Eric Flint 1947-2022

I’ve just learned of the passing of my lifelong friend Eric Flint.

Eric was a fine friend and I am lucky to have known him for so many years. It is very hard to say goodbye to someone you have known for 59 years, so I will tell you a little about Eric’s earlier years that you are unlikely to hear from others.

Eric’s father was a go-getter and a visionary and exited WWII with an idea to use helicopters to explore for oil, such a good idea that Eric found himself at age 5 living on the Avenue Foch, forgetting English when his parents decamped to Egypt for a couple of months. Eric roundly denounced his father’s poor timing that left him with little of Paris beyond a taste for baguettes, especially since Flint pere’s next move was to buy a ski resort in the Sierra Nevadas that succumbed to too many warm winters in a row, leaving Eric and his Mom in a two-bedroom apartment two blocks from me.

Eric and I thus met as senior transfers to a giant LA high school in 1963. We lived close to the closed campus and scored lunch passes; we would blast to his house and smoke cigarettes and drink beer if there was any to pilfer from his mother’s frig.

Even in those early days Eric wanted to be a writer. We collaborated on a bunch of very juvenile 10-minute plays our drama friends would perform at lunch. Eric wrote his first science fiction book in those years, a coming-of-age story that I liked.

By a weird alignment of forces that involve Eric’s co-writer Richard Roach (Forward the Mage) Eric and I would up college roommates in a little one-bedroom apartment, one of three separate little dwellings at the corner of Ocean Park Blvd and Bicknell St, directly across the street from the Pacific Ocean, for $25/month. We took care of a very stinky and aged german shepherd, which is to say we opened the door to let her out and fed her.

My first girlfriend was Eric’s girlfriend’s best friend, so we made a tight foursome for a number of years. Eric’s girlfriend happened to be the daughter of a Life Magazine Staff Photographer and through that connection I got my first experience of professional photography and basically got hooked, though it took 20 years before I did anything about it.

My girlfriend and I bought a 35mm camera and Eric and his girlfriend built a darkroom on his back porch so we had a place to actually print.

Eric became a history star at UCLA, publishing a long article as an undergraduate in the leading Journal of African History. He routinely received packages from Blackwell’s of London, usually photo-reprints of long-forgotten journals of various imperialist colonizers.

Eric veered into historiography during his graduate years at UCLA, from which he had graduated Summa Cum Laude, under the impact of (I believe) Hayden White, who provided a handy road into Marxism. In those days graduate student teaching assistants often would lead 3 or 4 weekly discussions groups of 15-20 undergrads centering on whatever Professor X had talked about. Unless you were Eric, who would lead the discussion to Marx in the second paragraph.

All of this evaporated with the Kent State Killings and subsequent country-wide student rebellions that very quickly, within days, led to the wholesale closure of American higher education and, at UCLA at least, the sudden retreat of authority from the campuses. Teachers taught or not, student attended or not, demanded on-the-spot curriculum revisions. In the midst of this some wildcatting truck drivers approached one the myriad tables at UCLA and asked if we could walk their picket lines for them, since they were prohibited from doing so. We responded with alacrity and soon had several hundred people who would show up wherever they told us in LA’s City of Industry at 6am. This changed both Eric’s and my life irretrievably.

It was so much fun we decided to do it again and formed an ongoing strike support organization with its own monthly newspaper, The Picket Line. It covered the trial of the wildcat strke members accused ot taking potshots at scab trucks in the mountains, so when they finished their short sentences we were invited to the celebratory welcome back party and had many friends among the rank and file.

These events moved many of us to obtain commercial drivers’ licenses so we could foment from the inside, including Eric. Meanwhile, many of us from the strike support group joined the International Socialists. Speaking for myself, I was impressed with their willingness to participate in actual work of the coalition, but Eric was far more aware of where the IS sat in relation to other left groups.

After various splits we found ourselves to be 20 people in 2 cities in a political environment that was already cooling off. We amalgamated everyone in Detroit, Eric and I driving a 40-foot-trailer’s worth of everything everyone in LA wanted to take to Detroit in a move with a certain panache. We had some roadies in a trail car.

Within 2 years we grew to 45 and joined the Socialist Workers Party primarily because of agreement on the Black Struggle and orientation to workers in basic industry. Until we dispersed from Detroit I had lived in the same city and been friends with Eric for 15 years, often in daily and always in weekly contact. Eric moved to Birmingham and our day-to-day friendship moved to the phone, so I will end this little recollection here since there are many with more recent memories of Eric’s highly original work in the field of science fiction who will contribute to the remembrance of his life.

I will offer this comment on Eric’s science fiction life:

The originality of Eric’s contribution to the world of science fiction was to open up “his” universe to all comers. Literally hundreds of individuals have written for the Grantsville Gazette, the on-line periodical devoted to the world of 1632. Eric has collaborated on scores of books with dozens of co-authors in highly varied world-universes.

I was party to the creation of Eric’s first Universe, Joe’s World. Eric, I, and 2 friends got together almost nightly for a year or so in 1969-1970 and bullshitted about stories of that world. For me, these were as much bonding experiences as anything else. Writing fiction has always been agonizing for me.

Not so for Eric: he carried the ideas and fragments of text around in his head for 20 years and multiplied and multiplied the experience.

After a magnificent first novel, Mother of Demons (I plan to write a review of this book), Eric began collaborating on what became the Belisarius series, a five-book long romp beginning with a “singularity”, that is to say, a one-off non-explainable event that wrenches world history delightfully off-course.

All of Eric’s writing is informed by his immensely deep, lifelong study of history and histories. His basement writing cave contains well over 10,000 books, maybe 100 on Indian history alone. When I first met him he was deep into Arnold Toynbee’s A Study of Civilizations, a highly scholarly but now not-well-regarded dissection of 21 (I think) dead civilizations. I believe it was his emphasis on moral decay that led to his eclipse but truly I know nothing here. I tried to read it but got lost. He was interested in conservatives like Burke for a while.

But, like any good red-blooded American would-be hell-raiser, Eric knew the real thing when he saw in May ’68 in France and moved politically accordingly.

Here’s the earliest pic I could readily lay my hand on. It expresses a salient fact about Eric, that he was always a curmudgeon-in-waiting. You can see his pre-professorial vibe in the pipe, the box of kitchen matches and the bottle of Inglenook, which was pretty good compared to most of what we drank in those days, his feet up on his stool, reading a book.

May be a black-and-white image of 1 person, child, sitting and indoor

55Manuel Garcia Jr., Rima Karan and 53 others



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Paradox of the Humans

greta 2by David Byrne McDonald III

Greta Thunberg, on January 21, 2020:
“In one aspect, lots has happened since last year….From another perspective, pretty much nothing has been done.”
This sums up Planet of the Humans. Despite everyone’s efforts, global atmospheric CO2 yesterday was at 416.98 ppm, the highest level ever measured. Yet the U.S. has 63,794 installed wind turbines and Germany has 29,844. What is going on?
Planet of the Humans, directed by Jeff Gibbs and produced by Ozzie Zehner, has been viewed (5/14/20) by 7,745,866 on Youtube alone. Everyone is astonished at the massive viewership, not least Gibbs, Zehner, and Michael Moore, who has lent his prestige to the film as executive producer. But POTH has also prompted a flood of anguished denunciations from people in the environmental movement who feel unjustly attacked and demonized. We will dip into a particularly cogent public attack on POTH by the President of the Board of 350 Seattle, Patrick Mazza, to view this controversy from the perspective of a righteously outraged activist.
First, as Greta counsels, let’s look at the science. The single most profound question POTH asks comes at 17:39 when Gibbs queries, “But is it possible for machines made by industrial civilization to save us from industrial civilization?” He continues with a summary statement about a particular wind turbine installation that has been hotly denied and denounced: “Did anybody consider that this is mountaintop removal for wind instead of coal?”
You can see why people are pissed.
The bald statement of the film’s scientific core comes as Gibbs narrates that
“Ozzie Zehner said it was an illusion that renewables were replacing coal or any fossil fuel.” Zehner explains, with a Las Vegas power plant in the background: “This is a 650Mw natural gas plant. That’s four times more megawatts than the coal plant over there that it’s replacing.” (26:45) But is this science? Is it not just an unfortunate circumstance?
Is it not the case that a new and improved process will drive the old process out through economies of scale, as has happened times without number? Jevons says no. His observation has come down to us as Jevon’s Paradox.

Jevon’s Paradox

Yes, it is science. And not rocket science, since the phenomenon was first reported before there was rocket science, in 1865, by Jevons, in a little book called The Coal Question.
After discussing products and processes that met their fate at the altar of efficiency and disappeared, Jevons makes his point:
“But the economy of coals in manufactures is a different matter. It is wholly a confusion of ideas to suppose that the economical use of fuel is equivalent to a diminished consumption. The very contrary is the truth.”
Jevons was bothered because that the astonishing 10-fold improvement in the efficiency of steam engines in one hundred years had not led to economy in coal’s use, but to huge increases. “Further improvements of the [steam] engine can only have the same result, of extending the use of such a powerful agent.”
There you have it: improvements in steam engines that reduce the amount of coal to do the same work, never result in less coal being used, but always more. This is Jevon’s Paradox.
The long-term result is that the mining of coal, considered globally, has never decreased. More coal is mined today than ever in the history of the world, and more CO2 from burnt coal is entering the atmosphere than ever before.
But, you say, oil overran coal production long ago. And you are right. But oil did not replace coal or diminish its use, it only added to it. Natural gas, in its turn, being more efficient than oil, is gaining share in the energy mix, but it is not reducing the amount of oil burnt, which, as we all know, has never stopped growing and stood recently at about 100,000,000 barrels a day.
The global annual production of coal, oil, and natural gas has never gone down. Well, maybe during depressions and pandemics, but the general trend is always upward. The total produced always goes up for all fossil fuels.
The conclusion to draw: the introduction of a more efficient prime mover never reduces the continued growth of the less efficient — hence allegedly outmoded — fossil fuel. Yet this is exactly what many people persist in believing about renewable energy. They cling to the idea that market forces will ensure the triumph of renewables, because renewables provide cheaper as well as cleaner energy. On the historical evidence, there is zero chance this will happen. And that is why Greta is right and nothing is really being done.

The Consequent Fossil Fuel Industry Strategy

These facts allow us to re-assess the strategy of the fossil fuel industries as they confront a populace increasingly alarmed about climate change. On the one hand, the fossil fuel giants are deeply implicated in climate change denial in all its forms. On the other hand, they also appear to share the goals of the environmental movement. I invite you to contemplate the home page of the World Coal Association here. You will think you are in green heaven. Yet it is from this very website that we learn that coal production in 2018 amounted to 7813.3 Mt and that coal reserves of 1.1 trillion tons should last 150 years. About those reserves: they are proven reserves, meaning they are economically recoverable; as such, they are assets, and as assets, you can bet that the coal barons have monetized them, that is, borrowed money against their future exploitation, money that can only be repaid if the coal is mined, so that future mining is locked in, it must happen.
This greenwashing of fossil fuel corporate sites is multiplied immensely by vast numbers of other sites supposedly wholly in the enviro camp but with significant input, funding, etc., from fossil fuel concerns. You can find huge numbers of such sites with a few clicks. They are full of the message that we must work together to reduce fossil fuel impact. We do that by promoting more efficient, renewable technologies. But, to say it again, we have just seen that more efficient technologies do not replace, but only add to the total energy produced, so this is in fact a total lie.
Parenthetically, this entire discussion of technology deserves to be informed by the insights of Alf Hornborg, who views technology as essentially a zero-sum game where accumulation on one side demands deprivation on the other.
I find no reason to suspect corruption or chicanery in all this on the part of enviro leaders. I doubt very much that Bill McKibben was corrupted by business class tickets to conferences in cool cities. I don’t think using a wood stove brands him a hypocrite — maybe he plants enough trees to make his modest harvest renewable. What Big Fuel has offered him and others is wind turbines, solar arrays and lots of green jobs to make them happen. They have not been corrupted, but hoodwinked.
Of course the environmental movement cannot build its own wind turbines. They have 8000 parts and weigh a million pounds. Only very large enterprises can contemplate engineering, building and installing them. So when those very large corporations offer to partner with you to produce wind turbines or solar arrays, how can you in good conscience say no? Is it not your goal to see wind turbines built?
The goal of the fossil fuel producers, however, is to keep us out of their hair while they organize the burning of the rest of the world’s coal, oil, and natural gas. In the long run, of course, they can never love renewables because once they’re built, the fuel is (kind of) free, but — as John Maynard Keynes said — in the long run we are all dead. Pretend Green is a smashingly successful strategy for the fossil fuel types, as witnessed by the fact that every major fossil fuel producer on earth has such a strategy in place and spends freely to get those wind turbines and solar arrays up and running. To them, it is worth any amount of money to keep the populace thus confused — and content that something is happening. Why stampede enviros into the arms of government for relief if we can convince them that relief is already on the way? This strategy involves nothing more than applying science known since the end of the U.S. Civil War — and keeping quiet about it. It has lulled many environmental groups into somnolence. Hence the harshness of Planet of the Humans.
Jevon’s Paradox is not a conspiracy theory. It’s beauty (from a fossil-fuel-burning standpoint) is that it requires absolutely nothing more than Business As Usual. It is the way the market works. Green initiatives on the part of fossil fuel forces are, like advertising, a cost of doing business.

An Environmentalist Responds

Let’s turn now to how this is sitting with local Northwest activist and 350 Seattle leader Patrick Mazza. First let’s acknowledge that he’s white hot: “…demonization…capitalist tool…ridiculous…grotesque” are words from his lead sentence. In defense of the local work of 350 Seattle he recites a long list of good deeds that seem good to me and many of which I recall, like the fearless kayaktivists who bedeviled Shell Oil’s plan to base an arctic drilling rig in Seattle. He sketches the positive changes in age and diversity of his folk. He homes in on the Green New Deal around which the new movement has “crystallized” and he hews to the IPCC goal of a 50% reduction in GHG by 2030. Clearly a very good guy. Mazza believes “We must ask how we cut emissions in half in 10 years, a towering challenge politically, economically, and socially. What is the critical path?” That is also my goal, and those are also my questions, so let’s see where he goes.
He writes “I can tell you the only way to bring down carbon pollution fast enough is to shift from fossil fuels.” Amen. He continues: “There are two ways to reduce fossil fuels — use less and generate what we do use from renewable sources.” Amen again. But how do we shift from fossil fuels? The GND has a “huge emphasis on energy efficiency, mass building retrofits for example.” But: mass retrofits of existing buildings with efficient heating and lighting reduces overall building energy use only if the total energy of new buildings and retrofitted buildings added together is less than the formerly leaky buildings on their own. Which is to say, basically never. It is good to retrofit buildings, but only truly green if it results in a reduction of total GHG emitted.
We also don’t need Mazza’s next fix: electric cars. Life cycle analyses of electric vehicles show a slight advantage when the grid itself is powered by renewables, as it is in Seattle. But when fossil fuels are used to produce electricity, as is the case for 83% of U.S. electricity production, the advantage disappears or is very slight. Since, according to the IPCC, we need to replace 50% of all electricity we use in 10 years, it is impossible that electric vehicles, with a slight advantage over internal combustion-powered vehicles could be a significant contributor to the reduction of fossil fuel use.
Mazza says “current learning curves” and “economies of scale position renewable and vehicle electrification technologies to massively replace fossil fuels in the 2020’s. We have not stopped the growth of fossil fuels yet, but we have slowed it down from where it might have been.”  Unfortunately, “economies of scale” always imply more production, not less.
Take a look at global vehicle production. It is nearly 100,000,000 cars, buses and trucks today and, of course, is reliably predicted to rise. So if nothing is done to reduce the absolute number of vehicles produced, the world will be saddled with an additional one billion vehicles during the same decade we are supposed to reduce our energy use buy 50%. It is a fond and foolish thought that somehow those new vehicles will drive a greater number of fossil fueled vehicles from the roads. When you bought that electric car did you take two internal combustion vehicles to the dump for recycling? That would reduce the vehicle load for sure, but nobody does it.
In his concluding paragraph Mazza accuses POTH of “undermining public support for renewables, which along with reductions in energy use through efficiency investments, are vitally necessary to reach that IPCC goal of 50% pollution reductions by 2030.” There it is again, the rabbit leaping out of the hat: “reductions in energy use through efficiency investments.” I hope I have shown that this is a fantasy, that is has never happened in the history of fossil fuel use, and that it is the source of unending mischief.
But still Mazza is pissed and rightly so. Gibbs and Zehner need to ponder deeply what in their film has turned such obvious potential allies as Patrick Mazza into enemies. If it were my film I would consider this a very serious problem and I would bust my ass to figure out how to make amends while pulling no punches on the science.



There is one issue both sides in this debate agree on, and I do not. That is the problem of intermittency, the fact that the flow of wind and water and cloud create, it is said, the need for some sort of always-on technology that can make the grid hum 24/7/365. The fossil guys say this can’t happen with renewables alone, you gotta have some gas or whatever because the flow-based grid will, inevitably, go down. The renewable forces say it’s a problem and they’re working on it and some fix will happen. There is a debate in Germany about whether the quick turn to renewables there (not to be taken at face value) will result in a spotty grid. They’re worried.
I suggest we look at intermittency in another way, from the viewpoint of the global South. There are 900,000,000 people with no electricity at all, to whom an intermittently-working grid would be a godsend. There are billions more who would barely notice a brown-out. Clearly 24/7/365 electricity isn’t really necessary. So let’s figure out how to equitably turn off the grid for hours every day to save some electricity here and share it there with our neighbors to the South. A vast, difference-making amount of electricity could be saved by the mere agreement to live on 16 hours of electricity per day. So I say we should embrace intermittency as a road to Global energy equity rather than fear it. Man up.
And what about all those wind turbines that are just adding energy in the global North? Let’s start shipping them to the Global South where they are desperately needed, in a real material attempt to create a North-South deal to end global warming.


I don’t know why Gibbs and Zehner chose not to name the strategy they are groping toward. It is Degrowth. Gibbs and Zehner have shown, I believe, that we cannot produce our way out of this mess, answering the question posed in the first minutes of the film in the negative: No, we cannot overcome the evils of industrial civilization by more and better industrial civilization. How then? What does it mean to de-grow?
I find degrowth an awkward word. It is translated from the French and shows it. I have no word to substitute for it, but I think I can do it in a phrase. Humans need to launch an organized retreat from industrial civilization. For comparison, what we are experiencing today with the coronavirus is an chaotic rout, degrowth for sure, but degrowth planned by no one, enforced by the evils of the market, devastating to billions and overseen by morons who do not care. Degrowth is coming to industrial civilization whether we like it or not so let us at least try to manage it.
Degrowth will be by far the most complicated thing the human race has ever done. No one has done it, although the forced march of the Cuban people to organic food production in the wake of the loss of fossil fuels from the fSU deserves much study. No one has a clue, really. The nub is, once we have all agreed that we will adjust in order to live on the proceeds of current sunlight, we must face that industrial civilization is a whole whose parts cannot be readily disentangled. How much of the infrastructure of industrial civilization do we really need to have happy people? I vote for hospitals, but hospitals require … almost everything. As I said, complicated. It is hard to save the good stuff while jettisoning the bad stuff because it all depends on the same basic industry. And we cannot have just one hospital. While we will need no Escalades nor Ram 1500s we will certainly need firetrucks.
Degrowth will be a project of all the people or it will not happen. It cannot be imposed “from above” because “above” has not the necessary wisdom, nor does “above” have our interests at heart, as we all know very well.
David Byrne McDonald III lives in Seattle
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Reading multiple Hitler bios

Since I started investigating fascism I have learned a trick about reading multiple biographies of the same person. Whoever writes the second biography needs to introduce and defend new material and suggest how to interpret it.
The second biography is not going to present in rich detail episodes already conveyed. This truth flows through the ages so a fifth-generation biography may present a lot of material summarily. For the student, then, the proper path is to read the biographies in order, so that you have already read the original treatment of whatever it is in its fullest treatment. Of course newly discovered documentary material can be overwhelming enough that it promotes a re-telling.
Sometimes the earliest works are just trapped in ways of thinking that have gone thankfully away.
Hitler’s first biographer, Konrad Heiden, for instance, offers this up as a guide to Hitler’s relations with his father:
“His father had drunk and his son’s abstinence may be regarded as an unconscious protest against his father, just as his protest against work was a conscious protest….When Hitler father and son fought, the personality type lying at the base of the whole family was fighting with itself; the self-dissatisfaction, expressed in abrupt restlessness, which we suspect in Georg Heidler, clearly recognize in Alois Schicklgruber, and can literally touch in Adloph Hitler, is the real source of the quarrel […]”
I have trouble getting through stuff like that. But then along comes this sort of thing, which makes you understand why Hannah Arendt thought Heiden’s work so insightful.
The context is a speech Hitler gave after he emerged from prison following the Beer Hall Putsch, at a low point of his movement, when he could assemble no more than 4,000 in the Burgerbrau Keller from all of Bavaria. Heiden is discussing Hitler’s sure political touch as he wields the weapon of having been forbidden to speak in Bavaria for fear of violence.
“The dissolution of parties, the prohibition of public speeches–these were strangely violent measures of the state in defense of freedom. ‘The freest constitution in the world’ did not officially provide or allow for such brutal intervention of police power. But Hitler and his like had for years filled the country with violence, murder, and destruction, and the state had not found the strength to suppress them with the cold majesty of law; and now, having unjustly spared them, the state could no longer defend itself except by injustice. Where Hitler began to speak, murder could be expected as a result. Hitler forced the state to stretch the laws in a rather arbitrary way–this in itself was a success. When he attacked, a few drops of his own poisonous spirit dripped on the enemy and infected him. In all points of his career, in the most insignificant and the most important situations, this was his most dangerous power, though unfortunately least understood: that he lured or forced his opponents to imitate him, to use similar methods and even adopt the qualities which he really wanted to combat in Hitler.”
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Fragment on political violence

[On advice of a friend I am publishing the following the following as the very modest beginning of an appraisal of fascism.]

LP’ full-throated attack on antifa is based entirely on tactical
considerations, principally because antifa break up events they have
nothing to do with creating and in so doing expose many to police fighting
they had no intention of engaging in.

J20 is a perfect example. Some 4-5 people pleaded long ago and the hundreds
who made up everybody else — whose trials were dropped this week — were
obviously bystanders.

I think there is a larger problem: in adopting political violence as a
tactic, even a countertactic, antifa do in fact, really, mirror the
fascists or protofascists or wannabe fascists in unpleasant ways.

They mirror them as follows: 1) willingness to engage in violence against
the other on sight; 2) costumery. You could call it uniforms. 3) Like the
fascists, antifa consider political violence to be their actual program.
They don’t explain themselves to the wider public, they don’t have a
newspaper, they don’t have conferences open to the interested public. 4)
They are indifferent to civilian casualties caused by their fights because
casualties are a part of war. 5) They never apologize for their violence.

It’s worth thinking about that public, unapologetic political violence was from
the very beginning a central strategic thrust of the Nazis — not a tactic — and they considered it vital to their recruitment. Their propaganda was always accompanied by
violence, leading to their term “power propaganda”. Their meetings were “defended” by armed uniformed thugs. They were always always willing to be more violent than their opponents, principally the Communists and Social Democrats because they believed the latter  should be not only vanquished politically but exterminated.

This is not a road to go down.

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Zach Medeiros, “Solidarity with the Oppressed, Not the Oppressors: Why We Should Support Syrian Revolutionaries”

From the founding Conference of this group.

Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice (CPRSJ)


Zach Medeiros, Socialist Party of the USA

Comments presented at the July 14 launch of the Coalition for Peace, Revolution and Social Justice at a public meeting at the Westside Peace Center, Culver City

How can we support revolutionary Syrians and the Syrian people as a whole? This is not an easy question to answer. Yassin al-Haj Saleh, one of Syria’s greatest intellectuals and a former political prisoner jailed for nearly two decades for speaking out against his government, once wrote that “Syria is the world, and the world is Syria.” In other words, Syria has not only become a global issue, but the world has become a Syrian issue. When Syrians first took to the streets in 2011 to protest the brutality, corruption, poverty and discrimination that defined life for most living under the Assad regime, who could have foreseen that they would become the world? In those heady…

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Johnathan Cook is a lying schnook

Johnathan Cook is a hard guy to keep up with. He has written not one, not two, but three defenses of Seymour Hersh’s ridiculous and thoroughly disputed account of the bombing of Khan Sheikhoun in the last week or so, all the while claiming he is not a partisan of Assad and not really a partisan of Hersh, who he thinks has just gotten an unfair shake from the MSM.

He poses, as if it were profound, the question of how such an investigative shark could be denied by the very organs who gobbled up his prose in the past? Hersh’s Welt am Sonntag article was submitted to and paid for by the London Review of Books, which then declined to print it. I wouldn’t know, but Cook says it was widely rejected by English-audience publications. Darkly, Cook writes: “Maybe they had evidence that his inside intelligence was wrong.” But then, why didn’t they print that evidence, he asks? For one, editors don’t even have to tell you, let alone the whole world, why they won’t print your piece. Bu if you’re hankering for more, Clay Clairborne over at Linux Beach has posed some pretty good reasons based entirely on Hersh’s text. First, lets clear away a few vocabulary issues. Hersh himself claims no more than to have “interviewed” a mucky-muck former CIA/general spy guy. This has morphed, in Cook’s recounting, into an “investigation.” The entire story, by Hersh’s own words, rests on the opinions of one unnamed source. While Hersh mentions a single source, Cook uses the plural “sources” 8 times in one article and 17 times in another. Relying on a single source alone would be enough to doom a story, but there’s much more. Clairborne details all the places the CIA guy would have had to be in order to witness what he passed on to Hersh. It’s a bunch! Usually one person corroborates this fact which s/he observed, and another observer does the same for a different fact in the chain of the argument, and thus the story emerges by pulling threads together from a bunch of individual’s narratives. Sy Hersh, however, has lighted upon the Ur-Source, the guy who was everywhere at the right time. Plus the Ur-Source provides many quotes — not summaries, but quotes — of many different discussions. Did he take stenographic notes? Did he record?

Cook coyly does not consider the numerous reasons this article might have been justly trashed. He argues instead that the publication of Hersh’s article, in German, in Germany, created a crisis in the US ruling class that caused two separate spoiler events, designed to draw attention away from the otherwise riveting Hersh account, to be foregrounded.

First spoiler was Trump’s surprise announcement that Syria was about to do it again and they’d better not! You just have to say “Wow!” The US threatened to respond to further sarin attacks to divert attention from Hersh’s incendiary journalism. Talk about the power of the pen!

Second spoiler: “Two unnamed diplomats “confirmed” that a report by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had found that some of the victims from Khan Sheikhoun showed signs of poisoning by sarin or sarin-like substances.” This is a spoiler, Cook says, because everybody already knew what was gonna be in the report so it wasn’t real news when it was published. But, actually, it is. The report confirmed that sarin was found at Khan Sheikhoun. For months people like Cook have been jabbering that sarin had not been confirmed to be present at Khan Sheikhoun. But now it has been confirmed, and that constitutes news. It is not a spoiler to write about it. It is not a diversion that allows the weak-minded to avoid the truths offered by Hersh, but an important statement of fact that annihilates Hersh’s entire argument.

Let’s go back. What is Hersh’s main claim? It is that there was no sarin attack. Almost unimaginably, Cook elides — as if it were not there — the refutation of Hersh’s claims of no sarin and allows himself to pen the ultra-weaselly statement: “[…] the DOCW has not concluded that the Assad regime was responsible for the traces of sarin.” That is true, but that’s not what Hersh argues. Hersh argues that no sarin attack occurred and claims that that knowledge is spread far and wide in the US government. NOT NOT NOT that Assad didn’t order an attack, but that no sarin attack happened at all. So maybe the OPCW conclusion was olds news to everyone else, but it was a bombshell to Sy Hersh.

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My Father and the Democrats

It’s father’s day tomorrow and I have taken to sharing little reminiscences on facebook about both my parents. It’s easier to write at length here so I’ve changed venues to stir the pot a little more.

My father was a lifelong Democrat after voting Socialist for Norman Thomas in 1932. He would have been exactly 21 and a sophomore or junior at Miami University of Ohio, which sported, among other claims to fame, the Alpha Chapter of the fraternity Sigma Chi. I am old enough to have heard, and have the personal connection to remember a ridiculous song called “The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi,” which, as it turns out, is the Number One all-time favorite college song and which was rhapsodized as follows by its author:

“The ‘Sweetheart’ is the symbol for the spiritual ingredient in brotherhood. It was the Sigma Chi Fraternity itself that inspired the song. I wrote the words not long after my initiation, and the magic of our Ritual with its poetic overtones and undertones was, I suppose, the source of my inspiration”.

I seem to have always known that my father was a member of that very Alpha chapter, and that he was disinvited from living in the actual frat house for — at least early on — unspecified shenanigans and wound up his college career living in a boarding house whose matron, naturally, he totally charmed to the point that they remained buddies 30 years later.

Maybe Norman Thomas was just another shenanigan, though I did find some college newspaper columns he wrote that mentioned Thomas, mostly in a sardonic way. But he was definitely flirting with radicalism.

Aside from stories my father’s politics were straight-ahead Democrat. That meant he supported Adlai Stevenson in 1952 and 1956. I was aware enough by the latter date to remember a picture of Stevenson wearing shoes with a hole in the sole: the common man’s intellectual.

The town I grew up in, Mattoon, Illinois, was pretty solidly Republican, as was the surrounding Congressional District, as was the owner of the newspaper my father worked for. Fortunately, that same owner had been a good drinking buddy of my father’s in the pre-war years of horsing around, so not only did he give my father a job when he was really down on his luck, he also tolerated his politics, maybe because by that point the guy was barely ever in the office and mostly paid attention to his show horses. My first job was cutting his massive five-acre grounds for a buck an hour.

As the main editorial guy it fell to my father on election night to oversee the gathering, collating and ultimately printing of the election results in Wednesday’s Journal-Gazette. This involved having the whole editorial staff (4-5 people or so) and other volunteers answer telephones when individual precincts would call in as ballots were counted (of course by hand). I was allowed to tag along and hang out and, nerd that I was, I thought it was the coolest thing ever and naturally everyone good-humoredly chatted with and joshed Dave McDonald’s kid staying up WAY past his bedtime (on a school night!) so I had all the attention I could stand. The room was full, phones rang constantly and news and rumors and speculation abounded. It was very noisy and purposeful. People would bring ballots with numbers written by the candidates’ names with the precinct on top and my father entered all the data onto a gigantic piece of posterboard. Today we would call it a flat file. When it was finished a photographer came in and shot it on 4×5 film and sent it off to Effingham to have a plate burned.

My father was a public Democrat and he did what he could to advance the party’s fortunes in essentially rural central Illinois through his newspaper editing, and so for various favors I know nothing of, he got the crackerjack prize of being an alternate delegate to the upcoming Democratic Party convention in Los Angeles simply by being nominated and unopposed. This cost the DP nothing and from it they got daily newspaper coverage of their convention written by a local guy and therefore of interest in sleepy Mattoon.

This was 1960. I had apprenticed on the 1956 Stevenson campaign so I was all about the 1960 presidential campaign as a spectacle with, for me, absolutely no political meaning, but a way into the adult world. I was as mindlessly Democratic as my father. My father had picked LBJ as his guy, not because he liked him better but because he thought Kennedy had no chance. So suddenly, as the convention unfolded, he turned into a JFK partisan and never budged from that view. Kennedy’s assassination unleashed all his Irish demons.

The DP 1960 Convention was in Los Angeles, so that provided an opportunity for a rare family vacation. All 5 of us piled into a Volkswagen bus — a very exotic vehicle choice in those days, you had to drive 40 miles to get the thing serviced — and rode US 99 all the way to LA. Swimming was my only sport and I was gobsmacked by the thought that we were staying at my godparent’s compound on Mulholland Drive which contained a private swimming pool you could just swim in anytime you wanted. I spent about 10 hours a day of that vacation in the pool. The only outing I remember was a trip to Disneyland but I didn’t care.

Much later, making a joke about his Kennedy jones, I gave my father a nice butane cigarette lighter inscribed “from JFK to DBM”. This backfired as my father morphed reality and later claimed JFK had actually given him the lighter, not so very different maybe from the ways that lots of our stories get better over time. I, however, was mortified every time I heard him make the claim.

The creation of the Election Night chart/spreadsheet for 1960 was epic. I was allowed to man one of the telephones taking data from the precincts. It was unbelievably cool and there was a lot of knowing talk about how long it was going to take the Democratic Party in Cook County to figure out how many ballots they had to steal to overwhelm the downstate Republicans and win the election for Kennedy. I spent a lot of time asking people what they meant when they said stuff, but I was not allowed to pull an all-nighter so I learned of Kennedy’s victory the next morning.

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The black bloc in 1969

Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

In an online book titled “The Black Bloc Papers”, David Van Deusen of the Green Mountain Anarchist Collective makes clear that the Weathermen were the forefathers of the people who staged a riot at Berkeley:

The Black Bloc can trace its historical roots all the way back to when- and wherever people comprising an oppressed class or group militantly rose up against their oppressors. Elements of the particular tactics of the Bloc were previously utilized by the Weather faction of Students for a Democratic Society (the SDS) in North America during the “Days of Rage” in 1969.

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Fordham SDS

Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

In 1983 I saw the documentary “Seeing Red” that mixed interviews of former members of the Communist Party talking about their experiences with exciting film footage and photographs of the class battles they took part in. Among the highlights was Bill Bailey reminiscing about the day in 1935 when he tore the Nazi flag off the Bremen, a luxury liner docked in New York.

Bill was 25 when he carried out this protest and 72 when he was interviewed for “Seeing Red”. Over the past few years, I have toyed with the idea of making a film like “Seeing Red” but based on the experiences of veterans of the Socialist Workers Party, many of whom are about the same age today as Bill Bailey was in 1983—including me.

For us, there was nothing quite like the experience of fighting in the Spanish Civil War as Bill Bailey did, or being…

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Good one from Louis Proyect

COUNTERPUNCH JANUARY 27, 2017 The Politics of a Punch: Richard Spencer and the Black Bloc Unless you do not own a computer or have been in a coma for the past week, you are probably aware of alt-right leader Richard Spencer getting punched in the face by a man dressed in black bloc garb. For […]

via The Politics of a Punch: Richard Spencer and the Black Bloc — Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

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