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Well.   That happened.

 

(Never fear folks, yours truly and the rest of the DWR crew were nowhere near the downtown where this incident took place.)

I’m used to commenting on and reporting on these types of events when they happen not where I live.  The events that happened on Saturday (September 30th) changed that.  Let’s consult the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation which has, so far, provided the best coverage of what happened and what is happening in Edmonton as a result of the recent attacks.

  “A 30-year-old man is in custody following a high-speed chase just before midnight through streets filled with bar patrons and football fans. A man stabbed a police officer with a knife and deliberately plowed into pedestrians on Edmonton’s busiest downtown strip, police say.

  Abdulahi Hasan Sharif is the man accused in the attacks, multiple sources tell CBC News.

  The chase ended after a white U-Haul van the man was driving struck four pedestrians and flipped on its side. Cst. Mike Chernyk was the officer injured in the violent altercation, sources tell CBC News.

  Edmonton police Chief Rod Knecht confirmed that a black ISIS flag was seized from a car where the police officer was attacked. The officer was not critically injured. The condition of the four pedestrians is not known [two still in hospital, two have been released, officer released home as well].

  “Based on evidence at the scenes and the actions of the suspect … it was determined that these incidents are being investigated as acts of terrorism,” Knecht said.”

I’m so very glad the global news media has repeatedly highlighted how effective vehicular homicide is for visiting death, chaos, and mayhem to innocent bystanders.   Go team sensational media…because ratings ( and bully to the larger picture and consequences).

The would-be murderous dude didn’t seem quite right as reported by his co-worker:

“A former co-worker of the Somali refugee CBC News has identified as the man arrested in a weekend attack in Edmonton says Abdulahi Hasan Sharif was an ISIS sympathizer years before Saturday’s violent events, and that he had reported him to police. 

Terrorism charges are pending against the suspect, who is in custody. Police haven’t identified Sharif by name, but multiple sources have identified him to CBC. 

Sharif’s former co-worker, who didn’t want to be identified out of concern for his safety, said:  “He would rant.

“It was very incoherent. He would just bounce from idea to idea, tangent to tangent, just about what he believed in and he definitely had genocidal beliefs, you could say.

“He had major issues with polytheists. He said they need to die. That sort of thing. I only had a handful of conversations with him about it; those only occurred when there were just two of us in the work room.”

Ah, there we go.  We all have problems with the damn polytheists, they ruin everything.  Sharif was mad as hell and wasn’t going to take any more of their bullshit(?).

There are larger issues colouring the events involved here.  The most obvious, of course, is religion.  So once again here we sit cleaning up after an episode of violence fuelled by delusional belief in a particular sky fairy mixed in, of course, with ideology that glorifies martyrdom and reward in the ‘afterlife’.  So much violence can be traced back to the super-neato fact that basically all religions are essential giant ‘othering’ machines.  Religion allows for easy distinctions to be drawn between those who believe the bullshit, and those who do not.  And of course, as soon as one can make in-group and out-group distinction, the process of changing ones thinking about other human beings (people like oneself) into heretics and unwashed heathens (less human and worthy of killing) can begin.  So, many thanks Religion (and religious belief) for the handy-dandy vehicle for reducing empathy and increasing violence between people in the world.

The other factor involved here (and sadly in Las Vegas), of course, is the way we teach males in our society to deal with problems.  The plague of male violence (and let’s not forget delusional religious thinking/belief) that we suffer through must be brought to an end, we must change the way we socialize the males in our society to not see violence as a viable option for solving their problems.

It is the only way forward.

[Source: cbc.ca 1, 2, 3]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  William Astore writing for Tom’s Dispatch.   

 

      “I first came across the phrase “using a sledgehammer to kill gnats” while looking at the history of U.S. airpower during the Vietnam War.  B-52 “Arc Light” raids dropped record tons of bombs on parts of South Vietnam and Laos in largely failed efforts to kill dispersed guerrillas and interdict supply routes from North Vietnam.  Half a century later, with its laser- and GPS-guided bombs, the Air Force regularly touts the far greater precision of American airpower.  Yet in one country after another, using just that weaponry, the U.S. has engaged in serial acts of overkill.  In Afghanistan, it was the recent use of MOAB, the “mother of all bombs,” the largest non-nuclear weapon the U.S. has ever used in combat, against a small concentration of ISIS fighters.  In similar fashion, the U.S. air war in Syria has outpaced the Russians and even the Assad regime in its murderous effects on civilians, especially around Raqqa, the “capital” of the Islamic State.  Such overkill is evident on the ground as well where special ops raids have, this year, left civilians dead from Yemen to Somalia.  In other words, across the Greater Middle East, Washington’s profligate killing machine is also creating a desire for vengeance among civilian populations, staggering numbers of whom, when not killed, have been displaced or sent fleeing across borders as refugees in these wars. It has played a significant role in unsettling whole regions, creating failed states, and providing yet more recruits for terror groups.

     Leaving aside technological advances, little has changed since Vietnam. The U.S. military is still relying on enormous firepower to kill elusive enemies as a way of limiting (American) casualties.  As an instrument of victory, it didn’t work in Vietnam, nor has it worked in Iraq or Afghanistan.

     But never mind the history lessons.  President Trump asserts that his “new” Afghan strategy — the details of which, according to a military spokesman, are “not there yet” — will lead to more terrorists (that is, gnats) being killed.

     Since 9/11, America’s leaders, Trump included, have rarely sought ways to avoid those gnats, while efforts to “drain the swamp” in which the gnats thrive have served mainly to enlarge their breeding grounds.  At the same time, efforts to enlist indigenous “gnats” — local proxy armies — to take over the fight have gone poorly indeed.  As in Vietnam, the main U.S. focus has invariably been on developing better, more technologically advanced (which means more expensive) sledgehammers, while continuing to whale away at that cloud of gnats — a process as hopeless as it is counterproductive.”

One can imagine the US military as a toxic convoluted ouroboros.  This particular snake creates its own problems and then has to fix them by creating more problems and then has to fix them…

But hey, as long as the right people are making profits its all sunshine and rainbows.  Right?  :/

 

    I am playing catch up with the recent dust-up around the choice of tactics used by Antifa in the United States in it’s struggle against the proto-fascist elements energized by the current Republican Administration led by Trump.  There are several sources in this brief overview, first from a academic journal to help with the context of state violence, then a rough sketch of the position taken by Hedges and Chomsky, and finally the reply found in Counterpunch.  The last article from Counterpunch, is a retort to Chris Hedges, a voice on the credentialed left who has taken a stance against the violent tactics used by Antifa.

We’ll be visiting Hedges’ article (and criticism)on Truthdig in a later post, but for now, examining the question of violence and how it is used, and by who it is used by in society provides a stepping stone toward providing a more nuanced entry into this debate.  To better understand how (in just one way) the state uses violence to arrange society we turn to an article written by Carol Nagengast, in the Annual Review of Anthropology titled Violence, Terror, and The Crisis of the State (p. 24): 

“The state must be a state of mind that divides people into the purified and honest who do legitimate work and a politically suspect or criminal,
deviant underworld of aliens, communists, loafers, delinquents, even thieves, killers, and drug lords who do not. The violent dissident must be positioned
and repositioned as necessary, “in a negative relationship with middle-class rational masculinity, a model that ensures a relationship of dominance and
subordination … by locking the two into a mutually defaming relationship”

     (16:15,21). In the United States, the presumed idleness of the unemployed, the poverty-stricken, the drug user or gang member, the single parent, gay man or
lesbian woman (all the latter with overtones of promiscuity and contagious disease) is also seen as violence against the social body. It cannot be just any
old work; it must be work that contributes to what dominant groups have defined as the common good (153).

     The hegemony of respectable culture and good taste and the denigration of what is represented as the disgusting, degenerate, worthless, criminal lower
parts of the social body is so strong that, according to a poll conducted by the Washington Post and ABC News in September 1989, 66% of those surveyed
favored random searches of peoples’ houses, cars, and personal belongings, even if the police had no suspicion of any wrongdoing. Seventy-two percent
said they approved of censorship of any film depicting illegal drug use. People have been so inoculated with the fear of evil and with the myth of an essential
relationship of repression to the cure of society, that they are willing to give up some of their own rights for what has been defined as the good of the social
body

The questions the fascist/antifa situation embodies goes back to the genesis of why we have states in the first place and the techniques used (see the myth of the relationship between the use of repression to cure soceity) to maintain order in said States.  The use of fear to discipline society is nothing new, case in point, consider the the fear cultivated in the buildups to the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.  The use/misuse of fear as a cultural motivator in Western society is being replayed yet again on the national (within the US) instead of international stage.   Looking toward answering the question of who gets to legitimately use violence in society with regards to the fascist/antifa question Noam Chomsky opines:

     “As for Antifa, it’s a minuscule fringe of the Left, just as its predecessors were,” Noam Chomsky told the Washington Examiner. “It’s a major gift to the Right, including the militant Right, who are exuberant.”  Many activists affiliated with the loosely organized Antifa movement consider themselves anarchists or socialists. They often wear black and take measures to conceal their identity.  Chomsky said, “what they do is often wrong in principle – like blocking talks – and [the movement] is generally self-destructive.”  “When confrontation shifts to the arena of violence, it’s the toughest and most brutal who win – and we know who that is,”

So, it would seem that Chomsky and Hedges, who cites this interview, believe that the antifa use of violence is not the correct course of action.  The counterpoint to their assertion comes in with

     “One crucial question in this regard is why the conversation about violence that is continually re-staged in the media overwhelmingly focuses on tactics of resistance by the underclasses. Among those who are vociferously proclaiming a pure form of “non-violence” as an unquestionable moral principle, who of them is arguing that this principle should be applied to the corporate state and all of its imperial endeavors? Alongside the countless statements reprimanding anti-capitalist activists for street scuffles, where are the articles calling for the dismantling of the military-industrial complex, the dissolution of the police force, or the abolition of the prison system? Why isn’t the debate around non-violence centered precisely on those who have all of the power and all of the weapons? Is it because violence has actually worked successfully in these cases to impose a very specific top-down agenda, which includes shutting out anyone who calls it into question, and diligently managing the perception of their actions? Is violence somehow acceptable here because it is the violence of the victors, who are the ones who presume to have the right—and in any case have the power—to define the very nature of violence (as anything that threatens them)?

     Clearly, the fetishization of non-violence is reserved for the actions of the underlings. They are the ones who, again and again, are told that they must be civil (and are never sufficiently so), and that the best way to attain their objectives is by obeying the moral dictates of those above. Let us recall, in this light, James Baldwin’s powerful statement in the context of the black liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s: “The only time non-violence is admired is when the Negroes practice it.”

So, what is the answer here?  How effective will violent leftist action be, and will the backlash further empower state repression?   Will the backlash continue to inoculate the citizenry with fear of violent ‘leftist violence’ thus justifying an increase in state use of coercive and repressive force against the left even though the initiators of said violence (aka the proto-fascist/nationalist Right in the US) are ultimately responsible for the situation in question?

 

  Interesting article from the folks over at JSTOR.

 

     “According to Willinsky, “The schooled representation of meaning sets language in the hands of those who hold the proper definitions.” In other words, appeals to the dictionary serve a political purpose; they preserve existing power structures, and fortify the way things are at the expense of the way things can be.

     It can appear trivial to expend so much energy on worrying about how we speak, because speech seems less tangible than physical action. But definitions always matter. In the judicial system, for example, they are key in assigning blame. The “reasonable person” standard is applied in self-defense cases to determine culpability; in this context, “reasonable” means average, ordinary. As legal scholar Jody David Armour writes in Negrophobia and Reasonable Racism, this definition of reasonable “takes the merely typical and contingent and presents it as truth and morality, objectively construed,” a pretty low bar for justice. Consider how a “rational person” test or an “omniscient person” test might change the meaning of criminality.

     Similarly, there was a time in the American South when blackness, that thing that determined where one could eat, drink, and sit, was codified into law as having “one drop” of black blood. And migrants fleeing violence in Central America are rarely granted asylum in the United States because of the legal definition of “refugee.” There are profound consequences from definitions, and they should not be ceded to the staff of a reference book.

     Even words without legal import can hold incredible power. Speech can’t bruise skin, but it can break a spirit. Is a feeling any less real because it happens “under the hood?” Is heartbreak not real pain? Why do we describe hurtful words as a punch to the gut or a slap to the face? For so long, the free speech debate has been built upon an incoherent premise: that speech is powerful enough to solve social ills, but can’t inflict as much damage as a fist.

     When is speech violence? It depends on how we define it. If we define violence as a physical act, then speech is never violence. If we choose to define violence as causing harm to a person, then speech is often violence. If we choose to define violence as intentionally causing harm, then sometimes speech is violence.

     If there is to be one takeaway from the work of Wittgenstein, it’s that nothing is essential in language. He spent his entire life feeling around for the atoms of speech, only to discover that he was grasping at an illusion. Language is what we say, what we mean, and what we understand—different meanings for different people in different contexts.”

Interesting stuff.  I think I’ll have to read some more Wittgenstein.

CJ Hopkins writes a polemic about one of the themes that crops up in leftist literature.  The elite, who are our real enemies (of the common people) will employ just about any set of tactics to keep the populace engaged in harmless activity.  Bread and circuses if you will.

The marriage of politics and power is nothing new.  Yet we get hyperbolic essays like the one Hopkins’ penned for Counterpunch.

 

     “See, up to now, the dilemma we’ve been facing (or some of us have been facing, anyway) is how to respond to the ruling establishment’s concerted campaign to “regime-change” Trump. On the one hand, Trump is a living embodiment of everything the Left opposes. On the other hand, going after Trump has meant carrying water for the fake Resistance, i.e., that global corporatocracy (which, by the way, does not mean “the Jews.” I always like to slip that in to piss off my anti-Semitic readers.) This has been a bit awkward for some of us, restraining our impulse to stick it to Trump (at least on whatever talking points the Resistance is currently putting out) because in doing so we would align ourselves with the ruling establishment’s attempt to demonize, and eventually depose an American president who isn’t playing ball with them properly. If we oppose regime change in other countries, shouldn’t we also oppose it at home? Or do the ruling classes get a pass this time because Trump is such an exceptional monster? But wait … wasn’t Saddam a monster? And Gaddafi? And all the other “Hitlers” that wouldn’t play ball with the corporatocracy? And Assad? Isn’t he a monster?

     You can see how confusing all this gets … when you’re trying to figure out how to oppose both the supranational corporatocracy that is superseding sovereign nations as the hegemonic power in the world and the neo-nationalist reaction against it, which is essentially fascist in nature, and which the corporatocracy also opposes … and desperately wants you to help them oppose by buying their manufactured hysteria about Russians, or Nazis, or whatever scary monster they wave in front of your face. After a while, your brain starts to hurt, and you just want someone to make things simple.

     Charlottesville Nazis to the rescue! How much simpler could it possibly get? Corporatocracy? What corporatocracy? We got goddamned Nazis coming out of the woodwork! Racist Nazis! Confederate Nazis! Nazi apologists! Nazi sympathizers! This is no time to worry about who’s actually wielding political power, or how they’re manufacturing hysteria and otherwise manipulating people (not you, of course … other people). No, what we need to do now is censor the Internet, and other venues for Nazi hate speech, and round up all these racist Nazis and subject them to anti-Nazi therapy, or anti-racist empathy programs, or just gang up on them and beat them senseless.

   OK, sure, that might sound extreme, or authoritarian, or just plain old creepy, but keep in mind that This Is Not Normal! And racism and Naziism is very, very bad. And Love Trumps Hate! And Scope Kills Germs! And we never literally meant that Trump was an actual Russian agent or anything. Forget about all that Russia stuff now. Trump is Hitler. Trump has always been Hitler. America has always been at war with Hitler. America will always be at war with Hitler.”

So what if the shadow elites are orchestrating the rise of token fascist groups in the US?  This evasion is still elevating the consciousness of people who were otherwise indisposed to think about, much less act on a political impulse.

If these are the machinations of the supranational corporatocracy it would seem that their plan has more than a few flaws because galvanizing people into action, even the against token enemies of the state, is still awakening people from their political slumber.

 

Paul Street writing for Counterpunch. :

“The Republican deal with the Trump phenomenon has always been based on opportunism. The Trumpenstein’s growingly evident status as an irreversibly deadly liability for the Republican agenda could make it easy for top GOP players to unsheathe their knives and sink them into the president’s back.

With Trump having already exasperated numerous key players in the nation’s corporate and financial ruling class, military command, and major party elite, it’s not inconceivable that he could get flown off the White House grounds for good before January 20, 2021 – through impeachment and Senate removal, resignation, or even (the last likely mode of removal) 25th Amendment removal (on grounds of incompetence).  He’s toxic bad for the national brand – an emperor with no convincing democratic or humanitarian clothes to cloak the ugly imperial and capitalist nakedness of the American System.

Trump smells too much of neo-fascism – a clownish and highly venal version, to be sure – for the tastes and needs of the U.S, ruling class. He’s not how the American wealth and power elite rolls. If the U.S. is “fascist,” its fascism cooks on a low flame and small burner. It exhibits a distinctly “inverted” (demobilized and neoliberal, plutocratic, “market”-mediated and corporate-managed) form of the disease. To say this, however is not to praise to the contemporary U.S., with its vicious, eco-cidal ruling class and its reigning sociopathic institutions. Under the “inverted totalitarianism” (U.S. political scientist Sheldon Wolin’s term) that is 21st century America’s “corporate-managed democracy” (Wolin again), many of the basic objectives of fascism – the defeat of unions and the working class, the degradation of democracy, the enforcement of hierarchy and savage inequality, racial subordination, the marginalization of the Left, racial divide and rule, militarization of society, and permanent arms and war economy – are achieved without the discomfort and uncertainly imposed by barking dictators, and marching, torch-carrying brown-shirts. Chilling as it may sound to say, fascism would be redundant in the United States today. The U.S. ruling class doesn’t need it. It doesn’t need Dear Leader authoritarians even just of the dog-whistle variety. It gets the same results with a different – more atomized, privatized, apathetic, consumerized, and “inverted” – model of authoritarian rule, one that makes an insistent and deceptive claim to be a great force for modern Western democracy, Enlightenment values (even if U.S. presidents end every major speech with “God Bless America”), and freedom at home and abroad.”

How long can this go on?  I’m really not sure.  The dumpster fire that is the 45th presidency seems to have a bad case of inception-itis – the administration seems to be one version or another of a dumpster on fire all the way down.

    The election of the Republican candidate Donald Trump has really screwed the American society up.   The 45th POTUS whose actions and policies that can only be described as ignorant ineptitude has brought the United States to the brink of a major societal schism between a substantial group of alienated, antediluvian, racist white nationalists and those who believe in a heterogeneous, pluralistic society.

Anyone remotely familiar with the workings of American society knows that race and racism play a major role in shaping how cultural and social decisions are made.   What has been, until recently, described as the undercurrent of systemic racism in the US now dominates the front pages of the various US media conglomerates.

Demonstrations and counter-demonstrations, along with the associated violence, are cropping up from coast to coast in the US.  The racism that had been just below the surface in US society has arisen to dominate the news cycle and has taken hold  in the American societal consciousness.   This resurgence of this overtly racist behaviour stems directly from the current republican administration’s seemingly tacit endorsement of white nationalism/white supremacist attitudes and opinions.  This support/lack of censure from the White House has emboldened the once submerged racist elements in US society to once again walk in the sunlight and publicly make their point of view known.

That people somehow believe that the colour of their skin makes them special somehow in this day and age is quite beyond me, yet the racism that informs the current white supremacist movement is the very same racism that has been woven into the fabric of our societies.  The current turmoil in the US is a testament to the lack of effective measures against the systemic racism in society.  Oh, one most certainly acknowledge that there are laws now and many a policy that are meant to address racism and, of course, are moves in the right direction.   But, marginal moves in the right direction are not enough.  Not addressing the root causes of the racism that infects US (and Canadian) society will only ensure continued conflict over the issue of race in society.

The solutions for tackling racism in society are quite beyond the scope of a short essay, but I do want to offer one insight that might help in tackling the racism problem our societies face.  What I’d like to highlight is the divide and conquer strategy that has been used by the elites in society from pretty much time immemorial till the present to keep the poor classes fighting amongst themselves.  Poor whites and poor blacks inhabit the same economic class, yet the poor whites in the US have been given structural societal benefits to ever so slightly improve their lot in life, and of course with their ‘improved’ lot they have also been given a scapegoat/bogeyman  (the poor black population) to blame for their problems and to be afraid of.

Thus, the poor fight themselves, and not the actual root of the problem – the rich elites who have crafted this inherently unequal society – so the system that feeds and encourages structural racism can continue unabated while the ‘poors’ cut their own throats for the scraps that the wealthy leave behind (and of course the boons of society continue to go to the ‘correct’ classes).

Of course we must continue to confront and fight the current racism that has raised its ugly head in society, but I think we should also be looking for the root causes of these divisions, such as the elite’s divide and conquer strategy, and address those issues as well.

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