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How and Why the US Foments Dictatorships Abroad

Hypocrisy is the practice of engaging in the same behavior or activity for which one criticizes another or the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform. In moral psychology, it is the failure to follow one’s own expressed moral rules and principles. 

Putting Intense Pressure on Honest Men

Once an honest leader with healthy aspirations for his country and its people starts to make Washington nervous, either for supposed leftist tendencies or for control of his country’s natural resources, the American regime-change Godzilla is set in motion. Godzilla’s first step is to paint the leader as an autocrat through an intense disinformation campaign, both in the media and on the ground. Once the critical mass of public opinion at home and abroad is convinced that he’s the Bad Guy–and this can take 20 years or more–the CIA can remove him in order to protect the oppressed citizens of his country. There are other methods in the CIA playbook, but this is the most insidious way of twisting our perception of other countries’ leaders, thus “justifying” their elimination and that of their governments.

The most egregious example of this sinister takeover ploy is the long-festering case of Cuba. (Not to worry. They somehow managed not to succeed.) Fulgencio Batista, the brutal dictator of Cuba for decades, ran the country directly or indirectly from the Revolt of the Sergeants in 1933, in which he named himself a colonel, appointed himself chief of the armed forces, and directed the five-man junta that ruled the country. After losing an election in 1952 he annulled the vote, assumed the presidency and ruled the country personally until he was unseated by force in 1959. During the Batista regime a series of American governments at first turned a blind eye and then actively supported the dictator. They had no objection to his turning Cuba into America’s casino and brothel. He was their man.

A Young Cuban Changed the Game

The young Cuban who led the revolutionary movement that deposed Batista was the son of a wealthy Spanish farmer of Cuba´s Oriente Province. He studied at a Jesuit high school and adopted its moral teachings, if not its theology. In 1945, he began studying law at the University of Havana and, though “politically illiterate” in the beginning, was soon a student activist, then a revolutionary. Fidel Castro’s first attempt to overthrow the Batista regime, mounting an attack by 135 revolutionaries on the Moncada Barracks on July 26, 1953, was a failure. After the debacle Castro presented himself in the Batista court voluntarily, was convicted of insurrection and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He served less than two, thanks to an amnesty. Though the Moncada battle was lost, it was the first step in a revolution that was to triumph just six years later in 1959.

When John F. Kennedy became president in January of 1961, he took umbrage at what he considered the grave impertinence of the young Cuban revolutionary–Castro was 35 years old in 1961–and soon turned loose the old CIA spymaster, Allen Dulles, with orders to eliminate him. This was the first US plot against Castro’s life and more would follow. A member of his security team estimated that 634 attempts had been made on el comandante’s life. Many of them were amateurish but many of them were not.

In an article in the June 26, 2015 issue of Politico.com, Philip Shenon, a former Washington and foreign correspondent for the New York Times, affirms:

The most important information that McCone withheld from the [Warren] commission in its 1964 investigation, the report found, was the existence, for years, of CIA plots to assassinate Castro, some of which put the CIA in cahoots with the Mafia. Without this information, the commission never even knew to ask the question of whether Oswald had accomplices in Cuba or elsewhere who wanted Kennedy dead in retaliation for the Castro plots.

Politico.com

The Bay of Pigs and Other Kerfuffles

Midst the unending flurry of assassination attempts came the July, 1961, Bay of Pigs Invasion, in which the CIA armed, trained and transported a group of Cuban exiles and American mercenaries to invade the southwest coast of Cuba and, with the help of local dissidents, overthrow the Castro government. American cooperation went so far as the bombing of Cuban airports a couple of days previously with B26 bombers.

Unfortunately for the invaders and American prestige around the world the “local dissidents” never materialized and the operation was a fiasco. Castro later offered to exchange all the prisoners for 500 tractors, but the Americans did not appreciate his sense of humor.

Cuba has lived under the shadow of an American trade embargo since 1960 making it the longest embargo of its kind in modern history. Its terms were reinforced in 1992 with the Cuban Democracy Act. The United States has gone so far as threatening to stop financial aid to other countries if they trade non-food items with Cuba. Another even-more-grotesque factor in the embargo drama is the perceived necessity by members of the US Congress to pander to pro-embargo Cuban-American exiles, whose votes are crucial in Florida.

The Americans’ insistence on their 60-year embargo is doubly remarkable, considering Cuba’s offenses, which are limited to deposing a US-supported dictator, thwarting a series of American assassination attempts and repelling an American-engineered invasion. That is to say, by outsmarting and outplaying Uncle Sam for six decades, something Sam resents intensely. Along the way the Cubans, under Castro’s autocratic leadership, have set world standards both in education and health care. Cuba exports doctors around the world.

Beyond Cuba

In that extreme context of constant harassment and under the Americans’ eternal embargo, how was Castro, incesssantly slandered and driven into corners, supposed to adhere to democratic purity and not resort to authoritarian measures? Like any other living organism on the planet, his first obligation was to survive.

Nor is the case of Cuba unique. There’s Venezuela, submitted for at least the last 20 years to a gratuitous barrage of cruel and unusual threats and “sanctions” that Uncle Sam has pulled out of his sleeve. Hugo Chavez was a savior for his pueblo and his elections were considered models of freedom and fairness for all of Latin America. Those of the 1998 and 2000 elections were certified by by President Jimmy Carter’s election monitoring foundation. Just what is Venezuela guilty of, anyway? It has been a soverign nation since Simon Bolivar led it to independence from Spain in 1821 after a war which killed half its white population. Its crimes since the 1920s are limited to discovering what its all-powerful northern neighbor covets lasciviously: vast oil deposits, perhaps the world’s largest.

One only needs to read the lead of The Making of Juan Guaidó: US Regime-Change Laboratory, Dan Cohen and Max Blumenthal’s article on TheGrayzone.com (January 29, 2019), to come to grips with Juan Guaidó, selected and groomed by the National Endowment for Democracy, a CIA front organization that functions as the US government’s main arm for promoting regime change, as a surrogate for Venezuela’s duly elected president, Nicolas Maduro:

Before the fateful date of Jan. 22, fewer than one in five Venezuelans had heard of Juan Guaidó… Even in his own party, Guaidó had been a mid-level figure in the opposition-dominated National Assembly, which is now held under contempt according to Venezuela’s constitution. But after a single phone call from from U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, Guaidó proclaimed himself as president of Venezuela. Anointed as the leader of his country by Washington, a previously unknown political bottom dweller was vaulted onto the international stage as the U.S.-selected leader of the nation with the world’s largest oil reserves.

TheGrayzone.com

How Many More?

Bill Blum lists in his 2000 book, Rogue State, A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, 65 countries that have been victims of US meddling of one sort or another between 1945 and 2000 when the book came out. Cuba figures high on his list. Venezuela just misses the cut. Even so, there is no shortage of beneficiaries of American pretended largesse. Some cases are more devastating than others. The cases of the CIA’s Iran regime change (1953), Chile’s coup d’etat 1973 and the Guatemalan genocide of its native people  (1960–1996) come immediately to mind. And there are many more. Today’s question is, how many more are there to come?

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Trump Took America into the Dark Ages

Let’s Look at the Record

As Trump leaves office we can begin to place his presidency in historical perspective. What made the conditions propitious for Trumpism’s appearance and rapid growth? How do we account for its precipitous decline? What are the historical parallels? Is there anything that can be done to soften the landing?

The fall of the Roman empire culminated in 476 CE after centuries of growing decadence. It finally fell to the germanic king, Odoacer, to defeat and depose the Emperor Romulus. This coincided with the Early Middle Ages, known also as the “Dark Ages,” when tribes from the north, whom the Romans considered barbarians, were taking over the Western Empire. It was a time, roughly from 500 to 1000 CE, of lawlessness and struggle marked by unending wars and the disruption of normal Roman life.

This sounds remotely familiar. A super power that dominates the known world falls into decadence at home and permanent wars abroad and finds itself taken over by primitive tribes that the ruling elite considers barbarians. In the current case the adversaries don’t come from the north, they come from within. The lords of today’s manor are not products of feudalism, but capitalism. In essence the situation is the same.

The Fall of the Roman Empire

What caused the ancient world’s greatest empire to wilt and disappear? Where did the Greek and Roman civilizations go? According to historians they were victims of an abrupt inversion of societal values. What had been the most advanced civilization in the known world reverted to a primitive agrarian society populated by peasant serfs and feudal lords whose rule was absolute, excepting the intrusions of the medieval church. Science and learning were derrogated, women were demonized and Christian orthodoxy became the imposed norm.

With Rome gone, a chain of unstoppable events was unleashed. Libraries fell into disrepair. With Rome no longer producing a safe environment for learning, philosophy, and science… The architecture and learning and thoughts of the Empire were completely forgotten in the wake of its fall from greatness, plunging the world into darkness.

historythings.com

There were other factors that further complicated life in the early medieval world. Some modern climate researchers are convinced that the gigantic eruption of the Indonesian volcano, Krakatoa, in 535 CE, cast a veil of airborne ash that covered the world and partially veiled the sun for as much as a decade, bringing temperatures down significantly. This theory is supported by findings of dendochronology, the scientific method of dating ancient tree rings to the exact year they were formed.

Our Old Friends, Plague and Climate Change

Then there was the strain and disorder caused by the Justinian Plague (541–549 CE), the first Old World plague pandemic. This is not the Black Death which occurred 800 years later and killed a third to one half of Europe’s population, though both were likely due to the bacteria Yersinia pestis, bubonic plague.

Besides their existing woes, the Europeans of the early Middle Ages were suddenly afflicted by climate change and a virulent epidemic, with no clear ideas regarding what to do about either problem. This is the inflection point. If medieval Europeans could have devised ways of dealing with grave climate and health issues they might have slowed the deterioration of world civilization. But it was not to be. They lacked the necessary knowledge and the tools and the world descended into half a millenium of Dark Ages.

Modern science does have viable hypotheses and credible proposals for dealing with today’s pandemic, but it’s as if they didn’t, insofar as the world’s leading country has turned its back on the scientific method, in favor of the dark arts of crude capitalism and magical religion. They are paying a frightful price in human lives for this recalcitrance, but they insist. Meanwhile, countries with more scientific approaches, effectively a control group, are dealing with the coronavirus pandemic with rational methods and dramatically different results. According to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Research Center, the comparative statistics for Covid impact in the United States and China (as of Jan. 15, 2021) are eloquent:

COUNTRYCONFIRMEDDEATHSCASE-FATALITYDEATHS/100K POP.
United States23,307,232388,5331.7%118.76
China97,4484,7964.9%0.34

These numbers tell an impartial observer that the US, with one quarter of the population of China, has more than 80 times de number of Covid deaths at a rate of 118.76 deaths per 100,000 population while China has 0.34. The factors contributing to this mega-disparity seem clear: China’s scientific approach is based on masks and social distancing, implemented in a society with notable civic awareness, as opposed to public-health anarchy in the United States, a country that, in its current political guise, shuns utterly science, order and the common good.

What possible explanation can there be for such an unenlightened response to a real existential crisis in a supposed first-world country? Are Americans accustomed to living midst such unconscionable levels of violence that they don’t notice that something is catastrophically wrong with their society? Are they victims of a gravely defective cultural and moral upbringing? Don’t they fervently desire normal human lives for their children and grandchildren? What is going on over there? Can’t they see it’s getting dark?

Another Historical Coincidence

At the same time that the world of the Western Empire was succumbing to the ills of the Dark Ages, on the other side of the world, China, reunified under the Sui and Tang dynasties was entering into the light, initiating a period of prosperity, trade relations, and far-reaching influence. Chang’an, the capital, was one of the largest and richest cities in the world. Art and literature were flourishing, reflecting influences from the different cultures with which China maintained diplomatic and trade relations. Ironically, it was a great American, Mark Twain who said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.”

Just as the rejection of reason was the principal cause of the Dark Ages, with barbarians destroying written knowledge and the church outlawing reason in favor of revelation, it was the return to principles of reason that ended the Dark Ages: Aquinas’s rediscovery of Aristotle in the 13th century, the spread of books after Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press in the 15th and Luther’s disrupting the Church in the 16th. If history is a reliable predictor and great men can put a derailed world back on track, there is hope for America’s future. If they’re lucky their wait won’t last longer than five or six-hundred years.

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Trump’s Legacy: Lowering the Bar

Trump & Co. Have Set Pernicious Precedents for Everything

Donald Trump Cabinet meeting 2017-03-13 02
There’s a unique requirement for appearing in this family photo: blind loyalty to Donald Trump.

As President Donald Trump fades, kicking and screaming, into history Americans are wondering what to expect of a post-Trump world. Today the United States looks nothing like the country he took over in 2017. It’s more cynical and more dumber than ever before. It lags behind its most important world adversaries in education, infrastructures, manufacturing, and morals. In fact, it’s behind in virtually everything but its war contraptions and predatory mindset, it’s steel circle of military bases around the world and it’s penchant for interfering in the affairs of other people’s countries. The United States has even slipped behind in leading-edge technology, its traditional strong suit.

Yes, those who follow Trump can undo some of the damage he and his cohorts have done over the past four years, but much of it is irrecoverable. We must not forget his campaign promise–to dismantle the backbone of the United States government, placing all its competencies and vital decisions in the hands of private enterprise and faith-based organizations. Otherwise, how does one explain the choice of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education? Or his naming of the colorful prosperity-gospel televangelist, his personal spirtual advisor, Paula White, as chair of his “evangelical advisory board.”

Trump Goes, Trumpism Stays

The seriousness of Trump’s privatize-and-degrade dynamic is such that, once installed in governmental protocols, it’s hard to get rid of. What starts out seeming scandalous and disproportionate to normal citizens , with time becomes traditional, accepted by large swaths of the population. For coming generations much of Trump & Co.’s tawdry ideology will assume the guise of precedents with the apparent legitimacy that entails.

It’s important to distinguish between Trump and Trumpism. Trump may go (though it’s not clear when) but the sordid seeds he has planted in the American body politic have put vigorous roots down into a substrate of dishonesty, ignorance and arrogance, unlimited opportunism, inhumane values, and government in league with voodoo religion. They will not be easy to uproot, especially if another right-wing populist president comes along who’s even smarter than Donald Trump.

By that time the Trump way of doing things will be considered business as usual in Washington, just as targeted drone assassinations, once considered too horrendous even to consider, have become commonplace today. Americans–excepting the most persnickety of them–will not be shocked by holders of high office who murder, lie, contract unqualified family members, embrace America’s seediest adversaries, cheerlead assaults on the nation’s Capitol and take advantage of high office to feather their nests. Future generations of Americans may come to consider those aberrations simply innovative governance or genial shortcuts to hillbilly heaven.

It Depends on Where You Stand

There are widely-varying standpoints on the subject of Donald Trump’s atypical presidency; the indulgent, ultra-patriotic view from his simple-minded followers; the rage of the rest of Americans, who let him get away with it all; and the cooler, more objective approach when seen from abroad. The unconditional loyalty of Trump’s hardcore followers is hard to explain to non-initiates. It hits the same buttons as miracle religion and the serial-killer’s mother’s love. It’s faith based, a valuable asset in a country where faith works wierd wonders.

Not all members of the Trump tribe are morons. Then how do you explain the Trumpeteers who are practically normal? It might have to do with their profound dissatisfaction with the unfair, tilted field that most Americans are obliged to play on. They’ve been told for their whole lives that this is the exceptional, individualist “American way of life,” the envy of the world. But not many of them have ever been anyplace else so as to be able to compare. In any case, though the quasi-normal Trump followers may not know how to explain their malaise, they’re sure they’re tired of it.

The Trump Follies Seen from Abroad

Foreigners are not emotionally involved in America’s problems. Most of them live in countries where everyone’s children attend good public schools and receive quality free or inexpensive education through university. They’re relatively certain their kids are not going to be caught in a crossfire at school or while coming and going. Virtually all of these foreigners work and receive fair pay in humane conditions and are supported by labor unions. If they have illness or accidents they just go to the hospital, knowing they won’t have to mortgage their houses to pay the bills. In fact, there are no bills.

If they are afflicted with serious chronic illness or disability they know they will be taken care of. They trust their elected representatives to do their best to keep their campaign promises. All countries of the European Union, and many others, enjoy a minimum month’s annual vacation. Americans get 10 days.

These citizens are not directly affected by the goings on in the United States, but they could be–at the press of a button. For now, more than anything else they are profoundly perplexed. America is nothing like their own countries and they have trouble relating to its brash facade and cruel and unusual customs. They lack the advantage of lifelong conditioning and Kool-Aid consumption. They will probably never understand America’s seemingly alien society.

The Recuperation of the Republican Party

At the beginning of the Trump presidency the vast majority of Republican Party members rallied round him, even if a few of them had to hold their noses. There were some exceptions, such as Mike Pence who at first shunned the crass New York real-estate operator as the Republican presidential candidate but later figured out which side his bread was buttered on and slipped back into the fold. He was to become one of President Trump’s most loyal followers till the bitter end on January 6, 2021, when he again thought about his future in politics.

Now that Trump’s ship is on the rocks, particularly after his enthusiastic horde assaulted the US Capitol, many Republicans are abandoning ship. After Trump’s invaders had left the Capitol or been carted off, his deceitful backout speech dripped with hypocritical slime, lacking any hint of regret or decency, just more self-serving, sociopathic cant. His capture-the-Congress gambit had failed and he needed to cover his retreat with counterfeit sincerity.

The Only Way Out of the Swamp

Though the idea is much bandied about, Washington DC is no longer a swamp. A swamp has a harmony about it. There’s a natural cycle of birth and death, beauty and balance. The location of the new nation’s capital in the Washington swamp was chosen by the United States’s first President in 1790. Little by little that natural habitat was perverted by politicians ruling for themselves. Today opportunism and bad faith rule. Hypocrisy has replaced beauty in the swamp and privilege has trumped balance. The only way out of that degenerate ecosystem is through an educated electorate but, given Americas’s ever-declining education system, that will probably not happen.

President Donald Trump’s great luck was that the mediocrity of his own mind and values meshed nicely with that of enough of his countrymen to get him elected President. Once in office he limited himself to promoting a retrograde agenda that pandered to a simple-minded electorate. His legislative henchmen razed the American government like devilish wrecking balls while he thrived on junk food and golf. It’s remarkable how far back the Trump government took the country in four short years. Nor are his critics free of responsibility. They never should have lost sight of the fact that Donald Trump didn’t create America. America created Donald Trump, and just getting rid of him doesn’t cure the rest.

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The Secret Elephant in the Paris Climate Accord Room

There’s an elephant in the room. It’s a war elephant. We can see him but they can’t.

The Paris Climate Accord Was Born Crippled

After decades of quibbling, the vast majority of the countries of the world finally acknowledged the seriousness of global warming and sat down in Paris on December 12, 2015, to sign a legally binding climate accord, the Paris Agreement. Not only did they sign it but the majority took it home and got it ratified by their governments. The agreement entered into effect on November 4, 2016.

Everybody agreed it was a significant advance for humankind. People toasted with champagne. But the celebrations were premature, as the United States had included a pre-existing condition–a threat, if you will–in the agreement, and they swore their colleagues to secrecy. They advised the delegates gathered together in Paris that they would not sign the document unless the air pollution generated by their military forces around the world was exempted from the tabulation of the American carbon footprint.

The sensible delegates of the rest of the world acceded, acutely aware that the American military forces not only generate air pollution, but they could also create death and destruction on a massive scale. Just how much pollution were they looking at, anyway? As it turned out the US armed forces are the world’s single greatest polluter, to the tune of more than 25,000 kilotonnes of carbon dioxide, created by burning fossile fuels at a rate of 269,230 barrels a day, according to theconversation.com.

In a revealing article originally published by the International Action Center in 2014, Sara Flounders wrote : 

There is an elephant in the climate debate that by US demand cannot be discussed or even seen. This agreement to ignore the elephant is now the accepted basis of all international negotiations on climate change.

It is well understood by every possible measurement that the Pentagon, the US military machine, is the world’s biggest institutional consumer of petroleum products and the world’s worst polluter of greenhouse gas emissions and many other toxic pollutants. Yet the Pentagon has a blanket exemption in all international climate agreements.

ResearchGate.org is a British research and database organization headed by the Universities of Lancaster and Durham. They have applied their minds and resources to following the petroleum–which, when burned, turns into air pollution. They uncovered a little known but massively important agency tucked into a corner of the US Defense Department. It’s the US Defense Logistics Agency – Energy (DLA‐E) and it’s the primary purchase point for hydrocarbon‐based fuels for the US military, as well as a powerful actor in the global oil market.

The Researech Gate investigaters followed the DLA‐E’s oil trail, its supply chain, bureaucratic practices, and the infrastructure that facilitates the US military’s consumption of hydro‐based carbons on a global scale. Using Freedom of Information Act requests they were able to trace much of the US military’s oil use and consequent generation of pollution. They concluded that the US military is a “major climate actor,” if not THE major climate actor. (Source: researchgate.org)

The Single Largest User of Petroleum in the World

The results of an extensive 2019 study by theconversation.com affirm that:

… the US military is one of the largest polluters in history, consuming more liquid fuels and emitting more climate-changing gases than most medium-sized countries. If the US military were a country, its fuel usage alone would make it the 47th largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world.

theconversation.com

The Washington D.C.-based Transnational Institute has been active for more than 30 years documenting social movements around the world, and fighting for economic, social and environmental justice. According to these American researchers there is one word conspicuously missing from the draft of the Paris Agreement: “military.” They think that’s strange, insofar as “the US military alone is the single largest user of petroleum in the world and has been the main enforcer of the global oil economy for decades.”

Since the US military is such a major player, obscuring their role in the game makes a mockery of the whole accord. As it turned out, the Americans had a second card to play, President Donald Trump’s announced withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Agreement a scarce seven months after its ratification. Though Trump announced the move in June 2017, UN regulations delayed the execution of his decision until November 4, 2020. It remains to be seen what new President Joe Biden will do with this warm potato with the world’s largest carbon polluter hidden inside.

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Very Very Awesome in DC

These dudes will definitely make America great again.

Yesterday’s Follies at the US Capitol Confirm Everything We Suspected

Like a deranged Pentecostal preacher foretelling the Rapture, I’ve predicted the American End Times in writing for years. But when I saw it happening yesterday, January 6, the day of the Epiphany, in real time and living color, I had to rub my eyes. Is this it? Yes, it seems it was and, screened by the familiar It-can’t-happen-here myth, nobody in America’s high-tech, high-security government had thought to provide a proper security detail for the United States Senate. But why should they have thought of it? What happened at the Capitol yesterday was unthinkable.

January 6, 2020, is a day that will live in infamy, the day that marked the before and after of the inviolability of the universally-revered American democracy. It can happen there, and did. In all fairness, a few people on the ragged edges of American journalism saw it coming and warned the country repeatedly, but they were preaching to the choir. The rest of the distracted, largely-unlettered, exceptionally-patriotic country considered them cranks at best, socialists at worst. These thinkers on the margins are thoughtful, concerned, well-educated citizens of conscience who have been rowing upstream in the American river of hypocrisy and re-engineered truth for decades. Today–the day after–people like Noam Chomsky, Chris Hedges, Paul Jay, Amy Goodman, and a few others, can hold their heads high. They did their best to prevent America’s ongoing democratic debacle.

DC police and congressional security team didn’t have their best day.

Who’s to Blame?

There will be a problem of assigning responsibility. Some people will try to pin it on the small army of decerebrated rednecks that assaulted the Capitol building–and not only the building; the United States Senate was in session. But they have neither the wit nor the comprehension to orchestrate the genial sucker punch that connected with the heart of American democracy. That required a shrewder, more experienced Redneck in Chief, lurking like Lazarus at the threshold of his sepulchre waiting to be brought back from the dead. Will he make it back. It’s the USA. Anything can happen.

This is not to say that we did not see any miracles yesterday. We saw Mitch McConnell metamorphose from a corporate lackey and consummate legislative manipulator into a paladin of modern democracy. All is forgotten, including his decades-long personal blockade of any form of progressive legislation, down to an emergency survival fund that would have permitted desperate Americans to feed their families and pay last month’s rent. He no longer recalls the four years he spent as Donald Trump’s slavering sycophant, enthusiastically girding the President’s loins against all forms of reason or decency. He is now suddenly the one who saved America from perishing at the hands of a sociopathic President. The rancid old pol saw an opportunity in the siege of the Capitol and hitched his wagon to that star. The Senate Majority Leader is back. Thank God.

What Can We Expect of What’s Left of America

Now is when it gets interesting. The colorful tribe of American überpatriots has had its first taste of live action and it didn’t work out too badly. A few of the duller ones were arrested and four people were killed but, aside from that, it was quite a successful operation. The front doors of the Capitol were breached, the security guards were intimidated into inaction, the attackers took over the Senate chamber and held it while the senators fled. When the bold boys had made their point they left at leisure. The majority of them didn’t even have their names taken down. President Trump told them he loved them. Yes, quite a successful operation. It should embolden them to come back soon.

Their greatest achievement was to dismantle any semblance of American credibility across the world. Absolutely everybody was watching, from the humblest rickshaw driver to every head of government. Few of those who saw the show will ever be tempted to take the US seriously again. The bubble has burst in a dramatic manner. After more than 200 years of cultivating the myth of heroic America, winner two world wars, savior of the world from communism, mother of moon walkers and creator of the Big Mac, the whole edifice was taken down by an unarmed group of mentally-disadvantaged role players. That motley crew achieved in a couple of hours what the Iroquois, the Sioux, the British, the Russians and the Guatemaltecos had not managed in two centuries: to take a once-great country from world dominatrix to laughing stock in the time it takes Kim Kardashian to apply her makeup.

As for America’s adversaries around the world, all they have to do for now is to stand back and let it happen. “But in a couple of weeks everything will be different,” you say. “There will be a new President.” No doubt things will be different, but will they be different enough to make a difference? Is Joe Biden the dynamic, charismatic leader the Americans need to snap them out of the denial mode that is their default setting whenever they fail?

President Trump and his comical minions are America’s first deniers, having convinced themselves that the fearless leader did not lose the election. Though it’s now amply clear that he did, he may have won something equally important. Like a magician who has mastered misdirection Trump has distracted the country’s attention from what is undeniably his gravest offense, the mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic to the tune of some 330,000 American dead. This alone is enough–in a country of equal justice for all its citizens–to convict him of criminal negligence and sentence him to a hefty prison term. Will that happen? It would in a proper country.

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Is The United States Running Scared?

Nobody is as aware of US brutality in world affairs across the last century and beyond as are the American leaders themselves. They have hurt so many people in so many countries, and so gratuitously, that they are entitled to fear the logical reprisals.

If Not, Why Do They Spend So Much of the Nation’s Vital Wealth on National Defense?

What possible motivation can the American defense establishment have for squandering their country’s very life’s blood in order to upgrade annually their already formidable military capabilities? Is it due to their fascination with deadly new toys or to their need to impress their adversaries and allies? There may be some of that, but it is likely that there’s another factor that doesn’t get mentioned: fear. Nobody is as aware of US brutality in world affairs across the last century and beyond as are the American leaders themselves. They have hurt so many people in so many countries, and so gratuitously, that they are entitled to fear the logical reprisals. Their offenses range from eavesdropping on German chancellor, Angela Merkel’s phone calls–a grave and stupid breach of confidence with an important ally–to mass murder and regime change which they either carried out or sponsored in Latin America, Greece, Vietnam, Afghanistan Iraq, to name just a few. Now they need go to extreme lengths to ward off the world’s revenge.

These extreme lengths inevitably include sophisticated weaponry that comes at astronomical costs paid for by US taxpayers (and their unborn generations), not by the members of America’s high-rolling military-industrial-congressional elite. Far from paying for the expensive war materiel, they extract massive profits. There is a parallel to this faith in high-tech weaponry in Germany’s illusory resort to exotic weapons, wunderwaffen, in a last-ditch effort to elude defeat in World War II. Their V2 rockets were first launched against England in late September, 1944. Over the next few months, nearly 1,400 struck London. Some 2,700 Londoners were killed but the V2s did not alter the outcome of the war. 

Fritz X – This guided anti-ship glide torpedo (above) was one of Hitler’s most secret bombs. Not only was it the first precision-guided bomb to ever be deployed in combat, but on 9 September 1943 it also became the first such bomb to sink a ship – the Italian battleship Roma. Again, it arrived too late to deter the victory of the Allies. (Source: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk)

Goliath – This remote-controlled mine carrier had caterpillar tracks and resembled a mini tank. It was designed to carry up to 100 kilograms of high explosives and was first deployed in early 1942. Though it looked like a radio-controlled toy, it was capable of everything from destroying tanks to demolishing buildings and bridges.

The Horten Ho 229 “flying wing” bomber (above) was considered “Hitler’s secret weapon.” It was designed to carry 2,000 pounds of armaments while flying at 49,000 feet at speeds of more than 600 mph. In the end, none of these wunderwaffen made any significant difference in the outcome of the war. (Source: https://www.historyhit.com/secret-weapons-of-the-nazis/)

What Is the Cost of “National Defense” in Real Terms?

The cost of America’s defense spending evaluated by the usual yardsticks hits middle and lower-class citizens hard. They lack most of the services and protections provided by other first-world countries. The data that follow come from reliable international sources, many of them from the United States. Let’s start with overall health. According to the 2019 edition of the Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index, Spain is the healthiest country in the world, followed by Iceland, Japan, and Switzerland. The US is number 35 in the ranking. Life expectancy is also indicative of overall wellbeing. According to Worldography.info, who average the age for both sexes, the United States clocks in at number 46, with 78.11 years of life expectancy, just below Cuba and 44 other countries. At the top is Hong Kong with 89.29 years. 

How does the US do in literacy? Andorra, Greenland, North Korea, and Uzbekistan enjoy 100% literacy rates as of 2015-16, according to the German site, citypopulation.de.  One wonders if the Americans will ever catch up with Uzbekistan in literacy. The Washington Post (Mar. 8, 2016) says under the headline Most literate nation in the world? Not the US, that the US has advanced from 11th to seventh place. That is a remarkably positive result for a country whose president refuses to read and is incapable of speaking or writing a proper sentence.

What about infant mortality? According to CIA.gov, the US ranks 36th (estimated data 2017) with 5.7 deaths per 1000 live births. These numbers are significantly bettered by countries such as Hungary (4.90), Poland (4.40), Portugal (4.30), Slovenia  (3.90), Spain (3.30) along with a couple of dozen more. Neither do the American results for electoral integrity fare very well in the world. “U.S. Elections Ran Last Among All Western Democracies,” reads the January 7, 2017, headline on the ElectoralIintegrityProject.com site (an electoral monitoring project run by Harvard and Sydney Universities). The only ones, among western democracies, who held freer and fairer elections than the United States were everyone else.

See more on this subject on my June 1, 2020 post.

Luckily the Americans Can Count on Their Allies

Despite their interwoven networks of supposed allies, the Americans are increasingly alone. Leaders of countries around the world have eyes to see and are understandably reluctant to throw in their lot with an increasingly erratic United States. The allies they do retain are largely products of expert promising, bribing and arm twisting. American John Perkins has written a few books on the subject, the most revealing of which was the first one, published in 2004, Confessions of an Economic Hitman. In it Perkins, the whistleblower, describes his work as an American agent charged with changing the minds of foreign decision makers. His toolkit consisted of a rising scale of ideological arguments, bribes and threats. If none of those worked he passed the problem to his higher-ups.

Old arguments –anti-communism, the domino theory, 9/11 reprisals–are wearing thin for the populations of other countries, many of them American targets. They have felt the brunt of US realpolitik and that makes them less susceptible to propaganda. As time goes by more and more people around the world are capable of googling “US military bases map.” That alone offers a revealing picture of American imperial intentions. As for the citizens of the unfortunate countries the US has humiliated, alienated, smothered with economic sanctions, or simply obliterated, American foreign-policy makers are hoping they have forgotten. They haven’t. Nor have their friends. We need look no further than Chinese trade deals with Venezuela and Iran. China doesn’t need foreign bases to exercise their power. Simple economic clout is enough for now. As for the future, they’re working on it.

Underlying all of these questions is an important issue. Can Uncle Sam be trusted? The American’s Kurdish allies who, attacked in northern Syria by Islamic State forces in 2013, heroically went on to turn the tables on ISIL, virtually eliminating them as a fighting force, at a cost more than 800 Kurdish dead. This neutralizing of ISIL was recognized as a valuable contribution to the American cause in the Middle East. Nevertheless, when the time came to throw Turkish president Erdogan a bone, President Trump dropped them like a nicked golfball, leaving them at the mercy of the largest army in NATO. In an article in October 15, 2019, The Atlantic entitled Trump Betrayed the Kurds. Who’s Next? The author, Peter Wehner, points out:

Kurdish forces played a central role in aiding the United States in fighting the Islamic State. But in a phone call a week ago Sunday, Trump gave the green light to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to invade northern Syria—and, in the process, to engage in what even one of Trump’s most loyal supporters, Senator Lindsey Graham, describes as the “ethnic cleansing” of the Kurds.

The Atlantic, Oct. 15, 2019
<p value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">Now that the Brexit is consummated (thanks in large part to American big-data technology provided by <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/av/uk-40423629">Cambridge Analytica</a>) the Brits are on their own, they are going to experience American solidarity–known in popular American and British mythology as "The Special Relationship." We shall see.Now that the Brexit is consummated (thanks in large part to American big-data technology provided by Cambridge Analytica) the Brits are on their own, they are going to experience American solidarity–known in popular American and British mythology as “The Special Relationship.” We shall see.

While the American Emperor looks and acts more like a sinister carnival barker, and is wearing fewer and fewer clothes each day, people around the world are asking themselves what he will be up to next. Has he set the world up for the Endgame? What are the implications of his curious US-Saudi-Israeli-Moroccan axis in the Middle East and the Magreb? What is the role of the President’s son-in-law, who seems to have a hand in the deal as his father-in-law’s “peace envoy?”

Where do the American Evangelical, Pentecostal and Fundamentalist Christians fit into the puzzle? Most of the members of these Christian sects support Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud regime in Israel, many with personal visits and cash donations. Allegedly their objective is to see Israel enter into a war with the Muslims, thus precipitating the Apocalypse which, according to holy scripture, will launch the born-again true believers straight into heaven. The rest of humanity, including their good friends, the Israelis, according to this lugubrious narrative, will be left behind, supposedly to burn in hell with the rest of us.

The Trump foreign policy has been based on insults and broken promises, boutades, tariffs and economic sanctions, and naval blocades, these latter considered an act of war under international law. Mike Pompeo, Trump’s thuggish, rapture-struck Secretary of State, more of an enforcer than a diplomat, was the ideal pick for the job from President Trump’s point of view. But the outside world percieves Pompeo as a warning beacon, illuminating unpleasant things to come.

This article from The Nation, “What America Really Spends on Making War,” should be required reading for every American taxpayer. It explains in exquisite detail the difference between what the Defense Department says it spends on making war, and what the US government really spends on war, in all of its intricate aspects. Authors William D. Hartung and Mandy Smithberger take a didactic approach, explaining how the Trump administration asked Congress in 2019 for $750 billion for the Pentagton and related defense activities. But that sum is only part of the actual cost of all proposed national defense-related spending, according to Hartung and Smithberger. They maintain:

In its latest budget request, the Trump administration is asking for a near-record $750 billion for the Pentagon and related defense activities—an astonishing figure by any measure. If passed by Congress, it will be one of the largest military budgets in American history, topping peak levels reached during the Korean and Vietnam wars. That three-quarters of a trillion dollars represents only part of the actual annual cost of our national-security state.

There are at least 10 separate pots of money dedicated to fighting wars, preparing for yet more wars, and dealing with the consequences of wars already fought. So the next time a president, a general, a secretary of defense, or a hawkish member of Congress insists that the US military is woefully underfunded, think twice. A careful look at US defense expenditures offers a healthy corrective to such wildly inaccurate claims.

The Nation

According to these authors’ itemized estimate, the total sum of American “defense” spending is closer to more than $1.25 trillion, almost double the Pentagon’s base budget. Meanwhile, there has been an important change in the United States, a new President. Over the course of the next four years we’ll see how important that change will have been. An excellent barometer of the fear level in the American power elite over that period will be the amount the defense-budget increases each year.

A Reminder: Budget Isn’t Everything

The Americans think money wins wars, and they’re right, but only partially. They seem to forget their enemies whose victories were achieved with little money but lots of courage, conviction and sacrifice. Look at Vietnam, and Afghanistan, and Iraq–yes, Iraq, where the Americans are still casting about for a way out. There were still about 5,000 US troops in Iraq, as of Sept. 9, 2020. Will the Americans ever learn not to underestimate their adversaries? They should have learned that lesson from the Lakota, the Northern Cheyenne, and the Arapaho tribes at the Little Big Horn River in June of 1876 .

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Theory and Practice of Failed US Democracy

Two hundred thirty one years of radical, sometimes violent, events at home and abroad have taken their toll on the US Constitution.

American Democracy Becomes a Reality

On September 2, 1945, Ho Chi Minh proclaimed the independent Democratic Republic of Vietnam in Hanoi’s Ba Dinh square. These are the first lines of his speech: “All men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among them are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” If these words sound familiar it is because they are the much-quoted second lines of the United States’ Declaration of Independence. Ho Chi Minh was a profound admirer of the United States and their democracy. He had repeatedly beseeched President Franklin D. Roosevelt to support Vietnam’s struggle for independence from France but his pleas fell on deaf ears. Vietnam did not become free and independent until the Vietnamese people, under Ho Chi Minh’s leadership, defeated the United States and ended the American military occupation of their country in 1975. Thus, the promise of American democracy became a reality, but not in America.

The Durable, Long-Lasting Republic

American democracy was born in hopeful times. The country had just won its independence from Britain and was led by brilliant team of political thinkers, the revered “Founding Fathers,” Washington, Jefferson, Madison, et al. The constitution they drafted and ratified, with its separation of powers, checks and balances, freedom of religion, and the guarantees of civil rights enunciated in the Bill of Rights, promised a durable, long-lasting republic.

It wasn’t perfect, mind you. Most of the Founding Fathers were rich and many of them were slave owners. They prudently–and anti-democratically–dialed into their constitution measures to preclude an uprising and takeover by of the underclasses. These measures limited the franchise to white male citizens over the age of 21 and included the electoral college, which negated the possibility of a one-man-one-vote democracy. Women weren’t granted the vote until 1920, with the ratification of the 19th amendment, and racial minorities had to wait till 1965 for full, effective voting rights, when the Voting Rights Act directed the US Attorney General to enforce the right to vote for African Americans. That was a 176-year wait and black voting rights are still far from perfect. The highly-contested results of the 2016 and 2020 elections suggest that elections remain an open sore on the American polity. Even so, they permit themselves the luxury a refereeing those in other people’s countries.

What Denatured American Democracy?

Two hundred thirty one years of radical, sometimes violent, events at home and abroad have taken their toll on the US Constitution. Over time the democratic republic that the founders foresaw has been battered and diluted by powerful vested interests and American “democracy” has been subverted to the point that it survives more as a useful myth than solid reality. Little by little it has been reduced to a slogan, then a lie and, lately, a scam. But we still use the same word–democracy–for a system of government that has morphed beyond recognition. That’s normal with political theories. They tend to differ in practice, and when  they evolve they don’t always do so in a good way.

The deterioration of American democracy is due to three principal factors, beginning with the growth of executive power snatching. Democratic government loses authority with each succeeding president. Sometimes power is snatched during wars or pre-war situations when it’s easier to grease the way with fear and patriotism. Sometimes it’s after national emergencies, of which 9/11 is the most glaring example. Other times it’s just because they can. President Donald Trump is the best example of that egomaniacal accumulation of personal power, like a three-year-old sticking knives into electrical sockets and surviving.

Big business control of government, thanks to the power of lobbying and grotesque changes in campaign financing law, is responsible for another series of grave attacks on democracy. The 2010 Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court decision turned corporations into persons–Shazzam!– with virtually unlimited rights to donate to political campaigns. Later rulings by the reactionary Roberts Court, including McCutcheon v. FEC (2014), would strike down other campaign finance restrictions, to the benefit of the Republican Party in subsequent elections.

The third force degrading the American democracy is the infiltration of extravagant miracle religion at the highest levels of government. If a person wants to believe he’s about to be “raptured” up into heaven by Jesus Christ, that’s his or her business, but not if he or she is Secretary of State. This phenomenon is all the more dangerous because it’s driven by opportunistic motives for pandering to a massive religious voting base, one of President Donald Trump’s specialties. And he’s not the only one. The White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (OFBCI) was created in 2001 by President George W. Bush.

Sticky Are the Seats of Power

The growth of business influence in government is driven by members of congress’s extreme devotion to re-election. They will resort to extravagant lengths to retain their seats. This incumbency/re-election phenomenon is more serious that it seems. How much waste of valuable time and resources has been generated in the White House over the years by presidents devoting themselves to their re-election projects? Running the country is a big job, one that should take absolute priority over political questions.

Seymour Hersh broaches this subject in his book, The Dark Side of Camelot, when he relates an informal conversation in the White House between President John F. Kennedy and an old friend from school. Kennedy confessed to his friend that he was witholding an important initiative so he could use it as an election issue. The friend told Hersh that he immediately thought it might be a good idea to limit presidencies to a single six-year term, thereby obviating the necessity of re-election campaigns. If that’s a good idea for presidents, might it not also be a good plan for legislators, whose case is even graver, as they are permitted to present themselves for re-election during their entire lives? Between them and the Supreme Court, America guarantees itself that many of it’s highest government offices are populated by zombies.

The single measure of limiting duration in office to a single term would eliminate the waste and abuse created by the massive re-election business. This might be included in the same Constitutional amendment that would eliminate the Electoral College. What are the chances of such an amendment prospering? Nil would be an optimistic guess.

Some Qualified Criticisms

Mike Lofgren worked in Washington as a political operative during most of his adult life, principally as a Republican Congressional aid. Though he retired in May, 2011, after 28 years on the inside, he hadn’t forgotten what he had learned from that privileged point of view. Quite the contrary, he was anxious to tell it. The result was his 2012 book, The Party Is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted, characterized by the Washington Post as “forceful, covincing and seductive.” In his preface to the paperback edition he gives us a clear idea of what to expect from his book. To the right reader, it is a banquet. This is just the first paragraph:

As with many religions, political parties have a tendency to start as movements, transform into businesses, and finally degenerate into rackets designed to fleece the yokels. One organization that has embraced this evolution is the Republican Party. And it has done so with a national scope and fundraising apparatus that would have made Jimmy Swaggart or Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker mute with awe.

Mike Lofgren in “The Party is Over

Lofgren then proceeds in the following 200 pages to rip through decades of the Republicans’ misdeeds and absurdities like Napoleon’s dragoons on horses forged in Hell. This was four full years before Donald J. Trump was even a candidate, making Lofgren a 21st-century Old Testament prophet. Here’s another of his Apocalyptic declarations:

From my perch on the budget committee I watched with a mixture of fascination and foreboding as my party was hijacked by a new crop of opportunists and true believers hell-bent on dragging the country into their jerry-built New Jerusalem: an upside-down utopia where corporations rule, the Constitution, like science, is faith-based, and war is the first, not the last, resort in foreign policy.

Mike Lofgren in “The Party is Over

With this rich text published in 2012 no honest Washington insider can affirm that they didn’t foresee the gotterdamerung that Trump’s presidency would bring. The only ones free from this criticism are those who do not or cannot read.

Author and academic, Emeritus Professor of Political Science at the University of Nebraska, David Forsythe is the creator of the OpenGlobalRights.org website and author, with Patrice McMahon, of American Exceptionalism Reconsidered: U.S. Foreign Policy, Human Rights, and World Order. Forsythe has this to say on failed American democracy:

In the abstract, Americans may express liberal and cosmopolitan views supportive of universal human rights. But this country that sees itself as a beacon of moral progress for all the world to see, the engine for global good, is the same country with a demonstrable history of ethnic cleansing of Native Americans, slavery and lynching, Jim Crow laws to exploit and repress African Americans, anti-Semitism, periodic isolationism and xenophobia, grinding poverty under a harsh form of capitalism, gender discrimination and intolerance for the LGBT community, and a host of other defects.

David Forsythe on OpenGlobalRights.org

America Distracted, Corrupted and Down for the Count

America has been so distracted over the past century by hedonism, consumerism, capitalism and every other ism that promises instant satisfaction that thoughtfulness, mutual respect and concern for the common good have been relegated to the dustbin of history.

Today, December 26, Boxing Day, President Donald Trump, having vetoed the Covid relief plan that should have been passed months ago, left millions of Americans destitute of food and a roof over their heads. The President spent Christmas day playing golf. To an impartial if skeptical observer from abroad this seems like a bad sign.

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Who Are You to Impose Sanctions?

Sanctions Are All the Rage

President Donald Trump has brought back the wholesale use of unilateral international sanctions as a mechanism for punishing and hampering any country that displeases him and his motley crew. Sanctions are handy resources for an aspiring world ruler because all they require to put in place is a belligerent declaration from the White House and a series of threats to enforce them. That may be why President Trump has resorted to this ploy so gaily. His gratuitous economic sanctions on oil-and-mineral-rich Venezuela prompted these observations by US economists:

In Venezuela, economic sanctions that Trump first imposed in 2017 and then vastly expanded in 2019, have resulted in increased disease and mortality and are estimated to have led to tens of thousands of excess deaths, according to a 2019 study by economists Mark Weisbrot and Jeffrey Sachs.

https://www.aljazeera.com/

A recent Cambridge University forum further delimits the playing field:

… this essay examines unilateral coercive measures… While there are no incontrovertible data on the extent of these measures, one can safely say that they target in some way a full quarter of humanity. In addition to being a major attack on the principle of self-determination, unilateral measures not only adversely affect the rights to international trade and to navigation but also the basic human rights of innocent civilians. The current deterioration of the situation, with the mutation of embargoes into blockades and impositions on third parties, is a threat to peace that needs to be upgraded in strategic concern.

Cambridge.org, 6 September, 2019

Are They Conscious of the Tragedy They Sow?

Before wading into the Okeefenokee that American foreign policy experts have made of the sanctions issue, let’s look at the most critical aspect, which is regularly overlooked. Are Americans aware of the the lethal repercussions for innocent citizens inside the countries they punish with sanctions? What was Madeleine Albright’s answer when she was asked about the 500,000 children under the age of five who died due to the Amerian-organized blockade of Iraq? “This is a very hard choice, but we think the price is worth it.”

Since that memorable declaration as US Secretary of State, Albright has been recycled in American folklore as a human-rights and peace activist, much the same as President Richard Nixon was polished up and resold as a respected elder statesman. American promoted UN Security Council sanctions against Iraq, first imposed in 1990 and later extended, were a near-total financial and trade embargo which gave the US and UK control over Iraq’s oil revenue. They were not removed until December 2010.

It took UN Secretary General Kofi Annan until 2004 to decide that the invasion of Iraq was illegal. According to The Guardian:

“Mr Annan said that the invasion was not sanctioned by the UN security council or in accordance with the UN’s founding charter. In an interview with the BBC World Service broadcast last night, he was asked outright if the war was illegal. He replied: ‘Yes, if you wish.'” He then added unequivocally: ‘I have indicated it was not in conformity with the UN charter. From our point of view and from the charter point of view it was illegal.'” (Source: The Guardian, 16 Sep 2004)

A 1996 report by International Progress Organization (IPO) criticized sanctions as “an illegitimate form of collective punishment of the weakest and poorest members of society, the infants, the children, the chronically ill, and the elderly”.

According to the IPO, the sanctions imposed around the world by the United States government include:

  • bans on arms-related exports
  • controls over dual-use technology exports
  • restrictions on economic assistance
  • financial restrictions:
    • requiring the United States to oppose loans by the World Bank and other international financial institutions
    • diplomatic immunity waived, to allow families of terrorist victims to file for civil damages in U.S. courts
    • tax credits for companies and individuals denied, for income earned in listed countries
    • duty-free goods exemption suspended for imports from those countries
    • authority to prohibit U.S. citizens from engaging in financial transactions with the government on the list, except by license from the U.S. government
    • prohibition of U.S. Defense Department contracts above $100,000 with companies controlled by countries on the list.

According to Aaron Arnold of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, a research center located within the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University,

While the United States must be in a state of war for the president to regulate trade and commerce under the Trading With the Enemy Act, the President has complete discretion to declare a national emergency under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA). From a legal perspective, there have been few successful challenges of IEEPA. So far, conducting US foreign policy through a broad interpretation of national security powers has always been the prerogative of US presidents. But as European leaders scramble to save what is left of the Iran deal, many are left wondering whether a president that wields IEEPA like a hammer will see every problem like a nail. 

belfercenter.org

Alexander Main, Director of International Policy at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC, is more specific on the subject:

But one particularly brutal set of White House measures that has already caused tens of thousands of casualties abroad has been ignored by most of Trump’s critics. Since taking office, the president has unilaterally imposed a number of deadly, sweeping economic sanctions on Iran, North Korea and Venezuela. These sanctions have not, by any reasonable measure, advanced the president’s stated foreign policy goals. They have, however, wreaked havoc and destruction in the lives of countless innocent human beings. 

Are the US Sanctions Legal Under International Law?

According to the United Nations, only the UN Security Council has a mandate by the international community to apply sanctions that must be complied with by all UN member states. They serve as the international community’s most powerful peaceful means to prevent threats to international peace and security or to settle them. (Source: Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter)

That is to say, according to international law all of the the US’s exquisite legislative pussyfooting around the question of sanctions is irrelevant, and the unilateral imposition of sanctions by any country is out of order. Not that the Americans are much dissuaded by legalities. They have the unique tenet of their foreign policy: “We do exactly as we please.” That works for them, even though the rest of the world may not agree.

Trump Plays the Rogue Sanctions Card

Whenever President Donald Trump gets bettered in a deal he gets miffed. His favorite response is to play the sanctions card whether it’s aimed at one of America’s competitors in the international “free market” or a country that’s straying beyond US-imposed ideological limits. The case that immediately comes to mind is the crippling US embargo on Cuba, in place since March 14, 1958 and renewed ever since, the most-brutal, longest-lasting foreign policy coercion of the 20th century that is still festering in the 21st.

A more recent example is the Huawei ban, a classic case of castigating a superior competitor for building better mousetrap. President Trump declares a US boycott on the Chinese communications technology company and immediately extends the ban to Britain, his most reliable running ally. These stings are occurring more frequently lately as American technology lags further and further behind foreign competition.

Whether it’s Chinese G-5 communications installations or the Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missiles, Trump’s kneejerk response is sanctions. Turkey, after being turned down by the US in an effort to purchase American Patriot anti-aircraft missiles, turned to Russia and signed a multi-billion-dollar deal. Despite U.S. efforts to undo that agreement, President Erdogan proceeded to acquire the S-400 system in July 2019.The first batch of S-400s were deployed in Turkey in July of 2019. Note: The S-400 missiles are superior to the Patriots and allegedly at half the price.

Not to mention the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline between Russia and Germany, currently under US sanctions…

Just over a week ago, on December 14, 2020, Washington belatedly announced their sanctions on Turkey for the S-400 operation. This is how the California-based law firm, Gibson-Dunn characterized the event:

On December 14, 2020, the United States imposed sanctionss on the Republic of Turkey’s Presidency of Defense Industries (“SSB”), the country’s defense procurement agency, and four senior officials at the agency, for knowingly engaging in a “significant transaction” with Rosoboronexport (“ROE”), Russia’s main arms export entity, in procuring the S-400 surface-to-air missile system. These measures were a long-time coming—under Section 231 of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (“CAATSA”) of 2017, the President has been required to impose sanctions on any person determined to have knowingly “engage[d] in a significant transaction with a person that is part of, or operates for or on behalf of, the defense or intelligence sectors of the Government of the Russian Federation.”

Source: gibsondunn.com

Sanctions as Acts of War

Can US unilateral sanctions be considered acts of war? The jury is still out on this question but many qualified observers think the case can be made. Briefly, when unilateral sanctions result in dead and maimed civilians, mass destruction, regime change or other interruption of the life of a country, they should naturally be considered as acts of war.

Nonetheless, economic sanctions are the foreign policy option of choice for the US. While often portrayed as a softer option than outright war, they can result in equally devastating blows to the health and well-being of vulnerable countries.

Madre.org reminds us of US use of sanctions:

On January 8, 2020, Trump announced additional “punishing” sanctions on the Iranian government, framing these as a peaceful alternative to military action. But these sanctions are far from a de-escalation of this crisis. In fact, they are simply warfare under another name.

The US has applied more economic sanctions than any other country. Sanctions have been imposed on Iraq, North Korea, Iran, Cuba, Myanmar, Sudan, Syria, and Venezuela — among others.

The Future of American Sanctions

–trapped midst a killer virus, a deteriorating technological superiority and rising stars on the horizon–

Sanctions are subject to international law, no clause of which authorizes the US to apply their belligerent realpolitic to other people’s countries. So how is it possible that the US should be circling the world with a sinister web of unilateral sanctions? American trans-world coercion is based on the same ugly reality as other cases of historical bullying. Without the US preponderance of military might it would not be possible.

But that dubious license bestowed by massive force may not last forever. In view of the United States’ critical situation, both at home and abroad–trapped midst a killer virus, a deteriorating technological superiority and rising stars on the horizon–their worldwide suzerainty may be entering its last days. If not, why would the lame-duck Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, be bustling around the world Mafia style, fervently delivering the Trump administration’s last threats?

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Gold Star America

“We Were the Greatest…”

How much time and energy and how many resources have been senselessly squandered by the United States over the past half century? And what has the rest of the world been up to in the meantime? The answers to these questions are determining the short, medium and long-term future of the world.

Note: Of the past 20 centuries China has dominated eighteen.

While the rest of the world has advanced on many fronts, and continues to do so, the US flails hopelessly in a fishbowl of erroneous ideology, drowning in exceptionalism and entitlement. Americans are convinced they are not like other people around the world, they’re special. And that specialness entitles them to rights and privileges that people of other countries do not enjoy. American pre-eminence since the Second World War would seemed to confirm this worldview. They live, after all, in the richest, most productive country in the world. They are blessed with an exemplar democratic government. And their dollar is the currency of world trade.

It seemed only natural to them to take the next logical step: world domination. Convinced that their system had rightly triumphed over all others it was their obligation to extend it to the rest of the world. There would, of course, be dissenters in less-enlightened foreign countries, but they could be brought to see the light.

The cornerstone of this aspiring world empire was laid in 1944 at the Mount Washington Hotel, a ski resort in Bretton Woods, in Carroll, New Hampshire. There, during 22 days of meetings, 730 delegates from 44 Allied countries hammered out the shape of the world to come. This was the meeting that determined the regulation of the international monetary and financial order after World War II. With the outcome of the war in view and American predominance clearly in evidence, the results of the conference were a foregone conclusion. After the approval of the creation of the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), the forerunner of the World Bank, the playing field was definitively tilted in favor of the US, a fact that has benefited them until today. Tomorrow is another matter.

Imperial Intelligence to the Rescue

The American “intelligence services,” whose clandestine activity in Europe was initiated during WWII under the auspices of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and the direction of Colonel (later Major General) William J. (Wild Bill) Donovan (1942-45), were the first piece in the imperial puzzle. Donovan united and coordinated the efforts of several US intelligence units, a project that gave rise to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 1949. In 1952 the National Security Agency was created to handle signals intelligence. The NSA is today the United States’ largest and best-funded intelligence operation.

With this information and clandestine-intervention infrastructure leading the way, the US embarked upon an industrial-scale overt and covert campaign of interference in the affairs of other peoples’ countries. The recurring theme of all of this information gathering, black ops and proxy wars, was anti-communism. This Swiss army knife of world domination apologetics arose from the existential terror that Western capitalists experienced when confronted with Soviet successes with their collective societal solutions in the early 1930s. The Soviet industrial and economic surge happened to coincide with the depths of the Great Depression in the West. It’s not clear whether the subsequent blossoming of anti-communism in the US was the cause or effect of the Cold War, but since then it has been the determining factor in American foreign policy. After the fall of the Soviet Union it only required a slight twist to morph into anti-Russianism.

In our living memory anti-communism has been the gossamer pretext that provided ideological cover for non-stop wars, regime-changes, unsavory allies and false-flag operations around the world. They included the Korean War, the Vietnam War, coups d’etat in Greece, Iran, Guatemala, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Iraq, South Yemen, and many more. They’re going on still in Afghanistan, Syria, and Venezuela, to mention just a few. William Blum in his book, Rogue State, A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, published in 2000, provides a more complete list from the early days.

While the Americans were sowing mayhem around the world the Soviet Union–later Russia–was faced with an eventual encirclement of some 1,000 US military bases. The recent addition of NATO missile installations among the 12 Eastern European nations that have joined NATO since 1999, further complicated the Russian position. During this period of American threats they dubbed the Cold War, Russia was obliged to maintain an adequate defense. It is ironic that a country whose GDP ranks 11th in the world, should be the principal bulwark against the imperial pretensions of the United States with the world’s greatest GDP, 12 times that of the Russians (2017 data from Worldometers.org).

Pretending Nobody Is Looking

The rest of the world has not been oblivious to the last century of American imperial ascendence. Those who didn’t notice were the Americans themselves, who were blinded by a steady diet of myths and lies drilled into their minds over decades of relentless brainwashing. The mind-bending procedures were rudimentary, with the intellectual level of a Captain America comic, but they were pervasive. Americans were subjected to anti-communist rhetoric distributed by churches, schools, the media, Hollywood, the water they drank and the very air they breathed.

The progressive dumbing down of the American public was also a factor. Their country was the shining democracy on the hill, not the world’s principal predator. And, since the machinations of their country’s clandestine services were by their very nature, secret, most Americans had no idea that their government was guilty of harassing the Soviet regime in Siberia in 1918 or toppling Iran’s democratically-elected Mossadegh government in 1953, or training torturers for the Guatemalan dictatorship from the 1960s through the 1980s. And there is so much more they don’t know–and don’t want to know.

Sinecure: a position requiring little or no
work but giving the holder status or financial benefit.

An American mother loses a son in one of the country’s senseless wars and she is awarded a gold star, the same gold star we used to receive in second grade for completing our homework. “No,” you say, “this one is different. It’s for patriotism.” Ah, patriotism, the snake that bites its own tail by glorifying gratuitous deaths while attributing false value to those gold stars. The truth, Mom, is that your son died for no good reason or worse, to keep the wheels of the American war machine turning and its sinister profits rolling in. Companies like Lockheed Martin ($59.81 billion in revenues, 2019), Raytheon ($27.1 billion in revenues, 2018) and and hundreds of others are reaping obscene profits off the lives of young Americans.

That is what your gold star comemorates. At the same time it legitimizes America’s endless wars, and by extension the degradation and abandonment of the country’s own necessities, its infrastructures, health care, education, and cultural and social support systems. Coincidentally, President-elect Biden’s choice for Secretary of Defense is on the Raytheon payroll. Will he be renouncing that sinecure before he is sworn in?

Before we move on, let’s not forget the “enemy” soldiers and civilians (as in innocent infants, adolescents, parents and grandparents…) who are killed and mutilated for the same worthy imperial cause. Pentagon statistics don’t count them. Does that mean their suffering is irrelevant?

Then there’s the question of retribution. It doesn’t occur to Americans to acknowledge the human cost of their permanent wars. It’s not that they lack thinkers. They have hundreds of them penned up in hives on Think Tank Row, an area around Massachusetts Avenue NW in Washington DC populated by septic think tanks. Hasn’t it occurred to the American geniuses that these deadly manifestations of American patriotism might be creating enemies among the survivors? Don’t they realize that there is no more effective way of turning a normal Iraqi youth into a “terrorist?” Do the American thinkers need half their families fried by MQ-9 Reaper drones to awaken them to that possibility? Why are they so reluctant to admit that America requires a constant input of fresh terrorists to fuel their principal growth industry: permanent war?

The American necesssity for war is also a question of internal economics. It fulfills a macabre role in the distribution of wealth in the US, by transferring money from people who pay up to 37% in income taxes–salaried workers–to people who pay far less–big corporations. The United States imposes a tax on the profits of US resident corporations at a rate of 21 percent (reduced from 35 percent by Trump’s 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act). The corporate income tax raised $230.2 billion in fiscal 2019, accounting for 6.6 percent of total federal revenue, down from 9 percent in 2017. (Source: taxpolicycenter.org)

The never-ending expenditure on war materiel, led by the F-35 Joint Strike Fighters at $100 million a pop, and the new Ford-Class nuclear aircraft carrier that cost $12.8 billion in materials and labor. Add to that the $4.7 billion spent in research and development of the new Ford-Class carrier line. There are plans for three more, despite growing opinion that, in view of new Russian and Chinese hypersonic missiles, the big carriers may be increasingly vulnerable in battle. Now add the costs of all the rest of the toys and trinkets the Pentagon purchases for the armed forces. This astronomical rate of expenditure supposes mega-profits for US arms manufacturers, and it’s the American taxpayer who pays the bills. How is such a sinister hamster-wheel justified? Blame it on the terrorists. During the final days of the Franco dictatorship in Spain left-wing demonstrators used to chant: “¡Vosotros, facistas, sois los terroristas!” “You, fascists, are the terrorists.”

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America’s Anticipatory Autopsy

The title of this article is inspired by “anticipatory retaliation” a euphemism employed by the American establishment to justify unprovoked attacks on perceived enemies who haven’t done anything yet.

They Started by Killing the Better Mousetrap

For the greater part of the 20th century American capitalists made building better mousetraps their principal claim to fame. In their heyday, after World War II, nobody could get near them. Virtually all the rest of the world’s industrial infrastructure had been obliterated during the war. The cases of Germany and Japan were the most dramatic. It was clear they would never make it back. Meanwhile the Yanks possessed half of the world’s wealth. They were on a roll that seemed interminable.

It Wasn’t

It wasn’t long before these American capitalists got distracted by the quicker, easier, bigger money to be made in financial services. That’s how they lost their manufacturing edge, and with it their R&D capacity and their grandiose factory installations. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Arsenal of Democracy” became America’s Rust Belt. The bean counters, America’s new high priests, told the managers of the American industrial powerhouse that, if they offshored production, they could make greater profits. That was true. They made more money, lots more. But along the way they gutted their industrial base, their working class and the American Way of Life.

Then bigtime technology struck, and it turned out to be a double-edged sword. When blended with hard-core capitalism it was explosive and, once introduced, the world would never be the same again. The computer accelerated scientific and business processes in the same way that gunpowder revolutionized warfare. A general, a publicist and an accountaint, empowered by scientific innovation, could take over the world. And they did.

Cascading Side Effects

The unforseen side effects of this revolution were as important as the processes themselves. While the general, the adman and the bean counter amassed fabulous power and wealth, normal citizens found themselves increasingly redundant. Some of them enjoyed the protection of labor unions but that didn’t last long. The same technology that supercharged war and commerce made it possible for business owners to undermine the unions and leave the workers on their own. By the early 21st century many of them found themselves homeless on the streets of America, raising their families in cars parked in Walmart parking lots. So devalued was their labor that they could work two jobs and still not earn enough to rent a decent home.

Company executives, stockholders and the politicians they sponsored were so busy reaping their harvest that it never occurred to them to temper that system of raw exploitation. They had done their best to forget that the richest country in the world was built on a platform of sharing enough wealth that their working classes would eventually make up the greatest market in the world. So they doubled down on laissez faire greed and Darwinian self interest by cutting back what few job guarantees and social programs that remained in favor of massive tax cuts for big businesses and the filthy rich.

That was all at the end of the 20th century. In the 21st the accounts devised a diabolical system of mortgage loans that further impoverished the poor by virtually guaranteeing the repossession of their homes while at the same time defrauding gullible stock-market investors who should have known better. With banks and hedge funds tanking from both ends, the working classes were again mere victims of a perfectly legal economic storm, reminiscent of the mechanisms that drove President Ronald Reagan’s trickle-up economy in the eighties, only moreso.

Help Is on the Way, He Said

Only occasionally in human history does there appear a figure capable of distilling the most salient qualities of a country into his own persona, becoming the quintessence of their aspirations and the living expression of their hope for the future. It wasn’t until recent times that it occurred in the United States in the person of Donald J. Trump. Looking back, it was inevitable that someone in profound syntony with America’s pitch-to-the-lowest-common-denominator success formula would come along to hornswoggle a confused country. President Trump’s innate genius for fraud permitted him to oversimplify the intricate workings of the United States government down to the level of its humblest, intellectually-challenged citizens and convince them that he had the solutions.

Just as fruit rots and falls from the tree, the American Annointed One’s time came round. He was not a remarkable man in American history. His coarse character, ready opportunism and surreal mendacity just happened to mesh with the American ethos after seven decades of hard-core capitalist degradation and amoral metastasis. It could just as well have been any other lowbrow populist conman, but it was Donald Trump who was destined to pick up the stray American ball and stumble/run with it. The gods observing from Olympus were bemused by such utter absurdity and let him run.

Donald Trump’s four-year term as President was characterized by sham and grotesquerie. His blatant, self-serving, country-destroying policies seemed merely curious at first but then, as white supremacy, racism, magical thinking, the degradation of women and the caging of children flowered, Americans who didn’t have a vested interest in know-nothing nihilism became seriously concerned.

Trump’s syntony with the country’s cheated and brutalized working classes permitted him to assume their leadership, to win a presidential election on a promise to “drain the swamp,” and to spend four years polluting it. A lot of Americans were delighted with his unlikely success. Others were horrified. Bystanders around the world were mainly surprised that such a low person could rise to such a high place in the government of the greatest country in the world. Some of them even began to question that label of “greatest country in the world.”

Meanwhile, due in part to the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic that was being mishandled so adroitly by the President, the uber-rich were getting richer and the working classes were finding their lot increasingly precarious.

A Change in the Script

After four years of conscientiously keeping his campaign promises and smashing through the American government and its agencies like a wrecking ball, President Trump and his team, rigorously selected for one sole quality, their loyalty to the fuhrer, found themselves faced with an opposition substantial enough to block his re-election pretensions.

By 2020 the country-wide outrage at the President’s feckless performance in office reached such a level that the anti-Trump movement expected to win the presidential election by a landslide. In the end it won by a mere million votes. Their candidacy of an elderly Democratic party hack and a bright young feminine California prosecutor managed to defeat Trump, but not Trumpism, far from it. The Democrats lost seats in the House and–if they are frank–are not at all optimistic about gaining a majority in the Senate in the upcoming runoff elections for two Senate seats in Georgia scheduled for January 5, 2021.

What Has Changed Then?

Not that much. The forces of opposition to Trump have won a watered-down victory that doesn’t empower them to change much, especially if they fail to win both Georgia Senate seats in January. The new president-elect’s choice of cabinet members smacks of the rancid Democratic pols of yesteryear, as does his own track record tinged with racism, militarism and corporate suck-upism, not to mention the Ukranian and Chinese economic hanky panky. Who knows what went down there?

Soon after the media started reading the presidential election results as a Biden victory, President Trump and his merry men, noting how close they had come to winning, set up a Political Action Committee (PAC) to raise funds for a 2024 presidential election campaign . The ultimate destination of those funds remains in the fog, though a Business Insider headline from Nov. 23, 2020 reads: “75% of every donation to Trump’s ‘election defense fund’ could be spent by the president himself on things like paying family members or financing a 2024 bid.

Whom to Blame?

At bottom, who is responsible for the Democrats’ poor showing in the 2020 presidential election and their easily predictable helplessness over the coming four years? The truth is the Democratic National Committee severely limited its election chances by decapitating their own progressive candidates, people like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (though this rising star is still too young to run for president).

They were the Democrats most inclined to bring about meaningful change in America as opposed to the tired, old-line Democrat retreads who head the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and now the White House. The current situation serves to confirm economist and academic, Richard Wolff’s allegation that the United States has only one politial party, the Capitalist Party, made up of two parts, Republicans and Democrats. These latter represent the left wing of the party, according to Wolff. But Americans should start to ask themselves, what do they have to gain with a left wing that is an appendage of the right wing? They will be lucky to be left with a beautiful corpse.

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Where Is H.L. Mencken When We Really Need Him?

“As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal.”

H.L. Mencken at his desk at the Baltimore Evening Sun

Nobody Sees Through the Boobery Like the Sage of Baltimore

Mencken wasn’t always right. He was frequently wrong. But he pronounced these prophetic words on the state of American democracy in 1920, which for me exonerates him from all the rest:

The larger the mob, the harder the test. In small areas, before small electorates, a first-rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even the mob with him by force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide, and the fight must be waged chiefly at second and third hand, and the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre—the man who can most easily adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum. The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

Mencken, H. L. (July 26, 1920). “Bayard vs. Lionheart,” Baltimore Evening Sun
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Racism Is the Ongoing American Plague 2/2

“His entourage had checked in to the only hotel that would accept blacks…”–The Mirror

Discrimination Even in Hell

California writer and activist, Aron “Moe” Macarow, re-states the case of young black men who are discriminated against even in hell in his article “Our Prison System Is Even More Racist Than You Think” on ATTN.com (follow link to see his bullet points elaborated):

1. Race is likely to affect who receives the death penalty.
2. All states have disproportionately black prison populations, but states with the largest white majorities are also the worst.
3. Even before sentencing, people of color are at a disadvantage. They are are less likely to make bail than their white counterparts, spending more time in jail before they are even convicted of a crime.
4. Black offenders are more likely to receive harsher sentences for the same crimes as white convicts.
5. Key decision makers in death penalty cases are almost exclusively white.
6. Once in jail, black inmates are more likely to be in solitary confinement, and are less likely to receive the same mental healthcare as whites.
7. Black people are also more likely to die while in custody, and are more likely to experience violence at the hands of prison staff.
8. Even for those who are released, people of color still get the raw end of the deal.

Aron Macarow in ATTN.com

According to a recent Pew Research report, though black Americans’ imprisonment rate is at its lowest level in more than two decades, having decreased 34% since 2006, they are far more likely than their Hispanic and white counterparts to be in prison. The black imprisonment rate at the end of 2018 was nearly twice the rate among Hispanics (797 per 100,000) and more than five times the rate among whites (268 per 100,000). (PewResearch.org)

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Racism Is the Ongoing American Plague 1/2

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is lynching-1.png
They’re proud of themselves. Not much has changed.

It’s the Underlying Plot of the American Story

If there’s a plot line that runs through the American story from its earliest history to our own day it’s inhuman, homicidal racism. That issue, which has been solved or significantly improved in most of the world, remains a tragic ballast in the progress of the United States of America. It’s there that governments and citizens have been pussyfooting around murderous racial injustice for the past 400 years and the end is not in sight. Lynching, in one form or another, remains as American as apple pie.

The origin of European race-based slavery in the New World are not to be found on the American mainland, however. It occurred on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, site of today’s Haiti and El Salvador, and the perpetrators were Christopher Columbus (yes the same man celebrated so lavishly every year on October 12 in all but seven of the United States), his brothers and their followers. Their brutality and rapine set the benchmark from the outset for genocidal practices in the Americas. In just a few decades they eliminated 100% of the native Taino Indian population on the island, either through contagious diseases or plain murder.

A favorite mode was coursing the Indians with horses and hunting hounds, killing them and feeding their bodies to the dogs. Today not a drop of Taino blood remains in either Haiti nor El Salvador. How did the Spanish justify this enslavement, murder and mayhem in the West Indies? It was easy. Insofar as the red-skinned primitive people of the islands did not know God, did not fear him and were not even baptized, they were considered commodities, not human beings. Besides, they were needed as slaves to dig their coveted gold out of the ground for the Spaniards. (Source: A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies, Fray Bartolomé de las Casas)

Black Slavery from Africa

The divine approval of this sort of barbarous practices arrived as early as 1455 when Pope Nicholas V issued the Romanus Pontifex, affirming Portugal’s exclusive rights along the West African coast to territories it claimed there and the trade from those areas, as well as the right to invade, plunder and “reduce their persons to perpetual slavery.” (NY Times.com) The Holy Father’s timing was uncanny, as Columbus “discovered” America less than four decades later and Queen Isabella of Spain promptly authorized the enslavement of the native people of the West Indies.

The conditions imposed in the shipping of black slaves from Africa were unthinkable, which may be why white Americans have done their best not to think about them ever since. This trans-Atlantic slave trade represented a new form of race-based slavery. Endorsed by the Europeans, it resulted in the largest forced migration in history with some 12.5 million Africans shipped to the New World like livestock until the early part of the 19th century. The conditions on the slave ships were severe and unhygienic in the extreme. The victims, who were chained to plank racks, suffered dehydration, dysentery and scurvywhich bred mortality rates as high as 30% among men, women and especially children. (Source: Wikipedia)

It is not an exaggeration to affirm that the product of black-slave labor laid the principal foundations for America’s prosperity up until the Civil War, and continued after Emancipation and Reconstruction in other, locally cooked-up guises. Seven of the eight wealthiest states in the union in 1860 were slave states. This is not to say the north didn’t benefit, as well. Southern-grown tobacco and cotton travelled north to be processed and sold, producing large profits for the Yankees.

Racial Progress or Business as Usual?

In 1808, the last year of Thomas Jefferson’s presidency, the US banned the importation of slaves from Africa and the West Indies. This sounds like a noble gesture, but it was just business as usual. At the time the increase of the black slave population in America was due to what history books call “natural increase.” What they don’t tell you is that this increase was anything but natural. It was the mass production from slave-breeding farms scattered around the south. These highly lucrative businesses were akin to livestock breeding operations. In its heyday the port of Richmond alone shipped some 10-20,000 slaves a month into the southern slave market.  Slaves delivered on ships arrived in better condition and drew better prices. This profitable local production of slaves motivated many of the proponents of the importation prohibition, including Thomas Jefferson, to back a move intended to eliminate foreign competition, thus shoring up slave prices.

Slavery was more than man’s inhumanity towards man. It was always about economics. Cheap labor that allowed America to compete with other nations. Much of America was literally built on slavery. Texas schoolbooks are now trying to make it sound not quite so bad. The breeding farms receive no mention at all.William Spivey on Medium, Mar 21, 2019, America’s Breeding Farms: What History Books Never Told You

Fast Forward Two Centuries

Let’s fast forward two centuries–skipping over a period that includes the Civil War and Emancipation, Reconstruction, the Black Codes, Separate but Equal, Jim Crow, the Civil Rights Act, and the Obama presidency; all of which brought with them varying degrees of point and counterpoint and deserve treating in detail on other occasions. Today we have the privilege of reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’ monumental 19,000-word article, The Black Family In The Age Of Mass Incarceration, published in The Atlantic in October, 2015, which sums up the present-day outcome of those centuries of inequality and oppression.

In this definitive elaboration of America’s latest catalog of racial injustice, Coates’ cites sociologist, advisor to President Lydon Johnson and later US senator, Daniel Moynihan’s book, “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action” (known as the Moynihan Report and distributed inside the government without the author’s name), which argued in 1965 that the federal government was underestimating the damage done to black families by “three centuries of sometimes unimaginable mistreatment” as well as a “racist virus in the American blood stream,” which would continue to plague blacks in his future, which is our present.

Moynihan’s proposed solution, that included provisions to rewrite the child protection laws to put fathers back into black homes (as having a man in the house exempted a family from government assistance) and to provide families with guaranteed minimum incomes, was too radical to be accepted by the legislators of mid-60s America–and today’s America, for that matter– but the report remains as a reminder of what might have been–and might still be possible someday.

Coates reminds us that America’s debt to African Americans remains unpaid:

That the Negro American has survived at all is extraordinary—a lesser people might simply have died out, as indeed others have … But it may not be supposed that the Negro American community has not paid a fearful price for the incredible mistreatment to which it has been subjected over the past three centuries.

(Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Black Family In The Age Of Mass Incarceration)

Mass Incarceration Is the New Slavery

Not only does the US boast alarming incarceration statistics–the highest in the world–but the way in which they’re racially skewed is even more absurd. Here’s the incredible prison infrastructure that permits the United States to process almost 2.3 million alleged wrongdoers–“alleged” because nearly half of them have not been convicted of the charges they’re accused of: 1,833 state prisons, 110 federal prisons, 1,772 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,134 local jails, 218 immigration detention facilities, and 80 Indian Country jails as well as in military prisons, civil commitment centers and psychiatric facilities.

More than a third of people executed under the death penalty within the last 40 years have been Black, even though African Americans represent only 13% of the general population. African Americans are pursued, convicted, and sent to death at a disproportionally higher rate than any other race.

In early 2000, the percentage of Black people on death row were as follows for the states below:

  • Maryland 72%
  • Pennsylvania 63%
  • Illinois 63%
  • Alabama 46%
  • Texas 41%
  • Virginia 39%
  • California 36%
  • Florida 36%

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The Savant of Lowbrow US Politicians

President Trump making calculations on Fox News

Donald Trump Is a Very Stable Scumbag Genius

Now that soon-to-be ex President Donald Trump no longer represents such a clear and present danger, perhaps we can look at him with some equanimity. Maybe we can try to understand what made him such an extravagantly atypical President of the United States. From the beginning of his incredible five-year run he seemed grossly unsuitable, and he still does. He lacks formation, intelligence, honesty, humility, aplomb, tact, humanity, generosity, elegance, class, social skills, diplomacy, discretion, wit, grace… Feel free to add your own terms to the description. Ironically, for one of the country’s most (self) acclaimed businessmen, he even lacks business acumen, having accumulated a long rap sheet of bankrupcies. Some well-informed White House observers have suggested that he lacks even sanity.

Is this to say that he’s good for nothing? Certainly not. He’s extremely good at what he’s good at. It took him successfully to the White House for four years and a near reelection, against very long odds. We have to give him credit for that. How did he manage it?

How Does the Kingfisher Manage It?

How does a kingfisher so effortlessly manage to drop from a branch like an arrow, enter the water and emerge with a fish in his beak? You don’t know? He doesn’t either. He was just born to fish. Can he ride a bicycle, compose a poem, command a platoon or run a meeting in the White House situation room? No, of course not. He can only do what kingfishers do: catch fish with amazing grace, build nests in cavities, impregnate queenfishers and feed the little ones. Is he intelligent? No, of course not. His brain weighs less than a microchip. He doesn’t do more because he’s incapable of conscious thought, but what little he does, he does astonishingly well, almost to perfection. In his way he’s a very limited genius, an avian savant.

Dr. A. Snyder described some tentative aspects of the savant mind in 2009:

No widely accepted cognitive theory explains savants’ combination of talent and deficit. It has been suggested that individuals with autism are biased towards detail-focused processing and that this cognitive style predisposes individuals either with or without autism to savant talents. Another hypothesis is that savants hyper-systemize, thereby giving an impression of talent… Also, the attention to detail of savants is a consequence of enhanced perception or sensory hypersensitivity in these unique individuals. 

(Source: The Economist, April 16, 2009)

I’m not going to suggest that Donald Trump is a birdbrain, but he does share some remarkable traits with the kingfisher and the savants. He has one astonishing talent. The rest is deficit. Though he lacks the intelligence and the attention span necessary for rational thought, normal social relations or running a White House, he is a genius when it comes to appealing to unlettered Americans in a presidential election campaign. For that mission he has it all: the bravado, the arrogance, the swagger, the down-home knee-slapping coarseness, the elusive adaptability of the camaleon, the je ne sais quoi of lying and boasting effortlessly, of insulting intelligence, evading the point, changing the subject and, of course, insulting his opponents.

No other president in American history has brought the presidency so low, reducing the discourse to cheeseburgers and reality shows, and converting his country into a laughing stock on the world stage, feared not for its awesome power but for the perilous ineptitude of its commander in chief. Nonetheless, he is the undisputed sociopath thought leader of almost half of American voters. He is the lowbrow savant of American politics. He can convert his fraudulent christianity into a political power base. He can lead the American lemmings to the gaping sea. Can he also memorize 600 telephone numbers?

Aside from what he’s undeniably good at, do we need to be reminded of the rest, of the unmistakable signs of ineptitude and mental deficiency? What to say of a public figure who stands behind a lectern and proclaims to the entire country: “Throughout my life my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart.” Is it possible that he’s, like, far from really smart?

Trump’s performances in the White House press room and lawn alone are enough to suggest that he should perhaps be institutionalized. This is the President of the United States speaking: “(Adriana Huffington) is unattractive both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man–he made a good decision.”

Trump’s choice of friends and allies is another indicator of his questionable judgment, starting with his bosom buddy, Vladimir Putin. The choice of this friend to cherish and protect makes at least half of the American population ask themselves, “What has Putin got on Trump?” Vladimir Putin is a former director of the KGB and a chess player. He’s not going to have the wit to bug the luxurious hotel suites where he invites Trump to stay?

President Trump with his friend, Nigel Farage

Then there’s Nigel Farage, perhaps something of a savant himself. Farage is the indifferently-educated, right-wing British politician who orchestrated–along with other UK reactionaries and the help of the American big-data firm, Cambridge Analytics–the Brexit campaign that untimely jerked the British out of the European Community, leaving them at the mercy of their American friends, led by President Donald Trump. One wonders if Farage ever bothered to check the attrition rate among Trump’s White House staff.

Let’s Be Fair

President Trump is not solely responsible for his smash-and-grab world view. He’s had a lot of help. He came from a dystopian family that sent him to military school and instilled in him crass real-estate-operator values and a bloated sense of his own worth. That alone is enough to create a ruthless, unprincipled adult, but the American social milieu wasn’t much better. His young manhood transpired during the Johnson/Nixon/Reagan era, times of consummate American opportunism, predation and mediocrity. Let’s not pretend that Trump created America. America created Trump.

Now he is on his way out, but America marches on. There will be a new president, the product of a “less bad” dynamic. Will he–will anybody–be able to clean up the monumental mess President Trump has deliberately left in his wake? It’s too late for the 240,000 Covid-19 dead (four times the American lives lost in the Vietnam war), and environmental recovery has been set back four critical years. Fundamental government agencies have been effectively dismantled and whatever good will was left in America is long gone. No, Donald Trump is not solely responsible for all this , but he assuredly did his ignominious part.

While we’re being fair, let’s pose the vital remaining question: Will President Donald J. Trump be held responsible–before a court of law–for his most egregiously damaging actions while in the White House. The court might start by looking at the ongoing series of homicidal lies that Trump employed to play down the Coronavirus pandemic in order to favor his own reelection possibilities.

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The Pipeline

Nord Stream 2 Oil Pipeline: Business or Politics? Competition or Blackmail?

Germany is Europe’s principal industrial power. That’s their first problem. They are also the motor of the European economy. That’s a second strike against them. Angela Merkel, their prime minister, is one of a half dozen most respected world leaders. Added to all that, they’re cordial trading partners with Russia. Now they’re just months off activating an important natural-gas deal with the Russians via a new pipeline that runs beneath the Baltic sea from Ust-Luga in Russia to to Lubmin in Germany. It’s called Nord Stream 2.

President Trump has suggested that US liquified shale gas, which he calls “freedom gas,” might be a better alternative.

The Nord Stream project is a deal between two sovereign nations, beneficial to both. The Germans need a secure energy source to drive their industry long term and the Russians have massive natural gas fields within pipeline distance. The work of laying the undersea pipeline that began 10 years ago is 94% finished with just the final 144 kilometers remaining. The Germans stand to have their energy needs covered for decades and for the Russians it’s a plum sale. The Nord Stream 2 pipeline is also designed to link with ramifications that will extend to the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria and Italy.

“The gas pipeline is advantageous for end consumers in Germany due to a procurement advantage of around five percent,” according to Global Risk Insights.com. The economic policy spokesman for Germany’s Union parliamentary group, Joachim Pfeiffer (CDU), argued that the second Baltic Sea pipeline would provide “another transport route for gas and thus improve our energy security”.  (Source: Global Risk Insights.com)

But there’s a problem. The American government disapproves, alleging that the project would increase Russia’s influence in the region. American opposition to Nord Stream 2 may also be related to competition that Russian gas represents to their own liquified shale gas in the EU market, which they would ship to Europe aboard tanker ships. Meanwhile, American rhetoric is ratcheting up and they are rallying their allies and sympathetic media around the world to oppose the Nord Stream 2 operation.

Three Republican Senators

Three Republican senators–Ted Cruz of Texas, Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin–have sent a belligerent letter to the municipal authorities of Murkan Port on the island of Rugen demanding that they cease their technical assistance to the Russian vessels constructing the final sections of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. Ted Cruz calls the Russian-German natural gas deal “a direct assault on US national security.”

According to Deutsche Welle (DW), the German international news agency, the senators are “threatening” the operators of this small German port with “crushing legal and economic sanctions.” In their letter the US senators accuse port operator, Faehrhafen Sassnitz, of “knowingly providing significant goods, services, and support” for the project and demanding that they “cease activities” supporting the construction of the pipeline or face “potentially fatal measures.” German Minister of State, Niels Annen, took umbrage at what he considered the senators’ bad manners, saying that he considered the tone and content of the senators’ letter “completely outrageous.” He added, “Threatening a close friend and ally with sanctions, and using that kind of language, will not work.” Annen told German public broadcaster ZDF, “European energy policy will be decided in Brussels, and not in Washington DC.”

Sounds Like Familiar Extraterritorial US Sanctions

According to US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, the Nord Stream 2 project is considered an activity related to Russian export pipelines and therefore “at risk of US sanctions.” Pompeo considers his statement as “a clear warning to companies aiding and abetting Russia’s malign-influence projects that will not be tolerated. Get out now or risk the consequences.”

This sounds more like Dodge City than Old Europe. Where does the mayor of Dodge derive the authority to ban legitimate commercial transactions on the other side of the Atlantic? Where does this American geopolitical arrogance originate? In overconfidence? Naivete? Greed? A historical self-perception of invulnerability? All of the above? Whatever the motives, with this extravagant pipeline stand the Americans are, by threatening the Germans and the Russians with sanctions, taking on two quite serious countries–and by extension the entire European Community.

As for “malign -influence projects,” what is that supposed to communicate, beyond self-serving gibberish? Secretary Pompeo studied at the US Military Academy at West Point. Didn’t he read the history of Napoleon Bonaparte? Shouldn’t he be aware of the way imperial arrogance lubricated the slippery slope from Austerlitz to Waterloo? As for Trump’s judgment, at times it’s so bizarre that we wonder if it is his own or it is dictated by the military-industrial complex or the Republican far-out right.

The American Free-Trade Farce

The US has already imposed some sanctions on the ships laying the Nord Stream 2 pipes and has threatened to expand them if the pipeline is completed. The EU stressed that such a move would be “unacceptable” and Germany insisted the project “gives no cause” for sanctions. Germany’s foreign affairs minister, Heiko Maas, defends the principal of free trade, insisting that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline issue is economic, not political. Russia has been the largest supplier of natural gas to the EU, both in 2018 and 2019, according to the European Commission.

The free-trade argument is one that the fiercely-free-trading Americans should understand, but they appear not to. They go so far as to suggest that Germany would be better served by importing American liquified shale gas, transporting it thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean in tanker ships. It’s almost as if their desire to peddle their own gas influenced their thinking in a grotesque way. President Trump has his own take on American natural gas. He calls it “freedom gas.” This might be a cogent argument in Mississippi but anywhere else in the world it sounds simply inane.

What’s the End Game?

German authorities have expressed their firm intentions to finish the pipeline and start receiving Russian natural gas. Secretary of State Pompeo has countered with a Hollywood old-west-style ultimatum: “Get out now or face the consequences.” What happens now if the Germans and the Russians decide not to “get out?” Will the President give the order to bomb the Russian town of Ust-Luga, the source of the problem? Or Berlin? Or both?

May you live in interesting times.

P.S. That said, will the President still be President?

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Was 9/11 America’s Reichstag Fire?

It’s Not Quite Clear Yet, But It Smells Like It

On September 11, 2001, 19 Muslim activists, ostensibly trained in Afghanistan and at naive American flight schools, hijacked four airliners and flew two of them into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, and a third into the Pentagon. The fourth crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, perhaps due to a passenger revolt aboard. The operation left behind almost 3000 dead and a lot of unanswered questions. 

Subsequent deaths related to the 9/11 attacks are about to surpass the number who died on the day. According to Dr. Michael Crane, director of the World Trade Center Health Program Clinical Center of Excellence at the Mount Sinai Hospital, nearly 10,000 first responders and others who were in the World Trade Center area have been diagnosed with cancer. More than 2,000 deaths have been attributed to 9/11 illnesses thus far. And it will get worse.

The Reichstag Precedent

In 1933, the German Reichstag (parliament building) was torched by a supposed left-wing arsonist, just a month after Hitler was sworn in as Chancellor. This event, considered an inside job by some informed observers, set the scene for his total takeover of the German state and, over the next 12 years, the rest of Europe. His first step, immediately after the fire, was to announce the Reichstag Fire Decree, permitting the police to detain people indefinitely without a court order; and then the Enabling Act that gave him broad legal powers over all aspects of German society, powers that he never relenquished and employed to wreak historic havoc in Europe.

If this sounds reminiscent of the Patriot Acts I and II after 9/11, it’s because they have a lot in common:

  • The ongoing doubt regarding who engineered the attack and how
  • The rapid and ongoing promulgation of emergency anti-terrorist legislation that simultaneously curtailed citizens’ civil rights
  • The supposed legitimazation of military action against sovereign countries seemingly chosen at random.
  • The tolerance of armed right-wing militias and commandos on the streets of his own country
  • The affirmation of a policy of belligerence and uber-nationalism in foreign relations

The American Experience

In concrete terms the American response to 9/11 manifested itself in gratuitous invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq with disastrous long-term consequences for both of those essentially innocent countries. No cogent evidence was ever produced connecting either of them to the September 11 attacks. Years later the Americans themselves confessed that the weapons-of-mass-destruction justification was false.

Coincidentally, the 9/11 attacks seem eerily to have been predicted by the neocon Project for the New American Century (PNAC) when their Rebuilding America’s Defenses paper, written a year before before the September 11 attacks said: “Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.” The neocons fortuitously got their “new Pearl Harbor” on September 11, 2001. Veteran Australian journalist and documentary film maker, John Pilger, points to this passage when arguing that the Bush administration used the events of September 11 as an opportunity to capitalize on long-desired plans.

Meanwhile, the motivation for the attacks was never made clear, though it seems evident that any ranking Muslim terrorist with a mínimum of geopolitical savvy would have immediately foreseen the untold disasters that would befall his people in the aftermath of a 9/11-style event. By the same token, any neocon would immediately perceive the benefits of that same attack when it came to frightening American citizens, stripping them of their constitutional rights and herding them willy-nilly down the path to perpetual war.  

We had never seen the conspiracy-theory card played so fast and loose as in the case of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, Building 7 and the Pentagon, each of which poses its own set of serious anomalies. Congressional proposals in response to the 9/11 attacks were introduced less than a week after the event and President George W. Bush signed the USA Patriot Act bill into law just over a month later, on October 26, 2001. The bill passed with a single dissenter, Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin.

Is Your Story Leaky? Just Label Your Doubters “Conspiracy Theorists”

The lapses and inconsistencies in the oficial version of the events of 9/11, aggravated by the clumsy investigation, soon gave rise to groups of doubters from around the world, many of them highly qualified, who came to be called the 911 Truth Movement. The architects and engineers among these doubters launched elaborate technical investigations into the anomalous circumstances of the buildings’ collapse. They allege that there is no rational explanation for their straight-down near free fall , especially in the case of the 47-story Building Seven, which was not struck by any airplane yet dropped as true as a plumb bob. Further research on the case is complicated by the fact that the debri was hauled away and exported almost immediately after the attacks and very shortly nothing remainedI of the crime scenes.

The response from the American establishment and media to the questions posed by the doubters was an effective stone wall expressed in one brief phrase: “conspiracy theories.” That was enough to settle the question for the majority of the American people, terrified or ignorant enough to accept simple, flag-wrapped explanations for events that were clearly much more complicated. Who is telling the truth? Who stands to benefit? The oficial investigation forgot even to follow the money. If it had they might have noticed that the big winners were Larry Silverstein’s Silverstein Properties which enjoyed a $4.55 billion insurance settlement and, of course, the military-industrial complex that has been bloated ever since by the sale—all over the world—of ever-more-sophisticated, fabulously-expensive arms and anti-terrorist materiel.

The trouble with “emergency legislation” like Hitler’s Enabling Act and the Patriot Act in the US is the difficulty in revoking it when the emergency has passed. Due mainly to the executive branches’greed for competencies, some of the most repressive aspects of these laws survive as toxic legacies until their most pernicious parts are eventually forgotten.

Enter the USA Patriot Act

The USA Patriot Act, enacted on October 26, 2001, modified many major U.S. intelligence, communications, and privacy laws, including: The Electronic Communications Privacy Act,  the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, and the Communications Act of 1934. (Source: it.ojp.gov) The parts of the Patriot Act that cause most concern have to do with provisions that facilitated the governments right to collect Americans’ communications records.

According to VOX.com:

The Patriot Act covered a lot of ground. Some of its provisions have since been struck down by the courts (the Supreme Court has ruled that it’s illegal to indefinitely detain immigrants who aren’t charged with crimes, for example); others have become part of the mission of the Department of Homeland Security, which didn’t exist when the law was passed. Others have stuck around and aren’t the subject of a lot of controversy: the law created a slew of new federal crimes related to terrorism, created federal funds to assist victims of terrorism, and gave the federal government a range of new powers to track and seize money being used by organizations connected to terrorism.

Though the introductory notes to the USA Patriot Act try to emphasize the protection of the civil rights of Americans, subsequent editions of the act have tightened many of those loopholes:

  • the 2001 Act,
  • the 2005 reauthorizing act,
  • the 2006 amending and reauthorizing act, and
  • the 2011 four-year extension of the “lone wolf” definition, authorization of “roving wiretaps” and “request for production business records” search authority.

The ACLU writes in 2001,

Less than two years after Congress passed the USA Patriot Act, giving new, sweeping powers to the federal government to conduct investigations and surveillance inside the United States, the Justice Department is contemplating another chilling grab of authority and further diminution of constitutional checks and balances on law enforcement. 

With the Domestic Security Enhancement Act the Administration took the Patriot Act’s antiterror powers several steps further.  Dubbed “Patriot Act 2,” the legislation granted additional sweeping powers to the government, eliminating or weakening remaining limits on government surveillance, wiretapping, detention and prosecution. 

In subsequent years the government amended the Patriot Act three more times. The government’s response to allegations of civil rights abuse, published on Justice.gov, reads like a patronizing explanation for the most rigorous provisions of the USA Patriot Act 2, almost as if they were ashamed of it:

The Patriot Act allows investigators to use the tools that were already available to investigate organized crime and drug trafficking. Many of the tools the Act provides to law enforcement to fight terrorism have been used for decades to fight organized crime and drug dealers, and have been reviewed and approved by the courts.

(Congressional Record, 10/25/01)

The Final Link

The final link in the chain of events unleashed by the Reichstag Fire was World War 2. We have yet to see the ultimate results of the events of 9/11, both on the American domestic front and on foreign relations. Will the Patriot Act ultimately enable the US government to treat the Black Lives Matter demonstrators as terrorists? Will they permit Washington chicken hawks to launch unjustified attacks on sovereign countries such as Venezuela and Iran the way they did in Iraq and Afghanistan in early years of this century? Will future American agressions lead to another worldwide conflagration? The 2020 American presidential election is imminent and may be decisive in determining the final link in the series of events initiated by the attacks of September 11, 2001. Which is the candidate who will prevent the worst occurring at home and abroad? Your guess is as good as mine. And we don’t have long to wait.

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American Democracy Cries Out for Revitalization

The Remedies for Their Woes Are Straightforward and Everyone Would Benefit

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, as Aretha so eloquently put it, is everything, between rich and poor, between black, brown and white; between left and right.

I left the States in 1968 when I was 25 years old, recently discharged from the army. That’s more than 50 years ago and I only went back a few times to visit my mother. Yet I’ve never stopped thinking about America. About the wonderful country they have, their abundant resources, their industrial and intellectual potential, their bright and creative people, their authentic bluegrass, blues and soul traditions… I write “they” because ever since I became a Spanish citizen 37 years ago I somehow stopped feeling that I fitted into the American mosaic. My view of the United States has become that of the consummate outsider who was once on the inside, looking out.

These days Americans have to ask, how did everything go so wrong? What might be done to set the country straight?

Frankly, this is something I’ve been ruminating on since before Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon, and I think I have some tentative answers. First we have to agree on the necessities of a proper democracy, one that serves its citizens and the world at large. Yesterday I sat down with a pencil and made a list. If you love pencils and lists you’ll understand my elation in that moment at having America’s problems in my hands. Everything is possible. Here’s the list, by the numbers, in the order they came into my head:

The Pillars of a Viable Democracy

  1. Universal mutual respect, regardless of individual differences.
  2. A sense of shared destiny.
  3. Equality before the law, due process.
  4. Free and fair elections.
  5. A mixed economy incorporating the incentives of capitalism and the securities of socialism.
  6. Good will.
  7. Solidarity that trumps opportunism.
  8. Rigorous racial, sexual and social equality. See 7.
  9. Free and equal public education.
  10. Basic decency, tolerance, generosity and honesty.
  11. Acknowledgement of fact-based reality.
  12. A humane foreign policy.
  13. A population capable of critical thinking.
  14. Leadership committed to all of these values.

After all, two of America’s most revered collectives are already thoroughly socialized: the US military and the Congress of the United States.

Here’s What the US Has Today

  1. A polarized society with virulent disrespect of each side for the other.
    R-E-S-P-E-C-T, as Aretha so eloquently put it, is everything, between rich and poor, between black, brown and white; between the left and the right. It’s the lubricant and the shock absorber for everything that takes place in a well-ordered , egalitarian society.
  2. A overriding sense of “every man for himself.” When the acknowledgment that you’re all in this together is the best glue for holding society together.
  3. Massive inequality through law enforcement, courts and penal institutions. This is the infirm American justice system and without reforming it nothing is possible. For gross abuse of separation of powers, look no further than the President’s constitutional right to appoint Supreme Court justices for life, just to mention the most obvious. After a period of renewed democracy a constitutional amendment and other judicial reforms would be in order.
  4. Murky, untrustworthy elections due to the Electoral College, gerrymandering, rigged polling practices, and distrust fomented by a candidate with an eye to manipulating election results by impugning the election and then loosing a Proud-Boys-style army of right-wing goons on the nation. Free and fair elections are the heart of true democracy.
  5. A predatory capitalistic economy. Capitalism is deeply rooted and needs tempering, controlling its excesses. As for socialism, it shouldn’t be too hard to sell European-style socialism to Americans, notwithstanding a century of anti-socialist brainscrubbing. After all, two of America’s most revered collectives are already thoroughly socialized: the US military and the Congress of the United States. Both enjoy socialized medicine, including dentistry. Both are entitled to a living wage–admittedly the latter live better than the former–and a dignified retirement. All that is lacking is to extend those benefits to the whole of American society. Meanwhile, isn’t it a nice irony that those who benefit most from American socialism are the same politicians who most vehemently denounce any collective solution as “Bolshevik.”
  6. Ill will. This is more complicated to remedy but it should come as a result of all the other advances in a renovated American democracy.
  7. Opportunism that trumps solidarity. Also tricky and it won’t be immediate but it will come of its own accord in time, once the conditions are propitious and honesty reigns.
  8. Crushing racial, sexual and social inequality at all levels. This is perhaps the Americans’ most acute problem. Homicidal racism in the US is business as usual. The streets-to-prison conveyor belt for minorities is working flawlessly and private prisons are a growth industry. But the problem is much broader and much more subtle. An entire sector of a country’s population distinguished by skin tone cannot be expected to surivive without respect. African Americans are the second largest racial/ethnic minority in the US, comprising an estimated 13.4% of the population, after Hispanic and Latino Americans’ 18%. (Source: Wikipedia article, “Race and ethnicity in the United States,” figures from 2016.) Can a profound revamping of America’s nominally democratic society rectify these injustices? Only time will tell but the United States will not be a truly civilized country until this issue is faced squarely and dealt with equitably. Again, universal progressive public education will help.
  9. Prohibitively expensive and unequal education, well below the level of more civilized countries. American education through 12th grade is free, but not equal. Since it’s generally financed by property taxes and they vary widely from neighborhood to neighborhood and state to state, some schools are lavishly rich and others far too poor. Higher education must also be free or inexpensive. These inequalities between the rich and everyone else should sort themselves out with advances in other aspects of society.
  10. General indecency, intolerance, greed and dishonesty. They could try beginning with effective, Nordic-style schools and pre-schools where decency is taught the same as readin’, writin’ and arithmatic.
  11. Miracle-based reality. This is one of the hardest ills to combat as religious belief, no matter how absurd or commerce based, doesn’t admit of logical arguement or rebuttal. This is an area where the only hope–and it’s not a guaranteed cure–is via a proper lay education of children from an early age.
  12. US foreign policy consists almost entirely of bare-knuckled militarism. Despite not having won a proper war in seven and a half decades (and that one was largely won by the Russians), the Americans still strut their bellicose stuff proudly. They maintain some 800 menacing military bases around the world. Hundreds of foreign bases, besides creating dozens of enemies around the world, also means billions of dollars annually in business just building, stocking and maintaining them. The US military is also the world’s largest polluter.
  13. A large sector of the population is incapable of reasonable thinking on any question. This is about the lamentable “dumbing down” of America in recent–and not so recent–decades. Whether coincidentally or by design, it functioned wonderfully well to create a semi-literate brotherhood with no criteria of its own that thrives on pure toxic ideology and magical religion. This problem will require intensive, long-term cultivation of the American lumpenproletariat. The first requirement is literacy. The second is books that aren’t the Bible.
  14. No leadership whatsoever. The election of an honest, capable, hard-working, Franklin-D.-Roosevelt-style president would work wonders. There is no shortage of such people in the United States, but today they’re too honest to get involved in national politics.

It Might Be a Long Uphill Trudge But It’s Possible, and Necessary

We’re talking here, of course, about hearts and minds. In America they urgently require some serious changing. And that’s not an easy task, as the Americans discovered in Vietnam. The essential first step in any case is for a decent, humanitarian American candidate to win an election, and not just one. This kind of change requires a whole series of disinterested commanders in chief dedicated to healing and rebuilding the country. They don’t need to worry about making it “great” which is just a hollow campaign slogan. It would be enough just to make it a just country where every newborn child had an equal chance in life.

by Mike Booth

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NATO Is a Protection Racket, Among Other Things


Let’s Go Back Over the Story

The rationale for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has been based on a genial lie from the beginning: that the United States set up and essentially runs NATO in order to protect Europe from potential Russian aggression. It seems to make perfect sense when interpreted in the context of the Cold War, in which we were obliged by Big Brother to perceive almost everything as a Russian plot. The best defense against this looming danger, the story goes, was a military alliance led by the greatest power in the history of the world, the United States.

In the immediate post-World War II period the US, which took more than its share of the credit for the liberation of Europe from the Nazis, saw an opportunity to consolidate its influence over the continent. Given the poverty and disarray of other countries after the war, the Americans saw an opportunity for the United States to advance their world-domination agenda. Their first step in tutoring their European allies, and it was a masterstroke, was to create NATO in Washington on April 14, 1949, and headquarter it in Brussels. This grouping of the Europeans in a single organization made them much more manageable. Casting the organization as a military mutual defense project with the all-powerful US at the head left Europe as a virtual American protectorate. Any significant deviation from the American agenda entailed the threat of American withdrawl of their protection. Of course, that protection had to be paid for. Does this business model sound familiar? It should. It made Francis Ford Coppola rich making movies about it.

The creation of the National Security Council (NSC) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 1949 laid the foundation of the American neo-colonial infrastructure, along with the Bretton Woods agreements founding the World Bank and the IMF, which guaranteed American economic and monetary dominance. Then, in 1952, came the creation of the National Security Agency (NSA), the greatest electronic eavesdropping agency in the world. With these measures in place the deck was nicely stacked to assure three quarters of a century of American world ascendency. That domination was not seriously questioned until the rise of Chinese industrial, economic and military power in the early 21st century. Today the United States has a new set of defense priorities and the prospect of Russian tanks rolling into Poland is not high on that list.

What Benefits Does NATO Contribute to the United States? 

President Donald Trump whinges a lot about European NATO members not contributing enough to the NATO budget. After all, he alleges, NATO exists to protect Europe. It’s only fair that Europeans should pay their fair share. And from his point of view they don’t seem to be doing that.

The President’s point of view, however, doesn’t hold much water. Is the principal mission of NATO really to protect Europe? President  Trump and his peripatetic Secretary of State, Mike (El Pompi) Pompeo, pretend to be unaware of the benefits that NATO provides the United States. Here’s what the Atlantic Council’s Magnus Nordenman and the Center for Transatlantic Relations’ Hans Binnendijk write in their issue brief, NATO’s Value to the United States: By the Numbers:

“NATO promotes peace within Europe and deters major US adversaries from launching large-scale conventional wars.

  • World War II cost the United States more than 400,000 lives and an estimated $4.1 trillion (in 2011 dollars). NATO has been key to preserving peace within the European continent and preventing other adversaries from launching a major conventional war.

  • According to credible sources, a major conventional war today could cost the United States upwards of $2.5 trillion per year.

    NATO is a force multiplier that gives the United States access to military tools in greater numbers than it can achieve by itself.

  • Non-US NATO members have 1,857,000 active duty service members and 1,232,290 reservists. The seven largest non-US NATO member armies have the same number of active duty troops as the United States (1.3 million).

  • Non-US NATO members can deploy 6,983 battle tanks, 34,000 armored vehicles, 2,600 combat aircraft, 382 attack helicopters, 252 major naval craft (including submarines), and 1,582 patrol and surface combatants.

  • France and the United Kingdom alone provide 30 percent of the Alliance’s ballistic-missile-submarine fleet.

  • NATO’s European members are beginning to host the first stages of the Alliance’s new ballistic-missile-defense system aimed at preventing long-range attacks by rogue states on the United States and Europe.

  • NATO members frequently share intelligence across the Alliance, aiding US operations and intelligence-gathering. The United Kingdom, France, and Germany alone add 40,000 intelligence personnel to the Alliance’s intelligence capabilities.

  • Non-US NATO members host twenty-eight US main operating bases in Europe, which cut down on the time needed for the United States to respond to a crisis and are critical for US missions in the Middle East and North Africa.

  • In 2009, for example, Germany contributed $800 million to offset and improve its US bases.

NATO undertakes numerous missions to protect member states and promote security around the globe.

  • NATO has five active missions around the world deploying 18,000 troops.

  • Since the end of the Cold War, NATO has completed thirteen missions including two in the United States (Hurricane Katrina relief and post-9/11 air reconnaissance patrol).

  • NATO allies contributed thousands of troops to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, including 38,000 in 2011, saving the United States an estimated $49 billion that year. The operation in Afghanistan was the first and only time NATO’s mutual defense commitment was invoked.

  • Non-US members sustained more than 1,000 combat deaths in Afghanistan, with an additional one hundred lost by NATO partners.

  • Non-US NATO members contributed more than 60 percent of assets for Operation Unified Protector in Libya.

  • Non-US Coalition members flew one-third of all coalition airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Operation Inherent Resolve.

  • NATO’s Operation Ocean Shield against piracy in the Gulf of Aden has been led at different times by Denmark, Spain, Norway, Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Portugal.

NATO supports and protects the economies of Europe, which are critical to the health of the US economy.

  • US trade with the European Union reached $699 billion in 2015, only made possible because of the security and stability provided by NATO.

  • US exports to the former Communist NATO member states (not including East Germany) grew from $0.9 billion in 1989 to $9.4 billion in 2016.

  • Troops and Equipment. NATO benefits from being able to draw on the military expertise and capabilities of its members. This includes tanks, submarines and fighter jets.
  • Non-US NATO members contribute massively to the US defense industry to supply their forces. Currently, European members are planning to purchase as many as 500 new F-35 Joint Strike Fighters  from the United States.” The life-of-the-product cost of those 500 aircraft and their maintenance is in the trillions of dollars, which drop straight into the US Treasury.

What Else Does the US Gain from NATO?

  1. Collaborative bases all over Europe (in 21 countries) at the expense of the European taxpayer. While it is true that the Department of Defence has to pay more for stationing troops in Europe at a higher cost of living, the host nations pay this back and an extra surplus to the US Treasury (something most American spokespeople forget to mention). On top of that, all infrastructure of these US bases is paid for by the host nation, including maintenance.
  2. Access to European defense technology. A lot of ‘American’ technology originates elsewhere.
  3. The proximity necessary to lobby European politicians to buy American weapons systems. All of this without any firm commitment as the NATO Treaty states that an attack on one member state must be considered to be an attack on all member states … it specifically doesn’t state that military action is required … this at the request of the US back in 1949.
  4. A unified military, political, and economic influence over virtually all of Europe, including constant aerial surveillance.
  5. A ring of bases and missile emplacements around southern and western Russia.
  6. A reinforcement of the myth of the US as “protector” of Europe.
  7. Strategically placed allies prepared to be invited or coerced into joining any American “preemptive”aggression anywhere in the world.

What Are the Benefits for European NATO Members?

On the other side of the ledger, NATO membership also benefits the Europeans. Here’s how one of the NATO websites (nato.int) explains the advantages for European members:

  • An International Security Hub. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is a political and military Alliance of 28 member countries from Europe and North America. Member states are committed to individual liberty, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. These values are at the heart of NATO’s transatlantic bond.
  • Collective Defense. The greatest responsibility of the Alliance is to protect and defend NATO territory and populations. 
  • NATO’s Command Structure. NATO has a permanent, integrated military command structure where military and civilian personnel from all member states work together. 
  • Standing forces. NATO has a number of standing forces on active duty that contribute to the Alliance’s collective defence on a permanent basis. These include NATO’s four standing maritime group fleets, which are ready to act when called upon. Additionally NATO has an integrated air defence system that links national air defence capabilities together and includes the Alliance’s ballistic missile defence capabilities. 
  • Deterrence. The Alliance’s deterrence is based on an appropriate mix of nuclear and conventional capabilities, which remain a core element of NATO’s strategy.
  • Crisis Management. The Alliance has frequently acted to uphold international peace and security.

And one frankly frightening disadvantage:

By joining the NATO alliance European countries assume the risk and responsibility of alienating all of the United States’ enemies. In the worst cases, where NATO members permit the emplacement of American nuclear missiles on their territories, they convert their countries into nuclear targets of new enemies they might never before have considered adversaries.

So Who Owes What to Whom?

This quick comparative summary of benefits accruing from NATO membership for both Americans and Europeans  does not indicate a net debt of the Europeans in favor of the Americans, rather the contrary. Most of what the Americans deliver are promises, and American promises are not enjoying a bull market these days.

A quick look at the map below also belies the supposed defensive nature of NATO, especially now that newer NATO members, equipped and trained in part by the United States, have completed the semi-circle of bases and missiles that potentially threaten Russia from the west. So European NATO members become accomplices in the American virtual siege of Russia. One wonders, are those bases really necessary? In fact, the whole raison d’etre of the NATO project hinges upon the possibility of a Russian blitzkrieg stomping across western Europe. Is it probable? How probable, 90%? 10%? Is it reality based or a figment of the traditional American anti-communist neurosis, the same malady that has “legitimized” bloody military interventions around the world from Korea and Vietnam to Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo and Afghanistan. Is the phantasmagoric statistical probability of the dread Russian bear pouncing on Europe kept in penumbra in order to justify the ongoing American “defensive” presence there? A similar strategy worked in the 1950s. Now it is being dusted off and expected to work again in the 21st century.

The Frosting on the Cake: The Americans’ Secret Terrorist Army in Western Europe

It was Winston Churchill’s idea to create secret “stay-behind” military units in European countries as resistance fighters against the possibility of Russian invasion. Never mind that the Russians had just lost more than 20 million citizens while winning the war for the Allies on the eastern front. So Churchill sent MI6 agents all over Europe to recruit experienced, right-minded fighters, equip them and train them in guerilla techniques. The agents were looking for battle-seasoned troops.

As it happened the Germans had also prepared a stay-behind presence in Western Europe and one of their units had just been rounded up and jailed by allied troops. When the OSS (forerunner of the CIA) found them, instead of treating them as particularly nasty prisoners of war, they offered them a job. That’s how “Operation Gladio,” as the project came to be known, became a swarm of extreme right-wing goons.

After six years of warfare the UK wasn’t really in shape to run a Europe-wide paramilitary network, so their sometime collaborators, the American CIA, took over until 1952 when the management of Operation Gladio passed to NATO. The much-touted Marshall Plan notwithstanding, American and British concerns after the war were not so much about reconstruction in Europe as containment of the Russians and their collectivist ideology, especially in countries like Italy, France and Greece where communists were actually being elected to democratic governments, based on their exemplary resistance to the Germans during the war. 

Not to worry, NATO had a plan. They would activate the Gladio units in those countries whose elections needed “correcting” to carry out seemingly random terrorist attacks and blame them on the communists, thus swinging voters to the right. These terrifying false-flag operations–a bomb that killed 85 people and wounded more than 200 in the 1980 Bologna Centrale station, shotgun killings of whole families in supermarkets in Belgium’s Brabant region, and many others–determined the election results against leftist candidates and saved the day for democracy in the Free World. The truth didn’t come out until 1990 when right-wing militant and Gladio operator, Vincenzo Vinciguerra, testified in an Italian court on another case and the whole Gladio story came to light, both in Belgium and across Europe. Vinciguerra is still serving a life sentence for his–and NATO’s– crimes.

This spine-chilling history didn’t receive much coverage nor follow-up in the American press, though the Washington Post did have this to say on Nov. 13, 1990:

 A secret army created by the Central Intelligence Agency during the 1950s to organize resistance in the event of a Soviet invasion of Western Europe has finally come in from the cold, and the disclosures of its past actions are producing a political flap that stretches across the continent.

The existence of a clandestine paramilitary network code-named “Operation Gladio” was disclosed last Thursday by Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti in a speech to his nation’s Senate. Since then, European officials have described similar operations in most of the other NATO countries.

The CIA-backed paramilitary network included units in Belgium, France, Greece, West Germany and the Netherlands, according to European newspaper and news-service reports.

(Source: The Washington Post, November 14, 1990)

Please Accept My Apology

If you were already aware of these sensational events and the outrages perpetrated by NATO and the CIA in Europe in the second half of the 20th century, please accept my apologies for wasting your time. If you weren’t aware, I’m delighted to have introduced you to this ongoing sordid story. NATO is still on the march, still selling its repugnant bulwark-of-democracy bill of goods, still providing troops and infrastructure for American skullduggery around the world. So, the next time you see on the news a seemingly senseless terrorist attack that smells like a false-flag operation, remember NATO and Gladio.

Why do those attacks have to be so senseless? Murdering a whole family of five in the aisles of a supermarket is so unthinkably unreasonable. Vincenzo Vinciguerra has answered this question from his prison cell. He said, “That’s what scares them most.”

by Mike Booth

Author’s note: Here’s a link to a three-part article I wrote on Operation Gladio earlier this year.

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“How Many People Must Die to Get Me Elected President?”

Let’s Look at a Few Examples

All candidates like to be elected, and the presidency of the United States is the ultimate election. They work long and hard at it and sometimes play dirty. And that unfair play can end in the deaths of innocent bystanders, as we shall see.

There’s only one rung on the American election ladder that’s higher than being elected president. That is being re-elected, and all but a few American presidents have made it their top priority while in office. For many of them it has been a permanent fixation and they have gone to extreme lengths to achieve it. And we’re not just talking about the mentally and morally deficient like President Trump. It’s pretty much all of them. One wonders, what are the causes of this deadly–for others–White House infirmity?

If you ask them they will, of course, all allege the same thing: “I need four more years to complete the project I promised the American people when I was elected.” Well, yes, but what else? Power hunger? There’s always a dash of that in the mix. It comes with the territory, and the higher you rise on the totem pole the more acute it becomes. Economic motives? Has there ever been an American president who left the White House poorer than when he went in?

The additional four more years of a second term give him time to distribute more favors among influential people–or better yet, corporations– and prepare himself a nice featherbed for when he leaves office. He can be more effective at this during his second term. First-term presidents must walk on eggshells to some extent, lest they garner powerful enemies, back failing initiatives, misjudge a war, or get reputations as self-interested, do-nothing chief executives.

Since re-election is constitutionally prohibited after their second term, they are free to move fast and loose in pursuit of whatever their hearts desire: some plump defense contracts for the military-industrial-technological-congressional complex, some pardons for their convicted cronies, some lucrative seats on boards of directors, a nice fund for a presidential library… The possibilities are endless, but they require time. Four more years.

“All of that may be true,” you say, “but from there to getting people killed in order to be re-elected is a far cry.”

Not That Far, Here’s Richard Nixon

Perhaps the 20th century’s most egregious instance of –What shall we call it?–“cognizant active or passive homicide for electoral purposes”– was the decision cooked up by candidate Richard Nixon & friends, regarding Nixon’s strategy for sabotaging President Lyndon Johnson’s 1968 election strategy.

Nixon’s Presidental campaign needed the war to continue, since he was running on a platform that opposed the war. According to the BBC:

Nixon feared a breakthrough at the Paris Peace talks designed to find a negotiated settlement to the Vietnam war, and he knew this would derail his campaign. In late October 1968 there were major concessions from Hanoi which promised to allow meaningful talks to get underway in Paris – concessions that would justify Johnson calling for a complete bombing halt of North Vietnam. This was exactly what Nixon feared.

Henry Kissinger, who was working on the Johnson camapaign at the time, alerted Nixon to the Democrats’ imminent peace initiative and Nixon commissioned one of his aids, Anna Chennault, to propose a deal to the South Vietnamese embassy: the South Vietnamese government should withdraw from the talks, refuse to deal with Johnson, and if Nixon was elected, they would get a much better deal.” The Atlantic Wire.

This nifty bit of treason permitted Nixon to win the 1968 presidential election by just 1 percent of the popular vote. “Once in office he escalated the war into Laos and Cambodia, with the loss of an additional 22,000 American (and a million Vietnamese) lives, before finally settling in 1973 for a peace agreement  that had been within grasp in 1968.” (Source: Smithsonianmag.com, 2013)

John F. Kennedy

Six days into the Cuban Missile Crisis of October, 1962, President Kennedy’s first public announcement included this: “It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States…” Seymour Hersh comments in his 1997 book, The Dark Side of Camelot, “Kennedy’s audience, of course, was not only Moscow but his political critics in the Republican Party. ‘Who lost Cuba?’ would not be a theme of the 1962 congressional elections.”

As president, John Kennedy was not above dialing party politics into an international crisis. This became more evident in his handling of the early stages of the Vietnam War. Hersh, in the same book, cites Kennedy’s lifelong friend, Charles Bartlett, quoting Kennedy as saying, “Charlie, I can’t let Vietnam go to the Communists and then go and ask these people–the voters of America–to re-elect me. Somehow we’ve got to hold that territory through the 1964 election. We’ve already given up Laos to the communists, and if I give up Vietnam I won’t really be able to go to the people.” Unfortunately Kennedy never got the opportunity to “go to the people.”

In a footnote Hersh describes Bartlett as “distressed,” at Kennedy’s linking the war in South Vietnam to his political fortunes. Kennedy’s old friend adds, “This made me a champion of the single six-year presidential term.”

Donald J. Trump

Trump takes America into a black hole.
Does it look as if President Trump is leading his followers into a black hole, or is it just me?

Sometimes it’s amusing to have a buffoon at the helm, but more often not. The Trump presidency thus far has given us a bit of everything. Now, smitten with classic re-election fever, President Trump is trying to activate his electorate, degrade his opponent, sidestep his court cases and, while he’s at it, defuse America’s greatest-ever passive election homicide: nearly 200,000 Covid-19 deaths. He might have gotten away with it by employing  his usual look-in-your-eyes, lie-and-shrug routine, but Bob Woodward’s revelation–in his new book, Rage, has probably cooked Trump’s election goose. According to Woodward’s account, the President admitted to being fully aware of the grave dangers posed by the epidemic on February 7, 2020, yet Donald Trump neither said nor did anything about it for months. He alleged that he played down the risks of Covid-19 in order not to cause panic across the country. Perhaps he also thought that an admission of that nature would be detrimental to his election hopes.

At this stage in the game President Trump has few mysteries left to unravel, but the most recent one has Trumpologists around the world  losing sleep. (And there’s a bit of amateur Trumpologist in most all of us who can read.) Why on earth did Donald Trump willingly submit himself to a series of 18 recorded interview sessions with Bob Woodward, a reporter with well-earned fame for his part in bringing down one unworthy United States president already?

by Mike Booth

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Educating the USA

“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.” “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” “The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn …and change.” 

Dr. Ken Robinson

Education Is Not Just Your Best Hope, It’s Your Only Hope

Learning begins as soon as we come into the world. And when I say “we” I mean everybody: you, your neighbors, your country, your world. Because we’re all in this together.

The education of babies and young children is critical because it’s the foundation for everything else, and not just reading, writing and arithmetic. The first vital element of the education of small children is socialization, the art of living among other human beings. Why “small” children? Because, according to education specialists, the first three–some say six or seven–years of a child’s life is the most formative period for the adult that he or she will become. Aristotle is credited with saying, “Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man.”

One of the best known and most successful manifestations of this reality is the legacy of the Italian doctor, teacher and educator of educators, Maria Montessori. Like many makers of history, Montessori came from an atypical tradition with an steep path before her. Born in a small town in Italy in 1870, as a woman she was discouraged at every step of the way from studying, becoming a doctor, lecturer, author and worldwide eminence in progressive education. The essence of her approach was to shun the mechanized industrial or rote mode of education in favor of a more agricultural model: plant the seeds and provide them with the necessities to grow.

Today the entire world is planted with Montessori and quasi-Montessori schools that have had a profound influence on their students and educational progress in general. Many innovators of today, like both founders of Google (Sergei Brin and Larry Page), the founder of Amazon (Jeff Bezos), the creator of Wikipedia (Jimmy Wales) and the designer of the ground-breaking video game Sim City (Will Wright) attended Montessori schools.

Parents Are the First Educators 

Before most children meet their first teacher, between the ages of three and six, all of their learning experiences and character formation are dependent upon their parents. And a child’s selection of parents is a lottery. The ideal is loving, supportive parents with sufficient resources, time to devote to their early years and an awareness of early learning necessities, parents who recognize the importance of play, reading, freedom, creativity and animals, and who foment generosity, consideration and empathy. These children are the lucky ones, and they are more likely to live fruitful lives.

Sadly, the parents of underprivileged, off-the-rails young people are, themselves, products of the same self-fulfilling prophesy. They have neither the resources, the knowledge nor the skills to devote to educating their children during the critical early years, and the results are young citizens formed with the same crooked cookie cutter as their parents. This is obvious and demands programs for educating parents and equipping them with the means to raise their children to be constructive, fulfilled citizens and parents. The circle must be broken. But that would be expensive, no? I’ll refer you to Dr. Robinson’s wisdom: “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”

Criteria for a Good Education

“Good education” is public, egalitarian, well-funded, free and complete from elementary school through university or advanced vocational training. In addition, some countries have innovative pre-school programs like the Finnish Forest Schools in which five and six-year-olds spend most of their time outdoors in nature, year round, rain or shine. The experience of leading countries in education indicates that emphasis should be placed on training expert, motivated teachers and remunerating them well. Curiously, the countries that successfully educate their young to be first, good people, and second, good citizens, find that their students also attain academic results among the highest in the world.

We’re talking about benchmark Finland, of course, but also Norway, Japan, Estonia, Canada, New Zealand and South Korea, along with several other countries in Asia and other places. The United States is not among the top 20 countries in this ranking.

What Does a Failing Primary Education System Yield? The American Example

Quality education is expensive but forward-looking countries don’t hesitate to budget all that is needed to provide first-rate teachers and administrators, installations and equipment. Contrast that with education financing in the United States, where it’s usually paid for by local property taxes. This means that zones with high property values have plenty of money for fine schools, whereas those with low property values have far less money, leading to netly inferior schools and education levels. Poor housing goes hand in hand with lower cultural levels, so inner-city kids have two strikes against them–economic and cultural–the day they start kindergarten. Unless they have extraordinary luck, their school experience is destined to be deficient. By the time they are turned out on the street, with or without a high-school diploma, they are fodder for the penal system.

With no further education aspirations nor job skills they turn, in the great American tradition, to fast, easy money. As they don’t have access to the markets of Wall Street, they deal in drugs. This scenario, where black and other minority young people predominate, leads inevitably to the courts, where the deck is stacked against them, and to prison, where they earn master’s degrees in crime and violence. When they eventually leave prison they have children of their own, reproducing the deadly cycle of inequality, hopelessness and bitterness. Add to all of this the reality of being constantly harrassed and occasionally murdered with impunity by white police officers, and you have a volatile cocktail. How much human potential is lost with the marginalization of black and brown America?

This lifestyle of underprivileged young Americans, whether inner city or rural is a tragedy by design, but it needn’t be that way. In a country inspired by the human values that prevail in the rest of the advanced world, education would be free and equal for all. Soft drugs like marijuana, would be legal and controlled, and draconian mandatory sentencing would be a thing of the past. The United States suffers the highest per-capita incarceration rate in the world, along with the most obscene military offense budget. How complicated would it be for the country to invert national priorities and build schools instead of prisons and wage education instead of war? Why isn’t that happening? These are measures that would truly make America great again for all citizens except for the few who are currently profiting obesely from permanent war and private prisons.

American Higher Education Is a Different Story

Where the US does excel is in its higher education. Its elite universities, with their advanced degree programs and elaborate research facilities are the best in the world, attracting select foreign students. Many of these graduates return home to form the mandarin classes in their own countries. Others remain in the US to join the American intellectual and scientific elites.

High costs are the flaw in the American university system, serving to exclude students from humble origins. Even those who manage to finance their university educations with loans are heavily burdened by the obligation to pay them back. Total student loan debt in the US, as of 2020, is about $1.56 trillion. Students pay off that debt at an average of $393/month.

Anthropologist David Graeber, author of Debt: The First 5000 Years, argues that student debt is “destroying the imagination of youth”:

If there’s a way of a society committing mass suicide, what better way than to take all the youngest, most energetic, creative, joyous people in your society and saddle them with, like $50,000 of debt so they have to be slaves? There goes your music. There goes your culture. There goes everything new that would pop out. And in a way, this is what’s happened to our society. We’re a society that has lost any ability to incorporate the interesting, creative and eccentric people.

A nice irony in this uniquely-American scenario is that the current American Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, an enthusiastic promoter of school privatazation, was obliged to admit in her pre-appointment ethics report her investment in LMF WF Portfolio, a company which helped finance a $147 million loan to a debt collection agency, called Performant Financial Co.,  that was a major investor in a student debt collection company. (Source: PRwatch.org, 2017). DeVos, a devotee of charter and religious schools, declared last August that it’s a “good thing” that the coronavirus pandemic will force the nation’s schools to make changes that should have “happened many years ago.”

A Country’s Education System Conditions Its Society and Vice Versa–The Norwegian Example

If you look at leading countries around the world you will find that their levels of prosperity and wellbeing coincide nicely with their educational philosophies and school systems. The first striking factor is that most of them are designed to inculcate human values, intellectual curiosity, creativity and teamwork as opposed to competition and individualism. The exceptions, besides the United States, are Singapore and some other Asian countries where academic achievement is emphasized. Even in those places, achievement is oriented more toward collective than individual objectives.

Norway is a exemplary case. In recent years, it has repeatedly been ranked as ‘the best country to live in’ by the United Nations Human Development Report. This annual ranking is based largely on average levels of education and income, combined with life expectancy, but also factors such as human rights and cultural freedom. (Source: StudyinNorway.no)

This is how Norway started at the beginning of the 20th century.

Norway’s wealth and high standard of living is based in large part, since the 1970s, on its offshore oil wealth, aptly administered to the benefit of the entire society. Clever investment of the excess has made Norway’s soverign wealth one of the highest in the world with an influential presence in international stock markets. Norwegians earn on average more than Americans, which determines their high standard of living and permits them advanced education systems, a complete social security system and universal health care.

According to edsys.in, Norway has the sixth-best elementary education system in the world. (The first five are Finland, Japan, South Korea, Denmark and Russia.) In 2020 Norway jumped ten positions to sixth in this ranking. One of its schools’ underlying tenets is the importance of play. It’s student-to-teacher ration is 10/1. That’s one expert, highly-paid teacher for every 10 students. Education in Norway is free. Public universities in Norway do not charge students tuition fees, regardless of the student’s country of origin.

Norwegian schools maintain the same high standards as everything else in the country.

Granted, Norway Is a Rich Country

But so is the United States, potentially much richer. How is it possible that Norwegian society is so far ahead of the US in most every parameter you want to examine, from personal qualities to national priorities? They are gentler, more other-centered folk, better educated and better citizens. They’re less nationalistic, less militaristic, more altruistic and polite, more generous and more travelled.

This revealing tweet is from Ian Bremmer, posted on the occasion of President Trump’s “shithole countries” remark on January 12, 2018, when Trump also said that he preferred immigrants from Norway :

NORWAY

Most prosperous #1 (US #18)

Happiest country #1 (US #14)

Most gender equality #2 (US #49)

Most political freedom #1 (US #45)

Most press freedom #1 (US #43)

People there must be clamoring to come to America.

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What Sort of Survival Awaits the US, If Any?

Graveyard_thin

I Never Should Have Left Them Alone

Three years ago, when I started writing about the American decline, I was determined to talk straight and to share with the Americans–and the rest of the world–my “native transatlantic” point of view. That is, though I was born and educated, worked and served in the US Army in the States, six months after I was discharged from the army in April of 1968 I gave away all my worldly goods and bought a one-way ticket to Europe, where I have lived ever since. Does that make me an “ex-pat?” No, actually I’m Spanish. In 1983 I renounced my American citizenship before a Spanish judge and was granted Spanish nationality. I never looked back, except to observe the fascinating political and military goings-on in the country of my birth.

I thought the US was on an ill-fated trajectory then with its lingering Vietnam war and dubious leadership, but the presidential election of 2016 brought new  lows. America found itself with a new clown President and a stale Congress–on both sides of the aisle–though the Republicans, who had signed on to President Trump’s ship of fools, were the ones wielding the institutional wrecking ball. I did not expect the tailspin that was to ensue over the next four years. Seeing right-wing fervor gathering momentum like a train hurtling down a mountain with a dead engineer, I expected the worst. And, sure enough, it’s here, upon the American people right now. It’s over.

Neither the dummy in the White House nor his far-right followers in the Congress and the courts, foresaw the maelstrom of coincidences that was about to fall upon their country with Old Testament virulence. It was beyond their competence even to suspect the possible conflation of the sudden technological and economic superiority of a giant Asian country, a deadly virus pandemia that is taking advantage of optimum conditions in the US to savage mercilessly both the population and the economy, and the sudden widespread citizen reactions to racial injustice in the country. The Trump administration’s response to these crises ranged from dead wrong to nil. The Trumpeteers’ negligence was such that they even discarded the pandemic contingency plans that the Obama transition team left them in writing.

US Experiencing a Deadstick Landing on Rough Ground

Led by President Trump’s oafish incompetence and blatant pandering to reactionary big-money interests, the undisputed greatest country in the world has become a laughing stock, more to be pitied than respected. Just as seriously, the world’s most reliable partner nation has become unworthy of anyone’s trust. And President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “arsenal of democracy” became the world’s number one perceived threat to peace. (Sources: https://www.indepthnews.net/, indy100.com, mothership.sg)

world-peace-threat-ranking

It was during this process that the American degradation was so severe that, in order to cloak all the indecency, they had to revive a derogatory coverall phrase popularized in 1964, the year in which the Warren Commission shared its implausible Kennedy assassination findings. Those who questioned the conclusions of the Warren Commision were “conspiracy theorists.” Just sticking that label on them disqualified their opinions immediately and utterly. Subsequently, any questioning of controversial matters such as the 9/11 attacks, Global Warming,  G-5 and electromagnetic pollution, the Moon landings and more was labeled “conspiracy theories” and discarded out of hand. In the end, whom do we credit for America’s landing men on the moon, Werner von Braun and his team of German rocket scientists or Stanley Kubrick?

Exceptional Canadian Takes Down American Exceptionalism

Canadian anthropologist, Wade Davis, in a recent Rolling Stone article titled “The Unraveling of America,” took a concerned look at how Covid-19 signals the end both of the American era and American exceptionalism. He affirms that, of all the disruption provoked by the pandemic, what most stands out is “the absolutely devastating impact” on the reputation and international standing of the United States of America. Davis writes:

In a dark season of pestilence, COVID has reduced to tatters the illusion of American exceptionalism. At the height of the crisis, with more than 2,000 dying each day, Americans found themselves members of a failed state, ruled by a dysfunctional and incompetent government largely responsible for death rates that added a tragic coda to America’s claim to supremacy in the world.

For the first time, the international community felt compelled to send disaster relief to Washington. For more than two centuries, reported the Irish Times, “the United States has stirred a very wide range of feelings in the rest of the world: love and hatred, fear and hope, envy and contempt, awe and anger. But there is one emotion that has never been directed towards the U.S. until now: pity.” As American doctors and nurses eagerly awaited emergency airlifts of basic supplies from China, the hinge of history opened to the Asian century.

As if America didn’t have enough problems already, the Trump administration’s inept responses to this uniquely dangerous set of circumstances have dragged the US into the definitive status of a rogue country with a dubious future:

  • Slapping senseless tariffs willy nilly on countries around the world, from Canada to China, seemingly oblivious to the inevitable repercussions.
  • Militarizing everything, from the streets of American cities to the waters of the Strait of Hormuz, the Caribbean, and the South China Sea.
  • Dispatching one of the most loutish “diplomats” in living memory to bully America’s allies and adversaries into toeing the arbitrary American line. Under what imaginable legitimacy can the US order Iran not to trade oil with Venezuela, or oblige Russia not to build a gas pipeline to Germany?

What Are the Chances of United States Survival?

Since the end of the Second World War the United States has relied on just a few factors to insure their predominance in world affairs:

  • Their economic and manufacturing superiority… Given recent geostrategic realities, this factor now lacks virtually all reasonable validity.
  • Their overwhelming military might… The Americans have spent themselves into poverty attempting to maintain their highly-touted military superiority. But as long as that favorable balance depends upon nuclear weapons–and lots of countries have them–the most the Pentagon can hope for is not an American victory, rather a lose-lose endgame.
  • Their ability to convince the world that “American democracy” and “the American way of life,” are superior to all others… These myths, doubtful at best for decades, have come tumbling down with a loud crash during the 2020 triple emergency.

So, can the United States survive? That question takes us into a guessing game, of course, but we can speculate to some extent in view of recent history. If “survive” means to amble blissfully on in business-as-usual mode, I think it’s reasonable to predict that they cannot survive. They have lost the script and the ability to sell it.

Can they survive by any stretch of the imagination under the leadership of the Trump administration? I think they clearly cannot. Trump is staring into his own lose-lose abyss. If he wins the election it will be up to him to right the country’s trajectory, something that he has shown us he’s incapable of achieving. If he loses in November and tries to employ truculent or other unscrupulous measures to hang on to power, his imminent political demise and that of his country, as we know it, are assured.

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Mail Order Coup d’Etat

Post Office Slowdown

President Trump Blocks Post Office Funding in Order to Foil Mail-in Voting–And Admits It

What could look at first glance like a routine budgetary measure at the United States Postal Service might well be Phase Three–or Four or Seven–depending upon when you start counting–of a fascist-style takeover of the United States government. By the President’s own admission, the object of cutting back funding is to debilitate and slow down the mail service to the point where it is incapable of processing mail-in votes in time to be counted. Insofar as the taproot of American democracy is free and fair elections, any form of tampering with those elections is an attack on the United States as a democratic country as we know it. In greater or lesser decree it’s treason, a coup d’etat.

And Trump’s post-office ploy is just that. What’s left of his White House brain trust suspects that permitting mail-in voting would be detrimental to his re-election, as it would encourage the votes of the the minorities, the disadvantaged, the elderly and other demographics who suspect that he may not be “making American great again.” Trump, or someone who thinks for him, actually prepared the ground for subverting the postal service and, by extension, the 2020 presidential election. In a move that insiders consider contrary to political etiquette–that’s what they have in Washington instead of ethics, “etiquette”–the Trump-inspired USPS Board of Governors appointed one of his substantial campaign contributors/fund raisers (to the tune of $2 million) to run the United States Postal Service. Continue reading “Mail Order Coup d’Etat”

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The Race Is on for Coronavirus Vaccine Profits

Biotech_race_for_vaccine

Health and Business, or Vice Versa

It’s potentially the greatest opportunity ever presented to the world of business. Coincidentally it’s also the greatest opportunity for massive fraud. It’s the elusive Covid-19 vaccine. One wonders what is going through the heads of the pharmaceutical executives competing for the biggest prize ever, a vaccine that every person in the world urgently needs, and for which the producers can virtually name their own price, just as they do with the medicines they sell to the American Social Security administration.

It also presents the greatest opportunity to save lives, reactivate economies, and bring the world back to life. But, given the American pharmaceutical industry’s track record, one suspects that the economic incentive is their first priority. Let’s take a look at how they’re doing thus far.

Operation Warp Speed, the Trump Administration’s Six-Billion-Dollar Vaccine Betting Shop

As of early July this program of massive Trump administration cash handouts extends to eight pharmaceutical companies for expediting development and preparation for the clinical trials necessary for the manufacturing of their respective vaccine candidates: Johnson & Johnson (Janssen Pharmaceutical), AstraZeneca-University of Oxford, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Merck, Vaxart, Inovio, and Novavax. According to Science magazine, Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), said a group of vaccine experts his agency convened to work with Warp Speed did a scientific review of 50 candidate COVID-19 vaccines. Members of that group have expressed surprise at some of Warp Speed’s choices. Continue reading “The Race Is on for Coronavirus Vaccine Profits”

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You Can Stop Worrying About a Civil War

Military Takeover2

And Start Thinking about a Military Takeover

Two years ago I posted here a two-part article about the possibility of a second civil war in the US that I called The Next American Civil War. The opinions reflected in that article were not mainly mine. They were expressed by qualified experts whose overall conclusions were that the probability of civil war in the US over the next 10-15 years ranged from 5% to 95%, with an average of 35%. But after seeing recent events in Portland, I’m inclined to think that America’s most imminent threat is not a civil war. Considering the likely distribution of forces in the country it’s more apt to be a quick-and-dirty military takeover.

Most Americans are not radical Trump supporters. Polls reveal that half of them reject President Trump’s ultra-nationalistic, white-supremacist, right-libertarian views and lowbrow stage presence. They don’t want to live in a dog-eat-dog society, nor get too “involved” in politics, much less street altercations. They just want to muddle through, from election to election. They live hoping that the government will somehow sort itself out and life in their country will return to normal, much as President Trump hopes that the coronavirus pandemic will one day just “disappear.”

Can’t we reliably suppose that the country is in the clear when it comes to domestic military melodrama, thanks to the majority of “moderate” voters? No, we cannot, as a majority of moderates is seldom decisive for the very fact of being moderate and having to weigh in against a minority of hard-core militants. That is not to say that civilians can be expected to play a major role in deciding the fate of America if it were to come down to a cataclysmic, anti-democratic situation. Continue reading “You Can Stop Worrying About a Civil War”

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Let’s Talk About Evil, America

American Evil3

We Must Make Some Value Judgments

When I was a sophomore in college we used to sit up all night in the mezzanine lounge at Case Hall (MSU) and talk about life. It was probably because we had time and what the Spanish call “inquietud,” roughly “restlessness,” but more extensive. I thrived on those conversations but also found them frustrating thanks to a smart student from New York who was a bit older than the rest of us and was a folk singer. He commanded some respect.

Whenever I would arrive at what I thought was an acceptable conclusion on any subject he would say, “Ah, Mike, you can’t affirm that. That’s a value judgment.” And he was always right. This went on for the better part of the school year. Then, one night in the spring of 1963, around four in the morning, he had me cornered again and it occurred to me to reply, “Jesus Christ, Harvey, that’s what we’re here for, to learn to make valid value judgments.” Since then I’ve been free.

The dictionary says of evil: “profound immorality and wickedness, especially when regarded as a supernatural force,”citing this example: “his struggle against the forces of evil.” It goes on: “morally reprehensible, bad, wrong, sin, immorality, vice, iniquity, baseness, perversion, corruption, depravity, villainy, atrocity, malevolence…” I would add my own personal flavors of evil: “hypocrisy, aggression, embargos and sanctions, genocide, falsity, dishonesty, opportunism, ruthlessness, greed, dirty tricks, black ops, exceptionalism, lies and euphemisms, false flags, regime change, free world, economic crimes, manifest destiny, militarism, and utter lack of human values…” Continue reading “Let’s Talk About Evil, America”

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Trump Activates Fascist Takeover

Feds2

“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.”–Michael Herr, Kubrick (2000)

Full-Blown Fascism Lifts Off in America

The deployment of President Trumps “federal troops” in Portland–a traditional progressive bastion–and his promises to take similar measures  in Chicago, New York, Albuquerque, Detroit and other Democratic strongholds, forms the edge of the wedge of a truculent new strategy with three obvious objectives:

  • To consolidate his campaign for re-election and rally his followers with theatrical shows of force.
  • To intimidate his opposition all over the country.
  • And this is the most worrying: To rehearse on the street his studied, incremental fascist takeover of America.

    What are they hiding beyond the bread vans, the riot gear and the anonymity?

Disclaimer: When I say “his” troops and “his” strategy, I’m not referring to Trump personally. Nor would I dare to suggest that he “studied” anything. I think it’s clear by now that Donald J. Trump is incapable of the structured thinking required to elaborate a coherent plan, whether it be for a political or a military campaign or both. In normal circumstances the activation of this blatant boots-on-the-street operation would seem premature. The elections are still 13 weeks away. But a series of grave recent events has obliged what’s left of the Trump team to anticipate the program. The exploding coronavirus epidemic and Trump & Company’s extreme incompetence in dealing with it, his alarming descent in the polls–his revered “ratings”–and the corresponding rise of Joe Biden, demanded a high-profile response. Continue reading “Trump Activates Fascist Takeover”

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US Firearms Deaths, So Much Left to Do

Sandy_Hook

So Much Has Been Said; So Little Has Been Done

Perhaps Americans should be reminded that the regular-as-clockwork firearms deaths in their country are unnecessary. How do we know that? We know it because they don’t happen with such monotonous regularity in other advanced countries. Then why do they occur so often in the US? They happen for a lot of reasons but the principal one is that there is a criminal conspiracy under way in the US to perpetuate the so-called gun culture, regardless of the tens of thousands of firearms victims every year.

American citizens want stricter gun control. (See extensive Gallup poll results on “Guns” over the past 20 years and more.) But what Americans want, even in cases as egregious as this one, is irrelevant. Their hands are tied by a cabal of gun manufacturers, right-wing extremists, second-ammendment nuts. outdoorsmen, and terrified white male citizens who fear their homes will be invaded by long-haired guitarists. Continue reading “US Firearms Deaths, So Much Left to Do”

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USS Liberty–Crew Murdered by Israel, Betrayed by Their Commander in Chief 2/2

USS Liberty survivors
US sailors transport the wounded from the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty, 1967.

Is Help on the Way?

USS Liberty veteran and author, Jim Ennes, observes, “The attack on the USS Liberty remains the only major maritime incident in all US history that has not been publicly investigated by the United States Congress.”

There was a US aircraft carrier within ten minutes’ flight time of the scene of the attack. Why didn’t they intervene immediately? Planes actually did take off, but they were ordered back to the carrier on direct orders from the highest level in Washington . There is only one plausible explanation for such questionable orders. Someone in Washington wanted to give the Israeli attackers time to finish off the USS Liberty and its crew. It would not be untoward to suggest that it might have been that same highest-level authority who organized the subsequent coverup. Continue reading “USS Liberty–Crew Murdered by Israel, Betrayed by Their Commander in Chief 2/2”

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USS Liberty–Crew Murdered by Israel, Betrayed by Their Commander in Chief 1/2

Never forget

Friend or Foe?

It’s been five decades and a bit since the “US Liberty Incident” and I’ve been living in the dark all this time. I suspect you may have, too. When the Israeli air force and navy launched a devastating unprovoked attack on an American technical research  (electronic spy) ship in international waters just thirteen miles off the Gaza Strip during the 1967 Six Day War, I naturally accepted the US government’s explanation: that it was due to a tragic case of misidentification on the part of the Israelis.

That they should knowingly attack a United States ship for no cogent reason seemed unlikely to me. The Israelis were, after all, friends, allies and massive American aid recipients. It couldn’t happen. Besides, President Lyndon Johnson, himself, declared that it was a tragic accident, putting the whole matter to rest. Johnson was lying, as we shall see.

Liberty_cover
The other night I’m wandering around YouTube when I run across a 2014 documentary called The Day Israel Attacked America, Al Jazerra investigates the shocking truth behind a deadly Israeli attack on a US naval vessel. Al Jazeera is the Qatari online news channel. I’ll listen to anybody if they’ve got reasons. This time they had reasons in spades. What I found most convincing–and most horrifying–was the live testimony of the surviving crew members. One of them, Lt. James Ennes, then age 24, wrote it down in a book 13 years later: Assault on the Liberty–USS Liberty Memorial. Ennes was one of many crew members who continued to work to keep the ship afloat and help the wounded throughout the attack, though wounded himself.

His notes on the dust cover set the scene vividly:

In June, 1967, jet aircraft and motor torpedo boats of Israel brutally assaulted an American naval vessel, USS Liberty, in international waters off the Sinai Peninsula in the Mediterranean Sea. The attack was preceded by more than six hours of intense low-level surveillance by Israeli photo-reconnaissance aircraft, which buzzed the intelligence ship thirteen times, sometimes flying as low as 200 feet directly overhead. The reconnaissance pilots were heard by intercept operators in Germany and by American airborne intercept operators reporting to their headquarters that they could see an American flag and men sunbathing on deck.

The carefully orchestrated assault that followed was initiated by high-performance jet aircraft, was followed up by slower and more maneuverable jets carrying napalm, and was finally turned over to lethal torpedo boats which fired five torpedoes. Four missed. The one torpedo that hit the ship blasted a forty-foot hole in the ship’s side.

The attack lasted more than two hours — killing 34 Americans and wounding 174 others — and inflicted 821 rocket and machine-gun holes. And when the Liberty stubbornly remained afloat despite her damage, Israeli forces machine-gunned her life rafts and sent troop-carrying helicopters in to finish the job. US Air Force intercept operators heard Israeli jets being vectored to “the American ship” which they were ordered to sink quickly. Those who have seen these transcripts insist that they leave no doubt that the Israelis knew they were attacking an American ship.

Before USS Liberty arrived in the area, U.S. Sixth Fleet Commander Admiral William Martin promised to provide air support within ten minutes if an emergency arose. Yet when the ship did come under attack, the White House blocked any air rescue for more than 90 minutes. Officers on the bridge of the aircraft carrier Saratoga heard Liberty’s radio operators calling for help while bombs burst in the background, but were forbidden to help. When Navy jet aircraft were finally authorized to come to the ship’s aid, the Israeli government suddenly ended the attack and withdrew, claiming that they had mistaken the ship for an Egyptian horse transport named El Quseir. Only then did the identity of the assailants become known.

Details of the attack were hushed up in both countries. Israel claimed that her forces mistook USS Liberty for an Egyptian ship, and our government publicly accepted that excuse despite evidence to the contrary. Meanwhile, in top secret diplomatic mail, US Secretary of State Dean Rusk accused the Israelis of demonstrating “blatant disregard for human life” and said that the attack was no accident. Then our government downplayed the intensity of the surveillance and the severity of the attack and imposed a news blackout to keep the official story under control. The official version is that the Liberty was reconnoitered only three times and then only from great distance. The American people were told that the air attack lasted only five minutes and that it was followed by a single torpedo and an immediate apology and offer of assistance.

Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time of the Liberty incident, said that he, “cannot accept the claim by the Israelis that this was a case of mistaken identity.”

 

Questions Left Pending

No Congressional investigation regarding the USS Liberty Incident was ever carried out, though the surviving crew members have been clamoring for one since the events occurred. (See the USS Liberty Veterans Association website: https://www.usslibertyveterans.org/)

Nevertheless, a 1967 US Naval Court of Inquiry investigation concluded that the testimony record revealed “a shallow investigation, plagued by myriad disagreements between the captain and his crew.” (Although severely wounded. Comdr. W. L. McGonagle, the commanding officer, remained at the conn to guide the ship out of shallow water. He was later awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for valor. There was no suggestion of a quid pro quo.)

According to the record of proceedings, four days were spent hearing testimony: two days for fourteen survivors of the attack and several U.S. Navy expert witnesses, and two partial days for two expert U.S. Navy witnesses. No testimony was heard from Israeli personnel involved. The conclusion of this somewhat haphazard inquiry, according to Wikipedia, was that:

The official U.S. records of the Liberty incident were designated top-secret and closed to the general public. The U.S. government and Israel jointly stated: “That the Israeli attack upon the USS Liberty had been the result of error, and nothing more.” However, Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time of the Liberty incident, said that he, “cannot accept the claim by the Israelis that this was a case of mistaken identity.”

President Johnson Himself Led the Hasty Coverup

Pentagon officials waited nearly forty minutes to inform Johnson, who was in an important meeting. Then National Security Advisor Walt Rostow telephoned the President to tell him that a U.S. Navy ship was in trouble.

Jim Ennes describes the President’s reaction:

The immediate White House reaction to the attack, I am told
by a former staff member, was to accept Israel’s apology at face
value even though there was considerable skepticism that the 
attack was entirely accidental. The President could ill afford a 
confrontation with Israel.His major concern was to bring about 
an end to the war before the Soviet Union stepped in; a 
confrontation with Israel would likely destroy the leverage he 
needed.

After some discussion, Johnson detailed Clark Clifford to head an 
investigation into the circumstances of the attack, and the White
House resolved to bite its collective tongue until the Clifford report 
came in. By this time, the Israeli government had hastily summoned 
the US naval attache to report that an unidentified “maybe Navy” 
ship had been erroneously attacked. 

When the Clifford report eventually came in, it contained no
evidence that the attack was deliberate, and White House tolerance
of the affair as a “feasible” error of war thus became permanent.

As soon as President Johnson learned of the attack and spoke with the Israelis on the subject, he launched an immediate all-points coverup which included swearing the surviving crew to silence and threatening them with prosecution if they should leak any information regarding the events they lived aboard the Liberty on June 8, 1967.

Three Questions

Three questions immediately arise: Why did the Israelis do it?  Why did the American forces in the area stand off. And why such an urgent coverup on the part of the US President? The vital issues posed by the USS Liberty case are moral questions of the first rank. The Israeli military command knowingly designed and executed an operation the object of which was to sink the Liberty and assure that its crew members were all killed. It was not just to neutralize the Liberty’s offensive capabilities–which were nil insofar as its armament was limited to four merely testimonial 50-caliber machine guns, useless against the array of armament the Israelis turned loose on them. The Israelis knew what they were doing and they were aware of just how irregular it was. What possible justification could they have for the proposed cold-blooded murder of the entire crew of a harmless American ship. Subsequent research suggests two possibilities:

  1. The object of the operation was to sink the ship, eliminate the crew to the last man and blame the outrage on the Egyptians, a classic false-flag operation. In order for it to succeed they had to assure that the ship was at the bottom of the sea and not a single witness was left alive. This is the least convincing explanation.
  2. Aware that the Liberty was monitoring radio messages in the area, the Israeli command feared that, as one of the United States’ most sophisticated National Security Agency’s (NSA) listening operations, it would pick up the chatter regarding the Israeli’s planned land grab in the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights programmed for the following day. This was an illegal operation under international law, one that they had previously renounced, but it was nevertheless carried out and remains in force until today, more than half a century later. This version makes more sense.

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Darwinian Auto Genocide in America 2/2

US_Virus_Map_29062020

Seen from abroad today, as the deadly statistics surge–2.5 million cases and 125,000 deaths to date–it looks as if the Americans are orchestrating their own genocide.

They’ve Got Schisms in their Isms

“But a solution that covers all Americans indistinctly is socialism!” you say. That’s correct. But, call it what you will, some form of socialism is the only possible solution to the Americans’ current crisis. A virus on the rampage doesn’t distinguish between the struggling poor folks and the “better class of people.” It rips through all their houses and schools, their churches and country clubs. That said, the consequences for racial and ethnic minorities are vastly more serious, due to their already tenuous living conditions. (Source: cdc.gov) If the American government were capable of organizing and implementing a country-wide set of measures–testing, contact tracing, social distancing, masks and universal medical care–they certainly wouldn’t call it socialism. But if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…

Such an optimistic eventuality as effective government intervention is far from assured in today’s Washington, because the Trump administration is the least enlightend since Atilla the Hun. Then too, Americans have been inculcated for generations with the notion that collective solutions are un-American and it probably wouldn’t occur to them to demand any. (We might make an exception of Massachusetts which, not for no reason, is called not a “state,” but a “Commonwealth.” Even Mitt Romney was infused with that spirit when he was governor there and instituted the most advanced public health system in the US.) Continue reading “Darwinian Auto Genocide in America 2/2”

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Darwinian Auto Genocide in America 1/2

genocide_definition

The Americans Are Eliminating Themselves

The United States, which has been leading the world in coronavirus cases and deaths for the past few weeks, has turned a corner. While countries around the world have taken effective public health measures to attenuate the effects of the virus on their societies, Americans are doing the opposite. The resurgence of the virus in their country has been the most virulent in the world and their numbers are now significantly above previous levels from the height of the pandemic, and still rising. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently stated, “Forget worrying about the second wave; we’re still in the first wave and we haven’t seen the worst of it.” Observing them from a safe distance–the other side of the Atlantic–people are asking themselves, “How on earth can this be happening? What inconceivable series of events might have caused the greatest country on earth to deteriorate into the leader of the Third World?

There Are Various Reasons

1/ A gravely deficient existing infracture in place when the virus struck. The United States is unique among industrialized countries for its lack of a universal health care system. A significant sector of their population is without health coverage of any sort. Data from the US Census Bureau indicates that a total of 27.5 million Americans had no health insurance during 2018. Faced with a life-threatening accident or illness and lacking the money to pay the hospital they’re obliged to go home and die.

But now Americans are faced with a novel twist in the script. The fate of rich and poor alike is linked like Siamese twins. If one catches it, the other one does, too. In order to save themselves the rich must help save their less-fortunate others. Will the American power elite be capable of perceiving that fact? If they do, will they be able to take the appropriate–and inevitably expensive–measures necessary to give everybody in their country an equal chance of survival? Or will they just slip deeper into denial mode to the detriment of all?

“But a solution that covers all Americans indistinctly is socialism!”

2/ A lack of contingency planning. When Senate Majority leader, Mitch McConnell’s boldly asserts when discussing pandemic preparedness and COVID-19, that clearly, the Obama administration did not leave any kind of game plan for something like this…” he is either confused or lying. According to Kaiser Health News (khn.org),  this document entitled “Playbook for Early Response to High-Consequence Emerging Infectious Disease Threats and Biological Incidents” was produced in 2016 under President Obama’s leadership. Unfortunately, President Trump scrapped the plan in one of his eliminate-the-Obama-legacy tantrums. In 2018, he gave the order to shut down the White House pandemic response initiative left in place by the Obama administration.

So when the virus struck there were no contingency plans nor preparations at hand. Could Trump be charged with criminal malfeasance for this action, or at least committed to a mental institution? In any case, the Trump administration entered the fray too late and gravely lacking plans and expertise. The American people continue to pay the penalty in human lives.

The other recent Trump initiative to discredit Obama is his dragging the Affordable Care Act before the Supreme Court in an effort to get it rescinded, an act so grotesque during a pandemic that it makes him look like an evil Don Quixote.

3/ No unified leadership nor coordinated response country wide. A pandemic does not respect state lines. It was clear from the outset of the coronavirus that a unified all-across-the-country plan and careful implementation would be necessary to deal with it. Instead of taking that elementary step the Trump admnistration entered into a fruitless, time-wasting period of negotiations in competition with the individual states over the procurement of face masks, protective clothing for health workers, etc. In this process the putative author of The Art of the Deal lost more precious time and the penalty was exacted again in American lives. In terms of leadership, Trump’s refusal to wear a mask during his  public appearences, takes us into surrealism. It has been clear for a long time that President Trump and his curious governing team were more interested in making political hay than in protecting American citizens. Trump’s only priority has always been and remains reelection.

4/ An ideology that has predisposed the US to inadequate answers to a threat that begs for a collective response. It is not enough to assure the lives of a select group of citizens and leave the rest to their own devices. This, though atypical in the rest of the world, is the standard American response. In this case, however, it won’t work. As long as there’s a single family living in third-world conditions in the remotest corner of the country, all Americans are at risk. In order to defeat–or even retard–the virus the entire population must be included in the plan of reaccion to the virus, regardless of race, religion, social class, gender or sexual orientation.

This isn’t always easy in the US where the backlash of American individualism frequently rears its head. What is local administration supposed to do when hysterical citizens rally together, sometimes violently, in crowded venues, to denounce the infringement of their first-amendment freedom of assembly? Just telling them that it’s for their own good doesn’t seem to work. Eventually, Darwinism will take care of them, but what about their family, friends and neighbors? Coronavirus is highly contagious.

5/ A confused and ill-prepared population. Wallowing in a hodgepodge of distractions and false values, a significant minority of Americans are largely incapable of confronting any serious threat to their society. Their reactions don’t go much beyond thuggish armed street disorders, the classic magical religious responses, and the sword rattling of semi-illiterate white supremacists, to fuck-it-let’s-have-a-beer frivolity. Taken altogether we might refer to all these “strategies” as Lemmingism.

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Teaching Your Children Solid Lies–2/2

American_Exceptionalism

The American Foundation Lie

One lie rules all the others. It’s the lie of American exceptionalism. American children are nursed on it along with their mothers’ milk. It comes in various guises but they all have to do with the “fact” that Americans are different from the rest of humanity: somehow better, more idealistic, more generous, more industrious,  more advanced, more democratic, cleaner, more godly. And these qualities, of course, entitle Americans to certain inalienable privileges.

Soldiers are trained to kill for their country. The unsuspecting recruits usually don’t discover that it’s a scam until it’s too late.

Branding Patriotism

American_Flag_mfg

Patriotism as big business thrives on the lies that teachers tell American schoolchildren. Americans purchase some 150 million US flags every year, 10-20 million of which are imported from China (and are not subject to President Trumps import tariffs). No other country in the world reveres its flag as the US does. The caskets of their soldiers returning from foreign wars are wrapped in it, making the package look more like a Christmas present than a dead boy. People from other countries consider it an American fetish. It does, however, advance the American ultra-nationalist agenda. Flag enthusiasm is the abracadabra that permits them to justify the unjustifiable on countless occasions and in countless contexts.

American patriotism has also been reduced to selling cars and credit cards. The Brandkeys.com site lists America’s most-patriotic brands. A national sample of 5,862 consumers, 18 to 68 years of age, balanced for gender and political party affiliation, drawn from the nine U.S. Census Regions, evaluated brand resonance for “patriotism.” Here are the top 10:

1 Jeep
2 Disney
3 Ford
4 Coca-Cola
5 Levi Strauss
6 American Express / MSNBC
7 Hershey’s
8 AT&T / The New York Times
9 Walmart
10 FOX News

According to Statista.com 72% of Americans are “Extremely” or “Very” Proud to be American

The Kardashianization of America could turn out to be a prime cause of the country’s ongoing decline.

Not Just Textbooks

It’s not just textbooks that keep the beloved American myths alive. Lots of other factors help to condition the intellectual atmosphere under the American bell jar.

The Military–With all its heroism, terrorism, expensive toys and glorious history of victories declared, the military is the lie personified. Soldiers are educated by semi-literate drill sergeants to kill “for their country” to defend the Constitution. The unsuspecting recruits usually don’t discover it’s a scam until it’s too late. The price they pay is exhorbitant.

The Scouts–The Scouting movement, with its uniforms, marching, saluting, survival skills, and patriotic cant, has been since its inception in 1910 a para-military organization, virtually a children’s army that has had a massive influence on American boys. Until recently it was statutorially bound to churches, another quintessential Americanizing factor for young people to get their heads around. Things are about to changing radically, however, as the scouts and the church are now legally separated and, as this NY Times headline from Feb. 18, 2020 points out: Boy Scouts Seek Bankruptcy to Survive a Deluge of Sex-Abuse Claims. Pederasty has a long history in scouting, starting with its founder, British Lt. General Baden Powell, who revealed his “affection for boys” in his diaries. It’s possible that today’s mix of scandal and economic disaster will mean the end of scouting.

The Media–Television, Hollywood movies, right-wing radio, and the mainstream press don’t require much government control to put out the “correct” ideological messages. Virtually all of these media are owned by conglomerates that benefit from the promotion of tendentious American mythology.  Nine-eleven, of course, opened the floodgates for jingoist content of all sorts.

Who is acknowledged by the American people as the most patriotic American of our time, in answer to the question: “Name anyone – alive or dead – you feel best personifies the value of “patriotism” in the United States'” Originally posted on Brandkeys, as part of a study of consumer values in America, the answer to this question is not hard to guess.  John Wayne’s character and unwavering patriotism still stand the test of time, as consumers answered, unaided, that John Wayne is the most patriotic person in 21st-century America, quite a feat as he died from lung cancer in 1979. 

Pop Culture and Consumerism–The roles of pop culture and consumerism in the nurturing of American lies is indirect but essential. Both of these all-encompassing phenomena occupy and infantilize the nation’s thinking and lifestyle so thoroughly that there remains little room in the collective mind for anything else. The Kardashianization of America could turn out to be a prime cause of the country’s ongoing decline.

The Trouble with Lies Is That They Come Unraveled with Time

The American exceptionalist lies, which were never taken seriously abroad, started to be doubted even by some enlightened Americans themselves in the light of their government’s gratuitously savage foreign wars and economic imperialism. That tide began to turn with the anti-Vietnam-war demonstrations organized by “radical” American students in the sixties. Bearing banners and yelling slogans on the streets of American cities was considered “radical” while indiscriminate mass murder by grid bombing carried out by American B-52 Stratofortress bombers was mere business as usual. Not much has changed in the intervening half century, considering right-wing America’s truculent response to today’s Black Lives Matter marches, which President Donald Trump, the law-and-order candidate, is astutely using as a creepy springboard for his 2020 presidential campaign.

Isn’t It Time to Heal America?

It shouldn’t be too hard to heal America. All they would have to do is face the facts–not the myths–honestly, renounce the lies publicly, repent openly, repeal the noxious textbooks, correct the mendacious institutions and take significant measures to address inequality. Working hard with broad cooperation, dedication, and perseverance that healing shouldn’t take more than three generations. The Germans and the Japanese achieved it in two.

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Teaching Your Children Solid Lies –1/2

Lies_My_Teacher_Told_Me_
This book, published almost 25 years ago and republished twice since, drew the curtain back on how young Americans were–and are–systematically lied to about their country’s history and its role in the world.

American High School History Classes Teach Mythology

In 1995 American sociologist James W. Loewen published Lies My Teacher Told Me, an essential book that illuminates the indoctrination that passes for education in American high school history classes. The book was so important that updated versions have been published twice since then.

Loewen’s methodology was simple enough: buy a dozen of the most popular textbooks of American history for 11th-grade high-school students, meticulously analyse each one of the books, compare them, evaluate them, and place them on the history-mythology continuum.

The results of this analysis reveal that mythology wins. The first priority of all these seminal books in the formation of young American minds is to foment “traditional American values,” not to teach the unvarnished facts of history.

Goodreads.com has this to say:

Marred by an embarrassing combination of blind patriotism, mindless optimism, sheer misinformation, and outright lies, these books omit almost all the ambiguity, passion, conflict, and drama from our past.

Racism, for example, is not mentioned in any of them. Slavery, in particular, was the driving force behind major events like the Louisiana Purchase and the Civil War. Loewen points out that, “as long as history textbooks make white racism invisible, neither they nor their students who use them will be able to analyze race relations intelligently.”

No Warts on America

Why do textbooks promote wartless stereotypes?” asks Loewen. “The authors’ omissions and errors can hardly be accidental.” He then chooses two paradigmatic figures from American history to illustrate his point: President  Woodrow Wilson, the 28th US commander in chief, and the remarkable blind and deaf humanitarian, Helen Keller. Wilson is known, and enters into high-school history books, as the altruistic promotor of the post World War I League of Nations and for his 14-points declaration which included  proposals to ensure world peace in the future, open agreements, arms reductions, freedom of the seas, free trade, and self-determination for oppressed minorities. Wilson even suggested that there would be another world war within a generation should the U.S. fail to join the League. Woodrow was quite the statesman and diplomat.

President Wilson’s Sinister Side

What few US high school history books mention is that Wilson was authoritarian and racist at home, having promoted the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition act of 1918, which Loewen refers to as “probably the most serious attacks on the civil liberties of Americans since the short-lived Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798.” Wilson, with his persecution of progressive causes–he promoted the notorious Palmer Raids against left-wing unions–and foreign interventions, paved the way for McCarthyism, the Patriot Acts,  and the disastrous invasions of Iraq. Under Wilson the US intervened in Latin America more often than at any other time in American history. Loewen cites an article published in the Saturday Evening Post in 1919, “After World War I, the Wilson administration’s attacks on civil liberties increased, now with anti-communism as the excuse. Neither before nor since these campaigns has the United States come closer to being a police state.” That was in 1919. Much “progress” has been made in the advancement of the American police state since then and we’re seeing the results of that progress on American streets today.

Helen Keller Was Much More

Helen Keller, Loewen’s other example, is portrayed in the history books as an admirable case of individual victory against tremendous odds, an American success story. Her activities recorded for American high-school students are limited to her remarkable educational achievements and her charitable work. But Keller’s life was much more remarkable than that. Loewen recounts:

She was a radical socialist. She joined the Socialist Party of Massachusetts in 1909. She had become a social radical even before she graduated from Radcliffe and not, she emphasized, because of any teachings available there. After the Russian Revolution she sang the praises of the new communist nation. ‘In the East a new star is risen!’ Gradually she moved to the left of the Socialist party and became a Wobbly, a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), the syndicalist union persecuted by Woodrow Wilson.

Inexplicably, none of this information made it into any history texts for American students.

The Shining City on the Hill,Champions of Self Deception

“The land of the free and the home of the brave…” begins to sound a little shopworn after watching children, forcefully separated from their families, imprisoned in wire cages on the evening news. As for “bravery,” that’s hard to detect in killer operations conceived in the White House, launched from underground bunkers in the Nevada desert by expert computer gamers and destined to take out terrorists, along with their mothers and children, their cousins, neighbors and the milk man on dusty streets of impoverished Middle Eastern countries. Emma Lazarus’ poetic fragment from the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” sounds like empty claptrap in a country that is more concerned with “free” markets than free people. But those distinctions elude most Americans today. To them “fraydom is fraydom,” whether delivered by lies or by drones.

The United States Armed Forces are there to safeguard those fraydoms. But there are some anomalies in that, too. Recently there was some talk inside the Trump administration of renting out American military units to the Saudis. Seen from a shrewd businessman’s point of view the deal would permit the US to recover some of their investments in “national security,” but they might have trouble explaining it to the mothers of American military personnel killed and maimed over there. In former times those deaths could be explained away as “in defense of American democracy” or “protecting the American homeland” but what American mother would sell her son’s or daughter’s life in defense of Saudi oil wells, war on Yemen, and bone saws?

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Which Shithole Country?

Trump_Shithole2

The Day “Shithole Entered the Presidential Lexicon

On January 11, 2018, during an Oval Office meeting with several U.S. senators about a new immigration package for immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador, and African countries, President Donald Trump inadvertanly opened a fresh controversy regarding just what constituted a “shithole country.” He didn’t elaborate on it. In fact, he later denied having said, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” (The Atlantic, Jan. 12, 2019)

Someone should ask President Trump what his criteria are for assigning countries to his “shithole” category. They may have to explain what “criteria” means… and that it’s plural because it’s Latin… Oh, never mind.

I think it’s safe to assume that a “shithole country” is a place where people live in a deep, dank hole that they’re not about to escape from any time soon. How did a series of unfortunate little countries get into that ugly situation? Was it just assigned to them by “history?” Not exactly, it’s about imperialism–first Spanish, then American. Those little countries were fine until the white man began to exploit them. And that exploitation–some of the cruelest in history–goes a long way to explain their ending up in dark holes. President Trump mentions specifically the cases of Haiti and El Salvador.

Columbus ravages Haiti
Christopher Columbus takes Christian values to the New World.

They hacked them to pieces, slicing open their bellies with their swords as though they were so many sheep herded into a pen.

The Western Hemisphere’s First White Supremacy

Haiti was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493 and named by him, “La Isla Espanola.” It was the venue for the Europeans’ first genocide of Native Americans. Because, contrary to American legend, Columbus was not a nice man and neither were his colonists. Within twenty-five years of Columbus’ arrival in Haiti, most of the island’s Taíno people had died from enslavement, massacre, or disease. En route to enslaving the entire population of the island–and exporting some of them to other islands–the Spanish regularly hunted down escaping islanders, murdered them and fed their carcasses to the dogs they had thoughtfully brought along with them from Spain. Today not a chromosome remains of  the DNA of the original inhabitants of what was to become Haiti.

Washington Post writer, Gillian Brockell, elaborates:

Bartolomé de las Casas arrived in Hispaniola in 1502, when he was 18. For decades, he participated in the mistreatment of the Taíno and the introduction of enslaved Africans, before renouncing it all, becoming a Dominican friar and confessing what he had witnessed in “A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies.”

“It is worth quoting him at length,” says Brockell, “this excerpt is very graphic:”
They [Spanish explorers] forced their way into native settlements, slaughtering everyone they found there, including small children, old men, pregnant women, and even women who had just given birth. They hacked them to pieces, slicing open their bellies with their swords as though they were so many sheep herded into a pen. They grabbed suckling infants by the feet and, ripping them from their mothers’ breasts, dashed them headlong against the rocks. (The Washington Post, Oct. 14, 2019)

Flash forward 500 years, and the Haitians are again experiencing problems of white supremacy. In 2004 the US State Department was not happy with Haiti’s newly elected–for the second time–president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. So they shipped him out–escorted by American diplomats to an American airplane–in a coup d’etat that cleared the atmosphere for American business as usual.

El Salvador Similarly Razed

More than 75,000 Salvadorans were killed in the fighting, most of them victims of the military and its death squads.

El Salvador is another classic case of brutal imperialism, and its perpetrators are still slithering around Washington. The prime example is the elderly neocon apparatchik, Elliott Abrams, recently recycled as the American envoy to Venezuela.  Abrams will always be remembered for trying to cover up before the American Congress the El Mozote massacre where, in March 1993, the Salvadoran Truth Commission reported that more than 500 civilians were “deliberately and systematically” executed in that village in December 1981 by forces affiliated with the Salvadoran government.

Time magazine says of Abrams:

Abrams, a longstanding neoconservative diplomat, served in the State Department during the Reagan Administration and played a key role in U.S. interventions in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala in the 1980s. He later joined the New York-based think tank, the Council on Foreign Relations, as a senior fellow. His appointment to oversee the U.S.’s response to the situation in Venezuela, where Trump has refused to rule out “a military option,” led many to raise concerns over his past dealings in the region, including his entanglement in the notorious Iran-Contra scandal. (Time, Feb. 14, 2019)

In the early 1980s the American clandestine services joined the illegitimate Salvadoran military junta in its struggle against the Farabundo Martí National Liberation front (FMLN)–a coalition of left-wing groups. The Americans financed, trained, equipped and transported the government troops. 

Raymond Bonner writes in The Atlantic, Jan. 20, 2018,

It was a civil war of the 1980s, one that pitted leftist revolutionaries against the alliance of countries, oligarchs, and generals that had ruled the country for decades—with U.S. support—keeping peasants illiterate and impoverished. It was a bloody, brutal, and dirty war. More than 75,000 Salvadorans were killed in the fighting, most of them victims of the military and its death squads. Peasants were shot en masse, often while trying to flee. Student and union leaders had their thumbs tied behind their backs before being shot in the head, their bodies left on roadsides as a warning to others.

This gratuitous “civil war” lasted for more than 12 years. An unknown number of people who were “disappeared” are included in the UN estimates of 75,000 victims between 1979 and 1992. The war ended with the Chapultepec Peace Accords, but in 2016 the El Salvador Supreme Court ruled that the 1993 amnesty law was unconstitutional and that the El Salvador government could prosecute war criminals. (Wikipedia)

Trump’s Dangerous Militarization of US Politics by Ishaan Tharoor 

The world’s sole superpower is starting to look like more fragile countries elsewhere. Trump and his loyalists are only the second camp in the Western Hemisphere this past month to entertain notions of domestic military crackdowns: Supporters of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro have urged a full-fledged takeover of the administrative state as the president faces a storm of controversies amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

Tharoor compares American racist horrror with the events of Tiannanmen Square in 1989. “Only under a dictatorship could such things happen, we say, forgetting OcoeeOpelousasTulsa, or Kent State.”

(The Washington Post, June 5, 2020)

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that the twisted conception of Latin American–and American–history held by American presidents since the promulgation of the Monroe Doctrine in 1823 is a series of “errors” and abuses that need clearing up. There may be a “shithole country” involved in the tragic stories cited by President Trump, but it’s neither Haiti nor El Salvador. Their roles were relegated, throughout their history, to those of simple victims of colonial savagery .

January 12, 2019 on The Daily Show

Trevor Noah sums it up in one minute, seven seconds:

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Why the Morbid Fixation on President Donald Trump?

Trump's iPhone.
President Trump has an iPhone with one ap: Twitter.

Are We Neurotic or Is He Too Much?

My wife wakes me up this morning at a quarter to six.
“Good morning, what is it?”
“Oh, nothing, never mind.”
“What do you mean ‘never mind?’ You woke me up to tell me something.”
“Yes, but it was about Trump, never mind.”

We–you, me, my wife and millions more around the world–are not neurotic regarding the threats posed by President Donald J. Trump. We’re gravely concerned. And we have cause to be worried. For the first time in our lives our fate is in the hands of an apparent megalomaniac sociopath who has stretched the already alarming degree of American executive power to the snapping point. We have seen him arrogate to himself powers that few previous presidents have ever considered: the power to lie obviously and repeatedly; the power to slander and ridicule his political opponents, the press and his own staff; the power to defy normal standards of decency and humanity. Gravest of all, he has in his right forefinger the  power to launch single handedly world history’s sixth great extinction. In reality, the “nuclear button” is not a button. It’s a briefcase. According to the Washington Post, the president is always accompanied by a military aide carrying a “football” with launch codes for America’s nuclear weapons. The football is a metal Zero Halliburton briefcase.

President Donald Trump personifies the quintessentially American saying: “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” His public image is deplorable for about half of America, but it could not be more highly esteemed by the other half. Whatever he says, whatever he does, he manages to keep the country–and the world–in thrall, as if we were all watching the evolution in slow motion of the same multi-vehicle car wreck. He has taken the American presidency into the realm of snuff films. It’s too sick, too outrageous to bear. But we can’t resist watching. And when he oversteps even his own limits, instead of apologizing, he doubles down. Nobody has ever seen, nor imagined, this sort of presidential behavior.

Trump’s Communications Strategy

It’s not clear where the idea came from but President Trump employs a novel medium for getting his presidential messages out to his following: the tweet. It’s perfect for his peculiar style of communicating as Twitter messages are limited to 280 characters (raised from 140 in November of 2017) and he rarely needs more space to express his narrow range of boasts, threats, insults, and dismissals. This communications channel is immediate, direct, universal and free. And it’s capable of reaching in real time the entire 81% installed base of smart phones in his country.

This system does, however, have two drawbacks for the president.

  1. It exposes him to ridicule for his fifth-grade spelling.
  2. It gains him criticism for his frequent temper tantrums.

But this is a small price to pay in exchange for direct, unedited access to the American electorate. We must never forget that President Trump has only one objective: reelection. Any other consideration is not even secondary; it’s non existent. His followers don’t seem to object, and the rest of the electorate is irrelevant for President Trump.

What’s more, the recipients of his tweets are not limited to Twitter users, as the American media–both mainstream and alternate– give them viral treatment, passing them on to you whether you like it or not. So the entire US territory–and a great part of the rest of the world–is treated to a permanent warm bath of the president’s smarmy banalities. Before we start feeling too superior in the face of this lowbrow communications campaign, we must remember an overriding fact: It works for him. It probably got him elected in 2016 and may do so again in 2020.

The President’s Act

Perhaps the greatest part of President Trump’s draw is due to the fact that he is unique among the world’s leaders, past and present. The world has never seen anything like him. His oafish part-clown, part-bully persona evokes different levels of shock and awe depending upon which part of the world is watching. In the more open and informal, English-speaking countries like Canada and Australia his messages and their curious presentation leave listeners either laughing or mildly horrified–or more often both. But in more traditional, straight-laced nations like Japan and China the President of the United States looks and sounds as if he were from another planet, which is not to say he’s not fascinating in the way a tornado ripping down Main St. is fascinating. Unfortunately for him, however, fascinating  is not the same as trustworthy.

President Trump’s manners are exaggerated and unusual. His barging, me-first gestures, his stiff, posturing body language and awkward speech patterns have prompted some experts in abnormal behavior to suggest that the president may be entering into senile dementia. An opinion article in USA Today from Dec. 2019 affirms:

If Donald Trump were your father, you would run, not walk, to a neurologist for an evaluation of his cognitive health. You don’t have to be a doctor to see something is very wrong. 

Troll

The Collateral Damage

At the same time that President Trump is mesmerizing the country and winning reactionary, corporate, and Evangelical votes with his grotesque stagecraft, something different is going on the wings. His hand-picked crew of anti-government trolls–picked for their simple-minded ideology and loyalty to Trump, not their expertise–is busy dismounting the American government as we know it. The running of a country as big and complex as the United States requires brilliant managers, specialists trained,  experienced, and dedicated.

These have traditionally been people who could have made more money in the private sector, but have opted for public service. That is to say, some of the best, and most capable and disinterested people in the country. To take them off the job and replace them with unqualified minions dedicated to following orders from a chain of command that leads ultimately to deep-state oligarchs, places the entire country in serious danger. It’s like pulling all the air traffic controllers out of America’s control towers.

Shouldn’t something be done? Obviously. One thing is a riveting spectacle, quite another a mortal danger to the entire world. The obvious solution would be that the American voters were to vote President Trump out of office. Could that happen? Theoretically, yes. But what if he were to lose the election–despite the sophisticated methods of election tuning at his disposal–would Trump go tamely? Or would he precipitate Armageddon? This is just one more fascinating question that holds the world in thrall and to which only the president has the answer.

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Get Out as Fast as You Can

Leaving_Trump

Americans, You’re in a Dangerous Place

Looking back at the essays I’ve written–more than 150 of them–for this blog over the past three years I note that in most of them there’s a tacit subtext for Americans: “Get out of there.” The United States is no longer a safe, healthy place for you to live and raise your children and grandchildren. Before it’s too late you need to get them out of the only country in the world where children wear bullet-proof knapsacks to school. And I’m not talking just about the obvious physical dangers such as police brutality; school shootings; violent racism, and the lack of a proper public health system. This factor alone has contributed to tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths of Americans during the  coronavirus emergency.

Even if those obvious dangers were not present the US would still be an unsuitable place to educate children. The reasons are less obvious but more cogent. The United States has a sick, false and ultimately dangerous value system. Americans overvalue things that are frivolous, irrelevant and inhuman and undervalue those that are essential to harmonious human life, things like altruism, civility, tolerance, and generosity.  They’re seeing more than ever now the results of twisted values on their streets and in their institutions. The brutality and inadequacy of President Donald Trump makes it easy for them to pass the blame to him. But President Trump didn’t make America; America made President Trump.

If you discuss the issues sincerely and dispassionately with a thinking person from any other country in the world, most of them will agree that today’s US is far down the road to moral, intellectual and economic ruin. It has been on that track for decades but, since President Donald Trump took office in 2017, the situation has spiraled out of control and the future looks even less promising.

A President for His Times

President Trump is the perfect prototype of what’s wrong with America. Any normalcy  that he might embody is overshadowed by his shady past, his lies, his conflicts of interest, and his unsettling stage presence. His lack of any normal social, intellectual and moral responses prompts people around the world to hold their heads in their hands and ask, “How is it possible for a person so bereft of normal human qualities to be elected president of what we have always considered the greatest country in the world?” This greatness may have been real 40 or 50 years ago, but not today. The only field on which the United  States can claim world leadership is the field of battle, though it’s not clear to what extent that superiority represents an advantage for them.

Despite spending sums that are galloping towards a trillion dollars annually, maintaining more than 800 military installations around the world, and boasting the world’s greatest fleet of killer drones, the Americans are still incapable of winning a war, not even in starving Yemen. They did not win in Irak and they are still grasping for an “honorable” way of backing out of Afghanistan after waging war against that impoverished country for more than a dozen years. Now they are rattling their missiles at Iran and Venezuela. In view of their track record, what do they expect to achieve, beyond lining the pockets of Lockheed Martin, Boeing and the rest of the select mob of American war profiteers? And let’s not forget the tremendous political clout those gentlemen wield.

This insistence on permanent war helps to explain the deficiencies faced by the American people at home: poverty, inequality, crippling racism, crumbling infrastructures and falling standards in public health and education, along with pre-civil-war levels of civil unrest. (I refer not to the last civil war, but to the next one.) These deficiencies and more have brought the people onto the streets and the country to its knees.

Consider How People Live in Other Countries

Comparisons may be odious but in this case I think it’s legitimate to look at the ranking of the United States among other nations and compare their conditions of health and welfare. The data that follow come from reliable international sources, many of them from the United States. Let’s start with overall health. According to the 2019 edition of the Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index, Spain is the healthiest country in the world, followed by Iceland, Japan, and Switzerland. The US is number 35 in the ranking. Life expectancy is also indicative of overall wellbeing. According to Worldography.info, who average the age for both sexes, the United States clocks in at number 46, with 78.11 years of life expectancy, just below Cuba and 44 other countries. At the top is Hong Kong with 89.29 years.  How does the US do in literacy? Andorra, Greenland, North Korea, and Uzbekistan enjoy 100% literacy rates as of 2015-16, according to the German site, citypopulation.de.  The Washington Post (Mar. 8, 2016) says under the headline Most literate nation in the world? Not the US, that the US has advanced from 11th to seventh place. That js a remarkably positive result for a country whose president refuses to read and is incapable of writing a proper sentence. This president may be a unique case in the entire world.

Other Benchmarks are Equally Telling

What about infant mortality? According to CIA.gov, the US ranks 36th (estimated data 2017) with 5.7 deaths per 1000 live births. These numbers are significantly bettered by countries such as Hungary (4.90), Poland (4.40), Portugal (4.30), Slovenia  (3.90), Spain (3.30) along with a couple of dozen more. Neither do the American results for electoral integrity fare very well in the world. “U.S. ELECTIONS RANK LAST AMONG ALL WESTERN DEMOCRACIES,” reads the headline on the electoralintegrityproject.com site (an electoral monitoring project run by Harvard and Sydney Universities) on January 7, 2017. The only ones, among western democracies, who held freer and fairer elections than the United States were everyone else.

Where the US is out front is in coronavirus deaths, where they y overtook China and Italy and currently lead the world with more than 106,000 fatalities.

That is to say, the US is slipping badly in vitally important areas, and these dismal results are not due to coincidence nor bad luck. They’re deliberately built into the American Way of Life and determine the condition of the majority of its citizens. That has not improved since the 1970s and cannot be expected to do so in the next generation or two. The American working class cannot recover because the deck is stacked against them by design. Before they are even born they are victims, via their parents, of a “constitutional democracy” that is little more than a mirage underpinned by a de facto oligarchy that pays pliable politicians, right up through the United States Congress, to unleash and protect predatory capitalism with all of its cruelest attributes. This includes the removal of economic and environmental regulations, gifts of massive tax cuts to corporations, as well as cynical multi-billion-dollar bailouts that include no corresponding equity for the citizens. At the same time they undermine workers rights at every step of the way. The coronavirus pandemic has only aggravated matters. A working family will be lucky to survive, let alone prosper. The voracious American oligarchy is exporting this slash-and-burn model of economic relations around the world.

Don’t Forget the Bright Side

The prospect of leaving the United States for good is not only about escaping an increasingly insufferable situation there. It’s also about the pleasant surprises that await you in your new country of choice. Yes, you can choose your country. What a revelation. We won’t dwell on that aspect here, but dozens of details of daily life will make you feel as if you’re living in a better, more civilized world–because you are.

Leaving your home country is a long-term project that entails formidable challenges. It’s not something that many people would do under normal circumstances. But these are not normal circumstances. And if you get it right the risks and efforts are more than worth the trouble. Take my word for it. I’ve been there.

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Closing note. I have not touched upon the nuts and bolts of self exile in this post. A few years ago I published a three-part article on my old blog which goes into those subjects. It’s a bit out of date but you will get the drift. You can find it here.

 

 

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For Crissake, General, Think of Your Grandmother

The Forgotten Human Factor in American Geopolitical Thinking

What do we have to do to remind American political and military leaders that all of their favorite bellicose initiatives–mainly wars but also “sanctions,” boycotts, blockades, regime-change ops, etc.–ultimately all fall on the backs of people, not abstractions. Those afflicted are schoolteachers and postal workers, mechanics and nurses, mothers and grandmothers, children and grandchildren. So when the McNamaras and Westmorelands, the Rumsfelds, the Wolfowitzes, the Cheneys, the Albrights, the Boltons and Abramses loose their indiscriminate–and curiously personalized–wrath on one country or another, be it Iraq or Venezuela, those who suffer aren’t politicians nor generals nor the institutions that make up “the country.”  Those who suffer are the grandmothers.

Don’t American politicians, strategists, bankers, industrialists and research scientists have grandmothers, or grandchildren? Or did all of these illustrious Americans just pop out of cyborg vending machines? If not, how can they justify the grief they engender with their perpetual quest for geopolitical advantage, for oil and gas, for arable land and fishable seas, in short, anything that can be “exploited.” When they’re calculating their troop depletion estimates do they also dial in the murdered and the maimed ballet dancers and flower vendors? Do they count the hungry children and the homeless refugees? What prompted Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, to make that spine-chilling comment in 1996 when she said on national TV that 500,000 Iraqi children dead from sanctions were “worth it.”

Merely a Monster?

Had she been smoking allspice or is she just a monster?  A few months later she was confirmed by the US Senate as Secretary of State and nobody even questioned her about this statement. Transporting 500,000 first graders would take 6,667 school buses, making a line more than 50 miles long. Albright’s father, the Czech politician and academic, Josef Korbel, was also the mentor of another hardliner, Condoleeza Rice. (Source: Democracy Now.com)

What’s wrong with these people? What have they got against humanity? What genetic deformation or failure in their upbringing makes them incapable of even considering the human factor? They are, after all, the coddled children of the richest, most advanced country in the world. They have always taken obscene privilege for granted. Can’t they remember their seventh-grade English teachers? Doesn’t it occur to them that the equivalent 50-year-old woman, also a teacher of English, who was carbonized from the air while riding in a collective taxi in Syria, was also a mother and grandmother? They can’t plead ignorance. They have some of the finest “intelligence” services in the world. Or do they consider it “just the cost of doing business?”

Is the wanton killing of innocent civilians really necessary? It may or may not be but it’s counterproductive. For every grandmother, son or daughter you kill, you create a tight-knit group of highly-motivated enemies whose mission–which will extend to coming generations–will be to kill Americans. So who benefits? Only the ghouls who profit from authorizing, creating and selling the Hellfire missiles used to atomize our grandmothers. In a sane country these “businessmen” would be put out to pasture to herd sheep and make cheese.

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