A health/blog update, and some thoughts on Israel and Palestine

I had a heart-related health scare today, and spent most of the day in the hospital getting checked out. Some results are pending, but it currently seems that I’m OK. That said, the illusion of imminent mortality was a bit tiring, and also very slightly perspective-shifting. I want to work more on fiction and on some other things in my life, so for the rest of this year, at least, my posts are probably going to be less. I had intended to write a somewhat in-depth post about Israel and Palestine, and I may still do that, but for now I’ll just say this:

Even if we were to assume – which I believe we should not – that “both sides” have an equal right to live on that land, the power dynamic, which has existed for longer than I’ve been alive, makes it clear what’s going on. De-escalation cannot happen without a commitment to it by the more powerful party, and there is zero question that Israel is more powerful. They’ve lowered the life expectancy in Gaza to the point where fully half the population are children, who have only ever known occupation and oppression.

Hamas, as an organization, also do evil things, and their attacks on civilians are inexcusable. That said, Hamas is also Israel’s chosen enemy, and was aided in their rise to power, just as more reasonable governing authorities were undermined. The only way for peace to happen, is for Israel to choose to end the cycle of revenge. The Palestinians cannot end it, just as the people of every other occupied territory cannot.

If Israel wants peace, they must end the ethnic cleansing of the West Bank, and the attacks on mosques and worshippers, and the deliberate killing and maiming of protesters and journalists. They must demonstrate goodwill by providing the resources that they’ve kept from Palestinians for longer than I’ve been alive. They must stop destroying olive groves and wells.

If Israel wants peace.

As it stands, they very clearly do not.

It is heartbreaking to see this brutality and death, and it is horrifying to see people around the world cheering on Israel’s dehumanization of Palestinians, and their escalating campaign of genocide. I desperately want it to end, but that has no bearing on what will happen. The death toll is going to keep climbing, for weeks if not months, and at every step of the way, we will be told that all the Palestinian deaths are justified, including the children, because of Hamas. They will claim that the children are “human shields”, and apparently we’ve come to a point where a lot of the world believes that when someone uses a human shield, you’re supposed to kill the victim, blame the person behind them, and move on.

I want to end on this: However much disinformation you think you have seen about current events, you’ve almost certainly seen more. I have seen old videos of Palestinian children held in cages by the IDF, described as Israeli children being held in cages by Hamas. I have seen videos of munitions in the sky over Ukraine being described as IDF use of white phosphorous on Gaza. The lies are everywhere, and while I believe that the vast majority of them will continue coming from one side, I’ve learned by now that there are people within every movement who are perfectly willing to make shit up in support of their cause. Use caution, and insofar as you are able, use patience. I don’t think there’s ever been a time when so many people have been exposed to so much dishonest propaganda, and I fear it’s only going to get worse.

Be kind, be skeptical, and stand in solidarity with the oppressed.

Video: Leeja Miller on the GOP’s Extremist 2025 Project

Every four years, Americans who value human life, and see the ills caused by capitalism, are pushed to vote for the Democratic Party, not necessarily because they like the Democrats, but because the GOP is so evil and destructive, that it makes a great deal of sense to go with the lesser evil. It makes sense, but because political participation in the United States rarely goes beyond voting, it means that the Democrats have spent decades apparently trying to be as much like the Republicans as possible, while still retaining a tiny pile of moral high ground. As I’ve mentioned a couple times now, 2024 looks to be different, in that the Dems have actually been doing some things that are actively good for the people, and for democracy.

Unfortunately, the GOP has been doing bad things. I’ve considered the GOP to be a fascist party for a while now, and while there’s currently some infighting, I think that assessment still holds. While both parties have historically been fine supporting fascists in other countries, the Republicans are actively working to enact fascism in the United States, and I am not exaggerating. Project 2025 is basically the conservative answer to The American Prospect’s Day One Agenda, except that their goal is to dramatically expand presidential power, outlaw pornographic material and criminalize anyone involved in it (and remember, they classify all things sex ed or LGBTQIA as pornographic), and to dramatically scale up fossil fuel extraction and use. This vision of the future was crafted around Trump and his time in office, but the plan is to put it in front of the next GOP president.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that democracy is on the ballot, and unfortunately, that will continue to be the case for as long as our current system exists. That’s why political action needs to go beyond voting, if we want real change. Regardless of how you end up voting, I think it’s good to know what’s at stake, so here’s Leeja Miller breaking down the GOP’s plan for America:


Video: Olayemi Olurin on the many reasons to hate Eric Adams

There’s a line that I often here from conservatives, about all the crime and poverty in “Democrat-run cities”. Leaving aside the fact that gun deaths are higher, per person, in rural areas than in urban ones, this argument makes rather a lot of assumptions about the Democratic party as a whole, and about the Democrats running cities, in particular. I’ve made my gripes with that party and its leadership known on this blog, but when it comes to mayors, there are all the normal corporate pressures, plus pressure, and even threats, from city police departments. In general, mayors and city counsels are more likely to serve the interests of those with power, than of their constituency.

And then you have people like NYC mayor Eric Adams, who IS a cop, even though it’s been a while since he was actually on the force. There also doesn’t seem to be much reason to believe that he was one of those mythical “good cops” we keep hearing about. As you’ll soon hear, he seems to have been drawn to policing for the power, more than anything else. I’ve talked before about this guy, and his horrific policies, but there is a lot more to cover, and thankfully we have Olayemi Olurin, movement lawyer and news commentator, to break down all the reasons why she hates Eric Adams, and why you should too.

Capitalist Demands That Governments Kill Poor People To Discipline Workers

This past February, I gave an overview of how the government uses poverty to kill people, knowing that that’s what they are doing, in order to benefit the capitalist class. Using inflation caused by capitalist greed as an excuse, the government increases interest rates, with the intention of “cooling inflation” by increasing unemployment. That means more people without housing. It means more people rationing medicine, or doing without it altogether. It means lives destroyed, and futures stolen.

And it is just one way in which the government puts its hand on the scale to keep all of us submissive, obedient, and grateful to our superiors. Think I’m exaggerating? Here’s one of those “superiors” – Tim Gurney of “millennials and their avocado toast” fame – just openly making my case for me, about how he thinks the peasants need to be reminded of their place:

“People have decided they really didn’t want to work so much anymore through COVID and that has had a massive issue on productivity,” Gurner, donning slicked back hair and an unbuttoned white shirt, says in the video. “They have been paid a lot to do not too much.”

“We need to see unemployment rise,” Gurner said. “Unemployment needs to jump 40-50 percent in my view. We need to see pain in the economy. We need to remind people that they work for the employer [emphasis mine], not the other way around. There’s been a systematic change where employees feel the employer is extremely lucky to have them, as opposed to the other way around.” He then says that “hurting the economy” is what the whole world is trying to do.

Sam’s comments at the very beginning of that clip touch on the presidency of Salvadore Allende, a Chilean socialist politician who was elected to the presidency in 1970, and overthrown with the help of the United States 50 years and two days ago, on September 11th, 1973. Allende’s overthrow, and the wave of terror and murder that followed, were tragic and criminal for many reasons, but one that I wish more people knew about was Project Cybersyn, so I’m taking a moment to link to that here. Those decades of murder, which in many ways still continue, were very much a matter of reminding people of their place. True democracy, economic and political, could not be tolerated. Who do those workers think they are? The nobles still send in the guards to brutalize rebellious subjects.

This is one of those times in which, once you start to see it everywhere. In the US, the way police are allowed to steal from people based on vibes, the way employers are allowed to get away with just refusing to pay billions in wages every year, the way student debt is explicitly used to funnel poor people into the US war machine – so much of  our society is designed, from the bottom up, to maintain the class divides that advocates of capitalism pretend no longer exist. They like to pretend they’re just like us, right up until the second anyone asks for a raise, or for a safe workplace. The power maintained within the US itself allows for the projection of power around the globe, and the methods of “disciplining” the former colonies that we saw in Chile.

This is why the working class needs to organize, and to stay organized. I think Americans in the 20th century allowed themselves to be persuaded that society had just moved beyond the abuses of the robber barons. Part of that, I think, was that during the Cold War, capitalist countries, and the US in particular, were investing a lot more into the wellbeing of their citizens. This wasn’t some natural function of capitalism, but I think they tried hard to make it look that way, because it was really just another branch of the war against communism. In the midst of a Red Scare, nobody had any problem spending taxpayer money to fight the commies, and that included investing in the happiness of the general public, so they could convince the working class that capitalism was better. My favorite example of this is the town in West Virginia that only got their bridge fixed after they wrote to the USSR asking for aid. There’s no USSR for them to worry about anymore, and while China may take on that role, it’s not doing so currently. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, there’s been no alternative, and so there’s less pressure to make the common people happy.

Under feudalism, and under early capitalism, if the under-class got too uppity, the nobles would generally use violence to maintain their authority. In modern liberal democracies, the ruling class is better at hiding its hand, but they haven’t actually changed. The law is mostly designed around the protection and management of property, such that it defaults to the benefit of property owners. The whole system is set up so that you need money to survive, and unless you are a capitalist, your only way to get money is by selling your labor. At the bottom end, the police work to ensure that surviving without money is impossible. The land is all enclosed – either privately owned, or owned and protected by the government, such that nobody can actually just live off it. Being too poor to afford your own home in this system is treated as a criminal act all by itself. Unhoused people are subject to every abuse the police can devise, including having their belongings stolen and destroyed on a regular basis. If you try to protect them from that, you get reactions like multimillionaire “everyman” Joe Rogan being shocked that anyone would even consider letting them own stuff.

The violence used to suppress the under-class is now mostly disguised as policing, but that violence is still there. It’s more individualized, too. Beyond the routine abuse of unhoused people, it takes place when someone’s evicted, or when police target left-wing activists, or when police and private “security” forces attack pipeline protesters. It never went anywhere, it just got disguised, and given a whole bunch of spin to make people accept it, and even cheer it on.

Over the last two centuries, real advances have been made in quality of living, in some parts of the world, but those advances came from working people fighting back against the capitalist rush to oligarchy, and against white supremacy designed to destroy class solidarity. I hope it is clear by now that those advances are also not permanent. If anything, they are an aberration – a statistical outlier against centuries of concentration of power in the hands of a tiny ruling class. That said, I think the advances that have been made demonstrate that we can go further. Many people view the socialist and communist revolutions of the 20th century as total failures, and while I think there are arguments to be had about that, we don’t need to have them here. We know, that in every country in the world, the working class has been able to improve its own situation through collective power, despite violent opposition from the ruling class.

What we need, going forward, is to aim higher than things like a living wage. We need to aim for revolutionary change. While the ruling class will doubtless continue to use violence to maintain their power, “revolution” does not mean war, necessarily. My preferred tactic would be a general strike – collectively bringing a country to a halt, and refusing to continue accepting the system as it is. What classifies change as “revolutionary”, in this context, is that it changes not just who is in power, but how power is distributed in the first place. I think that going from monarchy to capitalist republic was an upgrade, in many ways, but I think we can do better. Things like worker cooperatives, for example, demonstrate that it’s possible to have democratically run corporations, even in a world that is set up in every way to privilege the more traditional, authoritarian model. Reshape the law to actively support such organizations, and I think they’d do quite well, especially if it comes with a deliberate phase-out of capitalist corporations.

Nothing like that will happen easily, and while it might appear quick when it happens, it will be the result of years of hard work, and probably bloodshed on the part of those organizing the political power to make it happen. The upside is that that work is starting, and I think that’s part of why ghouls like Gurner and Larry Summers are so freaked out that they’re openly calling for higher unemployment and everything that comes with it. In many ways, the class war is a real war. It’s a power struggle, and one side is not just accustomed to killing to keep their power, it’s routine for them. It’s nice to see the people at the top getting worried, and I think it’s very helpful of Gurner to just come out and say how they see the world. Hopefully it will help more people realize that this is why life is so hard, when we have so much abundance.

Arizona Trans Woman Arrested and Jailed for Self-Defense

Arizona is a “stand your ground” state. For those who don’t know, that means that if you feel threatened by someone, but you have the ability to safely retreat, you have no legal obligation to do so. You are allowed to stand your ground, and use violence. I mention that, because when it comes to self-defense law in the United States, if you claim self defense, in many circumstances, you won’t even be arrested for killing someone. Unfortunately, as with most laws in the United States, the degree to which that “protection” actually protects you will often depend on who you are, and what the cops think of you.

Case in point: A trans woman named Epona Rose was accosted by a group of men who sexually harassed her until realizing she was trans, at which point the harassment became threats and assault. Rose defended herself, and for that she was arrested and jailed with bond set at $500,750, with her arraignment on August 28th. For comparison, Donald Trump, who has a private plane and has “joked” about fleeing to Russia, had his bond set at less than half that. Further, for the crime of defending herself while trans, Rose has been charged with assault and attempted murder:

Flagstaff, AZ — On the morning of August 11th, Epona Rose was attacked in downtown Kinłani/Flagstaff, Arizona by a group of three men while two or more watched. The men were drunk and sexually harassing her. The attack escalated into threats of rape, and then to physical violence, when they realized that Epona is transgender.

Epona defended herself bravely against this attack and did not call the police, but she was the only one arrested. Epona faces felony charges including aggravated assault. She was initially held on the men’s side of the Coconino County Jail in segregation with one hour a day out of her cell. She struggled to gain access to her prescribed medications. Political pressure seems to have improved her conditions; however, Epona is still unable to receive equitable treatment and has filed complaints of sexual harassment. Epona’s arraignment is August 28th and her bond is set for over $500,000. A team of national organizers and local support have mobilized and are fiercely working to overturn such an excessive amount and the fear mongering charges.

An initial arraignment on August 17th was vacated with no reason given by the courts. A rally was held with more than 25 people calling for Epona’s immediate release. A vigil was held outside of Coconino County Jail the previous evening, more than 40 people attended, sharing their stories and chanting, “Who keeps up safe? We keep us safe!”

Epona shared this statement from jail:

I was charged as a man, as I am a woman of trans experience. I was initially booked into jail on charges of aggravated assault, as well as attempted homicide, second degree, unjustly. I was defending myself, my womanhood, against three men. While I’ve been in this facility I’ve been mistreated. I have been treated as a man. I have been asked fourteen times about my genitalia by staff. I have been laughed at and ridiculed. I have been put into isolation. Make no mistakes, the United States is now living in the Weimar Republic era. I have been fighting the way I can from the inside with what little power I have from the inside.

Epona further stated, “I am not safe here, but I am holding on to hope, and I know that I will be free. I want to thank everybody who has shown support and is fighting for me on the outside. Thank you, loved ones, relatives, comrades. I look forward to seeing you. Thank you so much for the fight. Solidarity!”

The longer Epona is in jail, the much more at risk she is exposed to as a trans woman and abolitionist. We cannot let Epona be made an example out of by demanding the basic rights of genderqueer, third gender, Two Spirit, and/or trans people to exist!

Epona’s lawyer, Ryan Stevens of the Griffen & Stevens Law Firm in Flagstaff, explained, “Our priorities are clear: keep Epona safe; get her out; and present a complete defense to her charges in court. We are at the very beginning of what may be a long haul fighting for Epona and asserting her rights in court, including self-defense.”

Arraignment is scheduled for August 28th at 1pm; Epona’s supporters will be gathering at Coconino County Superior Court located at 200 N San Francisco st, Flagstaff, AZ 86001

Epona’s supporters are fundraising for her legal fees and associated costs; please specify that your donation is for Epona. You can also use the “rose” emoji.

Support Epona’s legal defense and bail fund:
Paypal: @brokebackwolfpack
Venmo: @brokebackwolfpack
Cashapp: $brokebackwolfpack

You can also contact the Coconino County Board of Supervisors and demand Epona is treated with dignity as a trans woman:

Phone: 928-679-7120

Toll Free: 877-679-7120 Emails: phorstman@coconino.az.gov, jvasquez@coconino.az.gov, mryan@coconino.az.gov, jbegay@coconino.az.gov, lfowler@coconino.az.gov

Contact Flagstaff City Council:
All council members: council@flagstaffaz.gov
Mayor: becky.daggett@flagstaffaz.gov
Phone: (928) 213-2065

There are a lot of problems with the US constitution, and with US law. One of the good things, even if it took almost a century and a civil war to get it, is the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. [emphasis added]

My only real complaint about this is that it limits its protection to US citizens, rather than all people who find themselves under US jurisdiction. Other than that, this is good and important, and so naturally it’s often ignored by the US law enforcement system. There are many, many ways in which equal protection is denied to US citizens. I’m not talking hundreds of times per year, I’m talking thousands of times per day, across the country. The “trans panic” defense is one of the most heinous examples – a trans person (usually a woman) is assaulted or murdered, and the perpetrator claims that they “panicked” upon learning she was trans, and attacked her. This has existed for a long time, in a variety of forms. So far, the federal ban on this defense hasn’t gotten anywhere, but 17 states have passed their own bans, with New Hampshire being the latest, just 10 days ago (rare Sununu win). The NH ban only applies to homicides, though, so it won’t help people who were “just” assaulted. Arizona is not on that list, and the “panic” defense is still perfectly legal there.

Rose’s case feels as if the police took that “defense” as a matter of law, which made the violence of her attackers justified. That meant that, in the eyes of the police, Epona Rose had no right to self-defense in that situation. The police, and the judge who set a bail of – and I can’t stress this enough – over half a million dollars, have decided to punish her for defending herself, before the trial that is her right has even started. I also have to wonder what role her personal politics are playing in this – my impression is that people in the law enforcement system don’t like abolitionists, despite working so hard to make our case for us.

If you want to help in any way, all the information is in the block quote above. Hopefully Monday’s arraignment won’t be pushed back again, since that would mean still more time imprisoned and abused for defending herself. The extremely high trans murder rate (trans women of color in particular) is something that does get press, albeit far less than it should, but it’s also worth remembering that for every trans person murdered, there are others who are “merely” injured, and that almost never makes the news. This problem is not separate from the way the US “justice” system actively enables this violence, and even enacts this violence, as we are seeing in the case of Enola Rose.

Video: Border Patrol Caging Migrants Outdoors in Arizona Heat Wave

As most of you have probably heard, the razor wire deathtraps I mentioned are still up along the Rio Grande, and have killed people, as deathtraps tend to do. The federal government is suing Abbot to make him take them down, and in the meantime, people crossing the border to claim asylum (which is their legal right under US law) are extending their journey to go around. Unfortunately, razor wire isn’t the only way that the sadists “guarding” the US border are trying to “accidentally” kill asylum seekers. In Arizona, Border patrol has been keeping migrants in cages, in the middle of a heatwave. From the transcript of the interview:

Last week I got a tip that the Border Patrol was holding migrants outdoors in some sort of enclosure at the Ajo Border Patrol Station. And this was surprising for two reasons. Anybody who knows anything about the desert in southern Arizona knows that this portion of the desert is as deadly as it gets. And as you mentioned at the top of the show, we are right now experiencing a record-setting and deadly heat wave.

So, I drove out to the Ajo station with photojournalist Ash Ponders. As you said, it was 114 degrees that day. We hiked up to a ridge where we were able to see into the Border Patrol station. We had a telephoto lens and binoculars, and we were able to observe roughly 50 migrants being held in a chain-link enclosure under a sort of carport-style structure that cast a small strip of shade on the ground. The ground was loose rock. The shade was minimal. People were crowding themselves into the shade that was available, shoulder to shoulder. I observed roughly 30 migrants being marched off to a separate section of the facility, and roughly as many staying behind. The ground was littered with water bottles.

The cruelty is the point, and this is under a Democratic Arizona governor, and a Democratic president. The GOP may be worse, but they’ve got no monopoly on bad.

Video: The Minneapolis Police Department Is a Criminal Organization

Big Joel is one of my “comfort” Youtubers. Most of his stuff is what I would call cultural criticism and/or commentary. If you want a deep dive into Shrek or The Lorax, he’s your guy, and while he does do a fair amount of political commentary, he tends to approach the people or media he’s looking at from that same cultural perspective. Probably my favorite example of this is his video deconstructing another Youtuber’s attempt at a “takedown” as a cultural work. Today, however, he put out a different sort of video, and I think it’s worth sharing. It’s a simple premise – he goes through the DOJ report on the federal investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department, that was conducted following the murder of George Floyd, and discusses the clear evidence of systemic abuse and criminality. It’s a bit rough to listen to, but I think this video is worth your time, for a couple reasons. The first is that it’s important to understand just how widespread and systemic this kind of abusive behavior is. It’s not just the “bad apples” who harass, rob, assault, injure, maim, and kill people, it’s also their fellow cops who cover for them, and supervisors who lie on reports for them. As the video lays out pretty clearly, these are people who revel in abusing their power and using violence against powerless people for no apparent reason other than their own sadistic pleasure.

The second reason, as I’ll discuss after the video, is that I do not think this is a widespread systemic problem within the Minneapolis Police Department, but rather within US policing as a whole. You should view this report as a representative sample of the profession.

So, why do I feel comfortable saying that Minneapolis is representative of a nationwide problem?

Well, regular readers will know that I’ve touched on this issue in the past. Cops in Atlanta make a regular appearance here, for their murderous campaign to force through a massive training facility. Austin PD decided to openly defy a law requiring more civilian oversight. A black kid in Mississippi called the cops for help, and they shot him. The DOJ investigation in to the Ferguson PD after the killing of Michael Brown found a similar pattern of widespread abuse of power, targeting of minorities, and cops lying to cover for each other. Across the US, cops steal more from people than burglars do, and the list goes on.

People defending the police might respond by saying that yes, they brutalize people, and guarantee that most of our rights only exist on paper, but we need them anyway, because the main thing they do is solve crime. Well, no. Not really.

(Reuters) – A new report adds to a growing line of research showing that police departments don’t solve serious or violent crimes with any regularity, and in fact, spend very little time on crime control, in contrast to popular narratives.

The report was published Oct. 25 by advocacy group Catalyst California and the ACLU of Southern California. It relies on county budgets’ numbers and new policing data provided under the state’s Racial and Identity Profiling Act, which took effect in 2019.

The law requires police to report demographic and other basic information about their work, including the duration of a stop and what actions were taken, like ordering someone out of a car.

Records provided by the sheriff’s departments in Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego and Riverside showed the same longstanding pattern of racial disparities in police stops throughout the country for decades. Black people in San Diego were more than twice as likely than white residents to be stopped by sheriff’s deputies, for example.

More notably, researchers analyzed the data to show how officers spend their time, and the patterns that emerge tell a striking story about how policing actually works. Those results, too, comport with existing research showing that U.S. police spend much of their time conducting racially biased stops and searches of minority drivers, often without reasonable suspicion, rather than “fighting crime.”

Overall, sheriff patrol officers spend significantly more time on officer-initiated stops – “proactive policing” in law enforcement parlance – than they do responding to community members’ calls for help, according to the report. Research has shown that the practice is a fundamentally ineffective public safety strategy, the report pointed out.

In 2019, 88% of the time L.A. County sheriff’s officers spent on stops was for officer-initiated stops rather than in response to calls. The overwhelming majority of that time – 79% – was spent on traffic violations. By contrast, just 11% of those hours was spent on stops based on reasonable suspicion of a crime.

In Riverside, about 83% of deputies’ time spent on officer-initiated stops went toward traffic violations, and just 7% on stops based on reasonable suspicion.

Moreover, most of the stops are pointless, other than inconveniencing citizens, or worse – “a routine practice of pretextual stops,” researchers wrote. Roughly three out of every four hours that Sacramento sheriff’s officers spent investigating traffic violations were for stops that ended in warnings, or no action, for example.

Researchers calculated that more of the departments’ budgets go toward fruitless traffic stops than responses to service calls — essentially wasting millions of public dollars.

Chauncee Smith, a senior manager at Catalyst California, told me they wanted to test the dominant media and political narrative that police agencies use public funds to keep communities safe.

“We found there is a significant inconsistency between their practices” and what the public might think police do, Smith said. “It begs the question of why we keep doubling down on public safety strategies that have been proven time and time again to fail.”

The departments were mostly non-responsive to my questions.

Yeah, I bet.

The reality is that police do far more harm than good, and the vast majority of things they do either need to stop happening altogether, or need to be done by healthcare professionals and social workers. Traffic enforcement, to the degree that it’s needed can be done by automated camera, or at the very least by people who aren’t armed, and are under no obligation to chase down a fleeing “suspect”.

Police in the United States do not serve the communities in which they work. The good they happen to do is largely incidental, due to the fact that they’re the default first responder to everything. They’d have to be really dedicated to never do any good. No, their primary purpose is maintaining social order. That’s why rich people are happy to fund a place like Atlanta’s Cop City, where police will train in urban warfare, the better to control rowdy peasants. That’s why nothing is being done about the staggering amount of theft they commit, too – the victims are poor people, and in the eyes of the ruling class, poor people deserve their poverty, and have no real right to property or anything else.

I’m perfectly willing to accept that society needs first responders, including some trained in the use of arms. What we do not need, is anything resembling what policing has been throughout its history in the United States. The Minneapolis Police Department is a criminal organization, and it is not alone.

A Desert Full of Bones: Razor Wire, Asylum, and Fascism

There’s a scene in the 1981 film Time Bandits (spoiler warning), in which Kevin the landscaping angels who kidnapped him find themselves in a flat, barren landscape, with mist in the air, and the bones of strange creatures strewn about. They’re following a divine map, but it’s leading them so far into the desert that they might never find their way out. It’s a fair concern, given that time God “guided” the Israelites on a 40-year version of an 11-day trek, but just when the group is close to giving up, they hit a wall. An invisible barrier.

Randall shatters it with a skull, and they continue on their quest into the lair of Evil, but what if the barrier hadn’t broken? What if they’d come all that way, braving ogres and giants, shipwrecks and cannonfire, only to die in that desert, and become just a few more bones littering the ground outside the Fortress of Ultimate Darkness?

When I hear Republicans (and some Democrats) demand that we build a wall along the southern border, this desert full of bones always comes to mind. At first, it felt too “extreme” to say, but there has never been a question that every barrier erected along that border means more people dead. It has also become increasingly clear that Border Patrol and the people howling for a closed border absolutely do want to fill that desert with bones. They want to kill anyone trying to cross that border from the south who doesn’t go through a checkpoint. They don’t care that US law states that all humans have a right to enter the United States, by any means, to request asylum. Those who do so have a right to have their request considered, before any action is taken to deport them. When they talk about “The Law”, what they mean is “what we think ought to be the law”, and they feel fully justified in “enforcing” that, regardless of the actual legality, or the harm done. They look at some of the most desperate and powerless people in the world, and they want them to die.

They are sadistic, murderous extremists, and I no longer feel any hesitation in labeling them as such.

Honestly, I haven’t felt much hesitation about that for a while now. Desantis committed human trafficking for political gain, and conservatives across the US cheered him on, but now Gregg Abbot has taken things to another level, by actively trying to kill and maim anyone trying to cross using razor wire barriers and traps in and around the Rio Grande. Content warning for descriptions of horrifying violence, and discussion of hate speech going forward.

“Stuck in razor wire”

If that phrase doesn’t give you a reflexive chill, take a moment to really think about what it means.

And think about what it means that someone would see razor wire, and try to cross it anyway. We hear a lot about how dangerous the journey north can be, and when you see people willing to risk shredding their bodies like that, it’s hard not to conclude that they must be fleeing something genuinely awful; so awful that no amount of deterrence will dissuade them. It’s very clear that the people who want a closed border don’t actually care whether someone has a legitimate asylum request. They neither know nor care about the history or conditions of the countries from which people are fleeing, and if we’re honest, they don’t even see these people as human.

In addition to the buoy barrier, it appears that there are barrels wrapped in razor wire, presumably to tempt anyone crossing the river to use the barrels as floats, only to be cut up or – in the case of the child mentioned above, stuck on the blades of the wire. It also seems that there’s razor wire just in the water, where nobody crossing would be able to see it. This is, as said in this interview, torture. It’s also attempted murder, because in case anyone needed to hear this, slashing someone with a blade while they’re trying to cross a river dramatically increases their chances of drowning, not to mention the danger from the injury itself.

The Biden administration has not been great on the border issue. They didn’t stop separating children from their families, and they’re continuing to push for unreasonable – and unconstitutional – restrictions at the border. That said, this stuff with the razor wire was too much for them, and the DOJ has sued Texas for failing to remove the barriers as directed:

The DOJ suit, filed in the U.S. District Court in the Western District of Texas, seeks an injunction to block the state from placing more of the wrecking ball-sized, razor wire-topped buoys, which have already reportedly injured several people. The complaint accuses Texas and Abbott of violating the Rivers and Harbors Appropriation Act by erecting the barrier in a U.S. waterway without permission.

“This floating barrier poses threats to navigation and public safety and presents humanitarian concerns,” Associate U.S. Attorney General Vanita Gupta said in a statement. “Additionally, the presence of the floating barrier has prompted diplomatic protests by Mexico and risks damaging U.S. foreign policy.”

The lawsuit came on the same day that Abbott defiantly refused a DOJ request to dismantle the 1,000-foot barrier, which was installed along with netting and razor wire in and along the river that Mexicans call the Río Bravo near Eagle Pass in Maverick County.

“Texas will fully utilize its constitutional authority to deal with the crisis you have caused,” Abbott wrote in a letter to U.S. President Joe Biden in response to the DOJ’s request. “Texas will see you in court, Mr. President.”

In a weekend CNN appearance, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) called Abbott’s anti-migrant efforts “barbaric” and “extreme cruelty.”

“For him, this isn’t about border security—it’s about using taxpayer money to feed red meat to right-wing extremists,” Castro said of Abbott on Twitter.

It is also, I think, not just about immigration. This is how they want to respond to global warming. They know that global warming is already causing migration, just like they’ve always known that their efforts to close the border were killing people. Their solution to climate change is to maintain US power, and to use that power to force poor countries to keep supporting the rich ones, and to murder anyone who steps out of line. For that plan, climate change is actually a benefit, because it will make it that much harder for poorer nations to stand on their own, and to try to improve their conditions. At the same time, it will make it harder for people to survive the journey to the US and the crossing. They absolutely want that desert full of bones – they’d string bodies up along the wall as a warning, if they could – but deaths that happen before reaching the border make them happy too.

There were a few articles that went around, during Trump’s first (and hopefully only) term as President, about how folks close to him were big fans of a book called The Camp of the Saints. This book, beloved of Stephens Bannon and Miller is a revolting work of  propaganda from a French white supremacist who died in 2020 (good riddance), and it tells the story of a fleet of refugee boats sailing from India to France. The basic overview is that the Indian refugees are described throughout the book in disgusting and dehumanizing terms, as a liberal French society welcomes their approach, and the conservative “heroes” recommend that the boats be sunk at sea (sound familiar?) to save France from the zombie-like horde.

I do not recommend you read the book, but I do recommend you check out this overview of it by Youtuber José. I’m putting emphasis on this book right now, because I think it is extremely relevant to the current international fascist movement. Fascists seem to be driven by an obsession with humiliation and disgust. They constantly think and talk about cuckoldry, and the defeat of the “West”, and when they talk about groups of people they hate, they always find ways to invoke disgust. My first encounter with it was a website I found, back in highschool dedicated to hating Matthew Shepard, a gay college student who was tortured to death in 1998. It was filled with graphic descriptions of what the website’s creator apparently thought gay people did, and all of them, including body fluids and excrement, could have come straight from the pages of The Camp of the Saints. Likewise, fascists love describing their targets as diseased – another thing immigrants apparently share with LGBTQIA people.

There are many groups under attack right now, but all of them are facing the same threat, and it is a very real threat. Fascists are actively coming for trans people and asylum seekers, just as the Nazis did in the early days. Defending those groups should be enough motivation for any decent person, but even if it’s not, they never stop there, because they always need people to blame and punish for their society’s problems.

I think it’s likely that the courts will rule against Abbot and his death traps, but they will keep hurting and killing people in the meantime. More than that, this will not be the last such attempt. If you take anything away from this let it be that, as long as fascists have any power, they will use that power for these ends. What’s happening at the border is shocking, but it’s not actually very far from what’s considered acceptable in US political discourse. Plenty of Democrats support closing the border. Plenty of Democrats support US meddling in South and Central America, and want to continue doing it. Part of the reason fascists have power in the US, is because the Democrats are a center-right party within a government that has spent decades supporting and aiding fascist groups all over the world, in the name of opposing left-wing movements. This is why I don’t have much faith in the Democratic Party’s ability to fend off rising fascism, and why I think it’s so important for us to build organized, collective power that’s not centered around elections or beholden to political parties. There is ample evidence that even if the Democrats are in power, they won’t do what’s needed without relentless pressure from the left. We are fighting fascism, with all of the horror and death that brings, and that means being clear about both the danger, and what tools and allies we do or do not have in that fight.

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Unacceptable: Universities and Environmental Groups Paying and Working with Fossil Fuel Lobbyists

The idea that “we don’t do that anymore”, or “that doesn’t happen anymore”, is one of the most destructive tropes in the popular discussion of history. In recent years, the rise of fascism and open white supremacy has disabused most people of the idea that those problems are “behind us”, but I sometimes worry that that’s only for those particular issues. This is an issue with almost everything that has been deemed part of a barbaric past that we’ve outgrown. I remember talking to someone around a decade ago, who agreed that labor unions were necessary back in the early 1900s, but they made their point, got us our rights, and now they exist to help themselves, rather than the workers, and we don’t need them anymore. I heard similar things about feminism as a movement, as well. At every step of the way, every movement for change is constantly denounced as unnecessary, but the second change is achieved, that movement is necessary in retrospect, but has now completed its task, and is now unnecessary. A truly depressing number of people seem to accept this reasoning on a truly depressing number of topics.

And so, when it comes to climate change, I worry. It’s hard for me to tell, sitting here inside my skull, whether it is now common knowledge that fossil fuel companies knew about climate change, and lied to prevent anything from being done. I think most people know about that. Honestly, I think most people who oppose climate action are aware of the reporting on oil company lies, they just don’t care. What worries me is that some people may think that all that corruption and lobbying and shady dealing stopped when it became public knowledge that they had been doing it.

You know, “Oh, you caught me. Shucks, well I guess I can’t do that anymore!” and then the movie ends, the good guys win, and we move on to the next problem.

I think most people who’re likely to read this blog (or any other blog on this network) are fully aware that all that bad stuff has continued unabated, or even escalated. I don’t know how representative that is of the general population, but I hope that I’m being too cynical when I worry about this. Regardless, that worry is why I want to highlight this recent reporting, which exposes how hundreds of lobbyists have been ostensibly working for universities and environmental groups, while on the fossil fuel payroll:

More than 1,500 lobbyists in the US are working on behalf of fossil-fuel companies while at the same time representing hundreds of liberal-run cities, universities, technology companies and environmental groups that say they are tackling the climate crisis, the Guardian can reveal.

Lobbyists for oil, gas and coal interests are also employed by a vast sweep of institutions, ranging from the city governments of Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia; tech giants such as Apple and Google; more than 150 universities; some of the country’s leading environmental groups – and even ski resorts seeing their snow melted by global heating.

The breadth of fossil-fuel lobbyists’ work for other clients is captured in a new database of their lobbying interests which was published online on Wednesday.
It shows the reach of state-level fossil-fuel lobbyists into almost every aspect of American life, spanning local governments, large corporations, cultural institutions such as museums and film festivals, and advocacy groups, grouping together clients with starkly contradictory aims.

For instance, State Farm, the insurance company that announced in May it would halt new homeowner policies in California due to the “catastrophic” risk of wildfires worsened by the climate crisis, employs lobbyists that also advocate for fossil fuel interests to lawmakers in 18 states.

Meanwhile, Baltimore, which is suing big oil firms for their role in causing climate-related damages, has shared a lobbyist with ExxonMobil, one of the named defendants in the case. Syracuse University, a pioneer in the fossil fuel divestment movement, has a lobbyist with 14 separate oil and gas clients.
“It’s incredible that this has gone under the radar for so long, as these lobbyists help the fossil fuel industry wield extraordinary power,” said James Browning, a former Common Cause lobbyist who put together the database for a new venture called F Minus. “Many of these cities and counties face severe costs from climate change and yet elected officials are selling their residents out. It’s extraordinary.

“The worst thing about hiring these lobbyists is that it legitimizes the fossil fuel industry,” Browning added. “They can cloak their radical agenda in respectability when their lobbyists also have clients in the arts, or city government, or with conservation groups. It normalizes something that is very dangerous.”


The fossil fuel industry, and anyone working to further their interests, should be treated as pariahs. They should be unwelcome everywhere they go. I’m not talking about coal miners, oil rig workers, and all those, I’m talking about the people working to prevent any kind of political or legal change that would give us a fighting chance at avoiding extinction.

I know corruption has become so normalized in the US that many people seem unable to see it, but this is beyond ridiculous. In addition to the fossil fuel lobbyists, any environmental group that hires these people knowingly should also be shunned, and made to understand exactly why it’s happening. I don’t care what side-stepping justifications the people involved offer for what they’re doing. This isn’t a game, and we don’t have time to indulge their bullshit. It’s well past time to pick a side.

Climate Threat to Crops Underestimated: What can we expect as the world warms?

If I could snap my fingers and make one, single change to most improve humanity’s shot of surviving this global warming event, I would move all of our food production indoors. We are vulnerable to climate change in a lot of ways, but one of the biggest is the fact that the vast majority of our food production is tied to historically reliable seasonal weather patterns. Human agriculture has been shaped through history by the regional climates in which we’ve lived – the best times and crops to plant and harvest, the behavior of fish and game to supplement crops and livestock. Growing up, my dad told me that when the goldenrod bloomed, it was 6 weeks till the first frost, and that fireflies and Juneberries mean the mackerel are running. These and other such things are bits of regional “climate wisdom” that once contained vital information for getting enough food to survive the winter, but have been mostly useless for well over a decade.

For the most part, the changes we’ve seen thus far have been manageable, but we’ve always known that there would be a point at which that was no longer the case. Crop failures due to drought and other weather events are not a new thing, but there has never been any question in my mind that we’re very close to a time when there are so many climate-related crop failures at the same time, all around the world, that it causes serious problems. It’s arguable that that has already been happening in the past couple years, to some degree. From last year:

June 28 (Reuters) – Eric Broten had planned to sow about 5,000 acres of corn this year on his farm in North Dakota, but persistent springtime rains limited him to just 3,500 in a state where a quarter or more of the planned corn could remain unsown this year.

The difficulty planting corn, the single largest grain crop in the world, in the northern United States adds to a string of troubled crop harvests worldwide that point to multiple years of tight supplies and high food costs.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a major agricultural exporter, sent prices of wheat, soy and corn to near records earlier this year. Poor weather has also reduced grain harvests in China, India, South America and parts of Europe. Fertilizer shortages meanwhile are cutting yields of many crops around the globe. read more

The world has perhaps never seen this level of simultaneous agricultural disruption, according to agriculture executives, industry analysts, farmers and economists interviewed by Reuters, meaning it may take years to return to global food security.

“Typically when we’re in a tight supply-demand environment you can rebuild it in a single growing season. Where we are today, and the constraints around boosting production and (war in) Ukraine … it’s two to three years before you get out of the current environment,” said Jason Newton, chief economist for fertilizer producer Nutrien Ltd. (NTR.TO).

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said last week that the world faces an unprecedented hunger crisis, with a risk of multiple famines this year and a worse situation in 2023.

Ahead of a crucial North American harvest, grain seeding delays from Manitoba to Indiana have sparked worries about lower production. A smaller corn crop in the top-producing United States will ripple through the supply chain and leave consumers paying even more for meat than they already are, as corn is a key source of livestock feed. read more

Global corn supplies have been tight since the pandemic started in 2020, due to transportation problems and strong demand, and are expected to fall further. The U.S. Agriculture Department (USDA) expects end-of-season U.S. corn stocks to be down 33% from pre-pandemic levels in September before this year’s harvest, and down 37% in September 2023.

There are factors at work here that are separate from climate change, but with weather-related harvest reductions all around the world, it’s clearly part of the story. I said the other day that we’re not prepared for what’s coming in the very near future, and a big part of that is the fact that very, very little has been done to climate-proof food production. I’ve been saying (to my tiny readership) that we’ve got to move things indoors, because if we don’t do it now, we’ll be doing it later, after far too many lives are lost to famine. Indoor farming does require spending energy on grow lights, but it is vastly more water-efficient, and the controlled environment means a dependably idea “climate” for the crops, and much, much less of a pest problem. There are other options, like using more of a factory setting to grow algae and edible bacteria, but what matters is that there are options, and we need to be building them up right now.

I am quite certain that hydroponics, and aeroponics, and bacterial cultures, and fungus farms, and any other ways of growing food indoors will have problems that need to be sorted out. Power failures would be a much greater danger for food production, for example, and given that extreme weather tends to mess with the power grid, that means that we’ll need to either improve the grid, have excellent backup for these facilities, or ideally both. That’s just one example, though, and it would be far better for us to figure out those problems now, while we still have plenty of food grown the old-fashioned way.

The question is, how much time do we have?

My answer, as always, is “not enough, so we should get to work now”. I’ve long felt that the possibility of simultaneous crop failures around the globe has been criminally under-reported. I don’t entirely trust mainstream news outlets not to turn potential food shortages into a Malthusian overpopulation thing, but this is something that needs to be addressed, because I believe it’s coming sooner than most people think, and it looks like the science agrees with me:

The risks of harvest failures in multiple global breadbaskets have been underestimated, according to a study Tuesday that researchers said should be a “wake up call” about the threat climate change poses to our food systems.

Food production is both a key source of planet-warming emissions and highly exposed to the effects of climate change, with climate and crop models used to figure out just what the impacts could be as the world warms.

In the new research published in Nature Communications, researchers in the United States and Germany looked at the likelihood that several major food producing regions could simultaneously suffer low yields.

These events can lead to price spikes, food insecurity and even civil unrest, said lead author Kai Kornhuber, a researcher at Columbia University and the German Council on Foreign Relations.

By “increasing the concentration of greenhouse gases, we are entering this uncharted water where we are struggling to really have an accurate idea of what type of extremes we’re going to face,” he told AFP.

“We show that these types of concurring events are really largely underestimated.”

The study looked at observational and climate model data between 1960 and 2014, and then at projections for 2045 to 2099.

Researchers first looked at the impact of the jet stream – the air currents that drive weather patterns in many of the world’s most important crop producing regions.

They found that a “strong meandering” of the jet stream, flowing in big wave shapes, has particularly significant impacts on key agricultural regions in North America, Eastern Europe and East Asia, with a reduction in harvests of up to seven percent.

The researchers also found that this had been linked to simultaneous crop failures in the past.

One example was in 2010, when the fluctuations of the jet stream were linked to both extreme heat in parts of Russia and devastating floods in Pakistan, which both hurt crops, Kornhuber said.

The climate events of 2010 are something I’ve brought up before when making this point. I want to say that when it comes to most climate-related things, I very much want to be proven wrong. Everything I’ve seen indicates that things are going to get worse that most people expect, faster than most people expect. I do feel a small amount of satisfaction when I see things I’ve been saying break into the mainstream more (though I played no role in that), but I’d much rather climate change turn out to be not a serious problem. There are people to whom I’d enjoy saying “I told you so”, but none of them read this blog, and chances are good that many of them will ever know I exist.

At this point, as we consider the possibility of a global food shortage driven by our rapidly warming climate, I want to take a brief moment to use the history of my current home – Ireland – to discuss how those first climate famines are likely to unfold, assuming no major changes to our global agricultural system.

So, as most of you are aware, Ireland had a devastating famine from 1845-1852, during which time around one million people died, and around two million people left the island in desperation. Leading up to that point, British colonial rule had led to the Irish relying heavily on potatoes to survive. They had to grow food to export, for the profit of English landlords, and potatoes can feed more people more easily per acre of crops than grains, so the tenant farmers subsisted on them to maximize land for the cash crops. When the potato blight hit Europe, it specifically took out the primary subsistence crop for the island. All the other food – grains and cow products especially – was grown for money, and so while Ireland starved, more food was exported than was needed to feed the nation. There’s a lot of stuff out there on this, but if you want a brief overview, I recommend this video from the Gravel Institute:

This is not directly analogous to the global situation today, but where Ireland was dependent on potatoes, and forced to keep exporting food “owed” to English capitalists as they starved, a great many nations in the world are dependent on food imports bought with money earned by growing cash crops, almost always for the profit of multinational corporations. Africa, in particular, is extremely dependent on imports – a problem that has been maintained through neocolonial debt traps, and a capitalist system backed up by threat of war or the assassination of any leader that tries to put their country on a new track. What this means is that when (not if) climate change creates major crop failures, it’s probably not going to result starvation for people in rich, white countries, at the beginning.

As with Ireland, the cash crops will continue to be exported, but as food prices rise, African countries will have a harder time importing the food they need to survive, and so starvation will hit there first. There will be people dying of malnutrition in rich countries, of course, but that’s a matter of routine policy to keep workers in line, as I’ve discussed in the past. The same global capitalist system that exploits the former colonies will also act as a buffer between rich countries and certain consequences of climate change. Poor nations, just like poor citizens in rich countries, will be sacrificed for the “greater good” of maintaining the wealth, power, and comfort of the capitalist aristocracy.

I think that the way the English press reported on the famine can also inform what we will hear, as those people starve:

The worst famine in a century was depicted as an extension of normal, recurring events, and the newspaper consistently complained about the financial burdens forced on British workers for the sake of the starving Irish. On 15 September 1846, its editorial declared,

‘It appears to us of the very first importance to all classes of Irish society to impress on them that there is nothing really so peculiar, so exceptional, in the condition which they look upon as the pit of utter despair’.

It continued, ‘Is the English labourer to compensate the Irish peasant for the loss of potatoes, and secure him a regular employer for this next twelvemonth? Why, the English labourer is in just the same case.’

Indolent Irish

The notion that the Irish were leaching off the English taxpayer (often used as a synonym for the British taxpayer) was a view bound up with contemporary debates about politics, culture and the economy, as well as emerging ideas about race.

The Irish did not fare well in such theories. Amongst politicians and in large sections of the public, they were viewed as inferior and antithetical to the English. While pity and sympathy for Ireland’s plight was not uncommon in early newspaper depictions of the Famine, negative stereotypes were just as prevalent, and the Irish were often viewed in opposition to the English labourer, who typified the ‘respectable’ poor whom the indolent Irish were trying to abuse.

The Times argued that Ireland should ‘pay for its own improvement’ (19 August 1846); the apparent unwillingness of its people to do so demonstrated ‘a case of permanent and inveterate national degradation’ (12 October 1847).

‘Their own wickedness and folly’

Nor was The Times alone in its view. Other publications claimed that the Irish were responsible for their own misfortune. The Economist, founded in 1843, declared on 10 October 1846 that Irish distress was ‘brought on by their own wickedness and folly’.

Punch, a new type of illustrated magazine founded in 1841, portrayed these views pictorially. In one cartoon from February 24, 1849,  we can see a smiling, shabbily dressed Irishman (denoted by ape-like features, clothing and a clay pipe) riding the shoulders of England’s respectable poor with a sack of £50,000 slung over his shoulder.

Blaming the Irish

These national views often complemented provincial reportage elsewhere in Britain. In Liverpool, the extensive immigration of the Irish poor had provoked questions about the social ills impacting the city – questions which Victorian society had become increasingly preoccupied with since the early nineteenth century.

Refugees fleeing Ireland were treated much the same as refugees are treated today. They were scapegoated for all the problems of the host countries, and blamed for problems of their home countries, and this is what we can expect from the climate famines that will come later this century. I feel quite comfortable predicting this, because it’s still very much a part of daily life in rich nations. Any online conversation about problems in Africa will inevitably conjure an army of (usually white) people to talk about how it’s all their own fault and why we shouldn’t accept refugees, and some of them will probably bring up the racist drivel of The Bell Curve.

Take the recent sinking of a refugee boat off of Greece, for example. There’s no shortage of people willing to blame the drowning victims for their deaths, even as it looks increasingly as though the Greek coast guard was to blame. Around the world, look at how wealthy nations are handling refugees of all sorts, and you’ll get an idea for how climate change will turn crop failures into mass starvation and death. Over time, those food shortages will do more than just raise prices in rich nations, but the first wave will break hardest on the poorest nations in the world, and that is by design. It is also by design that refugees will face high death rates as they seek safety, and poor treatment from host countries.

As I’ve said before, there are things we could be doing to prevent this gloomy forecast from coming true. Indoor food production has been growing for years, so many problems have already been solved. A massive investment could make a real difference in a pretty short amount of time, at least when it comes to the mechanics of successfully producing enough food. Unfortunately, neocolonialism is a problem that needs to be solved all by itself. If we don’t do that, then as with Ireland in the 1840s, the former colonies will be “left” to a fate forced upon them.

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