What and Who Gave Us Trump?

Donald J. Trump’s presidential ambition has simmered for decades. He was and is a regular TV watcher and saw the changing political landscape. One by one, previous presidents diminished the integrity of the presidency and violated the rule of law, paving the way for Trump’s candidacy.

Bill Clinton was exposed for serial adulteries and abuses of women and lied under oath. This perjury led to him being impeached in the House (though he was acquitted in the Senate). “Hmm,” thought Donald, a serial abuser of women, “Clinton got away with it and was elected twice.” One potentially career-ending violation no longer had the weight it once did.

Then came George W. Bush – selected by the Electoral College and a Republican Supreme Court. “Hmm,” thought Donald to himself, “Even though Gore won the popular vote, Bush won because of Electors in swing states.”  Despite Gore’s crushing loss, the Democratic Party refused to support ongoing Electoral College reform (see nationalpopularvote.com). Once in office, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney lied repeatedly to start an unconstitutional illegal war with Iraq, which caused huge Iraqi and U.S. casualties and wreaked havoc on the U.S. budget. Bush and Cheney not only got away with these atrocities, but were reelected. A majority of voters believed their lies.  Violating the laws did not matter. “Hmm,” thought Donald to himself, “The President is above the law.” Positions of power and the trampling of laws appealed to Trump, a lawless, failed gambling czar.

Then along came Obama. He too got away with all kinds of slaughter abroad without authority of the Constitution, statutes, or international treaties. He too was reelected. Domestically, Obama did not prosecute any of the big Wall Street crooks that brought down our economy in 2008-2009, even though a vast majority of the population loathed these reckless financiers. With all of these misdeeds and violations of law on full display, Trump a big business crook himself, must have thought that he would not be held accountable. Even better, he knew how to use television to manipulate the media to his advantage. These examples are just some of the major ways that past presidents, Democrats especially, handed Trump his opportunity. I describe these and other presidential abuses of power in my recent book, To the Ramparts: How Bush and Obama Paved the Way for the Trump Presidency, and Why It Isn’t Too Late to Reverse Course.

Given these inoculations for breaking social norms and laws, Trump felt he could break additional norms and laws and still secure the Presidency. It almost didn’t work – Hillary Clinton’s campaign bungling lost three key states, which provided Trump a path to the White House. The crazy, antiquated Electoral College sealed the deal.

Trump has always known how to use power to get more power. He went after his opponents with harsh nicknames, repeated verbatim by a supine press. The name calling stuck and influenced voters. Democrats did not reciprocate with nicknames like “cheating Donald,” “corrupt Donald,” “Dangerous Donald,” etc.

Emboldened, Trump, with his television knowhow, grasped that many people prefer fiction to non-fiction. Fantasy is big business and it can serve to distract from grim real-life injustices.  Day after day, the mass media proved this point by giving huge time to entertainment compared to news and civic engagements locally and nationally.

Donald, through his daily tweets and assertions, shaped a story – true or not, that would help him win the White House. Reporters have collected over 10,000 of Trumps lies and seriously misleading statements since he became President (see the complete list here via the Washington Post).

But Trump, with his 50 million Twitter followers, has his own media machine, which grows because the mass media replays so many of his fictions as if they were real.

Still, the Democrats should have defeated him handily and, failing that, should have since driven his poll numbers below 40 or 42 percent, where they hover.

Democrats having lost the crucial election of 2010 in Congress, most state legislatures and governorships, Democrats lost the gerrymandering battle. This set the stage for Republicans to seriously suppress the vote in many ways documented by the League of Women Voters and the Brennan Center. Some of this suppression occurred in key swing states like Wisconsin.

Today, Trump seems impervious to the many accurate accusations of corruptions and impeachable offenses. He ruthlessly scuttles lifesaving health/safety protections for the American people, undermines law enforcement, and breaks his repeated promises to provide “great” health insurance, “pure” clean air, and jobs for workers displaced by globalization. The norms that restrain politicians and their constitutional duty to “faithfully execute the laws” have been deeply eroded.

Trump is undeterred by the hundreds of syndicated columns and the regular television commentary by leading conservatives who despise him. George Will, Michael Gerson, Max Boot, David Brooks, Bret Stephens, and others have gone after Trump repeatedly. The attacks on the Prevaricator in Chief are like water off a duck’s back. Even Trump’s trail of broken campaign promises is routinely overlooked by the press and the Trump base.

Next week my column will address what to do to make Trump a one-term President. Only a landslide defeat in 2020 will keep Trump from tweeting “fake election” and demanding a recount.

Justin Trudeau’s Battered Beanstalk

We left off our saga of Justin and the Beanstalk with the young wunderkind’s triumph over the giant ogre (Prime Minister Harper), as he swept away the broken democratic shards littering his kingdom in the sky, to the cries of joy from the Canadian peasants. Justin began energetically fulfilling at least some of his many promises. He rejoined the Paris Agreement on Climate. Scientists breathed a sigh of relief as their withered vines received nourishment after 10 years of drought, and the muzzle on their right to speak about the perils of global warming was removed.

Justin’s first budget had goodies for just about everyone, including a (small) increase on taxes on the rich. His finance minister Bill Morneau proposed a $2-billion Low Carbon Economy Fund to help the provinces meet Canada’s climate change targets to reduce the heat-trapping greenhouse gases so beloved by the ogre’s friends in Alberta, with plans for a carbon tax to allow ‘green growth’ (surely an oxymoron, but at least green is no longer a bad word).

To help alleviate the plight of Canada’s natives, Justin promised $8.4 billion in education, infrastructure, training, and a national inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. He appointed fair damsels (regardless of experience) to 50% of his cabinet seats, declaring himself a “proud feminist” living in an era of equality. This included LGBTQIA,1 as he made attendance at their summer parades a new ritual, giving them pride of place in his Valhalla.

Justin moved quickly to legalize a much prized weed, blessed with magical THC, beloved of youth, now accepted by less cool elders. This will no doubt be his one undisputed legacy of spreading joy to one and all.

But his early promise as a new leader with new ideas quickly lost its sheen. After 5 years, the weed is still not available. It turned out Justin legalized it more for the ogre’s allies, the corporations. Peasants are limited to four plants, not enough for normal use, farmers included. Soon corporate growers with such flashy names as Tweed, Maricann Inc., Peace Naturals Project Inc. and WeedMD Rx Inc. took the lead, building massive, high security factories, as provinces squabbled with Justin about how to regulate and tax this new wonder drug.

So much for the peasants, who could have grown the plant as plants should be grown, in sunlight, under open skies, using no ‘green growth’, just Mother Nature. Maybe making a small income from their hard work.

Legalizing rape and pillage

For the real Canadians, Canada’s Indigenous peoples, there was little to cheer, with only window dressing on the plight of women, and no improvement in entrenched racism or the ongoing despoliation of their lands. Justin’s worst decision was to continue the ogre’s slavish devotion to the tarsands in Alberta, which rape and pillage Mother Nature. (Hey, I thought he was supposed to protect us!)

Justin even paid the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline shareholders, the ogre’s allies, $4.b, much to their joy. They could see that it was not a good idea, even for nongreen growth. So the peasants quickly joined forces with the natives from the Atlantic to the Pacific to save not only native women from rape and pillage, but all Canadians, and their Mother Earth.

Even elite judges joined the peasants and natives, as the Federal Court of Appeal overturned the government’s approval of the expansion project, citing that it did not sufficiently fulfill its constitutional duties to consult local First Nations groups, and because increased tanker traffic would imperil the endangered orcas in the Pacific Ocean.

Justin betrayed even his youthful friends, interested in ending the ogre’s ‘best friend’ relationship with the ogre in Palestine, where the peasants suffer far more than their cousins in Canada. One of his first royal edicts was to rubber stamp the ogre’s motion targeting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, the brainchild of Canada’s idealist youth, labelling these erstwhile allies anti-semites.

He also signed on to the ogre’s $15b arms sale to the world’s worst ogre, the Saudi prince bin Salman, who gleefully murdered and dismembered a pesky journalist, shocking the world’s peasants, but forgiven by our human rights champion, eager to produce machines of death — anything — to keep the petrodollars rolling in.

This penchant to help the ogre’s corporate friends led to a scandal which peaked in 2019, the Lavalin Affair, a cesspit of bribery and fraud. Justin dismissed his minister of justice, an indigenous woman, Jody Wilson-Raybould, for trying to be honest. Whew!

Meanwhile, little ogres have sprung up in Alberta and Ontario, which, along with one in Saskatchewan, were determined to scuttle Justin’s carbon tax, his green centerpiece, while gutting any hated environmental support they can find in their provincial fiefdoms.

Fighting foreign foes

Justin’s record abroad is just as disappointing as his domestic bungling. His powerful Maid Chrystia has been barnstorming around the world, wrestling with ogre Trump over NAFTA free trade, winning ‘concessions’ (not) which gutted Canadian milk farmers.

She squawks at every chance at her personal ogre, the dastardly Vlad (Putin) over Ukraine and Crimea, and his evil Venezuelan henchman — with no effect, but it sure is fun! She pecked timidly at bigtime ogre bin Salman over his persecution of female crows — with no effect, but it is the politically correct thing to do … The list is long and her successes at best a mirage.

When bin Salman orchestrated the spectacular medieval torture and execution ritual of journalist Khashoggi, Justin and Maid Chrystia told their ogre friend (who owes them $4.5b) ‘this was not at all nice,’ whispering, ‘but we will turn a blind eye, just this once.’

As for the great anti-ogre forces China and Russia, Justin told them they were the ogres, in keeping with instructions from the great white ogre to the south of Canada. Even if they are a tad ogrish, Justin and Chrystia’s shrill falsetto harping merely makes them chuckle.

When Justin arrested Chinese Canadian Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, intending to hand her over to ogre Trump to be devoured as a sacrificial offering to American liberty, the Chinese dragon flashed its fiery breath, arresting and even sentencing to death several Canadian peasants unwittingly caught in the crossfire

Promising a peaceful foreign policy, to end defeated ogre Harper’s sabre-rattling in Afghanistan, Syria, and Africa, instead Canadians were given the opposite, with a new NATO mission in Iraq and troops sent to Latvia (!), solemnly claiming Russia was a threat to plucky Latvia (given its independence by the Soviet Union in 1991). This is in stark contrast to Justin’s father’s clear policy of peaceful coexistence with the then-Soviet Union. Again, in contrast to father Pierre Elliot, Justin refused to support the worldwide campaign for nuclear disarmament (WHY?).

Oh yes, 25,000 Syrian refugees. That, along with Maui wowie, will be the beanstalker’s positive legacy. Multicultural munchies for all!

As for ‘peacekeeping’, Canadian troops were sent to Mali to police a stand-off with al-Qaeda insurgents, but it is not the peacekeeping mission Trudeau promised his peasantry. Despite pledging up to 600 peacekeepers and 200 police, Trudeau has delivered less than half that number of peacekeepers and no civilian police officers.

With the deaths of 177 peacekeepers in Mali — 22 of whom were killed in 2018 alone — Mali is the most dangerous ‘peacekeeping’ mission in UN history. Justin (wisely, for once) refused to extend the mission beyond 12 months. But what was the point in the first place? That’s hardly enough time to get over jetlag.

Ministry of Silly Walks

We haven’t even got to Justin’s physical deformity, being mysteriously born with two left feet. During a visit to India, Trudeau dressed as if for Halloween, and for his party prank sent a formal dinner invitation to Jaspal Atwal, an attempted murderer from a Sikh organization that India ranks as a terrorist group. Although the invite was eventually rescinded, it certainly made a lasting impression on his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi.

On another cringe-worthy occasion, the self-proclaimed “proud feminist” interrupted a young woman at a political event for using the term “mankind,” explaining pedantically that the correct nomenclature was “peoplekind.” In the era of social media, where such gaffs quickly go viral, Justin has sadly developed a reputation for his “silly walks” rather than any real successes.

As elections loom in 2019, Justin and his realm look to be in very bad shape. He appears to becoming a reincarnation of the ogre. Ogre Harper has watched the drama (farce?) from the sidelines, his image actually improving as Justin’s budget explodes, as his heavenly realm is once again threatened by the capitalist ogredom through his lack of experience, his lack of wisdom.

Can we please start over?

Will Justin’s Liberals go crashing down, like their friends in Ontario and Alberta? Will Canada continue to be laughed at as a junior partner to ogres US and Israel, bereft of its seat at the UN Security Council because of its unprincipled kingship? Will Justin be fed his pet crow Maid Chrystia at the election day smorgasbord in August?

Justin’s beanstalk is battered, wilted, in danger of collapsing. It seems the ‘proud feminist’ could use a strong dose of testosterone.

  1. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Intersex and Allies.

Delusional Pentagon: ‘We Beat Iran Without Firing A Shot!’

US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said this week that Iran's intended attack on the US or its allies in the region have been put on hold thanks to the deployment of a US carrier strike group and a handful of B-52s to the region. Details about the original threat, claimed by Bolton, Pompeo, and others, have not been revealed. We are expected to take the neocons' word for it that there actually was a threat and that they defeated it. Are the Administration propagandists starting to believe their own spin? Tune in to today's Liberty Report:

Delusional Pentagon: ‘We Beat Iran Without Firing A Shot!’

US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said this week that Iran's intended attack on the US or its allies in the region have been put on hold thanks to the deployment of a US carrier strike group and a handful of B-52s to the region. Details about the original threat, claimed by Bolton, Pompeo, and others, have not been revealed. We are expected to take the neocons' word for it that there actually was a threat and that they defeated it. Are the Administration propagandists starting to believe their own spin? Tune in to today's Liberty Report:

Revisiting Ron Paul’s 1988 Case for Drug Legalization

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Ron Paul Institute (RPI) Senior Fellow Adam Dick’s prepared comments for RPI’s May 18, 2019 Houston, Texas conference “Winning the War on the War on Drugs”:

Ron Paul helped many people discover libertarian ideas in his presidential campaigns. For me, during Dr. Paul’s 1988 presidential campaign, things worked the other way around. I was already familiar with libertarianism. And that familiarity led me to learn about Ron Paul.

When Dr. Paul came through San Antonio, Texas in that campaign, I went to find out more about this man who was seeking the presidency under the Libertarian Party banner. Dr. Paul, that evening, presented an informative and interesting extemporaneous exploration of current events and his approach to them rooted in libertarian ideas.

One of the things I valued most from the event was a pamphlet written by Dr. Paul that I brought home with me. That pamphlet, titled The Case for Drug Legalization, presented a strong, multifaceted argument for drug legalization that has held up well over the ensuing decades.

It was an argument that Dr. Paul was bold to present in his 1988 presidential campaign. 1988 was eight years before California voters approved Proposition 215 for legal medical marijuana that gave a big boost to rolling back marijuana prohibition across the country, a process that continues forward yet remains far from completion. 1988 was also at the end of two terms of President Ronald Reagan, an adamant drug warrior who helped expand the drug war in America with bipartisan support in Congress.

Ron Paul, in arguing for drug legalization in that election, was also challenging the general public attitude. A Gallup poll placed support for marijuana legalization at 66 percent countrywide in October of last year. In contrast, support was at under 30 percent in Gallup polls nearest to 1988. Back then, Gallup did not poll each year regarding marijuana legalization. Why bother? Legalization would not be happening anytime soon. Of course, a smaller minority of Americans back in 1988 supported the more radical proposal of legalizing all drugs.

But, there was Ron Paul in his 1988 campaign proclaiming in San Antonio and in campaign stops across the country that the entire drug war should be terminated. To boot, one of the handouts from the campaign was the extensive pro-legalization pamphlet. That pamphlet helped show me and other people that Dr. Paul was the real deal as a supporter of freedom.

Indeed, one of the most important things Dr. Paul did early on in his pamphlet The Case for Drug Legalization was emphasize that ending drug prohibition is, as he put it, “a policy based on the American tradition of Freedom.” Sure, there are plenty of pragmatic reasons for legalizing drugs, several of which Dr. Paul discussed in his pamphlet and on the campaign trail. But, fundamentally, the case for drug legalization is a case for respecting people’s freedom.

This emphasis on freedom is principled. It also is likely critical to the ultimate success of any effort to completely end the war on drugs. Consider marijuana legalization which is now the law in one in five American states. Practical arguments have helped bring about that legalization. But, I believe that the biggest driver for legalization has been people developing the opinion that, whether they think it is the right choice or not, the freedom of other individuals to use marijuana should be respected by government.

Dr. Paul’s freedom case for ending the drug war extends beyond emphasizing that the freedom to use drugs should be respected. Ron Paul wrote in his campaign pamphlet that what the government was really doing in the drug war was “assaulting civil liberties in the name of fighting drugs.” Ron Paul was declaring in his 1988 campaign what many more people have come to accept in the years since: The war on drugs is a war on people.

Some of the drug war abuses Dr. Paul detailed in his pamphlet are “bank surveillance that has sought to make every teller a monetary cop,” the construction of dossiers of innocent Americans, and seizures of property such as boats and cars when any illegal drugs are found in them.

Such rights abuses in the name of the drug war have continued and intensified in the years since. But, we have also in recent years seen an uptick in criticism of many drug war practices and even the implementation of restrictions on their use, especially at the state and local level.

One powerful story Dr. Paul tells in his pamphlet is of a family victimized by a SWAT team raid of their apartment. The brutal and destructive raid was justified by a false tip from an informant that drugs were present in the apartment. This is a story that has become more and more common over the years.

Eastern Kentucky University Professor Peter B. Kraska, testifying at a hearing of the United States Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in 2014, identified the late 1980s to early 1990s as the period in which the growth in use of SWAT teams took off in America. The result, he states, is “more than a 1,300 percent increase in the total number of police paramilitary deployments, or call-outs, between 1980 and the year 2000.” Much of this growth is due to the drug war. And, while SWAT team raids of the wrong homes are terrible, so also are SWAT team raids on homes of people who do possess illegal drugs.

You could say Dr. Paul was ahead of his time in criticizing SWAT team raids. He was similarly ahead of his time in condemning in the pamphlet that an elderly widow was “thrown in jail for possession of four marijuana plants,” despite her doctor saying she needed to use marijuana to deal with her glaucoma. Back in 1988, there was little common understanding of the medical benefits a variety of people obtain from using marijuana. Stories like the one Dr. Paul told would often be met with answers such as, “You just say that because you want to get high.” Boy have things changed. And they have only done so because people like Ron Paul, a doctor as well as a political candidate, were willing to stand up and publicly defend the medical use of marijuana, leading the way to the situation now where medical marijuana is legal in two-thirds of the states and overwhelmingly supported by the American people.

Dr. Paul also addressed head-on in his 1988 campaign pamphlet some of the ulterior motives behind the drug war in America. He sought to educate people so they would not just accept the line that any negative consequences of the drug war were a necessary byproduct of a well-meaning government effort to keep Americans safe.

Ron Paul bluntly stated his general opinion for why the US government was pursuing a drug war. Dr. Paul wrote that he believed part of the reason “the drug hysteria was whipped up” was “to strengthen big government’s hold over us.” Measured against this goal, Dr. Paul explained, the drug war had been a great success, with accomplishments including a huge increase in the American prison population and a catalogue of liberty abuses undertaken in the name of enforcing prohibition.

But what of the purported compassionate goal of the drug war to prevent people from, via drug use, ruining their lives and the lives of others? Rubbish, answered Dr. Paul, asserting in his pamphlet that drug abuse rates were about the same in 1988 as in 1888, a hundred years earlier and decades before drug prohibition. Indeed, we have witnessed with the ending of alcohol prohibition countrywide last century and of marijuana prohibition in some states over the last few years that no big rise in use of the previously prohibited products materialized.

While prohibition had failed to reduce drug use, it had, Dr. Paul explained, managed to bring about much greater danger for Americans through a resulting rise in rates of property and violent crimes. And the drug war created additional dangers for illegal drug users. Dr. Paul notes in his pamphlet:

The major cause of death is not from drugs’ narcotic properties. It is from poisoned drugs and adulteration.

That danger, wrote Dr. Paul, “is 100% Made in Washington.”

Today politicians and commentators are calling for expansion of the drug war to counter the danger of fentanyl, an adulterant and another danger 100 percent made by government. Legalize drugs and the problem disappears. Here is how I put it in an October of 2017 Ron Paul Institute article:

With legalization, people could buy their drugs from established businesses that have a strong interest in maintaining a good reputation, can be sued for fraud and other wrongful acts, receive their drugs through regular supply chains not interrupted by government interdiction efforts, and sell drugs that are of consistent quality and thus have much more predictable effects when consumed.

Dr. Paul has long known that respecting freedom is inconsistent with fighting a drug war. But, he did not leave the matter at that. Dr. Paul investigated deeply and widely to develop expertise in the many facets of the prohibition debate. Indeed, in his 1988 campaign pamphlet alone he discussed in detail several additional facets of that debate that I have not mentioned here. Further, Ron Paul has taken the initiative over the years in campaigns, in the United States House of Representatives, and through private educational efforts, including with the Ron Paul Institute, to advance the case for drug legalization.

As we look at the success that has been made in rolling back marijuana prohibition and consider the potential of ending the entire drug war, we should be thankful for Ron Paul’s effective communication over the decades of a well-reasoned case for drug legalization. His efforts are a major factor contributing to how far we have come and how much we may yet accomplish in the war against the war on drugs.

Russian comment on the US expansion of anti-Russia sanctions

The United States continues its attempts to exert sanctions pressure on Russia in a belief that it is possible to gain something from the Russian side in this way. Meanwhile, Washington merely presents itself in an unfavourable light by introducing arbitrary sanctions against the National Guard's Terek special rapid response unit and a number of Russian individuals. The unit deployed in the Chechen Republic is famous for its achievements in fighting terrorist groups. Its members constantly (...)

Alleged Use of Chemical Weapons by the Assad Regime

The United States continues to closely watch the military operations by the Assad regime in northwest Syria, including indications of any new use of chemical weapons by the regime. Unfortunately, we continue to see signs that the Assad regime may be renewing its use of chemical weapons, including an alleged chlorine attack in northwest Syria on the morning of May 19, 2019. We are still gathering information on this incident, but we repeat our warning that if the Assad regime uses chemical (...)

Poll: Almost Half Of College Students Do Not Believe First Amendment Protects Hate Speech

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We have previously discussed how speech codes and regulations are changing the way students are viewing free speech. There is now a steady message for students from elementary school to college that speech must be regulated and that even people can be punished for not just hate speech but the ill-defined category of “microaggressive” speech. Past polls showed that one-third of students believed that violence is justified in dealing with some exercises of speech. Now a survey of college students found almost half do not believe that hate speech is protected by the First Amendment — a chilling indication of the collapsing support for traditional free speech values on our campuses.

The Knight Foundation conducted the survey that showed that 41 percent of college students believe hate speech should not be protected under the First Amendment. The survey also showed that the support for free speech is lower among women with 53 percent believing that hate speech should not be protected.

Of course, these polls do not press students on how should decide what speech is hateful and what speech is merely controversial. The polling shows the success of various faculty members who have been waging a war on free speech in preventing opposing views to be heard on campuses or enforcing speech codes.

We have been discussing the rising intolerance and violence on college campuses, particularly against conservative speakers. (Here and here and here and here). Berkeley has been the focus of much concern over mob rule on our campuses as violent protesters have succeeded in silencing speakers, even including a few speakers like an ACLU official and James Comey. Both students and some faculty have maintained the position that they have a right to silence those with whom they disagree and even student newspapers have declared opposing speech to be outside of the protections of free speech. At another University of California campus, professors actually rallied around a professor who physically assaulted pro-life advocates and tore down their display. In the meantime, academics and deans have said that there is no free speech protection for offensive or “disingenuous” speech. CUNY Law Dean Mary Lu Bilek showed how far this trend has gone. When conservative law professor Josh Blackman was stopped from speaking about “the importance of free speech,” Bilek insisted that disrupting the speech on free speech was free speech.

The United States could easily fall victim to the European movement to criminalize and regulate speech. While anathema to our defining values as a nation, many academics support the right to curtail speech that they deem to be offensive or hateful or insulting. The poll shows that students and faculty who believe in free speech must carry a greater burden if we are to preserve this fundamental right in the United States.

Reprinted with permission from JonathanTurley.org.

US Accuses Syria Of More Chemical Attacks Just As Chemical Weapons Narrative Crumbles

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The Institute for Public Accuracy published a report today about the leaked engineering assessment from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons investigation into an alleged chemical attack in Douma, Syria which directly contradicts the findings of the official OPCW report on the matter. Until the unauthorized release of this internal document the public was kept entirely uninformed of its existence, despite the serious military consequences of the questions it raises; the official story that the Syrian government had dropped chemical weapons in Douma was used to justify an airstrike on Syria days later.

MIT professor Theodore Postol provided IPA with a basic analysis of some of the data in the engineering assessment, adding that he “will have a much more detailed summary of the engineering report later this week.”

“A second issue that is raised by the character of the OPCW engineering report on Douma is that it is entirely unmentioned in the report that went to the UN Security Council,” Postol concludes after his analysis. “This omission is very serious, as the findings of that report are critical to the process of determining attribution. There is absolutely no reason to justify the omission of the engineering report in the OPCW account to the UN Security Council as its policy implications are of extreme importance.”

“A leaked OPCW document challenges claim that Assad used chemical weapons in Douma in April 2018, the basis for US military strikes,” tweeted journalist Aaron Maté of the new IPA report. “So far, Western media has ignored it, w/ only exceptions at the margins. Ted Postol is a leading expert; this should be impossible to ignore now.”

Hours later, the US State Department issued a statement once again accusing the Syrian government of using chemical weapons, and now when you search Google for information on chemical weapons in Syria, the results you get look like this:

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So that’s convenient.

The State Department’s release actually reads like a government trying to regain control of an important narrative. It begins with an unsubstantiated allegation of a chlorine gas attack by the Syrian government this past Sunday, and warns that the US and its allies will respond militarily if chemical weapons have been used. It condemns the Syrian government’s offensive to recapture the Al Qaeda-occupied Idlib province, then veers off into sheer narrative management, accusing the Russian government of lying about the White Helmets and citing the OPCW as a trustworthy source of authority:
Russia’s recent allegations against the White Helmets and others are part of a continuing disinformation campaign by the Assad regime and Russia to create the false narrative that others are to blame for chemical weapons attacks that the Assad regime itself is conducting. Similarly, on November 24, 2018, the Assad regime and Russia attempted to fabricate a chemical weapons attack near Aleppo and blame it on opposition forces. At times, Russia and the Assad regime have made these false allegations as a pretext in advance of the Assad regime’s own barbaric chemical weapons attacks.

The facts, however, are clear: the Assad regime itself has conducted almost all verified chemical weapons attacks that have taken place in Syria — a conclusion the United Nations has reached over and over again. The former Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)-UN Joint Investigation Mechanism repeatedly verified and reported the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons. The Assad regime’s culpability in horrific chemical weapons attacks is undeniable.
As I wrote the other day, the fact that the OPCW kept the engineering report from receiving not a whisper of attention severely undermines the organization’s credibility, not just with regard to Douma but with regard to everything, including the establishment Syria narrative as a whole and the Skripal case in the UK. Everything the OPCW has ever concluded about alleged chemical usage around the world is now subject to very legitimate skepticism, and now the State Department is trying to use this same dubious source in its narrative control campaign against a government long targeted by the US empire for regime change.

“Assad once again proving he’s either a total fool or just the biggest troll in history,” Off-Guardian tweeted sarcastically in response to the State Department’s allegations. “In the midst of the scandal over the OPCW repressing evidence that the Douma chemical attack was staged, Bashar just goes and does another one.”

“The US can’t attack Iran so it’s going to unleash its impotent rage on Syria,” tweeted journalist Sharmine Narwani. “One false flag CW attack by US-trained terrorists coming up.”

The notion that the Syrian government would use chemical weapons at this stage in the game is even more nonsensical than it was at the time of the Douma allegations in April 2018. President Bashar al-Assad has recaptured far more territory from the western-backed extremist factions, the eventual full recapture of the nation by Syria and its allies is a foregone conclusion barring direct military intervention by the US empire, and now the western imperialists are even beginning to lose the narrative war as well. There’s no reason to believe Assad would use chemical weapons at this point in the game unless you sincerely believe that he gains some sort of sexual gratification from committing war crimes that is so powerful it overwhelms his most basic survival instincts.

Chemical weapons, particularly chlorine gas, are not an efficient way of killing people. As Moon of Alabama once put it, “Chemical warfare is ineffective. That is why everyone agreed to ban it.” There is nothing about chemical weapons that is inherently more horrific than, say, nuclear weapons; the difference is that they’re just not a very efficient way of killing a large number of people, whereas nuclear weapons are. The Syrian government and its allies have been securing military victory after military victory over the occupying militias which had taken over large territories, and they have been doing so using far more effective conventional munitions. Assad would stand absolutely nothing to gain and absolutely everything to lose by using chemical warfare now.

At this point you almost wish America would just pick a target and stick with it. The US war machine is like a belligerent drunk at a pub with a broken bottle in his hand, menacing customer after customer while everyone silently prays he has a few more drinks and passes out on the floor. From Iran to Venezuela to Syria and more, the agenda to bully all the world’s nations into allowing themselves to be absorbed into the blob of the US-centralized empire is causing conflict after conflict all around the globe, with devastating consequences for the civilians caught in the crossfire.

You may be certain that Syria remains a geostrategically crucial location for the empire because they keep working on manufacturing consent for interventionism there. They work to manufacture that consent because they need that consent; if everyone saw their government doing horrific things they widely disapproved of, the illusion of freedom and democracy would be shattered, and they’d lose their ability to propagandize the masses. Without the ability to propagandize the masses, they could not rule.

So the good news is that we can slow them down by using truth to disrupt their use of their narrative control arsenal. The bad news is that they’re as depraved and determined as ever.

Reprinted with author's permission from Medium.com.

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“High-Quality” Charter Schools Versus “Low-Quality” Charter Schools

Charter school promoters want the public, especially poor, low-income, and vulnerable minority families who have long been exploited by the rich and their state, to believe that when it comes to nonprofit and for-profit charter schools the issue is really “high-quality” charter schools versus “low-quality” charter schools. We are told that we need more of the former and fewer of the latter.

Charter school advocates do not want anyone to believe that both the concept and the practice of charter schools are flawed and harm education, society, the economy, and the national interest. They do not want anyone asking why we have charter schools in the first place. Nor do they want people defending public schools. That bothers them. Charter schools are simply “here to stay.” Presumably, we are stuck with them and there is little we can do about them. We are to largely remain hapless victims of charter schools that increase each year.

Charter boosters want people to think that even though charter schools are plagued by endless problems and scandals, somehow their existence is legitimate, valid, and positive, and all that we have to do is make sure we are replicating “high-quality” charter schools while letting the so-called “free market” eliminate thousands of “low quality” charter schools. This will supposedly give rise to the “best of all worlds” for everyone. The fact that there are so many “low-quality” charter schools year after year is often casually glossed over or conveniently trivialized.

Both the rate and amount of failure in the charter school sector have been high for decades. There are thousands of low-quality charter schools out there. News reports on a broad range of unscrupulous and shocking activities in the charter school sector, which is tiny compared to the American public school system serving most youth, appear every few hours. A surreal atmosphere prevails in the charter school sector. The absence of a politics of social responsibility can be sharply felt.

All of this has necessarily left a bad taste in the mouths of many and tarnished the reputation of privately-operated schools that siphon billions of dollars each year from over-tested and under-funded public schools that are scapegoated, shamed, and demonized by the monopoly-controlled media every day.

Charter Schools take school funding from the bedrock of US public education.

Charter school promoters are very sensitive to criticism of charter schools and know that there are thousands of rotten charter schools across the nation, which is why they think they can fool the gullible by stressing the disinformation that what is really important and decisive is promoting “high-quality” charter schools and getting rid of “low-quality” charter schools.

The deliberate and concerted focus on the descriptor “high-quality” before the phrase “charter schools” is a sideshow designed to divert people’s attention away from the fact that there is no justification for the existence, let alone expansion, of any charter schools in the United States (or anywhere else for that matter). Just because the rich have been able to impose thousands of these segregated and deunionized “schools” on society since the early 1990s does not mean they are legitimate, socially responsible, have to be tolerated, or cannot be phased out over time. Charter schools are mainly pay-the-rich schemes that parasitically drain socially-produced wealth from the economy, society, and education.

There is no compelling reason for society to support privately-operated contract schools that choose parents and students (not the other way around), drain public coffers, perpetuate high employee turnover rates, under-enroll students with disabilities, are mired in fraud and corruption, and regularly deliver poor results.

Other false or misleading dichotomies in the “Great Charter School Debate” include:

  1. regulated verses unregulated charter schools
  2. for-profit verses nonprofit charter schools
  3. independent verses CMO/EMO charter schools
  4. online verses face-to-face/in-person charter schools

Such dichotomies are dangerous and detrimental because they distort reality and undermine the ability of people to see charter schools for what they are. They produce a debased and counterfeit consciousness by focusing on form while covering up the internal content and essence of charter schools as privately-operated contract schools. These and other dichotomies prevent people from analyzing and discussing charter schools in a serious way and reaching warranted conclusions. More often than not, the pressure is to just resort to shooting from the hip, talking off the cuff, or casually spouting off one-liners and knee-jerk assertions about charter schools—all of which are anti-analysis and do nothing to advance social consciousness and the public interest.

The main issue is the “publicness/privateness” of charter schools. There is no such thing as a public charter school. Charter schools are nonprofit and for-profit organizations that differ in fundamental ways from public schools as we know them. Among other things, nonprofit and for-profit charter schools are exempt from hundreds of public laws, rules, and regulations governing public schools. Moreover, unlike public schools, charter schools cannot levy taxes, usually lack unions, and are not governed by publicly elected and publicly accountable individuals. Many other profound differences could be listed.

Charter schools came into being nearly 30 years ago on the basis of usurping and pillaging public school systems that have been around for more than 150 years. They have always lacked most of the features of public schools and are mired in deeper controversy with each passing day.

Just as nonprofit and for-profit charter schools hurt education, society, the economy, and the national interest, so too do “high-quality” charter schools and “low-quality” charter schools.

The necessity today is for the development of a fully-funded, world-class, locally-governed system of public education available for free to anyone, at all times, in every neighborhood and every zip code. No one should be reduced to a consumer who fends-for-themselves like an animal and “shops” for a school that they may or may not get into and that may or may not be high quality. A society based on large-scale industrial production that has to meet the diverse needs of millions of people cannot leave a modern social responsibility like education to chance or the private choices of “rugged individuals” fending for themselves in a dog-eat-dog world.