three articles about russia

There’s a lot I’d like to say here about how absurd the american center has become with regard to Russia, but I’ll leave it to Masha Gessen and Matt Taibbi.

Russia, Trump, and Flawed Intelligence

Despite its brevity, the report makes many repetitive statements remarkable for their misplaced modifiers, mangled assertions, and missing words. This is not just bad English: this is muddled thinking and vague or entirely absent argument. Take, for example, this phrase: “Moscow most likely chose WikiLeaks because of its self-proclaimed reputation for authenticity.” I think, though I cannot be sure, that the authors of the report are speculating that Moscow gave the products of its hacking operation to WikiLeaks because WikiLeaks is known as a reliable source. The next line, however, makes this speculation unnecessary: “Disclosures through WikiLeaks did not contain any evident forgeries.”

Or consider this: “Putin most likely wanted to discredit Secretary Clinton because he has publicly blamed her since 2011 for inciting mass protests against his regime in late 2011 and early 2012, and because he holds a grudge for comments he almost certainly saw as disparaging him.” Did Putin’s desire to discredit Clinton stem from his own public statements, or are the intelligence agencies basing their appraisal of Putin’s motives on his public statements? Logic suggests the latter, but grammar indicates the former. The fog is not coincidental: if the report’s vague assertions were clarified and its circular logic straightened out, nothing would be left.

It is conceivable that the classified version of the report, which includes additional “supporting information” and sourcing, adds up to a stronger case. But considering the arc of the argument contained in the report, and the principal findings (which are apparently “identical” to those in the classified version), this would be a charitable reading. An appropriate headline for a news story on this report might be something like, “Intel Report on Russia Reveals Few New Facts,” or, say, “Intelligence Agencies Claim Russian Propaganda TV Influenced Election.” Instead, however, the major newspapers and commentators spoke in unison, broadcasting the report’s assertion of Putin’s intent without examining the arguments.

The Russia Story is a Minefield for Democrats and the Media

Hypothesize for a moment that the “scandal” here is real, but in a limited sense: Trump’s surrogates have not colluded with Russians, but have had “contacts,” and recognize their political liability, and lie about them. Investigators then leak the true details of these contacts, leaving the wild speculations to the media and the Internet. Trump is enough of a pig and a menace that it’s easy to imagine doing this and not feeling terribly sorry that your leaks have been over-interpreted.

If that’s the case, there are big dangers for the press. If we engage in Times-style gilding of every lily the leakers throw our way, and in doing so build up a fever of expectations for a bombshell reveal, but there turns out to be no conspiracy – Trump will be pre-inoculated against all criticism for the foreseeable future.

The press has to cover this subject. But it can’t do it with glibness and excitement, laughing along to SNL routines, before it knows for sure what it’s dealing with. Reporters should be scared to their marrow by this story. This is a high-wire act and it is a very long way down. We might want to leave the jokes and the nicknames be, until we get to the other side – wherever that is.

Russia: The Conspiracy Trap

Russia has become the universal rhetorical weapon of American politics. Calls for the release of Trump’s tax returns—which the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) hopes to have subpoenaed as a result of its lawsuit alleging the violation of the Emoluments Clause—are now framed in terms of the need to reveal Trump’s financial ties to Russia. And the president himself is recapturing the campaign debate’s “No, you are the puppet” moment on Twitter, trying to smear Democratic politicians Charles Schumer and Nancy Pelosi with Russia.

The dream fueling the Russia frenzy is that it will eventually create a dark enough cloud of suspicion around Trump that Congress will find the will and the grounds to impeach him. If that happens, it will have resulted largely from a media campaign orchestrated by members of the intelligence community—setting a dangerous political precedent that will have corrupted the public sphere and promoted paranoia. And that is the best-case outcome.

More likely, the Russia allegations will not bring down Trump. He may sacrifice more of his people, as he sacrificed Flynn, as further leaks discredit them. Various investigations may drag on for months, drowning out other, far more urgent issues. In the end, Congressional Republicans will likely conclude that their constituents don’t care enough about Trump’s Russian ties to warrant trying to impeach the Republican president. Meanwhile, while Russia continues to dominate the front pages, Trump will continue waging war on immigrants, cutting funding for everything that’s not the military, assembling his cabinet of deplorables—with six Democrats voting to confirm Ben Carson for Housing, for example, and ten to confirm Rick Perry for Energy. According to the Trump plan, each of these seems intent on destroying the agency he or she is chosen to run—to carry out what Steve Bannon calls the “deconstruction of the administrative state.” As for Sessions, in his first speech as attorney general he promised to cut back civil rights enforcement and he has already abandoned a Justice Department case against a discriminatory Texas voter ID law. But it was his Russia lie that grabbed the big headlines.

quiet breaths

I was feeling pretty down earlier today. Pretty down for the last week, plus a few days. I probably don’t need to tell you why, but a lot of it has to do, I think, with how often I kept tabbing over to facebook or twitter.

I’m forming bad habits again. Unhealthy, stifling habits. It’s something I’m actively trying to prevent: spending so much time online.

Tonight I’m going to play Final Fantasy XV, maybe try some origami or draw some maps, or maybe write some more of this novella I’m working on.

The current title is vulgar and only a placeholder, but it’s about two women in a pretty traditional fantasy world. But instead of going on a quest or fighting for some cause, they mostly walk around and talk. Both of them have no education and very little understanding of the world they live in. They know kings and gods have a place but they don’t understand any of it, so much of the novella is made up of philosophical discussions between these two incredibly ignorant characters as they make sense of the world and try to sort it out to one another.

The dynamic is pretty interesting to me, because the novella is about 85% dialogue with very little extraneous descriptions. Because of this, it has kind of a meandering and hopefully naturalistic feel.

The other 15% of the novella is them killing monsters and other people.

So it’s a very violent text, but weirdly fun to write, and endlessly amusing to me. Not the violence, but the conversations. I might even just toss a short section of it in here to give you a taste:

The girl said, “There are no gods. Everybody knows that.”

“Then what is the Tesha?”

The girl shrugged, “Don’t know. Probably just some guy. Who cares?”

Her companion gestured to the dead bodies, “Priests.”

“Priests work as much for the king as they do for the Tesha.”

“What king?”

“What?”

“You said—”

“The fucking king! Shit,” the girl threw down the bone she was whittling. “You know,” she whirled her knife as if the gesture encompassed the whole world, the bracelet of teeth clacking, “the fucking king. Everywhere’s got a king.”

“But which king?”

“Shit, I don’t know. Wherever we are.”

“If we don’t know what he’s king of, what makes him king?”

The girl slumped where she sat and sighed, “You’re really pissing me off.” She picked up the whittled bone and went back at it with the knife, the teeth bracelet rattling with every stroke. The scrape and grind of blade on bone vibrated up her wrist to the elbow.

Across the fire, her companion flayed the head of one of the dead priests, “Don’t see what there’s to get mad over.” Struggling with the skin on the nose, she gave up and sawed through the cartilage and let the severed nose fall to the dirt. “Who says there’s no gods?”

The girl snorted and shook her head, “Everybody.”

“Everybody don’t mean shit. You mean Alton and his family.”

The girl blew the bonedust from her hands and examined the blade she was making out of the bone. Her jaw clenched on one side and she reached down to her feet and groped for something with her eyes still on the bone in her other hand. Grasping at nothing, she looked down and then around her.

“What?” Her companion paused what she was doing.

“There was a grindstone here.”

Her companion whistled and when the girl looked up, her companion tossed it to her. The girl went to grinding the boneblade smooth. “What’re you making?”

Her companion giggled, “Don’t know. Thought I’d make, like, a guitar.”

“With a skull?”

Her companion shrugged, “Not sure I know what a guitar looks like.”

“It’s like,” the girl paused, then giggled along with her companion, “like a thin thing and a hallow thing,” her words collapsed into full on laughter and her companion laughed with her.

The night wore on and the fire burned down to embers.

Her companion said, “Should we add more wood?”

The girl shrugged, “You tired?”

Her companion shrugged and tossed another log onto the embers, then a second. They sizzled, popped, and eventually lit.

“What got the wood wet?”

Her companion shrugged, “Blood, probably.” She was deboning the leg of one of the dead priests. “If there’re no gods, then why is there a Tesha?”

The girl sighed, “Same reason there’s kings, I guess.”

“Why’s that?”

“Shit, I don’t know.”

That’s how the novella begins and it continues in that manner. So it’s a mix of comedy and brutality that’s sort of oddly therapeutic to write. It helps me breathe easier.

It’s interesting to me what I’ve written since completing Songs of My Mother last year. I’ve written a novella inspired by Greenlandic cuisine, Taoism, anarchy, and pacifism, and now I’m writing something that is, in many ways, its opposite: a violent, meandering, chaotic text with ignorant characters who have an undescribed past.

I don’t know what inspired me to write this current novella. In the Greenlandic novella, I was seeking to find an answer to the violence I see in the world. In this, I can’t say I’m looking for anything. Maybe I’m running from something, or trying to explain bits of reality to myself, bits of america to myself. Because I see how the recent frustrations, fears, and concerns are playing out in this short, brutal, comedy.

But, yeah, I’ve also written a handful of poems about Trump. I’m collecting them into a collection titled The Golden King. Maybe it’s a form of resistance or a way for me to write out my greatest fears for the future, but it’s a pretty unpleasant text so far. It’s draining to write those poems and so I’ve only written five, but I think the rest of the collection will be from a different kind of perspective, and hopefully those will give me a sense of hope and peace.

Which is what I’m seeking, first in my own life, and then in the world. It’s why I’m going through the Tao Te Ching every day.

Trying to breathe and live quietly.

Which is not to say passively.

It’s difficult to be at peace right now, to find balance, and sometimes it’s making me feel hopeless, since I see no balance to this. But, ultimately, it’s helping me. Allowing me to step back and see the world with cleaner eyes. Eyes less stained by the brutality of the present.

And I need that. I need to remember that the world is still a beautiful place. That resistance is more than shouting loudly online. Resistance is a complex, multifaceted thing, yet it can be as simple as clearing your thoughts, playing chess, or folding laundry.

Resistance is persistence.

I saw an interesting thread of tweets by an Iranian responding to americans on twitter. He highlighted how Iranians live and enjoy life, even though they live under a brutal theocratic regime (and he reminds us that the US toppled a liberal, democratic government to put the theocratic dictator in place).

It gave me a quiet sense of hope. That life goes on. That even when things seem hopeless, even when life is at its darkest, people still find beauty and love and laughter. They dance, and they sing.

That’s resistance. It’s the kind few talk about, but it’s a terribly important form of resistance: to persist. To love. To live. To laugh. To create art and collaborate with other people. To build friendships.

And it’s inspired me to act on some long-standing plans. Like hosting monthly gatherings (this is in the planning stages, but Chelsea and I have some simple ideas) and then I have some other ideas that require a lot more planning and some funding, but we’ll get there. Even if it takes me years. We’ll get there.

I guess what I mean to say is that it’s important to remember to enjoy life.

So take some quiet breaths and look away from your screen at some point every day, and just talk to another human. Not about politics or current events, but about what interests them, or what interests you.

Maybe just have a beer with friends or take a walk by yourself with headphones on, jamming to music you love. Or take the headphones off and listen to the sounds of winter.

It’s a good day to live, even if everything seems terrible.

not making war

A Taoist wouldn’t advise a ruler
to use force of arms for conquest;
that tactic backfires.

Where the army marched
grow thorns and thistles.
After the war
comes the bad harvests.
Good leaders prosper, that’s all,
not presuming on victory.
They prosper without boasting,
or domineering, or arrogance,
prosper because they can’t help it,
prosper without violence.

Things flourish then perish.
Not the Way.
What’s not the Way
soon ends.

Lao Tzu
Ursula K Le Guin’s version

Imagine a time in American history when we had a president who wasn’t devoted to violence.

I think we’d be a very different nation had such a president ever been elected.

Instead we’re a culture of violence and death.

But that’s beside the point. It’s perhaps easy to see my attachment to Taoism most clearly in this poem, as it is a strong and definitive stance against violence and for pacifism. I don’t know exactly when I became a pacifist, but it’s been a very long time. I want to say it’s when I was in sixth grade, but it might be more useful to think of it as being when I was fourteen, which is a bit later and when I had time to think more about it. Though I do remember arguing very strongly against the war in Iraq and Afghanistan when I was just a kid.

But it’s hard for me to not think of my own identity as an american. I’ve always felt disconnected from this country, and not just on an ideological level, and yet I am forever bound to it by accident of geography. No matter where I go or how far I wander, I will always belong to america because nationalism is still such a powerful (toxic) idea in the hearts and minds of so many people.

Lao Tzu talks about the price of war here, which is something I often describe as a disease. In the wake of war, only thistles and thorns will grow. I take that as a metaphor for the cost of war. It’s more than simply a body count. There’s a price we pay as a society for violence, and it’s steep. It debases all of us. Strips us of humanity.

Last night, it was confirmed that Trump’s first dronestrike as president killed an 8 year old american citizen named Nawar al-Awlwaki. Her 16 year old american brother, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was killed in 2013 by dronestrike under Barack Obama.

There was little pushback against the Obama Administration for murdering a child, an american citizen, and there’s still little pushback now that Trump is president for murdering another child, another american citizen.

Our government has now murdered nearly an entire family for the alleged crimes of their father (we used to have courts that judged who was innocent and guilty, but now we have drones). We also murdered him, as you can see from the link there.

We have poisoned ourselves for so long with violence that we no longer even understand the price we paid, the loss of our own humanity.

What Trump did was despicable, yet few people are discussing it. And I think it’s because it draws an uncomfortable reality about the Obama Administration, who liberals love. Obama’s Administration committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. Dronestrikes are terrorism, and we use them as tools to secretly murder anyone that the presiding administration sees as a threat. Or even just a potential threat. I don’t have anything to say in defense of Anwar al-Awlaki. By all accounts, he was a miserable excuse for a human. Just as I have no words to defend Osama bin-Laden.

But I watched my country cheer over the illegal murder of him. We cheered like savages. We are the barbarians of the world, toppling civilisations, and I am reminded of it daily by our neverending war for supremacy against poor Arabs in decimated nations.

Osama bin-Laden and Anwar al-Awlwaki were terrible people if even half the crimes they were accused of are true. If even one of them is. But the way civilised humans deal with monsters is by making them account for their crimes.

We don’t murder them in secret and then dance on their graves.

Even Osama bin-Laden deserved his day in court. Partly because his crimes were not solely against the US. Entire nations wanted him held accountable. They didn’t want him murdered like an animal.

The same is true of Anwar al-Awlwaki.

And his children–children–did not deserve to die because of the accident of genetics and geography.

The Tao asks for balance. For kindness and empathy. For understanding. And it’s hard to find that in america. There are bright spots, of course, and entire sources of light, but I see so much darkness and death and destruction in the will of my people that it’s hard to hold my head up sometimes.

This is a fitting poem today.

It’s fitting as a rebuke to our government of blood and chaos and ash and smoke.

I see no balance today. I see no future for this benighted nation of cowards, savages, and thieves.

Sorry to be such a downer, but it’s becoming more difficult to make a daily consideration of the Tao when I’m inundated with such violence.

But I keep trying. I’ll keep trying.

I hope you’ll try too.

And I hope this new appetite for activism in the US will extend justice to the countless people we’ve destroyed from the Middle East.

don’t punch left when monsters dance on your right

The blame game has gone on for about three months now and it’s really time to stop.

It’s time to come together and build a real, broad coalition of resistance.

Every time you find yourself posting online, We need to focus on the future, but… and then go on to blame communists, anarchists, socialists, Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein, working class whites, working class non-specific, the Midwest, the Southeast, non-voters, Putin, or whoever else, you stifle what you say you’re seeking.

We can’t build a coalition by first demanding apologies from everyone who isn’t us. Firstly, there’s no point to it. Secondly, you’re making a demand of someone you hope to embrace in open cooperation, which is the opposite of a cooperative starting point.

A lot of people were wrong. In fact, every major publication in the world was wrong about the outcome of this US election. If you think the blame belongs somewhere, maybe just accept that almost every single one of us was wrong about the election.

That doesn’t mean everyone was wrong about everything.

Hillary Clinton committed war crimes as Secretary of State. That’s not a debatable opinion. That’s just something that happened. It’s a fact.

The Obama Administration committed numerous war crimes and spied on us and our allies and tortured whistleblowers and tortured prisoners and repealed civil liberties and extended executive powers and empowered the Patriot Act. Also not an opinion. Those are things that happened.

And similar things have happened with every US Administration going back to at least Teddy Roosevelt, but probably back to Andrew Jackson, and then maybe even farther.

We have done terrible things as a nation. We have done them unrepentantly. We have done them for as long as we’ve been a nation. Genocide, slavery, and other crimes against humanity are in the fabric of our national identity. These things happened. They happened and we need to account for the fact that they happened when we move forward.

But we need to move forward. We need to understand where we were, what we supported, and how to move forward to make sure none of this happens again. We must remember the past and hold it tightly because our collective crimes are our burden as a people, as a nation.

Because Trump and Bannon are demanding that we relive the worst moments of American history again, right now, and for as long as they hold power. They want genocide. They want war. They want surveillance. They want bombs. They want christian supremacy. They want white supremacy. They want fascism. They want poverty, death, and total control and all the economic advantages that come with that place of power.

It’s not about demanding apologies or standing on a soapbox to tell everyone how right you were or how you are blameless.

And it’s not about when you joined the movement or became politically active. If you didn’t care yesterday but care a whole lot today, that should be good enough.

We are all to blame. Wherever you stand politically and whoever you voted for and for whatever reason you voted that way–we all did this. Together. As a nation.

This is our country. It’s not just a place we live. We are all complicit in the actions of our government because we allow them to govern us. We give them their power through voting, through consent, through passivity, through apathy.

And so we need to build a way forward, together.

Stop punching left, especially. Stop accusing those who have spent their lives as activists, as lawyers defending civil liberties, as confrontational journalists who demand more and hold power accountable just because they disagreed with you.

They had reasons to do what they did, just as you had reasons to do what you did. Also remember that being critical of one powerful person was not an endorsement of a different powerful person.

Unfortunately, there’s no longer a place for moderates in American politics. Being a moderate right now is being complicit with Bannon and Trump. To seek a compromise with them right now is to lose parts of yourself.

You cannot seek compromise with someone seeking genocide and widespread poverty and slavery. There is no compromise to be made that will not reduce you as a human. The only response is defiance, non-compliance, and resistance.

These are the people standing to your right: Nazis, white supremacists, christian supremacists, con men, fascists, and robber barons.

If you look to your left and still see enemies, then maybe you need to look harder at yourself.

What do you really want? Is it acknowledgement of your righteousness? Is it for someone to just tell you that you’re right? Is it for someone to take the blame of what 350 million people decided? Is it to mince words and argue about the right way to resist or talk about resistance? The right way to be a progressive, to be an American, to be a journalist?

We’ve all done this. I don’t exclude myself from this.

This isn’t a call out.

And if you need an apology, you don’t deserve one.

I will say that I was wrong. I was wrong about so many things about this election. And about a lot of other things too. I’m often wrong, and I’m often wrong about most things.

And while that might matter a bit, we have more pressing concerns.

So look to your left and take someone’s hand. It’s time to stand together.

Then look right, with your brothers and sisters, and hold that line, because there are monsters rushing our way and all they seek is blood.

punching nazis and pacifism

The above video of Nazi Richard Spencer getting punched in the face has gone viral and it’s led to predictably uninteresting discussions online about whether it’s okay or problematic to punch a Nazi/Fascist in the face.

So that’s what I’m going to talk about, since I’m a pacifist and I suppose I have things to say about this.

Like anarchy, I think pacifism is largely misunderstood, and wilfully so. The same is true of the anti-war movement or any other cause in america that’s seen as being outside of the normal political discourse.

For example, someone in the anti-war movement may not be a pacifist. In fact, they may support all kinds of violent action, including punching a Nazi in the face. Anti-war means, quite simply, that they’re against war on principle.

Pacifism, like most ideologies, exists on a spectrum. Here’s the wikipedia entry on it for those looking to get a short overview. But, in general, a pacifist opposes all forms of violence, from systemic to personal.

Of course, not all pacifists feel this way. One of the most famous and renowned pacifists in history is Mohatma Gandhi, who has a less than absolute perspective on the role of violence.

Here’s what Gandhi had to say about violence:

I do believe that where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence I would advise violence. Thus when my eldest son asked me what he should have done, had he been present when I was almost fatally assaulted in 1908, whether he should have run away and seen me killed or whether he should have used his physical force which he could and wanted to use, and defended me, I told him that it was his duty to defend me even by using violence… Hence also do I advocate training in arms for those who believe in the method of violence. I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honour than that she should in a cowardly manner become or remain a helpless witness to her own dishonour.

But I believe that non-violence is infinitely superior to violence, forgiveness is more manly than punishment…

He also had this to say:

Though violence is not lawful, when it is offered in self-defence or for the defense of the defenceless, it is an act of bravery far better than cowardly submission. The latter befits neither man nor woman. Under violence, there are many stages and varieties of bravery. Every man must judge this for himself. No other person can or has the right.

And also this:

Ever since my experience of the distortion of ahimsa (non-violence) in Bettiah in 1921, I have been repeating over and over again that he who cannot protect himself or his nearest and dearest or their honour by non-violently facing death, may and ought to do so by violently dealing with the oppressor. He who can do neither of the two is a burden. He has no business to be the head of a family. He must either hide himself, or must rest content to live for ever in helplessness and be prepared to crawl like a worm at the bidding of a bully.

When people think of pacifism and non-violent action, they often think of Gandhi. He didn’t invent either of these, but his actions were perhaps the most significant on the globe, and his influence is extremely widespread. But here he makes the case for violence.

Pacifism is not one thing, just as racism or sexuality or English is not just one thing. It generally means one thing to the person using the term, but so much of life and ideology is multifaceted that it’s silly to pretend that it’s not.

And so, when I talk about pacifism, I’m only speaking for myself. For there’s no one else I can speak for. I’m not a leader of some movement or even a member of any organization (not really a joiner, I guess), and so my views are only mine. Which can be said about anyone saying anything.

Also, it should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: Just because I’m a pacifist does not mean I expect everyone to be a pacifist. In the same manner, I don’t expect other pacifists to be pacifists in the same way that I am a pacifist.

Anyrate.

I actually disagree with Gandhi. I don’t think there’s ever a case where violence is useful.

Which also means I happen to be against punching Nazis. Or, to put that a different way: I have no interest in inflicting violence (systemic or personal) on any other human. Regardless of the reprehensible nature of a person, I still reject violence done against them.

That being said, it’s not my place to judge someone else (and here I agree with Gandhi) for their choice to use violence in the face of extreme violence. So while I can say that violence is always incorrect action, I’m not going to say that someone in an abusive relationship or living under imperialism is doing something wrong by fighting back violently.

It’s why I have no trouble supporting Palestinians, for example.

But I have no intention of committing an act of violence, or even being associated with violent acts.

That doesn’t make me better or worse than you.

Just makes us different.

I often call this radical pacifism, and it’s something at the heart of who I am. I believe all violent action is incorrect, and I’ll talk about why.

When I say this, I often get extremely aggressive responses to it, which is sort of baffling to me. My pacifism becomes something that they want to disprove or reject utterly. It’s almost as if I’ve insulted them by rejecting violence!

And so the conversation, almost without deviation, goes into the realm of hypotheticals, where my interrogator tries to get me to admit that there is some instance where I would accept violence as the correct or necessary form of action. As if admitting one case is admission of all cases or some sign of personal hypocrisy.

What if someone breaks into your home with a gun and tries to kill you?

I imagine they’ll kill me whether I like it or not.

What if they threaten to kill your family?

Probably a lot of us will die.

So you would just let them die? Are you that much of a coward?

And it continues in this manner.

The point they’re trying to make is silly, especially when you throw out such random circumstances that seem to only have one course of action. And, weirdly, most people come to this same circumstance, of a stranger breaking into my house and threatening me or my family or both with a gun. Like, let’s say that I could fight this person. I don’t own a gun or even a weapon. If they have the will and desire to kill me and my family, they’ll probably kill me either way. So to me, the circumstance only ends with one result. My interrogator is only trying to force me to choose a path I disagree with.

To what purpose, I can’t even begin to imagine.

I find it profoundly strange when someone tries to insist that you must feel and think and behave as they do. But that plays into this. Because to try to force someone to be as you are is a form of violence. Small and inconsequential as the practice or method may be, it’s still inherently violent to force yourself upon another person.

Just as it would be a form of violence to demand that you also behave non-violently.

A minor infraction, certainly, but the principle is the same, I think.

It’s a cliche that violence only leads to more violence. Not only is it a cliche, it’s an ancient one.

But I think it’s also self-evident. Even the circumstance I outline above: if the only answer to violence is more violence, then what have we done? People expect me to want to kill my would be killer, and this, in some way, is a justification to them or to the world.

But to me, either way, we have dead humans killed by other humans.

While I certainly value my life more than yours (how could I not?), I don’t see my survival as being a prosocial moment if it means I had to kill you, or anyone else. Either way, violence was done here and a life was destroyed. Likely many more lives than just those present.

And so I reject the violence done against Richard Spencer, worthless Nazi that he is.

That being said, I’m not sad or even upset that someone punched him in the face live on television. Nazism is inherently a violent ideology. There’s no denying this. There’s not even a qualification possible for this. It’s an ideology that promotes genocide, and is therefore absolutely unacceptable.

This is also why it doesn’t bother me that someone punched him, or that anti-fascist movements often use violence. Every Nazi desires violence. Not just violence against one person, but against entire ethnic groups. The plural there is important. It’s not just Jewish people or people of African descent. It’s everyone who is not on their checklist of what constitutes white. This even includes people most would consider white, like Polish, Scandinavians, Russians, French, and on and on. It goes as deep and ridiculous as to be about specific kinds of white, defined by such backwards pseudoscience that I don’t even care to give a summary of it.

And so when fascists come to your home, I won’t and don’t blame those who react violently to that.

Nick Mamatas said something interesting about this:

One of the unfortunate aspects of school bullying is that school culture trains the victims of bullies to loudly perform their vulnerabilities in order to summon the authorities to deal with the bully.

This tactic doesn’t work at all when the bully IS the authority. See Trump, and the increasingly desperate political delusions around faithless electors, impeachment, a voided election result due to treason, etc. There is no higher power to appeal to, period.

When the authority is a bully, you simply have to outbully him. Thus appeals to civility, handwringing about what has been lost to our political culture, expressions of fear, daydreams about an Obama coup, and the like, are all rhetorical and tactical misfires.

It’s time to find your inner bully.

It’s an interesting thought. And, to go along with that:

Non-violence as a tactic for resistance is only effective if the other side considers you human. If they see you as subhuman or whatever else, they will have no problems with hurting and/or killing you.

Non-violence is predicated on the belief that everyone is human.If you and your antagonist can’t even agree on your own humanity, then it’s unlikely anything useful will come of it.

But let’s go back to punching Nazis.

Every time someone encounters the Other, there’s always the argument made that we should squash them out because they represent a threat to our lives and our way of life.

Just listen to Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins or any of their fans talk about Islam.

They’ll tell you that Islam is an inherently violent ideology that poses a threat to every non-Muslim on the planet. While this may sound absurd, it’s a pretty widely held belief in both conservatives and liberals in the western empires.

The same is said about Mexicans in the US or North Africans or Turkish in Europe. Or even Eastern European immigrants living in Western Europe. Or, weirdly, indigenous people in any country colonized by Europeans.

And so the definition of ‘dangerous ideology’ becomes a matter of preference and perspective. It may be Nazis today who deserve punches, but yesterday it was Muslims (even among many liberals–just ask them about Yemen), and tomorrow it may be activists (nothing new, there) or anarchists (again, always) or pick an ideology.

The general argument for violence is that it’s necessary because of extraordinary circumstances. And while I agree that Nazism is absolutely an extraordinary case, this logic gets thrown around way too often for me to be comfortable with it as a rubric.

I mean, I’m not going to try to argue that you shouldn’t beat up fascists and Nazis. I have no interest in defending such people, since they have no interest in doing anything beyond inflicting violence upon the world and its people. And not just your average run of the mill beatings, but actual genocide.

If there are people who are unfit for humanity, it’s the ones who utterly reject the humanity of others.

The danger with violence is that it doesn’t end. It spreads like a disease.

When you choose violence, you reinforce violent systems.

I don’t think it’s inconsequential that the US, who takes such pride in beating Nazi Germany, has essentially been at war with ‘dangerous’ ideologies and people since Hitler died. Like, ceaselessly. We have yet to find a war or people whose blood we don’t crave.

Further, we’ve gone on to create the kind of surveillance state Hitler, Stalin, and Mao would be endlessly jealous of. We’ve created a criminal justice system that is the envy of every dictator or totalitarian state. We routinely put inmates in solitary confinement, which has been identified as torture for a long time. And we do that as a casual disciplinary decision to thousands or maybe even as much as hundreds of thousands of inmates across the US. Our police routinely murder civilians. Our Intelligence Agencies routinely spy on citizens and assassinate foreigners (and sometimes citizens) and overthrow democratically elected governments and install vicious dictators.

The list goes on an on, and I don’t think it’s inconsequential that a nation who has fallen so deeply in love with violence is one whose ‘progressive’ citizens and politicians still have very little to say about ending war or even just pulling our troops out of warzones. They also have little to say about the surveillance state we live under.

We developed an atomic bomb because we needed a weapon to fight the Nazis, but then we dropped it on the Japanese (who were not super different, ideologically, from Nazis). And since then, we’ve been in a constant state of warfare with dozens of countries on nearly every continent humans inhabit.

Of course, this isn’t a result of fighting Nazi Germany, but I don’t think they’re as separate as some might like to believe.

Violence poisons us. It reduces us. It makes us less human. It makes us more violent. More willing to give into violence. More willing to reduce our enemies to the Other.

Violence is a choice that we make as a society. And, like personal choices, it becomes easier to make that choice every time we make it. So when we went to war with Germany and Japan, it seemed to make sense. When we went to war with Korea, it still felt that way. With Vietnam, we eventually rejected our own behavior. But then came the 70s and 80s when most of our military violence came in a way that is especially recognizable now. Most of it passed through the CIA and we used locals to wage our wars for us, whether it was fascists in Chile or Jihadists in Afghanistan, we stopped sending massive mobilized forces. The 90s were a mix of boots on the ground and covert assassinations and bombings, until we perfected the new state of world war.

After September 11th, 2001, we decided, once more, that there was no such thing as a bad war, and we declared an endless war. Sixteen years later, and we’ve only expanding our warfare in the Middle East, stretching it to seven different countries and thousands of new enemy ideologies who we all call the same thing: terrorists.

Most people I know are in favor of violence, whether explicitly or implicitly, whether vocally or not. I’ve seen the things you say online. I’ve heard you say it with your own mouth. I heard you say it every time you described a politician as ‘hawkish’ instead of ‘war criminal.’ You support violence, and that’s your choice, and that’s okay, I suppose.

I mean, obviously I disagree with you, but that’s okay, too.

But your support of violence is your own choice. And while I must be complicit in most of these choices, whether I like it or not, because we belong to the same nation, whether we like it or not, I can’t stop you, but I can try to resist the rising tide of violence that is all round us.

And so go ahead and punch a Nazi or ten. Beat up some fascists. Make it a party! An anthem!

But think of tomorrow and what our violence costs us, because there is a cost, and it’s not inconsequential.

For now (and always), I hope for peace.

thanks, obama

And I get to write that unironically, since I’m extremely pleased with the president’s decision to commute Chelsea Manning’s sentence! She’ll be free this May.

And while I say thanks to Obama, the real thanks is to all the people who worked tirelessly for this, who helped by donating to her defense fund. And the bulk of that work was done by the Chelsea Manning Support Network, which I’m proud to have been a supporting member of since 2010.

And if you’ve followed this blog or my twitter or facebook even casually for the last six years, you may know how much this means to me.

Honestly, this is the most significant positive decision Obama’s made since Trump got elected president. I can’t even pretend to not be thankful that he’s done this.

Of course, this wouldn’t have needed to be done had his administration not tortured, then prosecuted, then imprisoned her, then tortured her for the last six years, and all because she released information to Wikileaks. Information that has saved millions of lives and contributed to sparking the Arab Spring, as well as ending US imperial violence in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So, yeah, Barack Obama and his administration invented this problem by going after her and then committing human rights abuses by torturing her in various ways for six years, and this certainly doesn’t absolve him from abusing and torturing her for so long, but! I’m still thankful that he’s saved her life by commuting her sentence.

Because as bad as her life was under an Obama administration, I think it’s clear she literally would not survive a Trump administration.

And while I could go on to say a lot of critical things here, I think I’ll try to leave off on a happy note.

Thank you, Obama, and good luck, Chelsea Manning.

Don’t know where your life will lead you, but I’m grateful and excited for you to be free.

You’ve been one of the most heroic americans of this or any other generation.

the strange, sad case of glenn beck

You may remember him from about a decade ago. He was the dude who got famous for scribbling on a whiteboard while racebaiting and yelling out conspiracy theories. I just looked for a clip, but there are so many Glenn Beck videos on youtube that I didn’t have the patience to find a funny one.

Because I do find what happened oddly funny. And he lives in sort of a weird space that I find pretty absurd. He’s not a lunatic like Sean Hannity–but really, who is?–and he can’t fake his way into sounding like a serious thinker like Bill O’Reilly sometimes can. He’s just this weird guy who scrolls through the internet and believes literally everything. Or at least that’s how I imagine his life is.

Anyrate, right before the election, he sort of re-emerged on the political scene, getting interviews and talking points out with all kinds of outlets (another sign that should’ve illustrated to everyone how worthless US news media has become). The word for what he did is rebranding.

He was changing his image. He vocally stepped away from his own past. Basically repudiating his entire career, or at least trying to cast it in a new light. As a journey from fringe conspiracy theorist to a gentler, more empathetic political thinker.

Like every major media outlet, Glenn Beck was vocally against Donald Trump. This was only of interest to people who still cared about his opinion and to liberals who wanted to shine a light on him and say, EVEN THIS WACKO THINKS TRUMP’S GOING TOO FAR.

To me, it seemed clear that he was hoping to leverage his new gentle and empathetic persona into a job at MSNBC, which is among the most useless news networks around. But it would give him a big platform and audience to say things, and that’s what typically matters to the pundit class. I mean, it’s hard to be a pundit when there’s no one watching your dumb face for an hour every day.

At the time, it seemed inconceivable that Trump would be president. I mean, even the day of the election, most media outlets were estimating that Clinton had somewhere between a 70% to 95% chance of winning.

We know how that turned out.

And why I find this funny is that Glenn Beck placed a bet on the future of his career. He saw a Clinton victory as inevitable and maybe a way for him to get back on television with his whiteboard where he could yell about conspiracies that Democrats would believe. He gambled on the Clintons and the DNC and he seriously lost.

So what is Glenn Beck to do now? This gentler, more sympathetic and empathetic man? We’re in Trump’s America now, where Breitbart is now State News, and white supremacists and militarists flood Trump’s Whitehouse, along with some of the wealthiest people in the country who support policies like increasing mass surveillance (which has bipartisan support, by the way–something the Obama Administration just signed into law literally today) and a Muslim registry (which also has bipartisan support, which goes to show how worthless Democrats are–also, the Muslim registry has existed since maybe before 9/11, so it’s not even a new idea, nor is using it to assassinate Muslims all over the world with drones [thanks, Obama]) and massive tax cuts for the wealthy, which will cripple the middle class and impoverished class (that impoverished class is now about 50% of the country).

I didn’t mean to get political there, though. I just think this Glenn Beck situation is a really funny thing.

Glenn Beck sold himself down the river only to find his new brand as worthless as the old one. And maybe the funniest thing is that he could have risen to prominence on his old shtick, because if there’s someone who loves a good old unverified conspiracy, it’s our next president, Donald Trump.