Counterpunch

Subscribe to Counterpunch feed
Tells the Facts, Names the Names
Updated: 2 hours 20 min ago

Roaming Charges: Que Syria, Syria

Fri, 2019-01-11 15:57

+ You believe pronouncements from this White House at your own peril. Two weeks ago it all seemed so clear. Trump announced out-of-the-blue that he was pulling US troops out of Syria immediately. Having “destroyed” ISIS (and killed several thousand innocent bystanders), the military’s role was finished. It was time for the US troops to leave and redeploy to the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico. Jim Mattis objected and tendered his resignation, effective in February. Mattis’ terse resignation letter, a read-between-the-lines rebuke of Trump and his abrupt withdrawal plan, sparked a rallying cry among the neocons and their new pro-war allies on MSDNC. But Trump held firm and responded by evicting Mattis from his post immediately. Wonderful! The most honorable move Trump has made during his presidency.

But hold on. Was it all a just put-on to distract from Trump being outfoxed on live TV by Chuck and Nancy? Did anyone check with John Bolton? Apparently not, because Bolton reassured an anxious Bibi Netanyahu that the US was going to be staying in Syria until all remnants of ISIS were crushed into the dust (along many more innocent bystanders), US-backed Kurdish fighters in Rojava were protected from any assaults by Turkey or Assad and Iran pulled its fighters out of Syria. Notably, Trump didn’t fire Bolton for his apparent impertinence. Instead, he seemed to wilt, saying “I never said, we were leaving now.” But whenever Trump says “I never said,” you know he said it.

Some would have you believe that Bolton is an outlier, a Deep State implant. But Bolton was handpicked by Trump to replace the hated McMaster as National Security Advisor. Bolton was Trump’s man. He says what Trump can’t or won’t.

+ Yet, how long will it be before MSDNC anchors start referring to John Bolton as the new Adult in the Room?

+ Who says Trump didn’t fully grasp Lincoln’s “team of rivals” approach to his cabinet? He’s the first president with three National Security Advisors serving at the same time: Bolton, Erdogan and Netanyahu…

+ How Trump’s Syrian “withdrawal” is working in practice: More troops are being sent to Syria in order to remove non-essential equipment.

+ All of this is grim news for the people of Syria, where the death toll now tops 560,000, more than 20,800 of them children. Was the price worth it Mr. Assad, Mr. Obama, Mr. Putin, Mr. Bin Salman and Mr. Trump? Que Syria, Syria…

+ Meanwhile, Pompeo Maximus gave a disgusting speech in Cairo this week. But in stream of bigoted filth, this passage with it’s revealing typo (a textbook case study in Freudian parapraxis), really stands out:

“In World War II, American GIs helped free North America[i] from Nazi occupation. Fifty years later, we assembled a coalition to liberate Kuwait from Saddam Hussein. Would the Russians or Chinese come to your rescue in the same way, the way that we have?”

Apparently, those GI’s forgot to liberate Iowa from Steve King. (The Soviets lost 8 million liberating half of Europe from the Nazis and the Chinese lost 10-15 million fighting Imperial Japan.)

+ Speaking of John Bolton. In 1981, journalist Robert Scheer interviewed Dr. Charles Kupperman, then a defense analyst for the ultra-hawkish Committee on the Present Danger, about the prospects of nuclear war with the Soviet Union for his book, With Enough Shovels: Reagan, Bush and Nuclear War. Cribbing from Col. Buck Turgidson, Kupperman, who has just been appointed deputy National Security Advisor to Bolton, argued that the US could win a nuclear exchange that left 20 million or so dead.

Scheer: Do you think we are overly influenced by physicists who emphasize the danger of nuclear war and nuclear escalation?

Kupperman: No, but I think the images Americans have been brought up with about nuclear war are not accurate, and it is certainly a more popular argument to say there are no survivors, there’s no way you can win a nuclear war, that it is too horrible to think about. That appeals to human emotions, and really precludes serious and rational thinking about it.

Scheer: Do you think it possible for a democratic society to survive?

Kupperman: I think it is possible for any society to survive, and I think that a democratic society would want to survive.

Scheer: I mean an all-out nuclear war.

Kupperman: It depends on what one considers all-out. If the objective in a war is to try to destroy as many Soviet civilians and as many American civilians as is feasible, and the casualty levels approach 150 million on each side, then it’s going to be tough to say you have a surviving nation after that. But depending on how the nuclear war is fought, it could mean the difference between 150 [million] casualities and 20 million casualties. I think that is a significant difference, and if the country loses 20 million people, you may have a chance of surviving after that.

Scheer: Would that mean the other nation would survive as well? You’re not talking about winning a nuclear war, you’re talking about a stalemate of some kind.

Kupperman: It may or may not be a stalemate, depending on who had more surviving national power and military power.

Scheer: So you think it is possible to win?

Kupperman: I think it is possible to win, in the classical sense.

Scheer: What does that mean: “in the classical sense”?

Kupperman: It means that it is clear after the war that one side is stronger than the other side, the weaker side is going to accede to the demands of the stronger side.

+ One of the very few people in America who is more lame-brained than Trump is Washington Post columnist and neocon-on-parole Max Boot, who wrote an absurd column on Trump’s loopy history of the Soviet war in Afghanistan, wherein Boot concluded that Trump was parroting talking points from Putin. What evidence in his history would lead anyone to believe that 1.) Trump, even hyped on Adderall, has the capacity and patience to read the briefing book Moscow covertly sent him; 2.) that hours later he would correctly remember what he had read?

+ This spectacle down on the border was even more pitiful than Hillary’s “landing under sniper fire” trip to Bosnia, as Trump’s Crisis of the Soul tour took him into the free-fire zone of McAllen, Texas, the 20th safest city in the United States.

From the Southern Border…. pic.twitter.com/Vgsf5nEZUH

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 10, 2019

+ Trump in the span of a few minutes in a recent press conference:

“I can declare a national emergency and build the wall myself; the wall is already being built; Mexico is paying for the wall through a trade deal that hasn’t been approved by Congress; I need Congress to appropriate $5.6 billion for the building of my wall, because I never said Mexico would send a check…”

+ People are worried that Trump sullied the Oval Office by telling lies during his primetime diatribe on immigration. Isn’t this where presidents go to lie? LBJ on Vietnam, Nixon on Cambodia, Carter on Afghanistan, Reagan on Iran, Poppy on crack, Clinton on Serbia, Bush on WMDs, Obama on Libya…

+ Number of terrorists arrested on the Southern Border: 0, which includes CIA asset Luis Posada Corrilles, who freely crossed the border many times, after his role the bombing of Cubana Air FL 455…

+ There were 2000 suspected or known terrorists recorded coming in and out of JFK airport and those are just the flights taken by Henry Kissinger…

+ After handing out M&Ms to Chuck and Nancy, Kevin and Steve, Mitch and Mike, Trump asked Nancy if she was prepared to allocate money for his dream wall. Nancy said No and Trump reportedly blurted, “This is a waste of time. Bye-bye.” And walked out of the Situation Room in a huff. “Walked out of the room?” That doesn’t sound very Trump-like. Are we sure he didn’t putter away in his golf cart?

+ Trump was very concerned on Tuesday night about Mexican immigrants entering the US with a desire to “dismember” innocent Americans. Will he use the same standard to deny entry into the US for members of the House of Saud?

+ Trump: “They say a wall is a medieval solution. But it worked.” Except when it didn’t See: The Seven Sackings of Rome.

+ One persuasive argument that Trump may be keeping in his back pocket: If we don’t have a Wall, where will we put all of the Redneck Mothers…?

+ Where are the Weapons of Mass Immigration?

+ Who will pay for the wall? Homeless Puerto Ricans (most of Trump’s base can’t tell them from Mexicans).

+ Trump: “The wheel is older than the wall.” Did he learn this from the BC comic strip or a Journey song?

+ The wheel was developed around 5500 BCE in Mesopotamia (don’t let any of those people into the country). The first wall probably erected around 11,000 BCE.

+ Donald Trump Jr. (Uday to his friends) has compared the southern border wall to a fence at the zoo protecting the onlookers from predatory animals. The son really is more repellent than his sperm donor…

+ When Jr. goes to the zoo, he always takes his rifle.

+ The more stentorian Mike Pence sounds, the more infantile the content of what he’s saying. Aside: Notice how his hair doesn’t move, regardless of the wind speed?

+ Arrests of families at the southern border have broken records for the past four months in a row. If you can’t find a terrorist to arrest, just snatch a kid and its mom, and then send them to separate detention camps.

+ Give me my Wall or I’ll make sure more of them will die! At least 22 immigrants have died in US custody in the Trump era. That’s 10 more than were refused entry on the southern border on suspicion of being a “terrorist.”

+ AMLO: “Trump’s wall is his problem. We’re not paying for it.

+ US Marines pled guilty to a scheme to smuggle $1 million worth of cocaine from Colombia into the US on military transport planes. Looks like we may need a wall that’s 30,000 feet tall.

+ On Tuesday, ICE arrested an El Salvadoran mother named Roxana Orellana Santos during a routine check-in with the agency. This happens all the time now, but Orellana Santos’ case is different. In 2008, she was accosted without reason, except that she appeared to be Hispanic, by police in Frederick, Maryland while she was having lunch. The officers ran her ID and arrested her on an outstanding immigration warrant. This was a clear case of “eating while brown.” Orellana Santos sued and won a major federal court ruling against the county in 2017. Her detention this week by ICE, only a few days before the court was set to determine the amount of damages Orellana Santos is owed for her wrongful arrest, seems to be a clear case of retaliation.

+ Trump whisperer Lou Dobbs is urging the president to invoke a National Emergency. Not simply for the purpose of building a border wall, but to “simply sweep aside the recalcitrant left in this country.”

Dobbs: Trump should "declare a national emergency, and simply sweep aside the recalcitrant left in this country" pic.twitter.com/7b548v2V8Q

— Brendan Karet

Categories: News for progressives

A Potentially Tectonic Event Shakes up the Mumia Abu-Jamal Case

Fri, 2019-01-11 15:56

In a huge potential break in the long-running and controversial case of Philadelphia journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal, currently serving a life-without-parole term in a Pennsylvania state prison at Mahonoy, PA for murder conviction, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office says it has discovered six banker storage boxes of materials about the case in a locked storeroom of the DA’s offices at 3 South Penn Square.

The boxes, spotted by Krasner himself during a search of the previously locked storeroom for an office desk, reportedly had the name “McCann” scrawled on their facing side, apparently referring to Edward McCann, the long-time head of the DA’s homicide litigation unit (McCann left the DA’s office in 2015). When the boxes were removed from under the desk, it was discovered that the name “Mumia” was written on the their hidden ends.

Five of the boxes were reportedly numbered 18/29, 21/29, 23/29, 24/29 and 29/29. The sixth box had no number on it. The department’s Mumia case record is stored in boxes numbered 1-32 and includes boxes similarly numbered to those found in the storeroom.

The newly located cardboard crates, which contain case files, evidentiary material and other materials relating to the Mumia case, are going to be provided to the defense for their inspection, according the DA’s office.

The significance of  this surprising discovery by Krasner, a prominent progressive defense attorney who won election as DA in November 2017 and moved into the DA’s office last January, is that if those boxes contain any evidentiary material that was improperly withheld from the defense, and if what was withheld proved significant enough that it might potentially have led the original jury to a different conclusion — for example a non-unanimous decision to convict — it could be grounds for seeking a retrial of the case.

Even if such evidence were less obviously significant, it could open the door for the defense to seek a new Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) hearing at the level of the court of common pleas. At such a hearing both sides — the defense and the DA’s office — would be able to make arguments and even, depending on the evidence found, to subpoena witnesses — potentially even witnesses from the original trial who could be re-questioned under oath.

The discovery of the crates comes at a critical juncture for Abu-Jamal, who has spent 29 years on death row and a total of 38 years in prison after having his death penalty for conviction in the 1981 shooting death of white Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner vacated on Constitutional grounds.

Just two weeks ago, Common Pleas Judge Leon Tucker issued an order ruling that four important PCRA appeals by Abu-Jamal, including his first lengthy and contentious PCRA hearing in 1995 at which all of the important evidence in the prosecution’s case was challenged before the original trial Judge Albert Sabo, needed to be re-appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Judge Tucker ruled that all four of those appeals, each of which was summarily rejected by the state’s high court, had been unfair because one of the Supreme Court justices, Ronald Castille, had, from 1986-1991, been Philadelphia DA, where he was in charge of the assistant DAs tasked with fighting Abu-Jamal’s appeal of his conviction. Tucker said that even if there was no documentary evidence of Justice Castille’s direct involvement in that appeal fighting process, the mere appearance of a conflict of interest meant he should have recused himself from discussions of and deciding on those appeals. Instead, Castille participated in high court’s majority decision to reject all four appeals.

Following hearings that preceded his ruling, Judge Tucker had ordered a thorough search of the DA’s office in an effort to locate any memos or other documents that might link former DA Castille to his office’s handling of Abu-Jamal’s case. While no Castille memo turned up, Krasner’s office, which had assigned a paralegal to the search, did locate two memos about the case with questions addressed to Castille, but never found his response.

The six crates, interestingly, were discovered on Dec. 28, just a day after Judge Tucker’s ruling was issued.

Krasner’s office still has not responded to the judge’s decision, which would have to be appealed by his office within 30 days, or in other words, by January 26. No other party or agency besides the Philadelphia District Attorney has standing to appeal it, meaning if DA Krasner does nothing, it will stand.

Radio station WHYY, in a local news report Thursday, quoted retired Assistant DA McCann, whose name was on all the newly discovered case document crates, as saying he “doubted” there would be any new evidence undisclosed to the Mumia defense team found in them. McCann suggested that the contents may have been all photocopies of material the defense has already seen.

The defense team, which declined to comment, believes McCann is wrong, and clearly will be going through the materials in the boxes with a fine-tooth comb looking for signs of evidence not disclosed to the defense at trial. (It’s worth noting that nobody in the DA’s office anticipated that Krasner would take over an office that for generations has been run by hard-line prosecutors less concerned with justice than with winning cases, and willing to bend the rules or overlook police or prosecutorial conduce in order to win convictions.)

The case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who has become a powerful voice from inside what he calls the US “prison industrial complex,” whose original trial was widely seen as a corrupt travesty of justice, and whose freedom has been sought by supporters around the world who see the progressive journalist and former Black Panther as a political prisoner, is far from over.

Categories: News for progressives

There Are More Important Things Than The Truth

Fri, 2019-01-11 15:56

All that I want

Is to wake up fine

Tell me that I’m alright

That I ain’t gonna die

All that I want

Is a hole in the ground

You can tell me when it’s alright

For me to come out

— Paramore, Hard Times

We are living in times of mass inequality. The concerns of a “decent” and “civil” society in the age of Trump ring hallow to all of us struggling to get by. The rich are alarmed by Donald Trump because he lies, and lies proudly. The rich know that in order to stay rich at a criminal rate, they need sophisticated propaganda. Donald Trump is stupid. Crisis for the rich.

Yet, not really. Donald Trump’s detractors are educated, but stupid. In fact, they may be, in their own way, even more hopeless than the Trump fascists, seeing as they are more sure of themselves, despite being completely wrong. Donald Trump is scolded for his uncivil lying. He is fact-checked at every turn. I wonder what they get out of fact-checking Donald. Who reads a Donald Trump fact-check and changes their mind? If you like Trump, you will know that the fact-checking is fake news, although your impression of real news is likely to be the openly fascist Fox News, who has kept truth out with a steel wall. Fox almost seems to racially profile truth, as if all truth is bad. There is a clear prejudice there. If you don’t like Trump, you will read a Trump fact check and find out that Trump has been lying—something you already knew but just felt good about confirming.

Liberals are only concerned about truth because it is the one thing that separates them and the conservatives. Liberals lie, and lie a lot of course, but let me explain this “opinion” of mine. The liberal media’s crime is not lying—as Donald Trump claims. Their main crime is the omission of the class struggle. Their main crime is being funded by the 1% and reporting in the interests of the 1%. If the liberal media lied at the same clip as Donald Trump, what would they call Trump? They couldn’t call him a liar.

What the liberal media can do is choose which stories to talk about. Russiagate is the most obvious example. While the mainstream media does lie about Russia, they generally say accepted truths, which are, in broad terms, hard to disprove, in a society largely ignorant of Russia. But I don’t think any of us Americans really care about Russia. We like the idea of a foe in the battle ring and we hate communism, but that’s about it, and Russia isn’t interested in fighting us or going communist, so what gives?

No, the bigger crime in relation to Russia is that they are in the news every day. Hours and hours of speculation and fear-mongering that jumps to hostile and misleading conclusions. But hardly ever do the mainstream media need to outright lie to get there. The sheer amount of coverage creates a paranoia around Russia. The speculation itself creates suspicion. The frightened experts create reasonable doubt. Yes, one big lie such as “weapons of mass destruction” may need to be said to push us over the edge, but the majority of the time lies are not even necessary. Quick side note in relation to that reference. I saw Vice. A courageous film to make. Excellent acting. I fell asleep and missed most of the movie. Maybe that was Cheney’s fault.

Likewise, the war on Yemen was never covered until a journalist from Jeff Bezo’s propaganda paper was killed there (the individual reporter was certainly admirable in my opinion). Climate change is often classified as a human problem (fine) but no one ever simply says the 1% are killing us all. There are many cooking recipes available in your corporate paper, but few stories on the housing crisis. That’s not fake news, that’s just the priorities of the 1%.

As the Democrats gear up for a larger role in 2018 with an eye on 2020, we once again see the liberal media scapegoating the leftish side of the Democrat Party. Imperialist capitalist monsters live within all shades of Democrat, but some are far less “pro-business” than others, and always get picked on.

The attacks on Bernie Sanders have always been relentless. Like the Russia narrative, there is simply little, if anything, there. But the sheer amount of stories and the hysteria generated around them are designed to scare the public. Any positive things about Sanders (including his reign as America’s most popular politician) are buried. Lies about Sanders may be rare, but petty stories are commonplace. Likewise, scare tactics about “democratic socialism” are always very vague and ominous, with little serious scholarship on socialism at all, as if that was ever the intention!

Bernie’s safety word “democratic socialism” uses that awful “democratic” in front of it, and I see why now. It is because Bernie’s socialism is always coded in the American idea of democracy. America’s democracy has always relied upon on imperialism abroad and some form of class and racial human rights violations at home. It has, especially lately, relied on this imperialism being an expression of liberal democracy. It is based in private property as an expression of democracy—with the individual overcoming the community being assumed as an expression of democracy. This inevitably places the earth as something to be owned and exploited, with each individual (company) having a right to do this being an expression of democracy. And of course, democracy and the right to speak itself has always had a certain class, gender, race, sexuality, able-bodied and aged assumptions itself. Nature is perhaps most hurt by the concept of democracy as it fundamentally is denied a voice precisely because we do not speak Her language. Likewise, the colonized, the immigrant and those who are victims of our imperialist blunders get no voice in our democracy.

Bernie is going to be our President in 2020 then for both reasons good and bad. Good in that he speaks to the American working class majority in ways that no politician has in a long time. Bad because even America’s definition of socialism relies on imperialist assumptions of economic growth, subversion of nature and imperialist misadventure. Regardless, it appears inevitable that Bernie will win in a landslide. It is also nearly inevitable that sabotage of Bernie by both himself and others will happen, and may derail what should come naturally.

What say you? This piece is arguing against both truth and democracy. How Trumpian! Perhaps. But it is not that these values aren’t important, it is that these values themselves are not tangible, and therefore are of focus to the materialist based capitalists. Truth and democracy can be given to us very easily—not in reality—for this has damning implications for the ruling class, but as concepts and slogans because these values can be manipulated. What cannot be manipulated are tangible wins for the working class which should be of more importance. Access to health care, social benefits, clean environments, well-funded schools, food stamps, housing, etc. These are things that can be counted and are of no interest to the ruling class who are obsessed with fascism.

They obsess over fascism because no one knows what it is and no one can agree what it is. Stopping fascism is such a dangerous goal precisely because of its undemocratic implications. This fact is lost on the ruling class as they fret about democracy. The truth is that if the country wants to be fascist, what should a person interested in democracy really be doing? It’s sort of a catch-22. A paralyzing, conversation ending catch-22. Why not aim for tangible goals for the working class instead?

The young Bernie (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) has already proven to be more feisty than Master Sanders. More reckless too. Would she have rolled over for Crooked Hillary so quickly? Given her deference to Democrats, maybe so. But she has signs of life, spontaneous life! We’ll see what happens with her.

It’s hard to fall in love with anyone in American politics. But Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez can be admired in a lot of ways. When thinking about lying I was reminded of some trouble Ocasio-Cortez got in for a “wild” claim that the Pentagon was wasting money and that it could be spent on health care. This claim of course needed to be fact-checked. Why? Because it was true. And the larger truth can always be lost on the specifics.

Part of the charm of Ocasio-Cortez is that she shoots from the hip and is not such a whiny liberal when it comes to conventional wisdom. She’s like Trump in this way, and it’s appealing. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for all proposal is said to cost 32 trillion over 10 years. AOC said that 2/3 of this budget could be paid through the Pentagon’s accounting errors. She cites The Nation, which actually accounts for how this is basically a correct statement at face value in their exposé.

The big scandal is that while the Pentagon eats up 54% of our nation’s budget, it can avoid an audit and lie about how much it spends each year. Now the mainstream media gets lost in the specifics. Well, they say, who cares if we are literally missing 21 trillion dollars that could keep 2/3rds of our country healthy for a decade. We’ll skip over this fact and point out that AOC couldn’t really just bring that money over. It’s not all kept in some vault somewhere! Yes, they literally were upset with AOC for implying that the money, while lost, couldn’t be spent on the working class. How dare you say you found the money when we are still hiding it!

The Washington Post gives Ocasio-Cortez four Pinocchios for this. Good for her! Who on earth really believes the 137 billion dollar man Jeff Bezos. Why does he get to buy a newspaper and decide who is telling the truth. After sleeping with his friend’s wife, Bezos is getting divorced and could lose half his money! His ex-wife is said to be getting 69 billion, the first 69 I’m sure she has gotten from Bezos, even though it has been rumored that he still does the dishes (good guy).

One of the fears of our society going communist is that all individual rights will be given up to a tyrant dictator. And maybe, maybe so. But does anyone really care that Donald Trump is a fascist, outside of the ruling class? Does anyone care that he degrades our cherished institutions already hijacked by neoliberal capital? There are concrete actions Trump takes that hurt the working class. People are losing food stamps soon because he is closing down the government, to name one of many examples. But as for his role as a dictator and his assault on the precious rule of law embodied by Bob Meuller? No one cares besides a few crusty lawyers and political hacks.

If Donald Trump were to lock up all his political enemies while transforming trade, war, infrastructure and health care in this country as he promised to do, I would call him a great President. Unfortunately, he hasn’t done anything productive politically. He has been the working class’s number one enemy. The ruling class is thriving under Trump. Perhaps this exposes a link between fascism and capitalism, perhaps not.

Regardless, the hurt felt in this country right now has little to do with Trump’s disdain for civic values. He has continued the assault on unions, on education, on the environment, on health care, on social spending. He’s a neoliberal. An extreme neoliberal.

America expresses free speech through imperialism and private property. These are the ultimate freedoms, granted in practice only to the ultra-rich. America is a very individualist culture. We hold great value in individual expression and free speech. These are coded values. Protest is a crime, that is one way this is coded. Real resistance will still be met with prison and assault by the police. The poor have no right to speak.

But this is a concern mostly because the poor must speak. They must speak for their right to survive because the rich won’t let them. For the rich person in a big house and a fancy car, self-expression becomes the most important, if not the only value. As soon as a strong man like Trump comes in the world has been shook for the rich man who believed in a civil society where the whole game was rigged for him.

The poor must speak, but they also must eat, drink, breathe, get shelter, health care, education and live in peace. Such rights are denied by the United States. Political expression is celebrated, while material uplift is disdained. The ruling class weaves itself a web of satisfied narcissism that disdains a dictator and celebrates a society that gives speech as its only right.

Lies now are being criminalized. There are attempts to criminalize dissent of Israel. Getting overly concerned with who is lying and who isn’t is a mistake. The ruling class’s definition of lies may not always be false in their basis, but they are morally wrong in who gets criminalized for speech.

So, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, lie away! Throughout human history the ruling class has lied to maintain its power. The idea of free speech and the truth that comes with it are privileged by the ruling class. For the rest of us we want health care, we want to pay rent, we want clean air and water, we want food, we want peace. As Donald Trump rips families apart, liberals are offended that he lied to them about it.

There is nothing moral about a society that is giving 95% of its economic growth to the top 1%. Donald Trump hangs on only because he knows that the ruling class has no moral authority anymore. Enough whining about the truth. If you want people to believe the truth, give them an education, or better yet, a roof over their heads. Until that happens, expect the scapegoating of immigrants and all the lies behind it to ring true. And the biggest crime will not be the lie that brought us over the edge, but the condition created that fostered a society where truth did not matter anymore. There are more desperate needs here so when a man like Trump says he can help we do not ask him if he is telling the truth, we only ask how we get to somewhere, anywhere better.

Categories: News for progressives

How Trump’s Insults and Lies are Harming America

Fri, 2019-01-11 15:56

Who is going to be the first reporter to stand up at a president’s media harangue and ask the simple question “what benefit is there to the United States in insulting allied countries and their leaders?”  Might anyone ask him why international approval ratings for his country are “much lower than during Barack Obama’s presidency.”

And perhaps most important, who will look at him and demand “Mr President, why did you tell a lie about [insert subject here]?”

One of the most outrageous and instantly detectable lies he has told was during a speech to soldiers in Iraq on December 26 when he said “you just got one of the biggest pay raises you’ve ever received . . .  It’s great. You know what? Nobody deserves it more. You haven’t gotten one in more than 10 years – more than 10 years. And we got you a big one. I got you a big one. I got you a big one. They had plenty of people that came up. They said, ‘You know, we could make it smaller. We could make it 3 percent. We could make it 2 percent. We could make it 4 percent.’ I said, ‘No. Make it 10 percent. Make it more than 10 percent.’”

The Washington Post pointed out that the pay raise Trump authorized this year amounted to 2.6 percent, not 10 percent. And the troops have received a pay raise every year for decades” which brings us to consideration of a general observation by Healthcare that “Pathological liars tend to tell lies that seem to be geared at gaining admiration, sympathy, or acceptance by others.”

During his fleeting visit to a US military base in Iraq President Trump declared “The United States cannot continue to be the policeman of the world. It’s not fair when the burden is all on us, the United States . . . We’re no longer the suckers, folks. We’re respected again as a nation.”  The world then fell about laughing at the irony of this bizarre pronouncement which was made in a country that had been invaded and reduced to chaos by the burden-laden international policeman.

The President of the United States was visiting a war-torn region in which there are some 5,000 US troops stationed by mutual agreement, and the New York Times reported that  “about 100 American servicemen and women, some of whom were wearing red ‘Make America Great Again’ caps, greeted Mr Trump with a standing ovation . . . He and Mrs Trump spent about 15 minutes there talking with the troops.”

He had flown for eleven hours to Iraq to deliver an inappropriately political harangue and spend fifteen minutes to talking with the troops of whom he is commander-in-chief.  And he didn’t meet one single Iraqi, which is an even more serious matter.

Trump has no idea about how to behave in a situation demanding plain ordinary good manners. He cannot comprehend that diplomacy requires expertise and civility and is unable to understand that the conduct of international affairs rests largely upon basic courtesies.

It is essential that any head of state visiting another country should pay respect to that nation by calling on its head of state.  (There are some carefully contrived exceptions : between the US and Germany, for example, this is not necessary, which accounts for the fact that Trump could stopover at the US base at Ramstein for refueling and more photo-ops without any inconvenient Germans poking their noses into his territory.  (Was the German government informed that Trump was passing through?)  But during Trump’s three hour stay in Iraq he didn’t call on President Barham Ahmed Salih.

Nor did he see the most important political figure in Iraq, Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, who had expected to meet him when he lobbed into his country for a hurried public relations fandango with US military personnel.  But he didn’t.  It wasn’t convenient for Trump to meet any citizens of the country in which he spent so little of his valuable time.

According to CNN the Iraqi Prime Minister’s office stated “There was supposed to be a formal reception and a meeting between Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi and the US President, but a variation of views to organize the meeting led it to be replaced by a telephone conversation.”  What actually happened was that the President of the United States did not meet the Prime Minister of Iraq because the prime minister refused to obey a summons to go to the US air base to call on Trump, and it was too dangerous for the president to travel to the prime minister’s office.

It could not be guaranteed that President Donald Trump, the commander-in-chief of the largest and most potent military forces in the world, to cost 716 billion dollars in 2019, would be safe if he travelled a few miles from an American military base to the center of Baghdad.

The insult to the Iraqi nation and the astonishing indicator of military impotence were little mentioned in the western mainstream media, which focused on Trump’s speech to the soldiery.  In this he delivered a vulgar denunciation of his political opponents and told a downright lie in claiming he had arranged a pay rise for members of the armed services.

Trump’s Iraq jaunt was a sad embarrassment.  Sad, because the United States does not deserve a head of state whose behavior is erratic and whose blatant lies seem to be unchallenged by even his closest advisers. On December 21 the Washington Post noted that Trump had made 7,546 “false or misleading claims” which is undoubtedly an all-time record, but one that must cause anxiety and grave disquiet rather than derision (which is probably the first reaction of most people), and give rise to speculation about what might come next.

The Post’s Glenn Kessler opined that “The president keeps going long after the facts are clear, in what appears to be a deliberate effort to replace the truth with his own, far more favorable, version of it. He is not merely making gaffes or misstating things, he is purposely injecting false information into the national conversation.”

But it isn’t only “national” — because the international community is worried about Trump’s erratic pronouncements and impulsive behavior.

Trump has insulted many countries and their leaders, notably Germany in the context of defense spending, and after a series of malicious remarks about NATO and Europe in mid-2018 the European Council President Donald Tusk was moved to advise Trump to calm down. He appealed semi-jovially for America to “appreciate your allies. After all you don’t have that many,” and more seriously pointed out to “Dear President Trump” on July 10 that “America does not have and will not have a better ally than Europe. Today Europeans spend on defense many times more than Russia and as much as China,” which of course is not the answer wanted by Trump or the Washington Establishment which is intent on confrontation with both Russia and China.

When Trump unilaterally voided the international agreement with Iran that successfully prevented it from developing a nuclear weapons program, he attracted a joint statement by French President Macron, Chancellor Merkel of Germany and Prime Minister May of Britain which noted that the UN Security Council resolution endorsing the accord is the “binding international legal framework for the resolution of the dispute.” But this means nothing to Trump, who pays no heed to what is felt and said by his allies in response to his pronouncements and actions.

France and Britain have troops in Syria (which is illegal and most ill-advised; two British soldiers were badly wounded on January 6) but Trump did not consult or even inform these countries’ leaders before issuing a statement indicating that the US would withdraw its contingent of over 2,000.  President Macron’s reaction was to say bluntly that “being allies means fighting shoulder to shoulder, and so an ally must be reliable and coordinate with other allies,” but such expressions of disapproval mean nothing to Trump whose tweeted policy is that it’s “time to focus on our country and bring our youth back home where they belong!”

Quite so.  And for a change he’s right.  But national leaders should not take such fundamentally important action without discussing its implications with allies who have taken considerable risks of all sorts — and by far the most important of these being hazarding the lives of their soldiers — in supporting Washington’s wars.

Trump is careering from crisis to crisis, and the next drama is likely to be Afghanistan from which chaotic country that was invaded by the United States in 2001 he has apparently decided to withdraw some of the 15,000 troops deployed.  He did not consult any of the 38 other countries that (mistakenly) also have military contingents there, and nobody knows what comes next — least of all the Afghan government itself. While it is a good thing that the US is getting its military out of countries where they had no business to be in the first place, it is a recipe for disaster to keep allies in the dark about Washington’s strategic intentions.  It is also potentially disastrous to tell lies to or about them

In July 2018, for example, the Washington Post reported Trump as saying that the NATO countries “had agreed to ‘substantially’ increase their commitment to defense spending, asserting he’d be ‘very unhappy’ if they failed him. But moments later French President Emmanuel Macron flatly declared that they hadn’t agreed to any such increase; our allies remain committed to reaching 2 percent by the middle of the next decade, as previously agreed upon.”  Small wonder that the latest Pew poll shows among other things that “Frustrations with the U.S. in the Trump era are particularly common among some of America’s closest allies and partners. In Germany, where just 10% have confidence in Trump, three-in-four people say the U.S. is doing less these days to address global problems, and the share of the public who believe the U.S. respects personal freedoms is down 35 percentage points since 2008. In France, only 9% have confidence in Trump, while 81% think the U.S. doesn’t consider the interests of countries like France when making foreign policy decisions.”

There is compelling evidence that Trump is a pathological liar, and it is interesting to reflect on an expert’s observation that “a 2016 study of what happens in the brain when you lie found that the more untruths a person tells, the easier and more frequent lying becomes.” It is disturbing, to put it mildly, that a petulant and arrogant individual with a proven compulsion to tell monstrous lies is arguably the most powerful person on the planet.

He is harming his country.

Categories: News for progressives

Sexual Predators in the Era of Trump

Fri, 2019-01-11 15:54

Long after the Trump presidency passes into the historical graveyard, it will be recalled for the scandals involving sexual abuse that occurred during his tenure.  These scandals bespeak the sexual pathology that long characterized the president himself.

A series of revelations about men who take advantage of underage girls has placed the issue of sexual predators at the center of public debate.  These include the financier Jeffrey Epstein and the entertainer R Kelly as well as the male sex tourists traveling overseas to have sex with trafficked young girls.

Lifetime is airing a six-part documentary series, Surviving R. Kelly, that tells the gruesome story of how the entertainer sexually abused African-American girls and women for decades.  Willa Paskin, reviewing the series for Slate, notes: “We chose to ignore his deeds, downplay them, or remain willfully ignorant of them so we could go on enjoying his music. …  We made a deal with the devil on the cheap — let us keep this song! — and had 16-year-old girls pay the exorbitant price.”

Kelly’s sexual exploitation of teenage girls were first revealed in the mid-90s by Jim DeRogatis, the Chicago Sun-Times pop-music critic.  He long covered Kelly musical career, but in 2002 he received two videos from an anonymous source that depicting the pop star engaging in sex with young girls. Working with his colleague Abdon Pallasch, over the years they interviewed innumerable people involved in the case, including dozens of young women Kelly allegedly sexually exploited.  DeRogatis’ articles and the two videos led to criminal charges against Kelly. He went to trial in 2008 and was found not guilty on all 14 charges.

One of the weirdest aspects of the Kelly story that DeRogatis reported on concerns the allegations that he has operated a series of sex cults, essentially imprisoning girls and young women to a form of sex slavery.  These facilities were located in Chicago and the Atlanta suburbs and, as reported, “dictating what they eat, how they dress, when they bathe, when they sleep, and how they engage in sexual encounters that he records.”  In a Duluth, GA, “guest house,” a 31-year-old “den mother” “trained” new young women as to “how Kelly liked to be pleasured sexually.” The reporter has also detailed how Kelly paid “hush money” to an underage girl to avoid further litigation.

Numerous women appear in Surviving R. Kelly and testify to the sexual abuse that Kelly inflicted on them.  However, the key experience that shapes the series involves the performer, Aaliyah, Kelly’s protégée and who he married when she was just 15 years old.  They first met during his child-pornography trial and Aaliyah died in a plane crash in August 2001 in the Bahamas. Her mother, Diane Houghton, has challenged the series’ account of her daughter’s relationship with Kelly.

A second prominent sex predator is the financier Jeffrey Epstein.  In 2005, he began to assemble a network of dozens – if not a hundred — underage girls for prostitution. The Miami Herald found about 80 women Epstein allegedly molested or sexually abused over a five-year period, including 36 underage victims.  Some of the girls were only 13 or 14 years old when they were molested.  More damaging revelations involve Trump’s Sec. of Labor, R. Alexander Acosta, who, as the U.S. attorney in Miami, brokered what the Herald calls the “deal of a lifetime” so that Epstein received a slap on the risk.

The latest twist in this twisted tale involves the lawyer and TV personality, Alan Dershowitz. Sarah Ransome has alleged in a New York federal court filing that Epstein and his alleged madam, Ghislaine Maxwell, “directed” her in 2006 to have sex with Dershowitz and others.  It’s a claim the attorney adamantly denies.

On September 4, 2015, David Strecker, a 66-year-old Florida resident, was arrested at a Costa Rican airport for violating the country’s law for promoting prostitution and received a five-year sentence. Strecker operated a blog, “Cuba Dave,” celebrating his sexual exploits with girls and young women in Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Cuba. He was the first person ever tried under the country’s new anti-prostitution law and received a 5-year prison sentence in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica is among the leading international destination favored by American sex tourists.  Others include the Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, The Netherlands, Spain, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Mexico. World Vision Australia estimates 250,000 tourists visit Asia each year for sexual activities with a minor and an estimated 25 percent of sex tourists originate from the U.S.  Men are considered to be the primary sex tourist around the globe with most sex tourism customers coming from middle to upper class backgrounds.

In 2003, the U.S. adopted the PROTECT — Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to end the Exploitation of Children Today — Act.  An Urban Institute study finds that from 2003 to 2012, only 33 individuals were prosecuted under the act.  The study notes, “by prioritizing this crime and enforcing the PROTECT Act, more US citizens and legal US residents traveling overseas for the purposes of sex tourism can be identified and brought to justice.”

Since Harvey Weinstein was outed in October 2017, about 80 women have publicly revealed how they were sexually abused. Many of those accused of such immoral, if not illegal, behavior are among the social elite, including judges, politicians, business execs and entertainers.

Among these men, both white and African-American, are judges Alex Kozinski (CA federal judge) and Ray Moore (R-AL); politicians Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Reps. Ruben Kihuen (D-NV), Blake Farenthold (R-TX), Pat Meehan (R-PA), Trent Franks (R-AZ) and John Conyers (D-MI); and entertainers Kevin Spacey (actor), Russell Simmons (co-founder, Def Jam Recordings), Garrison Keillor (host, “A Prairie Home Companion”), Charlie Rose (host, PBS and CBS), Matt Lauer (host, NBC “Today”) and Mario Batali (TV star and chef).

Sadly, in the era of Trump, further revelations about prominent men who are sexual abusers and predators are likely.

Categories: News for progressives

Trump vs. the Anti-Trumps: It’s the System That Needs Changing Not Just the Personnel

Fri, 2019-01-11 15:53

Playing Trump’s game is almost irresistible.  At least, most of his opponents seem unable to resist it.

The name of Trump’s game is Personalistic Moralism.  The President’s politics are not policy-free, but policies in his political universe are inextricably wedded to personal moral characteristics.  If you want the Wall (“border security”), for example, that means you are strong, tough, and protective.  You are knowledgeable about the physical and cultural dangers posed by immigrants, and you care for your fellow Americans.  But what if you don’t want the Wall?  In this case, you are weak, effeminate, ignorant, uncaring, and secretly in favor of “open borders.”

This, by the way, is the text. The subtext, resting on the understanding that the main advocates of plentiful immigration since the nineteenth century have been employers seeking cheap labor, is that those who favor the Wall want to protect native American workers, while those who don’t care only about their profits.  Of course, Mr. Trump worships great wealth and the system that produces it. But his basic political instinct, shared with Far Right ideologues going back to Edmund Burke and Charles Maurras, is to criticize mere moneymaking when it conflicts with ethno-national solidarity and a professed concern for “native” workers.[1]

Trumpism gives a perverse new meaning to the old Movement slogan, “The personal is political.”  It is a mistake, therefore, to consider the President an unprincipled politician with an unfortunate tendency to insult, demean, and threaten his opponents.  Because his own moral character invites contempt, it is easy to forget that Trump is above all a certain type of political moralist. For him, virtue or vice (defined in terms of strength/weakness, masculinity/femininity, loyalty to the national tribe/globalism, and so forth) produce virtuous or vicious policies.  For him, politics is, at bottom, a struggle to defeat immoral and contemptible opponents.

Conflict specialists have long been familiar with this sort of Manichean thinking. If you ask the parties to a serious dispute to name the causes of their conflict, each party will almost always point to their opponents and answer, “They are!”  President Trump’s opponents, however, do not seem to understand that in making attacks on his character their primary strategy they are playing his game, in his stadium, according to his rules.  By doing so, they reinforce the stereotypes of them that Trump has successfully marketed to his base.  Most important, this sort of personalism excludes a form of discourse that is absolutely essential to solving the problems that, unsolved, gave Trump the presidency. I am talking about the discourse of systems and system-change.  

A few examples of current issues in dispute should make this clearer.  For starters, take Trump’s proposed border wall and the issue of immigration.  The Democrats’ principle response to the President’s anti-immigrant campaign has been to portray him as a racist bully and heartless separator of families.  (“How tender-hearted you liberals are,” reply his supporters.  “But he is protecting us!”) Now and then, the Dems offer some legislative proposal said to be an alternative to Trump’s mural obsession, but their “comprehensive immigration reform” packages basically concede his major point – our alleged need for border security – while trying to extract some compensation for the concession, such as protection for the DACA “Dreamers.”

This response is typical.  It involves two “moves”: first, attack Trump’s character, then try to engage in old-fashioned bargaining.  But the bargaining, if it happens, almost always takes place within the boundaries established by existing sociopolitical, and economic systems.  In the case of immigration, what most anti-Trumps will notpropose or discuss are changes in the American system that would make the problem of border security easily soluble, if not obsolete.

For example, when working people voice fears that immigration will endanger their jobs and undermine current wage levels, many self-proclaimed progressives dismiss this as irrational racism and/or xenophobia in action.  Well . . . racism often does play a role in anti-immigrant agitation, but the economic fears of many lower-wage workers are quite well founded.[2]  The answer is notto call them racists and cite statistics showing that the overall effects of immigration on the economy are positive. This is exactly the sort of bureaucratic response that turns working class people into right-wing populists.  It makes far more sense to guarantee resident workers against job losses or wage cuts caused by immigration.

This may seem startling, but is it utopian?  Crazy? Not at all.  It simply requires stepping outside the boundaries set by our existing system and adopting a level of economic intervention in the interest of working people that is currently anathema to free market cheerleaders and their billionaire heroes.  The same sort of planning would also make it possible to direct newcomers to locations where their services are needed, and where they are most likely to be economically successful.  Canada, among other nations, has already taken some steps in this direction.

A second non-utopian solution to the immigration problem has already been proposed by President Lopez Obrador of Mexico. This is to recognize the factors that compel millions of Central Americans to migrate in search of employment and safety and take steps to eliminate or mitigate those factors.  The Mexican President proposes a “Marshall Plan” for Central America.  Why not create and fund an even larger and more comprehensive plan than the modest effort he suggests?  Among other things, this would compensate our southern neighbors to some extent for a century of looting of their economies and corrupting or overthrowing their political leaders!  And, we could easily pay for such a plan, with enormous sums left over for other worthwhile social projects, by slashing the wildly bloated U.S. military budget.

But, wait!  The military budget, it turns out, is a key part of the same system that requires radical alteration if we are to deal successfully with the immigration issue. Remember the military-industrial complex?  This huge, government-sponsored economic sector – an oligarchy if ever there was one – is kept afloat by practicing what Paul Krugman calls “weaponized Keynesianism.”[3]  By entering into enormously profitable cost-plus contracts with favored producers like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, and United Technologies, the government adds significant demand to an economy plagued by congenital overproduction.  This system will notbe changed unless two things happen.  First, we need to rethink and decide to dismantle the American Empire, which requires the U.S. to maintain global military supremacy, not just sufficient force for self-defense.  Second, we need to figure out how to convert the military-industrial complex into a system that produces needed civilian goods and public services, and to do this in a way that puts it under democratic control.

Could a restructured socioeconomic system solve not only Central America’s poverty problems but our own?  As we know, deep poverty shatters families and neighborhoods, degrades schools and other public services, disempowers communities, lowers life expectancies, and generates crime and mass incarceration.  Furthermore, these conditions, un-remedied, generate or reinforce racism and xenophobia on the part of working people struggling to stay out of poverty and terrified of descending into the abyss.  For half a century, federal and state governments in America have been promising development programs that would rehabilitate ravaged cities and deindustralized or abandoned rural areas, but the only program creating significant jobs in most poor regions has been the illegal drug business.

To change this situation means (a) recognizing that the current socioeconomic order (misleadingly dubbed a “free market” system) actually producespoverty as part of its normal operations; and (b) asking how that dynamic can be changed.  In fact, looking at all the problems mentioned thus far – immigration and nativism, “military Keynesianism,” the vicissitudes of the Empire, deep poverty, and working class/small business insecurity – we find that they are all related to failures and dysfunctions of the same mega-system. That is, they all point to a crisis of American capitalism.

In my view, the solution to these problems will very likely involve a transformation of American socioeconomic life in the direction of socialism.  To put this in a nutshell, we are in desperate need of public institutions capable of managing the economy, guaranteeing decent jobs and incomes, eliminating oligarchical power, and mobilizing people to transform their communities.  But Big Government that is not under democratic control moves toward fascism, so the great question is how to create a system that is fully capable of central planning and authoritative leadership, while fully responsive to workers’ power, local initiatives, and our people’s desire for personal freedom.

Another way of putting this is to say that the crisis of capitalism is also a constitutional crisis.  This means that, however much we may disagree about the likely outcome of the discussion, we have to start talking with each other about how to characterize the breakdown of traditional systems and what kind of social and political arrangements we want to construct to fix or replace them.  Where systems fail, social-constitutional dialogues are the alternative to violent group struggles.  But, they will not take place in America if all we can think and talk about is Donald Trump’s foolishness and brutality, or if all Trump’s supporters can contemplate is our softness and self-righteousness.

Friends, if we do not move the consciousness of system-failure and the need for system-change to the center of our praxis – if we focus simply on replacing obnoxious with more sympaticoleaders – systemic problems will continue to multiply.  And, if this happens, popular movements far more dangerous than Charlottesville’s white nationalists, and authoritarian figures far more dangerous than Mr. Trump. will surely appear on our doorstep.

Do you want a slogan to summarize all this?  Something pithy and a bit provocative?  Consider this one (copyright waived):

DEFEAT TRUMP!  IMPEACH THE SYSTEM!

Notes.

[1] Charles Maurras was a French ultra-conservative who founded the anti-Semitic journal, “Action Francaise,” and who is one of Steve Bannon’s intellectual heroes.

[2] See National Research Council, The New Americans: Economic, Demographic, and Fiscal Effects of Immigration (1997), 140: “Therefore, although immigration yields a positive net gain to domestic workers, that gain is not spread equally: it harms workers who are substitutes for immigrants while benefiting workers who are complements to immigrants. Most economists believe that unskilled domestic workers are the substitutes, so their wages will fall, and skilled domestic workers are complements, so their wages will rise.”

[3] Paul Krugman, “Weaponized Keynesianism.” New York Times, June 24, 2009, available at See also Seymour Melman, Pentagon Capitalism: The Political Economy of War (McGraw Hill 1970)

Categories: News for progressives

Everything the Western Mainstream Media Outlets Get Wrong When Covering Poor Countries

Fri, 2019-01-11 15:53

If you want to find out what’s happening in a poor country, be sure to add tourists to your Google News search.

“Canadian and Italian tourists feared kidnapped in Burkina Faso,” was the recent headline in the BBC, a day after clashes there claimed 46 lives. The BBC didn’t cover the clashes online, nor did they cover a terrorist attack there a few days prior, or the country’s trade deals with China. If the tragic events had happened in Europe though, the media would have been all over it.

We see similar scenarios with the recent media coverage of tourists robbed in Brazil (just as a president who is arguably more racist, sexist, and homophobic than Trump has taken power – yes, it’s possible), of a tourist murdered in Morocco, and the killings in a Mexican tourist resort.

From de-prioritizing the lives of locals in poor countries, to downplaying global inequality, racism, and condescension, the way Western news agencies do international news is deeply harmful. They judge other countries based on the assumption that US and European political and economic standards are the best and only way to do things, and that practice is leading to some seriously discriminatory and damaging outcomes.

As the news becomes increasingly corporatist, with agencies blurring the lines between native advertising and news stories and focusing on clicks over quality, there is little desire to examine this sort of malpractice, let alone rectify it.

A list of deliberate distortions the mainstream media makes about poor countries

1) News discourse is based on the assumption that the only way to do democracy, elections, and economics is the highly dysfunction two-party neoliberalism of the US and Europe. If countries stray from the West’s way of doing politics, or from “free” trade and privatization, they are labelled as tyrannies, dictatorships, regimes, and more. Though the news claims to be unbiased, there is a stark inconsistency in the terminology used for the West and for poor countries.

2) Media coverage of charity and aid from the US and Europe rests on the assumption that such “help” is desired, and that the US and Europe have something to offer poor countries, despite their responsibility for colonizing, looting, enforcing abusive debt repayment, and largely causing the poverty in the first place. The historic and economic context behind the poverty is rarely discussed, creating the impression that poverty has no cause.

3) Media agencies boycott news stories about what people in poor countries are doing, achieving, calling for, hoping for, or building. By omitting this sort of coverage, one gets the false impression that people in poor countries aren’t doing anything about their economic or political situations. That contributes to the myth perpetuated by charities that poor people are incapable and passive and need outside help.

4) Media analysis assumes that institutions in other countries work in the same way as those in the media’s home country. For example, that police and national guards should play the same role in Venezuela as they do in the US, and if they don’t, there is something wrong with them.

5) The media consistently boycotts experts from the actual poor country in question when it comes to quotes and interviews and analyzing what is going on there. Instead, experts are typically US or European white male academics who aren’t in, or have never set foot in the country they judge and opine on. This sort of boycott contributes to the stereotype about who an expert is and what they look like. Hypocritically, the media never invites qualified intellectuals in poor countries to pass judgment on the US or Europe.

6) Related to this, is the belief that poor countries are so simple and similar that a Western journalist can be parachuted in to one to cover a presidential election, for example. These journalists often don’t speak the local language, and don’t know how the local elections work (as I witnessed while covering numerous elections in Venezuela). The media also thinks it is acceptable to use locals to do all the networking work and on-the-ground grunt work as “fixers“, or worse, as unpaid “contacts”, while a Westerner gets the byline credit and much higher pay, for writing up that work.

7) US and European culture is portrayed as the default or norm, while everyone else’s culture is “exotic” or “colorful”. Further, the media usually thinks its enough to do the occasional photo gallery of such culture (ie a festival in India) for people to then have an understanding or insight into the ways of being and living of people in countries like India, with its 1.2 billion people.

8) The media’s errors regarding poverty extend to its default definition of it. It sees poverty as how much stuff people can buy, rather than, for example, access to culture, education, and healthcare. When covering other countries’ situations, it doesn’t include their perspective on what good living consists of.

9) Western mainstream media values the lives of people in rich countries more. People have to die in the thousands in a non-political tragedy in poor countries to get a similar amount of coverage as the death of a white Australian mountain climber in Indonesia.

10) The media brands itself as “neutral”, though it always takes the perspective of its home country or region. But when 1 billionpeople are hungry, we need the media to have a more global perspective.

11) And despite lauding itself as being objective and factual, accuracy is less important to the media when it comes to poor countries. Getting a president’s name wrong, the actual title of the head of state, or labeling community organizations as “terrorists” isn’t a big deal.

12) When something really huge happens in a poor country – like a tsunami and earthquake that kills 230,000people, then the media is happy to exploit it for all the clicks they can get. Once the main drama has passed though, don’t expect too many follow-ups that analyze why earthquakes cause more damage in some countries than others, or the rebuilding and recovery needed.

13) Further, when the media does bestow to cover poorer countries, it usually needs to be in terms of a richer country. Stories about Mexico, for example, are more likely to get covered if Trump is in the headline. African countries are more likely to see the light of day when a famous Western actor deigns to visit.

14) Sometimes the media takes the position that poor countries are “too depressing” for readers. But if the reading is tough, imagine what its like to live it. We should be screaming about the worst injustices from our rooftops, not sidelining such injustice with pathetic excuses.

Causes and consequences of anti-poor country bias

Global racism, classism, and prioritizing profits are the key factors behind all these distortions. Stories about poor countries don’t appeal to advertisers, except for those promoting charities who typically victimize poor countries and simplify poverty because they want their donors to think that $1 a day makes the exploitation, wars, and debt go away.

Further, mainstream media has stopped seeing itself as an active force in the world that has a responsibility to inform people and to help them understand what is going on – if it ever did see itself that way. Instead of being a public service, the news is a commodity. As such, media companies understand that stories about first world events, white people, celebrities and the rich and powerful tend to get more clicks than those about the poor.

In addition, over the past decade with the smartphone becoming more accessible to more people, the media has shifted over to bite-size stories and easily and quickly digestible content that can be scan-read, then shared, in a few seconds or minutes. However, the key issues in poor countries aren’t bite size nor simple. They require context, and the media shies away from that – especially where worker rights, inequality, or historical injustice are concerned.

Finally, US media in particular loves individual stories of rags-to-riches and to perpetuate the myth that financial success is all about individuals working hard. Poor countries simply don’t fit into that narrative, so they get left out altogether.

The consequences of this selective and distorted media coverage are serious. What it ultimately does, is perpetuate the status quo; the racism, the dehumanizing of people who live in poor countries, the global inequality, and US and European cultural, economic, and violent dominance. That is, mainstream media coverage of poor countries is an active, and deliberate participation in the oppression of those countries.

The coverage ends up distorting how we understand global forces, culture, and history. It obstructs our ability to learn from other culture’s amazing lifestyles, literature traditions, philosophies, art and film techniques, and it fosters closed-minded adults. Such rich-country centric coverage also promotes unjustified arrogance in those countries, which in turn fosters blind spots to how damaging US and European foreign policy (ie wars) can be.

With high rates of homelessness, police impunity, racist attacks, consumerism, and more, countries like the US are in no position to be judging other countries. A healthy media landscape would instead see the news media as informational and educational rather than entertainment, and would prioritize local journalists and local experts.

Categories: News for progressives

A Walk in the Woods, Away from the Screens

Fri, 2019-01-11 15:53

The screen culture: I want to smash the screens into a thousand pieces.  I want to take the computers, all of them, handheld, laptopped, deskbound, and break them into their component parts with a sledgehammer and a shotgun.  I am tired, so exceedingly tired, of the fact that all journalism now happens on the machine screens – I can’t help but engage with the screens, it’s my employment.  But I hate it.

Ditto online pornography.  I would like a good hardcopy fuck magazine to carry with me beyond the waves of five-bar signals into the deep woods for my girlfriend and I to read together in peace.

Peace: that’s what the informational flow of the machines will not allow.  There needs to be a constant deluging brain-destroying caterwaul of irrelevancies.  It is a nightmare of too-much.

I’ve been trying to set up a website, in preparation for a book I wrote that will be out soon.  I can’t make the machine work.  I shout and curse.   I’d rather chop wood.  I’d rather eat the sauteed anus of a used-car salesman.   Anything but having to deal with the inscrutable God of tech.  Anything but having to sit in front of a computer with the light that washes the human face with a sickly look – the humans (me) prostrate before their lit icons.

Outside the storm blows, thank god, and the lights flicker.  A message from the great heaven of mother earth, saying: Get out, walk the land, be in the wind and the fiery snow.  Listen to the petals of the frozen water that fall on the land with a whisper and that etch upon every living thing their chaotic order.  Seek here your dramas, your loves, your truths.  Catch snow petals on your tongue like Charlie Brown.

In the wind that blows through the hemlocks over the rising snowdrifts is the message and the meaning of all our fundamental relations.  The wind rages through the needles of the old stately pines, last of their kind in the Catskill Mountains.  It is the ooom and aahh of a great prayer, that all will be well in the long term.

It is the sound of life struggling and thriving: the deer that will not survive this storm, the bobcats and coyotes that will have a fine dinner.  It is the sound of the breadth of morphological time, which over the long haul is geological, and thus it keeps me in my place as the small thing that I am (stupid puny website and book, mere words, words).

The snowflakes are so cold they burn the face, and in the deep forest where yesterday the dee-dee-dee of the black-capped chickadee sounded, now there is not a hint of the birds.   Alive, and in love, I walk, a man alone in the woods.  A sick man walking in the woods feels better.  My doctor, consulting the screen from which he’s learned wisdom, says I need treatment.  I say the doctors are mad.

Categories: News for progressives

The Austere Neoliberal Globalist Agenda

Fri, 2019-01-11 15:52

‘You’ve over-fed him, ma’am. You’ve raised a artificial soul and spirit in him, ma’am unbecoming a person of his condition: as the board, Mrs. Sowerberry, who are practical philosophers, will tell you. What have paupers to do with soul or spirit? It’s quite enough that we let ’em have live bodies. If you had kept the boy on gruel, ma’am, this would never have happened.’

‘Oliver Twist’, Charles Dickens

Reading this Briefing Note on ‘The Integrity Initiative’ is akin to a ‘mind of the gap’ between what passed off as ‘News’ in the Corporatist Mainstream Media and what genuine investigative journalism as serves ‘Democracy as an Alternative’ is all about; it is as to go from a Corporatist diet where ‘watered down gruel’ the norm for the masses to a veritable banquet of richly nutrient ‘culinary delight’ as would be unpermitted as unshared by private interests; with rationale as to the quote from Dickens above.

– It is as to see ‘currency’ in a new light?

For the essence of ‘Black Propaganda’ as neoliberal Corporatist expression is to feed ‘gruel’ to the masses by way of an austerity of information dissemination under manipulation and control which furthers a transfer of resources from public interests to private interests; it is as to a modus operandi of Globalisation as control and manipulation by way of homogenisation, standardisation, and denial?

In colloquial more vernacular: such cultivated austerity by way of mockingbird constitutes a large part of the ‘mushroom theory of Government’ as operated by a ruling minority euphemized as the ‘Deep State’ over a majority, i.e. ‘keep them in the dark and feet them shit‘?

‘Gruel/shit’ is for the masses as ‘paupers’ an austerity demanded under the dominance of private interests over resource distribution: any ‘Banquet’ is for the private as Corporatised interests only, and such revolutionary Democratic/Socialist sentiments as ‘Share the Wealth!’ as Huey Long once dared to explicate can lead to assassination?

The premature demise of the German Journalist Udo Ulfkotte almost a year ago, and the restriction of his best selling work work ‘Gekaufte Journalisten‘ (Bought Journalists) which details CIA influence on German media, to German publication only is also of relevance to a diet of gruel as neoliberal ‘practical philosophy’?

For it is for our own good, such the public interest, that we do not have access to such information and opinion; that we feed upon gruel?

What have the ‘Demos‘ to do with soul or spirit when it comes to neoliberal Globalisation?

Concerning the polymorphous nature of austerity and ‘assassination’ a most admirable journalistic expose of ‘black propaganda’ and the CIA is as provided by James F. Tracy here, and as contextualises ‘Operation Mockingbird’ which ‘The Integrity Initiative’ aims to develop upon at more incorporative geopolitical level?

Russian media is currently as righteously(?) hammering the theme that the ‘biggest story of the year’ is as yet being uncovered by Western Corporatist media, see here and here, and the options for response by Western Corporatist Media seem limited at present by the ‘shock and awe’ as concerns ‘black propaganda’ being exposed as much as to ‘Mockingbirds’ named – and it speaks volumes that the Corporation ‘Facebook’™ is named as a sponsor of the ‘Integrity Initiative’ as a geopolitical phenomenon? Is a further plunge in share price of Facebook (NASDAQ: FB), still reeling from ‘Cambridge Analytica’, imminent should such funding committed of ‘The Integrity Initiative’ be revealed?

As the American Journalist Claud Cockburn said so perspicaciously:

believe nothing until it has been officially denied’ ?

UKColumn’ continues to go from strength to strength as representative of genuine alternative media across the pond as Democracy and the exposure of lies and agenda as would be hidden goes this instance; these small quarters are awaiting a Media Lens alert on the failure of mainstream media to address ‘The Integrity Initiative’ (subscription to same alerts is a free service and highly recommended for those who wish other than ‘gruel’). Questions have already been raised in the UK House of Parliament by Labour MPs outraged that taxpayer money is being abused to fund black propaganda against Jeremy Corbyn, this as recorded by Hansard. As with ‘Cambridge Analytica’ which now defunct, (‘Do not rejoice’ as per Brecht indeed) ‘The Integrity Initiative’ represents but another an attempt to exploit ‘media’ towards ends of political control and manipulation originating in the UK, and as the above Briefing Note hyperlinked evidences, has similar aspirations as ‘Geopolitical’ such the ‘bitch in heat’.

To those who would view the UK as but ‘Airstrip One’ sense of Orwell and as to a lack of neoliberal leadership sense of Globalisation, other than as to contemplation of the ‘Cambridge Analytica’ debacle the excellent video ‘The Spider’s Web’ merits consideration? Also, a reading of ‘Treasure Islands’ by Nicolas Shaxson provides an eminent explication of the ‘practical philosophy’ of gruel as relevant to an ontology of the ‘payroll of mockingbirds’ and ‘cluster’ so commensurate?

Austerity is founded upon such refusal to share the wealth – there being more than enough to go around as there always has been?

The sad fact is that ‘Globalisation’ represents no more than an ascendance of private interests by way of an expropriation and arrogation such the control and issue of currency indeed?

The tragedy is that so many are dying as prematurely under such nectrotrophy as a syndrome of pathology – and this includes alas a ‘biodiversity’ which cannot survive, let alone subsist, on such ‘gruel’ as polymorphous?

For the ‘Integrity Initiative’ exists as to a ‘practical philosophy’ which would rationalise a ‘divide et impera‘ as much as deploy the illicit proceeds of a necrotrophy which would be unrecognised such the ‘darkness’ as of ‘Thanatos‘ and as to a takeover as would be silent; it is as to a mocking of any ‘alternative’ to point of a practical philosophy as towards the attainment of a ‘panopticon’ whereby diversity denied such the ‘line’ as exists to be followed; it is indeed, such the transfer of resources it represents, but a diet of gruel necessitated for so many?

To listen to a chorus of mockingbirds is to listen to a war against soul or spirit such the ‘cacophony’ co-ordinated Corporate; it is to hear a payroll of the separation from soul or sprit as diverse by way of talking heads as much to ‘what does it profit a man’ and such the reward contingent; it is to become aware of a necrotrophy as polymorphous as extrapolated upon the cruel contingency of control and issue of currency permitted to ‘private interests’, it is to realize as to some parallel of Shakespeare that ‘all the World a Stage’ and – that such can be relegated/degenerated as to a’ practical philosophy’ as much as to the ‘production value’; it is to apperceive the death of Democracy as diversity; it is to see ‘Life’ reduced as under orificial contingency as to a ‘friction of the finitude’ whereby a small dominant minority as ‘Oligarchic Collective’ would promote ‘There is no Alternative!’ (TINA) as an austere abrogation as by way of organic droids willing to say what it takes while posing as part of the ‘Demos’ ?

One can listen to such a chorus of gruel here such ‘The Horror, the Horror’. It remains to be hoped that ‘The Integrity Initiative’ will represent a ‘bridge too far’ by way of exposure – and as to austerity as gruel seen for what it is – and why it is?

The real ‘Integrity Initiative’ as under such scheme remains the mocking of Life by way of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics displacing Man, such the apotheosis of resource transfer as Globalisation entails?

Categories: News for progressives

Democrats Failed Their First Big Test on Climate

Fri, 2019-01-11 15:51

The science on climate change is clear: All countries desperately need to restructure fossil fuels out of their economies.

Naturally, the Trump administration has recklessly ignored this evidence. In every way, it’s tried to make it easier to extract and burn fossil fuels — and harder to hold polluters of all stripes accountable.

But what about the other side in Washington? Unfortunately, Democratic leaders are also acting like they don’t understand the urgency of the problem.

After the election, youth activists occupied the offices of Democratic leaders to demand a special congressional committee to plan for a Green New Deal.

A Green New Deal means addressing climate change through a mobilization on the scale of the original New Deal, which helped end the Great Depression. It means tackling climate change alongside other social and economic inequalities — in part by creating jobs in solar and wind energy, efficient buildings, public transportation, clean water, and public health.

Climate change exacerbates our society’s inequalities. For instance, black Americans are 52 percent likelier than white Americans to be exposed to deadly heat waves caused by climate change. When the oceans risefrom melting polar ice, everyone is eventually affected — but Native Alaskan communities are losing their homelands today.

Hurricanes intensified by warming oceans hurt everyone in their path, but are particularly devastating in places like Puerto Rico, with its 44 percent poverty rate.

A Green New Deal strategy tackles these inequalities directly, instead of treating climate as an isolated problem.

It’s also smart politics, because bringing down utility bills — and creating lots of good jobs — widens support for bold climate action. Energy efficiency and clean energy jobs already outnumber fossil fuel jobs by a wide margin. Imagine what could happen with a real movement.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised to address these demands. But she hasn’t kept her promise. Instead of a real Green New Deal committee, she formed a toothless advisory body with no real power.

First, Pelosi’s committee doesn’t have a mandate to come up with a plan that matches the required scale and speed. That’s like easing off the gas but not hitting the brakes on a car speeding off a cliff.

Second, it doesn’t have language on race, income, gender, or other inequalities. When even wonky scientists address the unequal impacts of climate change, it’s galling that our elected representatives don’t see fit to acknowledge this reality.

Third, the committee doesn’t have the power to issue subpoenas. It can merely “recommend subpoenas and depositions” to other committees.

This is a serious omission. Powerful fossil fuel corporations have stymied climate action for decades by lobbying to weaken commonsense measures, funding disinformation campaigns, and bribing politicians to the tune of $78 million in spending on the last election alone — in spite of knowing the dangers of their own business model for decades.

It’s about time Congress conducted an investigation of this predatory industry, and how better to do it than through a committee dedicated to the climate crisis?

Finally, there’s no requirement that members of the committee don’t take fossil fuel money. So some of the recipients of that $78 million can sit on the committee and undermine it from within. What a great way to sabotage the committee before it even gets going!

This is a spectacular failure on the part of Pelosi and the Democratic leadership. Knowing what we know now about the urgency of climate action — the world’s top scientists tell us there’s only 11 years left to take preventative action — their proposal is nothing short of criminal negligence.

Kicking the can down the road appears to be a bipartisan sport in Washington. That’s why we need a powerful grassroots movement to compel our political leadership to address climate change with urgency, speed, and justice.

Categories: News for progressives

Nicaragua – The Irony of the NICA Act Being Signed into Law by Trump

Fri, 2019-01-11 15:51

On December 20, 2018, President Donald Trump signed H.R. 1918, the Nicaragua Human Rights and Anticorruption Act of 2018. It was introduced by Miami based, ardent anti-socialist Congresswomen Ros-Lehtinen in the House of Representatives on April 20, 2017 as the Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act (NICA) of 2017. Its short title was ramped-up to remove some of the irony of its passage, given the United States own abysmal electoral system, since the official title remains “to oppose loans at international financial institutions for the Government of Nicaragua unless the Government of Nicaragua is taking effective steps to hold free, fair, and transparent elections, and for other purposes.” The law as listed in the December 11th Congressional Record now recites a litany of slanderous unsubstantiated allegationsvoiced by Washington funded and/or controlled Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s), “human rights” organizations and news media outlets. Yet, the standard Nicaragua is held to and is in compliance with is actually violated routinely in the U.S.

Before elaborating on the irony mentioned above and in the article’s title, it’s first necessary to outline: some of President Ortega’s accomplishments; how Washington’s ruling elite perceives them; and lastly, why Washington’s efforts against President Ortega failed to install its coup, just like it did in the 1980’s under the Reagan administration. Then, it will be clear how poorly Trump and the U.S. fair in comparison to New York state-sized socialist Nicaragua.

However, this irony might not be obvious at first due to the virtual news blackout on any information supportive of President Daniel Ortega and Nicaragua’s revolutionary Sandinista government. While this is to be expected in mainstream corporate news media, it remains disconcerting to see in alternative news media. The unfortunate reality is that many alt-news outlets have been infiltrated and compromised by the power of neoliberal funding, if not actual CIA operatives. As such, the burden remains squarely on the reader to always be analytical and question each piece of written work. Perhaps alt-news media is reasonable on some issues; however, most are not when it comes to Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) states and viable socialist models.

Even Venezuela’s own Telesur has mostly ignored Nicaragua despite Venezuela being its staunch political ally. Instead of featuring breaking news articles about Nicaragua in its prominent Latin American news section, it merely and occasionally lists supportive articles in its less publicized Opinion section. Telesur even omitted the U.S. attempted coup in Nicaragua in its 2018 recap of The Top 10 Stories from Latin America Witnessed in 2018.

In the United States, respected supposedly alt-news media outlets such as Democracy Now have been damningly interventionist in their coverage of Syria and Libya as well as Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba, the “Troika of Tyranny” as called by U.S. security advisor, John Bolton. While the situation in Nicaragua today is virtually the same as when the Reagan administration unleashed the illegal Contra force upon it, what’s changed is that alt-media has failed to properly inform its base, and also it isolates its given targets with repetitive fake and contradictory news stories. In the case of President Ortega, he isn’t socialist enough; then conversely, he is considered a threat to private enterprise – when none of this has any foundation in truth. The sad result is that the NICA act passed unanimously in the Senate. Consider how similar the words and policies issued by Trump are to those of former President Reagan and how Reagan, a vastly more popular President, was still opposed by Senators and Congresspersons as well as the left. Both Trump and Reagan called impoverished and tiny Nicaragua, a “threat to National Security” and imposed devastating financial sanctions against it, and have funded violent opposition to overthrow its government.

President Daniel Ortega Accomplishments Vs. Washington’s Ruling Elite’s Perception

As a steadfast defender of the impoverished and working class through democratic socialist programs and progressive non-aligned geopolitical and economic relations, Washington’s ruling elite is no fan, to say the least, of President Daniel Ortega. So the fact that he won over 72% of the vote in 2016 remains hotly contested by their lackeys located in Nicaragua and Miami, as President Ortega directly thwarts the progress of their oppressive worldwide neoliberal agenda.

Similarly irksome to its ruling elite is the fact that Washington’s own IMF and World Bank sang President Ortega’s praises as recent as 2018 and noted his successful world-class renewable energy accomplishments. Equally troubling to Washington’s ruling elite is the fact that under President Ortega’s stewardship the people of Nicaragua enjoy: the lowest murder rate in Central America; unprecedented public healthcare and education, and a national police force it can trust and rely upon – since it is founded on the admirable principles of community policing. To the frustration of Washington’s ruling elite, President Ortega’s success in fighting the drug cartels and keeping them out of Nicaragua is also exemplary in a region otherwise plagued by narcotics, weapons, human trafficking and inexplicable violence.

So when all the money in Washington could not ruin President Ortega’s electoral victory, despite its slanderous campaign of lies on mainstream and alt-news & social media through its front organizations such as NED and USAID, and its fascist Opus Dei shills disguised as clergy, Washington then paid, armed and trained foreign drug cartel thugs and local criminals to impersonate student protestors. If Washington’s mercenaries weren’t deadly violent, the contrast between the news media’s photos of them and its captions about them would be comical – as Rambo type men with forearms the size of tree trunks, shown shooting weapons in trained fighting stances, frequently accompanied headlines that read: “Peaceful Student Protestors.”

Starting on April 18, 2018, Washington’s mercenaries infiltrated protests over modest changes to its social security system. Then, their thugs set up roadblocks, and shot-up and firebombed public facilities, and news media stations. Additionally, they intimidated, raped and killed Nicaragua’s police officers, government workers, journalists and Sandinista supporters, as well as peasants and misplaced tourists.

After a few months of siege, local peasants dusted off their guns – that dated back to the overthrow of the U.S. puppet dictator Anastasio Somoza and Washington’s Contras – and fought alongside Nicaragua’s police officers. Collectively they drove out Washington’s 2018 brand of mercenaries. Washington didn’t anticipate the peasant’s participation. They believed President Ortega could be goaded into using his military to remove their mercenaries and thereby give the U.S. a pretext to invade Nicaragua. What Washington and its ruling elite never understand is that it is really difficult to install a coup in a country where the sitting President remains popular and every slanderous remark is ultimately revealed as a blatant lie. Washington’s strategy is to blame President Ortega for victims of its own mercenaries, and to defend its murderous thugs as “political prisoners” through its financially captive human rights and regional organizations. Then, Washington uses these lies to justify the passage of the NICA act – because even the most contemptible U.S. politician has trouble with the irony of this act being signed by Trump, a sitting president that lost the popular vote.

Trump, Electoral Freedom, Repressed Dissent, Imprisonment & Torture in the U.S.

For not only did Trump lose the popular vote, but also he lost it via massive voter suppression against people of color, and the gerrymandering of electoral districts that favor republican candidates.

“According to David Wasserman of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, Hillary Clinton won a total of 65,844,610 votes – 48.2 percent – compared with Trump’s 62,979,636 votes – 46.1 percent. Other candidates took 7,804,213 ballots, or about 5.7 percent of the popular vote.”

Considering the above referenced results, where is the international outrage on Trump’s presidency and that of the U.S. electoral system? Why isn’t the rest of the world blocking the United States funding until it takes effective steps to hold free, fair, and transparent elections? Could it be that Trump, despite all his embarrassing lies and faults, does the bidding of the ruling elite and is thus protected? He has in fact delivered massive tax cuts to the wealthy and neutered all federal oversight agencies charged with monitoring the elites’ industry & finance as well as gutted agencies charged with protecting public lands and health.

The U.S government has violated many protections afforded its citizens in its Bill of Rights, by virtue of the Patriot Act and its prison system. Under the Patriot Act, protections against surveillance and unreasonable search and seizure are waived. Incarceration can be indeterminate and without charge, as long as there is suspicion of something. And with 2.3 million prisoners, the United States has the largest prison population in the world, and the highest per-capita incarceration rate. It can be argued convincingly that the death penalty and living conditions in prisons constitute cruel and inhuman punishment. Added to the number of prisoners are 41,000 immigrants in detention centers.

Consider that the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011 makes it easier for the U.S. government to criminalize protest. It is a federal offense, punishable by up to 10 years in prison to enter or remain in an area designated as restricted (such as a tar sands pipeline on indigenous land) or to protest anywhere the Secret Service might be guarding someone. In 2013, its military was empowered to attack its citizens through changes in the rules of engagement under the Posse Comitatus Act. Further, its military practices war games against its civilians and acknowledges in its reports that due to the failings of capitalism it is only a matter of time before civil unrest erupts over: scarce resources (i.e. food, water and energy); disparities in wealth and power; collapsing financial systems; climate change and natural disasters.

Accordingly, when politicians cease to be representative and the government is held captive by an oligarchy, then the political system must be abolished as represented in the Declaration of Independence which reads as follows:

“That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends [life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness], it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

Presently Trump has shut down the United States government and, without winning the popular vote, he has no mandate. Perhaps it’s time for U.S. citizens to exercise their constitutional rights? Could this be the real concern of its ruling elite that its own citizens may become emboldened by the progressive policies of President Daniel Ortega and the fearlessness of Nicaragua’s citizens, and that they too might pick up their dusty weapons and use them to remove the elite and their lackeys from power? Probably not, this would first require U.S. citizens turn off Netflix, put down their beer can, slice of pizza and joint. It seems U.S. Americans are happy to remain lost in a sea of amusements until prison doors slam shut directly behind them. Only, then will it be too late?

Categories: News for progressives

Will Trumpism Outlive Trump?

Fri, 2019-01-11 15:51

“[Y]ou shouldn’t take irreversible steps as the result of a reversible Presidency.”

– Rob Malley, quoting the French view of President Trump, in Susan B. Glasser, “An Ocean Apart,” The New Yorker, December 24, 2018

It is not crazy to say that right now the only ones who would like to see Trumpism outlive Trump are the Trumpians.

Democratic Party? There’s a seam in the Democratic Party which may rip open and may not but it’s one in which both sides want to end Trump’s presidency and the damage that presidency has done totally dissolved and expunged from the record of U.S. history.

Republican Party? It can go either of two ways: seek to hold on to that 35% of the population tied to Trump the way Beliebers are tied to Justin Bieber, or seek to become once again the party of globalized, free trade, free market capitalism advocating Neoliberal economic policies and Market Rule rather than the arbitrary, capricious rule of a 21st century Mad George III.

Democrats risk fueling the fires of Trumpism if they ignore what the accelerants were that fired up the Trumpians — Trump being only the match — in the first place. Treating the Trump followers as obstacles scheduled for extinction rather than as part of the damage done by Trump and therefore in need of recuperation would seem to guarantee of a return under a new charlatan celebrity, never a shortage in the U.S.

Democratic Socialism, a banner that Bernie Sanders and now Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez choose to fly under, is a red flag to Trump’s followers and if it gains momentum in the party will work to keep some form of Trumpism alive. Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal appellation makes more sense because it puts her in a position to review the socialist aspect of FDR’s New Deal and its economic benefits to the working class as well as focus on global warming as THE most crucial issue to be responded to politically.

There are several reasons why Trumpism will not outlive Trump, and most have to do with the positions Democrats or Republicans can take.

One

Rather than political or social ideology or any form of platform discourse, what Trump will leave his followers is a legacy of impulsive tweets.

The Art of the Deal is not Marx and Engels’ The Communist Manifesto, Hitler’s Mein Kampf, FDR’s The Second Bill of Rights, Mao’s The Little Red Book, Fidel Castro’s The Declarations of Havana.

The legacy of Trump is not discourse but personality, not ideas but a kind of huckstering that vanishes when audience and opportunities also vanish. There is no permanence to either any huckster or his or her words.

Two

There are no roots or foundation to Trumpism to be found in U.S. history.

Was there a political or social ideology or any form of platform discourse that Trump accessed and built upon or was there rather an incoherent anger, fear, frustration, dysphoria and disaffection that Democrats and Republicans had ignored and Trump responded to on that same gut, affective, prereflective level, the domain of the reptilian brain?

A singular interruption by an aberrant personality into any order of things is potentially destructive but not generative when there are no ideas prior to or developed contributing to a legacy of thought.

Three

Both contemporary market and conservative Republicanism has endured since Reagan, but Trump is attached to neither. And he has not created any ideology that a new party could attach itself to, as white nationalism and fascism are not new and not liable to become a party in the U.S. that will subsume Democratic and Republican parties or rival them in elections.

Four

The Trumpian electorate has no platform of ideas they can hold onto and seek in a new avatar of Donald J. Trump. Their plight is similar to that of the Occupy Wall Street movement in the U.S and Mouvementdes gilets jaunes in France.

There is the fire of revolt and disgust in both which has not scaled to a sustained political organization.

What Trump transmits is an irreproducible derangement, as unique as an inmate who declares he is Napoleon.

Five

Deteriorating to tragic conditions created by Trump’s tweet regime will undoubtedly consume the attention of everyone when he is gone, including the attention of his followers who sought economic relief in a Trump presidency.

The increasing ravages of global warming and Trump’s denial of its existence and the government’s role in mitigating those ravages will undoubtedly create a legacy neither he nor his followers anticipated.

As the whole country moves as rapidly as possible from the nightmare of Trump’s presidency, partially because we will be absorbed in recuperating from that presidency, the only legacy Trump bequeaths to us will be comparable to awakening from a nightmare and realizing it cannot stand the light of day.

Those damaged in various ways by his aberrant rule will have no time or inclination to carry that rule into the future. Alt-Right/neo-fascist/white nationalist/ Deep State paranoia can perhaps once again find place in remote dark corners of cyberspace and so vacate the national media scene.

Six

An allegiance and confederacy of worker owned businesses in which profits go to workers and not shareholders, an increasing number of voters of all color, a rising critique of casino, Market Rule capitalism formulated by young voters, an accompanying movement toward social democracy, and an elevation by the young of environmental concerns to the number one political priority promises to have little or no tolerance for Trump or any extension of Trumpism into the future.

The con man’s ploy — fire up racial conflict, confound reason and truth, confound good and evil, make your neighbor your enemy and your enemy your neighbor, turn education into a prison house of debt, curse and scorn everyone who stands against you, define greatness as only an expansion of the President’s ego, his businesses and the adulation of his supporters —  the youngest and bravest among us are working to inoculate themselves, through political involvement, against, against the continuation of any of this.

Categories: News for progressives

The EPA Rule Change That Could Kill Thousands

Fri, 2019-01-11 15:51

While Americans were quietly preparing to ring in the New Year, the EPA gave families a deadly present to start the year off wrong.

On December 28, the Environmental Protection Agency announced a proposal that would effectively weaken the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), which protect American families from mercury and other harmful air pollutants emitted by power plants.

The EPA “proposes to determine that it is not ‘appropriate and necessary’ to regulate” these emissions, the EPA wrote in a statement. This means that the regulations will lose the necessary legal mechanism that actually enables them to actually be enforced.

These regulations save a lot of lives — 11,000 every year, according to the EPA’s own data — and they prevent 130,000 asthma attacks annually. Stripping this regulatory power virtually guarantees more asthma attacks and more preventable deaths.

For families, those aren’t just numbers.

At any age, exposure to even small amounts of mercury can lead to serious health problems. The worst health impacts include irreparable brain development defects in babies and young children, and cancer, heart disease, lung disease, and premature death among people of all ages.

Infants, young children, and pregnant mothers are particularly vulnerable to mercury — as well as to arsenic, lead, dioxin, and acid gases, which are also regulated by MATS.

Before MATS, coal-fired power plants were the largest source of these pollutants. American families paid the price for lack of federal regulations.

I’m a fairly young person — I grew up with dire warnings about exposure to these chemicals. Yet despite overwhelming evidence of their health effects — and the longstanding availability of proven control technologies — it took over 20 years after the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments to establish federal regulations on power plant emissions of these harmful substances.

Through the MATS program, Congress identified approximately 180 hazardous air pollutants, including mercury, and directed the EPA to draft regulations governing their emissions from power plants.

The impact has been enormous. A significant majority of top power companies have already complied with MATS, for a fraction of the originally estimated cost. It’s estimated that over 5,000 emergency and hospital visits and 4,700 heart attacks have been prevented each year as a direct result of these vital regulations.

In fact, one of the EPA’s own resources on the program highlights its widespread benefits: “The benefits of MATS are widely distributed and are especially important to minority and low income populations who are disproportionately impacted by asthma and other debilitating health conditions,” it notes.

Undoing critical health and safety standards and putting more Americans in danger goes against the very purpose of the EPA. Even utility companies, who invested in complying with the standards, are calling for the EPA to keep MATS fully intact.

Younger generations deserve to grow up protected from these harmful and deadly substances. The EPA wants to make mercury and air toxics deadlier again. We can’t let that happen.

Categories: News for progressives

The New Congress Needs to Create a Green Planet at Peace

Fri, 2019-01-11 15:50

A deafening chorus of negative grumbling from the left, right, and center of the US political spectrum in response to Trump’s decision to remove US troops from Syria and halve their numbers in Afghanistan appears to have slowed down his attempt to bring our forces home. However, in this new year, demilitarizing US foreign policy should be among the top items on the agenda of the new Congress. Just as we are witnessing a rising movement for a visionary Green New Deal, so, too, the time has come for a New Peace Deal that repudiates endless war and the threat of nuclear war which, along with catastrophic climate change, poses an existential threat to our planet.

We must capitalize and act on the opportunity presented by the abrupt departure of “mad dog” Mattis and other warrior hawks. Another move toward demilitarization is the unprecedented Congressional challenge to Trump’s support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. And while the president’s disturbing proposals to walk out of established nuclear arms control treaties represents a new danger, they are also an opportunity.

Trump announced that the US is withdrawing from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty(INF),negotiated in 1987 by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, and warned that he has no interest in renewing the modest new START treaty negotiated by Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev. Obama paid a heavy price to secure Congressional ratification of START, promising a one-trillion-dollar program over ten years for two new nuclear bomb factories, and new warheads, missiles, planes and submarines to deliver their lethal payload, a program that is continuing under Trump. While the INF limited the US and Russia to physically deploying up to a maximum of 1,500 bomb-laden nuclear missiles out of their massive nuclear arsenals, it failed to make good on the 1970 US promise made in the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to eliminate nuclear weapons. Even today, nearly 50 years after those NPT promises were made, the US and Russia account for a staggering 14,000 of the 15,000 nuclear bombs on the planet.

With Trump’s US military posture in seeming disarray, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fashion bold new actions for disarmament. The most promising breakthrough for nuclear disarmament is the new Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, negotiated and adopted by 122 nations at the UN in 2017. This unprecedented treaty finally bans the bomb, just as the world has done for biological and chemical weapons, and won its organizers, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the Nobel Peace Prize. The treaty now needs to be ratified by 50 nations to become binding.

Instead of supporting this new treaty, and acknowledging the US 1970 NPT promise to make “good faith”efforts for nuclear disarmament, we are getting the same stale, inadequate proposals from many in the Democratic establishment who are now taking control of the House. It is worrisome that Adam Smith, the new Chair of the House Armed Services Committee, talks only of making cuts in our massive nuclear arsenals and putting limits on how and when a President can use nuclear weapons, without even a hint that any consideration is being given to lending US support for the ban treaty or for honoring our 1970 NPT promise to give up our nuclear weapons.

Although the US and its NATO and Pacific allies (Australia, Japan and South Korea) have thus far refused to support the ban treaty, a global effort, organized by ICAN, has already received signatures from 69 nations, and ratifications in 19 parliaments of the 50 nations needed in order for the prohibition against the possession, use, or threat to use nuclear weapons, to become legally binding. In December, Australia’s Labor Party pledged to sign and ratify the ban treaty if it wins in the upcoming elections, even though Australia is presently a member of the US nuclear alliance. And similar efforts are happening in Spain, a member of the NATO alliance.

A burgeoning number of cities, states, and parliamentarians around the world have been enrolled in the campaign to call on their governments to support the new treaty. In the US Congress, however, so far only four representatives—Eleanor Holmes Norton, Betty McCollum, Jim McGovern, and Barbara Lee—have signed the ICAN pledge to secure US support to ban the bomb.

Just as the Democratic establishment is ignoring the groundbreaking new opportunity to finally rid the world of the nuclear scourge, it is now undercutting the extraordinary campaign for a Green New Deal to fully power the United States with sustainable energy sources in ten years, led by the inspiring Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected proposals from masses of young demonstrators who petitioned her office to establish a Select Committee for the Green New Deal. Instead, Pelosi established a Select Committee on Climate Crisis, lacking subpoena powers and chaired by Rep. Kathy Castor, who refused a Green Deal Campaign demand to ban any members from serving on the Committee who took donations from fossil fuel corporations.

A New Peace Deal should make similar requests of the members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees. How can we expect the chairs of these committees, Democratic Congressman Adam Smith or Republican Senator James Inhofe, to be honest brokers for peace when they have received contributions of over $250,000 from the weapons industry? A coalition called Divest from the War Machine is urging all members of congress to refuse money from the weapons industry, since they vote every year on a Pentagon budget that allocates hundreds of billions of dollars for new weapons. This commitment is particularly critical for members of the Armed Services Committees. No one who has been funded with substantial contributions from arms manufacturers should be serving on those committees, particularly when Congress should be examining, with urgency, the scandalous report of the Pentagon’s inability to pass an audit last year and its statements that it has no ability to ever do so!

We cannot tolerate a new Democratic-controlled Congress continuing to do business as usual, with a military budget of over $700 billion and a trillion dollars projected for new nuclear weapons over the next ten years, while struggling to find funds to address the climate crisis. With the extraordinary upheavals created by President Trump’s withdrawal from both the Paris climate agreement and the Iran nuclear deal, we must urgently mobilize to save our earth from the two existential threats: catastrophic climate destruction and the looming possibility of nuclear annihilation. It’s time to leave the nuclear age and divest from the war machine, freeing up trillions of wasted dollars over the next decade. We must transform our lethal energy system to one that sustains us, while creating genuine national and international security at peace with all of nature and humanity.

Categories: News for progressives

Cuba: Trump Turns the Vise

Fri, 2019-01-11 15:50

January the 1st 2019 marked the 60th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution. Back in December 1958 the city of Santa Clara fell to the combined forces of Che Guevara, Cienfuegos, and Revolutionary Directorate (RD) rebels led by Comandantes Rolando Cubela, Juan (“El Mejicano”) Abrahantes, and William Alexander Morgan. Upon hearing the news of the defeat of his forces Batista left Cuba and flew to the Dominican Republic on 1 January 1959.

Havana (October, 2018).

Since then the Cuban people have struggled to maintain their independence as allies came and went and enemies tried to reverse the revolution. In recent years President Obama attempted to normalise relations between Cuba and the United States (known as the Cuban Thaw) by reducing U.S. travel and remittances restrictions and reopening the U.S. embassy in Havana and the Cuban embassy in Washington. Obama even became the first U.S. President to visit Cuba since 1928.

However, since the election of Donald Trump many of these gains have been reversed.

Havana (October, 2018). 

In November 2018 the US government reversed the positive changes brought in by Obama. The Trump government will disallow most individual visits and (as before Obama’s changes) Americans will have to travel in groups licensed for specific purposes. Most importantly Americans will be barred from staying in state-owned hotels, and frequenting state-owned restaurants and stores. The plan seems to be to starve the government of revenue while at the same time encouraging the growth of the private sector e.g. private accommodation and restaurants.

Havana (October, 2018).

A recent article noted:

“The Trump administration is adding new names to a list of Cuban tourist attractions that Americans are barred from visiting. The 26 names range from the new five-star Iberostar Grand Packard and Paseo del Prado hotels in Old Havana to modest shopping centers in beachside resorts far from the capital. All are barred because they are owned by Cuba’s military business conglomerate, GAESA.”

Santa Clara (October, 2018) Che Guevara Mausoleum.

Adding to these difficulties is the existence of two operating currencies: the Cuban peso (CUP) and the Cuban convertible peso (CUC). The CUC is pegged to the dollar and is worth 25 times more than the CUP. One Cuban convertible peso (CUC) is about one Euro. Most Cuban citizens are paid in CUP but consumer goods are priced in CUC. While it was announced a few years ago that this system was going to end, it is still going strong.

Havana (October, 2018). 

Disparity

It is a system that could cause major problems for the government. While most citizens are paid in CUP – 1000-2000 pesos (40-80 Euros) per month –  those working in the tourism sector can earn CUC. One can earn 30 CUC (30 Euros) driving a tourist from the airport to the centre of Old Havana or 20 CUC (20 Euros) a night in a private Airbnb room letting.  The local bars, restaurants and even supermarkets all use CUC. Cigar factory workers are paid in CUP, yet one Cohiba cigar could cost 10 CUC in the factory shop. On my recent trip there I asked the bar and restaurant staff in Havana for CUP notes (the three peso note carries a picture of Che Guevara) only to find them asking all their workmates if they had any CUP and eventually arriving back triumphantly with the requested notes and handing them to me as a gift, demonstrating the growing gap in the value of the two currencies.

Havana (October, 2018).

Is it possible that the growing disparity between those who earn CUP and those who earn CUC is creating a well-off new middle class? It is interesting to note that Trump’s Cuban policies seem to be created to ensure the exacerbation of these discrepancies. Is there a political strategy developing here? If we look at the essential elements of recent Colour Revolutions we generally find the combination of a disgruntled middle class and mobile data access to the internet.

To avail of the internet in Havana most people buy ETECSA prepaid internet cards and go to a nearby WiFi hotspot (usually the local park). However, data packages are becoming available. They are expensive if you are earning only CUP and only the relatively well-off will be able to afford them (e.g. 4GB of data for $30 – a month’s wages in CUP). But for those working in the tourist sector this should be affordable potentially creating the basis for a powerful social media in Cuba.

The growth of the private sector can be seen in the number of new private restaurants, bnb/pension type accommodation, cafes and bars in Havana. Yet many of the Cubans I met could not afford to buy even a sandwich in the cafes as they are priced in CUC. The collapse of state enterprises already under a lot of stress could lead to cheap real estate being bought up by the cash-rich and generally benefit non-supporters of Castro and left wing ideology, politically and financially.

As it is, there is increasing pressure on the government with only 1.2 percent growth in the economy and a 40 percent drop in Venezuelan oil deliveries (since 2014) in a society where state-run companies account for and control most economic activity.

Havana (October, 2018). 

Embargoes

The difficulties for the Cuban people are increased by the ongoing United States-led embargo against Cuba. In October 2018 the UN General Assembly adopted its annual resolution to end the embargo. Ma Zhaoxu, China’s permanent representative to the United Nations stated that the blockade “is contrary to the principle of the United Nations Charter and cause[s] huge financial and economic damage for Cuba” and “hinders Cuba’s ability to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals”.

For the Cuban people it will be a case of ‘resist to exist’ like the Palestinian situation but in Cuba one can see frustration and determination for a better life all around. The 60th anniversary celebrations of 2019 will be a most important symbolic reminder in the discussions on the differing possible paths for Cuba’s future.

All images in this article are from the author.

Categories: News for progressives

When Bolsonaro and Netanyahu Are ‘Brothers’: Why Brazil Should Shun the Israeli Model

Fri, 2019-01-11 15:49

Newly-inaugurated Brazilian President, Jair Bolsonaro, is set to be the arch-enemy of the environment and of indigenous and disadvantaged communities in his country. He also promises to be a friend of like-minded, far-right leaders the world over.

It is, therefore, not surprising to see a special kind of friendship blossoming between Bolsonaro and Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

“We need good brothers like Netanyahu,” Bolsonaro said on January 1, the day of his inauguration in Brasilia.

Bolsonaro is a “great ally (and) a brother”, Netanyahu replied.

But, while Bolsonaro sees in Netanyahu a role model – for reasons that should worry many Brazilians – the country certainly does not need ‘brothers’ like the Israeli leader.

Netanyahu’s militancy, oppression of the indigenous Palestinian people, his racially-motivated targeting of Black African immigrants and his persistent violations of international law are not at all what a country like Brazil needs to escape corruption, bring about communal harmony and usher in an era of regional integration and economic prosperity.

Netanyahu, of course, was keen on attending Bolsonaro’s inauguration, which is likely to go down in Brazilian history as an infamous day, where democracy and human rights came under their most serious threat since Brazil launched its democratic transition in the early 1980s.

In recent years, Brazil has emerged as a sensible regional power that defended Palestinian human rights and championed the integration of the ‘State of Palestine’ into the larger international community.

Frustrated by Brazil’s record on Palestine and Israel, Netanyahu, a shrewd politician, saw an opportunity in the populist discourse parroted by Bolsonaro during his campaign.

The new Brazilian President wants to reverse Brazil’s foreign policy on Palestine and Israel, the same way he wants to reverse all the policies of his predecessors regarding indigenous rights, the protection of the rainforest, among other pressing matters.

What is truly worrying is that, Bolsonaro, who has been likened to Donald Trump – least because of his vow to “make Brazil great again” – is likely to keep his promises. Indeed, only hours after his inauguration, he issued an executive order targeting land rights of indigenous peoples in Brazil, to the delight of the agricultural lobbies, which are eager to cut down much of the country’s forests.

Confiscating indigenous peoples’ territories, as Bolsonaro plans to do, is something that Netanyahu, his government and their predecessors have done without remorse for many years. Yes, it is clear that the claim of ‘brotherhood’ is based on very solid ground.

But there are other dimensions to the love affair between both leaders. Much work has been invested in turning Brazil from having an arguably pro-Palestinian government, to a Trump-like foreign policy.

In his campaign, Bolsonaro reached out to conservative political groups, the never truly tamed military and Evangelical churches, all with powerful lobbies, sinister agendas and unmistakable influence. Such groups have historically, not only in South America, but in the United States and other countries as well, conditioned their political support for any candidate on the unconditional and blind support of Israel.

This is how the United States has become the main benefactor for Israel, and that is precisely how Tel Aviv aims to conquer new political grounds.

The western world, in particular, is turning towards far-right demagogues for simple answers to complicated and convoluted problems. Brazil, thanks to Bolsonaro and his supporters, is now joining the disturbing trend.

Israel is unabashedly exploiting the unmitigated rise of global neo-fascism and populism. Worse, the once perceived to be anti-Semitic trends are now wholly embraced by the ‘Jewish State’, which is seeking to broaden its political influence but also its weapons market.

Politically, far-right parties understand that in order for Israel to help them whitewash their past and present sins, they would have to submit completely to Israel’s agenda in the Middle East. And that is precisely what is taking place from Washington, to Rome to Budapest to Vienna … And, as of late, Brasilia.

But another, perhaps more compelling reason is money. Israel has much to offer by way of its destructive war and ‘security’ technology, a massive product line that has been used with lethal consequences against Palestinians.

The border control industry is thriving in the US and Europe. In both cases, Israel is serving the task of the successful role model and the technology supplier. And Israeli ‘security’ technology, thanks to the newfound sympathy for Israel’s alleged security problems, is now invading European borders as well.

According to the Israeli Ynetnews, Israel is the seventh largest arms exporter in the world and is emerging as a leader in the global export of aerial drones.

Europe’s excitement for Israel’s drone technology is related to mostly unfounded fears of migrants and refugees. In the case of Brazil, Israeli drones technology will be put to fight against criminal gangs and other internal reasons.

For the record, Israeli drones manufactured by Elbit Systems have been purchased and used by the former Brazilian government just before the FIFA World Cup in 2014.

What makes future deals between both countries more alarming is the sudden affinity of far-right politicians in both countries. Expectedly, Bolsonaro and Netanyahu discussed the drones at length during the latter’s visit to Brazil.

Israel has used extreme violence to counter Palestinian demands for human rights, including lethal violence against ongoing peaceful protests at the fence separating besieged Gaza from Israel. If Bolsonaro thinks that he will successfully counter local crimes through unhinged violence – as opposed to addressing social and economic inequality and unfair distribution of wealth in his country – then he can only expect to exasperate an already horrific death toll.

Israeli security obsessions should not be duplicated, neither in Brazil nor anywhere else, and Brazilians, many of whom rightly worry about the state of democracy in their country, should not succumb to the Israeli militant mindset which has wrought no peace, but much violence.

Israel exports wars to its neighbors, and war technology to the rest of the world. As many countries are plagued by conflict, often resulting from massive income inequalities, Israel should not be seen as the model to follow, but rather the example to avoid.

Categories: News for progressives

Government by Extortion

Fri, 2019-01-11 15:49

News outlets are treating the Trump shutdown as a power struggle between two willful forces, the president and the Democrats — rather than the president’s disturbing rule-or-ruin strategy. Let’s call it what it is: extortion, an attack on our democracy and the fundamental principle of majority rule.

Under our constitution, the executive branch cannot simply decree that government money will be spent on something. Congress must pass a law authorizing the government to spend the money.

So the only way to build Trump’s is to introduce a bill in Congress — and pass a law — allocating money for a border wall. Surveys show that most Americans oppose a wall, and Trump doesn’t have the votes in Congress for the $5 billion he wants to start building one (much less the $22 to $70 billion the whole thing could cost.)

So he decided he’ll take his ball and go home. The shutdown will go on for months or years, he now says, until he gets his way.

Except that it’s not his ball. It’s ours.

It’s the government of the American people that he’s shuttering, not the plaything of the president. Our government does important things for us like enforcing clean air and water rules, making sure food and drugs are safe, supporting schools, protecting airports — and, yes, funding the Department of Homeland Security itself.

How long do we expect government workers to work for free? Will our airports have to shut down, our national parks be closed, our Social Security checks stop coming until the president gets his way?

One way to decide if something is reasonable is to ask how we’d feel if the shoe were on the other foot. What if Democrats tried government by extortion?

Many Democrats believe that since abortion is a constitutional right, Medicaid shouldn’t be barred, as it now is, from paying for abortions for women in poverty. But Democrats don’t have the votes to repeal the current law. What if they shut down the entire government unless they got their way?

Similarly, progressives say (not incorrectly) that we need to act against climate change. Global warming is already wreaking havoc: more violent hurricanes, runaway fires in the West, flooding along the coasts, and other disasters.

But since GOP climate change deniers control the Senate, Democrats can’t pass laws to encourage a transition to clean energy. Should Democrats simply refuse to pass any bill at all to fund the government unless they get their way?

However worthy the cause, the answer is no. When you insist on rule or ruin, the result is likely to be ruin for the rest of us.

If the proponents of every program that had support in Congress — but not enough to be enacted — decided it was better to crash the government than accept a defeat for the time being, that would be the end of our democracy. It would mean that all of the government programs that do enjoy majority support would, in effect, be vetoed. Vetoed unless a program that the majority doesn’t support was enacted.

Flying the government into a mountainside isn’t principled behavior. It’s a disastrous attack on democracy.

Before the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, Germany’s democratic republic had broken down. It broke down because the rule-or-ruin strategies of the parties at the extremes, the fascists and the communists, had prevented the government from governing. Today’s effort to govern by extortion raises the same peril.

Categories: News for progressives

The “Lima Group” Pretense to be an International Body is Irresponsible and Dangerous

Fri, 2019-01-11 15:49

Sixty years ago Canada did not break diplomatic relations with Cuba while the OAS expelled Cuba from the organization after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. Today the OAS remains firm with its mandate of no interference while Canada is leading an illegitimate splinter of OAS countries, self-anointed as Lima Group, to push for regime change in Venezuela. That is irresponsible and dangerous.

At this time sixty years ago Cuba had just won its revolution through a popular uprising that overthrew a dictator. Two years later in 1961 the US masterminded a false flag invasion of Cuba that failed. Later, in 1962 the Organization of American States (OAS) turned against Cuba and expelled it from the organization isolating the country until 2009 when the OAS invited Cuba to join again. Cuba declined. The US has maintained a progressively squeezing unilateral trade and financial blockade on the island since 1960.

Since that January 1, 1959 Canada has taken mostly an independent stance on Cuba and has maintained diplomatic and commercial relationships with the country. Even today when the US government places Cuba as a member of the “troika of tyranny” together with Nicaragua and Venezuela, the Canadian government is practicing a formal association with the Cuban government still overtly declared socialist. It may well be in order to protect the extensive interests built over time without the competition of US businesses. But that is a different topic.

Today in a different socialist revolution in Venezuela we have a reversed situation.

Hugo Chavez has won the presidency of Venezuela through democratic ballots in 1999, as current president Nicolas Maduro did in 2013. All 25 elections at different levels in the last twenty years have been democratic and constitutional with participation of opposition parties. This is an undeniable truth despite misinformation from the compromised media and governments.

Unlike its past position towards Cuba, the OAS has repeatedly refused to condemn Venezuela even under the strongest pressure from Washington. The organization has seen fit to abide by the OAS Charter of 1948 that in Article 19, Chapter IV states: “No State or group of States has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other State. The foregoing principle prohibits not only armed force but also any other form of interference or attempted threat against the personality of the State or against its political, economic, and cultural elements.”

Breaking that explicit mandate and contrary to its independent position with respect to Cuba sixty years ago, Ottawa has been instrumental in the creation of the so-called Lima Group with the sole mission of regime change in Venezuela.

For the record it has to be emphasized that the “Lima Group” is not an international organization. It’s just an ad hoc group of governments with no other purpose than to promotes the overthrow of the legitimate Maduro government.

In that context its latest declaration that calls to not recognize Maduro’s presidency beginning with the inauguration ceremony on January 10, and to impose various other forms of “punishment”, cannot to be taken as a formal resolution issued by an established international body like the OAS or the UN. Unfortunately, the Venezuelan opposition conveniently chooses to take it that way. For example, the self appointed members of the “Supreme Court of Justice” in exile issued their own call to “recognize the Lima Group resolution.” That is extremely misleading, irresponsible and dangerous.

The “Lima Group” of 13 governments (out of 33 OAS member States), signatories of the declaration (Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Peru y Saint Lucia), is totally illegitimate in its pretension to be an international body. The group wants to achieve outside the OAS what it could not achieve within the OAS. Ultimately, it will have to be held accountable as the foreign ideological instigator of any violence that might occur in Venezuela.

Despite the above necessary explanation of a clear international illegal act that tramples on the sovereignty of another country, it is important to broaden the perspective of the situation by highlighting two points. First of all, the Mexican government, although member of the “Lima Group”, has not endorsed its document. More sensibly, it justified its abstention by requesting that an open dialogue be established with the government of Venezuela instead of imposing isolation and threats. Mexico was another country that maintained diplomatic relations with Cuba 60 years ago. It seems to be more consistent than Canada.

Secondly, by a reported count, it appears that the majority of countries in the world will accept the legitimacy of Nicolas Maduro’s presidency and will recognize his government for the next six years. In fact, a few heads of State may even attend the inauguration ceremony on January 10 in Caracas.

In concluding however, not for one second anybody should expect that the elected president of Venezuela, or of any other country for that matter, must be declared legitimate by any foreign State. That privilege belongs only to the six million 244 thousand Venezuelans, representing 32% of the total number of people with the right to vote, with more than 4 million votes ahead of the candidate who came in second, and with a voter participation of 48%. By all accounts Venezuelans have chosen their president democratically for the next six years. That is the meaning of self-determination.

Categories: News for progressives

Technology And The Never-Ending Drive To “Progress”

Fri, 2019-01-11 15:49

In January 2010, I met with my dissertation director and mentor who, after our lunch, instructed me to see Tino Sehgal’s installation entitled “This is Progress” at the Guggenheim. I inquired about the show and he said, “I’m in it…” and then wouldn’t elaborate further not wanting to ruin my experience. This was a great decision on his part because I arrived at the Guggenheim and was taken on a journey I now compare to Alice in Wonderland jumping down the rabbit hole.

Just after checking in my coat, I entered the vast glass façade of the museum and was met by a girl of about nine years of age who introduces herself and then says, “What is progress?” as she encourages me to walk with up the ramp alongside her.  We began our ascent along the spiraling form of the museum’s nautilus design and as I was both bemused by the immersion in this performance and taken with her question. I responded stating that progress is a perspective towards a backward look to tradition and a refractive effect of how we envisage the future. She then introduced me to a teenager and she summarized with great precision to this young man what I had told her about my ideas on progress. Then he and I began our walk as the girl bid us farewell. He proceeded with the discussion on progress and we engaged for another whirl around the Guggenheim at which point he introduced me to a woman in her late twenties or so who then hijacked our discussion, the young man slipped away and there I was with a new guide. And so went this winter afternoon as I would look outside to Central Park, the reminder that this was a work on progress. Or was it?

This performance piece of sorts, in which I was thrust, coincided perfectly with my task in New York at the time. I was finishing up a draft of my first book which in part dealt with the conflicting notions of modernity from the period of the Enlightenment, Columbus’ conquest of the Americas, Cortes’ conquests in Mexico through the French’s colonization of Morocco. Indeed, what was “progress” for one part of each of these equations, was a disaster for those on the receiving end. “The history of the world, my sweet, is who gets eaten and who gets to eat,” so goes the infamous line from Sweeney Todd.

I have recently written about industrial designer Brooks Stevens who is credited with the notion and implementation of “planned obsolescence” which encourages incremental design updates in order to promote the continued consumption of consumer objects rendering them both necessary and updatable. Planned obsolescence has moved far outside the field of industrial design and pervades most every commodity within capitalism ranging from kitchenware to smartwatches to smart-home gadgets and while writing about this phenomenon and its ecological impact today, I kept asking myself what motivates us to buy into the upgrade culture. Where Windows 10 now automatically updates itself and where website builders do almost all the work of automating the process of creating an online presence, we are caught in a gyre of perpetually updating softwares which now act on their own, notifying us by email that updates were performed. It is as if our collective and slow march towards “progress” were happening irrespective of our acquiescence. Certainly, such innovations are the dream child of capitalism:  the need to upgrade is built into the system such that one must keep purchasing in order to use the product purchased x months before. It is capitalism as a metaphorical intravenous support system in which the customer is turned into a repeat client.

But are we truly obliged to purchase in the first place?  After all, we could entirely avoid the upgrade culture by simply going analogue.  I mean it’s not like we are powerless to completely opt out of this incessant culture of technological betterment and ostensible progress. How is it that planned obsolescence feeds on the notion of progress if we are slaves to this progress?

In fact, what is being created with each new tech update is the very same micro improvement (eg. better screen resolution, colors) described years ago by Stevens. But today these updates are accompanied by a tsunami of marketing of this micro-improvement such that the consumer is made to believe that she will receive a revolutionary new product when in reality, what is being purchased is nothing more than a promise to purchase again. It is the drip-drip of capitalist dependency which implicates the user in a never-ending—albeit unspoken—contract to remain forever a loyal consumer who partakes of the inevitability of a newer everything.

The reality about planned obsolescence is that we pretend that we are victims of a contemporary Hal who has taken over our lives, when in fact we do have options beginning with a swift retreat from the virtuality of automatization. Within the ideology of technological obsolescence, there are both hardware and software factors to be considered. Obsolescence operates on the notion that we must keep up with critical leaps in hardware, changing durability, and faster and better software all of which contribute to how technology is bought or upgraded. Aside from our computers, there are smartphone, home devices, and electric vehicles all part of the technological framework which necessitate persistent upgrades. Nowadays, we barely have to lift a finger for software updates and our devices either asks us if we would like to update or more common it just updates and informs us of this act. Even if we resist upgrading our hardware, the heavier software upgrades over time invariably necessitate the hardware upgrade and we are caught, one way or another, in participating in this persistence of obsolescence avoidance. That is, we are stuck only if we decide to remain within this system. In reality, we are free to jump out.

More than ever today, the constant upgrades to software mean that users must continually invest money into a product that they not only have bought once, but for which they are now hooked into supporting by virtue of the original purchase. Subscription models for software are replacing the old-style software licenses and even WordPress theme creators are offering their products on a purchase basis with separate fees for upgrades where years before these same creators allowed for free upgrades. But wait, doesn’t the fact I purchased a product give me the right to have unlimited upgrades for life? The short answer is no. And I do feel your pain. Six months ago I accidentally deleted my Adobe Acrobat Reader from my computer and still cannot certify the new download due to the fact that Adobe is not recognizing my license while pushing me towards their subscription model. I almost wept at the death of old world capitalism where you could purchase a product once and it was yours. New Capitalism means that we must purchase in perpetuity in order to get one nanosecond closer to the ideal of progress while having access to the commodity. The upgrade confers your product is simply never enough and this process of seeking the “up to date” has become the postmodern baptism of authenticity within a clear moral dimension where progress is measured in terms of the proximity to wealth and to technology and the ability to keep this technology alive through a constant economic investment. It could be said that “freedom” today is measured in terms of one’s ability to contribute to this technocratic model of “empowerment.”

Over thirty years ago, Indian scholar, Ashis Nandy, wrote on a scathing critique of the development model, noting how the centralized doxa of development policies strip the person down ideologically.  It is worth noting the parallels with what he observed then as today technology is quickly becoming another moralized core which atomizes individuals whereby their only “freedoms” are dictated to them by market forces and technology. He writes:

The only initiative the person is left with relates to choices from among available consumables offered by the global market. From health care to child rearing it is the same story. While the area of individual choice has shrunk, a false sense of freedom is created through the removal of the contextualizing role of the community from the choice situation. Indeed, atomized in the name of freedom, the person now stands alone against the forces of the global market and mega-technology.

Nandy points to the inverse relationship between actual human choices and the market “choices” offered instead where the market offers seemingly infinite supplies and where the human accession to freedom is more and more restricted.

With the rise of the subscription model, we are implicated to buy more (and more) and to partake in the upgrade function of consumerism such that the only way to resist is to get out completely. Yes, this is the Godfather III of tech moments—“Just When I Thought I Was Out, They Pull Me Back In!” Still, the cold reality is that we are not obliged to buy into consumerism as progress any more than Michael Corleone had to have Fredo killed.

The greatest casualties of technological automatism has been our autonomy as thinking and sentient beings in addition to our communities. Perhaps there is no subtle irony in the fact that the more technologically advanced we become, the more we allow ourselves to be victims to the very technology that we claim liberates us.

Our task today must be to decipher that subtle line between need and want—and then to act in good faith.

Categories: News for progressives

Beware of a Holy Heist

Fri, 2019-01-11 15:49

A wholesale robbery is being planned.   In front of everyone.  Shockingly, the intended theft is of a Christian denomination’s identity and resources.  And the “authority of the Scripture” is being used to justify the thievery.  It is actually a holy heist, being strategized by so-called “Traditionalists” in The United Methodist Church.  They hope to use the 12-million member denomination’s long-divisive anti-homosexual doctrines to justify driving out non-conforming United Methodists and taking over the whole Church with its vast power and resources. They talk about requiring all ministers and members to conform to United Methodism’s traditional anti-gay biblical beliefs.  But their real aim is conquest and plunder, which is characteristic of those Christians who are fixated on authority and power.  Their resulting intolerance leads them to use biblical beliefs (and in this case The Church’s Book of Discipline also) to gain power over people, rather than authenticate and empower them.

Homosexuality has been haunting The United Methodist Church for decades.  In 1972, after four years of studying the “issue,” the denomination’s ruling General Conference delegates sought to make homosexuality go away.  First, they tried to deny what they were doing by passing a motion that declared: “Homosexuals no less than heterosexuals are persons of sacred worth, who need the ministry and guidance of the church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship which enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self.”  They reinforced their denial with, “Further, we insist that all persons are entitled to have their human and civil rights insured, [then comes their bottom line] although we do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.”  (The United Methodist Church and Homosexuality,” www.religioustourance.org)

One could drive a truck through the denial, contradiction and paternalism used to camouflage such irrational fear, ignorance and blatant rejection of LGBTQ persons.  “Homosexuals . . . need the ministry and guidance of the church in their struggles for human fulfillment.”  The Church’s ownrejection provides the greatest obstacle to homosexuals “in their struggles for human fulfillment.”

Further, The Church’s paternalism is seen in its assuming the divine-like role of enabling “reconciling relationships with God, with others and with self.”   The word “reconciling” implies that there is something wrong with homosexuals.  It presupposes that homosexuals are estranged from God and need the “spiritual and emotional care” of The Church to get in God’s good graces.  Here The Church sets itself up as the arbitrator of that which is right and good and acceptable to God.

This paternalism is in keeping with United Methodism’s stated mission, which is “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” Rather than transforming the world, The Church would better serve the world by transforming itselfinto the likeness of the world – that is, for example, by experiencing the world of homosexuals as it is, rather than interpreting it with judgmental and paternalistic biblical beliefs.  The need to “reconcile” homosexuals reveals woeful ignorance of human psychosexual development

LGBTQ United Methodists and their support groups have seen through and renounced such blatant ignorance, denial and hypocrisy. Refusing to be intimidated and forced underground, they increased in strength.

Succeeding General Conferences continued the denomination’s efforts to bury homosexuality and make LGBTQ Christians and their solidarity groups invisible.  In 1976, a majority of delegates voted to “terminate all funding of gay/lesbian support groups with church money.”  In 1984, the delegates ruled that, “Since the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be accepted as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.” (Ibid)

Rather than staying in their place, LGBTQ United Methodists and their supporters grew even stronger, and continued to demand full acceptance at the denomination’s altar.

In 1988, the General Conference resorted to avoidance by employing the tried and true method of studying homosexuality, again, over the next four years.  And as reported, “only heterosexuals were allowed to join the committee.”  In 1996, the General Conference passed the following motion: “Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.” (Ibid)

At the 2012 General Conference, in the face of the growing movement for full inclusion in the life of the Church, a majority of some 1000 General Conference delegates voted once again to maintain the doctrinal belief that “homosexual acts are incompatible with Christian teaching.” (See “Methodists Maintain Homosexual Acts Are ‘Incompatible with Christian Teaching’ At General Conference,”By Daniel Burke, Religious News Service, www.huffingtonpost.com, May 4, 2012)  This policy of rejection by a Church whose slogan is “Open Minds.  Open Doors.  Open Hearts.”

But when the 2016 General Conference arrived, the really open hearts, doors and minds of many United Methodist delegates would not be denied.  Obviously contributing to United Methodism’s movement for real inclusion was the US Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling that same-sex marriage is a Constitutional right.  With such political affirmation spurring a spreading gay liberation movement within The Church, the 2016 General Conference faced a schism over its regressive beliefs about “human sexuality” — specifically “homosexuality.”

Confronted with 100 irreconcilable petitions, the 2016 General Conference delegates asked the Council of Bishops to resolve the endlessly haunting issue of homosexuality.  The bishops responded by creating the representative 32-member Commission on a Way Forward, with the stated aim: “to develop a complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph in our Book of Disciplineregarding human sexuality,” and present a report with recommendations to a special General Conference [set for Feb. 23-26, 2019 in St. Louis].  (’AN OFFERING FOR A WAY FORWARD: COUNCIL OF BISHOPS’ STATEMENT/MAY 18,’www.umc.org, May 18, 2016)

The Commission on a Way Forward developed three primary plans to present to a special General Conference this February: The One Church Plan, The Traditional Plan and the Connectional Conference Plan.

The focus here is on the clerical collar crimebeing plotted by those United Methodists pushing the Traditional Plan. It’s an inside job.  They are claiming to be “most faithful to Scripture,” which teaches “that sexual relationships are to be reserved for the covenant of marriage between one man and one woman,” according to Rev. Thomas Lambrecht, a leader of the Traditional Plan. (“What’s in the Traditional Plan?,”Good News Magazine, July 19, 2018)

Like any repressive regime, the Traditionalists demand conformity — to their biblical views.  While they call for Church “unity,” they actually mean uniformity.  Their appeal for “faithfulness to Scripture” does not make it any less autocratic.  Biblical beliefs have been used to oppress and subdue non-believers – and so-called “heretical” Christians –throughout the centuries.

For Traditionalists, diversity almost appears to be a form of profanity.  The kind of “unity” they demand leads this writer to question how interfaith-and ecumenical-minded they are in working on common justice issues with people of different faiths.

The Traditionalists’ own authoritarian tendencies are seen in their attempted use of The Bible to dominate people and reject and marginalize those with differing views.  The Traditional Plan is the only Plan of the three that calls for the removal of United Methodists who don’t toe its biblical line. Traditionalists not only believe that “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”  Tellingly, they also believe that those United Methodists who disagree with their particular biblical interpretations are incompatible – and should leave the denomination.

The real issue here is not assumed to be Biblical correctness.  Such demand for correctness is believed to be symptomatic of the insecure emotional makeup of many Traditionalists, whose identity depends on rightness of belief, which legitimizes their authority and control over others and punishment of those who do not conform.  A form of McCarthyism in the name of being “faithful to Scripture.”

Thus the Traditional Plan requires all bishops to sign a loyalty oath, that is, “submit a statement as to whether he or she is prepared to fully uphold and enforce the standards of the church around same-sex marriage and the ordination of practicing homosexuals, and to hold those under their supervision [ministers] accountable to those standards.” And, “the Council of Bishops would establish a disciplinary committee to respond to bishops who are unwilling to enforce the Discipline,” with non-conforming bishops “placed on involuntary leave or involuntary retirement.” (Ibid)

Also, “clergy found guilty by a trial court of performing a same-sex wedding would have a mandatory minimum penalty of one year suspension without pay for the first offense, and removal of clergy credentials for a second offense.”  Further, “Annual conferences that did not agree to enforce the Disciplineor who failed to do so, would as of January 1, 2021, no longer be able to use the United Methodist name or logo and would be unable to give or receive funds through the general church. (Ibid)

The traditionalists call for “enhance[d] accountability for bishops, clergy and annual conferences, to ensure those remaining in The United Methodist Church do indeed live by its standards.” (“What’s in the Traditional Plan?,” Ibid)  In fact, their leading spokesperson states that “enhanced accountability measures are an integral part of the Traditional Plan.” (“Is the Traditional Plan Punitive?,”By Thomas Lambrecht, Good News Magazine, Oct. 22, 2018)

Such “enhanced accountability” appears to be a spiritual form of “enhanced interrogation” – biblically sanitized torture.  Authoritarianism in the name of “being faithful to Scripture.”  This incompatibilityof Traditionalists with other United Methodists over one issue: homosexuality.

But the Traditionalists say their Plan is “gracious,” as they seek to take over The Church and close its doors to everyone else.  Their “graciousness” brings to mind Jesus’ reported warning: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” (Matthew 7: 15) The Traditionalists say their Plan “provides a gracious way for annual conferences, bishops, clergy, and congregations to leave The United Methodist Church . . . and keep all their property, buildings, assets, and liabilities.” (“What’s in the Traditionalist Plan?,” Ibid)   The Plan even “provides a one-time grant of $200,000 to any annual conference that withdraws in order to assist with transitional expenses.” (“Is the Traditionalist Plan Punitive?,” Ibid)

Beware of such “graciousness.”  The Traditionalists get to keep The Church’s general store.  What’s at stake is put into perspective by the Rev. Dr. Donald Messer,  former United Methodist seminary president and author, who is known for combating world hunger and HIV/AIDS.   He points out: “As for money, imagine alone what the building that the United Methodist Women own across the street from the United Nations is worth.  Or what the Church and Society building beside the Supreme Court is valued.  These are rare properties of enormous worth,” Messer states, and continues, “Across the US and around the world there are properties of values – churches, parsonages, cemeteries, camps, retreat centers, hospitals, colleges.”   (personal communication)

Moreover, the Traditionalists’ attempted biblically-based coup would allow them to gain control of all the denomination’s general boards/agencies (Church and Society, Communications, Global Ministries, Finance and Administration, Higher Education & Ministry, Religion and Race, etc.), determine priorities and set policies.  Quite a theft!

The Traditionalists provide a misleading argument in placing their authority on the fact that their position is “the majority position of the church, reaffirmed by every General Conference since 1972” – and the position “most faithful to Scripture.”  (“What’s in the Traditional Plan,?” Ibid) In other words: “Once the church has set a standard for how we live our lives together in the Body of Christ, it is expected that everyone will live according to that standard, to the best of their ability.” (“Is the Traditional Plan Punitive,?” Ibid)

If the Traditionalists’ discrimination against homosexuals is based on “the authority of Scripture” and therefore a decades-old doctrine of The Church and unchangeable, how do they explain Christians’ finally renouncing their centuries-old, biblically followed, practice of slavery (“Slaves obey your earthly masters with respect and fear and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ,” Ephesians 6: 5)?  And Christians’ finally rejecting the ages-long, biblically-based, practice of patriarchy (“Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says” I Corinthians.13 : 34)?

Obviously, the Scripture on which Traditionalists place their authority is quite selective.  Evidently Jesus wasn’t in the church building when they developed their Plan.  Missing is his teaching about, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12: 31)Nor is there any reference to The Golden Rule: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7: 12)  Nor words from his Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” (Matthew 5: 7)  Traditionalists talk about being “in the body of Christ,” but not about the love (Matthew 22: 34-40) and liberation (Luke 4: 16-18) Jesus proclaimed.

It appears that diversity poses an existential threat to Traditionalists. They cannot tolerate the advocates of the One Church Plan, who want to eliminate all the Book of Discipline’s discriminatory references to homosexuality, allow each annual conference to develop its own policies on the ordination of LGBTQ persons and the conducting of same-sex marriages, and permit ministers to move to churches or conferences that accommodate their beliefs. (See “United Methodists debate, lobby and worry in advance of LGBTQ decision,” My Mary Jacobs,religiousnews.com, Aug 2, 2018)

The One Church Plans calls for “the principle of contextualization,” which is also an anathema to Traditionalists in its embrace of diversity.  In its wisdom, The Church’s Judicial Council has determined that Methodist connectionalism “permits contextualization and differentiation on account of geographic, social and cultural variations and makes room for diversity of beliefs and theological perspectives but does not require uniformity of moral-ethical standards regarding ordination, marriage and human sexuality.”    (“Court: One Church Plan largely constitutional,” By Linda Bloom, umnews.org. Oct. 26, 2018)

United Methodist minister Rev. Jeremy Smith’s critique of the Traditionalist Plan addresses the holy heist being plotted.  Smith writes, “The Traditional Plan is less a Vision for United Methodism than it is a reaction to LGBTQ inclusion.  The rage-induced flailing,” he says, “combines Inquisition, coerced Loyalty Pledge to a discrimination regime, Enforcement, Purge, and an extra dose of Schism into a toxic proposal for United Methodism.”  Smith adds, “The purpose of the Traditionalist Plan isn’t to find a just solution to the tension over LGBTQ inclusion in The United Methodist Church,” but “to remove progressives and moderates and young evangelicals from leadership, gerrymandering the slim 55% Traditionalist majority into an unbreakable majority at every level of The United Methodist Church” (“Rage Against the UMC: The Traditionalist Plan,” United Methodist Insight, July 20, 2018)

Greatly lacking in the Traditional Plan (and in the Book of Discipline) is a scientific understanding of psychosexual development.  That understanding will shoot holes in the theology of free will and sin regarding LGBTQ persons, which theology is used to control and punish people. Psychological knowledge of “human sexuality” will immensely deepen and broaden The Church’s understanding of empathy and love – and “transformation.”  Love is love, whether born of biological affinity or free will.  A psychological understanding of personality and sexual development counters the paternalistic tendency to want to reconcile others to ourselves. Psychological insight enables self-understanding, which enables empathy, which enables practicing The Golden Rule of doing to others as you would want them to do to you, which enables “Open Hearts and Minds and Doors.”

***

Full disclosure: In 1973, I was forcible retired by the then Southern New England Conference of The United Methodist Church after performing the marriage of two male members of Boston’s Old West Church.  For an account of my forced retirement, see “A Well-Kept United Methodist Church Secret,” Counterpunch, July 19, 2018).

Categories: News for progressives

Pages

Contact

Brian Robinson Public Relations
104 Hiawatha Road
Toronto M4L 2X8
(in Cambodia)
+85516445835

Contact 2.0

Skype: bbbrobin
Brian on Facebook
Follow Brian on Twitter

1,000 Apologies, but I had to remove my actual e-mail address from this page. I'm afraid I got pretty tired of the sock puppets offering me free sexual favours. (And NO! I don't know how many of them were Russian, and it won't change my vote, I promise!) So here's one of those crappy contact forms that I really hate. Did I mention I'm sorry?
Contact ME! (or don't)