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Citizens Show Up to Tell a Do-Nothing Government Enough is Enough

800,000 Pissed-Off People Get Themselves to Washington

 
I have learned one thing. As Woody says, “Showing up is 80 percent of life.” Sometimes it’s easier to hide home in bed. I’ve done both.
         - Marshall Brickman, co-screenwriter with Woody Allen of Annie Hall

WASHINGTON DC - The political situation in Washington and around the country is so rotten and demoralizing, so hopelessly polarized, that an outspoken group of high school kids who survived a shooting incident by an alienated lunatic with an AR15 have filled a leadership gap. For this reason, the March For Our Lives in Washington DC on March 24th was like a fresh ocean breeze in a smog event. We’re told 800,000 people took time off and made it to the capital city in political solidarity with the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 students and staff members were gunned down in just over six minutes on February 14th beginning at 2:20 in the afternoon. In some 800 other cities around the country, similar outbreaks of support occurred on the 24th. And there hopefully will be more to come.

Marchers at the Federal Trade CommissionMarchers at the Federal Trade Commission

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School Bosses Across America Go 'Butthead' On Anti-violence Student Protests

Kids give adults a lesson in First Amendment civil disobedience

'Walkout' march in Philadelphia - a city where school officials did not penalize participants. LBWPhoto'Walkout' march in Philadelphia - a city where school officials did not penalize participants. LBWPhoto
 
Ten days before American student outrage over gun violence triggered multitudes across the U.S and around the world to join in “March For Our Lives” protests; many U.S. high school educators and other adults provided students with strident lessons in assholelisity.

During the March 14, 2018 National School Walkout Day staged by students to show sympathy for the victims of the February high school massacre in Florida, administrators and adults employed threats and punishments to squash students from protesting against the lack of gun control measures across America – the nation with are more guns than people.

School administrators asserted reasons for their harsh response to Walkout participants that went from claims of maintenance of order inside schools to contentions that the Walkout was a political statement that had no place in schools.

A student at a high school outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania saw “hypocrisy of the highest order” in administrators cracking down on participants in the National Walkout. At the school this student attended, administrators slapped over 200 protesting students with detentions that required coming to school on Saturdays.

“They tell us in announcement everyday to be the change you want to see in the world. And then when we tried to do it, they told us we couldn’t,” Pennridge High School student Anna Sophie Tinneny told a reporter.

While many school officials nationwide did not oppose the determination of students to participate in the National School Walkout Day, the reactions of some school administrators and other adults to that protest oozed assholelisity.

War Monger and War Criminal John Bolton to Head Trump's National Security Council

Trump's truly awful pick for National Security Advisor

 Back from the dead along with NeoconservatismJohn Bolton as Trump National Security Advisor: Back from the dead along with Neoconservatism

John Bolton, the man named this past week by President Trump to be his new national security advisor, is like that hand from a bloated, rotting corpse of the torturing rapist local yokel that erupts from the water at the very end of the movie "Deliverance," returning to remind its former victims of the horrors they had endured earlier and thought they'd finally rid themselves of.

One of the most bloodthirsty members of a gang of war-mongering neo-conservatives (almost all, like him, having no military experience themselves), who ran foreign policy and launched wars of aggression during the Bush/Cheney administration, Bolton is a man who for years has been pushing for an imperial US policy to combat domestic economic decline. According this numbskull notion, Washington should attempt to maintain US primacy in the world affairs through force of arms, picking fights, starting wars, overthrowing governments a playing existentially risky games of chicken with nuclear powers like Russia and China. He and the wacko ideology known as neoconservatism, have returned with Bolton as a National Security Advisor, in this case to advise a president who thinks nuclear weapons are meant to be used.

Now I'm not one who thinks that military experience should be seen as some kind of prerequisite, much less a positive attribute, for appointment to a top federal post, even when that post has to do with military affairs or foreign affairs. Certainly a well-educated and thoughtful person, male or female, with no military experience, could do a better job running the Pentagon, the State Department -- or the National Security Council -- than a host of veterans of those posts who boasted rows of medals and colorful honors on the uniforms they either wore or kept as souvenirs in their closets.

That said, when someone like Bolton, who is a fanatic warmonger, has repeatedly advocated "pre-emptive" war as the go-to option for dealing with an international dispute, and is ready at the slightest assertion of independence on the part of any foreign power to call for bombing and for sending tens or hundreds of thousands of US troops into harm's and harming's way, I would insist that such a person, before being placed in a position of significant power and influence in the US government have had, as a bare minimum, at least some actual experience with combat. Instead we have an apparently perfectly healthy 69-year-old nut-job who turned 18 in 1967, right at the height of the US war against Vietnam, but who, despite being an ardent supporter of that war, used student deferments and who knows what other slippery excuses to avoid fighting in it, now being made Trump's latest top advisor on issues of war and peace.

We've seen over the past two or three decades how disastrous it can be when administrations headed by or filled at the top with policy-makers who are so-called "chicken hawks" -- people who advocate for war as a solution to diplomatic issues but who have never worn a uniform or who, even if they have spent a little time in a branch of the military, have never faced or even fired a bullet in anger or watched comrades die in battle. President Reagan, whose only war "experience" was as an actor, sicced the US military on two tiny nations -- Grenada and Panama -- with deadly consequences for local civilians, President Clinton, who dodged the draft during the Vietnam War, happily waged a brutal and one-sided air-"war" against Serbia. George Bush , who hid out from the Vietnam War he supposedly supported politically by signing up for the Texas Air National Guard, carefully checking a box in his enlistment papers saying he did not want to be available for foreign assignment, as commander-in-chief launched two wars against Afghanistan and Iraq, both of which conflicts are still raging almost 20 years later, with as many as 1 million mostly civilian deaths and multiples of that number displaced. Barack Obama, who never wore a uniform, launched a disastrous and bloody war against Libya which led to the overthrow and murder of that country's leader and left the country in a state of murderous chaos from which it has yet to emerge, launched and ran a murder campaign by drone that killed mostly innocent civilians including kids, and ordered a $1-trillion "modernization" of America's nuclear arsenal, including the development of small "usable" nuclear bombs.

Pussy Grabbers and Ball Busters

THE CONFESSIONS OF AN IMPERFECT AMERICAN MALE

 

NOTE: The mechanics of this long essay have, temporarily, gotten screwed up and the last third may be inaccessible. The solution is easy: Go below and click on the PRINT-FRIENDLY VERSION. It's all there. Sorry for any inconvenience.]
 
Gender isn’t what it used to be. The French remark vive la difference is on the mat and the referee is counting. I see the #MeToo movement in this context. Gender differences are disappearing in importance. Young people are insisting on new variations of gender identification that are perplexing to older people. Power is what counts, and power transcends gender identification. I was raised by a physiologist who taught the alimentary canal to incoming medical students, and he was not delicate about crude references to bodily functions, something his students came to enjoy. Some of that rubbed off on me. As a baby boomer, my mind is very much rooted in the sixties and the sexual revolution when I came of age in the sub-tropics of south Florida and, later, in the mountains west of Pleiku, where I served my country's imperial fantasies locating Vietnamese for targeting purposes. A half-dozen of my veteran friends just participated in the 50th anniversary of the My Lai massacre -- in My Lai -- at times crying together with Vietnamese survivors of the massacre. That year of my young life is forever fresh in my mind. Sex and war. I never put the two together as complementary parts of my life. Currently, sexual relations as revealed in the #MeToo movement makes it feel like we're playing out the bitter final chapter of the sixties sexual revolution. Make love not war is quaint history; and apocalyptic war is again looming over us.

The idea of collateral damage from the #MeToo movement interests me. Maybe it's because I was once raked over the coals mercilessly on Facebook by a feminist over a photograph I put up from Rio de Janeiro -- one among maybe a hundred -- of a woman’s beautiful buttocks; she was dancing in public, being filmed as B-roll for coverage of the upcoming World Cup from Rio. The more I've thought about it, the more it feels that at least some of the problem was in that adjective beautiful attached to an intimate part of a woman's body. We're told beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I begin to wonder whether my sin was that I beheld that buttocks as beautiful in my man's mind; the culprit was the "male gaze" itself. A beautiful buttocks is iconic in Brazilian culture. The Greeks used to refer to a well-formed buttocks with the adjective callipygian. It was the first time I had ever put anything up on Facebook, and the response was so righteous and ad-hominem I wondered, where did this come from? I still don't get it. For me, the image was cultural, not prurient. A web search was undertaken and gold was struck. One of my TCBH essays still apparently appears on the magazine website of a friend of a friend, who is an erotic photographer. As in the Playboy magazine formula, he wanted his online "magazine" to feature political articles. I figured it would be in a separate section. But, no, he placed explicit black-and-white images of women taken in Amsterdam all through my essay on US imperialism in the Mideast. I told him to cease-and-desist. But it apparently still remains; I forgot about it and never got it together to force him to delete the thing. The web never forgets. On my Facebook page, I was indicted, convicted, drawn and quartered before I knew what hit me. As one might say, my balls were royally busted. It was the first and last time I used Facebook seriously. But I can live with it. I offered to respectfully talk it over, but the offer was never taken up.

Gary Lindorff's 'Children to the Mountain'

Book review:

 

Children to the Mountain by Gary Lindorff (Hiraeth Press, 2018)
 

Most so-called poetry today is the detritus of narcissism, and banal, vulgar narcissism, at that. Every other tattooed poseur of no particular ability, skill, insight merely declaims primitively, idiosyncratically about his/her suffering, perceived injustices, hatred, betrayals, (usually pornographic) affairs, with requisite denunciations of politically correct targets, and then lays claim to “poet.” It’s wretched, it’s pathetic, it’s embarrassing, and it’s epidemic.

It is also, of course, stoked by the Machiavellian corporate machinations of the so-called popular culture, which found an industry in creating and exploiting self-interest, self-adoration, self-glorification. Me sells. Coupled with avaricious dumbing down of culture, using the fake pretext of populism to mask profit motive, this has given way to outright sneering at actual intellect, study, reflection, hard-won accomplishment. Trump and the “alt-right,” of course, are the sneerleaders.

The idea of working at poetry, at investing thought of weight and consideration, of attempting to express an idea artfully, heartfully, in order to move, elevate, inspire, is uncommon to the point of freakish; almost to being dismissed as the arcane pursuit of stuffy old intellectuals. It’s so 20th century!

Which is why I find it ironic, and a bittersweet privilege, to tout a just published collection of poetry by Gary Lindorff, (poet in residence at ThisCantBeHappening.net).
 

    We are
    breaking the little bones of earth
    (bones of coral, bones of red wolf,
    bones of bat and bee,

    bonobos, their little fingers) . . .
    Now that all the bigger bones have been broken
    to extract the marrow,
    we are breaking all the little bones . . .

    to make ourselves powerful
    to defeat our enemies in battle. . .

      — from “Sucking the bones of the bee.”
 

To read the poetry of Lindorff in his new collection, Children to the Mountain (Hiraeth Press), is to understand that the pastoral poet is not dead. Lindorff is, in part, the 21st century spiritual descendant of Spenser, Shelley, Milton, Andrew Marvel. Like them, he “retreats from the trappings of modernity,” as the cheat-sheet definition goes, but unlike them, he does not merely rhapsodize over nature. He celebrates it, loves it, but chiefly mourns its degradation, while ruminating with the distillation and almost scientific eye of, say, Annie Dillard, or encoding in haiku-like condensation, or expositing in prose-poem. It’s a major theme in his work, along with temporality: the destruction of ecosystem by humans. As he says: “Living close to the forest means everything to me.”

The United States makes me sick

 
 
It’s come to that.
I’ve been sick of my country for a long time,
Ever since I stopped being a kid.
When I learned about the atomic bombing of Japan.
Then Vietnam brought it home.
 
I was writing Romantic poetry
Until the age of 12.
Then my poetic soul
Gently urged me to wake up.
I woke up like Neo in the Matrix
 
In a bath of amniotic fluid
Covered with suctioning electrodes
Which I pulled off,
Gasping for air
Like a premature newborn
 
Adult human being.
All Romantic notions
Of One Nation Under God,
Hand to the heart,
Swearing allegiance became just swearing.
 
Something hit the window of my house of mirrors.
I picked up the still-warm
Bird of my youthful soul
And got sick right there,
Sick of my country.
 
I have nothing to prove to my country.
No loyalty.
My country needs to win me back.
Hand over heart, face mask for protection.
Stop making us sick.
 
 
--Gary Lindorff

My Lai (a book review) PART ONE

March 16, 2018, the 50th anniversary of the My Lai massacre

 
A book review of:
MY LAI: VIETNAM, 1968, AND THE DESCENT INTO DARKNESS
By Howard Jones
Oxford: 2017
 
(This review first appeared in The Mekong Review, published in Leichhardt, Australia)

[Click here to go to Part Two]

Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions.
- Primo Levi
 
On 17 March 1968, the New York Times ran a brief front-page lead titled “G.I.’s, in Pincer Move, Kill 128 in a Daylong Battle”; the action took place the previous day, roughly thirteen kilometres from Quang Ngai City, a provincial capital in the northern coastal quadrant of South Vietnam. Heavy artillery and helicopter gunships had been “called in to pound the North Vietnamese soldiers”. By three in the afternoon, the battle had ceased, and “the remaining North Vietnamese had slipped out and fled”. The US side lost only two killed and several wounded. The article, datelined Saigon, had no byline. Its source was an American military command’s communiqué, a virtual press release hurried into print and unfiltered by additional digging.

My Lai residents moments before being shot (Ron Haberle/WikiCommons)My Lai residents moments before being shot (Ron Haberle/WikiCommons)

Several days later, a more superficially factual telling of this seemingly crushing blow to the enemy was featured in Southern Cross, the weekly newsletter of the 23rd Infantry (or Americal) Division, in whose “area of operation” the “daylong battle” had been fought. It was described by Army reporter Jay Roberts, who had been there, as “an attack on a Vietcong stronghold”, not an encounter with North Vietnamese regulars, as the Times had misconstrued it. However, Roberts’s article tallied the same high number of enemy dead. When leaned on by Lieutenant Colonel Frank Barker, who commanded the operation, to downplay the lopsided outcome, Roberts complied, noting blandly that “the assault went off like clockwork”. But certain after-action particulars could not be fudged. Roberts was obliged to report that the GIs recovered only “three [enemy] weapons”, a paradox that warranted clarification. None was given. It was to be assumed either that the enemy was poorly armed or that he had removed the weapons of his fallen comrades — leaving their bodies to be counted — when he retired from the field. Neither of the news outlets cited here, nor Stars and Stripes, the semi-official newspaper of the US armed forces, which ran with Roberts’s account, makes reference to any civilian casualties.

It would be nearly eighteen months later when, on 6 September 1969, a front-page article in the Ledger-Enquirer in Columbus, Georgia, reported that the military prosecutor at nearby Fort Benning — home of the US Army Infantry — was investigating charges against a junior officer, Lieutenant William L. Calley, of “multiple murders” of civilians during “an operation at a place called Pinkville”, GI patois for the colour denoting human-made features on their topographical maps of a string of coastal hamlets near Quang Ngai.

With the story now leaked, if only in the regional papers — it would migrate as well to a daily in Montgomery, Alabama — the Fort Benning public information officer moved to “keep the Calley story low-profile” and “released a brief statement that the New York Times ran deep inside its September 7, 1969 issue”, limited to three terse paragraphs on a page cluttered with retail advertising. The press announcement from the Army flack had referred only to “the deaths of more than one civilian”. In the nation’s newspaper of record, which also mentioned Calley by name, this delicate ambiguity was multiplied to “an unspecified number of civilians”. Yet, once again, the Times had been enlisted to serve the agenda of a military publicist and failed to approach the story independently.

My Lai (a book review) PART TWO

March 16, 2018, the 50th anniversary of the My Lai massacre

 
A book review of:
MY LAI: VIETNAM, 1968, AND THE DESCENT INTO DARKNESS
By Howard Jones
Oxford: 2017
 
[Click here to return to Part One]
 
(Continued)
 
First before the bar at Fort Hood, Texas, in November 1969 was Calley’s platoon sergeant, David Mitchell, whom witnesses described as someone who carried out the lieutenant’s orders with particular gusto. Then in January it was Sergeant Charles Hutto’s turn at Fort McPherson, Georgia. Hutto had admitted turning his machine gun on a group of unarmed civilians. These two men were so patently guilty in the eyes of their own comrades that theirs were among the strongest cases the investigators had constructed for the prosecution. Both men were acquitted in trials that can only be described as judicial parodies.

At Mitchell’s trial the judge, ruling on a technicality, did not allow the prosecution to call witnesses with the most damning testimonies, like Hugh Thompson. Hutto had declared in court that “it was murder”, but claimed “we were doing it because we had been told”. When the jury refused to convict him because Hutto had not known that some orders could be illegal, Jones nails how the court was sanctioning “the major argument that had failed to win acquittal at Nuremburg”.

Shortly after Hutto’s trial, the Army dropped all charges against the remaining soldiers, fearing their claims to have been following orders would likewise find merit in the prevailing temper of the military juries. Heeding the judicial trend, Lieutenant General Jonathan Seaman, a regional commander exercising jurisdiction over officers above the rank of captain, dropped all charges against Major General Koster. By some opaque calculation that convinced no one, Seaman had concluded that Koster was not guilty of “intentional abrogation of responsibilities”. A hue and cry followed in the press and on Capitol Hill, denouncing Seaman for “a whitewash of the top man”. The outcry did prod the Pentagon to take punitive action against Koster. The general had already been dismissed as the commandant of West Point, and he was now demoted to brigadier general and stripped of his highest commendation.

Seaman informed Koster, through internal channels, that he held him “personally responsible” for My Lai, a kind of symbolic snub among gentlemen. But in exonerating the Americal commander, Seaman had — by design, it can be argued — inoculated the higher reaches of command, right up to General Westmoreland, from being held responsible for the actions of their subordinates, a blatant act of duplicity in light of the ruling at the Tokyo trials after the Second World War, where a lack of knowledge of atrocities committed by his troops had not prevented General Yamashita from being sentenced to death.

With Calley’s court martial already in progress, only three other officers remained to be tried: Medina and the Task Force Barker intelligence officer, Captain Eugene Kotouc, for war crimes, and 11th Brigade commander Henderson, for the cover-up. Jones deftly unspools how the flawed and self-protective system of military justice enabled trial judges in each case to provide improvised instructions to their juries that all but dictated the acquittal of all three men. Kotouc had been charged with murdering a prisoner, whom, given the available evidence, he almost certainly had; still the jury found him not guilty in less than an hour. Asked if he would stay in the military, Kotouc gushed, “Who would get out of a system like this ... it’s the best damn army in the world.” 2

Historic Recognition For MLK 'First' In New Jersey Moves At Snails Pace

Foot-dragging 'study' questions value of King's first anti-racist lawsuit

House in Camden, NJ where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. plotted a protest that produced his first lawsuit against discrimination.House in Camden, NJ (left) where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. plotted a protest that produced his first lawsuit against discrimination.
 
The first lawsuit against discrimination ever filed by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – the iconic civil rights activist – is of questionable historic value according to an unusual study released recently by New Jersey state historic preservation authorities.

New Jersey’s Historic Preservation Office (HPO) paid $20,000 for the study as part of its review of an application seeking historic designation for a property in Camden New Jersey where Dr. King stayed occasionally while attending seminary school in Chester, Pennsylvania over 60-years-ago.

King, according to new documentation unearthed by a NJ researcher, began formulating the protest that led to his first anti-discrimination lawsuit, while at the 753 Walnut Street Camden property. King was at the house hours before going to Maple Shade, NJ, where a white café owner refused service to King and his three companions in June 1950, chasing them from that café with a gun.

King listed 753 Walnut Street Camden as his address on police reports from that gun toting service denial encounter.

That Maple Shade café incident produced King’s first anti-discrimination lawsuit. King, during an October 1961 conversation with news reporters in Philadelphia, Pa, described that incident as a “painful experience.”

That study is the first study ever commissioned by NJ’s Historic Preservation Office, the office in charge of NJ’s Register of Historic Places.

HPO records list 51,825 properties and sites on NJ’s historic register, as of February 2018. The thousands of private properties on that historic register were approved without a study like the one conducted on the Camden property, an HPO spokesman noted.

Are We Living Under a Military Coup?

An Ironically Patriotic Essay

 
If President Trump is convicted of a crime or is impeached, will he go gracefully like the experienced politician Richard Nixon -- or will he go out like Jimmy Cagney atop a giant gasoline tank in White Heat? “Top O’ the World, Ma!” Think of the institution of the presidency as that gasoline tank that goes up in a huge fireball at the end. Translated into the context of Reality TV, think of the narcissistic star-in-chief playing out the final episode under the delusion he’s still in control with his i-phone -- to the bitter end stirring up a pumped and well-armed base. Sensationalistic, for sure. But implausible?

The part of this improbable administration that’s not a reality TV show centered on a narcissistic billionaire and his plutocrat cabinet is the anchor represented by Chief of Staff John Kelly -- along with Defense Secretary James Mattis and Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. If this were a Herb Block cartoon from the 1970s, they’d be a very stolid rhinoceros standing in the midst of Oval Office wreckage with words on its flank that read NATIONAL SECURITY STATE.

The loose cannon president and his National Security State minder?
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The loose cannon president and his National Security State minder?

The National Security Act of 1947 codified the reality of the imperial American military for the baby-boom generation and beyond. The War Department became the Defense Department; the CIA we know today was formed from the Office of Strategic Services. The 1947 NSA document amounted to a formal re-arrangement of the country’s priorities coming out of WWII -- when the victorious United States of America became the “leader of the free world.” We forget that before World War Two changed everything, the US military was a shadow of what it was to become.

Over these 70 years, the executive in the White House has ping-ponged back-and-forth between the moderate left and the moderate right, between the Democratic and Republican Parties. (Trump may be the exception in being far right.) Every four years there‘s a national “conversation” of sorts about who’s going to live in the White House and make executive decisions and who’s going to legislate in Congress. You couldn’t come up with a better example to illustrate the idea of a civilian political see-saw than January 20, 2016, the day Barack Obama handed the civilian reins over to Donald Trump. Meanwhile, over those same 70 years, the National Security State (as an institution led by the Pentagon) has existed as a steadily ascending through-line leading to today’s post-9/11 world. Our imperial military has been, and remains, virtually untouchable through the electoral process that chooses civilian leadership. Just like assault weapons on a small scale, the National Security State thrives beyond the reach of American politics. In my mind, White House Chief of Staff and former four-star Marine General John Kelly resides in this protected zone as a power behind the civilian throne -- there looking out for Pentagon interests and there in case the gasoline tank goes up in a fireball. It's also good to remember that Donald Trump was groomed in military school, where he thrived. He clearly didn't wish to go to Vietnam, but military discipline has been good for his self-aggrandizement. Thus, real combat leaders may hold a unique sway over The Donald.

When Kelly was pulled from Homeland Security into the chaotic Trump White House to replace the ineffectual Reince Priebus, it was like Randolph Scott had ridden in to tame a wild-and-wooly town. Since his arrival, he’s made two things clear: one, he feels the US military is sacrosanct and beyond questioning, and two, he’s in full synch with Trump’s nostalgic sentiments that incorporate white supremacist instincts.

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Fightin' Cock FlyerFightin' Cock Flyer

Listen as Chuck, John, Dave and Linn Join Prairie Radical Mike Caddell of the Fightin' Cock Flyer on Radio Free Kansas

Here's the link to prairie radio radical Mike Caddell's Radio Free Kansas program, where you can hear the podcast of the whole group interview that was conducted on Saturday, May 8.

Also, listen to Dave Lindorff on Chris Cook's Gorilla Radio on CFEV Radio in Victoria, Canada.

Donate $50 to ThisCantBeHappening.net and get a free signed copy, postage paid, of Dave's classic tome The Case for Impeachment (St. Martin's Press, 2006). Just click on the cover image to go to the Paypal payment page, make your payment, and send a note to Dave calling his attention to the payment, and giving your mail address and the name you want the inscription addressed to.

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by Dr. Radut