Wednesday, November 23, 2016

From Plymouth Rock To Standing Rock

It's that most exceptionally American time of the year, when we bow our heads in thanks, celebrating the birth legend of the great United States imperium. It's time to get all nostalgic about the myth of the libertarian pilgrims who fled British persecution only to co-opt, evict and exterminate the aboriginal people in the name of God and greed and freedom.

Even if you choose to ignore the historical propaganda, and use the day as an excuse to get together with friends and family, this whole Thanksgiving bounty thing is kind of hard to take if you live in Flint, Michigan, and your water is still poisoned by lead. While our president was on his grandiloquent farewell tour of the world last week, singing the praises of American democracy, it took a lawsuit and a federal judge to order the government to deliver more bottled water to Flint residents by a December 16th deadline. Democracy apparently doe not involve the president ordering the Army Corps of Engineers into Flint to begin immediate emergency work to replace the corroded water delivery system.

In the true spirit of the hegemonic holiday, government officials are actually appealing this very modest and humane judicial order, saying that it would be just too hard to deliver life-sustaining water door to door. If residents are too old, too sick, too language-deprived, too transportation-deprived, or too intellectually deprived to get themselves to a bottled water distribution center or to install a cheap ineffectual plastic filter on their faucets, then too bad for them. From the Detroit News:  
State officials argued the court order would require a “Herculean effort” equivalent to a large-scale military operation and cost the state at least $10.45 million a month, or $125 million annually. For more than a year, Flint’s residents have been advised against drinking their tap water without a filter due to dangerously high lead levels.
In a 37-page opinion, Lawson ordered home delivery of four cases of water per resident each week unless state and city officials can verify each resident has a properly installed and maintained faucet water filter.
The delivery order “increases the scope of the state’s emergency response to an unnecessary and insurmountable degree, particularly in light of the injunction’s time constraints,” attorneys wrote.
America's forced colonization and re-colonization by deregulated puritanical plunderers high on crack capitalism continues unabated. Thanks to the 2008 financial collapse that they orchestrated, grim reapers in suits are seizing distressed property for a song and then baiting inviting the distressed multitudes to partake of their leavings. (Drinking water is extra, however, and not only in Flint. If you can't pay your privatized water bill, you'll just have to swallow your stuffing crumbs dry.)

Water is only free when it is blasted out of a military cannon at the indigenous Americans and environmentalists currently protesting an oil pipeline in sub-freezing North Dakota. 

Just in time for Thanksgiving, law enforcers acting in the service of a few greedy oil company millionaires have escalated their attacks on unarmed citizens attempting to block construction of the polluting project. Police injured another 160 people over the weekend with the surplus military grade weaponry provided to them by the Obama administration. They used rubber bullets, percussion grenades, and tear gas, as well as highly pressured water which freezes skin upon contact. One woman was so seriously hurt that she might lose an arm. The Guardian reported:
Sophia Wilansky, an environmental activist from New York, was hospitalized in Minneapolis where surgeons are attempting to repair a severe injury to her left arm that destroyed arteries, nerves, muscle, soft tissue and bone, according to her father. She remains at risk of amputation, and if the arm is salvaged, it will probably have very limited functionality.
Wayne Wilansky, her father, contends that the injury was caused by an exploding concussion grenade thrown by law enforcement, who also deployed teargas, rubber bullets and a water cannon on protesters during a tense standoff on a bridge Sunday night.
But North Dakota law enforcement officers have aggressively countered Wilansky’s account, releasing multiple statements accusing protesters of setting off an explosion.
( Whether it's in Michigan or in North Dakota, or wherever powerful sadists roam free and unaccountable, have you noticed how the technique of victim-blaming is always at the top of their list of talking points?)

The nearly completed pipeline is meant to transport crude oil across the ancestral lands of the Standing Rock Sioux, and residents fear that the project will contaminate their drinking water. They're trying, to no avail thus far, to get the Obama administration to deny the Dakota Access company permits to extend the pipeline across the Missouri River. 

In a powerful editorial published today, the New York Times noted that this kind of cruel oppression against indigenous Americans has been going on for centuries. And corporate police state and media efforts to portray the protesters in a bad light is having the exact opposite effect:  
The department’s video was meant to portray the protesters as dangerous troublemakers, but the photos and videos in news reports suggest a more familiar story — an imbalance of power, where law enforcement fiercely defends property rights against protesters’ claims of environmental protection and the rights of indigenous people. American Indians have seen this sort of drama unfold for centuries — native demands meeting brute force against a backdrop of folly — in this case, the pursuit of fossil fuels at a time of sagging oil demand and global climatic peril.
The Army Corps of Engineers has called for more study and input from the tribe before it decides on whether to grant a permit. The pipeline company has asked a federal judge to give it the right to proceed with its plan to lay pipe under the river. There is no firm timeline for either decision.
Obama, meanwhile, cluckily pardoned one last Thanksgiving turkey as he basked in his twilight glow of record high public approval ratings. Cynically ignoring Flint and Standing Rock and the most extreme wealth inequality in modern history, he employed the slimy political tactic of red herring-with-wattles:
Tomorrow is one of the best days of the year to be an American. It’s a day to count our blessings, spend time with the ones we love, and enjoy some good food and some great company. But it’s also one of the worst days of the year to be a turkey. They don’t have it so good.
It could always be worse, proles. Put yourselves in the place of a Butterball, and you'll swear that your Flint drinking water is champagne, and that police blasts from a water cannon are a spa treatment.

Before long, Obama will passive-aggressively hand off the ultimate decisions on Standing Rock and Flint to his successor. Donald Trump, you might remember, wants to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency. The new president is as unabashedly all-American as they come. Oh, and he just happens to have some of his own plundered money invested in the Dakota Access Pipeline, whose owners also conveniently donated to his campaign. 

Terrorism as the profiteers' weapon of choice is a grand American tradition that started the minute Christopher Columbus landed in the Bahamas in 1492. Glorious greed is the whole basis of the Thanksgiving Day holiday. It's as bald and ugly as an obese plucked turkey.

  From Howard Zinn's "People's History of the United States":

When the Pilgrims came to New England they too were coming not to vacant land but to territory inhabited by tribes of Indians. The governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Winthrop, created the excuse to take Indian land by declaring the area legally a "vacuum." The Indians, he said, had not "subdued" the land, and therefore had only a "natural" right to it, but not a "civil right." A "natural right" did not have legal standing.
 The Puritans also appealed to the Bible, Psalms 2:8: "Ask of me, and I shall give thee, the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession." And to justify their use of force to take the land, they cited Romans 13:2: "Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation."
 The Puritans lived in uneasy truce with the Pequot Indians, who occupied what is now southern Connecticut and Rhode Island. But they wanted them out of the way; they wanted their land. And they seemed to want also to establish their rule firmly over Connecticut settlers in that area. The murder of a white trader, Indian-kidnaper, and troublemaker became an excuse to make war on the Pequots in 1636.
 A punitive expedition left Boston to attack the Narraganset Indians on Block Island, who were lumped with the Pequots. As Governor Winthrop wrote: "They had commission to put to death the men of Block Island, but to spare the women and children, and to bring them away, and to take possession of the island; and from thence to go to the Pequods to demand the murderers of Captain Stone and other English, and one thousand fathom of wampum for damages, etc. and some of their children as hostages, which if they should refuse, they were to obtain it by force." 
The English landed and killed some Indians, but the rest hid in the thick forests of the island and the English went from one deserted village to the next, destroying crops. Then they sailed back to the mainland and raided Pequot villages along the coast, destroying crops again. One of the officers of that expedition, in his account, gives some insight into the Pequots they encountered: "The Indians spying of us came running in multitudes along the water side, crying, What cheer, Englishmen, what cheer, what do you come for? They not thinking we intended war, went on cheerfully... -"
And so it went. Pequot crops were slashed and burned, Pequot people died of European diseases if they didn't starve first, and their homes were razed to the ground, just like in blighted urban areas and foreclosed Rust Belt towns in the re-colonized States of the Homeland. The original assault against the native population was so intense and so thorough that in the end, perhaps a couple dozen inhabitants out of an original population of many thousands remained in any given locale. 

So let's contemplate how it felt, and how it still does feel for so many of us, to actually be on the receiving end of the imperialism that made this country so special.

But since I'm such a sucker for alternative history:

Wednesday (playing "Pocahontas")): Wait!

 Amanda: (a modern lady-who-lunches in the audience) What?

  Wednesday: We cannot break bread with you.

  Amanda: (playing Sarah, a pilgrim lady-who-lunches) Huh? Becky, what's going on?

  Becky: [whispered] Wednesday!

  Wednesday: You have taken the land which is rightfully ours. Years from now my people will be forced to live in mobile homes on reservations. Your people will wear cardigans, and drink highballs. We will sell our bracelets by the road sides, you will play golf, and enjoy hot hors d'oeuvres. My people will have pain and degradation. Your people will have stick shifts. The gods of my tribe have spoken. They have said, "Do not trust the Pilgrims, especially Sarah Miller."

  Amanda: Gary, she's changing the words.

  Wednesday: And for all these reasons I have decided to scalp you and burn your village to the ground. 


Here's wishing all my readers a very peaceful holiday weekend and a heartfelt thank you for your continuing interest and support. 


annenigma said...

I'm trying to tie this comment in with being thankful, but I don't think it quite works.

Should we be thankful that Trump has dozens of ostentatious, eponymously labeled properties around the globe which now represent and personify the USA Global Empire that could be viewed as big fat bullseyes by terrorists instead of The Homeland?

I'm not approving or condoning any such thing (that's my official disclaimer for the NSA), just speculating about the safety of Trump's investments and the impacts of his Presidency on them. His Presidential ambitions could end up blowing up in face, figuratively speaking.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Richard Ohio said...

Thanks, Karen. This Addams family bit has become an annual tradition for me. Today it reminded me of parts of Animal House.

I'm a regular reader of your writing and for that I am truly Grateful for shedding light on this country's collective darkness. Happy T Day and carry on in peace.

Meredith NYC said...

Good for the Times for a frank statement---that the video "portrayed the protesters as dangerous troublemakers, but it is a more familiar story — an imbalance of power, where law enforcement fiercely defends property rights against protesters’ claims of environmental protection and the rights of indigenous people."

It should extend that to our mainstream politics---in this election the forces of progressivism were absurdly portrayed as pie in the sky left wing radicals--- actually a threat---for protesting candidates tethered to big money, and our imbalance of power where the parties and the media actually defend corporate property/profit rights over the rights of the citizen majority. Thus we get Obamacare and weak bank reglations, etc.

Sanders was ignored then insulted. Although now, a few columnists have actually given Sanders a positive phrase or 2, since they're so appalled by Trumpf.

The Times op ed page makes sure it avoids how campaign finance is the main issue, before other reforms can happen.

I'm wondering ---WHAT'S THE DIFF BETW WARREN AND SANDERS IN OUR MEDIA NOW? We hear now about the "Sanders Warren wing" of the Dem party--they're lumped together as progressives.

If Warren were to run for pres, would she get the same disrespectful insulting treatment by the media as Sanders got, even by so called liberal pundits like PK, etc? Interesting to speculate.

Jay–Ottawa said...

If you're looking for Occupy, the urban movement that energized common decency, at least for a while, I think it's forming again, not in the city, but in wind-swept North Dakota at Standing Rock. So many heroic people in one place. This time, the New Occupy is addressing the most important issue facing everybody on earth. Is this the beginning of something big?

Carol S. said...

Thanks, Karen. I read all of your posts and am always amazed.

As a fairly long term Cape Cod, Massachusetts resident and sort of history aficionado, I found two video links which people may find balanced and interesting, regarding the recognized defining of Plymouth as the origin of America vs.Jamestown (1607). These extreme people; only 50 surviving the Mayflower trip, and the dark story of the settlers vs. the native Wampanoag tribe... and after 1620/1621.

1. PBS American Experience The Pilgrims Full Documentary (2015) ajvaughn3 Holiday Document


2. Scholastic Films: Plimoth Plantation: First Thanksgiving Virtual Field Trip

I'd love to know what people think about them.

Carol S. said...

I hope so, Jay!

Ste-vo said...

Thanks for this Karen, but alas I am no longer able to read what you write, it is too depressing. AmeriKa has become a painting by Dali, or Hieronymus Bosch.
But I will keep checking every few days, just to make sure you and others are still alive.

Pearl said...

Why the Electoral College Should choose Clinton by Lawrence Lessig in the
Washington Post.

Zee said...


As one who was asked to leave Sardonicky--but just couldn't break all ties--I have to say that your stalwart voice would be missed should you leave. Hang on, keep reading and commenting, and take such breaks as are necessary for your soul. But please come back when the spirit moves you.


Bill Sprague said...

I live a couple hours from Plymouth. Even though I was invited twice to a Tday feast down in Pearl River I declined, instead going to Plimouth (yes, the capitalists spell it that way, as in Plimouth Plantation) and instead showed solidarity with the natives (I have uniliterally decided that, Amerigo Vespucci nothwithstanding, I will call them natives. they're certainly not amerikans, right? They were here before the white man and his or her god who gave an excuse to take this land. It was called "Manifest Destiny" In god we trust. Ha) and the blacks that came up in buses from NYC. This is NOT a feast day or for watching "football". It's a day of mourning. I felt that this was a requirement this year. And always. Laissez-faire capitalism? One has to keep one's eyes open and look around. It's really an excuse for GREED. And believe me (not the silver screen): greed is NOT good. And I was happy that the guy who addressed us said that the Puritans were from Holland. That's true. And 1607? (Jamestown - and the starving folks there resorted to eating each other so I suppose that was a "failure" to our national myth so 1607 doesn't count...)

annenigma said...

The Army Corps of Engineers is planning to shut down one of the Dakota pipeline protesters' encampments on Dec 5th.

"This action necessary to protect the general public from the violent confrontations between protestors and law enforcement officials that have occurred in this area, and to prevent death, illness, or serious injury to inhabitants of encampments due to the harsh North Dakota winter conditions."

Apparently it will be easier to haul them all off to jail or the hospital from their designated free speech zone.

This is getting dicey. Where is Obama? Packing his golf bags?

stranger in a strange land said...

I like to wallow, so I'm sticking around - but Steve-o 's comment is an interesting one - Karen's writing, brilliant as it is, is more descriptive than prescriptive, and thus quite depressing. Sardonic sniping is all well and good, and lots of fun, until shit gets really real.

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." Bucky Fuller

(To our author, please don't read this as a cutdown of your work, I admire your perceptive wit greatly - but there have been times when I've shared Steve-o's impulse to tune out the bad news for a while, including Sardonicky - thanks for having the guts to stick with it, and please keep up the good work.)

Karen Garcia said...

Howdy, "Stranger" --

Sorry you find me so depressing. And with all due respect to your critique that I describe rather than prescribe, please read my last post, "Dementia '16". Especially this paragraph:

"If he were a true progressive, he would have called for better public education with higher pay for unionized teachers and curricula to hone critical thinking skills. He would have called for a global wealth tax on billionaires, a guaranteed federal housing policy, Medicare for All, and a guaranteed living wage or income to help all those budding public servants, and all the families of those budding public servants. Because if the next Barack and the next Michelle are cold and hungry and depressed, being unsure about what to do will be the least of their worries. As Bifo Berardi says, they first have to find a way out of neoliberal conformism and un-thought."

Ergo, my prescription is and always has been cutting through the crap and trying to forge a different kind of reality. Critics call this pie in the sky or utopianism, but maybe by talking about the possible long enough, some of our radical ideas will start to sink in.

Speaking of tuning out the bad news, that is precisely what the PTB are aiming for. Not that I blame people for tuning out and getting depressed. You'll notice that I myself usually don't write here more than an average of three times a week. I don't expect people to read me more often than that, either. Because I have a life and other interests, just like everybody else, and I need to feel refreshed and sane before I post more of my depressing shit. And do make an honest effort to inject some humor and tasteless levity into my depressing shit at every opportunity.

By the way, I spent most of today backing up the entire six years of this blog. Google apparently has agreed to get rid of so called "fake news" sites on its Blogger platform. And fake news is whatever the hell some anonymous official decrees it to be. The Washington Post published one such list of Fakes the other day, and it included such respected left-leaning sites as Truthout, Truthdig, Naked Capitalism and Counterpunch -- some of which have published my own work.

It's depressing, all right, as well as frightening and infuriating. Joe McCarthy must be cackling in his grave.

annenigma said...

NOTHING motivates me more to make a donation to Sardonicky than reading comments from guys who bitch about how depressing the blog posts are here. Newsflash - your mother doesn't work here. It's nobody's job to make you feel better. Try a dog.

Karen, we need your work now more than ever! This development about the supposed danger of fake news to our democracy is abominable. ALL our favorite websites and blogs are on that McCarthyite blacklist. It seems the Powers-That-Be don't want us reading opinions and ideas they haven't approved. Shame on the Washington Post and NYT for propagating such fear, and basing it on anonymous sources when they're really the biggest purveyor of fake news.

Now the whole crazy Putin hype makes sense. How else to crack down on domestic alternative media/blogs and control the news than to claim all our favorite sites are simply useful idiots for Russia and need to be taken down to protect democracy and for 'national security' of course.

Karen, I hope you'll be focusing on this issue more in the future. My tinfoil hat is spinning, vibrating, and beeping warning alarms.

Jay–Ottawa said...

"Google apparently has agreed to get rid of so called "fake news" sites on its Blogger platform. And fake news is whatever the hell some anonymous official decrees it to be. The Washington Post published one such list of Fakes the other day, and it included such respected left-leaning sites as Truthout, Truthdig, Naked Capitalism and Counterpunch...."

Oh, I'll be so much less depressed once Google erases depressing websites, like this one. Delete CounterPunch and you'll be able to wean yourself off the Zoloft and other antidepressants. A medical breakthrough!

Understand what's happening, people. The Washington Post just made it super clear. The wholesale deletions about to take place on the web are the modern equivalent of the book burnings that fouled German air through the summer of 1933. And, as you know, that was just about the time Germans began, once again, to feel good about themselves.

Kat said...

looks like calmer heads prevail at Fortune for god's sake:

Zee said...

The Intercept is equally critical of WaPo's "fake news" tale, describing it as a "McCarthyite Blacklist."

annenigma said...

Since there is so much fake news out there, better not believe anything you read unless it comes from the corporate media or government!

It smells like the launch of a propaganda campaign, the first step to regain control and get the public back on board the war wagon and off the Trump parade float. Ever hear of the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act? When Obama signed the infamous and wretched National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2012, that legislation was tucked in there. By signing it, Obama eliminated the ban on government-funded propaganda for use domestically on Americans.

So who's already up and running to reach all citizens and just would love taxpayer money to defend national security whatever way the Intelligence Community or the Pentagon sees fit? The corporate media. The digital online billionaires already have their fat fingers in the ever-growing defense/surveillance pie, and now the rest of the corporate media can legally get in on the action too, but on the propaganda side. That was never possible before Obama signed on. Now we've gone and done something unthinkable - elected someone who wasn't selected as one of their two safe choices. That must never be allowed to happen again, hence, more alt media control. Notice Wikileaks and every site that discussed those leaks were blacklisted?

I'm sure they sense danger now that the rabble roused in 2016 and fired a warning shot across the bow of the (war)Ship of State to signal it was off course, out of bounds, and must be steered home for an overhaul. But the evil twins of Global Capitalism and Endless Wars will never heed that warning. They'll fire back, figuratively speaking, at least for now. They'll start by more effectively controlling what we see and hear.

What really worries me the most right now, though, is that because of the Establishment Trump bashing and ridicule, a lot of good candidates to serve who have some knowhow will not come forward because they don't want to fall out of favor, risking their personal or professional futures. Thus Trump will be left with neocons in the same way we were when Bernie quit our fight and left us with the war whore.

For that reason, I salute Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI). She met in person with Trump and advised him to ignore the saber rattling of the neocons. She's a true patriot and a warrior in her own right and puts our country first. She defied her own party who are probably condemning or ridiculing her for meeting with him. I hope he offers her a position in his cabinet. As we saw when she quit the DNC to support Bernie the quitter, she's got guts and she's a great role model. We need more like her.

Tulsi for President 2020