Category Archives: articles 2015

Bondage Scandal: Looking Beneath the Surface

When I shook hands with Eric Greitens following the 2016 debate for Missouri Governor, none of us on the Green team imagined that, a year before, he had tied a woman up, blindfolded her, undressed her, photographed her and warned that he would release the photo if she ever said what happened.  The story made local and US news on January 11, 2018 when the now-Governor Greitens followed his “State of the State” address with an admission that he had had an affair, that he and his wife had come to terms with it, and they wanted to get on with their lives.

He failed to mention whether the “affair” included bondage and sexual blackmail.  During and following Donald Trump’s ascendency to the white house there had been a year of non-stop sex scandals in the US and a story had to be beyond the pale to make the headlines in early 2018.  The Missouri governor’s scandal hit that mark.

The woman was Greiten’s hair stylist in 2015, when he asked her to his home.  After an erotic chit-chat he invited her to his basement for a “real thrill.”  There, he allegedly taped her wrists to exercise equipment and began undressing her.  In a report from her husband, who secretly taped her confession, she had not objected to anything at that point.  But she said she became terrified when seeing a camera flash from edges of the tape covering her eyes and heard the threat “You’re never going to mention my name, otherwise this picture will be everywhere.”

The next month Greitens announced his interest in running for state-wide office.  As the campaign for governor intensified, the woman texted him to not come to her hair salon any more.  The Republican Greitens was elected on the Trump wave that swept Democrats out of Missouri’s capitol.

During the campaign Greitens had condemned the practice of having secret financial contributors and promised that people would always know where his money came from.  In office, Greiten’s demeanor turned on a dime and the press turned on him.  The new governor had stashed away millions in “dark money” from unidentified sources and reporters pressed him to specify its origins.  He responded by avoiding them and refusing to release his daily schedules so reporters would not know where to find him.

Outraged by his secrecy and condescending treatment, local press was not about to let him keep running away when they heard of the tie-blindfold-photograph episode.  The press was not the only group who the Republican had antagonized.

Though not covered in recent TV and print media, Greitens had led the charge against labor.  The new legislature passed the bogus “right to work” law, allowing people to benefit from union gains without paying union dues.  The other barrel of his anti-labor shotgun took aim at the recently won increase in wages in the City of St. Louis with a law prohibiting municipalities from having minimum wages above the state minimum.  (The anti-labor cabal, incidentally, has yet to explain why local control by municipalities is bad if local control by states is so wonderful.)

Greitens was associated with Trump’s racism since his exposure happened the same day that Trump sneered at immigrants from Africa and “shithole countries” like Haiti, preferring white immigrants from countries like Norway.  But political reality can be very different in Missouri.

In September 2014, Michael Brown was killed with his “Hands Up!” by cop Darren Wilson,  The very next month Democratic Governor Jay Nixon reflected the state’s racism by refusing clemency for death row inmate Earl Ringo.  Ringo was sentenced to death because his robbery partner testified against him in exchange for a life sentence.  Despite hostility ripping through the St. Louis community, Nixon never considered the possibility of easing tension by commuting the death sentence of a black man convicted by an all-white jury before a white prosecutor and a white judge.

As the death sentence was being carried out, another Democrat, St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch massaged the grand jury system to ensure that the white cop would face no charges for murdering a black man, Michael Brown.

Fast forward three years to August 2017.  Greitens had been in office for less than a year when he granted a stay of execution to Marcellus Williams, a black man convicted of killing a white reporter.  There was no physical evidence that Williams was involved in the murder and unidentified DNA was found on the weapon, suggesting another potential perpetrator.  Ignoring the fact that testimony was from two felons – a previous girlfriend and a cellmate – who would each receive a $10,000 reward, the same Prosecutor Bob McCulloch publicly denounced Greitens’ stay.

The Democrat who made sure there would be no consequences for a white cop killing an unarmed black man expressed outrage that a black man would have his case reopened instead of being killed.  So, take your pick of which atrocity was more atrocious – a Republican degrading a women or a Democrat’s death wish toward black men.

Nor is Greitens’ hatred of unions so unambiguously distinct from attacks by Democrats.  Without question, Greitens is doing everything possible to undermine working people’s ability to defend themselves.  But in 2015, his future Democratic Party opponent, Chris Koster, was key in advocating the “Right to Farm” Missouri constitutional amendment.  Its definition of “farmer” included big agricultural companies from across the globe, which would find it easier to edge out small farmers.  Meanwhile, Monsanto’s friend Hillary was pushing the Trans Pacific Partnership, which convinced huge numbers of Missouri farmers to vote for Trump.

Farmers saw Democrats chasing them with a finely tuned stiletto at the same time workers felt Greitens coming at them with a meat cleaver.  Again, take your pick.  A Democrat destroying the livelihood of farmers or a union-bashing Republican.

This is not to say that the two big money candidates were always on different sides of critical issues.  Both felt that guns were a vital part of TV ads during the 2016 campaign for Missouri Governor.  Greitens never let viewers forget that he was a former Navy SEAL and appeared with an automatic weapon just to make it clear that the best way to solve problems was to be ready to kill someone.

Would you think that a Republican showing his gun fetish daily on TV would be a shoo-in to get the endorsement of the National Rifle Association (NRA)?  If so, you would be wrong.  The Democrat Koster got the NRA nod, both due to his desire to expand “Stand Your Ground” laws (which allowed the 2012 murder of Trayvon Martin by neighborhood vigilante George Zimmerman in Florida) and because he supported laws permitting gun ownership without any training in how to use them.

The Democratic and Republican candidates had something else in common.  They both like to put a wet finger in the air to find out which way the wind is blowing.  Greitens was a Democrat who turned Republican and Koster is a former Republican who blossomed into a Democrat.  The party they choose depends on which group of people they feel they can manipulate votes from at what point in time.

Beneath the surface of meanness by the political elite are the needs of corporate masters who anoint them to be our leaders.  An essential characteristic of twenty-first century capitalism is unending war to complete the pillaging of resources from every corner of the Earth.  Those wars are best carried out by politicians who hate not just their opponents but everyone around them.  An economically destructive system encourages, molds and rewards those individuals who are most vile to their fellow humans.

Though Greitens is currently being investigated by St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, it is not  clear if criminal charges will be filed.  While local press are on his trail like a hound dog, the still unidentified woman who reports being tied up, photographed and blackmailed is currently protecting her identity by not pressing charges.  Missouri Republicans are saying it is “too early” to tell if the entire affair will blow over.  Greitens, who admits to an extramarital affair while denying taking a photo for blackmail, is going to each GOP legislator and personally apologizing for the Trump-like insults that he hurled at them during the first year of his reign.

Also disturbing is the revelation that before his election Greitens had reserved “Greitens for President” websites, revealing the ego-maniacal core of his soul.  Before the bondage scandal,  Republicans across the country were eyeing Greitens.  They could still end up thinking that someone who could escape prosecution for terrorizing a woman and glorify gun-toting and union-smashing would, in fact, have what it takes to be their man for the white house.

What could be more frightening?  It’s the possibility that Greitens would lose a presidential race to a Democrat who was worse.  Isn’t it time to put aside the fantasy that demonstrating the contemptible nature of a Republican somehow proves that a Democrat is “better?”

#Resist Co-opting “Shithole”

As the news broke on Thursday that Donald “Dingleberry” Trump called Haiti, African Nations, and El Salvador “shithole nations“, I couldn’t help but think “the liberals are coming, the liberals are coming, the liberals are coming”.

Sounding their trumpets for battle, their SWAT teams of political correctness (PC) would disseminate all over media and cultural landscapes of the United States. The battle they would be taking up would be about none other than themselves. Always remember this about bourgeois liberals. Saying what feels right is a completely different concept for them than doing the right thing. Actions always speak louder than words, and they my friends are full of words backed up with inaction.

I started to feel their PC SWAT teams advance into the media when I read a commentary from none other then Russiagate pusherand liberal champion Dan Rather. For Dan Rather this is the moment in history where America will be remembered as not so exceptional.

Rather commented, “Make no mistake, America is diminished today in the eyes of the world and in the eyes of history.”

America has been diminished and continues to be diminished not because it’s leaders call countries “shit”, it’s because they turn countries into shit. Like when liberal President, Barack Obama, dropped 26,171 bombs in the Middle East in 2016. This equates to dropping a bomb every 15 minutes for 24 hours a day.

This is the perfect example of the liberal words are more important than actions context.

Dan Rather’s response was the probable cause statement the liberal PC swat team needed to execute their search and seizure of the media landscape.

Our search begins with none other than Donald Trump’s airhead mouth piece, Tomi Lahren. Of course Lahren tweeted out her support of Trump’s “shithole” comment. She tweeted:

“If they aren’t shithole countries, why don’t their citizens stay there? Let’s be honest. Call it like it is.”

Numerous liberals lost their minds over this tweet, and it was at this point the PC SWAT team was unleashed. They unleashed their vitriol on Lahren by of course co-opting the term “shithole” and making it all about them.

#Resistance warrior, Kevin Sieff, responded by tweeting:

“Hey Tomi, Washington Post shithole bureau chief here. Love your foreign affairs reporting. Did you know there are 8.7 million Americans living overseas? Can’t imagine why they would leave home.”

Notice how Sieff co-opted the term and made it all about him and his associations? What Trump said had nothing to do with his employer, but Sieff had to make it personal for no reason. What makes this comment dangerous is it promotes the idea of calling everything a “shithole” and dismisses the true insult of Trump’s comment.

If liberals took Trump’s comment as an opportunity to reflect on what is happening in America they would realize what a shithead, Jeff Bezos, the owner of the Washington Post is.

Bezos, also owner of Amazon, just got done firing a bunch of seasonal employees now that the holidays are over. These seasonal employees are American nomads traveling from place to place to find temporary work. Many of them are in their sixth or seventh decade of life. And one of the many reasons for their seasonal labor intensive work was so Americans can get their new Amazon Alexa with prime (two day) shipping. It’s sad that many of the people that purchased “Alexa” will have more mindless conversations with her than an actual human being.

But now comes the moment where the PC SWAT team is enacting full control of the media domain. It’s the moment they declare their European ancestry and proclaim that their “insert European country here” was in fact too a “shithole” when either they or their relatives immigrated to the United States.

Sorry liberal European descendants this isn’t about you. In fact, it’s not about Europe either. It’s about Haitians, Africans, and Salvadorans. Making it about you dismisses them and the insult Dingleberry Trump hurled at them.

If you took time to travel into the “shithole” you would find the rectum, and what lays in the rectum is the backdrop to what this comment is really all about which is racism, classism, and Capitalism.

Once you examine these elements you come to a startling conclusion like CounterPunch Contributor Vince Emanuele does. As Emanuele puts it:

“Speaking of shithole countries:

Among industrialized nations, the United States enjoys the highest poverty rate, both generally and for children; the greatest inequality of incomes; the lowest government spending as a percentage of GDP on social programs for the disadvantaged; lowest number of days of paid holiday, annual leaves, and maternity leaves; second lowest social mobility rate; highest infant mortality rate; highest prevalence of mental-health problems; highest obesity rate; and the highest consumption of anti-depressants per capita. The U.S. has the third-shortest life expectancy at birth; the largest international arms sales; largest military budget; third-lowest scores for student performance in math and science; second highest high school drop out rate; highest homicide rate; and the largest prison population in the world.”

This analysis by Emanuele demonstrates Capitalism oppresses the many to uplift the few, this is exactly what is occurring right now in the United States.

When you take a bigger look at this system it’s even more to the extreme in other countries. 70% of people on the planet live on ten dollars a day or less. 69 of the 100 largest economies in the world are corporations, while a measly 31 belong to countries. Wal-Mart has the 10th largest gdp in the world and ranks ahead of countries like Australia, India, and South Korea.

Those that are living under ten dollars a day mainly reside in other countries that are mostly made up of black and brown people. They are the ones mining rare minerals for our technology. They are the ones in the factories assembling our products. The power these countries they reside in pales in comparison to the power of numerous corporations and their tentacles that are spread out throughout the globe. This is what keeps their wages low, working conditions unsafe, and working hours long.

Racism, classism, and Capitalism have made their skid marks all over the planet. This is what is devouring the living planet and will lead to us devouring each other in the near distant future if we do not address these items.

So next time you see a PC SWAT team liberal making Trump’s ideology all about them, tell them to take that crap somewhere else. Only us that are the true progressives and leftists can shift the conversation to where it needs to go. So many times we have centered these conversations around self and immigration. We need to take the conversation to the real issues that are shitting on people all over this world. Racism, classism, and Capitalism.

And if they do not want engage or dismiss you on these issues then instead ask them to talk to “Alexa” about the 2018 Academy Awards. Maybe “Alexa” will tell them this theme for the award show will be to dress in shit colored designer tuxedos and gowns to combat the age of Trump.

 

Trump Isn’t Unique

President Trump is under fire and we’re all shocked shocked SHOCKED that his shithole mouth called the (predominantly black) nations of Africa “shitholes,” helpfully comparing them to (predominantly blonde) Norway to make sure nobody missed the point. To drive home just how pissed off people are about this (and rightly so), Trump’s shithole comment overshadowed news that the government accidentally told the citizens of Hawaii they were about to get nuked. As George W. Bush would say, that’s some weird shit.

This is a big deal unless you’re reading this more than a few days after this writing, at which point Trump will have raised more hell with some new idiotic utterance that makes us forget about this one.

Speaking of hell-raising: I managed to raise a few social-media hackles recently when I posted the following: “I honestly don’t understand why people are so depressed about Trump. Policy-wise, he isn’t much different than Obama. Trump is truth in advertising: he is an asshole, our country acts like an asshole. No need for phony smiles, PC rhetoric.”

This led to a discussion comparing Trump not just to Obama, but other American presidents. There were lots of great comments. Still, I was struck by something that few people seem to be aware of — America’s rich history of presidential assholery. Given how wicked smart my readers are, I was surprised to hear some of them refer favorably to Trump’s predecessors.

Trump is a thieving, lying turd. In that respect, he is as presidential as it gets. Going back to Day One, the United States has been led by white males behaving badly.

Trump gets attacked for using the presidency to line his pockets, and rightfully so. Yet The Donald has nothing on the Father of Our Country.

George Washington was worth more than half a billion in today’s dollars — riches he accumulated in large part by exploiting his political influence to loot federal coffers. He joined the Masons, married well, scored a few lucky inheritances and invested the loot in real estate along what was then the Colonies’ western frontier in Indian territory that he came across as a young land surveyor.

GW’s acreage was on the wrong side of the Appalachian mountains — but not for long. Talk about conflict of interest: as commander of the revolutionary army and president, he promoted settlement of the west by whites that pumped up the value of his early investments. The fact that those whites were engaged in genocide bothered Washington not one whit.

Even on the Left, some Americans point to Lincoln as an pillar of moral rectitude. But Honest Abe suspended the ancient writ of habeas corpus; in 2006, a militaristic asshole named George W. Bush relied on Lincoln’s 1863 precedent to abolish it altogether.

Since nothing in the Constitution bans secession, Southern states enjoyed the legal right to leave the Union. Defying the Constitution, Lincoln went to war — illegally — to bring them back. Not only was the Civil War a bloodbath, it left us with a nation that remains politically and culturally fractured to this day. Blacks were 13% of the population of the Confederacy. Had Lincoln chosen peace, a slave uprising might have brought down the Old South — and killed a lot of racists.

Lincoln cheated in the 1864 election by playing both sides of the secession. To justify the war, he claimed the breakaway states were still part of the Union, yet didn’t count Southern electoral votes because they would have cost him reelection.

You name the president, I’ll name at least one unforgiveable sin.

FDR? The New Deal was a grand achievement. But if trying to stack the Supreme Court isn’t impeachable, what is? When World War II broke out, Roosevelt played footsie with Vichy France while snubbing the Resistance. He turned away Jewish refugees and refused to bomb the Nazi infrastructure used to murder Jews. He dragged his feet taking on Hitler so that the Soviet Union would take the brunt of Nazi savagery.

Folks are already saying: “Barack Obama will be inducted into the league of Great Presidents.” Obama, most Democrats have already forgotten, broke his promise to try for a “public option” in the Affordable Care Act. He went on languid vacations while the global economy was collapsing, handed trillions to bankers no strings attached and did nothing to help the unemployed and people whose homes were stolen by the banks. And he slaughtered thousands of innocent civilians with drones — people who represented zero threat to anyone — just for fun.

If that’s a great president, give me a shitty one.

Trump Isn’t Unique

President Trump is under fire and we’re all shocked shocked SHOCKED that his shithole mouth called the (predominantly black) nations of Africa “shitholes,” helpfully comparing them to (predominantly blonde) Norway to make sure nobody missed the point. To drive home just how pissed off people are about this (and rightly so), Trump’s shithole comment overshadowed news that the government accidentally told the citizens of Hawaii they were about to get nuked. As George W. Bush would say, that’s some weird shit.

This is a big deal unless you’re reading this more than a few days after this writing, at which point Trump will have raised more hell with some new idiotic utterance that makes us forget about this one.

Speaking of hell-raising: I managed to raise a few social-media hackles recently when I posted the following: “I honestly don’t understand why people are so depressed about Trump. Policy-wise, he isn’t much different than Obama. Trump is truth in advertising: he is an asshole, our country acts like an asshole. No need for phony smiles, PC rhetoric.”

This led to a discussion comparing Trump not just to Obama, but other American presidents. There were lots of great comments. Still, I was struck by something that few people seem to be aware of — America’s rich history of presidential assholery. Given how wicked smart my readers are, I was surprised to hear some of them refer favorably to Trump’s predecessors.

Trump is a thieving, lying turd. In that respect, he is as presidential as it gets. Going back to Day One, the United States has been led by white males behaving badly.

Trump gets attacked for using the presidency to line his pockets, and rightfully so. Yet The Donald has nothing on the Father of Our Country.

George Washington was worth more than half a billion in today’s dollars — riches he accumulated in large part by exploiting his political influence to loot federal coffers. He joined the Masons, married well, scored a few lucky inheritances and invested the loot in real estate along what was then the Colonies’ western frontier in Indian territory that he came across as a young land surveyor.

GW’s acreage was on the wrong side of the Appalachian mountains — but not for long. Talk about conflict of interest: as commander of the revolutionary army and president, he promoted settlement of the west by whites that pumped up the value of his early investments. The fact that those whites were engaged in genocide bothered Washington not one whit.

Even on the Left, some Americans point to Lincoln as an pillar of moral rectitude. But Honest Abe suspended the ancient writ of habeas corpus; in 2006, a militaristic asshole named George W. Bush relied on Lincoln’s 1863 precedent to abolish it altogether.

Since nothing in the Constitution bans secession, Southern states enjoyed the legal right to leave the Union. Defying the Constitution, Lincoln went to war — illegally — to bring them back. Not only was the Civil War a bloodbath, it left us with a nation that remains politically and culturally fractured to this day. Blacks were 13% of the population of the Confederacy. Had Lincoln chosen peace, a slave uprising might have brought down the Old South — and killed a lot of racists.

Lincoln cheated in the 1864 election by playing both sides of the secession. To justify the war, he claimed the breakaway states were still part of the Union, yet didn’t count Southern electoral votes because they would have cost him reelection.

You name the president, I’ll name at least one unforgiveable sin.

FDR? The New Deal was a grand achievement. But if trying to stack the Supreme Court isn’t impeachable, what is? When World War II broke out, Roosevelt played footsie with Vichy France while snubbing the Resistance. He turned away Jewish refugees and refused to bomb the Nazi infrastructure used to murder Jews. He dragged his feet taking on Hitler so that the Soviet Union would take the brunt of Nazi savagery.

Folks are already saying: “Barack Obama will be inducted into the league of Great Presidents.” Obama, most Democrats have already forgotten, broke his promise to try for a “public option” in the Affordable Care Act. He went on languid vacations while the global economy was collapsing, handed trillions to bankers no strings attached and did nothing to help the unemployed and people whose homes were stolen by the banks. And he slaughtered thousands of innocent civilians with drones — people who represented zero threat to anyone — just for fun.

If that’s a great president, give me a shitty one.

Democrats and the End(s) of Politics

Photo by Carlos Pacheco | CC BY 2.0


Capitalism Trumps Democracy

A paradox at the intersection of capitalism and representative democracy is that under capitalism every person represents their own interests. The King of Versailles (Donald Trump) illustrates this tendency most straightforwardly amongst modern political leadership. But the paradox is systemic, not personal. And the question that follows is: which is to be shedded, capitalism or democracy?

The bourgeois tendency of conflating technocracy with intelligence is itself profoundly anti-democratic. Technocracy is manufactured social complexity, capitalist bureaucracy as ethos. And bourgeois loathing is technocracy confronted by the logic that drives it. In this sense, Donald Trump is the veil ripped away, the existential predicament locked in a strip mall in suburbia with only the detritus of its own creation for companionship.

Graph: political rhetoric that poses Democrats and Republicans as ideological adversaries is challenged by shared policies to make the rich richer. Donald Trump’s regressive tax cuts serve the same constituency that benefited from Barack Obama’s bank bailouts. Source: Emmanuel Saez.

Against any preponderance of human history that might be proffered: war + fucking + art, etc., the notion of cosmic intelligence that has form as the business meeting, the spreadsheet and the PowerPoint presentation is amongst the least probable. What is so deeply frightening about Donald Trump, his predecessors and likely successors, is the form and logic of ‘how’ laboring under the illusion that it serves some higher logic.

Put differently, who precisely was ‘saved’ when the banks were bailed out in 2009? Donald Trump’s fortunes were most certainly revived. So were the Koch Brothers’. And who are these wise leaders that Barack Obama was modernizing the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal for? Speculate as you will, but Mr. Trump is the man who currently occupies this position. So which is the fool, Mr. Trump or the people who created the power he now holds?

Politicking

In late 2002 and early 2003 George W. Bush effectively sold a blunderous, murderous and ill-fated war against Iraq to the American people. He did so by presenting fake evidence using ‘useful idiots’ at the Washington Post and New York Times to give it ‘independent’ credence. Polls taken at the time reflected the effect this fake news had on garnering public enthusiasm for the War.

Contrast this with Bill Clinton’s poll-based ‘micro-democracy’ where Mr. Clinton took up Ronald Reagan’s major talking points as they were regurgitated to pollsters by the polity. In fact, the seeds of ‘Reaganism’ had been planted in the early 1970s in what has come to look like a neo-capitalist coup. If Mr. Reagan could sell Reaganism, why couldn’t Mr. Clinton sell its antidote?

Graph: in the late 1970s the manufactured crisis of ‘stagflation’ was used to discard the New Deal in favor of neoliberalism. Carter appointee Paul Volcker raised interest rates to nosebleed levels to end inflation that resulted from U.S. geopolitical maneuvers. The practical effect was to crush American labor, begin the process of moving U.S. manufacturing overseas and launch the ascendance of finance. The ‘Reagan Miracle’ began the minute Mr. Volcker lowered interest rates. Source: St. Louis Federal Reserve.

Later, when it came to Wall Street bailouts and Obamacare, Barack Obama favored closed door meetings with industry insiders where ‘deals’ that effectively guaranteed them profits were framed to convince the public that these were the best outcomes that could ‘pragmatically’ be expected. ‘Pragmatism’ here served as a rhetorical bridge between the public interest and the policies that were implemented. Technocratic competence found its true calling.

The ‘innovation’ added by Donald Trump is the explicitly anti-technocratic ‘it’s all bullshit anyway’ business-ism that once payment has been secured, it doesn’t matter if the product sold really ‘works.’ In like fashion, even after the social catastrophes of the Clinton’s programs became too evident to avoid, they were only reconsidered by candidate (Hillary) Clinton as a means of getting from here to there (elected).

A paradox of the Democrats’ ‘pragmatism’ is that there would be little by way of organized opposition to policies in the public interest if their effort to make the rich richer had not been so successful. The so-called economic debacle of ‘stagflation’ during Jimmy Carter’s presidency was a set-up. Carter appointee Paul Volcker intentionally caused the (then) worst recession since the Great Depression. The ‘Reagan miracle’ began when Mr. Volcker stopped causing recession.

In theory, any national Democrat could challenge the neoliberal orthodoxy ‘proven’ to work by Mr. Reagan and take bold political programs directly to the people. However, Democrats (Bill) Clinton and Obama both proceeded from defensive assertions that carefully selected ‘facts’ precluded them from accomplishing anything but Republican objectives. ‘Pragmatism’ linked technocracy to its embedded goals in the service capitalist (not capital) accumulation.

The canard of ‘the Federal budget deficit’ (the U.S. has a fiat money system) allowed Mr. Clinton to pass the unfinished programs of the ‘Reagan Revolution’— cutting welfare, deregulating the banks, militarizing the police, etc., while foregoing his promised increase in social spending. The economic debacle begun in 2007 allowed Barack Obama to richly reward his top campaign contributors while leaving those who lives were diminished by them to their own devices.

The current strategy of blaming Russia for Ms. Clinton’s 2016 loss has apparently been reduced to putting the ‘Steele’ dossier, commissioned and paid for by the Clinton campaign, forward as potential grounds for ‘compromising’ Donald Trump. What Democrats don’t yet appear to understand is that if there were a video of women urinating on Donald Trump in a Moscow hotel room he would be selling autographed copies of it on the internet and giving them out as holiday gifts.

More to the point, some fair number of Americans no doubt see Wall Street and the broad edifice of American capitalism as every bit the threat to democracy that bourgeois Democrats claim Russia is. How then is the Democrats’ choice to promote the neoliberal orthodoxy by working to further enrich its cloistered, kleptocratic proponents ‘pragmatic’ if winning elections is their goal? The question then is: is winning elections really their goal? And if so, why?

The Democrats’ failure of political understanding regarding Mr. Trump isn’t that voters are crass (deplorable?) but rather that conflating technocracy with intelligence and sophistication confuses style with substance. Donald Trump is the prototypical, iconic if you will, beneficiary of the national Democrats’ policies. As was said of George W. Bush, Mr. Trump was born on third base but believes he hit a home run. But if he is undeserving of the Democrats’ largesse, who precisely, are the deserving kleptocrats?

Despite the heated rhetoric, Donald Trump’s policies are nearly identical to those of the national Democrats. That Democratic Party loyalists claim great differences suggests first and foremost that they know next to nothing about the policies they claim to support. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama may not have been casual with racist blather the way that Mr. Trump is, but their policies were (so far) more effectively vicious than anything that Donald Trump has done as president.

It is in some fair measure the refusal by liberals and progressives to hold Democrats to account for their policies that renders current protestations against Mr. Trump ineffective. As one who regularly travels between classes, the poor and disenfranchised are every bit as intelligent as educated technocrats and they tend to be more resourceful because they have to be. So imagine for a moment that people with whom you may disagree politically are as smart as you are but find themselves living in radically different circumstances.

As the old and new Gilded Ages have demonstrated, the benefits of neo-capitalism accrue narrowly while the detriments are widely distributed. A few people benefit from bank bailouts, trade deals, climate crisis, the immiseration of labor and the use of public resources for private gain. But the overwhelming preponderance of humanity exists on the losing end. The ‘winners’ in this system are the donor class for both of the American capitalist Parties. The National Democrats need to answer: what sort of psycho / sociopath wants to be a ‘winner’ in such circumstances?

Killing Floor: the Business of Animal Slaughter

Photo by Matthias Ripp | CC BY 2.0

We saw them peer out from between the slats of tightly packed trucks as they were steered through town. Often when lorries slowed at a road crossing, groups of children – myself among them – hung on to the rear for a free ride (a risky street game we called ‘going for a hudgie’), but the idea of hanging on to a slaughterhouse truck filled us with revulsion. As city kids, our view of farm animals was filtered through the misty lens of Disney, but anyone could see the slaughterhouse run was wrong. Given the chance, we would most definitely have sprung our gentle friends free to roam the streets and our imagination: cows, pigs, chickens – the lot.

They were terrified in those rattling high-sided vehicles; mothers were separated from their young, and some gave birth in the cramped conditions of the truck itself. It was not unusual for a litter to be born and trampled in transit, and for some to slip through the slats as a bolus of blood and flaccid flesh; we once saw a newborn piglet slide out onto the tarmac in Saltmarket, but were unable to find out if it was alive before it was crushed under heavy traffic.

There were three places involved in animal slaughter close to where I grew up in Glasgow Cross, and I routinely passed each on my route to school. Every morning, after stepping over heaps of rotting fish heads bulging with maggots in the Briggait fish market, I passed the poultry processing plant where I witnessed the slaughter of a seemingly endless line of roughly handled and severely distressed chickens. Shackled by the neck on an automated conveyor rail, the ones who missed the chance to have their throat cut were scalded alive. The stench was awful, and I held my breath when I passed.

Cattle were killed in Calton, the slaughterhouse I passed on my way to secondary school. I was never inside, but once, when my older brother was in the fire service, his unit was called out to this dismal place in the middle of the night. A fire had broken out in one of the offices, and remained there, but smoke filled the building, and he was forced to wade through it in full breathing apparatus. The smoke was intermittently illuminated by two large, dizzying red lights at the far end of the killing floor that flared in tandem with the long, pulsing blasts of the alarm. He cautiously walked towards them, gripping a metal rail for support. In those unreal moments of red visibility he saw carcasses, hewn, hacked and hooked on rails, sprays of blood across the walls, and blood pools on the stone floor. He had been walking through those blood pools. Finding charred bodies by the blocked fire exits of old warehouses, and in overcrowded tenement slums, he often caught a glimpse of hell – Glasgow East was the busiest fire station in Europe – but the walk across the killing floor could have been the entrance to that hell. It was a walk that would haunt him.

I never saw inside the Calton slaughterhouse other than through the eyes of my brother – understandably, business managers are usually quite keen to conceal the carnage from the wider public – but from people in the neighbourhood I gained an insight into what passed for humane slaughter behind those sinister arched gates. I learned about death, dealt out on an industrial scale and devoid of compassion, of the agony animals endured as part of the slaughter routine, and of the banal brutality carried out to enliven the boredom of the killing floor – a range of unspeakable cruelties invented solely for the purpose of entertainment.

On one occasion, I remember, a bullock bolted at the slaughterhouse entrance and along the Gallowgate. Like a mindless mob captivated by the sport of a slave running for his life, people carrying beers poured out of pubs to merge with a bulging crowd of amused spectators spilling over the edge of the pavements. They laughed as the desperate animal weaved its way through the traffic, and they mocked the uniformed police officers and slaughterhouse workers giving chase on foot. I saw the look on the faces of the crowd, apparently numb to the animal’s panic and its frantic efforts to be free. A local newspaper covered the story by way of light relief, reporting that after a few hours, and several miles, a cow was brought along to lure the bullock towards a ramp and into a cattle truck. Far from relaying the gruesome horror that lay in store, the article carried the hint of a happy ending. In reality, once rendered ‘manageable’ – at best, stunned – the bullock would be hoisted into the air by a chain attached to the ankle of one of its hind legs, and it would be cut open at the throat, whereupon its entire body would convulse violently for the last few moments of its life as the heart pumped blood out onto the stone floor. It is also likely the cow and the bullock would be slaughtered in view of each other – a common feature of the killing floor, and somewhat disturbing given research findings from de Waal and Preston that suggest food animals experience that one characteristic above all others that defines our humanity: empathy.

The bullock’s death, audited against a baseline measure of key efficiency indicators, would meet favourably the performance criteria of any quality management system used in slaughterhouses today. Above all, this kind of killing (the industry-preferred euphemism is ‘processing’), would be considered humane – a concept that, by definition, means to show compassion. Many people have come to accept the legitimacy of the words humane and killing in the same breath: the right to die with dignity, to end unremitting suffering, to release organs for transplant from someone in a permanent vegetative state. Death on any other grounds crosses a line. Yet questions about compassion are rarely raised within the exigencies of the meat and dairy industry – a collection of businesses driven by the desire to maximise profit from the ‘processing’ of caring, breathing, thinking things that have the capacity to suffer and a longing to live.

With the exception of India, where thirty percent of the population are vegetarian, the vast majority of people in almost every country in the world, around ninety percent, eat meat and dairy products. From this it is reasonable to infer that people do in fact believe it is acceptable for businesses to own, breed, castrate, fatten and kill animals for profit. A majority, of course, does not make it right – one need only consider widespread support for slavery, ethnic cleansing or capital punishment. Somewhat encouragingly, there are signs of a shift in public opinion, with a growing number of people asking for animal slaughter to be carried out as humanely as possible. This raises the question of where we draw the line between humane and inhumane. Given the tools of the trade – knives, saws, hammers, electricity, chains and hooks – might it be more humane to gas them in the very trucks in which they are transported from farm to city? Or if there might be a concern with the carcasses being spoiled in transit – either for food or skin-based products – might it be more efficient to lead them at the point of arrival into chambers to be gassed en masse? The parallel with human atrocities may be disturbing, but it is reasonable to ask whether the rationality underlying the selective slaughter of animals – on a continuum from pets to food animals – is any different to the rationality underlying the extermination of human populations in the camps. (It is perhaps worthy of note that gas is increasingly, and somewhat horrifyingly, being used to kill pigs, as shown in this link. Warning: it is disturbing).

Morality is at the heart of the matter. As a child, I found it difficult to draw the distinction between martyred saints and murdered animals. My teacher was eager to convey the distressing story of St. Andrew, the patron saint of our country, who was dismembered with a hatchet – his hands and feet first – whilst conscious on an X-shaped cross. It was equally distressing to learn that the dismemberment of conscious animals was a regular occurrence in the Calton slaughterhouse. If animals survived the overcrowded journey from farm to killing floor – the stress, dehydration, heat exhaustion or freezing conditions – they were then beaten, broken, scalded, skinned and dismembered. This is very much the character of the meat and dairy industry today, but on a far more rapid, intensive and inhumane scale.

With regard to the suffering of farm animals, the only reference I recall from those years growing up related to their unfortunate ability to sense approaching death. It was common knowledge that animals could suddenly change behaviour on being offloaded from the trucks into the slaughterhouse – seized by terror, they became frantic towards the last few minutes of their life – and it was not unusual for people to question how they could possibly know that they were about to be killed. The explanation going round was that their death instinct was aroused. This convenient justification, a form of denial, adjusted the focus from the blood spattered mayhem of the killing floor to that of an evolutionary quirk: a genetic defect that somehow enabled animals to sense their impending death.

Animals may well have some sort of psychic antennae, some mysterious means to transcend the known substance of this world, but it seems more likely that their hysteria on the approach to the slaughterhouse has its source in the stench of entrails and in the distress calls of fellow creatures being mutilated and dismembered a short distance away. The notion of a profound death instinct at once masks this reality and assuages guilt: it allows people to acknowledge a discrete form of animal suffering, and at the same time to dissociate from the animal’s dreadful ordeal – in short, it shifts the responsibility for suffering from humans to the animal itself. Viewed from this perspective, the problem is not our desire to consume animals, but their desire to live.

The idea of a death instinct on the part of inferior life forms, otherwise referred to as food animals, is reminiscent of the mindset prevalent among many psychiatrists in the mid-nineteenth century – men such as Doctor Samuel Cartwright, who observed the outbreak of a curious condition among black slaves: the impulse to be free. Having dreamed up a diagnosis (dubbed ‘drapetomania’), for this mental illness – an illness with clinical characteristics that included a persistent longing for freedom, mounting unhappiness, or even occasional sulkiness – Cartwright concocted a cure: pain. He recommended the afflicted slave be whipped until their back was raw, followed soon after by the application into the wounds of a chemical irritant to intensify the agony. It brought the desired result: this mental shackling didn’t cure the condition, but it helped control the outbreak, greatly reducing the compulsion on the part of slaves to break away from their masters.

As revealed by researchers such as Gail Eisnitz, a similar sort of logic prevails in slaughterhouses, where clubs or hammers are used to break the legs or spine of frantic animals in order to settle them down, and where cries of agony are addressed by cutting the animal’s vocal chords – especially when they get caught in the gate and are forced, fully conscious, to have their legs or head sawn off to speed up the line. And speed-up is very much the character of the slaughterhouse today, as increased efforts are made to meet the wholly unrealistic and unnecessary rise in global demand for meat – a rise that is monstrously resource intensive, environmentally damaging, and a major contributor to climate change. If not for reasons based on personal health, ethics or simply disgust, evidence suggests that becoming vegan is one of the most immediate and effective ways for an individual to reduce harmful emissions that affect climate change. Research by Peter Scarborough at the University of Oxford found that switching to a vegan diet – depending on the choices made for meat substitution – was a more realistic option for most people as a way of reducing carbon emissions than attempts at reduction within the areas of travel, such as driving or flying. The vegan diet, according to the research, cut the food-related carbon footprints by 60 per cent, saving the equivalent of 1.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.

Animal slaughter has an adverse impact on the climate, the quality of life in society, and our identity. The extent to which we are willing to accept animal exploitation, and to tolerate animal cruelty – increasingly the key feature of the industrially-paced slaughterhouse today – bears some influence on how we see ourselves and others. At a number of points along the continuum, for example, there are clear indications that animal cruelty is a predictor of human violence and crime. The dangers in this regard were raised in Counterpunch Magazine by the investigative health journalist, Martha Rosenberg, who found that criminologists and law enforcement officials were at last beginning to acknowledge what the anthropologist, Margaret Mead, declared back in 1964: “One of the most dangerous things that can happen to a child is to kill or torture an animal and get away with it.”

Rosenberg cites evidence that shows a relationship between animal cruelty and violent behaviour patterns, ranging from domestic beatings, to murder and mass killings. According to Rosenberg, what Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer, Devin Kelley (the Texas church killer), Anders Breivik (who killed 77 people in Norway in 2011) and a host of others have in common is the fact that they tortured animals and delighted in the pain they inflicted. One might reasonably question whether our tacit acceptance of animal cruelty, of the slaughter that serves simply to satisfy our tastes, in the end desensitises us – albeit to varying degrees – to the suffering of others.

Many take the view that simply taking an animal’s life is an act of cruelty, and that this too is not without consequences for the nature of social relationships – both at the societal and the individual level. The preference for meat-eating has itself been the subject of study with regard to social consequences, where links have been established between meat eating and notions of prestige, power, hierarchy and patriarchy, and of strength, superiority, domination and oppression. In The Sexual Politics of Meat, the seminal thesis of Carol J. Adams, the key focus is the connection between meat-eating and women’s oppression. For over four decades her work has inspired international research that aims to empirically ascertain the link between meat-eating, virility and violence, and to explore the workings of an industry that promotes the degradation of women and animals.

Adams develops the concept of ‘the absent referent’, the idea that there is an absence behind every meal of meat – namely, the death of the animal whose place the meat takes. It separates the meat eater from the referent, and thereby permits the moral abandonment of the living being. Moreover, the absent referent disguises the violence central to killing and to meat-eating: the animal is sold off as body-parts, thereby shielding the meat eater from any moral difficulties that could arise from connecting a life form to the end product. If the way meat is presented desensitises the meat eater to the killing of a living being, something similar happens by way of desensitisation towards women in the way meat is advertised. Meat adverts are often feminized and sexualized using female body parts, resulting in the objectification and degradation of both human and non-human animals. As Adams puts it, we literally consume animals and visually consume women. In the end, both have little or no meaning beyond their function on a purely physical level. The fact that some men had sex with cows in the Calton slaughterhouse – a depravity not unknown in other slaughterhouses – is perhaps not entirely unrelated to the sorts of power abuse and degradation alluded to by Adams.

The idea of living beings as absent referents and the link between virility and meat-eating pervade a variety of texts, from children’s books and classic literature, to advertising campaigns – what Adams calls ‘the texts of meat’ – and all serve the underlying imperative of profit maximisation and patriarchal power. For Adams, both female and animal bodies are commodified as a means of production and reproduction, or reproductive slavery; they are both seen as available and controllable, and they are both considered livestock. Adams provides numerous examples throughout her ongoing work to illustrate the ways in which the objectifying language of misogyny, the body parts imagery or associations, and the desensitisation toward animals and women, are used within meat advertising  – ‘are you a breast or thighs man?’ – and concludes it is so deep in our culture that it is hardly noticed. Consequently, Adams argues, veganism in itself embodies a challenge to patriarchy, because patriarchy is a gender system implicit in both human and non-human relationships.

Studies of personality characteristics show that the principles underlying the ‘texts of meat’ may serve to reinforce existing prejudices. Research by psychologists, Dhont and Hodson, found that those who consider inequality and social dominance to be natural and inevitable, and who place power and authority in high regard, are more likely to enjoy eating meat, and to be above average in terms of their meat consumption. Their study found strong correlates between high levels of meat-eating and exaggerated notions of masculinity, a strong belief in evolutionary determinism, and right-wing authoritarianism.

It is probably safe to say that most people do not set out to be cruel to animals, and that few would relish the opportunity to engage in killing them. Judging by the high rate of pet ownership in most societies, it would that appear people love animals, but that they also love meat – a contradictory relationship on the part of many omnivores that psychologists Steve Loughnan, Brock Bastian and Nick Haslam, among others, refer to as ‘the meat paradox’ – a phenomenon explained in part by the concept of cognitive dissonance. In the 1950s, Festinger described cognitive dissonance as the mental stress people undergo when they hold contradictory ideas or values, and stated that they try to reduce or resolve the conflict by choosing a belief that suits them. In the case of omnivores, certain groups of animals are categorised as intelligent, emotional and suitable as pets, whilst others are classed as lacking in these capacities, and therefore suitable for food. A number of laboratory-based social psychology experiments demonstrated that in order to reduce concerns about their welfare, and to resist the desire to empathise with them, people typically deny that food animals have minds: reasoning capacities, emotions and moral qualities.

The question of whether animals have minds and emotions is hardly new. In The Emotional Lives of Animals, Marc Bekoff credits Charles Darwin with being the first scientist to give serious attention to the study of animal emotions, and to the belief that there is continuity between humans and other animals – both emotionally and cognitively. In keeping with the experience of Jane Goodall – who wrote about Flint, a chimpanzee that died of grief – Bekoff’s research revealed a range of emotions on the part of animals: love, grief, despair, fear, joy, jealousy, embarrassment and shame. It is likely most people know this instinctively, but to reduce their cognitive dissonance, and thereby overcome the meat paradox, the majority mentally sever the connection between meat and animals. The meat and dairy industry greatly assists in this: killing is deceptively worded as processed, pigs become pork, cows become beef or sirloin, the exploited animals are described as food animals, and the cruel reality of the slaughterhouse and pre-packaging process is kept hidden from view. We are schooled in the supremacy of meat, not its alternatives.

One might imagine widespread condemnation of the meat and dairy business if more people witnessed the slaughter of pigs, cows and chickens – a brutal industrialised killing system somewhat less harshly described as the pre-packaging process for bacon, burgers and breast. If one’s pet dog or cat had to be taken to a vet to be put down, one might be appalled to learn it would be sent to the slaughterhouse to have its life end in a way that was considered humane for a ‘food animal’ – methods quite unthinkable in their possible application to humans. Ignoring the routine cruelty towards animals has its equivalence in the tolerance of torture, human trafficking, and ethnic cleansing – an equivalence that exists within the precincts of moral insanity. Veganism offers an immediate and logical alternative to the reality of the slaughterhouse, but it also has a key role to play in ending world hunger, in improving human health, and in reducing climate change. Veganism, in the view of Carol Adams, is a condition of feminism, and simply by becoming vegan one plays a pivotal part in the campaign against patriarchy. This cross-pollinates freely to an awareness of the psychological tendency towards dehumanisation, and towards desensitisation to the suffering of all living things. Consequently, veganism is also a condition of socialist morality, for socialism is the antithesis of exploitation, grounded in the core principles of fairness and kindness. After all, what else could it be?

Running parallel to the slaughter in those dark places throughout my years growing up, was the full scale slaughter of the Vietnam War, and I paid attention to its development because my cousin from New York, a Captain in the US Air Force, was stationed there. On leave once, he visited our home in Glasgow Cross – a tenement apartment he referred to as a ‘cold water flat’ – and during one of our many conversations I raised the matter of the massacre at My Lai, which had recently been on the news. He responded sharply and heatedly, declaring everyone was the enemy in Vietnam, even six-year-olds: “Those bastards put shredded glass in your Coke.” The enemy, even kids, became ‘gooks’: lesser beings – animals. In keeping with the rationalisations of meat eaters, who considered food animals to be devoid of mind and moral capacities, dehumanisation became a psychological defence strategy, a means of moral disengagement.

On one of our excursions around Glasgow, we walked the length of Argyll Street past umpteen building works towards Kelvingrove Art Gallery. “Just like New York,” he said – “always tearing things down and digging things up.” I didn’t dig things up, I didn’t ask him what he saw or what he did, but deep down I feared the worst. People were increasingly aware of what was going on in the war: news broadcasts constantly covered carpet bombing and chemical warfare in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, and occasionally some orgy of brutality was revealed or hinted at. It seemed to me then, as it does now, that there is nothing human beings won’t do to each other so long as we can find the right switches to turn off the morality protocols. It is the same rationality underlying the horrors of the death camps, and the brutalities of prison torture camps such as Abu Ghraib, that underlies what we do to animals simply to put meat on our plates.

Killing has always been the way of things, at once representing a kind of progress and the elimination of hope. We kill on behalf of others, for so-called just causes, and for love. Insofar as we have a choice – and many would say we always have a choice – killing, and all the moral responsibility that goes with it, is personal. That is where it starts and ends. Change must begin at the level of the self: it is driven from the bottom up, and by the strategy of the refusal. That refusal can begin with what we choose to eat – changing the world in bite-sized chunks.

In Targeting the Lynx, the Trump Administration Defies Facts, Law, and Science Once Again

Photo: Canadian lynx. US Fish & Wildlife Service digital library.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) recently released a review of the status of lynx, which were listed as “Threatened” on the Endangered Species list in 2000.  Now, in the new world of Trump’s fact-free, anti-science, war-on-wildlife administration, the FWS recommends removing lynx from Endangered Species Act protections completely, writing: “Considering the available information, we found no reliable information that the current distribution and abundance of resident lynx in the contiguous United States are substantially reduced from historical conditions.”

The agency does not even attempt to provide the public with an estimated current population number of how many lynx there are because the agency has no idea.  The key phrase here is “considering the available information,” and the shocking truth is that the Fish and Wildlife Service has no idea how many lynx there are for one simple reason; the agency no longer monitors lynx populations!

What the agency, if it was being truthful, should have written in their report is: “Because we no longer monitor the population of lynx we have no evidence of how many lynx there are and therefore also have no evidence that lynx numbers are declining or increasing or doing anything at all.  Also, because we have decided to ignore all of the historical records of lynx presence, we have no evidence of any change from historic conditions.”

Montana has more lynx than any other state in the Lower 48. Yet, given that lynx can no longer be found in much of their historical Western Montana habitats, and given that the number of lynx in Montana is known to be decreasing in areas such as the Seeley Lake area according to researchers who actually look for lynx, a fact-based, rational agency action would apply the conservation biology “precautionary principle” and increase protections for lynx, not remove them completely.

In the world of real science, the last estimate of the number of lynx in Montana by Dr. John Squires, a Forest Service lynx scientist, was that there were about 300 lynx in Montana with the populations declining in most parts of the state. For example, until 2010 there was still a resident population of lynx in the Garnet Mountains northeast of Missoula.  They had most likely been living there since the last Ice Age, but after the latest Forest Service logging projects, not a single lynx could be found there.  Not one.

17 years ago lynx trapping was outlawed due to the Endangered Species listing, but lynx numbers continued to decline because past and current logging has destroyed the dense mature and old growth forests upon which they rely for reproduction and survival.  Lynx can also no longer be found in the Gallatin Range and lynx numbers are falling in the Seeley-Swan Valley, which is the largest lynx population in Montana.

What the FWS should have done to determine the “historical conditions of lynx” was ask Montana’s Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks, which estimated there were 700 to 1,050 lynx throughout Western Montana in 1994.  With Montana lynx population estimates falling between 57% and 71% by 2017, the population decline is undeniable.

Additionally, as to habitat, the Fish and Wildlife Service’s own scientist, Megan Kosterman, found that 50% of each lynx home range must be mature, dense forest to provide optimal habitat for lynx to breed and raise kittens and that no more than 15% of each lynx home range should be clearcut. Not a single National Forest is complying with this recommendation, but somehow, in an Orwellian twist, FWS is arguing that Forest Service management plans are adequate for lynx.

The truth is that FWS is only arguing that lynx should be delisted because of a court deadline this week that required that FWS finally, after 17 years of delay, produce a recovery plan for lynx.  Rather than produce the court-ordered recovery plan by the deadline, FWS simply filed a document arguing that lynx no longer need any protections under the Endangered Species Act, and therefore FWS does not need to produce a recovery plan.  Thus, FWS’s “status review” is simply a transparent attempt to evade the law by making a drastic, unsupported conclusion to delist.  We urge you to contact FWS and demand that they revoke their delisting recommendation and produce the recovery plan that the law requires, and that this rare, elusive, imperiled species needs.

Hong Kong Politics: a Never-Ending Farce

Photo by aotaro | CC BY 2.0

Hong Kong used to be the can-do capital of the world. Few economic achievements seemed beyond the reach of its plucky people and savvy entrepreneurs. Its public infrastructure was a marvel. The place exuded unbounded vitality and irrepressible self-confidence. Everything worked. Facilitating their feats were the British, who ran a superficially benign and reasonably efficient colonial dictatorship.

Came time in 1997 to return the prime booty of the Opium Wars to China, the Brits left behind a quasi-democracy designed to be dysfunctional. Against Beijing-friendly forces were entrenched a formidable coalition of Beijing-haters and mentally colonized West-is-besters. Naturally, the latter have been discreetly supported by the Anglo-American Empire — a fact Hong Kongers are too “polite” to point out forcefully even today.

The latest reminder of the territory’s predicament came this week, when carelessness on the part of the new Justice Minister over illegal structures at her home gave anti-Beijing forces an opening to fan a public scandal. Incredibly, the incident was a bizarre rerun of the controversy that crippled C.Y. Leung politically as he took office as HK’s Chief Executive five years ago. Coming after a series of battles typically manufactured by the opposition coalition, the new tempest prompted Michael Chugani, a prominent local newspaper columnist, to write:

“North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has a nuclear button. US President Donald Trump says he has a bigger one. We in Hong Kong have a self-destruct button. Kim and Trump haven’t used theirs yet but we use ours regularly. We press it first thing in the morning to blow ourselves up.

“When I wake up every morning, I put on the news. I see and hear people talk about co-location, political persecution, politicised judges, police fury over the jailing of comrades, Beijing’s heavy hand, and lately even illegal structures – a long-buried phrase that has returned to haunt us. It’s always the same people repeating the same points, which pass for news.”

Billing themselves as “pro-democracy,” this anti-Communist alliance has paralyzed governance in Hong Kong for two decades with its relentlessly obstructionist behavior. Such sustained, slow-motion suicide has dropped HK substantially down the global rankings of human accomplishment, sparked deep social divisions, and revived among the middle class a desire to emigrate. Above all, the internecine conflict has disenchanted many young HKers, turning them into rebels without a cause. Politically, their loss of direction and hope has been channeled by the pan anti-Communists into mindless, know-nothing opposition to both the local government and the central authorities in Beijing, worsening the tensions. Meanwhile, during the same 20 years, China achieved historically unprecedented progress and prosperity — which bypassed HK almost completely, thanks to the faux- democrats’ bone-deep Sinophobia and tireless efforts to segregate the two.

The anti-Communists’ control of the key sectors of education, the legal system and mainstream media, plus the protections of One Country Two Systems, ensured they would continue their depredations without let or hindrance. The intensification of their antics recently has turned political life in HK into a never-ending farce.

Summed up commentator Chugani:

“Our first post-colonial Chief Executive was forced out. Our second was jailed. Our third was so loathed he couldn’t seek a second term. And now we have Carrie Lam, who expected the political honeymoon her predecessors never got but is instead getting her teeth knocked out. Some are already saying she is the second coming of C.Y. Leung.”

Bibi’s Son (Or Three Men in a Car)

Photo by thierry ehrmann | CC BY 2.0

No, I don’t want to write about the affair of Ya’ir Netanyahu. I refuse adamantly. No force in the world will compel me to do so.

Yet here I am, writing about Ya’ir, damn it. Can’t resist.

And perhaps it is really more than a matter of gossip. Perhaps it is something that we cannot ignore.

It is all about a conversation between three young man in a car, some two years ago.

One of the young men was Ya’ir, the eldest of the two sons of the Prime Minister.

Ya’ir is named after the leader of the “Stern Gang”, whose real name was Abraham Stern. The original Ya’ir split from the Irgun underground in 1940, when Britain stood alone against Nazi Germany. While the Irgun stopped its actions against the British government for the time being, Stern demanded the very opposite: exploit the moment in order to get the British out of Palestine. He was shot by the British police.

The modern Ya’ir and his two friends were on a drunken tour of Tel Aviv strip-tease joints, an appellation which often seems to be a polite way of describing a brothel.

Somebody took the trouble to record the conversation of the young men – the sons of the Prime Minister and two of the richest “tycoons” in the country.

This recording has now surfaced. Since the publication, hardly anyone in Israel is talking about anything else.

According to the recording, Ya’ir demanded from of his friend, Nir Maimon, 400 shekels (about 100 dollars), in order to visit a prostitute. When the friend refused, Ya’ir exclaimed: “My father gave your father a concession worth a billion dollars, and you refuse to give me 400 shekels?”

The concession in question concerns the rich gas fields out in the sea near Israel’s shores.

In an especially disgusting display of his utter contempt for the female sex, Ya’ir also offered to provide all his friends with the sexual services of his ex-girlfriend.

This recording raises a whole pile of questions, each more unpleasant than the next.

First of all: who made it? Apart from Ya’ir and his two pals, there were only two persons present; the driver of the car and a bodyguard.

This raises some more questions. First, why is the 26-year old man provided with bodyguards at all, and for a tour of strip-tease joints in particular?

Ya’ir has no official function. No son or daughter of any former prime minister has ever been provided with bodyguards. No known danger threatens this particular son. So why must I pay for one?

Second, what about the driver? Ya’ir was riding in a government car, driven by a government driver. Why? What right has he to a government car and to a government driver, in general – and in particular for such an escapade?

The episode has drawn the attention of the public to this son of privilege.

Who is Ya’ir Netanyahu? What does he do for a living? The simple answer: Nothing.

He has no profession. He has no job. He lives in the state-owned official residence in Jerusalem and eats at the state’s expense.

What about his record? The only service he ever performed was as a soldier at the office of the army spokesman – not much risk of meeting flying bullets there. You need a lot of pull to land such a cozy job in the army.

Every reader can ask himself or herself: where was he or she when they were 26 years old?

Speaking for myself, at that age I had behind me several years of service in the Irgun underground, a year of continual fighting in a renowned army commando unit, a battle wound, and the beginning of my career as the editor-in-chief of a belligerent news magazine. I have earned my living since the age of 15. That is not something special to be proud of – many young people of my generation have the same past (except the journalistic part, of course.)

Still, this part of the story can be explained by the character of this particular young man. Can a parent be held responsible for the character of his offspring?

Like many politicians, Netanyahu had no time for his children. It’s the mother who bears most of the responsibility.

Sarah Netanyahu, known as “Sarah’le”, is generally disliked. A former airplane stewardess, who “caught” Binyamin at an airport duty-free shop and became his third wife, is a haughty and quarrelsome person, who is in perpetual conflict with her government-paid household personnel. Some of these quarrels reach the courts.

So this is all a family affair, except that it raises some profound political questions.

What is the social setting of the Prime Minister, himself the son of a poor university professor and a government employee for almost all his life?

His offspring consorts with the sons of the country’s richest peoples, who are enriching themselves with the active help of the Prime Minister, – Netanyahu influences the government funding of big projects. At the moment, the police are conducting at least four separate investigations into Netanyahu’s personal economic affairs.

Practically all of Netanyahu’s personal associates and friends are under police investigation. His closest friend, lawyer and relative is under investigation concerning the acquisition of immensely expensive German-made submarines. The navy claims that it does not need all of them.

In his private life, Netanyahu is being investigated for receiving for a long time cases of the most expensive Cuban cigars from super-rich “friends”, for whom he provided some services. Sarah’le is investigated for receiving, on demand, a regular supply of very expensive pink champagne from another billionaire, whom she also asked to buy her jewelry.

This entire atmosphere of public and private corruption at the top of the state is very much removed from our past. It is something new, reflecting the Netanyahu era.

One could not even imagine anything like this in the times of David Ben-Gurion. His son, Amos, was implicated in some affairs which my magazine exposed, but nothing even remotely resembling this.

Menachem Begin lived for many years as an MK in the same two-room apartment where he had hidden as the most wanted terrorist in British Palestine. Golda Meir, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres all lived in modest circumstances.

Public humor calls Netanyahu “king” and even “emperor” and speaks of the “royal family”. Why?

One reason is certainly the time factor. Netanyahu is now in his fourth term of office. That is much too much.

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, as Lord Acton remarked. One can replace “absolute” with “long-term”.

A person in power is surrounded by temptations, flatterers, corruptors, and as time goes by, his resistance wanes. That, alas, is human.

After the endless presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a relatively honest and effective chief executive, the American people did something extremely wise: it limited a president to two terms. I also have come to the conclusion that eight years is exactly right.

(That applies to myself, too. I was a Member of Parliament for ten years. In retrospect I have drawn the conclusion that eight years should have been enough. During my last two years I was less enthusiastic, less combative)

I don’t hate Binyamin Netanyahu, as many Israelis do. He does not really interest me as a person. But I believe that he is a danger to the future of Israel. His obsession with clinging to power makes him sell out our national interests to interest groups, not just to billionaires but also to the corrupt religious establishment and many others.

Such a man is unable to make peace, even if he wanted to. Making peace demands strength of character, like taking the risk of being overthrown. Such audacity does not even enter Netanyahu’s mind.

Tell me who your son is, and I’ll tell you who you are.

Bibi’s Son (Or Three Men in a Car)

Photo by thierry ehrmann | CC BY 2.0

No, I don’t want to write about the affair of Ya’ir Netanyahu. I refuse adamantly. No force in the world will compel me to do so.

Yet here I am, writing about Ya’ir, damn it. Can’t resist.

And perhaps it is really more than a matter of gossip. Perhaps it is something that we cannot ignore.

It is all about a conversation between three young man in a car, some two years ago.

One of the young men was Ya’ir, the eldest of the two sons of the Prime Minister.

Ya’ir is named after the leader of the “Stern Gang”, whose real name was Abraham Stern. The original Ya’ir split from the Irgun underground in 1940, when Britain stood alone against Nazi Germany. While the Irgun stopped its actions against the British government for the time being, Stern demanded the very opposite: exploit the moment in order to get the British out of Palestine. He was shot by the British police.

The modern Ya’ir and his two friends were on a drunken tour of Tel Aviv strip-tease joints, an appellation which often seems to be a polite way of describing a brothel.

Somebody took the trouble to record the conversation of the young men – the sons of the Prime Minister and two of the richest “tycoons” in the country.

This recording has now surfaced. Since the publication, hardly anyone in Israel is talking about anything else.

According to the recording, Ya’ir demanded from of his friend, Nir Maimon, 400 shekels (about 100 dollars), in order to visit a prostitute. When the friend refused, Ya’ir exclaimed: “My father gave your father a concession worth a billion dollars, and you refuse to give me 400 shekels?”

The concession in question concerns the rich gas fields out in the sea near Israel’s shores.

In an especially disgusting display of his utter contempt for the female sex, Ya’ir also offered to provide all his friends with the sexual services of his ex-girlfriend.

This recording raises a whole pile of questions, each more unpleasant than the next.

First of all: who made it? Apart from Ya’ir and his two pals, there were only two persons present; the driver of the car and a bodyguard.

This raises some more questions. First, why is the 26-year old man provided with bodyguards at all, and for a tour of strip-tease joints in particular?

Ya’ir has no official function. No son or daughter of any former prime minister has ever been provided with bodyguards. No known danger threatens this particular son. So why must I pay for one?

Second, what about the driver? Ya’ir was riding in a government car, driven by a government driver. Why? What right has he to a government car and to a government driver, in general – and in particular for such an escapade?

The episode has drawn the attention of the public to this son of privilege.

Who is Ya’ir Netanyahu? What does he do for a living? The simple answer: Nothing.

He has no profession. He has no job. He lives in the state-owned official residence in Jerusalem and eats at the state’s expense.

What about his record? The only service he ever performed was as a soldier at the office of the army spokesman – not much risk of meeting flying bullets there. You need a lot of pull to land such a cozy job in the army.

Every reader can ask himself or herself: where was he or she when they were 26 years old?

Speaking for myself, at that age I had behind me several years of service in the Irgun underground, a year of continual fighting in a renowned army commando unit, a battle wound, and the beginning of my career as the editor-in-chief of a belligerent news magazine. I have earned my living since the age of 15. That is not something special to be proud of – many young people of my generation have the same past (except the journalistic part, of course.)

Still, this part of the story can be explained by the character of this particular young man. Can a parent be held responsible for the character of his offspring?

Like many politicians, Netanyahu had no time for his children. It’s the mother who bears most of the responsibility.

Sarah Netanyahu, known as “Sarah’le”, is generally disliked. A former airplane stewardess, who “caught” Binyamin at an airport duty-free shop and became his third wife, is a haughty and quarrelsome person, who is in perpetual conflict with her government-paid household personnel. Some of these quarrels reach the courts.

So this is all a family affair, except that it raises some profound political questions.

What is the social setting of the Prime Minister, himself the son of a poor university professor and a government employee for almost all his life?

His offspring consorts with the sons of the country’s richest peoples, who are enriching themselves with the active help of the Prime Minister, – Netanyahu influences the government funding of big projects. At the moment, the police are conducting at least four separate investigations into Netanyahu’s personal economic affairs.

Practically all of Netanyahu’s personal associates and friends are under police investigation. His closest friend, lawyer and relative is under investigation concerning the acquisition of immensely expensive German-made submarines. The navy claims that it does not need all of them.

In his private life, Netanyahu is being investigated for receiving for a long time cases of the most expensive Cuban cigars from super-rich “friends”, for whom he provided some services. Sarah’le is investigated for receiving, on demand, a regular supply of very expensive pink champagne from another billionaire, whom she also asked to buy her jewelry.

This entire atmosphere of public and private corruption at the top of the state is very much removed from our past. It is something new, reflecting the Netanyahu era.

One could not even imagine anything like this in the times of David Ben-Gurion. His son, Amos, was implicated in some affairs which my magazine exposed, but nothing even remotely resembling this.

Menachem Begin lived for many years as an MK in the same two-room apartment where he had hidden as the most wanted terrorist in British Palestine. Golda Meir, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres all lived in modest circumstances.

Public humor calls Netanyahu “king” and even “emperor” and speaks of the “royal family”. Why?

One reason is certainly the time factor. Netanyahu is now in his fourth term of office. That is much too much.

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, as Lord Acton remarked. One can replace “absolute” with “long-term”.

A person in power is surrounded by temptations, flatterers, corruptors, and as time goes by, his resistance wanes. That, alas, is human.

After the endless presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a relatively honest and effective chief executive, the American people did something extremely wise: it limited a president to two terms. I also have come to the conclusion that eight years is exactly right.

(That applies to myself, too. I was a Member of Parliament for ten years. In retrospect I have drawn the conclusion that eight years should have been enough. During my last two years I was less enthusiastic, less combative)

I don’t hate Binyamin Netanyahu, as many Israelis do. He does not really interest me as a person. But I believe that he is a danger to the future of Israel. His obsession with clinging to power makes him sell out our national interests to interest groups, not just to billionaires but also to the corrupt religious establishment and many others.

Such a man is unable to make peace, even if he wanted to. Making peace demands strength of character, like taking the risk of being overthrown. Such audacity does not even enter Netanyahu’s mind.

Tell me who your son is, and I’ll tell you who you are.