All posts by Gary Leupp

The Working Life of the Meat Packer in the Time of the Plague

End of the day, factory whistle cries,
Men walk through these gates with death in their eyes.
And you just better believe, boy,
somebody’s gonna get hurt tonight,
It’s the working, the working, just the working life

— Bruce Springsteen, “Factory” (1978)

President Trump, responding to meatpacking plant closures occasioned by COVID-19 has ordered the plants to stay open for national security purposes. No matter that over 20 U.S. meatpacking workers in the U.S. have died so far of the virus.

On April 7 Tyson Foods announced it was closing a pork processing plant in Iowa after  25 of its employees contracted the virus. In Pennsylvania, JBS, Empire Kosher and Olymel also cut production due to infection. Smithfield in South Dakota closed down a pork processing plant April 21 due to a virus outbreak.

But then Tyson’s CEO published on April 27 a New York Times op-ed pointing out how the closure of plants, demanded by workers and imposed by governors, was devastating farmers and jeopardizing the “national food supply chain.” (Expect to hear this term a lot; like “Homeland” it has warm reverential connotations.) The president responded with an executive order mandating their continued operation. How could the White House operate without the Big Macs and Kentucky Fried Chicken?

Lest workers refuse to go back to work under the circumstances, some governors now state that if they refuse they will be denied unemployment benefits. To maintain the profits of Tyson in Iowa, workers are in effect being ordered to their deaths by Gov. Kim Reynolds. While resisting University of Iowa researchers’ warning not to prematurely open the state’s economy,  she announced last week: “I you’re an employer and you offer to bring your employee back to work and they decide not to, that’s a voluntary quit. Therefore, they would not be eligible for the unemployment money.”

In other words, if you don’t trust Reynolds’ judgment, and Trump’s, and if you’re too cowardly to go back to work to make America great again, you are free starve in your apartment. Or once evicted, free to perish out on the street trying to maintain social distance while you beg. You have the right  to work, while scientists recommend that you don’t–not at least until there’s a lot more more testing. You have the freedom to choose, while scientists tell you the better choice before the vaccine is to stay at home. The liberty to return to normalcy, while scientists caution you it’s not safe until there’s a two-week period of daily infection decline (which is not happening).

Marx called the modern wage-worker “free.” More specifically, “free in the double sense, that as a free man he can dispose of his labour power as his own commodity, and that on the other hand he has no other commodity for sale.” The worker having no means of production themselves must exchange their labor power for wages; they have no choice but to “freely” bargain with potential employers over the specific terms of their exploitation.

What Marx often called “wage-slavery” has been oppressive enough since it became widespread in Europe in the sixteenth century. How much more so in times of plague, when a public health crisis exacerbates economic oppression. Here in Trump’s “reopening” of America we see capitalism exploiting the worker’s need to pay for rent and groceries (to sustain basic life) to force people back to work. It simultaneously risks–while expecting the worker to risk–death at an acceptable level so as to justify the reopening.

If you make ham-canning a national food supply chain priority, the assembly-line worker becomes a kind of soldier; why not expect each one to fatalistically accept the (low) possibility of death? For the country!

A key campaign in the history of the movement against wage-slavery was the movement in Britain and elsewhere for the Eight Hour Day. “Freedom” means in part free time, time to enjoy life between labor hours and sleep. In Capital, while discussing the history of workers’ movements to limit the workday, Marx makes his only reference to the Black Plague of the fourteenth century. He notes how peasants were able to use it to bargain for better labor conditions and a shorter workday. That is, a pandemic coincidently weakened the foundations of feudalism and, in England particularly, paved the way for the disappearance of serfdom.

Today’s pandemic has forced world rulers to order their workers to shelter in place, to preserve their lives and capacity to work in future. Now the issue is the timing of the return to some kind of normalcy, with some leaders (notably Trump) chomping at the bit to declare victory over the virus and lift social distancing. For workers the issue is the right to stay home, safe and supported, until they can return to jobs. (And beyond that, one should insist on the right of employment, along with the right to universal healthcare.)

One hopes that factory workers in this country including meatpackers will use this moment to demand maximal concessions from management on safety issues, health care, and even company ownership, etc.

MSNBC now reports a JBS plant in Greeley, Colorado is back to work, but workers deeply worried about the fact the there were five virus deaths thus far of workers at the facility. And that asymptomatic people may be spreading the disease. You just better believe somebody’s gonna get hurt. It’s the work, it’s the work, it’s the working life.

Mike Pompeo on the U.S. Victory in Afghanistan

The U.S. appears about to announce a peace agreement with the Taliban trading the withdrawal of U.S. forces for a Taliban commitment to exclude al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups from the country. (Presumably the Taliban themselves will be removed from the State Department’s terror list.) It has been under discussion for at least several years, attracting little journalistic attention.

It’s a deal that could in fact have been cut many years and many lives ago. The U.S. top brass concluded long ago that the war in Afghanistan was not militarily winnable (and indeed generating more “terrorism”). The Taliban whatever you think of it has an enduring, genuine mass base. The early project of building a functioning multiparty neo-liberal democracy failed; the Afghan president is merely the mayor Kabul; warlords retain their power; women are as subject to patriarchy as ever; sharia law still prevails. Islam is the state religion and conversion or apostasy is still punishable by death.

Most importantly, the Taliban has steadily expanded its base areas, controlling more territory in 2019 than at any time since 2001. It has thus forced the U.S. to negotiate in Oman, the UAE and Qatar. The U.S. has been forced to sue for peace because its total effort in Afghanistan costing the lives of 4000 U.S. soldiers and “contractors” and the lives of over 1000 allied troops has been defeated.

The fallen are all heroes who fought for our freedom, we are told.

Joe Biden recently told a campaign crowd a story about pinning a medal for bravery on a Navy captain in Afghanistan. Since he had virtually all of the facts confused, and was actually conflating three different events, he was roundly criticized by the media for Trump-like indifference to facts if not senility. His response?

Biden just doesn’t get it. “I don’t understand what they’re talking about, but [sic] the central point is it was absolutely accurate what I said….I was making the point of how courageous these people are. How incredible they are — this generation of warriors, these fallen angels we’ve lost, so I don’t know what the problem is. What is it I have said wrong?”

(Dude: what’s wrong — and absolutely inaccurate — is that you’re depicting all the soldiers who died in an unjust war, as heroes, just because it was a war waged by this country — or more precisely, by a section of its ruling class. The soldiers who died in Afghanistan are not fallen angels. They are victims of U.S. imperialism. This “generation of warriors” has been spawned by the military-industrial complex controlled by the 1% whom you represent. Most soldiers who fought in Afghanistan oppose the war and urge withdrawal. The fact that you assume your sloppy patriotism makes your sloppy memory a minor matter, that protects your memory lapses and “gaffes” from controversy, shows that are indeed out of touch.)

How to reconcile this misplaced hero-worship with crawling away with your tail between your legs?

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo puts a bright face on the agreement. In an interview with the Daily Signal he declares the mission accomplished: “If you go back and look at the days following 9/11, the objectives set out were pretty clear: to go defeat al-Qaeda, the group that had launched the attack on the United States of America from Afghanistan. And today, al-Qaeda … doesn’t even amount to a shadow of its former self in Afghanistan. We have delivered.”

It is thought that around 200 al-Qaeda were killed at the battle of Tora Bora, and that 100 to 600 escaped into Pakistan. The terrorist group disappeared from the country in 2002, except for some ethnic Uzbek affiliates who have been quiet. The U.S. “delivered” on that before the body-bags reached the hundreds. It could have withdrawn then, proclaiming success.

But then the toppled Talibs shocked the occupation forces (abetting Afghanistan’s “democratic transition”) by mounting an “insurgency” requiring a Vietnam-style “counter-insurgency” effort. As clashes increased, the Taliban regained territory, aided by the miserable record of the boy-raping national police force and regular defections from the incipient, ever under-performing Afghan National Army whose recruits have killed a shocking number of U.S. advisors. (These usually occur in resentment of the latter’s cultural insensitivity, par for the course of people who shouldn’t be there.)  The Trump administration inherited an expensive, unpopular, unwinnable war to remake Afghanistan as a U.S. satellite. And it decided reasonably to back out quietly, with minimal embarrassment.

But the Afghan embarrassment is historical reality. Thousands of U.S. and NATO troops died to defeat an insurgency provoked by a regime change imposed by U.S. leaders clueless of Afghan realities. They died meaninglessly, producing no good, no positive historical movement. Yes, in the course of the fighting brave men and women committed acts of heroism to save the lives of their comrades. They deserve medals. But so fucking what? Nazis committed heroic acts; German soldiers laid down their lives for other German soldiers in Russia and elsewhere. So did Japanese forces in China. They all deserved medals. So do the heroic Soviet soldiers who fought for the People’s Democratic Republic of Afghanistan with its noble socialist ideals, many of them by weapons given to jihadis by the CIA. The whole point of medals is to glorify war. But what were the warriors fighting to accomplish when they died?

German forces in Poland or Russia were not fighting for the German people, nor the Japanese forces in China for Japanese freedom. U.S. forces were not fighting to preserve any freedoms of yours or mine during their tours in Afghanistan, or Iraq, or Syria during this era in our history of comprehensive surveillance and assaults on the Constitution. Who is fighting to preserve our freedoms from the Deep State, the surveillance state, the Trump-state of random emergency powers and routine official lies?

The U.S. will leave Afghanistan, not guns blazing under a Mission Accomplished banner, but bitching and moaning about the ragheads’ backwardness and inability to follow instructions. They will bemoan the back-stabbing, illiteracy, hashish habits, poor hygiene, pederasty, cruelty to dogs, treatment of women, and lack of respect for the United States and all this wonderful generous country has done for them. The U.S. will accept a Saudi-like Afghanistan, governed my Islamist conservatives, content that at least al-Qaeda and ISIL won’t be welcome there.

The latter groups survive in Syria, Yemen, the Sahel, more than they ever did in 2001. The U.S. War on Terror that started with the bombing of Afghanistan Oct. 7, 2001, drove the Taliban from the cities by December, and drove al-Qaeda from Tora Bora the same month, massively encouraged al-Qaeda growth in Iraq (where it had never been), Yemen, and Somalia, while its spin-off ISIL has shocked the world by establishing, for a time, a state-like Caliphate based on unprecedented savagery and cruelty. The huge U.S. investment in recent years in quashing ISIL wherever it exists, has been necessary to mitigate the profound embarrassment of its actions in Afghanistan and Iraq that produced al-Zarqawi’s monstrous outgrowth of al-Qaeda in Anbar Province in the first place.

There remain more al-Qaeda in Idlib Province, Syria than might have comprised the whole of the network in 2001, bombed recently by uninvited U.S. forces but more contained by Russian and Syrian troops.

The evil that men do lives after them. The evil of the Afghan invasion and occupation—the evil of forgetting the Prime Directive and trying to reshape a nation at one’s will, the evil of imperialism itself—has lived on after the death of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, after the Special Forces assassination of bin Laden, after the death of Mullah Omar. It lives in the remnants of ISIL, founded by a militant fleeing Afghanistan for Iraq which, since it had been so gloriously destroyed by the U.S., was the perfect nursery for Islamist terror. And al-Qaeda remains, perhaps necessarily; if it didn’t exist, the U.S. imperialists would have to invent it.

Many of my freshmen students this semester were born in 2001. They have grown up in the shadow of 9-11, in an era of multiple wars that they realize are stupid, based on lies, waged at some level for some reason by capitalists for profit. They have grown up in a period of relentless U.S. provocation of Russia, through the ferocious expansion of the anti-Russian NATO military alliance. They reach adulthood in an America shorn of myth largely due to Afghanistan.

The Taliban never attacked the U.S. They cooperated with the U.S. on opium eradication and pipeline construction plans. They were never in cahoots with al-Qaeda in plans to attack the U.S. They offered in the month after 9-11 to turn over bin Laden to the U.S.; they did not, as reported, refuse. A clueless Bush-Cheney-neocon administration had no problem with topping the Taliban, claiming necessity. The Afghan War like the Iraq War was based on lies. The whole 21st Century has been based on those lies.

Now a chapter is ending, appropriately, with the honest recognition that the Exceptional Nation’s lies lead to bold murderous action followed, when met with local popular rejection, by the need for ignominious retreat. The Class of 2014 will witness the transition from either the era of stupid, doomed wars for regime change to one of rational quiescence or a leap into John Bolton’s world of blissful chaos.

“We have delivered” ruin and shame under Bush, Obama, Trump.  The victor is the world that has successfully resisted, in many different ways, U.S. domination since the 9-11 episode. That includes the intrepid Taliban — horrible people no doubt, but much less threatening to me or you than Donald Trump, Bolton or Pompeo.

“Based on the Fact She Won’t Sell Me Greenland, I’m Staying Home”

Denmark, by all reports one of the happiest, most affluent societies on earth, retains a symbolic monarchy for patriotic purposes. One of the Queen’s duties is to invite foreign leaders for state visits.

So Margrethe II did the politically normal, correct thing and invited the U.S. president. She knew, of course, from her briefings that Donald Trump has a reputation for ignorance of history, contemporary geopolitics, military matters, etc., and has a tendency to insult his hosts.  She knew it would be awkward; perhaps she’d chatted with Elizabeth II about her recent experience. But Denmark is a close NATO ally and treats U.S. leaders to pomp and ceremony as a matter of course.

Margrethe probably did not expect that two weeks before the scheduled visit Trump would indicate interest in purchasing the huge island of Greenland. The Danish foreign minister and then prime minister would first decline to take the proposal seriously,  dismissing it as a joke (surely the polite response). At first it was funny.

But as time passed, and it dawned on the Danes that maybe the Emperor with No Clothes was serious, they had to state firmly, politely, lest there be any confusion: “Greenland is not for sale.”

The queen could not have anticipated that the U.S. president, his feelings deeply hurt, would abruptly cancel the visit, tweeting towards midnight August 20:

Denmark is a very special country with incredible people, but based on Prime Minister Mette Fredericksen’s comments, that she would have no interest in the purchase of Greenland, I will be postponing our meeting in two weeks for another time…

Yes, this is really happening. The president of the U.S. cancelled a state visit to Denmark because its prime minister ruled out the U.S. purchase of a vast autonomous territory inhabited by 55,000 people who enjoy autonomous rule, which has been owned by Copenhagen since at least the eighteenth century.

Trump has judged Fredericksen, and found her wanting.

“…based on…comments that she would have no interest….”

Surely any true friend of the U.S. would want to assist in its territorial expansion!

“…in the purchase of Greenland…”

As though the natural default position would be to want to sell that island to the owner best able to USE it wisely!

“I will be postponing our meeting…”

To register Trump’s disappointment in the Danes, and make them feel bad for annoying him, provoking him with their reflexive rejection of his proposal, and to force them to duly RESPECT the country that pays for their protection (since Denmark only pays under 1.5% of GDP on “defense” and Trump demands 2%, stupidly alleging the U.S. makes up the difference), and allow more time for behind-the-scenes negotiations for the deal, he must postpone the fairly imminent state visit that has already cost Denmark many millions to prepare.

This is perhaps Trump’s most idiotic tweet ever. He is both asserting the U.S.’s virtual right to acquire more territory as it did in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, through applying irresistible pressure, and his right to retaliate, even against close allies who thwart him, even in his wildest ambitions.

The man is not all there. To pick a fight with Denmark, an ally so abjectly loyal that it backed the criminal Iraq War and lost troops in both that and the Afghan occupation, and has steadily promoted U.S. interests within NATO, would not seem to make any sense.

To pick the fight over Greenland would seem especially stupid. The resource-rich island is self-governed, for the most part by Inuit people who have no interest in becoming colonized by the U.S. (Trump again highlights his racism by ignoring this fact.) The Danish government does not have the legal power to sell Greenland even if it wanted to.

To tweet so fretfully, childishly, announcing that, if he can’t have Greenland, he’ll take his toys and go home rather than have tea with the Queen, is just pathetic.

Think the Europeans: “Such a stupid little boy.” Scandinavians in particular, maybe. There’s a good word in Old Norse for Trump: oaf.  It meant the half-witted idiot-child of an elf. Danes are models of equanimity and courtesy, features of civilized society.  Fredericksen mentions that preparations for the visit had been well underway. Why waste more money? The Danes have a low national debt and a reputation for rational budgeting; they don’t like to throw money away on frills.

Copenhagen should do the right thing in response to an insufferable diplomatic discourtesy and revoke the damn invitation. Be Lutheran about it, say: Ich kann nicht anders. We have no alternative—but to unwelcome this oaf.

Or go ahead—but add conditions for a rescheduled visit. This could be the right time to reopen the question of Virgin Islands ownership. From the 1660s the Danish West Indies (Virgin Islands) provided many African slaves to the British North American colonies and then the new republic. Denmark sold the Islands to the U.S. in 1917.

But then look what happened! Trump’s friend Jeffrey Epstein established his Pederasty Island and entertained global royalty there. It’s time to discuss returning the Virgin islands to more responsible Danish sovereignty.

Her Majesty and the prime minister should inform Donald Trump that his visit will only be welcome if he is willing to discuss not just Greenland but multiple ongoing territorial issues between the two countries. They should prepare by burning mugwort, pine and juniper throughout Copenhagen and the visit’s venue before, during and after the unfortunate, burdensome, irritating, pointless event.  This will help purify the atmosphere.

Thoughts on Greenland

Greenland was given its name by Erik the Red, the Norwegian who, after settling in the Viking colony of Iceland in the 960s, sailed west and in 982 discovered the huge island.

(There were people there already — Inuits, a people of Siberian origin scattered across northern North America. But it took a while before the Scandinavians and the indigenous met. This was not an early instance of European imperialism and the colonization of indigenous subjects so much as a quest for arable land and expression of medieval Nordic wanderlust.)

Greenland was an ice-covered wilderness, not green at all. Calling it Greenland was an expression of dry Nordic humor, and an advertising ploy. Erik wanted settlers for this newly discovered land, and they did come, from Norway and elsewhere.

Erik’s son was the famous Leif Erikson, who sailed further west and reached what is now Newfoundland, in Canada, although the Vikings established no permanent settlement on the continent.

(Always remember:  Columbus was not the first European to “discover” the New World. The Vikings preceded him by half a millennium. So might also, by the way, some Celts and Basques.)

All of this is a matter of Scandinavian pride. Of one-quarter Swedish and three-eighths Norwegian ancestry, I myself am proud of it. Proud of the record of Viking exploration and trade, if not the brutal piratical raids. Proud of those Viking ships, marvels of efficient design. Proud of the fact that Scandinavians were the last Europeans to be Christianized; they held out heroically but capitulated eventually. Erik the Red was upset when son Leif tolerated Christianity in Greenland, ca. 1000.

Proud of the fact that both documentary and DNA evidence places my ancestors in Hordaland province, Norway, whence many of the Viking raids and voyages were launched.

I have cousins who legally changed my mother’s maiden name (Nelson) to “Nilsson” supposedly to be more authentically Scandinavian. I find this unnecessary. But I did name my only son Erik, with an emphatic K to make it clear this is not a British Eric but a Nordic one.

Greenland’s on my mind, of course, because the U.S. president has let it be known that he might want to buy the island. Then it would become part of my country. The romanticism of that! Trumps acquires the Viking island for the United States and I take my son on a pilgrimage to Erik the Red’s grave. (There is none, but one could be found and hotels soon established to handle tourist traffic.)

The hotel staff would likely reflect the local demographics — over 80% Inuit, or part-Scandinavian, part-Inuit. And my son Erik is half-Japanese. We could celebrate Viking achievement without wallowing in white nationalist pride.

But I suspect Trump’s white nationalism impels his (already repelled) initiative. (His interest, by the way, is not all that preposterous or unprecedented; President Harry Truman had been interested in 1946 in buying the huge, lightly-populated island sporting a U.S. Air Force base from Denmark. The Danes said no thanks. The U.S. has expanded historically through purchases of territory from France, Britain, Russia and other countries.)

Trump has a special admiration for Scandinavians. Why? Because they are quintessentially, famously, obviously white…no one whiter in this world!

Look at the map and imagine a White America spreading across the hemisphere to the world’s largest island (which geographers consider part of North America). (Never mind that the inhabitants are mostly descendants of people from Siberia, who crossed the Bering Strait after the major wave of Native Americans passed from Russia to Alaska thousands of years earlier.) Think of the white Danes in an impressive ceremony turning over the torch to Donald Trump, entrusting to him the development of Greenland’s rich resources.

Trump could then recruit white people especially from Scandinavia to better populate the island and exploit its rich natural resources. Icelanders — constituting one of the world’s most isolated genepools, with almost everyone descended from Norse ancestors with some Celtic thrall admixture — live nearby and could be coaxed to resettle in the U.S. Greenland Territory, preparing it for eventual statehood. It would be an almost all-white state due to policy and African-Americans’ sensitivity to the Arctic cold.

Ah, but I am fantasizing. The Danes and Greenlanders are laughing at Trump, joking about him — as would Hans Christian Andersen, as an emperor with no clothes. Or they’re indulging in angst over the man’s mental meltdown, as perhaps Soren Kierkegaard might do under the circumstances.

Or reflecting — as did Prince Hamlet (in Shakespeare’s depiction, “the melancholy Dane”) — that the “oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely” and “the insolence of office” while intolerable deserve resistance (as opposed to the “bare bodkin” of suicide).

They perhaps see in the foreign berserker a type like to that of their old King Canute (Knud) who once famously commanded the incoming tide to halt, to test the power of kings.

Embarrassingly, according to the legend, the tide didn’t halt for the king. The king conceded his limitations. Greenland’s not for sale, and — to emphasize the positive — President Trump again made an ass out of himself in even bringing it up.

Ten Things We are Asked to Believe about Jeffrey Epstein’s Death

We are asked to believe the following basic “facts” about the pedophile [Strictly speaking, pedophilia is sex with prepubescent children, generally before age 13 — DV Editor] philanthropist’s death, some more credible than others:

1. On August 23, Jeffrey Epstein attempted suicide in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan. (But it was reported at the time that Epstein may have been attacked by a fellow inmate in jail, and the matter was not well covered in the press.) The coroner handling Epstein’s autopsy notes that this attempt has “never been definitively explained.”

2. Epstein was consequently placed on suicide watch, subject to intensified monitoring.

3. On August 29, he was for some reason removed from that suicide watch, although still subject to monitoring every half hour; and the rules called for him to have a cell-mate. Pundits have suggested that he protested the increased intrusiveness and asked to be removed, but I have seen no evidence of this.

4. At some point–the day before by one report–for some reason the cell-mate was removed, in violation of the rules. One report says he was released from jail.

5. On the night of August 10, Epstein hung himself with a sheet attached to the upper bunk of a bunk bed, by leaning forward on his knees. (He was not supposed to have shred-able material in his cell.) The autopsy shows two broken bones in his neck consistent with strangulation–but more common in homicidal strangulation than those self-performed.

6. The corporate press suggests that Epstein wanted to kill himself. (But he had been spending a lot of time with his lawyers possibly discussing how to minimize his likely sentence by spilling the beans on his friends. He had been avoiding contact with other prisoners, possibly fearing attack; see point 1 above.)

7. Epstein was able to commit suicide while not one but two different guards were sleeping on the job, during an interval currently reported as three hours, and then tried to cover up by falsifying the record. A colossal failure, especially when combined with the lack of cell-mate and availability of material that could be used in a suicide. But surely not willful or planned; it was due to under-staffing, under-funding, too much overtime, prison workers sleeping in their cars, recruitment of unqualified prison guards…

8. The Justice Department is responding to Epstein’s death responsibly. The warden of the MCC has been “reassigned” within the Bureau of Prisons and two unidentified guards have been placed on administrative leave, following Attorney General William Barr’s expression of displeasure at Epstein’s death.

9. The truth will be revealed by the FBI investigation. (But what a peculiar irony that the Justice Department that controls the FBI is headed by Barr, whose own father Donald Barr hired Epstein for his first job, teaching at a Manhattan high school where he got a reputation for paying inordinate attention to his girl students in the 1970s. And recall that Barr became a member of the law firm in Florida that arranged Epstein’s 2007 plea-bargain.)

10. To think that the demise of Epstein is anything other than what the MCC has reported, and echoed by the mainstream press–as a suicide–is to engage in wild-eyed “conspiracy theory.”


Okay, fine. Tell me if the above isn’t an accurate summation of the official account. But some comments:

Never mind that in 2008 billionaire [To be accurate, a half-billionaire — DV ed] Epstein was able to negotiate via his lawyers including Alan Dershowitz (who has been implicated in Epstein’s crimes by one accuser) and Kenneth Starr and with the cooperation of then-Miami prosecutor R. Alexander Acosta (former Secretary of Labor who as you recall resigned in shame over his role in the plea-bargain Epstein was able to pursue in Florida at that time) a crazily lenient verdict understandable only as a statement of billionaire white male privilege.

Never mind that the list of powerful men (and women) known to have been close to Epstein, flown on his jet, attended his parties, and/or visited his island includes such names as Bill Clinton, Prince Andrew, Bill Richardson, George Mitchell, Alan Dershowitz, Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, Erik Prince, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed, and Donald Trump. (That has nothing to do with any of the above. Think logically and avoid sensationalistic conclusions!)

Never forget that powerful wealthy men often lie and that Big Lies are common in our era. Recall how Dick Cheney, after the Big Lie that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction justifying the vicious, criminal, disastrous U.S. invasion and occupation had been discredited, attributed the embarrassment to “intelligence failures.”

Human error. Gosh, someone screwed up! Similarly, the MCC now says: Gosh. These two poor tired incompetent clowns messed up somehow, dozing off while the most important inmate in our custody hung himself; so sorry, will never happen again.

Never underestimate the cleverness of evil. To take labor issues (long hours, overtime, exhaustion, low pay, schedules causing employees to sleep in their cars) and attribute the–posited–successful suicide to them, is to tap into public sympathy for the prison guard as worker. It is to make the whole MCC facility the victim–of underfunding–and to appeal for sympathy for the poor prison guard sleepyheads (who may not, we’re now told, have actually been trained prison guards) in their merely human failures.

The image of the snoring bumbling fool is a powerful antidote to the image of the underpaid employee-cum-conspirator paid to look the other way during a quick operation in which someone strangles the prisoner and arranges the sheet to indicate suicide.

Not that it’s immediately relevant, but do not underestimate the moral depravity of a U.S. president unwilling to recognize and condemn the murder of Jamal Khashoggi ordered by the above-mentioned MsB, or his unrivalled power to act against any perceived threat to himself–including from Epstein, whom one California woman has stated both Trump and Epstein raped here when she was 13.

Do not imagine that a president, who may indeed have violated an underage girl with Epstein in the 90s, once boasted publicly of his friendship with a man who likes “very young” women, has deliberately in often juvenile fashion sought to promote his reputation as a Lothario, is plainly amoral and methodically dishonest, is reckless regarding rules, and surrounded by sycophants and yes-men, would be incapable to authorizing something like what his Saudi friend did some months back.

Never mind any of that. The suicide thesis is so rational, the foul-play thesis just too farfetched. Let us denounce conspiracy theories and accept the judgment call of the CNN and MSNBC news directors. They will (unless they see immediate evidence for a Trump involvement) stick with the suicide story.

But if they smell blood in the water, post-Russiagate, they will hone in on any further evidence of Trump-Epstein ties to produce impeachment hearings more explosive and interesting than those that once revealed blowjobs involving consenting adults in the Clinton Oval Office.

Kenneth Starr, the special prosecutor who persecuted Bill Clinton for his relations with Monica Lewinsky, then went on to defend his pedophile friend Jeff, may have skeletons in his own closet. Would it not be fair for him to suffer too, as the FBI investigates, and the Congress probes, and Epstein’s victims start speaking out in court?

MSNBC and the Next Election: Racism is the Issue

After Donald Trump unexpectedly won the 2016 election, the Democrats and the mainstream media they shape sought to explain the disaster as a result of Russian meddling. Such meddling, which had been alleged for months, was documented in an (unconvincing) intelligence report prepared by the lame-duck Obama administration, made public Jan. 6, 2017; Congress followed up, demanding the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate Russian interference and possible collusion between any Russians and the Trump team. After two years the report concluded that there was no evidence of collusion, causing many downcast looks among news anchors reporting the bad news. Suddenly Trump’s impeachment–for which the MSNBC and CNN anchors openly cheer–looked less likely.

I for my part was happy to see closure to the Russiagate farce. (If in fact that has happened. Some seem hell-bent on never letting it die.) It was all along an opportunistic application of Cold War Russophobia to the effort to topple Trump. It had been painful to watch so many Democrat Party shills, including progressive African-American women, railing about Russian interference in “our” elections as though this had truly happened, was an “attack on our country” and had brought Trump to power! Nonsense.

We hear little lately about Trump and the Russian connection; it’s now all about Trump and the people of this country. The current case for impeachment rests on Trump’s racism (now routinely referred to by reporters, matter of factly, in their “objective” news reporting), his divisiveness, his spreading of hate. This racist category pertains to Trump’s cruel treatment of immigrants, his fear-mongering about an “invasion,” his targeting of African-American critics, his declared “nationalism,” his dog-whistle appeals to the white nationalists, etc. Trump has been accused of racism for years but never so routinely, journalistically.

The solution to Trump? The most conservative Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden, who claims he’s the best option to defeat the racist, polarizing president and bring people together again. Credit Card Joe is surely Wall Street’s pick, and he’s the apparent favorite of the DNC. (Biden presided over the gay wedding in May 2017 of DNC treasurer Henry R. Munoz III.) He preaches a return to normalcy, declaring that if Trump has one term, it will call the Trump era something that will “go down as an aberration, an anomaly. But eight years will fundamentally change the nature of who we are.” So let’s avert disaster, and return to the responsible government we enjoyed in the Obama-Biden period!

The Democratic Party has long been the more anti-racist party, championing civil rights laws, recruiting people of color. It has become increasingly the party of identity politics, sometimes at the expense of progressive economic politics. It radiates pride in its promotion of racial and gender equality, just as the Republicans project pride in their promotion of a traditional white-dominated America based on love of God and country.

Targeting Trump as a racist makes sense, of course, it being the truth. He is not one of the most egregious type of racists, overtly embracing a Nazi-like ideology. But he has discriminated against African-Americans in his real estate businesses, used the n-word, questioned a Hispanic judge’s objectivity in handing a case involving himself, praised “both sides” in Charlottesville, used highly offensive language in tweets attacking women of color. He himself of course has said repeatedly that he is “the least racist person on earth,” while (in his usual “counterpunch”) accusing Rev. Al Sharpton of being (presumably anti-white) racist. He is too old, too disconnected, too surrounded by racist strategists, too insensitive to see the racism in himself.

The question is: if Trump’s racism (as opposed to the now-discredited Russian ties, or other issues including his wreaking destruction on the world economy; dangerous foreign policies implemented by a gutted, understaffed State Department; manifestations of mental illness) becomes the key charge, whether in the impeachment hearings more and more Democrats crave, and/or in the election next year, how will Trump’s forces react?

One imagines the Trump supporters include self-defining, proud racists, white supremacists. But surely most would deny being racist, and probably argue that Trump’s tweets if sometimes over the top aren’t racist either. We’re talking about maybe more than half the white population. (Trump won 58% of white non-Hispanic votes in 2016.) Polls do not indicate that Trump’s base is dissipating; they have not been so dismayed by his racist words and policies that they would abandon him.

We thus have a society more polarized than ever in recent history on matters of race. At least a third of the people are comfortable with Trump’s characterizations of Muslims and Mexicans. Decades of work by progressive and radical left groups has produced landmark legislation and considerable positive social change. But part of the country has either been unmoved by all this, or rejected it in part; white fear of blacks and Hispanics advancing at their expense, or acquiring to much influence in popular culture, remains a powerful political phenomenon. White supremacist groups seem to be growing.


I see MSNBC has become positively hostile to Bernie Sanders, absurdly comparing him to Trump as a populist appealing to the alienated with vague proposals for change, notably universal health care, which the anchors pooh-pooh as unrealistic. They keep repeating that Bernie has been dropping in the polls without mentioning how they are doing their best to make that happen. By rooting for Biden in general, but also Warren, Harris, and Buttigieg, as acceptable alternatives to Biden. But not Bernie.

MSNBC was instrumental in getting Trump the Republican nomination. Joe and Mika treated their friend with kid-gloves in 2015, perhaps hoping with John Podesta, whom we know from a leaked memo wanted Trump or Carver to get the nomination (as an easy defeat). MSNBC and CNN both favored Hillary Clinton all along during her campaign and worked both to limit Sanders’ exposure and to dismiss him as a mere hero to quixotic youth.

MSNBC repeatedly denounces “socialism” in principle, in general, treating the very word and concept as “toxic.” (MSNBC is one big advertisement for the conclusion that, goddam it, kids, socialism is dead!)

But racism is alive, and Trump is the Racist-in-Chief! So vote for someone who can win against him! That means maximum outrage at Trump and his tweets, minimal attention to the capitalism he personifies. Anybody who can defeat Trump! Danny Deutsch, host of an MSNBC program, “marketing professional” and political commentator in Morning Joe, has actually said on air that he would vote for Trump over Sanders. Capitalism over socialism, even bogus-socialism. Don’t even use the word, he says.

But, whatever the DNC thinks, capitalism is in fact the central issue, and those who understand this, and understand the need for some form of socialism, should not shut up in deference to capitalist propagandists like Deutsch and the whole MSNBC crew that reflects its advertisers’ ruling-class ideology. How could it be otherwise?

Just as the workers of the world have no country, we in this country have no anti-capitalist party poised anywhere close to a seizure of power. We have the two-party capitalist rot, with the party in power increasingly (if not quite) fascistic, the other evermore politically correct and rooted in identity politics but loath to take on Wall Street or even discuss the real problems.

“Don’t be silly,” laughed DNC head Debbie Wassermann-Schultz in 2016, as Bernie won primary after primary. “Bernie will never win.” How silly to think MSNBC would now give respectful treatment to Sanders.

Let pompous Joe pontificate and mild Mika mumble sweet encouragement as they both try to impose Biden on the people. Assuring us he’s still favored in the polls. Glossing over his gaffes. Doing for Biden what they did for Clinton, this time working to end the anomaly and restore–what?–law and order? Biden and Harris both have strong records on that.

The Japan-Korea Semiconductor Flap

South Korean companies (Samsung and SK Hynix) produce about 17% of the world’s semiconductors. To manufacture these, they’re dependent on imports of Japanese hydrogen fluoride gas, fluorinated polyimide, and photoresists. Japanese firms control 90% of the polyimide market needed for screen applications, so the relationship between these neighboring prosperous northeast Asian countries is crucial to the operation of global communications.

Japan has begun restricting exports of these products to South Korea, in response to a South Korean Supreme Court decision in 2018 requiring Japanese firms to compensate involuntary Korean labor during the colonial period (1910-45). President Moon Jae-in is not responsible for the court decision but his nationalist Democratic Party supports it.

This is a big story, largely eclipsed by Trump-related stories in the U.S. media. It involves the 3rd and 11th largest economies in the world, and the countries which host the first and third largest number of U.S. troops abroad (56,000 in Japan, 25,000 in Korea; compare 35,000 Germany). The United States, Japan and South Korea are linked by a military alliance directed against North Korea, China, and Russia. They hold joint military operations regularly. These operations are threatened by this flap.

Tokyo points out that the 1965 treaty between the two countries settled any Korean outstanding claims for reparations—about $800 million at the time. Tokyo refuses to pay more, lest a precedent be set, and China also be prompted to make demands not already resolved in 1972. Tokyo has called for international arbitration in the wake of the court decision, but Seoul has refused. In response to the court ruling, which particularly targets Nippon Steel and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Tokyo has removed South Korea from its “white list” of 27 countries that receive expedited treatment in trade transactions. (There is no direct causal relationship, but it’s understood Japan wants to punish Seoul for the annoying court decision.)

This means that there will be months-long delays involving paperwork, and deliveries of the above-mentioned commodities from Japan to South Korea will not be guaranteed. Stock values in alternative microchip providers in the U.S.(Intel)  and Taiwan (Taiwan Semiconductor) has soared. Largely ignored by the western press, this is a serious trade conflict occurring while Korean nationalism on both sides of the DMZ is at an all-time high, along with sympathy for reunification.

Meanwhile Japanese public opinion is disturbingly anti-Korean. 56% of those polled say the economic retaliation to the court decision was appropriate. The Koreans are depicted as unreasonable, unable to accept multiple sincere, even abject apologies from Japanese prime ministers and emperors for the legacy of Japanese colonialism, insistent on focusing on the past, insatiable in their demands for Japanese compensation. They are just anti-Japanese. Shigataganai. It can’t be helped. (Such sentiments reflect the widespread ignorance, hence insensitivity, in Japan, regarding the painful impact of Japanese colonialism on Korea between 1910 and 1945.)

Trump’s threat to annihilate North Korea (and hence the entire peninsula) caused the two Korean leaders Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in to meet and sign a series of agreements lowering tensions on the peninsula. South Koreans were the intermediaries in preparing the Trump-Kim summits. The best way for the Koreans to obtain the “spiritual victory” over Japan they have proclaimed over the current standoff, is to reunify, withdraw from the tripartite military pact with the U.S. and Japan, and expel the 30,000 U.S. troops.

The threat to the South Korean economy posed by Japanese actions could impede Moon’s Korean reconciliation policy; if Moon falls, the plans for railway links and renewed trade ties could suffer. Or Japanese hostility could encourage Korean unity. Seoul and Pyongyang will always unite in condemning Japan.

One missing element in the evolving crisis is U.S. involvement. The State Department is understaffed, Trump ignorant and indifferent. John Bolton was dispatched to Seoul, not to discuss the Japan-Korea crisis, but to demand that South Korea pay more to support U.S. forces. Washington seems inclined to leave the quarrel alone, which means to encourage Abe Shinzo—the strongest, most durable prime minister ever—in his nationalist militarism, and Moon in his nationalist opportunism rooted in domestic politics.

Trump’s staff claims Moon Jae-in has requested Trump to mediate the dispute. But (aside from being an ignorant buffoon) Trump is not the sort to sympathize with the victims in any historical relationship, or show any sympathies for the subjects of colonialism. After his first meeting with Xi Jinping he declared that he’d learned Korea had once been part of China, a profoundly inaccurate and offensive statement.

Moon is likely to suffer some humiliation as Japan sticks to its guns and Seoul receives little support for its legal claims. Seoul will have to back down to maintain Samsung’s profitability. And if lack of any U.S. support inclines the South Koreans to distance themselves from their patrons, the better to cozy up with the north, well and good!

The point is not more Japanese reparations but the repair of the divided peninsula. There’s no way Mitsubishi’s going to compensate any survivors of wartime slave labor. There’s no point in Korean nationalists demanding endless apologies and concessions from the former colonial power. Japan is not the power preventing Korean reunification. Only the U.S. can do that.

Kim Jung-un’s acquisition of nuclear weapons has forced the U.S. to negotiate with North Korea, and facilitated a series of positive exchanges with the south. A Confederation of Goryeo (on the model of one country, two systems) realistically beckons. There is a Silicon Valley waiting somewhere in the lap of Mt. Paekchong.

Demanding more Japanese reparations at this time is to change the subject, distracting attention from the prospect at hand: Korean  reunification and the expulsion of the occupiers.

Trump vs. the Squad, or the Fascist Use of Zionism

The strategy is clear. Whether Trump confronts Sleepy Joe, Crazy Bernie, Pocahontas or some other Democratic opponent in the presidential race, he will target the “Squad” of newly elected freshman congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley.

Trump has decided to (1) depict them as the real face of the Democratic Party; (2) attack them as socialists and radical leftists; (3) misrepresent their criticisms of Israel as egregious anti-Semitism, and (4) win the 2020 election by posing as the savior who revived the U.S. economy versus the party of people who hate America and Israel.

This strategy combines the racist, misogynistic, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim themes that have worked well for Trump so far, with Cold War-style red-baiting, fawning devotion to the Jewish state, and old-fashioned character assassination. “They hate our country,” Trump repeats. Why don’t they leave?

Those of us who grew up in the 60s recall the right-wing slogan, directed against critics of the Vietnam War, “America—love it or leave it!” The simple logic being that people complaining about the country didn’t belong in what should have been a solid landscape of pro-war nationalism. You’d think the stupidity of that slogan, implicitly a call for slavish devotion to the state, would be obvious in 2019. But no, it’s not. Trump has revived it, testing its resonance.

Some take comfort in the fact that Trump has walked back and stated that he did not in fact agree with the infamous chant at his June 19 rally: “Send her back, send her back, send her back!” (He just stood there frowning and nodding in apparent approval for 13 seconds.) This disavowal, they may think, somewhat mitigates the fascist threat. The president is not in fact calling for mass expulsion of dissidents, even Muslims who complain. He is not in fact encouraging the mob to demand the expulsion of an immigrant refugee who became a congresswoman.

Yet Trump stresses the innate goodness of the hateful mob–noting as always its amazing size–expressing its righteous outrage at the Squad members’ statements. Told many were unhappy with the fascistic chant, Trump blamed the victim, retorting: “I’m unhappy with the fact that a Congresswoman can hate our country.” (They started this, not me.)

The president arrogates to himself the right to define what constitutes hate speech. And racist speech, which he denies he’s ever used. What sort of hateful speech does he refer to, when he accuses Omar of anti-Semitism?

In a recent column on Mondoweiss, Philip Weiss lists the four statements for which Ilhan Omar has been faulted with that offense. (Trump implies to his followers that he has “pages and pages” of “vicious” anti-Semitic statements by the four congresswomen, but has been very vague on specifics. He is lying.)

(1) In 2012 while working as a nutritionist in the Minnesota public school system, during the Israeli assault on Gaza that killed over 100 Palestinian civilians, Omar tweeted: Israel “has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.”

(2) Five weeks after being elected to Congress after journalist Glenn Greenwald expressed puzzlement that Republicans in Congress would want to punish Omar and Tlaib for their criticisms of Israel Omar tweeted, “It’s all about the Benjamins, baby.” The Israel Lobby has plenty of money and uses it to promote uncritical support for Israel and to discourage criticism. “Benjamins” refers to $ 100 bills, which bear the image of Benjamin Franklin. It is not an anti-Semitic reference. But Trump has frowningly noted this tweet, adding, “She should never have said that!” implying that he will be using this particular tweet against her so long as it fires up his followers.

(3) Asked to explain the tweet, Omar curtly replied: “AIPAC!” The American Israel Political Affairs Committee is of course the most significant group within the Lobby, and helps insure that Israel receives near-unconditional support from the U.S. Congress. It would be naïve to underestimate its importance. But the Lobby responds to any criticism of itself with accusations of anti-Semitism designed to intimidate.

(4) At a “progressive town hall” in Washington, D.C. in February, Omar said: “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.” While awkwardly expressed, her point is apparently that the Israel Lobby promotes the idea that the U.S. and Israel are so closely allied and so bound together through “common values” and religious tradition that loyalty to the one cannot conflict with loyalty to the other, and that indeed to be a good American you need to support Israel. This would be an accurate depiction of the problem. Surely Trump is conflating love of Israel with Americanism as he seeks to isolate and vilify the Squad.

He wants to promote patriotic and pro-Israel outrage, posturing as both the flag-kissing nationalist and best friend of Netanyahu while wages a Hermann Göring-like campaign against his sharpest critics. As the New York Times keeps reminding us, there is no end to his lies.

In fact, none of these four brief statements by Omar attacks or disparages Jews as Jews. But she has hit nerves. Nancy Pelosi berated her for promoting “anti-Semitic tropes”–a fancy way of saying that anytime you associate support of Israel with money, you reduce the dream of the Holocaust victims for a homeland, and the Christian Zionist’s dream of the Rapture, to mere material considerations, feeding bad stereotypes. It’s just politically unwise to mention money in the same sentence as Israel. Trump and Pelosi unite in their acceptance of Zionist ideological hegemony within U.S. politics. In their view, Israel was either created out of existential necessity, or in the fulfillment of biblical prophecy; in any case, its legitimacy must never be questioned.

No U.S. politician is allowed to frankly note that Israel was created through racist violence in 1948. No one stands up in Congress reminding its members that 711,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homeland, in part through naked terrorism, to make way for the Jewish state formed mainly by recent European settlers claiming–with U.S. Evangelicals’ support–that “God gave this land to me.” A serious critique of Zionism is not possible within the constricted U.S. political universe. Exploitation of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment is on the other hand infinitely possible, as Trump knows full well.

“They hate our country, and they hate Israel.” Trump is probably going to combine these two allegations, crudely courting Jewish support, throughout the campaign. Thus the growing U.S. fascist trend supersedes earlier anti-Semitic fascisms in upholding the expansionist Jewish settler-state (that occupies the West Bank and East Jerusalem and maintains the open-air concentration camp of Gaza); its anti-Semitism consists of support for the vicious oppression of the Palestinian Arabs at the hands of their fellow (Jewish) Semites.

It makes good sense for Trump to wage an electoral campaign based on the vilification of the opposing party as radical left, socialist and anti-Semitic, its key standard-bearers angry, foul-mouthed young women of color who hate their country and Israel. It makes sense to make, for your largely moronic racist base, the terms of the battle simple: us versus them.

Real Americans, happy smiling and free, versus the angry people who don’t belong here. With all the clear logic of a 10-year-old, Trump suggests that they love it or leave it.

If Omar can accuse Israel of “evil doings” just because it killed 100 Palestinians, and suggest that money influences Congressional votes on Israel, and that dual nationals may feel dual loyalties, she arouses Trump’s keen moral indignation. He adopts the Evangelical preacher’s soaring prophetic oratorical mode, and simplistic distinction between good and evil, and actually declares (to Omar) that “You can’t talk that way about our country–not while I’m president!”

So what is he gonna do about it? Trump will use attacks on her and the other three to further normalize the political culture of schoolyard bullying that he has brought to Washington, integrating both fascistic elements and abject deference to Israel, proving there’s no inherent contradiction between the two. And he will retain a base that will seize the next chance to chant “Send her back! Send her back!” so that Trump can smile, pause, shake his head, say, no, no… then let it go on longer, saying, okay, no, no…

Trump will now walk a fine line between encouraging and harnessing the racist energies of his worst adherents. He loves to rile them up, to hear them go crazy. To think you can do that just by demanding the death penalty for the Central Park Five, or questioning Obama’s birthplace, or advocating a Muslim ban, or building a wall and abusing children and separating families to discourage Hispanic immigration, or attacking elected Congresswomen because they are not white and they don’t love U.S. imperialism and criticize Israel!

Trump must rejoice in a world in which the pure stupidities he spews receive support that must exceed his expectations. I suspect that he tests the waters, wondering: how fascist can I go and make this still work for me? The occasional call from Steve Bannon might help. The present course is to attribute hatred of the country to any who criticize it for what it is (a capitalist, imperialist country with a deeply-rooted sexist and racist culture that must be changed) and/or criticize Israel for what it is (a settler-state built on Palestinian suffering). And then to sit back and watch how society responds.

“You can’t talk that way about our country,” says Trump, “not while I’m president!” And who will rid me of this meddlesome monk? Trump is positively inviting violence against those who do not embrace his MAGA vision, deliberately exacerbating contradictions. The effort could backfire and blow up in his face; this country’s youth are generally progressive, hate Trump and are very open to interpretation that is administration is fascistic. But his steady 40% support rate, never faltering whatever he does, is frightening–in part because it is so pro-Israel, and Israel under the leadership of Binyamin Netanyahu is hell-bent on sparking a war between the U.S. and Iran.

Germany, Japan, Iran and Trump: Will Reason and Harmony Triumph in the World?

Japan used to be the number one foreign consumer of Iranian oil, slipping to number two as China increased its purchases. Now, obliged to defer to the U.S., Japan purchases none. Germany has been Iran’s largest European trade partner, and was hoping for major deals following the conclusion of the Iran Deal in 2015. These plans have been sabotaged by the U.S. using its control over the international banking system, one of its main weapons to use against free market principles and free trade, to inflict pain on people who do not submit, and to (try to) assert its global hegemony.

Both Japan and Germany (whom you recall were the U.S. two greatest adversaries in World War II and who emerged soon after the war as close U.S. allies, the third and fourth largest economies, after the U.S. and USSR.  Both not coincidentally were occupied by tens of thousands of U.S. troops from their defeat in 1945, politically controlled by the U.S. and incorporated into its military alliance network, as they remain 74 years later.

(Notice by the way how the Soviets, who defeated the Nazis on the all-important Eastern Front, losing as many as 30 million in that effort, and who occupied what had been Nazi-occupied parts of eastern Europe, withdrew from Finland and Austria while the U.S. consolidated its grip on postwar western Europe, while shaping the emergence of pro-Soviet client states in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, East Germany (after the U.S. unilaterally declared West Germany an independent state), and Bulgaria. Other ostensibly socialist states (Albania, Yugoslavia, Romania) always retained a high degree of independence vis-à-vis the Soviets. The U.S. meanwhile pronounced the Truman Doctrine (justifying any means necessary to defeat communism, from electoral interference to assassination to coups and wars) and in 1949 created NATO as a ferocious anti-Soviet military alliance. The Soviets responded seven years later with their own much smaller Warsaw Pact alliance that, of course, was dissolved in 1991, when NATO should have been. The U.S. remains tied by expensive military alliances with the now-reunited Germany and Japan, and continues to station more soldiers in those two countries than anywhere else. They are followed by South Korea (part of the Japanese Empire during the Second World War) and Italy, showing that the U.S. is still in a perverse deluded way fighting that war.

Both Japan and Germany—the third and fourth largest economies in the world, whose combined GDPs equal about half the U.S. figure—oppose the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from, and seek to destroy, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action signed with Iran four years ago. They want normal ties with Iran. They fear the real prospect that crazies around the U.S. president—known, rapid war-mongering, fanatically Zionist, pathological liars, bible-toting nutcases, smug psychos and wild-eyed brutes like Jared Kushner, John Bolton and Mike Pompeo—will arrange a war to bring on the apocalypse they so crave.

They are surely indignant that a man as obviously as moronic as Tillerson intimated is ordering them, in their maturity, and their nations, in their dignity, to obey U.S. orders to isolate and provoke Iran. And worried about the possible consequences of Trump’s madness and vulnerability to the arguments of evil advisors. They will surely be trying through flattery and patient argument to promote talks with the Iranians.

Trump says he doesn’t want war. He says he wants to talk, but leaves it to the Iranians to call him, to show their respect. He says he doesn’t want regime change (although Bolton surely does and says so continuously). He says President Rouhani is probably a “lovely man.” He just doesn’t want Iran to have nuclear weapons.

The Germans and Japanese know Trump likes others to come to him. So they will get on the phone and urge Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif to stoke Trump’s ego and call him. And they will say, just repeat what you have many times, guarantee him that Iran does not want and will not build nuclear weapons. Give him a way to back down, like the Mexicans just did. Let him claim a better deal, if that allows trade to get going…

Trump is a profoundly ignorant if not stupid human. He genuinely might not know that U.S. intelligence services have been saying since 2003 that Iran does not have an active nuclear weapons program. The IAEA has ascertained this. The Iranian supreme leader has issued a fatwa banning the production or use of nuclear weapons. The leading western authority on Iran’s nuclear program, Gareth Porter, has exhaustively documented the fact that Iran has never had a serious program to produce nuclear weapons, at least not since the Islamic Revolution.

Anyway, by suggesting that his only demand is that Iran not acquire nukes, Trump allows the Iranians to say, “Fine. We agree. What more assurances do you want?” And then, if his advisors are in the room, Trump will say, actually, we want more than no nukes, we need to you to obey us in all these other areas Pompeo has announced. You have to stop missile tests, and end aid to Hizbollah, Hamas, Iraqi Shiite militias, Houthis and the Syrian government. Only then will we let Japan, Germany and all the countries we indirectly control trade with you.

The German foreign minister Heiko Maas has visited Tehran to meet with his dignified, level-headed counterpart. Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo is heading to Iran Wednesday to attempt to mediate between his U.S. bosses and the Iranian leadership. He is perhaps in a good position to do so. Abe has been Japanese prime minister since 2012—a very long time for a Japanese leader. He is an extremely reactionary figure, proud grandson of an accused war criminal who also served as prime minister (1957-60), advocate of constitutional revision (to legalize the huge Japanese military), promoter of a view of history in which Japan once led Asia in sloughing off colonialism. He has deliberately provoked the Koreas and China by statements, actions and threats involving contested claims over islands. His tax hikes and austerity measures have produced much pain for the Japanese. I have no fondness for the man.

But I would like to suggest what he might, speaking from his own point of view perhaps, say to the Iranian president.

He could begin by pointing out that Japan, as a close U.S. ally due to its post-war fate, must follow its leadership on foreign policy. However, he might add that for years Japan was Iran’s number one oil purchaser nation, before it was overtaken by China. Now it buys no oil from Iran; it is not allowed to, due to U.S. secondary sanctions. But for a time Japan, which has towed the U.S. line on virtually all global matters from the time of the Occupation to the present, did have a strong trade relationship with Iran, receiving special permission from the boss-nation to do so due to its complete dependence on foreign oil. (South Korea received this too.) So there is precedent for Japan playing a slightly independent role.

Moreover, there are reports that in the current situation Abe wants to play less the role of messenger than mediator, which makes sense from the point of view of his nationalist agenda.

Abe could further note that Japan and Iran (Persia) have had a trading relationship (since at least the eighth century CE, actually); have until recently enjoyed scholarly exchanges (such as Japanese archeologists’ work with their Iranian counterparts in exploring likely ancient Buddhist sites); and share a history of avoiding western colonization. Both cultures value etiquette, patience, calm and reason.

Abe and Rouhani no doubt share a common contempt for Trump as an ignorant, rude, unpredictable, dangerous, posturing buffoon. This would be how most world leaders see him. But they also no doubt grasp that his vanity can be used to defuse him. So Abe will say, as friend to friend, why not call him? Say that you are contacting him in response to his public invitation and whatever private communications there have surely been, because you have made statements that suggest you want to ease the “tensions” the U.S. claims have gotten higher recently. These statements include a perhaps facetious statement that you, Rouhani, are a “lovely man;” that he is not calling for regime change in Iran; that he wants to make a deal with the present government; even that he wants Iran to thrive under the present regime. All he wants, he insists, is that Iran not get nuclear weapons.

Call him and call his bluff. Remind him that the Iran Deal virtually prevents Iran from getting nuclear weapons any time soon, and that the IAEA knows that, and the UN knows that, and the signatory nations except for Trump’s know that. Offer him even more iron clad assurances; he won’t know what you’re talking about. Dangle before him the prospect of the Nobel Peace Prize. Let him announce that trust has been achieved and the U.S. now looks forward to investing in Iran, which like North Korea, has awesome prospects.

The current head of the IAEA happens to be a Japanese flunky of the U.S.  (He was elected in July 2009 to succeed the Egyptian, Mohammad ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate in part due to his refusal to bow to U.S. disinformation about Iran’s nuclear program provided by the likes of Bolton. There were six rounds of voting, the U.S. each time opposing the favored South African candidate. Amano was more suitable because a diplomatic cable released by the invaluable Wikileaks indicated that Amano “was solidly in the U.S. court on every key strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.”)

The other day as he opened a meeting of the IAEA’s board of governors, Amano stated blandly, “I… hope that ways can be found to reduce current tensions through dialogue.”  In other words, he faults both sides for such “tensions” and is probably saying: “Meet with Trump, President Rouhani, to reduce these tensions!” May the Iranians respond to Trump’s clueless provocations with a mix of calculated taqiyya and principled insistence on established international law, putting the bullying Wizard of Oz in his place, daring him to please Natanyahu, Jared and MbS by provoking war. And may Trump back down, agreeing on some formula allowing him to claim some victory that had eluded Obama.

An “Emergency” to Send Billions in Weapons to the Saudis

So Trump has declared an “emergency” to circumvent Congressional oversight of arms shipments to other countries. By law Congress by law is given 30 days advance before before such sales are completed, and it can obstruct them. But a loophole in the Arms Control Act allows the president to authorize sales in an emergency.

One must ask what emergency causes the president to allow sale of $ 8 billion in arms manufactured by Boeing, Lockhead, Raytheon, and GE to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan. (Britain’s BAE and Europe’s Airbus will also profit handsomely from this decision.)

What emergency confronts any of these recipient countries? The murderous regime of Jared Kushner pal Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, savagely murders journalists who criticize it, crushes dissent in neighboring Bahrain, kidnaps the Lebanese prime minister, applies the strictest interpretations of Sharia law within the kingdom and wages war on Yemen, killing tens of thousands of civilians with U.S. support. Where’s the problem? Is the criminal Saudi effort in Yemen failing so badly the Saudis need more arms to kill more Yemenis to stave off defeat?

What is the emergency in the UAE? They are allied with the Saudis in the effort to crush the Houthis of Yemen, who because of their Shiite Islam in a generally Sunni region are both despised for religious reasons by Gulf monarchs, and consequently smeared with Iranian associations, not because substantial political and military ties exist between Iran and the Houthis (as they do between Lebanon’s Hizbollah and Iran) but because they hate Shiites in general. Perhaps in this emergency situation they need more U.S. bombs to drop the Arab world’s poorest, most miserable country?

What emergency does the Kingdom of Jordan face?

Presumably the State Department and Pentagon will suggest that “recent Iranian threats” to U.S. forces in the Middle East–which were justified as the Pentagon indicated that 120,000 troops would be sent, adjusted down to 10,000, then 1,200-1,500 for some reason (I suspect because the Pentagon balked at the larger figures, noting that there was in fact no new real Iranian threat to U.S. forces in the region)–constitute an “emergency” justifying the sales. (The British and Germans perceive no elevated threat from Iran and have pooh-poohed U.S. saber-rattling.) Fake news is being deployed to rationalize sending more forces to the region, thus ratcheting up tensions with an Iran that has in fact been cautiously defensive.

Trump himself may rationalize it as he always has: arms sales to Saudi Arabia create jobs! (Trump has repeatedly said that the $ 110 billion in arms deals he’s signed with Saudi Arabia means “500,000 jobs.” This is more Fake News; the number is a tiny fraction of that. But clearly Trump is a prime example of Marx’s dictum that “The soul of the capitalist is capital.” It’s not so much about creating jobs anyway but creating obscene profits from arms sales for the captains of the military-industrial complex.)

We can’t allow the hack-saw murder of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Istanbul consulate to affect our strong ties to the Saudi arms market! U.S. national security is at stake!

Kushner reportedly told MbS that this crisis about the Khashoggi murder in Oct. 2018 would “blow over.” (The prince has told intimates that he has Jared “in my pocket.” It appears that Jared supplied him with the names of Saudi dissidents, subsequently detained, in return for something.) Indeed, the cordial U.S.-Saudi relationship seems unaffected by the murder.

Meanwhile UNCHR, the UN Refugee Agency, has proclaimed a “Yemen Emergency”—which is to say, a real emergency in the real world. This is due principally to the U.S./U.K.-backed Saudi-led campaign to subdue Yemen and turn it into a Saudi satrapy. The civilian casualties, the refugee figures, the deaths from war-related famine alone are horrific. And the Saudis block aid.

We have an emergency in this country, this imperialist country–an urgent need to stop Trump, Pompeo and Bolton from starting another war-based-on-lies egged on by the beastly SbM and the murderous Binyamin Netanyahu, family friend of the Kushners. (Surely you know he once borrowed Jared’s bed in a sleepover at the Kusher home? They’re that close. Google search it. And then realize that the 38-year-old Kushner is Trump’s “senior advisor” on the Israel-Palestinian problem, facilitator of the corrupt Israeli-Saudi anti-Iranian alignment.)


Final thought: One real offense that should be truly impeachable is authorizing the sale of fighter jets and bombs used to kill children to a regime led by a prince U.S. intelligence services hold responsible for a journalist’s murder, sidelining Congress in doing so.