Media Disappointed To Learn Armed Citizen Stopped Mass Shooting – 30 Dec 2019

U.S.—The nation’s media outlets announced they were grieving today as an armed citizen stopped a mass shooting.

“We grieve that this tragedy we could have exploited for weeks on end was stopped by a good guy with a gun,” said one teary-eyed MSNBC reporter on the scene. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the shooter.”

“We are absolutely heartbroken and in shock over here,” said one New York Times journalist. “What could have given us weeks and weeks of frothing-at-the-mouth stories about gun control will now have to be suppressed since it does not align with our agenda.”

News outlets also reminded the nation that they reserve the right to immediately bury mass shooting stories that don’t help push their agenda.

Outlets like CNN, MSNBC, and ABC News confirmed that they carefully look over the facts of a given case to see if it lines up with the correct opinions before deciding to push it incessantly for weeks on end.

“While we usually would exploit a tragedy like this to push our gun control agenda, in this case, the facts don’t really help us,” said CNN reporter Bob Costanza, after a recent shooting was shut down by a citizen with a gun. “It’s tragic that it ended that way, because we really could have gotten a lot of mileage out of that bad boy.”

The media didn’t even try to find children who were present during the shooting to parade around talk shows and put on the covers of magazines for a full year this time around.

The tragedy was compounded by an attack on a Jewish gathering in New York City where the black anti-Semitic attacker used a machete and not a gun.  While the media in the UK gets a lot of mileage about ‘knife crime’ and knife control, that does not resonate with the narrative the US main stream media wants to emphasize. 

gun carry

US Warmonger Pompeo Undercuts Trumps Aim of Pulling Out of the Middle East – Israel Wants A US War With Iran – by Tom Luongo (Gold, Goats, ‘n Guns) 31 Dec 2019

Authored by Tom Luongo via Gold, Goats, ‘n Guns blog:

Trump vs Deep State

I have to wonder who Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is actually loyal to. Because, the U.S. strike of Kata’ib Hizbullah forces near the Al Qaim border crossing with Syria in Iraq is a dangerous escalation there.

And it’s completely at odds with Trump’s goals of wanting us out of the Middle East. The Al Qaim border crossing is a particular red line for Israel and their allies in the U.S. State and Defense Departments.

It represents the normalization of commerce between Syria, Iraq and Iran over time. This is the so-called Shia Crescent which is the stuff of nightmares for Benjamin Netanyahu.

And the U.S. has been hopping mad for months since now caretaker Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdel Mahdi opened the border because it undermines U.S. presence in Syria.

The entire point of U.S. occupation of the Al-Tanf border crossing into Jordan and the oil fields in Deir Ezzor province is about starving the Syrian government of any reliable energy and revenue.

When Al Qaim/Al Bukamai was opened it was only a matter of time before a major skirmish would occur over it. Israel staged a series of air attacks previously using U.S. assets and air bases to launch them back in September.

Now, we have the convenient excuse for attacking these forces which are part of the Popular Mobiliztion Units, PMU, which Pompeo despises by ‘retaliating’ for a rocket attack on the K1 base near Kirkuk where one U.S. mercenary was killed and a handful of others injured.

The response from the U.S. Air Force was completely out of line with the initial attack and occurred without any attempt by Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to justify it.

They just invoked the phrase, “Iran-backed forces” and then bombed troops over 200 miles away where they wanted to strike anyway.

And what’s important is what both Elijah Magnier and Moon of Alabama pointed out immediately, the U.S. struck member of Shia militias who were made official part of the Iraqi defense forces.

In other words the U.S. just attacked and killed dozens of Iraqi military personnel.

And the U.S. can get away with this because the Iraqi government is in a total state of flux, thanks to a President, Barham Salih, refusing to honor the constitution, obstructing the selection of a new Prime Minister.

His actions remind me of Italy’s Sergio Mattarella who inserts himself into the process of government formation there to suit his EU partners-in-crime.

In Iraq the U.S. has been officially silent on the government turmoil there but the circumstances are pretty clear that the chaos works as a cover for what was an egregious violation of Iraq’s sovereignty.

Remember, the U.S. forces there are at the invitation of the Iraqi government and with Salih keeping the Shia political forces from uniting to choose a Prime Minister, the likelihood of that invitation being rescinded now is remote.

Color me not shocked that this attack on PMU forces occurred. Pompeo has been itching for an excuse to attack them for months. He tried his version of diplomacy with Prime Minister Mahdi to rescind their official status and was unsuccessful.

Mahdi was livid after Israel’s air attack and made noises about rescinding the U.S. invitation. No shock then that protests against his government spun up quickly after that.

So at some point this attack was going to happen. Netanyahu in serious political trouble facing a third election in a year, unable to form a government.

Pompeo coming to his rescue to keep the dream of warring with Iran should be obvious to all.

The question is whether President Trump is engaged with this policy at all or did Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper go off on their own, pull this trigger and then inform Trump and get him to accept this post hoc?

Everywhere Pompeo goes one week winds up in flames the next anymore. When he visits a trouble spot which Israel and the neoconservatives he represents want destabilized, a miracle occurs the next week.

Before this it was Lebanon and Iraq. This week it’s Ukraine. There is the threat of peace breaking out there with Russia and Ukraine agreeing to terms on both a gas and oil transit contract into Europe which Pompeo is dead set against.

Will we see some attack on Ukrainian forces which break the peace and can be blamed on Russia?

Trump has to know that escalation from here ends with U.S. forces coming home in body bags as PMU forces themselves, go off the reservation during this power vacuum in Baghdad and attack U.S. troops directly.

But I think this is exactly what Bibi and Pompeo want. This attack was a clear provocation to escalate and give Israel and the neocons all the ammunition they need to force Trump into the wider conflict with Iran they’ve been angry about not getting for six months now.

They failed with the Global Hawk incident back in June. That operation got John Bolton fired as National Security Director. Now we have a clearly disproportionate strike designed to inflame passions of Iran-backed Shia forces.

And it looks like it worked.

The entirety of Iraq’s leadership seems to be of the same mind, and even rejected the US plan to strike when they were tipped off immediately before it happened, per NBC:

In a statement, [former PM] Abdul-Mahdi said Secretary of Defense Mark Esper had called him about a half-hour before the U.S. strikes Sunday to tell him of U.S. intentions to hit the bases of the militia suspected of being behind Friday’s rocket attack. Abdul-Mahdi said he asked Esper to call off the U.S. plan.

One byproduct of the major US strikes on Sunday is sure to be that more and more of the Iraqi population will view the Americans, and not the Iranians, as the foreign occupiers.

This dramatic escalation by Washington is only likely to push more popular support toward the Shia PMF, and strengthen the movement in parliament to have US forces legally expelled, especially with the demise of the ISIS threat.

Any strike by the PMU here on U.S. forces will be music to Pompeo’s and Netanyhahu’s ears. And it will put Trump in a real bind with his base during an election year and an impeachment process Speaker Nancy Pelosi is purposefully dragging out to build a stronger case.

What stronger case could there be at this point if Trump were to not declare war or fire back on our troops getting attacked in Iraq or Syria? He’s derelict as Commander-in-Chief. It’s part of their stupid Ukraine narrative that Trump withheld aid weakens our national security.

I speculated in the past that Trump was getting ready to fire Pompeo.

As Secretary of State Pompeo has been nothing short of a disaster, undermining President Trump’s strong instincts to get the U.S. out of the Middle East and solve the myriad of open geopolitical wounds around the world.

Unlike his former-partner-in-neoconservatism, John Bolton, Pompeo is more adept at playing at being loyal to Trump while always seeming to move U.S. diplomacy in a more belligerent direction in the wake of any of Trump’s ‘impulses’ to act on his conscience and/or instincts.

It doesn’t matter if we’re talking Iran (Pompeo’s demands of Iran are off-the-charts insane), Lebanon (outright blackmail of the Lebanese government) or North Korea (making demands in negotiations which overstep Trump’s promises to Kim Jong-un) Pompeo is always there doing his thinly-veiled Israeli loyalty dance with the subtlety of a freight-train but somehow always framing it as making it Trump’s policy.

This move by Pompeo looks like a classic pre-emptive move to bind Trump down force him into a war which will be unpopular back home. The only one who wins with this attack is Israel.

U.S. troops are now less safe, effective forces fighting ISIS have been neutered and the Iraqi government is in shambles. Good job Mike.

Mike wants his golden parachute back to the Senate where he can continue doing god’s work for the Israelis, one more voice in a U.S. Senate seemingly without a limit on its thirst for power and the blood of the world.

This won’t end well and Trump better get his Flying Monkeys under control quick or he won’t be President much longer. Because when the body bags start, he’ll be the one who gets blamed.

Future Cartoon

Korea, First Follow the Money – by Joseph Essertier – 31 Dec 2019

The “masters” of the Empire of Japan, who invaded and dominated Korea for half a century, followed the “vile maxim” that is typical of the “masters of mankind,” i.e., “all for ourselves, and nothing for other people” (Adam Smith). And while a “budding elite” of talented Koreans in fields such as “commerce, industry, publishing, academia, films, literary pursuits, urban consumption” were there in the “relative openness” of the 1920s, and while they were well-equipped to lead an independent Korea, tragedy occurred, as “global depression, war, and ever-increasing Japanese repression in the 1930s destroyed much of this progress, turned many elite Koreans into collaborators, and left few options for patriots besides armed resistance” (Bruce Cumings, The Korean War: A History, 2010). Many of those who chose violent resistance went to Manchuria to fight against the Japanese colonizers, and later became leaders in the North Korean army.

In Korean history there are many examples of valiant attempts by the dispossessed and dominated to force the “masters” to share, or to take back what was stolen. While many experts would agree that North Korea is a “failed Stalinist utopia,” one cannot deny that it is also a country where millions of people originally had a noble dream, one of “universal equality and affluence.” (Andrei Lankov, The Real North Korea: Life and Politics in the Failed Stalinist Utopia, 2013). In the early days of North Korea, many were impressed with what they saw as success in the Soviet Union. Given that the dream was presented in the “‘modern’ and ‘scientific’ jargon of Marxism-Leninism,” and that the Soviet Union “made good fighter jets and had the world’s best ballet,” it is not surprising that there was often “enthusiastic response.”

On the 1st of March, 1919, leaders of the March 1st Movement had proclaimed the “independence of Korea and the liberty of the Korean people… to all the nations of the world in witness of human equality” (Korean Declaration of Independence). But now, one hundred years later, the Korean “is still is not free,” the life of the Korean is still sadly crippled by “the chains of discrimination,” and s/he “lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.” The dream of Dr. King is not so different from the dream of millions of Koreans. Northeast Asia is another ocean of material prosperity—Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong… Camp Humphreys in South Korea is the largest U.S. overseas base in the world, and with amenities such as the $47 million golf course provided by Korean taxpayers, Koreans there can now get a glimpse of the vast ocean of U.S. material prosperity.

According to an internal CIA study, however, even under the oppressive government that produced the “failed utopia,” North Koreans managed to get the elites dominating their Stalinist system to share their limited national wealth in a way that millions of materially deprived Americans today would envy: “compassionate care for children in general and war orphans in particular; ‘radical change’ in the position of women; genuinely free housing, free health care, and preventive medicine; and infant mortality and life expectancy rates comparable to the most advanced countries until the recent famine.” (Cumings’ words. He refers to the famine that resulted after the horrible floods of 1995 and 1996 and the drought of the summer of 1997. Now bad weather and sanctions may be harming an already fragile food supply.

In South Korea, too, it is not hard to find evidence of millions of people striving to redistribute wealth in a fair way. One of the goals of the candlelight protest movement (or “Candlelight Revolution”) was to “implement equitable policies and measures that could ensure a level playing field for the haves and the have-nots.” (Mi Park, South Korea’s Candlelight Revolution: The Power of Plaza Democracy, 2018) Indeed, it could easily be argued that South Korean labor unions are showing the way forward for the labor movement today, demonstrating how workers can win their rights and build industrial democracy.

Considering the impact that Koreans have had and are having on the global struggle for bread, and how the “masters” with their “vile maxim” will predictably respond to that impact, readers should do a little reading and critical thinking about class struggle in Korea before accepting any claims that North Korea is endangering the lives of people in the U.S. instead of the other way around. “Following the money” when investigating such claims is the surest way to determine their reliability.

The “Threat” from North Korea

Perhaps the most important principle when considering claims of threats from North Korea is that violence is a tool of the powerful against the weak, and never vice versa. With a population 13 times larger and a defense budget 150 times larger than those of North Korea, anyone can see that the U.S. will have an unfair advantage over North Korea in any contest between the two states that is settled through violence. So for the sake of the millions in the West who are in the dark on Korea, let us “follow the money” and compare the polar opposites in the debate about North Korea—one a journalist who is well paid to write for the New York Times and the other someone who essentially writes for free, who has been punished for his writings.

In a 24 February 2010 cable from the U.S. Secretary of State to Moscow, leaked by Assange’s WikiLeaks, the words of a Russian summarizing Russian intelligence appear: “There are claims that 19 of these missiles were shipped to Iran [from North Korea] in 2005, but there is no evidence for this and concealment of such a transfer would be impossible.” Based on this cable, the New York Times’ David Sanger and his co-authors penned an article in which they wrote, “Iran obtained 19 of the missiles from North Korea, according to a cable dated Feb. 24 of this year.” (“Iran Fortifies Its Arsenal With the Aid of North Korea,” 28 Nov 2010, New York Times.)

Gareth Porter pointed out the Times’ distortions of the facts: “The New York Times and Washington Post reported only that the United States believed Iran had acquired such missiles—supposedly called the BM-25—from North Korea. Neither newspaper reported the detailed Russian refutation of the U.S. view on the issue or the lack of hard evidence for the BM-25 from the U.S. side.”  “The Russian official said there was no evidence for claims that 19 of these missiles had been shipped to Iran in 2005, and that it would have been impossible to conceal such a transfer. The Russians also said it was difficult to believe Iran would have purchased a missile system that had never even been tested.” If one reads the relevant passages in context, one sees the U.S. side being cautioned by the Russian side about its overblown fears that Iran is buying long-range missiles from North Korea. Reading Sanger, who is supposed to be informing the public about this WikiLeaks cable, it is clear that he is blowing those already-paranoid fears/claims out of proportion.

Unlike in his hawk-supporting article in the New York Times, in an interview that came out 10 days later, Sanger did mention the Russian intelligence and left open the possibility that North Korea was not selling missiles to Iran. Perhaps he did it with Porter’s criticism in mind: “Now, this missile has never been tested in North Korea or Iran so we’re not certain of its range in their hands, and the Russians pushed back and said they have some doubts about whether or not the missile had been sold or even whether it really existed.” (Terry Gross’s 8 December 2010 interview with Sanger. See also Julian Assange on this episode in his “A Cypherpunk in His Own Words,” In Defense of Julian Assange, p. 208).

Sanger is a threat-exaggerator par excellence. The journalist Julian Assange, on the other hand, has warned people to not trust Washington. Consider the following lies and propaganda from Sanger. He ridiculously claimed we have “done little” to prepare for Russia’s cyber and nuclear threats, even when our military budget dwarfs that of Russia; falsely claimed that Venezuela’s Maduro was not elected through a fair election; called the war in Afghanistan a “dumb war of occupation” and downplayed Obama’s escalation of that war, despite the fact that he tripled the number of troops from 33,000 to 98,000; covered up the reality that Obama’s cyberattacks on Iran actually constituted acts of war; and he called Iran one of the “nuclear crises” facing the US, when even the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) denies that there is a nuclear weapons program in Iran. Never trust a liar.

A highly questionable claim that is often supported by journalists is that Washington’s THAAD system in South Korea is protecting South Koreans. The THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) system is supposed to be able to shoot down ballistic missiles, but it has only been proven to work in idyllic conditions. This makes one wonder if it serves any purpose beyond profits to U.S. defense contractors.

One one succinct explanation is provided by Leo Chang. He reveals that THAAD does not make South Korea any safer in the event of a fight with North Korea due to the short distances involved. In the event of a return to the hot war, South Korea would be bombarded by missiles from the North, both nuclear and conventional. In April 2017 Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said, “We have the potential for a nuclear war that would take millions of lives.” And according to at least one expert, THAAD is also not going to knock down ICBMs.

So what can THAAD do? According to Chang, its real goal is to “detect and track as early as possible China’s ICBMs” that would be “headed for the West and East Coast of the US.” In the case of a war between Washington and Beijing, the area where THAAD has been installed (i.e., Seongju County in South Korea) would be a prime target for Beijing to hit before launching ICBMs against the US mainland, so in the end what South Koreans are doing, is to give Washington slightly sooner notice of in the case of nuclear war between China and the U.S. (i.e., the end of human civilization) by paying U.S. companies for hardware that endangers their own lives. No wonder residents of Seongju have intensely opposed THAAD and even President Moon Jae-in opposed THAAD at first.

Julian Assange has suggested that since North Korea’s nukes and missile developments led to THAAD, Washington may have intentionally provoked conflicts with Pyongyang to justify the deployment of THAAD. He has pointed out how such deployment leads to increased tension between Washington and Beijing, and to Beijing’s further military build-up. And he has criticized US military drills in the region.

Conclusion

There is a huge gap in wealth between the U.S. and North Korea, and that alone is sufficient to demonstrate that the U.S. is a threat to North Korea and not vice versa—one state pumped up and ready to obliterate the other at a moment’s notice, the other not even remotely considering a first strike. One side has hundreds of military bases and possibly more than one aircraft carrier surrounding the other; hundreds more nuclear missiles; and tens of thousands of troops and thermonuclear warheads on submarines nearby. It is as if Washington holds a gun pointed at Pyongyang’s head, and Pyongyang has a rock in a slingshot pocket pointed at Washington’s feet. Yet the U.S. congress recently passed a National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that represents “complete capitulation” to Donald Trump and a “blank check for endless wars,” in the words of a joint statement from a diverse group of U.S.-based NGOs. Now, looking at the filthy rich of America and the wretched and dispossessed of Korea, whose side do you think Julian Assange is on, and whose side do you think David Sanger is on?

Joseph Essertier on Youtube

Capitalist on the Run – Ex-Nissan Boss Flees Tokyo House Detention – Leaves Japan in Disguise (Press TV) 31 Dec 2019

Nissan Boss Carlos Ghosn Flees Tokyo Detention House

“No Capitalist Can Truly Enjoy Wealth and Power As Long As A Single Capitalist Is Not Free To Enjoy Wealth and Power”

Ousted Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn has escaped Japan, where he is facing charges of financial misconduct, and arrived in Lebanon, slamming the Japanese justice system as “rigged.”

“I am now in Lebanon and will no longer be held hostage by a rigged Japanese justice system where guilt is presumed, discrimination is rampant, and basic human rights are denied,” the 65-year-old Ghosn, who is of Lebanese origin, said in a brief statement on Tuesday.

“I have not fled justice — I have escaped injustice and political persecution. I can now finally communicate freely with the media, and look forward to starting next week,” he added.

It was unclear, at first,  how Ghosn, who was out on bail, was able to escape Japan, where he had been under strict surveillance.

In news that may read like something out of a low-budget B-movie from a bygone era, it has emerged that the disgraced former chairman of Nissan Carlos Ghosn managed to escape Japan by hiding in a musical instrument case.

The audacious escape was reportedly carried out with the help of a group who posed as musicians, who were due to perform at a function held in Ghosn’s Tokyo home, according to Lebanon’s MTV

They then left the residence after the requisite time had passed. But unbeknownst to the Japanese authorities guarding the former executive, he had slipped past the security cordon hidden a musical instrument case. He then fled the country via a local airport.  

The former executive stands accused of underreporting his income and pinning his personal financial losses on Nissan. He posted bail of $9 million in April and was kept under house arrest in Tokyo, during which time he was forbidden from communicating with his wife for seven months as part of his bail conditions.

Japanese public broadcaster NHK cited an unidentified Lebanese security official as saying that a person resembling Ghosn had entered Beirut international airport under a different name after flying in aboard a private jet.

NHK also reported that Japanese immigration authorities had no record of Ghosn departing the country.

Ghosn, who holds French, Brazilian, and Lebanese citizenship, fell from grace in Japan after his arrest last year, but he still retains more popularity in Lebanon.

One of Ghosn’s lawyers said on Tuesday that his client’s three passports were held by his lawyers as required by the terms of his bail and he could not have used any of them to escape Japan.

Junichiro Hironaka, speaking to reporters in comments broadcast live by NHK, slammed Ghosn’s escape as “inexcusable.”

Ghosn was arrested at a Tokyo airport shortly after his private jet landed there in November 2018. He faces four charges, including enriching himself through payments to dealerships in the Middle East. He denies the charges.

Nissan’s Ghosn arrested in Japan for alleged financial misconduct

Nissan dismissed him as chairman for misconduct.

Ghosn’s lawyers have asked the court to dismiss all charges, accusing prosecutors of colluding with government officials and Nissan executives to dismiss him to block any takeover by the Japanese automaker’s biggest shareholder Renault.

He was released in March on a nine-million-dollar bail, and was placed under surveillance.

By the time anyone was aware that the former head of Nissan-Renault alliance had fled house arrest in Japan Tuesday, he was already in Beirut and had reportedly met with Lebanese President Michel Aoun, who afforded him a security detail for his own protection. 

“I am now in Lebanon and will no longer be held hostage by a rigged Japanese justice system where guilt is presumed, discrimination is rampant, and basic human rights are denied,” Ghosn said in a statement on Tuesday.

MTV reported that Ghosn entered Lebanon using his French passport, despite his lawyer’s claims to have all three of the executive’s passports, in accordance with his bail conditions. Ghosn holds French, Lebanese and Brazilian citizenship and, while he enjoys widespread support in Lebanon, it is unclear whether he will remain there as the situation unfolds. 

Junichiro Hironaka, Ghosn’s lawyer, said his client’s actions were “inexcusable,” and questioned how and why he would do this to his own legal team.  

Questions remain about how Ghosn managed to obtain his passport and how he could slip past airport security to board a private plane to Turkey and then on to Lebanon. The unlikely nature of Ghosn’s escape brought a smile to many online commentators.

Later on Tuesday, Lebanon’s Directorate of General Security declared that Ghosn had entered the country “legally” and will not face any legal repercussions, Lebanese media reported.

“The circumstances of his departure from Japan and arrival in Beirut are unknown to us, and all talk about it is his own matter.”

Source

Iran lashes out at French ‘interference’ over jailed academic accused of espionage – 29 Dec 2019

Fariba Adelkhah

Tehran has accused Paris of interfering in the case of an Iranian-French academic who has been arrested over accusations of spying.

France’s protests against the imprisonment of Fariba Adelkhah and another academic, Roland Marchal, constitute an “act of interference” that has “no legal basis,” Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said in a statement on Sunday.

“Creating hype cannot stop Iran’s judiciary from handling the case, especially considering the security charges the two face,” Mousavi said.

France announced on Friday that it had summoned Iran’s ambassador in order to protest against Adelkhah and Marchal’s imprisonment, describing their detention as “intolerable.”

Adelkhah has reportedly gone on hunger strike, prompting the French foreign ministry to express its “grave concern” over her condition and demand consular access.

A specialist in Shiite Islam and a research director at Sciences Po University in Paris, Adelkhah has been detained by Tehran for carrying out “acts of espionage”. Her arrest was confirmed in July.

Marchal, a French national, was detained for “conspiring against national security”. According to his lawyer, it happened when he visited Adelkhah.

Mousavi said that he has been granted consular access “multiple times”.

Iran does not recognize dual nationality and typically denies consular access to detained defendants who have more than one passport.

Source RT

Kurt Vonnegut: Anarchist and Social Critic – by Gaither Stewart – 27 Dec 2019

After my early enthusiasm about the writer Kurt Vonnegut, I became skeptical. Was he a phony? After I met him, his lifestyle in his sumptuous Manhattan East Side town house bothered me and seemed to belie his satires of that same life. Even the adoration for him in Europe at the time sharpened my suspicions that he was perhaps not what he seemed to be. Despite my admiration for him the writer, the satirist, the anarchist, still for some time after our two meetings in the middle 1980s, I wondered if his claim that he belonged to the establishment because he was rich was not jaded. I wondered too about his “positive nihilist” role. What did that mean? It took me time to make full circle and again see him for what he was. What in the end endeared Kurt Vonnegut to me was his unwavering attack on the “American way of life”.

I’d thought Vonnegut would last forever, charming, joking, teasing, mocking, prickling, criticizing so wittily that the target of his pungent irony would think he was kidding, praising so ambiguously that those he loved thought he was criticizing, throwing mud pies in the faces of the powerful and boasting that he made lots of money being impolite.

“I most certainly am a member of the establishment,” Vonnegut told me that day in the fall of 1985 in his town house on the East Side in Manhattan. An Amsterdam magazine sent me to New York to interview the light of a “certain” American literature who so titillated Europeans by ridiculing the ridiculous sides of America.

“No one is more in its center than me though I don’t maintain contacts with the other members. Though I don’t feel solidarity with it, I admit membership and I don’t like establishment people who play at the false role of rebels. And the establishment needs people like me— however I’m a member only because I have money.”

At the appearance of his first novel, Player Piano, in 1952, in the same year that Hemingway published The Old Man and the Sea and Steinbeck brought out East of Eden, Kurt Vonnegut was thirty and still widely considered an underground writer, despite Graham Greene’s labeling him “one of the best living American writers.”

Kurt Vonnegut (b.1922 in Indianapolis, d. in New York, April 11, 2007) was a humorous man, so deceptively entertaining, marked by broad grins, soft delivery and false modesty. I wondered where the creative artist ended and the performer began. Or vice-versa. Was he a real social critic or simply a cynic?

After he became widely known in the sixties Vonnegut was identified with the revolt against realism and traditional forms of writing. Though he was a “social writer”, he was also more experimental than his contemporaries like Norman Mailer, Philip Roth and John Barth, more fascinated by the absurd and the ridiculous. His science fiction and short stories that had appeared in the best magazines in the post-war years, Atlantic Monthly, Esquire, Playboy, Colliers, Cosmopolitan, Saturday Evening Post, were marked by parody and ridicule. A cult grew around him, especially among youth, so that he remained “mysterious” even after he no longer belonged to the underground.

Things got underway in earnest already in that first novel. Vonnegut’s admiration for the marvels of technology had resulted in his early bent for science fiction, of which he wrote a lot. In Player Piano he was “fascinated by the wonderfully sane engineers who could process anything … do anything on their own horizontal level. Miraculous what the engineers could do. They were brilliant but didn’t seem to do anything brilliant.” Drawn on Huxley’s Brave New World and science fiction in general, Vonnegut’s concern was that these specialists would soon produce their own leaders, a caste created by a technocracy barren of leaders capable of working on a vertical level and devoid of fresh humanistic ideas.

“Precisely this scientific system created our leaders. The problem is they brought little ideology into the factories. There is so little ideology left … if we ever had any. At least we appeal to justice. On the other hand, I have found that one can behave ideologically within a small group related by profession or interests. I’m fascinated by the Paris Commune for example, especially its branch of anarchism. People tend to hang onto natural anarchy. The life of Bakunin is useful. Seen as useful people, anarchists offer a fascinating alternative to big government today. When I was a prisoner of war in Germany my small labor unit was left to fend for itself in destroyed Dresden. (Slaughterhouse-Five.) We dealt effectively with the thieves among us without being ferocious. We did that intuitively.”

That was Vonnegut.

One of his contorted Americas is controlled by one enormous corporation-state under the guidance of an ugly old girl whose weighty signature is her fingerprints (Jailbird). In this society the poor spend their time squirting chemicals into their bodies for the simple reason that “on this planet they don’t have doodley-squat.” That was the society that concerned the writer, Kurt Vonnegut, searching for a place for the individual. Like himself his characters are amusing … and rebels all.

Yet his conclusions are seldom humorous.

“Big government is like the weather, you can’t do anything about it. People are moving away from central authority and its ineffective bureaucracy, which has created too many artificial jobs in Washington to accommodate our children. Then, let’s face it, leadership is so poor.”

In fact, Vonnegut spent his later years attacking that bureaucracy, especially the George W. Bush administration.

His artistic family background and his association with painters and musicians, engendered yearnings in him for the image of the Renaissance man. The day I spent the afternoon and early evening with him he invited me along to check in at the Greenwich Village gallery that was showing fifty of his book illustrations that he called “doodles with a felt-tip pen”. At the vernissage the vain writer-illustrator was as nervous as a Broadway musical star on opening night. But not to worry! His fans snapped them up at one thousand dollars each.

That exhibit was the stuff of a typical Vonnegut literary vignette as in Breakfast of Champions in which he pokes fun at the art world, phony artists and gullible consumers. Karabekian has been paid $50,000 by the town for sticking a yellow strip of tape vertically on a piece of canvas. The whole town hates him for the swindle until he explains that it was an unwavering band of light, like each of them, like Saint Anthony. “All you had to do was explain,” say the relieved people to their cultural hero, now convinced they have acquired one of the world’s masterpieces. “If artists would explain more people would like art more.” Though Vonnegut repeats that workers simply want an explanation, the cynic suspects cynicism in him too.

“Sometimes I think the people of the world are begging to understand. And to be understood by the United States. They want to be understood more than they want to be ‘freed’ by America. Actually the US encourages not seeing other peoples. Disregard for other peoples is a matter of education. Making money is the point. Don’t waste your time. Withhold your time from people who can’t reward you. This started when Reagan came along and did away with social help using tax monies that Roosevelt’s New Deal had introduced. So the poor are now up the creek! (This was 1985, before Iraq and Afghanistan and East Africa and the war on terrorism.) “And our intellectuals didn’t react at all to his re-election,” says the self-proclaimed Socialist-anarchist. “He ran unopposed.”

In Deadeye Dick a neutron bomb being transported along the Interstate goes off, killing 100,000 people of a town but leaving everything else intact. After the dead are buried under the parking lot for sanitary reasons, the question is what to do with the contaminated area. Someone proposes moving Haitian immigrants there. The point is that Vonnegut’s technological society needs the workers but it cares even less for non-Americans than for its own citizens.

“I’m convinced that slavery will come back, and Haitians were after all once slaves. With all the automation, society needs slaves. One will perhaps have the option of selling one’s services for long periods, thirty years, or for life. There will be many takers. Like the Asians and Mexicans who work here now for less than minimum wages.”

Americans who make their lives abroad see this generalized blindness to other peoples in their fellow Americans quite clearly. Vonnegut must be right: it’s education … and the brainwash and spin, too. American Tourism to Europe and Asia and South America to photograph the natives doesn’t correct the blindness.

We’re drinking scotch and black coffee and chain smoking in the kitchen of his unpretentious but large and expensive townhouse—four stories, with garden—in a swanky area of Manhattan. A cold wind is blowing down from among new high-rise buildings. Long Vonnegut in baggy pants and wool shirt is sprawled on an iron garden chair, drawling out his witticisms, descriptions and pronouncements, having fun at the expense of everyone—himself, me, us and them—the artist and social critic and performer, too. He runs his slim delicate fingers through long reddish hair and pulls nervously at his mustache. His talk has the quality of being quiet and breath-taking simultaneously..

“I am successful,” he stresses, returning again and again to the money thing. “Privileged. When I was young and working for General Electric I was a hostage of society because I had six children. Now I’m free because I have money. I don’t like the privileged class, in the same way I will always resent the officers class. I was a private during the war and saw an infantry division wiped out its first time in combat because it was poorly led. Like America is poorly led today.”

Like many writers, Vonnegut said that writing for him was a way to rebel against his parents’ life style. He claimed he chose writing because he wrote better than he painted, and because you have to do something to make your mark. He liked writing for newspapers because of the immediate feedback. Journalists are as vain as novelists and find it rewarding to write an article in the evening and see it in print the next day.

“You can’t help but look back wistfully to the days of Bellini and Leonardo da Vinci who worked in many arts. There are so many things to do today that we don’t have the time to dedicate ourselves wholly to the arts. Still, I believe in the arts. My children say I dance well. I can shag and that’s mysterious to the young. I can jitterbug and that impresses them. And I play the clarinet lovingly. In general the arts have held up well in catastrophic situations. Yet there are preferences. It’s true that painters like to paint and writers hate to write. Putting paint on a canvas is fun and is easy. You don’t even have to finish it. After six strokes you have a painting. At that point you can frame it and hang it. Maybe that’s why writers like to paint and draw. Norman Mailer is a good drawer. Tennessee Williams does good watercolors. Henry Miller is the best writer-painter I have known. Poetry too is fast. That’s why poets have so much time to sit around cafés and talk. But the novelist is always busy, sitting at a typewriter like a stenographer, which is boring and lonely.

“My book, Breakfast of Champions, is about art. Art should be refreshing to everyone. But many artists are in league with the rich to make the poor feel dumb, like all the galleries downtown with walls covered in dots and blank whites. The rich organize art in such a way as to prove they have different souls from the poor, to give a biological justification to their status. Mystification is the secret. Ruling classes find it politically useful that workers can’t understand the pictures in the galleries. Inaccessible art grew out of industrialization. In the Renaissance art was of the people.”

Vonnegut’s heroes are outsiders, the rebels in big organizations who think the system is wrong and maybe want to change it. In a wacky and comical way he depicts the hopeless and sad human condition. His heroes care about involvement. Yet they are helpless. They have little power to decide anything.

“No man is in control,” he murmurs. “People are just born on this planet and are immediately hit over the head and yelled at. Ten per cent of the world’s children are abused. So what chance does man have? My own success is like an American dream. I’m prosperous. I can see how it worked for me. I’m convinced we’re all programmed in a certain way. Still, big bureaucracy appalls me. Gore Vidal was right that this is the only country in the world that does nothing for its citizens. Jobs don’t go around. The auto industry is laying people off. Still, I have to say that working on the assembly line is better than doing nothing at all. But the problem is we’re just not useful anymore.

“While the people lament gasoline prices and call for small cars, Detroit turns out bigger cars and lays off workers. The people eat macrobiotic foods and squirt chemicals up their assholes and swallow exotic anti-hemorrhoid salves.”

He speaks of the people! Not the people in his beloved New York. His settings are the wide expanses of America. Where the really funny, mad things happen. A world so far from Europe as to be incredible. A world that baffles Europeans.

After his wife had glanced in a couple times to check on the scotch level and after he told me he never gave interviews to the American press, only to Europeans, and pouring more scotch he said that interviews were hard work. I asked about his statement in a recent book that people and nations have their story that ends, after which it’s all epilogue. Vonnegut intimated that the US story ended after World War II.

“That was only a joke,” he said wryly, smiling sheepishly.

“It didn’t sound like a joke. It sounded quite serious.”

“Well” (reluctantly, perhaps not wanting to appear too critical of the USA to the European public), “the United States story will become epilogue unless it succeeds in renewing itself. Like a play peters out if it slows down and has nothing else to say. One must invent new themes for development. Economic justice is one such theme that would make our first two hundred years seem like only Act I. That would become Act II. If that theme is not developed, then our story peters out. Our legal justice would then become mockery. Remember the old quip: ‘It’s no disgrace to be poor but it might as well be.’

“In the Constitution there is nothing about economic justice, only the legal utopia. The Bill of Rights is a utopia. We have laws that violate the Constitution. It’s now time to start thinking about social fairness. Our superstar leaders deal with billions of dollars and we have individuals richer than the whole state of Wyoming. The military-industrial complex is robbing us blind to pay for sensitive weapons that don’t work in the dark or under 50°. We can’t possibly understand all that crap. Compare the arms manufacturers to the salesmen of snake eye in the frontier days. In the 1930s we had Eugene Debs who labeled arms manufacturers ‘merchants of death’. Then the crooks took over the labor unions and we have nothing left today so that I don’t have a banner to which I can adhere. And the same type of people are on top in our society today, selling their quack remedies, to protect us against the dread disease of Communism. And that’s what I say in my annual lectures at ten universities. I would like to see that change.

“Yet people don’t give a damn about anything. Few care what we pour into the world every day. Few care if we go to war. People are embarrassed about life and don’t care if it all ends. Humans have decided that the experiment of life is a failure.”

One of his characters speaks of being born like a disease: “I have caught life. I have come down with life.” Speaking about experiencing the destruction of Dresden, a city of beauty like Paris, Vonnegut said he was the only one there who found it remarkable that it all went up in smoke. “Not even the Germans seemed to care.”

The scotch flowed. The kitchen was blue with smoke. If I’d not been recording our talk little would have remained. At one point he said “doodley-squat.” He loved those sounds, spicing his novels liberally with skeedee wah, skeedee wo. At critical moments his heroes mumble in skat talk of the jazz era, skeedee beep, zang reepa dop, singing a few bars to chase the blues away. Then, yump-yump, tiddle-taddle, ra-a-a-a, yump-yump-boom. And abbreviations Ramjac, epicac and euphic. Onomatopeic and symbolic nonsense. Doodley-squat for the nothing at all the poor don’t have.

It all sounded OK in the smoky blue kitchen over scotch. Later I wondered what those sounds mean. Futuristic concepts? Or sounds of joy or despair? The voice of truth? Or just social chatter? Escape or mere foolishness? Is he writer or entertainer?

Any agreement on the basis of friendliness obliterates ideas and thinking. What about that?”

“Yes, I wrote that. The stupid performance of man and his degeneration are possible because no one is thinking. There has been a warm brotherhood of stupidity. What do words mean anyway? The old Hollywood joke is expressive:

Question: How do you say, ‘fuck yourself?’

Answer: ‘Trust me.’”

……………..

Source

UPS delivery driver ‘worked to death’ dropping off 240 parcels a day – Heart Attack After 12 Hour Shift – by Siba Jackson (Daily Sun) 22 Dec 2019

Teamser Dies 1

Dad-of-two Paul Crush, 42, collapsed from a suspected heart attack at the end of a 12-hour shift – as workload ‘doubled’ over Christmas for pressure-hit staff

……………………….

A UPS driver was allegedly “worked to death” after delivering up to 240 parcels a day during gruelling 12-hour shifts.
Dad-of-two Paul Crush, 42, died after suffering a suspected heart attack at his depot in Stanford-le-Hope in Essex on Wednesday.
It comes as friends claimed drivers, usually tasked with dropping off around 100 parcels, were being pushed too far.
Tragic Paul leaves behind wife Tracy, 40, who is said to be “beside herself with grief”, as well as daughter Lily, eight, and four-year-old son Harry.
A friend reportedly told the Sun how Paul had been “flat out” for about six weeks during the Christmas rush.
Paul Crush leaves behind wife Tracy (pictured) and two children

“I saw him (Paul) having coffee before he started his shift and he looked tired and said it had been a struggle for him to get out of bed– but he was cheerful as ever.
“That was his problem. He was the kind of guy who would never say no to extra work.
“He will have died of natural causes but his mates who knew him think he’s been worked to death.”
Paul, from Chelmsford, Essex, is believed to have been earning around £30,000 a year working for the delivery firm.
UPS said in a statement: “We are deeply saddened by the loss of our fellow UPSer.
UPS Teamsters
“Our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues.”
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