The Berkeley Civil War

April 28, 2017

The Berkeley Civil War

(sung to the tune of ‘When Johnny Comes Marching Home’.

 h/t The Clash)

 

When the Trumpers march in Berkeley

Hurrah! Hurrah!

Antifa will make it nazi-free

Hurrah! Hurrah!

 

We’ll hit them with fists, kicks, and rocks

Bottles, bricks, and bicycle locks

And we’ll all feel smug

In the Berkeley civil war

 

Violence is never the way

Hurrah! Hurrah!

Unless we do it, then it’s ok

Hurrah! Hurrah!

 

Abolish all laws and the police too

Perfect autonomy for me and you

And we’ll all feel smug

In the Berkeley civil war

 

It is not cool to slug a chick

Hurrah! Hurrah!

Why don’t the cops arrest that prick?

Hurrah! Hurrah!

 

It don’t matter that she hit first

Or had a firecracker in her purse

Hypocrisy rules the day

In the Berkeley civil war

 

The truth to us has been revealed

Hurrah! Hurrah!

Your right to speak has been repealed

Hurrah! Hurrah!

 

If you reject our moral code

You’re a bigot, racist or homophobe

And we’ll all feel smug

In the Berkeley civil war

 

The Trumpers are a bunch of thugs

Hurrah! Hurrah!

So it’s just fine to punch their mugs

Hurrah! Hurrah!

 

Fighting in the street always works

When you’re dealing with brownshirts

Just like it did in

Weimar Germany

 

Anarchy is the ideal we prize

Hurrah! Hurrah!

No wonder we’re so disorganized

Hurrah! Hurrah!

 

Yet we’ll still win and this is why

Look what we did with Occupy!

Chaos will prevail

In the Berkelely civil war

 

(c) 2017 by Matt Cavanaugh. All rights reserved.

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What Gender Spectrum?

January 7, 2014

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“The Next Frontier in Social Justice”

Lately, social justice warriors have exhibited considerable agitation and sense of urgency over the rights of transgendered people, who are said to suffer considerable discrimination, harassment, and lack of acceptance. Joe Biden declared discrimination against this minority “the civil rights issue of our time,” while journalists and activists speak excitedly of transgender rights as “the next frontier.”

Just enforcing existing, or passing new, anti-discrimination laws is not enough, we are forewarned. “Cultural protections” for transgendered people, commonly known as trans*, will be erected, and society will be re-educated about how it conceives of sexual identity. “[I]t will need to reevaluate just how necessary it really is to define people according to what’s between their legs. This would clearly help the transgender community, but it might be healthy for the rest of us, too.” 

The so-called “gender binary”, where the world is viewed as male and female, is evil and wrong, we are instructed. We must all now embrace the “Gender Spectrum” (“GS”), which better reflects nature and most importantly, is “inclusive.”

But is this novel way of perceiving human sexuality valid? What, if any, scientific evidence exists to support it? And why is changing not just how people treat trans*, but how they think and feel about their own sexuality, so important?  We shall see.

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Terms

The Gender Spectrum has been defined as

“… a range of gender identities between and outside of the categories of male and female…”

which is usually expanded to include Gender Expression, “the ways in which people externally communicate their gender identity to others through behavior, clothing, haircut, voice, and other forms of presentation”, and Gender Role, “the set of roles, activities, expectations and behaviors assigned to females and males by society.”  Sexual orientation (gay; straight; bi; asexual) is also frequently placed under the rubric.

In contrast to the “static, binary model”, The Gender Spectrum is presented as a “more nuanced, and ultimately truly authentic model of human gender” that describes the “far more rich texture of biology, gender expression, and gender identity intersect in multidimensional array of possibilities.”  The concept has been around for about fifteen years.

Gender itself is a fairly recent coinage that refers to the personal sexual identity of an individual above & beyond their biological sex. People almost always identify as the gender that matches their sex, but trans* either identify as the gender opposite their sex, or, in rare cases, have no clearly defined gender identity. The causes of transgenderism are poorly understood. (A small fraction of the population is intersex — people who, due to genetic or embryological anomalies, have genitalia & other physical sexual traits that are neither completely male or female. Intersex is separate from transgendered.)

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Numbers

When people discuss transgenderism and the GS, they can be maddeningly vague with quantification — ‘not all people conform…’ or ‘many people express…’ or ‘some people display…’ etc. There happens to be a debate raging over the figures generally cited for prevelance of transgenderism. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) gives 1:30,000 among men and 1:100,000 among women, figures that found their way into APA’s DSM V. But these derive from just a handful of forty year-old studies, and Lynn Conway, a mathematician and a trans* zirself, has made a compelling argument that they’re off by several factors.

By adding up sex reassignment surgeries (SRS) performed in the US since the 1960’s, Conway arrives at a minimal  transgender prevalence of 1:2,500, or 0.04%. But considering lessening stigma, and that not every person who identifies as trans gets SRS, more trans* are likely out there. Through a series of assumptions & back-of-the-envelope calculations, Conway extrapolates to a final estimate of 1:170, or <0.6%

A careful & comprehensive meta-study by UCLA’s Williams Institute, conducted in 2011, found that ~ 0.3% of US residents identified as trans* — all things considered, within the same ballpark as Conway’s figure. The results of other recent surveys tend to fall within Conway’s base and peak estimates.

Whether trans people constitute 3/10ths or 6/10ths of a percent of the population, describing them as ‘some’ is vague, and as ‘many’ downright misleading. ‘Very few’,  ‘a small fraction’ and ‘rare’ are more fitting, as this visualization of the UCLA estimates makes clear:


Identity_pie

Now, this is not to say that, just because trans* are a tiny minority, they are not deserving of our respect or equal rights. As Conway observes, the prevalence of blindness and deafness are similarly low, but society takes great pains to accommodate the blind and the deaf.

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The Nature of Sex

This may seem pedantic, but a basic review of sexual development & reproduction is in order before examining the validity of the GS.

Homo sapiens reproduce sexually, as have our ancestors for the past 1.2 billion years. By design, each human comes equipped with either exclusively female, or exclusively male sex organs. We are not hermaphroditic, are incapable of parthenogenesis, nor do we self-pollinate.

Sex is determined by the X and Y chromosomes. Get two Xs and you’re female; an X and a Y, and you’re male — it’s either/or. (Specifically, the SRY gene on the Y chromosome determines maleness.) Rarely, something goes wrong when the gametes merge, creating a zygote with a lone X, an XXY, XXYY, or an SRY gene that’s fallen off the Y chromosome or migrated to an X. A meiotic anomaly can create XYY. Individuals born with any of these karyotypes are known as intersex and (except XYY) are infertile.

In the womb, the precisely-timed delivery of precise amounts of hormones is required for the initially amorphous embryo to develop either male or female attributes. This process, too, infrequently goes awry, leading to individuals with genitalia and other physical sex attributes that are neither fully male nor female. They are also intersex and infertile.

It must be stressed that karyotypic and embryological anomalies are errors in the processes — fatal breakdowns, actually, from the perspective of the germ line — and in no way ‘natural’ variants of sex. (It’s noteworthy that intersex pregnancies spontaneously abort at a far higher frequency than average.) This should be an uncontroversial statement of fact, yet there are those who deny it.

The group GenderSpectrum.org insists

“… even if gender is to be restricted to basic biology, a binary concept still fails to capture the rich variation observed. Rather than just two distinct boxes, biological gender occurs across a continuum of possibilities. This spectrum of anatomical variations by itself should be enough to disregard the simplistic notion of only two genders.”

Evidence of this “biological continuum” presumably includes:

  • 5-Alpha-Reductase Deficiency — incidence of births 1:40,000
  • Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (XY female) — 1:20,000
  • Cloacal Exstrophy — 1:400,000
  • Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH) — 1:14,200
  • Klinefelter Syndrome (XXY males) — 1:1,000
  • Mullerian Agenesis (congenital absence of a vagina) — 1:5,000
  • Partial Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (PAIS) — rare, incidence unknown
  • Swyer Syndrome (XY gonadal dysgenesis) — 1:30,000
  • Turner Syndrome (45,X0) — 1:2,500

This is idiotic. The above are all intersex conditions where the natural sex determinant processes have gone awry. Intersex people deserve our compassion and our support in developing their personal gender identity. Their conditions, however, are birth defects, not “rich variations.”

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The Nature of Gender

To successfuly reproduce, an individual must: 1) attract members of the opposite sex; 2) be attracted to members of the opposite sex. Mating relies on physical cues and behaviors to achieve these two objectives. These physical traits and behaviors are fixed, phenotypic expressions of the genome.

For humans at least, it’s generally assumed that a gender identity is generated within the mind. To the best of my knowledge, humans are also the only animals who’ve developed elaborate cultural rituals and cues (most notably, hoop earrings, raised pick-up trucks, & line dancing) to augment or supplant instinctual sex behaviors and attributes.

Getting one’s gender identity or sexual attraction wrong is, again from the perspective of the germ line, a fatal mistake. That’s why we don’t find any trans* animals or gay animals. (Homosexual behaviors have been observed in animals, but they are — aside from one known example of male beetles depositing sperm packets on other males’ carapaces, and that an alternate, “piggy-back” strategy for delivering sperm to females —  for dominance or other non-sexual social purposes.)

Homosexuals, bisexuals, and trans* are, of course, found among humans. Some hypothetical explanations for a genetic basis to homosexuality have been put forth (based on outlaw genes, kin selection), but no hard evidence exists (i.e., no “gay gene” has been found.) Pre-natal hormonal imbalances have been tentatively linked to lesbianism. Instances like ancient Sparta imply that culture can influence human sexual attraction. And that’s about the extent of what we know at this point.

How gender identity forms is even less clearly understood. A few studies have found that the brains of MtF trans* resemble the brains of normative females in certain ways, but no causation arrow can be attached to this correlation. What can be said is, although gender self-identification can sometimes be mutable in childhood, it nearly always is fixed by puberty.

In all but a tiny fraction of instances, gender identity aligns with anatomical sex. This should be considered the normative, default position. (Please bear in mind that this is not by any means a moral judgment.) Further, in most trans*, it seems that this default position has simply been reversed. Whether that cortex where gender forms developed differently in the womb, or whether the social cues that influence gender went askew, most trans* identify with the sex directly opposite their anatomy. A mere fraction of the fraction of people who are trans* are ambivalent, or “gender fluid”.

As with pretty much everything about us, nature and nurture are likely at play. Research into the mechanics of gender identity is almost non-existent, but the patterns indicate that we are predisposed toward a default ‘cis’ identity, with embryological or environmental anomalies sometimes perturbing it.

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What Spectrum?

Scientific inquiry may thrive on tentative claims that are only as assertive as the evidence merits, but crusades are waged on dogmatic certainty. The social justice crusade to transform society’s attitudes about sex and expression requires that a continuous spectrum of gender identity exist across the entire population. The graphics found in SJW literature give an idea of how they envision the Gender Spectrum:

gender_scale1

(Answer three simple questions about your wardrobe to learn where you fall on the Spectrum!)


newspectrum

(Reminder: Intersex is not the same as transgender.)

gender_doughnut

(As you become more masculine, you eventually turn feminine?)

cartoon_spectrum

(Why don’t these people have necks?)

Let’s compare those to a graphic representation of the findings in the UCLA study:

Spectrum_bar

Do you see a spectrum, or a binary?

Ah, but, the SJW replies, you’ve ignored the hidden influence of sexual attraction, gender expression and gender role-playing. So let’s address those, too.

_

Sexual Attraction

Whether you’re hetero-, homo-, or bi-sexual seems to me a separate issue from your gender identity, and even granting that connection, the raw data does not reveal a spectrum. The UCLA study estimated 3.5% of US adults identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual.

Gay_pie

Other studies conducted over the past decade in the US, Canada, Western Europe and Australia, ranged from 1.2% to 3.7%, with one outlier at 5.6%.

Ah, but, comes the retort, as the noted anthropologist, Honey Boo-Boo, observes: “everybody is a little bit gay.” Straight, gay, bi — these are just artificial cubby holes!  In fact, in all the surveys UCLA looked at, more people reported having had same-sex attractions than self-identify as gay or bisexual. Taking the highest figure, 11.0% (from that outlier study, the 2006-2008 National Survey of Family Growth,) let’s graph it out:

gay_bar

The 89% of adults who reported having never had a same-sex attraction appear on the far left. For the purpose of this exercise, and lacking precise data, I’ve evenly spread out the other 11% along the ‘gayness’ scale, despite indications that around half of gay people are also decidedly ‘binary’ in their attractions. For the overwhelming majority of people, there is no spectrum.

Gender Expression, Gender Roles

When it suits them, SJWs insist that gender identity is hard-wired, and we so often hear them speak of ‘a girl born in the body of a boy.’  But when it’s time for the Cultural Revolution to begin, gender suddenly becomes mutable:

“Gender expectations and messages bombard us constantly…. Like other social constructs, gender is closely monitored by society. Accepted social gender roles and expectations are so entrenched in our culture that most people cannot imagine any other way.”

Thus, not only does society have no room for trans* expression, it actively suppresses the hidden gender-fluid tendencies inside all of us. This argument, however, is predicated on the alleged disparity between the ‘artificial’ binary and the ‘natural’ spectrum. As shown above, both gender identity and sexual attraction display marked binary properties. Spectrum advocates complain that

“individuals fitting neatly into [social gender role] expectations rarely if ever question what gender really means. They have never had to, because the system has worked for them.”

Could it be that the vast majority of people prefer these standard roles?  Not the slightest effort has been made to produce concrete evidence showing otherwise — or to explain, exactly, why safeguarding the rights of a minority requires the majority to alter their private behavior and deepest self-perceptions.  So, when Pistol Annies affirm that there’s nothing better than being loved by a workin’ man, who won’t do the dishes or laundry, but who can fix about anything and will keep your car real clean, instead of trying to re-educate those gals, we should take them at their word.

That being said, if, as a society moving toward greater egalitarianism and less gender-based dichotomy of labor, we now choose to relax enforcement of traditional gender roles for those who choose to deviate from them, that’s a good thing. But no half-baked theory is required to explain David Beckham or Steven Tyler. And we can have women astronauts and men nurses, women in suits and men in scarfs, women who chop wood and men who cry during TERMS OF ENDEARMENT, without the need to pretend they aren’t fully women and fully men.

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Culture Club

Spectrum advocates assert that “[g]ender diversity is a normal part of human expression documented across cultures and recorded history,” and point to

“[n]on-binary gender diversity … throughout the world, documented by countless historians and anthropologists. Examples of individuals living comfortably outside of typical male/female identities are found in every region of the globe. The calabai, and calalai of Indonesia, two-spirit Native Americans, and the hijra of India all represent more complex understandings of gender than the simplistic model seen in the west.”

It is indeed possible to find scattered examples of cultures tolerant of intersex and transgendered people. (Sadly, they seem the exceptions to the rule.)  One might well cite these examples to encourage greater tolerance in our own society. But they simply do not hold up as evidence of a gender spectrum. Just because these pre-modern societies — ignorant of chromosomes, pre-natal development, or orbital frontal cortices — invented third, fourth or fifth “sexes” to explain certain phenomena, doesn’t mean extra sexes exist for real.

Further, for this to serve as proof that our “simplistic” binary model actively suppresses expressions of gender non-conformity, SJWs would need to produce data showing a significantly higher prevalence of gender-queer individuals in these cultures. They haven’t bothered, and likely can’t.

Finally, hirja of the Indian subcontinent traditionally had, and often still have, their penis and testicles chopped off as boys, then are forced into a life of prostitution. This is not a cultural practice we should seek to emulate.

Spectrum proponents say our gender roles are ‘just a social construct.’ But societies and cultures do not appear out of thin air. The origin of human societal culture can be traced back through the group behaviors of our hominid  & earlier social animal ancestors, all the way to the  mating instincts of the first sexually-reproducing creatures. Our cultural gender constructs are the direct product of, and are designed to facilitate, sexual reproduction. Far from being arbitrary or capricious, our ‘binary’ gender roles and expressions precisely replicate the function of fixed sex displays like plumage or instinctual behaviors. Baby, It’s Cold Outside is a mating dance.

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The Insane Charade

We have shown that:

  1. Trans* individuals are extremely rare (~ 0.3%);
  2. Same-sex attraction is rare (~ 3%);
  3. Our species is by design a sexual binary of male and female;
  4. The vast majority of people — cis and trans*, straight and gay — self-identify as either male or female;
  5. Normative cultural gender roles and expressions, albeit sometimes taken to extremes by certain cultures, are consistent with that sexual binary and naturally emanate from it;
  6. A large majority of people are comfortable with standard gender roles and forms of expression. That almost no one conforms to clichéd, exaggerated stereotypes is unremarkable; that a few people deviate widely from standard gender expressions does not equate to a smooth variance across the entire population, much less is proof of the existence of extra sexes.

In spite of all this evidence and logic, SJWs damn anyone who doubts the Gender Spectrum as ignorant and hateful.

Not atypically for SJWs, they conflate two separate arguments. The first, that trans* deserve equal treatment under the law, and don’t deserve ridicule or abuse, is one I heartily agree with, as would any fair-minded person.

Their other argument, over which they have launched a crusade, and against which they are experiencing considerable push-back, is that society must be restructured, our public institutions revamped, our very perceptions altered, to conform to a non-existent gender spectrum. So people are shamed for finding trans* sexually unattractive, or for denying that they themselves secretly harbor homosexual feelings. “He” and “she”, “his” and “hers” are banned as Words of Intolerance™, and we are now expected ask each person what are zir preferred pronouns before addressing qi. Teachers and students receive  indoctrination  sensitivity training to embrace the legions of spectrum-queer in their midst.

We have SJWs demanding that trans* be allowed to express their gender in any way they see fit, and expect ‘cis folk’ to not just tolerate it, but to find it groovy. Then, without batting an eye, they hector and shame people who desire and enjoy traditional gender roles and expressions.

We have parents now raising their children as gender neutral, afraid to impose arbitrary idenities in case their kid might be ‘two-spirit.’   Worst of all, many SJWs and therapists now actively encourage children as young as 3 years of age to identify as trans*.   Considering that, while some amount of gender nonconformity & ambivalence is relatively common among children, nearly all children who experience it sort things out on their own to become ‘cis’ by puberty, this is unconscionable.

All this is stupid and wrong, highly unfair to individuals and disruptive to society. I don’t care how often you berate me, how many times you label me a ‘hater’, a ‘trans-phobe’, or ‘cis scum‘, I will not participate in your insane charade. I’ll gladly stand up for equal rights for trans* people, but I won’t deny the facts: there is no Gender Spectrum.


(c) 2013 by Matt Cavanaugh. All rights reserved.


Letting Go of ‘tamerlane’

April 19, 2013

You all know me as ‘tamerlane’, but my real name is Matt Cavanaugh.

_

My ‘Nym
When I first began commenting and blogging online in the Spring of 2008, I followed the common practice of adopting a screen name.   I like to engage in serious discussions on politics and religion, two subjects with a power to enrage people like no others.  I do so in a venue — the internet  — that, like road rage, provides an anonymity that too often encourages people to act like boors or even monsters.  With practices like “doxxing” and online stalking, not to mention whatever real-life acts that might result from chance interactions with political or religious fanatics, discretion dictated adopting a pseudonym.

I’m a small businessman dependent on the continued good will of a close-knit community.  I doubt that many of my clients, vendors, colleagues or neighbors share my political or religious views.  I’m an atheist in a predominantly religious culture that seems to rate our morals as just slightly less depraved than those of child molesters.  I wanted to avoid any possibility of my views causing friction in this sphere.

Finally, noms de plume are a long & respected tradition.  Having one of my own allowed me to segregate my iconoclastic views & often acerbic style from my overall everyday personality, which is far more mainstream and mellow.  Interestingly, my friends and I often discuss my online persona in the third person, as in ‘what did tamerlane write this time?’ or, ‘was that as you or as tamerlane?’

When I first selected a name, I was tempted to use something like “S. Adams” or “Publius”, the pseudonym of the Federalist Papers’ authors.  I rejected these as overly pretentious.  Instead, I settled on the slightly self-deprecating choice of a 14th century Mongol conqueror.  My decision-making process was, I must admit, a fairly hasty one.  The primary reason I chose ‘tamerlane’ was simply that, like me, “Timur the Lame” was an horseman with a bum leg.

At first, I was occasionally chided for taking the name of “a brutal conqueror and despot.”  (Would you like me better if I’d chosen a gentle conqueror and despot?)  Over time, ‘tamerlane’ the commenter and writer became a recognized entity in his own right.  When friends who first met me online now call or write, they as often as not address me as ‘Tamer’ or ‘T’.  Maybe I should’ve put more thought into the name, but it did the job, and it stuck.

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My Town
During the past few hours, I’ve been thinking a whole lot about the name I write under.  Many of you know that I’m originally from Boston.  I’m proud of my hometown and protective of its witty, warm people and its reputation as a great place to visit and to live.  I’ve been closely following the news of this week’s bombings.  I now live in a rural setting on the other side of the country, and no one I know was injured or killed.  Yet I find the attack has upset me on a very personal level.  That was my town; those were my people.  Don’t you ever fuck with my people.

The news of the hunt for the two bombing suspects has unfolded at a rapid pace over the past night and into this morning.  The suspects murdered one policeman and put another in the hospital.  While fleeing, they threw bombs out the car window.  I didn’t need a map to trace their route; I’ve driven or strolled there many times myself.  One bomber is dead, the other is still on the lam.  They’re brothers, named Dzhokhar and Tamerlan.

_

A Legacy of … Nothing
Tamerlane is a popular name in the former Soviet republics of central Asia, where these brother bombers were born (Chechnya) & raised (Kyrgyzstan) before showing up in my hometown.  The people there, stifled for centuries by — and now willingly falling back in thrall to — the mind-deadening bullshit of islam, have little to be proud of.  No great authors to speak of, no inventors, no magnificent works of art or edifices of grandeur.  Even the ugly, little capitals of their ugly, little dictatorships were built by the Soviets.  About all they have to instill pride is the faded, misunderstood memory of a 14th century Mongol conqueror named Tamerlane.  So they erect equestrian statues in Tamerlane Squares and steer their sputtering Ladas around the potholes of Tamerlane Boulevards.  They name their kids ‘Tamerlan’ and dream hazily of the day when they, too, will march under the crescent banner to sack the cities of the infidels.

At least the original Tamerlane had an appreciation for the knowledge and culture he was appropriating.  A brilliant strategist, he was

… steadfast in mind … he did not care for jesting or lying; wit and trifling pleased him not; truth, even were it painful, delighted him….

Tamerlane taught himself to speak several languages, had histories and the ancient classics read to him while he dined, and even invented a version of chess.  Contemporaries described him as

highly intelligent and very perspicacious, addicted to debate and argument about what he knows and also about what he does not know.

Although nominally a moslem, Tamerlane blended sufism with Mongol shamanism.    Religion to him seemed more an useful tool for justifying his actions than guiding them.  He established his capital at Samarkand, embellished it with the riches and art he’d plundered, and assembled scholars and craftsman there to transform his barbarian empire into a civilized race.  That dream died with him.
_

Envy and Resentment

Tamerlan the bomber didn’t want to embrace Western civilization, he wanted to smash it.  Unlike Boston, international students don’t flock to the great learning institutions of the Caucasus.  Unlike Boston, modern Samarkand could never host a sporting event attracting participants from a hundred nations, because no one in their right mind would ever willingly travel to that shithole.

The bomber brothers were welcomed by Boston and its people.  They were given a good education there, even a college scholarship.  They could have become real Bostonians had they wanted — sang ‘Dirty Water’ with us at Fenway, transposed the ‘r’s at the end of words, watched the fireworks from the Esplanade, even worn green with us on Saint Paddy’s or grabbed a sausage on Saint Anthony’s.  They could have partaken of everything our town, built by successive waves of immigrants, had to offer them: the museums, the culture, the music, the history, the learning, the cuisine, and yes, the public traditions and sporting events.  They rejected and despised everything Boston had to offer, because they had nothing to offer back.

I’ve got Paul Revere, Isabella Stewart Gardner, Leonard Nimoy and Arthur Fiedler to be proud of. I’ve got Samuel Morse, Donna Summer, Robert Gould Shaw and Yaz.  Louisa May Alcott, Winslow Homer, Charles Bulfinch and Helen Keller.  The bomber brothers had nothing of value to inspire them, no one worthy to emulate.  Not even Timur the Lame.  All they had was envy and resentment.
_

Just Me

Like “Adolf”, the name “Tamerlan(e)” can never again be seen without negative connotations.  Miscreant bombers don’t deserve its historic legacy, but I want in no way for my words and thoughts to be misconstrued with their ignorance and their hate.  So it’s time to let ‘tamerlane’ go.  I might consider adopting a new pseudonym later, but for now, at least, I’m just me.


(c) 2013 by Matt Cavanaugh.  All rights reserved.


Conspiracy Enough

September 11, 2011

Time to Remember, Time to Forget?

As America commemorates the 10th anniversary of the terrorists attacks of September 11, 2001, the MSM is filled with stories that tell us what emotions are appropriate, while also urging us scoff at the poor, deluded “9/11 truthers” who, a decade later, still cling to preposterous theories. ‘Enough conspiracy, already!’ we’re told.

I’ll deal with my own emotions, myself, thank you.  But, indeed, the truther theories, with planned demolitions, phantom planes, and vast networks of conspirators, are almost exclusively garbage.


Blind Pigs

All conspiracy nuts suffer under a sense of helplessness in a world they find hard to comprehend.  The nut takes comfort in the “knowledge” and certainly of secret forces controlling events behind the scenes.  Icons of power — the military, obscure government agencies, pan-global corporations, feature prominently.  To provide an explanation suitable for complexities they themselves can’t figure out, the nut’s conspiracies must be massive, elaborate, widespread — an host of confederates;  plans perfected to the minutest detail; the gullible public always responding exactly as intended.

While these baroque fantasies make entertaining cinema (cf. THE STING, THE USUAL SUSPECTS, NINE QUEENS), in reality they are impossible … and unnecessary.

Conspiracies and conspirators do exist, but not at all like the nut’s visions.  Like the blind pig that occasionally finds an acorn, truthers do rarely stumble across something real.  But in their zeal to uncover a clue under every leaf on the forest floor, they only obscure the very thing they hoped to reveal.  Sniffing false trails galore, and drawing ridicule on legitimate inquiries, the truther is unwittingly the conspirator’s most diligent accomplice.


Subtle Nudges

Rather than elaborate hoaxes hatched in underground lairs and supported by convoys of black vans, a minute number of  people in power, for intents both altruistic and craven, do steer the course of events via subtle, covert nudges.  ‘Spark’ moments need not be created out of whole cloth, merely facilitated, or at the very least, exploited with vigor when they fortuitously occur.  Just a few examples of “nudges” of serendipitous turning points that dramatically changed the course of History:

  •  1862 — Lincoln seizes on the marginal victory of Antietam to issue his long-contemplated Emancipation Proclamation;
  •  1870 — An unexpected dynastic crisis in Spain allows Bismarck, knowing France will go to war to prevent German unification, to goad the French Emperor into mobilizing his unprepared army;
  •  1898 — Coveting Spanish colonies in the Caribbean, the U.S. uses the sinking of the battleship Maine in Havana harbor (labeled a terrorist attack, it was in fact a chance boiler explosion) as a causus belli;
  •  1933 — The Nazis use a terrorist attack on the Parliament building (Reichstag) as a pretense to declare martial law;
  •  2001- 2003 — The Bush administration uses the 9/11 terrorist attacks to implement surveillance on citizens, then launch wars in oil-producing nations.

Better to label these actors “Manipulators” than “Conspirators”.  Whether the sparks were created, facilitated, or simply exploited is besides the point.  In every case, the manipulator(s) had an ultimate goal, with a broad but definite plan, well in advance, just waiting an opportune moment to enact.


9/11 — M.O.M.

The classic sleuthing technique is to identify who had the means, the opportunity, and the motive to commit the crime.  There was a small cabal in the United States who had a burning desire for a terrorist attack.  Known as “The Vulcans” (in honor of the Roman God, not the Star Trek race), they were neo-conservatives, pro Israel-expansionism, capitalist purists with oil connections.  All held positions in the Reagan/Papa Bush administrations.  Their names are familiar:  Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleeza Rice, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Colin Powell.

Declaring the USA the last superpower standing, they saw a golden opportunity for our nation to mold, though unopposed military action, the world to our whim.  They also entertained the jalousie that capitalism fosters democracy — open up a country to big business, lay a few pipelines, and peace, freedom & coca cola sales will follow.  We know this was their plan, because Cheney & Wolfowitz first put it to paper in February, 1992, in what became known as the Wolfowitz doctrine.

With their golden chance to implement their New World Order cut short by Bush’ failed reelection bid, they sullenly awaited a future opportunity.  Growing restless, the Vulcans formed the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), and issued periodic calls for overthrowing Saddam Hussein, unilateral strikes to seize oil-producing regions, and fun stuff like that.  Yet they lamented that “the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one” to be expedited only by “some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.”

Then opportunity knocked again with the 2000 election of  Al Gore  Baby Bush.   Happy as pigs reunited with shit, the Vulcans commandeered the administration:

  • VP/Puppet Master — Cheney
  • Secty of State — Powell
  • Secty of Defense — Rumsfeld
  • Deputy Secty of Defense — Wolfowitz
  • National Security Advisor — Rice

They only had to wait a further seven months, 32 days for their catalyzing, Pearl Harbor-like event to occur.

No need to detail here how ruthlessly they exploited that event, only to mention in passing how the complete failure of their New World Order highlighted their hubris.


Conspiracy Enough

Indisputable is that their actions & lies following the 9/11 attacks were criminal, deserve punishment and, thanks to Nancy Pelosi, will go unpunished.  Yet the unanswered question, which, a decade later still deserves an answer, is: did the Vulcans just exploit a chance event, did they create it from scratch, or did they willingly serve as the event’s mid-wives?

The evidence is compelling to indict Dick Cheney and Condoleeza Rice guilty of conspiring to intentionally allow the 9/11 attacks to occur.

They did so, not by arranging planned demolitions, staged crash sites or faked phone calls, rather simply by preventing any action being taken on overwhelming evidence of imminent terrorist attacks.  In other words, Cheney and Rice conspired to ‘let one through’ to get the Second Pearl Harbor they craved.

A few others, like Donald Rumsfeld and Scooter Libby, may have been involved, but for it to work, no one beyond the VP and the NSA were required to be ‘in the know.’

  • Their many position papers provide Motive;
  • One month’s advanced notice of a pending terrorist attack provided the Opportunity;
  • Holding all the necessary key positions in the administration, with the power to direct the actions of the military and security agencies, provided the Means;

It’s plausible, though not required, that the Vulcans knew the exact date and details of the terrorists’ plan, and iced the cake by diverting the Air Force with a “routine” training exercise involving hijacked airliners, having FEMA stage a practice response to a terrorist attack in Manhattan, and sequestering Shrub in a kindergarten in Florida.  But sometimes dumb luck happens, too.

The ‘tell’ that 9/11 was more than just a dream-come-true for the Vulcans is the handling of the infamous President’s Daily Brief (PDB) of August 6, 2001.  How Rice & Cheney must have squirmed at that morning’s briefing, when Shrub’s brain inexplicably turned on for a moment and with growing alarm scanned the words:

Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.”

“… since 1997 has wanted to conduct terrorist attacks in the U.S. …” 

“… his followers would follow the example of World Trade Center bomber….” 

“… to retaliate in Washington …”

“… patterns of suspicious activity … consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks …”

“… Bin Laden supporters … in the U.S. planning attacks with explosives.”

The suddenly conscious president’s concern, and his suggestion that something be done about all this, where brushed aside by Condi:  ‘No need to worry, Mr. President, that’s historical information.’  Thirty-seven days later, that “historical” information became very up-to-date.

Flash forward to Rice’s testimony before the 9/11 Commission, where, like the consummate liar, she diverted scrutiny by focusing on an irrelevant details. In response to criticism of her and the administration’s handling of the crisis, Rice emphasized repeatedly that she’d told the President the PDB was “historical information.”  The members of the commission, so intent on posturing and blustering, failed to ask the logical follow-up question:

‘Secretary Rice, seeing as it was made painfully clear that was NOT historical information, what led to you believe it was?’

Which makes Condi Rice either really fucking dumb, or really fucking evil.  She’s never struck me as unintelligent.


Keep Seeking, Keep Asking

Ten years after, and no serious questions are asked anymore.  We’re encouraged instead to remember, honor, mourn, commemorate, etc., while singing so loudly during the seventh inning stretch as to drown out any voices of doubt inside our heads.  We are then shown the deluded 9/11 Truthers as a moral lesson.

That is a false dichotomy.  The dead can be remembered while serious, albeit uncomfortable, questions are still asked:

  • What was the scope of culpability of National Security Advisor Rice in not responding to the PDB warning?
  • What is the full explanation for Cheney’s actions on 9/11, and the NORAD & FEMA hijacking/terrorism drills scheduled that day?
  • Why has no one been charged with crimes for willfully lying about Iraq’s WMD program?
  • By what measure can we evaluate al quaeda’s potency, 2001 v. 2011?
  • By what measure can we say we are “safer” now than before?
  • Why do we continue to engage in useless airline travel precautions that add up to nothing more than shamanistic ritual?
  • Why are we still fighting two hopeless wars that have nothing to do with terrorism?
  • Why are our constitutional liberties still being violated?
  • What’s so wrong about seeking the truth?


(c) 2011 by True Liberal Nexus.  All rights reserved.


A Valentine for Hillary

January 27, 2011

A True Liberal Nation™ Action Item

This February 14th, don’t forget to send a Valentine’s Day greeting to America’s favorite sweetheart, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

As an activist, First Lady, and US Senator, she’s always worked selflessly to help others.  As a candidate for president, she gained more primary votes than anyone in history. Her tenacity, courage and grace under pressure impressed and inspired the entire nation.  As Secretary of State, she has won the respect and admiration of foreign leaders, heads of state, and her own political opponents at home.

For all of this, Hillary Clinton deserves an expression of our gratitude.  Send a Valentines Day card to:

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

Include a note letting Hillary know how much you appreciate everything she’s done.  And ask her to pretty-please do us one more favor — run for president in 2012, and then get this country back on track as only she knows how.


How to Really Give a Speech That Brings Hope and Change

October 20, 2010

If you have to come to TLN to discover this video, you’re definitely not plugged-in, but this speech is so powerful, so heartfelt, and stands in such striking contrast to the insipid demagoguery of lesser figures, it deserves a post.


 


Cry Babies

October 14, 2010

That nebulous cloud of disaffected Democrat & liberal independent voters, commonly labeled “pumas,” deserves a new monicker: “cry babies.”

After a relentless, two-year campaign of whining to each other on blogs, accompanied by not a single act of political activism, our eternal outrage now compels pumas to protest, punish, or dispense penance in the 2010 midterm elections.

Protest:  At a seminal crossroads for the continued viability of our Nation, the likes of which has not been witnessed since 1860, many pumas feel that a protest vote — voting for a green candidate, say, or simply abstaining — will somehow compel the Dem leadership to prick up its ears and heed our puma roar.  Or at least it will assuage our aversion to voting for any but the ideal candidate;

Punish:  Other pumas, for dark reasons known only to them, liken their prior affiliation to the Dem party to a romantic relationship.  When their partner/party betrayed their fidelity by shacking up with obama, these furies vowed revenge.  This November, they intend on taking a Louisville Slugger to both headlights, so the Democratic Party will think next time before he cheats.  Not a few of these punishing pumas have undergone a total inversion, abandoning principles and ideals to become fanatic Republicans.  Which makes one wonder what this was all about for them.

Penance:  There’s a lot of pop psychology going about saying the Democratic Party needs to “hit rock bottom” before it can recover — to “learn its lesson” so to speak — so let’s expedite the process by helping them lose the midterms.

This thought process is flawed on at least two counts.  First, it accepts the meme that ‘hitting rock bottom’ is the sole and certain path to ‘recovery.’   In reality, many people with addictions, antisocial behavior, etc. straighten themselves out before hitting bottom, while many others hit bottom and just stay there, never ‘learning their lesson.’   Second, this theory envisions the entire Democratic party as a single person.  Which it is not.  The Democratic Party is an (especially loose) agglomerate of individuals.  Those capable of learning their lesson have already learned it; facilitating a GOP landslide will not scare straight any others.

A flawed anthropomorphizing of party dynamics, this tenuous strategy also ignores the reality that the TP juggernaut cares not one iota for the aims of liberals.  A minority that includes Blanche Lincoln but lacks Russ Feingold fixes what, exactly?  In short, there is no path to ‘recovery’, however you define that, which leads through a right-wing landslide in this election.

Puma Piss

On the whole, pumas are a pissy lot.  We whine, we foment, we take umbrage at every slight.  On each of our shoulders sits a chip wearing an orange pant suit.  This November, pumas seem eager to stage a massive pissing-into-the-wind protest.  That’ll show ’em!

Yet, in this year of the Tea Party, where were all the Puma rallies?  Who were the Puma candidates in the primaries?  Given, unlike the TP, no billionaire benefactor jump-started our movement, but it didn’t help that there was no real movement to jump-start in the first place.

Every two years, all on her lonesome, Cindy Sheehan gets herself on the ballot to run against Nancy Pelosi.  Not a single “big name” puma could be aroused from their torpor and pathetic self-pity to do likewise.

There’s no avoiding that we pumas pissed away the past two years.  Oh, some of us did try to do something constructive way back.  Known by the ill-chosen name “Just Say No Deal,” and despite assembling an impressive array of experience and talent, for various reasons — an incompetent narcissist as its organizer, for one — this nascent “Puma Party” never got off the ground.  Thereafter followed The Denver Group, a savvy, well-crafted, but ultimately quixotic, protest of the DNC convention, and then … nothing.

Could a Puma Party have arisen then, as did the Tea party a year later?  Sure, but it didn’t.  It still could, and should, happen, in future.  And, in an upcoming post I will be announcing the formation of a new party/movement/PAC.  But back to today.

“First, Do No Harm”

Is the Democratic Party a total write-off?  Absolutely not.  To those who never got as close to politics as did I, it may come as a shock to discover that all politicians have an oily sheen about them.  But let’s not ignore that on 5/31/08, 12 of 27 RBC powerlords voted in favor of Hillary Clinton; that most democratic primary voters chose Clinton over obama; that the obamalonians were so worried by a straw poll of delegates, which indicated Clinton might win a floor vote, that they rigged the formal nomination.  Roughly, then, at least half of the Democratic rank & file membership is salvageable, as is nearly all of the Party platform.

Leave yesterday be; we’ll deal with that tomorrow.  Today, we must be pragmatic about what we can and cannot accomplish at this juncture.  Yes, ideally things would be better with true liberals in the Senate rather than the likes of Reid and Boxer.  But we blew our chance to improve those particular seats during this Spring’s primaries.  Our next opportunity to improve on Reid & Boxer, et al., comes around in 2016.  In 2010, we can only prevent those seats from getting FAR WORSE.  As political surgeons, we must all abide by the Hippocratic Oath.

It’s A Dirty Job

It’s 2010, and there’s no Puma Party around to throw our weight behind.  As disaffected dems and liberal independents, we’re stuck with making the best of a bad situation with what’s on hand.  What’s on hand are the existing Democrats and the TP-laden GOP.  The situation is too dire, the threats to our institutions, liberties and democracy too grave, for protests or statements.   For all intents and purposes, we have a Republican president in obama — handing him a GOP Congress would be disastrous.  This will be no small nudge to the right:  there will be an all-out assault on the institutions, principles, the very foundation of our American Liberty.

Our task today is simple, and it is narrow:  pick the lesser of two evils.  And the greater is very evil, indeed.  In 2008, this true liberal was prepared to vote for McCain, had the race in California proved close, simply to avert the pending obamalonian disaster.  I do not like John McCain, and share but few of his ideals.  So when a fellow puma tells me they cannot, in principle, vote for Barbara Boxer, who despite her many flaws, closely matches their political views, I have no sympathy.  It’s a dirty job, but we’ve got to hold our noses and cast a vote that matters.  No more crying: do your duty.  The welfare of our Nation demands it.


(c) 2010 by ‘tamerlane.’  All rights reserved.