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If there was any doubt the mainstream media was an elitist guard dog, its Red Cross coverage should put that doubt to rest

Canary, The Other - Fri, 2019-04-19 21:44

If there was any remaining doubt that mainstream Western media outlets were acting as a guard dog for the interests of the rich and powerful, their latest Red Cross coverage should put those doubts to rest.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) recently announced it was stepping up its efforts in Venezuela after visiting the country and discussing increased cooperation with its government. The group avoided mentioning the US-backed opposition which has been trying to claim power since January. The ICRC’s tone was serious, but in keeping with its philosophy of “providing neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian assistance”.

The mainstream media coverage of the announcement, however, was far from ‘neutral’ or ‘impartial’.

Politicising aid to serve coup-plotting elites

Many Venezuelans are suffering today amid a severe economic crisis. This is largely due to economic warfare and brutal sanctions from a hostile regime in Washington. The Canary saw the effects of the crisis recently during its time in the country. But the reality on the ground is not what the mainstream media is reporting it to be. As The Canary has reported, these outlets have been shamelessly politicising people’s suffering to the benefit of coup-plotting elites in both Washington and Latin America. It’s been naked propaganda. And it’s led one former UN expert to accuse the media of “manufacturing consent” for regime change in Venezuela.

The media has exaggerated, slung mud at the government wherever possible, and left out any meaningful context. And this can be seen in the Red Cross coverage from both Reuters and the BBC. (Note: Other outlets are worse. But too many people see both Reuters and the BBC as bastions of impartial journalism, when they’re clearly not).

Both outlets elevated the voice of Venezuela’s coup-plotting opposition, which was irrelevant to the story. At the same time, the BBC (as usual) portrayed President Nicolás Maduro as a mad dictator (he won elections in 2018), saying:

He had also blocked the delivery of aid from the US and other countries, saying it was part of “an imperialist plot”.

Reuters also said “Maduro had blocked previous efforts to deliver assistance”, again failing to give proper context.

The BBC, meanwhile, quoted the US (the main backer of Venezuela’s coup attempt) as if it had some sort of moral authority to comment (it most certainly does not). It neglected to mention, of course, the devastating US sanctions that have been significantly increasing Venezuelan suffering.

The truth about aid in Venezuela

Venezuela has long been receiving foreign aid with the authorisation of Venezuela’s government. But Maduro has blocked “aid” from the US largely because it has threatened Venezuela militarily, openly encouraged the Venezuelan military to rebel, and imposed brutal economic sanctions. None of that has stopped mainstream media outlets from being grossly dishonest about Venezuela’s position on international aid, though.

US efforts to force ‘humanitarian aid‘ trucks onto Venezuelan territory without government permission in late February, meanwhile, were very clearly a political stunt. Yet the mainstream media echoed the hostile position of the US state department. It was up to independent journalists on the ground to reveal the aggressive and anti-humanitarian nature of the event.

The UN, meanwhile, expressed concern about the politicisation of aid and – along with the International Red Cross – refused to participate in Washington’s efforts. The Red Cross also slammed “people not affiliated” with it for falsely using its emblems.

You wouldn’t know any of that from reading coup-supporting media outlets, though.

The crises that the Red Cross is focusing on, but the corporate media isn’t

Anyone doing an internet search of Reuters or BBC coverage on the Red Cross in the last month might think Venezuela was the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis, or the aid organisation’s main focus. The reality, however, is that the Red Cross’s “key operations” in the Americas are in Colombia and Mexico (two longstanding US allies). Venezuela is not currently highlighted as a ‘key operation’. The organisation also has eight key operations in Africa, six in the Middle East, four in ‘Asia & Pacific’, and two in ‘Europe & Central Asia’. The world’s worst humanitarian crisis, meanwhile, is in Yemen; and Donald Trump is actively resisting efforts to reduce the suffering there.

The establishment media is too obsessed with Venezuela to provide balance, though. So for context, here are some important recent tweets from the Red Cross:

 

#Yemen is the world's single largest humanitarian crisis:

– 22.2 million people are in need of assistance.
– 2.9 million people are internally displaced.
– 14.8 million people lack access to basic healthcare.

— ICRC (@ICRC) April 5, 2019

30.5 million people live in Yemen.

– 20 million people don't have enough to eat.
– 19.7 million people can't get even basic healthcare.
– 17.8 million people don't have safe water.
– 5.4 million people need emergency shelter. pic.twitter.com/9kbEM0TkTI

— ICRC (@ICRC) April 8, 2019

This is not what a school should look like.

More than 2,500 schools in Yemen have been damaged or destroyed by the war, according to @UNICEF. pic.twitter.com/dgrsQXZDfq

— ICRC (@ICRC) April 3, 2019

97% of the running water in Gaza is not safe to drink. So what do the people who live there do?

Diana is 13 years old. Every day she goes to a nearby mosque to bring clean water for her family.

Some people spend as much as a third of their income on water. pic.twitter.com/nlpWOU7a8u

— ICRC (@ICRC) April 14, 2019

Two weeks ago this village in Mali was attacked.

161 people were killed.

Buildings riddled with bullet holes. Cattle stolen. Water undrinkable as wells are now contaminated with corpses.#Media: raw footage available in our newsroom >> https://t.co/iRufurGfch pic.twitter.com/AgRRgmU8NA

— ICRC (@ICRC) April 9, 2019

Women bear the brunt of conflict in South Sudan.

Thousands have endured rape or sexual assault.
Thousands have lost their homes.
Thousands have fled with their children.
Thousands are forced to forage for food.
Thousands are fighting for their family’s survival. pic.twitter.com/aRkB3psuE4

— ICRC (@ICRC) April 13, 2019

Half of Syrians have been forced to flee their homes.

Almost three quarters depend on aid to survive.

The people of #Syria deserve better. pic.twitter.com/7YogoB5Fxn

— ICRC (@ICRC) April 8, 2019

This is what 8 years of war has done to #Syria:

– 7 out of 10 people rely on aid to survive.
– 50% of health facilities are out of service or partially functioning.
– 2 million children remain unable to go to school. pic.twitter.com/ZUf0Wi5Voe

— ICRC (@ICRC) April 1, 2019

Syria.
South Sudan.
Iraq.
Myanmar.
Nigeria.
Yemen.
Afghanistan.

More children are at risk in conflict now, than at any time in the last 20 years.

No child should lose their childhood to war. pic.twitter.com/idrydkmvPT

— ICRC (@ICRC) April 9, 2019

Today, 1 in 6 children live in a conflict zone. pic.twitter.com/o9gIszkPfY

— ICRC (@ICRC) April 2, 2019

Venezuela is likely the focus of attention for Western political and media elites because its government has challenged Western domination (however cautiously) and claims to be socialist. But by devoting more attention to one crisis over others, the integrity of these elites suffers. Because they reveal where their priorities lie. And that’s not with ordinary people who are suffering; but with the interests of the rich and powerful.

Featured image via Pixabay

By Ed Sykes

It’s Time to Transform the Tax Code and Implement a Green New Deal

Truthout - Fri, 2019-04-19 21:27

One area where the two parties of the millionaires and billionaires put in place policies that favor the rich are tax laws. Tax policy has favored the wealthy under both parties, but the Trump-administration has brought this tax corruption to new levels. We need to transform tax policy to build the working class base of the economy, shrink the wealth divide, and confront the climate crisis. An honest analysis of the tax code calls out in stark detail the extreme injustice of the economy in the United States.

The tax system favors the wealthy as low- and middle-income people are hit the hardest while big business and high-income people are subsidized. The most regressive tax of all is the FICA payroll tax at 15.3 percent for Social Security and Medicare. 15.3 percent includes the employer match. But employers include the tax in their labor budgets and it limits what they can pay their workers. The 12.4 percent Social Security share of FICA is outright regressive because it is capped for high-income earners at $128,400 in 2018.

The Trump Tax Favors the Wealthy at the Expense of the Working Class

On December 19, 2017, the Trump Tax Bill passed Congress. It was a gift for big business and the wealthy. It cut tax rates for corporations to 21 percent from 35 percent. It created a new 20 percent deduction for pass-through businesses that is favorable to commercial real estate companies like the Trumps’. It lowered individual tax rates for the wealthy in the top bracket to 37 percent from 39.6. It also helped the super rich by exempting larger inheritances from the estate tax, doubling the thresholds to $11 million for individuals and $22 million for married couples.

The benefits of the Trump law go to the most wealthy people in the United States. The Tax Policy Center reported that the top 0.1 percent would receive an average tax benefit of $193,380 in 2018. And over half of the bill’s total benefits would go to the top 10 percent of earners. The Joint Committee on Taxation, the official congressional scorekeeper, estimates that by 2027, every income group making less than $75,000 would see a net tax increase. JPMorgan Chase, the biggest bank in the country, bragged to its investors that the Trump tax cuts increased its bottom line by $3.7 billion. People know the Trump Tax was for the rich and not them, nearly two-thirds favor its outright repeal.

The Trump tax bill is the opposite direction the country needs to go at a time of record wealth divides when three people have the wealth of half the population. The Trump tax law made inequality worse as it resulted in a record amount being spent to buy back stock — more than $1 trillion — artificially raising stock prices and increasing top management pay and investment earnings.

Tax Cuts for the Rich Hurt the Economy for Working People

The Trump tax bill has once again demonstrated the failure of supply-side tax cuts for the rich to trickle down to the rest of us as expanded production, more jobs, and higher wages. This trickle-down theory in practice just makes the rich richer. Given capitalism’s endemic tendency to overproduction, more money for the rich is not invested in the real economy of production but in financial maneuvers like stock buy-backs, which simply rearrange and concentrate who owns the real productive assets of the economy. It would be more productive and efficient to tax the rich and invest that money through the public sector in needed programs, like improved Medicare for All, and needed infrastructure and production, like mass transit and clean energy systems.

Growing Economic Inequality

The income gap between the rich and everyone else has been growing markedly, by every major statistical measure, for more than 40 years. As of 2017, the richest 0.1 percent take in 188 times as much income as the bottom 90 percent. Between 1979 and 2007, paycheck income for those in the richest 1 percent and 0.1 percent exploded. Meanwhile, the bottom 90 percent of earners have seen little change in their average income, with just a 22 percent increase from 1979 to 2017. An estimated 43.5 percent of the U.S. population, 140 million people, are either poor or low-income, according the the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Supplemental Poverty Measure, which is a far more realistic measure of actual living costs compared to the old Official Poverty Line, which simply multiplies the minimum food diet by three.

As bad as income inequality is, wealth inequality is even more pronounced. The wealthiest 5 percent own two-thirds of the nation’s wealth: the top 10 percent owns nearly 80 percent of the nation’s wealth. Over the past three decades, the most affluent U.S. families have added dramatically to their net worth, while those on the bottom have dipped into “negative wealth,” i.e., their debts exceed the value of their assets.

When looked at through a racial lens, the situation is even worse. The median black family, with just over $3,500 net wealth, owns just 2 percent of the net wealth of the median white family at nearly $147,000. The proportion of black families with zero or negative wealth rose by 8.5 percent to 37 percent between 1983 and 2016. The median white family has 41 times more wealth than the median black family and 22 times more wealth than the median Latino family. The U.S. poverty rate for white men is 7.0 percent, while it is 21.4 percent for black women, 18.7 percent for Latinas, and 22.8 percent for Native American women. The low wealth and high poverty in communities of color are not only due to current policy, but the enduring impacts of slavery and racial discrimination and exclusion in the United States since its founding. Major investments and empowerment of communities of color are essential to create economic and racial justice.

The Tax System Should Reduce Inequality

We need a tax plan that takes the opposite approach of the Trump tax plan, and the Obama-era tax plan that preceded it. A February 2019 poll, found that 76 percent of registered voters want the wealthiest Americans to pay more. Rather than failing to build the economy by reducing taxes on the wealthy, we need to actually build the economy by creating a strong foundation of purchasing power in the working class by ending poverty and economic insecurity.

First, we need to end the regressive payroll tax by lifting the $128,400 cap on Social Security taxes. Currently, undocumented immigrants contribute billions of dollars in federal taxes each year, and their income taxes and payroll tax dollars are keeping Social Security and Medicare solvent showing the hypocrisy and dishonesty of the immigration debate in the U.S. Lifting the cap on taxes for the wealthy would put Social Security on such a firm financial footing that it would be a major contribution to doubling Social Security payments in order to address the retirement security crisis.

Second, put in place more a progressive income tax, especially on the wealthiest. In Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty recommends top marginal income tax rates of 80 percent on income above $500,000 and 50 or 60 percent on income above about $200,000 for the United States in order to combat inequality and fully fund and revitalize the public sector. In fact, throughout the 1950s and until 1962, the top marginal tax rate was over 90 percent and remained over 70 percent until 1980. This was a period of shared prosperity where wages kept pace with increases in productivity. The high top marginal rates incentivized top management to reinvest earnings in their companies instead of bleeding them dry with excessive executive compensation, as we have seen over the last 40 years with the decline of US manufacturing.

Third, institute a wealth tax, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman of the University of California, Berkeley, proposed taxing wealth in excess of $50 million at 2 percent per year and wealth above $1 billion at an additional 1 percent tax. This would affect only seventy-five thousand households and would raise some $2.8 trillion over a decade.

Fourth, increase the inheritance tax, reversing the trend of reducing such taxes. Senator Bernie Sanders has proposed a top rate of 77 percent on estates worth more than $1 billion, and rates of at least 45 percent on estates valued above $3.5 million. This would raise up to $315 billion over a decade and only impact the wealthiest, not the ability of people to pass down their home to their children or small businesses or family farms.

Fifth, tax wealth at the same rates we tax work. Capital gains — profits from the sale of stocks, bonds, and other assets — are taxed at much lower rates than income from work is taxed. The current top federal rate for this tax is 20 percent, compared with the top income tax rate of 37 percent. This reform would impact the very wealthy. For households making over $10 million, capital gains account for 46.4 percent of income. For households making less than $100,000, capital gains account for a tiny 0.7 percent of the income.

Sixth, put in place a progressive carbon tax as a tool to combat the climate crisis. A progressive carbon tax taxes carbon at its source. Some of its proceeds are returned to individuals and households as rebates and other proceeds fund the transition to clean renewable energy.

Funding a Green New Deal

More progressive and ecological taxation is essential to fund the ecosocialist Green New Deal for climate and economic security. The goals are to transition to 100 percent Green Energy by 2030 while ending the insecurity of the economy with an Economic Bill of Rights that guarantees to all living-wage jobs, an income above poverty, decent housing, comprehensive health care, and lifelong public education from pre-K through college.

The Green New Deal can close racial income and wealth gaps by empowering racially-oppressed communities through community control of Green New Deal programs so these communities are no longer subject to discrimination and exploitation by outside employers, landlords, real estate agents, and other gatekeepers. In addition, HR 40 for a Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans should be enacted to find the best way to create individual and collective wealth to compensate for hundreds of years of unpaid and underpaid labor.

In addition to a more progressive tax system, we need to get our spending priorities straight. The U.S. military budget is greater than those of the next 10 largest military powers combined and eight of them are US allies. The military budget takes more than 60 percent of federal discretionary spending totaling $989 billion annually. $21 trillion of Pentagon financial transactions between 1998 and 2015 cannot be traced, documented, or explained.

The U.S. can cut its military budget by 75 percent and still spend more on the military than any other nation. We can invest the resulting peace dividend in a Global Green New Deal to meet basic needs like clean water and preventive health care around the world as well as to help developing countries leap over the fossil fuel age into the solar age. By acting as the world’s humanitarian superpower instead of its global military occupation force, we can make friends instead of enemies. A Global Green New Deal will build a sustainable peace where the world’s nations work cooperatively to solve our common problems of the climate and poverty.

Amazon, run by Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man, paid no federal taxes on $11.2 billion in profits in 2018. In comparison, undocumented people contribute some $11 billion in taxes every year. The third richest man in the world, Warren Buffett, admits he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary. These are two examples of many that demonstrate that transformation of the US tax system is urgently needed.

The post It’s Time to Transform the Tax Code and Implement a Green New Deal appeared first on Truthout.

United States and France jointly responsible for famine in Yemen

Voltaire dotnet - Fri, 2019-04-19 21:25
A French military intelligence note dated September 2018 shows that Saudi Arabia is making extensive use of French armaments in its war against Yemen, specifically "Leclerc tanks, Archer artillery howitzers, Mirage 2000-9 fighter jets, Cobra radars, Aravis armoured vehicles, Cougar and Dauphin helicopters, Caesar cannons ...». The maps included in the classified military report were presented to President Emmanuel Macron on October 3, 2018 during a “restricted” Defence Council meeting in the (...)

As We Mourn Notre Dame, Let Us Remember Black Churches Also Matter

Truthout - Fri, 2019-04-19 21:10

When Notre Dame burned, I mourned. A beautiful cathedral, a destination, a sanctuary for quiet invocation, Notre Dame was also an architectural gem, a landmark for more than 850 years. The collapse of its beautiful spire was heartbreaking to see. I am glad that the world stopped, recognized that the fire that engulfed the cathedral roof was a significant loss to us all, and gathered, albeit virtually, to bear witness.

While I felt sad as I watched news coverage of the Paris event, as a woman of color, I couldn’t help but also feel a certain indignation, a kind of anger, an unexpressed rage. The kind of unexpressed rage that, for over 400 years, Black folks have just swallowed like a communion wafer in pursuit of infinite grace.

My sadness mixed with resentment partly because, stretching over a 10-day period in one rural Louisiana town just last month, three Black churches burned to the ground. Officials recently arrested a white man, Holden Matthews, the son of a parish deputy sheriff, and charged him with a hate crime. This one case is enough to spark sorrow, but it is not the sole reason for my consternation.

The list of documented cases of African American churches attacked by arsonists is long – and on that long list there are, of course, only the cases that have been documented. How many other places dedicated to the liberation of the Black spirit have been incinerated over the centuries? In just over one year, from 1995 to 1996, so many Black churches were attacked by fire that Congress passed the Church Arson Prevention Act.

As I watched the international coverage of Notre Dame, a chant echoed in my head: Black churches also matter. This was a response to lopsided news coverage that centers white spaces. There is real injury in the Notre Dame story, and a macabre, surreal irony, too: Black bodies bled to provide those spaces where whiteness is centered.

While construction of Notre Dame was completed in 1345, in 1789, the cathedral was pillaged by Parisians animated by the French Revolution and subsequently fell into ruin until Napoleon gave control of Notre Dame back to the Catholic Church in 1801 and repair work on the cathedral began. It is not a coincidence that this period through the 18th and 19th centuries coincides with French investment in the transatlantic slave trade and France’s colonialist theft of resources — human and otherwise — throughout Africa, Asia, North America and the Caribbean. The commodification of Black and Brown bodies filled French coffers.

In its possession of Haiti alone, France controlled the most prosperous colony in the world, Saint-Dominique, as it was called before the Black-led revolution that freed stolen Africans from the torture of slave labor. The Black bodies in this French colony provided 40 percent of the sugar and 60 percent of the coffee imported by Europe. While the French sipped their morning beverage in peace, enslaved Africans suffered in conditions so deadly the importation of 800,000 humans to the colony was required to compensate for loss of life and meet Europe’s consumerist demands. Black bodies bore the evidence of France’s monstrous torture, as the Guardian details:

“Have they not hung up men with heads downward, drowned them in sacks, crucified them on planks, buried them alive, crushed them in mortars?” wrote one former slave. “Have they not forced them to eat excrement? Have they not thrown them into boiling cauldrons of cane syrup? Have they not put men and women inside barrels studded with spikes and rolled them down mountainsides into the abyss?”

Even after Napoleon’s military defeat in Haiti, the neocolonialist exploitation of Haitians continued. In a sickening twist of injustice that privileged the French elite, Black bodies were actually forced to pay reparations to France, starting in the 1800s, through the early 20th century, and as late as 1947.

And this is just one island. Who can add, multiply and compound the interest on France’s global exploitation of people of color?

French imperialism enabled projects like the restoration of Notre Dame during Europe’s Age of Enlightenment, which was also the colonial era and the era of the transatlantic slave trade. Today, wealthy benefactors have already pledged nearly $800 million to restore Notre Dame, a colossal task to be underwritten by an elite few in this era of income inequality, this era concretized by the rise of the 1%, this neocolonial era.

Prior to the Notre Dame fire, the Louisiana churches that Holden Matthews is charged with destroying had raised about $50,000 in donations to help rebuild. After Notre Dame, contributions rose to $1.8 million. These gifts are beautiful, an expression of infinite grace. They likely came from plenty of regular folks, and they are not reparations.

As we sing “Ave Maria,” sing also for Black churches set aflame by racialized hate. While some justifiably interrogate French billionaires who have committed to rebuilding Notre Dame but never met with French Yellow Vests who have been protesting for a path out of poverty, not enough of us are questioning the source of the wealth that enabled the privilege of Notre Dame in the first place: So many Black and Brown bodies splayed, maimed, raped and then blithely consumed in every early-morning French cafe.

The post As We Mourn Notre Dame, Let Us Remember Black Churches Also Matter appeared first on Truthout.

Stop & Shop Strikers Are Standing Up for All Grocery Workers

Truthout - Fri, 2019-04-19 21:07

The current New England grocery workers’ strike will likely have long-lasting national significance. The strike that started April 11 with 31,000 Stop & Shop grocery workers at about 240 supermarkets in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut is about to enter its second week. It is the largest private-sector strike in the United States since 2017 and the largest strike in the U.S. retail sector since the Southern California grocery workers’ strike of 2003-2004.

The strike is an important political event. Over the past few days, several Democratic presidential candidates, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Corey Booker, Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden, have expressed support for the strikers, with Warren, Biden and other state and national politicians, including a couple of Republican lawmakers, meeting with workers, who are members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, on the picket lines. On Thursday, Biden and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh headlined a rally for striking workers in Dorchester, Massachusetts.

The striking workers have also gained support from other quarters of the labor movement. Almost 2,000 Teamsters who work as truck drivers for Stop & Shop or its vendors and suppliers are refusing to make essential food deliveries during the strike, leading to bare shelves, early closings and shuttered stores. Virtually no Stop & Shop workers have crossed the picket lines – local management and “striker replacements” are attempting to do their work — and formerly loyal customers are staying away in droves. Coming during the critical Easter holiday retail period, the Stop & Shop strike threatens to hurt the finances of the company, which generated $44 billion in sales from all its U.S. supermarket chains in 2018.

The workers are fighting against sweeping contract concessions demanded by Shop & Shop (owned by the Dutch giant Ahold Delhaize, which was formed in July 2016 from the merger of two existing retailers). The outcome of the strike will have national implications: If the company succeeds in weakening the workers’ health care and pension plans, and lowering the rate for Sunday pay, it will try to impose concessionary contracts on its workers in other states (New York State has more than 200 Stop & Shop stores, and the company also owns the Giant and Food Lion grocery chains). A management victory would also give encouragement to other unionized food retailers seeking to reduce costs and boost profits by slashing employee benefits.

Stop & Shop management claims that it needs these health care and pension concessions and cuts in Sunday pay in order to compete with nonunion grocery chains – its major competitors include nonunion Walmart, Target and Aldi, as well as union grocery chains such as Kroger — but the evidence suggests otherwise. According to a 2017 analysis by Credit Suisse, the company “dominates most of the US metropolitan markets in which it operates – a key factor in maintaining high margins. Even if competition increases and shopping habits change, the company’s market positioning and competitive history support our [optimistic] revenue and margin forecasts.” Credit Suisse also notes the Dutch-owned food retailer boasts “best-in-class free cash flow generation and a history of returning cash to shareholders.”

Thus, Stop & Shop management wants to cut workers’ health and pension benefit plans in order to reduce costs and give even more money to its major investors, but the company does not need to do so in order to remain profitable. Management is essentially seeking to make more short-term profits for its shareholders off the backs of its lowest-paid and most vulnerable workers, many of whom have given years or even decades of service to the company.

The strike is a familiar story of a rapacious foreign corporation that deals with unions at home but takes advantage of its vulnerable U.S. workforce.

This type of fear-mongering by large grocery chains in order to win contract concessions is not new. When supermarket chains in Southern California demanded sweeping concessions in an enormous dispute in 2003, they blamed competition from Walmart, even though Walmart’s presence in the grocery sector was fairly minimal in the region 20 years ago. Now unionized grocery chains such as Kroger are demanding benefit concessions because of alleged competition from Amazon (which purchased Whole Foods grocery chain for almost $14 billion in 2017), but in terms of customer demographics, Whole Foods provides little direct competition to Kroger. Thus, the issue is not really the competition that Stop & Shop and Kroger face from Walmart and Amazon; rather, it’s their desire to adopt the same low-road practices of poverty-level wages and lousy benefits.

The Stop & Shop strike is a depressingly familiar story of a rapacious foreign-owned corporation that deals with unions at home but takes advantage of its vulnerable U.S. workforce. American labor laws provide few protections for hard-working employees under such circumstances. But New Englanders are not the kind of people who will look kindly upon the company’s astounding greed. It’s time to tell the company’s U.S. and Dutch management that Stop & Shop workers deserve a fair settlement.

The post Stop & Shop Strikers Are Standing Up for All Grocery Workers appeared first on Truthout.

Russia 2019+ Military Doctrine

Vineyard of the Saker - Fri, 2019-04-19 21:02
source: https://southfront.org/military-doctrine-of-russia-2019/ Written and produced by SF Team: J.Hawk, Daniel Deiss, Edwin Watson The term “Gerasimov Doctrine”, apparently wholly made up Mark Galeotti who, to his credit, owned up to his

Is Trump for Detente or Militarism? – A Talk with Stephen Cohen

Naked Capitalism - Fri, 2019-04-19 20:55
Professor Stephen Cohen dicusses Trump's policies on Russia and China on Real News Network.

The 20 Surest Paths to Impeachment

Washington's Blog - Fri, 2019-04-19 20:26

Letting a ruler get away with power grabs and abuses guarantees that worse will come, from him or from his successors. This is the lesson of the failure to impeach recent U.S. presidents. For those who haven’t understood this yet, here’s a helpful FAQ.

Now, here are the 20 surest ways to impeach Trump:

1. Violation of Constitution on Domestic Emoluments
In his conduct while President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty under Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution “to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” has illegally received emoluments from the United States government and from individual state governments.

The Constitutional ban on domestic emoluments (Article II, Section 1) is absolute, not waivable by Congress, and not subject to proving any particular corrupting influence.

President Trump’s lease of the Old Post Office Building in Washington D.C. violates the General Services Administration lease contract which states: “No … elected official of the Government of the United States … shall be admitted to any share or part of this Lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom.” The GSA’s failure to enforce that contract constitutes an emolument. A January 16, 2019, report by the Inspector General of the General Services Administration confirmed this.

Since 1980 Trump and his businesses have garnered, according to the New York Times, “$885 million in tax breaks, grants and other subsidies for luxury apartments, hotels and office buildings in New York.” Those subsidies from the state of New York have continued since President Trump took office and constitute emoluments. The Trump organization receives emoluments from other states as well.

In these and many similar actions and decisions, President Donald J. Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President, and subversive of constitutional government, to the prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. Wherefore, President Donald J. Trump, by such conduct, is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office. (back to top)

2. Violation of Constitution on Foreign Emoluments
In his conduct while President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty under Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution “to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” has illegally received emoluments from foreign governments. Foreign emoluments are banned by the U.S. Constitution (Article I, Section 9).

Donald J. Trump’s business has licensing deals with two Trump Towers in Istanbul, Turkey. Donald J. Trump has stated: “I have a little conflict of interest, because I have a major, major building in Istanbul.”

China’s state-owned Industrial and Commercial Bank of China is the largest tenant in Trump Tower in New York City. It is also a major lender to the Trump organization. Its rent payments and its loans put President Trump in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Foreign diplomats, including the Embassy of Kuwait, have changed their Washington D.C. hotel and event reservations to Trump International Hotel following Donald J. Trump’s election to public office.

In these and many similar actions and decisions, President Donald J. Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President, and subversive of constitutional government, to the prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. Wherefore, President Donald J. Trump, by such conduct, is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office. (back to top)

3. Incitement of Violence
In his conduct while President of the United States, and while campaigning for election to that office, Donald J. Trump, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty under Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution “to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” has illegally incited violence within the United States.

A partial sampling of public statements by candidate Donald J. Trump:
“If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them. I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees.”

“You know what I hate? There’s a guy, totally disruptive, throwing punches, we’re not allowed to punch back anymore. I love the old days—you know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They’d be carried out on a stretcher, folks.”

“See the first group, I was nice. Oh, take your time. The second group, I was pretty nice. The third group, I’ll be a little more violent. And the fourth group, I’ll say get the hell out of here!”

“I’d like to punch him in the face, I tell ya.”

“He was swinging, he was hitting people, and the audience hit back. That’s what we need more of.”

Numerous incidents of violence followed these and other similar comments. John Franklin McGraw punched a man in the face at a Trump event, and then told Inside Edition that “The next time we see him, we might have to kill him.” Donald J. Trump said that he was considering paying McGraw’s legal bills.

Since Trump’s election and inauguration, his comments appearing to incite violence have continued, as have incidents of violence in which those participating in violence have pointed to Trump as justification.

On July 2, 2017, President Donald J. Trump tweeted a video of himself body slamming a man with an image of “CNN” superimposed on him.

In August 2017, participants in a racist rally in Charlottesville, Va., credited President Trump with boosting their cause. Their violence included actions that led to a murder charge. President Trump publicly minimized the offense and sought to blame “many sides.”

In April 2019, weeks after one of his supporters was arrested by the FBI for threatening to shoot Congresswoman Ilhan Omar in the head, President Trump tweeted a misleading and inflammatory video promoting just the sort of hatred toward Omar that the man arrested had expressed.

In these and similar actions and decisions, President Donald J. Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President, and subversive of constitutional government, to the prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. Wherefore, President Donald J. Trump, by such conduct, is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office. (back to top)

4. Interference With Voting Rights
In his conduct while President of the United States, and while campaigning for election to that office, Donald J. Trump, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty under Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution “to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” has engaged in acts of voter intimidation and suppression.

For months leading up to the November 2016 elections, Donald J. Trump publicly encouraged his supporters, the same ones he had encouraged to engage in violence, to patrol polling places in search of participants in the virtually nonexistent practice of voter fraud. In so doing, candidate Trump made would-be voters aware that they might face such patrols. His remarks included:
“I hope you people can sort of not just vote on the 8th, go around and look and watch other polling places, and make sure that it’s 100 percent fine.”

“We’re going to watch Pennsylvania. Go down to certain areas and watch and study and make sure other people don’t come in and vote five times.”

Trump urged supporters to target Philadelphia, St. Louis, and other cities with large minority populations.

He created on his campaign website a way to sign up to “volunteer to be a Trump election observer.”

When early voting began, incidents were reported of Trump supporters photographing voters and otherwise intimidating them.

Trump ally and advisor Roger Stone formed an activist group called Stop the Steal that acted in line with Trump’s public statements. The group appeared to threaten violence against delegates if the Republican Party denied Trump its nomination. It then organized intimidation efforts in the general election around the unsupported claim that Trump’s opponents would somehow “flood the polls with illegals. Liberal enclaves already let illegals vote in their local and state elections and now they want them to vote in the Presidential election.”

According to the U.S. Department of Justice in 2006, in all federal elections from 2002 to 2005, a total of 26 people out of 197 million were convicted of trying to vote illegally.

Stone’s organization created official-looking ID badges for volunteers and asked them to videotape voters, and conduct phony exit polls in nine cities with large minority populations.

One such volunteer, Steve Webb of Ohio, told the Boston Globe, “I’m going to go right up behind them. I’ll do everything legally. I want to see if they are accountable. I’m not going to do anything illegal. I’m going to make them a little bit nervous.”

Since becoming president, Donald J. Trump has continued with voter intimidation efforts. He has created a Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which has sent letters to states requesting sensitive voter information. Most states have refused. But thousands of people have canceled their registrations rather than have their information turned over to Trump’s administration.

In these and similar actions and decisions, President Donald J. Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President, and subversive of constitutional government, to the prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. Wherefore, President Donald J. Trump, by such conduct, is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office. (back to top)

5. Discrimination Based On Religion
In his conduct while President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty under Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution “to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” has engaged in acts of discrimination in violation of the First Amendment and other laws by seeking to ban Muslims from entering the United States.

Donald J. Trump had openly campaigned for office promising a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” Once in office, he created an executive order that his advisor Rudy Giuliani, said on Fox News had been drafted after Trump had asked him for the best way to create a Muslim ban “legally.” The order targeted several majority-Muslim countries for restrictions on immigration to the United States, but made allowances for people of minority religions within those countries. Trump told the Christian Broadcasting Network that Christian refugees would be given priority. When a federal court stopped this order from taking effect, President Trump issued a new one containing, in the words of his advisor Stephen Miller “minor technical differences.”

In these actions and decisions, President Donald J. Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President, and subversive of constitutional government, to the prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. Wherefore, President Donald J. Trump, by such conduct, is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office. (back to top)

6. Illegal War
In his conduct while President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty under Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution “to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” has waged numerous wars in violation of the United Nations Charter and of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, both treaties part of the Supreme Law of the United States under Article VI of the U.S. Constitution.

President Trump and his subordinates attempted to mislead the U.S. public and Congress about justifications for wars, including by claiming to have knowledge that the Syrian government used chemical weapons, as well as by falsely stating the number of U.S. troops deployed to various wars.

President Trump has escalated bombing campaigns in Iraq and Syria, resulting in large numbers of civilian deaths. After campaigning for office in opposition to the war on Afghanistan, Trump has effectively made it a permanent operation. President Trump spoke at the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency on January 23, 2017, and promoted an illegal policy of waging wars for the theft of resources. Trump has overseen the U.S. military’s collaboration in the illegal bombing of Yemen by Saudi Arabia, in violation of the Leahy Law and resulting in a severe humanitarian crisis.

By these actions, President Donald J. Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President, and subversive of constitutional government, to the prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States and the world. Wherefore, President Donald J. Trump, by such conduct, is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office. (back to top)

7. Illegal Threat of Nuclear War
In his conduct while President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty under Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution “to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” has flagrantly threatened nuclear war (“fire and fury”) against North Korea, in violation of the United Nations Charter, a treaty that is part of the Supreme Law of the United States under Article VI of the U.S. Constitution.

By this action, President Donald J. Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President, and subversive of constitutional government, to the prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States and the world. Wherefore, President Donald J. Trump, by such conduct, is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office. (back to top)

8. Abuse of Pardon Power
In his conduct while President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty under Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution “to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” has issued a pardon for former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, Joe Arpaio, who had been convicted of contempt for failure to comply with a court order in a case charging him with racial discrimination.

Arpaio was open about his commission of the underlying crime, for which he was found guilty in a civil suit. His contempt conviction was for continuing to engage in racial profiling, violating an order to cease doing so.

Arpaio set up a prison that he called a concentration camp. It had a high death rate with deaths often unexplained. He enclosed Latino prisoners with electric fencing.

By this action, President Donald J. Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President, and subversive of constitutional government, to the prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States and the world. Wherefore, President Donald J. Trump, by such conduct, is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office. (back to top)

9. Obstruction of Justice
In his conduct while President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty under Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution “to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” has obstructed justice.

The day after President Trump was briefed by White House Counsel on dishonest statements by then-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn who was being investigated by the FBI, Trump met with the director of the FBI James Comey and demanded his personal loyalty. Two weeks later Trump asked Comey to drop the investigation. Later still, Trump fired Comey. By Trump’s own words (http://nbcnews.to/2s0iLJq), his motivation was at least partly to obstruct the investigation.

By this action, President Donald J. Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President, and subversive of constitutional government, to the prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States and the world. Wherefore, President Donald J. Trump, by such conduct, is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office. (back to top)

10. Politicizing Prosecutions
In his conduct while President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty under Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution “to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” has directed or endeavored to direct law enforcement, including the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, to investigate and prosecute political adversaries and others — and to not prosecute political allies — for improper purposes not justified by any lawful function of his office, thereby eroding the rule of law, undermining the independence of law enforcement from politics, and compromising the constitutional right to due process of law.

On the Friday before Election Day 2017, the president issued a remarkable series of public statements, including on Twitter, pressuring the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party, and other political adversaries.

Earlier, the president had called Army soldier Bowe Bergdahl a “dirty, rotten traitor” while court-martial charges were pending.

On September 3, 2018, President Donald J. Trump tweeted this: “Two long running, Obama era, investigations of two very popular Republican Congressmen were brought to a well publicized charge, just ahead of the Mid-Terms, by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department. Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job Jeff…” This cannot be read but as potentially influencing the current or a future Attorney General or others in law enforcement to politicize prosecutions.

In 1940, Attorney General (later Supreme Court Justice) Robert Jackson warned that “the greatest danger of abuse of prosecuting power” was “picking the man and then . . . putting investigators to work, to pin some offense on him.” A chief executive who uses law enforcement to persecute political enemies is characteristic of a banana republic, not a constitutional republic. That is why Republican and Democratic presidents alike have respected the independence of law enforcement. In the case of military courts-martial, such as Bergdahl’s, this limit is formalized in the prohibition of “command influence.”

Congress set a precedent with the second article of impeachment against President Richard Nixon, which cited, in its fifth specification, his use of federal investigative agencies against political opponents. Following this precedent, the president’s attempts to employ the criminal investigative powers of the federal government against political opponents “for purposes unrelated to national security, the enforcement of laws, or any other lawful function of his office” are grounds for impeachment, even if they did not succeed in influencing law enforcement.

By this action, President Donald J. Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President, and subversive of constitutional government, to the prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States and the world. Wherefore, President Donald J. Trump, by such conduct, is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office. (back to top)

11. Collusion Against the United States with a Foreign Government
In his conduct while President-Elect of the United States, Donald J. Trump and his transition team lobbied foreign governments, including those of Egypt and Russia on behalf of the government of Israel.

Trump advisor Michael Flynn has lied to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about talking, pre-inauguration, to Russia (and other countries) on behalf of the government of Israel, allegedly at the instruction of Jared Kushner, who reportedly took his direction from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Prime Minister Netayahu wanted Russia to block or delay a UN resolution against illegal Israeli settlements, because then-President of the United States Barack Obama had chosen not to veto it. News reports in December 2016 said that Russia, while it did not veto, did try to delay the vote. Also, in December 2016, the government of Egypt said it had delayed the vote because President-Elect Trump had phoned the president of Egypt on behalf of Israel.

In these actions and decisions, Donald J. Trump has acted in a manner subversive of constitutional government, to the prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. Wherefore, President Donald J. Trump, by such conduct, is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office. (back to top)

12. Failure to Reasonably Prepare for or Respond to Hurricanes Harvey and Maria
In his conduct while President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, which was established to “provide for the common defense,” and in violation of his constitutional duty under Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution “to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” has failed to reasonably prepare for events like Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Maria or to adequately respond to those hurricanes.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was without a new director until June 2017. The National Hurricane Center was without a head from May 2017 through the time of Hurricane Harvey in August. On August 15, 2017, President Trump issued an executive order that rejected the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard, which had been established by executive order in 2015, and which required that infrastructure be built to withstand flooding. He already had disbanded the Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment, and withdrawn the United States from the Paris climate agreement. When Hurricane Harvey hit, President Donald Trump did not engage in rescue and recovery operations on the scale required. His subordinates at FEMA proposed that private individuals fund and perform those tasks on their own.

When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in September 2017, and for the months that followed, President Trump refused significant aid, despite widespread devastation, lack of electricity, and lack of medical care that, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in May 2018, left over 4,600 people dead. For weeks Trump even blocked aid to Puerto Rico from other nations, refusing to waive the Jones Act as he had done following Hurricane Harvey, even as numerous experts predicted the sort of death and suffering that resulted.

By these actions, President Donald J. Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President, and subversive of constitutional government, to the prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States and the world. Wherefore, President Donald J. Trump, by such conduct, is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office. (back to top)

13. Separating Children and Infants from Families
In his conduct while President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty under Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution “to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” has overseen the work of his subordinates who have forcibly separated thousands of refugee children and infants from their families, imprisoned them in inhumane conditions including on military bases and in the private facilities of military contractors, denied access to these sites sought by members of Congress, failed to meet or even to plausibly attempt to meet a court-imposed deadline to reunite children with their families, and defended these policies with hate-inspiring rhetoric almost certainly resulting in additional violence and cruelty by government employees and private individuals alike (see also Article of Impeachment on “Incitement of Violence”).

In these actions, Donald J. Trump has abused his high office and violated numerous legal requirements in an explicit effort to punish and deter people who in many cases stand accused of no legal violations themselves, and in other cases are accused of a misdemeanor. These actions by President Trump have violated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which the United States is party, the Convention on the Rights of the Child to which every other nation on earth is party, the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and the Due Process clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court has maintained that “the interest of parents in the care, custody, and control of their children is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by [the] Court.” President Trump’s subsequent Executive Order stating that families would be imprisoned as groups, rather than being separated, would have failed to bring him into compliance with international law or the Constitution even if implemented.

On September 6, 2018, the Trump administration announced a new rule that would allow immigrant children with their parents to be imprisoned indefinitely, in violation of a 1997 court settlement agreement that limits the imprisonment of children to 20 days.

In these actions and decisions, President Donald J. Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President, and subversive of constitutional government, to the prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States and people seeking asylum and refuge in the United States. Wherefore, President Donald J. Trump, by such conduct, is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.(back to top)

14. Illegally Attempting to Influence an Election
While campaigning for the office of President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, according to the sworn testimony and the guilty plea of his attorney Michael Cohen, engaged in a criminal conspiracy to buy the silence of individuals, and did so with the intent of influencing the election and in violation of campaign finance laws.

On August 21, 2018, Cohen admitted in federal court that he had paid Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal to silence them before the 2016 election at Donald J. Trump’s “direction.” Cohen said he acted “in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office” and “for the principal purpose of influencing the election.” This testimony implicates Donald J. Trump in the crime of conspiring to make an excessive and illegal campaign contribution. It also implicates him in the high crime and misdemeanor of attempting to fraudulently influence — and quite possibly successfully influence — the outcome of a U.S. presidential election. As President, he lied about and tried to cover-up his wrongdoing.

In this action, President Donald J. Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President, and subversive of constitutional government, to the prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. Wherefore, President Donald J. Trump, by such conduct, is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.(back to top)

15. Tax Fraud and Public Misrepresentation
In his conduct prior to assuming the office of President of the United States, Donald J. Trump engaged in extensive tax fraud which served as the basis for his dramatic misrepresentation to the public of his accomplishments.

According to evidence and documentation made public by the New York Times and not countered by President Trump, he and his siblings committed numerous felonies in the course of obtaining wealth from their father while paying approximately 5% rather than the 55% in taxes that the law required.

They did this, in part, by undervaluing properties, a crime known as appraisal fraud. Donald Trump and his siblings claimed that properties given them by their father were worth $41.4 million, but sold those properties for over 16 times that amount during the next decade.

Another crime employed was transfer pricing. Trump and his siblings massively overcharged their father’s companies for largely nonexistent services in order to both obtain his wealth and reduce his profits. The reduction in profits allowed Trump’s father to increase the rent he charged people for publicly subsidized, rent-controlled properties.

Through these and other fraudulent activities, Donald Trump was made wealthy by the transfer of money from his father. In the analysis of one expert, if Trump had simply invested that money in a simple investment fund, he would now have the $10 billion he falsely claimed to have as a candidate for president. In reality, Trump lost a fortune through business failures. As a candidate, however, by lying about his wealth and the origins of his wealth, Donald Trump misled voters to believe that, while he had no political record he did have a very successful business record. Trump falsely claimed to have received only $1 million from his father which he had been required to pay back “with interest.”

In these and many similar actions and decisions, President Donald J. Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President, and subversive of constitutional government, to the prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. Wherefore, President Donald J. Trump, by such conduct, is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.(back to top)

16. Assaulting Freedom of the Press
In his conduct while President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty under Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution “to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” has repeatedly undermined the freedom of the press.

President Trump has threatened to use libel law to go after media outlets that have displeased him. On March 30, 2017, he tweeted: “The failing @nytimes has disgraced the media world. Gotten me wrong for two solid years. Change libel laws?” On April 30, 2017, his then chief of staff Reince Priebus confirmed that changing libel laws is “something we’ve looked at,” adding that “newspapers and news agencies need to be more responsible with how they report the news.” On July 2, 2017, President Donald J. Trump tweeted a video of himself body slamming a man with an image of “CNN” superimposed on him.

President Trump has threatened to remove broadcasting licenses from media outlets that have displeased him. On October 11, 2017, he tweeted: ‘‘With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!’’ and ‘‘Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked. Not fair to public!’’

President Trump’s White House, on February 24, 2017, barred certain news media — CNN, the New York Times, the L.A. Times, and Politico — from attending a White House press briefing. In June 2017, his administration prohibited video recordings of White House press briefings. In November 2018, his administration suspended the press credential of CNN correspondent Jim Acosta, falsely accusing him of “placing his hands” on a white house intern.

President Trump has repeatedly referred to news media as “the enemy of the people,” while expressing his desire that journalistic activity be stifled.  For example: On February 17, 2017, Trump tweeted: ‘‘The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!’’. On July 22, 2017, Trump tweeted: “A new INTELLIGENCE LEAK from the Amazon Washington Post,this time against A.G. Jeff Sessions.These illegal leaks, like Comey’s, must stop!”

President Trump’s rhetoric has encouraged authoritarian foreign governments to attack the very U.S. media that Trump criticizes, endangering not only press freedoms but the lives and safety of American journalists. On May 2, 2017, just ahead of World Press Freedom Day, the Committee to Protect Journalists noted that “President Trump’s oft-tweeted ‘fake news’ epithet, for example, had already been adopted by repressive governments such as China, Syria, and Russia. When Trump verbally attacked a correspondent during a February press conference, he was cheered by Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the world’s worst jailer of journalists.

When Saudi Arabia murdered U.S./Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, President Trump made extensive efforts to deny the evidence and to prevent or minimize the consequences to the Saudi government, even while continuing his usual verbal attacks on U.S. journalists.

President Trump’s subordinates locked up U.S./Iranian journalist Marzieh Hashemi with no charges or trial as a “material witness.”

President Trump’s Department of Justice has indicted Australian publisher Julian Assange for unknown charges, after spending months trying to figure out some way to prosecute him for the act of journalism.

President Trump has nominated for U.S. Attorney General William Barr, who stated at his confirmation hearings that he might jail journalists for doing their job if that job “hurt the country.”

Freedom of the press is enshrined in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. As Justice Black observed in New York Times Co. v. United States, “In the First Amendment the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.”

A president is certainly free to criticize particular news stories and outlets that he believes are inaccurate — and no above-cited tweet or statement, standing in isolation, would constitute an impeachable offense. However, President Trump’s consistent pattern of verbal attacks against journalists and his administration’s actions to retaliate against and exclude journalists, combined with threats to take governmental action against news outlets, crosses a line.

In the above and many similar actions and decisions, President Donald J. Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President, and subversive of constitutional government, to the prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. Wherefore, President Donald J. Trump, by such conduct, is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.(back to top)

17. Supporting a Coup in Venezuela
In his conduct while President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty under Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution “to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,”

And in his conduct while Vice President of the United States, Michael Richard Pence, in violation of his oath to faithfully execute the office of Vice President of the United States and to support and defend the Constitution of the United States,

have damaged the rule of law and endangered international security by supporting a coup attempt in Venezuela.

On the evening of January 22, 2019, following years of damaging U.S. sanctions against Venezuela, which followed an unsuccessful 2002 U.S.-supported coup attempt, Vice President Pence reportedly called Juan Guaidó and told him that the United States would support him if he were to seize power in Venezuela. The next day, January 23, Guaidó attempted to do so. That same day, President Trump issued a statement recognizing Guaidó as the President of Venezuela, despite the fact that Venezuela had an elected president and that Guaidó had no legitimate claim to the presidency. On January 24, 2019, the Trump-Pence administration attempted unsuccessfully to persuade the Organization of American States to recognize Guaidó as president.

In the above and related actions and decisions, President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Michael Richard Pence have acted in a manner contrary to their trust as President and Vice President, and subversive of constitutional government, to the prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. Wherefore, President Donald J. Trump and Michael Richard Pence, by such conduct, are guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.(back to top)

18. Unconstitutional Declaration of Emergency
In his conduct while President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty under Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution “to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” has declared a national emergency, in the absence of any actual emergency, for the purpose of spending money on a border wall that had been appropriated for other purposes.

In so acting, President Trump has violated Article 1, Section 7 of the United States Constitution: “All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives . . . .” He has also, in so acting, violated Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution: “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law . . . .” The same action also violates the Federal Anti-Deficiency Statute. By using the United States military to enforce immigration law, President Trump’s announced plan would also violate the Posse Comitatus Act.

In addition, President Trump has abused his power by publicly promoting this action using a series of falsehoods encouraging fear, bigotry, and hatred. He has falsely suggested that immigrants commit crimes at a higher rate than non-immigrants, that illegal border crossings have been increasing in recent years, that terrorist groups have sent operatives to enter the United States through Mexico, and that applying for asylum is a threatening or criminal action.

In these and many similar actions and decisions, President Donald J. Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President, and subversive of constitutional government, to the prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. Wherefore, President Donald J. Trump, by such conduct, is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.(back to top)

19. Instructing Border Patrol to Violate the Law
In his conduct while President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty under Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution “to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” has directed U.S. Border Patrol agents to violate the law.

On April 5, 2019, President Trump, while visiting Calexico, California, reportedly told Border Patrol agents to defy U.S. law and refuse to allow migrants into the United States. The President went further, instructing Border Patrol agents to lie to a judge if charged with violating the law. “If judges give you trouble, say, ‘Sorry, judge, I can’t do it. We don’t have the room,’” said the President. Upon the President’s departure, Border Patrol officials instructed their agents that, contrary to the President’s instructions, they were required to obey the law.

President Trump went further still, informing Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, according to “senior administration officials” who spoke with CNN, that he would “grant McAleenan a pardon if he were sent to jail for having border agents block asylum seekers from entering the U.S. in defiance of US law.”

Paralleling his lawless efforts to keep refugees and immigrants out of the United States, President Trump continued to promote his policy of separating infants and children from families (see separate Article of Impeachment), and proposed shipping and releasing imprisoned refugees to particular parts of the United States for reasons of electoral politics, not human welfare.

In these and many similar actions and decisions, President Donald J. Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President, and subversive of constitutional government, to the prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. Wherefore, President Donald J. Trump, by such conduct, is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.(back to top)

20. Resurrect Russiagate No Matter What It Takes and If It Distracts Us All from the 19 Clearcut Charges Above, Keeps Trump in Office, or Gets Us All Killed, Well That’s Just the Price We’ll Have to Pay Because, You Know, . . . PUTIN!

Six months after it begins, the oligarchs/Macron versus Gilets Jaunes battle is still raging and will keep on

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A Short History of Yugoslavia (V)

Oriental Review - Fri, 2019-04-19 19:13
Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV Tito’s policy in the 1970s of the so-called “encourage and suppress” for the sake to struggle against politically undesirable and threatening ethnic nationalisms especially the Croat and the Serb ones appeared to be incoherent one. In another word, while some ethnic nationalisms and their […]

Syria, A Storm is Coming

New Eastern Outlook - Fri, 2019-04-19 19:01

War is coming in Syria. The decision has been made, the targets are outlined. Syria has had enough. The fake color revolution has done more than fail, it has united Syrians in rage, their homes destroyed, their factories looted, their heritage peddled in auction houses in London and New York and now over 2 million Syrian refugees held hostage by the United States.

War is coming.

Israel’s bombing campaign won’t stop it. The targets across Israel have been outlined, the ammonia warehouses in Haifa, the “Valley of Technology” and Israel’s military industries. All will be gone in the first salvo with 200 Iskander M missiles easily evading the “Iron Dome” whose command centers will fall in a prelude.

Sources in Syria say hundreds of launchers, protected by BUK, PantirS and S300 defenses are out of Israel’s reach. Syrian scientists, many with years of experience in Russia’s most advanced missile development programs, may well have created even more surprises.

Netanyahu has kept this from his people. Thousands of Israelis will die in the first minutes. Israel’s nuclear capability is useless, Russia has long informed them that this is a “red line.”

Syria expects to be hit, mass bombing, Israel has plenty of practice bombing civilians. Syria is prepared for death, they have had 8 years of death at the hands of the Takfiris and their American and Israeli “prostitutes” as Dr. Bassam Barakat, a Russian trained physician living in Damascus states clearly.

“The Americans have experience, in Lebanon in the 1980s, in Iraq. When the convoys of coffins begin to go to Washington as happened during the American occupation of Iraq, America will learn the price of its backing of Israel’s attacks on Syria.

The rules of the game and the rules of engagement with Syria have changed.

What will happen is clear, that unless Israel begins immediate diplomatic moves to quell the fires it has ignited across Syria, a war the likes of which Israel has not imagined will descend on the Israeli people who have been lied to by their leaders.

Israel is vulnerable.

That war may destroy us all, but the Syrian people will survive. However, we seriously doubt that Israel can say the same thing. A storm is coming.”

With the spring of 2019, lines are forming in Damascus, no heat, no fuel for vehicles, intermittent electricity, many foods unavailable, a nation seemingly on its knees due to American and Israeli efforts to starve the people of Syria.

The United States is occupying 35% of Syria and has given that land to Kurdish separatists for them to share with remaining ISIS units that have been largely ignored by the US and its “coalition” allies in now almost 4 years of phony war.

The ethnically Arab lands given to the Kurdish rebels is the breadbasket of the Middle East along with rich oil and gas fields. Similarly, Idlib province, occupied exclusively by al Qaeda under US guidance, is receiving daily arms convoys of new American weapons.

In Southern Syria, the US has set up a training facility adjacent to Rukban, the vast refugee camp where America blocks international observers and also blocks aid convoys. The US is afraid its recruiting and training efforts might well be exposed, efforts that go on daily with endless weapons and supplies while children, only a few short yards away starve at the rate of nearly a dozen a day.

Syria is being forced to go to war and Trump’s move to give Golan to Israel has made war a certainty. The only question is when and the answer is also unexpected, sooner than anyone might guess.

We know this, Syria has asked Russia to inform the US that Syria expects the US to withdraw from all territories East of the Euphrates.

Syria has also informed Russia that American air power will no longer be allowed to operate inside Syria and that all agreements that may have held during the war on ISIS are over. This means that American aircraft may be fired on.

Syria has demanded the immediate withdrawal of all non-Syria military forces from the governates of Deir al’Zour, Raqqa and Hasaka, for the ISIS training facilities to be closed, for the mercenaries to be sent home, the poison gas production facilities to be closed and the command centers with their Saudi, Qatari and Israeli advisors to empty.

One might ask why the strong talk from a nation that is supposed to be on its knees? Let’s look at the record.

America is now negotiating with the Taliban, leaving Afghanistan with its tail between its legs as it had Vietnam some 5 decades ago.

The situation in Iraq is worse, some 5 thousand Americans still think they are occupying that nation while rage is stirring there also. Iraq knows it was nearly destroyed by the Takfiris with full complicity of Washington and Tel Aviv, a quarter of a million Iraqis dead and millions lived in brutal slavery for years.

Tens of billions in Iraqi oil was stolen while the profits lined American pockets.

It isn’t hard for the world to see what America is about. America is falling apart, 60% of its revenue goes to a military long tired of war, long tired of losing, a military that protects nothing and threatens everything.

When the war comes, and war is coming, it will come in Iraq, it will come in Iran, and American forces around the world will be seen as the people of Syria and Iraq see them, as parasites.

The language here is the language of anger, much of it translated from Arabic. Israel and America will ignore it.

Seldom has anything been as clear as the situation inside Syria. It cannot be said enough, “8 years of war,” and it needs to be said over and over, ethnic cleansing, gas attacks, mass kidnappings, institutionalized rape, theft on an unimagined scale.

The enemy, and this was never a civil war, it was something unique, the enemy was and is world organized crime as I pointed out in Damascus on that morning in December 2014. A bill is due and the nations that allowed themselves to submit to criminal rule will learn lessons a thousand times worse than 9/11.

Gordon Duff is a Marine combat veteran of the Vietnam War that has worked on veterans and POW issues for decades and consulted with governments challenged by security issues. He’s a senior editor and chairman of the board of  Veterans Today, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”

Anti-Vaxxers Are Just as Bad as Climate Deniers

Truthdig - Fri, 2019-04-19 18:30

There have been at least 555 confirmed cases of the highly contagious measles virus since January alone, prompting officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to call this sudden eruption the worst outbreak of the disease in nearly 20 years. The story about measles spreading across the U.S. is unfolding alongside a parallel and troubling trend of increased measles infection rates globally. The World Health Organization issued a report at the same time as the CDC, finding that measles cases worldwide have surged by nearly four times the average number in the first three months of the year.

But the national and global trends spin a tale of two separate realities. An irrational fear of vaccines among well-educated and largely white Americans has fueled an utterly preventable and dangerous disease that had been considered “eliminated” by scientists. Reuters explained that “[a] growing and vocal fringe of parents in the United States oppose measles vaccines believing, contrary to scientific evidence, that ingredients in the vaccines can cause autism or other disorders.” Michelle M. Mello, a professor of law at Stanford Law School and a professor of health research and policy at the Stanford University School of Medicine explained to me in an interview that while there have been pockets of low vaccination rates in minority communities—like Somali Americans in Minnesota or Orthodox Jews in New York City—“On a national level, overwhelmingly, the demographic is educated, relatively affluent white families” that are choosing not to vaccinate their children. The epicenters of measles outbreaks are in liberal states such as California, New York, Oregon and Washington.

Meanwhile, as an example of how the rest of the world struggles with a dangerous infectious disease, the East African island of Madagascar is experiencing its worst measles outbreak in history. More than 115,000 cases of the virus have been confirmed in a country of 25 million, and at least 1,200 people have so far died. The dead are mostly children under the age of 15. Less than 60% of that nation’s residents are vaccinated, but not because of a fear that vaccines cause autism. Instead they face a more traditional obstacle: poverty.

In Madagascar, mass malnutrition has helped the virus spread faster among young people with compromised immune systems. According to Associated Press, although the measles vaccine is free, “Simply reaching a clinic for help can be a challenge. Many people in Madagascar cannot afford to see a doctor or buy medicine, and health centers often are understaffed or have poorly qualified workers.”

It is a monumental ode to human stupidity that the wealthiest nation in the world teeters on the edge of a dangerous measles epidemic at the same time that poor nations are struggling to vaccinate their residents. It is worth contrasting the first-world problems of misinformed American parents who are literally organizing “measles parties” for their children with poverty-stricken families in nations like Madagascar.

Measles is not a disease to be taken as lightly as the so-called “anti-vaxxers” would have you believe. Mello explained, “This is not a disease where your [unvaccinated] kid has to share saliva or snot with another kid to get infected. You just have to be in a room where another person with measles has passed through in the last couple of hours to have a 90% chance of infection.” Although mortality rates from measles are low in a nation like the U.S., there can be long-lasting damage to health, including severe hearing loss. Yet there are hordes of American parents who are more terrified of vaccines than they are of measles.

There has been much hand-wringing in the U.S. about how best to approach the fiercely defended views of the anti-vaxxer crowd. Study after study conducted by reputable scientists and published in peer-reviewed journals confirm the same thing: Vaccines do not cause autism. Worse, an examination of how best to convince parents about the safety of vaccines had a depressing conclusion that “existing strategies to correct vaccine misinformation are ineffective and often backfire, resulting in the unintended opposite effect, reinforcing ill-founded beliefs about vaccination and reducing intentions to vaccinate.” In other words, anti-vaxxers are fact-resistant and, when presented with reality, dig their heels in even harder to maintain their fantasy.

If any of this sounds familiar, there is an analogy to be made between anti-vaxxers and climate-change deniers. Both groups place faith in a gut-level sense of their rightful position on an issue that has far-reaching existential implications. And both groups refuse to acknowledge the vast body of sound scientific literature proving them wrong. But on the issue of climate there is an encouraging trend showing that a significant percentage of Americans who once believed global warming wasn’t real are now accepting the science. One report found that about a fifth of those who had recently seen the light did so because they personally felt the impacts of climate change.

Where vaccination rates are concerned, we see the opposite trend. Federal officials released data late last year showing that the percentage of unvaccinated toddlers in the U.S. increased four-fold in the last 17 years. It is no wonder we are seeing outbreaks of a disease like measles. Mello explained that “In order for us to stop the spread and slow it to the rate where the outbreak actually extinguishes itself in relatively short order, we need about 95% of the population to receive the [measles] vaccine.” She issued a dire warning that “If it goes any lower than that, the very high rate of spread will cause the outbreak to take on a wildfire aspect.” Just as some have suggested that “climate-change deniers are a danger to our security,” there is a strong case to be made that anti-vaxxers are a threat to our collective health.

Perhaps it is a testament to the effectiveness of vaccines in the U.S. that has fueled the ignorance of just how necessary they are. We had more or less eliminated measles from the U.S. and have had similar levels of success in eradicating other infectious diseases through vaccinations. We no longer live in a world where a parent’s worst nightmare is their child contracting smallpox. But as vaccination rates drop, diseases are returning. The question is: Do we really need to wait for hardcore anti-vaxxers to come around once they see the fatal impacts of their choices?

Just as combating climate change requires strong policy solutions and laws to stop runaway warming, laws are needed to maintain the herd immunity our society relies on. The state of California passed a mandatory vaccination law banning parents from refusing vaccines based on their personal beliefs. While this has encouragingly led to increased vaccination rates, the rate of medical exemptions has also increased, suggesting that some physicians and parents are taking advantage of a loophole. More recently, New York City officials have taken even stricter measures—requiring mandatory vaccinations and barring unvaccinated people who have been exposed to the disease from being in public places.

There are, of course, limits to the analogy of climate change denialism and the beliefs of anti-vaxxers. But there is also a terrifying link. As our planet warms, scientists predict that infectious diseases like measles are more easily transmitted. In other words, two waves of ignorance could be colliding at this very moment to produce the kind of mayhem we have not seen in our lifetimes. At a time when we have so much information at our fingertips, could humanity’s downfall really be marked by such incomprehension and thick-headedness?

U.S. Continues Supplying Kurds to Counteract Turkey

Off-Guardian - Fri, 2019-04-19 18:00
Firas Samuri The mass media has been widely covering the details of the disastrous humanitarian situation in Rukban refugee camp over recent months. By the way, the crisis in other sites deserves more considerable attention. Al-Hol refugee camp located in Al-Hasakah province and run by the Syria Democratic Forces is one of them. Every single day from 10 to 20 people, mainly women and children die due to the lack of drinking water, essential goods, and medicine. Only for the past two months, 250 children passed away in the camp. According to estimates, now more than 50,000 refugees reside there, although initially it was designed only for 25,000. It turned out that the catastrophe of Al-Hol residents is caused by the illegal actions of the U.S. authorities. Their homes and shelters in the northern and north-eastern part of Syria have been destroyed by the indiscriminate airstrikes of the U.S.-led international coalition. Apart from Rukban camp situated in the 55-kilometre zone near Al-Tanf, the American servicemen organized ’humanitarian assistance’ for the people in Al-Hol. However, it …

What Will It Take For Trump to Get His Due?

Counterpunch - Fri, 2019-04-19 16:05


It is hard to recall now but before the 2016 election, blatant contempt for the rule of law and other longstanding (small-r) republican values, public displays of stupidity, extreme character flaws, and irrefutable evidence of psychological instability could wreck a presidential campaign; and it was practically axiomatic that no presidency could be headed by anyone to whom those descriptions apply.

No longer. By force of example, Donald Trump has proven the conventional wisdom wrong.

The sixty percent or so of Americans whose heads are screwed on more or less correctly have therefore had to face up to the fact that as many as forty percent of their fellow citizens are either too benighted to face the truth about the president they elected, or, if they do have some inkling, that they either don’t care, or actually like being led by “a fucking moron.”

It was one of the handful of by now long gone “adults in the room,” Trump’s first Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, a man of impeccably nefarious capitalist (and anti-environmentalist) credentials, who described Trump that way.  He was spot on right.

Persons outside the Trump base cannot help but believe that there is a tipping-point somewhere; that, while Trump mentally decomposes, the other forty percent cannot maintain their collective idiocy indefinitely.  However, this belief, which I share, is based solely on respect for and faith in humankind; at this point, the available evidence does not support it.

It suggests instead that Trump could indeed walk out onto Fifth Avenue, shoot someone dead, and become more popular with his base on that account.  When he first made this boast, as his campaign was getting underway, people took it as a joke.  Hardly anyone is still laughing.

Trump didn’t get to where he now is thanks to, pardon the sarcasm, his magnetic face, form or figure. The man is hideous, a walking laughing-stock.

Evangelicals and the alt-right “deep thinker” Steve Bannon say that they forgive Trump’s human flaws because they regard him as an instrument of providential design.  If they are even just a little bit right, the alleged divinity must really have it in for us.

A more satisfactory explanation would have mischievous gods using us as playthings.  Polytheistic explanations generally make more sense of the facts and are therefore easier to believe than invocations of providential design.  This case is no exception.

However, there is no need to turn to the heavens for an explanation of the Trump phenomenon.

Neither need we give up trying to make sense of it at all because there are at least two other ways to account for the incomprehensible but nevertheless incontrovertible fact that so many apparently sane persons, individuals, capable of navigating their ways through life’s vagaries, have turned Donald Trump, as uncharismatic a figure as could be, into the leader of a sixty-three million strong personality cult.

The first lays blame on Clintonism, the dominant, but no longer exclusive, ideology of America’s less odious duopoly party, and on the campaign Clintonite Democrats, including Hillary herself, ran against Trump.

The case for that explanation is hardly news; genuine leftists have been arguing against Clintonism for years, and diehard supporters of Bernie Sanders were hardly the only ones two and a half year ago to oppose Hillary from the left.

It is urgent nevertheless to pursue the case against the theory and practice of Clintonism now – because well-resourced corporate Democrats and their patrons, fearful of losing control of “their thing” to the likes of uncowed, courageous, principled upstarts like Ilhan Omar and AOC, are pulling out all the stops in their defense of “moderation.”

The other explanation is less widely appreciated but, I think, even more important.  It is summed up in Democratic Party campaign strategist James Carville’s to (Bill) Clinton’s campaign workers in 1992: “it’s the economy stupid.”   In the Clinton years and for some time thereafter, that overused expression became almost a cliché.  Even so, it has become pertinent again.

***

By 2016, the widespread unpopularity of neoliberal, liberal imperialist, Wall Street and military-industrial complex friendly politics, which the Clintons did so much to establish, helped Trump secure an Electoral College victory.  So did Hillary Clinton’s shortcomings as a First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State.  The tone deafness of the campaign she and her team ran didn’t help either.

That “progressive pragmatist” – or is it “pragmatic progressive?” — was born to lose, but even she ought to have trounced a candidate as vile and unfit for the office he sought as Donald Trump.

She didn’t, however. Instead, she outdid herself.

For the still continuing debacles that began to unfold on her watch, she is by no means the only one at fault.  But wherever she most plainly left her mark – in Honduras, Libya, Syria and elsewhere – she became the most culpable of all the contemporaneous Clintonite politicians; more culpable even than Barack Obama himself, notwithstanding the fact that ultimately the buck stopped with him.

No doubt, retrograde, racist, and nativist populism would be a factor in today’s politics even had Hillary left Bill after his fling with Monica, and even if she had then given the rest of her life over to the idle pleasures dear to the Donald’s first First Lady, the peerless Ivana, mother of three, not just one, bearer of bad seed.

But had, say, John Kerry been calling the shots instead of Hillary during Obama’s first term, there might not now be the refugee crises – in Europe and on the U.S.-Mexico border — that are causing so much strife in the world today.

And then there is Clinton’s role in the revival of Cold War anti-Russian animosities and her part in encouraging the Obama administration’s war on whistle blowers and, more generally, on First Amendment protections of journalists.

Culpability for the criminally sadistic prison sentence Chelsea Manning was forced to endure, and is now enduring again because prosecutors want her to turn on Julian Assange; and for the de facto imprisonment, and whatever comes next, of Assange himself are on her as much as on any other miscreant in the Democratic and Republican folds.

But reasons to oppose the mainstream Democratic Party from the left don’t explain the Trump base, at least not directly.  It is that “basket of deplorables,” more than anything else, which accounts for Trump’s continuing hold over the American government and for the present and future consequences of the Trump presidency.

Perhaps the idea is just to keep “the resistance” alert or perhaps those who make the claim really believe it; whichever is the case, the conventional wisdom nowadays is that Trump will be hard to defeat in 2020.  Needless to say, in a sane society, he would lose in a landslide running against a potted plant.

Nevertheless, later-day Clintonites have seized on the idea of Trump being a formidable opponent because, for their purposes, it is useful – for scaring Democrats into nominating someone like Hillary or worse to run against the Trumpian menace.  Joe Biden is worse; he just hasn’t yet had the chance to do as much harm.

There is ample reason to worry, though, that, as long as the Trump base remains intact, Democrats will again find a way to turn an all but certain victory into a pitiful defeat.

All they would have to do to remain losers is accede to the idea that the way forward is to field candidates of the kind that made Trump and Trumpism possible and even necessary.

That there is an urgent need to win back white working class voters is beyond dispute, even if not all MSNBC and CNN “experts” agree.  However, contrary to what they claim, this does not imply “moderation” or “centrism” or any of the other common sense nostrums currently being bandied about. No way.

Let Obama and others inveigh against “purity.”  Their way is a losing way.  It might seem right at first – in the way that avoiding strenuous exercise might seem right for patients recovering from heart attacks or surgeries.  But, over time and at great human cost, it has become clear that just the opposite is the case. This has been demonstrated time and again.

These considerations help explain why there is, and ought to be, a left opposition to Clintonism and, more broadly, to the mainstream Democratic Party.  However, they explain the existence and durability of the Trump base only insofar as the rising inequality Clintonism encourages does.  That is only part of the story.

A very sizeable minority of voters, roughly sixty-three million of them — voted for Trump in 2016. Realizing the enormity of the mistake they made, quite a few of them have defected from the Trumpian ambit.  Astonishingly, though, quite a few have not.

The defections mostly happened early on.  The size of the Trump base has, by most accounts, remained fairly stable for the past two years, even as the obviousness of Trump’s unfitness for much of anything, much less the presidency, has become a lot harder than it used to be to ignore.

Could many of the remaining Trump supporters still be there because they really do see him as an instrument of Providential Design?  This is not impossible; ordinary people can be “fucking morons” too.

Or could the fiscal conservatives and deficit hawks still standing by their man be on board because, as some commentators think, stacking the federal courts with Neanderthal judges “trumps” all.  If nothing else, this would at least explain Mitch McConnell.

In any case, it is plain that Fox News and other rightwing propaganda operations are more persuasive than anyone three years ago would have imagined.  We now know too that identity politics isn’t just for persons of color and the LGBTQ community; long in the tooth white males and the women who love them have gone down that path as well.

In a world in which a lot of people who are not making off like bandits on Trump’s account stand by him anyway, anything is possible.  In this case, that which is to be explained is so bizarre, so hard to fathom. that just about any explanation seems as good as any other.

It is a stretch, but perhaps there are even people whom no court would deem non compos mentis, of unsound mind, who support Trump because they think that he is an outstanding role model for their children.

This would be only slightly more implausible than that anyone would think, this far into his presidency, that Trump actually is “making America great again,” whatever that might mean to them.

Insofar as Trump’s words (tweets, rants) track reality at all, it is usually the negation of what he says that is closest to the truth.  This is the case here as well; it is as plain as can be that so far from making America great, he is turning it into a laughing stock. Only those whose will to believe is absolutely indomitable could imagine otherwise, even for a moment.

Trump is not even taking the lead in perpetrating this deceit. For turning pretenses of greatness into evidence of its opposite, Brexiteers are way ahead of him; so are authoritarian leaders the world over.

Do Trump supporters somehow not see this?  Do they see it, but not care?  Do they see it and care, but care more about other things – like “recognition” by cultural elites?

Unless the Reality Principle has some been abrogated, none of these possibilities entirely account for what has been going on since Inauguration Day.

And so, again, the question remains: why does the Trump base survive more or less intact?  Why are the victims of Trump’s con still standing by their man?

***

The best answers are often ones that academic and media gurus deem superseded.  The idea that Trump supporters are remaining loyal to him mainly for economic reasons is a case in point.

Trump’s policies plainly harm the “forgotten man” Franklin Roosevelt spoke of; just as plainly, they favor the “economic royalists” whose hatred Roosevelt said he welcomed.  He was talking about the Trump base demographic of his time.  And yet Trump’s base abides.

To be sure, Trump’s supporters are not the smartest kids on the block. But it is not just ignorance and stupidity that keeps them on board.  It is also economic reality.

The ways presidents and their administrations affect the economy, and therefore the economic wellbeing of individuals affected by the economy they preside over, are complicated.

Even so, our overripe capitalist economy, some ten years after Obama et. al. saved it from going under as the world financial system that sustained it was melting down, should be delivering Trumpism its deathblow – partly thanks to the self-serving machinations of the Donald and his minions, and partly for reasons beyond Trump’s or anyone else’s control.

That deathblow is surely coming – probably sooner than later.  When it does, thanks to the “deconstruction” of the regulatory state along with nearly all other mitigating factors, the outcome won’t be pretty.

For now, though, the gods or God, always on the lookout for ways to do us mortals harm have been working overtime to keep the economic indicators looking good.

The sad fact of the matter, though, is that there are times when the indicators mislead.  Thus Trump’s tax cuts for the rich caused them to improve for a while.  But this was because Trump gave the economy the statistical equivalent of a sugar high.

To his supporters, this was viewed as evidence of the adroitness of their man’s stewardship of the economy.  Rightwing media hosts, abetted by a few academics and journalists who ought to know better, encouraged their delusion.

They even seem to have convinced, or at least neutralized, some of Trumpism’s earliest victims.  Being unable not to notice how the wrong-headedness and general incoherence of Trumpian kakistocratic rule made them worse off, they nevertheless remained loyal — taking one for the team.

Some of them may only be “values voters” with piss poor values.  Most of them, though, are victims of a well-executed con.  Their seemingly limitless willingness to be deluded by a venal and sadistic egotist and the kakistocrats who serve him is truly awe-inspiring.

[In a “kakistocracy,” the worst, the least qualified, the most unscrupulous and corrupt rule.  The Trump administration is a full-blown kakistocracy.]

***

Trump or no Trump, capitalist economies go through cycles of boom and bust.  On this, all major economic theorists – from Karl Marx to Milton Friedman – agree.

The Obama era ‘fixes’ to the Great Recession, consisting mostly of bailouts to banksters awash in “get out of jail free” cards, restored a semblance of the old regime’s economic order. And so, the rich continue to get richer in ways that generate economic data that suggest that a recovery is underway.

In truth, though, the most that most people can say is that they are doing about as well as their counterparts a generation or two back did, and that their share of the nation’s wealth is at least not deteriorating more than it already has.

With recoveries like that, our later-day economic royalists hardly even need recessions to keep workers feeling and being insecure!

Thus Trump has been benefiting from what got going, partly with government help but also in the normal course of events in capitalist economies, when Obama was starting out.  The resulting statistical rise, such as it is, has been going on for roughly ten years.  Unless capitalism has fundamentally changed – which, of course, it has not — it cannot go on for much longer.  As such things, go, ten years is already a long time.

When Trump’s luck runs out, nearly everyone will find him or herself worse off than they currently are, and worse off than need be.  The most ardent Trump supporters will be among the hardest hit.

In the Obama era, there were no soft landings, but there were no catastrophic downturns either. But now, thanks to Trump, the guardrails are mostly gone.  When the Donald’s lucky streak ends, the “collateral damage” will therefore be worse than a decade ago.

On the one hand, though, it will be glorious to watch him, his children, and his close associates fall. On the other, they will be taking a lot down with them.

The suffering will affect nearly everybody to some extent – but pity, above all, the true believers, the certifiable loonies, and the victims who just won’t face up to the fact that they have been snookered.

Trump will continue to menace until either his health fails – thanks God for cholesterol! — or Republicans rise up and desert him.

He knows no shame, and the mean-spiritedness and capacity for self-deception of his supporters seem to know no bounds.

But there is always the economy, stupid.  It has a way of concentrating the minds of even the most obtuse among us.

As long as his supporters can convince themselves that the economy is fine, even if it is not, and that Trump’s “deals” offer hope for a better future – not for Muslims or Central Americans, of course, but for people like them — it won’t matter that their president is a laughing stock.

It just might matter, though, that he is leading them to ruination in ways that, try as they might, they cannot deny.

If that won’t be enough to cause at least some of them, enough to make a difference, at long last finally to turn against Trump, then nothing will, and there will be nothing to do but, like souls entering the Inferno, to “abandon all hope.”

Take heart, though: we are not there yet, and, in all likelihood, we never will be.

Is the American Psychological Association Addicted to Militarism and War?

Counterpunch - Fri, 2019-04-19 16:00

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

When hijacked planes hit their targets on the morning of September 11, 2001, the American Psychological Association (APA) sprang into action. Within hours, through its disaster response network the APA mobilized expert practitioners and worked with the American Red Cross to provide psychological support to families of the victims and to rescue workers. The APA’s public affairs office moved quickly as well to assist the public—and especially families, children, and schools—by developing and disseminating materials that provided psychological guidance about coping with fear and trauma.

But with comparable urgency, the APA also ensured that the Bush Administration would view the association as a valued partner in the military and intelligence operations central to the new “war on terror.” Within days, the APA’s science directorate called upon research psychologists to identify how psychological science might contribute to counter-terrorism initiatives. Shortly thereafter, a newly established APA subcommittee on psychology’s response to terrorism directed its attention to “offering psychologists’ expertise to decision-makers in the military, Central Intelligence Agency, Department of State and related agencies” and to “inventorying members’ expertise and asking government psychologists how agencies could put that expertise to use.”

These two responses are clearly very different from each other. The first—providing expert, research-informed psychological assistance to a grieving and traumatized nation—captures the stated mission of the APA quite well: “advancing psychology to benefit society and improve people’s lives.” The second—offering zealous support to the military-intelligence establishment after the White House had promised a “crusade” in which adversaries would face the “full wrath” of the United States and in which our operatives would “spend time in the shadows” working “the dark side” and using “any means at our disposal”—certainly does not. 

 Yet in various forms, this troubling dichotomy has appeared again and again in the years since the 9/11 attacks. On the one hand, at times the APA has taken public stands on key perils and injustices associated with issues such as climate change, povertyracismgun violenceconsumerism, and immigration. But when the focus shifts to conquering the third of Martin Luther King’s “giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism,” the APA turns silent, or worse. With large segments of the American public so readily and regularly enticed by the bipartisan glorification of war and all things military, the world’s largest association of psychologists could play an important moderating and cautionary role. Unfortunately, the APA instead often acts like the “impaired professional” who is unable (or unwilling) to intervene because they too suffer from the same addiction. Here are several examples.

Torture

The arena that has received the most attention is the disturbing involvement of psychologists—including members of the APA—in the government-authorized torture and abuse of “war on terror” detainees. As revelations of this wrongdoing and abandonment of professional ethics emerged and then spread well over a decade ago, for years the APA’s primary responses were a combination of stonewalling, denials, and attacks against critics. The APA’s ethics office director insisted that psychologists knew not to participate in activities that harmed detainees, and an APA president wrote that those who raised concerns were merely “opportunistic commentators masquerading as scholars.”

In 2005, facing growing outrage, the APA created a controversial task force to examine psychological ethics in national security settings (PENS). Stacked with representatives from the military-intelligence establishment, the task force met for three days and, unsurprisingly, asserted that psychologists helped to keep detention and interrogation operations “safe, legal, ethical, and effective”—despite multiple accounts that health professionals, including psychologists, were among the perpetrators of detainee mistreatment. The APA board of directors then quickly approved the PENS report in an “emergency” vote, bypassing the association’s full governing body.

Finally, in 2015, following a months-long investigation based on analysis of over 50,000 documents and 150 interviews, an independent report authorized by the APA presented extensive evidence of secret collaboration–conducted over a period of years—between APA leaders and Department of Defense officials. These secret efforts were apparently aimed at ensuring that the APA’s ethics policies would not constrain interrogation-related activities, and that psychologists would remain in operational roles at Guantánamo Bay and other U.S. overseas detention centers. The report led to a few much-needed reforms, but it also produced a backlash from some military psychologists who, along with their supporters, responded with defamation lawsuits, a formal ethics complaint and more threats of the same, and calls for public suppression of the report itself. Responding to an article by this author, the APA’s CEO again reached for old falsehoods, portraying the profession’s dark-side participation as limited to the actions of “two rogue psychologists” involved in the CIA’s torture program.

Terrorism

As the U.S. propaganda-driven and illegal invasion of Iraq was unfolding in 2003, a former APA president offered a polarizing warning: “The civilized world is at war with Jihad Islamic terrorism. It takes a bomb in the office of some academics to make them realize that their most basic values are now threatened.” During that same period, the APA’s leadership authorized an expert task force to produce a report examining the psychological effects on the American public of government efforts to prevent terrorism. According to the task force chair, members recommended that “psychologists become involved in the development, implementation and evaluations of new programs about terrorism and efforts to prevent it,” and that they do so by using “knowledge about enemy images, stereotyping of other groups, and the processes of groupthink to develop guidelines and recommendations to help national, state, and local leaders tailor their public communications about terrorism so that their messages minimize known deleterious effects upon the populace.”

The task force also expressed concern about the weaponization of fear by the Bush Administration in its rhetoric about the “war on terror,” which emphasized ideas about “us versus them,” the importance of loyalty to a central authority, and the belief that our cultural norms are universal truths.   One task force member noted that the government’s response could prove more dangerous than the terrorists themselves. These conclusions were met with alarm by the APA’s senior staff, who privately worried that publicizing the report could significantly damage the APA’s public image, and likely cause friction with the White House. The final report was quashed. A few years later, it was elaborated and published as a book. The task force chair was reportedly advised by the APA’s legal counsel that there should be no suggestion that the association endorsed the book in any manner.

Comprehensive Soldier Fitness

In 2011, the APA devoted an entire special issue of its flagship journal, the American Psychologist, to a series of uncritical articles waxing enthusiastic about the U.S. Army’s new Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (CSF) program. Based on a “positive psychology” framework, CSF was developed under the guidance of psychologists, and all of the journal’s 13 articles were written by individuals involved in designing and implementing the resilience program. The avowed goals of CSF were to “enhance soldiers’ ability to handle adversity, prevent depression and anxiety, prevent PTSD, and enhance overall well-being and performance.” These may be worthy aspirations, but CSF quickly became mandatory for one million soldiers without pilot testing or compelling evidence that it could achieve these objectives. Not surprisingly, subsequent analyses, including those conducted by authoritative scientific institutions, have shown that CSF falls well short of its stated goals.

This APA special journal issue offered little discussion of conceptual challenges or ethical considerations, nor did it provide any forum for independent critical or cautionary voices. In sum, the APA’s stance toward CSF was little more than cheerleading for an untested military research project—one with enormous ramifications—about which many crucial questions should have been asked. For example, might the program be harmful for some soldiers, perhaps by undermining previously learned successful coping strategies? Or, by fortifying perseverance in the face of adversity, might CSF lead soldiers to engage in actions—including harm to civilians—that later cause deep regret and moral injury, thereby increasing the potential for PTSD and other post-combat psychological difficulties? Or, might this resilience program lead some to deny, for a time at least, the adverse effects of their traumatic experiences, heightening the likelihood of premature redeployment to battle zones with further risk of serious disability?

The APA’s promotion of the flawed CSF program is yet further evidence of the organization’s failure to adequately confront the often-staggering consequences that flow from uncritical support of our country’s military ambitions, all too frequently yoked to the interests of mega-corporations and their largest shareholders. “Blind patriotism”—a topic psychologists have studied—serves to advance policies, framed as “national security” endeavors, that inevitably endanger the well-being of our own soldiers, combatants on the other side, and many innocent civilians—all while squandering precious resources.

Drone Warfare

With names like the Predator and the Reaper, weaponized drones used by the U.S. military and the CIA should raise significant concerns for the profession of psychology. A detailed multi-university reportexamining U.S. drone policy found that “Their presence terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities. Those living under drones have to face the constant worry that a deadly strike may be fired at any moment, and the knowledge that they are powerless to protect themselves.” Similarly, the director of the human rights organization Reprieve has describedthe use of these drones as “a form of psychological torture and collective punishment.”

These realities raise compelling questions about the ethics of psychologists’ involvement in such operations. In 2013, members of the APA’s peace psychology division (including the author) wrote to the APA’s ethics office requesting guidance as to whether, according to the ethics code, it is permissible for a psychologist to be involved in the operation of a weaponized drone; to work as an intelligence consultant in the targeting of drone strikes; to participate in programs designed to select drone operators or train them to overcome the natural psychological aversion to killing other people; or to assist in promoting public support for the use of these drones by misrepresenting evidence of the harm caused by such attacks. Sadly, but perhaps predictably, this request was never answered by the APA’s ethics office.

It is difficult to obtain detailed information about the ways in which psychologists may be participating in drone-related operations, especially when that work is classified. But we do know that psychologists are conducting research with drone pilots. One area involves figuring out which skills and attributes make for a top-notch pilot. Some of this research examines how a pilot’s belief system and “moral motivation” may negatively affect their performance when it comes to the deployment of weapons. Another research area apparently involves looking at how to reduce the high levels of stress, PTSD, depression, and substance abuse among drone operators. According to one account, the development of a Siri-like user interface aims to anthropomorphize the drone—so that the pilot feels less responsible for the death and destruction wrought. Seemingly not under investigation is whether wars will become more likely and more frequent as we become enthralled with the prospect of discomfort-free and risk-free killing from afar.

The Defense Budget

In an address shortly after becoming U.S. president in 1953, General Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” Nevertheless, there is near unanimous bipartisan support in Congress for our ever-growing defense budget—a budget now exceeding that of the next seven largest countries combined. The most direct beneficiaries of this outsized spending are, regrettably, often giant defense contractors and weapons builders. The United States is also the largestinternational arms seller—with ongoing efforts to promote even bigger markets that include countries ruled by ruthless autocrats. But none of this seems to garner meaningful comment from the APA, even though psychology offers valuable insights into the potentially destructive consequences of individual and collective choices driven by fear, greed, conformity, or blind patriotism.

When the federal budget is under discussion in Washington, DC, at times the APA does indeed warn against cuts to key domestic programs, including those that involve practice opportunities for psychologists. But the association rarely if ever speaks out against the enormous financial drain that is today’s military-intelligence establishment. In fact, when the APA gives testimony before defense appropriations committees, it routinely calls for more funding for psychological research with military applications. Moreover, the APA members selected to argue this case are usually high-level staffers at the Human Resources Research Organization (HumRRO), a defense contractor first established decades ago to develop “psychological warfare” techniques. HumRRO’s connections with the APA are long, deep, and arguably problematic. The company has received tens of millions of defense dollars, and its research projects have included work on developing “overwhelmingly lethal” combat systems.

Professional Ethics

Leaders of the APA’s military psychology division have been among the most outspoken proponents of modifying our understanding of the profession’s ethics. Some of them have participated in the harsh detention and interrogation operations at Guantánamo. Others have argued that the U.S. government is the psychologist’s primary client in military contexts, and that society’s interests—as determined by the government—should override other professional ethical considerations for psychologists. And another military psychologist has recommended that psychotherapy techniques be used to train soldiers in “adaptive killing”—to help them overcome the natural aversion to taking another life, and the tendency to feel guilty after doing so. These same interests were also behind recent efforts to change an APA policy that currently restricts psychologists from working at Guantánamo and other U.S. detention facilities that violate international law. Although that resolution was soundly defeated by the association’s governing body, the APA’s president nevertheless sent a follow-up letter assuring the Department of Defense that the prohibition was merely “aspirational” and not enforceable.

Many of these issues reflect a worrisome and growing trend toward what this author and colleagues have called “adversarial operational psychology.” This area of practice diverges from the profession’s traditional do-no-harm ethical principles in three ways: psychologists engage in military-intelligence activities where individuals or groups are targeted for harm; these targets have not provided their voluntary informed consent; and these psychologists are shielded from professional ethical oversight by a maze of classified projects and security clearances. To be clear, most psychologists whose work supports the U.S. military and other defense-related agencies do not serve in these roles. But ongoing efforts to build and promote this specialization reflect the further weaponization of psychology and can jeopardize the public’s trust in the profession. At the same time, they also pose a threat to a psychological science that depends upon transparency, data sharing, and peer review.

Breaking Free from the Addiction

There are undoubtedly multiple reasons why the APA seems to lose its scientific rudder, moral compass, and independent voice in the military-intelligence arena, where violence, domination, and oppression are too often the preferred tools of U.S. foreign policy. Perhaps it is in part because the Department of Defense is a valued employer of psychologists, a significant funder of psychological research, and a key source of internships for graduate students in clinical psychology. As well, in influential circles strong connections with the Pentagon can bring an organization considerable stature and a proverbial “seat at the table” for policy deliberations with national and international ramifications. And we should not overlook the reality that, when couched as “patriotism,” calls to action—and obedience—are never easy to resist for individuals or groups. After all, that is why they have been standard fare for demagogues across time and place.

But what does the mission of “advancing psychology to benefit society and improve people’s lives” truly mean if the APA refuses to counter fearmongering propaganda, the manipulative nurturing of enemy images, and the misuse of military might? The consequences of our failure to rein in these forces are stark: nearly 800 overseas military bases; massive weapons expenditures that hinder urgent domestic spending needs; assertions of exceptionalism that encourage a disturbing disregard for the lives and suffering of non-Americans; and unencumbered power for narrow interests that may find the threat and spoils of war far more profitable than diplomatic success or lasting peace.

What would “breaking free” look like for the APA? Here are several examples. The APA can advocate for an end to the indefinite detention of Guantánamo detainees and for closure of that infamous facility, where imprisonment violates international law and has caused severe psychological harm. The APA can help the public better understand that the psychology fostering exaggerated fears of terrorism can also lead to unscientific programs that jeopardize civil liberties—especially for those who are already most vulnerable to prejudice and stereotyping. The APA can raise alarm about psychological strategies behind today’s military recruitment efforts, which increasingly target younger teens and those whose financial and educational circumstances make them especially susceptible to false assurances or misrepresentations. The APA can call for reductions in our massive and burgeoning military budget that chokes off funding for domestic programs—Medicare, Medicaid, affordable housing, public transportation, student aid—that are essential contributors to our nation’s psychological health. And the APA can implement stronger internal policies to ensure that its own deliberations are not unduly influenced by those who benefit from financial ties to the military-intelligence establishment.

Urging these and related changes at the APA does not diminish appreciation for the valuable work of psychologists—and other health professionals—who care for our soldiers and veterans. The stresses of military service are daunting, ranging from lengthy family dislocations to combat experiences that involve exposure to unspeakable brutality and the risk of injury and death. Even after returning home from the battlefield, heightened dangers of PTSD, substance use, and suicide remain. Certainly, those who serve deserve our abiding respect and compassionate support. But we do everyone a disservice when we fail to question and challenge a system and a culture that so readily place them—and others—in harm’s way. It is time for the APA and its members to decide whether the world’s largest psychological association is ready to overcome its “addiction” and help lead us forward.

NOTE: Roy Eidelson, PhD, is a past president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, a member of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology, and the author of POLITICAL MIND GAMES: How the 1% Manipulate Our Understanding of What’s Happening, What’s Right, and What’s Possible. Roy’s website is www.royeidelson.com and he is on Twitter at @royeidelson.

 

Roaming Charges: Time is Blind, Man is Stupid

Counterpunch - Fri, 2019-04-19 16:00

Drone footage of Notre Dame aflame.

Victor Hugo: “The church of Notre-Dame de Paris is still no doubt, a majestic and sublime edifice. But, beautiful as it has been preserved in growing old, it is difficult not to sigh, not to wax indignant, before the numberless degradations and mutilations which time and men have both caused the venerable monument to suffer, without respect for Charlemagne, who laid its first stone, or for Philip Augustus, who laid the last. On the face of this aged queen of our cathedrals, by the side of a wrinkle, one always finds a scar. Tempus edax, homo edacior; which I should be glad to translate thus: time is blind, man is stupid.” (Notre-Dame de Paris, 1831)

+ The Mueller Report is the political equivalent of the Comet Kohoutek, the comet that failed to catch fire…

+ Nothing defines the “seriousness of the moment” quite like MSDNC waking up Brian “Close Call” Williams at 6 AM to provide color commentary for a press conference.

+ Rod Rosenstein and the scary guy with the beard standing expressionlessly next to Barr look as if they are awaiting reanimation by the Night King.

+ Barr emphasized that it’s not a criminal offense to disperse “stolen” emails. So why is his office going after Julian Assange so ruthlessly?

+ Barr: Trump didn’t obstruct justice because a president can’t obstruct justice.

Mueller: I couldn’t prove Trump obstructed justice because Trump obstructed our investigation into obstruction of justice.

+ Barr said Trump was too emotional to be expected to follow the law on obstruction of justice. But apparently it’s just fine for him to have sole authority to launch nuclear weapons.

+ The Attorney General also explained away Trump’s outbursts against Mueller by saying he was “frustrated,” which sounds like a defense he could also deploy in the sexual assault suit filed by Summer Zervos.

+ In Bill Barr, Trump has finally found his Qyburn. Now, where’s that green fire?

+ I got up at 5:30 am Oregon time for this? No one should be forced to look too closely at Bill Barr’s face before their first cup of coffee…

+ Brian Williams: “The public will get a CD-ROM of the report.” CD-ROM? Where has this guy been for the last 10 years? Good luck finding a Mac with a CD drive.

+ Here’s the link to the pdf of the redacted Mueller Report. Of course, they somehow managed to release the pdf in a non-searchable form. (The 26-volume Warren Commission Report was released without an index.)

+ In a quick scan, I didn’t find much new in the redacted Mueller Report, but this stood out:  the investigation of George Papadopoulos started over concerns that he might be an agent of…………………ISRAEL. That probably kills the impeachment hearings, right Senator Schumer? (When the Israeli connection to Iran/contra was exposed, the steam rapidly dissipated from the Democrats desire to dig much further into the matter.)

+ About the elusive Moscow piss tape: According to a footnote, in Oct 2016, Cohen received a text from Russian businessman Giorgi Rtskhiladze that said: “Stopped flow of tapes from Russia but not sure if there’s anything else. Just so you know…”

+ After a long night of drinking in St. Petersburg, this must’ve sounded like a winning strategy…”The IRA … recruited individuals to perform political acts (such as walking around New York City dressed up as Santa Claus with a Trump mask).”

+ Doesn’t this sound like something “John Miller” or “John Barron” might have done? “Throughout 2016, IRA accounts published an increasing number of materials supporting the Trump Campaign and opposing the Clinton Campaign. For example, on May 31, 2016, the operational account “Matt Skiber” began to privately message dozens of pro-Trump Facebook groups asking them to help plan a “pro-Trump rally near Trump Tower.”

+ “Unable to recall the Russian Ambassador’s name, Kushner emailed Dimitri Simes of CNI … ‘What is the name of the Russian ambassador?'”

+ If the Report was searchable, I’d search for how many times the word “fucked” appears, like on page 290: “According to notes written by Hunt, when Sessions told the President that a Special Counsel had been appointed, the President slumped back in his chair and said, ‘Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m fucked.'”

+ I also wanted to search the vast sprawl of the Mueller Report for the name of our missing writer “Alice Donovan,” but Bill Barr won’t let me. (Ultimately, I located Alice hiding out inside parentheses in a footnote on page 42.)

+ Sarah Sanders sticking pretty much to the job description of WH press secretary dating back at least to Ron Zeigler…Sanders said her public comments about the FBI weren’t based in fact. Specifically, Sanders said her assertion in response to questions about FBI agents not supporting Comey wasn’t “founded on anything.”

+ After the Washington Post reported that Michael Flynn talked to the Russian ambassador the day Obama imposed sanctions, Flynn directed his deputy KT McFarland (who also kept detailed personal notes) to call the Washing Post and deny they discussed the sanctions. “McFarland made the call even though she knew she was providing false information.”

+ Some names always seem to resurface in American political scandals, so it was no surprise to stumble across “Ledeen” on p 63 of Mueller’s Report, highlighting a scheme by Barbara Ledeen (wife of Iran/contra figure & Mike Flynn pal Michael) to track down HRC’s emails at Flynn’s request on behalf of the Trump campaign, an operation that  funded in part by a $30,000 contribution from the blood-drenched accounts of Erik Prince.

+ It’s hard to tell what the Mueller Report forecasts for Julian Assange. Most of the redacted passages come from the Wikileaks sections likely because of the pending Roger Stone trial. What’s inescapable for me, however, is the stench of Assange feeding the Seth Rich conspiracy, which was a cynical and cruel act of misdirection over the “transparency” that has always been the stated mission of Wikileaks.

+ All 446 pages of the “lightly redacted” Mueller Report…

+ “Rose Mary, do you know how to use this damn blackout machine?” (400 pages, 855 redactions.)

+ Many of the people Trump ordered to do Trumpy things simply refused. The Unitary Theory of the Impotent Executive?

+ Trump: “I have one of the greatest memories of all time.” Number times Trump said he couldn’t remember in his take home written exam from Mueller: 36.

+ I always find it instructive to start with the footnotes, then move to the text…

+ I’ve done a thorough search of the Mueller Report for evidence of Paul Manafort’s alleged “secret talks” with Julian Assange in the Ecuadoran Embassy and found none. Will the Guardian retract its much-hyped exposé? Will they reveal the source who pitched them this specious information?

+ So much for the Assignation in Prague. Will McLatchey retract, apologize and name their dubious source?

+ Kamala Harris: “Barr is acting more like Trump’s defense attorney than AG.” That’s because Kamala Harris understands better than anyone that an AG’s real job is to aggressively prosecute the parents of poor children who skip school.

+ Apparently, Sen. Richard Burr was feeding information from the Senate Intelligence Committee to the White House, which leads one to wonder: Do Burr’s cows graze in the same pasture as Devin Nunes’ cow (now being sued by Devin Nunes)?

+ When the audio book of the Mueller Report is released who will narrate? Rachel Maddow or Rudy Giuliani?

***

+ The last time Kimberly Willson-St Clair and I were in Paris, we strolled around Notre Dame on a very hot day, admiring in particular the incredible carvings around the doors, then crossed the Seine on the Pont de Coeurs to the Left Bank and sat at an outdoor table in a brasserie next to Shakespeare & Co. bookshop and watched the last rays of an August evening light up the face of the cathedral, while drinking a giant concoction the bar called, The Fuck You Mojito, which pretty accurately described my mood as I watched the collapse of the cathedral’s great spire…

#BREAKING: spire of Notre-Dame fell amid the raging fire pic.twitter.com/dzks5Bom8L

— Amichai Stein (@AmichaiStein1) April 15, 2019

+ For the last 18 years or so, Notre Dame has been encircled by automatic rifle carrying French security services, trying to protect the Cathedral from “terrorists,” ignorant that the real threat came from cost-cutting private contractors.

+ Recall that in Hugo’s sprawling novel (which I spent four challenging months reading and re-reading with a great professor of French literature at American University, Pierre Han), Notre Dame de Paris was a “sanctuary” from tyranny, prejudice and false piety and thus a repudiation of everything Trump represents…

+ It was during the construction of Notre Dame that the Jews were first expelled from France and some who refused to leave were burned at the stake in front of the cathedral. Then 9 years later they were recalled because the Christian debt collectors turned out to be sadists. In the Chronique metrique de Philippe le Bel, the medieval poet Geoffrey of Paris described the Christian bankers as flaying their debtors alive. If the Jews had remained, Geoffrey noted, France would have been a happier place.

+ Afshin Rattansi: “All that is solid melts into air, indeed. Notre Dame survived the English, the Jacobins, Napoleon, the 1871 Communards & Vichy..but not neoliberalism.”

+ 13,000 old-growth hardwood trees were felled to construct the roof of Notre Dame. Many of the trees milled into the rafters, beams and joists of Notre Dame were milled from 300 year-old oak trees, which was why the roof earned the nickname “The Forest.” Good luck finding replacements for those, Macron. Of course, perhaps Weyerhaeuser donate a containership load of Douglas-firs clearcut from the Oregon Coast Range and claim carbon sequestration credit at the same time.

+ As Trump insulted French firefighters for what, in fact, proved to be a remarkably courageous effort to save the superstructure of the Cathedral, the stained glass windows and its interior relics & art, let’s recall that he ordered his architect & construction crews to violate the fire codes of NYC by not installing sprinklers in Trump Tower. He himself, of course, always has a rake and “flying water tanker” on standby.

+ Predictably, Trump is weeping crocodile tears over Notre Dame, while opening the Bears Ears, the Notre Dame (or one of them) of the Four Corners region, to unrestrained looting by the fossil fuels industry.

+ Trump has already made more comments (i.e., how he would have done a much better job putting out the fire) on Notre Dame than the recent spate of arson-caused fires at black churches.

+ Almost every inch of Notre Dame has been digitally scanned. Maybe they can recreate the Cathedral with a 3-D printer…

+ Macron privatized the renovation of Notre Dame. Did cost-cutting help destroy Paris’s landmark cathedral?

+ Saint-Just, the most adorable of the French revolutionaries, was eager to burn Notre-Dame in 1793. These days it’s hard to find any kind of memorial or commemoration for the Angel of the Revolution in France, though Alex did pick up a plaster of, yes, Paris bust of him made during the bicentennial, which wa dislodged from the wall and smashed to the floor during the Petrolia earthquake.

+ A half century later, the Communards also targeted Notre Dame for sacking, as they had done to the Tuileries palace, but some of the radical artists in their ranks, notably Gustave Courbet, restrained them. Instead, they toppled the Vendome Column, an act of destruction which prompted the arrest of Courbet after the collapse of the commune.

+ The French, who are among the least religious people in the world, should give Notre Dame to the Unitarian Universalists. They’d take better care of it, redecorate it with all sorts of new gargoyles based on demons from Tibetan and Mayan mythology, freshen up the dreary interior with finger-painted murals in day-glo colors,  reprogram the organ to play Cat Stevens songs and never auction it off to corporate sponsors (except, perhaps, for the occasional Sundaes on Sundays with Ben & Jerry’s)…

+ Every time I’ve gone to a Unitarian service, it’s been a “bring your own God” kind of gathering. The point is to inspect the deities all the other congregants have brought and choose. And here’s the cool thing. It doesn’t have to be the same one each service!

+ In my experience, the great cathedrals of Paris have become almost entirely secularized & monetized, the vast naves nearly empty during mass, except for a few nuns and African immigrants. The great edifice had largely come to stand for the $8.5 euros they charged to visit the towers and crypt.

+ Nearly a billion dollars has already been pledged to repair Notre Dame and after five years Flint still can’t get $55 million to provide clean water for its kids.

 

+ Michele Bachmann on Trump: “We will, in all likelihood, never see a more godly, biblical president again in our lifetimes.”

+ As the anti-gay crusaders of the Xtian right attack Mayor Pete, what about God’s ambassador to Planet Earth? I don’t know if Donald J. Trump ever sampled the temptations of Sodom but I’m pretty sure he enjoyed an extended stay in Gomorrah…

+ Just in time for Holy Week, the scourging of Jesus, starring Mayor Pete and Satan….

Oh my god. The protester has a fake @PeteButtigieg whipping Jesus on a cross. I have no words. pic.twitter.com/VxeqXbfAIs

— Marcus DiPaola (@marcusdipaola) April 17, 2019

+ Trump says he has no regrets about Tweeting out a vile and deceptively edited video attacking Ilhan Omar. Why would he care? His cult eats it up and his Muslim-bashing is exposing the Democrats for the cowards they are. Omar’s safety means nothing to him.

+ Even so, with each attack on her, Trump seems to be turning himself into a fundraising machine for Ilhan the Indomitable, who has raised $800,000 in the last three months.

+ The Senate just confirmed former fossil fuels lobbyist David Bernhardt as Interior Secretary. Four days later, he  already found himself embroiled in an ethics investigation.

+ When the subject of “reparations” came up at conference of the property rights movement I attended back in the 1990s, many of the panelists were all for it–as compensation for the “lost property” of the slave owners. In fact, in 1862 Lincoln himself signed a bill paying out as much as $300 for each “freed” slave. (Hopefully, Trump won’t read this.)

+ Jeet Heer: “So Demorats win a historic wave election in 2018. The upshot? Trump moves further to the right and Nancy Pelosi steers Dems towards the center. In effect, the leadership of both parties moves to the right. Cool, cool.”

+ While Biden dithers, we finally spotted evidence of some real “Joementum,” Stalin’s approval rating among Russians has now topped 70%, a new record…

+ By the time Biden actually enters the race, he’ll be down in single digits the way he was last time and the time before that.

+ Ahoy, there goes DNC down the mainstream, right over the falls…

Nancy Pelosi: “By and large whatever orientation they came to Congress with, they know we have to hold the center. We have to go down the mainstream.”

60 Minutes: “You have these wings. @AOC and her group on one side…”

Pelosi: “That’s like five people.”

+ Half of England is owned by less than 1% of the population, with the aristocracy still at the top of the heap. Where’s Wat Tyler when you need him?

+ Radley Balko: “In Kentucky, the average starting salary for a public defender is under $40,000. Average salary for an assistant PD in Louisville is $55,000. In many states, the average PD makes a small enough salary that if they were arrested, they’d qualify for a PD.”

It hardly balances the equities between defense and prosecution, but the state of Kentucky doesn’t pay its prosecutors that much better. The average base salary of a staff attorney is only $43.5k a year

+ Eric Draitser conducted an interview with a feisty Ralph Nader this week on the CounterPunch Radio podcast. (Listen to it for free here.) And once again the emails started pouring in condemning Nader for being a “spoiler” in the 2000 elections, something that has been disproven over and over again. I’ve always contended that Nader should have taken credit for defeating Gore, who probably would have nuked Baghdad 15 minutes after 9/11. Gore was so smug that he even refused to support the Congressional Black Caucus’ challenge of the election results.

+ Trump’s veto of the Yemen resolution on Tuesday night is disgusting, but not surprising. Congress has only itself to blame for surrendering its power to declare war & to finance wars the president pursues without authorization. How many voted against the original AUMF, from which all recent military actions flow? One & it wasn’t Bernard Sanders.

+ One of Bernard’s first votes as the Independent socialist rep from Vermont was to bomb the independent socialist Republic of Serbia. Now as a Democratic Socialist he is targeting the democratic socialist nation of Venezuela.

“I asked Sanders whether he saw Maduro as part of the axis of corrupt authoritarianism. “Yeah,” he said. “It is a failed regime. From all of the recent evidence, it appears that the election was fraudulent. And, despite his ideology, what we need to see is democracy established in Venezuela.”‘

+ Watch Hillary give advice to the 2020 Democrats? I’d rather gouge out my eyes like Oedipus…

+ 25% of Hillary 2008 voters cast a ballot for John McCain and Sarah Palin. Yet, Obama stupidly invited her to become his Secretary of State and run his belligerent foreign policy for four years. He started out on Lieberman, but soon hit the harder stuff. When Cockburn and I wrote our first piece on Lieberman being Obama’s mentor in the senate, we got an irate call from one of Obama’s staffers saying “Lieberman was forced on him!” But it turns out BO settled on Lieberman over Russell Feingold and down the drain they went.

+ A Goldman Sachs report concludes that Trump has a narrow path to victory in 2020. Looking more and more likely every day.

+ The US’s expanding presence in Africa: 44 military bases, 36 “named” operations.

+ From Mikal Gilmore’s terrific interview for Rolling Stone with Game of Thrones author George RR Martin:

Gilmore: In 1966, you entered Northwestern, in Evanston, Illinois. I know that in the years that followed you underwent some serious moral and political changes due to your opposition to the Vietnam War.

Martin: I was, like many kids of my generation, a hawk. I accepted that America was the good guys, we had to be there. When I got into college, the more I learned about our involvement in Vietnam, the more it seemed wrong to me. Of course, the draft was happening, and I decided to ask for the conscientious-objector status. I wasn’t a complete pacifist; I couldn’t claim to be that. I was what they called an objector to a particular war. I would have been glad to fight in World War II. But Vietnam was the only war on the menu. So I applied for conscientious-objector status in full belief that I would be rejected, and that I would have a further decision to make: Army, jail or Canada. I don’t know what I would’ve done. Those were desperately hard decisions, and every kid had to make them for himself. To my surprise, they gave me the status. I was later told – I have no way to prove this – that I was granted the status because our conservative draft board felt that anyone who applied for CO status should be granted it, because that would be punishment enough: Then it would be part of their permanent record, and everybody would know that they were a Commie sympathizer, and it would ruin their lives.

+ Manufacturing remains flat and the future outlook dreary.

+ “College teaching, once a middle-class profession, increasingly leaves its practitioners in poverty.”

+ It turns out that the case that drove Julian Assange into the Ecuadoran Embassy in London in search of sanctuary (allegations that he had raped two Swedish woman) has big holes in it, as revealed in a 2012 Australian Broadcasting Company documentary called “Sex, Lies and Julian Assange.” The questions about the allegations begin around the 20 minute mark.

+ It’s been more than a week since Julian Assange was arrested in London and his indictment by the DoJ unsealed, auguring a grave new threat to all journalists. Still not one word from that living paragon of moral courage, political authenticity and independent thinking: Bernard Sanders.

+ The best satire yet on the Assange arrest. Of course, it’s done by the Aussies…

+ Roxanne Hernandez, a transgendered woman from Honduras, died of complications from AIDS while in the custody of ICE, after she was arrested and detained when she showed up at the border asking for asylum. ICE and Border Patrol were aware of Hernandez’ HIV status during her detention, but refused to provide her with the necessary antiretroviral drugs.”This is straight out manslaughter, isn’t it?

+ Paramilitaries roving the borderlands taking immigrants (or people they suspect to be immigrants) hostage…the US is becoming more like Colombia every day, with more firepower and fewer brain cells.

+ David Simon: “If this fearmongering, racist shitsquib of a president thinks tax-supported busloads of people trying for a better life in, say, Baltimore are somehow a threat, he’s clueless as to our many empty row houses and our need for fresh citizenry. Bring em all. We need every last soul.”

+ Democratic Presidential Candidates who have visited immigration detention centers since Trump started separating families: Harris, Warren, O’Rourke and Booker. Where are you, Bernard Sanders? (Thanks Charles Davis)

+ John Bolton after announcing harsh new sanctions against Cuba: “Today, we proudly proclaim for all to hear: the Monroe Doctrine is alive and well.”

+ With ongoing combat operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Iraq, threats of invasion against Venezuela, tensions with North Korea, China, Russia, and Iran, and a rising suicide rate among troops, it’s been more than 300 days since a Pentagon spokesperson held an on camera press briefing. Then this week, the Pentagon decided not to declassify the number of nuclear weapons in the US stockpile, a decision that breaks with years of the United States providing nuclear transparency.

+ And you thought the war on pot was ending…Marijuana possession as a share of all arrests nationwide:

1995: 3.4%
2017: 5.7%

+ Armed bounty hunters kicked in the front door of a home in Lolo, Montana, broke into the bedroom, and pointed assault rifles and pistols Eugene Mitchell, his wife, and their four-year old daughter. All this was over a $1,670 fine and a charge of driving with a suspended license.

+ After being harangued by the Trump Administration, the ICC has pulled the plug on its investigation into war crimes by coalition forces in Afghanistan. This has been the problem with the ICC since its inception: the Court exists solely to prosecute the war crimes committed by enemies of the Empire.

+ The second conversion of Norman Podhoretz, from friend of Allen Ginsberg and Nortman Mailer to intellectual sperm donor of the neo-cons to Trump-loving paleo-con, who here commits ideological infanticide against his progeny, brutally shredding Bill Kristol …

+ The Pulitzer Prize committee awarded Aretha Franklin a special posthumous citation prize for her “for her indelible contribution to American music and culture for more than five decades”. But this Pulitzer won’t do Dead Aretha any good and she didn’t need it on her shelf anyway. It’s all about covering the Pulitzer Committee’s ass for not giving her an award while she was alive, while handing out prizes to hacks like Tom Friedman and Peggy Noonan.

+ Like most stories involving the Patriots, the sex-trafficking case involving New England owner Robert Kraft is rapidly “deflating”…

+ Eating like Zizek…

mesmerized by this video of slavoj žižek absolutely demolishing two hot dogs pic.twitter.com/grNOIPfEQn

— Nick Usen (@nickusen) April 16, 2019

+ A Detroit couple is starting a video streaming service that will feature socialist-themed movies and TV shows. Given the amount of time FoxNews devotes to AOC, Murdoch’s network will probably be their stiffest competition for the young socialist demographic ….

+ Opposable thumbs and the proper use of spell-check are what distinguish “humanity” from the rest of the animal kingdom.

+ I learned this useful bit information about the origins of the progressive state of Oregon this morning at the Museum of the Oregon Territory: The first Black Exclusion Law in Oregon, passed in 1844, called for any black person, free or slave, who entered the state to be publicly whipped every six months until they left (or died).

+ What if Rick Perry left the Energy Department and no one missed him or even realized he was gone?

+ Yellowstone is a big place, but nearly not big enough. It’s an island, surrounded by hostile forces: timber companies, mining companies, oil companies, frackers, ranchers, ski developments, and jerks with guns eager to kill anything that moves indifferent to any collateral damage.

+ The last time carbon dioxide levels were this high, Greenland was mostly green, sea levels were 20 meters higher and trees grew on Antarctica. That was 5.3 million years ago. But, by all means, let’s see every last page of the unreacted Mueller Report…

+ An extreme event like Hurricane Maria was 4.85 times more likely to happen in the climate of 2017 than in 1956, according to a new report in the journal of Geophysical Research Letters, and that change in probability can’t be explained by natural climate cycles.

+ Humans won’t like what the zombie pigs were thinking the moment they were slaughtered…

+ A new study finds that the diet of urban coyotes consists largely of “pets,” 20 percent coming from cats alone. Yet cats that are allowed outside shouldn’t be considered “pets” but “pests” that kill BILLIONS of birds a year and thus fair game for canis latrans…

+ If you want a litmus test for the moral character of a person, just observe how they behave in the presence of wolves, a foolproof way of revealing the sadist within…

+ The Forest Service is waging chemical warfare in our national forests in a toxic campaign against what it considers “noxious weeds.” In Idaho’s Sawtooth National Forest alone, the Forest Service is planning on drenching as much as 40,000 acres of public land with highly poisonous Round-Up, Sulfometuron methyl and Dicamba.

+ The giant new stadium going up in the Inglewood area of Los Angeles imperils one of the last black enclaves in Southern California. Here are two basic rules for siting controversial buildings: nuclear power plants will be built near earthquake faults and sports stadiums in poor neighborhoods populated by minorities. LA has some brutal experience in this regard with the ethnic cleansing of Chavez Ravine to build Dodger Stadium. (See Mike Davis’ City of Quartz.)

+ What’s a bigger comeback than Tiger Woods winning the Masters? Chris Davis went 1 for 3 with a HR and 2 RBI, as the Orioles punished the Red Sox on Patriot’s Day at Fenway Park.

+ Lou Brock, the legendary left-fielder for the St. Louis Cardinals during the 60s and 70s, on his home state: “Arkansas billed itself as the land of opportunity and I took the first opportunity I had to get the hell out of there.”

+ So I got an email accusing me of being “against everything, but what are you for?” My answer: I’m for grizzlies and wolf packs, I’m for tearing down dams & letting the salmon run, I’m for sea ice in the Arctic and water in the Colorado River when it hits the Sea of Cortez, I’m for black holes and northern lights, spotted owls and marbled murrelets, cerulean warblers & gyrfalcons & everything they need to thrive.

This answer yielded the predictable response that I was a misanthrope. I plead guilty to having read an enjoyed Molière, but the charge isn’t true. How could it be for a new grandfather? Still what the hell do the homo-centrists have against gyrfalcons? (See Hugo quote which opens this column.)

+ Here in Oregon, the Willamette River has been at flood stage for the last week. I spent last Sunday taking a few photos from the Canby Ferry to Willamette Falls and the nearby pulp mills eight miles downstream in Oregon City.

Border Busting with Bach

Booked Up

What I’m reading this week…

The Indian World of George Washington by Colin Colloway (Oxford)

Prisoners of Politics: Breaking the Cycle of Mass Incarceration by Rachel Elise Barkow (Belknap)

One Man Out: Curt Flood Versus Baseball by Robert M. Goldman (University of Kansas Press)

Sound Grammar

What I’m listening to this week…

Day After Day by Ben Monder (Sunnyside)

Streets of the Lost by Big Eyes (Greenway)

It Rains Love by Lee Fields and the Expressions (Big Crown)

Creatures in Stone

Margaret Atwood: “Religions in general have to rediscover their roots. In Hinduism and the Koran, animals are described as equals. If you walk into a cathedral and look at the decorations of early Christianity, there are vines, animals, creatures and birds thriving all over the stonework.”

Top 20 Mueller Report “Findings”

Counterpunch - Fri, 2019-04-19 15:59

Illustration by Nat St. Clair.

There are a number of things that stand out as the most relevant and interesting in Robert Mueller’s Special Council report on alleged Russian interference in the 2016 campaign, which was released in redacted form on Thursday. After consuming as much of the report as a person can without going blind or insane (I’m attempting to save you the trouble), here are what I see as the more alluring Mueller finds. Please note: save your harassment for someone else that Mueller got it all wrong, that Russia didn’t hack, that Assange was used etc. I’m only reporting and commenting on what Mueller claims to have found, not that he got it right. A few of these “findings” were already part of the public record and they are listed in chronological order, not by order of importance.

***

1: Mueller finds that the General Staff of the Russian Army, under the direction of Russian intelligence, hacked Hillary Clinton staffers (i.e. John Podesta) as well as the DNC and DCCC. Those stolen emails were then distributed through DCLeaks, Guccifer 2.0 (both Russian creations) and Wikileaks. Volume 1 Page 4, 41 and 65.

2. The Trump presidential campaign did not conspire with the Russian government to influence the elections. Yet, the Russian government believed it would benefit from a Trump White House. The Trump campaign also believed it would benefit from Russia’s hacked emails. Page 5.

3. President Trump “engaged in efforts to curtail the Special Counsel’s investigation.” Apparently, Trump’s efforts weren’t obstruction worthy. Interesting to note that people have been charged with obstruction for far, far less. Page 8.

4. The Trump campaign had multiple ties with Russian government officials. Trump’s team took the bait now and then but didn’t do anything knowingly criminal. I guess they weren’t smart enough to realize WTF was going on. Page 9, 66 and 173.

5. Russian government operatives tied to the Internet Research Agency infiltrated social media platforms, reaching millions of people. These accounts targeted both conservatives and liberals, promoting Trump in certain cases while criticizing Hillary Clinton in others. This is a pretty broad plan but probably amounted to little more than a single overpriced Super Bowl ad. Page 26.

6. Julian Assange and/or Wikileaks are still very much involved in an “ongoing matter”. This could be a sign of more pending charges against Assange or it’s having to do with the case against Roger Stone, or both. Page 51-52.

7. Ted Malloch and Jerome Corsi FaceTimed more than once about Wikileaks regarding hacked Podesta emails. More than once? Corsi’s head is so big, I wonder if it even fits on an iPhone screen. Page 56.

8. Trump campaign was in direct contact with Wikileaks regarding an anti-Trump site that tied the candidate to Putin. This is the moment Wikileaks stopped acting like an arbiter of truth and began acting like a Rupert Murdoch operation. This is hard evidence of Wikileak’s decline from the Chelsea Manning days. Page 60.

9. The Russia government became interested in the prospect of Trump months after he announced his election bid because? He had name cachet, oh, and prior business dealings. Poor little Marco. Page 66.

10. Michael Cohen did not recall thinking the Trump Moscow project had any political importance to Trump the candidate. Admittedly, Michael Cohen was also not all that bright but we knew that. Page 72.

11. George Papadopoulos, who worked for the Trump campaign but was let go in October 2016, talked to at least one person outside the campaign about Russia obtaining Clinton-related emails prior to their release. Page 93.

12. Carter Page, a Trump foreign policy advisor, was a patsy for Russian intel, dating back to 2008, but Mueller found no evidence he conspired to influence the election. In other words, Page, like so many in Trump’s world, had no idea he was being used or he just didn’t give a shit. Page 95.

13. “I love it”. Wikileak’s pal Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower hoping to get dirt on Hillary. Page 110.

14. Paul Manafort’s sharing of polling data and meetings with Konstantin V. Kilimnik were not criminal (and probably not all that interesting). Page 136.

15. The “Putin call.” Late on election night, Putin’s peeps reached out to Trump’s peeps and five days later the two spoke on the phone. Trump campaign secretary Hope Hicks is quoted as saying, “[we] don’t want to blow off Putin!” “Blow” being the operative word. I also find this snippet of the report to be the most entertaining. The brilliance of the Trump campaign was its Forrest Gumpian innocence. Page 145.

16. Carter Page kept pimping his ties to Trump in an attempt to curry business favor with Russians after the election. This is a bright-line theme throughout the document, from Manafort to Page, it was all about business opportunities after the election. Time and again, it’s obvious nobody within Trump’s orbit actually thought he’d win. Page 166.

17. While serving on Trump’s transition team, Michael Flynn acted as a conduit to Russia and pressured a no-vote/delay on a UN Security Council Resolution that would have called for a cease of Israeli settlement activities in Palestinian territories. President-elect Trump was not even in office and was already bending over for Bibi Netanyahu. Page 168.

18. There no “obstruction” exoneration for Trump. So according to Mueller, Trump only obstructed his investigation into obstruction. Volume 2 Page 8 and Page 182.

19. Russian officials bragged to the press about maintaining contacts with the Trump campaign throughout the election. Volume 2 Page 21.

20. Firing James Comey did not amount to obstruction because the investigation continued. This is really the funniest and most troubling obstruction bullshit in the entire report. According to Mueller, there was no Trump obstruction because the firing of Comey wasn’t all that effective in stunting the investigation. There is little doubt this was Trump’s actual intent. Well, according to U.S. Code Chapter 73, obstruction of justice includes, not only consequences of actions but also intent. Trump himself stated the Russia investigation was the reason for canning Comey. If Democrats have enough spine to move on impeachment, this should be the starting point. Volume 2 Page 74.

Why Russiagate Will Never Go Away

Counterpunch - Fri, 2019-04-19 15:59

Photo by Nathaniel St. Clair

Whatever might come of the remaining details of the Mueller probe, lessons ‘learned’ by the American press won’t be among them. The story was never about truth, so exposing bits and pieces as untrue won’t undo its success. And the government officials and pundits who put it forward largely got what they wanted from the effort. The national security and surveillance establishments were rehabilitated, the ‘press’ was shown once again to be a reliable mouth-piece for official interests and the 2016 electoral outcome was successfully portrayed as an accident of history made worse by the moral depravity of voters.

Given that Russia’s economy today is smaller than Italy’s and its military budget wouldn’t buy a toilet seat or hammer in the U.S. military procurement system, the question of why Russia would seem a great mystery outside of history. And left unstated is that the U.S. defense industry needs enemies to survive. ‘Radical Islam,’ an invention of oil and gas industry flacks that turned out to be serviceable for marketing Tomahawk missiles and stealth fighter jets as well, lost some of its luster when ISIS and Al Qaeda came over to ‘our side.’ And humanitarian intervention ain’t what it used to be with Libya reduced to rubble and open-air slave markets now dotting the landscape.

From 1948 through the early 1990s Russia was Pennywise the evil clown, helping to sell bananas, nuclear weapons and cut-rate underwear around the globe wherever American empire alighted. Costumed ‘communists,’ locals paid a day-rate to dress up and shout whatever slogans conveyed evil most effectively, were a staple of CIA interventions from Iran to Guatemala to the streets of New York, Boston and Los Angeles. Never mind that the slayer of monsters is more monstrous than an army of evil clowns, as the Koreans, Vietnamese, Laotians, Cambodians, Nicaraguans, El Salvadorans, Chileans, Iraqis, Afghanis, Yemenis and on and on, were to learn.

The big why (?) here would suggest an eternal mystery were it not for the arithmetic we learned as tykes. The U.S. has an annual military budget that is larger than the next seven evil empires combined. Killing people and blowing shit up is what America does. Stated reverse-wise, what is the point of being able to end all human life on earth more than once?  Yet the U.S. can do it 3X – 5X or 30X – 50X, depending on which analysis is chosen. And while it would be anti-historical to remove mal-intent as motive, an alternative explanation of the militarization of the police is ‘overstock,’ that there is nothing else to do with the stuff that the Pentagon produces.

This would seem a tremendous waste of resources under any reasonable theory of their efficient use (e.g. capitalism). The explanation of ‘national defense’ reads as legitimate until history is brought back in. For a few thousand years, the argument against maintaining a standing army was that standing armies tend to get used. Preparations for armed conflict facilitate armed conflict. The mobilizations for WWI and WWII were mobilizations, not drawdowns from existing military inventory. There is something to be said for wars requiring large expenditures of time, effort and resources from everyone for whom they are undertaken. Otherwise, they are likely to be started lightly.

The U.S. has long been the most militaristic nationin the world. This probably doesn’t read right to most Americans. ‘We’ are a peace-loving nation that only sends in the military as a last resort, goes the myth. And ‘we’ changed the name from the Department of War to the Department of Defense. It was early in the twentieth century that U.S. General Smedley Butler proclaimed that ‘war is a racket’ (racket = organized crime) as he described his military career as a ‘gangster for capitalism.’ The business of war in support of capitalism had long been a business in its own right, just ask Wall Street.

When the George W. Bush administration created the Department of Homeland Security following 9/11, the obvious question from people who thought about such things was: what are these people going to do all day? With daily briefings presented to Mr. Bush entitled ‘Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S.’before 9/11, the only intelligence failure, if that is what it was, occurred in the White House. Mr. Bush’s entourage had been rumbling about going back to Iraq to ‘finish the job’ since the end of his father’s war. How much of a leap was it then to assume that Mr. Bush’s WMD scam was a pretext for re-invading Iraq?

But the question isn’t rhetorical. With 240,000 people employed by DHS to find terrorists, terrorists will be found. The basic insight is that justifying one’s employment is crucial to keeping it. In this light, the FBI counter-terrorism unit spent its time since 2001 enticing poor and desperate people to claim each other as terrorists. The first person to point out that there are no terrorists would be the first to receive a pink slip. And the same is true of government contracting. Brave entrepreneurs who feed at the trough of military largesse need to justify their existences. If they don’t, some other proud patriot will step forward and do so. A logic of necessity becomes a legitimating belief system.

Graph: in the U.S., militarism is a business. The military budget in 2017 was larger than that of the next seven largest military budgets combined. With no known enemies, the question of how to justify this expenditure is ever-present. Russiagate is an effort to manufacture enemies to justify the military budget. And it worked. Aside: the Peterson Foundation that produced this graphic is a right-wing atrocity. The graphic was used because it is accurate and available, not to support its producer. Source: Peter G. Peterson Foundation.

More broadly, one could argue that manufacturing terrorists has been the strategic goal of U.S. military operations for much of the last century. If you bomb enough villages and wedding parties, people will fight back. Wasn’t this the implied storyline of anti-communist agitprop like Red Dawn and anti-Muslim agitprop like Zero Dark Thirty— if you invade ‘our’ country and / or bomb ‘our’ villages and wedding parties, we will fight back. As a business proposition, the more people that are killed, the more legitimate the operation is made to appear. Make the weapons, then employ hundreds of thousands of people to explain why ‘we’ need to bomb villages. Then make more weapons.

Graphic: Time Magazine was the voice of post-War liberalism in the 1970s— it reflected the opinions emanating from American officialdom through a faux-critical lens. This cover featuring Muammar Gaddafi presaged the Obama administration’s destruction of Libya by 35 years. The main difference then was relative honesty about U.S. motives— ‘Oil’ was the lede in 1973, where ‘humanitarian’ concerns drove the American propaganda effort in 2011. Note: ‘Arab’ was replaced by ‘Muslim extremist’ following the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Source: Time, Inc.

Propaganda theory is relevant here because of the ease with which the Russiagate story was sold— all evidence, no matter how contradictory, was claimed to point in only one direction. Contrariwise, Russia isn’t the Soviet Union. America’s political leaders have long supported strongmen and dictators. The biggest threat to free and fair elections in the U.S. is American oligarchs followed by Israel. The Democrat running in the 2016 presidential election openly manipulated the 1996 Russian presidential election. Russia today is a neoliberal petrostate. Vladimir Putin is admired in Russia because he booted out corrupt American ‘advisors’ who were looting the country. In other words, Russia today isn’t Russia!

With the dissolution of the Soviet Union and ostensible end of the first Cold War, a ‘peace dividend’ of reduced military spending was expected to fund increased domestic spending, the classic ‘guns versus butter’ formulation shifted in favor of butter. A drop to pre-WWII levels of military spending would have meant 95%+ of the military-industrial complex went away. Following a very brief drop in the rate of growth of military spending in the early 1990s, a recession caused by the looting of Savings & Loans and its aftermath led to the argument that ‘the economy’ couldn’t withstand a reduced military. September 11th, 2001 was the best day ever for U.S. military contractors. America was back in the business of industrial-scale slaughter.

Early on, the American defense industry tried a few new enemies on for size. The George W. Bush administration’s WMD scam targeted an audience that had been primed by several decades of anti-Muslim propaganda (see Time cover above) tied to oil geopolitics. The only WMDs found in Iraq had come from the Reagan administration in its effort to keep Iraq warring with Iran in the Iran-Iraq war. Current American amnesia over the genesis of Islamophobia is quaint. The New York Times has been demonizing Muslims since the 1970s. It was hardly incidental that ‘reporting’ on the Iraq war contained breathless descriptions of newly created instruments of mass slaughter.

However, there were two tacks that propelled the Iraq War forward. Humanitarian intervention had been the liberal formulation for selling the carpet bombing of civilian populations as in the interest of those being bombed. The term was used for the aerial bombardment of civilian populations in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the mid-1990s. And it was the back-up explanation for the American war against Iraq— to remove an evil dictator in order to liberate the people of Iraq. It was also used to justify the U.S. / NATO bombing of Libya in 2011. To the certain dismay of the defense industry, none of those interventions retained the patina of good intentions once it became known that the target nations had been functionally destroyed.

Russiagate has been a godsend for those who profit from destruction. As the story goes, the wily Russian bear, led by an evil dictator and newly trained in the technologies of modernity, set loose a witch’s brew of inter-continental ballistic internet messages to sow dissent amongst the brothers and sisters of die Vaterland united by their common bond of loving America. For younger readers, the claim that foreign ‘agitation’ motivated the Civil Rights and anti-War movements, and more broadly, the American Left, has been a mainstay of CIA and FBI propaganda since these agencies were created. Old playbooks are good playbooks?

Those with a sense of humor, if humor includes installing a drunken buffoon to head a nuclear armed foreign power, might offer that ‘Trump’ is the English translation of ‘Yeltsin.’ In 1996 the American President colluded with people inside the Russian government to overturn the democratic will of the Russian people to install Boris Yeltsin as President of Russia. Yuk, yuk— an unstable jackass was installed to head a foreign government. The ‘payback’ narrative no-doubt motivated true belief amongst some American officials after 2016. But alas, as with bombed villages and wedding parties, unless you just will not stop fucking with other people, they generally have other things to do than plot revenge.

None of the propagators of the phony WMD stories suffered from passing off state propaganda as news. The New York Times and Washington Post found themselves on the winning side of the ‘fake news’ scam to shut down the opposition press. Even Judith Miller, brief heroine of the free press for being ‘stove-piped’ by Dick Cheney, went on to a well-paid gig at Fox News, wrote an autobiography that more than just her immediate family read and now lives as a ‘celebrity.’ Heroes of the #Resistance like David Corn, Rachel Maddow and Michael Isikoff have the proceeds from book sales and television appearances to sustain them until their services are needed to sell the next scam-with-a-purpose.

The economic role of American defense spending will lead to endless iterations of WMD and Russiagate scams until the Pentagon is shut down. And that’s the good part. The wars that these scams support are the bane of humanity. Their true costs, in terms of lives destroyed, appear to be meaningless to people living in twenty-room houses who want to live in thirty room houses. Winding down the warfare state would be less politically fraught if people had non-murderous ways of paying their bills. But how was this not understood as the warfare state was being built?

Finally, apologists for Russiagate claim that it has been nowhere near as dangerous as WMD lies. Let’s see: a cadre of national security officials spent two-and-one-half years claiming that it has secret evidence that the President of the U.S. colluded with the leader of a foreign government to assume power and then use his office for the benefit of that foreign leader. Following, the domestic press claimed that the U.S. ‘was under attack’ and ‘was at war’ with this foreign power. Meanwhile, the U.S. went about arming anti-Russian militias on Russia’s border while unilaterally abrogating a short-and-intermediate range nuclear weapons treaty after publicly announcing that it was ‘modernizing’ its stockpile of short-and-intermediate-range nuclear weapons.

Respectfully, this has all been a tad less than constructive.

Stephen Moore Gets Something Right: It’s Capitalism vs. Democracy

Counterpunch - Fri, 2019-04-19 15:58

Photo by Nathaniel St. Clair

Capitalism is a lot more important than democracy. I’m not even a big believer in democracy.

– Stephen Moore, a potential future member of the Federal Reserve Board

The dominant American ideology has long claimed that capitalism is about democracy. It isn’t – and one need not be an anti-capitalist “radical” to know better. My old copy of Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary defines capitalism as “the economic system in which all or most of the means of production and distribution … are privately owned and operated for profit, originally under fully competitive conditions: it has been generally characterized by a tendency toward concentration of wealth and, [in] its latter phase, by the growth of great corporations, increased government controls, etc.”

There’s nothing—nada, zero, zip—about popular self-rule (democracy) in that definition. And there shouldn’t be. “Democracy and capitalism have very different beliefs about the proper distribution of power,” liberal economist Lester Thurow noted in the mid-1990s: “One [democracy] believes in a completely equal distribution of political power, ‘one man, one vote,’ while the other [capitalism] believes that it is the duty of the economically fit to drive the unfit out of business and into extinction. … To put it in its starkest form, capitalism is perfectly compatible with slavery. Democracy is not.”

Thurow might have added that capitalism is perfectly compatible with fascism, racism, nativism, sexism, militarism, and imperialism among other authoritarian and anti-democratic forces and formations. More than being merely compatible with slavery, moreover, U.S.-American capitalism arose largely on the basis of the Black cotton slave system in the nation’s pre-Civil War South. This is demonstrated at length in historian Edward Baptist’s prize-winning study The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism.

“We must make our choice,” onetime Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis is reputed to have said or written: “We may have democracy in this country, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both.” This statement (whoever made it) was perhaps unintentionally anti-capitalist. Consistent with Webster’s(above), the historically astute French economist Thomas Piketty has shown that capitalism has always been inexorably pulled toward the concentration of wealth into ever fewer hands.

Anyone who thinks capitalism is about democracy ought to take a working-class job and report back on how much they and their fellow workers’ opinions matter in the design and execution of their work, the compensation they receive, and the overall management and conduct of their employers’ firms. As Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has remarked, people living under the “irredeemable” (her word) system of capitalism “check [their] rights at the door when they cross the threshold into the workplace.”  Karl Marx wrote brilliantly about the “hidden abode” and veiled “despotism” of the capitalist workplace, where employees perform typically narrow and alienating, life-shortening tasks conceived and devised with no higher purpose in mind than the upward transfer of wealth to the investor class. There’s no democracy on an Iowa Beef Processors killing floor or a Wal-Mart check-out line.

The tyranny continues beyond the workplace. Workers who do or say anything their employers don’t like off as well as on the job put their employment and the benefits associated with their hire – commonly including their health insurance and that of their families (no small matter) – at risk.

Public opinion on numerous key issues is largely irrelevant under American capitalism.  Most U.S.-Americans have long wanted the progressive and social-democratic agenda advanced by Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: guaranteed free and quality health care for all; a drastically increased minimum wage; a significant reduction of the nation’s extreme economic inequalities; free college tuition; the removal of private money from public elections; large-scale green jobs programs to provide decent employment and help avert environmental catastrophe; massive investment in public schools and housing, and more.  Most U.S.-Americans would go beyond Sanders and agree to drastic reductions in the U.S. Pentagon budget to help (along with increased taxes on the preposterously wealthy and under-taxed Few) pay for these and other good things. Most U.S.-Americans think public opinion ought to influence policy every day, not just on those occasional and brief, savagely time-staggered moments when “we the people” supposedly get meaningful egalitarian “input” by marking ballots filled with the names of major party candidates who have generally been pre-approved by the nation’s unelected dictatorship of money.

But so what? Who cares? The commoners don’t call the shots under capitalism.  They never have and they never will. Universal suffrage was granted in the West only with the understanding that commoners’ participation in “democratic” politics would not challenge the underlying persistence of bourgeois class rule. That rule is guaranteed through elite corporate and financial sector control and manipulation of various power levers (please see Chapter 5, titled “How They Rule: The Many Modes of Moneyed Class Power” in my 2014 book They Rule: The 1% v. Democracy) including but hardly limited to campaign contributions, lobbying, media ownership, and the investment and “job creation” function.

How curious it is, then, to behold corporate cable news talking heads seem stunned to report that the openly authoritarian real estate mogul and creeping fascist U.S. president Donald Trump has nominated someone for the Federal Reserve Board who believes that “capitalism is more important than democracy.” The nominee, Stephen Moore, was recently featured as follows in a disapproving CNN report:

“Moore, who President Donald Trump announced last month as his nominee for the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, has a history of advocating self-described ‘radical’ views on the economy and government….In speeches and radio interviews reviewed by CNN’s KFile, Moore advocated for eliminating the corporate and federal income taxes entirely, calling the 16th Amendment that created the income tax the ‘most evil’ law passed in the 20th century.”

“Moore’s economic worldview envisions a slimmed down government and a rolled back social safety net. He has called for eliminating the Departments of Labor, Energy and Commerce, along with the IRS and the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. He has questioned the need for both the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Education. He has said there’s no need for a federal minimum wage, called for privatizing the ‘Ponzi scheme’ of Social Security and said those on government assistance lost their dignity and meaning.”

“…Moore has repeatedly said he believes capitalism is more important than democracy. In an interview for Michael Moore’s 2009 film Capitalism: A Love StoryMoore said hewasn’t a big believer in democracy. ‘Capitalism is a lot more important than democracy,’ Moore said. ‘I’m not even a big believer in democracy. I always say that democracy can be two wolves and a sheep deciding on what to have for dinner. Look, I’m in favor of people having the right to vote and things like that…Speaking on the Thom Hartmann Show in 2010…Moore … [said] …Saudi Arabia wouldn’t be better off as a democracy.

“‘I think [that without] capitalism, without free market capitalism, countries don’t get rich,’ Moore said, when asked if capitalism was more important than democracy. ‘And so I would rather have a country that’s based on, you know, a free enterprise system of property rights and free exchange of free trade of low tax rates’…Moore told CNN’s KFile, ‘I believe in free market capitalism and representative government. It is what has made America the greatest nation…on earth’” (emphasis added).

Many U.S.-Americans would feel painful cognitive dissonance after reading this news item. “What,” these indoctrinated citizens could exclaim: “he says he prefers capitalism to democracy?  What’s that’s about? Capitalismisdemocracy.”

No, it is not. Not at all. And, to repeat, you don’t have to be a radical critic of capitalism (like the present writer) to acknowledge this.  You can get it and be a prominent liberal academic like the late Lester Thurow (who wasn’t too critical of wealth-concentrating capitalism to charge $30,000 per speaking engagementin his heyday) or a right-wing political hacklike Stephen Moore.

(Many American capitalist “elites” and propagandists who routinely conflate the profits system with democracy probably know it’s a false equation but have learned to pretend otherwise. Some have likely learned so well that they’ve have crossed over into actually believing in the bogus conflation.)

Whether out of clumsiness or out of heartfelt candor, the clownish Moore publicly drops the doctrinal pretense that capitalism and democracy are the same thing. (Note that he supports “people having the right to vote” even as he states his preference for capitalism over democracy.  That is an acknowledgement that universal suffrage and periodic elections don’t necessarily translate into any real popular threat to his beloved regime of class rule.  This goes back to the birth of so-called bourgeois democracy: widespread voting is fine as long as the electoral partaking of the common people doesn’t threaten real capitalist authority.)

Moore drops the ball, however, when he identifies the profits system with the “free market.” Capitalism has never been about the “free market.”  It has always involved the owners and managers of capital exercising control over the state, using it to make themselves richer and to thereby (since wealthis power, as Louis Brandeis or someone pretending to be him knew) deepen their grip on politics and policy. The profits system is so dependent on and enmeshed with governmental protection, subsidy, and giveaways that one might half-reasonably question the accuracy of calling it capitalism: it is state-capitalismat the very least. Big Business today relies on a sweeping array of oligarchic government protectionsthat are ubiquitous across governments: patent, trademark and copyright laws that monopolize profitable knowledge; multiple and many-sided direct and indirect subsidies; ubiquitous regressive tax breaks, credit shelters and loopholes; regressive austerity measures; multiple and often complex debt mechanisms; economic, environmental and social deregulation, and ubiquitous privatization; control of central government banks.

One key part of the U.S.-American capitalist state is the Federal Reserve, on whose board Moore may soon sit. As the left economist Michael Hudson has explained, the Fed influences interest rates by “creating bank reserves at low give-away charges” and thereby “enables banks to make easy gains simply by borrowing from it and leaving the money on deposit to earn interest (which has been paid since the 2008 crisis to help subsidize the banks, mainly the largest ones). The effect is to fund the asset markets – bonds, stocks and real estate – not the economy at large”

Stephen “free market” Moore isn’t against government per se. He’s against any and all parts of government that serve the working-class majority, the poor, and the common good over the holy profits of the wealthy Few.  He’s all for those parts of government that expand those profits.

As anyone with political knowledge and common sense knows, moreover, Moore’s mission on the Fed board – the reason that Trump has nominated him – would be to advance  Trump’s political re-election agenda by pushing the president’s absurd claim that the Fed is pursuing a “tight money” (high interest rate) policy. The Fed is doing no such thing, but Trump says it is in what The Washington Post’s editorial board has rightly called “an anticipatory blame game for any economic slowdown that may develop.”

Still, give Stephen Moore some credit: he doesn’t mind going public with an elementary if sadly scandalous fact of social and political life past and present: capitalism and democracy work at cross purposes with each other.  Imagine that!

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