Hillary Clinton

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Is Trump a Brand-New Weird Existential Threat to the Republic? Not Even Close.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 18/08/2018 - 5:06am in

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This past week more than 300 American newspapers colluded — if the word fits… — to simultaneously publish editorials declaring themselves, contra Trump, not “the enemy of the people.” Shortly thereafter the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution declaring that it too did not consider the press to be, in a phrase that evokes the rhetoric of the former Soviet Union, state enemies.

The Boston Globe organized this journalistic flash mob.

“The greatness of America is dependent on the role of a free press to speak the truth to the powerful,” the Globe‘s editorial board wrote. “To label the press ‘the enemy of the people’ is as un-American as it is dangerous to the civic compact we have shared for more than two centuries.” President Trump has repeatedly derided the media as “the enemy of the people” and purveyors of “fake news” on Twitter and at campaign rallies.

The First Amendment guarantee of press freedom, the Globe wrote, “has protected journalists at home and served as a model for free nations abroad. Today it is under serious threat.”

Is it really?

The surprise election of Donald Trump has elicited more the-sky-is-falling handwringing than any other political event in my lifetime (I will turn 55 next week). Very Serious People have warned in Big Important Newspapers that the rise of Trump harkens the transformation of the U.S., and other Western democracies, into fascist states. Even before he took office, the ACLU called Trump “a one-man constitutional crisis.”

No doubt, Trump’s rhetoric evokes the president’s authoritarian instincts: deriding his foes as anti-American, calling for and ordering mass deportations, supporting torture, and yes, press-bashing showcase the mindset of a man who doesn’t support democratic values and probably doesn’t even know much about the history or philosophy behind them.

But let’s separate Trump’s crude rally remarks and crass online rants from his Administration’s policies. What is he actually doing? How does his day-to-day governance represent a radical departure from the norms established by presidential precedents?

When you set aside Trump’s talk in order to focus instead on his walk, it is hard to conclude that he is an outlier by American standards. A better analogy, a friend observes, is Kaposi sarcoma, a cancer commonly associated with AIDS. It can kill you. But it’s not the main reason you’re having problems.

In other words, Trump isn’t — despite what 300-plus newspaper editorial boards would have us think — a root cause of American crisis. He is a symptom of preexisting conditions. This is important. Because if we delude ourselves into thinking that getting rid of Trump will fix what ails us, things will only get worse.

Running down the list of what offends people about Trump, there is nothing here we haven’t seen before — and ignored when other presidents did them.

Trump stands accused of colluding with Russia to steal the 2016 election. There is still zero evidence that this happened. It’s still just vague insinuations leaked to newspapers with histories of cozying up to the CIA-FBI-NSA by anonymous CIA-FBI-NSA spooks.

There is, on the other hand, ample evidence that Ronald Reagan colluded with Iran to delay the release of the 52 American embassy hostages held in Tehran in order to destroy Jimmy Carter’s reelection chances.

Richard Nixon colluded with a shadowy Taiwanese business executive with ties to South Vietnam in order to scuttle the Johnson Administration’s last-ditch attempt to negotiate peace between South and North Vietnam just before the 1968 election. Nixon squeaked by the Democratic nominee, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, by 0.7%. LBJ said Nixon was guilty of “treason,” but nothing happened.

Trump has been criticized for mass deportations of illegal immigrants, including separation of children from their parents, and rightly so.

But there is nothing new about Trump’s actions on immigration. Bill Clinton deported 12 million people, George W. Bush deported 10 million and Obama deported 5 million. (Obama’s numbers were lower but more robust because he ordered ICE to charge illegal immigrants as criminals. They faced prison if they returned. Previous presidents merely sent them home on buses and planes.)

As the National Immigration Law Center points out, “President Trump is exploiting the tools and infrastructure set in place by previous administrations to (1) expand the definition of who should be banned and deported and (2) militarize federal agencies and build up the deportation machine.”

Separating children from their parents at the border began under Obama, albeit in smaller numbers.

Trump has legitimized the “alt-right,” i.e. the psychotic right-wingers we used to call Nazis, Klansmen and fascists. Even after a fascist murdered a woman and injured others at an alt-right riot in Charlottesville, the president wallowed in false equivalence: “You had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.” Coddling racists is disgusting. But it’s not new to American politics.

During the 1990s then-First Lady Hillary Clinton called some African-American youth “superpredators.”

Reagan relied on racist dog-whistles during his 1980 campaign, which he launched in the small Mississippi town where the Klan murdered four Freedom Riders during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. “I believe in states’ rights,” Reagan said. States right was political code for supporting racial segregation.

Reagan also referred to Cadillac-driving “welfare queens” and “strapping young bucks” buying T-bone steaks with food stamps on the campaign trail.

On substance, legislation and regulation, Donald Trump is virtually indistinguishable from his predecessors, many of whom are responsible for far more serious attacks on democracy.

George W. Bush alone is guilty of far more heinous crimes. He introduced the dangerous explosion of “signing statements” in which the president signs a bill into law and then crosses his fingers behind his back, secretly ordering that the law not be enforced. And he invaded Iraq preemptively, an extreme violation of international law, which states that nations may only go to war in self-defense or when faced with a grave and imminent military threat.

Where Trump differs from previous presidents is in tone. He is obnoxious and obscene. He lies — loudly. At least in public — they all swear in private — Americans like their leaders calm, deliberative and low-key.

It isn’t surprising that Trump’s trash-talking is freaking people out. But we shouldn’t conflate rudeness with an existential threat to democracy. Democracy, decency and civility were never real American values in the first place. That, not Trump, is the real problem.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s independent political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

Corporate Democrats Would Rather Lose Than Include Progressives

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 10/08/2018 - 12:59am in

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When 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez upset a ten-term incumbent congressman in Queens, New York in a set of Democratic primaries that saw self-proclaimed democratic socialists in the Bernie Sanders mold pick up seats across the country, The New York Times (which, true to its institutional establishmentarianism, didn’t bother to cover her campaign) predicted that her victory would “reverberate across the party and the country.”

That was June 26th.

Now the Times’ fellow elitist rag The Washington Post is reacting to another round of Democratic primaries. This time it Hillary Clinton-like centrist-corporatists did well. “Signs of a Tea-Party-like movement in the Democratic Party that would throw winnable races to far-left candidates appear to be fading,” concluded David Weigel on August 8th.

Has the political world changed that much in six weeks? Of course not.

As Donald Trump said about something else entirely: “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”

What we’re reading and what is really happening is a big wet dollop of the freakouts we see from American pundits incapable of placing current events within a historical context. After the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution overthrew the czar in Russia, many Americans experienced “a mounting fear and anxiety that a Bolshevik revolution in America was imminent — a revolution that would change Church, home, marriage, civility, and the American way of Life,” Murray Levin remembers in his book “Political Hysteria in America.” After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Francis Fukuyama made bank selling his book “The End of History,” arguing that neither communism nor any other alternative to capitalism would ever be viable again. He said we had arrived at “the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.” Both were alarmist and wrong: both capitalism and the communist ideal remain and will survive into the foreseeable future.

Then there’s my editor at Time magazine who, following 9/11, informed me that no one in America would ever be interested in humor or satire in any form ever again.

It’s OK to be shocked by big events. But things usually get back to normal.

For decades the normal within the Democratic Party has been a schism between left progressives (George McGovern, Howard Dean when he ran for president, Bernie Sanders) and centrist-corporatists (Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton). As I wrote in my essay for the Wall Street Journal, “Civil War in the Democratic Party”: “DNC-approved ‘mainstream’ presidential prospects have adopted left-leaning positions on a variety of issues. Yet the populist left doesn’t trust them, and for good reason. [Kamala] Harris was caught fundraising in the Hamptons; [Cory] Booker is too close to bankers; [Kirsten] Gillibrand may have vested too much in #MeToo; [Oprah] Winfrey is a billionaire arriviste. They’re all silent on the working class.”

The same dynamic is taking place in local races, where corporate Democratic candidates are adding some Bernie-like policy promises to their campaigns in order to attract the party’s leftist base. “The party’s establishment has embraced ideas like expanding the Affordable Care Act, shrinking the space between its leaders and its disrupters,” Weigel wrote. He quoted Washington Governor Jay Inslee: “Trump has been the great doctor, stitching up our scars and healing us organically.”

I doubt it. The evil Trump can’t heal what ails the Democratic Party. Though I noted in a different Journal piece the possibility that outsider attacks against the left by Republicans like Trump and James Comey might prompt centrists to defend them, leading to Democratic détente, what Weigel is describing is not coming together under a big left-leaning tent but rather the old 1960s conceptual tactic of co-option.

What the DNC and the centrist-corporatists who control it still refuse to accept is that anti-Republicanism — even anti-Trumpism — is not now, nor will it ever be, enough to lure the progressive populist left to the polls. Against history, against the 2016 election results, they assume that the default mode of a left-leaning voter is Democratic.

In fact, the natural state of a left voter — and of all American voters — is not voting. Most Americans do not vote. Most registered voters do not show up to most elections.

Voters go to the polls when they have an affirmative reason to do so: something to believe in. Someone to hate leaves them cold and they stay home. Centrist-corporatists liked what they saw in Hillary so they showed up in November 2016. Leftists and progressives did not so between three and four million Democrats who voted for Bernie in the primaries stayed home rather than vote for Hillary. Remember, primary voters are fanatics!

When they don’t vote, they mean it.

The cure for the Democratic civil war is simple: get behind and consistently push for, major progressive policies.

Jail the banksters. Restore Glass-Steagall. Bring home the troops. A $20/hour minimum wage. Free college tuition. Interest-free college loans. Medicare for all.

The DNC hires pollsters. They conduct focus groups. They analyze social media. They read exit polls. They must know why progressives aren’t that into them.

The fact that corporatist Democrats refuse to give progressives what they want leads me to an uncomfortable conclusion: they’d rather lose to the Republicans than govern as partners with progressives.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

IRAN: US Regime Change Project is Immoral and Illegal

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 26/07/2018 - 3:00am in

Contemptuous of international law, the US makes no secret of its plots to overthrow the leaders of internationally recognized governments that reject the neoliberal New World Order. Iran is at the top of the US enemies list. The US has been at it since the 1979 Iran Revolution, when the Iranian people overthrew the US’s “our boy”, the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The Shah had become the US’s “our boy” as CIA agent Kermit Roosevelt referred to him in 1953, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower overthrew the popular democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh. Overthrowing governments is illegal according to US law and international law. It is also immoral if one believes in democracy, self-determination, and the sovereignty of nations, respect for human life, and the rule of law.

Ukraine’s anti-Roma pogroms ignored as Russia blamed for far right resurgence

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 17/07/2018 - 1:00am in

Max Parry Last month, former U.S. Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during a lecture at Trinity College Dublin made remarks condemning Russian President Vladimir Putin, blaming him for the resurgence of far right politics in the European Union and United States. Clinton stated that Putin… …has positioned himself as the leader of an authoritarian, white-supremacist and xenophobic movement that wants to break up the EU, weaken America’s traditional alliances and undermine democracy. We can see this authoritarian movement rippling out from the Kremlin, reaching across Europe and beyond. It’s emboldening right-wing nationalists, separatists, racists and even neo-Nazis.“ Before addressing the deceitfulness of her comments, the one part of them that is true needs to be recognized. At this point, it is universally acknowledged that there is a significant revival in far-right and neo-Nazi political activity being experienced in America and across the EU. It is also increasingly present in other countries such as India and Turkey, and even Brazil’s current leading candidate for President is being called a fascist. However, …

Play It Where It Lies

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 11/07/2018 - 5:00pm in


American politics is largely driven by lies these days - what if everything else were, too?

Book Review: The Presidency of Barack Obama: A First Historical Assessment edited by Julian Zelizer

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 03/07/2018 - 11:40pm in

With The Presidency of Barack Obama: A First Historical Assessment, editor Julian Zelizer brings together contributors to reflect on different aspects of the Obama administration, from social, economic and legal issues to foreign policy. Jonny Hall explores how the volume grapples particularly with the themes (and frustrations) of Tea Party obstructionism, Obama’s failure to live up to the expectations established by his 2008 campaign and the potential impact of the Trump presidency on his predecessor’s legacy. 

The Presidency of Barack Obama: A First Historical Assessment. Julian Zelizer (ed.). Princeton University Press. 2018.

Find this book: amazon-logo

Edited by the established historian and commentator Julian Zelizer, The Presidency of Barack Obama: A First Historical Assessment is a wide-ranging collection of chapters on sixteen different topics relating to the Obama administration, broadly grouped around four themes of domestic social and economic issues, foreign policy and legal questions. Each essay is fairly short and thus most are probably best treated as introductory chapters to the issue in question. However, there are several themes that do repeatedly emerge throughout the book which are worth highlighting, especially considering the lack of any clear thematisation or a concluding chapter.

Firstly, the election of Donald Trump lingers significantly over the book as a whole – somewhat unsurprisingly given that the conference that inspired this text occurred just days after the 2016 presidential election. In attempting to clarify the legacy of the Obama presidency, the extent to which even a one-term Trump presidency may irreversibly damage Obama’s achievements is touched on (but probably underexplored – how, even in theory given the publication date, does that affect Obama’s legacy?) in several chapters. Certainly, the ‘anything but’ doctrine is not a new phenomenon in US politics, but the gulf between Obama and Trump hardly needs elaboration here. Put in other terms, even before Obama had left the White House, this book would have been a very different one had Hillary Clinton won in 2016.

The fragility of Obama’s legacy links to the second theme that runs apparent throughout: that he increasingly relied on executive action because of the Tea Party’s electoral success from 2010 onwards. Indeed, if there is such thing as a group of ‘baddies’ in a non-fiction work, the Tea Party certainly fulfil that role here. This is best personified by one of Zelizer’s chapters, where he quotes then Speaker of the House John Boehner philosophising that ‘garbage men get used to the smell of bad garbage’ in explaining how ‘he had been able to deal with the younger members of his caucus’ (21), when the original article states that this comment was actually ‘referring especially to the grind of constant travel’. Beyond this, almost every chapter touches on how the actions of the Republican-controlled House (and later Senate) made legislating by consensus almost impossible for the Obama administration. Mitch McConnell’s statement that one of his ‘proudest moments’ was telling Obama that he would not let Merrick Garland even be nominated for the vacant Supreme Court seat is a telling example of this kind of unheralded obstructionism.

Image Credit: (Jared Tarbell CC BY 2.0)

The frustration of the authors with regards to Tea Party and Republican politics brings us onto the third theme of note: the failure of Obama to live up to the expectations established by his campaign. Many have claimed since his election that Obama is a believer in incremental change, which failed to fit with one of the most memorable, energetic and, most of all, hopeful presidential campaigns. This jubilant atmosphere is nicely illustrated in Obama’s counterterrorist policies; in Obama’s first week, the Washington Post would declare that ‘with the stroke of his pen, he effectively declared an end to the “war on terror”’ due to his executive orders. And yet, as Kathryn Olmsted notes in this volume (212), nothing else in Obama’s presidency baffled his liberal supporters more than the continuity between Bush and Obama in the counterterrorism arena. As in other policy areas, the general aura of Obama’s campaign and electoral success marred the fact that Obama was never as radical as some believed him to be; he had always supported the militarised ‘war on terror’ as a whole, just not its ‘excesses’. Somewhat paradoxically then, the hope of the campaign is part of the reason why Obama found himself critiqued by both individuals on the left (Bernie Sanders, Cornel West etc) and on the right, though the reasons for the latter’s critiques obviously differ.

At this point I have painted a rather miserable image of the Obama presidency. This is a little misleading, in that some of the authors in this collection are very complimentary of the Obama administration’s policy achievements. This is particularly so with regards to the economic recovery, health-care legislation, the decreases in economic inequality, higher-education reforms and social issues such as LGBT rights. And yet, even in these areas, the authors (most notably Paul Starr with his chapter ‘Achievement without Credit: The Obama Presidency and Inequality’) argue that the administration was unable to successfully portray its own message of policy success. Partly this relates to Obama’s own marketing failures, as he acknowledged in 2012 when stating that:

the mistake of my first term […] was thinking that this job was just about getting the policy right […] But the nature of this office is also to tell a story to the American people.

The broader political context is again important, though: the relatively centrist policies pursued by Obama were always going to disappoint his supporters on the left, whilst always outraging his opponents on his right. (For an exploration of this dynamic as early as 2009, see here.) In this sense, the overall picture of Obama’s presidency is not that of misery, but of tragedy – failing to live up to progressive expectations, hampered by an increasingly belligerent right-wing movement and having to rely on future events to secure his legacy.

In closing, I would like to touch upon an excerpt from Obama’s close confidant, Ben Rhodes, and his new book, The World as It Is. Riding in a presidential motorcade in Peru, Rhodes quotes Obama as saying ‘sometimes I wonder whether I was 10 or 20 years too early’. In the closing chapter of this book, ‘Civic Ideals, Race, and Nation in the Age of Obama’, Gary Gerstle seems to come to the same conclusion. As he concisely puts it:

tens of millions of white Americans were simply unable to accept him as their president. The amount of energy they dedicated to discrediting him, often on charges that any reasonable person would immediately recognize as ludicrous, has been staggering (278).

Let us not forget that one of the most public proponents of the ‘birther’ conspiracy against Obama was none other than the current president. Considering this unique challenge to the Obama presidency is of vital importance in judging the essentially mixed record that this book presents. Obama’s failings are detailed throughout (and fairly), but it is worth remembering that – especially with his favouring of consensus and incrementalism – Obama was probably president too early for the country he was elected to lead.

Jonny Hall is a PhD Candidate in International Relations at the LSE. His research interests lie in American foreign policy, specifically counterterrorism discourse in the Donald Trump era and the value of presidential rhetoric in this area in historical comparison. Read more by Jonny Hall.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics. 

 

 


42 Failed Predictions from Alex Jones

This is another video from AlexJonesClips debunking Alex Jones’ weird conspiracy theories and fearmongering. This piece collects 42 predictions made by Jones and some of his equally paranoid guests, which never actually happened. The vast majority of them come from the three years from 2008 to 2010, but there’s one piece from 1999 where he talks about the carnage in Grozny, Chechnya, and Y2K chaos in his home state of Texas.

As with the video documenting and debunking 26 of Jones’ lies, there are too many of them to individually catalogue each one, but generally they’re variations on a theme. These are that the government is going to devalue the Dollar, either by 90 per cent, 50 per cent, or they’ll just wipe it out completely. 15 countries are also going to have their economies collapse. Barack Obama’s approval rating is plummeting, so he’s going to stage fake terror attacks in the US. There is going to be a nuclear attack staged by the government in one of the major US cities, like New York, Chicago, Denver and so on; Barack Obama is going to invade Russia; World War III is coming. The government is training early teenage kids to act their militarised police. The US government is going to stage a series of small scale biological warfare epidemics, which will be halted with the imposition of martial law in those areas in order to get the population to accept military rule. They are then going to release a germ weapon which will kill 50 per cent of the American population.

At times, the narrator says, Jones comes close to racism. Like when he says that in 15 years time about half of the present American population will have been wiped out and replaced by people from Latin America. Actually, that sounds like real racism to me, and a very literal approach to the Alt Right/ Nazi view that the multicultural elites – which sounds to me very much like code words for ‘the Jews’ – are going to wipe out the traditional White populations of Europe and America and replace them with coloured immigrants. In America, this racist theory says that the replacements will be Hispanics from South America. In Britain and Europe, the Nazis pushing this theory say that the new arrivals will be Blacks, Asians and Muslim Arabs. Oh yes, and one of his guests also predicts that Israel will be nuked, and that’ll form the pretext for Obama to intervene once again in the Middle East.

And then there’s the occultism thrown in. Hillary Clinton has been chosen by the Illuminati to be the next president of the United States. Well, I’m sure Hillary Clinton believed that she was divinely appointed to be the next president, but she was severely disappointed. He also goes on about how the elite are doing everything through ritual magic, and have to stage their attacks on a small scale in front of people in order for the big attacks to be successful. Oh yes, and the fake terror attacks, like he believes 7/7 over here in Britain was, take place on certain dates, which are numerically important to the Illuminati/One World Government Conspiracy responsible for carrying them out.

It’s all rubbish, though when he talks about the carnage in Chechnya, with 100,000 being killed, tanks hit and so on, I’m prepared to give him a bit of a pass. He’s almost certainly exaggerating, but the war there was terrible, and Putin’s forces were responsible for some truly horrific massacres, such as that of the people of Grozny. The invasion was launched under the pretext of combating Islamist terrorism, after some truly horrific Islamist terrorists had entered South Ossetia from Chechnya. However, the real reason to me simply seems to have been to punish the Chechens for having defeated the Russians in the war of independence a few years earlier. Oh yes, and give Putin himself the image of being a great military strongman.

As for the situation in Texas in 1999, Jones goes on about how the petrol stations have run out of fuel, the stores are running out of water and its all due to the Y2K bug. Or something like that. I don’t know if there were supply problems like that in Texas, but if so, they weren’t due to Y2K. Despite truly apocalyptic predictions of computers everywhere freezing up and breaking down, planes falling out of the sky, the global economy going belly up, in actual fact very little happened when the 20th century turned into the 21st.

It’s amazing to think that Jones has been making these completely bogus predictions on the airwaves for nearly ten years or more, and all of them have proven false. But his show goes on, and there are people still calling in to him, listening and believing the complete rubbish he utters. And as the narrator points out, when his predictions don’t come true, he never apologises, never remarks on them.

In fact, Jones isn’t unique in this, nor was he remotely alone in ascribing to Obama all kinds of nefarious schemes to kill off the American people. Secular Talk did a piece about a pair of extreme right-wing Christian pastors, who also ranted about how the country’s first Black president was going to be ‘worse than Mao’ and would set up camps to kill White Christians. Which is another of Jones’ predictions, along with ‘God’ being taken off America’s currency. And Kulinski, Secular Talk’s host, remarked about them that the extreme right-wing nutters, who make these bloodcurdling predictions aren’t bothered when their predictions don’t come true. They simply carry on, making more of them.

But this video does show how accurate Jones is when predicting the dire future he sees coming for America. It’s another excellent debunking of him and his weird conspiracy theories.

Florence on the Sanctions System and its Architect, Yvette Cooper

A few days ago I posted up a piece about the death of Jody Whiting, another victim of the sanctions system. Whiting had been sanctioned because she missed a jobcentre interview. In fact, she was in hospital at the time, being treated for a cyst on the brain. In despair at having no money to support herself and her children, she went into a local wood and hanged herself. She joined hundreds of others, who have died of starvation or taken their own lives.

Florence, one of the great commenters on this blog, posted these observations on how the system contravenes UN human rights legislation, and is scathing about its architect, the Blairite Labour MP Yvette Cooper.

Under the UN Treaty on Human Rights it is illegal to use starvation as a punishment, I understand. Yet this is exactly what the sanctions are designed to do – it is stated in the DWP Handbook which state that sanctions will produce physical and mental “discomfort”.

(And while Yvette Cooper is being lauded for her “Windrush” success by the RW journalists and PLP (ignoring Diane Abbot, David Lammy and the others who have done all the work – racist much?) she was the one who designed the DWP system much as it is today, persecuting the people who need the Social Security safety net. Yes, the Tories have made it worse, but she gifted them this system of assessments and sanctions. Yet even after the UN report on the abuse of human rights by the DWP, she made election promises to be “harder than” IDS on the ‘scroungers and frauds’. I hope that she is not proposed again as a contender for the Labour Leadership, she is unfit on that very simple, human test.)

The sanction system has gone far beyond physical and mental discomfort, and is responsible for real suffering and death. Medical doctors and psychiatrists have reported how it has pushed patients into depression and anxiety, and made those, who already suffer from it worse. Much worse.

As for the media ignoring the attacks on the Windrush deportations by Diane Abbott, David Lammy and others to concentrate on Yvette Cooper, this does show racial bias. The right-wing media hate Diane Abbott and do everything they can to attack and humiliate her, because she is left-wing and passionately anti-racist. David Lammy, I believe, was one of those responsible for Operation Black Vote in the 1990s. This was to encourage more Black people to vote in elections, so their issues would be taken more seriously by politicians and there would be more BAME people elected to parliament. Which is certainly enough to bring down the rage of the Sun and the Mail. And I can remember how racist the right-wing press were in the 1980s, and their attacks on the Black MPs then elected to parliament, like Diane Abbott.

The media has also been constantly promoting and supporting the Blairites against Corbyn and the real Labour moderates. It’s because the Blairites are all Thatcherites, and share their hatred of nationalisation, workers’ rights and the welfare state. A little while ago when the Blairites looked like they were facing the threat of deselection, the Torygraphy/Mail journo, Simon Heffer wrote a piece claiming that they were ‘thoroughly decent people’ being bullied and undermined by the evil Fascist Trotskyite Marxists of Momentum. I’ve no doubt they’d like to promote her as the British version of Hillary Clinton, just as they were supporting all the female candidates against Corbyn in the Labour leadership elections. If one of them was elected head of the party, it would be a success for women. Despite the policies they stand for – more austerity, low pay, privatisation, including that of the NHS, and outsourcing harming women the most.

Cooper’s statement that a Labour government would be even harder than the Tories on the unemployed showed just how out of touch she was with the realities of life on the breadline. It also showed that whatever they were, the Blairites aren’t ‘thoroughly decent people’. They did everything they could to smear and undermine Corbyn and his supporters. Heffer and the right were claiming that Momentum is some kind of far left entryist group, and compared them to Militant when that group was intriguing against the right-wing members of the Labour party when Kinnock was leader. But Momentum represents traditional Labour politics and voters. The real intriguers, who have constantly been trying to rig everything in their favour, are the Blairites.

Cooper isn’t solely responsible for the sanctions system. As Jo, another of the great commenters on this blog said, the Tories didn’t need to pick it up. But they did, and massively expanded it. So there is now something like a quarter of million people, who can only get their food from food banks because of the deliberate poverty the Tories have inflicted through the system.

Cooper and the Blairites are a disgrace. They should either back the real Labour activists and supporters standing behind Corbyn, or else they should resign and go to a right-wing party, that better reflects their political beliefs.

With Latest Syria Threats, Trump Continues to Be More Confrontational Toward Russia Than Obama Was

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 12/04/2018 - 12:14am in

The civil war in Syria began in 2011 and escalated for five years during the Obama presidency, yet Barack Obama — despite demands from leaders of both parties and think tanks across the spectrum — never once bombed Syrian government targets. Although the CIA under Obama spent $1 billion per year to covertly train and fund Bashar al-Assad’s enemies, it was never close to enough to topple him: just enough to keep the war going.

But Obama never bombed Assad or his military assets: a decision which, to this day, is scorned across official Washington. Hillary Clinton blasted Obama’s refusal to do more to stop Assad, and in 2017, she actively encouraged Donald Trump to bomb Assad and take out his air force.

To this day, Obama regards his refusal to bomb Assad as one of his best moments; about this, Obama told The Atlantic in 2016: “I’m very proud of this moment.” He made the decision because he “was tired of watching Washington unthinkingly drift toward war in Muslim countries” and because he was wary of military confrontation with a regime that is “sponsored by two large states”: Russia and Iran.

Indeed, not only did Obama refuse to risk military confrontation with Russia in Syria, he sought in 2016 — after Russia annexed Ukraine — to form a military partnership with Vladimir Putin to bomb agreed-to targets in Syria:

In contrast to Obama’s efforts to avoid confrontation with Russia, his successor has been far more belligerent — not only in Syria, but elsewhere. In April of last year, Trump ordered the bombing of a Syrian military airfield near Homs; though it was quite limited, it was intended to send a message to Assad and Putin — and it was more than Obama was willing to do.

Over the past several days, Trump has made very clear that he intends to order another bombing campaign against Assad. After an alleged chemical attack by Assad, Trump declared on Twitter that “President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad,” and warned that there would be a “Big price” to pay for this. All of the signals over the past 48 hours — including the cancellation of long-planned trips by Trump and his top national security officials — have made clear that Trump is planning another bombing assault against Assad.

This morning, Trump explicitly promised that missiles were on the way. For good measure, he mocked Russian promises to intercept those missiles and boasted that they would be unable to stop his bombing campaign:

The exact danger Obama sought to avoid — military confrontation with Russia in Syria — is now upon us, being directly threatened by Trump. And Democrats — who spent years first scorning Obama for not becoming more militarily involved in Syria and then pushing Trump to be more hostile to Moscow — are, just as Clinton last year did, defending Trump’s military aggression.

This morning on CNN, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright — who spent 2012 mocking Mitt Romney as an archaic Cold Warrior for warning that Putin posed a grave threat to the U.S. — praised Trump’s tweets: “I agree with President Trump and his description of Putin,” she said, adding: “At least the President has recognized that Putin is not a friend.” She then demanded that a “strategy of some kind” is needed for this new bombing campaign, worrying that one has not yet been formulated:

It is a common refrain among Trump’s Democratic critics that he is Putin’s “puppet.” Because the Russian government preferred him in the 2016 presidential election and has compromising information to hold over his head, so the prevailing narrative goes, Trump is predisposed toward, perhaps even captive to, Moscow’s point of view — and thus, enacts policies demanded by the Kremlin to benefit the Russians at the expense of the U.S.

MSNBC-PutinTrump-Power-Play--1491941048

Putin/Trump Power Play.

Yet far beyond Trump’s hostile posture toward Russia’s client state led by Assad, the reality is the exact opposite: The Trump administration has been more belligerent, and more confrontational, toward Moscow than the Obama administration was.

Two weeks ago, Trump responded to the alleged Russian-directed poisoning attack in the United Kingdom by personally signing off on expelling 60 Russian diplomats and shuttering the Russian consulate in Seattle — just another example negating the claim that the U.S. under Trump is serving the dictates of the Russian government. Indeed, Trump’s decision on the Russian diplomats was the largest such expulsion in U.S. history: higher than the number Obama expelled after being told that the Russians had interfered in the U.S. election. (In 1986, when Ronald Reagan expelled 55 Russian diplomats, it was previously the largest number of Russian diplomats ever expelled at one time from the United States.)

After Trump ordered what the Washington Post correctly described as “the largest expulsion of Russian spies and diplomats in U.S. history,” the paper acknowledged an uncomfortable, narrative-busting truth:

Despite Trump’s reliably warm rhetoric toward Moscow and his steadfast reluctance to criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Trump administration has at times taken aggressive action against Russia at the recommendation of the president’s top aides.

Indeed, the Post then quoted John Herbst, “a Russia scholar at the Atlantic Council,” as saying that the Trump administration has been more willing to confront Putin than the Obama administration was. “If you just look at policy, this administration has taken steps the Obama administration was not willing to.” Though Herbst somehow speculated that Trump’s “heart doesn’t seem to be in it,” he emphasized that Trump’s overall approach to Moscow has been far more in line with a hawkish view toward Russia than Obama’s was.

This assessment has ample support — beyond the bombing of Assad and the record expulsion of Russian diplomats:

Arming Ukraine: For years, the Obama administration refused to send lethal arms to Ukraine despite bipartisan demand that he do so. Proponents of arming Ukraine argued that doing so would be a way to push back against Russia after the annexation of Crimea. Opponents, including Obama, believed that sending lethal arms would lead to an escalation of the conflict and needlessly antagonize Russia. As The Atlantic put it after its widely touted interview with Obama: “Obama’s theory here is simple: Ukraine is a core Russian interest but not an American one.”

By stark contrast, the Trump administration last December approved a lethal arms transfers, including anti-tank weapons. The Russian government was not pleased. “Washington is trying to present itself as a mediator,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said. “It is not a mediator at all, it is an accomplice in fomenting a war.”

Appointing an Anti-Russia Hawk as U.N. Ambassador: The Trump administration’s U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley has made opposition to Russian foreign policy a cornerstone of her tenure at Turtle Bay. In mid-March, she urged aggressive action after the Salisbury attack, even warning that the Russians may soon pull off similar operations within the United States.

“If we don’t take immediate concrete measures to address this now, Salisbury will not be the last place we see chemical weapons used,” she said at the U.N. “They could be used here in New York, or in cities of any country that sits on this council. This is a defining moment.”

Nominating an Anti-Russia Hawk as the Ambassador to Germany: The Trump administration tapped former Bush administration staffer Richard Grenell to be the U.S. ambassador to Germany, a country whose geopolitical importance makes it a counterweight to Russia. Grenell is a hawkish critic of Russia, who castigated the Obama administration for “swearing off military action [against Russia] in public.”

Nominating an Anti-Russia Hawk as CIA Director and Secretary of State: During the Obama years, one of the loudest anti-Russian voices in Congress was GOP Rep. Mike Pompeo, repeatedly warning — at a time when Obama was accommodating Putin and seeking to cooperate with him — that Putin was a grave danger to the U.S. Once Trump appointed Pompeo as CIA director and now secretary of state, Pompeo continued to speak in belligerent and hawkish tones about Russia, warning that it poses a serious threat to U.S. interests.

Antagonizing Russia’s Iranian Allies: The Trump administration has been harshly critical of engagement with Iran, which is a close ally of Russia. Last August, Trump signed into law new sanctions toward Iran that were opposed by Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders because he believed these new sanctions could upset the Iran nuclear deal. It is also rumored that the administration may pull out of the Iran deal altogether in May. By contrast, Obama worked directly with Putin to forge a peace agreement with the Iranians.

Appointing a National Security Adviser Who Is Hostile to Russia: Although Russia critics have seized on a curious 2013 John Bolton video, in which he promoted looser gun laws in the country as evidence of Bolton-Russia ties, the former George W. Bush U.N. ambassador has in the recent past evinced quite hawkish views toward Russia policy. Bolton doesn’t mince words about what he thinks about Russian cyberoperations in 2016. Writing that “attempting to undermine America’s constitution is far more than just a quotidian covert operation. It is in fact a casus belli, a true act of war, and one Washington will never tolerate.” He also frequently advocates for bombing Iran, Russia’s ally.

Sanctioning Russian Oligarchs Close to Putin: In a move this week that NBC News called “a black Monday for Russian oligarchs,” Trump announced “sweeping sanctions against members of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle,” causing the ruble to tumble. Specifically, “the Treasury Department, in connection with the State Department, targeted seven Russian oligarchs and 12 companies they own or control. It also issued sanctions on 17 senior government officials, along with a state-owned weapons trading company and its subsidiary, a Russian bank.”

It’s certainly true that Trump — like Obama before him — has repeatedly expressed a desire to work with Putin and Russia on perceived common interests. Just today, after threatening Putin, Trump lamented that “our relationship with Russia is worse now than it has ever been, and that includes the Cold War.” He added, echoing what was once standard orthodoxy among American liberals for decades during the Cold War: “There is no reason for this. Russia needs us to help with their economy, something that would be very easy to do, and we need all nations to work together. Stop the arms race?

It’s also true that Trump has made his fair share of positive remarks about Putin and, until recently, had refrained from criticizing him. But that’s part of a larger pattern in which Trump has spoken only positively about the Philippines’s Rodrigo Duterte, Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Saudi despots, and Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu. Trump — like most American presidents — has an affinity for authoritarian rulers in general who are allied with the U.S.: a long-standing tactic that is by no means unique to Russia or to Trump.

But whatever else is true, Trump — notwithstanding the prevailing Democratic Party and media narrative over the last 18 months — has been far more willing to confront Russia and defy Putin than Obama ever was. While that may make think tank militarists, the defense industry, and warmongers in both parties giddy, it is extremely dangerous for the world.

What makes this all the more dangerous is that Democrats, both because of ideology and political maneuvering, have painted themselves into a corner where they cannot possibly provide any meaningful, credible opposition to Trump’s increasingly dangerous path regarding Syria and Russia.

Top photo: U.S. President Barack Obama, right, reacts while listening to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin before the opening of the first plenary session of the G-20 Summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, on Monday, June 18, 2012.

The post With Latest Syria Threats, Trump Continues to Be More Confrontational Toward Russia Than Obama Was appeared first on The Intercept.

Cover Art for Book on Western Imperialism

Yesterday I finally completed the cover art for the book I’ve been putting together against western imperialism, Crimes of Empire, which I hope to publish with Lulu. The book is about the way America and the West has overthrown left-wing regimes in the Developing World and installed Fascist dictators, when those regimes have threatened American corporate and political interests. For example, Jacobo Arbenz’s democratic socialist government in Guatemala was overthrown in the 1950s in a CIA backed coup, because Arbenz nationalised the banana plantations. As the majority of them were owned by the American United Fruit company, Washington and the CIA decided that they wanted him overthrown. The CIA then falsified evidence to claim that Arbenz was really a communist, and they’d saved Guatemala from the threat of Communist dictatorship. In fact, they’d replaced him with a vicious Fascist, who reduced the peasants Arbenz was elected to help to slavery, and ruled by terror, massacre and genocide for the next thirty or so years. The same occurred in Chile, where they overthrew the democratically elected Communist president, Salvador Allende, and replaced him with the Fascist regime of General Pinochet. And there are many others examples. William Blum’s list of countries in which the US has interfered in their elections or overthrown them in coups goes on for pages.

And the West is still doing it. Iraq was invaded and Saddam Hussein overthrown not to free the Iraqi people, as Bush and Blair claimed, but for the Americans to seize Iraqi state industries and for them and the Saudis to get their hands on the country’s oil fields. The Maidan Revolution in the Ukraine was also very definitely not a spontaneous democratic uprising. It was cleverly orchestrated by Hillary Clinton and Victoria Nuland in the US’ State Departmen and the National Endowment for Democracy. And the government they installed is militantly nationalist and includes real, uniformed Nazis. But you won’t find this mentioned in our captive and craven press.

And it’s still going on. I’m afraid that the latest political confrontation with Putin and the expulsion of Russian diplomats in Europe, America and Australia is just the preliminary stage in a concerted campaign to oust the Russian president, a campaign which may culminate in a war with Russia. Putin is a thug and an enemy of democracy. He bans any political party that’s a genuine threat, and has political rivals and opponents, including journos, beaten and murdered. But that’s not the reason our government are trying to destabilise his regime. After all, our leaders have no problem when their Fascists puppets do it. Thatcher just loved Pinochet, after all. No, the real reason for this is because the Americans thought they could dominate the Russian economy after the Fall of Communism. But Putin stopped them. Hence the bug-eyed anger against Russia in the White House, and Killary’s determination to increase hostility between the West and Russia. The book will tackle all of this.

And here’s the art.

It’s supposed to show a stealth bomber in front of a ruined, bombed building. But having completed it, I found that the plane isn’t easily distinguishable from the buildings. I’ve tried to correct this, but you might still have trouble seeing it. The blank space at the top is space for the title.

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