Saturday, December 10, 2016

here at the end of all things

no Sam to keep me company, no MacGuffin to destroy thereby simply eliminating the armies of trolls and goblins, no Skywalker training in monastic isolation. The eagles are not coming to save us, though in fairness they tried.

Summer Brennan wrote
No one person can defend everything in America that will need defending in the age of Trump. What we must do, instead, is to find our particular hills to defend, and then to defend them as if our freedom depended on it. Even if these battles are lost, the very act of writing down the progression of that loss, as Winston did, is an act of resistance.
I'm having trouble picking a hill to die on, all look good, all are indefensible with my poor weapons.
For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its making where executives
Would never want to tamper, flows on south
From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in
- Auden
I grew up in and studied the history of a police state run by white supremacist racists. It took some time after the election of the unreconstructed Nazis in 1948 for martial law to be imposed. That happened after the massacre of the Sharpeville protestors in 1960. It was called a State of Emergency, under which I was born. There was detention without trial and all the apparatus of the police state.

In the modern world everything happens faster, including the deconstruction of democratic republics once the neo-Nazis win an election. It has happened in Hungary, where Orbán is proclaiming and building an illiberal state. It has happened in Turkey, where Erdogan has dismantled democracy.

In Hungary Orbán won in 2010 with 52% of the vote, but a two-thirds majority of seats, which allowed changes to the Constitution and redistricting of parliamentary seats, ensuring a permanent majority for Fidesz. This is straight out of the Nationalist Party playbook in South Africa. Then of course the usual sequence of events,
"an erosion of the independence of the judiciary, the packing of courts with political loyalists, a wholesale political purge of the civil service and the chief prosecutor’s office, new election rules that advantage the governing coalition and the intimidation of the news organizations (who can be issued crippling fines for content deemed “not politically balanced” by a government-appointed panel.)"

We don't even need fines for the US media, which has been constructing narratives of false equivalency all by itself for decades now. Even so, the Republican House has sneaked in an amendment to turn the Voice of America into a propaganda arm of the Trump administration.

In Turkey, an election in 2007 won by AKP with 47% of the vote, slightly more than Trump's 46%, started the ball rolling. Erdogan is now planning to change the Constitution to permit him to rule as an autocrat. Truth is lost.

I don't have much hope that resistance can be effective.
It is difficult to see how Gandhi’s methods could be applied in a country where opponents of the regime disappear in the middle of the night and are never heard of again. - George Orwell
My father's best friend from high school worked with the SA trade unions. He was thrown off a sixth-floor balcony by the police - in this case BOSS, Bureau of State Security. The murder was covered up as a 'suicide'. Working with trade unions under white supremacist rule turns out to be a form of suicide.
My father's best friend from college had a mother living in East Berlin through no fault of her own. In the late 60s after Sharpeville he visited his mother, and came back to be disappeared under suspicion of being a Communist. After a week of his wife and child not knowing where he was, he was released, luckily only slightly bruised and bloodied. They emigrated to Canada. I should have learned from that.

It is likely there will be a major terrorist attack in 2017. Even without the inflammatory rhetoric, the simple fact that Trump and his administration are not taking security briefings nor paying attention to national security, is enough to make this probable. Similar behaviour in the Bush administration gave us 9/11. 9/11 begat a second Bush term, the second Bush term begat the Great Recession, the Great Recession begat 11/9. Even if the attack does not materialize, I would not be surprised by a false flag operation, mounted to allow for declaration of martial law. For these purposes, an attack on a Trump property outside the US would probably work just as well. 
The Ministry of Peace concerns itself with war, the Ministry of Truth with lies, the Ministry of Love with torture and the Ministry of Plenty with starvation
Here are some members of the Trump administration.
Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, opposes the provision of health services to the undeserving poor. He also opposes vaccination like Mr Trump, believes that tobacco taxes harm public health, and that Medicare and Medicaid are evil and immoral.
Head of the EPA, Scott Pruit, is a stenographer for the oil and gas industry, and a climate change denialist, who opposes environmental protection regulations.
Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, opposes public education and has used her money to destroy Detroit public schools. That money came from the Amway pyramid scheme, which seems to have been one of the models for the Trump University fraud. Ms DeVos also supports the Acton Institute, which advocates for the return of child labor, so the kids can learn skills on the job in Walmart and McDonalds.
Head of the FDA is currently expected to be Jim O’Neill, who opposes FDA regulation of drugs.
Gary Cohn, president of Goldman Sachs, the vampire squid company, will lead the National Economic Council.
The proposed Secretary of the Interior, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, will lead the department that oversees public lands. Rep. Rodgers plans to sell off the public lands.
Rick Perry is proposed to head up the Department of Energy. During the Republican debates in 2011, Mr Perry would have suggested eliminating the Department of Energy as being an exemplar of unnecessary 'big government', except that he couldn't remember what the Department was called. 

There are no exceptions to this iron law of opposition in the Trump administration. We await only the appointment of the horseman Famine as Secretary of Agriculture.

He's been clocked at 71 lph (lies per hour). It's impossible to combat this. The new censorship is to overwhelm your attention with a farrago of lies and misdirection, until truth lies full fathom five. As Dahlia Lithwick says about Trumps Tweets, "It’s irrelevant whether these tweets are the work of a cunning chess master or a damp TV-watching toddler who can’t control himself when his aides leave his side".

Fact-checking and struggling to maintain the meaning of words are irrelevant too. Karl Rove who informed journalists "we create our own reality" was a mere piker. The new truth is that facts don't matter because they can be drowned like helpless puppies in a flood of verbiage. Scottie Nell Hughes told us this, “There’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore as facts.” Ms Hughes is both a Trump operative and a CNN commentator, illuminating her own dictum nicely.
When conscripted into the armies of apartheid, I had the choice of jail, exile, or serving my time. Jail didn't seem reasonable at the time. As a white South African, exile would have required illegal immigration somewhere, and resources beyond my means. I chose to serve my time and consequentially to serve apartheid. My naive foolishness reasoned that maybe I could ameliorate the system by working within it and sabotaging it where possible. One midnight murky, at a roadblock looking for gunrunners bringing weapons in for Umkhonto we Sizwe, I found myself holding a rifle on two terrified little girls in the back seat of their father's car. There were also some insights into torture.  I realized then, and now, that I was a quisling. Masha Gessen writes about their great-grandfather who tried to work with the Nazis as a member of the Judenrat, to get his village fed. The end was "the people who wanted to keep the people fed ended up compiling lists of their neighbors to be killed."

Sarah Kendzior knows what it is like:
Authoritarianism is not merely a matter of state control, it is something that eats away at who you are. It makes you afraid, and fear can make you cruel. It compels you to conform and to comply and accept things that you would never accept, to do things you never thought you would do.
You do it because everyone else is doing it, because the institutions you trust are doing it and telling you to do it, because you are afraid of what will happen if you do not do it, and because the voice in your head crying out that something is wrong grows fainter and fainter until it dies.
The only way to survive a police state is to acquiesce in evil, or fight so ineffectually that they don't notice you. The police state notices a lot. My brother spent a year in the US in the late 70s. Upon returning he was interviewed by BOSS (them again). They knew the substance of conversations he'd had with NAACP members in New York. We suspected CIA involvement. During military service I worked with the CIA, defending against our common enemy Soviet Russia.

Eventually I emigrated to the US, when I couldn't stand it anymore. Peter Beinart writes about his father, who took the same path some years before I did - "What he found in America was not a culture he understood, but a state he did not fear and revile."

Now what I wonder. Resolved: try to remain patient and cheerful and help where I can.
The best way to avenge yourself is not to become like the wrongdoer.
- Marcus Aurelius
In any case all this agonizing is irrelevant at best. Trump's plan for global warming is apparently to initiate nuclear winter.  Most likely this will take only one bomb. Mathematician and previous Secretary of Defense Bill Perry, with decades of studying nuclear war, thinks "Even a single nuclear explosion in a major city would represent an abrupt and possibly irreversible turn in modern life, upending the global economy, forcing every open society to suspend traditional liberties and remake itself into a security state."

Jan 26: It is now two and a half minutes to midnight.  For the first time in the 70-year history of the Doomsday Clock, the Atomic Scientist's Board has moved the hands of the iconic clock 30 seconds closer to midnight. In another first, the Board has decided to act, in part, based on the words of a single person:  Donald Trump, the new President of the United States. 

At midnight in the museum hall
The fossils gathered for a ball
There were no drums or saxophones,
But just the clatter of their bones,
A rolling, rattling, carefree circus
Of mammoth polkas and mazurkas.
Pterodactyls and brontosauruses
Sang ghostly prehistoric choruses.
Amid the mastodontic wassail
I caught the eye of one small fossil.
"Cheer up, sad world," he said, and winked—
"It's kind of fun to be extinct."

- Ogden Nash, Fossils, for Saint-Saëns Carnival of the Animals.