The Ugly Canadian II: Justin Trudeau’s Foreign Policy

When Justin Trudeau looks in the foreign policy mirror who does he see? Someone very much like Stephen Harper.

On the world stage Canada under Trudeau the Second has acted almost the same as when Harper was prime minister. The Liberals have followed the previous government’s posture on issues ranging from militarism to Russia, nuclear weapons to the Gulf monarchies.

Aping the ancien régime’s position, the Liberals recently voted against UN nuclear disarmament efforts supported by most countries of the world. As such, they’ve refused to attend the ongoing Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards their Total Elimination.

Earlier this month the Liberals released a defence policy that calls for 605 more special forces, which have carried out numerous violent covert missions abroad. During the 2015 election campaign defence minister Jason Kenney said if re-elected the Conservatives would add 665 members to the Canadian Armed Forces Special Operations Command over seven years.

The government’s recent defence policy also includes a plan to acquire armed drones, for which the Conservatives had expressed support. Additionally, the Liberals re-stated the previous government’s commitment to spend upwards of one hundred billion dollars on new fighter jets and naval ships.

Initiated by the Conservatives, last year the Liberals signed off on a government-contracted $15 billion Light Armoured Vehicle sale to Saudi Arabia. Trudeau has also maintained the Harper created Canada-Gulf Cooperation Council Dialogue, which is a platform for foreign ministers to discuss economic ties and the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. The GCC includes the monarchies of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait, which have almost all intervened in the devastating Saudi-led war in Yemen.

The Trudeau government has continued to isolate Canada from world opinion on Palestinian rights. They’ve voted against numerous UN resolutions supported by almost the entire world upholding Palestinian rights.

The Harper regime repeatedly attacked Venezuela’s elected government and in recent weeks the Liberals have picked up from where they left off. The Liberals have supported efforts to condemn the Nicolás Maduro government at the Organization of American States and promoted an international mediation designed to weaken Venezuela’s leftist government (all the while staying mum about Brazil’s imposed president and far worse human rights violations in Mexico).

In March the Liberals renewed Canada’s military “training” mission in the Ukraine, which has emboldened far-right militarists responsible for hundreds of deaths in the east of that country. In fact, Trudeau has significantly bolstered Canada’s military presence on Russia’s doorstep. Simultaneously, the Trudeau government has maintained Harper’s sanctions regime against Russia.

Nearly two years into their mandate the Liberals haven’t restarted diplomatic relations with Iran or removed that country from Canada’s state sponsor of terrorism list (Syria is the only other country on the list). Nor has the Trudeau regime adopted any measure to restrict public support for Canadian mining companies found responsible for significant abuses abroad. With regards to Canada’s massive and controversial international mining industry, it has been status quo ante.

A recent cover of Canadian Dimension magazine provided a cheeky challenge to Trudeau’s bait and switch. Below the word “SURPRISE!” it showed a Justin Trudeau mask being removed to reveal Stephen Harper.

The sober reality is that Trudeau represents a continuation of his predecessor’s foreign policy. I might even need to redo my 2012 book The Ugly Canadian, but this time with the tagline “Justin Trudeau’s foreign policy”.

Media’s Propaganda War on Syria in Full Flow

If you wish to understand the degree to which a supposedly free western media are constructing a world of half-truths and deceptions to manipulate their audiences, keeping us uninformed and docile, then there could hardly be a better case study than their treatment of Pulitzer prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh.

All of these highly competitive, for-profit, scoop-seeking media outlets separately took identical decisions: first to reject Hersh’s latest investigative report, and then to studiously ignore it once it was published in Germany last Sunday. They have continued to maintain an absolute radio silence on his revelations, even as over the past few days they have given a great deal of attention to two stories on the very issue Hersh’s investigation addresses.

These two stories, given such prominence in the western media, are clearly intended to serve as “spoilers” to his revelations, even though none of these publications have actually informed their readers of his original investigation. We are firmly in looking-glass territory.

So what did Hersh’s investigation reveal? His sources in the US intelligence establishment – people who have helped him break some of the most important stories of the past few decades, from the Mai Lai massacre by American soldiers during the Vietnam war to US abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib in 2004 – told him the official narrative that Syria’s Bashar Assad had dropped deadly sarin gas on the town of Khan Sheikhoun on April 4 was incorrect. Instead, they said, a Syrian plane dropped a bomb on a meeting of jihadi fighters that triggered secondary explosions in a storage depot, releasing a toxic cloud of chemicals that killed civilians nearby.

It is an alternative narrative of these events that one might have assumed would be of intense interest to the media, given that Donald Trump approved a military strike on Syria based on the official narrative. Hersh’s version suggests that Trump acted against the intelligence advice he received from his own officials, in a highly dangerous move that not only grossly violated international law but might have dragged Assad’s main ally, Russia, into the fray. The Syrian arena has the potential to trigger a serious confrontation between the world’s two major nuclear powers.

But, in fact, the western media were supremely uninterested in the story. Hersh, once considered the journalist’s journalist, went hawking his investigation around the US and UK media to no avail. In the end, he could find a home for his revelations only in Germany, in the publication Welt am Sonntag.

There are a couple of possible, even if highly improbable, reasons all English-language publications ignored Hersh’s story. Maybe they had evidence that his inside intelligence was wrong. If so, they have yet to provide it. A rebuttal would require acknowledging Hersh’s story, and none seem willing to do that.

Or maybe the media thought it was old news and would no longer interest their readers. It would be difficult to sustain such an interpretation, but at least it has an air of plausibility – except for everything that has happened since Hersh published last Sunday.

His story has spawned two clear “spoiler” responses from those desperate to uphold the official narrative. Hersh’s revelations may have been entirely uninteresting to the western media, but strangely they have sent Washington into crisis mode. Of course, no US official has addressed Hersh’s investigation directly, which might have drawn attention to it and forced western media to reference it. Instead Washington has sought to deflect attention from Hersh’s alternative narrative and shore up the official one through misdirection. That alone should raise the alarm that we are being manipulated, not informed.

The first spoiler, made in the immediate wake of Hersh’s story, were statements from the Pentagon and White House warning that the US had evidence Assad was planning yet another chemical attack on his people and that Washington would respond extremely harshly if he did so.

Here is how the Guardian reported the US threats:

The US said on Tuesday that it had observed preparations for a possible chemical weapons attack at a Syrian air base allegedly involved in a sarin attack in April following a warning from the White House that the Syrian regime would ‘pay a heavy price’ for further use of the weapons.

And then on Friday, the second spoiler emerged. Two unnamed diplomats “confirmed” that a report by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had found that some of the victims from Khan Sheikhoun showed signs of poisoning by sarin or sarin-like substances.

There are obvious reasons to be mightily suspicious of these stories. The findings of the OPCW were already known and had been discussed for some time – there was absolutely nothing newsworthy about them.

There are also well-known problems with the findings. There was no “chain of custody” – neutral oversight – of the bodies that were presented to the organisation in Turkey. Any number of interested parties could have contaminated the bodies before they reached the OPCW. For that reason, the OPCW has not concluded that the Assad regime was responsible for the traces of sarin. In the world of real news, only such a finding – that Assad was responsible – should have made the OPCW report interesting again to the media.

Similarly, by going public with their threats against Assad, the Pentagon and White House did not increase the deterrence on Assad, making it less likely he would use gas in the future. That could have been achieved much more effectively with private warnings to the Russians, who have massive leverage over Assad. These new warnings were meant not for Assad but for western publics, to bolster the official narrative that Hersh’s investigation had thrown into doubt.

In fact, the US threats increase, rather than reduce, the chances of a new chemical weapons attack. Other, anti-Assad actors now have a strong incentive to use chemical weapons in false-flag operation to implicate Assad, knowing that the US has committed itself to intervention. On any reading, the US statements were reckless – or malicious – in the extreme and likely to bring about the exact opposite of what they were supposed to achieve.

But beyond this, there was something even more troubling about these two stories. That these official claims were published so unthinkingly in major outlets is bad enough. But what is unconscionable is the media’s continuing blackout of Hersh’s investigation when it speaks directly to the two latest news reports.

No serious journalist could write up either story, according to any accepted norms of journalistic practice, and not make reference to Hersh’s claims. They are absolutely relevant to these stories. In fact, more than that, the intelligence sources he cites are are not only relevant but are the sole reason these two stories have been suddenly propelled to the top of the news agenda.

Any publication that has covered either the White House-Pentagon threats or the rehashing of the OPCW report and has not mentioned Hersh’s revelations is writing nothing less than propaganda in service of a western foreign policy agenda trying to bring about the illegal overthrow the Syrian government. And so far that appears to include every single US and UK mainstream newspaper and TV station.

‘The Putin Interviews’ – Oliver Stone Speaks Out!

What makes legendary film-maker Oliver Stone tick? How is he able to reach millions with such powerful messages? What motivated him to make his most recent and very controversial "The Putin Interviews," which is driving the neocons and Washington elites crazy? Today's Liberty Report catches up with Stone from his Paris hotel room for a very lively and spirited conversation. You will not see this kind of interview on the mainstream media, which has been in "attack" mode since the film came out. Watch it here -- and don't miss Stone's surprise ending!

Nato’s strategy for whipping up tension, by Manlio Dinucci

Let us say that the US Defense Secretary (Jim Mattis)'s airplane, when flying from California to Alaska, along an air corridor on the Pacific, had been intercepted by a Russian bomber fighter belonging to the Cuban Air Force. What would happen? The news would bomb the front pages, precipitating a wave of worried, political reactions. Yet no ink was spilt, when on 21 June, Sergei Shoigu, (the Russian Defense Minister)'s airplane, flying from Moscow to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, along (...)

NYT Finally Retracts Russia-gate Canard

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The New York Times has finally admitted that one of the favorite Russia-gate canards – that all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies concurred on the assessment of Russian hacking of Democratic emails – is false.

On Thursday, the Times appended a correction to a June 25 article that had repeated the false claim, which has been used by Democrats and the mainstream media for months to brush aside any doubts about the foundation of the Russia-gate scandal and portray President Trump as delusional for doubting what all 17 intelligence agencies supposedly knew to be true.

In the Times’ White House Memo of June 25, correspondent Maggie Haberman mocked Trump for “still refus[ing] to acknowledge a basic fact agreed upon by 17 American intelligence agencies that he now oversees: Russia orchestrated the attacks, and did it to help get him elected.”

However, on Thursday, the Times – while leaving most of Haberman’s ridicule of Trump in place – noted in a correction that the relevant intelligence “assessment was made by four intelligence agencies — the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency. The assessment was not approved by all 17 organizations in the American intelligence community.”

The Times’ grudging correction was vindication for some Russia-gate skeptics who had questioned the claim of a full-scale intelligence assessment, which would usually take the form of a National Intelligence Estimate (or NIE), a product that seeks out the views of the entire Intelligence Community and includes dissents.

The reality of a more narrowly based Russia-gate assessment was admitted in May by President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Obama’s CIA Director John Brennan in sworn congressional testimony.

Clapper testified before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee on May 8 that the Russia-hacking claim came from a “special intelligence community assessment” (or ICA) produced by selected analysts from the CIA, NSA and FBI, “a coordinated product from three agencies – CIA, NSA, and the FBI – not all 17 components of the intelligence community,” the former DNI said.

Clapper further acknowledged that the analysts who produced the Jan. 6 assessment on alleged Russian hacking were “hand-picked” from the CIA, FBI and NSA.

Yet, as any intelligence expert will tell you, if you “hand-pick” the analysts, you are really hand-picking the conclusion. For instance, if the analysts were known to be hard-liners on Russia or supporters of Hillary Clinton, they could be expected to deliver the one-sided reportthat they did.

Politicized Intelligence

In the history of U.S. intelligence, we have seen how this selective approach has worked, such as the phony determination of the Reagan administration pinning the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II and other acts of terror on the Soviet Union.

CIA Director William Casey and Deputy Director Robert Gates shepherded the desired findings through the process by putting the assessment under the control of pliable analysts and sidelining those who objected to this politicization of intelligence.

The point of enlisting the broader intelligence community – and incorporating dissents into a final report – is to guard against such “stove-piping” of intelligence that delivers the politically desired result but ultimately distorts reality.

Another painful example of politicized intelligence was President George W. Bush’s 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq’s WMD that removed State Department and other dissents from the declassified version that was given to the public.

Since Clapper’s and Brennan’s testimony in May, the Times and other mainstream news outlets have avoided a direct contradiction of their earlier acceptance of the 17-intelligence-agencies canard by simply referring to a judgment by “the intelligence community.”

That finessing of their earlier errors has allowed Hillary Clinton and other senior Democrats to continue referencing this fictional consensus without challenge, at least in the mainstream media.

For instance, on May 31 at a technology conference in California, Clinton referred to the Jan. 6 report, asserting that “Seventeen agencies, all in agreement, which I know from my experience as a Senator and Secretary of State, is hard to get. They concluded with high confidence that the Russians ran an extensive information war campaign against my campaign, to influence voters in the election.”

The failure of the major news organizations to clarify this point about the 17 agencies may have contributed to Haberman’s mistake on June 25 as she simply repeated the groupthink that nearly all the Important People in Washington just knew to be true.

But the Times’ belated correction also underscores the growing sense that the U.S. mainstream media has joined in a political vendetta against Trump and has cast aside professional standards to the point of repeating false claims designed to denigrate him.

That, in turn, plays into Trump’s Twitter complaints that he and his administration are the targets of a “witch hunt” led by the “fake news” media, a grievance that appears to be energizing his supporters and could discredit whatever ongoing investigations eventually conclude.

Reprinted with permission from ConsortiumNews.com.

Mad Dog’s Pathetic Syrian Chemical Attack Propaganda

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It’s obvious Mad Dog and the war-makers take us for complete idiots.

On Wednesday Trump’s Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, otherwise fondly known as Mad Dog, said Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian government backed down on a chemical attack after a stern warning from the United States.

“It appears that they took the warning seriously,” Mad Dog told reporters. “They didn’t do it.”

It is common practice now for the government to make outrageous claims and not bother to offer a scintilla of evidence. This was certainly the case with Mad Dog’s claim earlier in the week that the evil al-Assad planned to gas his own people.

It’s equally common for the establishment media to not ask for evidence and report fantasy and fairy tales as granite-hard fact.

Members of Congress also take this fallacious “intelligence” as gospel truth, as demonstrated by Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. He said Trump will bomb the be-jesus out of Syria if they launch a chemical attack.

It’s interesting Mad Dog’s claim came soon after Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh published an article in the German publication Die Welt. Hersh questioned intelligence related to the supposed April 4 attack in Khan Sheikhun. Trump launched a Tomahawk missile strike on Shayrat Air Base in central Syria in retaliation for the alleged chemical attack.

“The available intelligence made clear that the Syrians had targeted a jihadist meeting site on April 4 using a Russian-supplied guided bomb equipped with conventional explosives,” Hersh writes.
A Bomb Damage Assessment (BDA) by the U.S. military later determined that the heat and force of the 500-pound Syrian bomb triggered a series of secondary explosions that could have generated a huge toxic cloud that began to spread over the town, formed by the release of the fertilizers, disinfectants and other goods stored in the basement, its effect magnified by the dense morning air, which trapped the fumes close to the ground.
Intelligence sources told Trump Syria was not responsible for the alleged chemical attack, but the president ignored this and went ahead and launched a bevy of very expensive cruise missiles at the Shayrat Air Base regardless.

Last year Trump promised us a new government that would not engage in the reckless behavior of the past. Of course, this was offset by his remarks on bombing Syria, stealing oil from Syria and Iraq, waterboarding suspected terrorists, killing their families, and other belligerent statements. It was obvious at the time he would continue the agenda of his predecessors, albeit with typical Trumpian braggadocio.

Donald Trump does not have the fortitude or intelligence required to “drain the swamp” and close down the neocon war agenda. By and large, it is a mission impossible. Congress is largely in the neocon camp and a day does not pass that some member of the political class issues a violent threat against an array of manufactured enemies.

The tissue-thin transparency of Mad Dog’s claim reveals the bankruptcy of the ruling elite’s propaganda agenda. Either they are intellectually lazy or the population is so misinformed and apathetic it really doesn’t matter if outrageous claims are transparent nonsense.

If a poll conducted after the debunked Khan Sheikhun attack can be believed, nearly 60 percent of Americans supported Trump’s cruise missile attack.

“The poll, conducted by CBS, shows that many Americans support the attack because they believe Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons—killing 87 people last week—was an immoral act,” the New York Post reported in April 10.

Meanwhile, no such moral outrage exists for the victims of illegal US bombings in Mosul and Raqqa. More than 4,000 civilians have thus far died.

Reprinted with permission from Another Day in the Empire blog.

Construction of Turkish Stream Underway

On 23 June 2017, the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, inaugurated the construction works for that section of the gas pipeline, Turkish Stream, passing through deep seas. A decision was made to go ahead with this project when President Putin visited Turkey on 1 December 2014. Construction had been interrupted in August 2015 for tariff reasons, but in the context of the war in Syria, it should allow Russian gas to be delivered to Turkey. Parting from there, it could also serve as a transit (...)

The Case of Syria and the Bleeding Women

Photo by Mark Taylor | CC BY 2.0

Like Martin Luther, Donald Trump gets his maddest epiphanies in the early morning hours while he is on the throne, straining at stool. Trump is driven, as was Luther, by two consuming obsessions, both entwined in the sunken strata of his psyche: money and bodily excresences. (See Young Man Luther by Erik Erikson.) On Thursday morning, Trump clutched his Android and discharged a crude torrent of bile at Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, the betrothed morning duo on MSDNC. It was Trump at his most debauched:

I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came…to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!

Trump seems to exhibit a paraphilia for female blood, a kind of sexual obsession that psychologists call “Hematolagnia.” Hematolagnia might loosely be translated as “blood lust.” Recall Trump’s freakish denunciation of Megyn Kelly to CNN’s Don Lemon last year: “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever.”

With their crass antics on “Morning Joe,” Scarborough and Brzezinski often come off being almost as juvenile as Trump, though the president’s Tweets exhibit a clinical pathology that Joe and Mika can only aspire to. Trump’s boorish reference to Brzezinski’s facelift confirms, from his very own micro-digits, the stories that have been floating around for years that Trump has routinely spied on celebrity and political guests at his properties, collecting damaging information that he could later weaponize against them.

It only took an hour or so for Trump’s Tweets to detonate paroxysms of mock outrage in official Washington, with the Republican congressional leadership (the same group of moral exemplars that wants to pitch 22 million people off their meager health care plans) scrambling for the microphones to denounce the president for sullying the “dignity” of the Oval Office. (Bill Clinton must have chuckled at that one.)

Dignity? In the White House??

Contrast the almost universal indignation over Trump’s warped Tweets with the complete lack of attention paid to the 500 civilians US airstrikes in Syria have killed in the last month, real bloodshed that is treated as merely being part of the presidential job description. Despite Trump’s own warning a mere two years ago that “we should stay out of Syria,” he now finds himself hip-deep in Syrian blood with no apparent aversion to his predicament. I’m not sure about the percentage of bleeding women amid the daily carnage in Syria, though it seems to be enough to whet Trump’s appetite for destruction.

To the extent that Trump can be decoded, I suggest that people have dangerously misunderstood his foreign policy and his position on NATO, in particular. The confusion is pardonable to an extent, because it’s not at all clear that Trump himself understands the details or even the vague outlines of his geopolitical strategy. He’s left all that to the generals (and the homunculus of the White House Stephen Miller). The Trump administration isn’t pursuing a reduced US commitment to the provocation of Russia in eastern Europe (or in Syria for that matter), but a demand for an increase in military spending by European countries, as evidenced in the recent capitulation to his demands by Canada and other EU countries.

It’s much easier to interpret the real aims of Trump foreign policy by reading Nikki Haley’s Tweets rather than Donald’s inspired musings. Haley is Samantha Power on steroids, except we know that Haley (the book-keeper turned war minister) isn’t coming up with these belligerent communiqués on her own. The script is being written by the likes of Mike Pompeo and HR McMaster.

In a bizarre episode on Monday evening, the White House announced that it was putting the Assad regime on notice about chemical weapons use. White House press secretary Sean Spicer claimed that “the United States has identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children. If Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.”

In drawing this sharp red line, Spicer refused to identify the source of the intelligence or comment any plans the Trump administration might have to counter the attacks. For his part, Trump preferred to Tweet smack at Obama for his failure to stop the Russians from meddling in the 2016 elections. Heh, heh…

That left it up to Nikki Haley, who seized the opportunity for dramatic escalation. In her testimony before Congress on Tuesday morning, Haley pushed the doomsday clock forward a few precious minutes when she pointed her pious finger at both Russia and Iran. “The goal is at this point not just to send Assad a message, but to send Russia and Iran a message,” Haley said. “That if this happens again, we are putting you on notice. My hope is that the president’s warning will certainly get Iran and Russia to take a second look, and I hope that it will caution Assad.”

Haley’s bellicose bluster prompted the Russians to respond in kind. The Kremlin warned that if the US launched a preemptive strike against Assad, it’s forces in the region would respond in kind–a case where tit-for-tat posturing could escalate to Armageddon.

However, by the next afternoon, this entire mysterious interlude had been quietly swept under the rug by Gen. Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis himself, who told reporters on a flight to the NATO ministerial meeting in Brussels that “It appears that the Syrians took the warning seriously said. They didn’t do it.” The Syrians claimed they never had any intention of launching a chemical attack and US intelligence officials speaking anonymously to Reuters backed them up.

So what was this bizarre burst of prime-time war-mongering all about? Was it a distraction from the unraveling of the Senate’s calamitous version of TrumpCare? Was it an aborted power-play by the anti-Iran hardliners in the West Wing looking to cook up a pretext for the next war?

I think the answer is much simpler and dumber. The White House issued its impromptu warning about a planned Syrian chemical weapon attack at about the same time an explosive story by renowned investigative journalist Seymour Hersh went live on the site of the German newspaper Die Welt. Hersh’s story details how the Trump White House swallowed a false narrative about sarin gas being used to kill civilians in an ISIS-held town called Khan Sheikhoun and then using this as a pretext to launch a cruise missile attack on a Syrian air base, flouting the warnings of his own military and intelligence advisors. Hersh’s rigorously-sourced story is a devastating account of how a reckless and deranged inner circle in the Trump White House nearly brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.

Hersh’s exposé is a must-read, a landmark piece of investigative reporting. And you can easily understand why the Team Trump would have been desperate to see the story buried in a whirlwind of manufactured hysteria about a new chemical weapons attack. But they needn’t have bothered. Few people were going to be aware of Hersh’s piece in any event. That’s because Sy Hersh, the man who exposed My Lai, domestic spying by the CIA and the abuses at Abu Ghraib, has been effectively blacklisted in the US and now even Great Britain. Hersh’s piece on Syria had been commissioned by the London Review of Books, which has a dedicated if minor global readership. But at the last minute the LRB shamefully lost its nerve and rejected the story.  The LRB’s editor Mary-Kay Wilmers claimed in an email sent to CounterPunch that “the piece was fact-checked and didn’t stand up.”

This is a disgraceful swipe at one of the world’s best journalists and is evidence of just how degraded the LRB’s once glittering reputation has become. Recall that Hersh’s first book, even before his My Lai reporting, was America’s Hidden Arsenal, a ground-breaking trip into the US’s biological and chemical weapons program. He has been covering this story his entire professional career.

My friend Chase Madar, the very smart lawyer and writer, told me this week that he believed there was always a greater risk of Trump initiating a conflict with Russia than Clinton. I think he’s right. With Clinton the risk was calculable and predictable. You pretty much knew exactly where the fault lines and pressure points were. But Trump is the man without inhibitions, who will not be impeded by any societal norms. He is impetuous, vain and stupid and could easily be bullied by his generals or political opponents into starting a war against almost anyone: Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Oregon–maybe all five at once. That’s why for the sake of world peace I hope Putin does have that smut dossier on Trump. Sex Tape Deterrence. You didn’t read about that survival strategy in Herman Kahn’s On Thermonuclear War.

I used to believe, naively it turns out, that rightwing militarism would be countered by a liberated and reanimated anti-war movement, a movement that had disgracefully refused to confront wars launched by liberal politicians from JFK to Obama.

But where is it now? Where are the mass protests against Trump’s expanding wars in Syria, Yemen, Somalia and the re-surge in Afghanistan? Where are the protests against the rising slaughter of civilians? The swelling threat of nuclear confrontation?

Where, indeed.

The liberal antiwar movement (if there ever was such an entity) has shriveled into an anti-Russia claque, aligning itself fatally with some of the most bloodthirsty hawks on the Hill and in doing so is abetting every drone strike, cruise missile and MOAB bomb Trump drops. This blood–of woman, man and child–won’t wash away, no matter how furiously they scrub themselves with pumice stones lathered in Dr. Bonner’s.

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Roaming Charges

+ One pocket trumpet against the Void…

+ Brian T. Encinia, the Texas State Trooper, who arrested and tortured Sandra Bland and then lied about it, three days before she was found hanging dead in her jail cell, had perjury charges against him dismissed by a Texas judge. These cops may not be able to spell IMPUNITY but they enjoy it nevertheless…

+ Pinko commie Putinista Warren Buffet makes case for Single-Payer–press snoozes, Democrats cringe…

+ If the ruler of your country isn’t attacking its press as the Enemy of the People (i.e., his people) does the press actually exist? (Stop whining CNN be glad you’re getting any attention at all.)

+ “Nostrovia, Bibi! We not tell Donald, yes?” The Jerusalem Post gushes that relations between Russia and Israel are now the “warmest in history.” Waiting on Congress to now issue sanctions against Netanyahu’s regime for consorting with the Putin menace…

+ Bracing yourself for “Killing Games,” the devastating film produced by Project Coyote that exposes the depraved sport of wildlife killing contests:

+ In the latest countdown to climate Armageddon, a group of scientists warns that we have about three years to save “humanity” from the consequences (see the Melting of Phoenix) of runaway global warming. Not to worry, once Jared Kushner brokers that Middle East peace deal, bitchslaps China for dumping steel and totally reinvents the Internet, he’ll get right on this…

+ This week heat index in the Iranian city of Bandar Mahshahr (population 110,000) hit 165 degrees, the second highest temperature ever recorded.  Extreme climate change appears to be the leading edge of Trump’s regime change strategy…

+ Barack Obama took a break from paragliding to denounce TrumpCare as a “massive transfer of wealth” from the poor to the rich. He would know. ObamaCareless was a massive transfer of wealth from poor people to insurance cartels.

+ A peevish Obama lashed out at the Sandernistas this week, blaming them for undermining ObamaCare. Perhaps it’s time for the former president to try that solo assault on Mt. Everest without supplemental oxygen he’s always dreamed about…

+ A statistical analysis by the Princeton University’s Gerrymandering Project found the extreme Republican advantages in some states are the product of cravenly manufactured districts, designed to insure GOP wins. For example, the Republican advantage in Michigan’s state House districts had a 1-in-16,000 probability of occurring by chance; in Wisconsin’s Assembly districts, there was a only 1-in-60,000 chance of it happening randomly. Now, that’s power politics at work.

+ Why hack the vote, when you can simply block it? In Florida, one-in-four black residents were barred from voting in the 2016 elections.

+ An FBI agent has been indicted for lying about the circumstances behind the shooting of Levoy Finicum, one of the Bundyites who led the armed occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. Good. But you never hear of FBI agents or their informants getting indicted for making false statements in entrapment cases against environmentalists, Native Americans, anti-war activists, civil rights organizers or Muslims…

+ The only film I’ve seen this year that’s more frightening than “Get Out”….

I’d love to see an AIM or Black Panther version of this NRA ad…Come back, Russell Means! Lock and load, Huey Newton!!

Our Daddy was a Sperm Donor: One of these men is Tom Ricketts, owner of the Chicago Cubs, the other is Ted Cruz, spawn of Satan. Where’s Bono?

+ Jason Chaffitz, the Utah Republican, is begging for members of Congress to be paid an additional $27,000 a year as a housing stipend, on top of their $174,000 annual salary. “Stipend” for them, “welfare handout” for others…

+ As Vijay Prashad noted: “Nothing can beat the glory of the layout editor for the print edition of a newspaper…”

+ According to a new Pew poll of public attitudes in 37 countries, the USA is now viewed favorably by less than 50 percent of the global population for the first time. Committing genocide against the indigenous inhabitants of America, enslaving millions of people, nuking two cities, killing three million people in Vietnam, overthrowing regimes around the world, polluting the global atmosphere and engaging in the most heinous forms of torture didn’t do it. Nope. It took Trump.

+ Goodbye Lenin, Hello St. Nick! Millions of Russians are lining up see a rib bone said to be a relict of St. Nicholas, who is revered by adherents of the Orthodox Church as a “miracle worker.” The mass veneration of this mythical fixer is a sure indication of growing economic misery in Russia, which is beginning to resemble one big rust belt. A true Socialist like Kevin Alexander Gray would put that magical rib in the smoker at the local Top Notch BBQ shack in Columbia, South Carolina and give the famished people some nourishment…

+ Geri Allen was killed by cancer this week at 60-years-old, still at the top of her game. Allen was a terrific and innovative pianist and a real pioneer who played with some of the most talented and original musicians of our time, from Ornette Coleman to Charles Lloyd…

Booked Up

What I’m reading this week…

The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing

Imagining Extinctions: the Cultural Meaning of Endangered Species by Ursula K. Heise

Class by Francesco Pacifico

Sound Grammar

What I’m listening to this week…

The Late Trane by Denys Baptiste

Tug of War by Gina Sicilia

Strip It Down by Casey James

Layers of the City by Ben Allison

The Nashville Sound by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit

Beauty and Sorrow

Oscar Wilde: “The only people I would care to be with now are artists and people who have suffered: those who know what beauty is, and those who know what sorrow is: nobody else interests me.”

Beyond Inauthentic Opposition

Photo by Marc Nozell | CC BY 2.0


The More Effective Evil

I’ve cast presidential ballots for the Green Party from the at least technically contested state of Iowa in the last three elections. I’ve long and consistently used a metaphor from the original version of Upton Sinclair’s famous Socialist novel The Jungle, describing the Democrats as one of “two wings of the same [capitalist and imperialist] bird of prey.”

I’ve distanced myself from Lesser-Evilism and written and spoken about some of the ways in which the dismal, dollar-drenched Dems (the DDDs) are the greater and (in Glen Ford’s words) “more effective evil.” The domestically (but not anti-imperially) leftish Bernie F-35 Sanders candidacy (which seduced even the officially Trotskyist group Socialist Alternative during last year’s presidential primaries) could not entice me back into my parents’ and grandparents’ party. (Any slight chance Sanders had of getting me on board was lost by his refusal to meaningfully confront the Pentagon system, which undermines the nation’s potential for social-democratic policy by sucking up more than half the nation’s federal discretionary spending in the process of murdering and maiming millions around the world to maintain a global Empire that accounts for nearly half the planet’s military spending and bears the planet’s single largest institutional carbon footprint.)

In a forthcoming print essay on “The State of the Left,” I approvingly quote James Kavanagh on the perfidy of the DDDs in California, where they hold the governor’s office and both legislative houses and where top Dems recently shot down a single-payer health insurance care measure supported by 65% of that giant state’s population, including 75% of its Democrats:

“This is the Democratic Party. Lying losers who will do anything to avoid taking an effective stance for a healthcare policy that would immediately solve one of the worst horrors American families face … Passing single-payer in California and fighting for it everywhere else would guarantee the Democrats electoral victories. But they will not do it…because they are fervent supporters of the capitalist market system in healthcare (and everything else), and they are corrupt agents of the health insurance and pharma industries…Because it captures and cages the energies of so many well-meaning progressives, the Democratic Party is the most effective obstacle to, and enemy of, single-payer, and it has to be fought. …This is not a Trump problem, and not a Republican problem, it’s a bipartisan capitalist elite problem.”

My sentiments, exactly. (What would the older Upton Sinclair, leader of the Depression-era End Poverty in California movement, say?)

Beyond Two Minutes Once Every Four Years: Voting v. Serious Political Action

So why did I check the Des Moines Register’s final state poll to make sure that there was no real contest between the major party candidates in Iowa before making my third-party vote? Why would I have considered making myself vote “for” Democratic candidates I loathed (Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 and Hillary Clinton in 2016) if I thought it would have made any difference in which of the two major party candidates were going to prevail?

Part of the answer is that for me electoral politics is distantly secondary to long-haul social movement-building. I see voting (or not) as little more than a tactical adjunct to the primary task. It’s not some terrible sin to not “vote your conscience,” as if U.S. electoral politics had anything to do with morality and conscience. I agree wholeheartedly with something Noam Chomsky wrote on the eve of the 2004 presidential election:

“Americans may be encouraged to vote, but not to participate more meaningfully in the political arena. Essentially the election is a method of marginalizing the population. A huge propaganda campaign is mounted to get people to focus on these personalized quadrennial extravaganzas and to think, ‘That’s politics.’ But it isn’t. It’s only a small part of politics… The urgent task for those who want to shift policy in progressive direction – often in close conformity to majority opinion – is to grow and become strong enough so that that they can’t be ignored by centers of power. Forces for change that have come up from the grassroots and shaken the society to its foundations include the labor movement, the civil rights movement, the peace movement, the women’s movement and others, cultivated by steady, dedicated work at all levels, every day, not just once every four years…election …choices…are secondary to serious political action. The main task is to create a genuinely responsive democratic culture, and that effort goes on before and after electoral extravaganzas, whatever their outcome” (emphasis added)

“Take the Bernie Sanders campaign,” Chomsky told Abby Martin eleven years later. It “ought to be directed to sustaining a popular movement that will use the election as a kind of an incentive and then go on, and unfortunately it’s not. When the election’s over,” Chomsky said, the movement is going to die…a serious error. The only thing that’s going to ever bring about any meaningful change is ongoing, dedicated, popular movements that don’t pay attention to the election cycle.”

“The really critical thing,” the great American radical historian Howard Zinn once sagely wrote, “isn’t who’s sitting in the White House, but who is sitting in—in the streets, in the cafeterias, in the halls of government, in the factories. Who is protesting, who is occupying offices and demonstrating—those are the things that determine what happens.”

However you vote (and I honestly don’t know that my head could ever make my right hand mark a ballot for a Democrat again), the act takes two minutes once every two or four years. What do you do with the rest of your political life? As Zinn argued in a reflection on “the election madness” he saw “engulfing the entire society including the left” in the Obama-mad spring of 2008:

before and after those two minutes [in a voting booth], our time, our energy, should be spent in educating, agitating, organizing our fellow citizens in the workplace, in the neighborhood, in the schools. Our objective should be to build, painstakingly, patiently but energetically, a movement that, when it reaches a certain critical mass, would shake whoever is in the White House, in Congress, into changing national policy on matters of war and social justice…Historically, government, whether in the hands of Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals, has failed its responsibilities, until forced to by direct action: sit-ins and Freedom Rides for the rights of black people, strikes and boycotts for the rights of workers, mutinies and desertions of soldiers in order to stop a war.” (H. Zinn, “Election Madness,” The Progressive, April 8, 2008)

Since I agree with Chomsky and Zinn, I do not morally fetishize the American ballot fox, which the Marxist historian Alan Dawley once aptly described as a “coffin of class consciousness.”

To See That Things Still Suck with the Democrats in Office

Another part of the answer to the question of why I might try to make myself vote for a Democratic presidential candidate in a contested state also has nothing to do with what W.E.B. DuBois called “the game of lesser evils.” There’s a different, rarely noted strategic and radical case for wanting the Democratic wing of the capitalist-imperialist duopoly in office. It’s about exposing the corporate and imperial Democrats for what they really are. Call it a vote for the hope of more radical and bipartisan disillusionment.

How are the Democrats best revealed and exposed as agents of the unelected and interrelated dictatorships of money and empire? Which is better for the development of “serious political action” (grassroots, and non-co-opt-able citizen and workers’ activism and organization) beyond the masters’ quadrennial electoral extravaganzas, radically regressive Republicans holding nominal power or dismal dollar Democrats sitting atop the symbolic ship of state?

On domestic political matters, at least (maters are least clear on foreign policy, I readily admit), the answer is the latter. I wanted Obama back in 2013 and Hillary back in 2017 (and might have tried to vote for them if I thought it would have made any difference) because of my sense that the presence of another white male Republican in the White House would just encourage liberals and progressives and others to blame everything wrong in America on “those insane evil Republicans.” Bringing back a Republican to the White House, I reflected, would just reinforce the longstanding liberal claim that installing Democrats in power is the cure to the national malaise.

I want Americans (young ones above all) to come into regular visible contact with the bipartisan nature of the U.S. ruling class. I wanted them subjected to the reality that, to quote the Marxist commentator Doug Henwood in early 2008, “everything still pretty much sucks” when Democrats hold the top political offices – that the basic underlying institutional realities of capitalist and imperial rule stay the same. As the antiwar activist, author, and essayist Stan Goff wrote seven years ago, “I’m glad Obama was elected. Otherwise, people would blame the war on McCain and the Republicans and continue with the delusion that elections can be our salvation.”

My dark dialectical hope for Obama was born out to some extent by the remarkable rise and spread of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, which fed off youthful disillusionment with Obama and the Democrats—a bursting of political “hope” bubbles that followed two years after the bursting of the real estate and financial bubble to fuel disenchantment with the underlying profits system. We don’t know how far Occupy would have gone had it not been crushed by the state, including Obama’s Department of Homeland Security in collaboration with Democratic-run city governments across the country.

But Obama was at least for a time a great object lesson on how “everything still pretty much sucks” when Democrats hold down the White House. Eschewing the left-leaning progressive potential he was handed (Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress and an angry, “pitchfork”-wielding populace at the gates), the nation’s first half-white president and his neoliberal, Robert Rubin-appointed team followed George W. Bush in continuing to give the corporate-managed citizenry qua electorate what William Greider called “a blunt lesson about power, who has it and who doesn’t. In a March 2009 Washington Post editorial titled “Obama Asked Us to Speak, Is He

Listening?” Greider wrote about how “Americans watched Washington rush to rescue the very financial interests that caused the catastrophe. They learned that government has plenty of money to spend when the right people want it. ‘Where’s my bailout,’ became the rueful punch line at lunch counters and construction sites nationwide. Then to deepen the insult, people watched as establishment forces re-launched their campaign for ‘entitlement reform’ – a euphemism for whacking Social Security benefits, Medicare and Medicaid.”

Americans also watched as Obama moved on to pass a health insurance reform, the so-called Affordable Care Act, that only the big insurance and drug companies could love, kicking the popular alternative (single payer “Medicare for All”) to the curb while rushing to pass a program drafted by the Republican Heritage Foundation and first carried out in Massachusetts by the arch 1 percenter Mitt Romney. As Kavanagh points out, citing the work of Marcy Wheeler, Hillary Clinton “fatal slide in the [2016 presidential election] polls began before [James] Comey’s notorious letter of October 28th, and coincided with the announcement, four days before, of steep Obamacare premium increases.”

Californication: Can’t Blame Republicans

With their killing of single-payer in California, that state’s top Democrats distilled down their dismal, dollar-drenched dastardliness for millions to bitterly digest. So what if two-thirds of that giant jurisdiction’s residents and three-fourths of its Democrats want a state version of Medicare for All? Who cares? Not California State Assembly Speaker Anthony Renden or his Governor Jerry Brown. “The dissembling Democrats,” James Kavanagh observes, “are throwing away just about the most popular policy anyone could imagine …something people are literally dying for” – this because of their transparent captivity to the big insurance and drug companies and their financial backers.

But here’s the thing. The “Lying Losers” can’t hide their cringing servility to their corporate masters quite so easily when they hold nominal power. They can try to blame the Republicans for their abject refusal to defy corporate donors and enact a critical policy backed by the popular majority, but that looks ridiculous when they hold the big legislative cards on “the Left Coast.” They are exposed as servants of capital in sharper and bolder relief than if they were minority party.

I am reminded of a passage in Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto. Under the rule of “the bourgeoisie” (capitalism), Marx wrote, “all that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.” The profaning of the Democratic Party by “the bourgeoisie” – the drowning of all its heavenly progressive pretense in the “city waters of egotistical [capitalist] calculation” – is made most clear when the DDDs hold the reins of nominal power.

Left radicals like me want workers and citizens to grasp that the real taproot problem is not which of the two major party wings holds majority political office but the rule of capital and Empire behind the plutocratic charade that passes for “our great democracy.” Having Democrats in office can assist because it helps bring that lesson home.

The Fake Resistance

The Inauthentic Opposition Party – as the late Sheldon Wolin rightly described the Democrats – is more adept at deadly and co-optive leftish-progressive affectation it is out of power and its leaders feel the need to deceptively pose as a party and movement of the people against the establishment. That’s when the Democrats’ populist and progressive masquerade is most dangerous and crippling. It’s much easier to pose as an Opposition Party when you are out majority power in government.

Look at the current political situation in the U.S. The Twitter-addicted malignant narcissist and quasi-fascistic Donald Trump (talk about insane and evil) and the ever more radically right-wing Republican Party are straight out of central casting when it comes to making the neoliberal and imperial Democrats look decent, democratic, and progressive. It helps the leftish pose that the Republicans and their vast right-wing noise machine love to absurdly call the Democrats and just about everything else to the portside of Charles Grassley (e.g. the New York Times and the Washington Post) “The Left.”

The Democrats have been seizing the moment to close off the potential for serious, actually Left opposition. With MSNBC’s arch-Russophobe Rachel Madoff in the propaganda vanguard, Democratic elites have responded to the Trump ascendancy by concocting a fake “Resistance” movement. It’s a curious formation, devoid of any real progressive meaning beyond “bipartisan” opposition to Donald Trump. “The Resistance” grants loyalty to Hillary Clinton, a One Percent champion and a leader in the War Party’s calls for deadly confrontation with Russia and for regime change around the world. By Danny Haiphong’s incisive account on Black Agenda Report:

“‘the resistance’ is…entangled in…the non-profit industrial complex and its attending Democratic Party paymasters. ‘The Resistance’ has significant support from the non-profit industrial complex and the Wall Street-stuffed coffers of the Democratic Party. Such support is evident in the organizations MoveOn.org, the Town Hall Project, and Indivisible. The Democratic think-tank Center for American Progress (CAP) assists each of these so-called anti-Trump focused organizations. On CAP’s Board of Directors sits Democratic Party elites Madeline Albright and John Podesta… Podesta was Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair during her losing Presidential campaign in 2016. Leaked Podesta emails revealed that the Clinton campaign rigged the Democratic primaries against Bernie Sanders. They also outlined how Clinton used her extensive connections with Wall Street firms to expand the influence of the Clinton Foundation…”

Indivisible: “A Devastating Impact”

With more than 6000 chapters by early February, the classic Astroturf organization “Indivisible,” set up by two Democratic Congressional staffers, has worked to channel popular anger into manageable mainstream channels that offer no challenge to the nation’s unelected and interrelated dictatorships of money, class, empire, race, gender, and ecocide. Indivisible talks about the need to get past “ideology” and unite Americans across partisan lines to “get big things done” through government – standard “pragmatic” neoliberal language. An activist and attorney from California’s Monterey County recently wrote me on how Indivisible is a “mechanism for co-opting the anti-Trump resistance and channeling opposition to Trump into support for the Democratic Party.” By the activist’s account, Indivisible “has had a devastating impact on local organizing. A broad-based and diverse coalition was developing here in the first few months after the election; it collapsed as soon as Indivisible appeared.” Further:

“Here in Monterey County, we were on our way to building a broad-based, inclusive and diverse progressive coalition.  Then Indivisible came along and killed it.  By the end of January, there were over a dozen Indivisible groups operating in this congressional district…The largest one has a Facebook page with over 1000 members (huge by local standards).  I was a member for a while, but I just couldn’t stand it.  [Democratic Congressman Jimmy] Panetta’s very first vote as our new congressman was to condemn the UN for its stand against Israel’s illegal settlements.  This put Panetta in opposition to the state policy of the Obama administration and in support of Trump’s position.  When I asked on the Indivisible Facebook page if we intended to hold him accountable for this vote, several people tore me a new one. …Indivisible is now promoting a June March for Truth,’ calling for an independent commission to investigate Russiagate….the Indivisibles have pretty much acted like they are the only game in town and have managed to suck most of the oxygen out of the room.  One of their big activities seems to be writing postcards to Panetta, Harris and Feinstein telling them what a great job they’re doing.,”

“I had been involved in the local March for Science.  A couple of weeks before the March, the planning committee was taken over by the Indivisibles.  By this point, I’d had enough.  I decided I just couldn’t work with them and I dropped out.   They ended up attracting about 1000 people (at least 900 of whom were white).  An activist from Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom wanted to give a short speech about the link between militarism and environmental destruction, but the organizers wouldn’t let her…It looks to me like Indivisible is a well-funded AstroTurf group.  It walks and talks exactly like it would if it had been deliberately designed by some joint DNC-COINTELPRO committee to channel popular outrage into support for the Democratic Party and for a war with Russia.  Locally, no other group has the resources to compete with them. …I’ve learned a valuable lesson, but a bit too late, I fear.  I naively thought that leftists could work in a united front with Democrats.  I thought that Democrats could be part of a broader coalition.  But, I underestimated the Democrats ability to co-opt the movement.”

I’ve received similar reports from other correspondents. One of my favorite ones comes from South Florida, where an Indivisible chapter invited as a speaker its notorious right-wing corporate-Democratic Congressperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz – an arch-neoliberal Democrat who led the rigging of the primaries against Sanders as Democratic National Committee chair and who has openly pledged allegiance to big money campaign donors over single-payer health insurance. As Florida progressive Taylor Raines reported last May 2nd, “not only did this group invite one of the most divisive women in liberal politics to speak at their meeting, but they openly prepared to silence dissent by banning signs, and promptly removed protestors who spoke up against her.” Any angry Floridian who had the accurate audacity to note that Wasserman-Schultz wing of the Democratic Party essentially elected Trump (Sanders would likely have defeated the orange-tinted beast) was evicted from the gathering – in the name of “one nation, under God, Indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Such testimony jibes with my experience in and around the bright-blue campus town of Iowa City, where an initial upsurge of popular protest at Trump’s election and inauguration collapsed in the spring as Russiagate took hold on CNN and MSNBC and in the New York Times and Washington Post. The local academic-professional class headed off on to their annual summer European vacations secure in the belief that those great progressive heroes the FBI and CIA and their corporate media allies would join with such left people’s champions as Charles Schumer and Nancy (“we’re capitalist and that’s just the way it is”) Pelosi would soon remove the Trump regime.

That’s the Inauthentic Opposition Party (IOP) doing its job, a central part of which is functioning as a the “graveyard of social movements” – a role it plays even better when it is out of office than when it’s in.

“You’re Toast … in 2020”

One thing that is particularly jarring about “Indivisible” is its claim to be non-partisan and beyond electoral politics when it clearly represents the reigning right and neoliberal wing of the Democratic Party and is gearing “progressive” energies for the Congressional and presidential election cycles.

I would not be surprised to learn that Indivisible or some other one of the Astroturf Democratic Party entities posting as grassroots movement recently put an angry citizen in a Town Hall meeting to finish his denunciation of Republicans’ attempt to repeal Obamacare with the following threat to a GOP Senator: “pack your bags, you’re toast in 2020” – when voters, the outraged citizen hopes, will put in a dismal dollar Democrat. In 2020? God how the election cycle rules consciousness – with its absurdly holy elevation of two minutes spent marking ballots for a narrowly pre-selected group of ruling class candidates. People need to connect with Chomsky and Zinn’s call for movements that “shake…the society to its foundations” (Chomsky) and compel “whoever is in the White House, in Congress” to “chang[e] national policy on matters of war and social justice.”

At least that bitter armed lunatic James T. Hodgkinson – an epitome of the feckless and self-destructive rebellion that often occurs without attachment to a real popular movement – tried to make some vicious right-wing Congressmen (and one Tyson Foods lobbyist) into toast in the present moment, not three years from now. He had the wrong method but at least he fell off the election cycle trap.

Tres Cerdos Grandes

The major party confusion and related electoral obsession carries across national boundaries. Nobody made bigger fools out of themselves over the fake-progressive and fake-peacemaker promise of Barack Obama in 2008 than the Western Europeans. It was awesome to see Roger Waters brilliantly and epically skewer the nativist piggy-nesh of Trump before no less than 300,000 people in Mexico City’s Zocalo Square last October, one month before the 2016 elections. The masses roared their approval as a giant Trump pig-blimp floated above the crowd and a colossal video-screen flashed images of Trump in drag and put up Spanish translations of some of the “Charade’s” more absurd statements. But we might recall that it was the Democratic presidency of the neoliberal globalist uber-cerdo por excelencia Bill Clinton who mercilessly assaulted Mexican campesinos with the North American so called Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Bill Clinton then joined with the Republicans to begin construction of a great Wall on the southern U.S. border to stem the flow north of desperate economic refugees. And it was “free trade” Hillary Clinton who as Secretary of State sponsored the right-wing business coup that overthrew a democratically elected populist government in Honduras, which deepened misery in that nation to the point where tens of thousands of “unaccompanied minors” piled up on Mexico’s southern border three summers ago – a crisis that continues to his day.

“We’re Dying Out Here…Enough with Russia!”

Even with Trump in the White House, the IOP’s fake-progressive charade is now facing popular push-back. The Democrats and their many corporate media allies and faux peoples’ “movement” (led by Indivisible) have advanced an all-too easy and convenient explanation for their epic electoral decline: it isn’t about the dismal, dollar-drenched neoliberal inauthenticity of their purported progressivism, it’s because of Russia and its dastardly chief Putin. The bear ate their homework. So what if there’s been no real evidence of relevant Russian interference in “our” purported “great democracy”? It was just too irresistible to the DDDs: Russiagate was designed by Democratic Party elites (including John Podesta) from the night of Hillary Clinton’s epic electoral fail to take the heat off the IOP’s corporate and professional class nothingness and place all the blame for their outward “failure” (the “lying losers” continue to be very well paid for their sell-out – ask Obama) on a demonized foreign Other. It was crafted, among other things, to shut-down the progressive challenge within their own party

But now they’ve gone too far in playing the Russia card, perhaps.

The mad neo-McCarthyite Moscow obsession has moved them too far off issues that any self-respecting Left or even self-respecting liberal Opposition would be fighting on: racism, racist voter suppression (which may have elected Trump, by the way), the police and prison state. immigrant rights, economic exploitation and inequality, sexism, environmental ruination – stuff like that. According to the Washington political journal The Hill, “Frustrated Democrats hoping to elevate their election fortunes have a resounding message for party leaders: Stop talking so much about Russia,…rank-and-file Democrats say the Russia-Trump narrative is simply a non-issue with district voters, who are much more worried about bread-and-butter economic concerns like jobs, wages and the cost of education and healthcare.” Imagine that. As the left writer Craig Gordon notes, the Democrats ae pissing in the wind of Russiagate while millions of ordinary working- and middle-class Americans are screaming like Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon “Hey, I’m Dying Over Here…enough with Putin and Russia, we can’t afford health care…our jobs are in the tank.”

Russiagate, it appears, may have been something of a xenophobic conspiracy trap for the Democrats themselves. Not that they care. The money keeps rolling in. Ask Obama, who is regularly rubbing progressives’ face in the dirt and giving FOX News and Brietbart new talking points with his relentless big cash-in, telling us all that “nothing says Show Me the Money like POTUS on your resume.”

“Ordinary Citizens Have No Influence”

Just what “great American democracy” was it that the IOP’s bet noire Vladimir Putin supposedly intervened against, anyway? This is an ever more openly oligarchic nation where: the top tenth of the upper 1 Percent owns as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent; 15 million children – 21% of all U.S. children – live at less than the federal government’s notoriously inadequate poverty level (more than 1 in 10 U.S. children ages 0-9 is living at less than half that level); half the population is poor or near-poor and without assets; millions drink from poisoned water systems; an imperial military devours more than half of all discretionary federal spending and accounts for nearly half the world’s military spending; more people are incarcerated (in extremely racially disproportionate ways) than in any nation in history (a curious achievement for the self-described homeland and headquarters of “liberty”); a deeply entrenched corporate and financial sector is leading the world over the environmental cliff through the championing of endless growth and attendant “anthropogenic” (really capitalogenic) climate destruction. A recent Harvard University survey finds that 51 percent than half of U.S. Millennials (18-to-29-year-olds) “do not support capitalism,” intimately related to Harvard’s finding that half of the cohort thinks “the American Dream is dead” for them.

You don’t have to be a Leftist radical like the present writer to know that the United States’ political order is a corporate and financial plutocracy. Just ask the establishment liberal political scientists Martin Gilens (Princeton) and Benjamin Page (Northwestern). Over the past three plus decades, these leading academic researchers determined three years ago, U.S. political system has functioned as “an oligarchy,” where wealthy elites and their corporations “rule.” Examining data from more than 1,800 different policy initiatives in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, Gilens and Page found that wealthy and well-connected elites consistently steer the direction of the country, regardless of and against the will of the U.S. majority and irrespective of which major party holds the White House and/or Congress.  “The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy,” Gilens and Page wrote, “while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.” As Gilens explained to the liberal online journal Talking Points Memo three years ago, “ordinary citizens have virtually no influence over what their government does in the United States.”
The Kremlin didn’t do that. U.S. capitalism did that.

The Main Left Deficit

Am I recommending that people vote for the IOP, he DDDs, in 2018 and 2020? No, not really. I can’t tell people to do something I’ve never been able to do (well, except once, 2004, the first time I ever voted in a contested state). And I realize that my clever and dialectical if somewhat half-hearted argument for Dems in office doesn’t really apply to foreign policy, intimately related to domestic oppression here in the “homeland” (a lovely imperial term). Let’s get down to the “serious political action” Chomsky referred to 13 years ago – to movement-building beneath and beyond the quadrennial electoral spectacles. It’s all rather moot in the absence of a real and serious grassroots Left in this country. The building of such a Left, it seems to me, is a project and task far closer to our real “sphere of influence” than the alternating problem of which of the two major-party wings hold most of the nation’s elected offices.

In the year marking the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, it is worth remembering that Lenin’s famous 1902 pamphlet What is to be Done? said nothing either on reforms under capitalism (or under Russian Tsarist rule) or on what an alternative, post-capitalist society might look like. It was focused entirely on the question of revolutionary organization: how to build such institutions and what they should look like.

The top thing missing in “The [U.S.] Left” (where is it, really?) isn’t a positive policy agenda or a vision of an alternative society. The main deficit is institutional and organizational.

This gap must be addressed in what is still the world’s most powerful and destructive capitalist state, in a time when five absurdly rich people now possess as much wealth as the bottom half of humanity and the U.S.-headquartered global profits system is speeding humanity to a lethal, Antarctic-dissolving 500 carbon parts per million by 2050 if not sooner. It’s “socialism or barbarism if we’re lucky” at this stage of capitalist ecocide. “The uncomfortable truth,” Istvan Meszaros rightly argued 15 years ago, “is that if there is no future for a radical mass movement in our time, there can be no future for humanity itself.”