Empire Burlesque
The Handmaid's Time is Here: America’s Apotheosis of Woman-Hatred
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Wednesday, 17 December 2014 00:01

Salon.com relays yet another horror story in the ongoing effort to criminalize American women for being …. women. From Salon:

Tamara Loertscher had a feeling she was pregnant, so she went to see a doctor last summer. She didn’t have health insurance, but sought care anyway. It turns out that her suspicions were right, a pregnancy test revealed she was 14 weeks along.

After a urine test, Loertscher said she disclosed to her doctor that, because of a thyroid condition and depression, she had been self-medicating with marijuana and methamphetamine, but had stopped when she suspected she was pregnant. It didn’t matter. Loertscher lives in Wisconsin, and a law there allows the state to arrest, detain and incarcerate pregnant women found to be using drugs, or, in Loertscher’s case, pregnant women who have used drugs in the past.

Hospital workers reported her, and a process was set in motion. The state accused her of child abuse and appointed her fetus a lawyer. (This is a familiar pattern.) She was ordered into an in-patient treatment facility, despite the fact that she was no longer using drugs and had voluntarily sought medical care. She refused, and was soon incarcerated.

Of course, this “law” is neither designed nor intended to “protect the fetus.” The most cursory thought makes this clear. How many more fetuses will suffer from this law, from lack of proper prenatal care because women will be too afraid to tell doctors of their full medical history? Many, many more. This the true aim of this law is clear: it is to punish women.

A woman who has taken drugs is automatically a "fallen woman" in the eyes of shallow moralists who hold such sway in our society. She is more likely to be poor (though by no means in every case). She is more likely to be unmarried (though by no means in every case). She is more likely to have expressed her sexuality in some way that makes the angry, wounded, fearful, sexually insecure white men who dominate our legislatures feel uncomfortable. These pathetic wretches, who fear and hate any woman they can't control, would be pitiable in their brokenness -- if they didn't have the power of the state at their command, to use as a weapon to hurt those who threaten the weak, frayed stitching of their fragile psyches.

On an individual basis, one might deal with such a person with some understanding, take mitigating factors into account -- upbringing, personal experiences, cultural milieu, etc. -- and seek some way to reach them and repair them (as we all need to be reached and repaired in different ways). But when this disease of the soul clothes itself in the robes of state, turning personal prejudice into a monolithic hammer brought down on the heads of the innocent, then there can be no pity, no accommodation with such people. An anti-Semitic wretch on the streets of Munich who projects his personal pain onto the caricatured Other of "The Jew" is simply pathetic; but one who joins this inner putrescence with a mass movement, a public ideology, encouraging it in others and finally taking hold of the power to punish the Other for being the mirror of his own self-hatred -- this is an entirely different proposition.

And this dynamic is exactly what we are dealing with in movement to criminalize pregnant women. The idea that in 21st century America we would put a woman in jail for being concerned enough about her baby that she informs her doctor about the full range of physical factors that might affect its development -- that we would throw someone in jail for this -- is simply astounding. (And yes, I know that technically she was jailed for refusing to submit to the state's order that she enter the somewhat less stringent incarceration of a treatment facility. The fact remains that the state has the power to incarcerate a pregnant woman for speaking the truth about her medical history in order to help her unborn child.)

These laws are just part of a wide-ranging campaign to punish women -- for their fertility, for their sexuality, for asserting their freedom and equality. These efforts provoke genuine, virulent hatred in many people, and not just those of extreme religious or rightwing view (or, sadly, not just men). And some these haters stand on the commanding heights of American society, in politics and media.

I wrote of one such diseased soul -- and the consequences of his kind of public hate speech -- a few years ago. Here is an excerpt:

What drove the man who killed Dr. George Tiller? Perhaps someone who had seen Tiller lambasted by one of the nation's leading media figures as someone "who will execute babies for $5,000" and protects "rapists impregnating 10-year-olds." Tiller's activities were compared by the leading national media figure to "the kind of stuff that happened in Mao's China and Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Soviet Union." The multimillionaire media figure then promised that "we're going to try to stop Tiller," declaring that Tiller's Nazi-like atrocities were stripping the entire nation of its moral authority.

In other words, one the nation's most prominent and highly paid media figures told his national television audience that Dr. George Tiller was child-murdering protector of child-rapists, a figure of filth and evil on a par with Adolf Hitler. And on Sunday, someone filled with precisely that idea walked into Tiller's church -- his church -- and shot the doctor dead.

As Salon.com reports, Bill O'Reilly (aka "The Falafel of Love") has been "trying to stop" Tiller for years, since denouncing him as a Hitlerian child-murderer and child-rape accomplice on national television in 2006. We have no doubt that O'Reilly, who routinely trumpets his ability to move millions with his golden words (Is he not the man who, year after year, saves Christmas from the evil encroachments of Jews like George Soros?), will manfully step up to claim a large share of responsibility for the stormcloud of murderous demonization that has engulfed Tiller for years, and has now taken his life.

Come on, Bill, be a man: step up to the microphone, put your rubbery jowls right up there in the camera and tell us you are glad that your acolyte pumped some hot lead into George Tiller. After all, he was as bad as Hitler, right? If someone had gunned down Hitler, you wouldn't hide behind any milksoppery about "the process of law" or namby-pamby handwringing about "vigilantism," would you? Go ahead; dip your finger into one of the holes in Tiller's corpse, smear the blood on your cheek, and say it loud and proud: "We got him!"

As noted in that post, I'd written on the subject a few years before, in a 2003 post excerpted here:

The defining issue of modernity is control of women's fertility. It is this question – more than religion, politics, economics or the "clash of civilizations" – that forms the deepest dividing line in the world today. It is a line than cuts through every nation, every people, from the highest level of organized society down to, in many cases, the divided minds and emotions of individual men and women.

Control of fertility – and its active principle, sexuality – has always been an organizing principle of human society, of course, but modernity has presented the world with a revolutionary concept that overthrows millennia of received wisdom and tradition: namely, that an individual woman should control her own fertility. This notion destabilizes state structures and religious dogmas, and uproots cultural mores whose origins reach back to prehistoric times. It is a profoundly disturbing development in the life of humankind.

Little wonder, then, that anxieties over fertility and sexuality are the chief engines driving the frenzied and increasingly violent fundamentalist movements now sweeping through the world. It is here that extremists of every stripe make common cause against modernity. Almost every other aspect of "the modern" – science and technology, high finance, industrialization, etc. – has been absorbed, in one form or another, by the most "traditionalist" societies. But what today's fundamentalists – from Osama bin Laden to George W. Bush to Pope John Paul II, from the American-backed warlords of Afghanistan to the anti-American mullahs of Iran – cannot accept, at any cost, is the freedom of a woman's body.

This frenzy, this primitive fear – understandable perhaps in the face of such a wrenching upheaval – does not in itself make a fundamentalist an evil person. But it can – and does – lead them into evil: sometimes blindly, in ignorance and panic; but sometimes knowingly, with eyes wide open, a willing embrace of primitive emotions to serve selfish and cynical ends.

In a follow-up to the 2009 post, I noted that Arthur Silber had dealt powerfully with this theme, in an essay rich with historical detail and insight. I excerpted it here:

There are a great many aspects of today's world that are variously horrifying, ghastly, destructive and appalling -- and among the very worst is an idea that appears to be rapidly gaining support: the noxious notion that all questions relating to abortion rights should be returned to the states. For many reasons, only a few of which are discussed below, this idea is completely incoherent as a matter of political theory, and it undercuts any defense of individual rights on the most fundamental level. If you give a damn at all about the liberty of a single human being, you should oppose all such attempts to your last breath.

The human being to which I refer is not the developing fetus, but the woman who carries the child. I well understand that many people believe that the fetus is a human being long before birth, with all the rights that attend to that designation. In the political context, I consider all such beliefs irrelevant, no matter how sincerely and deeply held. Only one ultimate point matters here: whether you think the developing fetus is a human being or not, the fetus is contained in and supported by the woman's body. If the woman's body did not exist, neither would the fetus. Only the woman's existence makes that of the fetus possible.

The fetus only exists because of the woman's body -- not yours, not that of some possibly corrupt and stupid politician in Washington, and not the body of some possibly ignorant and venal politician in a state legislature. As I have watched this debate develop, and as I have considered with astonishment the increasingly byzantine efforts to " draw lines" about the point of viability, the time at which a full set of rights attaches to the fetus, and all the rest, I have become increasingly convinced that the right of the woman to control her own body when she is pregnant must be absolute up to the point of birth. All the attempts to craft legislation circumscribing that right prior to birth quickly become enmeshed in what are finally subjective claims that can be disputed into eternity, and impossible of proof in one direction or another.

Certainly, the woman's right to an abortion must be absolute in the first and second trimesters of pregnancy. And even in the third trimester, up to the time of birth, that right must be absolute, and the decision must be that of the woman in consultation with those medical personnel she chooses. Yes, a decision to abort late in pregnancy may be agonizingly difficult, just as it may be at an earlier time -- but whatever agony is involved is that of the woman, not a politician or bureaucrat who is unjustly empowered to make decisions that affect someone else on the most profound level. The responsibility and the consequences are the woman's, and no one else's. The choice is also hers, and no one else's.

But little by little (and lots by lots), these choices , these rights are being stripped away from women, piece by piece, as this degraded, dystopian century grinds on and on.

 

 
The Pistols are Popping and the Power is Down
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Sunday, 19 July 2009 00:05

Sorry that service continues to be interrupted, but the problems are being worked on, and I hope we will be able to be less intermittent in transmission soon.

As we have noted before, if you find the site down for a long period of time, you might check out our former stomping grounds, now known as Empire Burlesque 1.0.  If I have some burning word to say to the world but this site is down, I will post at the old homeplace.

Meanwhile, here's a glimpse of a man who sure enough has a burning word to say to the world -- and enough fire to keep saying it with power and moxie even in the lengthening shadows.

Shame on your greed, shame on your wicked schemes
I'll say this, I don't give a damn about your dreams 

 

 
Making Their Bones: The American Elite's Bi-Partisan Murder Racket
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Thursday, 16 July 2009 10:26

You want to climb to the top of this seething pit,
You got to walk and talk real nice.
But the secret price of power here is
Human sacrifice.


Yesterday we wrote about the sudden-onset amnesia of our media-political class concerning the officially confirmed operations of American death squads. As we noted, official Washington is in a minor flutter at the moment over reports that Dick Cheney ordered and then concealed the existence of a planned program of targeted assassinations -- a program which was supposedly never implemented and was then supposedly cancelled by Obama CIA chief Leon Panetta. We merely pointed out the well-known fact -- supported by copious reportage in mainstream journals in the past eight years, not to mention proud public admissions by top government officials, including the president -- that the CIA (and other agents of the United States government) had indeed been murdering people in "extrajudicial assassinations" throughout the Bush Administration.

I concentrated on state murder during the Bush years because that is the ostensible focus of the current, manufactured controversy over the alleged existence of one allegedly non-operational program. However, as Jeremy Scahill points out, the Bush-Cheney murder racket was not created ex nihilo, but was a continuation and refinement of murder programs initiated by Bill Clinton. Scahill also makes the pertinent observation that "extrajudicial assassination" -- known quaintly in the old days as murder most foul -- is continuing unabated under Barack Obama.

The deep-dyed complicity of Democratic leaders, executive and congressional, in official murder sprees is the main reason we will never see a genuine investigation of America's death squads, as Scahill points out. Imperial crime is thoroughly bipartisan; neither faction dares push too far in such matters, because both are smeared and caked with blood.

Scahill's piece should be read in its entirety, but here are a few choice bits:

The fact is that many of Bush’s worst policies (now being highlighted by leading Democrats) were based in some form or another in a Clinton-initiated policy or were supported by the Democrats in Congress with their votes. To name a few: the USA PATRIOT Act, the invasion of Iraq, the attack against Afghanistan, the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program, the widespread use of mercenaries and other private contractors in US war zones and warrant-less wire-tapping...

As [the Democrats now pretending to be scandalized by the recent Cheney allegations] well know, President Obama has continued the Bush targeted assassination program using weaponized drones and special forces teams hunting "high value targets." As former CIA Counter-terrorism chief Vincent Cannistraro and others have pointed out, "The CIA runs drones and targets al-Qaeda safe houses all the time." Cannistraro told Talking Points Memo that there is no important difference between those kinds of attacks and "assassinations" with a gun or a knife.

...It is pretty clear that when the Bush administration took over, it picked up the Clinton administration’s policy on assassination and ran with it — albeit with more of a missionary zeal for killing and a removal of some of the layers of lawyering. In short, the Bush team expanded and streamlined the longstanding U.S. government assassination program.

Throughout the 1990s, the question of covert assassinations was a source of major discussion within the Clinton White House and it is clear assassinations were attempted with presidential approval. Newsweek magazine reported on how, in 1995, U.S. Special Forces facilitated the assassination of a Libyan "terrorist" in Bosnia, saying, "American authorities justified the assassination under a little-known 1993 ‘lethal finding’ signed by President Bill Clinton that gave permission to target terrorists." A former senior Clinton official speaking shortly after 9/11 called on the Bush administration not to escalate the U.S. assassination program, saying "We have a war on drugs, too, but we don’t kill drug lords." But then, with no apparent sense of contradiction, the official added, "we have proxies who do." 

...The truth is, under Clinton, it wasn’t just proxies authorized to do the assassinations. ... Clinton did authorize what amounted to assassination squads to hunt down and kill bin Laden and other "al-Qaeda leaders." That happened officially in 1998 with Clinton’s signing of a Memorandum of Notification authorizing the CIA to carry out covert assassinations. George W. Bush was not the president and Dick Cheney was not the vice president. Of course, current CIA Director Leon Panetta was Clinton’s chief of staff from 1994 to 1997 and would have been party to years worth of discussion on this issue when Clinton was president. Under Clinton, the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel issued secret rulings stating that the Ford/Reagan ban on assassinations did not apply to "military targets" or "to attacks carried out in preemptive self-defense," according to Steve Coll, Pulitzer-Prize winning author of Ghost Wars.

Shortly after 9/11, Clinton stated this position publicly, supporting the Bush administration’s "war on terror" targeted assassination policy, saying on NBC News, "The ban that was put in effect under President Ford only applies to heads of state. It doesn’t apply to terrorists." That is a stunning statement that is a true legal stretch given the explicit language of the ban. Moreover, Clinton did, in fact, try to kill a head of state on April 22, 1999, when he ordered a NATO airstrike on the home of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Clinton and Gen. Wesley Clark also authorized an assassination attempt on Serbian Information Minister, Aleksander Vucic, bombing Radio Television Serbia when Vucic was scheduled to appear via satellite on CNN’s "Larry King Live." Vucic was not killed, but 16 media workers were.

Clinton also publicly acknowledged his own administration’s attempt to assassinate bin Laden. "I worked hard to try to kill him," Clinton said. "I authorized a finding for the CIA to kill him. We contracted with people to kill him. I got closer to killing him than anybody has gotten since." Clinton’s National Security Advisor Sandy Berger said after Clinton issued his 1998 "lethal finding," U.S. operatives worked with Afghan rebels for two years in an attempt to kill bin Laden. "There were a few points when the pulse quickened, when we thought we were close," Berger later recalled. Among the alleged attempts on bin Laden’s life taken by Clinton was the 1998 bombing of Afghanistan (which was coupled with a massive strike on the Al Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Sudan).

As Coll observed of the Clinton policy: "Clinton had demonstrated his willingness to kill bin Laden, without any pretense of seeking his arrest."

Scahill has much more on the macabre history -- and the reeking hypocrisy -- behind the current "controversy.

 
Trying to Stay Human in an Age of Shame
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Friday, 12 December 2014 17:02

In a time of national shame, in an age soaked in pervasive evil, a search, a plea to find a way to stay human …

 
Modern-Day Mengeles: America's Terror War Torture Shrinks
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Wednesday, 10 December 2014 13:54

One of the "revelations" of the Senate report on CIA torture has been the role played by two psychologists in devising the regimen of torture used by the Agency.

[A quick but necessary digression: please note that this torture regimen has been lauded as "effective" and "life-saving" by the Obama Administration -- even after the release of the report; indeed, the Administration says that the fruits of these crimes still "inform our counterterrorism efforts to this day." Just bear that in mind as you read the reams of justified denunciations of the Bush Administration for the commission of these particular crimes by this particular agency. The Bush thugs should be excoriated -- and prosecuted -- for their crimes. But a multitude of crimes in many forms (including torture) are still being committed by the Terror War machine under Obama -- the man who has stoutly shielded his predecessors from prosecution and now even praises some of their worst crimes.]

But of course there is nothing new in report's uncovering of the psychologists' role. (Except for one element: the fact that these two sinister quacks were paid a whopping $81 million for helping the United States government torture defenseless captives and produce garbage intelligence.) Anyone who wanted to know about their Mengele-style perversion of medical ethics could have read about it in reputable mainstream publications years ago. (Actually, this is also true of almost all the incidents and practices detailed in the report. Anyone who didn't know of these things before now -- especially in the political-media world -- simply didn't want to know of these things.) There were also other psychologists and medical personnel involved in the program after it got started, as Mark Benjamin detailed at Salon.com back in 2007.

In that same year, the New Yorker's Jane Mayer produced an extensive report on the wide-ranging Terror War torture regimen. The article should have produced a firestorm of outrage and aggressive, in-depth, high-profile investigations from, say, the U.S. Senate, which was then in the control of the Democrats.  But as we know, her revelations sank like a stone. And it is very, very likely that the same thing will happen with the newly released (and, it must always be noted, heavily truncated, censored and incomplete) Senate report. Indeed, McClatchy is already reporting that the incoming Republican-controlled Senate will gladly let the report "gather dust," taking no follow-up action. This stance will doubtless please their Terror War partners in the White House, who fought against the release of the report -- and who certainly aren't going to do anything about it.

I wrote about the Mayer and Benjamin articles when they first came out in 2007. Below are a few excerpts, dealing with their reportage on the torture shrinks:

For those who have been following and chronicling the rise of the gulag since its inception (back in the days when its instigators and practitioners were still happy to brag to cheerleading newspapers about "taking the gloves off" and going to "the dark side"), there is not a lot that is new in Mayer's piece. But she has brought it all together with devastating thoroughness and clarity.

Mayer mentions tellingly -- but briefly -- one key aspect of Bush's torture chambers that has been largely overlooked: the key role played by a couple of psychologists in drawing up the sinister regimen (which was also based in part on KGB practices): CIA contractors James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. Mark Benjamin of Salon has much more on this pair, who devoted their clinical skills to devising ways to destroy a captive's mind -- in the somewhat bizarre conviction that a destroyed mind can somehow produce useful intelligence. (Benjamin in turn drew on a 2005 piece by Mayer about Mitchell and the Bush Regime's Mengelean use of medical personnel in interrogations.)

Mitchell and Jessen helped run the military's SERE program, originally designed to teach American forces how to resist and survive torture inflicted on them by evil regimes or terrorists. But it turns out that the Rumsfeld Pentagon and its mad scientists were using U.S. soldiers as guinea pigs to help devise their own torture program. For years, the Pentagon flatly denied using SERE tactics on the captives in the Guantanamo Bay concentration camp, and in Afghanistan and Iraq. This was, of course, a lie. As Benjamin reports:

Until last month, the Army had denied any use of SERE training for prisoner interrogations. "We do not teach interrogation techniques," Carol Darby, chief spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, said last June when Salon asked about a document that appeared to indicate that instructors from the SERE school taught their methods to interrogators at Guantánamo.

But the declassified DoD inspector general's report described initiatives by high-level military officials to incorporate SERE concepts into interrogations. And it said that psychologists affiliated with SERE training -- people like Mitchell and Jessen -- played a critical role. According to the inspector general, the Army Special Operations Command's Psychological Directorate at Fort Bragg first drafted a plan to have the military reverse-engineer SERE training in the summer of 2002. At the same time, the commander of Guantánamo determined that SERE tactics might be used on detainees at the military prison. Then in September 2002, the Army Special Operations Command and other SERE officials hosted a "SERE psychologist conference" at Fort Bragg to brief staff from the military's prison at Guantánamo on the use of SERE tactics.

And Mayer notes:

The SERE program was designed strictly for defense against torture regimes, but the C.I.A.’s new team used its expertise to help interrogators inflict abuse. “They were very arrogant, and pro-torture,” a European official knowledgeable about the program said. “They sought to render the detainees vulnerable—to break down all of their senses. It takes a psychologist trained in this to understand these rupturing experiences.”

The use of psychologists was also considered a way for C.I.A. officials to skirt measures such as the Convention Against Torture. The former adviser to the intelligence community said, “Clearly, some senior people felt they needed a theory to justify what they were doing. You can’t just say, ‘We want to do what Egypt’s doing.’ When the lawyers asked what their basis was, they could say, ‘We have Ph.D.s who have these theories.’”

… Mitchell and Jessen were not experts sought for their dispassionate advice in determining the best policy options for government officials. All the "experts" employed by the Bush Regime are just dupes … or, as with the psychologists, willing stooges, brought in to act as window dressing for policies already decided upon. Bush and Cheney and their minions wanted to torture people -- not only for the psychosexual kick these genuine perverts get from it but also because it was a central element in their drive to establish an authoritarian executive unfettered by any law. They could not, as a matter of "principle," submit to the authority of the Geneva Conventions, American law or Constitutional precepts. They had plenty of scientists and practiced interrogators on hand to tell them that the KGB-SERE system was useless -- indeed, counterproductive -- in producing actionable intelligence. But they chose to listen only to those who told them what they wanted to hear, whose pseudo-science buttressed decisions they had already taken.

I finished that 2007 piece with a paragraph that still holds true today, as a description of the kind of people who hold power in our blood-soaked bipartisan imperial system:

They don't want to govern; they want to rule. They simply cannot be treated -- on any issue whatsoever -- as an ordinary government engaged in ordinary tussles over politics and policy. They are not a government in any traditional sense of the word. They are the criminal vanguard of a radical movement that is now holding the nation hostage. And any political "opposition" that does not recognize this fact is worse than useless; it is, as we've said before, complicit in the gang's crimes.

 
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