Category Archives: Book Review

Resisting Illegitimate Authority in the Era of Trump

In the current era of Trump, much of American society finds itself frustrated, angry, and traumatized by an authoritarian president whose leadership is being perceived increasingly as illegitimate. Oddly, a large reason for Trump’s success in getting elected in the first place as well as his continued seemingly inconceivable support is largely due to the illusion that he is anti-authoritarian and will shake things up and create change.

Trump, of course, is no anti-authoritarian. Rather, he is an authoritarian who resists power only when he doesn’t have it. Anti-authoritarians challenge and resist all forms of illegitimate authority. Bruce E. Levine, in his newly released book, Resisting Illegitimate Authority: A Thinking Person’s Guide to Being an Anti-Authoritarian, tells us that the traits of an anti-authoritarian include a compulsion to speak out against cruelty and illegitimate authority no matter what the political cost, a willingness to sacrifice one’s own freedom for the cause of freedom, a compulsion for truth-telling, and a repulsion with hypocrisy. In his profiles of several U.S. anti-authoritarians, Levine details how, from Thomas Paine to Ralph Nader, many of them experienced great rejection, marginalization, and suffering for their views.

Trump so often lies, doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and has engaged in so many cruel and hypocritical acts that not only is there an anti-Trump resistance, but Trump may actually be the greatest contributor to this movement. Those anti-authoritarians who are already part of this resistance may find direction, comradery, and support in Levine’s profiles of anti-authoritarians who suffered before us, fighting so many of the same battles.

Levine makes clear that his book is not about Left versus Right or Democrats versus Republicans, but, rather, it is about challenging oppression, coercion, blind submission, and hypocrisy. Such a trove in a time when these factors are rampant is refreshing, indeed.

For quite some time, a powerful allegiance between politicians, Wall Street, and the military industrial complex along with clergy have often provided a means through which dissent in the United States has been silenced. In recent times, mental health professionals have become the new clergy. As Levine states, “By pathologizing and thus depoliticizing malaise, psychiatry helps maintain the status quo, meeting the needs of the ruling power structure” in the same way that police and clergy have controlled the population in times past.

Many who would likely oppose illegitimate authority are increasingly being drugged and outcast as mentally ill at a young age. A label of mental illness and the powerful tranquilizing drugs that tend to accompany these labels, now commonplace among American youth, are powerful means of delegitimizing dissent.

Doctors, along with politicians and military personnel, are historically among the most authoritarian of professionals. They have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo and assuring that resistance and opposition be silenced. A perfect example of this can be seen in the recent expulsion of Peter C Gøtzsche, MD, an internationally respected founder of the Nordic Cochrane Center, a purported independent evaluator of medical research. Gøtzsche, because of his years of opposition and non-compliance, was voted out after his very vocal criticism of the corruption in pharmaceutical company funded research and the falsehoods being spread to the public. His stance not only threatened a lucrative and powerful partnership, he dared to actively challenge the status quo and break rules. Doctors, particularly psychiatrists and psychologists, have also been a central force in genocide, as defined by the United Nations, both during Nazi Germany as well as within the United States, especially with respect to Native Americans, past and present.

Levine notes: “Today, a potentially huge army of young anti-authoritarians are being depoliticized by mental illness diagnoses and by the attributions that their inattention, anxiety, depression, and disruptiveness are caused by defective biochemistry—and not by their alienation from a dehumanizing society and their resistance to illegitimate authorities.”

In addition, children are being indoctrinated through the school system to blindly obey and never think independently, lest one be labeled a troublemaker or worse. Levine describes how the educational system has directly contributed to our difficulty in assembling and effectively being able to fight back against an authoritarian regime.

A century ago, when only 6% of Americans graduated high school, Populists had power to form cooperatives and politically astute organized resistance, effectively challenging corporations and politicians. Now that 85% of Americans graduate high school, little organized resistance exists beyond symbolic marches that affect little to no change whatsoever. People who don’t eventually conform and submit are considered “behavioral problems” or “oppositional,” and few are willing to embrace such accusations, even as children.

As Paul Krugman notes in “Why it Can Happen Here,” the death of democracy is a very real possibility in America. And, our education and mental health systems are almost guaranteeing it, as the more we drug, diagnose, and indoctrinate our children, the less likely anybody will have the will, capacity, or awareness to resist authority.

In examining the history of those who have sacrificed much in the name of justice, Levine provides us all many warnings, while also imbibing hope. He highlights both the ways in which anti-authoritarians can basically ruin it for us all (i.e., The Ted Kaczynski/Unabomber) as well as providing examples of ways anti-authoritarians foster compassion and peaceful resistance while honing one’s rage into getting things done.

From Malcom X’s rebellion against the oppression of capitalism to Edward Snowden’s exposing how the U.S. government is spying on its people, anti-authoritarians have paved the way for many to have the advantages and civil rights that currently exist. Levine’s Resisting Illegitimate Authority is an anti-authoritarian handbook of sorts. We all need anti-authoritarians who will challenge and overcome illegitimate authority—without them, we will never be the Land of the Free and certainly not the Home of the Brave.

What Is the Left in Canada?

A claim to righteousness in international affairs is fundamental to Canadian exceptionalism, the idea that this country is morally superior to other nations.

— Yves Engler1

In early August of this year, the Canadian minister of foreign affairs, Chrystia Freeland, tweeted for Saudi Arabia to release human rights activists. This greatly angered the Sauds who issued a series of sanctions that included selling off Saudi assets in Canada, ceasing purchases of Canadian wheat and barley, expelling Canada’s ambassador, suspending all Saudi Arabian Airlines flights to and from Toronto, and ordering Saudi students to leave Canadian schools.

So far Canadian government officials have not responded other than to state Canada will continue to speak out on human rights abuses. That Canada speaks about human rights abuses comes across as rank hypocrisy to some Canadians. Given that Canada exists through a genocide against its Original Peoples; given that Canada is a partner in US imperialist wars; given that Canadian corporations, especially mining corporations, have been exploiting the third world whereby do Canadian officials living in their government greenhouse deign to cast rocks at other houses?

Canada touts itself as a multicultural land that embraces diversity. Canada tends to align itself more so with the Scandinavian welfare-state model rather than the rugged individualism of its neighboring United States. And Canada has a politically represented Left, or what purports to be a Left, in the New Democratic Party (NDP) — even a Communist Party and Marxist-Leninist Party, although neither are electorally successful.

Yves Engler has written Left, Right: Marching to the Beat of Imperial Canada (Black Rose Books, 2018) which examines the Left in Canada. I tend to use the term progressivism because it refers to a grouping “that encompasses a wide spectrum of social movements that include environmentalism, labor, agrarianism, anti-poverty, peace, anti-racism, civil rights, women’s rights, animal rights, social justice and political ideologies such as anarchism, communism, socialism, social democracy, and liberalism.” The term the Left points to a bipolar split rather than a spectrum. Nonetheless, progressivism and the Left are referring toward a similar orientation.

In Left, Right Engler examines the NDP (and its earlier incarceration as the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation or CCF), the labor movement, leftist institutions, and leftist personalities (and other actors) for just how leftist or left-leaning they actually are. If one self-identifies as Left, then its seems perfectly reasonable that one should adhere to leftist principles. Actions will define a social/political orientation with greater clarity than words (which are also important). To belong to a party deemed leftist which then pursues right-wing policies presents a contradiction — and in the worst case, exposes one to criticism for hypocrisy.

Engler critiques the CCF/NDP for its militarist support, lack of compassion for foreign workers, and moral corruption of its leaders. For instance, NDP stalwart “Stephen Lewis was stridently anti-Palestinian,” writes Engler. (p 31) Ex-federal NDP leader Tom Mulcair was a front-and-center Zionist. Engler notes that another ex-federal NDP leader Jack Layton was passionate about the role of Canada’s military in Afghanistan. (p 35)

Engler asks,

Has the desire of some in the NDP to replace the Liberals as the slightly leftist alternative to the Conservatives caused the party to move so far to the right that it agrees with Canada being a partner in enforcing imperialism? If so, what sort of home does it offer to those who oppose US Empire and all forms of imperialism? (p 48)

This reviewer does not consider any major Canadian party to be Left. The Conservatives are staunchly neoliberal. Ditto for the Liberals (just a bite less to the Right than the Conservatives). The NDP also are a Right of Center party. Their lack of internationalism, support for militarism, racism among leaders, etc locate them at a great distance from leftist principles. At best the NDP are faux-Left.

The labor movement has also seen jingoism, militarism, racism among labor leaders, anti-communism, and a lack of solidarity (a sine qua non for the dignity of labor).

Engler writes that the Right has caught the ear of many labor leaders. (p 86-94)

Even “left-wing” think tanks bend to the Right, as do “leftist” critics. Engler notes that the Rideau Institute’s support for “peace-keeping” plays into mythologizing Canada as a peaceful kingdom while aligning with military objectives. (p 99)

As far as I can tell, major Canadian peacekeeping missions have always received support from Washington. Ignoring the power politics often driving peacekeeping missions has resulted in (unwitting) support for western imperialism. (p 100)

The author dispels the obfuscation of corporate/state media and its purveyors to cut through disinformation that has captured some of the “leftist” imagination. Engler shreds the role of a good Canada historically and more contemporaneously, among others, in supporting Zionism, the US-France-Canada orchestrated coup in Haiti, as well as the lauded (nauseatingly by corporate/state media) Canadian general Roméo Dallaire who twisted the genocide in Rwanda. Dallaire is a strong proponent of the Responsibility to Protect doctrine, a cover for western imperialism. (p 176)

Even among Original Peoples — traditionally considered, in at least a societal sense as leftist2 — have seen their “leaders” support militarism, colonialism, imperialism, corporate plunder, and environmental degradation. Engler says an online search will reveal the Assembly of First Nations insouciance about how Canadian policy impacts on rest of the world. (p 179) The Assembly of First Nations is, however, problematic insofar being viewed as a legitimate representative of Original Peoples. (p 192)3

The Left treads a slippery slope when it agrees with or takes up right-wing causes such as militarism, acquiescing when environmental destruction is at stake, and failure to support solidarity networks outside Canada. Engler broaches the antidote which is genius in its simplicity and obviousness: the Do No Harm principle backed by the Golden Rule.

Yet contrariwise Engler opines, “Canadian soldiers have only fought in one morally justifiable war: World War II.” (p 52) No explanation is proffered by the author for this opinion. One wonders how the Do No Harm principle was satisfied by Canadians fighting overseas? Also Engler’s contention of a morally justifiable4 war is challengeable, and it is challenged by history professor Jacques Pauwels in his book The Myth of the Good War.5

Engler writes in a very readable style, and his work is solidly backed by sourcing. Most saliently, his work has a moral core. Left, Right is important and valuable in that it does not only illustrate and lament the corruption of leftist principles, but it also provides solutions about how leftist principles can be upheld; pushing the Left leftwards.

Read Left, Right and find out about how the NDP can be made relevant on the Left, about how to increase public awareness, and about how to grow the leftist movement.

  1. Left, Right: Marching to the Beat of Imperial Canada (Black Rose Books, 2018): 151.
  2. This was anathema for colonialism and its capitalist ideology. “The communal–they [colonialists who decided that “the Indians were to be individualized and completely Americanized” (p 3)] called them ‘communistic’–patterns of the Indians were an affront to their sensibilities. Unless the Indian could be trained to be selfish, they felt there was little hope of civilizing and assimilating them.” In Francis Paul Prucha (ed), Americanizing the American Indians (Harvard University Press, 1973): 8.
  3. Something pointed out by Indigenous warrior Splitting the Sky: “The Assembly of First Nations is a neo-colonial elected system and their Chiefs are dependent on federal funds, therefore they are considered as collaborators of a foreign power.” In Splitting the Sky with She Keeps the Door, From Attica to Gustafsen Lake (Chase, BC: John Boncore Hill, 2001): 84. Review.
  4. The language is slippery here because Engler does not state that WWII was morally justified, just indicating that moral justifications could be made. But is that not true for almost any war? And do not the war-initiating nations invariably purport some sort of moral rationale to justify aggression?
  5. E.g., US motivations during WWII were based on corporate interests: “… the US power elite is motivated first and foremost by economic interests, by business interests… (p 240; see also p 29-41); not on fighting fascism as GIs “first became acquainted with fascist (or at least quasi-fascist) practices, in the form of petty mistreatments and humiliations…. The American soldiers had not wanted this war, and they did not fight for the beautiful ideas of freedom, justice, and democracy; they fought to survive, to win the war in order to end it, in order to be able to leave the army, in order to be able to go home.” (p 22) In Jacques R. Pauwels, The Myth of the Good War (Toronto: Lorimer, 2015).

Donald Trump, Ann Coulter, and the Culture of Hysteria

As the establishment’s coup d’etat against the democratically elected government of Donald Trump gathers momentum, readers are invited to read Ann Coulter’s latest book (Resistance Is Futile: How The Trump-Hating Left Lost Its Collective Mind), which the author says is a “self-help book for liberals,” though their hysteria about Trump will insure that few of them read it.

Psychologists have been treating “Trump anxiety” for some time now, and judging by the reaction of liberals to Coulter, they may soon have to treat Trump Tantrum Disorder as well. As Coulter points out, liberals have grown furiously unhinged by isolating themselves in self-righteous bubbles of Trump haters that exchange indignant comments about his latest outrages, most of which are simply imaginary.

For example, whenever the specter of American fascism is raised (every five minutes) we are told that Trump is a virtual Hitler clone. Uh, right. We all remember from our history books how Hitler went around boasting of his opportunities to grab women by the pussy, promising to replace the Treaty of Versailles with “something terrific,” and engaging in fawning adulation of anyone he hoped to get something from. As Coulter puts it, “I don’t remember Hitler or Stalin going around saying, ‘These people are great. Incredible, outstanding, quality people.’ And who in the WWII era would have described Hitler as Coulter describes Trump: ‘[He’s] utterly undisciplined, runs his mouth, flatters everyone, and agrees with the last person he spoke to. Why, it’s right out of the Mein Kampf playbook!”

The rage against Trump is proof that the election of 2016 never really ended. In her first post-election interview Hillary Clinton declared herself “part of the resistance,” rather than the customary “loyal opposition.” If Trump had lost and declared himself part of the anti-Clinton “resistance”, Coulter notes, there would have been demands to put him in jail. “He’s issuing a call to violence! ‘Resistance’ is a military term! It’s a ‘dog whistle’ to the militias and the KKK!” Touché.

This attitude is simply a continuation of liberal hysteria during the campaign. Remember the Access Hollywood tape, somehow not a sleazy “October surprise” by the partisan media, which made no secret of its loathing of Trump? In spite of what was repeatedly claimed, there was no endorsement of sexual assault on the tape. Unless you are using a weapon, “they let you do it” means consent. Trump was simply uttering truisms about celebrity culture, not glorifying rape. Notes Coulter: “His whole point was to cite something axiomatically unacceptable — grabbing women by the P-word — in order to say that celebrity culture was so out of whack that a celebrity could get away with it.” One could quibble with the “out of whack” part of the comment, as on the tape it appears that Trump, in fact, found this benefit of fame both natural and desirable. What needed to be explained was not this reaction of a life-long egomaniac but the shocked indignation of the corporate media: after all, who knew that billionaires and other mega-stars enjoy sex on demand from beautiful women? Right, everyone. And as Coulter points out, Trump used the identical approach in saying his popularity was so great that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue without losing voter support. “That’s not a confession,” notes Coulter, “it’s hyperbole.” Nevertheless, she goes on, “Nexis can’t perform a search for all the publications that have accused Trump of admitting to ‘sexual assault,’ because it retrieves too many documents.” Long live fake news.

And while we’re on the subject of fake news, how long has it been since Trump was last accused of being a racist? Five minutes? Surely we can do better than that. Don’t let up for a minute on claims that he’s giving aid and comfort to “white nationalists” and therefore obligated to condemn David Duke every three minutes and defend himself against the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has warned of an imminent neo-Nazi-KKK take-over of the U.S. on a more or less constant basis for nearly four decades.

The Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville a year ago has been regarded as the definitive proof of Trump’s racism, though a New York Times reporter tweeted direct from the melee that left-wing Antifa protestors were just as aggressively violent as the racist right. Nevertheless, Trump’s observation that there was violence (and “good people”) “on both sides” has been used as confirmation of his alleged white supremacist sensibilities. By now, official memory has it that Antifa violence wasn’t violence, and only “Nazis” were guilty of such. In one of her book’s best lines, Coulter notes, “The more the rally recedes in time, the fresher a memory it becomes,” which is an excellent description of all kinds of propaganda induced “memory.” With all due regret for the death of Heather Heyer, we still don’t know anything about the state of mind of the man who ran over her, who may have been in fear for his life, and few “journalists” are even curious about the matter.

But on to the alleged Trump-Russia collusion in the 2016 elections that is the main focus of Coulter’s book. The basic allegation is that Trump, according to liberals a boundlessly incompetent buffoon, somehow managed to engage in a byzantine international conspiracy with Russian intelligence to steal the 2016 presidential election from Hillary Clinton. The original claim was that Russia hacked the e-mails of the DNC (after allegedly being invited to do so by Trump in a presidential debate with Clinton) and Hillary’s aide John Podesta, then gave them to WikiLeaks, and that this somehow predictably benefited Trump. But why the Russians would have hacked the DNC to retrieve “lost” e-mails that were no longer on their server is difficult to explain. Furthermore, how could the Russians have had any assurance that the Podesta e-mails would end up helping Trump? That leak mostly hurt the DNC chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who was forced to resign.

More to the point, the Russian election meddling theme is simply a joke. The U.S. meddles in elections all the time, and when that fails, overthrows unwanted governments by force, often assassinating their democratic leaders as well. At William Blum’s excellent archive at www.killinghope.org, you can read until your eyes bleed about the C.I.A. undermining democratic elections around the world going back seventy years. In recent years George Soros alone has repeatedly manipulated election outcomes in Georgia, the Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan, variously called the Orange revolution, the Tulip revolution, and the Rose revolution. And while we like to wax self-righteous about Russia interfering in our elections, we tend to forget that Boris Yeltsin would not likely have become president of Russia without a major intervention by the U.S. But perhaps the most ludicrous notion of all is that a relative handful of Russian bots posting on Facebook handed the election to Trump, which is like saying that a coke poured in the water supply prevented us from curing our diabetes epidemic.

The origin of the story alone should make us extremely skeptical about any Trump-Russia collusion, even apart from the absurd pretense that the U.S. has the moral standing to accuse others of such anti-democratic practices. Hillary Clinton invented the Russian collusion story in the summer of 2016 because she needed to neutralize the DNC’s e-mails having shown up on WikiLeaks. This was a classic Clinton maneuver: whenever she is caught in a scandal she diverts attention to all-pervading imaginary enemies — misogynists, unscrupulous political opponents, racists, a vast right-wing conspiracy, and now, Russia and Donald Trump.

So Clinton campaign chairman Robby Mook went on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos to tell the world about the Russian conspiracy on July 24, 2016, the eve of the Democratic National Convention. “Experts are telling us that Russian state actors broke into the DNC, took all these emails and now are leaking them out through these Web sites …. And it’s troubling that some experts are now telling us that this was done by — by the Russians for the purpose of helping Donald Trump.” The anonymous reference to “some experts” has not been cleared up to this day.

Of course, Hillary Clinton would have preferred to spin a web of conspiracy around Trump and ISIS or Trump and North Korea, but Trump didn’t have business interests with either of them, so she revved up a new Cold War instead. She somehow managed to convince herself that the press was dead set against her and her Russia-connection conspiracy, even though only two of the fifty-nine largest newspapers in the country had failed to endorse her. Matt Taibbi and Glenn Greenwald were among the few liberal skeptics of the fantastic story.

In any event, by September 2016 the New York Times conceded that the consensus among government intelligence agencies was that WikiLeaks had no ties to Russian intelligence.

Two years and dozens of breathless claims later we still have zero evidence for the alleged Trump-Russia collusion. The FBI never investigated for the simple reason that the DNC wouldn’t allow the Bureau to examine its computers. As Glenn Greenwald noted in The Intercept, “there is no evidence . . . just CIA assertions over and over …”

Initial media response found the claim of a Russian conspiracy “remarkable,” and this held true until Hillary lost the election. Then it suddenly became a news story worthy of Watergate, replete with Congressional investigations, saturation media coverage, and an “independent” counsel. Obama reacted by meekly telling Putin to “cut it out,” but he imposed no sanctions, issued no major rebuke, and refrained from retaliation. This for something Thomas Friedman compared to Pearl Harbor and 911. In other words, after mild initial reaction, two years of intensive searching by the nation’s top investigative journalists and up to 100 FBI agents has yielded nothing like collusion.

What has passed for evidence in the case is a dossier authored by Christopher Steele, a British spy who offered Hillary Clinton and the Democratic national Committee dirt on Trump from the Russians. Did Hillary recoil in shocked outrage at this treasonous plot? Of course not. She paid Steele for the information. Yes, that’s right. Hillary Clinton colluded with the Russians to discredit Trump, but Robert Mueller isn’t interested in that collusion. He’s looking for collusion between Russia and the victim of the plot.

Explains Coulter: “Hillary’s campaign and the DNC hired Steele, using a Seattle law firm as a cutout. The law firm hired Fusion GPS, which in turn hired the British spy, who paid current and former Russian government officials for incriminating information on Trump.”

Steele revealed his motive to Department of Justice official Bruce Ohr, saying he was “desperate that Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.” OK, but motives aside, did he come up with anything? Not if you believe the New York Times, which says that the information in the Steele dossier “was not corroborated, and the New York Times has not been able to confirm the claims.” And remember that the New York Times, like the press in general, loathes Trump, and would gladly have reported substantiation of the claims in the Steele dossier had they found any.

In fact, so eager was the NY Times to discredit Trump that it flat-out stated that his firing of F.B.I. director James Comey had “echoes of Watergate,”when in fact it did not. For Comey himself admitted under oath to Senator James Risch (R-Ohio) that the F.B.I. hadn’t been investigating Trump at the time he was fired, so Trump couldn’t have been “obstructing justice” in an ongoing case against him. In point of fact, Trump fired Comey precisely because he wouldn’t stop publicly insinuating that Trump was under investigation when in fact he wasn’t. Meanwhile, journalists simply assumed that Trump was guilty of colluding with Russia, and that firing Comey was a transparent attempt to cover up criminal activity.

In short, the mountain keeps laboring, but brings forth but a mouse. The charges to date are a complete farce. Here’s a partial list:

National Security Adviser Michael Flynn: He talked to Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the transition period between the Obama and Trump administrations, and then didn’t disclose it on security clearance paperwork, which is not customary because such meetings are routine.

Paul Manafort — Briefly Trump’s “campaign” chairman, he was originally accused of violating the same (unenforced) lobbying registration law that ensnared Michael Flynn, but has since been charged with setting up offshore accounts to avoid taxes, which could make him guilty of practicing capitalism. In October 2017, journalist Ken Silverstein wrote that “I can say with certainty that the law, which Manafort is accused of violating, known as the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, is a complete joke.” The article in which this comment appeared was entitled, “I’ve Covered Foreign Lobbying for 20 Years and I’m Amazed Manafort Got Busted.” In any event, Manafort’s guilt or innocence hasn’t been demonstrated to have anything to do with Trump.

Carter Page — a non-entity whose name Trump appears to have lifted out of a hat when confronted by media claims that he didn’t have any establishment certified national security advisers on his team. Page was subsequently slapped with a FISA warrant, which proves he is appallingly guilty of something. For as Ronald Reagan’s former Attorney General Ed Meese memorably informed us, “If a person is innocent of a crime, then he is not a suspect.” What could be clearer?

Attorney General Jeff Sessions — He also met with Russian ambassador Kislyak, when he was a senator, and then didn’t record the dastardly deed on security clearance forms, which the FBI doesn’t want because such meetings are routine.

But wait! Didn’t former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen pay Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about her affair with Trump? That’s a violation of campaign finance laws! Possibly, but such violations are a dime a dozen, and if we run every politician who has paid off a mistress out of office Washington will be a ghost town.

There is much, much more in Coulter’s book, but check it out of the library rather than buy it, since Coulter herself is equally prone to slipping into political hysteria when the topic is Communism or Islam. She insists, for example, that Martin Luther King was under the control of Moscow when he made his (accurate) claim that the “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world [is] my own government.” And, of course, many of us remember her advice for dealing with the Islamic world following the 911 attacks, when she said, quite subtly, that “we should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.”

American politics is a tale of two hysterias. Rationality has been driven from the stage.

Flashpoints

I was just listening to Dennis Bernstein’s Flashpoints, a news and analysis interview program airing every weekday from 5 to 6 PM on Pacifica Radio’s KPFA. Dennis’ guests were three political analysts and academics talking about the Korea summit, including the politics and history of US-Korea relations. South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s political background came up. Tim Beal remarked, “[It’s] as if Dennis Kucinich had become president of the United States.” K. J. Noh countered, “No, it’s as if William Kunstler or Lynne Stewart had become president.” Noh detailed President Moon’s background as a political prisoner, torture victim under the US-backed Park Chung-hee dictatorship, and brilliant people’s lawyer.

This depth is typical of KPFA’s flagship commute hour radio program. Dennis Bernstein is perhaps the most perceptive interviewer on radio. He never asks any but the most relevant questions, has astonishing recall of political and historical events, and always guides, but never hinders, his guests in giving their take on the issues in their own way. He is also a widely published investigative journalist and poet, and the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2015 Pillar Award from the National Whistleblower’s Conference, the National Federation of Community Broadcasters Gold Reel Award and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee Reporting Award. In 2009, Pulse Media dubbed him one of the “20 Top Global Media Figures” of the year.

Now we have the gift of Dennis’s fascinating interviews in this generous collection — Follow the Money: Radio Voices for Peace and Justice (2018, Left Coast Press) — spanning the years of the Obama administration. Bernstein’s editor is Riva Enteen, a San Francisco Bay Area activist and organizer, who comes to the work with a law degree and a decade of experience as past program director of the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.

The book boasts a foreword by famed journalist, author and political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, who expresses special gratitude for the volume because in prison he cannot listen to Flashpoints: “So, the stirring, soul-touching and moving interviews with Dennis and his guests are lost to us. That is until Follow the Money.” (Hear Mumia read the foreword.) In her brief editor’s introduction, Riva aptly suggests that the volume’s 66 interviews done in the seven years preceding the 2016 US presidential election “provide the writing on the wall for the toxic stew we now live in.” The book is dedicated to “the late, great Robert Parry, founder of ConsortiumNews.com, home of many Flashpoints interviews, which continues his tradition of true, courageous investigative journalism.” The book’s very last page reprints Marge Piercy’s celebrated poem, To be of use, which shares the spirit of activism in which the book is offered.

The interviews are grouped into nine broad themes, such as “The Class War,” “Domestic Dissent” and “Global Militarism and Empire.” The interviewees include many of today’s most important journalists and academics on the Left. Their voices are invariably eloquent, insightful, and informative, as these excerpts show:

Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Partnership for Civil Justice:  The Tea Party was having rallies across the US where they were openly carrying weapons. [Some rallies were] outside where the President of the US was speaking, but what does the FBI do? They are going after the non-violent, peaceful Occupy Movement.

Shahid Buttar, First Amendment Coalition: [T]he Obama administration is already our nation’s far-and-away most aggressive anti-press administration. More national security whistleblowers faced prosecution in the last five years than in the entire preceding 225-year history of the Republic.

Birgitta Jonsdottir, member, Icelandic Parliament: I wept. I wept many times over this video. It is painful not only to see the war crimes that happen in this video. … They had kids in their car and they were killed, slaughtered. It was a murder of innocent people who were trying to do a decent thing, by saving somebody who was dying, and the way the soldiers spoke about it was horrifying. Dennis:  There was almost a gleeful hysteria. Birgitta:  It was “Look at the dead bastards. Line them up, nice. It’s their fault to bring their kids to war.” Who brought the war to Iraq? It certainly wasn’t these people — it was from a country far, far away.

Vernellia Randall, retired professor: Of all the churches [Dylan Roof] could have picked in that town, he picked the church that was celebrating its 193-year anniversary.  That’s a church standing since slavery, with membership since slavery. One of the co-founders of the church was hung, murdered by the system, for supposedly organizing a slave revolt.

Martin Espada, poet: “How to Read Ezra Pound” / At the poets’ panel, / after an hour of poets / debating Ezra Pound, / Abe the Lincoln veteran, / remembering / the Spanish Civil War, / raised his hand and said: / “If I knew / that a fascist / was a great poet, / I’d shoot him / anyway.”

Adrienne Pine, anthropologist:  To understand why not only the [Honduran] homicide rate, but also the rate of many other forms of violence is so high, is to understand the coup that happened in 2009, a coup that was carried out by military forces trained at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia. … Every Honduran I know has been violently assaulted at one point or another — with a gun. It’s happened in front of me on several occasions. … A month ago I walked by a man who had been killed in a targeted assassination ten minutes earlier, and was lying there on the ground.

Laura Flanders, niece of Alexander Cockburn:  [Cockburn] would cause you to stop and think, “Am I accepting drivel today that I would have rejected five years ago?”… “Yes,” because there’s been such an uninterrupted flow of it … Alexander was inspired by [his journalist father] Claud’s courage and extraordinary freshness of voice. Claud loved to tell the story of interviewing Al Capone for the London Times, only to have the story never appear in print — because the gangster’s views on American capitalism were so indistinguishable from Wall Street and the paper’s editorial page … [I]n 1973, shortly after the CIA backed coup in Chile, most of the press, the Washington Post, and the New York Times, wrote that it should be assumed that the US had played no role. Alexander wrote, “In the absence of evidence, it might seem journalistically more responsible to assume there was American involvement.” Given the coups in Guatemala and Guyana, “There seems little reason,” he wrote, “to wait for Kissinger’s memoirs or a Congressional hearing in 1984 to get the full story.”

Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, fired EPA whistleblower:  Sacrifice zones are essentially primarily African American, Hispanic communities, and low-income white communities … Flint, Michigan, used to be an area where many African Americans moved to who were escaping from state-sponsored violence in the South, from the Ku Klux Klan, the White Knights, and all the organizations that were dedicated to killing black people in the early 1920s, 30s, 40s. … They went to Flint seeking economic value, jobs in the auto industry … Lead poisoning is irreversible. It’s an inter-generational poisoning. So the children of the fetuses who have been poisoned through their mother’s womb — their grandchildren will most likely be lead poisoned.

Robert Parry, investigative journalist:  Dennis: Robert, it looks like the US has entered what you call “the second Cold War.” … Barack Obama is leading the charge. He is a Cold War warrior. Robert: … Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, led the charge in supporting the coup in Ukraine in early 2014. Dennis: Most people don’t know that occurred. Was there a coup? Robert: Of course there was. There was an armed uprising that involved some very far right neo-Nazi militias … Very quickly, despite the unconstitutional change of power, the United States and European Union recognized this as legitimate. … [It is a] Cuban missile crisis in reverse. This time we’re the ones pushing our military forces onto the Russian border, rather than the Russians putting missiles onto a place like Cuba.

The book’s interviews can be dipped into at random or devoured all at once. Anyone engaged by the world will find this book eye-opening, and a keeper.

Author’s Note: You can avoid Amazon and buy the book at a 20% discount through Lulu Press. Also available at Barnes & Noble.

The Elite World Order in Jitters

According to a brand new book by Peter Phillips, the world is now controlled by a handful (actually several handfuls) of powerful/rich elites via interlocking capital exchanges spanning the globe.

This ultra small coterie dictates world events and expects results. However, they are painfully aware that forces from down below are growling, growing restless, very restless indeed!

Thus, Phillips’ riveting story of world domination by elites, a thoroughly researched analysis from A-to-Z, Giants: The Global Power Elite, Seven Stories Press, 2018.

Phillips forewarns on behalf of ninety-nine percenters (99%):

There is growing concern among reformist elements of the transnational elite that unchecked inequality threatens the stability of global capitalism and that there must be some sort of redistribution. These elites have been scrambling to find ways to reform the system in order to save capitalism from itself and to undercut more radical challenges from below. (p. 18)

Meantime, and along the way according to Phillips, wealth concentration has gone ballistic like a moonshot! In January 2016 only 62 people held as much wealth as one-half of the entire world, but within one year, by 2018, that figure narrowed to 8 people with as much wealth as one-half of the entire world. Stop and think about the implications. Is something about that awry, amiss, or maybe nonsensical?

Wealth concentration is happening so rapidly that it is feasible that someday soon one man will hold more wealth than half the humans in the world. (p. 21)

Wow-Wow!

Is capitalism starting to “stink up the place” with wealth cumulation madness? Can the world community live with this or will there be an uprising as the elite’s bold rapaciousness increasingly turns into a public image of the Wicked Witch of the East?

Early on, Phillips explains the raison d’ê·tre for his wonderful beautifully written tome. It’s all about a discovery process to promote “greater democracy and equality” by explaining the vast wealth differences and the mechanisms of power behind the giants of capitalism. That is the crux of his work.

In his words:

“Understanding how power and inequality is sustained can perhaps offer us opportunities to fight for and win democracy and equality in today’s world.” (p. 22)

The harsh reality, however, is that Phillips’ greatest wishes may not materialize, meaning forget about the great democracy revival, no equality, nada, as the world turns, wiping-out all of the vestiges of democracy and equality. In point of fact, the loss of the effectiveness of democratic institutions (already) brings in its wake ironclad statism leading to purest of fascism, thus playing directly into the hands of the powerful elite, as their wildest dreams come true.

What are those wildest dreams?

Their brand of roughshod capitalism plays tough and requires strict subordination as jobs are shifted to low labor costs, fewer regulatory, lower environmental control regions of the world so that profit margins remain robust. This has been ongoing for over a generation. In order to maintain “roughshod capitalism” militantly strong statism is an absolute requirement.

Along the way, the rug is pulled out from under livelihood for labor, loss of decent pay, stripped benefits, bringing in its wake guaranteed loss of self worth plus degradation of dignity, which in turn spirals downwards into extremely deep fits of anger, elect Trump, “hate others,” tough language, glorify the strong man/nation/state as the only apparent pathway to retrieve loss of dignity.

By default, as surely as night follows day: “It has become clear that the Global Power Elite uses NATO and the US military empire for its worldwide security” as countries shift from the “social welfare state to the social control (police) state.” (p. 226)

This conversion to strict statism is happening worldwide zip zip zip with lightening speed. Unfortunately if it continues on pace, it does not leave much room for Phillips’ hoped for reform of the global elite, meaning a return to a semblance of democracy and equality and good-paying jobs.

Phillips describes an elite world order, similar to observing an iceberg. Only the top 10-15% is visible. In the US, for example, there are two governments, one that’s visible that citizens are familiar with and a parallel top-secret org “visible to only a carefully vetted cadre” combined with global intelligence agencies working together as Deep State Networks. (p. 231)

The principals of this leviathan cadre are all interrelated as they literally control the world order, inclusive of everything from advertising for consumer goods to outer space missions.

Here’s one example, among many, demonstrative of how the sealed-tight world order network came into being, as explained by Phillips: In the mid 1970s at a time when the CIA was still subject to restrictions imposed by Congress and enforced by the president, intelligence officers of several major countries, including France, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and others, met at the Safari Club in Kenya with former CIA Director George H.W. Bush “to overcome constraints imposed by Washington, D.C.”

The outgrowth of that meeting was establishment of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) as the depository for funds for “off the books,” secretive covert operations, thus forming a Supranational Deep State that works willy-nilly outside of the bounds of nation/state control. (p. 232)

That’s but one example of several that delves into the how, where, and why today’s elite global power structure evolved into a covetous rapacious all-powerful behemoth.

This book skillfully weaves together all of the variant pieces of the elite world order, including names and positions, which leads one to question the validity of Phillips’ concept of a “top-secret elite global force,” as his book clearly outlines its entirety for all to see, full Monty!

Yes, of course, identifying the elite core is one thing, but carrying out policy is quite another, presumably the “top-secret” part.

Phillips does a remarkable job of pulling together all of the pieces into one webbed fabric of ironclad control over the mind, spirit, behavior, and livelihood of the world’s 99% via an elite core smaller than the quintessential, iconic 1%.  (Suspiciously, a perfect depiction of George Orwell’s 1984)

Giants: The Global Power Elite (2018) is a mysteriously alarming formidable story.

Interestingly, Phillips’ book ends with “A Letter to The Global Power Elite,” asking them to change the ways of the world socio-economic system:

We absolutely believe that continued capital concentration and neoliberal austerity policies only bring greater human misery…. Wars, covert actions, externally-induced regime changes, propaganda media, and technological surveillance, all in the name of protecting the freedom to do business, is hurting humankind and will be stopped. (p. 320)

That’s heavy stuff!

And this:

The change that needs to come to insure trickle-down becomes a river that is real and adequate for all human needs is not billionaire philanthropy, where the power elite handpick their beneficiaries, but rather the restructuring of capitalism itself. (p. 306)

That’s heavier stuff!

And, of course, there’s always the fallback position, assuming people get pissed off enough, the old fashioned 18th Century French way.

Postscript:

People do not judge in the same way as courts of law; they do not hand down sentences, they throw thunderbolts; they do not condemn kings, they drop them back into the void; and this justice is worth just as much as that of the courts.

— Maximilien Robespierre, 1758-94 (Beheaded 28th July, major figurehead of French Revolution & Reign of Terror (17,000 executions) member of the Estates-General, the Constituent Assembly, and the Jacobin Club and outspoken advocate for the poor and for democratic institutions and campaigned for universal male suffrage in France, price controls on basic food commodities and the abolition of slavery in the French colonies and an ardent opponent of the death penalty, but played an important role in arranging the execution (beheading) of King Louis XVI (1793) which led to the establishment of the French Republic.)

The Fakest Fake News: The U.S. Government’s 9/11 Conspiracy Theory

If you want to fathom today’s world, absolutely nothing is more important than to understand the truth about the attacks of September 11, 2001. This is the definitive book on the subject.

For seventeen years we have been subjected to an onslaught of U.S. government and corporate media propaganda about 9/11 that has been used to support the “war on terror” that has resulted in millions of deaths around the world.  It has been used as a pretext to attack nations throughout the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa.  It has led to a great increase in Islamophobia since Muslims were accused of being responsible for the attacks.  It has led to a crackdown on civil liberties in the United States, the exponential growth of a vast and costly national security apparatus, the spreading of fear and anxiety on a great scale, and a state of permanent war that is pushing the world toward a nuclear confrontation.  And much, much more.

The authors of this essential book, David Ray Griffin and Elizabeth Woodworth, and all their colleagues who have contributed to this volume, have long been at the front lines trying to wake people up to the real news about 9/11.  They have battled against three U.S. presidents, a vast propaganda machine “strangely” allied with well-known leftists, and a corporate mass media intent on serving deep-state interests, all of whom have used illogic, lies, and pseudo-science to conceal the terrible truth.  Yet despite the establishment’s disinformation and deceptions, very many people have come to suspect that the official story of the September 11, 2001 attacks is not true.

With the publication of 9/11Unmasked: An International Review Panel Investigation, they now have a brilliant source book to use to turn their suspicions into certitudes.  And for those who have never doubted the official account (or accounts would be more accurate), reading this book should shock them into reality, because it is not based on speculation, but on carefully documented and corroborated facts, exacting logic, and the scientific method.

The book is based on the establishment in 2011 of a scientific review project comprising 23 experts with a broad spectrum of expertise, including people from the fields of chemistry, structural engineering, physics, aeronautical engineering, airline crash investigation, piloting, etc. Their job was to apply systematic and disciplined analyses to the verifiable evidence about the 9/11 attacks.  They used a model called the Delphi Method as a way to achieve best-evidence consensus.  This best-evidence consensus model is used in science and medicine, and the 9/11 Consensus Panel used it to examine the key claims of the official account(s).  Each “Official Account” was reviewed and compared to “The Best Evidence” to reach conclusions.  The authors explain it thus:

The examination of each claim received three rounds of review and feedback.  According to the panel’s investigative model, members submitted their votes to the two of us moderators while remaining blind to one another.  Proposed points had to receive a vote of at least 85 percent to be accepted…This model carries so much authority in medicine that medical consensus statements derived from it are often reported in the news.  They represent the highest standard of medical research and practice and may result in malpractice lawsuits if not followed.

This research process went on for many years, with the findings reported in this book.  The Consensus 9/11 Panel provides evidence against the official claims in nine categories:

  1. The Destruction of the Twin Towers
  2. The Destruction of WTC 7
  3. The Attack on the Pentagon
  4. The 9/11 Flights
  5. US Military Exercises on and before 9/11
  6. Claims about Military and Political Leaders
  7. Osama bin Laden and the Hijackers
  8. Phone Calls from the 9/11 Flights
  9. Insider Trading

Each category is introduced and then broken down into sub-sections called points, which are examined in turn.  For example, the destruction of the Twin Towers has points that include, “The Claim That No One Reported Explosions in the Twin Towers,” “The Claim That the Twin Towers Were Destroyed by Airplane Impacts, Jet Fuel, and Fire,” “The Claim That There Were Widespread Infernos in the South Tower,” etc.  Each point is introduced with background, the official account is presented, then the best evidence, followed by a conclusion.  Within the nine categories there are 51 points examined, each meticulously documented through quotations, references, etc., all connected to 875 endnotes that the reader can follow.  It is scrupulously laid out and logical, and the reader can follow it sequentially or pick out an aspect that particularly interests them.

The 9/11 Consensus Panel members describe their goal and purpose as follows:

The purpose of the 9/11 Consensus Panel is to provide the world with a clear statement, based on expert independent opinion, of some of the best evidence opposing the official narrative about 9/11.

The goal of the Consensus Panel is to provide a ready source of evidence-based research to any investigation that may be undertaken by the public, the media, academia, or any other investigative body or institution.

As a sociologist who teaches research methods and does much research, I find the Consensus Panel’s method exemplary and their findings accurate. They have unmasked a monstrous lie.  It is so ironic that such serious scholars, who question and research 9/11, have been portrayed as irrational and ignorant “conspiracy theorists” by people whose thinking is magical, illogical, and pseudo-scientific in the extreme.

A review is no place to go into all the details of this book, but I will give a few examples of the acumen of the Panel’s findings.

As a grandson of a Deputy Chief of the New York Fire Department (343 firefighters died on 9/11), I find it particularly despicable that the government agency, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), that was charged with investigating the collapse of the Towers and Building 7, would claim that no one gave evidence of explosions in the Twin Towers, when it is documented by the fastidious researcher Graeme MacQueen, a member of The 9/11 Consensus Panel, that over 100 firefighters who were at the scene reported hearing explosions in the towers.  One may follow endnote 22 to MacQueen’s research and his sources that are indisputable.  There are recordings.

On a connected note, the official account claims that there were widespread infernos in the South Tower that prevented firefighters from ascending to the 78th floor.  Such a claim would support the notion that the building could have collapsed as a result of fires caused by the plane crashing into the building.  But as 9/11 Unmasked makes clear, radio tapes of firefighters ascending to the 78th floor and saying this was not so, prove that “there is incontrovertible evidence that the firefighter teams were communicating clearly with one another as they ascended WTC” and that there were no infernos to stop them, as they are recorded saying.  They professionally went about their jobs trying to save people.

Then the South Tower collapsed and so many died.  But it couldn’t have collapsed from “infernos” that didn’t exist.  Only explosives could have brought it down.

A reader can thus pick up this book, check out that section, and use common sense and elementary logic to reach the same conclusion.  And by reaching that conclusion and going no further in the book, the entire official story of 9/11 falls apart.

Or one can delve further, let’s say by dipping into the official claim that a domestic airline attack on the Pentagon was not expected.  Opening to page 78, the reader can learn that “NBC’s Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski was warned of the Pentagon attack by an intelligence officer,” who specified the illogical spot where the attack would happen shortly before it did.  In Miklaszewski’s words, “And then he got very close to me, and, almost silent for a few seconds, he leaned in and said, ‘This attack was so well coordinated that if I were you, I would stay off the E Ring – where our NBC office was – the outer ring of the Pentagon for the rest of the day, because we’re next.’”  The authors say correctly, “The intelligence officer’s apparent foreknowledge was unaccountably specific.”  For if a terrorist were going to fly a plane into the Pentagon, the most likely spot would be to dive into the roof where many people might be killed, including top brass and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld.  To make an impossibly acrobatic maneuver to fly low into an outside wall would make no sense.  And for the government to claim that this impossible maneuver was executed by the alleged hijacker Hani Hanjour, a man who according to documentation couldn’t even pilot a small plane, is absurd.  But the intelligence officer knew what would happen, and the reader can learn this, and marvel.

Or the reader can start from the beginning and read straight through the book.  They will learn in detail that the official version of the attacks of 9/11 is fake news at its worst.  It is a story told for dunces.

Griffin and Woodworth and their colleagues simply and clearly in the most logical manner show that the emperor has no clothes, not even a mask.

Since knowing the truth about the attacks of September 11, 2001 is indispensable for understanding what is happening in today’s world, everyone should purchase and read Unmasking 9/11: An International Review Panel Investigation.  Keep it next to your dictionary, and when you read or hear the latest propaganda about the 9/11 attacks, take it out and consult the work of the real experts.  Their words will clarify your mind.

It is the definitive book on the defining event of the 21st century.

Medicare for All: Let 50 Flowers Bloom.

It has long been clear that health care in America is a disaster, an overpriced and underperforming bureaucratic behemoth.  It has also been clear that the answer is Medicare for All, aka Single Payer Health Care, a tried and proven solution to the problems of health care in modern, developed societies.  It is also true that a majority of Americans favor such a system.

But alas, we have no such system here in the US.  How to get it is one of the pressing political and humanitarian questions of the day.  The Purple World: Healing the Harm in American Health Care, a new book by Dr. Joseph Jarvis, suggests some interesting answers.

Much of this book deals with Dr. Jarvis’s years as one of the two leading public health officials in Nevada.  This part is engaging, enlightening and a bit scary at one or two points as Jarvis relates his struggles to ensure proper public health standards.  For example, a convention center restaurant wanted to cover up a case of food poisoning that disabled hundreds of conventioneers.  Or proper protections were not being enforced in Nevada’s brothels, leaving both employees and customers at risk.  At one point the brothel employers let Jarvis know that they were well aware of where he and his family lived!  It read like a scene out of The Godfather.  The brave Dr. Jarvis was not stopped.   Many of these tales are very revealing about the practice of medicine and public health and they make for spell-binding reading.

But the main interest of this book is a discussion of how to get Single Payer, and the book opens some interesting new angles on this effort.

Single Payer is Attractive to Conservatives as well as Progressives

For starters, too many seem to think that Single Payer only has appeal for liberals, progressives and Leftists.  Dr. Jarvis is living testimony that such is not the case.  He is a political conservative and a devout Mormon; and in this book, we find him pressing the case for Single Payer with great passion.  And he has done so tirelessly for decades in op-eds, lectures, interviews and even twice running for the Utah legislature.

The lesson is that the movement for Single Payer must be broadened to appeal to those who share Dr. Jarvis’s conservatism.  Single Payer must not be perceived as a wholly owned progressive enterprise.  That means uncoupling the crusade for Single Payer from other programs that Left leaning activists advocate.  There is no reason that Trump populists cannot embrace Single Payer every bit as much as Bernie Sanders populists.

And for this Dr. Jarvis sees hope in the 2016 election. He feels that the 2106 election created:

what felt like the most significant change in governance during my lifetime…..The American electorate became less reliably red or blue (in other words, it became more purple), and therefore much more unpredictable, more irascible and more demanding of its government.  (Emphasis, JW.)

From this comes the book’s title The Purple World. In both Democratic and Republican primaries, voters showed their independence and admirable irascibility by turning from the Elite Party leaders to the upstart populists, Trump and Sanders.

With voters more willing to think for themselves rather than act according to Party establishment diktat, the question must be asked how Single Payer can be made attractive to conservatives.  As I noted above, one way is to decouple it from other progressive issues.  It must not be seen as simply another plank of a Left-wing platform.  Opposition to coal mining or to gun rights, as examples, should not be made a prerequisite for Single Payer advocacy or a condition for working hand in hand with progressives in the Single Payer movement.  And meetings of Single Payer activists, should not drift into such areas which are guaranteed to make conservatives feel unwelcome.

In other words the crusade for Medicare for All must be made into a solid single-issue effort that spans parties and ideologies.  In this regard Single Payer activism has much to learn from the struggles for legalized abortion or gay rights or equality for women which grew to span Parties and ideologies.  And it might take a cue from Ralph Nader’s book Unstoppable which advocates just such Right-Left alliances.

A Single State Approach to Single Payer.  The Tenth Amendment Option

The central approach Jarvis advocates to appeal to conservatives is proceeding state by state.  This involves an appeal to the conservative distrust of the federal government and to the conservative commitment to the Tenth Amendment, which states:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

With this appeal in mind Jarvis suggests that in the new populist post-2016 environment we turn to winning Single Payer one state at a time.  In sum, a Purple World, Tenth Amendment approach to Single Payer.

But why not simply go the federal route?  The answer is that our Congress is in thrall to the Insurance Company Giants who are in control of most health care in the US and therefore make a bundle from it.  The Insurance Behemoths have been especially powerful in Washington, virtually writing the ObamaCare legislation which codifies and extends the control of the Insurers over the health care system.  There is no doubt that the Insurers also have great influence over State politicians.  But, in general, the more local the government, the greater control the people have over it.  And most importantly States have the ability to enact laws by referendum, so Jarvis’s irascible voters can bypass the politicians entirely.  Still even in the arena of the referendum, there will be a battle between truth and money – and it will not be an easy battle for the truth.

One problem with the Purple World, Tenth Amendment state by state approach is that it too requires an act of Congress.  Congress needs to provide enabling legislation to exempt states from various federal rules and regulations that preclude a Single Payer system.

It is here that the Tenth Amendment approach becomes valuable for it would have appeal to many principled conservatives in Congress.  They might then join an increasing number of liberal Congresspersons to enact such a bill.  And such a measure could enjoy the support of both conservative and progressive/liberal populists at the grassroots level.  With such a law in effect each state could attempt to win single-payer. This would be the Purple World in action.

Such enabling legislation or something very close to it was proposed in the past by former Democratic Congressman Jim McDermott of Washington.  And McDermott’s successor, Democratic Representative Pramila Jayapal has submitted such legislation again.  Perhaps even more interesting, as Jarvis informs us, Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah stated in a TV debate in his election bid in 2011 that each state should be allowed to fashion its own policy for health-system reform, even if it meant the state would create a single payer system.  That statement came in answer to a question posed by Dr. Jarvis who lives in Utah.

The existence of such a bill in Congress would also open the door for votes coming from both Republicans and Democrats, with Republicans able to side with it in a way that is compatible with their Tenth Amendment outlook.  And this would also satisfy another prescription of Jarvis: voters must ruthlessly hold politicians to their promises.  The very existence of such a bill in Congress provides a way to put each member of Congress on record as a co-sponsor – or not.  The irascible populist voter can demand that both conservatives and progressives back such a bill -or give their vote to an opponent of either party who will back such a bill – both by co-sponsorship and by vote.  All of a sudden Democrats must compete with conservative Republicans for the populist voter demanding Single Payer.  There would no longer be a single Party monopoly on Single Payer.

Dr. Jarvis fleshes out this proposal by sketching the outlines of such a Single-Payer bill for his state of Utah.  It merits examination, for as usual there are demons lurking in the details and these demons must be routed.

Let 50 Flowers Bloom

There is now a debate among Single-Payer advocates about which path to take, the national path or the state path.  Some suggest that only the federal path is possible and that state-based approaches would distract attention and divert energy from the national project.  But it is equally true that the two approaches can be complementary, stirring up general interest at all levels.  Two wise and very knowledgeable members of Physicians for a National Health Program suggested to this reviewer that both approaches be pursued since it is impossible to tell where a breakthrough will occur.

The single-state approach would follow in the footsteps of the proven, successful single-province approach in Canada.  There single-payer was first instituted in the Province of Saskatchewan in a mighty and bruising struggle.  But it then spread like wildfire to all the provinces.  Perhaps California or Washington – or Utah – could be the Saskatchewan of the US.  Let 50 flowers bloom!

A Diabolic False Flag Empire

The past is not dead; it is people who are sleeping.  The current night and daymares that we are having arise out of murders lodged deep in our past that have continued into the present.  No amount of feigned amnesia will erase the bloody truth of American history, the cheap grace we bestow upon ourselves.  We have, as Harold Pinter said in his Nobel address, been feeding on “a vast tapestry of lies” that surrounds us, lies uttered by nihilistic leaders and their media mouthpieces for a very long time.  We have, or should have, bad consciences for not acknowledging being active or silent accomplices in the suppression of truth and the vicious murdering of millions at home and abroad.

But, as Pinter said, “I believe that despite the enormous odds which exist, unflinching, unswerving, fierce intellectual determination, as citizens, to define the real truth of our lives and our societies is a crucial obligation which devolves upon us all. It is in fact mandatory.”

No one is more emblematic of this noble effort than David Ray Griffin, who, in book after book since the attacks of 11 September 2001, has meticulously exposed the underside of the American empire and its evil masters.  His persistence in trying to reach people and to warn them of the horrors that have resulted is extraordinary.  Excluding his philosophical and theological works, this is his fifteenth book since 2004 on these grave issues of life and death and the future of the world.

In this masterful book, he provides a powerful historical argument that right from the start with the arrival of the first European settlers, this country, despite all the rhetoric about it having been divinely founded and guided, has been “more malign that benign, more demonic than divine.”  He chronologically presents this history, supported by meticulous documentation, to prove his thesis.  In his previous book, Bush and Cheney: How They Ruined America and the World, Griffin cataloged the evil actions that flowed from the inside job/false flag attacks of September 11th, while in this one – a prequel – he offers a lesson in American history going back centuries, and he shows that one would be correct in calling the United States a “false flag empire.”

The attacks of 11 September 2001 are the false flag fulcrum upon which his two books pivot. Their importance cannot be overestimated, not just for their inherent cruelty that resulted in thousands of innocent American deaths, but since they became the justification for the United States’ ongoing murderous campaigns termed “the war on terror” that have brought death to millions of people around the world.  An international array of expendable people.  Terrifying as they were, and were meant to be, they have many precedents, although much of this history is hidden in the shadows.  Griffin shines a bright light on them, with most of his analysis focused on the years 1850-2018.

As a theological and philosophical scholar, he is well aware of the great importance of society’s need for religious legitimation for its secular authority, a way to offer its people a shield against terror and life’s myriad fears through a protective myth that has been used successfully by the United States to terrorize others.  He shows how the terms by which the U.S. has been legitimated as God’s “chosen nation” and Americans as God’s “chosen people” have changed over the years as secularization and pluralism have made inroads.  The names have changed, but the meaning has not. God is on our side, and when that is so, the other side is cursed and can be killed by God’s people, who are always battling el diabalo.

He exemplifies this by opening with a quote from George Washington’s first Inaugural Address where Washington speaks of “the Invisible Hand” and “Providential agency” guiding the country, and by ending with Obama saying “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being.”  In between we hear Andrew Jackson say that “Providence has showered on this favored land blessings without number” and Henry Cabot Lodge in 1900 characterize America’s divine mission as “manifest destiny.”  The American religion today is American Exceptionalism, an updated euphemism for the old-fashioned “God’s New Israel” or the “Redeemer Nation.”

At the core of this verbiage lies the delusion that the United States, as a blessed and good country, has a divine mission to spread “democracy” and “freedom” throughout the world, as Hilary Clinton declared during the 2016 presidential campaign when she said that “we are great because we are good,” and in 2004 when George W. Bush said, “Like generations before us, we have a calling from beyond the stars to stand for freedom.”   Such sentiments could only be received with sardonic laughter by the countless victims made “free” by America’s violent leaders, now and then, as Griffin documents.

Having established the fact of America’s claim to divine status, he then walks the reader through various thinkers who have taken sides on the issue of the United States being benign or malign.  This is all preliminary to the heart of the book, which is a history lesson documenting the malignancy at the core of the American trajectory.

“American imperialism is often said to have begun in 1898, when Cuba and the Philippines were the main prizes,” he begins.  “What was new at this time, however, was only that America took control of countries beyond the North American continent.”  The “divine right” to seize others’ lands and kill them started long before, and although no seas were crossed in the usual understanding of imperialism, the genocide of Native Americans long preceded 1898.  So too did the “manifest destiny” that impelled war with Mexico and the seizure of its land and the expansion west to the Pacific.  This period of empire building depended heavily on the “other great crime against humanity” that was the slave trade, wherein it is estimated that 10 million Africans died, in addition to the sick brutality of slavery itself.  “No matter how brutal the methods, Americans were instruments of divine purposes,” writes Griffin.  And, he correctly adds, it is not even true that America’s overseas imperialistic ventures only started in 1898, for in the 1850s Commodore Perry forced “the haughty Japanese” to open their ports to American commerce through gunboat diplomacy.

Then in 1898 the pace of overseas imperial expansion picked up dramatically with what has been called “The Spanish-American War” that resulted in the seizure of Cuba and the Philippines and the annexing of Hawaii.  Griffin says these wars could more accurately be termed “the wars to take Spanish colonies.”  His analysis of the brutality and arrogance of these actions makes the reader realize that My Lai and other more recent atrocities have a long pedigree that is part of an institutional structure, and while Filipinos and Cubans and so many others were being slaughtered, Griffin writes, “Anticipating Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s declaration that ‘we don’t do empire,’ [President] McKinley said that imperialism is ‘foreign to the temper and genius of this free and generous people.’”

Then as now, perhaps mad laughter is the only response to such unadulterated bullshit, as Griffin quotes Mark Twain saying that it would be easy creating a flag for the Philippines:

We can have just our usual flag, with the white stripes painted black and the stars replaced by the skull and cross-bones.

That would have also worked for Columbia, Panama, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Nicaragua, and other countries subjugated under the ideology of the Monroe Doctrine; wherever freedom  and national independence raised its ugly head, the United States was quick to intervene with its powerful anti-revolutionary military and its financial bullying.  In the Far East the “Open Door” policy was used to loot China, Japan, and other countries.

But all this was just the beginning.  Griffin shows how Woodrow Wilson, the quintessentially devious and treacherous liberal Democrat, who claimed he wanted to keep America out of WW I, did just the opposite to make sure the U.S. would come to dominate the foreign markets his capitalist masters demanded.  Thus Griffin explores how Wilson conspired with Winston Churchill to use the sinking of the Lusitania as a casus belli and how the Treaty of Versailles’s harsh treatment of Germany set the stage for WW II.

He tells us how in the intervening years between the world wars the demonization of Russia and the new Soviet Union was started. This deprecation of Russia, which is roaring at full-throttle today, is a theme that recurs throughout The American Trajectory.  Its importance cannot be overemphasizedWilson called the Bolshevik government “a government by terror,” and in 1918 “sent thousands of troops into northern and eastern Russia, leaving them there until 1920.”

That the U. S. invaded Russia is a fact rarely mentioned and even barely known to Americans.  Perhaps awareness of it and the century-long demonizing of the U.S.S.R./Russia would enlighten those who buy the current anti-Russia propaganda called “Russiagate.”

To match that “divine” act of imperial intervention abroad, Wilson fomented the Red Scare at home, which, as Griffin says, had lasting and incalculable importance because it created the American fear of radical thought and revolution that exists to this very day and serves as a justification for supporting brutal dictators around the world and crackdowns on freedom at home (as is happening today).

He gives us brief summaries of some dictators the U.S has supported, and reminds us of the saying of that other liberal Democrat, Franklin Roosevelt, who famously said of the brutal Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza, that “he may be a son-of-a-bitch, but he’s our son-of-a-bitch.”  And thus Somoza would terrorize his own people for 43 years.  The same took place in Cuba, Chile, Iran, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, etc.  The U.S. also supported Mussolini, did nothing to prevent Franco’s fascist toppling of the Spanish Republic, and supported the right-wing government of Chiang-Kai Shek in its efforts to dominate China.

It is a very dark and ugly history that confirms the demonic nature of American actions around the world.

Then Griffin explodes the many myths about the so-called “Good War” – WW II.  He explains the lies told about the Japanese “surprise” attack on Pearl Harbor; how Roosevelt wished to get the U.S. into the war, both in the Pacific and in Europe; and how much American economic self-interest lay behind it.  He critiques the myth that America selflessly wished to defend freedom loving people in their battles with brutal, fascist regimes.  That, he tells us, is but a small part of the story:

This, however, is not an accurate picture of American policies during the Second World War.  Many people were, to be sure, liberated from terrible tyrannies by the Allied victories.  But the fact that these people benefited was an incidental outcome, not a motive of American policies.  These policies, as [Andrew] Bacevich discovered, were based on ‘unflagging self-interest.’

Then there are the conventional and atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Nothing could be more demonic, as Griffin shows.  If these cold-blooded mass massacres of civilians and the lies told to justify them don’t convince a reader that there has long been something radically evil at the heart of American history, nothing will.  Griffin shows how Truman and his advisers and top generals, including Dwight Eisenhower and Admiral William D. Leahy, Truman’s Chief of Staff, knew the dropping of the atomic bombs were unnecessary to end the war, but they did so anyway.

He reminds us of Clinton’s Secretary of State Madeline Albright’s response to the question whether she thought the deaths of more than 500,000 Iraqi children as a result of Clinton’s crippling economic sanctions were worth it: “But, yes, we think the price is worth it.”  (Notice the “is,” the ongoing nature of these war crimes, as she spoke.)  But this is the woman who also said, “We are the indispensable nation.  We stand tall…”

Griffin devotes other chapters to the creation of the Cold War, American imperialism during the Cold War, Post-Cold War interventions, the Vietnam War, the drive for global dominance, and false flag operations, among other topics.

As for false flag operations, he says, “Indeed, the trajectory of the American Empire has relied so heavily on these types of attacks that one could describe it as a false flag empire.”  In the false flag chapter and throughout the book, he discusses many of the false flags the U.S. has engaged in, including Operation Gladio, the U.S./NATO terrorist operation throughout Europe that Swiss historian Daniele Ganser has extensively documented, an operation meant to discredit communists and socialists.  Such operations were directly connected to the OSS, the CIA and its director Allen Dulles, his henchman James Jesus Angleton, and their Nazi accomplices, such as General Reinhard Gehlen.  In one such attack in 1980 at the Bologna, Italy railway station, these U.S. terrorists killed 85 people and wounded 20 others.  As with the bombs dropped by Saudi Arabia today on Yemeni school children, the explosive used was made for the U.S. military.  About these documented U.S. atrocities, Griffin says:

These revelations show the falsity of an assumption widely held by Americans.  While recognizing that the US military sometimes does terrible things to their enemies, most Americans have assumed that US military leaders would not order the killing of innocent civilians in allied countries for political purposes.  Operation Gladio showed this assumption to be false.

He is right, but I would add that the leaders behind this were civilian, as much as, or more than military.

In the case of “Operation Northwoods,” it was the Joint Chiefs of Staff who presented to President Kennedy this false flag proposal that would provide justification for a U.S. invasion of Cuba.  It would have involved the killing of American citizens on American soil, bombings, plane hijacking, etc.  President Kennedy considered such people and such plans insane, and he rejected it as such.  His doing so tells us much, for many other presidents would have approved it.  And again, how many Americans are aware of this depraved proposal that is documented and easily available?  How many even want to contemplate it?  For the need to remain in denial of the facts of history and believe in the essential goodness of America’s rulers is a very hard nut to crack.  Griffin has written a dozen books about 11 September 2001, trying to do exactly that.

If one is willing to embrace historical facts, however, then this outstanding book will open one’s eyes to the long-standing demonic nature of the actions of America’s rulers.  A reader cannot come away from its lucidly presented history unaffected, unless one lives in a self-imposed fantasy world.  The record is clear, and Griffin lays it out in all its graphic horror. Which is not to say that the U.S. has not “done both good and bad things, so it could not sensibly be called purely divine or purely demonic.” Questions of purity are meant to obfuscate basic truths. And the question he asks in his subtitle – Divine or Demonic? – is really a rhetorical question, and when it comes to the “trajectory” of American history, the demonic wins hands down.

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out one place where Griffin fails the reader.  In his long chapter on Vietnam, which is replete with excellent facts and analyses, he makes a crucial mistake, which is unusual for him.  This mistake appears in a four page section on President Kennedy’s policies on Vietnam.  In those pages, Griffin relies on Noam Chomsky’s terrible book – Rethinking Camelot: JFK, the Vietnam War, and US Political Culture (1993), a book wherein Chomsky shows no regard for evidence or facts – to paint Kennedy as being in accord with his advisers, the CIA, and the military regarding Vietnam.  This is factually false. Griffin should have been more careful and have understood this.  The truth is that Kennedy was besieged and surrounded by these demonic people, who were intent on isolating him, disregarding his instructions, and murdering him to achieve their goals in Vietnam.  In the last year of his life, JFK had taken a radical turn toward peace-making, not only in Vietnam, but with the Soviet Union, Cuba, and around the globe.  Such a turn was anathema to the war lovers. Thus he had to die.

Contrary to Chomsky’s deceptions, motivated by his hatred of Kennedy and perhaps something more sinister (he also backs the Warren Commission, thinks JFK’s assassination was no big deal, and accepts the patently false official version of the attacks of 11 September 2001), Griffin should have emphatically asserted that Kennedy had issued NSAM 263 on October 11, 1963 calling for the withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam, and that after he was assassinated a month later, Lyndon Johnson reversed that withdrawal order with NSAM 273.  Chomsky notwithstanding, all the best scholarship and documentary evidence proves this.  And for Griffin, a wonderful scholar, to write that with the change from Kennedy to Johnson that “this change of presidents would bring no basic change in policy” is so shockingly wrong that I imagine Griffin, a man passionate about truth, simply slipped up and got sloppy here.  For nothing could be further from the truth.

Ironically, Griffin makes a masterful case for his thesis, while forgetting the one pivotal man, President John Kennedy, who sacrificed his life in an effort to change the trajectory of American history from its demonic course.

It is one mistake in an otherwise very important and excellent book that should be required reading for anyone who doubts the evil nature of this country’s continuing foreign policy.  Those who are already convinced should also read it, for it provides a needed historical resource and impetus to help change the trajectory that is transporting the world toward nuclear oblivion, if continued.

If – a fantastic wish! – The American Trajectory: Divine or Demonic? were required reading in American schools and colleges, perhaps a new generation would arise to change our devils into angels, the arc of America’s future moral universe toward justice, and away from being the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today, as it has been for so very long.

Have Humans Evolved to be Violent?

Ron Newby, a former researcher at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, begins his book Tribal: Truth and Consequences by quoting mathematician Jacob Bronowski on the uniqueness of humans among animals.

Newby notes that 98% of the human genome is identical with that of chimpanzees. Members of both species have exhibited acts of violence. Is this the direction of evolution? Newby also notes that the close cousin to chimps, the bonobos, engage in sexual activity and avoid conflict. Despite this Newby posits determinism: “There can be little doubt that interpersonal violence is inherited from our ancient primate ancestors.” (p 14)

Tribal is an 82 page discussion of what drew humans into groupings and what effect this has had on human evolution and what are the future prospects for humans.

The book is uneven though. For example, Newby considers boys liking guns and girls liking dolls to be instinctual behaviors. (p 15) He provides no definition of instinct, but generally an instinct is considered by psychologists to be an unlearned, automatic, and fixed behavior. Thus instinctual hardly applies to liking guns and dolls.

On p 16 Newby writes, “There are likely genetic factors that influence our killer behavior, however there have been no killer gene or genes that have been linked to our proclivity toward killing.” [italics added] By writing with the pronoun “our,” Newby conveys the impression that killing, or the tendency toward killing, is widespread among humans. But this is clearly a marginal behavior. One calculation was that murder was accounted for by 0.0046% of Americans in 2013, and such a percentage may be even lower today.

Moreover, the fact that soldiers having experienced violence or death on the battlefield incur PTSD speaks against a widespread proclivity toward violence; rather it would posit an aversion toward lethal violence.

Following the evolutionary trail and the absence of other hominids, Newby speculates whether Homo sapiens may have killed off the Neanderthals. (p 17) Yet current knowledge indicates that humans and Neanderthals interbred. Academics point out, “Recent genomic research has shown that hybridization between substantially diverged lineages is the rule, not the exception, in human evolution.”

Newby first and foremost states that tribalism offered the advantage of security from outsiders. (p 17) Companionship and pair bonding are mentioned thereafter. (p 18) Hence, a bias appears in Tribal, that of humans being naturally violent.

The book, however, finds its footing in the middle section when it discusses the neurochemical and biological bases for behaviors. Newby then segues into the profoundly important topic of the danger facing humanity from anthropogenic climate change. Everyone should be informed on the topic and what the ramifications for current and future generations might be.

The author pontificates that conspiracy theorists are tribe creators “by offering alternate explanations of events, rather than accepting the reliable and tested theories. Prime examples would include the deniers of the Holocaust — (never happened), deniers of the accepted cause of 9/11 — (It was Israel)…” (p 26) First, who denies that the Nazis rounded up communists, Jews, Roma, homosexuals, etc into concentration camps where many people perished? I am aware of people who question the widespread narrative of the numbers and the method by which prisoners died. I am unaware of people who deny that there were concentration camps and that people died there. Second, I wonder what the author considers to be the “accepted cause of 9/11”? Newby does not state this. Apparently Newby denigrates the over 3,000 architects and engineers who call for a new investigation into the events of 9-11 as conspiracy theorists. In addition, over half of Americans doubt the “official” explanation. Newby fails to grasp that knowledgeable people can posit legitimate theories based on evidence and logic counter to the “official” theory solicited by the George W Bush administration. Such theories may be incorrect, but so might also be the “official” theory. A theory is not a fact. Third, resorting to ad hominem of contrasting views speaks ill of the mud slinger; it is unbecoming; and is not an argument worth contemplation.

Finally, I dislike quotations provided without sourcing as so many turn out to be incorrectly attributed or even conjurations. The only two quotations that I researched turned out both to be dubious. Newby incorrectly attributes the following quotation to Albert Einstein: “Only two things are infinite; the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.”(p 14) On p 59, the author quotes D.H. Lawrence: “Tragedy is like strong acid — it dissolves away all but the very gold of truth.”

Newby intended Tribal as an unhindered read without the clutter of footnotes accessible to the everyday person. That Tribal is, but it consequently lacks depth and oft times left this reader wondering about the factual accuracy and logical coherence of what is being discussed.

A Shameful Legacy: “Race” and the Railroad Industry in the United States

“Race” has always, historically speaking, been the Achilles Heel of the labor movement in the United States, the number one tool of the bosses and big capital to divide, contain, and crush working-class struggles.

In the history of the worker’s movement in the US there are few things as shameful as the legacy – decade-after-decade – of blatant in-your-face segregationist practices, codified discrimination, and race-hatred against African-American  railroaders. The latter story— the oppression and the resistance —is told in Eric Arnesen’s Brotherhoods of Color: Black Railroad Workers and the Struggle for Equality. Among African American rail workers who have experienced and studied this rich history, Arnesen’s book is considered the authoritative reference, the Bible really, of an important, if often overlooked, history in the overall struggle for Black and worker’s rights in the US. (In addition to Brotherhoods of Color, I would recommend Philip Foner’s classic history Organized Labor and the Black Worker 1619-1973 an extraordinarily rich and comprehensive general history that takes up these issues and much more.)

The Railway Labor Act

The passage of the Federal Railway Labor Act of 1924 (RLA) registered important advances for railroad workers in that it was the first federal legal recognition of trade unions by craft. The RLA set up collective bargaining mechanisms that facilitated legally binding contract settlements and the adjudication of grievances, in exchange for rail labor organizations submitting to drawn-out federally “supervised” procedures that in practice gave up the right to strike.

Nevertheless, these concessions to rail labor reined in somewhat the unbridled prerogatives of the rail bosses over decades of on-again, off-again class war on the US rails from the great labor uprisings of 1877 through the struggles of the American Railway Union under the leadership of the legendary Eugene V. Debs.

The American Railway Union fought for the unification of all railroad workers – regardless of craft, race or ethnicity – into one big union. It won a big victory in the 1894 Great Northern strike but fell apart after the massive defeat in the Pullman strike later that year.

Those decades saw regular combat been rail capital and rail labor over worker’s rights, decent wages and living standards, working conditions and safety, the length of the working day, health and vacation benefits, and so on. The RLA, as it became institutionalized, also reined in the violence the rail bosses and their thugs and goons, backed by state and federal cops, National Guard, and armed forces, that was periodically unleashed against rail labor.

By setting up a significant government bureaucracy to oversee the adjudication of contract settlements and grievances, Washington and the rail carriers accomplished a major political goal of buying “labor peace” in the vast national rail industry at a time the United States was rising as a world power following World War I.

Another concession in the interests of rail labor was that the RLA also established the first federally protected pension system for any category of US workers, eleven years before the passage of the Social Security Act. The Railroad Retirement Board still exists to this day parallel to the Social Security Administration (and from which I personally draw my pension as a retired locomotive engineer).

The Institutionalization of Segregation

Perhaps the most pernicious consequences of the RLA was that it froze into place existing, narrow craft categories of workers, and, within that, a system of racist discrimination and the exclusion of non-“white” workers from the legally recognized craft unions, the so-called “Brotherhoods.”

It took decades of struggle in the yards, in the streets, in state and Federal legislatures, and continually in the courts, before the system began to weaken in the 1940s, under the impact of World War II labor shortages and the entry of masses of African American workers into the labor force and the massively expanding war industries. Further pressure mounted in the 1950s, as the Civil Rights Movement began to mobilize and fight, until the whole rotten structure collapsed in ignominy after the passage of the 1964 Federal Civil Rights Act. Over the next few years, Blacks finally began to get jobs, and union membership, as locomotive engineers, firemen, conductors, brakemen and switchmen, electricians and machinists, office personnel, and other crafts beyond “their” craft as sleeping car porters, cooks, and dining car attendants. Women began to enter the operating crafts and other skilled rail jobs in relatively larger numbers in the 1980s and 1990s.

Massive Union Growth in the US

The great labor battles of the 1930s in the United States are downplayed in history textbooks and public education. In fact, this period was marked by a huge working-class and trade union upsurge across the US. The nadir of US labor organization was in the depths of the 1931-32 Great Depression. Union membership had been reduced to 1-2% of the employed workforce. Most of that pitiful number was within the semi-moribund, very conservative AFL craft unions. By 1937-38 the number of organized workers has risen to a full 35% of the US workforce, following a few years of explosive strikes and organizing campaigns under the banner of the CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations) movement with successful drives to organize the steel, auto, trucking, and countless other industries. Nowhere has there been recorded such a massive growth in trade-union membership in such a short period as in the United States at that time.

Unfortunately, this mass organization of the US working class in the 1930s bypassed almost completely the railroad industry and the “whites only” craft-union structure of the “Brotherhoods” that had been codified under the RLA a decade earlier. The craft structure was reinforced, with its segregationist core intact.

The CIO

The CIO did not exclude African-American workers and actively recruited them. In the course of the decade’s great labor battles, such as the Flint Sit-Down strikes of 1936-1937, the battle to organize US Steel and the entire steel industry, and much more, Black and Caucasian workers often organized, mobilized, and fought together and even politically radicalized, to an extent, together. Caucasian workers had to adjust their perspectives and outlooks and confront their prejudices to a degree as they faced the reality that African-American workers had already become a mass presence in US industry. Their numbers and concentration, as well as their evident and obvious capacity for industrial work and a fierce determination to struggle for decent-paying union jobs in the face of race prejudice and segregationist practice was becoming politically unstoppable. Race-baiting was an ever-present political tool of the bosses who fought tooth and nail against trade union advances. Many workers became conscious of these divide-and-conquer tactics and began to rethink their world outlooks.

The Women’s Emergency Brigade organized during the Flint Sit Down Strike of 1937.

Roots of the Civil Rights Movement

Brotherhoods of Color shows that the source and ultimate responsibility for the racist practices and policies that confronted Black workers throughout the 20th Century lay with the private rail carriers and the federal and state governments that catered to their needs and profits. Nevertheless, it must also be said that often these industry and state authorities used the racist and mean-spirited attitudes of the rail unions, the so-called “Brotherhoods” as a cover for inaction or hostile action against Black workers, who were fighting a permanent defensive war to preserve the relatively skilled jobs they had managed to secure.

These AFL-affiliated craft unions, legally recognized under the RLA, contained bylaws and “covenants” that openly excluded Black workers, making them essentially “white job trusts.” The “Brotherhoods” were, at times, even more racist and reactionary than the formal policies of the carriers and government bodies and agencies who regularly came under enough political and legal pressure from Black workers and their allies among labor radicals and civil rights and worker’s rights lawyers, to occasionally give lip service (and usually little else) to fair labor practices.

Brotherhoods of Color meticulously documents the legal battles doggedly fought by civil rights and worker’s rights attorneys in the generally hostile territory of the criminal justice system that predominated at that time. That system, as a whole, acted to uphold and defend – decade after decade – the prevailing system of de jure or de facto segregation and keep Black workers and their attorneys in an endless legal labyrinth. Nevertheless, working through the rigged “legal system,” trying to wring any concessions possible was the main approach of the more conservative Black and liberal organizations like the NAACP.

They took advantage of every contradiction between the fine words of US law and its sordid reality and snail’s pace when it came to race and sex discrimination. Even favorable court rulings here and there were rarely, if ever, implemented in practice. Slick government, carrier, or “Brotherhood” lawyers always managed to drag things out.

This legalistic road was nowhere a sufficient basis for change. It was rather more of a marker and registration for the ebb and flow of the grass-roots struggle against job discrimination and segregation which became unstoppable by the 1960s. Arnesen writes:

Just as proponents of educational desegregation learned in the 1950s, court-imposed solutions were costly, time-consuming, and imperfect. Employment discrimination cases slowly wound their way through the judicial system in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, addressing local variations as well as other obstacles that the ‘white’ craft unions threw in the way of African-American railroaders. Without a doubt, these cases established important principles that undermined the legitimacy of racist practices. In effect, though, they eroded only at a glacial pace both existing and new practices designed to thwart the job rights of black fireman and brakemen.

The struggles documented in Brotherhoods of Color became one of the mightiest rivers flowing into the ocean of the mass Civil Rights Movement emerging in the Deep South in the 1950s and 1960s. The political culmination was the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which gave the legal death knell to the segregationist practices that were institutionalized at the time of the Railway Labor Act. After the 1964 legislation the resistance of the craft unions collapsed virtually overnight and a period, sometimes fraught with tension but with steady gains, saw the beginnings of genuine job opportunities, union membership, and advances for African American workers in the freight and passenger rail industry.

Even in the period when Black workers were largely confined to crafts of sleeping car porters, cooks, and dining attendants, Black-led unions representing these workers on the job were organized. The strongest was the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) which became, under the leadership of A. Philip Randolph, a powerful, prestigious organization in Black communities across the United States. The BSCP received a charter from the AFL in 1925 and, for years, unsuccessfully petitioned for the desegregation of the racist “Brotherhoods.” The BSCP was in the forefront of Black rights struggles across the US.

For example, it is not well known that the central organizer of the Montgomery Bus Boycott was E.D. Nixon, President of the Montgomery, Alabama chapter of the BSCP and the NAACP who convinced a courageous 26-year-old Martin Luther King (older prominent local preachers were reluctant to step forward) to take public leadership of what became the turning-point action that became the major spark of the mass movement across the South that soon materialized. The legendary Rosa Parks, whose conscious, well-organized decision to refuse to sit at the back of the bus set off the boycott, was a secretary at the NAACP office employed by BSCP worker and organizer E.D. Nixon.

Randolph had the courage to threaten a mass March on Washington in early 1941 demanding an end to segregation in the armed forces as well as that the massively expanding war industries hire and promote without discrimination Black workers. President Franklin Roosevelt was not happy but issued Executive Order 8802 prohibiting discrimination in war industries under federal contracts. This succeeded in get the March on Washington called off. Randolph later became the honorary chairperson for the famous 1963 March on Washington.

But the real heroes in Brotherhoods of Color are the rank-and-file workers, themselves, fighting to preserve their jobs against the carriers, the state governments, and the racist “Brotherhoods.” Arnesen gives them their voice and records their efforts, their many defeats and some victories which, when all is said and done, contributed mightily to the historic breakthroughs of the 1960s.

The overall history documented comprehensively by Arnesen does reveal clearly that all advances, small and larger, won were a byproduct of independent mass action or the threat of it from below.

Crucially, it should be emphasized that the space to do this was increased materially in the first half of the 20th Century in the World War I era, and, even more in the buildup to US entry into World War II. The centrality of the rail industry, the conversion to massive war production on the eve of World War II translated to a hunger for labor power on the railroads in particular and US industry in general. Black workers, already a massive layer of the working class in the worst, and worst-paying, jobs, and their representatives and advocates, saw the opening to fight for decent jobs, paying union-scale, in the rapidly expanding war industries. For example, during World War I thousands of Blacks were hired as construction and maintenance laborers on northern rail lines. In fact, Black GIs returning from World War II and the Korean War, and the African American nationality as a whole in these post-war periods, were in no mood for settling into the old segregationist and humiliating status quo.

Stop the Whitewashing of Our History

In my 30-year railroad career, working as a brakeman-switchman, hostler, and locomotive engineer in Chicago, Washington, DC, and New York, for first the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad and then for Amtrak, I saw a transformation in the number of African-American and then women in the operating crafts. I remember being in the cab of the locomotive in the middle of some godforsaken stretch of Illinois countryside, or pulling a 150-car coal train from Chicago’s giant Proviso Yard to the gates of a northern Indiana power plant, listening to the stories of some of the first Black engineers that the carriers were forced to hire – and the craft unions gave up trying to exclude. These brothers related to me the bullshit they had to put up with initially, even as things began to get better and prejudices began to break down.

It would be very educational and useful if our unions today would confront this blot on our history and dignity as organizations of labor. This is long overdue. And not only for moral reasons.

I maintain that we need to know the history of our unions if we are going to transform them into instruments of struggle for the coming battles facing the working class in the United States today, in this new gilded age of obscene social inequality and squalid oligarchy in the United States.

This whitewashing of history really slapped me across the face when I received in the mail in 2013 a booklet celebrating the 150th Anniversary of my union, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), which is now a division of the Teamsters Union, and its predecessors the Brotherhood of the Footboard (founded in 1863) and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. There was not a single word in that small book about the segregationist, “whites only” bylaws and “covenants” that prevailed for 100 years!

I had once personally confronted BLET President Dennis Pierce about this, in a friendly way, when he attended a retirement party thrown by our Division 11 in New York City. Brother Pierce told me he was “appalled” at what he saw in the archives, including “whites only” covenants, but when I asked him why the history booklet sent to each member, glorifying the history of our union, there was not a single word on the decades-long blatant racism he fell back on the lame and cowardly rationalization that to include it in the 150th anniversary booklet and literature would be “divisive”! As if the real “division” were not the racist practices themselves.

Old Lessons, Current Realities

While the legacy of racist discrimination in the railroad industry – and in US social relations in general – have been dealt heavy blows in the past several decades, race hatred and demagogy remain a reference point for ultra-rightist forces and their allies (who are invariably anti-union) and a cutting-edge component in the current social and political polarization in US politics. These voices are trying to get a hearing for their reactionary viewpoints in the working class and our greatly weakened trade-union movement.

Since the financial crisis and so-called Great Recession of 2007-08 there were subsequent devastating attacks on the value of labor, employment, wages, and living standards under both Democratic and Republican White Houses and Congresses. The relative and slight uptick in GDP numbers today (famously manipulated and manipulatable), the balloon of the stock market, and slight increases in industrial production and manufacturing have been typically hyped by President Donald Trump – “this is the greatest economy in the history of America.” The actual economic figures (which are always “readjusted”) are significant and interesting mainly around the question of their sustainability. One key question: What will be the unintended consequences of the unfolding clashes over trade and tariffs between the United States, China, and the European Union? What will be the spillover effects, economically and politically, in Asia, Canada, Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa?

Another curious fact that stands out for now is that wages for working people continue to stagnate and trend downward, with minor exceptions, despite the official low unemployment figures. Labor shortages in fast-food and other large-scale wholesale and retail operations such as Amazon, Walmart, and so on, along with militant drives by unorganized workers to fight for $15 an hour, have forced these outfits to grant some wage concessions.

Similarly, rank-and-file teachers, almost independent of their weak unions, forced state house to grant some wage relief (that is raises) with no strings attached in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona.

Brotherhoods of Color is well-written and comprehensive. I recommend it not only for its rich evocation of the past but because it contains many lessons for rail and other US workers of whatever “race” or skin tone, for the present and future. Workers, who are being drawn into today’s struggles and will by the millions be drawn into the giant, inevitable class battles that lay ahead in the USA.