous in the streets, day by day we’re threatened on all sides, by those who would kill us for our phones or for having nothing they could rob from us. Friends of mine have been killed by criminals; they shot one of my friends in the face. My family has left the country. People have to deal with this crap every single day as they go out to get food, or go to school, or buy medicine [if they can find it], or rent a place to live. But you can’t afford everything, not on normal wages. You always have to have a second income, and even if you can find work, much of it is very exploitative. Do you still want to know my reasons?

Well then, is it worth the trouble?

I think protesting is worthwhile. It’s necessary to show that we’re discontented, even though more people will die. I don’t want the government to remain in power and I’d give my life to see them fall, to provide a better future for my family, my friends, for the good people who remain and shouldn’t have to put up with all this.

What do you think of the silence of the anarchists?

I think that in this life, no matter if you know a lot about anarchism, if you don’t do something to change things, even a little, you shouldn’t call yourself an anarchist. If you only whine on the Internet about the “oppressive system” and don’t do anything, it’s better to just shut up.

How do you see the Constituent Assembly?

I believe that the constituent assembly is one of the craziest things they can do, even though there’s no limit to their craziness. The constituent assembly is very dangerous, because it will remove all limits on their [Maduro’s] power. We should try to stop it, because it could be the end of everything.

Finally, what can you say to anarchists and other politically minded people?

To all my comrades in struggle, I want to say thank you for coming out every day and risking everything. You’re very valiant. But they’re lacking the organization to ensure a good outcome. Organize, struggle, spread [ideas and projects]. Don’t let them destroy us. Do something to change this reality. An embrace for all of you who’ve come out to show your faces.  Take care of yourselves.

Those who have fear of confronting the state’s oppressors, at least help those who are. Everything is needed: water, food, medicine, protective gear, whatever you can give. Don’t let the flame go out. Keep the struggle going so that we can enjoy a new dawn. Make it happen.

 


(We ran an earlier, considerably shorter version of this post in September 2013. As you might have noticed, things have changed a bit since then.)

* * *

REFERENCES TO FASCISM abound in American political discourse. Unfortunately, most of those using the term wouldn’t recognize fascism if it bit ’em on the butt, and use it as a catch-all pejorative for anything or anyone they dislike. But the term does have a specific meaning.

Very briefly, as exemplified in Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Italy, fascism is an extreme right political-economic system (which Mussolini dubbed “the corporate state”), the key features of which are strident nationalism, militarism and military worship, a one-party state, a dictatorial leader with a personality cult, a capitalist economic system integrated with state institutions (to the mutual benefit of capitalists and fascist politicians), suppression of independent unions, suppression of civil liberties and all forms of political opposition, and an aggressive, expansionist foreign policy.

The racism, racial scapegoating, and racial persecution that permeated German fascism are not part of fascism per se, unless one wants to classify extreme nationalism as racism. There’s a case to be made for that, but for now let’s consider them as separate maladies. As well, since the topic of this post is the comparison of Nazi Germany to the U.S.A., we will consider racism as well as fascism in the comparisons.

Getting to the headline topic, just how similar is the present-day U.S. to Nazi Germany? Let’s look at specifics:

Nationalism

  • Nazi Germany: Deutschland Uber Alles
  • US.: “American exceptionalism,” “God Bless America,” “Manifest Destiny,” etc.

Corporate Capitalist Domination

  • Nazi Germany: The German industrialists (notably the Krup armaments company) were key Hitler backers, and benefited handsomely from his rule.
  • U.S.: Trump has filled his cabinet with people from the fossil fuel industries (Rex Tillerson, et al.) and big banks, notably Goldman Sachs (Steven Mnuchin, et al.); Obama’s primary 2008 backers were Wall Street firms and the pharmaceutical companies; Bush/Cheney’s were the energy companies’ boys, etc.

Militarism

  • Nazi Germany: The Nazis  constructed the world’s most powerful military in six years (1933-1939).
  • U.S.: U.S. military spending currently accounts for approximately 43% of the world’s military spending; the U.S. has hundreds of military bases overseas; and Trump wants to increase military spending.

Military Worship

  • Nazi Germany: Do I really need to cite examples?
  • U.S.: “Support our troops!” “Our heroes!” “Thank you for your service!” Military worship is almost a state religion in the United States. Tune in to almost any baseball broadcast for abundant examples; this worship even extends to those on what passes for the left in the United States: Michael Moore, Stephen Colbert, Rachel Maddow.

Military Aggression

  • Nazi Germany: “Lebensraum”–you know the rest.
  • U.S.: To cite only examples from the last half century where there were significant numbers of “boots on the ground,” Vietnam (1959-1973), the Dominican Republic (1965), Cambodia (1970), Grenada (1983), Panama (1988-1990), Kuwait/Iraq (1991), Afghanistan (2001-present), Iraq (2003-2011). And this doesn’t even include bombing campaigns and drone warfare.

Incarceration Rates

  • Nazi Germany: The Nazis built concentration camps holding (and exterminating) millions, and employing slave labor.
  • U.S.: In comparison, the U.S. has by far the highest incarceration rate in the industrialized world, far outstripping China, with only Russia’s incarceration rate being anywhere near that of the U.S. Slave labor is routine in America’s prisons.

Justice System

  • Nazi Germany: The Nazis had a three-tiered “justice” system: one for the rich and powerful (who could get away with virtually anything); a second for the average citizen; a third for despised minorities and political foes.
  • U.S.: There’s also a three-tiered “justice” system here: one for the rich and powerful (who can get away with virtually anything); a second for middle-class white people; and a third for everyone else. It’s no accident that America’s prisons are filled with poor people, especially blacks and hispanics. At the same time cops routinely get away with murder of blacks, hispanics, and poor whites. Obama’s “Justice” Department never even investigated the largest financial fraud in world history that led to the 2008 crash, let alone charged those responsible; prosecutors routinely pile on charges against average citizens to blackmail them into plea bargaining and pleading guilty to charges of which they’re not guilty; and the Obama Administration (and now the Trump Administration) viciously goes after whistleblowers and reporters, who have exposed its wrongdoing–Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, Thomas Drake, James Risen, et al.

Suppression of Unions

  • Nazi Germany: In Nazi Germany, the government tightly controlled the unions, and used them as arms of the state.
  • U.S.: In the U.S., the government merely suppresses strikes when “in the national interest” and allows corporations to crush union organizing drives through intimidation and by firing anyone who dares to attempt to organize. (Admittedly, the sell-out, visionless AFL-CIO unions bear considerable responsibility for this sad state of affairs.)

Free Speech

  • Nazi Germany: Total suppression of free speech; direct government control of the media.
  • U.S.: There’s near total corporate control of the media, and suppression of free speech when it shows the faintest sign of threatening, or even embarrassing, the government or the corporations that control the government. Obama’s war on whistleblowers and reporters — and now Trump’s — is only the latest example. Of late, Trump has upped the ante, routinely attacking journalists who report anything even slightly embarrassing to him, or who point out any of his almost innumerable lies.

Other Civil Liberties

  • Nazi Germany: Total suppression.
  • U.S.: Suppression when individuals exercising those liberties show the faintest sign of threatening the government or the corporations that control the government. The coordinated suppression (by the FBI, local governments, and corporate security agencies) of the Occupy Movement nationwide is the latest large-scale example.

Government Spying

  • Nazi Germany: The government had a massive eavesdropping operation. No citizen was safe from government scrutiny.
  • U.S.: The FBI, DHS, and NSA make the Nazis look like amateurs.

Free Elections

  • Nazi Germany: Total suppression
  • U.S.: U.S. citizens have the opportunity to vote for the millionaire representatives (over half of congress at last count) of the two wings of the property party: one wing being authoritarian, corporate-servant, crazy theofascists (yes, they meet the definition), the other wing being merely authoritarian corporate servants who routinely betray those who elect them. It’s also pertinent that the Republicans are doing their best to destroy what passes for American electoral democracy through egregious gerrymandering and voter suppression on an industrial scale.

Racism

  • Nazi Germany: Do I even need to cite details?
  • U.S.A.: (We’ll restrict ourselves here to the present.) The “justice” system imprisons blacks at a rate over five times that of whites, and hispanics at a rate about 30% higher than whites. Cops routinely get away with murdering poor people, a disproportionate number of them blacks and hispanics. Median household wealth for whites is 13 times that of blacks. And median household income for whites is 60% higher than that of blacks and hispanics. Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric and racial scapegoating of Mexicans is merely the cherry atop this merde sundae.

Personality Cult

  • Nazi Germany: Again, do I even need to cite details?
  • U.S.A.: Trump worship is rampant on the evangelical right, who see this steaming pile of hypocrisy and narcissism as the means to their vicious ends. And Trump encourages sycophancy. The cringe-inducing filmed cabinet meeting a couple of months ago in which the cabinet secretaries heaped fulsome (in both senses of the word) praise and thanks on the dear leader is but one example. Another example: Yesterday, presidential aide and Trump toady Steven Miller said on Fox “News” that Trump — who would likely flunk a fourth-grade English test — was the “best orator to hold that office [president] in generations.”

Yes, there are very significant differences between Nazi Germany and the U.S. But they seem to grow smaller with every passing day.


TOUGH, n. A term used by sycophants to describe powerful politicians, especially heads of state. It normally means: 1) callous; 2) having little regard for human life; 3) ready and willing to shed the blood of others while running no personal risk of injury.

* * *

–from the revised and expanded edition of The American Heretic’s Dictionary, the best modern successor to Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary

 


 

(Here’s one that’s all too apropos of the nuclear bombing of Nagasaki by the American military 72 years ago today.)

“Trump is a blowhard who blusters when unsure what to say. It’s probably a good sign that he’s frightened and unsure what to do [about North Korea]. That or we’re all going to die in a nuclear hell-fire brought on by two lunatics enabled by toadies, sycophants and bootlickers. If I am going to die in a nuclear war today, it will be with a nice glass of wine.”

Jeffrey Lewis, Director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middleburg Institute of International Studies (on Twitter, three tweets combined, courtesy of Raw Story)


There’s been a lot of head scratching, both from the corporate media and from the left, about why white evangelicals were attracted to Donald Trump in the first place (81% voted for him), and why they’re sticking with him — a sad excuse for a man who, by their own moral standards, is human garbage: a narcissist, hypocrite, habitual liar, boastful sexual predator, mob crony, bully, swindler, scapegoating racist, and entitled rich kid who’s never done an honest day’s work in his life.

Why are evangelicals sticking with and fervently supporting this walking embodiment of the Seven Deadly Sins?

Pundits have provided many answers to this question, some correct in part. Here are a few of the most common answers:

  • Trump’s hatefulness and racial scapegoating appeals to evangelicals, because evangelicals are racists. In a lot of cases, this is undoubtedly true. (Check out the maps of evangelical religious belief in the U.S. and maps showing the locations of lynchings; even though most lynchings took place decades ago, religious beliefs have largely remained static [evangelical] where the vast majority of lynchings occurred.)
  • Trump finds it easy to manipulate evangelicals, because evangelicals are dumb and uneducated. There is an inverse correlation between IQ and religiosity, and among predominantly white religious groups evangelicals are among the least educated. (Perversely, many dumb, uneducated people are proud of being dumb and uneducated, and look down on the “reality based.”) So, Trump’s anti-science, anti-intellectual, “ignorance is strength” rhetoric is tailor made to appeal to evangelicals.
  • Trump plays to evangelicals’ sense of victimhood. Many evangelicals are crazy enough to believe that Christians are being persecuted in a land where they comprise 70% of the population and over 90% of lawmakers. The “religious freedom” (to discriminate) bills so popular with evangelicals and their political manipulators are testimony to this. Trump flatters evangelicals, plays to their delusions, and presents himself as their defender.

There’s much truth in the above, but there’s more to it. In addition to presenting himself as evangelicals’ defender, Trump has also positioned himself as being as sadistic, mean spirited, and authoritarian as most of them are. For once, one suspects that Trump is being genuine. To quote Fred Woodworth, viciousness and vindictiveness run “like a white hot wire” through American evangelicalism, as they do through Trump’s rhetoric. To cite but one of innumerable examples of the sadism that characterizes evangelicals, among American religious groups evangelicals are the most likely to support torture.

But most importantly, white evangelicals are authoritarian. They’re ready, in fact eager, to use violence and coercion to impose their beliefs on others, and they see Trump as a convenient tool to that end. His viciousness, hypocrisy, and authoritarianism bother them not a whit. (Undoubtedly, many evangelicals are willfully ignorant of these things — blind to the blindingly obvious; others probably admire these qualities, because of mutual resemblance.)

Evangelical pastors laying hands on Donald Trump

To evangelicals, the ends justify the means, even if that means is a steaming pile of moral toxic waste. Even though Trump isn’t one of them, they see him as the means to their ends.

That is why evangelicals overwhelmingly support Donald Trump, and that is why they’ll continue to do so.