Strong stoic soldiers and swimming pools and waving flags

I inserted myself into the various potentialities each place represents

I haven’t been able to watch it since I am not subscribing to another fucking streaming service at this time but I hope everyone agrees with me that Don’t Let Me Down is the greatest Beatles song ever. After that the best Beatles stuff is the early bar band era Long Tall Sally etc screaming their heads off and so on.

I absolutely love the comic timing on the reveal of Paul’s brother here though.

If you haven’t seen this yet it’s very good.

Ok enough goofing around lets get upset.

Unless you’re a paid subscriber you’ve missed the last three issues of Hell World. The other day Ryan Ross reported for us on the lack of space for the unhoused to recover when sick or injured and the need for medical respite shelters around the country.

“It’s not the getting sick that imperils the homeless it’s the inability to get better.”

Homelessness is a precarious existence. Homeless people are routinely subjected to verbal harassment, physical and sexual assault, and theft. An unsheltered man died last week after he was set on fire while he slept in the stairwell of a public housing building in New York City. The de facto criminalization of street living means unsheltered people have, on average, 21 encounters with police per six-month period, which often leads to increased rates of incarceration and in turn makes the prospect of exiting homelessness even more dim.

These are the most attention-grabbing examples of the perils of homelessness. But the true danger, the thing that kills more than anything else, is far less sensational: a lack of space and time to rest and recover from illness.

Before that I wrote on the horrific car attack in Waukesha and the Rittenhouse verdict and Biden’s completely tone deaf decision to go through with the turkey pardoning charade just after it was announced.

What I want to know is do you think they actually talked about postponing the turkey gag and said ah fuck it let’s do it anyway or did it not even occur to them how much grosser than usual it would seem immediately following the Rittenhouse verdict about which a significant portion of the country were rightfully saddened and enraged?

The one two punch there was honestly unmooring. It was so on the nose it kind of short circuits my capacity for analogy. A 1:1 mockery of our justice system followed immediately by a mockery of our justice system.

And prior to that I wrote on some of the violent abuses police get away with as a matter of course and what happens when the rare “good apple” among them tries to do something about it. Spoiler: he gets fucked. Also in that one a contrast showing how felony murder laws are used against civilians to convict them of crimes they had little or nothing to do with.

When a civilian is tangentially involved with or merely proximate to a death police will trace every step of their lives back to a fucking butterfly flapping its wings halfway across the world fifty years ago to prove they are responsible for it and so belong in a cage. When it’s a police officer involved in a death there’s almost nothing that you can do to hang it on them. They are the police after all and therefore incapable of doing anything wrong.

Anyway subscribe today for a discounted $60 to read those and everything in the archives. As I mentioned previously if you are a new yearly subscriber you’ll also get a free six month paid-tier subscription to two other fabulous newsletters:

1) Foreign Exchanges by Derek Davidson, an essential daily digest of news from around the world, as well as regular analysis of US foreign policy from a left perspective by a rotating cast of historians and journalists.

2) Forever Wars by Spencer Ackerman, a brilliantly reported effort to chronicle, investigate and interrogate the continuities, departures and permutations of the War on Terror.

All paying subscribers get access to the Discontents Discord. Let me know if you want in.

It was thirty degrees when I woke up this morning and I went outside to smoke on the porch and I watched the cold exhalations linger before me then drift off into nothing and I thought as I often do around this time every year how I simply cannot spend the rest of my life living in a place where it gets this cold for so long. I started dreaming about living somewhere else anywhere else and I scrolled through some of the posts from the Random Restaurant bot and as I usually do I inserted myself into the various potentialities each place represents but instead of inspiring me with wonder for the vastness of the world the account more often ends up making me sad because it shows me all of the places I’ll never be able to go.

Then I went over to the New York Times and I read a lovely travelogue photo essay about a much warmer place and dreamed briefly about living there. It was this one titled Guantánamo Bay: Beyond the Prison.

“Mention this place, and people tend to think of caged men wearing orange uniforms and on their knees, the image of opening day at the wartime prison four months after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001,” it begins.


…this military base is more than one big prison. About 6,000 people live at the U.S. Navy outpost, which has the trappings of small-town America and the amenities of a college campus, and functions like a cross between a gated community and a police state.”

That analogy to a college campus is repeated five times throughout.

What follows is an utterly baffling piece of propaganda. There’s a “McDonald’s with a drive-through wide enough for tactical vehicles, just below a hilltop church with a white steeple,” it tells us. Bingo is popular and fitness is prioritized. There’s a folksy seeming commanding officer character. And it’s all explained amidst beautiful travelogue-style photos of strong stoic soldiers and swimming pools and waving flags. It’s all so matter of fact that if I’m being charitable I might say the entire ordeal is attempting some sort of straight-faced arch commentary — especially since the author in question has also written a lot of critical pieces about Guantanamo! — but coming as it does from the New York Times the literal Consent Factory that reading may be a touch optimistic. There’s certainly a way to do a piece like this like to dryly catalogue the amenities on hand for our illegal occupation force on the island prison base but it would require at least a bit of a turn in tone at some point and certainly more than a passing glance at the atrocities committed there in our name.

After the McDonald’s paragraph it briefly explains the raison d'etre for this eerie simulacrum of a quaint little all-American town.

“Drive 10 minutes in another direction, past the base’s scrubby nine-hole golf course, and you arrive at a gate to what is essentially a base within the base, the detention zone. It is under the command of an Army brigadier general who is responsible for the Pentagon’s last 39 wartime prisoners and a staff of 1,500 people, mostly soldiers from the National Guard on nine-month tours of duty.”

All this for 39 prisoners.

At the very least I was happily reminded of one of the single funniest pieces of reporting in many years the time that Buzzfeed Benny the famous plagiarist piece of shit went to Fort Hood after the mass shooting there and reported that the army base has a Popeyes.

Hilariously even this piece — which to be clear is a series of photos with short captions — was also plagiarized looooooll.

Ah 2014…a more innocent time.

The Guantanamo piece also gave me a decidedly much less funny reminder about the lives we destroyed there. Here’s a bit from a Hell World from February that I’ll quote again.

“The last two decades of my life have been a nightmare without end — and the worst of it is that my family are also trapped inside it,” Ahmed Rabbani a man who has been held in Guantánamo Bay since 2004 wrote in an open letter to Joe Biden recently…
When I was kidnapped from Karachi in 2002 and sold to the CIA for a bounty with a false story that I was a terrorist called Hassan Ghul, my wife and I had just had the happy news that she was pregnant. She gave birth to my son Jawad a few months later. I have never been allowed to meet my own child. President Biden is a man who speaks of the importance of family. I wonder if he can imagine what it would be like to have never touched his own son. Mine will soon be 18 years old, and I have not been there to help him or to guide him.  

I have been locked up for his entire childhood, without charges or a trial. In that time, the president has served a full term as a Senator, eight years as vice president of the US, and challenged Donald Trump for the presidency and won, fulfilling his life’s ambition. I doubt I would have done anything like that, but I can’t help but question what I might have done with those years, had they not been stolen.In the 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture it says Rabbani had been tortured for 540 days in a “dark prison” in Afghanistan.

“I can confirm that the torture did take place, although I couldn’t have counted the days myself: the days and nights blended into one while I was hung from a bar in a black pit, in agony as my shoulders dislocated.”

“I doubt that President Biden can understand what this torture is like; to hear a woman screaming in the next room and to be told it is your wife, and that if you do not do as they insist, they will rape her or kill her.”

For what it’s worth it was recently reported that Rabbani is going to be released “more than six years after the US Senate concluded he had been mistaken for a terrorist,” as the Middle East Eye reported.

“Even if it is nearly two decades late, it is fabulous that Ahmed has been cleared for release,” his lawyer Stafford Smith said.

Oh wait another bit from the Times piece I wanted to mention.

“Little Spanish is spoken here, except when a unit of the Puerto Rico National Guard is on the post for a tour of duty in the prison zone. Tagalog and Creole are more prevalent because about one-third of the residents are Filipinos and Jamaicans. They are hired by Pentagon contractors and serve as the backbone of the labor force.”

It really is just like America. Hmm maybe I am misreading the tone of this piece after all.

You may or may not remember that in 2005 George Bush passed something known as the Detainee Treatment Act. It said in part that “no individual under the physical control of the United States Government, regardless of nationality or physical location, shall be subject to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.”

And then none of them ever were again!

The law was spurred largely by the actions of an Army whistleblower Major Ian Fishback who wrote a letter to senators John McCain and John Warner detailing allegations of cruel abuse at the hands of his fellow soldiers.

The Washington Post explains:

“Maj. Fishback said vague, contradictory and inconsistent guidance from Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and senior military leaders had led to a ‘wide range of abuses’ by U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, including ‘death threats, beatings, broken bones, murder, exposure to elements, extreme forced physical exertion, hostage-taking, stripping, sleep deprivation and degrading treatment.’”

We didn’t just do this shit in Cuba to be clear we did it everywhere we were.

Sadly Fishback died this month while suffering from severe mental health issues and living in an adult foster care home in Michigan. His cause of death has yet to be reported but he had been committed to the home earlier this year after being “racked by paranoid and delusional thoughts for months.” Also this year he had completed his doctorate at the University of Michigan. His thesis “Method and Morality of War” opens with a dedication.

This dissertation is dedicated to the innocent victims of the Central Intelligence Agency.

After a post from Mckayla Wilkes this weekend — she’s hoping to primary Steny Hoyer in Maryland’s 5th district in 2022 — I was also reminded of the issue of prison gerrymandering.

“One often-forgotten element of redistricting is “prison gerrymandering,” she tweeted. “Incarcerated people – disproportionately Black and Latino – are unable to vote but still counted for population purposes in otherwise mostly white, conservative districts.”

It’s a great point and one certainly not talked about enough. I wrote about it in here back in May in case you missed it.

From the Prison Gerrymandering Project:
Some state legislative districts draw large portions of their political clout, not from actual residents, but from the presence of a large prison in the district. The districts with large prisons get to send a representative to the state capital to advocate for their interests without meeting the required number of residents.

Because prisons are disproportionately built in rural areas but most incarcerated people call urban areas home, counting prisoners in the wrong place results in a systematic transfer of population and political clout from urban to rural areas.For example: “60% of Illinois' prisoners are from Cook County (Chicago), yet 99% of them are counted outside the county.”

Pretty slick shit right? First you arrest predominantly Black people from large population centers that tend to vote Democrat. Next you cage them in more rural places where the prisons are thereby inflating that district’s raw representational power. Now areas who rely on prisons for jobs and power and wealth can have a leg up on passing legislation that will send more Black people into those same prisons in a massive feedback loop of disenfranchisement.

Understanding all that you might get why Republicans are so fucking afraid of kids being taught how our country actually works and how it always has which has been centuries of cheating to ensure entrenched minority-rule by depriving as many people as possible besides white Christian conservatives the power of the vote.

OK that’s all for today buddy. Coming up later this week for paid subscribers is a piece on the “prescription opioid use to illicit opioid use” pipeline and how it’s “used as a way to recklessly delineate ‘good’ and ‘bad’ addiction, especially by law enforcement and media” by Brendan Little.

Please enjoy this blessed video of Adam Sandler sitting in with Incubus and Deftones performing Be Quiet and Drive.