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How America Might Survive

Human_Values3

Changing the Definition of What Is Valuable

A limo, a Jacuzzi, thousand-dollar shoes, private jets, rich friends, fame for being famous, cash in hand, political power, armed strength, economic growth…? What has value?

Umair Haque, my favorite observer of the American condition, says on Medium.com, March 31, 2020:

Amazon, Inc. is worth a trillion dollars, give or take. But the ongoing survival of the human race is literally worth nothing to capitalism. Nothing but profit has any worth whatsoever to it. That’s all that’s capitalized on stock markets or denominated in bonds. But capitalism is the system of the world… America fought a hidden world war to globalize it — attacking nations from Chile to Iran to Iraq to Vietnam. It was successful. Today, we’re all paying the price of that success. Capitalism has literally eaten through the planet, nature, and life on it. Now it’s beginning to eat away at the human race itself — its health, happiness, longevity. That is what Coronavirus really is.

American Capitalism’s Stately Pleasure Dome

It has taken US corporate capitalism less than a century to erect a seemingly-unassailable edifice of exclusively market values, an American Xanadu. According to these norms everything can be bought and sold. It must be so in order to achieve capitalism’s summum bonum: economic growth. That, of course, is a lie just as egregious as “manifest destiny” or “the war on terror.” Because long-term growth is absolutely limited by the world’s resources, and they are shrinking fast while the appetites of capitalism are insatiable to the point of driving the world’s sixth mass extinction of species. What annual economic growth does assure is vast wealth for the usual suspects: fossil fuel giants, “defense” industries, big pharma and tobacco, flukish online multi-billionaires, and banks and vulture funds of every stripe.

But the long-term effects of unending growth on the country, on other countries, and the planet itself, are fatal. The world is already half dead and if US predatory capitalism is permitted to continue “leading the way,” the extermination is imminent. And there’s no cogent reason to believe that will not be the outcome. Fast-money capitalists now control “the greatest country in the world,” along with massive swaths of the rest of it. Do you see anybody committed and powerful enough to stand in their way? Not the militarists. They have the growth industry of the moment. Not the population at large. They’re anesthetized by irrealities and bling. Not the churches. The protestants are hooked on the “prosperity gospel” and private jets, and the Catholics have their own special problems. Who does that leave? The Icelanders might be a good choice for putting the world right, but there aren’t enough of them to go around.

Enter Coronavirus, There Will Be Some Changes Made

After almost four months of the coronavirus experience in America there are some things we have learned:

  • The virus has impacted lives in all sectors of society, not only in the US, but around the world. Though it’s only fair to point out that, like everything else, the incidence of the virus is much more devastating among poor and minority populations.
  • Given the universality of the pandemic it is not enough to cleanse one city, one state or even one country. The world will not be free of coronavirus until all countries are made healthy again. This will require worldwide solidarity, financing and close collaboration.
  • The countries that took immediate remedial action–masks, distancing, tests and sourcing–greatly limited the number of cases and deaths. And those that didn’t suffered immeasurably more. The United States, for example.
  • The responses of the heads of government of different countries shed light on the priorities of world leaders. Compare, for example, the messages of Donald Trump, President of the Unites States, who oversaw more than 98,000 deaths in his country, with those of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand where the coronavirus impact has been limited to 21 deaths as of 22 May, 2020.
  • It’s not clear how long we’ll be under the dictatorship of the virus, but it’s safe to say that it’s going to be a long haul. That will give governments and populations around the world time to reflect on the necessity of changes of  ideologies and policies. We are already seeing that concerted collective efforts are required to deal with the crisis effectively. It will not respond to military solutions, nor nationalist approaches. It will require sincere concern for others, generosity, and worldwide solidarity.

There are countries around the world where these necessary new collective measures and attitudes sound subversive, unnatural, and outrageous. Principal among these is the United States, the one that currently leads the world in coronavirus cases and deaths. This is not a coincidence. The US is an every-man-for-himself country, and its President is a man who thrives on chaos. But the United States must become a major player in this scenario. Would its leaders be up to it? For them to save themselves, and contribute to saving the rest of the world, they will need to change their national philosophy from top to bottom. Can that happen? If it’s ever going to occur it has to happen soon, while there’s still country and world left to save.

What we’re talking about is an active awareness that we’re all in it together (a sentiment often expressed by former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders). This demands a sincere change of heart, concern for others, a willingness to work towards and help pay for not only local but global solutions. Empathy of this magnitude seems impossible under a Trump presidency. Given Donald Trump’s utter lack feeling for anyone but himself, it’s no suprise that he has turned his country into a giant triage tent with today’s score standing at 98,200 dead. Will the next president be radically different? Will he or she have the courage and conviction to reorient the country’s military budget in favor of the battle against coronavirus? That’s what it would take. We are looking at the highest-stakes game the world has ever seen. Thoughts and prayers will not get the job done.

Really_Smart

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American Hypocrisy Reigns Supreme

American hypocrisy
The ‘Evangelicals for Trump’ campaign event held at the King Jesus International Ministry on January 03, 2020 in Miami, Florida. President Donald Trump appointed televangelist, Paula White (center), as White House faith advisor. In this photo it’s not clear whether the President is praying or calculating  votes.

A Country Solidly Grounded in Hypocrisy

How does a country of 330 million people hold its head high while living in the most abject state of intellectual and moral squalor imaginable? Inequality, injustice, social disorder, racism, ignorance, poverty, militarism, brutality… There’s only one way they feel they can defend such a squalid record: by injecting industrial quantities of hypocrisy into the mix. It’s a cheap trick–just go on razing your country and the world, then make up specious lies to cover up your actions.  Until recently this strategy has worked surprisingly well, at least internally. A majority of American citizens still regard their country as “a city on a hill, a beacon of hope for the world.” How many of them are aware that the city-on-a-hill metaphor was the vision of religious fanatic, John Winthrop, the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay colony, a man who sowed the seeds of a religious extremism that still blights American society today?

Lately, however, the hypocrisy machine is getting a bit rusty, and the truth is becoming visible through the cracks. To most impartial observers around the world, American ideals have slipped to sordid levels. They now detain immigrant families, incarcerating parents in one place, children in cages in another and call that justice. Those children–some of the babies–may never see their parents again. The Americans permit armed thugs–Nazis and white supremacists–to invade a state capitol building, proffering intimidating threats and insults, and call that free speech. Then the President himself appears with praise: “These are people expressing their views. They seem to be very responsible people to me.” These are the words of a fascist.

This self-aggrandizing oaf of a President, breaks all records for lies and insults in his press conferences and then strides arrogantly off the stage.  On the subject of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, Health and Human Services Secretary,  Alex Azar, tells members of Congress, “We would want to ensure that we work to make it affordable, but we can’t control that price because we need the private sector to invest,”  Two days later he reverses that declaration. (Business Insider.com, February 27, 2020). Most recently the President, having calculated the damage done to his re-election campaign, pulls this out of his sleeve:  “The vaccine will be available free to all Americans.” There seem to be no rational criteria driving the administration, just the whims, hunches and inspirations of a semi-literate President.  Given the fickle changes in his humor, we still don’t know whether the Trump administration is prepared to let people die because they can’t afford the vaccine.

International Opinion Counts

Most Americans may be unaware that the whole world is watching, and it’s not sedated by the platitudes of American mythology. Citizens of the world are acutely aware that the emperor is devoid of clothes. The success of any foreign-relations agenda relies heavily on credibility, trust, and respect, all of which are flagging badly in today’s Washington. At the same time, the countries they consider their enemies are growing as potential candidates for world leadership. Will today’s American politicians pay the price for this gross mismanagement? No, as usual it’s the American people who will pay.

What Abuses Are We Talking About?

  • Wrap-around racism. Now that South Africa has faced up to its institutionally racist past, the United States steps into the spotlight as the current racist capitol of the world. Nowhere else are so many aspects of society tinged by racial hate: law enforcement, judicial and penal politics, education, voting, housing and employment, to name just a few. When is America going to come to grips with this situation once and for all. Or are most Americans happy with the status quo?
  • Election irregularities and interventions. When was the last time the US had a free and fair election? How then do they permit themselves to criticize other countries? As for interfering in elections of other countries, the US is the all-time number one. And if NSA and CIA clandestine fiddle-faddle doesn’t tip the election scales, they simply organize a military coup, as they did in Chile in 1973.
  • Assuming religious airs for electoral purposes. This is a two-way  street of particularly-repugnant hypocrisy: Trump appears to lap up fundamentalist religion and the born-again folks pretend that he’s a decent person, while each advance the sick agenda of the other. Included in the Evangelical agenda, of course, is school prayer. If Jesus Christ were alive in the US today he would be crucified as a Communist immigrant.
  • Unsavory bedfellows. Backing the Saudi war on hapless Yemen. Facilitating the Israeli Likud party’s annexation of Palestinian lands. Pandering dangerously to Fundamentalist Christians and their truculent “Rapture” agenda. If this obscene Apocalyptic policy comes to term it could drag the US into a war in the Middle East.
  • Regime change and internal meddling in other peoples’ governments. There’s a long list: Most of Central America, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos… The United States accusing other coutries of militarism and human rights abuses is the richest and most ironic example of and hypocrisy in modern political history.
  • Levels of aggressive militarism not seen since Attila the Hun. What the US did to Indochina and Iraq, to name just a couple of their victims, is grounds for international war crimes trials.
  • Cloaking their baseless, clandestine political and military interventions as humanitarian aid, or support for democracy while casting countries like Venezuela as “dictatorships,” i.e. any country which resists an American-sponsored takeover. Venezuela has a long-standing elected left-wing government (thus certified by the Carter Center election monitoring team after visiting Venezuelan elections in 1998 and 2000). But having a true democracy is no guarantee against American regime-change operations. Any country with important reserves of natural resources is a target for American greed and aggression. Venezuela has massive–perhaps the world’s largest–petroleum and natural gas reserves, as well as mountains of gold and other precious metals. For that reason alone their government needs toppling and their economy “liberalizing” by American experts.
  • Communications too fuzzy or too clear. The result is that US citizens are kept in the dark, knowing only that they are subject to the President’s follies. Required to defend postures and policies that are clearly indefensible, his communicators are trapped. If they tell the truth they’re sunk. If they try to work around it they’re comically unintelligible. Meanwhile, the very fate of the world depends upon the shifting moods of a textbook sociopath.

The Justification for All This Villany

Attempts by the American amoral political elite to justify their foreign and domestic abuses are grounded in the democracy scam. “Scam” because nobody in Washington gives two hoots about democracy. What they worry about is getting elected, then re-elected, ad infinitum. In addition to their tricked-up election laws and perverted campaign financing, what’s the best way to achieve that? By constantly regurgitating the words “democracy” and “freedom.” Teetering atop the unstable “democracy” pretense they must balance all the rest of the mythological American playbook: the über-patriotism, the exceptionalism, the flag, God’s chosen people, the heroic militarism… They defeated Grenada and Panama, though they were less fortunate against the Asian superpowers, Vietnam and Afghanistan. All along they’re incapable of seeing themselves as bullies.

These cherished American myths are more than enough justification for home consumption, but not for the rest of the world.

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Trump’s Environmental Destruction Agency Is Diligently at Work

Climate_change1

(The source for this post is this May 6, 2020, NY Times article: The Trump Administration Is Reversing Nearly 100 Environmental Rules. Here’s the link to the full story.)

Petulance and Pandering as Government Policy

Faithful to his campaign promises President Donald J. Trump’s team of trolls at the Environmental Protection Agency has made significant advances in their mission of  dismounting, diluting and destroying previous administrations’ measures for preserving the environment. The NY Times article makes this evident in a clearly-presented barrage of data their team of investigative reporters collected from the Harvard and Columbia law schools and other sources.

A summary reading of the 4,000-word article indicates that the driving criteria behind Trump’s monumental environmental wrecking job respond to two factors:

  1. A childish revenge motive to dismount and discredit programs initiated during the Barak Obama presidency.
    President Trump cowers under a dark cloud of his own suspicion that President Obama is the better man. So Trump’s response is to bury the Obama legacy at any cost. And the cost, in terms of the degradation of the American environment and the lives of the American people, is dear.
  2. A determination to benefit big business interests regardless of the price to the interests of American citizens.
    The obvious big winners here are the fossile fuels companies, ironically at a time when the price of a barrel of oil is below zero–they have to pay to stockpile it–and renewable energies are looking like increasingly viable alternatives to coal and oil. One wonders what possible justification there can be for this expensive insistence on fattening a moribund horse.

Who is writing the script for this grotesque clown show, anyway? It’s certainly not President Trump. He has proven to us that he is incapable of reading a script, let alone writing one. And this is not just any old script. It forms part of the master plan to alter the DNA of the erstwhile “greatest country in the world.” Who’s calling the shots? We don’t know, and we won’t know until it’s too late. The best we can do now is to make our best educated guesses and get to work on a provisional opposition strategy. The NY Times, taking advantage of research done by the law schools of Harvard and Columbia  and others, has just advanced a significant first step. They have itemized, quantified and analyzed the measures the Trump administration has taken to dismount and destroy key US government environmental rules.

They are doing this to the detriment of American taxpayers, citizens of other countries around the world and the planet, itself. They’re murdering mother nature: her bees, birds, big cats, elephants, rhinos, orangutans, amphibians, lynx, hawks and eagles, dolphins and whales, coral, the Amazon, Alaska… Soon everything will be extinct–including humankind–except the rats and scorpions. They’re survivors, more adaptable, intelligent and opportunistic than a hedge fund manager, though he has also been able to survive in the sewers of Wall Street.

Iberian lynx kittens
Lynx kittens. The Iberian lynx is the most endangered big cat species in the world.

The Times Article Breaks the Trump Environmental Wrecking Plan Down into Seven Categories

All of them reflect grave danger and the Trumpian know-nothing determination to make matters worse on all fronts. The Trumpeteers’  actions respond more to an affirmation of arbitrary authority than to environmental issues. The message is that they’re doing it because they can and in order to create incremental precedents for ever-more-egregious future abuses. This is just one face of a monster designed to convert the United States into the definitive dystopia for everyone except the rich, Washington’s very own Godzilla.

Here They Are, by the Numbers

1/ Air Pollution and Emissions

According to the Times reporters it’s the Environmental Protection Agency which has spearheaded the repeal of Obama-era emissions rules for power plants and vehicles; weakened protections for the nation’s wetlands; and withdrawn rules for restricting mercury emissions from power plants. Meanwhile, the Interior Department has opened up more land for oil and gas leasing by cutting back protected areas and limiting wildlife protections.

Then the spokesclown for the E.P.A permits herself the luxury of declaring:

“Over the past three years, we have fulfilled President Trump’s promises to provide certainty for states, tribes, and local governments,” adding that the agency was “delivering on President Trump’s commitment to return the agency to its core mission: providing cleaner air, water and land to the American people.”

The NY Times concludes their section on Air Pollution and Emissions:

“All told, the Trump administration’s environmental rollbacks could significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions and lead to thousands of extra deaths from poor air quality each year, according to energy and legal analysts.”

2/ Drilling and extraction

The tenor of Trumpish initiatives to permit mining companies to bespoil more and bigger swaths of land runs to shrinking the land around national monuments, lifting the ban on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, rescinding water pollution regulations for fracking on federal and Indian lands, approving construction of the Dakota Access pipeline less than a mile from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, and a lot of other similarly outlandish environmental abuses in benefit of miners and drillers.

3/ Infrastructure and planning

The Trumpeteers have revoked Obama-era flood standards for federal infrastructure projects, along with all other environmental protections dubbed “Obama era,” as well as loosing rejuvenated oil and gas monsters across the country, along with eight more similar cases.

4/ Animals

Trump’s environmental team has watered down the Endangered Species Act, restored the right to use lead ammunition and fishing tackle on federal lands, overturned a ban on the hunting of predators in Alaskan wildlife refuges, proposed revising limits on the number of endangered marine mammals that can be unintentionally killed or injured with sword-fishing nets on the West Coast. Debilitated rules have de-protected everything from tuna fish and sea turtles to migratory birds and grizzley bears.

5/ Toxic substances and safety

Virtually all “Obama-era” rules regarding toxic substances have gone out the window, leaving citizens at the mercy of toxic chemicals in everything from pesticides and cosmetics to dry-cleaning solvents. Safety rules for the use of hazardous chemicals in workplaces have been relaxed, including a program to reduce risks of workers developing the lung disease silicosis.

6/ Water pollution

The Trump environmental team’s efforts to better manage America’s water resources for big business include the usual nullifying of Obama-era initiatives such as pollution protections for tributaries and wetlands, revoking a rule that prevented coal companies from dumping mining debris into local streams, and withdrawing a proposed rule requiring groundwater protections for uranium mines, as well as proposing the opening of 1,500 acres outside the Grand Canyon to nuclear production. Not carried out yet but next on the agenda are a series of measures to facilitate more dumping of waste from power plants into rivers and streams.

7/ Other

Out the Obama-era window go measures to increase the number of energy-efficient light bulbs; to prohibit the use of sand from protected ecosystems for coastal replenishment projects; and to reverse restrictions on the sale of plastic water bottles in national parks, a measure desgined to cut down on litter. And there’s a lot more to come.

Who Wins, Who Pays?

Who is responsible for deciding which environmental protection measures should be thrown out? Industry advisors, perhaps? Who suffers the consequences and pays the bills? The usual suspects.

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Trumpless Fridays, Anyone?

I Propose an International Boycott of Donald Trump

If you are sick to death of seeing President Donald Trump’s scrambled-eggs face and listening to his ever-present voice on whatever device you turn on, raise your hand. You are not alone. The rest of us feel just as frustrated as you do. The bitterest pill is that there seems to be nothing we can do about it. What would you give to enjoy a break from Donald Trump, a rest from his face, his tiresome, lowbrow discourse, his lies, blunders and hollow sales pitches?

Maybe there is something we can do. Though we can’t shut him up nor oblige the media to limit their coverage, permit me to suggest that there is something we’re empowered to enact. We can boycott him. We can dedicate at least one day a week to turning our backs on him, not watching, not listening, not discussing, not mentioning, not even protesting President Donald J. Trump. Admittedly it would be only one day a week and just a testimonial gesture but it would give us–and the world–the feeling that we are aware of his toxic presence and prepared to resist it.

Just Pass on Trump

One day a week without Trump. It would be absolutely therapeutic. We can already breathe a little easier. How to go about it? It needn’t be complicated, nor expensive. We have the Internet and social media on our side. So, there’s no need to form an association, pay dues, nor fill out any forms. We don’t even have to surrender our email addresses nor remember any passwords. We just turn our backs on him collectively. This is not to imply that we can’t print up some T-shirts or leave some comments on social media, but you don’t even have to do that if you don’t want to. And the whole world can play. Just pass on Trump.

To that end I hereby proclaim this Friday, May 8, 2020, and every Friday thereafter as days without Trump–Trumpless Fridays. (Who am I? I’m nobody, just like you.) Care to join me? Just pass on Trump.

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Citizens United Opened the Door to the Abyss

(Turning on the music enhances the reading.)

Democracy Had Been Ailing for a Long Time

The Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission (FEC) Supreme Court case was the final blow. It did not come out of nowhere. It was the culmination of a long leadup of right-wing election fiddling: lobbyist-led financing, the brainwashing and dumbing down of a series of vulnerable demographics (non-high-school graduates, ethnic minorities, hollow billionaires…), vote blocking strategies like gerrymandering and voter qualification limits, and strange bedfellows under blankets in Washington, DC. At bottom was the conviction of the members of the United States Congress–House and Senate, mainlyt Republicans but Democrats, too–that they had a God-given right to be re-elected, never to release the reins of power. And if they were obliged to use and abuse the civil rights of American citizens, their economic opportunities, the lives of their sons and daughters and the United States Constitution itself as bargaining chips in their sacred re-election endeavor, all of those contrivances were justified. They are capable of doing anything to retain their grip on power, even if it requires turning the government over to powerful criminal societies.

Nor am I prepared to affirm that this situation is attributable to capitalism. There are countries where capitalism marries nicely with humanity to create cordial, prosperous and liveable societies in places like Europe, Australia, Japan or South Korea, the new First World. The problem with American capitalism, it seems, is that it’s American.

The Worst of All Possible Worlds

The Citizens United verdict, which came down during Obama’s first term, opened the door to unlimited federal campaign contributions from corporations and consolidated extreme laissez-faire capitalism as the law of the land. That 5-4 decision issued from a US Supreme Court that had hovered between conservative and ultra-conservative thanks to appointments by presidents Nixon,  Reagan, and the two Bushes. The first two of these chief executives, both gravely deficient, the first one morally, the second intellectually, are arch representatives of what went wrong with American democracy in the 1970s and 80s. Nixon went so far as to prolong the Vietnam war, with the loss of lives and treasure that implied, in order to take credit for the  peace agreement. (Source: The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House, by Seymour M. Hersh, 1983).

Reagan was a tall, handsome second-rate Hollywood actor, outspoken anti-communist, FBI informer, and popular television spokesperson for American industry. His main achievements as president were in the field of public relations. According to History.com “Reagan made frequent and highly visible retreats to his California ranch, where he rode horses, fixed fences and cut firewood for the TV cameras.” Following his two terms of office and particularly after his death in 2004 reactionary America converted President Reagan into the essential talisman/myth of 20th-century American political conservatism. That should surprise no one. They also resuscitated Nixon.

The father-and-son Bush presidencies were characterized by devotion to fossile-fuel interests and dubious military interventions abroad. George H.W. Bush was a one-term president who occupied the White House after a landslide victory over Democrat Michael Dukakis in the 1988 election. Bush the Father, considered by politologists to have been a mediocre president, engineered the first Iraq War, forcing Iraq to abandon Kuwait. He later ordered a senseless and bloody U.S. military invasion of Panama with the declared purpose of arresting Manuel Noriega, a drug-dealing dictator. It took US forces more than a month to conquer the tiny isthmus country in an operation disingenuously codenamed “Operation Just Cause.” According to Wikipedia, about 6,500 US troops remain in Panama today, ostensibly “monitoring Latin American airspace for unauthorized planes and training troops in jungle combat.” Bush I appointed two Supreme Court justices, David Souter, who abandoned the conservative cause by becoming a member of the Court’s liberal bloc, and Clarence Thomas, who became one of the most conservative judges of his era.

Emerging American Values: Tax Cuts for the Rich and Endless War on Something or Other

George W. Bush, the presumptive heir, was a populist president patently lacking the character and intelligence to occupy the office. The video footage of his reaction to the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, sitting in a class of pre-schoolers in Florida, revealed more a confused bad actor than the leader of the free world. He was responsible over eight years for a $1.3 trillion tax cut for the usual suspects, the global war on terrorism, the invasion of Afghanistan, the civil-and-human-rights-destroying Patriot Act, and  the lies-based second Iraq War that set that killed, maimed and exiled hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and set the country back two or three generations. Not much of his rich agenda worked out as he planned. Bush the Son appointed two justices, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, in 2005 and 2006.

This brings us to the current US president, Donald J. Trump, the third American president to be impeached by the House though not convicted, by the Senate. The Trump presidency leverages an unprecedeneted lack of intelligence and tact, innate stagecraft, bald-faced self interest, lies and innuendo, while pandering to the lowest common denominator–white supremacists, neo-Nazis, magical religious cults and remnants of defunct right-wing movements, all of whom he refers to as “very fine people.” This grotesque baggage garnered him a previously  unseen level of voter loyalty.

President Trump has nominated two judges to the US Supreme Court, Neil McGill Gorsuch, who has a face like a choirboy who has never broken a glass, confirmed in 2017; and Brett Kavanaugh in 2018. Kavanaugh is an ultra-conservative whose confirmation hearings were stalled for three years over charges of partisanship.  According to Wikipedia, he is a practising Catholic who serves as a regular lector at his Washington, D.C., church, the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament; and has helped serve meals to the homeless. He has also tutored at the Washington Jesuit Academy. Before his eventual confirmation by the US Senate he was credibly accused of sexually assaulting at least two women.

Sixteen Appointments

The 16 Republican Supreme Court appointments since 1969 gave rise to the conservative courts that have dominated the American judiciary since the 1970s and culminated in the big-bucks-benefitting Citizens United verdict, which legitimized for all to see the notion that everything and everyone in America can be bought and sold, right down to the sacrosanct American democracy, personified in the United States Congress.

Thus, a minority of US citizens that desired and deserved a country whose pervading values were more complete, more human and more idealistic than those of the pork bellies market, was left out in the cold. Today they find themselves relegated to a sordid zero-sum world in which my gains are your losses, a world where generosity and solidarity have been supplanted by bare-fisted greed and the rule of the filthy rich. This brutal system of national values has exchanged once-normal human customs for cut-throat market standards. “Tell me how much you own and I’ll tell you what you’re worth.” It wasn’t always that way in the US, and Americans don’t have to look very far today to find a better model. There’s Canada right next door with universal health care and a $2,000 guaranteed monthly income for all their citizens. To belabor the point, I suggest you compare any declarations on any subject by Donald Trump on television news with those of Jacinda Ardern, the 39-year-old prime minister of New Zealand. It’s like peering into two different dimensions, Utopia and Dystopia. See which one you can relate to.

The controversial Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court decision was contested by Associate Justice John Paul Stevens who argued that the Court’s ruling represented “a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government.” A 2012 article on Demos.org lists 10 Ways Citizens United Endangers Democracy:

(These headings are links. You can click on them to learn more.)

  1. “Independent” Spending Farce Leads To SuperPACs
  2. Legal Money Laundering Increases Secret Spending
  3. Corporate Money Distorts Democracy
  4. Court is Blind to Reality of Corruption
  5. Citizen Voices are Drowned Out
  6. Money Is Still Not Speech
  7. Open Season on Remaining Money in Politics Protections
  8. Increases Corporate Power
  9. Unlimited Corporate Spending is Bad for Business and Shareholders
  10. Risks Reducing Respect for the Supreme Court

Now, ask yourself: Does the Citizens United decision merit revising by a future, less-ideologically-driven Supreme Court? Or can we climb out of the Abyss?

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President Trump May Go Down in History as the Savior of America–2/2

The Lowest Low Point

1. Implementing child separation — and lying about it

From April to June 2018, the Trump administration implemented a “zero tolerance” policy at the southern border that deliberately separated children and babies — some as young as 4 months old — from their parents. In the span of six weeks, 1,995 kids were torn away from their parents. Some will likely never be reunited. On June 16, 2018, Trump lied about the policy, saying it was “forced” by Democrats. Once his lie was exposed, on Oct. 13, 2018, Trump explicitly advocated his barbaric policy as a deterrent. Those low points sparked international outrage.

These incidents enumerated by Klaas include exclusively those that occurred during the Trump presidency, not the run-up. So they omit such egregious cases as the Colin Kaeperninck disrespect-for-the-flag tweet,  the “Access Hollywood” tape, mocking a disabled reporter, attacking a Gold Star family, calling to ban all Muslims from entering the country or labeling Mexican immigrants as rapists.

How to Scuttle the Ship of State

In order for President Trump to sink the United States government–and the country–irretrievably he only has to continue along his same path. As we have seen in his daily tweets and even mainstream news coverage, he’s done an admirable job of sabotaging the government during his fist term in office, from defunding and dismantling vital agencies to deregulating business and finance, but he still has a way to go. A Democratic-Party-controlled House of Representatives is a hurdle he would have to surmount but there’s a possiblity he could turn the House around in the upcoming elections.  He has won against the odds before–producing apoplexia in the Democratic machine–and the American electorate has been known to deliver other remarkable surprises.

The Immediate Result of a Possible Trump Defeat

But what if he were to lose? How would President Trump’s partisans take the loss? Would they just step aside for the new President elect? Can anyone really foresee President Trump leaving office without kicking and screaming? What is more likely is some sort of coordinated civil unrest, the maximum expression of which is civil war. Is that eventuality being prepared in the White House basement as we speak? Should it come to armed civil disobedience, which side would the nation’s police and armed forces come down on? Is anybody thinking about that? Or are they all just betting the farm on that comforting old saw: “It can’t happen here”

Suppose it were to happen, along with all the other horrific contingencies that President Trump’s administration has made possible. A full-blown American Civil War II would be a giant step towards ground zero.  And we haven’t even considered the role of the Chinese and the Russians. Would they stand idly by? Or would they consider picking up a bargain out of the wreckage? Isn’t the Chinese’s own pictograph for “crisis” composed of two characters, one meaning “danger,” and the other “opportunity.”

Back to the Premise

How could a person like Donald J. Trump become the savior of the United States? It’s time to look at the historical precedents in other countries. In our time, since World War II, there have been two nations that have risen from the ignominy of defeat and total destruction, humiliation and starvation poverty, and worldwide condemnation. And they have achieved it in less than three generations. They have both rebuilt their countries and their economies, but more importantly they have recuperated their moral decency. Both have recognized, abandoned, repented, and apologized repeatedly for their agressive acts of warfare and crimes against humanity, their racism and historic rapaciousness. And their populations have assimilated a whole new set of humanitarian values based on democratic principles, respect and decency at home and abroad,

Those two countries are Germany and Japan. Located on opposite sides of the globe and with widely disparate cultural and social traditions, what did they have in common that permitted them to renew themselves in every conceivable respect? Their cities were systematically razed, their ideologies discredited. Their allies evaporated, along with their credit internationally. The only resources they could count on were humility, intelligence and determination. Granted, the $15 billion Marshall Plan was an important factor in European recovery but it wasn’t enacted until 1948. The first three years of Germany’s lone battle back from the gates of hell started from zero. Today Germany and Japan are two of the most advanced–and more importantly–most civilized countries in the world.

The Road to Rock Bottom

Is it possible that these are the very conditions that the United States requires in order to become great again? Could the current COVID-19 pandemic and President Trump’s characteristically inept handling of it be the detonator? From “We’ve got it under control…” to 55,000 deaths and counting is a long stretch, Mr. President. Will the coronavirus do for the Americans what the Second World War did for the Germans and the Japanese. Will it take them to rock bottom? If so, would the American public be able to muster the intelligence and determination–and most difficult of all–the humility to rebuild their entire world from zero?

It’s important to keep in mind, I think, that it couldn’t be achieved with traditional American values. No amount of self-reliance, dog-eat-dog competition and quick-buck capitalism would get the job done. It would require tremendous levels of selfless collaboration on the part of its citizens, something unknown in today’s highly-polarized United States. It’s not a given that Americans are capable of such a sea change in their hearts and minds. If they were, they might bring it off, just as the Germans and the Japanese did. That would make President Donald J. Trump, the principal agent for taking his country to rock bottom, in effect the savior of America, albeit by an ironically indirect route. If it should turn out that the Americans are not capable of working together intensely and disinterestedly, there are other nations with high levels of preparation waiting in the wings.

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President Donald Trump May Go Down in History as the Savior of America–1/2

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Trump May Make America Great Again but not in the Way He Had in Mind

There are precedents for the return to prominence of formerly great countries and a thoughtful look at their cases could illuminate the future of Donald Trump’s United States. The country may be recoverable and he might be the man to lead the way. He might require re-election to achieve it, but everything is possible. Before we consider the historical precedents, let’s take a summary look at President Trump’s record since he launched his presidential campaign.

The best–and most amenable–source I have found for pre-campaign Trump is the prologue to Michael Lewis’s 2018 book, The Fifth Risk, which is riveting from the first page. Lewis had access to Chris Cristie, the former New Jersey governor and short-lived candidate in the 2016 presidential pre-campaign, who alerted Donald Trump to the fact that he was legally obliged to appoint a staff to search and select candidates for the 500 federal posts that would have to be filled by presidential appointment, in the case that he were to be elected. Christie, who was at the first orientation meeting with the Obama transition team, found Trump’s delegate “comically underqualified” and he immediately phoned the Trump campaign manager, Cory Lewandowski, and asked him why such a critical job had been left in the hands of an incompetent. Lewandowski replied, “Because whe don’t have anyone.” So Christie got the job himself.

When Trump won the Republican candidacy he received from the federal government a suite of fully equipped offices in downtown Washington, DC, for his transition selection team. This group, in turn, reported weekly to Trump’s “executive committee,” made up of his real-estate-operator son-in-law, Jared Kushner; his daughter, Ivanka, his sons Donald Trump, Jr. and Eric Trump; as well as Paul Manafort, Steve Mnuchin and Jeff Sessions. All candidate Trump had to do was to pay the employees, either from his own pocket or his campaign funds. This detail gave rise to a brouhaha when Christie informed Trump that he was legally obliged to pay the staff. According to Christie, Trump’s reply was characteristically brief and clear: “Fuck the law. I don’t give a fuck about the law. I want my fucking money. Shut it down. Shut down the transition.” In the end Christie’s transition team efforts were all in vain. He was fired the day after Trump won the election at the insistence of Jared Kushner, who had not forgiven Christie for prosecuting his father, Charles Kushner in a 2005 corruption case. Today Jared Kushner is a White House magnate and atypical diplomat.

Cross Purposes

The transition team’s problem is that they were working at cross purposes with the candidate. They were looking for clean, trustworthy, and above all qualified people to run the federal government. That was a gross mistake. Cleanliness, trustworthiness and competence were irrelevant as long as they could pass a  confirmation hearing in a Republican-controlled Senate.

The candidate, soon to be the new President, didn’t want his appointees to run the government. He wanted them to wreck it. That’s how he got that colorful Cabinet and White House staff and how all-important federal agencies came to be run by know-nothings. His choices were based not on logic nor even common sense, rather on pure ideology. If you’re hard-core anti government, you’re in.

The rest of Lewis’s book discusses the most glaring examples, from nuclear security and waste disposal to the massively important Department of Energy. The new President, with no knowledge of the critical role the federal government played in myriad questions in the country, set about gaily to destroy it.

A Brief Summary of the Worst of Donald Trump

President  Trump’s tenure has been characterized by an unprecedented mix of incompetence and arrogance. The less he knows on any given subject the more he thinks he knows (a classic case of the Dunning-Kruger effect) and the more he trumpets his supreme knowledge. The essence of the Trump presidency is this imaginary “supreme knowledge” of everything and his utter lack of concern for the country and its people. His first priority is always Donald Trump. Let’s take a look at some of the high points of his low points. Brian Klaas, a Washington Post contributor, listed his top five in a July 16, 2019 opinion article entitled The five lowest points of Trump’s presidency (so far):

5. “Go back” to where you came from

Trump told minority congresswomen to go back to where they came from. Where they came from, with one exception, was America: Cincinnati, the Bronx and Detroit. But Trump revived one of the most well-worn racist statements in American history. It was indefensible racism.

4. Trump “fell in love” with Kim Jong Un

Trump’s absurd, over-the-top praise for dictators lurched into self-parody when he claimed that he “fell in love” with North Korea’s totalitarian dictator, Kim Jong Un, in September 2018. Kim’s regime runs a vast network of concentration camps, conducts campaigns of mass rape and reportedly executes people with antiaircraft guns for sport. The juxtaposition with Trump’s consistent ally-bashing behavior left no room for misinterpretation about Trump’s values, and how at odds they are with America’s founding principles.

3. Implying that Puerto Ricans were lazy as an estimated 2,975 Americans died

In the week after Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico, leaving millions without electricity or tap water, Trump tweeted 95 times. Fifteen tweets attacked black National Football League players. Just one was about Puerto Rico, in which Trump chastised the island for its “massive debt.” Then, on Sept. 30, while Puerto Ricans were dying and pleading for additional federal help, Trump responded by implying that they were lazy and wanted “everything to be done for them.” A later study showed that a significant number of the deaths were avoidable and came not from the storm but from an inadequate government response.

2. The “very fine people” in Charlottesville

On Aug. 12, 2017, a man murdered Heather Heyer with his car. He was a neo-Nazi. She was protesting neo-Nazis. Three days later, Trump drew a false equivalence between the groups, insisting that there were “very fine people on both sides.” One of those sides was marching alongside Ku Klux Klan members, neo-Nazis and white supremacists. The other was protesting those hate groups. Trump tried to conflate the two, and in so doing, stained his presidency forever.

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US Sponsored Terrorism in Western Europe 3/3

Hard_Evidence_Gladio

More Gladio Timeline

  • 1984—In Italy, right-wing terrorist Vincenzo Vinciguerra reveals in court Operation Gladio and the involvement of NATO’s stay-behind army in acts of terrorism in Italy designed to discredit the Communists. He is sentenced to life and imprisoned.
  • 1985—in Belgium, a secret army attacks and shoots shoppers in supermarkets randomly in the Brabant country killing 28 and leaving many wounded. Investigations link the terror to a conspiracy among the Belgian stay-behind SDRA8, the Belgian Gendarmerie SDRA6, the Belgian right-wing group WNP and the Pentagon secret service, Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).
  • 1990—In Italy, Judge Felice Casson discoveres documents on Operation Gladio in the archives of the Italian military secret service in Rome and forces Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti to confirm to the parliament the existence of a secret army within the state. As Andreotti insists that Italy had not been the only country involved in the conspiracy, the secret anti-Communist stay-behind armies are discovered across Western Europe. The cat is definitively out of the bag.
  • 1990—In Belgium, on November 5, NATO categorically denies Prime Ministger Andreotti’s allegations concerning NATO’s involvement in Operation Gladio and secret unorthodox warfare in Western Europe. The next day NATO explains that the denial of the previous day had been false while refusing to answer any further questions.
  • 1990—In Belgium, the parliament of the European Union (EU) sharply condemns NATO and the United States in a resolution for having manipulated European politics with stay-behind armies.
  • 1995—In England, the London.based Imperial War Museum in the permanent exhibition “Secret Wars,” reveals next to a big box full of explosives that the MI6 and SAS had set up stay-behind armies across Western Europe.
  • 1995—In Italy, the Senate commission headed by Senator Giovanni Pellegrino researching Operation Gladio and the assassination of former Prime Minister, Aldo Moro, files a FOIA request with the CIA. The CIA rejects the request and replies: “The CIA can neither confirm nor deny the existence or non-existence of records responsive to your request.”
  • 2001—The author asks NATO for documents on the stay-behind secret armies and specifically transcripts of the Allied Clandestine Committee (ACC) and Clandestine Planning Committee (CPC) meetings. Lee McClenny, head of the NATO press and media service, denies that NATO had been involved with Operation Gladio and claims that neither ACC nor the CPC transcripts exist.
  • 2001—The author files a FOIA request with the CIA which is rejected with the comment: “The CIA can neither confirm nor deny the existence or non-existence of records responsive to your request.”

This damning timeline offers a lot of food for thought and leads for further research. The author of NATO’s Secret Armies, Daniele Ganser, is currently a Senior Researcher at the Center for Security Studies (CSS) at the Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, Switzerland. We can be sure that he and his colleagues continue to think.

Ramifications, Conclusions

The stay-behind/Cladio program was a big success. Its deadly false-flag operations were routinely attributed to left-wing activists who were prosecuted, imprisoned and assassinated en masse for decades.

Perhaps the most shocking aspect of this years-long operation was the senseless taking of random innocent lives for the hollow cause of anti-communism.

The scale and extension of Operation Gladio was Europe wide and was responsible for massive twists and turns of policy in many European countries. Among the most dramatically affected were Italy, Greece, Belgium and Turkey. The tragic history of Greece since  World War II is largely attributable to British and American betrayal of the Greek resistance forces who had successfully driven the German army out of their country. That victory was reversed when the Alllies, fearing communist influence in the upcoming Greek government, retired their support. This counterfeit anti-communism in Greece led, in the sixties, to the brutal dictatorship of the Greek colonels.

Gladio helped to assure right-wing, anti-communist governments would rule Europe for decades, thus negating European countries the direction of their own democracies, their own sovereignty and the course of history.

Gladio was the test bench for subsequent CIA terrorist operations in the rest of the world. It showed what control was possible with a well-run anti-communist false-flag terrorist organization in place.

Gladio As Black Magic

Gladio permitted the Americans to pitch themselves as paladins of democracy around the world, when the truth was precisely the opposite. In this connection, recent American presidents have done the world a favor by pulling back the curtain of American government methods and motives, from criminal drone assassinations to regime-change operations. Perhaps the greatest irony today is President Trump insisting that NATO is there to “protect” Europe and demanding that they pay for that protection. It’s almost as if he had taken lessons from the Mafia.

Gladio reinforced the US self-image of altruism, exceptionalism and defense of “Western values.” Most Americans today still see their country as the beacon on the hill.

Gladio helped the US to cast the Russians as ruthless aggressors and war mongerers, a plague on the earth, while at the same time constructing an iron ring of military bases surrounding Russia. The Americans retain to this day between 800 and 1,000 bases worldwide while their gargantuan–and ever rising–“defense” budget relegates a large part of their own citizens to crushing, irreversible poverty.

What exactly are the Russians guilty of? Principally, they had the misfortune during the first third of the 20th century, to build a better mousetrap, a model for an egalitarian  society that posed a threat to American laissez-faire capitalism–until the ideals of the Russian revolution were sabotaged by Stalin in the 30s.

Now that the terrible Gladio story has been exposed time and again, we should be able to forget those lamentable times and move on. Well, not quite. Serious research and reliable witnesses have linked recent terrorist events to the offspring of Gladio. They affirm, for example, that Gladio units reappeared in Norway in 2011 with the Anders Breivik slaying of 77 peopleon the island of Utoya. They are also convinced that sons of Gladio have become active across Europe under anti-Islamic and ultra-nationalist banners.

One of the leading proponents of the existence of a Gladio B, is whistleblower, Sibel Edmonds, the ex-FBI contract interpreter/translator who was fired from the FBI for her inconvenient truth telling. In the process she won national whistleblower awards for revealing serious irregularities with wide-ranging implications in the bureau’s translation department. She went on to participate in founding a news agency (Newsbud) and to write an autobiography: Classified Woman – The Sibel Edmonds Story: A Memoir. Edmonds goes so far as to implicate Gladio B in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

What’s next?

When the CIA feels they’re onto a good thing–And why wouldn’t they feel that way about Gladio?–it’s not easy to convince them to change course. We may be plagued by CIA/NATO terrorism for years to come. The current COVID-19 crisis makes attempts at prediction absurd, of course, but time will tell. One thing is certain. It would take tectonic political changes in the United States to halt–or even slow–their strategy of world domination.

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US Sponsored Terrorism in Western Europe 2/3

Gladio False Flag

American Genius Converts Churchill’s Stay-Behind Experiment into a Europe-Wide Terrorist Operation

Ganser’s book takes the reader across Europe country by country tracing the incredible development of Churchill’s serpent’s egg. The American cold warriors soon realized that, though the Russian invasion was not about to happen, the stay-behind infrastructure could be diverted to their own purposes. In fact, it was perfect. The Americans’ initial recruitment criteria demanded that the officials and soldiers of the stay-behind armies be convinced anti-communists. So they started by mining the richest vein, the remnants of German Nazi-ism. According to Ganser’s book it was the same American Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) that rounded up the defendants for the Nurenburg trials that, at the same time, “secretly recruited selected right-wing extremists for the anti-communist army.” Their first important find was Klaus Barbie, the “Butcher of Lyon,” whom they used to root out other hard-core Nazis.

Though one of the most important, General Reinhard Gehlen, fell from the tree like ripe fruit. Perpetrator of some of the worst atrocities of the war, including “the torture, interrogation and murder by starvation of some four million Soviet prisoners of war,” Gehlen turned himself in to the CIC and managed an introduction to US General Edwin Luther Siber (who would promote Gehlen’s career in the stay-behind organization). Not only did Gehlen lead the Americans to a cache of watertight steel drums with microfilmed documentation on the USSR that he had thoughtfully buried in the Austrian Alps, but went on to recruit several hundred other Nazi officers for the American project. This activity was in Germany but similar procedures covered the rest of the European NATO membership, including Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, and Turkey, as well as the neutral European countries of Austria, Finland, Sweden and Switzerland.

The Sinister Stay-Behind/Operation Gladio Timeline

Author Daniele Ganser created a timeline for the most significant events in the history of Gladio. Here is an extract complete with places, dates, and names He calls it his “Chronology.” Its contents are all in the public record and they form the backbone of his narrative.

  • 1940—Churchill creates the secret stay-behind armies, Special Operations Executive (SOE).
  • 1944—London and Washington set up first stay behind in Greece.
  • 1947—Truman creates the NSC and the CIA, whose covert action branch sets up stay-behind armies in Western Europe.
  • 1948—Western Union Clandestine Committee (WUCC) created in France to coordinate secret anti-communist unorthodox warfare.
  • 1949—NATO founded with HQ in France. (In US Senator Eugene McCarthy denounces Communists in the US government. He produces no evidence, but the Cold War is tacitly declared.)
  • 1951—CIA agent (and later director) William Colby, based in Stockholm,  supports training of stay-behind armies in neutral Sweden and Finland and NATO member countries Norway and Denmark.
  • 1952—In Germany former SS officer Hans Otto reveals to Frankfurt police the existence of fascist German stay-behind army BDJ-TD. Arrested right-wing extremists found not guilty under mysterious circumstances.
  • 1953—In Sweden right winger Otto Hallberg is arrested and  uncovers the Swedish stay-behind army.  Hallberg is released and the charges against him mysteriously dropped.
  • 1957—In Norway, the director of the secret service NIS, Vilhelm Evang, protests against the domestic subversion of his country by US and NATO and temporarily withdraws Norway from the Clandestine Planning Committee (CPC) meetings.
  • 1958—In France, NATO founds the Alllied Clandestine Committee (ACC) to coordinate secret warfare and the stay-behind armies. When de Gaulle expels NATO from France in 1966, a new NATO headquarters is established in Brussels. The ACC, under the code name SDRA11 is hidden within the Belgian military secret service SGR, with its headquarters next door to NATO.
  • 1964—In Italy, the Gladio secret stay-behind army is involved in a silent coup d’etat when Genejral Giovanni de Lorenzo in Operation Solo forces a group of elected socialist ministers to leave the government.
  • 1966—In Portugal, the CIA sets up Aginter Press under the direction of Captain Yves Guerin Serac, a stay-behind army that trains its members in covert action techniques including hands-on bomb terrorism, silent assassination, subversion techniques, clandestine communication and infiltration and colonial warfare.
  • 1966—In France, President Charles de Gaulle forces NATO to leave French soil. In the move to Brussels secret NATO protocols are revealed that allegedly protect right-wingers in anti-Communist stay-behind armies.
  • 1967—In Greece, the stay-behind army Hellenic Raiding Force takes control of the Greek Defense Ministry and starts a military coup d’etat installing a right-wing dictatorship.
  • 1968—In Sweden, a British MI6 agent closely involved with the stay-behind army betrays the secret network to the Soviet KGB secret service. From here until the outing of the NATO secret armies by the Italian judiciary and press in 1990, the “secret stay-behind armies” are unknown to everybody except the Russians.
  • 1969—In Italy, the Piazza Fontana massacre in Milan kills 16, injures 80 and is blamed on the left.  Thirty years later, during a trial of right-wing extremists General Giandelio Maletti, former head of Italian counterintelligence, alleges that the massacre had been carried out by the Italian stay-behind army and right-wing terrorists on the orders of the CIA in order to discredit the Italian Communists.
  • 1972—In Italy, a bomb explodes in a car near the village of Peteano killing three Carabinieri. The terror, first blamed on the left, is later traced back to right-wing terrorist, Vincenzo Vinciguerra, and leads to the exposure of the Italian stay-behind, code named Gladio.
  • 1974—In Italy, a massacre during an anti-fascist demonstration in Brescia kills eight and injures and maims 102, while a bomb in the Rome-to-Munich train ‘Italicus Express’ kills 12 and injures and maims 48.
  • 1974—In Italy, General Vito Miceli, chief of the military secret service, is arrested on charges of subversive conspiracy against the state and reveals the NATO stay-behind secret army during the trial.
  • 1977—In Spain, the secret stay-behind army with the support of Italian right-wing terrorists carries out the Atocha massacre in Madrid and, in an attack on a lawyers’ office closely linked to the Spanish Communist Party, kills five lawyers.
  • 1978—In Norway, the police discover a stay-behind arms cache and arrests Hans Otto Meyer who reveals the Norwegian secret army.
  • 1978—In Italy, former Prime Minister and leader of the DCI, Aldo Moro, is taken hostage in Rome by a secret unit. His bullet-ridden body appears in the boot of a car 55 days later. Before his death he was about to form a coalition government that included the Italian Communist Party.
  • 1980—In Italy, a bomb expodes in the second-class waiting room of the Bologna railway station, killing 85 and seriously injuring and maiming a further 200. Investigators trace the crime back to right-wing terrorists.
  • 1981—In Germany, a large stay-behind arsenal is discovered near the German village of Uelzen in the Lúneburger Heide. Right-wing extremists are alleged to have used the arsenal in the previous year to carry out a massacre during the Munich Octoberfest killing 13 and wounding 213.
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US Sponsored Terrorism in Western Europe 1/3

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Author’s Note

I wrote a four-part article on Operation Gladio, NATO’s secret stay-behind/terrorists armies in Western Europe in April of 2018. So what’s the point of writing another one? I need to enlarge and improve it. To research the first story I used Daniele Ganser’s book merely as a reference work, picking data out of the index. By limiting myself in that way I missed what I now consider to be the main thrust of Ganser’s excellent work. The stay-behind/terrorist project that was “Operation Gladio” (the Italian code name for the organization which became the generic term for operations in the rest of Europe) was the origin of an ongoing American project of world domination that relied on classic terrorist false-flag strategies and virulent anti-communism to undermine the sovereignty and democracies of Western European countries.

The NATO/CIA playbook for these operations established the modus operandi for later secret wars in other parts of the world, notably Central and South America and the Middle East. A summary analysis of these operations is enough to convince an unbiased observer that the United States will stop at nothing to impose their unjust model of “free-market,” predatory capitalism around the world. The least-valued element in their game plan, as demonstrated in all these places, is the value of human life. I realize these are strong words and I will do my best to support them here with ample evidence.

In short, the supposed objective of Operation Gladio, designed, financed and implemented by NATO and the CIA, was to create an organization to combat communist terrorism in Western Europe. The truth is that Gladio was, itself, an American-run terrorist group set up to simulate supposed communist terrorism in order to discredit the European left wing’s credibility at the polls, where  they were having some success based on their effective opposition to the Nazis in World War II. The ideological motor of the whole operation was the Americans’ hysterically exaggerated fear of communism. As this strategy has worked itself out to this day not much has changed. American Cold War- vintage anti-communism has always been based more on self-interest, hypocrisy and opportunism than anything else. Let’s take a closer look at it.

If you’re interested in seeing my original article, here’s a link.

Swiss Graduate Student’s Book Reveals US Post-WWII Secret Agenda

In July of 1940, 10 months after World War II broke out in Europe and a year and a half before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the American entry into the war, British prime minister Winston Churchill had an idea. It occurred to him to establish secret armies all over Europe against the possibility of a Soviet invasion when the war was over. So he got MI6, Britain’s clandestine intelligence service, to work on it. Thus began the story of a sinister secret operation that got out of hand and lingers on till today.

With his 2005 book, NATO’s Secret Armies, Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe, Daniele Ganser, a Swiss doctoral candidate, wrote the inside story of this ill-fated initiative. Almost incidentally he also created the Rosetta Stone for the interpretation of 20th-century American foreign policy. This seemingly inconsequential by-product of a doctoral thesis turned out to be an essential guide of our time for tracing the beginnings in Europe of the United States’s misdirected muscle flexing after the Second World War.

In the early 2000s, when Ganser set out to write his thesis–later to become this book–his humble objective was to elucidate the origins of Europe’s post-World War II stay-behind armies. But his research took him much further, into the sinister Cold War labyrinth. Like Cerberus, the fearsome multi-headed dog of Greek mythology that guarded the gates of Hell to prevent the dead from escaping, Churchill’s stay-behind armies promised to defend Europe from Soviet aggression. It’s not clear what inspired Churchill to concoct an elaborate plan for betraying Britain’s principal ally against the NAZIs (the US didn’t enter the war for another year and a half, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor). Perhaps it had to do with a son of British aristocracy’s aversion to a Russian experiment in collectivism. In any case, this cranky, hard drinking, cigar smoking British prime minister became the grandfather of American Cold War anticommunism.

Churchill Leads the Way into the Dark Labyrinth

Churchill’s plan was to recruit, equip and train secret armies and conceal arms caches all over Western Europe. These clandestine forces would go into action in the event of a Soviet invasion. The theory wasn’t entirely outlandish, but as it  played out it became the nightmare that Daniele Ganser recounts–and lavishly documents–country by country in NATO’s Secret Armies. If you manage to find a copy of the book, published 15 years ago with little resonance, after reading it you will ask yourself, “How is it possible that I have never heard of this massive scandal nor this seminal book on the subject? Why has it been ignored by the American, British, European and world press? Shouldn’t it be the first reference work for anyone seriously interested in the Cold War in Europe?”

Yes, of course it should be, but it isn’t. At best it is a glaring example of how effectively American censorship can bury even the most important information if they consider it to be a threat to their voracious geopolitical agenda. The cold warriors of the American intelligence community were not stupid. They knew that, if Ganser’s information were disseminated in the way it deserved, it would open an iceberg-sized breach in the Americans’ ongoing campaign of world domination, camuflaged until then under the guise of workaday anti-communism.

The stay-behind program didn’t remain British for long, as the Brits had their hands full fighting the war, but the US Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), was happy to take over the nascent anti-communist project, which dovetailed neatly with their own purposes. It was the pioneering cold warrior, William J. (Wild Bill) Donovan, who suggested to President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944 the creation of a secret service to carry out covert actions against the communists, socialists and their followers in Europe. Donovan became the director of the OSS which financed and ran the operation from 1942 until 1947 when the CIA–more specifically their covert action department, the Directorate of Operations (DO)–under the leadership of legendary dirty-war operators like William Colby, who went on to become  the CIA director; Frank Wisner, who was so revolted by his CIA missions that he finally shot himself in 1965; and Richard Helms who was to lie to Congress regarding the US role in the September, 1973, Chilean military coup.

In 1949, the recently-created North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) took over the stay-behind program definitively. NATO provided a friendly new face, cast as it was as an allied organization that was going to “protect” Europe. But the CIA and the British MI6, as well as the military secret  services of the countries that hosted stay-behind armies, each had a say in the running of the operation. The way Ganser’s book discredits in a scholarly manner the notion that NATO was a beneficent society, only serves to make it more credible. The content of his book suggests implicitly that the United States has been actively pursuing world domination since the Second World War and they will stop at nothing to achieve it.

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We Can’t Afford It–A Post-Virus Utopian Fantasy

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Yes You Can

The American dereliction of equality and wellbeing for all is based on a lie: “We can’t afford it.” Actually, they can afford it. Their refusal to fund vital services–health, housing, education, welfare, infrastructure–is not for lack of resources. We’re talking about the richest country in the world. That refusal is based on the misguided, ungenerous and belligerent priorities enforced by the American oligarchy. Instead of paid maternal and paternal leave when a baby is born or healthcare for all Americans, the remote-controlled executive, legislative, and judicial arms of the US government opt for waging permanent war and bulldozing tons of money into the coffers of war-mongering “defense” contractors. Instead of granting their students free or inexpensive subsidized education through university, like proper first-world countries–Germany, Norway, Finland, Scotland, Austria, Sweden, France and more–they fritter their wealth away on massive superfluous tax cuts for the rich and building bigger, more inhumane prisons.

Don’t Pretend It’s Complicated

This issue is not complicated. It’s as transparent as mountain water. The interests that run the United States have long since removed the veil and assumed the “leadership” in rigging the country’s institutions or what’s left of them.  Instead of lifting up their own citizens and giving the rest of the world a break, the American nomenklatura is busy lining their own pockets with no regard for the wellbeing of their countrymen nor those of other countries, including their “client” countries. It’s a revolting system run on greed, revolving doors, gross unfairness and both sophisticated (Robert Mercer & Co.) and unsophisticated (Donald Trump) methods of mind control. “Let’s make America great again by further impoverishing and denigrating the poor and lower-middle classes, in particular minorities, and by plundering the natural resources of our country and those we have subjugated,” is the never-declared but clear message.

When a random honest politician proposes something different–healthcare, remission of college debt, environmental action–they are insulted and shouted down as “socialists.” This is not only bad manners but ignorance. The United States is the only “advanced” country in the world where socialism is equated with evil, where the mere mention of “socialists” evokes Pavlovian knee-jerk negative reactions. The truth is all the contrary. The world’s leading countries–all of Europe, led by Scandinavia; great parts of Asia; as well as Australia, Canada, and Iceland–incorporate in their governing mix elements traditionally considered socialist. Most of those that don’t are under the feral capitalist influence of the United States.

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Why Military Spending Is More Than You Think It Is

Kimberly Amadeo writing in The Balance.com, US Miltary Budget, Its Componente, Challenges, and Growth (Updated March 03, 2020)

Estimated U.S. military spending is nearly a trillion dollars ($934 billion). It covers the period October 1, 2020, through September 30, 2021.1 Military spending is the second-largest item in the federal budget after Social Security. This figure is more than the $705 billion outlined by the Department of Defense alone. The United States has many departments that support its defense. All these departments must be included to get an accurate picture of how much America spends on its military operations.

Amadeo goes on to itemize and analyze military spending in a medium-long article. If you don’t have a head for columns of numbers (neither do I), I’ll sum it up for you: The United States spends too damned much if its national treasure making war. On the other hand, if you would like to see the breakdown, here’s a link.

At the risk of appearing auto erotic here’s another link, this one to my piece on the greatest military procurement scam of all time.

Cutting Back Military Spending Makes Everything Possible

According to Kimberly Amadeo’s article, to reduce military costs, the DoD  needs to reduce its civilian workforce, pay and benefits of soldiers, and its military bases around the world. She forgets to include cutting back the number of military personnel. That considered, perhaps it wouldn’t be necessary to reduce pay and benefits for those who remain.

As well as trimming military spending, something that is now feasable due to radically-changed geopolitical realities, there is another powerful measure for financing domestic development. It’s the obvious one, sufficient taxation not only to siphon the excess off the top and apply it to deficiencies at the middle and bottom, but to finance badly-needed infrastructure improvements. It’s as simple as that, but until now the American ethos has forbidden such common-sense solutions. That’s “socialism” and Americans have been taught from infancy that socialism and any other collective solutions for society’s ills, is mortal sin. It’s contrary to all of America’s traditional egocenetric values: rugged individualism, the self-made man, “free” markets, American exceptionalism, trickle-down economics, social Darwinism, and the supremacy of bling. Yes, people sleeping on the street are an eyesore and inconvenience, but it’s a small price to pay for the confirmation of the superiority of the American Way of Life.

If that sounds sick to you it’s because you’re not a proper American patriot. After all, if the American government were to attend the homeless and the rest of the country’s freeloaders they wouldn’t have money left to train and equip your sons and daughters and ship them off to be killed or maimed in some far-off, hot, sweaty place. Be reasonable, would you? And if some commie journalist were to suggest that the US is the invader, not the invadee, send him off to one of those conspiracy-theory FEMA camps they have been preparing for years, alleging that they’re for Boy Scouts.

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What Ever Happened to Simple Pleasures?

Can’t you live fulfilling lives without limosines, gold watches, computerized fridges (that transmit digital files of you bickering in the kitchen with your wife to the NSA), private jets, and expensive amusements like buying legislators? And, as much as I admire Elon Musk, do we really need to go to Mars? (Full disclosure: My own vice, which I camouflage as a “simple pleasure,” is a log fire that probably pollutes approximately as much as a small nuclear reactor.)

The good news is that a recent fortuitous circumstance has obliged us all rethink our lives and that of the planet. I’m refering, of course, to COVID-19. Before the pandemic we thought we had dozens or hundreds of priorities but luckily, almost overnight, we’ve realized that we only have three or four, and a new Beemer is not among them. At the top of the list is simple survival, a little detail that might not have occured to us before the shocking COVID-19 reminder. Then family. Then humanity (not “country,” humanity, we’re all in it together). Then civilization. (I’m loath to use the term “culture,” a dirty word in some countries.) Your priorities might be somewhat different. Others might be radically different. They might run to the communist threat, the Rapture, the price of pork bellies and the dilution of the country’s bodily fluids by mongrel races. This would be a small minority, of course, and you can be consoled by the fact that none of these “others” have any specific gravity in the government.

So, aside from fewer than half a dozen serious concerns, and seen through the coronavirus lens, everything else is essentially superfluous:

  • Your cellphone, which day before yesterday was life itself
  • Your mistress. You’ll have to choose between her and your wife, you won’t be able to afford both.
  • Your children’s boarding schools. Your kids will have to attend public schools with the unwashed, and you will have to get to know them (both the kids and the unwashed.)
  • Your weekends in Las Vegas. Buy the DVD of a film called Very Bad Things. That will put you off Vegas for the duration.

Let’s not extend this list of new realities. You can imagine the rest.

Countries Also Have Challenges

So much for personal needs and limitations. What about national priorities? They’re significantly pared down, too, essentially limited to the political and economic measures required to assure national survival. This will be simpler than before. Since all the countries in the world are suffering from the same public health and economic problems, they will all lack the time and resources to meddle in the affairs of other countries. That will obviate the need for gigantic standing armies and hundreds of overseas military bases. All of that treasure and effort can thus be redirected to constructive humanitarian projects both at home and abroad, a long overdue realinement of national priorities that will take into consideration the world’s new realities. It seems logical that the first step would be to redesign and implement improved national health systems to permit them to deal with existing and future crises. This is the most urgent mission, capable of bringing all countries together for the common good. Needless to say, if any country were inclined not to cooperate, they should  be boycotted and banished from the community of nations. The gravity of both present and future contingencies makes half measures unthinkable.

So, counting on the universal awareness that we’re all in this together, our children and grandchildren should be free to create a better world. Thanks in some measure to COVID-19 they will be able to dedicate the wonderful technological resources at hand to that end. By that time Elon Musk should be back from Mars and available to put his prodigious South African shoulder to the wheel.

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America, The Slip Before the Quake

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Like Any Great Change It Started Little by Little

It’s undeniable that the United States is a right-wing country. It has long been the land of the robber baron. Then the issue was complicated by  their relentless tectonic slipping to the right. The geological analogy is apt because it occurred in an imperceptibly slow manner, like the slip fault before the earthquake. After a few brief eons the European continent drifted east, leaving North America stranded on the wrong side of the Atlantic. That’s where the US sits today, both geologically and ideologically, estranged from the civilized world.

After more than a century of ongoing slow creep American society finds itself at the end of its tether, remotely controlled by demented billionaires and reptilian politicians wielding frightening high-tech bludgeons. There is no justice, no equality, no decency, no hope. Giant American companies have more than enough money to go around, and it’s dished out liberally to pliant politicians via lobbyists and septic think tanks. The situation became evident in the seventies with the sinister Nixon/Kissinger regime. (See Seymour Hersh’s 1983 600-page book, Kissinger, the Price of Power which elegantly documents Kissinger’s years as Nixon’s National Security Advisor and Secretary of State. Not for the faint hearted.)  Events were turbocharged by 9/11 and from then on American governments have been busily curtailing citizens’ rights at home and devastating soverign countries abroad. This is especially the case in the Middle East. Though the Americans have yet to win a war there, they have wreaked biblical havoc on the people and set countries like Iraq and Afghanistan back a century. And the end is not in sight. What is in sight is Iran and Venezuela. 

The Benefits of Posturing

From the days of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC, 1997-2006) when the Republican right finally showed its jingoist face, this scorched-earth policy was in the hands of Republicans. Democrats pretended to be different but most of them weren’t very different at all. Today, in a country that reveres wealth, most of them are wealthy. (Here’s the Wikipedia list of United States members of Congress by wealth. It’s headed by Republican representative, Kelly Loeffler who, along with her husband,  chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, Jeffrey Sprecher, is currently under scrutiny for insider trading.) That makes perfect sense. The essence of American professional politics is to be in it for yourself but to pretend convincingly that you’re in it for others.

It’s not an easy assignment. The successful candidates must be bereft of scruples, morality, and simple decency–while projecting all the contrary. Like all liars they must be endowed with rich imaginations and prodigious memories. They must create their stories, live their lies and cover their tracks. Some manage it better than others. We can all recall the ones whose former slipups are coming back to haunt them: sexual harassment, racism, financial fraud, war mongering, gerrymandering, strange bedfellows. Some of the shrewder ones slather themselves in religion like predator species in the African savanna that roll in their would-be victims’ excrement to pass themselves off as friends. Anything goes.

What about the Honest Politicians?

Is this to suggest that there are no honest politicians. Of course not, to affirm that would be silly. There certainly remain some disinterested American politicians but they would all fit in a phone booth. Besides, they’re essentially boycotted by their right-wing colleagues of both parties. We must not forget that those who were once Democratic “moderates” by staying in the same place have been dragged inexorably to the right.

The rest can be bought. And the proof is there for anyone who has eyes to see. Look at the rock-solid support the state of Israel–the world’s smallest colonial country–enjoys in the US Congress. Is that based on solidarity or idealism? Don’t dream. Google it. It’s based on a complex honeycomb of backhanders and campaign donations engineered by the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and others of their ilk. What about the numbingly repetitive re-election of incumbent US Congress members. Sitting members of the House of Representatives, in the congressional elections between the years 1988 and 2018, were re-elected between 80 and 90% of the time. The figures for the Senate are substantially higher. (Source: OpenSecrets.org) Is that due to legislative excellence? Or does it have to do with a bag of electoral shell games and campaign financing generously provided by big-bucks interests?

It wasn’t quite so cut and dried before the Supreme Court’s 2010 finding in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case. That landmark decision concerning campaign finance freed corporations and labor unions to spend money on electioneering communications and to directly advocate for the election or defeat of candidates. The inclusion of labor unions in that decision was a public relations masterstroke. It suggests equanimity between owners and workers. But just try imagining the unions’ buying power compared to that of big industry. Now, 10 years later, the results are there for all to see. Big business has taken over the government and sucked it dry.

What little was left of American democracy has been gutted by powerful interests that want it all, without realizing that by impoverishing their base they’re shooting themselves in the foot. Capitalism without customers is doomed. Suddenly the rate of decline in everything starts multiplying by geometric progressions. American politics has been cannibalized. American manufacturing became rust. That left financial services, an inherently incestuous business, destined to reduce the United States to that little country where the citizens manage to eke out meager livings by taking in one another’s laundry.

Along Comes the Quake

The culmination of this fascinating process took almost everyone by surprise and that stupor is growing daily by graceful gazelle leaps. With half the country wondering how to get rid of Trump and trumpism, and the other half revelling in hillbilly heaven, along comes the quake, the coronavirus, “COVID-19.” This microscopic killer that found its happy home in New York, and the Trump administration’s pathetic response to it, may ultimately take trumpism to its end. Just when the country vitally needs a unified, coherent universal health system–anathema to the reigning Republican right–the American people wake up to find any kind of coherence conspicuously lacking.

It occurs to the most perceptive among them that a battle against a highly-contagious virus cannot be waged piecemeal. As long as pockets of the virus remain active among the substantial untreated, uninsured population of the country, no one is safe from contagion. It follows logically that the whole trumpian laissez-faire edifice will come tumbling down. Just as public health emergencies require coordinated public responses so do the rest of the critical issues faced by any American government: education, the environment, climate change, foreign policy, defense, the economy and all the rest. This is laid out in his usual informative and affable fashion by Michael Lewis in his 2018 book, The Fifth Risk. Lewis, after crossing the country interviewing affected high-level public servants from the previous administration, recounts their versions of how the Trump government systematically dismantled vital federal agencies and programs with untold damage to education, the environment, nuclear management, etc.

Does this mean that America is about to abjure President Donald J. Trump and his army of wreckers? After all is said and done it may well mean that. Even if it were to happen it would be a bitter victory for reality-based America. Because it would come at a cost of hundreds of thousands of American lives, according to President Trump’s own most-optimistic estimate. Definitely not one of his best deals.

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A Drone-Wars, Targeted-Killing Primer– 2/2

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A Drone Whistleblower’s Story

US Drone Whistleblower
Brandon Bryant, ex-US Air Force drone operator.

According to a report in The Independent on Feb. 8, 2020, Brandon Bryant signed up for a six-year enlistment as a Predator drone operator in the US Airforce. Since his discharge in 2011, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, he speaks out against the killer drone program and the atrocities he says he was forced to inflict during his time in the  American military which he says is “worse than the Nazis.”

This is the Independent‘s account of his testimony to Amy Goodman of Democracy Now.

Mr Bryant says he reached his breaking point with the US military after killing a child in Afghanistan that his superiors told him was “a dog.” Mr Bryant recalls the moment: After firing a Hellfire missile at a building containing his target, he saw a child exit the building just as the missile struck. When he alerted his superiors about the situation after reviewing the tape, he was told “it was a f***ing dog, drop it.”

Bryant describes another Afghan strike that he participated in from a bunker in Nevada:
The smoke clears, and there’s pieces of the two guys around the crater. And there’s this guy over here, and he’s missing his right leg above his knee. He’s holding it, and he’s rolling around, and the blood is squirting out of his leg … It took him a long time to die. I just watched him.
It’s all in a day’s work.

A Brief History of Military Drones

(Principal source: The Bureau of Investigative Journalism) Unmanned aerial attacks date from August 22, 1849, when Austria attacked the Italian city of Venice with unmanned balloons loaded with explosives. Development of remote-control flying machines began soon after the Wright brothers flew the first airplane a decade before the outbreak of the First World WarUnmanned flight technology advanced in the interwar period. The term “drone” was born when the UK developed the Queen Bee, a bi-plane controlled by radio. Like most military drones at that time, the Queen Bee was a remote controlled target for anti-aircraft gunners to use for target practice.

It was the pioneering work of Abraham Karem, an Iraqui-born Jewish aviation genius brought up in Israel from the age of 14, that began the serious development of the modern military drone. Karem graduated in aeronautical engineering from Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology, and built his first drone for the Israeli air force during the Yom Kippur war. He later immigrated to the US where he founded Leading Systems, Inc. in his garage. There he built the Albatross and then the more-sophisticated Amber drone, which was to evolve into today’s Predator. Karem has been described by The Economist as the man who “created the robotic plane that transformed the way modern warfare is waged and continues to pioneer other airborne innovations.” It is largely thanks to Karem that both Israel and the US are leading military drone producers and exporters.

In the late 1950s the US and others began to use unmanned, remotely-piloted aircraft as spy planes. Radio-controlled and fitted with film cameras, these primitive drones flew over China and North Vietnam gathering images without risking the lives of pilots. These early drones were unreliable and expensive, and their operators had to be within range of their analogue radio signals. Communications satellites changed all that. Drones can now be controlled from comfortable bunkers with ergonomic seats located halfway around the world.

The lightweight, long-slender-winged drones’ ability to “loiter” was invaluable in the 1990s, during the US campaign against the former Yugoslavia. There was a shortage of intelligence on Serbian tank and troop movements and US supersonic jets were struggling to spot the Serbian forces in the thick Balkan forests. But the drones could hover for 24 hours at a time, keeping Serbian units under constant surveillance. Combining this loitering with a second advance, the use of transmitters to send the intelligence straight back to battlefield officers and commanding generals, greatly increased battlefield efficiency and shortened that war.

The key to armed drone efficiency is in eliminating the pilots: the drones are subsequently lighter than manned aircraft and they don’t have to land when the operators get tired. A fresh crew just takes over in the comfortable bunker. In 2000 the US took the final leap forward when the Air Force and CIA became the first to successfully fit drones with missiles, as part of a failed CIA attempt to kill Osama bin Laden. These satellite-controlled hunter-killer drones allow pilots to fly their aircraft from half a world away and it allows generals, spies and politicians to watch the war they are waging on the other side of the world, live on TV.

Assassinations, Anyone?

America’s drones have been used as assassination weapons in at least seven countries throughout Washington’s 15-year war on terror. They have been vacuuming up information, feeding the military’s insatiable demand for battlefield intelligence, and finding and killing alleged terrorists and insurgents. Those operations inevitably killed more than their share of innocent civilians, as well.

The US drone war expanded dramatically under President Barack Obama. Responding to evolving militant threats and the greater availability of remote piloting technology, Over the course of his two terms in office Obama ordered ten times more counter-terror strikes than his predecessor, George W Bush. President Obama would sit down periodically with CIA dirty-tricks specialist, John Brennan, to select personally the candidates for drone assassination. According to Joanna Walters, the Guardian correspondent in New York, Barack Obama “has not had a second thought” about the drone strikes that are causing untold numbers of civilian casualties as the US tries to beat back terrorist insurgencies in the Middle East. Obama was so impressed by Brennan that he made him director of the CIA.

The low-footprint nature of drone strikes – which can be carried out without having personnel in the country being hit – made it politically easier for the US to mount operations in places in which it was not at war. Hundreds of CIA and Joint Special Operations Command strikes have been carried out in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia, killing hundreds–or thousands–of civilians, according to the NGO Airwars. Human rights organisations have criticizeded the targeted killing program for its “clear violations of international humanitarian law.” (Source: Redorbit.com)

Who Has Killer Drones Today?

Dronewars.net provides us with this table of countries (below) currently operating armed drones, either by developing their own models or acquiring them from other countries. They also include ‘non-state actors’ as operators of armed drones, as some groups have developed fairly sophisticated models.

States-Operating-Armed_drones-Jan2020

Lowering the Threshold for The Use of Killer Drones

The use of armed drones is touted as a ‘risk-free’ solution to security problems. By using remote-controlled aircraft to take out bad guys far away from our shores, we are told, we are keeping the public as well as our armed forces safe. The reality, however, is that drones are liable to increase insecurity, not reduce it.

Politicians know that the public does not like to see young men and women sent overseas to fight in wars with remote and unclear aims.  Potential TV footage of grieving families awaiting funeral corteges has been a restraint on political leaders weighing up military intervention. Take away that political cost by using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), and it makes it much easier for politicians to opt for a quick, short-term ‘fix’ of ‘taking out the bad guys’ rather than engaging in the difficult and long-term work of solving the root causes of conflicts through diplomatic and political means.

Transferring the Risk and Cost of War from Soldiers to Civilians

Keeping ‘our boys’ safe through using remotely-controlled drones to launch air strikes comes at a price. Without ‘boots on the ground’ air strikes are inherently more dangerous for civilians on the ground. Despite claims of the defence industry and advocates of drone warfare, it is simply not possible to know precisely what is happening on the ground from thousands of miles away.  While the UK claims, for example, that only one civilian was killed in the thousands of British air and drone strikes in Iraq and Syria, journalist and casualty recording organisations have reported thousands of deaths in Coalition airstrikes.

Expanding the Use of ‘Targeted Killing’

Legal scholars define targeted killing as the deliberate, premeditated killing of selected individuals of a state that is not in  custody. This is, perhaps, the most controversial aspect of the use of armed drones by the United States, Israel and the UK.    Where International Humanitarian Law applies, targeted killing of combatants may be legal. Outside of IHL situations, International Human Rights Law applies and lethal force may only be used when absolutely necessary to save human life that is in imminent danger.  This does not appear to be the case for many of the drone targeted killing that have been carried out, for example, by the US in Pakistan and Yemen.

While some argue that it is the policy of targeted killing that is wrong, not the weapon used to carry out it out, it is very difficult to imagine that the wholesale expansion of targeted killing would have occurred without armed-drone technology.

Seducing Us with the Myth of ‘Precision’

Drones permit, we are told, pin-point accurate air strikes that kill the target while leaving the innocent untouched. Drone advocates seduce us with the notion that we can achieve control over the chaos of war through technology.  The reality is that there is no such thing as a guaranteed accurate airstrike  While laser-guided weapons are without doubt much more accurate than they were even 20 or 30 years ago, the myth of guaranteed precision is just that, a myth.  Even under test conditions, only 50% of weapons are expected to hit within their ‘circular error of probability’. Once the blast radius of weapons is taken into account and indeed how such systems can be affected by things such as the weather, it is clear that ‘precision’ cannot by any means be assured.

Politicians and defence officials too have been seduced by the myth of precision war and are opening up areas that would previously been out of bounds –- due to the presence of civilians –- to air strikes.  Perhaps most telling is the fact that internal military data which counters the prevailing narrative that drones are better than traditional piloted aircraft is simply classified.

Promoting Permanent War

Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of the rise of remote, drone warfare is that it is ushering in a state of forever war.  With no (or very few) troops deployed on the ground and when air strikes can be carried out with impunity by drone operators who then commute home at the end of the day, there is little public or political pressure to bring drone strikes to an end.

Drones are enabling states to carry out attacks with seemingly little reference to international law norms. US law professor Rosa Brooks argued in a disturbing article in Foreign Policy that ‘there’s no such thing as peacetime’ anymore. “Since 9/11,” she writes “it has become virtually impossible to draw a clear distinction between war and not-war.” Rather than challenging the erosion of the boundaries between crucially distinct legal frameworks, Brooks argues that we must simply accept that “the Forever War is here to stay.” To do otherwise she maintains is “largely a waste of time and energy. “Wartime is the only time we have” she insists.

Advocates say the drone programme has saved American lives and reduced the need for messy ground operations like the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But it has also killed hundreds, if not thousands of civilians, according to data collected by the Bureau and the NGO Airwars — a reality which experts have warned could have a radicalising effect on the very societies from which US drones are trying to eliminate extremists. Human rights organisations have lambasted the targeted killing programme for its “clear violations of international humanitarian law.”

Trump Intensified the Drone War in Afghanistan in 2019

Almost 40 strikes hit Afghanistan every day in September of 2019, new Pentagon figures show, working out as more than 1,100 over the month, a significant rise. The number of US strikes not only increased in September, but that jump was dramatic. There were 1,113 strikes compared with 810 strikes in August, and 537 in July. It follows the collapse of US and Taliban peace negotiations in early September. The talks were suspended by President Donald Trump after the killing of a US soldier in Kabul.

Since then, President Trump repeatedly stated he was hitting the Taliban harder. Mark Esper, the current US defence secretary, told reporters that they had “picked up the pace [of operations in Afghanistan] considerably” since the breakdown of the negotiations. “We did step up our attacks on the Taliban since the talks broke down,” Esper told reporters. “The president did want us to pick up in response to the heinous attacks that the Taliban and others conducted throughout Afghanistan.” (Source: Bureau of Investigative Journalism)

For civilians on the ground, the deepening conflict comes at great cost. Recent UN figures show there were over 650 civilian casualties from US strikes in the first nine months of 2019, nearly double the number injured or killed in the same period the previous year. The UN has said civilian casualties in general – not just from air strikes – reached “unprecedented” levels in the 2019 as violence across the country increased. “The harm caused to civilians by the fighting in Afghanistan signals the importance of peace talks leading to a ceasefire and a permanent political settlement to the conflict; there is no other way forward,” Yadamichi Yamamoto, the head of the UN’s mission in Afghanistan, said.

The Irony/Hypocrisy of “Heinous Attacks”

So, while the United States and their coalition of usual suspects hone their killer-drone effectiveness on hundreds or thousands of innocent civilians in Afghanistan and other places across the Middle East, not having declared war on any of them, Mr. Mark Esper permits himself the luxury of denouncing the “heinous attacks” of the Taliban. He would say that, wouldn’t he.

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Freedom from Religion

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Predatory Preachers Lead the Way

True freedom of religion implies freedom from religion. If it doesn’t it’s not freedom. That’s why an authentic democracy cannot exist under the influence of any religious sect. A religion that preaches that born-again believers will be “raptured” up to heaven while the rest of us go straight to hell is more necrophile hate doctrine than religion, and it has no place anywhere near government circles. Yet, these Evangelicals and Pentecostals are President Trump’s people and he has created posts in the White House for them and facilitated their influence on the government of the United States.

This is the President’s recently-appointed “spiritual advisor,” Paula White, an extravagant preacher who was one of six televangelists investigated in 2007 by the Senate Finance Committee in connection with their fortunes (running to private jets and multiple luxury residences) accrued through “prosperity gospel” practices.

Why would the President take such unseemly measures? Has he converted to the born-again persuasion? Does he “speak in tongues” when he’s among friends? Given his trajectory, it seems unlikely. What is more probable is that his affinity for magical religion has to do with political expediency. According to a Pew Research poll the religious right comprises more than a third of Republican voters, enough to swing a presidential election. Draw your own conclusion. (Source: Pewresearch.org)

Pew Research stats

Presidential Pandering to the Religious Right

The serious part of the story is that, in order to lock in their loyalty, President Trump is pandering to them in ways that are dangerous for American citizens at large. The born-again belief system requires a war in the Holy Land in order to precipitate the Apocalypse–and the consequent “Rapture.” This may sound like nonsense to you and me but, according to Pew Research, about 36% of American voters believe it and they are essentially calling the shots. My question is: Do they even remotely realize the implications of another war in the Middle East? It’s the equivalent of opening the door to World War III. That’s not a certainty, mind you, but it’s a very real possibility. Do we really want to confront it? What’s in it for us? I only foresee one benefit and that’s the re-election of President Donald J. Trump. Come to think of it, I’m not sure that’s a benefit. Are you a hard-core optimist? You might console youself by considering that, when the Third World War does come, it won’t last long.

There’s even more horror. The person that President Trump has appointed to guide America’s  foreign policy, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, is one of the born-again Rapture brigade. Does this mean that his–and your–foreign-policy agenda is driven by his sincere Evangelical beliefs regarding biblical end times and how to jump start them? Yes, that’s exactly what it means. Can you live with that?

Consider the Collateral Damage

There’s considerable collateral damage, as well.  What is going on between President Trump and the Evangelicals is a classic symbiotic relationship. Both sides get something they fervently desire. The Rapture sect gets a ticket to heaven. The President gets re-elected. But in order to do so he has to embrace–directly from the highest office in the land–the Evangelical doomsday agenda, to put the United States government’s seal of approval on it. This legitimizing of religious juju as government policy is a terrible step for an American president to take.

Are prayer meetings legitimate responses to the current corona virus emergency? Or are they just fiddling while the country burns? What comes next, ticket sales to the Apocalypse?  The spinoff of the President’s Rapture collaboration is the effect it could have on stability–or more likely instability–in the Middle East. Israel’s extreme-right-wing Likud party and their perrenial President Netanyahu are, of course, milking this geopolitical windfall to advance their own opportunism in the region. Their truculence vis a vis the Palestinians and the Iranians is actually subsidized with donations by Evangelical organizations in the US.

These miracle-religion-tinged policies are especially grave considering the intellectual and ideological vulnerability of America’s young people. Is this the sort of intellectual baggage that American parents want funneling into their children’s heads? Parents in the US are entitled to take that route. It’s a free country and freedom of religion is a laudable principle up to the point where it puts a majority of American citizens in harm’s way. It makes no difference whether that harm comes from a nuclear holocaust radiating from the Holy Land or from a global virus pandemic. Then a sane, responsible lay government must intervene in order to save the very country. The failure to do so would have consequences and they could well be catastrophic.

Are we already beginning to see the onset of that process? It’s March 25, 2020. In just a matter of weeks we should be able to discern the results of President Trump’s recent determination that the country should soon be “open for business.”  How can the President pretend to know at this point what the extension and gravity of the virus will be, even in the short term. Public health professionals and other scientists are admitting that they can’t make predictions without seeing the results of massive testing programs. Clearly, the President can’t, either. And, given his obligation to promote good health and wellbeing for all Americans, to pretend that he can foresee the future is so wittlessly irresponsible that we might consign it to the category of religion. Then it would be up to a second impeachment panel to decide whether the President should be tried for criminal wittless irresponsibility.

Where Do They Go from Here?

If the United States had a sane and responsible governing team with a vision that went beyond their own enrichment and re-election, at this point in contemporary history they would still be in deep trouble. There are just too many life and death issues on the table at this time: COVID-19, their overt and covert wars around the world, their apocalyptic economic situation, their penchant for cultivating enemies around the world and the meteoric rise of some of their adversary countries. Asia is beginning to look quite first world lately while the US is clearly slipping.

But, since the US conspicuously lacks the necessary sanity and responsibility in government where they are destined to go from here is anyone’s guess. The best we can do is just to lie down and enjoy the spectacle. Our current situation can best be summed up by a millenary Chinese curse: May you live in interesting times.

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What’s Wrong with America?

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The US Body Politic

Only Everything

That “What’s wrong” question is popular lately and the answer, in a word, is Everything. The US body politic is today like the body of a person who is afflicted by a whole series of mortal illnesses. It’s got everything and it’s all terminal:

  • underlying egotism and narcisism
  • obscene predatory capitalism
  • debilitating individualism
  • pervasive lying and misrepresentation everywhere
  • corruption as the order of the day on all fronts
  • deadly inequality and unfairness
  • abiding greed and cynicism
  • ruthlessly exporting dystopia
  • creeping inhumanity
  • loss of credibility abroad
  • repugnant hypocrisy
  • money and bling worship
  • alarming anti-intellectualism
  • rampant militarism and permanent war
  • sick nationalism
  • deterioration of the rule of law
  • toxic religions, opportunistic preachers speaking in tongues
  • unlettered, infirm, immoral leadership

What to Do About It?

What is to be done to remedy this cumulus of mortal ills? If this question had been asked a few decades ago and drastic steps had been taken to cure or even improve somewhat these dysfunctions, something might have been done. But now it’s too late for patches.

The Americans have pointed the pistol at their own temple and pulled the trigger. The round is now proceeding down the barrel at the standard muzzle velocity. Who’s going to stop it now?

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A Drone-Wars, Targeted-Killing Primer– 1/2

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Note: Most of the content of this piece is sourced from the site of an admirable British NGO called Dronewars.net.

A Drone-Wars, Targeted-Killing Glossary

DronesOr Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in military parlance, are pilotless aircraft, flown by remote control, frequently from bunkers halfway around the world by operators recruited from among some of America’s finest computer gamers. There are both unarmed surveillance drones and armed killers. Lethal UAV attacks can be launched from anywhere with a sufficiently powerful communications connections but the principal launch spot for “daily overseas contingency operations” is at Creech Air Force Base in Clark County, Nevada.

WarsWars are armed conflicts undertaken by nations at least theoretically to redress grievances against other nations. In the western world they are under the democratic control of elected representatives. This controlling body in America is the United States Congress. Military actions outside of this context are rogue actions (such as every war the US has launched since World War II) which are illegal under international law.

TargetedThat word gives one a calming sense of security. Ahh, these strikes are “targeted,” precise, controlled, not willfully random nor irresponsible nor out of control. As for civilian casualties, they are kept to the absolute minimum. America’s armed drones are virtually humanitarian. Their strikes are “targeted.” Ho, ho, ho, during the Vietnam War they were telling us that low-flying B-52 tactical close-air-support strikes, with a payload of 70,000 pounds, were “targeted.” Here’s one now, with its full complement of tricks:

B-52_complete

Eight AGM-84 Harpoon missiles, four AGM-142 Raptor missiles, 51 500-pound bombs, 30 1,000-pound bombs, 20 AGM-86C conventional air-launched cruise missiles (CALCM), 12 joint stand-off weapons (JSOW), 12 joint direct-attack munitions (JDAM), and 16 wind-corrected munitions dispensers (WCMD), according to Airforce-technology.com.

KillingKilling has a lot of modes, from eliminating noxious insects or slaughtering livestock for food, to school shootings in peaceful neighborhoods or the bombing of entire cities in wartime. This “carpet bombing” was seen as too horrendous even to consider in the early days of the Second World War, but that delicacy soon passed, just as all the unthinkable becomes ultimately thinkable. So where does “drone killing” fit into this continuum. Before deciding this question we must clarify the terms. “Drone killing” is actually a euphemism, employed to disguise the fact that American drone killing, often portrayed with the innocence and beneficence of crop spraying–is murder, the unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another.

Netly outside the legitimizing context of declared war and unsanctioned by any democratic process, the American freelance killing of people from the air by remote control enjoys no legitimacy to distinguish it from murder, nor its perpetrators from murderers. One of its early practitioners was President Barack Obama, who would sit down periodically with his Deputy National Security Advisor, John Brennan, to personally select victims for “targeted killing.” Obama later elevated Brennan, longtime CIA dirty-tricks master, to director of the CIA.

In June of 2011, Brennan claimed that US counter-terrorism operations had not resulted in “a single collateral death” in the previous year because of the “precision of the capabilities that we’ve been able to develop,” even though the Bureau of Investigative Jounalism discovered 76 innocent drone deaths, including eight children and two women.  Later the NY Times revealed the convoluted “reasoning” that permitted Brennan to exonerate himself, his operations and his country from a year’s drone murders. It seems that Washington ‘counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.’

No drone-casualty figures are actually trustworthy due to the secretive world they operate in.  One reliable source assures us that the percentage of innocent civilians among those killed by American combat drones may vary betwee one and 35%.

The American Drones Will Not Be Reined In

Despite the best efforts of activists like the Dronewars people in Britain, there is little room for optimism in the matter of banning killer drones. Fair enough, they’re unthinkably inhuman, brutal, illegal and immoral. Won’t that get them banned? No, actually. In its day the trebuchet, the ingenious medieval catapult used against fortified positions and capable of hurling a heavy stone more than 300 yards, was thought to be unholy. The same went for the longbow, used against the enemies of the English till the end of the 16th century. Its use was considered beyond the ken due to its range, punch and rate of fire, The same process of horror-acceptance-routine has continued until our own times. The machine gun was considered too much, not to mention the atomic bomb. Why should we suppose that killer drones might be any different?

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If you would like to know more about the US drone wars you can download this .pdf file of Dronewars’ 28-page “campaigners’ briefing.” The American drone think tank, the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College, takes another–characteristically American–approach. According to their website they’re more interested in exploiting drones: “By conducting original, in-depth, and inquiry-driven projects, we seek to furnish stakeholders, policy-makers, and the public with the resources to engage in a robust public debate and develop policies that best address those opportunities and challenges.”
You might also like to know what Israel is up to on the drone front. The document, also from Dronewars.net, is called: Precise Strikes: Fractured Bodies, Fractured Lives. The Israelis are modern-day drone pioneers and major exporters along with the US and China. Their long-hovering armed drones keep people from all over the Middle East living on tenterhooks.

Coming Soon: Part 2/2, Thinking Drones

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You Made Your Bed, America…

Bed of Nails2

Who’s Responsible for the Mess the US Is In? It’s Possible That You Are.

Were you born into a single-parent family that hovered for long periods around the poverty line? Have you or members of your family had brushes with the law or even been to prison? Do you belong to a racial minority: black, Hispanic or Native American? Have you lived in more than one bad neighborhood? Did  you drop out of school so you could go to work and earn some money?  Do you belong to organizations advocating white supremacy or violent overthrow of the government? Do you read the newspaper? Do you read anything? Do you do drugs regularly? Do you sell them? Do you live in a tent or in a car? If many or most of these statements describe your life, you probably don’t carry much of the blame for the shape your country is in. You’re too busy just trying to get by to cause any serious problems at the national level. You couldn’t even if  you wanted to. You lack the technical knowledge, communications and organizational skills. You lack the contacts and the financing. So you can just keep on doing what you’re doing and you’ll probably never make a blip on your country’s big-issue radar. In all likelihood you remain just another victim of 21st century America.

Or are you from a solid middle-class family with a university education and a well-paying job? Did you go to a good school? Do you own your house? Can you boast never having been in prison? Do you travel abroad? Do you have the best health insurance money can buy? Are you a sharp dresser? Are you well read? Have you thus far avoided serious mental illness? Do you drive a prestige car, or more? Or do you travel by limousine? Do you have friends in high places? Are you horrified by the repugnant state of your nation and the people who are running it? Even so, do you shun “getting involved in politics?” Would you rather spend your spare time on your boat or playing golf, traveling abroad or just trying not to think about it? If you answered “yes” to enough of these questions it’s highly likely that you are to blame for America’s lamentable state of affairs, or at least your corresponding share of it.

President Donald Trump’s Responsibility

Not even Donald Trump is principally responsible for today’s America’s woes. He can only be blamed for aggravating them to a formerly-undreamed-of degree. Those woes have long roots. They were planted hundreds of years ago with the Pilgrims and their intolerant religion, genocidal racism and voracious territorial pretensions. And those “values” have been perversely extended, admired and cultivated ever since by their descendents. Donald Trump was just randomly cast ashore a few centuries down the line with other American floatsam like Billy Graham and the Unabomber. He won the presidency against all odds in a grotesque lottery propelled by circumstances seemingly tailored to his limited qualifications.

He was just lucky, though it’s still not clear whether his luck was good or bad, both for him and for you. What does seem to be clear is that he’s in way over his head. But none of this makes him unique. It makes him a normal American like so many others, just a product of a traditional American upbringing that, by the time he arrived, was fatally flawed. It was the classic me-first, get-rich-quick American way of life, already atypical on the world stage, already pathologically narcissistic (ultra-nationalism is just narcissism on a grand scale), tragically unequal, and homicidally competitive. President Donald J. Trump should be no surprise to anyone. He’s your bog-standard American boy: over sexed and under read, unintelligent and unlettered though shrewd, but certainly too incompetent to have mounted the social, political and economic brouhaha the Americans have on their hands today.

Trump Needed Some Help and He Got It

Donald Trump needed some help in becoming President of the United States. He got it from legally tilted campaign financing norms via Citizens United. He got it from an overreaching Republican Party. They were hoping against hope that they could control a totally new rogue phenomenon in American politics. He got it from manipulating America’s unusual and anti-democratic Electoral College election process. He got it from high-tech, big-data, big-bucks,  low-brow billionaires like Robert Mercer. Mercer, a big-data pioneer, founded Cambridge Analytics and sent teams of media meddlers and data analysts to tilt the Brexit referendum in Britain in favor of abandoning Europe. Last–and far from least–he got it from the American people on both sides, those who voted for him and those who abstained. It is entirely possible that one of those people was you and there were a lot of others like you.

Why Didn’t Some of You Do Something?

Ironically, there was a point where the Donald Trump initiative could have been stopped, peacefully and easily. Simply by voting. Why didn’t that happen? In the first place, the big half of America that should have blocked Trump’s ascension was blindsided. They weren’t expecting a lowbrow real-estate speculator/reality show host to have a ghost of a chance at becoming President of the United States. In the minds of sane Americans–and there are lots of them–a presidential candidate requires special qualities which are usually boiled down to “a presidential air.” He needs to be conspicuously intelligent and well-balanced, an excellent communicator, with some expertise and a certain gravitas. Barak Obama was a good example of this. You can’t have any old used-car salesman governing the greatest country in the world. (Conversely, a country with any old used-car salesman for president cannot be the greatest in the world.)

Those traditional high standards were smashed by George W. Bush in the 2000 elections. Bush, who was a lamentable candidate, went on to become a lamentable President, largely managed by his own personal Svengali, National Security Advisor and later Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger. (See Seymour Hersh’s 1984 book: The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House.) It would seem that sane Americans should have seen Bush as a warning sign for the future, but not enough of them did.

Why not? This, I think, has to do with the continental divide between the two Americas, the ultra-nationalist, brainwashed, corporate duped, southernized half and the other half, which I refer to as “sane America.” The latter couldn’t perceive the former–or if they did they couldn’t believe it. Sane Americans couldn’t believe the numbers they were up against, nor the depth of ignorance, nor the vehemence. By the time they realized it fully it was too late.

Why Is This Geopolitical Juncture So Vital?

It’s vital because of the extraordinary instability of the moment, when the American vision of the future of the world, as defined baldly by the neoconservative think tank the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) in the late 1990s, in terms of “”American leadership is good both for America and for the world,” The 2001 attack on the World Trade Center gave wings to PNAC’s and the Pentagon’s “full-spectrum-dominance” solutions. But that was nearly 20 years ago and those “solutions” have proven to be less effective–and more expensive–than expected.

Today the United States finds itself reeling, a victim of its unfulfilled promises at home and abroad, a waning confidence of its own citizens and signs of distrust from its traditionally loyal allies and client states. That is, for example, all of Europe. Even Britain, a little country with seemingly all its eggs in America’s basket, has just expressed exasperation with President Trump’s threat to bomb 52 cultural sites in Iran. It’s not clear whether or not American foreign policy mavens have noticed, but Russia and China are gaining new friends and partners around the world. At least two of America’s traditional hard-core allies, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, are chatting with the Russians on the subject of their S-400 anti-aircraft missiles.

Of course, President Trump’s unilateral, apparently gratuitous murder of Iran’s iconic–to Iranians–Major General Qassem Soleimani has brought issues to a head. Coupled with Trump’s so-called “economic sanctions,” themselves another  act of war, that assassination has opened the door to a host of unforeseeable responses, ranging from merely testimonial to cataclysmic. It’s unclear whether the US deserves to be situated in this uncomfortable position, but there you are, sitting pretty. What comes next seems to depend upon President Trump’s next indigestion.

Where Do You Go From Here, America?

That is the geopolitical question of the moment–and perhaps the century. While the evolution of many of these momentous situations are foreseeable, at least to some degree, this one is shrouded in obscurity. Historically, critical geopolitical moments like this lend themselves to some sort of logical analysis based on historical antecedents, international agreements, studies of countries’ long-term policies, even game-theory analysis, but this case responds to none of these approaches. Thanks to one unpredictable factor that obeys none of the logical variables, we are left entirely in the dark. And that factor is as capricious as the flight of a butterfly on a windless day. President Donald J. Trump, the first American president to govern via Twitter, the narcissist in chief, and the first to explicitly discard all forms of truth and logic, is the most abnormal player in international relations since Hitler or Idi Amin.

Having dismissed or been abandoned by his best advisors (see Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig’s just-published book, A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump’s Testing of America), Trump is on his own with very light baggage. It’s as if he were setting off on an Antarctic expediton with just his golf bag, which, by the way, happens to contain the nuclear button. Unfortunately, America–and the rest of the world–is setting off with him. Will he now opt for another extreme move against the Iranians? Or someone else? There’s only one given when it comes to President Trump’s modus operandi: it’s erratic. The authors of A Very Stable Genius describe him as a “chaotic, undisciplined, impulsive leader.” So we don’t know what he will do at this point in American–and world–history, and we won’t know until it’s too late.

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American Anti-Communism: Fear and Opportunism

Captain_America
This 10-cent pitch to 10-year-olds exemplifies the crude campaign that conditioned more than a century of American foreign policy. And the end is not in sight.

Anti-Communism as Toxic American Apple Pie

Full disclosure: In the early fifties, when I was eight or ten years old I had a recurring fantasy that, if I could only meet and talk with a Russian boy, I could convince him that I didn’t hate him, and that might be the beginning of the end of the Cold War. My take on the subject today is essentially still the same.

As I was growing up in rural Michigan I never stopped wondering how the all-powerful American anti-communist obsession came about, what drove it and where was it taking us. One thing was clear to me: the whole issue was seriously instrumentalized by the American establishment, who converted the threat of communism into a blunt instrument for dominating the minds of the American people and physically bludgeoning the people of other lands utterly to death. It seemed then that everything evil or simply negative in the world could conveniently be explained away by blaming it on the “commies,” and not much has changed in that respect today. Even after the 1989 collapse of the Soviet Union “the Russians” are still perceived as enemies, threats to the “free world” and are still held responsible for everything from those subversive little nested dolls to influencing American elections. Having heard that cry of “Wolf!” so many times already, I think I’m entitled to be a bit skeptical.

When I arrived in Spain in 1968 one of the first friends I made was Pablo, a Spanish TV correspondent who was a communist, the first one I ever met. They called them “Eurocomunistas” in those days to distinguish them from Soviet communists.Their program was just about constructing a more decent society in their own country, something they helped to do in the intervening years. During that time they were the only organization on the Spanish political scene to take any real risks in opposing the murderous Franco military regime. Franco, who was a smart, ruthless dictator, ultimately died in bed in 1975. In the meantime my friendship with Pablo developed and he introduced me to his friends, all committed, altruistic young people working towards a Spanish democracy. Today the majority of our Spanish friends are ex-eurocommunists, Spain’s finest folk. The geopolitical wisdom of Captain America was long forgotten until I ran across him on the web the other day.

Allies to Enemies, an Assisted Metamorphosis

A US Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing was already at work in early 1919 presenting “Bolshevik horror stories” which were picked up by the sensationalist press–including the New York Times–adorned with lurid headlines like “Reds Seek War With America” and sold to the American public. This introductory education on Russian communism lasted throughout the 20s and set the tone of what was to come during the rest of the century.

Ironically, America’s mortal enemies since the Second World War were their most-important allies during the war, not Britain and certainly not France. It was the Russians who defeated the most Nazis and paid the highest price in destruction and lives of both soldiers and civilians–more than 20 million. President Roosevelt was convinced that he could work with the Russians after the war. But Roosevelt died and the American right–including President Harry Truman, the know-nothing Democrat, turned on the Soviets. He famously said on the day after the Germans invaded the Soviet Union: “If we see that Germany is winning, we ought to help Russia, and if Russia is winning, we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible…” He and his British allies then proceeded to sit on their hands for three years, leaving the Russians to take on the Germans by themselves.

After the war the expert American propaganda machine saw to it that those Russians were metamorphosed from allies into adversaries and from there into enemies. The advantage of enemies is that you don’t have to play fair against them and you can kill them if you need to.

For decades the question lurked in the back of my mind: How the hell did that happen? Then I ran across a book by William Blum entitled, The CIA, a forgotten history. Released in 1986 by Zed, an independent non-fiction publishing company based in London, UK, the book’s introduction presents a brief and cogent history of American anticommunism. It occupies a scant 14 pages but it immediately cleared away all the cobwebs in my head on the subject of American anticommunism. Most of the facts in this article come from that introduction to Blum’s book.

Here’s How America’s Geopolitical Blood Feud Began

Soviet communism resulted from the Bolshevik revolution, the derrogation of the Tsar of all the Russias, which coincided with the end of the First World War. Communism experienced its greatest growth during the 1930s. While Western economies were muddling their way through the Great Depression, Russian industry boomed and technology advanced. One of Stalin’s pet projects was the formation of engineers. Communism was admired by working people from around the world, but not so much by the owners of the means of production. Thanks mainly to Stalin’s purges and gulags, that utopian mirage didn’t last long but it was long enough to throw a powerful scare into the world’s capitalist oligarchs, one they never recovered from. It didn’t take them long to mobilize.

As early as 1918 the United States launched two military attacks on Russia from the north, one (the Polar Bear Expedition) at Arkhangelsk  and another (the American Expeditionary Force, Siberia) at Vladivostak, Russia’s important Pacific port near the Chinese border. These initiatives, which coincided with the Russian civil war, were ill conceived and executed and allegedly gave rise to a mutiny among the 5,000 troops at Arkhangelsk–two thirds of which were from Michigan. The principal results of these senseless military missions were to terrorize the population of north Russia and cast a lasting shadow over relations between the US and the Soviet Union.

The inspiration for this attempt “to strangle at its birth” the Bolshevik state came from the British Minister for Air and War, the young Winston Churchill, who remained throughout his life a bitter enemy of Russia and one of the principal animators of the Cold War.

Blum asks, “What was there about this Bolshevik Revolution that so alarmed the most powerful nations in the world?” He relates how the Russians had dared to make a separate peace with Germany, abandoning the First World War after three years of bloody fighting. Graver still, they overthrew a capitalist-feudal regime and proclaimed the world’s first socialist state. Says Blum, “This was the crime the Allies had to punish, the virus which had to be eradicated lest it spread to their own people.”

The Dreaded Enemy Becomes a Useful Pawn in the Game

For years, numerous Americans, in high positions and obscure, sullenly harbored the conviction that World War II was “the wrong war against the wrong enemies.” Communism, they knew, was the only genuine enemy on America’s historical agenda. Was that not why Hitler had been ignoired/tolerated/appeased? So that the Nazi war machine would turn East and wipe Bolshevism off the face of the earth once and for all? It was just unfortunate that Adolf turned out be be such a megalomaniac and turned West as well. (William Blum, The CIA: A Forgotten History)

The shrewd American foreign-policy team, headed by Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, figured out by the 50s how to turn Soviet Communism to their advantage by casting the Russians as the quintessential enemy, responsible for misdeeds all over the world. There was nothing so far off nor so tenuous that it couldn’t be attributed to “the Russkies.” According to Wisconsin Senator Eugene McCarthy they had even deeply infiltrated the US government . The Americans continued beating the same tired drum during President Ronald Reagan’s Crusade Against the Evil Empire in the 80s.

One hundred years of  overt and covert hammering on the American subconscious has had a devastating effect on their perception of the world outside their own borders. Today the average American’s reaction to any mention of communists or communism is wholly Pavolvian. They immediately start to salivate.

William Blum, sums it up:

The American people have been subjected to a relentless anti-communist indoctrination. It is imbibed with their mother’s milk, pictured in their comic books, spelled out in their school books; their daily paper offfers them headlines that tell them all they need to know; ministers find sermons in it; politicians are elected with it and Reader’s Digest becomes rich on it.

Blum then goes on to elucidate in elaborate detail the pecadilloes of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the United States’s principal agency in the fight against communism (which incidentally can include socialism, liberalism and, at times, simple nationalism or self determination.) As Blum makes clear over more than 400 pages, the cure has been vastly more serious than the illness.

Meanwhile, the reality of US-Soviet relations since World War II was much more nuanced than Captain America would have us believe. The most outstanding example was during and after the Cuban missile crisis, 13 days in October, 1962, which was the closest humankind has ever come to total extermination. Both President Kennedy and Chairman Krushchev were acutely aware of the extreme gravity of what almost happened in Cuba and both were convinced that it was up to them to take measures to obviate the possibility of a catastrophic, world-ending “misunderstanding.” Both leaders faced bitter opposition to peace initiatives in their respective military establishments but Krushchev was determined and Kennedy seemed to be inclined. He was encouraged by Norman Cousins, his private envoy to Krushchev, who informed him that the Soviet leader sincerely sought “a new relationship with the United States…” Cousins suggested that Kennedy deliver an address offering “a breathtaking new approach toward the Russian people, calling for an end to the cold war and a fresh start in American-Russian relations.”

This new departure was suggested in Kennedy’s June, 1963, American University address, prepared by the President and his staff without the intervention of the Joint Chiefs, the CIA or the State Department. Stone and Kuznick, authors of The Untold History of the United States, consider this talk “the most enlightened speech made by any president in the twentieth century.” This is the version published in that history book. The President said:

I have…chosen this time and this place to discuss a topic on which ignorance too often abounds and the truth is too rarely perceived–yet it is the most important topic on earth: world peace. What kind of peace do I mean? What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war… I am talking about genuine peace–the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living–the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children–not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women–not merely peace in our time but peace for all time. I speak of peace because of the new face of war. Total war makes no sense in an age when great powers can maintain large and largely invulnerable nuclear forces and refuse to surrender without resort to those forces. It makes no sense in an age when a single nuclear weapon contains almost ten times the explosive force delivered by all of the allied air forces in the Second World War. It makes no sense in an age when the deadly poisons produced by a nuclear exchange would be carried by the wind and water and soil and seed to the far corners of the globe and to generations unborn… Second: Let us re-examine our attitude toward the Soviet Union…it is sad to…realize the extent of the gulf between us. But it is also…a warning to the American people not to…see only a distorted and desperate view of the other side, not to see conflict as inevitable, accommodations as impossible and communication as nothing more than an exchange of threats… Today, should total war ever break out again…all we have built, all we have worked for, would be destroyed in the first 24 hours… In short, both the United States and its allies, and the Soviet Union and its allies, have a mutually deep interest in a just and genuine peace and in halting the arms race… And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal. Third: Let us re-examine our attitude toward the Cold War…we shall also do our part to build a world of peace where the weak are safe and the strong are just. We are not helpless before that task or hopeless of its success. Confident and unafraid, we labor on–not toward a strategy of annihilation but toward a strategy of peace.

Five short months later, on November 22, 1963, President Kennedy was murdered. Premier Krushchev was deposed in October of the following year, and the world returned to the status quo ante.

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American Noir

<> on September 10, 2013 in New York City.

America’s Truth Is Scarier Than Hollywood’s Fiction

The other night we watched Pulp Fiction for maybe the fourth time. Halfway through the film I was jolted. It occurred to me suddenly that Americans today live inside a frightening, dystopian noir movie that makes Pulp Fiction pale by comparison. Director Quentin Tarentino tried to portray aspects of that condition in his film but, compared to the real-life, day-to-day realities that Americans face, his film looks like pretty tame stuff, more like a Rock Hudson/Doris Day comedy than a historically horrific cinematic experience. Just substitute John/Samuel for Rock/Doris. In Tarantino’s film there are half a dozen assassinations that made cinema history for their casual cruelty, but they’re like a walk in the park compared to normal American life over the past half century or so.

I suspect that you’re going to accuse me of exaggerating. Of course, I’m exaggerating. I need to get your attention. So just stick with me a bit more and I’ll prove to you that everyday life in America is far more horrific than Hollywood’s best/worst cine noir, better than Frankenstein, better than zombies, better than snuff. Have you ever seen a snuff film? Can you imagine a movie with 58,000 snuffees whose names were later etched on a monument 258 feet long in Washington DC? And those were just the American victims. There were many more–like millions–among the Vietnamese soldiers and civilians. Between American-inflicted “collateral damage;” the carpet bombing of great swaths of Vietnamese, Thai and Cambodian territory; and the assassination of thousands of suspected Viet Cong collaborators carried out by the CIA under Operation Phoenix; Messrs. Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Kissinger and McNamara, brewed up a movie that Messrs. Tarantino, Jackson and Travolta could never dream of.

And it’s not over yet. Vietnam veterans are still committing suicides attributible to their Vietnam experiences, but their statistics get swallowed up by those of more-recent war-related American military suicides, currently occurring at around 20 per day. According to  (June 29, 2018):

The 20-a-day rate has been relatively consistent since 2008. By that estimate, more than 58,000 veterans and troops have taken their own lives since 2008. Add roughly 20,000 more suicides for the three years prior to that, when the daily suicide rate was 19 a day (in 2007) and about 18 (in 2005 and 2006). Numbers for 2016, 2017 and 2018 are yet to be tallied. If they hold to 20 a day, by the end of this year the total number of suicides among veterans and troops will be more than 100,000 since 2005.

These lurid realities, I think you’ll agree, go far beyond the horrors of a couple of pretentious, Bible-quoting assassins shooting dope pushers in a Hollywood film.

Bringing It All Back Home

Not all of the American horror shows take place overseas, by any means. Most of them hit the American heartland. Would you be interested in a script that would make Tarantino’s blood run cold? Let’s talk about homelessness and poverty.

Last spring the Washington Post ran a story they called Homeless, Living in a Tent Blocks from the U.S. Capitol–and Working Full Time. In it they tell Monica Diaz’s story. Monica works full time in a fast-food outlet and sleeps, with her husband, Pete Etheridge, in a tent on the street. But even under those unthinkable conditions they are not secure from municipal harassment. This is their seventh tent; the other six have been swept away, along with their belongings, in raids by city police. The way to evade these evictions? Monica must stuff all of her belongings in black rubbish bags, take down her tent, put everything on a shopping cart and move it to another location until the police go away. Then she’s moves back in until the next rout. It seems to be the best the American capitol can do for its “more affluent” homeless, the ones with a job. This is the lesser homeless horror show. What is life like for people with no income, and with children? Let me guess. You try not to think about it.

Numbers of homeless peoplel in America in 2017:

553,000 total on a given night 2018 0.17% of population

According to http://www.opendoormission.com, the average age of a homeless person is nine years. But according to the New York Times, who interviewed the Department of Homeless Services, the average age across the whole system is 24 years. Estonia is the country with least homelessness with 0.06% of the population. The US has more than double that rate. According to joinpdx.org,  homelessness can essentially be broken down into four categories: chronic, episodic, transitional, and hidden. If we cut to the chase, the principal underlying cause of all of these modes is income inequality and we’re obliged to look at poverty.

Lurking Beneath Homelessness is Crushing Poverty

According to debt.org, more than 46 million Americans–15%–live in poverty today. Atd-fourthworld.org reports that the wealth of countries is usually rated by GDP per capita, and many statistics include the poor in that same basket. So when the rich get richer, they maintain, so do the poor. That’s not true. The rich can–and do–get immensely richer without the trend alleviating poverty in any way, whatsoever.

The Trump administration has made poverty in America much worse. Bernie Sanders and Rashida Tlaib note, in an opinion piece published in The Guardian on New Year’s Eve, that Trump has just finalized the first of three policies that will make this inequality even more obscene. Just two years after passing a $1.5tn (that’s “trillion” with a “t”) tax giveaway to the wealthiest Americans and large corporations, the Trump administration now plans to eliminate nutrition benefits for 3.7 million people.

The second measure it to limit benefits to families who cannot afford childcare and decent housing. Add to this a determination to turn up the pressure on families who must choose between food or heat. Meanwhile, the Republican tax-cut scam is working perefectly. Today, the richest 400 billionaires pay lower taxes than any group in America – including the poor. Nearly 100 of the top Fortune 500 companies now pay zero taxes.

Down the Poverty-to-Prison Chute

The United States leads the world in mass incarceration with 788 prisoners per 100,000 population. A reasonable case can be made for a country’s incarceration statistics as a  pretty good indicator of its overall health and wellbeing. By that measure there’s the United States, topping the list of the most dystopian nations in the world. Is that because Americans are innately more evil than people from Argentina or Norway? I doubt that. Or is it that the least fortunate Americans are faced, virtually from birth, with an uphill struggle against poverty, inadequate education, failing social services, and alienating societal values. Unlike the first world, they don’t even have health care. And these conditions have gone from bad to worse thanks to anti-social measures taken by a series of right-wing governments which have given rise to an unheard-of level of income inequality.

In a society that embraces the Americans’ wild-west human values, for the children born into underprivileged America, it’s a short hop to violence and crime. They perceive that as their only option for getting rich quick–the universal American aspiration. And they’re not mistaken. So they are rounded up and sent to prison. About 25% of the world’s prison population is in the US, which currently has more than 2.1 million total prisoners. The prison population in 1972 was 200,000, almost 2 million less than it is today. Here are the comparative statistics by country (prisoners per 100,000 population) of the world’s top 10 lockups:

  1. United States (737)
  2. Russia (615)
  3. Ukraine (350)
  4. South Africa (334)
  5. Poland (235)
  6. Mexico (196)
  7. Brazil (193)
  8. Spain (144)
  9. Kenya (130)
  10. Netherlands (128) (Source: worldpopulationreview.com)

Despite President Trump’s lack of concern for American prestige abroad, as anybody with an IQ over 50 can discern, this is not a proud list to be on. And the United States is not only on it. The United States leads it.

If You’re White You’re All Right

Mass incarceration in the United States is, of course, a civil rights issue, as many argue that incarceration dehumanizes poor people and minorities, does not increase public safety and damages already marginalized communities. The creation of massive amounts of prisoners with ever-longer mandatory sentences has led to several other issues, including overcrowded prisons, which increase health risks and decreased psychological well-being. And we still haven’t touched upon the disproportionate numbers of minorities imprisoned in the United States. Let’s just look at the briefest of statistics. According to 2017 figures from pewresearch org, hispanic and black people make up 28% of the American population but 56% of federal and state prisoners, while white people, with 64% of the total US population, make up only 30% of its inmates. Something is clearly amiss in American society and it goes far beyond their minorities’ inborn penchant for crime.

Additionally, the increasing number of prisoners is putting a major strain on state budgets. Prisons must control and administer all aspects of life for inmates, which include lengthy and costly list of necessities. Prison costs include adequate security, food, recreational and education opportunities, infrastructure maintenance, utility costs for the facilities, and providing healthcare for the prisoners. State prison spending varies greatly and can be as high as $69,355 per inmate per year (the average cost of an inmate in New York).

Black Holes, Anyone?

Independent journalist, Will Potter, visited one of the quasi-secret US detention facilities that exist inside two prisons out there in flyover America. Here’s his 15-minute report:

Can you think of a screen writer who can make this stuff up? I can’t.

How Does It End?

Is this noir enough for you? I don’t want to bore you, though I could go on about titles like Americans Who Die by the Gun, The Uninsured, Children in Cages by Themselves, Victims of Homicidal Racism, Politicians Who Sell Democracy for Self Gain…

How does it all end? We can only guess. You want my guess? It’s not a happy ending.

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Born-Again America and the White House

The_Rapture4

Church and State in America, a Toxic Cocktail

Some American Evangelical Christians see through President Donald Trump’s pandering to the Christian right as an effort to win their votes. Others no. According to Wikipedia.com, the United States has the largest concentration of evangelicals in the world. The results of a recent PEW Research poll indicate that American evangelicals are a quarter of the nation’s population and its single largest religious group. The results of the 2016 presidential election, according to a PEW poll, saw Trump winning 81% of the evangelical vote while just 16% voted for Clinton. Trump’s margin of victory among voters in this group was 65-percentage-points.

These numbers also help to explain the importance of President Trump’s iron-clad pro-Israeli agenda, perceived by Evangelical Christians as coinciding with the their own vision of the Biblical end-of-days story. They need a war in the Holy Land to jump-start the Apocalypse, which will in turn precipitate the Rapture. According to supposedly inerrant biblical prophesy, the Rapture will propel the born-again believers directly into Heaven. The President knows, despite his notoriously dissolute lifestyle, that he can count on their votes as long as he maintains his policy of harassing and provoking Iran, and supporting Israel’s right-wing government’s belicose policies. The militarist Likud party, personified in Israeli President Benjamin (aka Bibi) Netanyahu, is perceived by the uber-Christians the one most likely to take the world to Armageddon. This narrative isn’t difficult for President Trump to accept, for two cogent reasons:

  1. He doesn’t believe in the Apocalypse any more than you and I do.
  2. There are many millions of votes in it for him.

Besides, Trump and Netanyahu are cut from the same cloth. Both are ruthless and unscrupulous in pursuit of their own ends, no matter how illegitimate, immoral or illegal they may be, or what macabre consequences they may bring. Both of them see the rule of law–both domestic and international–as something that can be hammered into any shape they desire.

The latest news on President Trump’s provocation of Iran, according to today’s Wall Street Journal, is his “considering” a significant expansion of the U.S. military footprint in the Middle East to counter Iran, including dozens more ships, other military hardware and as many as 14,000 additional troops, thus doubling the number of U.S. military personnel since the troop buildup began last May. One wonders, have any of the Pentagon geniuses considered the possible repercussions in Saudi Arabia itself of a growing presence of American troops on sacred Arabian ground. This was the issue that propelled Osama bin Laden to worldwide fame.

Where Will Presidential Pandering Take the US?

President Trump’s pandering to religious institutions dramatically lowers the level of political discourse in the United States. The constant rise of magical religious sects as one of the most powerful electoral blocs in the country. only enhances their appeal to cynical, opportunistic, dubiously-Christian candidates.  This fact is not lost on Donald Trump and he bends over backwards–and forwards–to cater to the most radical Christian fundamentalist elements in American society. He actually tailors his Middle East foreign policy to their perceived needs. Concidentally, these “needs” for moving the Israeli capital to Jerusalem, condoning the ongoing establishment of illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, and, ultimately, war in the region, have become President Trump’s standard Middle East policy. In all it amounts to an exceedingly complicated–and dangerous–kettle of fish.

If the Evangelical strategy were to work, while they are being wafted into heaven, everybody in the non-born-again world, including President Trump himself, all the Jews and, incidently, you and I, will go straight to hell. I sincerely think I’m rendering this story line correctly. Though it sounds like the script of a B-rated sci-fi movie, they believe it, and President Trump believes that their votes will get him re-elected in 2020. Seen with a cold eye, it’s a classic symbiotic relationship, like that of the shark and the remora, the little fish who cleans the parasites off the shark’s teeth. The Evangelicals are using Trump and he’s using them, despite the fact that they have nothing else in common. It’s just not quite clear which of the two is the shark.

Beside their curious end-times beliefs, most of these born-again Christians subscribe to the standard right-wing cant: racism, nationalism, predatory capitalism, deregulation, rapture culture, anti-science stances, along with retrograde views of women and attitudes towards LGBGT people. They’re essentially the classic American right with a theological twist.

Televangelism to the Front

A recent addition to President Trump’s White House juju team as the new head of his Faith and Opportunity Initiative is his “longtime prayer partner,” televangelist Paula White, also known as a successful practitioner of the Pentacostal “prosperity gospel.” This shrewd “ministry” has netted her a private jet and a $3.5 million crib in Trump Tower in New York, among other goodies. According to thegospelcoalition.org, White, who delivered the invocation at Trump’s presidential inauguration, claims to be the “convener and de facto head” of the president’s evangelical advisory board. The group of about 35 evangelical pastors includes the four men who endorsed her latest book: Jerry Falwell Jr., Franklin Graham, Jack Graham, and Robert Jeffress. This is how christianitytoday.com describes the prosperity scam.

It is an aberrant theology that teaches God rewards faith—and hefty tithing—with financial blessings, the prosperity gospel was closely associated with prominent 1980s televangelists Jimmy Swaggart and Jim and Tammy Bakker, and is part and parcel of many of today’s charismatic movements in the Global South. Orthodox Christians wary of prosperity doctrine found a friend in Senator Chuck Grassley, who in 2008 began a thorough vetting of the tax-exempt status of six prominent “health and wealth” leaders, including Kenneth Copeland, Bishop Eddie Long, and Paula White.

With her unabashedly sexy stage presence and mock-pious pitch, Paula comes across as an uniquely kinky con-woman. Her church -– which once boasted a membership of 20,000 people — declared bankruptcy in 2012. (Source: ministrywatch.com).

Perhaps You Would Like to Meet Her

The Constitution Speaks; Is Anyone Listening?

The first amendment to the US Constitution clearly states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” That should settle the question of separation of church and state but, as in everything else, particular interests can find a little wiggle room in any text.

That’s how religion crept into the government during the second Bush administration. It was he who established by executive order on January 29, 2001, the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (OFBCI) which, ostensibly sought to strengthen faith-based and community organizations and expand their capacity to provide federally funded social services. For fiscal year 2005, more than $2.2 billion in competitive social service grants were awarded to faith-based organizations. This pouring of federal funds into religious initiatives was promptly challenged by critics including Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the American Civil Liberties Union. When President Obama assumed the office he changed the name of the OFBCI to President’s Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, though he did not substantially change its functions. (Source: Wikipedia)

The phrase “separation of church and state” can be traced to a January 1, 1802, letter by Thomas Jefferson, addressed to the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut, and published in a Massachusetts newspaper. Jefferson wrote:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.

It was the second President Bush’s cozying up to the country’s right-wing Christians, that eventually led up to–or down to–the appointment of Paula White as President Trump’s spiritual advisor. Her otherwise routine presidential appointment had, according to thegospelcoalition.org, an immediate cruel and unusual sequel:

A day after the announcement was made, White’s ministry emailed supporters under her name asking them to donate $3,600 to achieve “opportunity and favor” from God. As Nicola A. Menzie reports, the email states: “During this season something so supernatural will take place and it will literally shift your life in a very positive way, IF you have ears to hear and connect to the prophetic moment. Friend, YOU MUST STAY CONNECTED TO ME DURING THIS PROPHETIC SEASON!” 

If this doesn’t smack of conflict of interest, the Pope ain’t a Catholic.

Pandering to the Religious Right Is Good Electoral Business 

There is a campaign being promoted by Evangelicals to support President Trump on issues such as religious liberty exemptions for wedding vendors, who object to offering services for same-sex wedding ceremonies. The CS Monitor cites Attorney General Jeff Sessions as saying “We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied, or silenced anymore.” This certainly sounds like a stalwart defense of government support for right-wing Christianity in America and adherence to their ideology. Coming from one of Trump’s most accomplished sycophants, it also smacks of vote-stroking electoral opportunism.

The incursion of right-wing religion in the heart of American politics, whether motivated by over-zealous Christians in the government or by sheer electoral opportunism, represents just another crack in the edifice of normal democratic government. Normal government in today’s world depends upon rational, reasonable criteria to permit it to function properly for all of its citizens, not magical thinking nor “biblical correctness.” A right-wing Christian/Trump coalition would certainly lead to a loss of credibility with American allies, most of whom are guided by humane, rational criteria, with some notable exceptions, including President Trump’s favorites: Russia, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

With the Trump administration headed up by bible-thumping, Rapture-smitten politicians, aided by televangelist “religious advisors” like Paula White, the threat to separation between church and state–and democratic government as we know it–is evident. Included in the basic tenets of the Evangelical religión are a belief that the Bible contains the literal truth about everything, and the necessity of being “born again.” The Pentacostal Evangelicals add to this the essential importance of the “gift of tongues.” The obvious question that arises is: What happens when these strict theological principles clash with the Constitution of the United States, a clash that is inevitable? Are the citizens of the United States facing a critical turning point at which they must choose between their traditional a-religious government and a Taliban-style theocracy? The clock is running.

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The American Agenda–3/3

US_bases

Dissecting the National Security State

In his book, Brave New World Order, (Orbis Books, 1992), Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer identified seven characteristics of a National Security State:

  • The first characteristic of a National Security State is that the military is the highest authority. In a National Security State the military not only guarantees the security of the state against all internal and external enemies, it has enough power to determine the overall direction of the society. In a National Security State the military exerts important influence over political, economic, as well as military affairs.
  • A second defining feature of a National Security State is that political democracy and democratic elections are viewed with suspicion, contempt, or in terms of political expediency. National Security States often maintain an appearance of democracy. However, ultimate power rests with the military or within a broader National Security Establishment.
  • A third characteristic of a National Security State is that the military and related sectors wield substantial political and economic power. They do so in the context of an ideology which stresses that ‘freedom” and “development” are possible only when capital is concentrated in the hands of elites.
  • A fourth feature of a National Security State is its obsession with enemies. There are enemies of the state everywhere. Defending against external and/or internal enemies becomes a leading preoccupation of the state, a distorting factor in the economy, and a major source of national identity and purpose.
  • A fifth ideological foundation of a National Security State is that the enemies of the state are cunning and ruthless. Therefore, any means used to destroy or control these enemies is justified.
  • A sixth characteristic of a National Security State is that it restricts public debate and limits popular participation through secrecy or intimidation. Authentic democracy depends on participation of the people. National Security States limit such participation in a number of ways: They sow fear and thereby narrow the range of public debate; they restrict and distort information; and they define policies in secret and implement those policies through covert channels and clandestine activities. The state justifies such actions through rhetorical pleas of “higher purpose” and vague appeals to “national security.”
  • Finally, the church is expected to mobilize its financial, ideological, and theological resources in service to the National Security State.

Here Comes The Project for the New American Century

In 1997 the American Agenda was consolidated as never before thanks to the brainstorming of a select group of neo-conservative activists headed by William Kristol and Robert Kazan. They called the initiative the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), and the team they put together to plan (and execute, as many of them held important posts in the George W. Bush administration) reads like a Who’s Who of neocon chicken hawks at the time. The first group of recruits might sound familiar to you. They included Elliott Abrams, William Bennet, Jeb Bush, Dick Cheney, Eliot Cohen, Midge Decter, Steve Forbes, Francis Fukuyama, Frank Gaffney, Fred Ikle, Donald Kagan, Zalmay Khalilzad, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Norman Podhoretz, Dan Quale, Henry Rowen, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz. To that illustrious cohort were later added Richard Perle, Kenneth Adelman, Richard Allen, Richard Armitage, John Bolton, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Charles Krauthammer, Daniel Pipes, and James Woolsey. A quick scan through Google shows that, of this entire group of patriots and warmongers, very few of them did any military service at all, let along serve their country in combat.

The PNAC, emboldened by right-wing successes in Washington as well as the collapse of the Soviet Union less than a decade previously, brazenly declared the objectives of their program to promote US global hegemony in a series of comuniqués which recommended, among other measures:

·  Increased defense spending

·  Complete US militarization and domination of space

·   An anti-missile system that came to be known sardonically as the “Star Wars” system

·    The ability to “fight and decisively win multiple simultaneous major-theater wars”

·    The policy of “critical regions,” especially the oil-rich Middle East

(Source: Stone and Kuznick, The Untold History of the United States, 2013)

At the top of PNAC’s immediate agenda was the toppling of the Sadam Hussein regime in Iraq. Sadam was their ally when his military served as an American proxy army against Iran in the 80s but by 2003 he was no longer useful. They had other plans for Sadam. Seen in retrospect, their strategy was to devastate Iraq, grab their oil (following much the same process as they are doing today in the Kurdish zone of Syria), then rebuild the country with the income from Iraq’s own petroleum. (Yes, it sounds just as absurd as making the Mexicans pay for the wall.) There was only one factor holding them back. Sadam had not committed any crime nor outrage grave enough to justify levelling his country in order to unseat him. Even the neocons could see that, and they alluded it in their contingency plans. They noted that, barring some catastrophic event such as the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, there was nothing to be done.

Enter 911, 2001, right on cue, and the Americans marched manfully into Iraq. Wait a minute. All but four of the 19 hijackers were Saudis, so why didn’t Bush’s National Security team decide to invade Saudi Arabia? Silly question. It would have been bad for business. What about Afghanistan? Osama bin Laden, the alleged perpetrator of 911 was allegedly hiding out somewhere in them there Afghan hills, wasn’t he? So, if they were going to invade anywhere, wouldn’t simple fourth-grade logic suggest it be Afghanistan before Iraq? The neocon strategists were having none of that. Rumsfeld made a remark, something about “better targets” in Iraq, General Colin Powell found some weapons of mass destruction under the bed and the world’s most formidable war machine booted up and marched. Handily enough, they already had the plans prepared.

I have treated this absurd series of events as a lark because, in the end, that is exactly what it turned out to be, a big, fat, lethal lark with a horrifying balance of dead and wounded Iraqi civilians, as well as millions being converted into homeless refugees. The number of Iraqi victims depends upon whom you listen to. The Iraq Body Count project (IBC) figure of documented civilian deaths from violence is 183,535 – 206,107 through April 2019. This includes reported civilian deaths “due to coalition and insurgent military action, sectarian violence and increased criminal violence.” The IBC site states: “many deaths will probably go unreported or unrecorded by officials and media.” According to the Associated Press‘s version more than 110,600 Iraqis had been killed since the start of the war to April 2009. (Source: Wikipedia)

It was President Barak Obama who was finally going to put the United States—and the world—in order and make things normal and decent again. So many American voters believed that message absolutely. Then, according to thebalance.com, he increased Bush’s “defense” budget to between $700 billion and $800 billion a year, and took the United States armed forces into Afghanistan. Coincidentally, Afghanistan sits on many billions (trillions?) of dollars worth of rare minerals. War, it seems, can look like good business, when regarded with a blind eye.

The Art of the Deal or Criminal Negligence?

Alleged heir to billions, real-estate developer, sexual harasser and reality TV star, Donald J. Trump achieved a surprising election victory in 2016 that produced a seismic awakening for a politically stale and morally drowsy United States. But the real shock took some time to sink in. Because, in obeyance to his wacky campaign promises, President Trump and his merry band of sociopaths have devoted the three years since he was elected to dismounting and demolishing the United States government as we know it. Lest you consider that categorical statement exaggerated, let’s take a look at the situation piece by piece. Investigative journalist and writer, Michael Lewis, makes that possible. In his thin (217-page) 2018 book, The Fifth Risk, he has given us enough reliable facts, laid out in an orderly and interesting manner, to get a reasonable grip on the situation.

The Fifth Risk is virtually a handbook of authoritative–and highly readable–information  that Lewis obtained while criss-crossing the country and interviewing high-level civil servants from the Obama administration. These were the people responsible for the day-to-day functioning of vital federal agencies.

The most fascinating–and terrifying–sections of the book describe the transfer of power from the people who ran US government agencies under Obama to the new Trump appointees. We’re talking about agencies that run from the Patent Office, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Education and the Department of Commerce, up to the Department of Energy, a thirty-billion-dollar-a-year organization with about a hundred and ten thousand employees. This process is understandably complicated and its procedures are actually established by law. Well before the election, presidential candidates are required to form a “transition team” to facilitate the transfer of specialized knowledge required to keep the all-important federal agencies running smoothly. The law actually provides fully-furnished and operational office space for each transition team.

Lewis describes the importance of the departments and their management teams:

How to stop a virus, how to take a census, how to determine if some foreign country is seeking to obtain a nuclear weapon or if Korean missiles can reach Kansas City: these are enduring technical problems. The people appointed by a newly-elected president to solve these problems have roughly seventy-five days to learn from their predecessors.  After the inauguration, a lot of deeply knowledgeable people will scatter to the four winds and be forbidden, by federal law, from initiating any contact with their replacements.

He makes it patently clear that Trump’s appointees form a demolition team, not a governing body, driven more by extreme-right-wing ideology than any expertise. Perhaps the most telling detail revealed by Lewis is that the day after the inauguration of President Trump, with all the Obama agency heads sitting in offices specially prepared for welcoming the incoming appointees with thick volumes of transition information and procedures, some of which took more than a year to prepare, no Trump representatives showed up. Days went by–in some cases weeks–and the Trump administration show no signs of life. When they finally appeared, instead of the expected teams of 20 or 30 experts, they were met with just a few incoming staff members, in one significant case a single elderly white man without a notebook nor a pencil.

Lewis quotes a comment by Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s White House Chief Strategist during the first seven months of his term, that sums up that insider’s view of the Obama-Trump transition:

I was fucking nervous as shit. I go, Holy fuck, this guy [Trump] doesn’t know anything. And he doesn’t give a shit.

The Trump policy was obviously not to do things, rather to undo them. And he and his cohorts are proceeding diligently down the same path today. Some of them seem to think that the nation’s problems can be solved by prayer.

Is the American Agenda Survivable?

From all outward signs, the objective of the Trump government is to continue to enrich the rich and subjugate the poor, thus placing in jeopardy the health and wellbeing—if not the very survival–of generations of Americans to come. Who can assure Americans that their children and grandchildren, and their children and grandchildren, will be capable of surviving the coming climate change, the wars, the famines, the water shortages, the industrial and electromagnetic pollution, the plummeting education standards and, above all, the false values that the American agenda is based upon. In order to survive as a nation, the Americans might benefit from teaching their children well. That is, to stop trying to convince them that they are superior to other people around the country and the world. They’re not smarter nor better than any of the other children around the world. If they are superior in anything, it’s as consumers of low-grade ultra-nationalism,  “pop culture” and reality TV, the maximum expression of which is their own President Donald Trump.

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The American Agenda 2/3

Thugs drag Assange out of embassy
Journalist Julian Assange is dragged from Ecuadorian embassy in London by authorized British thugs. In his hand is a copy of Gore Vidal’s book, History of the National Security State.

Then Came the National Security State

The American National Security State generally refers to the ideology and institutions (CIA, Dept. of Defense, etc.) established by the National Security Act of 1947, an enduring legacy of then President Harry S. Truman in support of his doctrine “to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.” (Source: Michael J. Hogan, A Cross of Iron: Harry S. Truman and the Origins of the National Security State, 1945-1954). Hogan’s book explains the transformative process under Truman that ended in the ultimate demise of the New Deal state with its emphasis on social spending, and ushered in the militarist National Security State, which promptly proceeded to dedicate itself to subjugation and outside pressures. (Source: Sourcewatch.org)

The National Security Act brought about a major restructuring of the United States government’s military and intelligence agencies following the war. It created many of the institutions that subsequent Presidents have found useful when formulating and implementing foreign policy, including the National Security Council (NSC). It also created the Department of the Air Force, converting the Army Air Force into a separate branch of the armed forces.

Then, in rapid succession, came the  Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 1947, taking over from the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), (1942–45) headed by Major General William Joseph (Wild Bill) Donovan and dedicated to obtaining information about and sabotaging the military efforts of enemy nations during World War II. Donovan is regarded as the founding father of the CIA, and his statue stands in the lobby of the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, both as homage to Wild Bill and to his freewheeling  style in international relations, a lot of which remains today. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) followed in 1949, and the National Security Agency (NSA) in 1952. The NSA quickly grew into a massive high-tech and top-secret organization dedicated to signals intelligence and capable of of spying on everybody, everywhere.

With all these pieces in place, the United States was ready to undertake their world takeover. The first steps in that militarist departure are today referred to as the Cold War. Today, 67 years later, the Americans have roughly 1,000 (nobody outside the Pentagon knows the precise number) military installations around the world. Meanwhile, in 2018, it was reported that Russia operates “at least 21 significant military facilities overseas.” (Source: Wikipedia)

US Repertoire Includes Remote Death from Sky

The skies of the world are filled with American satellites and armed drones. Many unfortunate people live under permanent threat of sudden death descending from Heaven in the form of US “targeted assassinations.” This includes not only the leaders of terrorist organizations (always keeping in mind that our terrorists are their freedom fighters) but also their extended families, neighbors, friends, sympathizers, passers-by and the milkman. Since the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, the United States government has carried out drone strikes against ostensible Jihadist terrorist leaders primarily in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Libya. Though the number of accompanying civilian deaths is hard to compile some organizations have tried. According to Wikipedia.com, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism says the rate of civilian casualties for 2012, for example, was nine percent. The Bureau, based on extensive research in mid-2011, claims that at least 385 civilians were among the dead.

It has been reported that 160 children have died from UAV-launched attacks in Pakistan and that over 1,000 civilians have been injured. Additional reporting has found that known militant leaders have constituted only two percent of all drone-related fatalities. These sources run counter to the Obama administration’s claim that “nearly for the past year there hasn’t been a single collateral death” due to UAV-based attacks. The New America Foundation estimates that for the period 2004-2011, the non-militant fatality rate was approximately 20%. (Source: Wikipedia)

President Barak Obama was to take a personal interest in the drone assassination program, actually sitting down periodically with the CIA’s top dirty-tricks specialist, John Brennan, whom he later named director of the CIA, to select from a list of candidates for the week’s proposed killer-drone victims. This seems to be a first: a hands-on, Murder-Incorporated-style operation based in the White House, and directed by the President himself.

It was President Trump who, just this came year, came up with an expedient solution to the dance of statistics. On March 6, 2019, he signed an executive order revoking the requirement that U.S. intelligence officials publicly report the number of civilians killed in Counter-Terrorism missions in Areas Outside of Active Hostilities.

When in Doubt, Escalate

The drone war was just another step forward in the escalation of the ever-more-creative American agenda. After World War II, instead of demobilizing the army, President Truman expanded the war machine and ushered in the National Security State. When President Kennedy’s turn came around he raised military spending $17 billion above that of the Eisenhower years. This year, 2019, the United States “defense” budget for the four branches of the U.S. military: the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force, has progressed to approximately $693,058,000,000. That’s 693 billion dollars; some sources say it’s probably closer to a trillion. Either way, it’s more than the money spent on defense by the next seven countries combined, and certainly enough to finance a lot of hot lunches for schoolchildren.

Speaking in 1994, Gore Vidal, America’s favorite celebrity intellectual in the sixties and seventies—until he started cutting too close to the bone—says in a long interview with Paul Jay, the Canadian journalist who was later to found the Baltimore-based Real News.com:

But by forty-five—when the bombs were dropped— we lacked Franklin Roosevelt. He was the emperor. He knew exactly what he was doing. He made a number of agreements with Stalin at Yalta. All Stalin asked for was to be treated as a normal superpower, which is what they were. Roosevelt did not have any nonsense going on in his head about the sanctity of Christianity, the sanctity of capitalism versus communism. I don’t think he ever gave such topics a thought. All he knew is we had won the war, and he was going to decolonialize.

I realize how little understanding any of us had of what was actually going on at the [Cold War] time. We had been carefully conditioned to believe that the gallant, lonely USA was, on every side, beleaguered by the Soviet Union, a monolithic Omnipotency; we now know that they were weak and reactive while we were strong and provocative. Once Jack [Kennedy] had inherited the make-believe war against communism in general and the Soviet Union in particular, he preceded, unknown to all but a few, to change the rules of the game. He was about to turn Truman’s pseudo-war into a real war… 

Unfortunately for the United States and the world, President Roosevelt didn’t live to carry out his noble plans. His place was taken by a mediocre politician, the product of a mediocre Democratic Party machine from Missouri, who had only been vice president for 82 days when Roosevelt died and never enjoyed his confidence. Truman knew nothing when he was thrust into the presidency, for example, of the United States’s development of two nuclear devices. But, against the advice of all the bombs’ developers and all the relevant government departments, he dropped them both on Japan, unnecessarily, it turns out, and with disastrous consequences. This was the definitive indication that the United States was declaring its unilateral primacy in world affairs.

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The American Agenda–1/3

American_Agenda1

What Is the United States Up To?

What motivates Americans these days? What are their priorities? Where did those convictions come from? Why are the axiomatic American truths so different from those of the rest of the world?  What do Americans read? Where are they coming from? Where are they headed? Are they out front, or lagging behind? What is their agenda?

As I see it, our generations’ part of the American story, one of the most truculent in their history, which I have deemed The American Agenda, takes shape at a meeting in Yalta (Crimea, Soviet Union) from February 4th to the 11th, 1945, just before the end of second great war of the 20th century. United there, at their second and last  wartime meeting, were the leaders of the three Allied countries that were to be instrumental in the defeat of German nazism, Italian fascism and Japanese imperialism: Premier Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the United States, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Great Britain.

With the war in Europe practically won by these Allies, the grumpy, hard-drinking prime minister’s principal objective at the conference was to save the British Empire, which was retained, if not for long, and the British still have not closed the wound. Premier Stalin felt obliged to emerge from the war with enough control over Eastern Europe to assure that neither the Germans, nor anyone else, could march unhindered into his country. Roosevelt’s goals included consensus on thee creation of the United Nations and gaining Soviet agreement to enter the war against Japan once Hitler was defeated. None of them left Yalta completely satisfied. (Source: Wikipedia)

Roosevelt and Stalin trusted one another and foresaw possible common projects between their two countries after the war. Churchill, a British aristocrat, lifelong anti-communist hardliner, and the one who would betray the other two, felt left alone at the meeting with his big cigar. When the war in Europe ended he actually suggested to American President Harry Truman (Roosevelt having died a couple of months after the Yalta Conference) that, since they were already in Europe, a combined British-American force might invade Russia and nip communism in the bud.

The US Enters an Open Field

It is important to keep in mind at this point that, while Britain and the Soviet Union, along with many other countries in Europe and Asia, were devastated by war on their own ground with massive human and economic losses, the United States was never bombed and never saw an enemy soldier on their land. They fought in Europe and Asia, and didn’t enter the war until more than two years after Britain and six months after the Soviet Union. When the Americans finally did get into the fray it was not to form a western front in order to relieve the hard-pressed Russians who were left virtually alone to face the Germans’ lethal attack (Operation Barbarrosa) on the east beginnning in June of 1941.

Instead the Yanks followed Churchill’s lead, always prioritizing the protection of British colonies and access to Middle-East oil. So the Americans and the British dilly-dallied in North Africa and Italy for a disproportionate long time. The all-important British and American advance across the English Channel did not take place for three more years, during which the Soviet Union fought the Germans almost alone, until the Allied Normandy landing (Operation Overlord) in June of 1944. President Truman actually said, in the meantime, that the more Germans and Russians who killed one another, the better.

The Americans, having pulled themselves out of the tail end of the great depression and gotten rich from their industrial contributions to the war, were sitting on top of the world. It was around that time that a few smart, opportunistic American leaders began to think in terms of American world domination. and to act on their thoughts. What better time than the present, they must have thought, with virtually the entire world at their feet. So they began to lay the ideological groundwork and to create the institutions necessary to work their plans. From there on out, the United States essentially called the shots.

Showdown at Bretton Woods

The first step to enable the projection of American power around the globe, in July, 1944, a few months before the Yalta Conference, was an international meeting at the Mount Washington Hotel in the ski resort of Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. The meeting was called the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference, though the United Nations would not be created until more than a year later. There, under the undeniable leadership of the United States, 730 delegates from all 44 Allied nations sat down from July 1 to 22, 1944, to regulate the international monetary and financial order after World War II. Out of this meeting came the establishment of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), as well as the International Trade Organization.

The United States and Britain had secretly been planning the economic future of the world since 1940. Their attitude towards the rest of the delegates was hinted at by the economist Lord Keynes, the head of the British delegation, in a recorded conversation:

Twenty-one countries have been invited which clearly have nothing to contribute and will merely encumber the ground… The most monstrous monkey-house assembled for years.

In the accelerated approval of the agreements at Bretton Woods the Soviet Union did not join the newly-created financial entities and Soviet influence on world trade was badly damaged as a consequence. The final agreement replaced the gold standard with the U.S. dollar as the global currency. By so doing, it established America as the dominant power in the world economy. After the agreement was signed, America was the only country with the ability to print dollars. (Source: Wikipedia)

One of the reasons Bretton Woods worked for the Americans was that the U.S. was clearly the most powerful country at the table, thus able to impose its will on the others, including an often-dismayed Britain. At the time, one senior official at the Bank of England described the deal reached at Bretton Woods as “the greatest blow to Britain next to the war”, largely because it underlined the way financial power had moved from the UK to the US. Having become the largest international creditor, the US held nearly two-thirds of the world’s gold reserves and commanded half of all global industrial production. (Sources: Wikipedia and AstuteNews.com)

Three quarters of a century later, Kristina V. Minkova, St. Petersburg State University, writes in the Russian Journal of Global Initiatives: Policy, Pedagogy, Perspective:

It is my belief that Stalin was not fully aware of all the complexity of the big economic and political game between the United States and Great Britain, which gained momentum in 1943. While the latter was struggling to save the remnants of its empire and was bargaining madly for credits vitally important for its survival, the former were clearly demanding the role of  world leader. 

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How Toxic Rednecks Hijacked America 2/2

Donald Trump Holds Campaign Rally In Bangor, Maine

The Military

Over the past half century the majority of the leaders in the American military, especially officers and non-coms were either from Southern States or had been formed on southern military bases. There they absorbed southern-dominated expressions of nationalism, weaponized patriotism and religion. An old friend who did his obligatory military service during the Vietnam War was so repelled by the redneckedness of the US Army that he left the country for good when he was discharged. Looking back a half a century he says with a mock meaningful smile, “I left the US the same year as Stanley Kubrick, 1968.”

Southernization’s Limitations on Voting Rights

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 signed into law on August 6, 1965, by President Lyndon Johnson, outlawed the discriminatory voting practices adopted in many southern states after the Civil War, including literacy tests as a prerequisite to voting. But on June 25, 2013, the United States Supreme Court, in the landmark Shelby County (Alabama) v. Holder case, reconsidered the constitutionality of two provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965: Section 5, which requires certain states and local governments to obtain federal preclearance before implementing any changes to their voting laws or practices; and Section 4(b), which contains the coverage formula that determines which jurisdictions are subjected to preclearance based on their histories of discrimination in voting. (Source: Wikipedia)

According to an article by Vann R. Newkirk II in The Atlantic of  July 10, 2018: 
Just five years after the landmark Shelby County v. Holder decision, it’s become clear that the decision has handed the country an era of renewed white racial hegemony. And we’ve only just begun.

The same author says on July 21, 2018:

Voter suppression almost certainly helped Donald Trump win the presidency. Multiple academic studies and court rulings indicate that racially biased election laws, such as voter-ID legislation in places like Wisconsin, favored Republican candidates in 2016. Like most other elections in American history, this one wasn’t a fair fight. A poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and The Atlantic has uncovered evidence of deep structural barriers to the ballot for black and Latino voters, specifically in the 2016 election. More than that, the survey finds that the deep wounds of Jim Crow endure, leaving America’s democratic promise unfulfilled.

Nor is it necessary to resort to sophisticated big-data techniques to influence voting results significantly. There are effective redneck measures as simple as closing polling stations in Democratic neighborhoods. Unfair, discriminatory voting laws are already in effect. Some of them would be clearly illegal if challenged, but that is a complicated, time-consuming process  that not all communities are prepared to face. It’s up to the Attorney General to file those suits, but Jeff Sessions hasn’t take the initiative, so cheated would-be voters–significantly many poor and elderly people and minorities who would vote for Democrats–are cut out of the mix.

What’s Next? Could Southernization Be Reversed?

In theory, everything is possible, but the de-southernization of the United States would be difficult to the point of impossible. With more than half a century of head start, southernization has its roots sunk deeply in large parts of the north and west. And let’s not forget the south, which is already southernized. We’re talking about changing people’s hearts and minds, which is never easy, as the Americans discovered in other people’s countries. What would be required? First and foremost: education. Ignorance fertilizes all the ills of an underdeveloped region, and the south is at the bottom of the US totem pole in high-school graduates. This is not because southerners are less intelligent. It’s because the south spends significantly less on public education. Deficient nutrition is also a factor. Hungry kids from poor families make worse students and the south lacks many programs to help them.

Michael Herr, one of the most lucid people I have never met, and who didn’t write much beyond a thin book called Dispatches and two of the seminal film scripts of the 20th century, Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket, said, “They speak about the dumbing of America as a foregone thing, already completed, but, duh, it’s a process and we haven’t seen anything yet.”

A loosening of the grip that fundamentalist Christianity has on the southernized population would also help immensely. The belief in a better life after death is a terrible millstone around the neck of a society. Then there’s economic equality. If people are given real hope they don’t have to rely on charismatic leaders and magical religion.

Of course, the south’s (and the southernized north’s) deep-down racism would have to be tempered. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, 14 percent of all people in the United States are identified as black, either alone or in combination with one or more other races. In 2010, 55 percent of the US black population lived in the South, and 105 Southern counties had a black population of 50 percent or higher. The way things look today the necessity of eradicating the inequality and marginalization of so many innocent people seems to be a virtually insoluble problem.

Overblown, racially-discriminating incarceration rates in the United States are the highest in the world, and their effects on the society are more damaging than most of the original crimes themselves. Not only is prison–especially long mandatory terms– disastrous for the families concerned, but it is a sure generator of more delinquency. What keeps American lawmakers from realizing that? Never lose sight of the fact that a disproportionate number of those in prison are people of color. Could it have to do with racism?

Where’s the Will to Make America Great Again?

Is there a firm determination, or even a mild desire in the American power structure to redress all these wrongs and put the country back on the path of solidarity and sanity? That is to say, to make America great again. Patently not. Such a change of priorities would require tremendous political conviction and the commitment of so many resources that the United States would no longer be able to devote itself to its primary businesses: world domination and never-ending war. Unfortunately, the decision to make any sort of fundamental changes in the country lies in the hands of the same southernized politicians who created the current situation, so any significant change is highly unlikely. Those politicians are too firmly backed by their southernized voters, approximately half the country, along with the big business interests which have financed reelection for most of the United States Congress. Therein lies the problem.

There’s the other inevitable American reality: too many powerful interests are satisfied with the status quo. Workers wages are so low in the south that industries are beginning to relocate their traditional northern manufacturing operations to the south, and even to bring some of them back from Asia. This, however, doesn’t necessarily indicate a bright future. Better than cheap labor is no labor, and most manufacturing jobs will soon be in the “hands” of robots.

In an article for American Prospect, Harold Meyerson says:

The Old South may not be able to bring back the days of unpaid slave labor, but the GOP’s doing the next best thing by shredding our safety net, slashing our wages, and taking aggressive measures to keep us from voting them out of power.

So, could the southernization  of America be reversed or tempered? The odds tend towards “not a chance,” save the occurance of  some unforseen cataclysmic event or, failing that, a miraculous awakening of the sedated American electorate.

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How Toxic Rednecks Hijacked America 1/2

Rednecks3

Don’t Laugh, They Run the Country

Did you ever wonder how the United States government became dominated by white southern Republicans and their northern cohorts? It was a slow process that began when the South began to move north and west more than half-century ago. They took with them their quaint accent–which sounds powerful endearing coming out of the mouth of Dolly Parton, but not so charming when the speaker is Mitch McConnell. They also took their rural-exploitation economics, their slavers’ racism, their beatification of ignorance, their love for guns and the flag, their fundamentalist Christianity and their faith-based view of reality which admits no common sense, not to mention scholarly thinking. Little by little their influence grew, thanks to factors we’ll look at here. Today they direct the fate–and the fatality–of a great nation.

Disclaimer: This piece is not intended to be a blanket condemnation of southeners and things southern. There are a lot of good and valuable people down there. Nor do I limit the term “toxic redneck” to southerners. There are plenty of them in the north, right up to the northeast, right up to the very, very Toxic Redneck in Chief.

Before we go any further, let’s define “toxic redneck” so we’re on the same page. For our purposes that term–usually, but not always–refers to a rural, southern, white, bigoted,  racist with limited education and virulent extreme-right-wing political convictions. Due to the “southernization” of a large part of the northern and western parts of the United States, the rankest versions these values have been adopted in the north, as well. The common denominator in both cases, north and south, appears to be ignorance and intolerance.

The Epidemiology of Southernization

MAWA

The term “southernization,” for the tendency to adopt traditional down-home customs, mindsets and values was probably borrowed from the title of a 1974 book by John Egerton: The Americanization of Dixie: the Southernization of America. Egerton’s well-documented thesis is that the “Americanization of Dixie” and the “Southernization of America” are complementary social phenomena that migrated respectively from North to South and South to North and  have changed the essential character of the nation. He feels that they have cannibalized each other to the detriment of both and, of course, the country, which is currently advancing backwards. Egerton’s book is more than 40 years old but its theses remain surprisingly valid today.

It seems that it was the most brutal and retrograde of plantation values that traveled best, from white supremacy and exploitation mentalities to the most primitive forms of down-home miracle religions. Kevin Phillips, in his 2006 book, American Theocracy, traces the evolution of Christian sects in America from the time of the American Revolution. The trend, he suggests, is toward ever more fundamentalist versions of Cristianity, embodying biblical inerrancy, speaking in tongues, millenarianism, and rebirth in Christ. Phillips traces the trajectory of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). It was denominated “southern” when it was founded in Atlanta, Georgia in 1845 in opposition to the northern Baptists over the issue of slavery. Today it is the world’s largest Baptist denomination:

amen_trump

In his article “The Southernization of America Religion: Testing a Hypothesis” (Sociological Analysis 1991), Mark A. Shibley undertook a systematic, empirical examination of the Egerton thesis. Using church membership data from the Glenmary Research Center and population and migration data from the U.S. Census, he showed that virtually all the membership growth in evangelical churches during the 1970s could be attributed to growth in historically southern evangelical churches. Moreover, Shibley found that the growth of southern-style religion was especially marked outside the South and corresponds with regions that experienced high levels of in-migration from the South during the same period.

Kevin Phillips quotes the historian, Mark Noll, who says:

The protestant bodies whose rates of growth in recent decades have exceeded general population increases–sometimes far exceeded–are nearly all characterized by such labels as Bible-believing, born again, conservative, evangelical, fundamentalist, holiness, Pentecostal or restorationist.

This is the tenor of the religious beliefs that have migrated north and west and today rule supreme in the United States government. Believe it or not, there are full-fledged members of President Trump’s cabinet–along with scores of other high-level appointees–who sincerely believe that the biblical “end times” are upon us. According to these evangelical Christians all that is necessary is the Jews’ return to Jerusalem followed by the great war of Armageddon which is prophesied in the Bible. Then God will swoop down and lift all of his born-again true believers into Heaven and send the rest of us straight to Hell. This is the “Rapture” that is currently all the rage among born-again rednecks.  And these are the people responsible for shaping United States foreign policy. The truth is that God doesn’t have to bother to descend to earth in order for a war in the Mid-East to deteriorate into Holy Hell.

Elizabeth Parker Illuminates the Issues Graphically

In her website, blogger and web developer  Elizabeth Parker sums up the southernization process in her commentaries on thirteen carefully-selected maps. She sets the tone with the first one which portrays the division between slave and free states in 1861, just before the Civil War. Its design coincides eerily with today’s map of red and blue states.

Map_Slave_Free_States

 

And here is the map of red and blue states:

Red_Blue_States_Map

The twelve following maps in her presentation illustrate the “progress” that has been made in various aspects of the American experience since the process of southernization began. The maps shed light, state by state, on such issues as numbers of high-school graduates, gun deaths, encarceration rate, minimum wages, teen pregnancy, etc. Her accompanying explanations and examples further illuminate the uncomfortable truths exposed by the maps. You might want to have a look at the complete 5,000-word article.

The Southernization of the Nation’s Capitol

Washington DC sits on land originally donated by the states of Maryland and Virginia, so it was born with a marked southern character. The city of Washington was declared the national capital in 1791. Then, in 1846, Virginia requested the return of the area they had donated to the capitol in the beginning, fearing that slavery would be banned in the district, and Congress approved.  Subsequently the northward march of southern attitudes in increasing numbers had increasing influence on national elections. After–and largely due to–the civil-rights legislation of the mid-sixties the solidly-racist south abandoned the Democratic Party en masse, thus reinforcing the Republicans’ strength both in Washington and throughout the country.

Naturally, their racist, white-supremacist values went with them and remain powerful today. How else can we explain the absolute boycott of President Barak Obama’s legislative agenda by both houses of Congress dominated by good ol’ boys who, though they never announced it publicly, considered Obama “just another uppity nigger.” President Trump follows the same tacit policies, going to exaggerated lengths to annul President Obama’s legacy. Needless to say, Trump’s nazi, klan, and white-supremacist followers are delighted with this turn of events and will follow him to the gates of Hell.

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The American Socialism Phobia

Socialism_in_America

What Turned Americans so Virulently Against Socialism?

Socialism, or elements thereof, are commonplace throughout the modern world and they’re generally accepted as just another legitimate political option to be included in the democratic mix. Every place, that is, except the United States, where socialism has been systemically demonized over the last century. Today socialism is almost universally rejected as false, subversive and actually dangerous, as it allegedly leads to communism. Americans appear to have forgotten that their society already embraces many aspects of socialism including the police, fire department and public schools, as well as social security and public employment. The two collectives that benefit most from American socialism are the military, with full health benefits including dentistry, and–oh irony of ironies–the United States Congress, most of whose members shun and berate “socialism” but all of whom enjoy a 72% discount on their healthcare as well as comfortable retirement plans, all of which they awarded themselves.

Meanwhile, the entire civilized world is enjoying the benefits of both capitalism and socialism. There’s Germany populated by consumate capitalists who compete über-successfully in world markets. At the same time all German citizens enjoy the advances of socialism: universal health care, month-long vacations, generous maternity and paternity leaves, living wages, worker participation in company boardrooms, free education through college… The same model prevails in many other countries around the world, starting with Scandinavia. Norway, one of the most socialized countries in the world, also has one of the world’s most successful sovereign investment funds. Most of the European Community has similar rights and benefits. Some extend to foreigners who can go to college for free both in Germany and Scotland, though the latter requires English students to pay. Outside Europe; Japan and Canada, Australia and New Zealand, are all similiar, well-ordered capitalist countries, sweetened with the solidarity and generosity of democratic socialism.

Why hasn’t the United States done something similar? Why must the streets of their cities be populated by cold and hungry homeless families? Why are the young lives of their college students blighted by long-term debt? (On the subject of student debt in America, Derek Newton writing for Forbes.com about Secretary of Education, Betsy deVos,  whose family, it is reported, owns ten yachts, says: “As the Queen of Student Debt, DeVos is burdening students with debt she knows many can’t pay in order to advance the interests of those who take advantage of them.” It gets even better. See Newton’s full article here.) Why does the United States have the highest encarceration rates in the world? What about the hopeless working poor and millions of citizens bereft of any health care? Why are their billionaires so obscene and so obscenely rich? Aren’t they taxed? And where did that President come from?

Have the Americans forgotten that theirs is the richest country in the world? Or have they forgotten that riches are not just for buying yachts and wars? These are not rhetorical questions. Why don’t the Americans look around and see what the governments of the rest of the world are achieving for all of their citizens and fix their  own country?

Trick Bag, Can’t Fix

They can’t. They’re living in a trick bag, victims of the false American ethos of rugged individualism, the self-made man and dog-eat-dog competitiveness. It’s a country where people are judged primarily by how much they have with all other considerations coming in a distant second. Where did this twisted, unnatural and anti-human set of values come from, and how did it get a death grip  on what was potentially the greatest country in the world? The answers to these fundamental questions are not secret. They just require a bit of research.

Ironically, it was a historical coincidence that caused socialism to set the anti-socialism ball rolling. It was during the low point of the 1930s that many American citizens noticed that there was one country in the world that was conspicuously unaffected by the Great Depression. It was not only not affected but actually enjoyed a booming economy. The Soviet Union’s first Five Year Plan in 1928 brought with it redistribution of wealth, universal health care, and full employment. (Source: Wikipedia) There was a period, before Stalin’s brutal excesses became known, when the Soviet system looked attractive to the American Left and the Communist Party enjoyed a honeymoon with the American working class. With unemployment figures hovering around 25% (much higher for minorities), desperate American workers formed long lines to emigrate to Soviet Russia. Business Week reported at the time that the Soviet Union needed 6,000 American workers and more than 100,000 applied.

This unexpected set of economic circumstances (particularly the implicitly negative comparison between America and Russia) sent American businessmen into paroxysms of fear. What would become of their economic dominance if Soviet successes continued? That fear has continued to dominate their world down to our own times. It fueled the First Red Scare (1917-20), which coincided with the Russian revolution, and the Second Red Scare in 1947-60 which was supercharged by Joseph McCarthy, the ambitious and unscrupulous Senator from Wisconsin. McCarthy’s fear mongering to the lowest common American denominator debilitated the labor unions, political associations and cultural organizations of the American left, responsible for the reforms of the 30s and 40s. In the process McCarthy virtually wiped out the American Communist Party, along with the creme of Hollywood talent, which was blacklisted by his House Un-American Activities (HUAC) committee. Ninety percent of the tarnished filmmakers never went back to work in Hollywood. (Source: The Untold History of the United States)

Socialism, Just Vanilla-Flavored Communism

With anti-Communism firmly consolidated as American scripture, the United States moved on to the Cold War, the Soviet-American geopolitical confrontation which lasted from 1946 (with American diplomat, George Kennan’s, “Long Telegram” from Moscow in which he enunciated the United States’ policy of containment of Soviet expansionism), until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. (Source: Wikipedia) It was during this period that the United States made maximum use of “the Communist threat” to justify their colonial wars in Korea and Vietnam, as well as American-sponsored proxy wars in Latin America, Afghanistan, Iran and other places.

That’s more than half a century of selling hard-core anti-Communism as one of the basic pillars of American thinking, so it’s no wonder that “socialism” (which, as all American patriots know, is just vanilla-flavored Communism) should be anathema to all right-thinking Americans. For that matter, today perhaps half of Americans consider a “liberal” to be the first cousin to a dangerous commie.

The Future of American Socialism

American socialists today
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders, two of America’s self-professed socialists. AOC said at last spring’s SXSW Festival, “There’s all this fear mongering that the government’s going to take over every corporation… We should be scared right now because corporations have taken over our government.”

The upcoming American presidential and congressional elections, scheduled for November 3, 2020, have a lot to reveal about the future of the country. At stake, besides the presidency, are all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 34 of 100 Senate seats. The choice for American voters is between more of the same and a radical departure from President Donald Trump’s atypical administration. The issues right now, just over a year from the elections, are centered on President Trump’s alleged wrongdoing on several fronts, and his possible impeachment. But all of that could prove irrelevant if his well-entrenched and loyal backers re-elect him or, as he has hinted, he refuses to accept the election results.

If the elections should tilt the other way and the Democrats were to win the presidency, maintain their majority in the House, and gain ground in the Senate, the task of restoring the government to sanity and decency would be massive. There democratic persuasions of all stripes, including socialism, would enter into the mix. The question becomes, would the outrages of the Trump administration persuade middle-of-the-road American voters to opt for more-socialist-leaning solutions: more regulation of big business including a fair tax structure, more robust social programs, investment in public education, a clearer division between church and state, cutting back on military spending, sane administration of international relations… This may sound like a left-wing Christmas list, but everything is possible in turbulent times such as these, and progress on even half of these issues would be a step forward. It will not be easy in any case, considering the considerable influence of corporate money on the United States Congress, on both sides of aisles.

Who would lead the left’s campaign to take responsibility for the government of the United States? Both Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, who will be, respectively 79 and 77 years of age on election day, might be considered too old. (On the other hand, age connotates wisdom…) That leaves Elizabeth Warren, who would bring competence and decency into the presidency and would not be reluctant to include democratic socialists in her government. Would she include any of the four young ethnic congresswomen the press refers to as “The Squad.” President Trump, himself, is one of their promoters, prompted by the fear they inspire, with comments like, “Go back where you came from!” They look like the future of something. It remains to be seen what.

The Squad 2019
The Squad is a group of four congresswomen elected in the 2018 United States House of Representatives elections, made up of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York,Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.

“We need leaders not in love with money but in love with justice. Not in love with publicity but in love with humanity.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

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Who’s Going to Help the United States with Regime Change?

regime_change_democracies

The Times They Are a’Changin’

If you’re reading this you will agree that some profound changes in the American government are urgently needed. (How can I be so sure you’ll agree? Because the people who disagree don’t read.) The questions remaining are:

  1. What changes are required?
  2. Who’s going to carry them out?
  3. When and how?

The most obvious answers seem to be:

  1. A clean sweep of the Trump government
  2. A citizens’ initiative
  3. ASAP, and the How is more complicated

The prevailing wisdom seems to be that President Trump needs impeaching. It’s hard to disagree with that, but it’s equally hard not to notice that it wouldn’t do a great deal of good. Besides impeaching (being brought to trial by a simple majority of the House of Representatives where Democrats outnumber Republicans 235 to 198) he also needs convicting by a two-thirds vote in the Senate, and with a Republican-controlled Senate that’s not going to happen. Let’s fantacize a little bit. If it did happen and President Trump were booted out of office, what then? There’s Vice President Pence, waiting in the wings, drooling scripture. Then comes the three-year legal process to get rid of him. Clearly, this is too clunky, and it’s not feasible.

In fact, maybe this whole scenario is based on the liberals’ denial of the real situation. Perhaps their obsession with freeing the country from Trumpism just forms part of their aversion to cell phones, killer drones and Marvel movies. Maybe they should let nature take its course. President Trump was elected, after all. The rest is history in the making.

People who disagree profoundly with President Trump feel they need not only a new President but a clean sweep of the government. To achieve that objective by legal means is virtually impossible, given the extent to which Republican elected officials and appointees control the government, with the sole exception of the Supreme Court, which has its own impediments, i.e. a conservative majority. That situation could get even worse. It’s not clear how much longer Ruth Bader, the charming little 86-year-old weight-lifting justice who has been on the Court for the past 26 years, might last. If President Trump gets to appoint her successor the Supreme Court could be monopolized by powerful reactionaries for decades.

Another–Admittedly Messy–Alternative

Another possibility is civil war. (Yes, it could happen there.)  But that has serious drawbacks, too. In the first place, it would be messy, as Americans discovered in their first civil war, a century and a half ago. Then there’s the question of doubt about its outcome. Would President Trump’s well-armed-and-de-cerebrated Nazis, Klansmen (Klanspeople?) and White Supremacists prevail? Even worse, it’s not clear whether the military and the police would come down on the side of the conspirators or the armed militias. No, the civil-war option is entirely too risky.

What possible solution to America’s current political dilemma does that leave? They could try some sort of covert operation to bring about what the Americans refer to as “regime change.” The mere mention of that provokes a shudder among even the most hardened proponents of getting rid of Trumpism. “Yes, but these are trying times and this is a special case,” they will say, “and there will be time later to justify the more extreme measures.” That is if those measures work, something that is not assured.

If progressive Americans should decide to take the first step down that slippery slope, how would they go about it? It’s a massive project, like building a dam. They would need some experts, though they wouldn’t have far to look. The world regime-change capital is in Virginia, the home of Washington and Jefferson. The CIA headquarters is in McLean, just 20 minutes down the George Washington Memorial Parkway from Washington, DC. They’re not short of tried and tested experts in the business of changing regimes. As far as we know, until now their activities have been limited to other people’s countries, but it wouldn’t take a great deal of adjustment for them to adapt their methods to their home ground.

Tutti Frutti Regime Change

The CIA regime-change specialists have several flavors to choose from. There’s the straightforward invasion mode, which sounds like a good idea given the size and technological level of the American military. Though it didn’t work in Vietnam, Iraq or Syria, it was successful in smaller, less advanced countries like Panama and the Caribbean island of Grenada. But it isn’t a first-choice option for their own country. Nobody–or almost nobody–would look kindly upon the bombing of Boston.

A subtler approach is the proxy mode in which the CIA recruits, equips and trains an army of mercenaries (hereafter known as “the opposition”) with sufficient clout to bring down the existing (usually elected left-wing) government and install a strong man of their own choosing. This model has worked in Central America (since time immemorial) and East Timor (1975–1999), but not so well in Korea (1950-1953), Vietnam (1953-1975), Angola (1974–2002) or Syria (2011-2019). American proxy wars have been known to get out of hand and require American troops to intervene, as was the case in Korea and Vietnam.

A proxy operation would seem redundant in the United States, which already has a massive military, poised and ready to intervene anywhere in the world. Why not start in Washington? This would require years of careful grooming of key military officers capable of commanding a coup détat when the time comes. Does that mean this Manchurian-army ploy would take 10 or 20 years to execute? Yes, unless they already started 10 or 20 years ago…

Wait, Hasn’t the United States Already Undergone Regime Change

It can be coherently argued that the election of President Donald Trump and the government he subsequently formed was a de-facto regime change. After all, their objective was to dismount virtually the entire government by eliminating or privatizing existing programs in all areas, from environmental protection to education, health care and government regulation of the financial sector. And they are moving briskly backward with that program. So, yes, there is regime-change underway, though many thoughtful Americans would affirm that it’s changing in the wrong direction and needs to be re-directed.

That is to say, they would advocate a regime change of the regime change. It sounds almost as silly as the Brits Brexiting the Brexit, but there you have it. How simple it would have been for the Americans to head Trumpism off at the pass in the last presidential election, but for some reason they didn’t. So now they find themselves facing a bear that is potentially bigger and hairier than the Russian bear they’ve been threatening us with all these years.

BREAKING NEWS

Whatever they decide to do, they had better do it quickly, in view of President Trump’s latest declaration on his pullout from the contested border areas between Turkey and Syria, populated by the long-suffering Kurds. They were the main players in the recent American-sponsored “victory” over ISIS.  Last Sunday’s American withdrawl opened the way for Turkish troops to sweep into Syria, wiping out the Kurds, now abandoned by the US, along the way. Turkey has the largest army in NATO, and according to yesterday’s papers they’re ready to roll.

It seems that some of the President’s advisors have belatedly warned him that turning the Turks loose to slaughter the Kurds and invade Syria is a singularly bad idea that would open up a whole new can of worms in the Middle East. So the President, never at a loss for words, excreted this declaration yesterday (as reported by The Guardian, October 7, 2029):

“As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!),” Mr Trump wrote on Twitter Monday morning.

He continued: “They must, with Europe and others, watch over the captured ISIS fighters and families. The US has done far more than anyone could have ever expected, including the capture of 100% of the ISIS Caliphate. It is time now for others in the region, some of great wealth, to protect their own territory. THE USA IS GREAT!”

It may be too late for regime change in the United States. Don’t you wish you’d built a bomb shelter?

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Latest news, from this morning, Tuesday, October 8, 2019.

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Racism in the Free World

lynching blacks America
Festive occasion down south.

The American Racist Tradition Has Long Roots

Racism is as American as apple pie. It’s a tradition that has been ongoing on many fronts, starting even before shiploads of African slaves began landing in the New World. Its first victims were the “savage and godless” Native Americans. But their wildness and heathenism were not the worst of it. They were also the “proprietors” of two entire continents that were fabulously rich in natural resources and potential for “development.” That anomalous situation simply would not do. It was imperative that they should be relieved of those lands and riches by members of a superior godfearing white race. From the very beginning racism was linked with profit and religion was used as a blunt instrument.

What made the white race superior, after all? It was mainly horses and gunpowder and, ironically, savagery. With these advantages the white European riff-raff overwhelmed the noble American Indians, whose values were arguably superior to those of the Europeans. They inhabited a humane society based on solidarity, tolerance, and respect for their natural surroundings and everything that inhabited them.  But they were destined to succumb utterly to a series of rapacious European invaders driven by predatory greed and an intolerant religious ideology. And, as we shall see, in half a millenium not much has changed.

Though the United States’ racist ideology has been tempered by legislation, both out of fairness and for reasons of political correctness, much of its effectiveness was–and is–thwarted by shrewd racist maneuvers like election tampering. So not much has changed. They celebrate fewer lynchings today but new procedures have arisen to take their place, such as white police officers killing colored men and boys with total impunity. It is, after all, more pragmatic. They don’t need a rope.

Let’s Talk About Lynching

According to the Wikipedia:

Lynching is the practice of murder by a group of people by extrajudicial action. Lynchings in the United States rose in number after the American Civil War in the late 19th century, following the emancipation of slaves; they declined in the 1920s. Most lynchings were of African-American men in the Southern United States, but women and non-blacks were also lynched, not always in the South. White lynchings of blacks also occurred in the midwestern United States and the border states, especially during the 20th-century Great Migration of blacks out of the Southern United States. The purpose was to enforce white supremacy and intimidate blacks through racial terrorism.

First You Must De-Humanize the Victims

Despite the fact that some white people were also lynched, the practice always has been a special atrocity aimed at people of color. It occurred most often in the Southern United States, where slavery had paved the way for dehumanizing black folks as sub-human or even non-human and, therefore, subject to be bought and sold as personal possessions (hence “chattel slavery”), treated like beasts of burden, having their families broken apart, and murdered with impunity. Even slaves born on American soil enjoyed no rights, no personal freedom, insofar as they were not recognized as “persons.”

It is important to note that this dehumanization process occurred mainly in the South and spread from there over the decades as proponents of the Southern way of life  moved North and into positions of power in the United States government. Racism migrated north not only with the good old boys in government, but with workers seeking northern jobs, and it went hand-in-hand with the increasing adoption of Southern-style Evangelical religion and the South’s switch from the Democratic to the Republican Party. In 1948 all the states of the “solid South” voted Democratic majorities. By 1972, thanks largely to the Democrats’ embracing the cause of civil rights, the South was solidly Republican.

Obviously, most of the racism that spread around the country was not openly declared, rather of the wink-and-nod variety, such as President Trump’s declaration after the May 2017, Charlottesville Unite the Right white-supremacist rally. That was where the Nazis and the Klan played starring roles and a woman was killed by a car that was deliberately driven into a crowd of peaceful anti-fascist protesters. Afterwards, the President highlighted his comments with, “You also had people that were very fine people on both sides.”

You might be interested in seeing Charlie Seguin’s interactive map of Lynching in the United States: 1883-1941.

Then There’s Institutional Racism

American racism is not just attributable to bands of fanatical crazies loose on the streets. Its also woven into the fabric of American institutions from top to bottom. Here’s the National Football League’s response to San Francisco quarterback Kevin Kaepernick’s gesture of solidarity with the black victims of police shootings, by kneeling during the national anthem. On Sept. 7, 2016, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said this about  Kaepernick’s one-man protest:

“…we believe very strongly in patriotism in the NFL. I personally believe very strongly in that. I think it’s important to have respect for our country, for our flag, for the people who make our country better; for law enforcement, and for our military who are out fighting for our freedoms and our ideals.

He concludes: “…clearly we have things that can get better in society, and we should get better. But we have to choose respectful ways of doing that so that we can achieve the outcomes we ultimately want and do it with the values and ideals that make our country great.”

Goodell’s first paragraph is a cheap shot, pulling out the patriotism card. The issue here has nothing to do with patriotism, as he well knows, but he also knows that just mentioning it will warm up an American audience. The operative word in his closing remarks is “respectful,” as if kneeling weren’t a respectful way of expressing dissent. The subtext here is thinly-disguised racism. If Kaepernick had been white, addressing a non-racial issue, might the story not have been a little different?

An Intellectual’s First-Hand Observations of Racism

James Baldwin said this in a 1962 article in The New Yorker:

But the Negro’s experience of the white world cannot possibly create in him any respect for the standards by which the white world claims to live. His own condition is overwhelming proof that white people do not live by these standards. Negro servants have been smuggling odds and ends out of white homes for generations, and white people have been delighted to have them do it, because it has assuaged a dim guilt and testified to the intrinsic superiority of white people.

He added:

In any case, white people, who had robbed black people of their liberty and who profited by this theft every hour that they lived, had no moral ground on which to stand. They had the judges, the juries, the shotguns, the law—in a word, power. But it was a criminal power, to be feared but not respected, and to be outwitted in any way whatever. And those virtues preached but not practiced by the white world were merely another means of holding Negroes in subjection.

Every Step Is Loaded

Every step of the American justice system, from the police to the prosecutors to the judges and the prison system, is loaded with explicit or implicit racism, and the proof is in the pudding. Let’s take a look at the statistics. Here’s what Republican Congressman Rand Paul has to say on on his website on March 9, 2015, regarding America’s overall prison population:

“Though only five percent of the world’s population lives in the United States, it is home to 25 percent of the world’s prison population. … Not only does the current overpopulated, underfunded system hurt those incarcerated, it also digs deeper into the pockets of taxpaying Americans.”  

Even more alarming are these “incarceration trends” compiled by NAACP.org:

Incarceration Trends in America

  • Between 1980 and 2015, the number of people incarcerated in America increased from roughly 500,000 to over 2.2 million.
  • 1 in every 37 adults in the United States, or 2.7% of the adult population, is under some form of correctional supervision.

Racial Disparities in Incarceration

  • In 2014, African Americans constituted 2.3 million, or 34%, of the total 6.8 million correctional population.
  • African Americans are incarcerated at more than five times the rate of whites.
  • The imprisonment rate for African American women is twice that of white women.
  • Nationwide, African American children represent 32% of children who are arrested,
    42% of children who are detained, and 52% of children whose cases are judicially
    waived to criminal court.
  • Though African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately 32% of the US
    population, they comprised 56% of all incarcerated people in 2015.
  • If African Americans and Hispanics were incarcerated at the same rates as whites,
    prison and jail populations would decline by almost 40%.

Drug Sentencing Disparities

  • In the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 17 million whites and 4 million African Americans reported having used an illicit drug within the last month.
  • African Americans and whites use drugs at similar rates, but the imprisonment rate of African Americans for drug charges is almost 6 times that of whites.
  • African Americans represent 12.5% of illicit drug users, but 29% of those arrested for drug offenses and 33% of those incarcerated in state facilities for drug offenses.

The deck is clearly stacked and the principal motor of this curious situation is not a mystery. In one form or another it is racism .

Lee Atwater on The Southern Strategy

Lee Atwater was an atypical rock ‘n rollin’ Republican strategist, and later chairman of the Republican National Committee who died at 40 of a brain tumor. Born in Georgia and raised in South Carolina he was southern through and through. He is interesting to us for an anonymous interview he gave to political scientist Alexander Lamis in 1981, while he was working for the Reagan government. This interview, which wasn’t made public until 11 years after his death, surfaced as an audio published by The Nation on November 1, 2012. Its content gives us a privileged peek into the underlying thinking behind the almost subliminal use of racism in the Southern Republican strategy:

Atwater: As to the whole Southern strategy that Harry S. Dent, Sr. and others put together in 1968, opposition to the Voting Rights Act would have been a central part of keeping the South. Now you don’t have to do that. All that you need to do to keep the South is for Reagan to run in place on the issues that he’s campaigned on since 1964, and that’s fiscal conservatism, balancing the budget, cut taxes, you know, the whole cluster.

Questioner: But the fact is, isn’t it, that Reagan does get to the Wallace voter and to the racist side of the Wallace voter by doing away with legal services, by cutting down on food stamps?

Atwater: Y’all don’t quote me on this. You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger”. By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me—because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this”, is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger”. So, any way you look at it, race is coming on the backbone.

Atwater, the Republican insider, is notable for this devastating statement he made in a Life magazine article in February of 1991, a month before he died:

My illness helped me to see that what was missing in society is what was missing in me: a little heart, a lot of brotherhood. The 1980s were about acquiring – acquiring wealth, power, prestige. I know. I acquired more wealth, power, and prestige than most. But you can acquire all you want and still feel empty. What power wouldn’t I trade for a little more time with my family? What price wouldn’t I pay for an evening with friends? It took a deadly illness to put me eye to eye with that truth, but it is a truth that the country, caught up in its ruthless ambitions and moral decay, can learn on my dime. I don’t know who will lead us through the ’90s, but they must be made to speak to this spiritual vacuum at the heart of American society, this tumor of the soul.

By Way of Homage to Martin Luther King

MLK4

This is the full text of Martin Luther King’s “I’ve been to the mountaintop…” speech, given in Memphis, Tennessee, April 3, 1968, the day before he was assassinated.

Thank you very kindly, my friends. As I listened to Ralph Abernathy and his eloquent and generous introduction and then thought about myself, I wondered who he was talking about. It’s always good to have your closest friend and associate to say something good about you. And Ralph Abernathy is the best friend that I have in the world. I’m delighted to see each of you here tonight in spite of a storm warning. You reveal that you are determined to go on anyhow.

Something is happening in Memphis; something is happening in our world. And you know, if I were standing at the beginning of time, with the possibility of taking a kind of general and panoramic view of the whole of human history up to now, and the Almighty said to me, “Martin Luther King, which age would you like to live in?” I would take my mental flight by Egypt and I would watch God’s children in their magnificent trek from the dark dungeons of Egypt through, or rather across the Red Sea, through the wilderness on toward the promised land. And in spite of its magnificence, I wouldn’t stop there.

I would move on by Greece and take my mind to Mount Olympus. And I would see MLK_Lyndon_JohnsonPlato, Aristotle, Socrates, Euripides and Aristophanes assembled around the Parthenon. And I would watch them around the Parthenon as they discussed the great and eternal issues of reality. But I wouldn’t stop there.

I would go on, even to the great heyday of the Roman Empire. And I would see developments around there, through various emperors and leaders. But I wouldn’t stop there.

I would even come up to the day of the Renaissance, and get a quick picture of all that the Renaissance did for the cultural and aesthetic life of man. But I wouldn’t stop there.

I would even go by the way that the man for whom I am named had his habitat. And I would watch Martin Luther as he tacked his ninety-five theses on the door at the church of Wittenberg. But I wouldn’t stop there. I would come on up even to 1863, and watch a vacillating President by the name of Abraham Lincoln finally come to the conclusion that he had to sign the Emancipation Proclamation. But I wouldn’t stop there.

I would even come up to the early thirties, and see a man grappling with the problems of the bankruptcy of his nation. And come with an eloquent cry that we have nothing to fear but “fear itself.” But I wouldn’t stop there. Strangely enough, I would turn to the Almighty, and say, “If you allow me to live just a few years in the second half of the 20th century, I will be happy.”

Now that’s a strange statement to make, because the world is all messed up. The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land; confusion all around. That’s a strange statement. But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough can you see the stars. And I see God working in this period of the twentieth century in a way that men, in some strange way, are responding. Something is happening in our world. The masses of people are rising up. And wherever they are assembled today, whether they are in Johannesburg, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya; Accra, Ghana; New York City; Atlanta, Georgia; Jackson, Mississippi; or Memphis, Tennessee — the cry is always the same: “We want to be free.”

MLK and wife
Martin Luther King with his wife, Coretta, on the night before his assassination.

And another reason that I’m happy to live in this period is that we have been forced to a point where we are going to have to grapple with the problems that men have been trying to grapple with through history, but the demands didn’t force them to do it. Survival demands that we grapple with them. Men, for years now, have been talking about war and peace. But now, no longer can they just talk about it. It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world; it’s nonviolence or nonexistence. That is where we are today.

And also in the human rights revolution, if something isn’t done, and done in a hurry, to bring the colored peoples of the world out of their long years of poverty, their long years of hurt and neglect, the whole world is doomed. Now, I’m just happy that God has allowed me to live in this period to see what is unfolding. And I’m happy that He’s allowed me to be in Memphis.

I can remember — I can remember when Negroes were just going around as Ralph has said, so often, scratching where they didn’t itch, and laughing when they were not tickled. But that day is all over. We mean business now, and we are determined to gain our rightful place in God’s world.

And that’s all this whole thing is about. We aren’t engaged in any negative protest and in any negative arguments with anybody. We are saying that we are determined to be men. We are determined to be people. We are saying — We are saying that we are God’s children. And that we are God’s children, we don’t have to live like we are forced to live.

Now, what does all of this mean in this great period of history? It means that we’ve got to stay together. We’ve got to stay together and maintain unity. You know, whenever Pharaoh wanted to prolong the period of slavery in Egypt, he had a favorite, favorite formula for doing it. What was that? He kept the slaves fighting among themselves. But whenever the slaves get together, something happens in Pharaoh’s court, and he cannot hold the slaves in slavery. When the slaves get together, that’s the beginning of getting out of slavery. Now let us maintain unity.

Secondly, let us keep the issues where they are. The issue is injustice. The issue is the refusal of Memphis to be fair and honest in its dealings with its public servants, who happen to be sanitation workers. Now, we’ve got to keep attention on that. That’s always the problem with a little violence. You know what happened the other day, and the press dealt only with the window-breaking. I read the articles. They very seldom got around to mentioning the fact that one thousand, three hundred sanitation workers are on strike, and that Memphis is not being fair to them, and that Mayor Loeb is in dire need of a doctor. They didn’t get around to that.

Now we’re going to march again, and we’ve got to march again, in order to put the issue where it is supposed to be — and force everybody to see that there are thirteen hundred of God’s children here suffering, sometimes going hungry, going through dark and dreary nights wondering how this thing is going to come out. That’s the issue. And we’ve got to say to the nation: We know how it’s coming out. For when people get caught up with that which is right and they are willing to sacrifice for it, there is no stopping point short of victory. We aren’t going to let any mace stop us. We are masters in our nonviolent movement in disarming police forces; they don’t know what to do. I’ve seen them so often. I remember in Birmingham, Alabama, when we were in that majestic struggle there, we would move out of the 16th Street Baptist Church day after day; by the hundreds we would move out. And Bull Connor would tell them to send the dogs forth, and they did come; but we just went before the dogs singing, “Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around.”

Bull Connor next would say, “Turn the fire hoses on.” And as I said to you the other night, Bull Connor didn’t know history. He knew a kind of physics that somehow didn’t relate to the transphysics that we knew about. And that was the fact that there was a certain kind of fire that no water could put out. And we went before the fire hoses; we had known water. If we were Baptist or some other denominations, we had been immersed. If we were Methodist, and some others, we had been sprinkled, but we knew water. That couldn’t stop us.

And we just went on before the dogs and we would look at them; and we’d go on before the water hoses and we would look at it, and we’d just go on singing “Over my head I see freedom in the air.” And then we would be thrown in the paddy wagons, and sometimes we were stacked in there like sardines in a can. And they would throw us in, and old Bull would say, “Take ’em off,” and they did; and we would just go in the paddy wagon singing, “We Shall Overcome.”

And every now and then we’d get in jail, and we’d see the jailers looking through the windows being moved by our prayers, and being moved by our words and our songs. And there was a power there which Bull Connor couldn’t adjust to; and so we ended up transforming Bull into a steer, and we won our struggle in Birmingham. Now we’ve got to go on in Memphis just like that. I call upon you to be with us when we go out Monday.

Now about injunctions: We have an injunction and we’re going into court tomorrow morning to fight this illegal, unconstitutional injunction. All we say to America is, “Be true to what you said on paper.” If I lived in China or even Russia, or any totalitarian country, maybe I could understand some of these illegal injunctions. Maybe I could understand the denial of certain basic First Amendment privileges, because they hadn’t committed themselves to that over there.

But somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech.

Somewhere I read of the freedom of press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right. And so just as I say, we aren’t going to let dogs or water hoses turn us around, we aren’t going to let any injunction turn us around. We are going on.

We need all of you. And you know what’s beautiful to me is to see all of these ministers of the Gospel. It’s a marvelous picture. Who is it that is supposed to articulate the longings and aspirations of the people more than the preacher? Somehow the preacher must have a kind of fire shut up in his bones. And whenever injustice is around he tell it. Somehow the preacher must be an Amos, and saith, “When God speaks who can but prophesy?” Again with Amos, “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Somehow the preacher must say with Jesus, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me,” and he’s anointed me to deal with the problems of the poor.”

And I want to commend the preachers, under the leadership of these noble men: James Lawson, one who has been in this struggle for many years; he’s been to jail for struggling; he’s been kicked out of Vanderbilt University for this struggle, but he’s still going on, fighting for the rights of his people. Reverend Ralph Jackson, Billy Kiles; I could just go right on down the list, but time will not permit.

But I want to thank all of them. And I want you to thank them, because so often, preachers aren’t concerned about anything but themselves. And I’m always happy to see a relevant ministry.

It’s all right to talk about “long white robes over yonder,” in all of its symbolism. But ultimately people want some suits and dresses and shoes to wear down here! It’s all right to talk about “streets flowing with milk and honey,” but God has commanded us to be concerned about the slums down here, and his children who can’t eat three square meals a day. It’s all right to talk about the new Jerusalem, but one day, God’s preacher must talk about the new New York, the new Atlanta, the new Philadelphia, the new Los Angeles, the new Memphis, Tennessee. This is what we have to do.

Now the other thing we’ll have to do is this: Always anchor our external direct action with the power of economic withdrawal. Now, we are poor people. Individually, we are poor when you compare us with white society in America. We are poor. Never stop and forget that collectively — that means all of us together — collectively we are richer than all the nations in the world, with the exception of nine. Did you ever think about that?

After you leave the United States, Soviet Russia, Great Britain, West Germany, France, and I could name the others, the American Negro collectively is richer than most nations of the world. We have an annual income of more than thirty billion dollars a year, which is more than all of the exports of the United States, and more than the national budget of Canada. Did you know that? That’s power right there, if we know how to pool it.

We don’t have to argue with anybody. We don’t have to curse and go around acting bad with our words. We don’t need any bricks and bottles. We don’t need any Molotov cocktails. We just need to go around to these stores, and to these massive industries in our country, and say, “God sent us by here, to say to you that you’re not treating his children right. And we’ve come by here to ask you to make the first item on your agenda fair treatment, where God’s children are concerned.

Now, if you are not prepared to do that, we do have an agenda that we must follow. And our agenda calls for withdrawing economic support from you.”

And so, as a result of this, we are asking you tonight, to go out and tell your neighbors not to buy Coca-Cola in Memphis. Go by and tell them not to buy Sealtest milk. Tell them not to buy — what is the other bread? — Wonder Bread. And what is the other bread company, Jesse? Tell them not to buy Hart’s bread. As Jesse Jackson has said, up to now, only the garbage men have been feeling pain; now we must kind of redistribute the pain.

We are choosing these companies because they haven’t been fair in their hiring policies; and we are choosing them because they can begin the process of saying they are going to support the needs and the rights of these men who are on strike. And then they can move on town — downtown and tell Mayor Loeb to do what is right.

But not only that, we’ve got to strengthen black institutions. I call upon you to take your money out of the banks downtown and deposit your money in Tri-State Bank. We want a “bank-in” movement in Memphis. Go by the savings and loan association. I’m not asking you something that we don’t do ourselves at SCLC. Judge Hooks and others will tell you that we have an account here in the savings and loan association from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

We are telling you to follow what we are doing. Put your money there. You have six or seven black insurance companies here in the city of Memphis. Take out your insurance there. We want to have an “insurance-in.”

Now these are some practical things that we can do. We begin the process of building a greater economic base. And at the same time, we are putting pressure where it really hurts. I ask you to follow through here.

Now, let me say as I move to my conclusion that we’ve got to give ourselves to this struggle until the end.

Nothing would be more tragic than to stop at this point in Memphis. We’ve got to see it through. And when we have our march, you need to be there. If it means leaving work, if it means leaving school — be there. Be concerned about your brother. You may not be on strike. But either we go up together, or we go down together.

Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness. One day a man came to Jesus, and he wanted to raise some questions about some vital matters of life. At points he wanted to trick Jesus, and show him that he knew a little more than Jesus knew and throw him off base…. Now that question could have easily ended up in a philosophical and theological debate. But Jesus immediately pulled that question from mid-air, and placed it on a dangerous curve between Jerusalem and Jericho. And he talked about a certain man, who fell among thieves. You remember that a Levite and a priest passed by on the other side.

They didn’t stop to help him. And finally a man of another race came by. He got down from his beast, decided not to be compassionate by proxy. But he got down with him, administered first aid, and helped the man in need. Jesus ended up saying, this was the good man, this was the great man, because he had the capacity to project the “I” into the “thou,” and to be concerned about his brother.

Now you know, we use our imagination a great deal to try to determine why the priest and the Levite didn’t stop. At times we say they were busy going to a church meeting, an ecclesiastical gathering, and they had to get on down to Jerusalem so they wouldn’t be late for their meeting. At other times we would speculate that there was a religious law that “One who was engaged in religious ceremonials was not to touch a human body twenty-four hours before the ceremony.” And every now and then we begin to wonder whether maybe they were not going down to Jerusalem — or down to Jericho, rather to organize a “Jericho Road Improvement Association.”

That’s a possibility. Maybe they felt that it was better to deal with the problem from the causal root, rather than to get bogged down with an individual effect.

But I’m going to tell you what my imagination tells me. It’s possible that those men were afraid. You see, the Jericho road is a dangerous road. I remember when Mrs. King and I were first in Jerusalem. We rented a car and drove from Jerusalem down to Jericho. And as soon as we got on that road, I said to my wife, “I can see why Jesus used this as the setting for his parable.” It’s a winding, meandering road. It’s really conducive for ambushing. You start out in Jerusalem, which is about 1200 miles — or rather 1200 feet above sea level. And by the time you get down to Jericho, fifteen or twenty minutes later, you’re about 2200 feet below sea level. That’s a dangerous road. In the days of Jesus it came to be known as the “Bloody Pass.”

And you know, it’s possible that the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around. Or it’s possible that they felt that the man on the ground was merely faking. And he was acting like he had been robbed and hurt, in order to seize them over there, lure them there for quick and easy seizure. And so the first question that the priest asked — the first question that the Levite asked was, “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”

That’s the question before you tonight. Not, “If I stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to my job. Not, “If I stop to help the sanitation workers what will happen to all of the hours that I usually spend in my office every day and every week as a pastor?” The question is not, “If I stop to help this man in need, what will happen to me?” The question is, “If I do not stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to them?” That’s the question.

Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation. And I want to thank God, once more, for allowing me to be here with you. You know, several years ago, I was in New York City autographing the first book that I had written. And while sitting there autographing books, a demented black woman came up.

The only question I heard from her was, “Are you Martin Luther King?” And I was looking down writing, and I said, “Yes.” And the next minute I felt something beating on my chest. Before I knew it I had been stabbed by this demented woman. I was rushed to Harlem Hospital. It was a dark Saturday afternoon. And that blade had gone through, and the X-rays revealed that the tip of the blade was on the edge of my aorta, the main artery. And once that’s punctured, your drowned in your own blood — that’s the end of you.

It came out in the New York Times the next morning, that if I had merely sneezed, I would have died. Well, about four days later, they allowed me, after the operation, after my chest had been opened, and the blade had been taken out, to move around in the wheel chair in the hospital.

They allowed me to read some of the mail that came in, and from all over the states and the world, kind letters came in. I read a few, but one of them I will never forget. I had received one from the President and the Vice-President. I’ve forgotten what those telegrams said. I’d received a visit and a letter from the Governor of New York, but I’ve forgotten what that letter said. But there was another letter that came from a little girl, a young girl who was a student at the White Plains High School. And I looked at that letter, and I’ll never forget it. It said simply,

“Dear Dr. King, I am a ninth-grade student at the White Plains High School.”

And she said,

“While it should not matter, I would like to mention that I’m a white girl. I read in the paper of your misfortune, and of your suffering. And I read that if you had sneezed, you would have died. And I’m simply writing you to say that I’m so happy that you didn’t sneeze.”

And I want to say tonight — I want to say tonight that I too am happy that I didn’t sneeze. Because if I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around here in 1960, when students all over the South started sitting-in at lunch counters. And I knew that as they were sitting in, they were really standing up for the best in the American dream, and taking the whole nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around here in 1961, when we decided to take a ride for freedom and ended segregation in inter-state travel.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around here in 1962, when Negroes in Albany, Georgia, decided to straighten their backs up. And whenever men and women straighten their backs up, they are going somewhere, because a man can’t ride your back unless it is bent.

If I had sneezed — If I had sneezed I wouldn’t have been here in 1963, when the black people of Birmingham, Alabama, aroused the conscience of this nation, and brought into being the Civil Rights Bill.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have had a chance later that year, in August, to try to tell America about a dream that I had had.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been down in Selma, Alabama, to see the great Movement there.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been in Memphis to see a community rally around those brothers and sisters who are suffering.

I’m so happy that I didn’t sneeze.

And they were telling me –. Now, it doesn’t matter, now. It really doesn’t matter what happens now. I left Atlanta this morning, and as we got started on the plane, there were six of us.

The pilot said over the public address system, “We are sorry for the delay, but we have Dr. Martin Luther King on the plane. And to be sure that all of the bags were checked, and to be sure that nothing would be wrong with on the plane, we had to check out everything carefully. And we’ve had the plane protected and guarded all night.”

And then I got into Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers?

Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind.

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

And so I’m happy, tonight.

I’m not worried about anything.

I’m not fearing any man.

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

MLK_Time

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Here’s Freedom House’s US 2019 Report

Freedom_in_the_World_bonfire
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world. It was founded in  in October 1941, and Wendell Willkie and Eleanor Roosevelt served as its first honorary chairpersons.

 Prestigious American Think Tank Scores American Democracy–In Their Own Words

The Struggle Comes Home: Attacks on Democracy in the United States

U.S. President Donald Trump waves as he boards Air Force One. Photo credit: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images.

By Mike Abramowitz
President, Freedom House

Freedom House has advocated for democracy around the world since its founding in 1941, and since the early 1970s it has monitored the global status of political rights and civil liberties in the annual Freedom in the World report. During the report’s first three decades, as the Cold War gave way to a general advance of liberal democratic values, we urged on reformist movements and denounced the remaining dictators for foot-dragging and active resistance. We raised the alarm when progress stagnated in the 2000s, and called on major democracies to maintain their support for free institutions.

Today, after 13 consecutive years of decline in global freedom, backsliding among new democracies has been compounded by the erosion of political rights and civil liberties among the established democracies we have traditionally looked to for leadership and support. Indeed, the pillars of freedom have come under attack here in the United States. And just as we have called out foreign leaders for undermining democratic norms in their countries, we must draw attention to the same sorts of warning signs in our own country. It is in keeping with our mission, and given the irreplaceable role of the United States as a champion of global freedom, it is a priority we cannot afford to ignore.

US FREEDOM IN DECLINE

The great challenges facing US democracy did not commence with the inauguration of President Donald Trump. Intensifying political polarization, declining economic mobility, the outsized influence of special interests, and the diminished influence of fact-based reporting in favor of bellicose partisan media were all problems afflicting the health of American democracy well before 2017. Previous presidents have contributed to the pressure on our system by infringing on the rights of American citizens. Surveillance programs such as the bulk collection of communications metadata, initially undertaken by the George W. Bush administration, and the Obama administration’s overzealous crackdown on press leaks are two cases in point.

At the midpoint of his term, however, there remains little question that President Trump exerts an influence on American politics that is straining our core values and testing the stability of our constitutional system. No president in living memory has shown less respect for its tenets, norms, and principles. Trump has assailed essential institutions and traditions including the separation of powers, a free press, an independent judiciary, the impartial delivery of justice, safeguards against corruption, and most disturbingly, the legitimacy of elections. Congress, a coequal branch of government, has too frequently failed to push back against these attacks with meaningful oversight and other defenses.

We recognize the right of freely elected presidents and lawmakers to set immigration policy, adopt different levels of regulation and taxation, and pursue other legitimate aims related to national security. But they must do so according to rules designed to protect individual rights and ensure the long-term survival of the democratic system. There are no ends that justify nondemocratic means.

Freedom House is not alone in its concern for US democracy. Republicans, Democrats, and independents expressed deep reservations about its performance in a national poll conducted last year by Freedom House, the George W. Bush Institute, and the Penn Biden Center. A substantial majority of respondents said it is “absolutely important” to live in a democracy, but 55 percent agreed that American democracy is weak, and 68 percent said it is getting weaker. Big money in politics, racism and discrimination, and the inability of government to get things done—all long-standing problems—were the top concerns of those surveyed.

And yet Republicans and Democrats alike expressed strong attachments to individual liberty. A solid majority, 54 percent, believes it is more important for the rights of the minority to be protected than for the will of the majority to prevail.

So far, America’s institutions have largely honored this deeply democratic sentiment. The resilience of the judiciary, the press corps, an energetic civil society, the political opposition, and other guardrails of the constitutional system—as well as some conscientious lawmakers and officeholders from the president’s own party—have checked the chief executive’s worst impulses and mitigated the effects of his administration’s approach. While the United States suffered an unusual three-point drop on Freedom in the World’s 100-point scale for 2017, there was no additional net decline for 2018, and the total score of 86 still places the country firmly in the report’s Free category.

But the fact that the system has proven durable so far is no guarantee that it will continue to do so. Elsewhere in the world, in places like Hungary, Venezuela, or Turkey, Freedom House has watched as democratic institutions gradually succumbed to sustained pressure from an antidemocratic leadership, often after a halting start. Irresponsible rhetoric can be a first step toward real restrictions on freedom. The United States has already been weakened by declines in the rule of law, the conduct of elections, and safeguards against corruption, among other important indicators measured by Freedom in the World. The current overall US score puts American democracy closer to struggling counterparts like Croatia than to traditional peers such as Germany or the United Kingdom.

The stakes in this struggle are high. For all the claims that the United States has lost global influence over the past decade, the reality is that other countries pay close attention to the conduct of the world’s oldest functioning democracy. The continuing deterioration of US democracy will hasten the ongoing decline in global democracy. Indeed, it has already done so.

Ronald Reagan declared in his first inaugural address, “As we renew ourselves here in our own land, we will be seen as having greater strength throughout the world. We will again be the exemplar of freedom and a beacon of hope for those who do not now have freedom.” Nearly four decades later, the idea that the United States is such an exemplar is being steadily discredited.

ASSAILING THE RULE OF LAW

In any democracy, it is the role of independent judges and prosecutors to defend the supremacy and continuity of constitutional law against excesses by elected officials, to ensure that individual rights are not abused by hostile majorities or other powerful interests, and to prevent the politicization of justice so that competing parties can alternate in office without fear of unfair retribution. While not without problems, the United States has enjoyed a strong tradition of respect for the rule of law.

President Trump has repeatedly shown disdain for this tradition. Late in 2018, after a federal judge blocked the administration’s plan to consider asylum claims only from those who cross the border at official ports of entry, the president said, “This was an Obama judge. And I’ll tell you what, it’s not going to happen like this anymore.”

The remark drew a rare rebuke from Chief Justice John Roberts, who declared “we don’t have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges,” and defended an independent judiciary as “something we should all be thankful for.” But Trump shrugged off Roberts’s intervention of behalf of the judicial branch, insisting that the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit was “a complete and total disaster” and that if his asylum policy was obstructed, “there will be only bedlam, chaos, injury and death.”

Nor was this the first sign of hostility to the rule of law from the president. As a candidate in 2016, he questioned the impartiality of an American-born judge with a Hispanic surname who presided over a fraud suit filed against “Trump University.” Soon after taking office, he disparaged a federal judge who ruled against his travel ban on several Muslim-majority countries as “this so-called judge.”

The president has since urged the Department of Justice to prosecute his political opponents and critics. He has used his pardon power to reward political and ideological allies and encourage targets of criminal investigations to refuse cooperation with the government. He has expressed contempt for witnesses who are cooperating with law enforcement in cases that could harm his interests and praised those who remain silent. His administration’s harsh policies on immigrants and asylum seekers have restricted their rights, belittled our nation’s core ideals, and seriously compromised equal treatment under the law. In October 2018, the president went so far as to claim that he could unilaterally overturn the constitutional guarantee of birthright citizenship.

People take part in a protest against US immigration policies outside the US embassy in Mexico City on June 21, 2018. Photo credit: PEDRO PARDO/AFP/Getty Images.

The president’s attacks on the judiciary and law enforcement, echoed by media allies, are eroding the public’s trust in the third branch of government and the rule of law. Without that trust, the outright politicization of justice could well ensue, threatening the very stability of our democracy. Any American is free to contest the wisdom of a judge’s ruling, but no one—least of all the president—should challenge the authority of the courts themselves or use threats and incentives to pervert the legal process.

DEMONIZING THE PRESS

Legal protections for reporters are enshrined in America’s founding documents, and press freedom remains strong in practice. An array of independent media organizations have continued to produce vigorous coverage of the administration. But the constant vilification of such outlets by President Trump, in an already polarized media environment, is accelerating the breakdown of public confidence in journalism as a legitimate, fact-based check on government power. We have seen in other countries how such practices paved the way to more tangible erosions of press freedom and, in extreme cases, put journalists in physical danger. It would be foolish to assume it could never happen here.

In a tweet posted two days after a mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue last October, and not long after a series of pipe bombs had been sent by a Trump supporter to targets including CNN, the president blamed the media for inciting public rage: “There is great anger in our Country caused in part by inaccurate, and even fraudulent, reporting of the news,” Trump wrote. “The Fake News Media, the true Enemy of the People, must stop the open & obvious hostility & report the news accurately & fairly. That will do much to put out the flame … of Anger and Outrage and we will then be able to bring all sides together in Peace and Harmony. Fake News Must End!”

Previous presidents have criticized the press, sometimes bitterly, but none with such relentless hostility for the institution itself. Trump alone has deployed slurs like “enemy of the people,” flirted with the idea that the media are responsible for and perhaps deserving of violence, and defended his own routine falsehoods while accusing journalists of lying with malicious, even treasonous intent.

These practices have added to negative trends that were already apparent by 2017, including the emergence of more polarized media outlets on the right and left, the decline of independent reporting at the state and municipal level, the consolidation of ownership in certain sectors, and the rise of social media platforms that reward extreme views and fraudulent content. In this environment, more Americans are likely to seek refuge in media echo chambers, heeding only “reporting” that affirms their opinions rather than obtaining the factual information necessary to self-governance.

An independent, pluralistic, and vigilant press corps often antagonizes the subjects it covers. That is an acceptable consequence of the essential service it provides—keeping our democratic system honest, transparent, and accountable to the people. The press exposes private and public-sector corruption, abuses of power, invasions of privacy, and threats to public health and safety. Attempts by our leaders to disrupt this process through smears and intimidation could leave all Americans, the president’s supporters and detractors alike, more vulnerable to exploitation, perfidy, and physical hazard.

SELF-DEALING AND CONFLICTS OF INTEREST

Corruption and transparency are crucial factors in Freedom House’s assessments of democracy around the world. When officials use their positions to enrich themselves, or even tolerate conflicts of interest that sow public doubts about their motivations, citizens lose faith in the system and begin to avoid their own responsibilities, including paying taxes, participating in elections, and obeying the law in general. To avoid such decay, it is imperative that government and citizens alike uphold ethical rules and norms against corruption.

The United States benefits from a number of strong antigraft protections, including independent courts, congressional oversight mechanisms, and active monitoring by the media and civil society. But as on other topics, President Trump has broken with his modern predecessors in flouting the ethical standards of public service.

From the outset of his administration, the president has been willing to ignore obvious conflicts of interest, most prominently with his decision not to divest ownership of his businesses or place them in a blind trust. Instead, he moved them into a revocable trust, managed by his sons, of which he is the sole beneficiary. During his presidency, his businesses have accepted money from foreign lenders, including banks controlled by the Chinese government. Trump has swept aside the norm against nepotism by having his daughter and son-in-law, both seemingly saddled with their own conflicts of interest, serve as senior White House advisers. He also rejected the tradition obliging presidents to release their income tax records.

Trump properties have hosted foreign delegations, business dinners, trade association conferences, and Republican Party fund-raising events, complete with Trump-branded wines and other products, likely arranged in the hope of earning the president’s gratitude. The Washington Post revealed that a month after President Trump’s election, lobbyists representing Saudi Arabia booked hundreds of rooms at Trump International Hotel in the capital. Indeed, a number of foreign and domestic interests allegedly sought to influence the new administration by arranging donations to Trump’s inauguration festivities, which are now under investigation.

The unusual nature of President Trump’s approach to conflicts of interest has been underscored by the emergence of first-of-their-kind lawsuits accusing him of violating the constitution’s prohibition on public officials accepting gifts or “emoluments” from foreign states. The nation’s founders understood the corrosive threat of such corruption, and so have most presidents.

ATTACKING THE LEGITIMACY OF ELECTIONS

The importance of credible elections to the health of a democracy should be self-evident. If citizens believe that the polls are rigged, they will neither take part in the exercise nor accept the legitimacy of those elected.

Nevertheless, unsubstantiated accusations of voter fraud have been a staple of the president’s assault on political norms. During the 2018 midterm elections, he suggested without evidence that Democrats were stealing a Senate seat in Arizona and committing fraud in Florida’s senatorial and gubernatorial balloting. He complained that undocumented asylum seekers were invading the country so they could vote for Democrats. He suggested that Democratic voters were returning to the polls in disguise to vote more than once.

Months before his own election in 2016, candidate Trump began alleging voter fraud and warned that he might not accept the results if he lost. Even after winning, he insisted that millions of fraudulent votes had been cast against him. To substantiate his claims, he created a special commission to investigate the problem. It was quietly disbanded in early 2018 without producing any evidence.

At the same time, the administration has shown little interest in addressing genuine and documented threats to the integrity of US elections, including chronic problems like partisan gerrymandering and the fact that balloting is overseen by partisan officials in the states.

But the most glaring lapse is the president’s refusal to clearly acknowledge and comprehensively combat Russian and other foreign attempts to meddle in American elections since 2016. The Homeland Security Department provided some assistance to states in protecting their voting and counting systems from outside meddling in 2018, but recent reports commissioned by the Senate Intelligence Committee indicate that foreign influence operations are ongoing across multiple online platforms, and that such campaigns are likely to expand and multiply in the future.

THE THREAT TO AMERICAN IDEALS ABROAD

Our poll found that a strong majority of Americans, 71 percent, believe the US government should actively support democracy and human rights in other countries. But America’s commitment to the global progress of democracy has been seriously compromised by the president’s rhetoric and actions. His attacks on the judiciary and the press, his resistance to anticorruption safeguards, and his unfounded claims of voting fraud by the opposition are all familiar tactics to foreign autocrats and populist demagogues who seek to subvert checks on their power.

Such leaders can take heart from Trump’s bitter feuding with America’s traditional democratic allies and his reluctance to uphold the nation’s collective defense treaties, which have helped guarantee international security for decades. As former US defense secretary James Mattis put it in his resignation letter, “While the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies.”

Trump has refused to advocate for America’s democratic values, and he seems to encourage the forces that oppose them. His frequent, fulsome praise for some of the world’s worst dictators reinforces this perception. Particularly striking was his apparent willingness, at a summit in Helsinki, to accept the word of Vladimir Putin over his own intelligence agencies in assessing Russia’s actions in the 2016 elections.

The president’s rhetoric is echoed in countries with weaker defenses against attacks on their democratic institutions, where the violation of norms is often followed by systemic changes that intensify repression and entrench authoritarian governance.

For example, Cambodian strongman Hun Sen consolidated one-party rule in sham elections last summer after banning the main opposition party and shutting down independent media. He acknowledged that he and President Trump shared a point of view about journalists, saying, “Donald Trump understands that are an anarchic group.” Poland’s president, whose party has sought to annihilate judicial independence and assert control over the press, similarly thanked Trump for fighting “fake news.” Saudi Arabia’s crown prince almost certainly ordered the assassination of a leading journalistic critic, apparently believing that the action would not rupture relations with the president of the United States. It seems he was correct.

As the United States ceases its global advocacy of freedom and justice, and the president casts doubt on the importance of basic democratic values for our own society, more nations may turn to China, a rising alternative to US leadership. The Chinese Communist Party has welcomed this trend, offering its authoritarian system as a model for developing nations. The resulting damage to the liberal international order—a system of alliances, norms, and institutions built up under Trump’s predecessors to ensure peace and prosperity after World War II—will not be easily repaired after he leaves office.

NEITHER DESPAIR NOR COMPLACENCY

Ours is a well-established and resilient democracy, and we can see the effect of its antibodies on the viruses infecting it. The judiciary has repeatedly checked the power of the president, and the press has exposed his actions to public scrutiny. Protests and other forms of civic mobilization against administration policies are large and robust. More people turned out for the midterm elections than in previous years, and there is a growing awareness of the threat that authoritarian practices pose to Americans.

Yet the pressure on our system is as serious as any experienced in living memory. We cannot take for granted that institutional bulwarks against abuse of power will retain their strength, or that our democracy will endure perpetually. Rarely has the need to defend its rules and norms been more urgent. Congress must perform more scrupulous oversight of the administration than it has to date. The courts must continue to resist pressures on their independence. The media must maintain their vigorous reporting even as they defend their constitutional prerogatives. And citizens, including Americans who are typically reluctant to engage in the public square, must be alert to new infringements on their rights and the rule of law, and demand that their elected representatives protect democratic values at home and abroad.

Thanks to Freedom House and to their president, Mike Abramowitz. It’s reassuring to see that at least one qualified organization is freely and fairly monitoring the United States Government. It’s an invaluable service to the country.

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You might also be interested in looking at the Freedom in the World 2019 Map.
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The Vietnam War–Horror, Hypocrisy and Heartbreak–2/3

Enter the B-52

B-52_3

The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress is a gigantic, eight-engined, American long-range, subsonic, jet-powered strategic bomber, which also doubled as a tactical bomber supporting American troops in Vietnam. The B-52, which came into service in 1955, was designed to carry nuclear weapons for Cold-War deterrence missions. Fortunately, it never had to drop any atomic bombs. Capable of carrying up to 70,000 pounds (32,000 kg) of weapons (compared to the B-17 on a long range bombing mission over Germany during World War II carrying a 4,000-pound payload), it is capable of previously-unthinkable devastation whether dropping napalm, anti-personnel cluster bombs, chemical defoliants or the dreaded white phosphorous, which burned its way to the bone. Mass bombing was the Americans’ “ace in the hole” that would, in theory, guarantee victory, even in the worst of circumstances. Operation Rolling Thunder, the American’s first massive bombing campaign in Vietnam, began in 1965, with the objective of bombing North Vietnam into submission, something they never achieved, even after the biggest bombing campaign in history. The work horse of these missions was the B-52. (B-52 Source: Wikipedia)

The B-52 is capable of flying so high that, despite its gargantuan size and power, it can neither be seen nor heard from the ground. Its deliveries came as a terrifying surprise, except to North Vietnam’s radar-guided Soviet anti-aircraft installations, featuring the V-75 (“SA-2 GUIDELINE” in NATO-speak) missile system,  which brought a lot of B-52s down, some of which can be seen today at Hanoi’s military museum. The bombardment of North Vietnam and its neighbors began shortly after the Gulf of Tonkin incident in August 1964, and continued until the last American was airlifted out of Saigon over a decade later. All told, the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps together conducted at least 2.8 million combat missions against ground targets, while the air forces of South Vietnam, Laos, Australia, and South Korea added an additional 360,000 missions to the tally. (Source: globalsecurity,org)

By the time the United States ended its Southeast Asian bombing campaigns, after the last American was evacuated from Saigon in 1975, the total tonnage of ordnance dropped on Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia approximately tripled the totals for World War II, with more bombs dropped than in all previous wars. The Indochinese bombings amounted to 7,662,000 tons of explosives, compared to 2,150,000 tons in the Second World War. The effects of this unprecedented volume and density of aerial bombing of both military and, unavoidably, civilian objectives, were nothing short of diabolical, comparable only with the use of American atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the fire bombing of Tokyo. The American air campaign during the Vietnam War was the largest in military history. Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force, General Curtis LeMay, (portrayed by George C. Scott as the insane General Buck Turgidson in Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb), stated “We’re going to bomb them back into the Stone Age”. (Source: Quora.com)

American Atrocities and Their Effects on the Vietnamese People

The Vietnam War was a textbook example of War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity, defined as follows:

war crime is an act that constitutes a serious violation of the laws of war that gives rise to individual criminal responsibility. Examples of war crimes include intentionally killing civilians or prisoners, torturing, destroying civilian property, taking hostages, performing a perfidy, raping, using child soldiers, pillaging, declaring that no quarter will be given, and seriously violating the principles of distinction and proportionality, and military necessity. (Source: Wikipedia)

Crimes against humanity are certain acts that are deliberately committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian or an identifiable part of a civilian population. The first prosecution for crimes against humanity took place at the Nuremberg trials. (Source: Wikipedia)

The atrocities of the American military in Vietnam, besides the bombing, include the killing of civlians–men, women and children–at close range, burning their villages and herding them into virtual concentration camps where they could be effectively isolated from the Viet Cong. This Nazi-style forced-displacement initiative was referred to as the “Strategic Hamlet Program.” The most egregious example of textbook atrocity, which came to light thanks to the legendary American investigative reporter, Seymour (Sy) Hersh, was the My Lai massacre.

The My Lai massacre was one of the most horrific incidents of violence committed against unarmed civilians during the Vietnam War. A company of American soldiers brutally killed most of the people—women, children and old men—in the village of My Lai on March 16, 1968. More than 500 people were slaughtered in the My Lai massacre, including young girls and women who were raped and mutilated before being killed. (Source: History.com)

By the time the My Lai massacre ended, 504 people were dead. Among the victims were 182 women—17 of them pregnant—and 173 children, including 56 infants. Although the events and actors at My Lai are lavisly documented, the legal repercussions for the participants–notably the officers involved–were ludicrously mild. According to History.com, only 14 men were charged, including Lt. William Calley, the unit commander; Captain Ernest Medina; and Colonel Oran Henderson. They were all acquitted except for Lt. Calley, who was convicted of premeditated murder for ordering the shootings, despite his contention that he was only following orders from his commanding officer, Captain Medina. In March 1971, Calley was given a life sentence for his role in directing the killings at My Lai. Many saw Calley as a scapegoat, and his sentence was reduced upon appeal to 20 years and later to 10; he was paroled in 1974. That’s three years’ imprisonment for the premeditated rape and murder of an entire village, including toddlers and babes in arms.

My Lai Was Not an Accident

Nor was My Lai an “isolated incident.” According to a report published on BBC.com, investigative journalist Nick Turse has uncovered convincing evidence that war crimes in Vietnam were common. In late 1968, the 9th Infantry Division, under the command of Gen Julian Ewell, was engaged in a large-scale operation in the Mekong Delta, the densely populated deep south of Vietnam. Ewell, who became known as the Butcher of the Delta, was notorious for his body-count fixation. He chastized subordinates who killed insufficient numbers and turned loose hellish firepower on civilians.

One of the soldiers present at My Lai wrote to William Westmoreland, US Army Chief of Staff, requesting an investigation. He reported that artillery called in on villages had killed women and children. Helicopter gunships had frightened farmers into running and then cut them down. Troops on the ground had done the same thing. The result was industrial-scale slaughter, the equivalent, he said, to a “My Lai each month.” (Source: BBC.com)

A My Lai Photo Album

(Click to enlarge)

(Source: allthatsinteresting.com)

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The Vietnam War–Horror, Hypocrisy and Heartbreak–3/3

The Frosting on the Cake: An Egregious Lack of Justice

Russell Tribunal figures.
Members of the Russell Tribunal: Jean Paul Sartre, Bertrand Russell, and Simone de Beauvoir.

The United States actions in Vietnam arguably constitute both war crimes and crimes against humanity. Why, then, have they not been brought before an international court to account for their crimes. There are two reasons, each more absurd than the other.

  1. They’re too big to try.
  2. They don’t recognize the jurisdiction of any international court.

The one notable exception to this universal reluctance to prosecute the United States wasRusselltribunal1 the Russell Tribunal, also known as the International War Crimes Tribunal, a private body organised in 1966 by Bertrand Russell, British philosopher and Nobel Prize winner, and hosted by French philosopher and writer Jean-Paul Sartre.

Though it lacked legal validity, this symbolic gesture by two of the world’s grand old men, performed a valuable service by merely naming and shaming the United States, along with their running-dog allies, for their heinous crimes in Vietnam.

There Were Black Ops, Too

Setting aside the fact that, since the United States never declared war on Vietnam, everything they did in Indochina can be considered “black ops,” the Phoenix Program merits separate treatment. Phoenix was a counterinsurgency operation executed by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), United States special operations forces, and the Republic of Vietnam’s security apparatus, in which a conservatively-estimated 26,000 Vietnamese patriots suspected of being VC operatives and informants, were murdered outright. Some sources elevate that number to more than 40,000 “suspects.” This is what happened in Hitler’s Germany, Franco’s Spain, Pinochet’s Chile and countless other places. All of those countries, including Vietnam, were thus deprived of valuable leadership in their post-dictatorship societies.

The Metastases of the Vietnam War, Laos and Cambodia

Vietnam was not the only tiny Asian country damned by American intervention during the Second Indochina War. So were Laos and Cambodia, particular victims of intense and extended American bombing

From 1964 to 1973, as part of the Secret War operation conducted during the Vietnam War, the US military dropped 260 million cluster bombs – about 2.5 million tons of munitions – on Laos over the course of 580,000 bombing missions. This is equivalent to a planeload of bombs being unloaded every eight minutes, 24 hours a day, for nine years – nearly seven bombs for every man, woman and child living in Laos. It is more than all the bombs dropped on Europe throughout World War II, leaving Laos, a country approximately the size of Utah, with the distinction of being the most heavily bombed country in history. The problem of some 78 million unexploded cluster bomblets littering rice fields, villages, school grounds, roads and other populated areas in Laos, remains a serious problem today. (Source: Legaciesofwar.org)
Cambodia was another victim of the American Vietnam war adventure. In 1969, the US air war against Cambodia escalated drastically as part of Nixon’s Vietnamization policy. President Nixon decided to launch a secret bombing campaign there from 18 March 1969 until 26 May 1970. This was Operation Menu. These bombings were an escalation of what had previously been mere tactical air attacks. Newly inaugurated President Richard Nixon authorized for the first time use of long range B-52 heavy bombers to carpet bomb Cambodia.The invasion was under the pretext of disrupting the North Vietnamese supply lines but the goal was to wipe out Vietnamese communist forces located in Cambodia in order to protect the US-backed government of South Vietnam. The United States dropped upwards of 2.7 million tons of bombs on Cambodia, exceeding, again, the amount it had dropped on Japan during WWII (including Hiroshima and Nagasaki) by almost a million tons. During this campaign, about one third of the country’s population was internally displaced. (Source: Wikipedia)

On April 30th of 1970, after his massive bombing campaign had failed in everything except devastating eastern Cambodia, President Richard Nixon declared to a television audience that the American military, accompanied by the South Vietnamese People’s Army, were to invade Cambodia in order to bomb and destroy the Viet Cong base camps, that were backing up the other operations in South Vietnam. (Source: https://vietnamawbb.weebly.com).

Unfortunately for him, President Nixon collapsed before Cambodia and Vietnam did, though at the same time Laos was abandoned to the authority of the communist Pathet Lao, which allegedly went on to kill three million of their countrymen.

Summing Up

What methodology does one employ to sum up the Apocalypse? There are no words. What concerns me most about that savage and depraved war the Americans took to a tiny, backward far-off country in the Far East is its utter heartlessness. There was a blanket of unconcern covering every outrage visited on Vietnam, both North and South. No concern for innocent normal people doing normal things: cultivating their crops, raising their children, struggling to put food on their tables. Suddenly they’re expelled from their villages, which are torched (“We had to destroy the village in order to save it.”) and herded into barbed-wire enclosures, or worse. We’re talking here about five million Vietnamese peasants. Nowhere in my research did I come across any hint of humanitarian concerns on the part of the American officials neither military nor civilian while they were busy planning and prosecuting the Vietnam War. Presumably all of them but one could allege they were “just following orders,” a pathetic defense that had been invalid since the Nuremberg war trials.

As for the Commander in Chief, President Richard Nixon, who was ultimately responsible for everything since taking office in 1969, perhaps his most egregious decision of the war was Operation Linebacker II, the so-called “Christmas bombings,” the ruthless strategic bombing of North Vietnam. Begun on December 18, 1972, and lasting until December 29, American B-52s and fighter-bombers dropped over 20,000 tons of bombs on the cities of Hanoi and Haiphong. The United States lost 15 of its B-52s and 11 other aircraft to Russian anti-aircraft missiles before they desisted. North Vietnam claimed over 1,600 civilians killed. (Source: history.com)

After 20 years of murderously abusing the Vietnamese people, the only indication of remorse on the part of the Americans that we have is indirect but telling: the estimated 50,000-150,000 suicides of American Vietnam War veterans since the war ended.
(Source: thefederalist.com)

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The Documentary

The definitive documentary, The Vietnam War, is a 10-part American television documentary series written by Geoffrey C. Ward, directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, and narrated by Peter Coyote, available on Netflix and YouTube.

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The Vietnam War–Horror, Hypocrisy and Heartbreak–1/3

APVietnamBurningVillage

More Horrific and Unjustified Than You Can Imagine

The Americans’ active intervention in Vietnam didn’t start with President Kennedy in the early 60’s. It began in 1954 on the heels of France’s historic defeat in the battle of Dien Bien Phu by North Vietnam’s supposedly-inferior army. The score was 1,500 French dead, 10,000 captured. Such a victory over a well-established colonial power–backed, furthermore, by American arms and financing–was unthinkable, but it happened and it prompted the French to pull their troops out of that feisty little southeast Asian country. That was the perfect moment for the Americans not to stick their heads into the Indochinese beehive. So why did they do it? There were a few reasons, all of them specious, in retrospect. They entered the fray with a scant 1,000 “advisors” in 1954, then a few regiments to protect their bases, and wound up with more than half a million combat troops in the country, 68,000 of whom did not make it home alive.

What were they thinking?

  1. The first reason/pretext for going in sounds almost comically lightweight today, but in the mid-’50s, when Americans were building bomb shelters in their backyards, and school children were being trained to take cover under their desks–I remember it well–it was considered of vital importance. The American power structure considered the communist threat to be imminent and deadly serious. Their “domino theory” held that the reds would take small countries one after another, like a line of dominos falling, until they were capable of threatening San Francisco. This imagined scenario had little credence in reality, but it fitted in nicely with American Cold War paranoia of the time.
  2. Then there was the perceived necessity to buoy up Western colonialism in the Far East. Churchill had a lot to say on this subject. He actually proposed to Roosevelt that they should invade the Soviet Union immediately after the war, in order to head off the spread of Communism. If Indochina fell, Malaya, Indonesia and India would be next. Then the Philippines? Who knew? Ironically, the Vietnam war was no deterrent to the inevitable de-colonization that ensued.
  3. The American penchant for “having a go,” for flexing their muscles, trying out new armaments and strategies–though none of them enabled the Yanks to win–was also a factor. Didn’t Bob Dylan say, “…they got a lot of forks and knives, and they gotta cut something.”
  4. As always, there was American overconfidence, the disbelief among US political and military leaders that they could be defeated by a tiny country’s army of tiny soldiers. They had already forgotten that the Vietnamese army, against all odds, had just annihilated the well-dug-in French paratroopers who defended Dien Bien Phu. It was just one more instance of the US military underestimating their enemies.  There are the cases of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, to name just a few.

American “Victories,” Vietnamese Advantages

Unfortunately, at that time, nobody in the American chain of command foresaw the götterdämmerung that loomed ahead of them. Despite their massive advantages in arms and technology, and their claims to have “won every battle,” they were thwarted at every step of the way by the humble, under-equipped and ill-technified little enemies. The principal advantages the Vietnamese enjoyed were superior leadership and a top-to-bottom iron-clad determination not to be subjugated by the Americans. There was another major advantage the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese army enjoyed, and it was a gift from the Americans. It was the extreme ham handedness with which they  treated everything Vietnamese, starting with the terminology itself, “Gooks” and “Slants,” and ending with indiscriminate carpet bombing of their country.

The Vietnamese had seen enough colonial humiliation under the French. That said, the Vietnamese–along with their neighbors, the Cambodians and the Laotians–paid a terrible price in human lives, some 1,5 million dead in Vietnam alone. But they prevailed and made history in the process. Did the Americans learn the lessons of that history? Their entry into Afghanistan a few years later suggests that perhaps they didn’t. That Afghan war, the longest, along with Vietnam, in American history, is just now winding down, and is just another ignominious defeat. Recent research suggests that the Afghan invasion may have had less to do with bin Laden and more with Afghanistan’s massive mineral wealth and the American necessity for bases in central Asia.

Before going into the details of some of the mournful events of the second Vietnam War, the Americans’ war, I cannot overemphasize the fact that it never should have happened. It was based on faulty ideology, wrong-headed ambition and massive cynicism. It was a classic case of unprovoked aggresive war against a grossly weaker “enemy” who had no enmity whatsoever against the United States.  As we will see below, the attack on the American destroyer in the Gulf of Tonkin that set off the open season on the Vietnamese was a lie calculated to justify American escalation. The Second Vietnam War was led, during its most cruel and sanguinary period, by a pair of borderline inhuman politicians: President Richard Nixon and his Secretary of State, Nobel Peace Prize winner, Henry Kissinger, both of whom had dubious psychological profiles. (Let me recommend a book: The Price of Power, Henry Kissinger in the Nixon White House, by Seymour Hersh. There you will find 700 pages of fascinating details on the subject.) Ironically, but in keeping with recent American history, both Nixon and Kissinger have been meticulously rehabilited in the American political folklore.

Some Details, Some Numbers

I would like to review here some of the ill-remembered details and statistics from the United States’ 20-year war on Vietnam. The numbers are so staggering–and represent such a brutal accounting of the American violation of Indochina–that they are seldom cited these days. But I think the Vietnamese people, and all the other people around the world who have been blessed by American intervention in their countries, deserve a modest gesture of respect, so I’m going to note here just a few of the gravest American outrages.

Unsurprisingly, when you begin to research what happened during the Vietnam war, the stories are almost always told from the American point of view: American innovations, American casualties, American POWs, American superiority in everything… Presumably the Vietnamese fought and suffered, too, but they don’t post on Facebook, nor were they supported by the biggest misinformation behemoth in human history, the mainstream media. To find their stories you have to dig a bit deeper or winnow them out of their enemies’ accounts.

Business as Usual; It Began with a Lie

On August 4, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson alerted America on national television that North Vietnam had attacked the American destroyer USS Maddox in the Gulf of Tonkin. Not long after, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, authorizing Johnson to begin military operations against North Vietnam. What Congress did not know was that President Johnson and his Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, had lied about the Tonkin Gulf incident. North Vietnam never attacked the USS Maddox as the Pentagon had claimed, and the falseness of the attack is now acknowledged–by the National Security Agency (NSA), no less. So the aggression that set off the Vietnam War never happened. It was carefully-contrived propaganda exercise devised to manufacture consent for all-out war, a war that remained undeclared from its dubious beginning to its bitter end. (Source: Goodreads.com)

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Why Waste Time on Trump?

Counting2Ten

One, Two, Three, Four, Five?

My friend Danny writes from Greece the other day, “Why do you waste your time on Donald Trump? He’s just a moron.”

Yes, I suspect he’s a moron but I’m not sure that time spent on him is wasted. I don’t regard him so much for himself as for what he represents–the United States of America, with all that implies. Not so long ago, just the mention of that hallowed name would elicit respect verging on reverence. The United States had tipped the balance toward victory in both world wars and had gone on to set the benchmarks for science, technology, education, and democracy. Today, tragically, “the United States of America,” has lost most of its gloss. It sounds almost as ironic as “Great Britain.” If anything characterizes both of these once-great nations today, it’s the velocity of their race to the bottom.

There’s also a matter of reality vs. mythology. The “English gentleman” was never a  gentleman, and he’s even farther from that ideal today. Boris Johnson, for example, has all the right credentials. The so-called English gentleman was responsible for enslaving and plundering the sovereign wealth of millions of people around the world in order to dot the Home Counties with those gracious palatial mansions, if anything gained by thuggery can be deemed “gracious.” The British Empire, established by England between the late 16th and early 18th centuries, originated with overseas possessions and trading posts. At its height, it was the largest empire in history and, for more than a century, the foremost global power. By 1913, the British Empire illegally and immorally held sway over 412 million people, 23% of the world population at the time, and by 1920, it covered 35,500,000 km2 (13,700,000 sq mi), almost a quarter of the Earth’s total land area. (Numbers from: Wikipedia)

US History Is Equally Grim

As for the United States, it was founded largely on genocide, cynicism, and lies. With their mouths full of “democracy,” their fists were full of native lands and natural resources, their hearts full of greed. Between 1830 and 1850 members of the Cherokee, Muscogee, Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations were forced by President Andrew Jackson to traverse the Trail of Tears to the badlands on the other side of the Mississippi, renamed the “Indian Territories.” In the process, these Native Americans, who had acceded to US government demands to abandon their traditional way of life in favor of agriculture and commerce, were obliged to forfeit their farms and businesses in the Southeast. Even that atrocity was not enough. Later the Indian Territories were grabbed for white exploitation.

With the same ruthless expedience, dubbed Manifest Destiny, and overlapping with the Trail of Tears on the timeline, the Americans extended their southern border down to the Río Grande. It was in 1848 after the Mexican-American War–actually an out-and-out American land grab–when, in accordance with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Mexico “ceded” to the United States more than a third of its territory (the current American states of California, Nevada, and Utah, along with portions of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming. Considering these seizures, as well as all of Texas, Mexico lost 54% of its pre-1836 territory in the harmless-sounding “Mexican Cession.” What the 11th-grade American-history books don’t tell you is that, while the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was being negotiated, US General Winfield Scott’s troops were occupying the Mexican Capital.

The Wanton Dismantling of America Is Not Even Illegal

These smash-and-grab policies extend down to our own day. The motives are the same and so is the American modus operandi. I’ll spare you the list of victims. You read the papers. Ironically, it’s not the rest of the world that receives the principal brunt of Donald Trumpism. It’s his own countrymen and women. President Trump, anointed by his country’s big-money interests is delegated to impose their retrograde ideology, which can be summed up as “dismantle the American government so business can take over.” He and his ghoulish cohorts are progressing apace, and it’s not even illegal.

Donald Trump didn’t become President just by accident or Russian intervention. Thanks to the confluence of an ignorant electorate that had been betrayed by generations of American politicians and the economic clout of big business, Donald Trump was well and truly elected. He enjoyed the backing at the polls of major segments of the US voting population, including not just semi-literate hillbillies and white supremacist thugs–though there were plenty of them. His voters also included cast-offs from America’s once-great industrial workforce as well as former solidly-middle-class citizens reduced to working McJobs and wondering how they’re going to send their kids to college. The former, after decades of America-the-Beautiful and Support-Our-Troops brainwashing, lacked all political criteria, and the latter were striking back at the system for betraying and impoverishing them. (Author’s note: Yes, America is undeniably beautiful, but so is almost every other country, something most Americans don’t realize. As for the troops, they definitely need supporting but the best way to do that is to bring them home, not send them into another hell hole.)

U.S. manufacturing jobs have declined steadily, from around 28% in 1960 to 8% in March 2017. Manufacturing employment has fallen from 17.2 million persons in December 2000 to 12.4 million in March 2017, a decline of about 5.7 million or about one-third. (Source: Wikipedia) This is what the American working class is up against, watching the jobs-and-benefits capital of the world become the Rust Belt. An article published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis (minneapolisfed.org) has this to say on the subject:

The fall of the Rust Belt extends back to the 1950s when firms such as General Motors and U.S. Steel dominated their industries and were among the biggest, most profitable businesses in the world. The Rust Belt was an economic giant at that time, accounting for more than half of all U.S. manufacturing jobs in 1950 and about 43 percent of all U.S. jobs. But after 1950, the Rust Belt began a long downturn.

Moreover, the fact that its share of U.S. manufacturing jobs fell so much demonstrates that the Rust Belt’s fate was not simply part of the general decline in U.S. manufacturing. The Belt’s downturn was uniquely deep and long-lived. Indeed, since 1950, no region of the United States fared worse economically than the Rust Belt.

When we refer to “big- money interests” we’re talking about the great energy companies, of course, but also banks, hedge funds and insurance companies, big pharma and tobacco, and the military/industrial complex, each with its own destructive agenda. And let’s not forget America’s deranged billionaires, who are striding out across the country–and the globe–like exquisitely-coifed Godzillas (e.g. Robert Mercer whose SCL Group provided financing and essential technical support to the Brexit campaign in the UK, or the Koch Brothers‘ self-interested meddling in Venezuela.) Against such formidable enemies–Yes, enemies. We’re talking about an adversarial system here.–“We the people,” don’t stand a chance.

New Legality, New Reality

How is it possible that such malfeasance on the part of the American government was actually legal? The principal factor in the process had to do with fixing elections through new campaign financing regulations. This was the result of the US Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 (2010), which opened the doors for corporations to spend money on electioneering communications and to directly advocate for the election or defeat of candidates. This decision breathed new life into an already vigorous lobbying business in Washington. It was the task of the lobbyists to channel corporate money into the election coffers of “sympathetic” politicians. As it turned out, there was no shortage of candidates whose sympathy could be purchased, and lobbyists were soon calling the tune in the nation’s capital. Though it wasn’t their own tune they were calling, rather that of their “sponsors.” That serve-the-sponsors procedure soon passed down to practically all the members of the House and Senate and goes a long way towards explaining the mediocrity and unscrupulousness on both sides of the aisle in Congress. Are there exceptions to this phenomenon? Yes, but far too few.

It is not an exaggeration to affirm that an American member of Congress’s first priority is neither the wellbeing of their constituents nor the security of their country. It’s purely and simply to get elected–or more frequently re-elected. The magic bullet for getting elected is money. To what extremes will Congressional candidates will go to grasp that money? They will go far. They will give a virtual blank check to oil and coal interests to despoil the earth, the water, and the air. They will savage the country’s budget in order to entitle the military/industrial/congressional complex to wage perpetual war, though they know that war does not make America safer, rather more insecure. Perhaps gravest of all, the power of moneyed interests to dictate policy for their own nefarious ends negates utterly any notion of ethics or humanity in government. They are prepared to see the whole country reduced to the condition of Flint, Michigan. (The latest news from Flint, September 9, 2019: Amid Water Crisis, Michigan’s Top Health Official Said Flint Residents “Have to Die of Something,” Scientists Say)

Decency and Hope, Plowed Under

If an ounce of decency remained after the Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, Bush, Obama, and Trump presidencies, it has long since been plowed under, and the whole world is aware of that fact. All world leaders, with the possible exception of the poor, shipwrecked Brits, distrust the United States explicitly. That condition of alone and distrusted is not an enviable position, friends. Ah, but they have many friends and allies around the world, you say. Not exactly. Those “friends” are mainly purchased or coerced and the “allies” are either bribed with cold cash and armaments or cajoled with promises and threats. What does the United States have to do to turn an independent country into an ally? It’s not necessary to “win the hearts and minds” of the whole citizenry. Usually, it’s enough just to bend the wills of a few high officials. How many of these well-placed running dogs does it take to deliver a country into the hands of the US? Not that many, actually. Usually, it’s a bargain. In the final analysis, the common interests the United States shares with their ill-gained “allies” are the uncertain promises of profit and plunder.

Who’s at the head of all these sinister shenanigans at home and abroad? President Donald J. Trump. If you’re going to try to stop him you had better start now.

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You’re Overlooking a Critical Issue: It’s Not Just Trump

Trump & Cabinet

This graphic is not up to date. Since these appointments, a lot of people have been fired, eased out, or quit and new ones have been incorporated.

Is Getting Rid of Trump the Answer?

Approximately half of the voting population of the United States is in agreement on one thing: the urgent necessity to unseat President Donald Trump. The other half is determined to maintain him in office and advance his curious agenda, which essentially amounts to dismantling and destroying the government and the country. His recent, “I have second thoughts on everything…”  comment confirms his arbitrariness. It’s almost as if he didn’t have ideas of his own, but was in the business of adopting other people’s programs for a price–notably re-election but also the advancement of his personal business interests and those of his family.

President Trump’s government is not run on ideas, it’s run on personal self-interest and simple-minded ideology, the notion that less government and fewer taxes are better, and that the affairs of the nation are better left to the private sector, to business. His selection of personnel for his cabinet and staff to dis-govern the country is based on a wonderfully-simple idea which is fatally-flawed at its base. The authentic purpose of government is to assure the health and wellbeing of the whole nation, the principal objective of all the countries of the developed world–except one. The purpose of business is to make a profit. It should be clear even to a person of limited intellect that the two concepts are diametrically opposed and that favoring profit over wellbeing, though it’s great for a few rich men and powerful industries, is a ruinous policy for the vast majority of the American people.

Which brings us to the point. The ongoing trashing of the United States for the benefit of sinister powerful interests is not actually Trump’s program. He lacks both the wit and the attention span even to outline such a vast program, let alone execute it. That’s why the powers behind the President have decided he needs a crew that can be trusted to do the trashing, firstly on behalf of the select tribe of business gangsters who put him in power and in second place, in order to benefit his personal interests and those of his family. So, if the people of the American opposition should succeed in ousting  President Trump, either through impeachment or the ballot box, they would still be far from solving the problem. The rest of the Trump team, with the most reactionary powers of the country behind them, would remain intact and active.

A Sea Change in Campaign Financing Changed Everything

73%

Just who are the aforementioned “capitalist gangsters” and how did they manage to concentrate so much political power in the United States? The answers are not hard to find. The gangsters are people, companies, and institutions that have accumulated so much money that they can purchase the power of the US government. This was formerly unthinkable. Democratic institutions were not for sale. Then, in 2010, that reality changed, with the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310, Supreme Court decision concerning campaign finance. The ruling effectively freed labor unions and corporations to spend money on electioneering communications and to directly advocate for the election or defeat of candidates. Do not be tempted to think that the unions and corporations were therefore on equal terms. American unions were pretty well defenestrated by 2010. That left American corporations an open field for essentially purchasing the US Congress. That wholly-legal power grab started a brief 19 years ago and explains the situation the country finds itself in today.

In my first year in college, there was a required course called American Thought and Language 101. In it, my first left-wing professor introduced 30 or 40 naive 18-year-olds to “Conservatism,” a political philosophy that put property rights before human rights, profit before people. I was stunned. How was it possible that citizens of my own country could adhere to such a monstrous philosophy? Seven years later I changed countries and never looked back, but Conservatism went on to reign in the United States in an ever-more-monstrous version.

Let’s Take a Look at the Cream of President Trump’s Governing Team

Sycophant_in_ChiefAs the President’s cabinet stands today–there has been a lot of to-ing and fro-ing since 2016–the top man is Vice President, Mike Pence, the one who would ascend to the presidency if Donald Trump should die, become disabled, or step down. Michael Richard Pence (born June 7, 1959), a former US Representative and Governor of Indiana, characterizes himself as “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order,” and as “a born-again, evangelical Catholic,” who, since 1995,  attends the Grace Evangelical megachurch.

When queried about his “military experience,” Pence, a lifetime member of the NRA who never wore a uniform, brings up his family’s military tradition, referring apparently to his father’s service in the Korean War. He emphatically believes in armed solutions, having stated his support of Israel and its right to attack facilities in Iran to prevent the Iranians from developing nuclear weapons, defended the actions of Israel in its use of deadly force in enforcing the blockade of Gaza, and referred to Israel as “America’s most cherished ally.” He apparently hasn’t noticed that Iran is internationally certified as having no nuclear weapons and Israel, the only Middle East country with nuclear capabilities has an estimated 75 to 400 nuclear warheads, complete with a submarine-based second-strike capability. He visited Israel in 2014 to express his support, and in 2016 signed into law a bill which would ban Indiana from having any commercial dealings with a company that boycotts Israel.

According to a FiveThirtyEight rating of candidates’ ideology, Pence was the most conservative vice-presidential candidate in the last forty years. During the campaign Pence stated that his role model as vice president would be Dick Cheney. (Source: Wikipedia)

Vice President Pence visited the McAllen Border Patrol Station in Texas in July of this year, where 382 immigrant men were packed behind chain-linked fences under “sweltering hot” conditions. Many of the men told reporters they had been there for 40 days or longer, saying that they were hungry and wanted to brush their teeth. The cages were so overcrowded that it would have been impossible for the men to lie down all at once, and no mats or pillows were provided so the men slept on bare concrete.

“I was not surprised by what I saw,” Pence said at a news conference. “I knew we’d see a system that was overwhelmed. This is tough stuff. He added later, “While we hear some Democrats in Washington, D.C., referring to U.S. Customs and Border facilities as ‘concentration camps,’ what we saw today was a facility that is providing care that every American would be proud of.” (Source: People.com)

Orange California, West Point, the House, the CIA, Head of US Diplomacy

Mike PompeoPresident Trump’s Secretary of State since April  2018, is Mike Pompeo, born and raised in Orange, California, who graduated first in his class from the United States Military Academy at West Point, majoring in engineering management. After his military service in Germany, Pompeo was president of Sentry International, an oilfield equipment manufacturer that was also a partner of Koch Industries. He was subsequently a member of the House of Representatives (2011–2017) and the Director of the CIA (January 2017 until April 2018).

In March 2019, when questioned regarding Israel’s conflicts with Iran and following a visit to the Western Wall with Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, Pompeo spoke of “the work that our administration’s done to make sure that this democracy in the Middle East, that this Jewish state, remains…I am confident that the Lord is at work here.”

In March 2014, he denounced the inclusion in a telecast of the whistleblower, Edward Snowden, at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, and asked that it be canceled, predicting that it would encourage “lawless behavior” among attendees. In February 2016, Pompeo said Snowden “should be brought back from Russia and given due process, and I think the proper outcome would be that he would be given a death sentence”

Speaking about climate change in 2013, Pompeo said: “There are scientists who think lots of different things about climate change. There’s some who think we’re warming, there’s some who think we’re cooling, there’s some who think that the last 16 years have shown a pretty stable climate environment.” He also stated that “climate change is actually good for the Arctic, since melting ice caps are ‘opening up new shipping routes’ and thus making it more economically viable to expand oil drilling in the region.” Now we know where he stands.

Pompeo is a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association and has been endorsed by them. He is a member of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church where he served as a local church deacon from 2007-2009 and taught Sunday school. In 2014, Pompeo told a church group that Christians needed to “know that Jesus Christ as our savior is truly the only solution for our world”. In 2015 in a talk at a church, Pompeo said that “politics is a never-ending struggle … until the Rapture.” (Source: Wikipedia)

Investment Banker, Asset Stripper, Home Forecloser, Secretary of the Treasury

Louise_Linton_M_wifeSteve Mnuchin, Trump’s Secretary of the Treasury was born in New York City in 1962, the son of a Goldman Sachs partner. After graduating from Yale University in 1985, he worked for Goldman Sachs for 17 years, eventually becoming its chief information officer. After he left Goldman in 2002, he worked for and founded several hedge funds. Mnuchin was a member of Sears Holdings’s board of directors from 2005 until December 2016, and before that was on Kmart’s board of directors. After Sears went bankrupt, the company that formerly owned it sued Mnuchin and ex-CEO Edward Lampert for “asset stripping” during their tenure. As secretary of the treasury, Mnuchin has been a vocal supporter of reducing corporate tax rates.

Betsy de Vos Has Oodles of Money

Trump_DeVosElisabeth Dee DeVos, born January 8, 1958, was President Trump’s choice for Secretary of Education. DeVos’s claim to fame is primarily that she is rich, having fallen into a vat of family money when she was born, and then again when she was married. Suffice it to say that members of her immediate family own ten yachts. What concerns us here is the fact that every aspect of her education activism was designed to undermine public education. That means she favors school choice, school voucher programs, and charter schools. All of these are thinly-disguised mechanisms for subverting and supplanting public schools by diverting parts of the education budget to religious models. Vouchers are popular with conservative Christians, and Vice President Mike Pence had expanded taxpayer-funded vouchers, as well as charter schools when he was governor of Indiana. According to the NY Times, DeVos has announced that she will no longer enforce a provision in federal law that bars religious organizations from providing federally-funded education services to private schools.

See What You’re Up Against?

Are these the best people President Donald Trump can find to lead the country? They all seem limited to just a couple of priorities: making (or inheriting) money and introducing religion systematically into the American government. I can detect no hint of dedication to public service in any of them, starting with the President, himself. Are these are the people who will take over the country when the President is no longer around? One wonders if there is an opposition think-tank committee somewhere trying to figure out how to get rid of them when the time comes. But, given the number of layers of Trump appointees and Congressional big-money lackeys that the opposition committee would have to sift through, the job would be like attacking a haystack full of needles.

You Have a Choice Between Two Solutions

From here, I can foresee only two possible solutions, one miraculous, the other military.

  1. The miraculous theological solution: Pray.
  2. The military solution: In the Army they prepared us for extreme situations such as this or seeing a blinding flash followed by a mushroom cloud. In these cases, the instructions were: “Bend over, put your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye.”

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Let’s Give Julian Assange What He Deserves, Treatment as an American Hero

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US “Justice” Wants to Crucify Australian Journalist for Revealing the Truth

The cruel and unusual treatment accorded Julian Assange over the past seven years is not an isolated incident. It forms part of a worldwide revenge operation by the usual American hands-on-hips, we-are-very-very-miffed crowd. So, what is Assange accused of? Is he guilty of anything? Let’s start at the beginning.

Julian Assange Has Been on the Lam Since Childhood

Julian Assange, today’s journalist, computer genius, activist and wanted man, is the product of an atypical boyhood. Until the age of 16, he lived an enforced nomadic life all around Australia with his divorced mother, Christine, who was fleeing from an abusive relationship. During that time he attended 37 schools. His mother gave him a computer when he was 16 and he quickly became an accomplished hacker. He first got in trouble breaking into the systems of the Nortel communications company. Accused of more than 30 counts of hacking, he got off with a fine. He went on to study mathematics at the University of Melbourne but dropped out before graduating.

Time_cover_Dec_2010Despite his unusual background, Assange became a world-renowned success. In 2006, he began work on his revolutionary internet project, an effort that would put his face on the cover of Time magazine four years later in December of 2010. The project was WikiLeaks, a website for collecting and sharing confidential information on an international scale. The site, which featured carefully encrypted communications with sources, launched in 2007 and released later that year a U.S. military manual that provided detailed information on the Guantanamo detention center. (Source: Biography.com)

WikiLeaks Blows the Lid Off the Putrid Pot

 What followed subsequently was a series of millions of journalistic scoops based on leaked documents, not only from the United States government but from other countries around the world. Perhaps the one with the greatest impact was a video from Iraq that showed an American Apache helicopter gunship wipe out a group of civilians, including two Reuters reporters, on a street in Baghdad, complete with live audio of its crew gleefully celebrating their kills. The gruesome spectacle included a second pass in which the gunship attacked and killed the Iraqis who rushed to help the wounded.
None of the Apache helicopter crew has been brought to even military justice for murdering those civilians, yet Julian Assange continues to deteriorate in a London prison cell for disseminating their story.

Sexual Assault Controversy, Political Asylum at London’s Ecuadorean Embassy, Forced Removal and Incarceration in Belmarsh Prison