It’s Far Worse Than You Realize

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Trump, Trump, Trump…

It’s not only about Trump. He’s just the token tip of the American iceberg. Look beneath, that’s where all the serious–and seriously scary–stuff is to be found. Ironically, most of the players and issues that affect your lives in meaningful ways–both positive and negative–don’t make the papers much and, even if they did, Americans don’t read the papers as much as they used to.

So, what are the American people up against? They (you?) are facing a systematic undoing of laws and institutions, regulations and rights that have protected American citizens for many years. The following are just a few examples. Suddenly the Secretary of the Interior becomes the Secretary of Wrecking the Interior. How is this demolition operation going on? See this clip from the NY Times: 52 Environmental Rules on the Way Out Under Trump.

Trump’s Attorney General, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, (born in Selma, Alabama, 1946) is taking similar backward steps in the Justice Department. Here’s what USA Today had to say on the subject. And the Secretary of Education, Betsy de Vos (sister of Eric Prince, founder of Blackwater USA, now known, ironically it seems, as Academi) wants to use America’s schools to build “God’s Kingdom.”

What Is to Be Done

Obviously, the first and most urgent step in the treatment of the American domestic and geopolitical malaise is to remove President Trump from office before he and his merry band of trolls dismantles the American government utterly. This removal would have to be carried out by legal means, of course. Here’s a brief summary of the impeachment process: Article Two of the United States Constitution states in Section 4 that:

“The President, Vice President, and all civil Officers of the United States shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.” The House of Representatives has the sole power of impeaching, while the United States Senate has the sole power to try all impeachments. The removal of impeached officials is automatic upon conviction in the Senate.”

But who can guarantee that the Representatives would impeach President Trump or that the Senators who tried Trump would convict him? Far worse, supposing that he were convicted and ordered out of the White House are we sure that his rabidly loyal followers would obey the law and respect that eviction? They are, after all, the ones who own most of the unregulated guns in the United States and they appear to be prepared to use them. Yes, they probably could be overwhelmed by the Army but it would be one hell of a mess. Would it even come to a showdown between the Army and Trump’s unconditionals? Whose side would the police and the Army be on?

It’s Not Just Trump and His Trumpeteers

Now that we’ve got those sticky questions on hold, back to our premise: It’s not just Trump nor his atypical cabinet you’re up against. It’s the entire U.S. power structure. It’s the great lobbies, from the banks and arms manufacturers, big pharma and the NRA, to tobacco and the corporate media.  All of these interests are in the business of buying legislators in order to win them over to the lobbyists respective causes. How is this possible in the United States of America? It’s not only possible, it’s legal. This kind of government tampering in the form of lobbying was legalized by the legislators themselves.  This mercantile treatment of “democratic” power is, however, illegal in the rest of Western democracies.

Outside the U.S. everbody down to the last busboy in the cafeteria is acutely aware that when business interests start controlling their presidents, primer ministers, legislators and jurists, the essence is sucked out of their democracy, leaving it a “democracy” in name only. Is this to say that I am casting doubt here on the legitimacy of American democracy itself? Yes, that’s exactly what I’m suggesting.

Wait, there’s more. There are other powerful twisting factors that come from both home and abroad, the former principally from freelance amateur billionaire “activists,” wacky end-of-times religious groups and the Pentagon. Then there are the threats from from foreign countries. The first one that comes to mind is Israel. Their lobbying operation, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), represents the Likud-led Israeli government’s interests in the U.S.  One of several pro-Israel lobbying organizations in the United States, AIPAC claims more than 100,000 members, seventeen regional offices, and “a vast pool of donors.” The organization has been called one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the United States. Virtually all members of the United States Congress have sworn allegiance to the Israeli cause, with all of its ramifications.

Yet, what are the U.S. corporate media going berserk about? Russian meddling in U.S. elections. Naturally.

Strangleholds and Anti-Semites

Critics accuse AIPAC of being an agent of the Israeli government with a “stranglehold” on the United States Congress with its power and influence. Any attempt, no matter how tepid, to oppose the Netanyahu government’s policies is branded “anti-semitism” by AIPAC and the “offenders” are ostracised on all fronts. Consequently almost nobody opposes AIPAC. It’s too dangerous for anyone who hopes to have a political future in the U.S.

Everyone who has eyes to see–including the right-wing Israelis themselves–know that the main issue here is not racism against Jews. If there’s any racism involved it’s Israeli bias agains their neighbors, the Palestinians and Iranians. One suspects that, more than anything else, this has to do with Israel’s pressing need for lebensraum.

According to American Arms Manufacturers Not All Arabs are Bad Guys

This bias doesn’t extend to all Arabs, however, as the right-wing Likud Israeli government forms part of an unholy alliance with Saudi Arabia, to take over the Middle East, starting with Iran. The Saudis are the principal sponsors of radical Islamic proselitism and terrorism world wide. Where do the Americans stand on this issue? The American government has no objection. The Israelis are the Israelis, after all, and the Saudis are massively important buyers of U.S. arms.

Have you noticed that I haven’t told you anything here that you didn’t already know? It’s just the familiar litany of Trump & Company’s outrages and bloopers. Not quite; it’s more than that. To understand it requires at least rudimentary quantitive risk analysis. (What can go wrong? How likely is it to happen? If it does, what are the consequences?) Every one of President Trump’s oafish statements and egregious acts contributes to a ballooning cumulative effect. This constant stream of ignominy doesn’t add up in the form of an arithmetic progression (1+1+1+1+1…), rather an alarming geometric progression (1+10+100+1,000+10.000…) So the President’s next gaff, be it just another insult to a head of state (see Japan and North Korea) or support for an Israeli/Saudi attack on Iran, it just may be the straw that breaks the nuclear camel’s back.

Read the full story in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.

Thanks for commenting and sharing.

Is the Trump Tail Wagging the American Dog?–2/2

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In the Meantime What Was Happening at Home?

On the home front a set of similar phenomena was set in motion that led to a sea change in American values—induced, not natural. Little by little, principally but not exclusively under Republican administrations, priceless American values have been eroded beyond recognition.  Where they once had a measure of solidarity—“…unity of a group or class that produces or is based on a community of interests, objectives and standards…” Merriam Webster dictionary—the Americans now subscribe to the “every man for himself,” or “dog eat dog” philosophy. Where they once respected the hard-earned dollar they now lust after easy money. A majority of Americans used to believe in equality. Their racial politics are now turning increasingly racist or white supremacist. As for economic equality, that is a thing of the past. They have exchanged generosity for greed.

Remember open-mindedness? You might have noticed that it has largely given way to adherence to one orthodoxy or another. Simple kindness and good manners are yielding to bare-fisted rudeness and trumpulence. Truth telling, especially telling truth to power, is on the way out. It can actually be dangerous. As for the “official truths,” they are products of the most sophisticated systems of lying ever foisted upon the human race.

Critical Thinking, Anyone?

Where there once existed a healthy  current of critical thinking in the U.S.A., along with citizen activism and protest, that luxury is now relegated to admirable old timers like Noam Chomsky, Oliver Stone and a few others. The very word “think” has been debased with its use by the septic think tanks which abound around Washington. Now thinking has been replaced by blind faith. Common sense has become common nonsense, and knowledge belief. So much of the common currency in the U.S.A. is “faith based.” Too many people have forgotten—or never learned—that anything faith based is baseless. If you’ve been taught otherwise you’ve been duped.

Then there’s patriotism; what a tricky subject. Let’s try a Spanish approach to it. The Spanish have two words for two different varieties of patriotism. “Patriotismo” refers to the healthy love of country that exists around the world. They employ another word, “patrioterismo,” for patriotism wedded to aggressive nationalism, jingoism or chauvinism. This brand of patriotism is a favorite of demagogues who like to wrap themselves in the flag and appeal to voters’ prejudices and lowest instincts in order to advance the demagogue’s own political agenda. The American language doesn’t make this distinction but it should, as patrioterismo is rampant over there. Last but far from least is the most extreme—and dangerous—form of patriotism, that which implies full spectrum dominance, patriotism that kills. And there’s no shortage of that.

The Unasked Question

There is one last question that usually is left unasked. How did the powerful interests who dumbed down and vulgarized the American people get away with it? What was the secret that enabled them to steal, twist, degrade and substitute healthy, humane American values for cheap imitations based on consumerism, ignorance, greed and selfishness? It’s no secret really. It’s just good marketing, the same time-tested sales techniques that made the United States the greatest salesman in the world. Promise them dreams, promise them flash and pan, promise them fast online sex and easy money in financial services. Activate the powers of ego and envy. Pitch to the lowest common denominator. Who sells more, Walmart or Neiman Marcus? There you have it. That’s where America’s decency—and with it her greatness—went.

The United States Has Metamorphosized; Where’s the Butterfly?

So much for the metamorphosis of American values over the past half century and a bit. That’s what derailed the decent, “normal” America. Now to find a “decent, normal country” you have to go to places like Canada, or Europe, Australia or Japan. Japan is a country deeply steeped in centuries of pride and respect, a country where American President Donald Trump gave a speech the other day to their combined legislature, the National Diet. It was a solemn occasion. There the President of the United States admonished them in his own brand of diplomacy. He said, “Don’t underestimate me; don’t try me…”

With all due respect, Mr. President, you’re not on the streets of Detroit or Baltimore. You’re in a civilized country, addressing civilized people.

Needless to say, none of the respectful Japanese reminded him of that fact. Which is not to say they have forgotten what he said.

Go to the first part of this post

Read the full story in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.

Thanks for commenting and sharing.

Whom Can We Trust?–3/3

Here’s some more honest reporters that I think we can trust. See what you think.

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Tom Engelhardt

Tom Engelhardt created and runs the Tomdispatch.com website, a project of The Nation Institute where he is a Fellow. He is the author of a highly praised history of American triumphalism in the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture, and of a novel, The Last Days of Publishing, as well as a collection of his Tomdispatch interviews, Mission Unaccomplished. Each spring he is a Teaching Fellow at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.

Tomdispatch.com is the sideline that ate his life. Before that he worked as an editor at Pacific News Service in the early 1970s, and, these last three decades, as an editor in book publishing. For 15 years, he was Senior Editor at Pantheon Books where he edited and published award-winning works ranging from Art Spiegelman’s Maus and John Dower’s War Without Mercy to Eduardo Galeano’s Memory of Fire trilogy. He is now Consulting Editor at Metropolitan Books, as well as co-founder and co-editor of Metropolitan’s The American Empire Project. Many of the authors whose books he has edited and published over the years now write for Tomdispatch.com. He is married to Nancy J. Garrity, a therapist, and has two children, Maggie and Will.

To find out more about Engelhardt check out:

Harry Kreisler’s interview, “Taking Back the Word”, on the Conversations with History website.

More on Tom Englehardt: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Engelhardt

 

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Paul Jay

Paul Jay, is CEO and Senior Editor of The Real News Network. TRNN is independent of political parties, is viewer supported and not-for-profit. TRNN does not accept advertising, government or corporate funding. This funding model allows for uncompromising broadcast journalism. Now in start up phase, its mission is to be a daily video news service for a mass audience online and on television.

Prior to TRNN, Jay was for ten seasons the creator and executive producer of CBC Newsworld’s flagship debate programs, CounterSpin and FaceOff.

Jay has produced and directed more than 20 major documentary films including “Return to Kandahar”, Lost in Las Vegas and Hitman Hart: wrestling with shadows, a feature length documentary, that was screened in 25 major festivals and won more than a dozen awards. It’s been called “one of the most acclaimed Canadian films in years”(eye magazine), “A tale as bizarre as Kafka and as tragic as Shakespeare” (Ottawa Citizen) and “one of the best films of 1998″(Peter Plagens, art critic for Newsweek).

A past chair of the Documentary Organization of Canada, Jay is the founding chair of Hot Docs!, the Canadian international documentary film festival.

Video: On corporate media, Trump, climate, 9/11, Real News Network

 

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Naomi Klein

Naomi Klein is a Canadian author, social activist, and filmmaker known for her political analyses and criticism of corporate globalization and of capitalism. She first became known internationally for her book No Logo (1999); The Take (2004), a documentary film about Argentina’s occupied factories, written by Klein and directed by her husband Avi Lewis; and significantly for The Shock Doctrine (2007), a critical analysis of the history of neoliberal economics that was adapted into a six-minute companion film by Alfonso and Jonás Cuarón, as well as a feature-length documentary by Michael Winterbottom.

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (2014) was a New York Times non-fiction bestseller and the winner of the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction in its year. In 2016 Klein was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize for her activism on climate justice. Klein frequently appears on global and national lists of top influential thinkers, including the 2014 Thought Leaders ranking compiled by the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute, Prospect magazine’s world thinkers 2014 poll, and Maclean’s 2014 Power List. She is a member of the board of directors of the climate activist group 350.org.

Video:  The Worst is Yet to Come

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Amy Goodman

Amy Goodman is an American broadcast journalist, syndicated columnist, investigative reporter, and author. Goodman’s investigative journalism career includes coverage of the East Timor independence movement and Chevron Corporation’s role in Nigeria. Since 1996, Goodman has hosted Democracy Now!, an independent global news program broadcast daily on radio, television and the Internet. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Thomas Merton Award in 2004, a Right Livelihood Award in 2008, and an Izzy Award in 2009 for “special achievement in independent media”.

In 2012, Goodman received the Gandhi Peace Award for a “significant contribution to the promotion of an enduring international peace”. Goodman is the author of six books, including the 2012 The Silenced Majority: Stories of Uprisings, Occupations, Resistance, and Hope, and the 2016 Democracy Now!: Twenty Years Covering the Movements Changing America. In 2016, she was criminally charged in connection with her coverage of protests of the Dakota Access pipeline. The charges, which were condemned by the Committee to Protect Journalists, were dismissed on October 17, 2016.

Video: Covering the Movements Changing America

Thanks for commenting and sharing.

 

 

Whom Can We Trust?–2/3

More Honest Journalists Whose Word We Can Trust

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Patrick Cockburn

From The Independent--Patrick Cockburn is an award-winning writer on The Cockburn3Independent who specialises in analysis of Iraq, Syria and wars in the Middle East. In 2014 he forecast the rise of Isis before it was well known, and has written extensively about it and other players in the region. He was born in Cork in 1950, went to school there and in Scotland, took his first degree at Trinity College, Oxford and did graduate work at the Institute of Irish Studies, Queens University Belfast before shifting to journalism in 1978. He joined the Financial Times, covering the Middle East, and was later Moscow correspondent. He joined The Independent in 1990, reporting on the First Gulf War from Baghdad, and has written largely on the Middle East ever since.

Read more on Patrick Cockburn

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Pepe Escobar

Pepe Escobar is the atypical ace, refreshingly straight talking and erudite on current international affairs. He is the roving correspondent for Asia Times/Hong Kong, an analyst for RT and TomDispatch, and a frequent contributor to websites and radio shows ranging from the US to East Asia. Born in Brazil, he’s been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong.

Learn more about Pepe Escobar.

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Matt Taibbi

Matt Taibbi used to be merely the enfant terrible of The Rolling Stone. He still writes for Taibbi4them but now when he speaks people sit up and listen. His irreverence and straightforwardness makes him appeal to some and repell others. Taibbi’s history makes him different from most young American journalists.

He grew up in the Boston, Massachusetts, suburbs and graduated in 1992 from Bard College. After spending a year abroad studying at Saint Petersburg Polytechnical University in Russia Taibbi then worked there for six years. In 2000, he published his first book, The Exile: Sex, Drugs, and Libel in the New Russia

Here’s a video interview with Taibbi talking about his Donald Trump book.

 

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Seymour Hersh

American investigative journalist and political writer, Sy Hersh is so respected that, instead of phoning his sources for information, they phone him whenever they detect something amiss in the government. He won a Pulitzer Prize for his scoop on the My Lai Massacre in 1970 and was also the reporter who uncovered the abuses in the Abu Ghraib prison in an article for the NY Times 34 years later. Over his long career, Hersh received numerous honours including a Pulitzer Prize, and five George Polk Awards.

A protegé of the legendary I.F. Stone in his youth, Hersh rocked the Washington boat again with his 2015 article in the London Review of Books that cited Pakistani and anonymous U.S. sources —that U.S. officials and Pakistani governments, including U.S. Pres. Barack Obama, had disseminated a false version of the 2011 raid on the compound in Abbotabad, Pakistan in which Osama bin Laden was killed. Among the allegations made by Hersh was that the Pakistani intelligence service had been holding bin Laden prisoner since 2006 and that Pakistani officials knew about the raid before it happened. The Central Intelligence Agency and the Obama administration denied the allegations.

Video: The World According to Seymour Hersh, Part 1–Interview with Tarik Ali

Thanks for commenting and sharing.

Coming soon: Whom Can We Trust?–3/3

Whom Can We Trust?–1/3

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How to Find the Trustworthy Sources

You find them the way you find everything else, by doing your homework thoroughly and unhurriedly. There are a lot of sources out there who want to convince you to sign on to their agenda. How do you distinguish them from dispassionate, objective reporters?

A word of warning: The brief paragraph above is filled with quicksand and rip currrents and the odd toothy beastie. It gives the impression of neutrality, but nothing could be farther from the truth. The first source who wants to convert you to his progressive, socialist agenda is me. As for “dispassionate, objective reporters,” being on the front lines of international war and political reporting, seeing death, destruction and injustice day after day does not tend to make a person “dispassionate.”  If they’re proper human beings it makes them passionate.

That said, I don’t really hope to change many minds. Most minds are already made up. Still there’s hope in the long run. Max Planck, one of the world’s great physicists, is reported to have said:

“A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up familiar with it.”

While we’re on the subject of truth seeking, I recently ran across this from James Clear, dropped this jewel on the path in a blog post on Elon Musk, :

“Be wary of the ideas you inherit. Old conventions and previous forms are often accepted without question and, once accepted, they set a boundary around creativity.”

The reporting of reliable, balanced professionals, though scrupulously objective, is still only “objective” from their own point of view, from the subjects they cover to their editorial treatment of them. What is the best we can hope for, then? For me it’s important that they be honest men and women of good will. Then I will listen to them, and ultimately believe them. This is not a rapid process. I have to follow their work over a period of time, and weigh up everything they say, every value judgment they make, every stand they take. Only then do I accord them my trust.

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My List of Trustworthies

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Robert Fisk

fisk2Robert Fisk, for me, is the ultimate Middle East source, but not only that. He has an acute sense of history, on which he has written books. From  1971-75 he covered Belfast for The Times.

Fisk, born in Kent, UK in 1946 and with a PhD in politics from Trinity College, Dublin, has lived and worked as a correspondent in the Arab world for 40 years and covered Lebanon, five Israeli invasions, the Iran-Iraq war, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Algerian civil war, Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, the Bosnian and Kosovo wars, the American invasion and occupation of Iraq and the 2011 Arab revolutions.  He has impeccable connections all over the Middle East and further afield. He currently is based in Beirut and reports for The Independent since 1989. He has written best-selling books on the Middle East, including Pity the Nation and The Great War for Civilisation.

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Noam Chomsky

by Christian Garland in the International Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest

Noam Chomsky is a US political theorist and activist, and institute professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Besides his work in linguistics, Chomsky is internationally recognized as one of the most critically engaged public intellectuals alive today. Chomsky continues to be an unapologetic critic of both American foreign policy and its ambitions for geopolitical hegemony and the neoliberal turn of global capitalism, which he identifies in terms of class warfare waged from above against the needs and interests of the great majority.

Chomsky is also an incisive critic of the ideological role of the mainstream corporate mass media, which, he maintains, “manufactures consent” toward the desirability of capitalism and the political powers supportive of it.

Website: http//chomsky.info

Thanks for commenting and sharing.

Coming soon: Whom Can We Trust?–2/3

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