This was first posted on Facebook on 21st January 2021, with support from my Ko-Fi network.
In conversation with a friend on the phone the other night, I noted that even though 70 million Americans voted for Trump, this doesn’t mean he has 70 million supporters. (It’s still a dreadful number, but, even so.)
Donald Trump left the White House just after dawn yesterday for a big military send-off as he and Melanie boarded the plane for Florida (Palm Beach is likely to issue an eviction notice next month reminding the former President no one is allowed to live at his golf club – guests can stay there for a maximum of 21 days a year).
Thus the US tradition of the previous President attending the new President’s inauguration ceremony was broken. The only two Republican representatives of previous administrations to attend were Mike Pence and George W. Bush. (Barack & Michelle Obama, Bill & Hillary Clinton, and Jimmy Carter, all attended Trump’s tiny inauguration in 2016). This is the first time since 1869 a US President has refused to attend his successor’s inauguration: Andrew Johnson, who opposed giving civil rights to former slaves, stayed in the White House during Ulysses S. Grant’s inauguration ceremony (Grant was the Commanding General of the US Army 1864–1869).
Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Rosh Hashanah, on Friday 18th September, aged 87, of pancreatic cancer complications: she died at home surrounded by her family, and I don’t feel quite so bad knowing my first thought was “Now Trump can put a third justice on the Supreme Court”, when I found that practically, Ginsburg’s last thought was almost the same: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”
When Antonin Scalia died on 15th February 2016, the next Presidential election was over eight months away.
In the summer of 2010, Julian Assange went to Sweden. The servers which host the main Wikileaks website are based there: in August 2010, the primary host seems to have switched from PRQ to Bahnhof. Bahnof servers are based in a former nuclear bunker.
In August 2010, on two separate occasions, Assange met with and stayed one night/several nights with a woman supporter of Wikileaks. Each woman says that the arrangement to have sex was by mutual consent: each woman says that she had stipulated Assange should use a condom. The two women discovered afterwards that Assange had behaved like a boor with each of them: fighting and disputing and trying to bully her out of her stipulation. Assange had achieved his goal of penetrative sex without a condom with both women: In one instance, Assange claimed the condom had “ripped” and so he had been unaware that there was now no condom: in the other, he waited the next morning until she had fallen asleep, and then got inside her when she couldn’t actually say no. The two women took this to the police, and asked if Assange could be made to take a HIV test. None of these facts are disputed by Assange or his lawyers.
On 25th May, David Coburn, now UKIP’s London-based MEP for Scotland, tweeted this:
The legal definition of a corporation in the UK is:
a body of persons authorised by law to act as one person, and having rights and liabilities distinct from the individuals who are forming the corporation.
A corporation can own property, do business, pays taxes – well, sometimes – be sued, sue individuals and other corporations, and though it can’t be born or die, a corporation usually has a definite beginning and can come to a definite end. A corporation doesn’t have a passport: it may be registered in just one country, but it can exist in many.
But no matter how many legal rights and powers a corporation may acquire, there are things it cannot do: it cannot vote in most democratic elections – though the richer the corporation is, the more it is likely to get its way regardless of democracy; it cannot have sex or experience orgasm or know love or laughter or tears; and it has neither soul nor conscience – from a religious viewpoint, a corporation is not a person at all.
Or so I always thought.
But apparently, in the US at least, the Catholic Church has ruled that corporations have souls and consciences, and therefore rights of freedom of religion that ought not to be violated.
The American legal definition of a corporation is similar to the UK’s definition. A corporation in the US is an independent legal person, created, organised, and – should that time come – dissolved according to the laws of the state in which it is registered. Each state requires articles of incorporation that document the corporation’s creation and the corporation’s management of internal affairs. Nowhere in the legal definition of a corporation does it explain where in this process the corporation becomes ensouled.
The US government shutdown is over, the spectre of the US defaulting on its debts is overthrown, and today hundreds of thousands of federal government employees can go back to work.
For most people, this is unqualified good news. But now it’s over, what was it all about?
Some people had been anticipating a government shutdown ever since the Republican Party won a majority in Congress in 2010 by massively redefining Congress districts in the Census to ensure that Republican representatives could be voted into Congress without any centrist opposition. (At a national level, there are no left-wing parties in US politics.) At the Senate level, a Senator must win a majority in a state-wide vote. At the House of Congress level, a representative only needs to win a majority in a gerrymandered district.
- Forty years ago on September 11, 1973, the Chilean military led by General Augusto Pinochet, crushed the democratically elected Unidad Popular government of Salvador Allende.
Thousands of people were tortured and killed, others ‘disappeared’ at the hands of the authorities, the secret police and more were illegally detained. Men, women and children were rounded up by the military and taken from their homes. Most were never seen alive by their families again. 1 million people were forced into exile. – Chile 40 Years On network
In the UK, widespread public support against the coup was not welcomed by the Conservative government in 1973:
The shipbuilders’ union urged the government not to sell warships to Pinochet, even though losing these contracts could threaten their own jobs. The government’s response? To send spies to shipyards across Britain to check workers were not sabotaging vessels destined for Chile.
When Labour came to power in 1974, it cut off arms sales, aid and credit to Pinochet and, in 1977, withdrew the British ambassador. But existing arms contracts were to be honoured, so trade unionists took matters into their own hands. Employees at East Kilbride engineering yard in Scotland refused to fix bomber-plane engines destined for Chile, forcing Rolls Royce to break its contract with the Chilean air force. This forgotten history of solidarity will be celebrated across Britain today, the 40th anniversary of the coup.
Unsurprisingly, when Pinochet’s most prominent defender, Margaret Thatcher came to office in 1979, diplomatic relations were soon restored and arms sales resumed. Declassified papers reveal that, by June 1982, her government had sold the dictatorship: two warships, 60 blowpipe missiles, 10 Hunter Hawker bomber planes, naval pyrotechnics, communications equipment, gun sights, machine guns and ammunition. A unique attempt at a British “ethical foreign policy” had ended.
- On 11th January, 2002, the first 20 illegally-detained prisoners were delivered to cages at Guantanamo Bay: over 11 years later, the US is still holding 164 prisoners in extrajudicial detainment illegal under international law.
- Since 12th July 2005, it has been publicly known that the US government authorised US soldiers to torture Guantanamo Bay prisoners: US soldiers also tortured prisoners in Iraq and in Afghanistan and the US military is also linked to the use of torture in Iraqi-run prisons.
The US justiciary has, for twenty-plus years in the “war on drugs”, selectively locked up far more black people than white people or Hispanic, and the US prison system is huge: the US has 2% of the world’s population but 25% of the world’s prisoners. America’s police are becoming more and more like soldiers making war on a conquered-but-not-subdued population. (via)
Police exist primarily to protect property arrangements. The war on drugs has paramilitarized police, with a heavy emphasis on overwhelming force. While police have always considered themselves above the common herd, and have always looked after themselves first and civilians second, it’s very clear that police today are much worse in this regard than they were 10 years ago, and 10 years before that, and 10 years before that. Police are well aware that they have near full immunity: they can beat people, kill people, plant evidence on people and they will, in most cases, get away with it. Even if caught on tape, the worst punishment is likely to be paid suspension.
Prisons are expensive to run? Yes, but prisoners can work long hours for a few pence per hour:
“The private contracting of prisoners for work fosters incentives to lock people up. Prisons depend on this income. Corporate stockholders who make money off prisoners’ work lobby for longer sentences, in order to expand their workforce. The system feeds itself,” says a study by the Progressive Labor Party, which accuses the prison industry of being “an imitation of Nazi Germany with respect to forced slave labor and concentration camps.”
A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
In 1787, when the 55 members of the Constitutional Convention signed the United States Constitution in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, good guns that could be held and used by a single fighter were still handmade, expensively-crafted things: a soldier could (perhaps) load and fire his musket three times a minute, but rifling (which allows more accurate aim) was known but not practical for army use. The “right to keep and bear arms” would as likely have referred to a sword or a pike as a gun. If the US had remained a string of small countries along the east coast of North America, it would certainly have made sense for them to do as the Swiss have done, and require every able-bodied adult man to be a soldier.
Switzerland allows any citizen (or indeed law-abiding resident) to have a gun if they want one: but the gun must be licensed. Further applications for gun licenses may be granted on request, each for a specific gun. Virtually every adult man attends regular annual training sessions, and holds a military rifle and ammunition under seal – which he is not allowed to use without specific orders and must keep in a safe place so that no one else can use it. If the US resembled Switzerland, insistance that the Second Amendment mattered terribly much would make sense.
There are a lot of differences between the US and Switzerland. Switzerland has four official languages: the US has none. The Swiss Confederation was founded on 1st August 1291, making it nearly 480 years older than the US. The US shares land borders now only with Mexico and Canada: Switzerland shares land borders with France, Germany, Italy, Austria, and Liechtenstein. Switzerland has fought no wars of aggression in its over-800 years: the US has fought more wars of aggression in the past century than any other nation in the world. Switzerland founded the Red Cross: the US founded Guantanamo Bay. Neither the US nor Switzerland are members of the EU. And they both like guns.
But whereas Switzerland likes guns if controlled, licenced, and regulated, in the US for decades political lobbyists have been getting the Second Amendment redefined not to mean “every citizen has the right to bear arms in a well-regulated militia”, which is its common-sense interpretation, but to mean “Everyone should
buy own as many guns as possible!”
A few years ago, when I was on holiday in Belgium, I spent hours in churches. (The friend I travelled with, who hadn’t voluntarily been in a church in decades, and who knew I am an atheist, was worried I would catch Christianity.) What I wanted to see was the paintings. The invention of oil paint meant Lowlands painters could create pictures so finely detailed it is possible to see the weave in the carpet and the stitches in the embroidered clothing: pictures from five or six hundred years ago that glow from the canvas.
And over and over again, pictures of Mary. Mary as a baby, with Anna her mother: Anna and Joachim, Mary’s father, together: Mary saying “Fiat” to the angel: Mary as a young woman, as a mother with a preposterously large infant on her knee, Mary being carried into heaven by a troop of angels on her death. Mary is supposed to have been conceived on 8th December, and on that date in 2009, The US Senate rejected by a narrow margin an amendment proposed by Senators Ben Nelson, D-Nebraska, and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, that was intended to modify “Obamacare” so that any private insurance company that got federal funding for Obamacare insurance, couldn’t offer health insurance plans that included abortion.