Tag Archives: obama

Obama and the Free Press, or, Why Are Pigeons Everywhere

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by Guy Walker

After half an hour of comic relapses and festal banter at last week’s Correspondents’ Dinner, President Obama broke into a ten minute eulogy about the importance of a free press. It was serious, heartfelt, earning applause and an agreeable rhythm of nodding heads, everyone concluding that indeed they and Obama are essentially a single effulgent team of transparency and courage. Obama reassured the audience (which consisted of reporters, actors, and Kendall Jenner), “Our free press is why we once again recognize the real journalists who uncover the horrifying scandal and brought some measure of justice to thousands of victims throughout the world.” Maybe they’re a little tough on Obama sometimes, he later referred to, but this is testament to a healthy potent democracy. He can jab at them, they can jab at him, and consequently, they are the freest most sterling State in the world.

But there’s a problem. During Obama’s presidency, more whistleblowers and official leakers have been prosecuted under the 1917 Espionage Act than during all previous presidents combined. The Espionage Act was of course proposed by then President Woodrow Wilson, shortly after the US entry into World War I, in order to wage a war on spies. But under Obama’s watch, they were whistleblowers, not spies. There was Thomas Drake, a former senior executive at the NSA, who shared classified information with the press regarding the warrantless surveillance of American citizens. Stephen Jin-Woo Kim was a nuclear proliferation specialist working for the State Department, and handed intelligence about North Korea over to Fox News. John Kiriakou, a former CIA agent, gave journalists the names of two colleagues who used waterboarding to interrogate detainees. Shami Leibowitz, a former FBI Hebrew translator, leaked FBI wiretaps of the Israeli embassy to a blogger. Chelsea Manning leaked 700,000 government documents to Wikileaks, the most notable of which was a video of American Apache helicopters killing a dozen innocents, including two Reuters reporters and then the first responders. Jeffrey Sterling, also a former CIA officer, leaked classified information to a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. Edward Snowden, of course, handed a mass of data on the NSA surveillance program over to Glenn Greenwald. Again, the 1917 Espionage Act was designed to prosecute spies—those, as Woodrow Wilson stated, who were “born under other flags”—not those who handed information over to journalists about the scandalous and sometimes nefarious work of their own government.

But President Obama continued, personally commending Jason Rezaian, the Iranian-American journalist who wrote for The Washington Post, who was jailed for nearly two years on accusations of espionage: “Last time this year we spoke of Jason’s courage as he endured the isolation of an Iranian prison. This year we see that courage in the flesh, and it’s living testament to the very idea of a free press, and a reminder of the rising level of danger and political intimidation and physical threats faced by reporters overseas. And I can make this commitment that as long as I hold this office, my administration will continue to fight for the release of American journalists held against their will, and we will not stop until they see the same freedom as Jason had.”

Supporting Rezaian’s release from an Iranian jail is obvious and banal. It’s political-speak, an easy reference that’s confident for a round of applause. What about other journalists? What about the case of Yemeni investigative journalist, Abdulelah Haider Shaye?

Shaye discovered that a remote village in Yemen was bombed by US-made Tomahawk missiles and cluster bombs (neither of which were a part of the Yemeni military’s arsenal), killing fourteen women and twenty-one children, and quite possibly not a single AQAP (Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula) operative. And yet Shaye was consequently imprisoned under suspicious circumstances. After a sham trial, Shaye’s supporters pressured the Yemeni government to release him, and he was set to be pardoned; but on February 2, 2011, President Obama called Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and “expressed concern” over his release, resulting in the continued imprisonment of the journalist for exposing the US involvement in the bombing of a Yemeni village.

To Obama’s credit, he did specify that he would continue to fight for American journalists, not Yemeni. But this is clearly not a matter of a truly free press, but rather that of political clout. The rule is: if you matter enough, we won’t prosecute you. David Patraeus, for example, gave his biographer and lover Paula Broadwell notebooks full of classified information, but was merely charged with a misdemeanor. Former CIA director and defense secretary Leon Panetta allowed Zero Dark Thirty filmmakers access to the savory details about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011. It’s the same reason President Obama never even sought prosecution of the major bankers responsible for the 2008 financial collapse, why former Attorney General Eric Holder admitted “some of these institutions [become] so large that it does become difficult to prosecute them,” only to return to the corporate law firm Covington & Burling immediately following his tenure with the Obama administration. Abacus Federal Savings Bank, an insignificant family-owned bank in New York’s Chinatown, jammed between two noodle shops, was the only bank indicted. It’s the same reason four Blackwater mercenaries were finally sentenced last year for the Nisour Square massacre, but the founder of the company, Erik Prince, will likely never be held accountable. Or why the guards at Abu Ghraib were sentenced for their torture methods but Donald Rumsfeld was not. There is priority and privilege at work. To be a significant enough of a player is to work with almost complete impunity.

Unfortunately, this is nothing new. And the problem surely doesn’t entirely fall onto Obama’s shoulders. It was here all along.

In a lecture Noam Chomsky gave on March 15, 1989, entitled “Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media,” he spoke of two very different, yet strikingly similar cases of freedom of the press. The first being the famous case of Salman Rushdie and his novel Satanic Verses. At the time, then Supreme Leader of Iran issued a fatwa calling for the death of Rushdie and his publishers for printing such beastly words. A couple days before Chomsky’s lecture, the Prime Minister of Iran proposed that a compromise could be made, and if all of the copies of the heinous book were to be burned then the fatwa would presumably be revoked.

The second case Chomsky referred to was one that he was personally involved in. A book he co-authored in 1974 with Edward Herman (who also co-authored the book Manufacturing Consent with Chomsky) about American foreign policy and mass media, was published by a subsidiary of Warner Communications Incorporated. When an executive at Warner saw he book, he disliked it so much he responded by pulping not just all 20,000 copies that were published, but all books published by that subsidiary, ending the company entirely. Chomsky grimly jokes that the only difference between the Rushdie case and his own is that Warner actually carried it out.

A free press is always in jeopardy by its own limitations, by the actors of secrets, power, and worship. This is larger than President Obama. Hegel’s dialectical “power of negation” is clearly at work—that is, opposites do not cancel or neutralize each other, but rather develop into one another until they are both monstrous bodies of unrecognizable flesh. The more whistleblowers there are exposing its governments’ various libidinal affairs with autocracy, the more the government will crack down on whistleblowers, and the more whistleblowers will counter and expose. And on and on, until there is nothing left but beige flattened forms of scandal, and the rest of us just a herd of troglodytic squatters on American soil. It’s the free press that lets us live, the free press that lets us breed and spread across the universe. Kendall Jenner and Will Smith applauding that liberty is still with us. It takes us back to the old question: why are pigeons everywhere if they’re so stupid? Because they love trash.

When We Sing, When We Throw Stones

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It seems like we’re on the edge now. A teetering fragility of peace, everyone at their respective political rallies—either there in support or there in protest—everyone frothing at the mouth, eager for a good excuse to stab each other in the throat. Every day there’s another viral video of Trump supporters mobbing a protester, and Trump himself cheering them on—bucktoothed white men draped in camo-gear attack a black man, or huddle around a Muslim woman and call her a whore, or punch a songbird, or claw at sunsets, or eat cereal bowls filled with pinecones and Natural Ice. They salute their blotchy-skinned leader by uniformly rubbing their crotches. And all hell breaks loose.

The Trump rally in Chicago that was canceled last week is testament to the cowing tribalism in and around politics these days; it’s more of a foreshadowing of the violence to come, just another transitory episode in the evolutionary buildup of street gangs killing each other over heteronomous trade deals, who’s leader has better hair, and the lawfulness of a penis touching another man’s butthole. The spurious autoschediasticism of the protest ended in very minor clashes  .  .  .  little blood was actually drawn, but there was lots of yelling and name calling, with Trump finally declaring that his freedom of speech was hijacked. Many Bernie campaign posters were seen at the demonstration, but Sanders himself quickly denied any involvement. Hillary Clinton condemned the protest by tweeting the old adage, ‘Violence has no place in politics.’ Even Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted ‘People who are anti-Trump are actually anti-Trump supporters—they oppose free citizens voting for the @realDonaldTrump.’ The only reason for writing out someone’s Twitter handle is in the hope that they will read it and retweet it. Not that the pop star astrophysicist is necessarily a Trump supporter, but he is trying to make some sort of vague taxonomical clarification, maybe striking the flint of the dialectic, a baseless claim that protesting against a wistfully nostalgic form of imperialism is an offense to freedom itself.

Hillary Clinton pointed to the families of the Charleston, South Carolina victims from last year’s shooting, They “came together and melted hearts in the statehouse,” she said. In her eyes, we should melt Donald Trump’s barely beating heart into a bloody fondu of love and youth. If you see a woman being raped on the street, you should protest peacefully, from the other side of the street, of course, making sure you stay on the sidewalk.

The epistemological axiom that “violence has no place in politics” is a queer Democritean slogan, something that dismisses the entire historical resumé of politics. At the end of Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, a Win/Gallup poll declared the United States as the greatest threat to peace in the world. In the 1980’s, Clinton supported the Contra insurgency into Nicaragua. She supported invasions of Haiti in 1994, Bosnia in 1995, and Kosovo in 1999. In her words, she “urged [Bill] to bomb” Yugoslavia. She voted for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and backed the US-backed Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 2006, and later the US bombing of Libya, creating the power vacuum that allowed ISIS to overtake the country. In other words, violence has everything to do with politics, as long as you are rich while doing it. It’s the same reason a black woman can go to prison for 12 years for a little baggie of weed, but when HSBC launders billions of dollars to Columbian and Mexican drug cartels, no one sees a single day behind bars.

There is something pedantic and selectively fussy about claiming that “violence has no place in politics.” It clearly does. The question is, what part do we as regular citizens play in the arena of political violence?

Take a look at Black Lives Matters, for instance, who made a strong presence at the Chicago rally. Black Lives Matters was formed for the same reason as when the Black Panther Party was created back in 1966: they were both a response to unchecked police brutality against black kids. But the Black Panthers initially began with armed citizen patrols, monitoring the activity and behavior of Oakland’s police officers. Black women with afros would stand on the streets with rifles. Panther leaders were assassinated or falsely charged with murder. J. Edgar Hoover called the party “the greatest threat to the internal security of the country.” Black Lives Matters, on the other hand, barges into libraries and chants its club’s name into the ears of students studying innocently. There was the Weather Underground, formed in 1969, as a radical left-wing faction of the Students for a Democratic Society, in support of the Black Panthers and other militant left-wing groups. Its core principle was a militant opposition to the Vietnam War, as it initiated actions intended to “Bring the War Home.” They broke Dr. Timothy Leary out of prison. They bombed government buildings and banks, they initiated the “Days of Rage” riots in Chicago, and issued a “Declaration of a State of War” against the United States government. There is widespread belief that Martin Luther King could not have achieved what he is attributed with if it were not for Malcolm X’s more militant approach. When antiwar protestors grew by the thousands outside of Nixon’s White House, President Nixon turned to Henry Kissinger in fear, asking for assurance that they wouldn’t break through the fence. When then President George W. Bush was asked what he thought about the antiwar demonstrations outside his White House, he skillfully responded that they pleased him—the evidentiary freedom of speech that American citizens have is why we were going to war, he said, so the Iraqis will one day have the same. Where are Brutus and Cassius? Where is the emerald sword that can pierce the sky? The ennui of our passivity is the force that doesn’t actually want to change anything. It organizes marches, waves banners around, and chants its cheerleader haikus  .  .  .  but we know this is merely for the ends of self-congratulation. We know we are merely swirling our farts in the wind, cheering each other on, finally flirting with women who proudly show off their armpit hair.

In Walter Benjamin’s Critique on Violence, the state needs and creates the conditions for a monopoly on violence. “Violence, when not in the hands of the law, threatens [the law] not by the ends it may pursue but by its mere existence outside the law.” The antipodal fringe barricades itself against the powers of the state through what is termed Divine Violence—that inevitable reactionary force, preserving the gorgeous brawn of the sovereign. It is completely “law-destroying,” completely at odds with the systemic coercion of the state. It’s merely and wholely a strike at power, to value justice and principle over the law. Slavoj Žižek sees divine violence as an inevitable response against the superstructure. Men ought to scare where they must. But even the so-called radical Left today feels it should disassociate itself with the Jacobin paradigm. In Žižek’s Robespierre of the “Divine Violence” of Terror, he writes, “what the sensitive liberals want is a decaffeinated revolution, a revolution that doesn’t smell of revolution.”

Donald Trump was rightly criticized for saying he would kill the family members of terrorists. This is dangerous talk. The problem is that Barack Obama already has. In a drone attack, 16-year-old American-born son of Anwar Al-Awalki was killed, and Obama has never answered questions addressing this. This is perhaps more dangerous, for the left slowly accepts that this is just the way things work. In an interview with CNN, Trump warned of riots if the Republican Party handed the nomination to another candidate. “I think you’d have riots,” he said. “I’m representing many, many millions of people  .  .  .  Bad things would happen.”

The Chicago protests were a glimpse of what could be, however grand and gorgeous and tragic. I don’t know. I’m too drunk to tell anymore. All I know is there is too much light, too much life to tell anymore. Too much everything. All it is is just an eruption of stars and worlds.

Donald Trump and the Edacity for World Peace

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(Boy with Machine, by Richard Lindner, 1954)

What does it mean that Donald Trump was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize?

He is after all, for the moment at least, hoisted alongside the unshaking sentry of greats who were also nominated. The Afghan women’s cycling team. Nadia Murad, the Yazidi woman who escaped ISIS and now champions the rights of its rape victims. The Greek islanders who were on the frontlines of the refugee crisis. There is, of course, the climate-conscious sympathizer of Kim Davis, the man who makes Catholicism cool again, Pope Saint Francis. But the Donald’s impulsive pirouettes of new-age provincialism, his queer Falstaffian populism, was expectedly more controversial than the other candidates. Twitter erupted into its ordinary stammering frenzy, like a single organism, everyone tweeting their miniaturized bursts of rage, everyone threatening the peace. They threatened to trash their iPhones, to leave the country, to leave the planet entirely.

But the outrage that is associated with Trump’s nomination is a superficial outrage, a bit of theater that is meant solely for its social brownie points. It’s something akin to publicly and loudly hating Walter Palmer for killing Cecil, the lion. It’s mostly spectacle, cherry-picking the trendiest things to scorn. When 5,000 children die everyday because of contaminated water, despising a white man for killing a lion is selective self-important rage. Trump is easy to mock; it’s the machine that is left unchallenged.

Trump was nominated for “his vigorous peace through strength ideology, used as a threat weapon of deterrence against radical Islam, ISIS, nuclear Iran and Communist China.” In other words, Trump’s threats have begun to dissipate the storm. He is the dove in the nuclear winter, flying weightlessly above the deserted fields. This is the age when it’s the threat of violence that brings world peace—the same logic that is applied to Russia and the United States pointing nuclear missiles at each other, resulting in drunkenness and laughter.

The Swedish armaments manufacturer Alfred Nobel created the Peace Prize specifically for those who have “done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.” Trump may seem like an unusual nomination, but the history of Nobel Peace Prize winners is riddled with scandal.

Cordell Hull, Secretary of State under President Franklin Roosevelt, won in 1945 as one of the founders of the United Nations. But he also pressured Roosevelt to turn around a ship of 950 Jewish refugees that was meant to land on U.S. soil. Roosevelt did so, and many of the Jews consequently died in the Holocaust. There was of course Henry Kissinger who won in 1973 alongside Lê Đức Thọ, then leader of North Vietnam, for the Paris Peace Accords. Lê Đức Thọ declined the prize, admitting there was no peace, but Kissinger had the gall to accept it, arguably as the most nefarious war criminal in U.S. history. Mother Teresa won in 1979, but she famously relished in people’s suffering, and severely opposed the empowerment of women, calling all abortion “the greatest destroyer of peace.” Yassar Arafat was one of three recipients in 1994, but was intimately involved in three decades of terrorism with the Palestinian Liberation Organization. And, of course, President Obama won in 2009. That is, before he bombed at least seven predominately Muslim countries, and attacking more whistleblowers than every other U.S. president combined. And while Obama has been criticized by many for being much more hawkish than the antiwar platform he supposedly ran on, he was very clear from the beginning that if elected President he would expand the military. In his April 2007 speech before the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, he vowed to build a military that would launch us into the future, expanding American ground forces, adding 65,000 soldiers to the Army and 27,000 to the Marines. Yes, he voted against the Iraq war, but he called it a “strategic blunder,” a mere mistake within the whole of unquestioned autocratic ideology.

A headline that reads “Donald Trump is nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize” may at first cause you to think it’s from The Onion, or some obvious piece of satire; but the Orwellian reality of our day-to-day has become so redundant, so trivial in its perverse ubiquity, that it’s barely even news. It’s a shrug of the mundane. A fart in the smoggy storm. An April 2014 study by Princeton and Northwestern universities found that the United States is not a democracy, but an oligarchy, controlled almost entirely by the economic elite. But the striking part to this is found on the comments section on The Telegraph website, where the article is published. The majority of the comments are a mere shrug of the shoulders, people responding with, “This is not news,” or “Related news: the sky is blue.” When the United States bombs a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan, it’s merely collateral damage. When the NSA spies on Americans, it’s been obvious all along. Trump is more popular to mock because he has all the right qualities of entertainment.

He has revolutionized the machine of peace and desire. His nomination as a Nobel Peace Prize candidate is an evolutionary notch in the standard of modernity, a kind of sexual triumph in itself. Trump himself has made this possible. But how? Is it from the blanched hollow circles around his eyes, caused by the space glasses he wears in his gilded tanning booth? Is it because he uses undocumented workers to construct the various golden phalluses in major cities in the U.S.? Is it because he admitted he’d fuck his daughter if he was allowed? Are we reading Freud? The Oedipal Complex says that all children desire their parent of the opposite sex during the phallic stage (the third of five stages, occurring between the ages of three and six) of their psychosexual development. But Trump has reversed the roles of desire: he wants to fuck his daughter. And he admitted it on The View. But Trump isn’t satisfied with a shallow reversal of the Oedipus contract. He’s sent a hellfire missile of sensualizing doves into the future of “fraternity and peace congresses.” His idea of role play has completely overturned what was initially expected.

So what exactly is Donald Trump? He might just be a caricature of great psychoanalytical importance. The Nobel Peace Prize is the phallus of the absurd, the modern prize for war criminals and aspiring fascists.

In Anti-Oedipus, published in 1972, French authors Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari analyze the relationship between desire and capitalist society. The libidinal investments of desire, they conclude, are redirected from the family to the social machine. Donald Trump may as well be the boy in Richard Lindner’s painting “Boy with Machine” (1954). In the painting, a pink porcine child with bulging hips and cankles stands self-importantly in front of a machine. He has completely surpassed the Oedipal Complex. He no longer desires to overcome his father, no longer wants to fuck his mother. According to Deleuze and Guttari, “the turgid little boy has already plugged a desiring-machine into a social machine, short-circuiting the parents.”

Perhaps as a little boy, Donald Trump wanted to be more successful than his father; but he has since evolved from that simple primordial instinct. His perverse metamorphosis out of the Oedipal Complex is akin to giving the Nobel Peace Prize to war criminals—it’s gross, but totally avant-garde.

Donald Trump should absolutely win the Nobel Peace Prize. He, more than any other, personifies the phallus of the absurd.

The TPP is a World of Shit

by Guy Walker

GH-Mudbath

I sung of Chaos and Eternal Night,

Taught by the heav’nly Muse to venture down

The dark descent, and up to reascend…”

John Milton, Paradise Lost

On these typical days in late Spring, before the sun burns the geraniums, before the squirrels bark at me for their morning ration of peanuts, before the school children run off with their huge backpacks and their quivering knees, I rub my eyes awake and sigh deeply, wishing my kitten was still alive. It rained a long violent storm last night, soaking the brittle hills, knocking off a songbird’s eggs into the garden, making the midnight couples feel extra cozy and romantic. A SWAT team invaded an old lady’s house during the thunder. A raccoon had babies, and tried to keep them warm under a large rosemary bush. An overweight businessman drove to a motel to see his mistress. And the sky cracked, pouring over all of Los Angeles. But the morning was a flirtish scenery of gold coruscating air, every flower petal on ecstasy, my regret of alcohol fading away because at least I had a garden. I walk out onto the patio in my Christmas underwear, drinking a lukewarm Americano, and I play my turns on a few different online chess games I’m playing on my smartphone. I scroll through my Facebook feed. I scroll through my Instagram feed. I sigh again, eat three slices of bacon and lick the dust from a Rolls Royce mirror, and I read through the World News and Today I Learned and the Ask Historian’s section on Reddit. Mad Max: Fury Road is opening. I wish I had hair like Bernie Sanders. But one story has caught my attention: the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It is going to fuck everyone and everything  .  .  .  every cornflake-infested child will either become a beggar or a nihilist because of it.

I used to blame my alcoholism on my ex-girlfriend breaking up with me, then I blamed it on baby seals being mauled to a pulp in the Arctic, then I blamed it on hydraulic fracking poisoning our water supply, but now I blame it on the TPP. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, the worst so-called free trade agreement in the history of mankind. It threatens every environmental, health, climate, and labor policy in the Pacific Rim, and therefore the world. This isn’t an opinion piece, it’s all fact.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a proposed so-called free trade accord between the U.S. and eleven other Pacific Rim countries, encompassing 800 million people, about a third of world trade, and nearly forty percent of the global economy. It’s larger than NAFTA, larger than the WTO, and it wants to fuck everyone harder than all previous so-called trade agreements ever have. Most of the content of the agreement has been discussed behind closed doors, between more than 600 corporate adviser’s, from such decency as Boeing, Monsanto, Halliburton, and Lockheed Martin. Congress itself is more or less left in the dark on what exactly the TPP fully entails. For example, members of Congress are allowed to read one chapter at a time (there are twenty-nine chapters in total, only eight of which actually discuss trade, the others of which involve limitations regarding environmental and climate policy, food safety, financial regulation, or the ever-changing corporate power structure), of which they may not take notes, photos, or even talk afterwards about what they read. In contrast, in 2001 during one of several NAFTA expansions, the Bush administration published the full draft of the agreement on the government’s official websites. The Obama administration is pushing to “fast track” the measure, meaning very limited debate on the House floor.

The Nobel Prize winning economist, and former Chair of President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers, Joseph Stiglitz, is one of the most important opponents of the TPP. He was a champion of NAFTA, and has since denounced that it was ever a good idea in the first place. Regarding the TPP, he explains:

“Fundamental to America’s system of government is an impartial public judiciary, with legal standards built up over the decades, based on principles of transparency, precedent, and the opportunity to appeal unfavorable decisions. All of this is being set aside, as the new agreements call for private, non-transparent, and very expensive arbitration. Moreover, this arrangement is often rife with conflicts of interest; for example, arbitrators may be a “judge” in one case and an advocate in a related case.”

What Stiglitz is referring to is a section in the draft known as Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), which allows corporations to directly sue governments—including the U.S. government—if a government’s regulatory laws limit a corporation’s profits. The example most often given is cigarette laws. If cigarette’s are labeled with a warning that they may kill you, Philip Morris or any other may take suit, with the claim that they lost future profits because of a country’s labeling laws. This “investor-state” system has already forced taxpayers to pay more than $440 million to corporations for various profit obstructions, including toxic bans, water and timber policies, and land-use laws. At the same time, more than $34 billion remains pending in corporate claims or suits in the U.S. alone. If this isn’t fucked up enough, in the secret tribunals where these lawsuits made by the corporations against the countries take place, typically three corporate attorneys act as judges and then may rotate in the next case as the prosecuting attorneys. Of all the praetorian fuckery that haunts this awful planet, a corporate-run justice system is the fetid leaking ulcer of fairness. The TPP is a more caliginous girning character than the Old Testament god  .  .  .  it doesn’t even have a face when it smites you for liking dolphins or wanting a glass of drinking water that won’t kill you.

Everyone knows that corporations are obviously people now, but they’re faceless demonic people with heavy constipated breath. Just this week, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays, and the Royal Bank of Scotland, will pay more than $5 billion in a settlement for pleading guilty in a currency rigging scandal, but no actual person with a face and sociopathic tendencies will ever face a day in prison. Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase Chief Executive, was given a 74 percent raise to $20 million after he fucked everything up back in 2008. Just this week, the GOP blocked legislation presented by Senator Elizabeth Warren that would require public disclosure of the trade agreements before they get “fast track” status. You might ask yourself why anyone would want to block transparency of a trade agreement that promises jobs and money and stuff. But then you laugh with a nearly empty champagne glass in your hand, and remember that everyone on Capital Hill is 69ing with the banks and the corporations. The Intercept reported on this a little more articulately, exposing one of many revolving doors between business and policy:

“— Sharon Bomer Lauritsen, the assistant U.S. trade representative for agricultural affairs, recently lobbied for the Biotechnology Industry Organization, a trade group for biotech companies. Lauritsen’s financial disclosure form shows she made $320,193 working to influence “state, federal and international governments” on biotech patent and intellectual property issues. She worked for BIO as an executive vice president through April of 2011, before joining the Trade Representative office.

— Christopher Wilson, the deputy chief of mission to the World Trade Organization, recently worked for C&M International, a trade consulting group, where he represented Chevron, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, British American Tobacco, General Electric, Apple and other corporate interests. Wilson’s financial disclosure shows he made $250,000 a year, in addition to an $80,000 bonus in 2013, before he joined the Obama administration. Wilson left C&M International in February of 2014 and later joined the Trade Representative’s office. C&M Internationalreportedly lobbied Malaysia, urging it to oppose tobacco regulations in Australia.

— Robert Holleyman, the deputy United States trade representative, previously worked as the president of the Business Software Alliance, a lobbying group that represents IBM, Microsoft, Adobe, Apple and other technology companies seeking to strengthen copyright law. Holleyman earned $1,141,228 at BSA before his appointment. Holleyman was nominated for his current position in February of last year.”

What the Trans-Pacific Partnership could do here for example—because Sharon Lauritsen and Christopher Wilson both worked for biotech companies—is actually restrict the government’s regulation of drug pricing, as well as create new rules that would inhibit generic lower-priced drugs from entering the market. Creating a monopoly essentially on an entire industry. Akin to when Texas banned the sale of Teslas. Here are some of the most fervent advocates of the free market actually killing the free market through a highjacking of the legal justice system. In his Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, David Hume writes, “public utility is the sole origin of justice.” Government, Hume argues, is not an agreed upon social contract, and by no means is built from an instinctual moral obligation to act on what is best for the people, but rather through force and submission it achieves its order. Why do the extremely rich and corrupt want even more of it, why they aren’t yet satisfied in their cold hell. If all values are derived from the passions rather than from reason, as Hume argues, than the despondent fuckery of collecting immeasurable wealth is an unadulterated passion for the 600 corporate executives in charge of the text of the TPP, almost as much so as taking selfies is for James Franco. Any virtue, as Hume argues, must be “useful or agreeable to the person himself or to others.” A painful sense of guilt or disapproval evokes a vice, and therefore an injustice. But Wall Street clearly doesn’t have a utilitarian sense of economy. Their definition of virtue is a violent skullfucking of the planet. We are turning the clock back towards a more feudal desperate time, a time before Napoleon, before the social contract was declared for the common good.

As everyone knows, Napoleon legalized divorce, established legal equality (forbidding legal privileges based on one’s birth), allowed one’s freedom of religion, abolished feudalism, and established the now very popular Napoleonic Code, finally repealing all royal law. But none of those customs or laws are actually worth anything. You can’t sell freedom of religion quite in the same way that you can sell fraudulent loans.

The only thing left of Napoleon’s legacy is his penis. It’s true, Napoleon’s penis still taunts us, above ground, behind the dark fog, on this terraqueous masterpiece of human tragedy. Nearly two-hundred years after his doctor cut it off during his autopsy and gave it to a priest in Corsica, and after it has passed through the hands of several purposeless human beings as the temporary owners of the now shriveled scab, the chewed-up jerky that tried to hump its way to an already meaningless victory, Napoleon’s penis lies isolated from the man’s achievements, it’s present owner fielding offers as high as a hundred thousand dollars. Through the Trans-Pacific Partnership, we are returning to the feudal state, erecting the corporate advisers as the royal family. The once bold achievements of our leaders from the past—who paved the way for a democratic and free society—are dying. All that will remain are global trade agreements, orphans, dead whales, and Napoleon’s severed penis. And the sun will finally set.

Sources:

http://www.democracynow.org/2013/10/4/a_corporate_trojan_horse_obama_pushes

http://www.citizen.org/documents/press-release-fast-track-introduced-april-2015.pdf

http://www.citizen.org/tradewatch

http://www.citizen.org/investorcases

https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2015/04/16/tpp-revolving-door/

http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/30815-the-trojan-horse-president

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eric-zuesse/why-wont-obama-go-after_b_4661086.html

http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/articles/2014-01-24/dimon-gets-74-percent-raise-after-billions-in-fines

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/30947-matt-taibbi-world-s-largest-banks-admit-to-massive-global-financial-crimes-but-escape-jail-again

War is Peace and Kim Kardashian is Hot

by Guy Walker

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But, truly, I have wept too much! The Dawns are heartbreaking.
Every moon is atrocious and every sun bitter:
Sharp love has swollen me up with heady langours.
O let my keel split! O let me sink to the bottom! -Arthur Rimbaud

After the entropic fad of humanity has turned everything into chambers of ash and misery and something resembling Beyonce, I crawl out from the rubble, alone and slowly freezing into place, like a horrible and toothless David picking up his stone and sling  .  .  .  And the sky is so damn red I could almost throw up  .  .  .  “It won’t be long now,” I think to myself. I feel the lonely hubristic end  .  .  .  too bad, too bad, too bad. But wait! A rat limps by me, one last step, then quits. I grab him, his gaunt scarlet body clasped in my quivering hand. Thank god, I’ll last another day. But before I eat it, tail and teeth and all, I take a selfie with it, and then tag it #warispeace and #thankgoditsfriday.

No one is alive to realize it, but peace is what brought us to this torrential orgy of cockroaches, twinkies, dead bodies not wearing their clothes, B-rated horror complexes, and the other realities of nuclear winter. It’s because of peace that we love war, and it’s because of peace that we’re all going to die.

The Swedish armaments manufacturer Alfred Nobel created the five Nobel Prizes: one for achievements in Chemistry, one for Physics, one for Physiology or Medicine, one for Literature, and finally one for Peace—for those who have “done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.” Cordell Hull won the prize in 1945 as the father of the United Nations—but he also voiced “strong opposition” to a ship of 950 Jewish refugees docking on U.S. soil, pressuring Roosevelt to turn the ship around, which he did. Many of those passengers became victims of the Holocaust before Mr. Hull took his laurels. Henry Kissinger won in 1973 for the Paris Peace Accords—but as Nixon’s Secretary of State, he was greatly involved in the secret bombing campaign of North Vietnamese troops and Khmer Rouge from 1969 to 1975, as well as arming South American dictators carry out Operation Condor, kidnapping and murdering thousands, as well as supporting the Turkish Invasion of Cyprus, still considered by the international community to this day as the Republic of Cyprus occupied illegally by the Turkish forces. Mother Teresa won in 1979—but she believed suffering was a gift from God, and opposed the empowerment of women, calling abortion, “the greatest destroyer of peace.” Yasser Arafat won in 1994—he was involved in three decades of terrorism with the Palestinian Liberation Organization, as well as amassed over $1.3 billion while the economic conditions of the Palestinians continued to degrade. We’ve already reached the five year anniversary of Barack Obama’s 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, in which he won for his promotion of nuclear nonproliferation and for his “new climate” of global affairs, including mending U.S. relations with the Muslim world. To be exact, this “new climate” involves at least seven predominately Muslim countries in which President Obama has bombed during his presidency, as well as being the fourth consecutive U.S. President to bomb Iraq. After last week’s midterm election, Obama announced he would seek an Authorization for Use of Military Force from the new and cherubic Congress, which would authorize his killing campaign in Iraq and Syria. The Republican dominated Congress will find themselves in a difficult dialectic: they love killing Muslims, but they also love opposing anything President Obama offers. Which is more important? Yes, it may be a worn-out hoary pastime to blame Obama for the promotion of death and misery across the globe  .  .  .  but there is some evidence that suggests such a claim may be true—after all, he hired Jay Z and Beyonce to sing at his second-term inauguration, and he threatened the Jonas Brothers with predator drones in a piece of incredible nuanced slapstick. Because ultimately, Barack Obama is in pursuit of peace. And ultimately, he will achieve it.

In Oslo, where a spring rain can heal old people of ugliness, where the homeless have dental plans and beauticians, where an Audemars Piguet watch is an alright birthday present for a three-year old, and alcoholism is as good as happiness, the Nobel Committee has also determined that War IS Peace, and that you too can win an award for it. In his award speech, Barack Obama granted that “to say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism—it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.” But the “limits of reason” are only brief episodic limits, something akin to the self-correcting building blocks of science, in which reason alone may not resolve many torrential inquests today, but certainly through reason meaning will eventually emerge, even if it takes decades or centuries of the acquiring of knowledge to do so. The limits of reason, in the case of nuclear warfare, do not exist. In 1955, in midst of the Cold War, our most esteemed intellectuals gathered together to agree that creating weapons that could kill every human on the face of the planet was probably a bad idea. The Russell-Einstein Manifesto, written by Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein, both of whom won Nobel Prizes, in Literature and Physics respectively, and signed by eleven other preeminent intellectuals and scientists, essentially made the claim that nuclear annihilation was not good and we should avoid it if at all possible. The limits of reason then do not threaten our greatest intellectuals, nor do they threaten any three-year-old born with a normal capacity of common sense. But a third of Americans still reject evolution as a viable theory for the creation of life. There isn’t a single openly admitted atheist in Congress, but there have been hundreds of American federal politicians convicted of crimes throughout the course of American history, meaning it’s easier to obtain substantial degrees of power as a proven bag of shit than it is as a cogent secularist. The limits of reason then exist predominantly in normal adults—as torpid fleshy hominids sprawl across the once-pristine havens of the earth, declaring War IS Peace and Kim Kardashian is actually hot.

But President Obama is right about cynicism. Even very recent history suggests that cynicism does not in fact restore aberration to health. “Absurdity is Natural,” is America’s rallying cry. George Zimmerman, for example, the cheerless oleaginous bovine who was a failed insurance salesman and a neighborhood watch guy who killed a black kid for walking home, has started exercising his creative faculties. He painted an American flag that he copied from a stock photo, and printed the words “God, One Nation, with Liberty and Justice for All,” and sold it on eBay for over $100,000. #AlexfromTarget has 743,000 followers on Twitter for having a peach face while bagging China-made toys, while Jeremy Scahill has a mere 163,000 followers for working incessantly to expose American-made war crimes. Kim Kardashian sucked a dick. In other words, the call to cynicism bellows from our fleshy cesspools to heal all the senile delirium across the globe. It’s like the homeless guy I shared a cigarette with last night in the alley who screamed his autoschediastic terrors of “TITS ON RATTLESNAKES!” Because tits on rattlesnakes is a terrifying image. So is Kim Kardashian shaving her unibrow and then trying to be human. So is a Nobel Peace Prize winner orchestrating drone strikes on innocent Yemeni villages, or covering up fouled night raids in Afghanistan, or not prosecuting the bankers responsible for the economic collapse, or expanding the largest domestic spying program in the history of the United States, or making plans to spend an estimated $1 trillion on renewing America’s nuclear weapon program.

What Obama has done is popularize death and misery. Drone warfare has become a Harry & David fruit basket. And his newly proposed nuclear weapons program is very much the warning Dennis Kucinich gave: “Once we are committed to war’s instrumentality in pursuit of peace, we begin the Orwellian journey to the semantic netherworld where war is peace.” Nuclear disarmament is the only way to achieve nuclear disarmament. Even Reagan, amidst all his colloquial sanguinary lechery, once proposed a good idea: START I (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), the largest nuclear disarmament treaty in history. It was the bilateral treaty between the United States and the USSR, resulting in the removal of about eighty percent of strategic nuclear weapons in existence at the time. Obama did renew START I, but he also didn’t. He adopted the Cold War mentality proposed first by Eisenhower, in that “we should do what was necessary even if the result was to change the American way of life. We could lick the whole world  .  .  .  if we were willing to adopt the system of Adolph Hitler.” A trillion dollars to lick the whole world. Enough to feed all the starving babies. Enough to send all our kids through university. Enough to completely transform our energy sector to renewable clean energy. And yes, even enough to buy every person on the planet fifteen hits of ecstasy, paid for at street value.

Hegel was right, in that the fear of the lord is indeed the beginning of wisdom. And it’s only the beginning of wisdom. True wisdom is assumingly achieved when obedience and submission to the lord takes place. It’s something that a trillion dollars of nuclear weapons technology helps to ensure. It’s a fervency for lordship and bondage, something that every falling empire hopelessly grabs at to again take hold of. If Napoleon were around today, he too would scream “tits on rattlesnakes.” It’s the only thing that makes sense anymore. It’s the final limitation of Reason, when war is indeed peace and absurdity natural.

Israel Hates Fireworks

(Originally published on http://www.paradiseofstorm.tumblr.com on July 16, 2014)

by Guy Walker

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The little boy was running down the narrow alleyway, past all that torn sad rubble, past the fresh market with the thousand shouting vendors and their thousand scents, and the call to prayer summoned all the holy merchants to their knees, and the evening pushed its better light upon the walls of all the buildings. The boy knew he would be late for supper if he didn’t run, and he had promised his mother he wouldn’t be late. But it was just a little further now.

At the same time, an Israeli warplane was lifting off from the tortured dusty grounds of a military base. It headed towards Gaza. The sky between Israel and Gaza just a thick traffic of clouds from planes and rockets.

Minutes passed. The boy arrived home just on time, just as the evening sun warmed his family’s blue front door. Then the stray sad dogs looked up and started barking madly, yelling at the sky. A flock of pigeons burst from their perch. Then everything was bright and horrific and deafening. The building to the family had been blown to bits. The streets were filled with running screaming mothers, children everywhere, a cathedral of rubble and agony behind them emerging from the ashen air.

Another attack aimed at the Islamic militant group Hamas struck a Palestinian family instead. The Islamic militants have so far fired more than 1,200 rockets towards Israel, fueled by a several-decade feud over land occupation. Israel’s Iron Dome defense system has intercepted at least 150 of the missiles fired, resulting in its first Israeli death. As of July 15, after eight days of Israeli retaliation, at least 220 Palestinians have been killed. No major reports could be immediately confirmed about exactly who was killed, but the Los Angeles Times offered that about half of those deaths were women and children. The reports couldn’t be confirmed because the attacks were on civilians, not the Islamic militants themselves. In other words, a bunch of praying families in their homes. Israeli supporters call the innocents that have been killed ‘collateral damage,” meaning a mother or child or shopkeeper that may have been killed was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. But collateral damage doesn’t exist in the storm of war. On July 16, an Israeli naval ship bombed and killed four Palestinian children playing on the beach in the Gaza harbor. When the remaining surviving children ran for cover, a second shell was reportedly aimed at them.

The rockets being fired from Gaza are more like very banal forms of firework shows. Kids with sparklers could hurt more Israelis than Hamas militants. A 2012 analysis revealed that roughly 12,000 rockets fired over twelve years resulted in twenty-two Jewish deaths. That is, a kill rate of 0.175%. In 2013, of all the proud sparkling skies in the United States, an estimated 11,400 injuries were reported from fireworks. That is, when it comes to rockets, a drunken howling patriotism is possibly more threatening than the Hamas militants.

President Obama has offered to moderate a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, calling for a peaceful resolution. Secretary of State John Kerry called Israel’s Prime Minister Netanayhu directly by phone, telling the Prime Minister he thought it was a good idea if everyone stopped killing each other, and that the United States could actually broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. But Netanyahu said before a Cabinet meeting on Sunday, “We don’t know when the operation will end. It could take much longer.” He assured that Israel would only continue to act “in a patient and levelheaded manner,” as it always has, in places like the Gaza harbor, restoring peace and security to its country. Egypt also proposed a ceasefire plan. Israel accepted, while Hamas said the proposal, “was not worth the ink it was written with.”

As President Obama imposes new sanctions on Russia for their attacks on Ukraine, he ignores the significant threat of enduring war in the Middle East—US money and weapons. Since the Israeli state was formed in 1948, the United States has contributed more than $234 billion towards the stability and security of the state. Moshe Arens, former foreign minister and ambassador to Washington, puts it another way: “As a democratic country, the U.S. has good relations with other democratic countries, which have economic and military importance. In the past, during the Cold War period, Israel sided with the United States and today Israel is the best partner America has in the war on terror.” The best partner in the war on terror doesn’t just mean killing children playing on the beach, or killing eighteen members from the same family—it also means the Israeli children longing to “return to their ancient homeland,” something that the few remaining Native Americans surely empathize with the Israeli-dependent defense system. That is, $234 billion dollars to kill Palestinian families, to further divide the Middle East into a lawless arenaceous dystopia of broken gods in misery. That’s close to $6.5 million a week, every week, for six and a half decades. But the United States is not foolish with its money—it has already made some of that money back. In 2001 alone, the U.S. sold a hundred F16s to Israel for close to $3 billion. In 2013, it sold $10 billion worth of arms to Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, “provid[ing] missiles, warplanes and troop transports to help them counter any future threat from Iran,” says the New York Times. In other words, the U.S. is giving Israel huge amounts of money so they can spend a little bit of that money buying an American military arsenal. The “threat from Iran” means the threat from some volatile Arab nuclear state. Nobody wants a nuclear war, except maybe Ann Coulter, who wants to corral all the Arabs and all the soccer balls together, and kill them or turn them Christian. But Israel might actually be worse than Ann Coulter. In May of 2010, the Guardian reported, “Secret South African documents reveal that Israel offered to sell nuclear warheads to the apartheid regime, providing the first official documentary evidence of the state’s possession of nuclear weapons.” Pretty much everyone wants the escalation of misery—it makes people happy.

Israel is the American military’s ‘A’ student, as its sordid escalation of death is almost as good as death itself. Israel’s reaction against Hamas-dominated Gaza is something strikingly similar to the U.S. military’s Battle of Fallujah in March of 2004. Iraqi insurgents had ambushed a convoy of Blackwater USA, the private mercenary company now known as Academi, under the umbrella company Contellis Holdings, killing four American private mercenaries. The U.S. military responded by invading the city of Fallujah, under the name Operation Vigilant Resolve. It didn’t resolve much. It killed at least 600 Fallujahns, at least half of which of non-combatants. In violation of the Geneva Convention, the Marines closed both of the city’s main hospitals, positioning U.S. snipers atop one of the hospital’s water tower. It was a very patriotic moment for the military and for its taxpayers, as Sgt. Maj. William Skiles described it, “may the dogs of Fallujah eat hardy off our dead enemy.” And a few days later, when Paul Bremer announced a ceasefire, wanting to facilitate negotiations itself. And the stray dogs roamed the streets and chewed on all that enduring fatless misery.

Israel is modern romance compared to Iraq. No American troops deployed. No bad press. A potentially endless war, requiring an endless arsenal of death, bought from the United States itself. But even the Iraq war was mature and thoughtful in its own right. By attacking a country preemptively, and wrongly predicting they had weapons of mass destruction pointed at the Americans, the United States would have made Niccolo Machiavelli like a proud young father staring down at his firstborn. Still bloody and screaming and blind, our umbilical cord has finally been cut. Now we can scream freely into all that florescent light above. After 500 years of our gallant heights of Western misery, the United States has turned Machiavelli’s prime written wisdom into the real thing. No matter how immoral, Machiavelli argued, the ends always justified the means for preserving and restoring political authority. By this philosophy, the four children playing on the beach really were collateral damage—they were in the way of the machine. And the family of eighteen really was not a decent enough substance against U.S.-made and sold F16s.

Just as nobody knows why we really went to Iraq, and killed an estimated 500,000 of their men, women, and children, nobody really knows why the United States gives Israel so much money and so many weapons. “As for Israel,” says Obama, “our friendship is rooted deeply in a shared history and shared values.” This kind of vague sardonic torment of the human capacity for clear communication is something only Machiavelli could teach. Never reveal your true intentions, he wrote, and “act against mercy, against faith, against humanity, against frankness, against religion, in order to preserve the state.” And so another missile strikes. And the mothers scream.

When New York Times, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jared Diamond was asked what book he would require President Obama to read, Diamond answered with Machiavelli’s The Prince, because it illustrates that “we are not helpless in the hands of bad luck.” No we are not. The children playing on the beach are. The family of eighteen is. As are the rest of the 220 Palestinians killed so far.

But across the desert there is a river running smooth and slow. And a little boy has run all the way from school to sit and watch the fish roam and sometimes look up at him. And he drops little pebbles in to see the fish turn their heads again. And the sun goes down near the horizon and turns the trees many colors, and the boy thinks to himself that he is very lucky to see all these pretty things. And then the sky turns completely white.

ISIS, the Beautiful

(Originally published on http://www.paradiseofstorm.tumblr.com on July 5, 2014)

by Guy Walker

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They are pushing further and further, routing through the scarred and desperate areas, their borders swelling like the scare of some empyrean sickness you see spreading on a world map. But instead of the Plague, it’s the world’s wealthiest and most well-equipped militant group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, a separated division of Al Qaeda. It’s like the angry kid growing up, he’s just a little more sophisticated and a little more angry this time. Their caches of weapons and U.S. antipathy are already substantial, already tromping through police stations and security posts, taking possession of more and more stockpiles of weaponry. Predominately Sunni Arab militants, ISIS “has already seized large swaths of northern and western Iraq, including Mosul, Iraq’s second-most populous city,” reports the Los Angeles Times, also “reportedly snatched the equivalent of close to $500 million in cash from a Mosul bank … “its riches easily eclipse those of Al Qaeda under Osama bin Laden.” They have taken hold of weapons stores from multiple Iraqi army divisions, collecting munitions enough for some 200,000 soldiers.

This is the Sunni’s most luxurious war, like some tragic parade of death, it marches through the desert and seizes oil fields and cities like they were new frontiers. They are recruiting children as young as ten years old, convincing them that “Allah chooses you” to fight for the Islamic state, to restore the caliphate as a literal successor to Muhammad. But they aren’t just another rebel group, they aren’t an accident of hate that swelled in the exhaust of war. ISIS is the maturing grandson of U.S. occupation and military training. As the U.S.-trained Iraqi army and Iraqi police forces flee their posts like roaches on a kitchen floor, and ISIS militants seize U.S.-made armored Humvees, a helicopter, rifles, rockets, trucks, and a myriad of other munitions, the U.S. has again unwittingly armed the enemy. And the U.S. response to ISIS as a growing threat is not that unusual: arm and train the opponents of ISIS. President Obama now seeks $500 million from Congress in order to train the “moderate Syrian opposition.”

Arming the opponent of the current threat to the United States is nothing new. Facing an unforeseeable future war with U.S. trained, equipped, and financed militants is also something of a favorite pastime for the U.S. government. Most famously since World War II, the United States has trained, equipped, and financed the opponents of their current opponents, only later to fight against their former perversions of allies. In World War II, the United States befriended the communists to fight the fascists. In the Cold War, they took the fascists under their wing in order to fight the communists. As Soviet and British forces occupied Iran, taking it as their own oil state, the U.S. used Iran’s airports and roads to transport around $18 billion worth of military aid to Stalin. But then there was the Cold War. Quite literally, the CIA enlisted former Nazis as their own. Mikola Lebed, for example, led a Ukrainian “terrorist organization” (as described by the CIA itself), was later recruited by the Agency and described as “rendering valuable assistance to this Agency in Europe.” During the Korean War, the CIA dropped guns and ammunition into Burma, arming general Li Mi and his band of nationalists, pointing them to fight Mao’s advancements. They did not advance. Twenty years later, the CIA ignited another war in Burma to kill off the heroin labs and the global drug empire Li Mi and his men created. In 1953 the U.S. attacked the same Guatemalan army forces they originally trained to topple Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz. In 1959, several officers of the intelligence agency described Fidel Castro as an ally, offering that he deserved U.S. guns and money. The U.S. poured billions of dollars worth of arms into Afghanistan, into the hands of Islamic guerrilla warriors, in order to fight off the Soviets. Hence, the Taliban. Hence, Al Qaeda. A seemingly endless war on terror is in effect. And too often it’s armed on both sides with U.S.-made weapons. In 2010, the ATF allowed guns from the U.S. to pass freely into the hands of gun smugglers so they could be traced to the Mexican drugs cartels. The operation was named Fast and Furious. They lost track of the guns, hundreds of them, one of which was later used in the fatal shooting of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. Since late 2013, and perhaps even earlier, the U.S. has been sending weapons to Syrian rebels, many of which are falling into the hands of Jabhat al-Nusra, another Islamic terrorist organization, as described by the United States itself.

$500 million to train the “moderate Syrian opposition.” Modesty to save the Middle East. Because the moderate opposition—armed with glistening caches of western weapons and a stipend of half a billion dollars—won’t turn their backs later. Western thought has always loved its modesty. Modesty to rule them all. Modesty—that is, armed-and-heavily-trained-and-financed-modesty—has always loved its promise of furthering war. It’s a symptom of western thought. Aristotle’s Eudemian Ethics argues that the moral good always lies between two extremes, that moderation is a virtue of the great. No one less than Alexander the Great turned to Aristotle’s philosophy as his own, looking to modesty as a virtue of his own, later slaughtering hundreds of thousands who were apparently not modest enough. Nothing has improved since Alexander. The West has just outsourced its imperial construct with a little more tormented hilarity than it has before. A modest opposition doesn’t exist here. There was nothing modest about the Afghani rebels who fought back the Red Army. We know that now. And today there is nothing modest about Jabhat al-Nusra, who affirms its allegiance to Al-Qaeda, who has orchestrated various car-bombs, suicide attacks, assault of military bases, assassinations of political figures, who fighters have been filmed eating human hearts. The weapons will invariably end up in the hands of the enemy. It’s never done otherwise. These momentary allies, poised like gurgling perversions of chanting friends, don’t likely believe in a coming American Dawn. Because it’s just another violent tragic dawn.

If Aristotle wrote a book on ethics, and Alexander drew pictures of swords and horses in its margins, then the U.S. government wrote the treatise on peace and said more guns could achieve it. According to the New York Times, the United States tripled their weapons sales in 2011, primarily driven by the Persian Gulf allies and their concern of Iranian ambitions. The United States sold $66.3 billion worth of weapons oversees in 2011, more than three-quarters of the global arms sold. It’s impossible to account for those weapons. Fast and Furious was supposed to be a controlled operation, and it lost control, losing track of its weapons. It’s impossible to know how many of those $66.3 billion worth of weapons ended up in the hands of the enemy. And it’s impossible to know who the ally really is. Because the ally has before so often turned towards the enemy.

Alexander never satisfied his diabolical lust for modesty—there was not enough world for the world’s most modest. And no republic has ever lived more than three hundred years—and the United States is now two-hundred and thirty-eight, and is giving weapons to angry men in the desert. So another sort of plague spreads across the ancient dusty frontier, and America celebrates another birthday.