Category Archives: Donald Trump

The Media on Venezuela: Double Standards and First Impressions

The swearing in of the Constituent Assembly meant the return of the portraits of Bolívar and Chávez to the Legislative Palace (photo from Alba Ciudad)

While street violence in Venezuela virtually evaporated after chavismo’s strong showing on July 30 and the Constituent Assembly being sworn in, the war against Venezuela is far from over. After months of threats and targeted sanctions, the US, cheered on by the Venezuelan opposition, imposed financial sanctions targeting the Venezuelan government and the state oil company PDVSA. Another war front that has remained hyperactive has been the media. It is impossible to go after the (fake) news and distortions one by one, so in this piece we will try to pinpoint some of the techniques used by the mainstream media in recent times when reporting about Venezuela.

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Who shoulders the burden of proof?

The lead-up to the Constituent Assembly elections was full of threats and refusals to recognise the results from the US and its subordinates near and far. After the vote took place, with over 8M voters participating, the mainstream media started behaving like the audience of “The Price is Right”.1 Any claim of a different turnout, invariably without any evidence, was thrown at the readers.

But the ideal weapon came when Smartmatic, the company responsible for the voting machines and software, claimed that “without any doubt” the voting total had been inflated by, according to their “estimations”, at least 1M votes. The Venezuelan electoral authorities (CNE) promptly reacted by saying that the company, while responsible for the system, had no access to electoral data, and as such whatever estimates they produced were baseless. Given that the electoral results were published a few days later, the logical reasoning would put the burden on Smartmatic to release evidence to back their claims. In the press conference, Smartmatic CEO Antonio Mugica said that the company had not shared the evidence with the CNE because they would not be “sympathetic” to it. But why not share it with the western media, which is more than sympathetic to it?

As it turns out, there was no need to present evidence, because the standards are different when it comes to Venezuela. Smartmatic’s press conference was more than enough for the media, who now parrot that it was “revealed” that the voting figures were inflated. So any allegation that conforms to the mainstream narrative and goes against the Venezuelan government does not need to be proven, and is used henceforth either as a fact or to provide instant denial. By contrast, the Venezuelan opposition enjoys a free ride when it comes to fact-checking of their statements. We can thank the BBC for a blatant demonstration of these double standards:

Venezuela’s electoral authorities said more than eight million people, or 41.5% of the electorate, had voted, a figure the company that provided the voting system said was inflated.

The opposition boycotted the poll and also held an unofficial referendum in which they said more than seven million Venezuelans voted against the constituent assembly.

The official vote, whose results have been audited, vouched for, and published, has to be immediately countered, even though Smartmatic provided nothing to back their claims. In comparison, the opposition’s claimed turnout from their “consultation”, of which all records were burned, is free from anyone contradicting it, even though there are strong reasons to doubt it.

Tibisay Lucena, president of the Venezuelan electoral council, gave a press conference in which she dismissed Smartmatic’s allegations based on the fact that the company has no access to electoral data. Smartmatic has yet to provide any evidence to back their claims that the vote total was inflated.

The New York Times went one step further, echoing an opposition leader’s claim that people had voted multiple times. This was, in fact, proven to be impossible by a journalist. And we can only wonder where these fears of multiple voting were when this actually did happen during the opposition’s consultation, an event that the New York Times considered as a supreme democratic event with “staggering” results.

But when it comes to double standards, the Guardian was determined not to be outdone. Here is what appeared on a recent piece about Trump’s “military option” threat:

[Venezuela’s] economy has collapsed in recent years as the country led first by the late Hugo Chávez and then by his successor, Maduro, has resorted to increasingly authoritarian measures to consolidate power.

Trump’s remarks come in the shadow of a 2002 coup attempt against Chávez that he blamed on the US.

So Maduro’s resort to “authoritarian measures” is not “according to his opponents”, or to fancy “international observers” that always come in handy on these occasions, it is supposed to be an absolute fact. On the other hand, US involvement in the 2002 coup, which has been amply documented, is just Chávez’s opinion!

And in what is not a case of double standards but rather one of no standards, we have to mention this article by the Guardian. What happened was the following: the Constituent Assembly invited the leaders of the opposition-controlled National Assembly to participate in a session to work out their legal status2 and how both bodies will co-exist. The opposition leaders refused, and the Constituent Assembly assumed power to legislate on some matters, namely national security. The Guardian, clearly preparing for their future as a tabloid3, titled their article “President Maduro strips Venezuela’s parliament of power”, along with a picture of Maduro swinging maracas. It does not get more disingenuous than that.

Shoot first, do not ask questions later

A distinctive reporting technique involves sticking to first impressions, however biased they may be. Let us illustrate with an example: on April 11, Brayan Principal, a teenage resident from a public housing project in Lara state, was shot dead. Rather than gather the facts, the media simply let an opposition lawmaker state that he thought armed pro-government groups were responsible. And that was that. The testimony of the victim’s mother, as well as other residents from the project, showed this was another example of an opposition attack against the public housing mission, one of chavismo’s flagship projects. But the media were happy with the initial opinion and not interested in reporting further.

However, no case is more symptomatic than that of Oscar Pérez. A police officer, he hijacked a helicopter and then proceeded to shoot at and throw grenades at government buildings with people inside. It was more of a stunt than an armed uprising, but still the media were charmed by a character that would be instantly, and rightly, called a terrorist had he done this anywhere else. And if that was not enough, they started floating this idiotic idea that he might be a “government plant”. “This colourful B-movie actor attacked public buildings with grenades. Could it be that he is a government plant?” No, no he is not. He appeared in an opposition rally a few days later, but none of the outlets that pushed the “government plant” theory bothered to report on it.

A more recent case involved Colombian channels RCN and Caracol being taken off the air in Venezuela. While these channels are well-known for giving a platform to right-wing people like Álvaro Uribe, and for being part of large corporate empires, the BBC pinpointed this closure to the channels’ close coverage of the events surrounding Luisa Ortega. It appears they were only guilty of doing journalism, just like the BBC pretends to do. The fact that former Mexican president and loyal US servant Vicente Fox had just appeared on these channels telling Maduro to “resign or die” was not worth mentioning.

One wonders if a channel where people came on the air telling Emmanuel Macron, or the Queen of England, to “resign or die” would stay on the air in France or the UK. And where was all this concern about “censorship” when Argentinian president Mauricio Macri ordered TeleSur taken off the air? (Needless to say, TeleSur never ran anything remotely comparable to these threats)

Former Mexican president Vicente Fox on Colombian channel RCN

Silence is golden

Another common technique of biased reporting involves reporting only stories that fit into the mainstream narrative and shying away from anything that might cast doubt on it. For example, OAS chief Luis Almagro always has the floor for his regime-change efforts against Venezuela, which come coated in the language of defending “democracy”. But if the media pointed out his lack of interest in the parliamentary coup in Brazil, or reported on his praise of Israel’s democracy, then his standing as a “pro-democracy” actor would be very questionable. Similarly, ridiculous statements such as Almagro claiming that Cuba has an “occupying army” in Venezuela are nowhere to be found in the mainstream outlets.

Luisa Ortega Díaz4, former prosecutor turned anti-chavista hero, also benefits from this kind of selective reporting. Now portrayed as a defender of the rule of law, it would be useful to recall that not so long ago she was vilified by the opposition for the prosecution and conviction of Leopoldo López for his role in the previous edition of the violent guarimbas in 2014. Ortega’s outlandish comparisons of the Venezuelan government to “Stalin and Hitler”, were they to be reported, would also make it harder for her to be taken seriously.

Presented by the media as a fierce defender of the Constitution, the idea is to imply that she is a genuine chavista and Maduro and co. have gone off the rails. But her presence in a forum “in defence of the Constitution” tells a different story. There she was surrounded by who’s who of the opposition leadership, people who would do away with the Constitution in a heartbeat, and actually did during the 2002 coup.

Ortega and her husband have been accused of running an extortion operation out of the Public Prosecutor’s office, getting money in exchange for not prosecuting companies accused of misuse of subsidised dollars. Ortega’s replacement, Tarek Saab, presented documents of alleged bank accounts opened by members of this circle in UBS bank in the Bahamas. But this evidence, or Ortega’s baffling response that UBS does not exist in the Bahamas (!), are not mentioned by western journalists, who could actually investigate the claims if they wanted to.

Luisa Ortega in a forum “in defence of the Constitution” surrounded by opposition leaders. The three figures from the right are Freddy Guevara, Julio Borges and Henrique Capriles.

Sanctions and solidarity

The most recent US-imposed sanctions were a significant escalation that could do serious damage to the average Venezuelan, as opposed to freezing Maduro’s non-existent US assets. With the strategy of street violence clearly exhausted, having been unable to spread unrest to the barrios or to cause a split in the armed forces, there is now a switch towards economic asphyxiation of the country. The US is even resorting to blocking food shipments destined to Venezuela, so it is clear that the plan is to be rid of the Bolivarian Revolution by imposing as much pain as possible on the Venezuelan people.

For all the media propaganda, chavismo has actually struck a very conciliatory tone in recent years, both in domestic and international terms. But it should be clear that no dialogue is possible with those who incessantly dig our graves, be they opposition leaders who call for sanctions and even military intervention, or US officials who would never accept a threat like this in their backyard. Nevertheless, chavismo has political room to manoeuvre with the Constituent Assembly in place, and now might be a good time to suspend debt payments and prioritise elsewhere. Ultimately, if the Bolivarian Revolution is to defend itself against imperial aggression, the only way is to increase the power and influence of its greatest resource: a conscientious and mobilised working class.

As for the mainstream media, we should not have illusions about holding the mainstream media to any kind of journalism standards. Anyone on the left should be able to analyse the corporate nature and track record of the major media outlets and figure out which interests they ultimately serve. Rather than lazily echo media propaganda and preach a “plague on both your houses” analysis, those who stand in solidarity with the Venezuelan poor and working class have the task of finding and spreading truthful information as a first step in opposing imperialism in Venezuela and Latin America.

  1. Television game-show in which contestants have to guess prices of merchandise, and the audience shouts suggestions.
  2. The National Assembly has been in contempt of court ever since three lawmakers from Amazonas state were sworn-in despite being under investigation for electoral fraud.
  3. The Guardian recently announced it will come in tabloid format (smaller pages) starting in 2018 to save money. UK tabloids are known for their sensationalism and poor standards.
  4. Luisa Ortega has been touring the Americas announcing that she has evidence of corruption involving chavista leaders and Odebrecht. But in line with what we discussed, claims against chavismo never need to be substantiated. Quite frankly, if there was any evidence of something as egregious as Maduro receiving a multi-million dollar bribe from Odebrecht, it would have been out there already, especially when the opposition was closer to taking power by force. The media headlines would have written themselves

Manafort and the Big Nothingburger

In a secretly taped video CNN’s Van Jones referred to the Trump-Russia story as a “big nothingburger.” Interesting that one of the network’s senior news commentators would say that, although not publicly, but privately to someone in an elevator. The cable network’s news director has apparently urged anchors to refer to the story of Russian interference in the U.S. election as something confirmed by all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies (which is, in fact, not quite true). Hence it must be supported by any reasonable person as settled fact. When Trump supporters (or others) point out that the same agencies asserted that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and al-Qaeda ties in 2003, they are told that many improvements have been made in intelligence collection since then. But intelligence is always susceptible to high-level manipulation.

Dick Cheney and his neocons obliged the intellect community to accept, or at least reference in official reports, what turned out to be sheer disinformation (in order to get their war). I believe Obama wanted a joint report alleging Russian intervention in the presidential election on Trump’s behalf, both to draw doubt upon Trump’s legitimacy (as Trump had sought to do to him), and to further vilify Putin.

But the January 9 report summarizing the evidence for interference amounts to a argument that “the GRU used the Guccifer 2.0 persona, DCLeaks.com, and Wikileaks to release U.S. victim [Hillary] data,” which has been disputed by many cyber-experts, who point out that signatures can be faked; and denied by Julian Assange and Craig Murray of Wikileaks. Former Defense Intelligence Agency boss James Clapper told CNN that while be believed the report he thought it thinly argued. Indeed, the bulk of it focuses on the Russian state-supported RT network’s coverage of the election. As a regular RT viewer, I thought that part of the report tendentious, often mistaken, and often irrelevant. It gave the impression that RT was endorsing Trump while trashing Clinton. It did not mention the fact that show hosts and commentators such as Thom Hartman, Chris Hedges, Tyrel Ventura, Sean Stone, Tabetha Wallace, and Lee Camp were anti-Trump all along, some calling him a fascist on RT. Hell, Larry King has a program on RT.

My own recollection was that RT was initially inclined to depict Trump as a very strange sort of politician, but the network’s on-the-hour programming treated him with reasonable respect, even during the early primaries. I thought it contrasted with U.S. cable news networks that mocked him while endlessly promoting him—for free—by treating his every utterance as breaking news. The main point for the Russian press was the fact that Trump at least asked the question, “Why not be friends with Russia?” contrasting with Hillary’s view that Russia is an adversary that must be confronted in Ukraine and Syria. (Enthusiasm for Trump soon shriveled in Russia when it became clear the new president was powerless to improve relations, saddled as he was with accusations of not just Russian support but active collusion with that support.)

If a Russian politician were to run for office asking, “Why can’t we get along with the U.S.?” you can bet that the U.S. intel agencies and press would work hard to get him or her elected, as they did in 1986 when they supported Boris Yeltsin. The U.S. interferes in foreign elections all the time. How often is this reported in the mainstream press, to provide some comparative perspective?

The charge of collusion centers around that meeting last year involving Jarod Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., and several Russians that may among other topics have addressed the issue of Russian dirt on Hillary. That’s not clear yet. But let’s say it did. If a French lawyer were to contact the campaign offering useful info the campaign, would it arouse such excitement? Surely not—because France is not an “adversary,” a country working against “U.S. interests” (like drawing Georgia and Ukraine into the anti-Russian NATO alliance, and toppling Assad in Syria).

And the “collusion” charge curiously involves the unusual investigation of Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager from March to June 2016. The raid on his house this month by the FBI suggests that criminal charges are likely. But they appear to pertain to his work as a political consultant for Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and trader in computer processors whose work ended before Trump announced his candidacy. (Yanukovych is often referred to “pro-Russian.” What this means in contemporary journalism is “not anti-Russian.”) Yanukovych was democratically elected in 2010 and toppled in 2014, after the U.S. had spent $5 billion to organize a coup in Kiev. Yanukovych had negotiated EU entry for Ukraine but changed his mind when he determined it would impose unacceptable austerity on his country. So he accepted a Russian offer instead. This makes him “pro-Russian.” But he is Ukrainian, in a country bordering and once part of Russia, with a large ethnic Russian population. What does Manfort’s assistance to him, however surrounded it might be by corruption, have to do with alleged Russian collusion with the Trump campaign?

Manafort resigned from the campaign in June 2016, due to criticism about his ties to “pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarchs.” Of course, oligarchs control the economies of most former Soviet states. That’s what happens when state property is suddenly privatized. There are anti-Russian Ukrainians too. Would Manafort have escaped blame if he had been working with them, on the right (pro-NATO) side? I suspect he will be convicted of some crime or another, but it will have nothing to do with Putin and Trump.

We keep hearing references to Trump campaign contacts with “the Russians.” As though such contact was legally prohibited and morally abhorrent. Brief conversations between Trump aides and the Russian ambassador (that sound to be very routine and polite) are being subject to stern scrutiny. The cable anchor (such as MSNBC’s Joy-Ann Reid and Rachel Maddow) lusts for impeachment—on the grounds of Trump-camp collusion with Russia to deny Hillary her right to rule.

The basic facts are: an airhead candidate surrounded by a strange array of advisors tending to a type of “America First” agenda rejecting “regime change” wars, but including hawks as well, vaguely articulated a desire to have better ties with Russia. This alone provoked Hillary’s repeated charge that he was “Putin’s puppet.” Once she had been defeated, the president, Deep State, and press soon settled on a strategy of bringing him down through that old, uncreative tactic of painting him as a pro-Russian traitor. You’d think that would have ended with the Cold War.

We keep getting told: He criticizes everybody (Mike McConnell, Bob Corker, Bill Sessions, the Australian, Mexican, and German leaders) except for Putin! In defense, to show he’s really no Russophile, he shuts down three consulates, to retaliate for Russian actions. These had responded to Obama’s expulsion of Russian diplomats, which had occurred in response to alleged election interference by Russia. Russia, which had shown restraint by not responding to the first expulsion of diplomats, will be obliged to respond.

A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, based on a nothingburger.

Post-Democracy America

The reason our American Corporate Masters gave us a choice between corruption (Hillary Clinton) and bigotry (Donald Trump) in the 2016 national election is that either was acceptable to them, since both are intrinsic aspects of how business is being conducted.

In 2016, the Democratic (Party) National Committee saved corporate privilege from the threat of democratic accountability. American democracy did not die because of voter apathy, it was assassinated by the DNC in a conspiracy of pure betrayal of both the American people and democratic principles, with the coup de grâce being delivered on 26 July 2016. So, instead of America today being the mythical democratic republic portrayed in school textbooks, it is actually a corporatized oligarchy – or a fascist state, take your pick – with a modest social democratic insurgency carried on mainly by idealistic younger people.

That so many Americans cannot yet acknowledge these facts is a sad reflection on the extent of ignorance, bigotry, greed, insularity and self-absorption throughout the population. It is difficult to feel sympathy for the plebeian and bourgeois slaves who resist rebelling against their own exploitation, by slavishly attaching themselves to either the Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton (and Barack Obama) pacifying personality projections of the corporatized oligarchy.

Until a widespread and very profound personal and socialist awakening occurs to the American people:

– America will be a racist nation because so many of its people find solace in being self-righteous victims.

– America will be a classist nation because so many of its people find comfort in greed and possessiveness.

– America will be an ageist nation because so many of its people find freedom in: relief from memory, adulation of inexperience, impatience with thinking, and lust for youth.

The threats to American security and physical integrity by external enemies are minor, and are reactions caused by the American oligarchy’s imperialism. The threats to American security and physical integrity by Nature are increasingly self-induced by obtuse denial in the service of laziness and selfishness. The threats to American popular freedom, prosperity, sanity and social cohesion are purely internal and frighteningly contagious, being the corrosive disintegration of individual and collective moral character, which are unfortunately encouraged by the examples of these same failings set by so many of the careerists at the pinnacle of America’s pyramid of power and wealth.

An alert mind seeking to preserve some degree of personal fulfillment in such a society could reason:

– as a weary and isolated cynic: “don’t worry, it’s hopeless, so do what it is in me to do, regardless,” or

– as a idealistic social activist: “this is the nature of war, by protecting others you save yourself.”

Our best hope for a just and peaceful society may lie in the fact that the future unfolds as a chaotic and largely unpredictable process, not as an entirely pre-determined program. Out of the mixed jumble of unexpected great disasters and serendipitous great opportunities that will cascade upon us, we may find the right circumstances to rescue and elevate ourselves as individuals, and unify ourselves as a more worthy society.

Harvey: Fierce Climate Change at Work

Is Harvey a force of nature or something more?

Clearly, Harvey is a natural disaster of monstrous proportions. Its destructiveness is the hottest topic on TV coast-to-coast and around the world. Still, cynics of climate change say natural disasters, like hurricanes, are normal and nothing more than nature’s way. The evidence, however, points in another direction; climate change is no longer simply nature doing its thing. It’s lost purity of the force of nature, only nature.

Similar to the record setting massive meltdown of Arctic ice in a flash of geologic time, fierce storms and zany weather patterns are setting all-time records, hyper-speeding nature’s time clock. In point of fact, bigger/faster all-time records have become the norm, racing ahead of nature, prompting the question: Why is this happening?

The likely answer is: The human footprint is driving climate change to hyper speed; in some instances 10xs faster than climate change over the past millennia.

Indeed, today’s rapidly changing climate is the upshot of the Great Acceleration or post WWII human footprint into/onto the ecosystem, with authority, knocking down weather records along the way. Abnormal is now normal. One-hundred-year floods are passé, outmoded, old hat. Epic floods and historic droughts are the norm. It’s all happened within the past couple of decades. Recent examples include the following:

It was only a couple of years ago that Hurricane Sandy caused $75B in damages as the 2nd costliest hurricane in U.S. history. But then again, New York is not located in hurricane country. Still, it happened and is but one more example of a climate gone bonkers.

In France in 2003, the hottest heat wave in over 500 years killed approximately 15,000, as well as 70,000 throughout Europe. Stifling heat hung in the air for months, no movement, atmospheric troughs of jet streams stood still, likely influenced and altered by global warming, specifically via radical changes in the Arctic, which is losing its bright reflecting ice cap that used to reflect up to 90% of solar radiation back into outer space. But, alas, warming 2xs-to-3xs the world average hit Arctic ice, losing much its reflective cover, with danger signals ever-present thereafter, like crazed out-of-whack jet streams (which negatively alter weather patterns throughout the Northern Hemisphere) to methane eruptions from below, potentially endangering all life forms with runaway global warming.

Meanwhile, drought clobbered the Middle East, especially Syria, experiencing its worst-ever drought in 900 years, displacing one-to-two million farmers/herders and contributing to Syria’s socio/economic disruption, leading to conflict.

Throughout the Middle Eastern region “it’s well outside the norm of natural variability indicating that a climate change signal is likely emerging in the region.”1

The regular ole brand of climate change for hundreds and thousands of years is history. In the past, when tropical storms and hurricanes hit, swooshing onshore, they’d die-off when hitting land. That’s nature marching to its own drummer.

Whereas, Harvey hits and then hits again and again while carrying boatloads of moisture, well above and beyond any storm ever recorded. Cause and effect, it’s the human footprint, too much of everything, including too much CO2 emitted from planes, trains, and automobiles and power plants and big fat cows weighing down the atmosphere, heating things up and altering jet streams that dictate weather patterns. It’s a deadly cocktail of nature plus the human footprint of the Great Acceleration deviously at work!

Harvey is so monstrous that it brings forth the best of the best talking heads, a prerequisite with something so momentous, so absolutely huge, all encompassing. For example, Michael Mann (Pennsylvania State University), one of America’s most illustrious atmospheric scientists writing for the Guardian, says “human action” made Harvey worse because (1) anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change has raised seawater levels, goosing the storm surge, and (2) higher temperatures than in the past cause more moisture in the atmosphere meaning more rainfall, and (3) Harvey mysteriously hovers over Houston, not dying over land like hurricanes always do because human-caused global warming has altered weather patterns.2

Meanwhile, day-over-day, hour-by-hour Houstonians fight for survival, but back in Washington, D.C., Trump’s proposed budget calls for a 16% cut to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which serves as the public’s eyes and ears for all things atmospheric, satellite and weather-related. For example, $513M is cut from NOAA”s satellite division, potentially crippling NOAA’s ability to keep afloat key satellites relied upon by business, military, and weather services for the general public.

“Scientists and meteorologists have worried that the cuts, and much more devastating reductions in climate change programs at NASA and other agencies, would harm the agency’s ability to forecast storms. In recent decades, the improvement in forecasting technologies has saved hundreds of lives, especially when it comes to tornadoes. The National Weather Service notes that hundreds used to die from pop up tornadoes like the ones that blew through Oklahoma in the mid-1970s, and that deaths are way down due to accurate predictions.”3

The tragedy of Houston is heartrendingly supremely more tragic under guidance of the Trump administration, which is cutting anything and everything related to science. By all appearances, Trump has a bone to pick with intellectual and scientific matters of state. He’s uncomfortable unless involved in primitive elementary scenarios, like speaking before a crowd of glassy-eyed lackeys.

As it happens, Houston’s mourning exposes and brings to the surface Trump’s destructionist mentality in pure numbers that will soon be presented to the public via Congress for consideration.

Trump’s budget proposal cuts $667M from FEMA state and local funding, including disaster preparedness and response programs and cuts $90M from FEMA’s pre-disaster mitigation program and eliminates the entire $190M for national flood insurance analysis program. Henceforth, states and localities will contribute 25% toward grants that they previously did not fund.

The same Trump budget that cuts FEMA programs by about $1B proposes $2.6B in funding for The Wall. For this spending proposal Trump is willing to shut down the government to force Congress to pay up or be damned/blamed for shutting down the fiefdom.

But, will The Wall prevent storms or will it perversely create more?

  1. Benjamin I. Cook, et al, “Spatiotemporal Drought Variability in the Mediterranean Over the Last 900 Years”, Journal of Geophysical Research- Atmospheres, DOI: 10.1002/2015/D023929.
  2. Mann, M. E. et al. “Influence of Anthropogenic Climate Change on Planetary Wave Resonance and Extreme Weather Events”, Sci. Rep. 7, 45242; doi: 10.1038/srep45242, 2017.
  3. Matthew Cooper, “Trump’s Proposed Cuts to Weather Research Could Make it Much Harder to Prepare for Storms”, Grist-Climate Desk, August 25, 2017.

Pampered and Privileged vs. Privileged and Pampered

Extreme fringes of the American electorate, hardly indicative of mainstream thinking if such exists, have occupied headlines in major media since the Charlottesville events. That relatively small demonstration by conservative-right sources ranging from nationalists to separatists to Nazis and alienated people without labels was countered by an outpouring of relatively liberal-left numbers of a more generally popular though as alienated from actual roots among the electorate group. Counter demonstrations which include violence have become more popular since the election of Trump, though it was evident during his campaign when attenders of some of his rallies encountered mobs of righteous and often violent opposers.

The general climate of acceptability of acting like animals when encountering other humans seen as animals is becoming more popular under a media barrage of mind management that would make fictional dictatorial thought control seem like anarchic freedom by comparison. The cause of righteousness is popular among people in the USA who tolerate a value system that puts war and domestic pets higher than some human life in foreign countries or living in poverty here. This system, entertained, if sometimes critically, by the left and the right of capital, is too often left out of the picture of righteousness in a conflict that pits relatively privileged people with time to demonstrate against other relatively privileged people with more time to demonstrate. Given our systemic foundation and propaganda structure, programmed personal alienating factors about race, sex, ethnicity and religion loom much larger than material realities involving possession of dollars.

The prevalence of statue consciousness taking precedence over class consciousness is one of many indicators of this conflict being at the behest of, and hardly representing any even remote threat to, prevailing minority power over a failing political economic system whose headquarters in the USA approach the shape of its former colonies. Middle class travelers who once had to visit third world countries in order to see appalling poverty can now go downtown to dinner and find people sleeping in doorways, on the pavement or on colder nights even under parked cars, in most major cities in America. After dinner, some of them go home and plan protest demonstrations against hate, blacks, white supremacy, Jews, goys, gays, girls, boys, trannies, Nazis, the Klan and other villains.

None of the pampered and privileged will protest or demonstrate, peacefully or violently, about white supremacist billionaires and their well-paid servant class members of all those groups. Don’t hang by your lip waiting for them to do so, since they maintain pampered and privileged status by only opposing weaker, not more powerful forces. Instead of watching a spectacle of ruling minority organized theater which may eventually kill many innocent people, the less pampered and privileged need to start demonstrating for majority concerns like ending war, fossil fuel energy and poverty by creating public banks, national health care, full employment, real democracy and confiscating of minority billionaire wealth to begin paying for these and more programs. Some among the pampered privileged minority may even eventually see the light and join the majority, which is where they should have been in the first place.

NFL Plantation Owners Ban Uppity Quarterback

To watch America’s structural racism at work, one need look no further than the National Football League (NFL) and its treatment of nonviolent unorthodoxy as expressed by Colin Kaepernick going to one knee during the national anthem in support of the unacceptable thought that black lives should matter as much as anyone else’s. Of course, that’s still a relatively new idea in the United States, dating from 1863 in law and still not fully accepted in much of the country.

Colin Rand Kaepernick, who turns 30 in November, is a proven professional football quarterback who chose to become a free agent after the 2016 season. He led San Francisco to the Super Bowl in 2012. He is good enough to play for most any of the NFL’s 32 teams, but none have signed him. A year ago, when unarmed black men shot by cops were getting heavy news coverage and while presidential candidates Clinton and Trump disparaged Black Lives Matter, Kaepernick undertook a solo protest, sitting during the national anthem before the first NFL pre-season game. In subsequent games, Kaepernick went down on one knee in silent, respectful protest during the Star Spangled Banner. Asked by an NFL Network reporter why he was doing that, Kaepernick said:

I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder….This is not something that I am going to run by anybody. I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed…. If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.

At the time, official football – the league, his team, his coach – all spoke carefully about respecting Kaepernick’s “right as a citizen,” without engaging the issue he was raising. Kaepernick is bi-racial. He was adopted by white parents and raised in Wisconsin with white siblings.

Zeitgeist signals: Kaepernick blacklisted, Arpaio pardoned

In November 2016, a Miami Herald reporter asked Kaepernick about a shirt he had worn showing Fidel Castro and Malcolm X with the caption: “Like Minds Think Alike.” In discussing the shirt, Kaepernick reportedly said: “One thing that Fidel Castro did do is they have the highest literacy rate because they invest more in their education system than they do in their prison system, which we do not do here, even though we’re fully capable of doing that.” That sort of truth, spoken out loud, does not endear one to the overlords of the NFL or other American authorities, especially the ones who created and profit from the unaddressed, unending scandal of prisons for profit.

A year after he first spoke out by kneeling in silence, Colin Kaepernick is unemployed. Unarmed black men are killed by cops at a faster rate now than in 2016, but it’s not news so much any more. Kaepernick had his free speech, now he’s paying the price. The country has moved on to a more ardent defense of free speech by Nazis, white supremacists, the KKK, anti-Semites, and other bigots.

The Trump administration is contributing to social calm and order by setting out to give local police more military weapons, from armored troop carriers to grenade launchers.

The ugliest sign of the country’s darkening racial zeitgeist is President Trump’s pre-emptive, unprincipled, unconditional pardon of one of America’s most notorious police bigots, former sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona, a man who spoke proudly of his brutal and deadly prison system as a “concentration camp.” Arpaio was awaiting sentencing when the President interdicted the judicial process with a hasty pardon, granted without any of the usual review and consideration. The brief White House announcement concluded with these lies:

Throughout his time as Sheriff, Arpaio continued his life’s work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration. Sheriff Joe Arpaio is now eighty-five years old, and after more than fifty years of admirable service to our Nation, he is worthy candidate for a Presidential pardon.

Arpaio’s record is reasonably clear that he did little protecting of the public or the Constitution. His office operated with racist standards that encouraged police brutality and led to prisoner deaths from violence and neglect. Arpaio’s service as sheriff was not admirable but self-serving, obsessed with targeting Latinos regardless of guilt, while ignoring real criminal offenses, including domestic abuse and child abuse.

Kaepernick and the Star Spangled Banner of American irony

Some say Kaepernick is the victim of a blacklist. Others deny what seems obviously true. One of the deniers makes much of a few other players making similar gestures without consequences. But he leaves out critical facts: that these are players currently under contract and that they have a union to defend them. He makes a point of saying that “NFL rosters are 70 per cent Black,” without wondering why NFL rosters are close to 100 per cent without any expressed social conscience. He does not mention that NFL owners would be 100 per cent white but for some limited partners like Reggie Fowler of the Minnesota Vikings.

American racism is structural, institutional, shameless, and intractable. Electing Barack Obama in 2008 didn’t make the country a post-racial society any more than electing Donald Trump in 2016 makes the country a post-sane society. The abiding ambiguity of American madness can be seen in our “national anthem,” which has been our national anthem less than 100 years (adopted 1931).

The Star Spangled Banner celebrates the defense of Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor in 1814 in Maryland, a slave state. The attacking British force included numbers of escaped slaves fighting for the British on the promise of earning their freedom. Francis Scott Key, who wrote the Star Spangled Banner, was a lifelong slave owner. A lawyer who served as US Attorney, Key used his office to prosecute abolitionists. In an 1837 prosecution of abolitionist Dr. Reuben Crandall for instigating a slave rebellion, Key said in his summation to the jury:

Are you willing, gentlemen, to abandon your country, to permit it to be taken from you, and occupied by the abolitionist, according to whose taste it is to associate and amalgamate with the negro? Or, gentlemen, on the other hand, are there laws in this community to defend you from the immediate abolitionist, who would open upon you the floodgates of such extensive wickedness and mischief?

Rendered in modern language, these are the same sentiments the racists of Charlottesville expressed in their exercise of free speech. In 1837, the jury acquitted Dr. Crandall. On the Charlottesville hordes, the jury is still out.

Maybe, should our public consciousness come to grips with the reality that our national anthem is a slave owner’s paean to the defense of a slave state, we might think more seriously about kneeling ourselves. That might be a better way to express our hope to become, truly, the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Deep State Banishes Bannon and Company

My take on Steve Bannon’s recent firing is at odds with the celebratory tone I detect from others, especially those claiming it’s a victory for decent people. It was nothing of the sort, and Bannon wasn’t banished for any of the reasons we’ve read about in mainstream media accounts.

Why was Bannon so objectionable, and to whom? Sure, he’s a white nationalist, bigoted, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, hate-mongering egomaniac. And like so many of his peers in the upper circles of the corporate, military and political world, he’s probably a psychopath. No problem.

He’s also a fervent disciple of capitalism, but, for his intra-elite enemies, the wrong kind. It was Bannon’s anti-globalist, “American First,” nationalistic and even isolationist positions that guaranteed his exit. For example, he strongly opposed General McMaster’s plea to deploy additional troops to Afghanistan and military intervention in Venezuela. He wanted to normalize relations with Russia while the corporate financial oligarchy salivated over a profitable new Cold War. Bannon favored a new trade war with China, something that’s anathema to U.S. corporations dependent on low-wage, non-unionized Chinese labor. No wonder that when news of Bannon’s departure appeared on screens at the New York Stock Exchange, “wild cheering” broke out.

What’s going on is that we’ve just witnessed a re-consolidation of control by one element of the power structure over the other, a struggle in which neither side cares a whit about us. In the 2016 election, the hybrid network of structures where actual power resides—sometimes termed the Deep State—favored Hillary Clinton. She was the eminently reliable bride of Wall Street and a proven warmonger. They could have lived with Jeb Bush, but Clinton was a more known quantity.

After spectacularly underestimating Trump’s appeal, the global capitalists began methodically forcing out all those around the president who shared Bannon’s world views.  They were replaced with Wall Street and military types so that we’re now ruled by an unelected Goldman Sachs/military/national security state. Having neutered Trump, it’s unnecessary to carry out a soft coup, assuming he continues to be only a figurehead and isn’t even more of a loose cannon. Because Trump has no real convictions other than self-promotion and only said what was needed to hoodwink voters, this shouldn’t pose a problem.

Bannon, who was Trump’s Svengali, has returned to his Breitbart News bunker to continue—his term—”the war.” During the campaign, he sensed that millions of white Americans felt marginalized, treated unfairly, angry, and despairing about the future. In short, many of these once-loyal Democratic voters felt, quite rightly, that they were being screwed over by the system. His “genius” was to promote and pander to the fears and insecurities that vexed so many of those who increasing self-identified as white voters. He also listed (often by coding) those responsible for their plight. Some were valid: condescending elites from both parties, trade pacts patently unfair to American workers, and Wall Street’s influence. Other reasons were demonstrably untrue: people of color, immigrants, and Muslims.

It’s unarguable that Trump has gone back on all the changes he promised. But Bannon and his ilk are secure in the belief that Trump supporters, many of whom are former Democrats, are rubes who, being fed a potent mix of half-truths and scapegoating, will continue to behave against their own best interests in 2020. On leaving the White House, Bannon disingenuously said, “The longer they talk about identity policy, I got ’em…If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.”

Of course, the Democratic Party long ago abandoned the working class, economic justice, peace and environmental sustainability. They offer nothing but failed, endless wars, austerity at home, “Russia gate” fantasies, continued fealty to their corporate sponsors, and Hillary clones.

Very few people reading this piece have a dog in this hunt. It behooves us to look elsewhere before our dire situation becomes terminal.

As US Empire Fails, Trump Enters A Quagmire

A quagmire is defined as a complex or unpleasant position that is difficult to escape. President Trump’s recently announced war plans in Afghanistan maintain that quagmire. They come at a time when US Empire is failing and its leadership in the world is weakening. The US will learn what other empires have learned, “Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires.”

During the presidential campaign, some became convinced that Trump would not be an interventionist president. His tweets about Afghanistan were one of the reasons. In January of 2013, he tweeted, “Let’s get out of Afghanistan. Our troops are being killed by the Afghanis we train and we waste billions there. Nonsense! Rebuild the USA.” Now, we see a president who carries on the interventionist tradition of US Empire.

While Afghanistan has been a never-ending active war since 9-11, making the 16-year war the longest in US history, the truth is the United States became directly involved with Afghanistan some 38 years ago, on July 3, 1979. As William Rivers Pitts writes: “On that day, at the behest of National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter signed the first directive in an operation meant to destabilize the Soviet-controlled government of Afghanistan.” In fact, when the US dropped the MOAB bomb, Trump was bombing tunnels built with the assistance of the CIA in the 1980′s for the mujaheddin and Bin Laden.

Trump’s Afghan policy is inaccurately described as a new approach but has only one element that is new – secrecy, as Trump will not tell us how many soldiers he will send to this war. His so-called new strategy is really a  continuation of the permanent war quagmire in Afghanistan, which may be an intentional never ending war for the empire’s geopolitical goals. Ralph Nader reviews 16 years of headlines about Afghanistan, calling it a “cruel boomeranging quagmire of human violence and misery… with no end in sight.”

Another Afghan Review Leads To Same Conclusion: More War

During his campaign for president, Trump called for the US to pull out of Afghanistan. Early in his administration, President Trump announced a review of the Afghanistan war. This week when he announced escalation of the war, Trump noted this was his instinct. Unfortunately, the president did not trust his previous instincts and missed an opportunity to end the war.

We have seen how President Trump refuses to admit mistakes, so it is highly unlikely he will change course from this mistaken path. His rationale is so many US soldiers have given their lives that we must stay until the United States wins. This is the quandary – the US must continue the war until we win because soldiers have died but continuing the war means more will die and the US must stay committed to war because more have died.

After we read President Trump’s Afghanistan war speech, we went back and re-read President Obama’s Afghanistan war speech given in March 2009.  It is remarkable how similar the two speeches are. When Russian president Putin was interviewed by filmmaker Oliver Stone as well as when he was interviewed by Megyn Kelly, he made a point proven by US policy in Afghanistan, “Presidents come and go, and even the parties in power change, but the main political direction does not change.”

Both presidents conducted a lengthy review early in their administration and both talked with generals and diplomats who convinced them to escalate rather than end the war. Both presidents put forward what they claimed was a new strategy but in reality, was just doing the same thing over again: more troops, building up Afghanistan’s military by working closely with them, using economic and diplomatic power and putting pressure on Pakistan not to be a safe haven for the Taliban and those fighting against the United States.

To ensure a quagmire both presidents said that decisions would not be based on a timeline but on conditions on the ground. Both promised victory, without clearly defining what it would mean; both raised fears of the Taliban and other anti-US militants using Afghanistan to attack the United States again. Trump had the advantage of knowing that President Obama’s approach had failed despite repeated bombings in Pakistan and working with Afghan troops, but that didn’t alter his course.

Afghanistan Victims of a February, 2012 US air strike that killed 8 children in Kapisa, Afghanistan.

Failure To Learn Lessons Ensures Repeating Them

According to Mike Ludwig, since President Obama approved a troop surge in 2009, the war in Afghanistan has claimed at least 26,512 civilian lives and injured nearly 48,931 more. In July, the United Nations reported that at least 5,243 civilians have been killed or injured in 2017 alone, including higher numbers of woman and children than previous in years. Trump seems less concerned than previous presidents with killings of civilians.

Trump noted that the Afghanistan-Pakistan region was now the densest part of the world when it comes to anti-US militants, saying there were 20 terrorist groups in the area. President Obama added tens of thousands of troops to the Afghanistan war, dropped massive numbers of bombs and the result was more terrorism. The US was killing terrorists but the impact was creating more anti-American militants. Trump failed to connect these dots and understand that more US attacks create more hatred against the United States.

After Obama failed to ‘win’ the war by adding tens of thousands of troops, with more than 100,000 fighting in Afghanistan at its peak, Trump should have asked his generals how adding thousands more (reports are between 4,000 and 8,000 soldiers) would change failure to success. Wasn’t there anyone in the room who would tell Trump there is nothing new in the Trump strategy that Obama and Bush had not already tried. Steve Bannon was the most opposed to war in the administration and reportedly fought against more war, but he was not in the room. Did anyone in the room stand up to the hawk-generals?

The policy of working more closely with the Afghan military in order to build them up ended in disaster in the Obama era. The New Yorker wrote in 2012: “We can’t win the war in Afghanistan, so what do we do? We’ll train the Afghans to do it for us, then claim victory and head for the exits.” But, the US discovered that it could not train the Afghans in the ‘American way of war.’” In 2012, the Obama administration ended the program of fighting alongside Afghan soldiers to train them because those soldiers were killing US soldiers. How many US soldiers will die because Trump was ignorant of this lesson?

Trump also took the wrong lesson from the Iraq war and occupation. He inaccurately described the so-called withdrawal from Iraq as hasty. He points to the rise of ISIS as created by the vacuum in Iraq when the US reduced its numbers of troops. Trump said the US “cannot repeat in Afghanistan the mistake our leaders made in Iraq.”

In fact, ISIS rose up because the killing of hundreds of thousands, some reports say more than a million, of Iraqis, displacement of more than a million more, the destruction of a functioning government as well as war crimes like the Abu Gharib torture scandal made it easy to recruit fighters. Furthermore, the training and supply of weapons to Sunnis during the ‘Awakening’ created armed soldiers looking for their next job.

It was US war and occupation that created ISIS. The seeds had been planted, fertilized and were rapidly growing before the US reduced its military footprint. Trump is repeating the mistake of more militarism, and in the end ISIS or some other form of anti-US militancy will thrive.

The US does not want to face an important reality – the government of the United States is hated in the region for very good reasons. Bush lied to us about 9-11 when he claimed they hate us for our freedoms. No, they hate the US because US militarism kills hundreds of thousands of people in the region, destroys functioning governments and creates chaos.

Victory Means Something Different to an Empire

In trying to understand why the US is fighting a war — a war that has been unwinnable for 16 years — it helps to look at a map and consider the resources of an area.

Larry Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former adviser, predicts the US will be in Afghanistan for the next 50 years. Indeed, that may be the ‘victory’ the empire seeks. Afghanistan is of geopolitical importance. It is a place where the US can impact China’s ‘One Belt One Road’ to Europe where China can take the place of Russia and the United States in providing wealthy Europeans with key commodities like oil and gas. Just as the United States has stayed in Germany, Italy and other European states and Japan after WW II,  and in Korea after the Korean war, the empire sees a need to be in Afghanistan to be well positioned for the future of the empire. Terrorism is not the issue, economic competition with China, which is quickly becoming the leading global economic power, is the real issue.

And, competition with Russia and China is at the top of the list of the bi-partisan war party in Washington. Pepe Escobar points out that: “Russia-China strategic partnership wants an Afghan solution hatched by Afghans and supervised by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (of which Afghanistan is an observer and future full member). So from the point of view of neocon/neoliberalcon elements of the War Party in Washington, Afghanistan only makes sense as a forward base to harass/stall/thwart China’s Belt and Road Initiative.”

Afghanistan is next to China, India and Pakistan, three nuclear powers that could pose military risks to the United States. Having multiple bases in Afghanistan, to allegedly fight terrorists, will provide the forward deployment needed to combat each of those nations if military action is needed.

Afghanistan also borders on Iran, which could be a near-future war zone for the United States. Positioning the US military along the Afghanistan-Iran border creates a strategic advantage with Iran as well as with the Persian Gulf where approximately 18.2 million barrels of oil per day transit through the Strait of Hormuz in tankers.

Afghanistan’s land contains $3 trillion in rare earth minerals needed for computers and modern technology including rich deposits of gold, silver, platinum, iron ore and copper. The US has spent $700 billion in fighting a failed war and President Trump and empire strategists are looking to make sure US corporations get access to those minerals. Since the US Geological Survey discovered these minerals a decade ago, some see Afghanistan as the future  “Saudi Arabia of lithium”, a raw material used in phone and electric car batteries. US officials have told Reuters that Trump argued at a White House meeting with advisers in July that the United States should demand a share of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth.

Jeffrey St. Clair reminds us not to forget the lucrative opium trade. Afghanistan is the largest source for heroin in the world. He writes:

Since the start of Operation Enduring Freedom, opium production has swelled, now accounting for more than one-third of the wrecked Afghan economy. In the last two years alone, opium poppy yields have doubled, a narcotic blowback now hitting the streets of American cities from Amarillo to Pensacola. With every drone strike in the Helmond Province, a thousand more poppies bloom.

The decision on a never ending war — with no timetable for exit — is evidence that the Pentagon and intelligence agencies are in charge of US foreign policy with Trump as a figurehead.  Of course, the war also ensures immense profits for the war industry. St. Clair emphasizes that “in 2016, the Pentagon spent $3.6 million for each US soldier stationed in Afghanistan.  A surge of 4,000 to 10,000 additional troops, either as ‘private military units’ or GIs, will come as a welcome new infusion of cash to the dozens of defense corporations that invested so heavily in his administration.”

The firing of Steve Bannon just before the meeting that decided Afghanistan’s future was not coincidence as he was the opponent of escalation. Glenn Greenwald writes in the Intercept that this permanent power structure has been working since his election to take control of foreign policy. He also points to the appointment of Marine General John Kelly as chief of staff and how National Security Adviser, General McMaster, has successfully fired several national security officials aligned with Steve Bannon and the nationalistic, purportedly non-interventionist foreign policy. The deep state of the permanent national security complex has taken over and the Afghan war decision demonstrates this reality.

With these geopolitical realities, staying Afghanistan may be the victory the Pentagon seeks — winning may just be being there. The Intercept reported this week that the Taliban offered to negotiate peace, but peace on the terms of the Taliban may not be what the US is seeking.

Call for an End to War for Empire

It would be a terrible error for people to blame Trump for the Afghanistan war which began with intervention by Jimmy Carter, became a hot war after 9-11 under George Bush, escalated under Obama and now continues the same polices under Trump. The bi-partisan war hawks in Congress for nearly 40 years have supported these policies. Afghanistan is evidence of the never ending policy of full spectrum dominance sought by the US empire. The bi-partisans warriors span the breadth of both parties, Jeffrey St. Clair highlights the Afghanistan war cheering by Senator John McCain and Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Throughout recent decades the United States has failed to show what Kathy Kelly called the courage we need for peace and continues the cowardice of war. In fact, many ask why are we still at war in Afghanistan: Osama bid Laden is dead, other alleged 9-11 attack attackers are caught or killed. This shows that calling Afghanistan the longest running Fake War in US history is right — fake because it was never about terrorism but about business. If terrorism were the issue, Saudi Arabia would be the prime US enemy, but Saudi Arabia is also about business.

We share the conclusion of human rights activist and Green vice presidential candidate in 2016 Ajamu Baraka, who wrote for the Black Alliance for Peace, that:

In an obscene testament to U.S. vanity and the psychopathological commitment to global white supremacy, billions have already been wasted, almost three thousand U.S. lives lost and over 100,000 dead. It is time to admit defeat in Afghanistan and bring the war to an end. Justice and common sense demand that the bloodletting stop.

When we understand the true motives of US Empire, that conclusion is even worse — to steal resources from a poor nation and put in place permanent bases from which to conduct more war. US hegemony is costly to millions of people around the world and at home it sucks more than 54% of discretionary spending from the federal budget and creates an empire economy that only serves the wealthiest corporate interests that profit from transnational military dominance  while creating a record wealth divide where most people in the United States are economic slaves. It is not only time to end the Afghanistan war but to end US Empire.

He’s back!! The Return of William Blum!

I’m back!!

It has recently been reported that Senator John McCain has an aggressive brain tumor. Not long ago I would have thought: “Good. It’ll be great to be rid of that neanderthal reactionary bastard!”

Not now. My kidneys are gone and I’m on (rather unpleasant) dialysis for the rest of my life. My separated-from German wife is in Germany and can’t fly because of the danger of blood clots forming and lodging in her lungs or heart. I’m an avid reader of medical news and almost every day I get choked-up and depressed by the never-ending heart-breaking stories of incurable pain and suffering of the old and the young.

So I wish the senator a good recovery, if that’s possible. Probably no more possible than his politics recovering. He just condemned all the neo-Nazi actions in Charlottesville, this man who went out of his way to pose for friendly photos with neo-Nazis in Ukraine and jihadists in Syria.

So far the dialysis does not seem to have helped, at least not with my two main symptoms: deep-seated sleepiness at home, resulting in repeated naps, making my writing difficult; and getting out-of-breath and having to stop and rest after a very short and slow walk outdoors. I’m curious about whether any of my readers knows of anyone with a medical problem that was clearly relieved by dialysis. It may be my advanced age of 84 that blocks any improvement. But, supposedly, the dialysis keeps me alive in the absence of functioning kidneys. Incidentally, nine of my readers and friends have offered me a kidney for transplant, but I can’t find a hospital willing to perform it; again it’s my age, though I’m very willing.

At least I still have my eyesight and my hearing. My mind is okay. I have all my limbs and am not paralyzed. And I’m not in pain. Much to be thankful for.

It’s also very nice to have gone past the hangups my condition thrust upon me and to be back writing my report for the first time in five months. During the recent American presidential campaign I wrote that if I were forced to vote and also forced to choose between Clinton and Trump I’d vote for the Donald. (As it turned out I voted for the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein.) I stated two reasons why I’d choose Trump over Clinton: presumably, a lesser chance of nuclear war with Russia and a lesser chance of the American government closing down the Russian TV station, Russia Today (RT), broadcasting in the US. There was at the time, and now again, growing Congressional pressure to do just that and I’m very reliant on the station. Because of such matters I was willing to overlook Trump’s many and obvious character defects, which I summed up with the endearing word of my people back in Brooklyn –- “shmuck”. But by now the man’s shmuckiness has been writ so large that little hope for him can be maintained.

What is keeping Donald Trump from drowning in the very cesspool of his own shmuckiness is a gentleman named Kim Jong-un. Who would have believed that a single historical period could produce two such giant shmucks, men who tower over their pathetic contemporaries? There’s only one explanation for this remarkable phenomenon. Of course. It’s Russia. Moscow is using the two men to make America look foolish. And Russia, it may soon be revealed, gave North Korea its nuclear weapons. Did you think that such an impoverished, downtrodden society could produce such scientific marvels on its own?

Is there any act too dastardly for Vladimir Putin?

We don’t know yet whether Trump’s son, daughter or son-in-law made any deals with Kim Jong-un. Stay tuned to Fox News and CNN.

Those stations, amongst others, put out a lot of fake news, but when it comes to news of North Korea nothing compares to the fake news of 1950. Did you know there’s no convincing evidence that North Korea did what they’re most famous for –- the June 25, 1950 invasion of South Korea, which led to the everlasting division of the Korean peninsula into two countries? And there were no United Nations forces that observed this invasion, as we’ve been taught. In any event, the two sides had been clashing across the dividing line for several years. What happened on that fateful day in June could thus be regarded as no more than the escalation of an ongoing civil war. Read my chapter on Korea in Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II for the full details of these and other myths.

The response to terrorism

I still get emails criticizing me for the stand I took against Islamic terrorists earlier this year. Almost every one feels obliged to remind me that the terrorists are acting in revenge for decades of US/Western bombing of Muslim populations and assorted other atrocities. And I then have to inform each one of them that they’ve chosen the wrong person for such a lecture. I, it happens, wrote the fucking book on the subject!

In the first edition of my book Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, published in 2001, before September 11, the first chapter was “Why do terrorists keep picking on The United States?” It includes a long list of hostile US military and political actions against the Islamic world during the previous 20 years.

So I can well see why radical Muslims would harbor a deep-seated desire for revenge against The United States and its allies who often contributed to the hostile actions. My problem is that the Islamic terrorist actions are seldom aimed at those responsible for this awful history –- the executive and military branches of the Western nations, but are more and more targeted against innocent civilians, which at times includes other Muslims, probably even, on occasion, some who sympathize with the radical Islamic cause. These random terrorist acts are thus not defendable or understandable from any revenge point of view. What did the poor people of Barcelona have to do with Western imperialism?

Civilians are, of course, much easier to target, but that’s clearly no excuse. As I’ve pointed out in the past, we should consider this: From the 1950s to the 1980s the United States carried out all kinds of very harmful policies against Latin America, including numerous bombings, without the natives ever resorting to the uncivilized, barbaric kind of retaliation as employed by ISIS. Latin American leftists generally took their revenge out upon concrete representatives of the American empire: diplomatic, military and corporate targets – not markets, theatres, nightclubs, hospitals, schools, restaurants or churches.

The terrorists’ choice of targets is bad enough, but their methods are even worse. Who could have imagined 20 years ago that an organization would exist in this world that would widely publicize detailed instructions on how to choose a truck to drive down a busy thoroughfare and directly into crowds of people? What species of human being is this?

What is needed is a worldwide media campaign to make fun of the very idea that such men, along with suicide bombers, will be rewarded by Allah in an afterlife; even the idea of an afterlife can, of course, be derided; yes, even the idea of Allah, by that or any other name, can be derided; at least the idea of such a cruel God. Appealing to jihadists on simply moral grounds would be even more useless than appealing to Pentagon officials or Donald Trump on moral grounds. The jihadists have to be deeply ridiculed; the small amount of human empathy and decency still remaining in their heart of hearts has to be reached through embarrassing them before their friends and family. Femmes fatales can be used against young Islamic men, most of whom, I’d venture to say, have sizable sexual hangups. Bombing them only increases their numbers.

Some thoughts on the question that will not go away:  Capitalism vs. socialism

The whole art of Conservative politics in the 20th century is being deployed to enable wealth to persuade poverty to use its political freedom to keep wealth in power.

–– Aneurin Bevan (1897-1960), Labour Party (UK) minister

The fact that Donald J. Trump is a champion –- indeed, a model, or as he might say, a huge model –- of capitalism should be enough to make people turn away from the system, but the debate between capitalism and socialism continues without pause in the Trump era as it has since the 19th century. The wealth gap, affordable housing, free education, public transportation, a sustainable environment, and health care are some of the perennial points of argument we’re all familiar with.

So many empty houses … so many homeless people –- Is this the way a market economy is supposed to work?

Twice in recent times the federal government in Washington has undertaken major studies of many thousands of federal jobs to determine whether they could be done more efficiently by private contractors. On one occasion the federal employees won more than 80% of the time; on the other occasion 91%. Both studies took place under the George W. Bush administration, which was hoping for different results. The American people have to be reminded of what they once knew but seem to have forgotten: that they don’t want BIG government, or SMALL government; they don’t want MORE government, or LESS government; they want government ON THEIR SIDE.

As to corporations, we have to ask: Do the members of a family relate to each other on the basis of self-interest and greed?

Speaking in very broad terms … slavery gave way to feudalism … feudalism gave way to capitalism … capitalism is not a timelessly valid institution but was created to satisfy certain needs of the time … capitalism has outlived its usefulness and must now give way to socialism … the ultimate incompatibility between capitalist profit motive and human environmental survival demands nothing less.

The system corrupts every important aspect of our lives, including the one which takes up the most of our time -– our work, even for corporation executives, who demand huge salaries and benefits to justify their working at jobs that otherwise are not particularly satisfying. Several years ago, the Financial Times of London reported on Wall Street’s opposition to salary limits:

Senior bankers were quick to warn the plans would cause a brain drain from the profession as top executives seek more rewarding jobs out of the public eye. Unlike other careers where job satisfaction and other considerations play a part, finance tends to attract people whose main motivation is money. … ‘The cap is a lousy idea,’ complained one top Wall Street executive. ‘If there is no monetary upside, who would want to do these jobs?’

As for those below the executive class … When they work, it’s too often just any job they can find, rather than one designed to realize innermost spiritual or artistic needs. Their innermost needs are rent, food, clothes, and electricity.

For those concerned about the extent of freedom under socialism the jury is still out because the United States and other capitalist powers have subverted, destabilized, invaded, and/or overthrown every halfway serious attempt at socialism in the world. Not one socialist-oriented government, from Cuba and Vietnam in the 1960s, to Nicaragua and Chile in the 1970s, to Bulgaria and Yugoslavia in the 1990s, to Haiti and Venezuela in the 2000s has been allowed to rise or fall based on its own merits or lack of same, or allowed to relax its guard against the ever-threatening imperialists.

The demise of the Soviet Union (even with all its shortcomings) has turned out to be the greatest setback to the fight against the capitalist behemoth, and we have not yet recovered.

How could the current distribution of property and wealth reasonably be expected to emerge from any sort of truly democratic process? And if this is the way regulated capitalism works, what would life under unregulated capitalism be like? We’ve long known the answer to that question. Theodore Roosevelt (president of the United States 1901-09) said in a speech in 1912: “The limitation of governmental powers, of governmental action, means the enslavement of the people by the great corporations who can only be held in check through the extension of governmental power.”

And what do the corporate elite want? In a word: “everything” … from our schools to our social security, from our health care to outer space, from our media to our sports.

“We are all ready to be savage in some cause. The difference between a good man and a bad one is the choice of the cause.” – William James (1842-1910)

A few years ago, when George W. Bush came out as a painter, he said that he had told his art teacher that “there’s a Rembrandt trapped inside this body”. Ah, so Georgie is more than just a painter. He’s an artiste. And we all know that artistes are very special people. They’re never to be confused with mass murderers, war criminals, merciless torturers or inveterate liars. Neither are they ever to be accused of dullness of wit or incoherence of thought or speech.

Artistes are not the only special people. Devout people are also special: Josef Stalin studied for the priesthood. Osama bin Laden prayed five times a day.

And animal lovers: Herman Goering, while his Luftwaffe rained death upon Europe, kept a sign in his office that read: “He who tortures animals wounds the feelings of the German people.”
Adolf Hitler was also an animal lover and had long periods of being a vegetarian and anti-smoking.
Charles Manson was a staunch anti-vivisectionist.

And cultured people: This fact Elie Wiesel called the greatest discovery of the war: that Adolf Eichmann was cultured, read deeply, played the violin.

Mussolini also played the violin.

Some Nazi concentration camp commanders listened to Mozart to drown out the cries of the inmates.

Former Bosnian Serb politician Radovan Karadzic, convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia for war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity, was a psychiatrist, specializing in depression; a practitioner of alternative medicine; published a book of poetry and books for children.

Members of ISIS and Al Qaeda and other suicide bombers are genuinely and sincerely convinced that they are doing the right thing, for which they will be honored and rewarded in an afterlife. That doesn’t make them less evil; in fact, it makes them more terrifying, since they force us to face the scary reality of a world in which sincerity and morality do not necessarily have anything to do with each other.

Dick Gregory, 1932-2017

Mayor Daley and other government officials during the riots of the ’60s showed their preference for property over humanity by ordering the police to shoot all looters to kill. They never said shoot murderers to kill or shoot dope pushers to kill.

When the white Christian missionaries went to Africa, the white folks had the bibles and the natives had the land. When the missionaries pulled out, they had the land and the natives had the bibles.

The way Americans seem to think today, about the only way to end hunger in America would be for Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird to go on national TV and say we are falling behind the Russians in feeding folks.

What we’re doing in Vietnam is using the black man to kill the yellow man so the white man can keep the land he took from the red man.

Left, You Have Been Duped

On August 19, a week after a heavily publicized clash over a statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia, an estimated 8,000 people converged on Boston Common to protest a speaking event organized by a group calling itself the Boston Free Speech Movement. Who are the Boston Free Speech Movement and what do they stand for? We’ll never know because antifascists, leftists, anti-racists, and progressives of Boston prevented them from even speaking. Some might say this was a good thing — no one wants to hear from bigots (if that’s who they were) — but, in fact, the left in all its self-righteousness was duped into an assault on the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution, which guarantees the right of free speech, for everyone. The left have been the pawns of much more powerful forces who, if they aren’t organizing these news events and provocations outright, are certainly happy to see precedents set for publicly shutting down free speech by the use of force. First it will be the speech of fascists, then it will be the speech of anybody the authorities don’t like, including leftists.

Suddenly we are being confronted with organizations who claim to know what is or is not appropriate for the rest of us to hear. Now that sides have been established — one which can decide what it is and isn’t acceptable speech, and another which is forbidden to speak on pain of attack, all that remains is for the powerful to make sure their narrative is the one that’s allowed. Isn’t this fascism? Aren’t people who claim to be anti-fascist actually doing what classic fascists do?

It’s not a coincidence that just prior to these speaking events being shut down, Google, Inc. asserted its right to decide what is and is not a legitimate news source. At the same time the US Congress is considering legislation that would make it illegal for US citizens to support boycott, divestment, or sanctions against Israel. Not surprisingly, the pro-Israel Anti Defamation League (ADL) has been brought on by Google to advise them on which news sources are legitimate and which are not. Google now has such a monopoly on information on the Internet that it is in a position to bury unapproved news sources forever. The ADL will therefore be able to effectively censor any negative news about what Israel is doing in Palestine and the middle east, just as AIPAC, through its ownership of the US Congress, will be able to censor free speech of American citizens when it comes to, once again, Israel.

In the ‘50s the ADL monitored “pinkos” for the House UnAmerican Activities Committee. In the ‘90s ADL monitored activists working to end apartheid in South Africa, in the 2000s the ADL began monitoring Arab American organizations and mosques. Today the ADL monitors pro-Palestine groups on college campuses. In each case the ADL has gone after “extremism and hate speech” in the US, as defined by Israel.

One wonders, why does Israel, a foreign country, have such a say on in what people in the US can and can’t talk about?

There is no way to censor speech without a point of view or agenda. The agenda is usually dictated by whoever has power. Thus censorship serves those in power. When we take part in it, we serve the power.

People are apparently upset about an upsurge of nazi-ism. Why weren’t they in the streets when neocon Victoria Nuland and the US State Department organized a coup in Ukraine with the overt assistance of neo-nazis? Why were nazis okay during Obama’s presidency but not during Trump’s?

Where was the outrage when Hillary Clinton and the US State Department attacked and destroyed Libya? The liberal left considered this a “humanitarian intervention,” just as it did when the US decimated Yugoslavia.

Why is it that after six years of siege and murder committed by US proxy forces in Syria, the only national demonstration that could be mustered in Washington was on the issue of private remarks Trump once made about grabbing women — the famous “pussy hat” demonstration?

Why is it that the liars in the mainstream press could get away with false stories of chemical attacks in Syria being carried out by the Syrian government when it was obvious that the attacks were carried out as false flags by US proxy forces? Why are Syrians still being bombed and killed every day by US “coalition” forces with no protest?

Why is it that Iraq is no longer a concern, after 26 years of genocidal assault by Uncle Sam, with efforts now being made to balkanize Iraq through support for “Kurdistan”? Why are US troops still there? Why are they still in Afghanistan? Where are the masses taking to the streets to shout down the liars making these policies?

Why is it the business of the US to interfere in Venezuela’s internal affairs, even to the point of military intervention? Has Venezuela harmed the US in some way? Has the left swallowed yet again the lie that the US is concerned about human rights in another country?

Why is it that Palestinians have been forgotten, as Israel, the US’s closest ally, transparently conducts genocide against them, year after year, so that today Israel can talk openly of forced transfer of the entire Arab population of Palestine. Isn’t terror also being committed when Israeli settlers routinely ram their cars into Palestinians in the street, or is it just terror when this happens in Europe?

Why is it that the US supports a state for Jewish people only that necessarily discriminates again non-Jewish Christians and Muslims? Isn’t discrimination on the basis of religion a hate crime? Isn’t the ADL in a conflict of interests when it claims to be an authority on hate crimes while representing such a state? Has the left ever repudiated its long record of blocking for Israel and Israel’s crimes?

Why is it that the virtuous left has nothing better to do than face off with a few obvious provocateurs with their over-the-top nazi slogans while the US — their country, in their name — is actively supporting Saudi Arabia in its destruction of a practically defenseless Yemen?

Where has the left been in its opposition to US government and media “hate speech” and war-baiting against Russia, China, and Iran? Is World War III not a problem? Did something lead leftists to believe that life on earth was not important right now?

Is the US threat of a nuclear attack on North Korea a side issue — something to be dealt with only after facing off with the Klan?

What about the murder of millions of Arabs and Muslims since 9-11 on the basis of a false story about who did 9-11? Surely there is a case to be made here for discrimination on the basis of religion, if not serial mass murder, based on a pretext which itself was a an open crime for all the world to see. Why does the left consider discussion of this crime unimportant and passé?

That the left has mobilized to stomp on a handful of people in Charlottesville and Boston only proves its impotence. It’s like the man who has been frustrated at work all day who comes home and kicks his dog.

The worst of it all is that both the left and right have been suckered into a division which will use up all their energy and get plenty of attention from the press while the real crimes and the real criminals roll steadily along, laughing at the stupidity of everyone involved and the ease with which they were manipulated.

Update August 25: Estimates for the size of the counter-Boston Free Speech demonstration in Boston were as high as 40,000 people. There is a record of one speech from Boston Free Speech at the Boston Common bandstand.