The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself

The President of the United States can hardly be taken seriously, saying much but doing little. His words, often offensive, carry no substance, and it is impossible to summarize his complex political outlook about important issues.

This is precisely the type of American presidency that Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, prefers.

However, Donald Trump is not just a raving man, but a dangerous one as well. His unpredictability must worry Israel, which expects from its American benefactors complete clarity and consistency in terms of its political support.

At the age of 70, Trump is incapable of being the stalwart, pro-Zionist ideologue in a way that suits Israeli interests well.

Take, for example, the White House press conference following the much anticipated visit by Netanyahu to Washington on February 15.

The visit was scheduled immediately after Trump’s inauguration on January 20, and is considered the Trump Presidency’s answer to what Israel wrongly perceives as a hostile US administration under former President Barack Obama.

However, Obama has granted Israel 38 billion dollars over the course of ten years, estimated to be the most generous aid package in US history. He has supported all Israeli wars against Palestinians throughout his presidency, and unfailingly defended Israel before the international community, at the United Nations and every global forum in which Israel was justifiably criticized.

But Israel expects blind support. It needs a US administration that is as loyal as the US Congress, always praising Israel, degrading Palestinians, dismissing international law, calling to stop funding the UN for daring to demand accountability from Israel, feeding Israeli ‘security’ phobias with monetary and absolute political backing, demonizing Iran, undermining the Arabs and repeating all Israeli talking points fed to them by Tel Aviv and by the fifth column lobbyists in Washington.

Trump is striving to be that person, the messiah that Israel’s army of right-wing, ultranationalists and religious zealots have been calling for. But this appears beyond the man’s control, no matter how hard he tries.

“Looking at two-state or one-state, I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one both parties like. I can live with either one,” Trump said in answer to a journalist’s question, implying to Israel that the US will no longer impose solutions; instead, Trump pushed the ‘one-state solution’ idea to the very top of the discussion. It is not what Israel wanted – or expected.

In Washington, Netanyahu, with unmistakable pomposity, stood before the media and simply lied. He painted Israel as vulnerable, a prey for dark ‘radical Islam’ forces, ready to strike from every corner.

He presented Iran’s nuclear capabilities as if it is lined up to incinerate Israel, itself built atop the graves and villages of dispossessed Palestinians. No journalist had the courage to quiz the Israeli leader about his own country’s massive nuclear arsenal and other weapons of mass destruction. Listening to him preach fabricated history to the incurious American media, one would think that militarily powerful Israel is occupied by hostile Palestinian foreigners, and not vice versa.

Netanyahu claimed his people belonged to Palestine as the French belonged to France and the Chinese to China. But if European Jewish immigrants are the natives of Palestine, then what is one to make of Palestinians? How is one to explain their existence on land that has carried their collective name for millennia?

This is inconsequential to the US government and mainstream media. US media is as uninformed about the realities of the Middle East as Trump, who seems to have only two main talking points about the whole issue, both embarrassingly bizarre:

Israel has been treated ‘very, very badly’ by the US, and he has a ‘really great peace deal’ in store.

On the contrary, Palestinians have been treated ‘very, very badly’ by the US, the most generous supporter of Israel. Israel has used mostly American weapons in its wars against Palestinians and other Arab nations, with thousands of Palestinians losing their lives because of this blind American patronage.

As for his ‘really great peace deal,’ Trump has nothing. ‘Really great’ seems to be his answer to everything, to the point that his words are becoming ineffectual clichés, suitable for twitter jokes and comedy.

Furthermore, Netanyahu, urged on by – to quote former Secretary of State, John Kerry – the ‘most right-wing coalition in Israeli history’ – wants the US to unconditionally support Israel as the latter is finalizing its future ‘vision’.

Now, it seems that Israel is concluding that territorial quest. The ‘Regularization Law’ passed recently in Israel’s parliament – Knesset – will retroactively validate all Israeli illegal settlers’ claims over Palestinian land. Top Israel officials now openly speak of annexation of the West Bank, using language that was formerly reserved for Jewish extremists.

Israel’s president believes annexation is the answer. “I, Rubi Rivlin, believe that Zion is entirely ours. I believe the sovereignty of the State of Israel must be in all the blocs,” Rivlin said, emphasizing that he was referring to the entire West Bank, as quoted by the ‘Times of Israel’.

The consensus among Israel’s ruling class is that a Palestinian state should never be established. Trump, although incoherent, granted them just that.

So what does Netanyahu want? We know he does not want a Palestinian state and plans to annex all Jewish colonies, while continuing to expand over stolen Palestinian land. He wants Palestinians to exist, but without political will of their own, without sovereignty, forced to accept that Israel is a Jewish state (thus signing off on their historic right to their own land); to remain subdued, passive, disarmed, dehumanized.

Netanyahu’s end game is Apartheid, racist segregation where one party, Israeli Jews, dominates and exploits the other – Palestinian Arabs: Muslims and Christians.

But human dignity is not open for negotiation, no matter how a ‘good negotiator’ Netanyahu is – according to Trump’s assertion.

Palestinians have resisted Israel for nearly seventy years because they challenge their servitude. They will continue to resist.

Israel has the military means to punish Palestinians for their resistance, to push them behind military checkpoints and trap them behind walls. Yet, it is not a matter of firepower, and no wall can be high enough to stymie the echoes of oppressed people striving for freedom, human rights, equality and solidarity.

Netanyahu must feel triumphant because of Trump’s assuring words. The Israeli leader wants any victory, however illusive, to buy time and the allegiance of his camp of extremists, especially now that he is being investigated for fraud and is likely to be indicted.

He may even initiate a war against Gaza to create further distraction, and will readily spin facts so that his country is presented as a victim, to test American support and to ‘downgrade’ Hamas’ and other Palestinian groups’ defences.

However, none of this will change the reality that Netanyahu has unwisely constructed. His vision for Israel is the perpetual subjugation of Palestinians through a system of racial discrimination that will continue until the world unravels the lies and the propaganda.

Having Trump by his side, Netanyahu will work diligently to perfect the Palestinian prison in the name of Israel’s security.

Palestinians must now respond, without the irrelevant rhetoric of a ‘two-state solution’, but with a unified universal message to the rest of the world: expecting – in fact, demanding – freedom, equality, full rights in a society that is not predicated on racial order, but on equal citizenship.

Israel has laid out its dark vision. Palestinians must present the antithesis to that destructive vision: a road map towards justice, equality and peace for all.

Wall Street Hopes You’ve Forgotten the Crash Already

Remember October 2008 — the bank bailouts, the spiking unemployment rate, the stock market free fall?

Maybe you lost a job, got a pay cut, or saw your retirement savings or home value evaporate. Maybe you even lost your home altogether, or saw your small business wither and die.

It’s a hard thing to let go. But Wall Street is hoping you’ve already forgotten it.

That’s because their allies in Congress and the Trump administration are poised to scrap the reforms that lawmakers put in place to prevent another meltdown.

For starters, they’re trying to gut the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the first independent agency with the sole mandate of protecting consumers against scam artists, predatory lenders, and bad actors in the financial sector.

The agency proved its mettle last year, when it caught Wells Fargo — the second biggest bank in the country — creating millions of bogus accounts without their customers’ permission. The bureau exposed that cheating and put an end to it.

Dodd-Frank, the law that created the bureau, also made rules to keep banks from making risky bets with your money.

For instance, it requires banks to keep some skin in the game by maintaining a 5 percent stake in loans they originate, so they have a stake in the success of the borrower and the loan. It also encourages banks to keep some cash on hand in case of emergencies, just like the rest of us try to do at home.

Yet lately, bankers have been complaining that financial regulation is hurting the economy. Gary Cohn, a former Goldman Sachs president — and now a Trump economic adviser — whined recently that banks are being forced to “hoard capital.”

If maintaining a prudent reserve is hoarding, then yes. And that’s a good thing.

Bankers like Cohn say abolishing these rules will help ordinary consumers. When you hear things like that, hold tight to your wallets and purses.

The truth is, cheap credit is abundant. The commercial and industrial business industries are booming. Credit card and auto lending are at record highs, and mortgage loans are almost back to their pre-2008 crisis high.

If that’s not enough for Wall Street lenders who want to gamble, they should go to the casino. And if venture capitalists want to take great risks in search of great rewards, blessings upon them. But they shouldn’t expect the rest of us to bail them out after their next binge.

What about Donald Trump? Will he protect us?

Trump campaigned as a champion for the “little guy,” beholden to no one because of his independent wealth. He smeared opponents like Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton for being “puppets” of big banks like Goldman Sachs.

My advice? Watch what Trump does, not what he says.

After all, Trump just installed the most pro-Wall Street team our nation has ever seen. Three of his senior advisers — including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin — have a combined 40 years at Goldman Sachs.

Now they’d like to remove the sheriff from the financial sector. If they get their way, I’ll give you better odds than Vegas that they’ll crash the economy again — and stick you and me with the bill.

Lock up your treasure. Call your lawmaker. Don’t go back to sleep.

Distributed by OtherWords.

The United States of Permanent War

As the foreign policy establishment continues to grapple with the consequences of Trump’s election, U.S. officials can still agree on one thing. The United States is a nation that is waging a permanent war.

In December 2016, President Obama reflected on the development in a speech that he delivered to U.S. soldiers at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. “By the time I took office, the United States had been at war for seven years,” Obama said. By continuing that war, “I will become the first president of the United States to serve two full terms during a time of war.”

Notably, Obama did not issue his remarks to criticize the United States. He only made his point to note that Congress had never provided him with authority to perpetuate the wars of the Bush administration. “Right now, we are waging war under authorities provided by Congress over 15 years ago—15 years ago,” Obama said. Consequently, he wanted Congress to craft new legislation that made it appear as if it had not permitted the United States to remain at war forever. “Democracies should not operate in a state of permanently authorized war,” Obama said.

The Bush Plan

Regardless of what Obama really felt about the matter, the Bush administration had always intended for the United States to wage a permanent war. In the days after 9/11, President Bush provided the guiding vision when he announced in a speech to the nation that the United States would be fighting an indefinite global war on terror. “Our response involves far more than instant retaliation and isolated strikes,” Bush explained. “Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen.”

The following year, Director of Policy Planning Richard Haass provided additional confirmation of the administration’s intentions. “There can be no exit strategy in the war against terrorism,” Haass declared. “It is a war that will persist.” In other words, Haass announced that the United States would remain at war against terrorism forever. “There is unlikely to be an Antietam, a decisive battle in this war,” Haass stated. “An exit strategy, therefore, will do us no good. What we need is an endurance strategy.”

As U.S. officials developed their endurance strategy, they also settled on a few guiding principles. For starters, U.S. officials determined that they would have to maintain some kind of permanent presence in Afghanistan. “We’re not leaving Afghanistan prematurely,” Secretary of Defense Robert Gates remarked during the early years of the Obama administration. “In fact, we’re not ever leaving at all.”

More recently, a number of officials in the Obama administration articulated a similar principle for the Middle East. In October 2016, for example, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper noted that the United States would remain in the region well into the future. Even if the Islamic State is defeated, “it is probably not going to go away, and it’ll morph into something else or other similar extremist groups will be spawned,” Clapper said. “And I believe we’re going to be in the business of suppressing these extremist movements for a long time to come.”

This past December, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter made a similar point, arguing that coalition forces “must be ready for anything” and “must remain engaged militarily even after the inevitable expulsion of ISIL from Mosul and Raqqa.”

In essence, U.S. officials agree that the war against terrorism must remain permanent.

The Trump Turn

Officials in the Trump administration, who are now taking over the endurance strategy, have also remained determined to keep the nation at war. Although Trump promised during his campaign that “war and aggression will not be my first instinct,” both he and his cabinet members have displayed a clear preference for war.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who is perhaps most well known for once commenting that it was “a hell of a hoot” and “a hell of a lot of fun” to shoot enemy forces in Afghanistan, argued during his confirmation hearing that the United States should take advantage of its “power of intimidation.” In fact, Mattis pledged to increase the lethality of U.S. military forces. “Our armed forces in this world must remain the best led, the best equipped, and the most lethal in the world,” Mattis insisted.

Furthermore, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has positioned himself as an even stronger advocate of war. For example, Tillerson insisted during his confirmation hearing that the Obama administration should have helped Ukrainian military forces fight Russia after Putin had seized Crimea in early 2014. “My opinion is there should have been a show of force, a military response, in defensive posture,” Tillerson said. In addition, Tillerson insisted that the Trump administration will not permit China to continue building islands in the South China Sea. “We’re going to have to send China a clear signal that first, the island-building stops, and second, your access to those islands also not going to be allowed,” Tillerson said.

Altogether, Tillerson argued that the United States must display a greater willingness to go to war. In the years ahead, the United States will follow “the old tenet of Teddy Roosevelt, walk softly and carry a big stick,” he promised.

Finally, Trump has displayed an even stronger preference for war. In his many public statements, Trump has essentially branded himself as the new face of the permanent war against terrorism. “Radical Islamic terrorism” is something that “we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth,” Trump promised during his inaugural address.

In short, officials in Washington are committed to perpetual war. Although they regularly promise to end war and support peace, they have spent the past 16 years transforming the United States into a nation that is permanently at war.

In fact, “the fighting is wonderful,” Trump has said.

This column originally appeared on

The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships

This being the age of public relations, the genteel term “public-private partnership” is used instead of corporate plunder. A “partnership” such deals may be, but it isn’t the public who gets the benefits.

We’ll be hearing more about so-called “public-private partnerships” in coming weeks because the new U.S. president, Donald Trump, is promoting these as the basis for a promised $1 trillion in new infrastructure investments. But the new administration has also promised cuts to public spending. How to square this circle? It’s not difficult to discern when we recall the main policy of the Trump administration is to hand out massive tax cuts to big business and the wealthy, and provide them with subsidies.

Public-private partnerships are one of the surest ways of shoveling money into the gaping maws of corporate wallets, used, with varying names, by neoliberal governments around the world, particularly in Europe and North America. The result has been disastrous — public services and infrastructure maintenance is consistently more expensive after privatization. Cuts to wages for workers who remain on the job and increased use of low-wage subcontractors are additional features of these privatizations.

The rationale for these partnerships is, similar to other neoliberal prescriptions, ideological — the private sector is supposedly always more efficient than government. A private company’s profit incentive will supposedly see to it that costs are kept under control, thereby saving money for taxpayers and transferring risk to the contractor. In the real world, however, this works much differently. A government signs a long-term contract with a private enterprise to build and/or maintain infrastructure, under which the costs are borne by the contractor but the revenue goes to the contractor as well.

The contractor, of course, expects a profit from the arrangement. The government doesn’t — and thus corporate expectation of profits requires that revenues be increased and expenses must be cut. Less services and fewer employees means more profit for the contractor, and because the contractor is a private enterprise there’s no longer public accountability.

Public-private partnerships are nothing more than a variation on straightforward schemes to sell off public assets below cost, with working people having to pay more for reduced quality of service. A survey of these partnerships across Europe and North America will demonstrate this clearly, but first a quick look at the Trump administration’s plans.

Corporate subsidies, not $1 trillion in new spending

The use of the word “plans” is rather loose here. No more than the barest outline of a plan has been articulated. The only direct mention of his intentions to jump-start investment in infrastructure is found in President Trump’s campaign web site. In full, it states the plan “Leverages public-private partnerships, and private investments through tax incentives, to spur $1 trillion in infrastructure investment over ten years. It is revenue neutral.” The administration’s official White House web site’s sole mention of infrastructure is an announcement approving the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines without environmental reviews, and an intention to expedite environmental reviews for “high priority infrastructure projects.”

Wilbur Ross, an investment banker who buys companies and then takes away pensions and medical benefits so he can flip his companies for a big short-term profit, and who is President Trump’s pick for commerce secretary, along with a conservative economics professor, Peter Navarro, have recommended the Trump administration allocate $137 billion in tax credits for private investors who underwrite infrastructure projects. The two estimate that over 10 years the credits could spur $1 trillion in investment. So the new administration won’t actually spend $1 trillion to fix the country’s badly decaying infrastructure; it hopes to encourage private capital to do so through tax cuts.

There is a catch here — private capital is only going to invest if a steady profit can be extracted. Writing in the New Republic, David Dayen put this plainly:

“Private operators will only undertake projects if they promise a revenue stream. You may end up with another bridge in New York City or another road in Los Angeles, which can be monetized. But someplace that actually needs infrastructure investment is more dicey without user fees. So the only way to entice private-sector actors into rebuilding Flint, Michigan’s water system, for example, is to give them a cut of the profits in perpetuity. That’s what Chicago did when it sold off 36,000 parking meters to a Wall Street-led investor group. Users now pay exorbitant fees to park in Chicago, and city government is helpless to alter the rates.”

The Trump plan appears to go beyond even the ordinary terms of public-private partnerships because it would transfer money to developers with no guarantee at all that net new investments are made, according to an Economic Policy Institute analysis. The EPI report asks several questions:

“[I]t appears to be a plan to give tax credits to private financiers and developers, period. The lack of details here are daunting and incredibly important. For starters, we don’t know if the tax credit would be restricted to new investment, or if investors in already existing [public-private partnerships] are eligible for the credit. If private investors in already existing PPP arrangements are eligible, how do we ensure these tax credits actually induce net new investments rather than just transferring taxpayer largesse on operators of already-existing projects? Who decides which projects need to be built? How will the Trump administration provide needed infrastructure investments that are unlikely to be profitable for private providers (such as building lead-free water pipes in Flint, MI)? If we assume tax credits will be restricted (on paper, anyhow) to just new investment, how do we know the money is not just providing a windfall to already planned projects rather than inducing a net increase in how much infrastructure investment occurs?”

Critiques of this scheme can readily be found on the Right as well. For example, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former head of the Congressional Budget Office and economic adviser to John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, told The Associated Press, “I don’t think that is a model that is going be viewed as successful or that you can use it for all of the infrastructure needs that the U.S. has.”

Corporations plunder, people pay in Britain

Britain’s version of public-private partnerships are called “private finance initiatives.” A scheme concocted by the Conservative Party and enthusiastically adopted by the New Labour of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, the results are disastrous. A 2015 report in The Independent reveals that the British government owes more than £222 billion to banks and businesses as a result of private finance initiatives. Jonathan Owen reports:

“The startling figure – described by experts as a ‘financial disaster’ – has been calculated as part of an Independent on Sunday analysis of Treasury data on more than 720 PFIs. The analysis has been verified by the National Audit Office. The headline debt is based on ‘unitary charges’ which start this month and will continue for 35 years. They include fees for services rendered, such as maintenance and cleaning, as well as the repayment of loans underwritten by banks and investment companies.

Responding to the findings, [British Trades Union Congress] General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: ‘Crippling PFI debts are exacerbating the funding crisis across our public services, most obviously in our National Health Service.’ ”

Under private finance initiatives, a consortium of private-sector banks and construction firms finance, own, operate and leasethe formerly public property back to the U.K. taxpayer over a period of 30 to 35 years. By no means do taxpayers receive value for these deals — and the total cost will likely rise far above the initial £222 billion cost. According to The Independent:

“The system has yielded assets valued at £56.5bn. But Britain will pay more than five times that amount under the terms of the PFIs used to create them, and in some cases be left with nothing to show for it, because the PFI agreed to is effectively a leasing agreement. Some £88bn has already been spent, and even if the projected cost between now and 2049/50 does not change, the total PFI bill will be in excess of £310bn. This is more than four times the budget deficit used to justify austerity cuts to government budgets and local services.”

The private firms can even flip their contracts for a faster payday. Four companies given 25-year contracts to build and maintain schools doubled their money by selling their shares in the schemes less than five years into the deals for a composite profit of £300 million. Clearly, these contracts were given at well below reasonable cost.

One of the most prominent privatization disasters was a £30 billion deal for Metronet to upgrade and maintain London’s subway system. The company failed, leaving taxpayers with a £2 billion bill because Transport for London, the government entity responsible for overseeing the subway, guaranteed 95 percent of the debt the private companies had taken out. Then there is the example of England’s water systems, directly sold off. The largest, Thames Water, was acquired by a consortium led by the Australian bank Macquarie Group. This has been disastrous for rate payers but most profitable to the bank. An Open University study found that, in four of the five years studied, the consortium took out more money from the company than it made in post-tax profits, while fees increased and service declined.

As for the original sale itself, the water companies were sold on the cheap. Although details of the business can be discussed by “stakeholders,” the authors conclude, the privatization itself remains outside political debate, placing a “ring-fence” around the issues surrounding the privatization, such as the “politics of packaging and selling households as a captive revenue stream.” The public has no choice when the water provider is a monopoly and thus no say in rates.

Incredibly, Prime Minister Theresa May and the Tories intend to sell off more public services to Macquarie-led consortiums.

Corporations plunder, people pay across Europe

Privatization of water systems has not gone better in continental Europe. Cities in Germany and France, including Paris, have taken back their water after selling systems to corporations. The city of Paris’ contracts with Veolia Environment and Suez Environment, expired in 2010; during the preceding 25 years water prices there had doubled, after accounting for inflation, according to a paper prepared by David Hall, a University of Greenwich researcher. Despite the costs of taking back the water system, the city saved €35 million in the first year and was able to reduce water charges by eight percent. Higher prices and reduced services have been the norm for privatized systems across France, according to Professor Hall’s study.

German cities have also “re-municipalized” basic utilities. One example is the German city of Bergkamen (population about 50,000), which reversed its privatization of energy, water and other services. As a result of returning those to the public sector, the city now earns €3 million a year from the municipal companies set up to provide services, while reducing costs by as much as 30 percent.

Water is big business. Suez and Veolia both reported profits of more than €400 million for 2015. Not unrelated to this is the increasing prominence of bottled water. Bottled water is dominated by three of the world’s biggest companies: Coca-Cola (Dasani), PepsiCo (Aquafina) and Nestlé (Poland Springs, Deer Park, Arrowhead and others). So it’s perhaps not surprising that Nestlé Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe infamously issued a video in which he declared the idea that water is a human right “extreme” and that water should instead have a “market value.”

One privatization that has not been reversed, however, is Goldman Sachs’ takeover of Denmark’s state-owned energy company Dong Energy. Despite strong popular opposition, the Danish government sold an 18 percent share in Dong Energy to Goldman Sachs in 2014 while giving the investment bank a veto over strategic decisions, essentially handing it control. The bank was also given the right to sell back its shares for a guaranteed profit. Goldman Sachs has turned a huge profit already — two years after buying its share, Dong began selling shares on the stock market, and initial trading established a value for the company twice as high as it was valued for purposes of selling the shares to Goldman. In other words, Goldman’s shares doubled in value in just two years — a $1.7 billion gain.

Danes have paid for this partial privatization in other ways as well. Taking advantage of the control granted it, Goldman demanded lower payments to Danish subcontractors and replaced some subcontractors who refused to use lower-paid workers.

Corporations plunder, people pay in Canada

Canada’s version of public-private partnerships has followed the same script. A report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives flatly declared that

“In every single project approved so far as a P3 in Ontario, the costs would have been lower through traditional procurement if they had not inflated by these calculations of the value of ‘risk.’ The calculations of risk could just as well have been pulled out of thin air — and they are not small amounts.”

Not that Ontario is alone here. Among the examples the Centre provides are a hospital, Brampton Civic, that cost the public $200 million more than if it had been publicly financed and built directly by Ontario; the Sea-to-Sky Highway in British Columbia that will cost taxpayers $220 million more than if it had been financed and operated publicly; bailouts of the companies operating the city of Ottawa’s recreational arenas; and a Université de Québec à Montréal project that doubled the cost to $400 million.

A separate study by University of Toronto researchers of 28 Ontario public-private partnerships found they cost an average of 16 percent more than conventional contracts.

Corporations plunder, people pay in the United States

In the United States, a long-time goal of the Republican Party has been to privatize the Postal Service. To facilitate this, a congressional bill signed into law in 2006 required the Postal Service to pre-fund its pension costs for the next 75 years in only 10 years. This is unheard of; certainly no private business would or could do such a thing. This preposterous requirement saddled the Postal Service with a $16 billion deficit. The goal here is to weaken the post office in order to manufacture a case that the government is incapable of running it.

The city of Chicago has found that there are many bad consequences of public-private partnerships beyond the monetary. In 2008, Chicago gave a 75-year lease on its parking meters to Morgan Stanley for $1 billion. Shortly afterward, the city’s inspector general concluded the value of the meter lease was $2 billion. Parking rates skyrocketed, and the terms of the lease protecting Morgan Stanley’s investment created new annual costs for the city, according to a Next City report.

That report noted that plans for express bus lanes, protected bike lanes and street changes to enhance pedestrian safety are complicated by the fact that each of these projects requires removing metered parking spaces. Removing meters requires the city to make penalty payments to Morgan Stanley. Even removals for street repairs requires compensation; the Next City report notes that the city lost a $61 million lawsuit filed by the investment bank because of street closures.

Nor have water systems been exempt from privatization schemes. A study by Food & Water Watch found that:

*Investor-owned utilities typically charge 33 percent more for water and 63 percent more for sewer service than local government utilities.

*After privatization, water rates increase at about three times the rate of inflation, with an average increase of 18 percent every other year.

*Corporate profits, dividends and income taxes can add 20 to 30 percent to operation and maintenance costs.

Pure ideology drives these privatization schemes. The Federal Reserve poured $4.1 trillion into buying bonds, which did little more than inflate a stock-market bubble, while the investment needs to rebuild U.S. water systems, schools and dams, plus cleaning up Superfund sites and eliminating student debt, are less at a combined $3.4 trillion. What if that Federal Reserve money had gone to those instead?

“Public investment to create private profit”

Given its billionaire leadership, the Trump administration’s plans for public-private partnerships will not lead to better results, and may well be even worse. Michael Hudson recently summarized what is likely coming in this way:

“Mr. Trump wants to turn the U.S. economy into the kind of real estate development that has made him so rich in New York. It will make his fellow developers rich, and it will make the banks that finance this infrastructure rich, but the people are going to have to pay for it in a much higher cost for transportation, much higher cost for all the infrastructure that he’s proposing. So I think you could call Trump’s plan ‘public investment to create private profit.’ That’s really his plan in a summary, it looks to me.”

This makes no sense as public policy. But it is consistent with the desire of capitalists to continually extract higher profits from any and all human activity. Similar to governments handing over their sovereignty to multi-national corporations in so-called “free trade” deals that facilitate the movement of production to locales with ever lower wages and weaker laws, public-private partnerships represent a plundering of the public sector for private profit, and government surrender of public goods. All this is a reflection of the imbalance of power in capitalist countries.

This is “the market” in action — and the market is nothing more than the aggregate interests of the most powerful industrialists and financiers. It also reflects that as capitalist markets mature and capital runs out of places into which to expand, ongoing competitive pressures will drive corporate leaderships to reduce expenses (particularly wages) and move into new lines of business. Taking over what had been the public sector is one way of achieving this, especially if public goods can be bought below fair market value and guarantees of profits extracted.

The ruthless logic of capitalism is that a commodity goes to those who can pay the most, regardless of whether it is something essential to human life.


Why Resistance is Insufficient

Derived from the Latin prefix re (against) and sistere (to stop, or take a stand/stand firm), to resist means to withstand, to keep something at bay. That is, to resist does not mean to act so much as to counteract. As such, it gives one’s opponent a significant advantage (as Bernal Diaz observed in his Conquest of New Spain, “the first attack is half the battle”).

Even if a resistance can contain one’s opponent, neutralizing them, this problematic aspect persists. And as Trump launches attacks on multiple fronts (shutting down the EPA, attacking women, workers, and Muslims, rounding up immigrants, building new detention centers and oil pipelines, pursuing his wall) even containing Trump is proving difficult. Of course, in launching so many attacks Trump risks spreading himself thin. But, even if substantially weakened, resistance alone never knocks anyone from power. That requires an offense.

As Trump weathers the attacks of the intelligence community and others who aim to restore the popularly reviled neoliberal situation, which gave rise to Trump in the first place, the Left ought to focus at least as much on pursuing an offense as on resistance. For the goal of the Left should not be the restoration of earlier forms of neoliberalism, nor the mere removal of Trump and other demagogues from power, but the advancement of a genuinely egalitarian society. And, contrary to the ideology of progress, which imagines this advancement occurring on its own, according to some Hegelian spirit of history, deviating from inertia requires a considerable degree of effort.

Because Trump and other functionaries of the state have highly militarized police forces and national security apparatuses protecting them, such an offense must proceed with great care. However, for an offense to be successful it needn’t necessarily physically engage its adversary at all. As the legendary strategist Sun Tzu put it in The Art of War: “The supreme art of war consists in subduing an enemy without fighting.” And this is precisely how beating Trump, and other despoilers of the world, should be approached. They can be slowed down, obstructed, weakened and ultimately removed from power by radical non-participation – e.g., by a general strike. Additionally, an opposition can prevail by attacking its opponents’ strategy, and by attacking alliances; the supreme strategy of warfare, according to Sun Tzu, and the second most supreme strategy, respectively – two strategies that work best in tandem.

Attacking Trump’s alliances, and those of the Right in general, pose considerable difficulties, yet many openings exist. While they may be less vocal than his more ardent supporters, most of those who voted for Trump, for instance, didn’t like him much during the campaign, and they like him less now. Many preferred Bernie Sanders, and only supported Trump out of disgust for the neoliberal system that impoverished them, hollowed out much of the country, and added classist insults to these injuries. Moreover, much of Trump’s own party only haltingly supports him. The effectiveness of an attack on Trump’s alliances, however, and other such alliances, will be limited to the degree that it is not integrated with what Sun Tzu described as the supreme strategy of warfare: attacking strategy itself – a strategy less concerned with issuing critiques of reactionary plans so much as with “winning hearts and minds” – winning people over to an altogether new way of thinking about organizing social life.

As few concepts are more central to this question than the concept of security, an attack on “strategy itself” should incorporate a critique of this. Although a universal concern, security is ambiguous and contradictory. As such, it provides ample material for criticism. Derived from the Latin se (which means free from) and cura (care), security literally means free from care – a freedom from care that leads as easily to carelessness as to being carefree. Reminiscent of the relation between liberty and license, implicit in security is a similar contradiction – between care (and a duty of care) and its neglect. Energy security, for instance, is vital. People need energy to heat their homes and cook their food. But when energy security is conceived of in a narrow way (as energy derived not only from fuels that pollute the planet but from fuels that are extracted according to the dictates of a political-economy that advances the economic security of one class at the expense of another), energy security leads to general human insecurity – the economic insecurity of an exploited class as well as the insecurity associated with ecological devastation and/or war, which accompanies the extraction and production of these energy forms.

In other words, discussions of security need to distinguish narrow types of security from broad notions of security – notions of security that are broader, for instance, than the national security of the national security state as well as more universal than the social security of the welfare state. Related more to care, and caring, than to carelessness and carefree-ness, a critical conception of security does not fail to recognize, for instance, that a crucial aspect of our security is not only our well-being, and the health of our communities, but the health and well-being of the general environment – i.e., the planet – as well. And since the nation-state is a construct designed not to produce human security in general but only security for a small class of people, and pits one nation-state against others, leading to war and ecological devastation among other threats to a critical conception of security, the nation-state and capitalism – two sides of the same historically-minted coin – turn out to both be structurally inimical to actual human security.

Indeed, while capitalism certainly produces narrow forms of security it only does so by producing broader types of insecurity. Regulating the world according to the dictates of profit, capitalism doesn’t just consistently fail to satisfy social needs, it actively undermines them. Not only does the prioritization of profit lead to the destruction of tons of food every day – to keep up prices, even while people are starving the world over – so long as exchange-value is prioritized over use-value, human insecurity preponderates. Rather than some marginal dimension, creating scarcity,  and thereby insecurity, is essential to capitalism. As Karl Polanyi pointed out in The Great Transformation, in Africa freely growing food was destroyed by colonial administrators in order to compel people to work – to earn money to pay for food that had until then been available for free. And, in such practices as planned obsolescence, this creation of insecurity continues to characterize capitalistic production.

A similar dynamic amplifies housing insecurity. Since capitalism is characterized by, in Immanuel Wallerstein’s words, “the privatization of everything, in the interest of generating profit,” like other public necessities housing is treated as a private good, a commodity. Produced to create profit, and only secondarily for its use (i.e., shelter/security) the commodification of housing creates insecurity. Again and again, the world over, so-called market forces deprive necessary housing from the poor, and other vulnerable groups, creating insecurity, in order to enrich land owners, bankers, and others who use housing as a means to make money.

This upside-down, scarcity-producing, exchange-value-prioritizing economy systemically degrades the natural environment as well. The privatization of forests, for example, leads to the conversion of so many trees into so many paper cups, among other disposable commodities, creating catastrophic environmental insecurity. And as the incessant drive for profit has destroyed forests, clean air, soil, and water throughout the world, it is not difficult to foresee clean air (like clean water) becoming privatized in the near future. If present trends continue, the commons of breathable air will be commodified, and people will be forced to work for or exploit others in order to simply breathe, raising human insecurity to unprecedented heights. And yet, even if some clean, green energy form were developed, and global warming and ecological degradation could be somehow reversed, the demand for profit would still create insecurity in some form or other in order to compel people to work beyond what is necessary for the production of use-values. Moreover, no matter how clean and green warfare becomes it will still sow death. In short, this society – ostensibly obsessed with security – not only fails to supply actual concrete security to most people, it is structurally pre-determined to undermine all but the most superficial aspects of security.

As religious-thinking (emotion, superstition, and faith) dominates political and economic discussions, and information technology exponentially distances political opponents into members of practically unbridgeable alternative realities, little these days is not embroiled in the religious war of contemporary politics. As such, many will not be able to agree on what constitutes evidence, let alone on the less concrete aspects of social reality. Consequently, many will continue to deny the existence of discrimination, global warming, and other phenomena, while steadfastly insisting upon the reality of myriad imaginary entities, even as the world floods and burns all around. As it stands, however, plenty of people the world over need no convincing that our very survival requires jettisoning capitalism and the nation-state, along with the culture of domination and exploitation that subtends these, and replacing them with a non-coercive, non-exploitative, form of social organization. If we are to develop a society that is not only not contingent on destruction and abuse, but allows us to realize an actually democratic, egalitarian, and fair society, we must abandon these barbaric organizational forms.

Although it is too soon to tell how the resistance to the general and particular arrangement of the world will develop, and whether Trump, among other demagogues, will be removed from power, it is only growing more clear that the racist, sexist, nationalistic governments assuming power the world over enjoy considerable yet limited popular support. And because, as history repeatedly demonstrates, such deeply unpopular regimes inevitably collapse, it is not difficult to imagine that, among others, Trump’s may too. Should this occur, however, it is crucial to recognize that an egalitarian movement will not only be undermined to the extent that it facilitates or otherwise contributes to a neoliberal restoration, such a restoration would certainly produce a more virulent strain of Trumpism. As such, both must be eliminated. Rather than Trump’s brand of reaction, which seems bent on rolling back neoliberalism to the 19th century, or even the relatively enlightened New Deal reaction of Bernie Sanders, we must not react to the current constitutional, economic, and ecological crises so much as develop a response that goes beyond the contradictions fundamental to our exploitative class-based society.

Although it is unlikely that new elections will be held this year, with the lack of popular support Trump and other demagogues enjoy it is not difficult to imagine that a radical political rupture could lead to such a thing in the near future. Moreover, fidelity to democratic norms, and to basic principles of justice and equality, demand that they should be held. If we are to avoid reinstating an equally reviled neoliberal government, however, new elections, as well as a constitution that is responsive to social and economic inequalities and ecological exigencies alike should be two of the key considerations of a critical opposition. Meanwhile, because our commercial press has demonstrated its inability, along with its commercially-generated conflict of interest, to report on substantive issues, the potential political campaigns and debates that new elections would entail – ignited, perhaps, by a radical general strike – would need to be reported upon and framed in a new, critical manner.

Among the security-related issues that these as of yet imaginary debates would foreseeably consider would be such issues as the security of women, people of color, the poor, the aged, refugees, and other vulnerable communities. Universal health care, environmental policy, radical debt forgiveness, the abolition of our extensive prison system and wage labor, the right to housing, the legalization of marijuana and other drugs, and other security-related issues would also foreseeably be discussed. And in addressing the manner in which to resolve our global insecurity, it is also very likely that a communalist movement (the radically democratic, egalitarian communalism discussed by Murray Bookchin, among others, which extends back in history to well before the Paris Commune) would be given voice.

Among other proposals, such a movement might argue that the democratization of society could proceed via a new, radical way of thinking about the community college. Approached from both the federal and the local/municipal level, a community college campus could be built in every neighborhood in the country. Rather than degree-granting institutions, however, these colleges would be publicly and locally controlled and operated loci of democratization. Among other resources, each of these public, neighborhood campuses could have medical and/or nursing schools, along with self-managed medical clinics – enabling each community to train health care providers and care for its own health care needs. Additionally, dispute resolution departments and other departments could be developed within these campuses, allowing each community to more or less resolve its own disputes. And since these would be part of and run by the community, they would be free.

In addition to departments devoted to math, history, biology, and other disciplines, engineering and design departments could flourish in each community college as well, allowing each community, in collaboration with others, to design, build and maintain their individual and/or interconnected infrastructure systems. Responsive to the needs of those who live in the community, and prioritizing broader over narrow notions of security, housing in the various colleges could be managed and cared for by the colleges (i.e., by the community), as well. Instead of receiving housing in exchange for rent, as members of the community people would have a right to this basic level of security.

Likewise, agricultural departments could enable each community, in collaboration with others, to raise its own food. And since these necessities would be produced for use, and each community’s self-care, as opposed to exchange, or profit, they would require far less work, affording people considerable leisure to pursue other activities.

Beyond providing nutritious food, health care, shelter, leisure, and other necessities, there is no reason that these community colleges would not also have sports, dance, music departments, art departments, libraries, film schools, and other resources necessary for well-being and broader notions of human security. And, of course, these campuses and departments would be associated in regional, and ultimately global, confederations more broadly, partnering, trading, caring for common resources, and collaborating in collective projects, scientific research, symposia, film festivals, sports competitions, and scholarly conferences – sharing developments in various disciplines, not out of the senseless, coerced competition and production characteristic of our commodified academia, but out of a genuine interest in and pursuit of knowledge, for its own sake.

Ultimately one could imagine not only the buildings of the neighborhoods but the public utilities and other resources of the neighborhoods merging with the colleges – i.e., with the community – and falling under public, democratic control. In this way the community college communes could develop into more or less autonomous, actually democratic, self-governing communities. A broad conception of human security, however, would require cooperation between these community college communes. And it is not difficult to imagine city-level and regional-level congresses developing from the myriad community colleges of the continents of the planet, eventually replacing not only the institutions of the nation-state, but the nation-state itself.

Some will no doubt dismiss this community college communalism as utopian. And insofar as it doesn’t exist, and is literally “no place,” it certainly is utopian in that respect. However, it addresses the ecological and social crises we are confronting in a far more practicable and realistic way than do proposals, for instance, of settling Mars – an inhospitable  place with a problematic 25 hour day, not to mention no air, and only the possibility of water. As we spin on a planet that is being destroyed before our very eyes by a fundamentally exploitative political-economy – a system gerrymandered and privatized to such a degree as to preclude meaningful reform – imagining radically new ways of organizing social life, beyond the self-cannibalization of capitalism and the state, is not only far more sensible than the inertial, suicidal alternative; as we advance toward ecological Holocaust, it’s the only sane response.

What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?

The erratic presidency of Mr Donald Trump is careering from policy to policy, mixing some up, cancelling others and inventing a few on the hoof while trying to cope with self-inflicted crises affecting important international affairs.  The recent debacle over the enforced exit of National Security Adviser, General Flynn, was more than just a PR calamity, because it seems that some important international matters then fell by the wayside.

Senator John McCain summed up the situation by publicly wondering “Who’s making the decisions in the White House? Is it the 31-year-old? Is it Mr. Bannon?  Is it the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff? I don’t know! They need to clean up their act.”  And among other acts and places requiring clean-up is Afghanistan, that sewage-pit of corruption.

On February 15 Russia hosted discussions on Afghanistan aimed at encouraging the Taliban to negotiate with the shaky government in Kabul.  Representatives from Afghanistan, China, India, Iran, Pakistan and Russia met to confer about further efforts in support of the country, and it is possible that their efforts could eventually pay dividends.  But the situation is so dire that it will require more immediate action to establish a measure of stability.  But what sort of action, Mr Trump?


India’s South Asia Terrorism Portal noted that on February 8 six members of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) were shot dead in Afghanistan by terrorists of the Islamic State (IS), and catalogued a depressing number of similar vile atrocities that have taken place this year.

Concurrently there came news that “as many as 18 civilians died in air strikes [on  February 10] in Helmand’s Sangin district, according to a statement released by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.”

“The UN said the strikes had been conducted by ‘international military forces,’ but only US aircraft have been involved in recent coalition strikes, according to US military officials. Afghan officials and local residents told Al Jazeera that the death toll was higher than 18.”  The Los Angeles Times reported that “Abdul Ghafar Akhund, a 54-year-old supervisor of polio vaccination programs and prayer leader at a mosque in Sangin, said his wife, two daughters, a son and a daughter-in-law were killed when an airstrike hit his house. Akhund, who was away from home, returned to find his house destroyed. He denied that there were Taliban members in the area, saying US troops had visited his neighborhood days before the incident.”  He said “The Americans have been taking revenge on us. They don’t differentiate between civilians and non-civilians, women and children.”

Whether or not Abdul Ghafar is correct about “revenge” in his understandably distraught statement is neither here nor there, so far as truth is concerned, because his appalling tragedy will be used by Islamic State, the Taliban and every other loony extremist organization to make propaganda points that will spread throughout Afghanistan and the entire Muslim world.  It does not matter in the wider picture that the Western media play down this sort of calamity, because most people in the US and the western world in general could not give a fig for the inhabitants of Afghanistan, and even when the savages of IS murder six International Red Cross workers, there isn’t much reaction.

The new General managers in Washington — the combo of military intellectuals appointed by Mr Trump to guide and decide military and diplomatic policy —  are those who were involved in failure to win wars in Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq and are intent on expanding US militarism to become even more deeply engaged in the Syria shambles and confront Russia to the point of war.  They are revered by the US and international media for their personal characteristics, but the fact remains that all the conflicts in which they were engaged have been disasters.

The situation in Afghanistan is verging on catastrophe.  It is, to trot out yet another well-worn description, a deep and horrible quagmire. And still there is no word of decision from the White House as to how the new Administration is going to deal with the situation in the context of ‘America First.’  One would think that Mr Trump, intense profit-seeker and dedicated preserver of wealth that he is, might at least say a few words about the waste of US money, even if he does not care about murdered Red Cross workers and bombed babies.  But he doesn’t seem to be engaging the gears of cost-effectiveness to try to lead the world’s third most corrupt country to social improvement.

Well before his election campaign began Mr Trump gave many television interviews, and in one of them touched on Afghan affairs.  Mr Bill O’Reilly of Fox News said to him questioningly : “Afghanistan, you’re out?” and received the disjointed reply that “Look. I am the strongest military person, and if I have Iran in one, I would be the strongest military president ever. I believe in having — I would not be cutting the budget. I’d be coming out with the best weapons ever, all right? But with Afghanistan, I want to build our country. You know, in Afghanistan, they build a school. They blow up the school. They blow up the road. We then start all over again. And in New Orleans and in Alabama, we can’t build schools.”

It seems he meant that the US is wasting money in Afghanistan that would be better spent building schools in New Orleans and Alabama.  That’s a fair point of view, and even if it is entirely negative concerning Afghanistan, Mr O’Reilly and his vast audience were meant to understand that Trump would probably pull the financial plug if he were to become the “strongest military person.”

So what is he going to do?

Afghanistan is to all intents a colony of the United States and its western allies.  Were they to cease their funding, there would be total collapse.  But the vast majority of aid money flooding into Afghanistan is siphoned off by criminals, many of whom are in government or the military.  As noted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace : “Corruption hardly topped the threat list when US military forces and civilians first entered Afghanistan in 2001. But recognition of its devastating potential to undermine US national security objectives is far higher today. Despite a myriad of US efforts, however, corruption remains deeply entrenched. It undermines the government’s legitimacy, enables an emboldened insurgency, and puts at risk the gains from US taxpayers’ nearly $115 billion investment in reconstruction.”

This should be a wake-up call for President Trump, but it appears his priorities lie elsewhere.  If he continues to ignore the calls for action, then Afghanistan will continue its downward plunge to anarchy which will not only be disastrous for its unfortunate citizens but could prove a massive problem for the US. For the moment the crazy Islamic State has a small presence in Afghanistan, but if unchecked will almost certainly expand in numbers and influence.  One of its main targets is the United States, whose President should make up his mind what course of action to take concerning the nation his country invaded fifteen years ago.

What advice might his new General managers give him?  Their solution, no matter their vaunted intellectual and war-fighting expertise, will probably be to expand the war. Would this make economic or strategic sense?

What are you going to do about Afghanistan, President Trump?

Warring in the Oncology Ward


Townsville General Hospital

The nurse from Kerala, with a smile nearing smugness, tests the temperature of her patient. “Give me that!” she says.  The plastic wonder is passed along to her.  Her fat fingers grab the thermometer.  The patient is there, wired, strapped, connected to a device that acts as a medical Global Positional System, tied into contraption that feeds him morsels through tubes.

“Telemetry,” he says, intrigued by the nature of the word.  The device lies cuddled in a pocket.  Any movement, any cardiac disruption, will be relayed to Central Command.  This is suitable terminology: everything about the nature of disease, including the most dangerous ones, suggests military struggle, internecine conflict.  We are told that the human race is in a war against cancer, one of the most remarkable of diseases. But we are only at war because, secretly, we all wish to be immortal.  Absent this moral dimension, we are either dead or alive.

This is not a war that humans can win for one simple reason: we are living too long. Our bodies eventually breed our downfall.  But the machinery is there to fight, to attempt, vainly, to cheat the wasting efforts of a condition that makes Attila the Hun look like a toddler in search of a spade.

Our refusal to die in quiet acceptance suggests an onset of other condition: cellular, depraved, the unseen inserting themselves like combatants into our skin, goring, gnawing, nibbling and incising. We are mortal, they seem to say, and remind us that there is no Holy Grail, no sweet water that will drag us, lingeringly, into another hundred years.  We are, in other words, being killed for our durability, our obsession to see the sun rise, have the next glass of wine, or sigh in post-coital bliss.

Cancer, and its lethally enthusiastic friends, is combated in the command centre known as the oncology ward.  That ward is located in the broader hospital apparatus, a detestable place where illness reigns as god king, and the maggot queen fronts up with disdain, striking at a moment’s notice. Everything here suggests battle, warfare, campaigns, fought in dry, near dehydrating conditions. There are struggles, and being in such a ward exhausts, deprives, drawing the heart beat.

The hospital, in short, mortgages your life, places you in a form of emotional, and sometimes economic bondage. It suspends life, it quarries resources of depression, and it suspends the routine of the living. Visitors to the oncology ward start looking like ventriloquists for the un-dead, gaunt, haggard.  They become mirrors of disease and enervation.

The theatre of operations in an oncology ward seem much like preparations before a gas attack at Ypres during the First World War: wipe, wash, clean hands before engagement.  (There, it was gas masks.)  “Germs kill!” goes the sign at the entrance point.  Enemies are unseen; they thrive in the subterranean field of invisibility – to our naked eye. They may strike, your unwashed hand being an unwitting carrier for the next assault, the next disabling attack.  You, in other words, may be responsible. Collaborators, recoil in guilt.

This moral dimension of disease is important, supplying needed ammunition for false causes. Mother Teresa of Calcutta (formerly of Skopje, Macedonia), saw the necessary good (for herself) in people crippled by terminal disease. For one, they deserved it, fallen creatures who had done something terrible in order to make others thrive.  She crowed religiously, and felt that riding them to the graves with her charity did good for both herself and the broader enterprise. Disease sells; disease, like greed, is a golden good, currency, a thriving industry. Pharmaceutical companies would agree.

If we are then to see the patient on the bed as both victim and warrior, we understand better the plight of the relative, the friend, or even acquaintance who has been attacked by the Disease.  The patient is not merely battling its ravaging affects, but the fluttering curers who bustle with enthusiasm, or treat the patient with disdain.

Nursers may fuss; doctors prognosticate with resigned inevitability.  “You have anywhere from one year to ten.”  Some do it better than others, sugar coating, brushing, lying.  Wars against cancer require deception, masking futility.  In this battle, there is only one ultimate winner: death.  Death on a skeletally constructed throne, with a grin so broad you could build upon it.

Cancer is itself a remarkable entity, the truest of insurgents, the most wondrously adapted of killers.  You can only admire it, even as you blink through the cascading tears and sob your way trough the latest biographical detail of its achievements. You can only admire it with a degree of terror: it will either kill you, your friends or a family member.

What, then, is the patient in an oncology ward (a mere example) supposed to do? For one, he protests. He demands. He wishes for the bed pan. He wishes to be cleaned after his bladder goes on holiday, unable to locate the edge of the toilet rim. (“Is he toxic?,” asks a pregnant nurse, fearing the post-chemotherapy effect on the patient.)  He wants head phones, and wishes that they be firm, even “psychedelic” in their properties.

He asks for the leather bag to be relocated from one side of the bed to the other. He requests a fresh pair of loud socks stocked in the hospital, but likes the intimacy of home.  Therefore, the pair is washed at home.  Who receives these requests? The wife, the lover, the partner, and, in some cases, the offspring, desperately hoping to note all the demands. (“You made an old man very happy today….”)

These requests reflect, perhaps, a throbbing sign of life, pulsating away in defiance: you demand, and so you live. You are stubborn, and so, you will be able to pull through, passing the barbed wire of the cancer demons, gaining victory. The signs, in that sense, are good.

Much of his behaviour, if it is irritating, is a reminder that he was doing that before.  Before we become ill, we were a composite of emotions, and tics, blithely continuing, unaware, towards a destination that features decomposition, worms or the oven of cremation. We had our demands, and our perversions.  Most of all, we had a certain number of treasured, or reviled eccentricities. These are the signatures that matter, the signs that count.

In illness, we replicate, if in more theatrical style sometimes, what we did in health.  It is fitting: he is looking firm, well on this day in February, though wishes to find the optimum point on the bed where sleep will arrive as a soothing servant, with a cooling drink.

That drink is noisily clear in his imagination: robust ice cubes from a set of Scandinavian ice trays, a slice of tart lemon, tonic water, and a decent – or indecent – surge of gin.  As the evening settles, the cold cuts, crackers, a busy dry red that teases the palate with flirtatious promise, then coffee and calvados. All the time, there is family chatter. And Goethe; and Kant.

Back in the oncology ward with a jolt.  Back to the sterility, the white sheets, the hospital clothing, the smell of caged hygiene.  His eyes are not milky, dissolving in a pool – they emit a grey calm today, though stubborn. There is only one thing to fear: will the tenacity kick in?  Will that brute force of will come charging through the ranks, a body deprived of red blood cells readying himself for the grand leukaemia knock out?  Nurse Kerala interrupts with abrupt authority to take the blood pressure. The war continues.

Remembering the Coup in Ghana

A half-century and one year ago today Canada helped overthrow a leading pan Africanist president. Ghana’s Canadian-trained army overthrew Kwame Nkrumah, a leader dubbed “Man of the Millennium” in a 2000 poll by BBC listeners in Africa.

Washington, together with London, backed the coup. Lester Pearson’s government also gave its blessing to Nkrumah’s ouster. In The Deceptive Ash: Bilingualism and Canadian Policy in Africa: 1957-1971, John P. Schlegel writes: “the Western orientation and the more liberal approach of the new military government was welcomed by Canada.”

The day Nkrumah was overthrown the Canadian prime minister was asked in the House of Commons his opinion about this development. Pearson said nothing of substance on the matter. The next day External Affairs Minister Paul Martin Sr. responded to questions about Canada’s military training in Ghana, saying there was no change in instructions. In response to an MP’s question about recognizing the military government, Martin said: “In many cases recognition is accorded automatically. In respective cases such as that which occurred in Ghana yesterday, the practice is developing of carrying on with the government which has taken over, but according no formal act until some interval has elapsed. We shall carry on with the present arrangement for Ghana. Whether there will be any formal act will depend on information which is not now before us.”

While Martin and Pearson were measured in public, the Canadian high commissioner in Accra, C.E. McGaughey, was not. In an internal memo to External Affairs just after Nkrumah was overthrown, McGaughey wrote “a wonderful thing has happened for the West in Ghana and Canada has played a worthy part.” Referring to the coup, the high commissioner added “all here welcome this development except party functionaries and communist diplomatic missions.” He then applauded the Ghanaian military for having “thrown the Russian and Chinese rascals out.”

Less than two weeks after the coup, the Pearson government informed the military junta that Canada intended to carry on normal relations. In the immediate aftermath of Nkrumah’s overthrow, Canada sent $1.82 million ($15 million today) worth of flour to Ghana and offered the military regime a hundred CUSO volunteers. For its part, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which had previously severed financial assistance to Nkrumah’s government, engaged immediately after the coup by restructuring Ghana’s debt.

Canada’s contribution was an outright gift. During the three years between 1966 and 1969 the National Liberation Council military regime, received as much Canadian aid as during Nkrumah’s ten years in office with $22 million in grants and loans. Ottawa was the fourth major donor after the US, UK and UN.

Two months after Nkrumah’s ouster the Canadian high commissioner in Ghana wrote to Montréal-based de Havilland Aircraft with a request to secure parts for Ghana’s Air Force. Worried Nkrumah might attempt a counter coup, the Air Force sought parts for non-operational aircraft in the event it needed to deploy its forces.

Six months after overthrowing Nkrumah, the country’s new leader, General Joseph Ankrah, made an official visit to Ottawa as part of a trip that also took him through London and Washington.

On top of diplomatic and economic support for Nkrumah’s ouster, Canada provided military training. Schlegel described the military government as a “product of this military training program.” A Canadian major who was a training advisor to the commander of a Ghanaian infantry brigade discovered preparations for the coup the day before its execution. Bob Edwards said nothing. After Nkrumah’s removal the Canadian high commissioner boasted about the effectiveness of Canada’s Junior Staff Officers training program at the Ghanaian Defence College. Writing to the Canadian under secretary of external affairs, McGaughey noted, “All the chief participants of the coup were graduates of this course.”

After independence Ghana’s army remained British dominated. The colonial era British generals were still in place and the majority of Ghana’s officers continued to be trained in Britain. In response to a number of embarrassing incidents, Nkrumah released the British commanders in September 1961. It was at this point that Canada began training Ghana’s military.

While Canadians organized and oversaw the Junior Staff Officers course, a number of Canadians took up top positions in the Ghanaian Ministry of Defence. In the words of Canada’s military attaché to Ghana, Colonel Desmond Deane-Freeman, the Canadians in these positions imparted “our way of thinking”.

Celebrating the influence of “our way of thinking”, in 1965 High Commissioner McGaughey wrote the under secretary of external affairs: “Since independence, it [Ghana’s military] has changed in outlook, perhaps less than any other institution. It is still equipped with Western arms and although essentially non-political, is Western oriented.”

Not everyone was happy with the military’s attitude or Canada’s role therein. A year after Nkrumah’s ouster, McGaughey wrote Ottawa: “For some African and Asian diplomats stationed in Accra, I gather that there is a tendency to identify our aid policies particularly where military assistance is concerned with the aims of American and British policies. American and British objectives are unfortunately not regarded by such observers as being above criticism or suspicion.” Thomas Howell and Jeffrey Rajasooria echo the high commissioner’s assessment in their book Ghana and Nkrumah: “Members of the ruling CPP tended to identify Canadian aid policies, especially in defence areas, with the aims of the U.S. and Britain. Opponents of the Canadian military program went so far as to create a countervailing force in the form of the Soviet equipped, pro-communist President’s Own Guard Regiment [POGR]. The coup on 24 February 1966 which ousted Kwame Krumah and the CPP was partially rooted in this divergence of military loyalty.”

The POGR became a “direct and potentially potent rival” to the Canadian-trained army, notes Christopher Kilford in The Other Cold War: Canada’s Military Assistance to the Developing World, 1945-1975. Even once Canadian officials in Ottawa “well understood” Canada’s significant role in the internal military battle developing in Ghana, writes Kilford, “there was never any serious discussion around withdrawing the Canadian training team.”

As the 1960s wore on Nkrumah’s government became increasingly critical of London and Washington’s support for the white minority in southern Africa. Ottawa had little sympathy for Nkrumah’s pan-African ideals and so it made little sense to continue training the Ghanaian Army if it was, in Kilford’s words, to “be used to further Nkrumah’s political aims”. Kilford continued his thought, stating: “that is unless the Canadian government believed that in time a well-trained, professional Ghana Army might soon remove Nkrumah.”

During a visit to Ghana in 2012 former Canadian Governor General Michaëlle Jean laid a wreath on Nkrumah’s tomb. But, in commemorating this leading pan-Africanist, she failed to acknowledge the role her country played in his downfall.

“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”

Two days after the election of Donald Trump, 21 plaintiffs aged 9-20 won a court ruling that may be just as important as that election in determining our future. As the world hurtles into climate catastrophe, the decision by Judge Ann Aiken in the federal district court in Oregon sets the stage for a momentous trial of our right to a stable climate – and the constitutional obligation of the United States government to protect that right.

Now President Donald Trump has been named lead defendant in the suit. Trump has not only denied the reality of climate change, he has also defied the authority of the courts to enforce other rights of persons – witness his claim in court that his travel ban on seven majority-Muslim countries is “unreviewable.” The “climate kids’” case Juliana v. United States is shaping up to be not only a historic trial of the culpability of the U.S. government for destruction of the earth’s climate, but of the power of courts to protect our rights.

“No ordinary lawsuit”

As Judge Aiken emphasized, “This is no ordinary lawsuit.” The youth’s suit, supported by the nonprofit Our Children’s Trust, challenges decisions “across a vast set of topics” — decisions like “whether and to what extent to regulate C02 emissions from power plants and vehicles, whether to permit fossil fuel extraction and development to take place on federal lands, how much to charge for use of those lands, whether to give tax breaks to the fossil fuel industry, whether to subsidize or directly fund that industry, whether to fund the construction of fossil fuel infrastructure such as natural gas pipelines at home and abroad, whether to authorize new marine coal terminal projects.”

The climate kids assert that government decisions on these topics over many decades “substantially caused the planet to warm and the oceans to rise.” They draw a “direct causal line” between the government’s policy choices and “floods, food shortages, destruction of property, species extinction, and a host of other harms.”

Judge Aiken noted the personal harms the kids say they face because of climate change. One said the algae blooms harm the water she drinks, and low water levels caused by drought kill the wild salmon she eats. Another says increased wildfires and extreme flooding jeopardize his personal safety. Jayden F., a thirteen-year-old resident of Rayne, Louisiana says that at five o’clock the morning of August 13, 2016, she stepped out of bed into ankle-deep water.

Floodwaters were pouring into our home through every possible opening. We tried to stop it with towels, blankets, and boards. The water was flowing down the hallway, into my Mom’s room and my sisters’ room. The water drenched my living room and began to cover our kitchen floor. Our toilets, sinks, and bathtubs began to overflow with awful smelling sewage because our town’s sewer system also flooded. Soon the sewage was everywhere. We had a stream of sewage and water running through our house.

Jayden says the storm that destroyed her home “ordinarily would happen once every 1,000 years, but is happening now as a result of climate change.”

The Fifth Amendment to the United States constitution bars the federal government from depriving a person of “life, liberty, or property” without “due process of law.” The climate kids say that the aggregate actions of the federal government that have permitted, perpetuated, and subsidized our nation’s exploitation of fossil fuels does just that – and that the policies of the federal government violate their rights.

The lawsuit alleges that the government has violated their rights by “directly causing atmospheric C02 to rise to levels that dangerously interfere with a stable climate system.” The government knowingly endangered their “health and welfare” by “approving and promoting fossil fuel development,” including “exploration, extraction, production, transportation, importation, exportation, and combustion.” And after “knowingly creating this dangerous situation” it continued to “knowingly enhance that danger” by “allowing fossil fuel production, consumption, and combustion at dangerous levels.” These government decisions have caused the planet to warm and the oceans to rise.

The climate kids say these policies not only violate their individual constitutional rights, but also the duty of the government to preserve the core natural resources like air and water necessary to provide for the well-being and survival of our citizens – our common property that is legally protected as part of the “public trust.” Their suit says that the government has violated its duty as trustee of the public trust by allowing the depletion and destruction of the atmosphere – an essential natural resource for the survival of present and future generations.

In January 2016, the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, and the American Petroleum Institute, representing almost the entire fossil fuel industry, intervened in the case on the government’s side and joined the government as defendants.

“The right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life”

Government lawyers acknowledged in court that climate change poses “a monumental threat to Americans’ health and welfare” by “driving long-lasting changes in our climate,” leading to an array of “severe negative effects, which will worsen over time.” They then argued that the climate kids don’t have legal standing to bring such a suit; climate change is a “political question” that should be left to other branches of government; and that courts don’t have the power to halt climate change.

Judge Aiken’s decision cuts through this smokescreen to focus on the essential point. “I have no doubt that the right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life is fundamental to a free and ordered society.” A stable climate system is quite literally the foundation of society, “without which there would be neither civilization nor progress.”

The judge framed the fundamental right at issue as “the right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life.” If “governmental action is affirmatively and substantially damaging the climate system in a way that will cause human deaths, shorten human lifespans, result in widespread damage to property, threaten human food sources, and dramatically alter the planet’s ecosystem,” then the youth have a claim for protection of their life and liberty under the fifth amendment. “To hold otherwise would be to say that the Constitution affords no protection against a government’s knowing decision to poison the air its citizens breathe or the water its citizens drink.”

Judge Aiken also refused to halt the climate kids’ public trust argument. She quoted a judicial opinion that the right of future generations to a “balanced and healthful ecology” is so basic that it “need not even be written in the Constitution” for it is “assumed to exist from the inception of humankind.”

The government confesses

In the last days of the Obama administration, the Justice Department filed the government’s Answer to the climate kids’ case. The government admitted that for over fifty years “officials and persons employed by the federal government have been aware of a growing body of scientific research concerning the effects of fossil fuel emissions on atmospheric concentrations of CO2—including that increased concentrations of atmospheric CO2 could cause measurable long-lasting changes to the global climate, resulting in an array of severe deleterious effects to human beings, which will worsen over time.”

The Justice Department further admitted that the Federal Defendants “permit, authorize, and subsidize fossil fuel extraction, development, consumption, and exportation.” It said that “fossil fuel extraction, development, and consumption produce CO2 emissions and that past emissions of CO2 from such activities have increased the atmospheric concentration of CO2.” And it admits that “current and projected concentrations of six well-mixed greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, including CO2, threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations.”

Judge Aiken’s decision said that the climate kids have a claim for protection of their life and liberty under the Fifth Amendment if “governmental action is affirmatively and substantially damaging the climate system in a way that will cause human deaths, shorten human lifespans, result in widespread damage to property, threaten human food sources, and dramatically alter the planet’s ecosystem.” Isn’t that just what the government admitted?

Beyond the courtroom

Defense of the federal government in Juliana v. United States has now passed to the Trump administration’s Department of Justice. At a February 7 case management conference, Federal Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin ordered the parties to move forward on preparations for the trial. Defense lawyers, seeking to slow things down, said it would take a long time to gather all the necessary evidence, experts, and witnesses in the case. Counsel for federal government also stated the government is considering an interlocutory appeal of Judge Aiken’s ruling.

According to Michael Burger at Columbia University, Trump’s lawyers have a window to withdraw the Obama Justice Department’s admissions. Alternatively, the fossil fuel attorneys could contest the facts of climate change even if the Justice Department does not. Withdrawing those admissions, however, would turn the case into a dramatic debate on the science of climate change – with the full scientific evidence accumulated by the government over the past half-century there to refute Trump’s denialism. Whatever happens in the courtroom, the case will almost certainly be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court. Given the intent of the government to stall, the case could be in the courts for years to come – as irreversible climate damage goes on.

Juliana v. United States has implications in many arenas beyond the courtroom.

Long before the trial, the case will provide a golden “teachable movement” for a full-scale educational campaign and debate on Trump’s commitment to climate destruction. Judge Aiken’s decision and the government’s admissions can be blazoned in events like the upcoming April 29 People’s Climate March and in teach-ins, demonstrations at fossil fuel infrastructure sites, and actions at climate-vulnerable locations from now until the last ruling on the last appeal. Like the Scopes “trial of the century” in which the deniers of evolution made a mockery of themselves, this case provides an opportunity for the deniers of climate science to do the same.

Climate protection advocates do not need to wait for the legal process to play out in order to argue that the Aiken decision, combined with the Justice Department’s admission of the climate change facts, establishes that the people have a right, grounded in the U.S. Constitution, to force the government to protect the climate. If the courts won’t enforce that right, it is up to the people to do so.

The climate kids are well aware of the connection between their case and Trump’s claims that as president he is above the law. Jacob Lebel, one of the plaintiffs, said he was inspired by the recent rulings that put a hold on President Trump’s travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries, as it showed the judicial branch stepping up to put a check on the executive branch of government. Like the right to due process of law, the “right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life” goes to the heart of whether the United States will be a government bound by law, or whether the executive authority can impose its will regardless of court decisions – a position so clearly articulated in the Trump administration’s claim that its travel ban is “unreviewable” by the courts. If the Trump administration appeals Judge Aiken’s ruling on similar grounds, the struggle to protect the climate will also become a struggle to preserve democracy and the rule of law. The right to a stable climate will take its place along with the right to free speech and due process of law as fundamental constitutional rights Trump is now threatening.

Juliana v. United States is going to trial in the midst of the greatest movement of civil resistance in American history. The struggle to protect the earth’s climate is a critical part of what some are calling “Social Self-Defense.” This case provides an opportunity to put climate protection front and center in Social Self-Defense. The “right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life” can be emblazoned on its banner along with the rights of immigrants, women, LGBT people, people of color, workers, women, children, the elderly, the disabled, and all the others Social Self-Defense is defending.

The climate kids asked the court to declare that their constitutional and public trust rights have been violated and to order the government to develop a science-based National Climate Recovery Plan to reduce emissions to a climate-safe level. The case will no doubt be fought out for years all the way to the Supreme Court. But the advocates of climate protection need not wait to champion the basic principles enshrined in Judge Aiken’s decision. We can and must support the efforts of the climate kids both in court and in every arena where decisions affecting the future of our climate are made.

Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul

I see a lot of angry and depressed liberals these days despairing about what has happened to their world.  The promised coronation of the Queen of Chaos was cancelled and we got (insert insulting nickname of choice) instead. Just the other day I saw a spokesperson from Resist Fascism! or some similarly named group screaming at Fox News viewers that Trump is not only Hitler (old news) but that he will in fact be worse than Hitler. Worse than Hitler? Do we even have a threat level color for that?

As I puzzle to make sense of the daily media hyperventilating, I think back a few years to the relatively tranquil Republican primaries of 2008 and 2012. At the time I was not making myself many friends. I’d harangue anyone who would listen that we had a unique occasion to – if we could just get together, man! – put someone in the White House who would permanently dismantle the American War Machine.  I’m talking of course about perennial libertarian hopeful, Ron Paul. In his 2012 primary run in particular Paul made some astonishing promises that I’m pretty sure he meant to at least try to keep. For one, he was going to slash the US military budget in half. Along with that, no more unnecessary wars. For icing on the cake he was going to shutter the CIA’s entire operations wing, making The Company nothing more than an intelligence gathering analytical department. And NSA mass surveillance would soon be a thing of the past.

In other words, Paul was planning to kill off the Deep State. Nobody knew this term then but almost everyone does now. While the original meaning was a bit more precise, the people who run the government from the shadows and have recently been hard at work making up stories about peeing Russian prostitutes while plotting a neocon-backed coup.

There were a few on the left receptive to Dr. Paul’s message. My support for him increased when I attended one of his rallies on my campus and noticed that his crowd was far more diverse than very fake news had led me to believe.  Tailoring his message to the college students in attendance, Paul explained that his highest priority was ending US military intervention abroad. He said that while he had a dim view of entitlements (no surprise there) he had no plans to suddenly cut them. In fact he said that would be cruel, or something along those lines, showing more compassion for the poor than libertarians are normally known for or than neoliberal Democrats actually have.

But the vast majority of people I talked to just couldn’t make this leap of faith. First of all, he was a Republican and obviously the Democratic party inspires such rapturous devotion that it is impossible to even contemplate not voting for whoever’s turn it this time round. Second, those entitlements.  I explained that Paul said he wasn’t going to cut them, at least not right away, but that didn’t matter because he was going to cut them right away according to the always accurate corporate news media and DailyKos. Third, and most importantly, the racist newsletters.

Some twenty years prior someone associated with then Congressman Paul had put out some newsletters with racist content in his name. Paul didn’t write them but likely approved them, despite later disavowing their content. The Democrats, fearing Paul poaching voters from the left enthused about his support for legalizing drugs and ending daily drone attacks, ran with this story as hard as they could. Before long, I was being told with authority that Ron Paul was literally a Nazi. (Fortunately people weren’t being encouraged to punch anyone the media called a Nazi yet since Ron Paul is rather old and frail). He is also in fact white, much like Hitler. So of course at the end of the day his main objective must be to kill Jews and blacks, possibly by cutting the Departments of Education and Energy. When I would protest this narrative I started getting righteous rejoinders, like “what are you, a (Jewish) Nazi? Paul is an old white guy from Texas. He may have racist thoughts in his head! The fact his policies might prevent wars that cost millions of non-white lives doesn’t change that fact, man.”

So, despite kind words and hints of cooperation from Ralph Nader and Dennis Kucinich and a bit of consideration from consistently anti-war publications such as Counterpunch, few Democrats crossed over and supported him and Paul was trounced in the primary both times. All according to liberal plans. And the rest is history. With the aid of the redoubtable Ms. Clinton, President Obama destroyed Libya and sponsored a coup in Honduras in his first term. Then he helped  further destroy Syria and helped launch a coup in Ukraine in his second.

And the destruction of Syria and Libya and subsequent chaos led to the beginning of the ongoing refugee crisis and the growth and consolidation of territory by ISIS, who according to Wikileaks were funded by our good friends in Saudi Arabia and Qatar with the direct knowledge of Secretary Clinton and President Obama, if not by the US directly. Which caused untold deaths and an enormous human rights catastrophe fueling even more of an exodus.

As the genuinely shell-shocked war refugees poured into European countries ill-prepared to absorb them, economic migrants and perhaps some opportunists blended in. Europe’s problems integrating immigrant Muslim populations weren’t new, but the sheer numbers created a host of new tensions throughout the continent, and the increased Islamist attacks related to ISIS in France, Germany, Turkey, Switzerland, Belgium, and elsewhere didn’t help. Predictably, the cumulative effect of these fairly enormous changes increased the popularity of far right movements all over the continent. And helped the rise of one Donald J Trump.

Why is Trump now president? One would need to write books about all that happened in the campaign but the prevailing narratives of “Russian hacking”, FBI interference, or the Great Meme War and deplorable power of Kek don’t tell the entire story (though those are all entertaining fake news stories to be sure). The real underlying causes lie in the enormous geopolitical consequences of the Obama presidency’s disastrous foreign policy, and Bush’s before them.

Imagine a Paul presidency. If Syria is not subjected to a vicious, interminable civil war, with the US funding “moderate rebels” like Al Qaeda, Syrian refugees don’t pour out of the country into Europe. Nativism stays around previous levels. ISIS may still exist but as a smaller regional terror army, and European jihadi attacks would be fewer and farther between. As Gaddafi told the world, Libya was the bulwark stopping mass population movements and jihadists across the Mediterranean into Europe. If Libya had not been destabilized, the refugee crisis would have either not occurred or been significantly smaller in scope.

Trump’s campaign success was built in large part around his talk about immigration and terrorism, and to a lesser extent, American interventionism. Trump brutally and frankly expressed fears about what was happening in Europe and promised the public that only he would make sure it never happened here.  Whatever us educated types think about the complex relationship between Middle East conflict, mass Muslim immigration, and terrorism matters less than what the electorate thinks. And they think that these things are related to each other and thus the less we have of each of them the better off we will be.

Trump was only able to leverage that message into victory because of what was happening on the ground in Europe and the Mideast.  Each bone-chilling new ISIS video reinforced his message, and he invoked them consistently. Each news story about no-go zones or mass sexual assaults in Europe raised his numbers in the polls. Each major terrorist attack in Europe or the US brought his campaign back from the edge of defeat. Throw in what looked like honest questioning of the insanity of our foreign policies in the Middle East and an espousal of anti-interventionism , particularly in regards to Russia, whom Americans generally couldn’t care less about and would really prefer not to engage in a nuclear exchange with, and he started to look like the saner of the two candidates. Given Trump’s personality, this was a remarkable achievement. But at least here was someone who seemed to realize what a mess had been made by our Middle East policies, running against one of the architects of the mess herself.

So if you’re angry or scared about Trump right now, or praying for a Deep State coup that would destroy American democracy for once and for all, please remember that you had not one but two chances to put partisanship aside and join a movement to elect the most major party anti-war candidate in decades. And none of this would have happened.

But I forgot. Newsletters.

Jonathan Taylor is professor of Geography at California State University, Fullerton.