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Trump's Triumphant First 100 Days (for the Ruling Class)" by Steve Jonas
May 8, 2017     

Is there a more appropriate day on which to consider one of the most all-round takeovers of the U.S. Federal Government by the U.S. ruling class than May 1 (on which date this column was original written)? For that was the date chosen, by a briefly united U.S. labor movement in the 1880s, as the official founding day for its planned major campaign to improve wages, hours and working conditions. The first "May Day" was held on May 1, 1886. And yes, although in the 20th century May Day became associated the Soviet Union and Communist Parties around the world, in the beginning it was a U.S. holiday.

Unfortunately, the labor unity didn't last long. It happens that one of the 1880s movement's major components, the Knights of Labor, was, from the beginning, racially integrated. Another, the American Federation of Labor, was not. The ruling class then as now, manipulated racism and prejudice to undermine the labor movement then, just as guess who and guess which party, representing the ruling class, does now.

In 1991, as I have noted previously on more than one occasion, a young Democratic candidate for the party's Presidential nomination the following year, put it very well:

'For 12 years, the Republicans have tried to divide us, race against race.' . . . 'Here in the shadow of this great building, all of us, we know all about race-baiting. They've used that old tool on us for decades now. And I want to tell you one thing: I understand that tactic, and I will not let them get away with it in 1992.' "

Yes, that was Bill Clinton. Neither Clinton ever came close to following through on politico/economic meaning of that statement. But now the nation has elected a (minority) President who rode to power in part because he openly adopted the policy and strategy that Bill Clinton exposed, on paper.

The Left and many Democratic centrists, even some Republicans in the latter category have been stating strongly and loudly that on balance Trump's First 100 days have been a failure. No major pieces of legislation passed. "Obamacare" (the Republicans' racist name for the Affordable Care Act) still stands, despite the fact that Trump promised that it would go "on the first day," at least metaphorically speaking. Since Trump has so little knowledge about how government actually works, he might have actually thought that that would be possible.

Just as he promised that both the Iran Deal and the Paris Agreements would go (although one or 'tother or both might still), he also promised that the easing of relationships with Cuba would be un-done (hasn't happened yet --- could it be that he changed his mind when he saw the movie, The Fate of the Furious and thought that the first car chase, set in the streets of Havana, was really terrific), that the US Embassy in Israel would be moved to Jerusalem, that China would be punished for "currency manipulation," that overnight millions of lost U.S. jobs would somehow be restored, that Wall Construction, to be paid for by Mexico, would start forthwith, that a Deportation Force would be assembled from existing agencies and put into action forthwith. As is well-known, only the last has been done. And so, along with much other evidence, the Left and the Democrats have proclaimed Trump's First Hundred Days a failure.

Well, not so fast. Trump, who through the whole campaign seemed to be a sure loser, was put in a position to be the winner when Comey interfered against Clinton for a second time only because of increasing support from the economically dominant sector of the U.S. Ruling class. So, forget the "broken promises," the possible role of Russia, the use of "alternative facts," the out-and-out lying, the continuous use of manufactured distractions from major issues on which Trump and his "administration" are losing, and so on and so forth. For the U.S. ruling class, this is what counts:

1. The Two Most Important Ones (central to Modern Republicanism, since Goldwater): MASSIVE DEREGULATION IN MANY SECTORS (which has already begun with a vengeance). And the proposed massive tax cuts for the wealthy, (which were supposed to begin with the ones not so hidden in the original "Obamacare Repeal and 'Replace' " measure which failed in the House because it wasn't punitive enough against low-income folks previously without health insurance. And let us not forget the expansion of the Military-Industrial and Prison-Industrial complexes (see A.-G. Sessions for the latter) and the total reversal on NATO.

2. Next, of course, was BY HIS APPOINTMENTS THOU SHALT KNOW HIM. At this point, that needs no further comment, except to say that it is likely that only in their wildest dreams did the ruling class conceive of holding so many seats of power, directly, in the President's cabinet, especially that of a President who supposedly ran on "supporting the workers" (that is if they were white).

3. Then, the ruling class is very happy to use and exploit the two major components of Trump's base: the racist/xenophobic/Islamophobic Right and the traditional Republican Misogynistic Right. Trump so far for the first group has offered the Deportation Force, which is in full swing, the Muslim Ban (yes, it is temporarily suspended, the dropping of any programs designed to reform racist police practices, and the upcoming re-institution of the "drug war" and mandatory minimums (against only minority communities, of course).

4. To the second he is ramping up for a full-scale offensive against abortion rights and contraception (see the person he has appointed as the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs in the Department of Health and Human Services ---- a leading national opponent of both ---- whose Secretary is himself a strong opponent of abortion rights). Not directly related to ruling class interests, but they are very important for Trump and staying the course, and not possibly swerving in a direction that might actually benefit the broad mass of white U.S. workers.

5. And then Trump is also beginning to appeal to the parallel to the Misogynistic Right, the frank Religious Right, whose primary issue is the "Supremacy of God" (otherwise known as "Dominionism") over the Constitution. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' passion for providing public funds for religious education is right in line with this ideology. Both strands of far right-wing reaction of course want to use the Power of the State to criminalize any thought, religious or otherwise, that doesn't agree with theirs on such matters as "when life begins" and "homosexual practices."

6. And so, the U.S. ruling class is in the catbird seat in terms of State-control, at least for the duration of the Trump/Pence Presidency. Unless the Russia thing really blows up in Trump's face, courtesy of Mike Flynn and other, yet-to-be-named "save your own skin" operatives, he doesn't seem to be going anywhere soon.

Postscript: On the White Working Class and the racism issue. Because they don't want to lay "blame" there, many on the Left and among the Democrats are shying away from this issue. But since Trump began his run for the Presidency on a racist premise --- "birtherism" ---- and then clearly in many ways continued along those lines, I believe that it has to be faced directly.

Why are the white workers continuing to support Trump? "Brought jobs back" or has plans to do so? No. Improved their health care? No. Strengthened their unions (which were responsible for the only good periods for the white working class in US history)? No. Has plans to strengthen their public education system (in rural and white working class sections of cities often the only option)? No. Improved protections against rapacious lenders. No. And so on and so forth. So, what could it be? Trump's good looks? Trump's pretty family? Trump's 4-6 bankruptcies (depending upon how you count)? And so on and so forth? No. Just go to the continuing Trump rallies. It's continuing racism and xenophobia --- you know, naming the "enemies" ---, loud and clear.

BUT, the strategy now for the anti-Trumpism movement must not be built on blaming the victims --- and white workers are just as much victims of it as are the African-Americans, the Native Americans, the Latinos, and, etc. It must be built on just what Bill Clinton (or at least someone who looked and sounded like Bill Clinton, because we never heard those words issuing from is lips again) said, quoted above. Neither the Left nor the Democrats, for the most part are going there, at least not yet. And if they don't, Trump, the Trumpites, and the U.S. ruling class are going to continue to win. The Doctrine of White Supremacy has been used since its invention to help maintain the power of the ruling class in this nation and its colonial predecessors. It is time to bring it to its knees.













 
On the Limits of "Free Speech" by Steven Jonas
April 11, 2017   

In a previous column, I discussed the appearance of the self-styled "scientific racist" Charles Murray at Middlebury College, VT, the content of his earlier, widely publicized work, The Bell Curve, the student response to his appearance that kept him from speaking, and the issues concerning the matter of "free speech" raised by the whole episode. The bulk of the column was devoted to an abridgment (long enough in its own right!) of Appendix VI to my book The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S., 1981-2002: A Futuristic Novel, which used the extensive academic literature that took apart the Murray hypothesis many years ago.

At the end of that column , I dealt with the issue of "free speech," in the context of what happened to Murray at Middlebury. I said:

But what about 'free speech,' then? An editorial on The New York Times on the subject  was entitled 'Smothering Speech at Middlebury.' Oh really? Supposing that Murray was a  well-known anti-Semite (and given Breitbart, etc., in certain circles anti-Semitism is  being given a certain buffing. Further, anti-Semitic violence is now occurring on a  regular basis, certainly without any national outrage greeting it). If he had indeed been  invited (which he almost certainly wouldn't have been because although old-fashioned  racism is OK for discussion in certain 'liberal' circles, like the one inhabited by the  President of Middlebury, one Laurie Patton) anti-Semitism almost certainly would not be.  But wouldn't that be 'silencing free speech?'

 "And then what about what happened to Milo Yiannopoulos at the  recent  annual Conservative Political Action Conference? At CPAC, for years, racism,  Islamophobia, homophobia, and etc. have all been OK, indeed promoted by some  attendees and speakers. Yiannopoulos, a gay man himself, has been particularly big on  the first two. But when it came out that he had in the past condoned pederasty and spoke  positively of sexual experiences he had with Roman Catholic priests while growing up,  well, that earned him a dis-invitation. Of course, rightists like Bill Kristol and the Fox  'News' Channel's (or should I say the Republican Party Propaganda Channel's) Brit Hume  went absolutely nuts about what happened to Murray at Middlebury. Somehow, they  failed to notice that CPAC did the same thing to Yiannopoulos. But 'limiting free speech'  is really all relative, as this whole episode shows.

 "Racism was not OK at Middlebury. Pederasty was not OK at CPAC. So far, anti-  Semitism would be not OK at either. But if students 'smother free speech' over racism,  why is not CPAC's action 'smothering free speech' as well? And since in certain  quarters Breitbart is considered to be anti-Semitic, when will the prevention of anti- Semitic speeches at universities and similar venues be considered 'smothering of free  speech' too? One does not have to go back to the McCarthy Era to realize that 'free  speech' is indeed a relative term, whether a majority of U.S. like to think of it that way or  not."

Following publication of the column, I had a lengthy private exchange on the matters of "free speech," "liberty" and their limitations (or not), between me and my dear friend and long-time colleague Dr. Don Ardell, widely known as "The Dean of Wellness." He and I have much in common: professional work and writing in the Wellness arena (Don much more than I -- he was the first to broadly develop the whole concept, beginning in the 1970s), triathlon racing (Don has won many age-group World and National championships; I have finished many races); politics; a life-long interest in and promotion of atheism. We disagree on few matters, but this one of them. With Don's permission, the balance of this column is devoted to a presentation of excerpts of our discussion on the matter.

Don began:

 I believe speech in a public forum should be 'free,' in the sense that any point of view,  particularly a 'scholarly' (or pseudo-scholarly) argument/theory/etc., should be allowed,  tolerated and/or otherwise made accessible to those who wish to avail themselves of the  pros and cons of a subject -- regardless of who might choose to be offended by one  unpopular side of it, however much it seems racist, prejudicial, cruel, hateful, etc. Even  arguments the majority finds horrific should be tolerated, not necessarily respectfully, but  tolerated for an agreed upon period of time under academic conditions wherein 'the  correct' or several varied/different perspectives are available as counter-views.

 "The liberal arts student at Middlebury College acted as we would expect fascists to act,  obstructing free speech. Sure, conservatives, Right Wing folks are fascist in fact, not just  in an isolated case, but this does not justify in my view failing to set the liberal  democratic model on their own turf.

 "In my view, no topic or point of view should be forbidden. If you oppose blasphemy,  then you have to oppose speech codes."

To which I responded:

 A) Indeed, you are skipping past the question of whether or not college campuses are  required to host pederasts or anti-Semites. Suppose a 'campus group' decides to invite  one. Then what? Right now there are different standards for racism and anti-Semitism in  this country. But led by such publications as The Daily Stormer, which is picked up now  and then by Bannon/Breitbart, since the candidacy and election of Trump, connected or  not (Stormer had pics of Reagan and Trump on its mast-head -- now taken down), anti- Semitism is making a strong comeback. Suppose a campus group invites Anglin (the  Stormer's editor/publisher) to give a talk? Is he protected by 'free speech' on a college  campus when just as easily a community hall could be hired? That is a slippery slope,  man.

 "B) We can disagree on what 'free speech' means. Further, I would seriously disagree that  making a strong anti-racist protest, even if so doing denies the person their 'free speech'  which they could certainly have at an off-campus venue, makes the protesters 'fascist.' In  that case, we have a different definition of 'fascist.' Under fascism, free speech is not  allowed, anywhere. [For a recent treatment of the definitions of fascism for the 20th and  21st centuries, see the Addendum to this column.]

To which Don replied (in part):

We are much closer on prevention/wellness (it happens that Don and I have a  disagreement about what that spectrum actually is, but don't worry, dear reader, I'm not  going to go into that subject here!) than we are on speech and its limits/protections. Since  our friendship is immune to opinion differences and we both have the intellectual  discipline to consider views at odds with our own, we might consider continuing the  exchange so long as it interests us both to do so. ...

 "Given the definitions you provided of fascism, I guess the behavior of students and  others against Charles Murray at Middlebury College does not constitute fascism. I  should not have used that term and won't again. I think 'thugs' or 'Brownshirts' would be  more apt. Certainly not behavior one would associate with supporters of a democratic  form of government.

 "Actions by thugs to suppress speech is nothing new. Fortunately, the courts (especially  the Supreme Court), our leaders past, the ACLU and other Constitutional 1st Amendment  supporters and the citizenry at large (most of the time) have saved the day for tolerance of  dissent. ...

 "One writer refers to the American campus as having been caught up in 'creeping  McCarthyism for years.' That is, students acting to repress ideas and silence speech with  which they disagree.

 "Alas, you seen to be standing with these forces. Steve -- say it isn't so! Where am I  wrong? Too many liberals are silent as speakers on the Right are subjected to the kind of  treatment accorded Charles Murray."

To which I responded further:

 Thanks for continuing to pursue this matter, as between friends. I am delighted to know  that we are not as far apart on prevention/wellness as we are on what 'free speech' means.  (BTW, although it is often said, 'free speech' per se is not guaranteed by the First  Amendment. All it says is that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment  of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of  speech...") And so, let me say that I am going to go no further on this one. Our respective  positions have been laid out (and many, many people do share yours).

 "I will only add a comment on the use of the term 'McCarthyism' to describe what the  students at Middlebury did to Murray. (By the way, I would have suggested a rather  different from of protest: a) urge people not to attend; b) set up an alternate anti-racism  session to run at the same time.) As someone who grew up through the period and knew  many people who were directly affected by it -- even to going to prison for 'contempt of  Congress,' I can say -- hardly.

 "McCarthyism on the macro scale was designed to whip up national anti-Communist  hysteria in support of the post-war US violent turn against the Soviet Union, making our  erstwhile ally enemy no. 1. On an individual basis, it was aimed mainly at true left-wingers who did nothing other than hold to their beliefs while promoting alternate  theories of political economy and promoting alternate government policies, both foreign  and domestic. It then proceeded to attempt to deprive them of their livelihoods by black- listing, an endeavor in which it was highly successful. A small number of persons were  sent to prison for holding certain political beliefs but would not rat on their friends when  asked by Congress about them. THAT's McCarthyism."


"And then, further, I am giving myself the last word. (After all, it is my column.) Don had sent me a lengthy statement on the subject of free speech co-written by the esteemed civil rights academic and activist Prof. Cornel West. The statement is a strong endorsement of a very broad definition/interpretation of "free speech." It begins with the following sentence: "The pursuit of knowledge and the maintenance of a free and democratic society require the cultivation and practice of the virtues of intellectual humility, openness of mind, and, above all, love of truth."


To which I responded, to Don:

 I did start to read Prof. West's statement below, but stopped after the first sentence. Why  does not the promotion of racism, which is based on the Doctrine of White Supremacy,  deserve 'full and free discussion' in places of academic inquiry, like college campuses  (other than in halls hired by the racism-promoters for the purpose of doing so)? It's there  in the first sentence, which suggests the promotion of: 'intellectual humility, openness of  mind, and, above all, love of truth.' Racism and racists are hardly humble, they of all  people are not of open minds (otherwise racism would have disappeared in this country  many decades ago), and since racism is based on the fundamental lie of the Doctrine of  White Supremacy, it is hardly embraced by 'the love of truth.'

 "No, for me, observing what has gone on historically, 'liberty" is not limitless and never  has been. Just wait until the anti-Semites come out even more publicly than they already  are -- and let's say that the anti-Semites we are talking about are those who postulate that  the solution to all of the nation's problems and those of any other nation they happen to  occupy, is their extermination. This is of course what the anti-Semitic leadership of a  major nation undertook not so long ago.

 "And take a look at The Daily Stormer, (named after one of the two leading Nazi  newspapers, by the way, Der Sturmer, whose publisher, Julius Streicher, in the eyes of  the Nuremberg Court was not covered by any concept of 'liberty' even though he was just  a publisher -- he was executed). They are not too far away from that. And just suppose  that they begin demanding open access to college campuses, with the support of their  administrations. Or suppose that we have speakers demanding unlimited access to college  campuses who advocate registering Muslims and forcing all of them to wear Yellow  Crescents.

 "Or what about the 'pastor' in North Carolina who, in 2012, advocated rounding up all  gays and lesbians and putting them into open camps surrounded by barbed wire and  leaving them there? Does 'liberty' cover him? Not in my book. Anymore, ending this one  for now, than a condoner of pederasty (with 'consent' of course), was dis-invited by  CPAC, even though when he promoted racism and Islamophobia, that was OK."

And then, a final word or two, not part of my correspondence with my dear friend Don. "Free speech" has never been an absolute in the United States, even for the American Civil Liberties Union. When during the 1940s the US Communist Party came under attack for violating the Smith Act (later found to be unconstitutional) by supposedly "advocating the overthrow of the US government through the use of force and violence," the ACLU refused to come to their defense. Which was odd. First of all, the law made "advocacy" a crime.

Commission of violent acts would of course be criminal, but this Act criminalized speech. Second of all, the CPUSA did NOT advocate violent revolution but supported the concept of the "parliamentary road to socialism," in its constitution no less -- for which it was roundly, if quietly, criticized by Leninists outside the Party. (That did not prevent many members of the CPUSA national and local leaderships from being sent to prison, but that's another matter.) That particular abandonment of "free speech" by the ACLU led to the establishment of the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee by one of the wealthiest men in the United States, Corliss Lamont.

As for academic institutions, I think that they are within their rights to their own institutional free speech to deny access to their campuses by persons upholding unscientific/non-academic/hate-promoting positions, such as racism, homophobia, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism. But then there is nothing stopping such persons from hiring a nearby private hall to offer their perspectives to the public, promoting their appearances through paid advertising.
         

Addendum -- Definitions of Fascism:

I. A classic definition of fascism, based on the 20th century models of Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Chile, Argentina, and Brazil, can be defined as:

A politico-economic system in which there is: total executive branch control of both the  legislative and administrative powers of government; no independent judiciary; no  Constitution that embodies the Rule of Law standing above the people who run the  government; no inherent personal rights or liberties; a single national ideology that first  demonizes and then criminalizes all political, religious, and ideological opposition to it;  the massive and regular use of hate, fear, racial and religious prejudice, the Big Lie  technique, mob psychology, mob actions and ultimately individual and collective  violence to achieve political and economic ends; a capitalist/corporate economy; with the  ruling economic class' domination of economic, fiscal, and regulatory policy."

II. A 21st century definition of fascism, using the Trumpian model for the United States:

 A politico-economic system in which the Executive Branch of the Government: regards  the Constitution as in place only on paper; disregards the Judiciary as a co-equal branch  of government and accepts the Legislative Branch as a co-equal only when Executive  Branch policies are supported by it; demonizes and then criminalizes all political,  religious, and ideological opposition to its policies and programs; redefines the words  "truth," "science," "data," "fact," and "reality" through the use of the Big Lie technique;  regularly uses the Doctrine of White Supremacy/racism, xenophobia in general and  Islamophobia in particular, and homophobia, to achieve political ends; suppresses the  free vote by challenging the legitimacy of the electoral system; casts "the media" as a  principal enemy, with the aim of suppressing dissent and promoting distrust in it and its  reporting; all in service of creating and maintaining the control of State Power by the  economically dominant sector of the capitalist ruling class: manufacturing, fossil fuels,  agriculture/food, pharma/health services, retail, transportation, and  banking/investment/financial services."

III. A shorter 21st century definition of fascism, using the Trumpian model for the United States:

 A politico-economic system in which the Racist Reactionary Religious Right controls  both the Executive and Legislative Branches of government and the former dominates it;  to the extent possible the Judiciary is ignored; the non-right-wing media are cast as "the  enemy;” all political, religious, and ideological opposition to its policies and programs  are demonized and then criminalized; the use of the Big Lie technique dominates  Executive and Legislative Branch discourse and propaganda; the Doctrine of White  Supremacy/racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and homophobia, are used to achieve  political ends; the free vote is suppressed; all to create and maintain the control of State  Power by the economically dominant sectors of the capitalist ruling class."










 
Hillary Rodham Clinton and the Mythical "Middle Ground" By Steven Jonas
March 27, 2017    

At the height of the bribery scandal involving the Chicago White Sox baseball team in 1919 heard around the country was the phrase "Say it ain't so, Joe." The reference was to one "Shoeless Joe" Jackson, a Chicago ballplayer of limited education who had gotten caught up in the scandal, apparently without realizing what he had gotten into.

Shoeless Joe, educated or no, was one of the great players of the age and many a baseball fan -- of the White Sox or not -- rooted for him. The incident that supposedly gave rise to the phrase cited above apparently never took place, but it has remained in the lingo of many a baseball fan, including myself, ever since.

And now we come to Hillary Clinton and something that she really said, recently. Speaking about a possible political future, she said that she's "committing herself to bridging the gap of political partisanship." Oh boy! This is where we came in with the Clintons: finding the mythical middle ground when one does not exist. It was the hallmark of Bill Clinton's Presidency, but it was actually much worse than it looks on paper.

Because for Bill, and Hillary back then too -- as well as now -- much more often than not "reaching across the aisle" really meant adopting Republican polices, but just coloring them up a bit. Consider the Bill Clinton Legacy, which can be found here.

It included repeal of Glass-Steagall, welfare deform, "three strikes and you're out," intensifying the "drug war," going to war without Congressional authorization (against Serbia, in case you have forgotten), NAFTA, the WTO and in particular easing the export of capital, and eliminating the Fairness Doctrine. All the result of the Clintons' "reaching out" to the other side.

On one level, it's just unbelievable that Clinton would be wanting to "reach out" to that other side that, at both the leadership (see the cheerleading Michael Flynn and Rudy Giuliani) and crowd levels reveled in screaming "lock her up!" But once a right-wing Democrat whose husband was once upon a time the leader of the leading right-wing Democrat organization, the Democratic Leadership Council, always a right-wing Democrat. And right-wing Democrats always just happen to have a lot in common with the so-called "Third Wave/No Labels" folks, who of course in the wake of HRC's defeat are rearing their ugly heads again. But let's just look at some of the issues, on which, as it happens, there is no "middle ground."

There is no "middle ground" on the matter of global warming and what is causing it. One either accepts the scientific evidence or one doesn't. If one accepts the evidence, there is certainly much worthy debate on how to go about dealing with the problem, but the evidence-deniers are not part of that discussion. That the Trumpites are not only shutting down the climate change-control programs, they are even eliminating the evidence-gathering functions of the Federal government certainly shows that there is no "middle ground" on this one.

"Intelligent Design," is bound to make a comeback into the public arena now that the Department of Education is in the hands of someone who wants government subsidies for religious schools and promotes "home schooling," almost all of which is undertaken by religious rightists who don't want their children's minds sullied by such matters as the Theory of Evolution. Either "Intelligent Design" is science or it is isn't. No middle ground there.

One either believes the religious doctrine that human life begins at the moment of conception or that it begins sometime later. Further, one believes, or not, that when it begins, up to the time of viability, is matter of personal belief, that should not be subject to a religion-based criminal law, with the State taking one side in a matter of religious controversy, while criminalizing the other side.

There is no middle ground on the matters of voter suppression and gerrymandering. (And indeed, there is a very easy solution to the so-called "problem of voter fraud," even though it is virtually non-existent. Offer free voter ID/photo cards, available at many sites throughout each state that is concerned with the matter. Why the Democrats haven't taken this up since the beginning is beyond me.)

There is no middle ground on the rich being able to buy the government they want, with virtually no limits. One is either for the Citizens United "system" for buying elections, or one isn't. Nor is there a middle ground on whether or not the national infrastructure requires truly major, tax-based, government expenditures or it should be left to continue withering away to the point where the public will acquiesce in letting for-profit companies take it over (in which case things would only get worse. But that is another story.)

There is no middle ground on the matter of Separation of Church and State on, once again, abortion rights, as well as on gay marriage, LGBTQ discrimination, and, beyond the matter of abortion rights, the promotion by the state apparatus of one religion over another through the mis-named "Religious Freedom Restoration Act." The "middle-grounders" can only help the Republican Religious Right by muddying the waters on these fundamental issues and pretending that compromises can be reached. They cannot. The sooner the mainstream Democratic Party, and some well-meaning liberals as well, realize this, the better off our nation will be.

The Democratic Party will always be part of this country's Ruling Duopoly. But that does not mean that they have to give way to the Republicans on every single issue for which there is no middle ground. Faced with the reality of Trumpism, which is implementing the Far Right/Heritage Foundation and etc. agenda at a breakneck pace, mainstream Democrats, like Sen. Chuck Schumer, finally seem, in relative terms, to be developing a backbone. In this climate, an HRC re-emergence would make the worst nightmare of an increasing number of Democrats become reality, because there are still good Democrats around who are going to be taken in by her nonsense. Say it ain't so, Hillary.





 
A U.S. Diplomat and Self-Delusion By Steven Jonas
March 21, 2017
 
Outside observers looking at U.S. foreign and military policy since World War II can wonder at its essential global imperialism, its heavy reliance on military force, either threatened or actual, and its many negative outcomes for millions of people, ranging from eternal poverty to premature death, all around the world. They may also wonder at the mentality of the tens of thousands of U.S. government employees who, over the years, have developed and implemented these policies. Mean, evil, totally unethical, totally lacking in principle, totally devoted to the expansion of finance/Petro capitalism, in total denial of what their polices produce. And then we might possibly add, none of the above but totally self-delusional.

Roger Cohen writes regularly for the (newly re-named) Opinion Page of The New York Times. In a recent column he quotes extensively from comments made by one Daniel Fried, a specialist in Central and Eastern Europe, who, on the arrival of the Trumpites in Washington, retired from the Foreign Service, which had employed him since 1977. Cohen published a lengthy quote from Mr. Fried's retirement statement, which is really quite revealing. First on Eastern Europe:
Few believed that Poland's Solidarity movement could win, that the Iron Curtain would come down, that the Baltic States could be free, that the second of the 20th century's great evils -- Communism -- could be vanquished without war. But it happened, and the West's great institutions -- NATO and the E.U. -- grew to embrace 100 million liberated Europeans. It was my honor to have done what I could to help. I learned never to underestimate the possibility of change, that values have power, and that time and patience can pay off, especially if you're serious about your objectives. Nothing can be taken for granted, and this great achievement is now under assault by Russia, but what we did in my time is no less honorable. It is for the present generation to defend and, when the time comes again, extend freedom in Europe."
Then on the U.S. and its essential nature (according to Fried):
We are not an ethno-state, with identity rooted in shared blood. The option of a White Man's Republic ended at Appomattox. On the contrary, we are 'a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.'

"And so, ...that rough sense of equality and opportunity, embedded in us, informed the way that we brought our American power to the world, America's Grand Strategy. We have, imperfectly, and despite detours and retreat along the way, sought to realize a better world for ourselves and for others, for we understood that our prosperity and our values at home depend on that prosperity and those values being secure as far as possible in a sometimes-dark world."

I suppose that in order to continue to serve the U.S. State Department, one has to really believe what Mr. Fried says he believes (and I would not doubt that he believes it), for one reason or another. But let's take a look at some reality. Take for example, the "Iron Curtain." So many like to think that it was set forth across Europe by the Soviet Union, as Winston Churchill told us in his famous speech made at Fulton, MO on March 5, 1946.

It was actually a creation of the Western Powers, not the Soviet Union, announced by Churchill and attributed by him to the USSR. Stalin had actually thought that one of the original leaders of the Intervention against the Russian Revolution that started shortly after that revolution occurred in 1917, that is Winston Churchill, after opportunistically joining in an alliance with the Soviet Union to defeat Nazi Germany, would not once again turn against it. But Churchill did.

Stalin actually wanted to engage in peaceful co-existence with the capitalist West (see Geoffrey Roberts, Stalin's Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939-53, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2206, chaps. 10-12). Stalin thought that the Soviet Union could be one of the beneficiaries of the Marshall Plan. Stalin actually thought that what would in the end become The 75 Years War Against the Soviet Union by the Western Imperialist powers, of which Winston Churchill was one of the primary architects, would not be renewed. As for the "captive Eastern Europe," since Russia/the Soviet Union had suffered two massive invasions from the West in a 27-year period (1914-41), at Yalta it was recognized that they would have a "sphere of influence" in Eastern Europe, as a buffer against the power they feared most -- a resurgent Germany. For in the Great Patriotic War against Nazi Germany the Soviet Union had suffered about 25,000,000 dead, civilians and military. In the Battle of Berlin alone, the Red Army lost about 80,000 dead, or one fifth of the total dead the U.S. sustained, 1941-45, in all the theaters of war in which it was engaged.  But then this buffer was gradually undermined.
 
The final round started with by the accession of the "Polish Pope," John Paul II. One of his primary tasks was to work closely with the Catholic Church in Poland to help undermine the Polish Government, in part by supporting, openly and covertly, the "Solidarity" movement. But then, further, as the Communist governments in Eastern Europe were falling apart (with the assistance of the State Department, the CIA and various U.S. NGO's, as more recently happened in Ukraine, this time against Russia), the then Soviet Union was guaranteed (but unfortunately for them, not in writing) that NATO, which had been formed as an openly anti-Soviet military arm of Western imperialism, would not expand into Eastern Europe. We know for how long that promise was kept by Mr. Fried's State Department, following the final victory of U.S.-led Western Imperialism in The 75 Years War Against the Soviet Union, in 1992.

As to the second quote from Fried, one could write a book about it, and many have. And, I could write a very long column on it, but I won't. Just a few comments. The U.S. is indeed a multi-cultural state. The problem is that going back to its founding the 1850s, when one of its original coalition member was the nativist American Party, with a few exceptions over time, following the end of Reconstruction the Republican Party has never accepted this.

Rep. Steven King is only the latest in a long line of Republican xenophobes. This battle has only been re-intensified by the election of Donald Trump. As for the "White Man's Republic," that concept as a stand-alone has never died. It has just taken different forms, as the Doctrine of White Supremacy spread over the whole nation from the South, following the end of the First Civil War.

Then there is that "rough sense of equality and opportunity." Well let's see, since the killing off of the major parts of organized labor, as is well-known, wealth in the United states has become ever more concentrated. An increasing number of people think that their children will be worse off than they are. And then, according to Mr. Fried, that "rough sense" "informed the way that we brought our American power to the world." Really? Oh my. That's why wealth concentration around the world is getting ever-tighter, I suppose.
 
Finally, the U.S. "sought to realize a better world for ourselves and for others." Tell that to the people of those countries in which since the end of World War II the U.S. intervened in "seeking to realize a better world" (and this list is far from complete):
  1. Iran (1953),
  2. Guatemala (1954),
  3. Vietnam (1956-75),
  4. Belgian Congo (1960),
  5. South Africa (1948-93),
  6. Brazil (1965),
  7. Dominican Republic (1965),
  8. Argentina (the 1970s),
  9. Chile (1973),
  10. Afghanistan (1977-present),
  11. Honduras,
  12. Korea (1945-present),
  13. Philippines (1945-1954),
  14. Nicaragua (1981-89),
  15. Iraq (2003-present),
  16. Syria (2011-present).
And so on and so forth. Anyone who thinks, given the above list, that the U.S. has done great things around the world since World War II either thinks that U.S. Imperialism is just a great thing or is just self-delusional. Some choice, eh wot?





 
The Kagans Are Back; Wars to Follow by Robert Parry
March 15, 2017

The neocon royalty Kagans are counting on Democrats and liberals to be the foot soldiers in the new neocon campaign to push Republicans and President Trump into more “regime change” wars, reports Robert Parry.

The Kagan family, America’s neoconservative aristocracy, has reemerged having recovered from the letdown over not gaining its expected influence from the election of Hillary Clinton and from its loss of official power at the start of the Trump presidency.

Back pontificating on prominent op-ed pages, the Family Kagan now is pushing for an expanded U.S. military invasion of Syria and baiting Republicans for not joining more enthusiastically in the anti-Russian witch hunt over Moscow’s alleged help in electing Donald Trump.

In a Washington Post op-ed on March 7, Robert Kagan, a co-founder of the Project for the New American Century and a key architect of the Iraq War, jabbed at Republicans for serving as “Russia’s accomplices after the fact” by not investigating more aggressively.

Then, Frederick Kagan, director of the Critical Threats Project at the neocon American Enterprise Institute, and his wife, Kimberly Kagan, president of her own think tank, Institute for the Study of War, touted the idea of a bigger U.S. invasion of Syria in a Wall Street Journal op-ed on March 15.

Yet, as much standing as the Kagans retain in Official Washington’s world of think tanks and op-ed placements, they remain mostly outside the new Trump-era power centers looking in, although they seem to have detected a door being forced open.

Still, a year ago, their prospects looked much brighter. They could pick from a large field of neocon-oriented Republican presidential contenders or – like Robert Kagan – they could support the establishment Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, whose “liberal interventionism” matched closely with neoconservatism, differing only slightly in the rationalizations used for justifying wars and more wars.

There was also hope that a President Hillary Clinton would recognize how sympatico the liberal hawks and the neocons were by promoting Robert Kagan’s neocon wife, Victoria Nuland, from Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs to Secretary of State.

Then, there would have been a powerful momentum for both increasing the U.S. military intervention in Syria and escalating the New Cold War with Russia, putting “regime change” back on the agenda for those two countries. So, early last year, the possibilities seemed endless for the Family Kagan to flex their muscles and make lots of money.

A Family Business

As I noted two years ago in an article entitled “A Family Business of Perpetual War”:
 
Neoconservative pundit Robert Kagan and his wife, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, run a remarkable family business: she has sparked a hot war in Ukraine and helped launch Cold War II with Russia and he steps in to demand that Congress jack up military spending so America can meet these new security threats.

“This extraordinary husband-and-wife duo makes quite a one-two punch for the Military-Industrial Complex, an inside-outside team that creates the need for more military spending, applies political pressure to ensure higher appropriations, and watches as thankful weapons manufacturers lavish grants on like-minded hawkish Washington think tanks.

“Not only does the broader community of neoconservatives stand to benefit but so do other members of the Kagan clan, including Robert’s brother Frederick at the American Enterprise Institute and his wife Kimberly, who runs her own shop called the Institute for the Study of War.”


But things didn’t quite turn out as the Kagans had drawn them up. The neocon Republicans stumbled through the GOP primaries losing out to Donald Trump and then – after Hillary Clinton muscled aside Sen. Bernie Sanders to claim the Democratic nomination – she fumbled away the general election to Trump.

After his surprising victory, Trump – for all his many shortcomings – recognized that the neocons were not his friends and mostly left them out in the cold. Nuland not only lost her politically appointed job as Assistant Secretary but resigned from the Foreign Service, too.

With Trump in the White House, Official Washington’s neocon-dominated foreign policy establishment was down but far from out. The neocons were tossed a lifeline by Democrats and liberals who detested Trump so much that they were happy to pick up Nuland’s fallen banner of the New Cold War with Russia. As part of a dubious scheme to drive Trump from office, Democrats and liberals hyped evidence-free allegations that Russia had colluded with Trump’s team to rig the U.S. election.

New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman spoke for many of this group when he compared Russia’s alleged “meddling” to Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor and Al Qaeda’s 9/11 terror attacks.

On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show, Friedman demanded that the Russia hacking allegations be treated as a casus belli: “That was a 9/11 scale event. They attacked the core of our democracy. That was a Pearl Harbor scale event.” Both Pearl Harbor and 9/11 led to wars.

So, with many liberals blinded by their hatred of Trump, the path was open for neocons to reassert themselves.

Baiting Republicans

Robert Kagan took to the high-profile op-ed page of The Washington Post to bait key Republicans, such as Rep. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee who was pictured above the Post article and its headline, “Running interference for Russia.”

Kagan wrote: “It would have been impossible to imagine a year ago that the Republican Party’s leaders would be effectively serving as enablers of Russian interference in this country’s political system. Yet, astonishingly, that is the role the Republican Party is playing.”

Kagan then reprised Official Washington’s groupthink that accepted without skepticism the claims from President Obama’s outgoing intelligence chiefs that Russia had “hacked” Democratic emails and released them via WikiLeaks to embarrass the Clinton campaign.

Though Obama’s intelligence officials offered no verifiable evidence to support the claims – and WikiLeaks denied getting the two batches of emails from the Russians – the allegations were widely accepted across Official Washington as grounds for discrediting Trump and possibly seeking his removal from office.

Ignoring the political conflict of interest for Obama’s appointees, Kagan judged that “given the significance of this particular finding [about Russian meddling], the evidence must be compelling” and justified “a serious, wide-ranging and open investigation.”

But Kagan also must have recognized the potential for the neocons to claw their way back to power behind the smokescreen of a New Cold War with Russia.

He declared: “The most important question concerns Russia’s ability to manipulate U.S. elections. That is not a political issue. It is a national security issue. If the Russian government did interfere in the United States’ electoral processes last year, then it has the capacity to do so in every election going forward. This is a powerful and dangerous weapon, more than warships or tanks or bombers.

“Neither Russia nor any potential adversary has the power to damage the U.S. political system with weapons of war. But by creating doubts about the validity, integrity and reliability of U.S. elections, it can shake that system to its foundations.”


A Different Reality

As alarmist as Kagan’s op-ed was, the reality was far different. Even if the Russians did hack the Democratic emails and somehow slipped the information to WikiLeaks – an unsubstantiated and disputed contention – those two rounds of email disclosures were not that significant to the election’s outcome.


Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders. (NBC photo)
Hillary Clinton blamed her surprise defeat on FBI Director James Comey briefly reopening the investigation into her use of a private email server while serving as Secretary of State.

Further, by all accounts, the WikiLeaks-released emails were real and revealed wrongdoing by leading Democrats, such as the Democratic National Committee’s tilting of the primaries against Sen. Bernie Sanders and in favor of Clinton. The emails of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta disclosed the contents of Clinton’s paid speeches to Wall Street, which she was trying to hide from voters, as well as some pay-to-play features of the Clinton Foundation.

In other words, the WikiLeaks’ releases helped inform American voters about abuses to the U.S. democratic process. The emails were not “disinformation” or “fake news.” They were real news.

A similar disclosure occurred both before the election and this week when someone leaked details about Trump’s tax returns, which are protected by law. However, except for the Trump camp, almost no one thought that this illegal act of releasing a citizen’s tax returns was somehow a threat to American democracy.

The general feeling was that Americans have a right to know such details about someone seeking the White House. I agree, but doesn’t it equally follow that we had a right to know about the DNC abusing its power to grease the skids for Clinton’s nomination, about the contents of Clinton’s speeches to Wall Street bankers, and about foreign governments seeking pay-to-play influence by contributing to the Clinton Foundation?

Yet, because Obama’s political appointees in the U.S. intelligence community “assess” that Russia was the source of the WikiLeaks emails, the assault on U.S. democracy is a reason for World War III.

More Loose Talk

But Kagan was not satisfied with unsubstantiated accusations regarding Russia undermining U.S. democracy. He asserted as “fact” – although again without presenting evidence – that Russia is “interfering in the coming elections in France and Germany, and it has already interfered in Italy’s recent referendum and in numerous other elections across Europe. Russia is deploying this weapon against as many democracies as it can to sap public confidence in democratic institutions.”


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, flanked by Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria “Toria” Nuland, addresses Russian President Vladimir Putin in a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on July 14, 2016. [State Department Photo]
There’s been a lot of handwringing in Official Washington and across the Mainstream Media about the “post-truth” era, but these supposed avatars for truth are as guilty as anyone, acting as if constantly repeating a fact-free claim is the same as proving it.
But it’s clear what Kagan and other neocons have in mind, an escalation of hostilities with Russia and a substantial increase in spending on U.S. military hardware and on Western propaganda to “counter” what is deemed “Russian propaganda.”

Kagan recognizes that he already has many key Democrats and liberals on his side. So he is taking aim at Republicans to force them to join in the full-throated Russia-bashing, writing:

But it is the Republicans who are covering up. The party’s current leader, the president, questions the intelligence community’s findings, motives and integrity. Republican leaders in Congress have opposed the creation of any special investigating committee, either inside or outside Congress. They have insisted that inquiries be conducted by the two intelligence committees.

“Yet the Republican chairman of the committee in the House has indicated that he sees no great urgency to the investigation and has even questioned the seriousness and validity of the accusations. The Republican chairman of the committee in the Senate has approached the task grudgingly.

“The result is that the investigations seem destined to move slowly, produce little information and provide even less to the public. It is hard not to conclude that this is precisely the intent of the Republican Party’s leadership, both in the White House and Congress. …

“When Republicans stand in the way of thorough, open and immediate investigations, they become Russia’s accomplices after the fact.”


Lying with the Neocons

Many Democrats and liberals may find it encouraging that a leading neocon who helped pave the road to war in Iraq is now by their side in running down Republicans for not enthusiastically joining the latest Russian witch hunt. But they also might pause to ask themselves how they let their hatred of Trump get them into an alliance with the neocons.

On Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal, Robert Kagan’s brother Frederick and his wife Kimberly dropped the other shoe, laying out the neocons’ long-held dream of a full-scale U.S. invasion of Syria, a project that was put on hold in 2004 because of U.S. military reversals in Iraq.

But the neocons have long lusted for “regime change” in Syria and were not satisfied with Obama’s arming of anti-government rebels and the limited infiltration of U.S. Special Forces into northern Syria to assist in the retaking of the Islamic State’s “capital” of Raqqa.

In the Journal op-ed, Frederick and Kimberly Kagan call for opening a new military front in southeastern Syria:

American military forces will be necessary. But the U.S. can recruit new Sunni Arab partners by fighting alongside them in their land. The goal in the beginning must be against ISIS because it controls the last areas in Syria where the U.S. can reasonably hope to find Sunni allies not yet under the influence of al Qaeda. But the aim after evicting ISIS must be to raise a Sunni Arab army that can ultimately defeat al Qaeda and help negotiate a settlement of the war.

"The U.S. will have to pressure the Assad regime, Iran and Russia to end the conflict on terms that the Sunni Arabs will accept. That will be easier to do with the independence and leverage of a secure base inside Syria. … President Trump should break through the flawed logic and poor planning that he inherited from his predecessor. He can transform this struggle, but only by transforming America’s approach to it.”


A New Scheme on Syria

In other words, the neocons are back to their clever word games and their strategic maneuverings to entice the U.S. military into a “regime change” project in Syria.

The neocons thought they had almost pulled off that goal by pinning a mysterious sarin gas attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013, on the Syrian government and mousetrapping Obama into launching a major U.S. air assault on the Syrian military.

But Russian President Vladimir Putin stepped in to arrange for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to surrender all his chemical weapons even as Assad continued to deny any role in the sarin attack.

Putin’s interference in thwarting the neocons’ dream of a Syrian “regime war” moved Putin to the top of their enemies’ list. Soon key neocons, such as National Endowment for Democracy president Carl Gershman, were taking aim at Ukraine, which Gershman deemed “the biggest prize” and a steppingstone toward eventually ousting Putin in Moscow.

It fell to Assistant Secretary Victoria “Toria” Nuland to oversee the “regime change” in Ukraine. She was caught on an unsecured phone line in late January or early February 2014 discussing with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt how “to glue” or “to midwife” a change in Ukraine’s elected government of President Viktor Yanukovych.

Several weeks later, neo-Nazi and ultranationalist street fighters spearheaded a violent assault on government buildings forcing Yanukovych and other officials to flee for their lives, with the U.S. government quickly hailing the coup regime as “legitimate.”

But the Ukraine putsch led to the secession of Crimea and a bloody civil war in eastern Ukraine with ethnic Russians, events that the State Department and the mainstream Western media deemed “Russian aggression” or a “Russian invasion.”

So, by the last years of the Obama administration, the stage was set for the neocons and the Family Kagan to lead the next stage of the strategy of cornering Russia and instituting a “regime change” in Syria.

All that was needed was for Hillary Clinton to be elected president. But these best-laid plans surprisingly went astray. Despite his overall unfitness for the presidency, Trump defeated Clinton, a bitter disappointment for the neocons and their liberal interventionist sidekicks.

Yet, the so-called “#Resistance” to Trump’s presidency and President Obama’s unprecedented use of his intelligence agencies to paint Trump as a Russian “Manchurian candidate” gave new hope to the neocons and their agenda.

It has taken them a few months to reorganize and regroup but they now see hope in pressuring Trump so hard regarding Russia that he will have little choice but to buy into their belligerent schemes.

As often is the case, the Family Kagan has charted the course of action – batter Republicans into joining the all-out Russia-bashing and then persuade a softened Trump to launch a full-scale invasion of Syria. In this endeavor, the Kagans have Democrats and liberals as the foot soldiers.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).








 
Racism, Charles Murray, and Free Speech By Steven Jonas

March 14, 2017

Charles Murray is best known as the co-author of a tract called The Bell Curve. It attempted to establish that "blacks" are intellectually inferior to "whites," because of their genetic make-up. It then went on to state that being the case, society as a whole (namely "white" society) shouldn't spend any money on trying to improve the lives of "blacks" in any way.

Murray frequently gets campus speaking engagements, usually arranged by rightist organizations like the American Enterprise Institute Club. Murray was recently invited to speak at Middlebury College, a liberal arts institution set in the verdant Green Mountains of Vermont. (As a child, I spent a bit of time there, for my mother, who later became a translator of Russian music books, was studying the language there in a summer program.) There was against his appearance a very strong demonstration by a large number of students, and he never did get to speak. We shall get to the "free speech" issue at the end of this column, but first let's consider what Murray is about.

In my book, The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S., 1981-2022: A Futuristic Novel, currently being serialized on OpEdNews and several other webmagazines, I wrote an extensive Appendix (No. VI) about Murray and his collaborator at the time, one Richard Herrnstein. This column consists in part of an abridged version of that Appendix.

In 1994 Murray and Herrnstein published The Bell Curve (New York: The Free Press). They attempted to prove that the lower "Intelligence Quotient" levels (IQ) found by some researchers among "blacks" as compared with "whites" were produced by genetic differences between the two groups (Browne, M.W., "What Is Intelligence, and Who Has It?" [a review of The Bell Curve along with two other racist books], The New York Times Book Review, October 16, 1994, (p.3).

Then, making the leap that IQ differentials established genetic differentials between various groups of people, they went on to argue that since "blacks" were genetically inferior to "whites," it didn't make any sense for the latter to spend any money trying to bring the former up to either educational or economic speed. Acknowledging the racist content of their analysis, they called it "scientific racism," as if that somehow would clean it up.
One detail always ignored by racists, whether of the scientific or non-scientific variety, was exactly how skin color can be used to define anyone into groups. First of all, it was a given that there was a very wide range of skin color in any of the "races" as the racists defined them. Some "blacks" have lighter skin tones than some "whites." But that makes no difference to the racists' group assignments. Furthermore, in any one individual whether "white" or "black," skin tone often changes over time in response to such factors as sun exposure, weathering, or ageing.

More importantly, however, is the fact that in the United States there are rarely any persons who are purely "black" in skin color, like native Africans are. Virtually all African-Americans are the product of, over the centuries, African women whose ancestors had been brought to North America as slaves, being impregnated by white men, most often involuntarily. This practice continued down through the Jim-Crow era. If African-Americans are indeed "intellectually inferior" due to their gene pool, this must mean that the countless white men who forcibly or otherwise impregnated formerly African women over the centuries were intellectually inferior too. However, this is a detail which seems to have slipped past the "intellectually superior" minds of Murray and Herrnstein as well as those of all the countless other U.S. racists down through the centuries, indeed to the present time. Indeed, as has so often been the case, such facts always fail to confuse the analysis of any dedicated racist, whether of the scientific or the non-scientific variety.

"Scientific" racism had a long history in the white Western world, linked with the names of such discredited "scientists" as Jensen and Shockley, Galton and Pearson, Osborn and Davenport. Its "scientific" base had been on more than one occasion shown to be patently false, as for example in the lengthy book by Allan Chase entitled The Legacy of Malthus: The Social Costs of the New Scientific Racism (Knopf, 1977). Chase summarized the general theory of "scientific" racism well in the Preface to his book (p. xv):
'Scientific racism' is, essentially, the perversion of scientific and historical facts to create the myth of two distinct races of humankind. The first of these 'races' is, in all countries, a small elite whose members are healthy, wealthy (generally by inheritance), and educable. The other 'race' consists of the far larger populations of the world who are vulnerable, poor or non-wealthy, and allegedly uneducable by virtue of hereditarily inferior brains.  In the teachings of scientific racism, most of the human race's physiological ailments, anatomical defects, behavioral disorders and -- above all else -- the complex of socio-economic afflictions called poverty are classified as being caused by the inferior hereditary or genetic endowments of people and races. Historically, these core pseudo-genetic myths ... have provided ... 'scientific' rationales for doing nothing or next to nothing about the prevention of scores of well-understood impediments to proper physical and mental development...Coupled, as it often is and has been, with much older forms of gut racism based on religious, racial, and ethnic bigotry, scientific racism invariably exacerbates the already agonizing traumas ... for all minorities from Auschwitz and Belfast to Boston and Birmingham (AL). Nevertheless, bigotry is not one of the functions of scientific racism; it is merely a later adjunct in the furtherance of the basic socioeconomic functions of scientific racism."
And, one might add, its political functions as well.

Jim Naureckas, editor of has put this matter of the Murray/Herrnstein book very well ("Racism Resurgent: How Media Let The Bell Curve's Pseudo Science Define the Agenda on Race," FAIR: EXTRA!, Jan./Feb. 1995, p. 12):
When The New Republic devoted almost an entire issue 10/31/94 [Author's Note: appropriately, Halloween], to a debate with the authors of The Bell Curve, editor Andrew Sullivan [note that, dear reader] justified the decision by writing: 'The notion that there might be resilient ethnic differences in intelligence is not, we believe, an inherently racist belief.' [oh really, Andrew?] In fact, the idea that some races are inherently inferior to others is the definition of racism. What The New Republic was saying -- along with other media outlets that prominently and respectfully considered the thesis ... is that racism is a respectable intellectual position, and had a legitimate place in the national debate on race..." However, Naureckas went on to point out, nearly all the "research" Murray and Herrnstein cited to support their claims on the relationship between race and IQ was paid for by the Pioneer Fund, characterized by the London Sunday Telegraph, hardly left-wing itself, as a "neo-Nazi organization closely integrated with the far right in American politics."
Presently, the Southern Poverty Law Center describes Murray (Seelye) as a "white nationalist" who uses "pseudoscience and misleading statistics to argue that social inequality is caused by the genetic inferiority of black [and now] Latino communities, women, and the poor [generally, I guess]. One does have to wonder how he would classify rich folks and become poor and poor folks who become rich. But, as some say, consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds. (Actually, that's only said by inconsistent folks who get caught, but that's another matter.)

Naureckas points out that Herrnstein and Murray, not wanting to be confused by facts, simply ignored the findings of social scientists like Jane Mercer that when IQ differences are found, they wash out if the data are adjusted for socioeconomic variables. Further, even back in 1994-5, there was 50 years of research in population genetics. A principal finding of the definitive work in the field, the book The History and Geography of Human Genes by Luca Cavalli-Sforza, Paolo Menozzi, and Alberto Piazza is that (Subramanian, S., "The Story in Our Genes," Time, January 16, 1995, p. 54):
Once genes for surface traits such as coloration and stature are discounted, the human races are remarkably alike under the skin. The variation among individuals is much greater than differences among groups. In fact, the diversity among individuals is so enormous that the whole concept of race becomes meaningless at the genetic level. The authors say there is 'no scientific basis' for theories touting the genetic superiority of any population over another."
Finally, the newspaper columnist Robert Reno commented on Herrnstein/Murray's use of psychometry (a now discarded field that was about as much a science as were alchemy and phrenology) ("'Bell Curve' Just Gives Ammo to Garbage Carriers," Newsday, October 26, 1994):
(1.) The 'science' of psychometry -- the measurement of mental abilities -- has a lengthy and somewhat disreputable history. The ideas that even modern IQ tests have reached some state-of-the-art infallibility is ridiculous. The slop Murray has served up is not only unappetizing but warmed over. Proving the inferiority of races has for 100 years been the mischief of self-promoting scholars as credentialed as Murray and as squalid as the louts who churned out the 'science' behind Dr. Goebbels' loathsome ravings. Giving Murray an 'A' for originality -- or even guts -- is an offense to their infamy. There is a convincing body of scientific literature suggesting Murray is simply wrong, is practicing bad genetics, that interracial differences in IQ scores are really explained by such factors as pre- and post-natal experiences."
Nevertheless, there are some cooks who never get tired of serving up slop, and Murray is apparently among them. But the majority of students at Middlebury just didn't like the taste and never gave Murray the chance to offer it up.

But what about "free speech," then? An editorial on The New York Times on the subject was entitled "Smothering Speech at Middlebury" Oh really? Supposing that Murray was a well-known anti-Semite (and given Breitbart, etc., in certain circles anti-Semitism is being given a certain buffing. Further, anti-Semitic violence is now occurring on a regular basis, certainly without any national outrage greeting it). If he had indeed been invited (which he almost certainly wouldn't have been because although old-fashioned racism is OK for discussion in certain "liberal" circles, like the one inhabited by the President of Middlebury, one Laurie Patton) anti-Semitism almost certainly would not be. But wouldn't that be "silencing free speech?"

And then what about what happened to Milo Yiannopoulos at the recent annual Conservative Political Action Conference? At CPAC, for years, racism, Islamophobia, homophobia, and etc. have all been OK, indeed promoted by some attendees and speakers. Yiannopoulos, a gay man himself, has been particularly big on the first two. But when it came out that he had in the past condoned pederasty and spoke positively of sexual experiences with Catholic priests he had growing up, well, that earned him a dis-invitation. Of course, rightists like Bill Kristol and the Fox "News" Channel's (or should I say the Republican Party Propaganda Channel's) Brit Hume went absolutely nuts about what happened to Murray at Middlebury. Somehow, they failed to notice that CPAC did the same thing to Yiannopoulos. But "limiting free speech" is really all relative, as this whole episode shows.

Racism was not OK at Middlebury. Pederasty was not OK at CPAC. So far, anti-Semitism would be not OK at either. But if students "smother free speech" over racism, why is not CPAC's action "smothering free speech as well?" And since in certain quarters Breitbart is considered to be anti-Semitic, when will the prevention of anti-Semitic speeches at universities and similar venues be considered "smothering of free speech" too? One does not have to go back to the McCarthy Era to realize that "free speech" is indeed a relative term, whether a majority of U.S. like to think of it that way or not.










 
The Russia House: A Class Analysis By Steven Jonas
March 6, 2017

The Russia House
was a 1990 movie starring Sean Connery in his post-James Bond mature period. Moviefone summarized the plot as follows:
While visiting Moscow, British publisher Barley Blair (Sean Connery) learns of a manuscript detailing the Soviet Union's nuclear missile capabilities. British intelligence and the CIA consider the book to contain crucial information and recruit Blair to investigate its editor, Katya Orlova (Michelle Pfeiffer). As Blair learns the origin of the manuscript and discovers Russian military secrets, he falls in love with Katya and fights to protect her family."
I did see the movie, for I have been a big Sean Connery fan since he hit the big time in that very first James Bond film, Dr. No. I don't recall much of it, but it did involve spycraft, Moscow, the Soviet and British secret services, and, of course, romance.

And so, what do we have here, in "L'Affaire Trump/Russe?" (which may be as fictional as The Russia House was, or then again, maybe not). We have spycraft for sure, in the person of the former British secret service member Christopher Steele. He may or may not be telling the truth, but a) his reportage has been verified by various European secret services and b) at one time the FBI planned to retain and pay him for his services. (This is the same FBI that worked hard in an attempt to prevent the election of Hillary Clinton.) Then there's the nuclear weapons angle, for the Russians are apparently in the process of modernizing theirs (whatever that means) and Trump would like to do the same for the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Then there's the seamy side of the Steele "dossier" which would introduce a touch of sex, if not romance, into the plot.

And finally, there are the two leading men. Trump likely regards himself as a James Bond type, at least when he is dealing with the ladies (and of course, for Trump, with his legendary attention span, it would very easy for him to confuse Sean Connery and James Bond, just as Ronald Reagan actually visualized himself participating in the liberation of a Nazi concentration camp when, during World War II, he never left the Hollywood back-lots).

As for Putin, who was a real-life KGB agent, one or more characters like him appeared in the movie. Given what we know about him and his ego, e.g., in his 60s still playing hockey (good for him) and scoring a lot (what, you say the defense and the goal-tender on the other team ease up on him?), he may well fancy himself as an actor too, and would just love to play one of those roles (in a movie in which, of course, the Soviet Union/Russia would come out on top).

Turning to the more serious side of this narrative, as is very well-known there is considerable controversy over the following issues. Not necessarily in order of importance:
  • Did the Russians somehow interfere with the U.S. electoral process in 2016?
  • If so, did they ally themselves with Trumpian interests?
  • If so, did one or more Trump agents and representatives collude with the Russians in doing so?
  • Despite his blanket denials, does Trump have business interests in Russia and/or do one or more of the Russian robber-baron-capitalists otherwise known as the oligarchs have investments with President Trump, in Russia and/or elsewhere?
  • How many more high-level Trump appointees are going to get caught up in the mess, before it possibly reaches Trump himself?
  • And so on and so forth.
Now, there is massive controversy over the issues laid out briefly above and many other related ones. There are numerous folks on the Left, including several close friends of mine, who are convinced that the whole Russia-interfered-with-the-election thing was/is an effort by what is called the "Deep State," centered on the U.S. intelligence agencies, to one way or another remove Trump from office. Why? Because he is too friendly with Russia. Indeed, Trump has criticized all sorts of foreign leaders, governments, and organizations, like NATO, the European Union, Mexico, Angela Merkel, China, the Australian Prime Minister (if hanging up on a foreign leader in the midst of a phone conversation can be considered criticism), to name a few. But he has yet to go after President Putin, or Russia. So, what is going on here?







 
"Why They Are Coming for the Immigrants" By Steven Jonas
February 27, 2017

First they came for the immigrants, but I wasn't an immigrant.
Then they came for the Muslims, but I wasn't a Muslim.
Then they labeled the LGBTQs, but I wasn't one of them.
Then they came for the true radicals, but I wasn't one of them either.
Then they came for the "Black Lives Matter" folk and their allies, but I wasn't one of them.
Then they came for the trade unionists who they hadn't bought, but I wasn't one of them.
Then they came for the just plain critics of the regime, and by then it was too late.
(With thanks to Pastor Niemoller.)

So yes, Trump and the Trumpites really are going to engage mass deportation of "illegal" immigrants, just as Trump said they would during the campaign. (Too many people still have not yet taken Trump seriously when he says stuff like this. Fortunately, that number seems to be dropping.) First, the "illegals" are "illegal" only because the law puts them in that category. They could easily be characterized as "undocumented" immigrants, which is precisely what so many of us who are opposed to Trumpite policy (and certainly major elements of Obama policy before him) call it. If these folk are the latter, then the way to deal with the situation is to provide a pathway to legal citizenship. One might make that pathway rather harder than going through the regular immigrant visa policy, but it certainly would be much more both human and productive than what the Trumpites are doing now.

But of course, Trump is first following the long-time Repub. mantra that the undocumented immigrants are by definition "criminals." This is regardless of whether or not they have ever committed a crime -- other than very minor ones -- found in other parts of the local, State and Federal criminal codes. This must be dealt with by A) charging them under criminal law and B) deporting them.

Trump has taken this traditional Repub. line many steps further with his rhetoric about the undocumented immigrants, as he commences mass deportation, whether he and Sean Spicer want to call it that or not. What is so revealing, and has been all along, is that the employers who hire the undocumented are also committing a crime. But one never hears of any such prosecutions, much less any mass criminal-prosecution program, to go after them. Of course, Trump claims that there is wide criminality among the undocumented, a claim for which there is no proof. But of course data means nothing to the Trumpites, it's their claims and the policies that follow them that count.

Now it should be clear at whom the major thrusts of this program will be aimed. It is not, primarily at non-Latino skilled workers or, shall we say, fashion models, who have tourist visas which do not allow them to work anyway, and then overstay them. It is primarily aimed at the Latin American population -- Trump lumps them all together as "Mexicans" -- approximately 11 million of them. And so, where do they work? Well, primarily in unskilled/semiskilled but definitely low-paying occupations, such as corporate farming for crops, meat, and poultry, low-paying manufacturing jobs, and of course the restaurant business.

Indeed, if the Trumpite program is carried through, the latter, up to the highest levels, will likely suffer a severe labor shortage and the farm industry may well too. (I was told just the other day that in the burgeoning Japanese restaurant business, there is an increasing number of Latinos making the sushi, having been trained to do so by Japanese sushi chefs.) Of course, as for the old Right-wing saw that "undocumented workers are taking American jobs," actually, no. It's employers giving those jobs to undocumented workers because they can pay less and provide no benefits.

And so, the question must be asked: Why? Well, an increasing number of observers are characterizing the Trump Regime as either fascist already or definitely on the road to becoming one. I must say that I haven't found a commentator yet who uses the term, who supplies a definition for it, other than saying words to the effect that "this what Hitler and Mussolini did or did not do." I myself described Trump as a fascist, with a definition, in a column that I published last Spring, using a (fairly lengthy) definition of the term. I still like to use definitions, and here's a (somewhat) shorter one, applied specifically to Trump and the Trumpites:
  • A politico-economic system in which the Racist Reactionary Religious Right controls  both the Executive and Legislative Branches of government and the former  dominates it;
  • To the extent possible the Judiciary is ignored;
  • The non-Right-wing  media are cast as "the enemy";
  • All political, religious, and ideological opposition to  its policies and programs are demonized and then criminalized;
  • The use of the Big Lie technique dominates Executive and Legislative Branch discourse and propaganda; 
  • The Doctrine of White Supremacy/racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and  homophobia, are used to achieve political ends;
  • The free vote is suppressed;
  • All to  create and maintain the control of State Power by the economically dominant sectors of the capitalist ruling class.
By the way, "Racist Reactionary Religious Right" is my description for what is commonly referred to as the "alt-Right." I think that the former much more accurately describes the movement, which of course has the closest seat in the White House to Trump himself in the person of Steve Bannon, who has spoken openly of his sympathy for fascist ideology.

Historically, fascism has thrived only with the use of "otherism," of prejudice, of differentiation, of blind hatred, of the organizing of the "Volk." In one sense, the Trumpites have a problem because the U.S. is so multi-cultural and because all of its inhabitants (even the Native Americans whose ancestors arrived only 10,000 years ago, a blink of an eye in geological, even anthropological, time) are descended from immigrants. And so, unlike Nazi Germany, where the bulk of the hatred and the development of the "criminal others" was organized against the Jews, the Trumpites are going to have to go against multiple groups.

As I pointed out in my last column, the process has already started against the Muslims. And with the most recent order rescinding national protections against trans-gender folk in the use of bathrooms in schools(!) (what must Sessions, et al, have in their heads on matters of sex[?]) Corresponding to their sexual identity, not their sexual assignment at birth, it seems likely that a broader assault on the LGBTQ community, Paul Theil, the Log Cabin Republicans, and Milo Yiannopoulos to the contrary notwithstanding, is coming. For the Mass Deportation Program, a large number of new, private for-profit of course, prisons will be built. Who, one can suppose, will they be used for after the undocumented population is significantly reduced?

(Isn't it fascinating, that in regard to Yiannopoulos, for the Conservative Political Action Conference his racism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia were OK. In fact, they were to be featured as drawing cards. Only when he got to pederasty and outing Catholic priest sexual predators did he "cross the line."  That line speaks volumes about CPAC, doesn’t it?  And of course then CPAC engaged in just the kind of censorship that only the days before the Right-wing was railing at the University of California at Berkeley for. It was at that conference that Steve Bannon himself, who rarely speaks publicly now, chimed in on the "media is the enemy" theme.)

And so we come to the Niemoller-like progression above. It is obvious -- and one only has to look at the composition of the Trump cabinet -- that a significant sector of the U.S. ruling class thinks that they will not be able to stay in power down the line without fascism. And so, why not sooner rather than later? Many in the U.S. are already waking up to the danger. Many more will have to do so, and maintain the energy and drive, if the progression of Trumpism to full-blown fascism is to be prevented.





 
Why the Muslim Ban? By Steven Jonas
 February 15, 2017     
 
Well, yes, despite the protestations of the Trumpites to the contrary, the Ban was intended to be a Muslim Ban. Giuliani gave it away when he said that of course Christians from the Seven Countries would be exempted. Trump's xenophobic, Islamophobic base knows exactly at whom it was aimed. And so, do the far-Right acolytes like Frank Gaffney, who have their own followings. Trump wanted to make sure that they would be on board with him, about the Ban as well as other policy initiatives. And of course, the Ban had nothing to do with "security."

I, as well as numerous others, have said that Trump is a fascist, of the 21st century variety to be sure. Here is my current definition of the term, in the Trumpian context:
A politico-economic system in which the Executive Branch of the Government: regards the Constitution as in place only on paper; disregards the Judiciary as a co-equal branch of government and accepts the Legislative Branch as a co-equal only when Executive Branch policies are supported by it; demonizes and then criminalizes all political, religious, and ideological opposition to its policies and programs; redefines the words "truth," "science," "data," "fact," and "reality" through the use of the Big Lie technique; regularly uses the Doctrine of White Supremacy/racism, xenophobia in general and Islamophobia in particular, and homophobia, to achieve political ends; suppresses the free vote by challenging the legitimacy of the electoral system; casts "the media" as a principal enemy, with the aim of suppressing dissent and promoting distrust in it and its reporting; all in service of creating and maintaining the control of State Power by the economically dominant sector of the capitalist ruling class: manufacturing, fossil fuels, agriculture/food, pharma/health services, retail, transportation, and banking/investment/financial services.
And so, the Ban can be seen very much in the light of this Administration very much intending to move along the road to the eventual institution of fascism.

First, if a fascist party has control of the Executive Branch of government and effective control of the Legislative branch, it has only two major checks on its authority and its forward movement to take control of the government as a whole, with authoritarian rule: The Judiciary and the independent media.

Stephen "non-reviewable" Miller, is a 31-32-year-old far right-winger has been on the anti-immigrant kick since his college days. His previous experience in government has been as a political flack for the likes of Michele Bachmann and Jeff Sessions. He became a front man for Trump during the campaign. These were apparently his principal qualifications for becoming a senior (sic) advisor in the White House. He was apparently the primary author of the Ban. It is too early to say whether or not he actually had in mind the possibility/probability that the Ban would meet with strong resistance in the Federal courts, and was salivating at the possibility of such a confrontation. But whether he, and Steve Bannon, set the case up precisely to get the judicial response that they did, it plays right into their hands: "We know what's best for the country, particularly when it comes to 'security,' and no court should stand in our way." Now that one has a clear 20th century fascist ring to it. They also had to know that the mainstream media would react the way that it did: with general condemnation. Furthering that confrontation that Bannon announced several weeks ago as well: all the better to serve the drive for fascism.

Then, what do fascist regimes, or regimes that want to become fascist and implement an authoritarian mode of government with Executive Branch dominance, need, at large in the population? They need a designated enemy and they need to cultivate fear. Well this one is perfectly designed to achieve those ends. Again, it is a Muslim Ban, regardless of what the Trumpites say publicly (and even regardless of what revised language that might put into the current Ban or might put into a substitute). The objective here is clearly to intensify Islamophobia at home. One can only wonder. Is a domestic Muslim Registry, which Trump did talk about for a bit on the campaign trail (here comes the yellow crescent), what is really on their agenda? "You know, it's the Muslims, both at home and abroad who are the cause of all of our troubles. Any of them might be, might become, or might harbor, a terrorist. We've got to know who and where they are." What an irony it would be if the U.S. Muslims became Trump's Jews.

And then, the cultivation and maintenance of fear. No fascist regime has ever gotten into power and remained there without it. There has not been a foreign "terrorist" attack in the United States since 9/11. (And, of course, the actual origins of that one are entirely uncertain). There have been plenty of domestic ones. And, of course, some of them were perpetrated by Muslims, except that they just happened to be U.S. citizens. It's the "foreign-born terrorists" about whom the fear must be generated, and who knows when the next false-flag attack might occur? (And, of course, domestic hate groups, of which there are hundreds, many of them potentially violent, cannot be a target. Why?  Many of them support the Trump Agenda.) The Ban serves achieving that end perfectly.

And so, there are two ways that the Ban can be seen:
  1. Either as a direct move towards fascism now or
  2. A clear indication that making that move sometime in the not-too-distant future is exactly what the Trump-Pence Administration is in the midst of planning to do.

Take your pick.

P.S.: Is an Emergency Powers Act next on the agenda, especially if there should just happen to be a "foreign terrorist attack"? After all, the Enabling Act, which gave Hitler his dictatorial powers, followed the Berlin Reichstag Fire, which, indeed, was a false flag attack.








 
Mike Pence Dominionist: The Next President of the United States? by Steve Jonas
February 26, 2017

Is Donald Trump already headed for self-destruction?  Or headed for an even more expensive Trump-branding business?  Or indeed headed for Trump-TV with an even bigger name recognition quotient?  Or impeachment by a Republican Party that quickly gets fed up with his total incompetence as Precedent or even more importantly with certain policies of his, especially in foreign affairs, and impeaches him?  Or perhaps it’s one or more of the at least five possible criminal investigations that are going on or might be going on that could catch up with him.

The five that I know of are: a possible RICO investigation connected with Trump University (and his settlement of the T.U. civil suits would not dis-connect him from such an investigation); Trump appears to have violated the U.S. embargo against Cuba (which would be highly ironic since he in part won Florida because of the “Cuban vote”); Trump may have violated the U.S. sanctions against Iran; and, if Russia really did interfere with the election and Trump’s communications with them during the elections in any way, even indirectly, dealt with interference, that would likely come  under the definition of treason.

Now, with Sessions in charge at would become The “Justice” Department, none of these would likely proceed, at the Federal level.  But one more states attorneys general might want to take one or more of them up, as New York Attorney General Schneiderman did with Trump University.  And of course, this list says nothing about the non-criminal conflicts-of-interest which could very well arise in the Trump Presidency, and could lead to him being forced out of it, by route or another.  So far, The Washington Post has counted 111 of them.

Which brings us to Vice-President Mike Pence, who could easily become President Mike Pence by any one or more of the routes described above.  Despite the fact that Pence made nice about the incident at “Hamilton” while his putative boss went on one of his classic Twitter rampages about the cast’s plea that an inclusive policy should emanate from the White House, in terms of policy and his underlying philosophy of government and positon on Constitutional government, Pence would be even worse than Trump.  I have detailed much of this material in an earlier column partially on Pence, but it is certainly worth looking at again, at least in my view.  In summary, Pence, nice smile and all, is a very dangerous political figure, on many fronts, but most especially on his underlying ideology that his religious doctrines — which begin with placing “God” above the Constitution (that’s called “Dominionism”) — should dominate government policy on a wide variety of issues.

Pence had thought about running for the current Repub. nomination in 2015;  after that didn’t pan out for him he was actually an early Cruz supporter, who then switched to Trump when the former dropped out.  As far as I can tell, he has not yet been openly labelled as a Dominionist, but his policies clearly place him in that camp.  Not particularly in order of importance:

  1. There was an outbreak, epidemic really, of HIV/AIDS in South Eastern Indiana, related to the use of dirty needles by IV drug users.  Pence believes the scientifically disproven myth that the provision of clean needles to such persons helps spread addiction (which is, of course, a sin donchaknow, as well as being illegal).  Eventually, his public health people and local authorities got to him in terms of persuading him to do something.  The first thing he did was to “pray on it.”  For some reason, that didn’t seem to work, so he reluctantly approved clean needle exchange.
  2. Then there was his well-known support of so-called “religious freedom” legislation in Indiana which legalized discrimination against the LGBT community.  As I have pointed out frequently, this kind of legislation allows members of one religion, with the support of the State, to discriminate against members of another religion (and there are plenty of LGBTQ people who are religious).
  3. As a member of Congress, Pence led a fight to de-fund Planned Parenthood, back in 2011.  Quoting from an article that appeared at the time:  “Abortion-rights advocates and abortion-rights opponents don’t see eye to eye on much, but they do agree on this: Nobody hates Planned Parenthood quite as much as Mike Pence.”  Why?  Because a small portion of their budget goes to the provision of abortion services, none of them funded with Federal money (which would be against the current religion-based, religiously-biased law).
  4. Pence’s position on abortion, but more importantly the basis for that position, became perfectly clear in the last segment of the Vice-Presidential debate between him and Tim Kaine on October 2, 2016.  Pence actually quoted a verse from the particular version of the Bible that he favors to justify his position that abortion should be illegalized.  (He attempted to separate himself from Trump’s sometime position that women having abortions should be punished, mainly by lying and stating that Trump never said that.)
  5. Briefly, this so-called “man of religious principle” certainly did lie a lot in that debate, claiming that Trump didn’t say a whole bunch of things for which there is video-tape evidence showing otherwise.  (It should be noted that the particular translation [from Latin and Greek — hardly a unified text to begin with] of the Bible that Pence would like to make the underlying basis of all U.S. law — the “King James” version, was a prepared by a committee of 52 scholars and theologians at the time of the accession to the throne of England of James VI of Scotland, I of England.)

But he made it very clear that he wants Roe v. Wade reversed, which would permit states like his to criminalize abortion, on religious grounds.  That is, he would use the power of the State to enforce the religious views of one segment of the population (and it doesn’t matter whether they constitute a majority or not) on everyone else.  That, folks, is called theocracy, operating under a theory of government called Dominionism or Reconstructionism (the U.S. is to be “reconstructed” under religious law).

Further, according to Jeremy Scahill, Pence has said that:

We’ll see Roe v. Wade consigned to the ash heap of history where it belongs,’ . . . .  As governor of Indiana, Pence signed a law requiring fetal tissue from abortions to be buried or cremated. . .  He has long sought to have 14th Amendment protections applied to fetuses, arguing that they should be declared persons. In Congress, Pence voted to criminally punish doctors who performed late-term abortions, except in cases where the woman’s life was in danger. . . . Pence opposed efforts to widen hate crimes laws to include attacks on LGBT people.
He tried to block federal funding of HIV treatments unless they came with a requirement to advocate against gay relationships. Pence opposes non-straight people serving in the military. ‘Homosexuality is incompatible with military service because the presence of homosexuals in the ranks weakens unit cohesion,’ he said. (From me: That homosexuals have been serving in the U.S. military apparently without ill effect since the Prussian General Baron von Steuben came to aid General Washington at Valley Forge with his 19 year-old French “secretary” [von Steuben did not speak French] would likely not impress Pence or get him to change his mind.)  Pence believes ‘the only truly safe sex … is no sex’ and once (falsely) claimed on CNN that ‘condoms are a very, very poor protection against sexually transmitted diseases.’ ”
 
Mr. Scahill documents a whole series of Pence’s far-right positions on everything from making the Patriot Act permanent to comparing “radical Islam” to the “evil empire of the Soviet Union,” but in my view, it is his above positions, ones that are all based on a particular religious doctrine, and placing them above any consideration of Constitutional law, that make this man particularly dangerous.  Despite his nice smile.  Worse even than Trump?  To the extent that theocracy is worse even than conventional Repub./Far Right government — plus Trump’s abominable personality/mental status/racism-Islamophobia-mysogny — yes.



 
Torture Works: Except Just not for Intelligence Gathering by Steve Jonas
February 12, 2017
 
President Trump declared during the Presidential campaign that he “would bring back” torture “because it works" – for intelligence gathering.  He has repeated the threat upon taking office.  Well, that is a position that has been extensively debunked over many years by many experts on intelligence gathering. Furthermore, in the United States presently, not only is the use of torture illegal under a variety of laws, it’s also unconstitutional (an historical fact overlooked by many observers).  It happens that the use of torture by any signatory to them is prohibited by the Geneva Conventions and the UN Convention Against Torture.
 
The United States is a party to both and both are signed and ratified U.S. international treaties.  And then, under article VI of the U.S. Constitution, as treaties signed and ratified by the US government, both Conventions are part of “the supreme law of the land and [further] the judges of every state shall be bound by them.”  Not that the Trumpites have not already demonstrated that they clearly do not care what is, or is not, written in the Constitution, but I do think that for opponents of its use in the US, this is an important and potentially useful consideration.
 
However, back to the, “Does torture work?” argument.  Well, it may not, for intelligence gathering, but it surely has a bunch of other functions where it has proved to be a most effective tool – for government repression of dissent and opposition.  Consider:
The German Nazi Gestapo, the Iranian Savak under that great US ally the Shah, the Japanese fascist era Kempeitai, the Argentine and Brazilian Generals, the Pinochet Regime and the Spanish Francoists have proven over and over again that torture does have its uses. Thus, first and foremost, it is a major instrument of terror against one's own population: it is a really good repressor of dissent.
Second, it is a very good tool for extra-judicial punishment, just as long as the regime using it makes sure that its details leak out, in a totally deniable way of course, to its own citizens.

Third, it is a very useful tool for repression in militarily occupied territories. Just ask the Japanese Kempeitai that operated in Korea and Occupied China about that one.

Fourth, it is very helpful when a regime is out to change the culture of its country and to wipe out historical memory of anything that went before it came to power.  Once they had restored corporate-clerical control of the country, doing so was perhaps the principal long-term goal of the Spanish Francoists. Torture was one of their stocks-in-trade.

Finally, in order to have this as a most useful instrument of national policy, one must have torturers.  Until Bush/Cheney came to power, Americans didn't do such things, officially at least. So, there weren't very many, if any, trained torturers amongst our armed and intelligence forces. But some were trained then, and, it seems, the Trumpites want to train many more.  And to train torturers, a government must torture.  And so, it seems, since everyone knows that “torture doesn’t work” (for intelligence gathering), training torturers must be to be able to implement one or more elements of the list above that the Trumpites have in mind, no?




 
Warning: Warnung Auch by Steve Jonas
February 6, 2017

I recently came across a fascinating book of history and political science on the development of fascism in a nation-state. For your edification, I am here presenting a few excerpts, with certain edits and alterations for present relevance.
A wholly definitive study is still impossible, because of the timing, and because many indispensable sources of information, such as party and organizational archives, such documents as income tax returns, intra-leadership communications, and "classified [for various reasons] documents," are as yet closed to scholars (unless leaked). With regard to many events, judgments must be based upon admittedly incomplete evidence. These difficulties, which always beset the student of contemporary politics, are aggravated here by the determined and well-organized efforts of the new government and party-in-power to discourage incisive research into its methods and objectives and to misrepresent many of its goals and techniques for reasons of political expediency. Deception is a political imperative in all government. In this regime, it is an applied science and a fine art."
"The new leaders who 'think with their hearts' repudiate all objectivity and scientific detachment as evil products of liberalism... Under these circumstances any effort at objectivity implies per se the adoption of an attitude evoking negative emotional response from the officials under observation. Like every form of highly emotionalized and subjectivized mass politics, Trumpism demands acceptance or rejection, period.

Only a social revolution can destroy the Trumpist state. Only an upheaval in which the political power of the economically-dominant sector of the ruling class is permanently broken by mass action from below can offer hope of weakening the grip upon the sources of power of the Trumpist state. The new Trumpist absolutism is the only possible source of power for the ruling class in the age of increasingly concentrated monopoly capitalism, since it protects their interests far better than any imaginable alternative.

In the run-up to Trumpism, the true left in the United States accepted this view of the situation. "But their small size, the destruction of the militant trade unionism that they had led many years before, undertaken by a concerted effort of the ruling class across the nation, and the incredibly destructive in-fighting over who indeed were the 'true leftists,' especially in relationship to the history of the Soviet Union and its leadership, and over the 'lesser of the evils' proposition, with the resulting failure to form a Popular Front, rendered them very limited in what they were able to do to effectively fight the onslaught of Trumpism. At the same time, the bourgeois liberal forces over the years leading up to the triumph of Trumpism, on the one hand implemented a large number of policies and programs which led directly into the hands of the Trumpites, and on the other, because of their politico-economic history and record, they were totally unable to design and present an electoral politico-economic program that was a clear alternative, capable of defeating the Trumpites."

So, from where might these quotes be drawn, you might ask. Well, the basic text, with which I have taken the (obvious) liberty of putting into the contemporary U.S. context in certain sections, is hardly contemporary. In fact, it is drawn from a remarkable book entitled The Nazi Dictatorship: A Study in Social Pathology and the Politics of Fascism, by Frederick L Schuman, Ph.D., an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago. "So," you might say, "what is so remarkable about that? A zillion of so books have been written about the Nazi era, a few even from a true left-wing perspective." "Well yes," I would respond. "That is so. Except that the first edition of this book, from which the bulk of the (edited/updated-to-be-sure) text was drawn was published, by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York, on April 22, 1935, with the second, historically updated edition published on May 11, 1936."

With this understanding, it should be quite easy to see where, in the original, words like "Nazi," "fascist," "Communist Party of Germany," "Socialist Party of Germany," and so forth appeared. And oh by the way, Prof. Schuman predicted the coming of the Second World War, as a natural outcome of fascism and its need for perpetual expansion. There are many lessons for the opposition to Trumpism to be drawn from this book and the history it presents, from a then contemporary perspective.

As for a definition of fascism-in-the-21st century, on the Trumpian model, I offer this one for consideration:

A politico-economic system in which the Executive Branch of the Government: regards the Constitution as in place only on paper; demonizes and then criminalizes all political, religious, and ideological opposition to its policies and programs; redefines the words "truth," "science," "data," "fact," and "reality" through the use of the Big Lie technique; regularly uses the Doctrine of White Supremacy/racism, xenophobia in general and Islamophobia in particular, and homophobia to achieve political ends; suppresses of the free vote by challenging the legitimacy of the electoral system; casts "the media" as a principal enemy, with the aim of suppressing dissent and promoting distrust in it and its reporting; all in service of the economically dominant sector of the capitalist ruling class: manufacturing, fossil fuels, agriculture/food, pharma/health services, retail, transportation, banking/investment/financial services.








 
The Repubs., the Religious Right, and the Criminalization of Religious Belief by Steve Jonas
January 13, 2017

With a great flourish, the Dominionist Senator from Texas, Ted Cruz, (while also clearly announcing, to his base in the Religious Right at least, his candidacy for the 2020 Republican Presidential nomination) introduced his “First Amendment Defense Act” into the new Congress, the 115th. His stated purpose is to protect the “freedom of religion” for persons who would like to prevent the Federal government (and presumably, eventually, State and local governments as well) from “retaliating against businesses or people who refuse service to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals.”  
Put differently, the bill states that “… the Federal Government shall not take any discriminatory action against a person… with a religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman…” That is, his bill, (and a similar one was supported by the incoming Vice-President Mike Pence when he was Governor of Indiana) would allow any person to discriminate against any other persons based on their sexual orientation, identity, or concept of what “marriage” is.  Sen. Cruz makes it clear that the protected, allowable discrimination is one that is specifically based on the religious belief of the discriminator.

Sen. Cruz and allies use a First Amendment argument in support of their proposed legislation.  Indeed, the first clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”. . .  Presumably, Cruz and his allies, like Senator Mike Lee of Utah, view having the unsanctionable ability to discriminate against persons based on who they are as people and/or certain of their actions and beliefs, that are neither criminal nor the subject of personal/civil intentional tort law, is a “right” that is indeed protected by the First Amendment.  I presume that they would argue not that the persons so protected would not be “establishing a religion” but would be simply “freely exercising” their own religious beliefs and, in many cases, those of the church to which they belong.

Well, let’s take a look at that argument (and I do not know if they would be making it or another related one, but if I agreed with them on this issue, it is surely the one I would be making).  First of all, what about the oft-quoted statement by Thomas Jefferson that the First Amendment establishes a “Wall of Separation between Church and State?”  Well actually, although that interpretation is highly common and has been often followed by the courts, when taken literally there is nothing in the clause that establishes that principle.  Indeed, the Religious Right often makes this argument.  (One contrast in Constitutional interpretation and history, implication vs. clear statement, is indeed the 2nd Amendment, which clearly begins with referring to a “well-regulated militia” as its subject.  But somehow, in Scalia-time, that first half of the sentence has been hived off and we are left with a “right” to totally unregulated gun ownership, including, I suppose, tanks and artillery.  But that is a matter for another time.)  And so, in opposing such Cruzist legislation (as I obviously do), I don’t use the “Wall of Separation” argument.

Rather I use the “establishing of religion” argument.  For in the Cruz-Pence-Dominionist approach to this issue they clearly advocate that government should use its power to protect the right of certain kinds of believers — to discriminate in the use of public facilities, when such discrimination by, for example, “race” or national origin would clearly be prohibited — as against the rights of other kinds of believers and indeed, like myself, atheists.

It is not as if members of the LGBTQ community are ciphers when it comes to belief.  Many members of these groups are quite religious and certainly share a belief in God with the Cruz/Pence/Lee wing of Christianity.  Their view of God, and what God sanctions and doesn’t, is just a different one, one indeed, for example, expressed these days by Pope Francis.

In my view, this is the ground on which the offensive against the very offensive views of Cruz, et al, should be undertaken: they want to use the power of the State to enforce one particular set of religious views against all others.  VERY dangerous for the body politic.  For if this kind of government-protected, religious-based, civil law discrimination against all believers who don’t happen to agree with the interpretation of “God” and “the Bible” held by Religious Rightist/Fundamentalists/Dominionists of the Cruz/Pence/Lee stripe, as well as of non-believers, makes its way into the law, what’s next?

However, in terms of abortion and contraceptive rights, the matter becomes even more serious.  Again, the position of those on the Religious Right who would ban abortion completely, or who would not use the “time-of-viability” standard that is generally accepted by the supporters of abortion rights/freedom-of-choice-in-the-outcome-of-pregnancy, or who would use the “fetal heartbeat” standard that is not regarded by medical science as an indication of any ability of a fetus to survive outside the womb, or who would legally sanction the religious view that “life begins at the moment of conception,” is that any violation of any of the legal rules that might be established under any of the above conceptions of “life,” would be enforced through the use of the criminal law, against either the women or their care providers, or both.  As their supporters will clearly tell you, all of the positions described above are sanctioned by them on the basis of their interpretation of Biblical Law, that is on the basis of a set of religious doctrines/dogmas to which they hold.

Just like there are many in the LGBTQ community who are quite religious, so are many women who seek abortions and providers who provides them.  And of course, in this arena too there are many non-believers.  And so, what the abortion-rights banners want to do is return to the time when the criminal law was used to enforce one particular set of religious beliefs against all of the others, both religious and non-religious.

It is to these grounds that I believe we must turn the battle.  Do I believe in the “woman’s right to choose?”  Of course, I do. Do I believe in the rights of the LGBTQ community to live as equals, with equal protection of the law, as under the 14h Amendment?  Of course I do.  But what we have now shaping up under the Trumpite/Repub./Religious Right machine is actually a possible return to the European religious wars of the 16th and 17th centuries, in which people slaughtered each other in the tens of thousands over particular interpretations of Biblical text that were at odds with one another.

I believe that facing a very determined Repub./Fundamentalist/Religious Right in power, that the abortion rights forces must move beyond the “woman’s right to choose” and the “Constitutional right to privacy” (which is only an implied one) arguments.  I believe that the LGBTQ community has to move beyond “fairness,” “justice,” and even the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment (of which argument I was a very early supporter, even before the development of the “Prop. 8” battle).  What the Religious Right wants to do is use the power of government, of the State, in the civil law in one case, the criminal law in the other, to impose their own religious doctrines and dogmas on everyone else, regardless of their own religious beliefs.  It is to this formation of religious bigotry, oppression, and authoritarianism that we must re-direct the struggle —- indeed for true religious liberty.

These are very dangerous times.




 
Trumped by Steve Jonas
January 24, 2017

“Trumped” is a word that has at least three distinct dictionary meanings.  One refers to card games in which a particular card or a particular suit outranks another, at all times during a given game, as in the game of Bridge.  Then there is: “to excel; surpass; outdo.”  And then there is “trumped up,” that is “to devise deceitfully or dishonestly, as an accusation; fabricate.”

After this U.S. election season, another meaning may well be added to the list, if not in the dictionary cited, then perhaps in one or more others.  That would be something like “to be taken in/mis-led by, to be beaten by, to be evaded by, to be assaulted verbally and/or physically by, to be civilly or criminally discriminated against by, Donald J. Trump.”  In the context of Donald J. Trump, “Trump” is of course a proper noun.  However, since USA persons have never met a noun they didn’t want to verb, “Trumped” will like take on another verb identity in the U.S. lexicon (if not in that of English in general).

Many of us political observers/analysts have written extensively about this particular Trump for quite time.  One question about him that many of us have dealt with over time is: “is he crazy or “crazy like a fox.”  After being on one side, then the other, I have now come firmly on the side of “crazy like a fox.”  I think that this man is not out-of-control, ever.   I think that he only appears to be, on occasion, and I think that that is planned.  Since he started the Republican Party towards an openly racist platform in 2011, when he was one of the inventors of the fake news story about President Obama’s birthplace, religion, and etc., he has had the whole thing completely under control. 

In sum, I think that his speeches, gestures, yelling, put downs, personalization's and vehement personal attacks, are all planned, and unless he is really good at improv as an actor, rehearsed.  After all, if Hitler could rehearse all of his seemingly “spontaneous” gestures, facial expressions, and etc. (and it turned out that he did), Trump could too.
 
Trump is a past-master at following the number one Lee Atwater dictum of how to practice effective politics: “always attack; never defend.”

Trump may well write his famous tweets himself, but who can say that they are not ghost-written.  For he never seems to be sleepy during the day, and if he is up for significant hours during the night, following events and then tweeting about them, when does he sleep?
But what is happening now?  How are we and the nation going to get “Trumped” in this newest sense of the word?  Following what has been going involving both Trump, his cabinet-designees, and his staff appointments since the election, l don’t think that he is going to stay in the Presidency for very long.  (From the progressive side, I don’t think that this outcome should be met either by cheering or even feeling of relief for, as I have written, Mike Pence is even, in some ways, more dangerous than Donald Trump.)  I think that either he will be impeached (as I have projected in the past) or he will resign, with the appropriate flourishes about “patriotism and being able to serve the country better” on the one hand, and a series of vicious personal attacks and attacks on the media on the other. The latter—leaving aside the Trumpian character being discussed—well merited, as the mainstream media in the United States is a national and international disgrace.

If he hangs around long enough to be impeached, by his own party of course, it will have to do with policy.  As is very well-known, the Military-Industrial Complex is an essential engine of the US economy.  If it were not for the massive Federal government spending that supports it, the U.S. economy would likely collapse, not to mention stop enriching a cabal of defense contractors, hangers-on and sundry affiliated plutocrats that constitute a singularly malevolent power within the folds of the so-called Deep State.  So, any Trump-talk against NATO is against the interests of the dominant sector of the U.S. ruling class.

One must also note that talk of cozying up to Russia has, unfortunately, entrapped more than one progressive into thinking that there is a “good side” to Trump.  There isn’t.  (I am not oblivious to the huge bonus of de-escalating tensions with Russia, a peer nuclear power, a good that requires no further comment. If that is accomplished, it is something entirely desirable, for the United States and humanity, and something that no genuine progressive can obstruct or complain about. However, I will be explaining my rationale for suspecting even this promised deterrence in a future column.)

Saying that Trump would be a “good fascist” because he might get some reduction in the number of nuclear weapons on both sides (so that mankind could be wiped only five times over by a nuclear war instead of ten times] is like saying that Francisco Franco, the fascist Dictator of Spain, was a “good fascist” because he didn’t come into the Second World War on the side of the Axis Powers.  Why he didn’t even take over Gibraltar from the British, which he could have done easily, in June 1940, when Britain had all it could do just to get most of its troops home from Continent through Dunkerque and then prepare for the Battle of Britain.  No, Franco was a smart guy, and had a pretty good idea that the Allies would eventually win, especially after the U.S. came into the War, which they eventually did.  But, back to policy.

As I have said, BY HIS APPOINTMENTS THOU SHALT KNOW HIM.  Remember, that the former Ted Cruz leadership, including Steve Bannon, took over the campaign when they came on board in August.  This completed the appropriation of the Trump campaign by the formal far right-wing of the Repub. Party which began with Trump’s pick of Pence as the VP nominee.  Trump — and it is likely not Trump himself who has made most of the picks, but rather the transition team under Pence’s leadership — has indeed loaded his cabinet with many top representatives of the dominant economic wing of the ruling class.  It now has a control of the U.S. State unlike anything we have seen since March 3, 1933. This is the swamp on steroids.
 
They will not tolerate a whole series of Trump policies, like trying to make nice, or nicer, with Russia and possibly undermining NATO (see statements by General Mike “Mad Dog” Mattis, incoming Secretary of Defense), or actually building a physical wall at the Mexican border (a legal impossibility given land ownership, among other things) of which the incoming Secretary of Homeland Security, General John Kelly, is not supportive, to say nothing of his position on Russia as an adversary, not a friend.

Trump also has major differences of opinion with the Republican Congress on matters ranging from what should “replace” Obamacare (of which Trump was a leader of the racist campaign for its destruction, even though, again, Obamacare, originally and by definition is a capitalist Republican construct that favors the insurance industry at the expense of the public).  Trump says that he wants to retain major features of it, which absolutely cannot be done financially without some kind of “mandate,” even if called by another name.  He also says that he wants to preserve of Social Security, which many Congressional Republicans essentially want to destroy, by “privatization.”  These conflicts would, in my view, eventually lead the Repubs. to remove him one way or another.  But there is also an alternate version of my previously published alternate scenario, leading to his departure from the White House (if he ever actually moves there).

I do happen to think that both all the fuss over whether or not the Russians interfered in the election, whether or not Trump colluded with the Russians in said interference (and no documented proof of such interference has yet been made public, if it indeed even exists — if it does, that would be treason, of course), and whether or not there really is a “sex tape” (which, if one is actually produced, Trump would claim is photo-shopped and his supporters would believe him) will have little if any impact on Trump’s eventual departure from the Presidency.   For I believe, in the end, that he is crazy like a fox and never thought that he could win the office (and indeed would not have had it not been for the Comey and other parties interference, a prime example of Ruling Class, not Russian, intervention.)

Following what he has been doing since the election, I have come to the conclusion that, not thinking he would win, Trump had three objectives in mind all along: one was to vastly expand his already world-wide brand (including possibly starting up a “Trump TV”).  The second, related one, was to vastly increase his wealth and that of his family.  (Of course, no one but his accountants know about how much he is worth, but whether it’s a lot or not so much, he is now in a position to vastly increase it.)  He also knows, that for all of his squirming on “handing over the business(es)” hither and yon, there is no way that he will eventually be able to get out of being hung on conflicts-of-interest (over and over again) as well as the nepotism and emoluments statutes.   The third was to establish his own, far-right, but Trumpist, not Republican, political party.  It would be modeled on the European far-right parties, and of course he would be completely untrammeled (as if he is much “trammeled” now). In that sense, he could emulate France’s Le Pen trajectory.

And so, if impeachment is not set in motion, I do think that at a time of his own choosing, with a speech that will curdle milk at a thousand yards, he will resign, while rallying a significant chunk of his minority of electoral support to him personally (thereby giving the Repubs. a very serious problem).  It will also present all of the anti-Trump forces, ranging from the (reactively) progressive wing of the Democratic Party, to a variety of non-socialist anti-fascist forces of various stripes, to a variety of socialist parties of various stripes, an historic opportunity to finally end the Civil War, rid the country of the plague of the Doctrine of White Supremacy, and point it in as progressive direction as can be achieved under capitalism (not that progressive, but better than we have now), under (I hope) the banner of a newly-minted Popular Front.  More on the latter anon.

In conclusion, unless he is impeached, we shall all be Trumped, with the man having the last word, at least for now.








 
The Repubs.’ New – Old – ‘New-Trumpian’ Base: The Religious Right, Part 1 by Steve Jonas
January 12, 2017
 
In the 1980 Repub. primaries, Ronald Reagan won a convincing victory over George H.W. Bush.  Reagan was considered a “new” Republican, in the Barry Goldwater mold, while George Herbert Walker Bush was considered an “old” Republican, in the Nixon mold, but with the latter’s many rough edges burnished away.   Bush was indeed an old Republican, but from a line of true right-wingers, very unlike Ike “Let’s Continue on with the New Deal but Just Modify it a Bit here and There” Eisenhower.  In fact, a G.H.W. Bush grandfather, George Herbert Walker, was a very early (1923) foreign contributor to Adolf Hitler and the German Nazi Party.  GHW’s father, Prescott Bush, was a banker for Nazi Germany, who continued doing business for them after Nazi Germany declared war on the United States following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  Indeed, Franklin Roosevelt, who of course knew the Bushes socially, had to call Prescott in February, 1942 and threaten him with arrest and imprisonment under the Trading with the Enemy Act if he did not stop doing so.

None of this information was ever made very public, however, and GHW Bush sailed along, both politically and in government, becoming CIA Director under President Gerald Ford, 1976-77.   Of course, among other things, this Texan was “Texan oil” while Reagan, the former “B movie” movie star and spokesman for Chesterfield cigarettes and General Electric, later Governor of California, was, in part, at least, backed by California oil (as well as a group of very wealthy, right-wing, California businessmen, brought together behind him by his second wife’s (Nancy) far right-wing physician father).  And in the primaries Reagan was moving steadily Right, never letting Bush outflank him, beginning what I have for some years now called the Rightward Imperative of the Republican Party.  It had started when Nixon developed what was called “The Southern Strategy” (politically taking over the South when the Democrats pushed through civil rights legislation in the mid-1960s) and the “War on Drugs,” both racist enterprises aimed at cornering the racist/white supremacist vote for the Repubs. (a strategy that has worked very effectively for them down to this very day).

Reagan added a new wrinkle for them, which has also worked down to this very day: forging a close alliance with the Religious Right.  Now both George and Barbara Bush, as noted being, in relative terms, old-line Republicans, and certainly traditional Protestants, were believers in birth control and in fact had been long-time Board members of the Texas Branch of Planned Parenthood.  Reagan surprised Bush with the offer of his Vice-Presidential slot.  One of the conditions he placed on the offer was that both Bush’s resign from their Planned Parenthood Board seats.  Which they promptly did. And so began the Republicans’’ alliance with the Religious Right, which has grown ever-closer over the years.

As is well known, the Religious Right is against equal rights for the LBGTQ community, is against freedom-of-choice in the outcome of Pregnancy, is against birth control in general and using public funds for its support in particular, is for taxpayer funding for parochial schools and home-schooling (most of which is carried out by Religious-Rightists who don’t want their children “tainted” by “modern” ideas like the theory of evolution or the scientific understanding that human-caused global warming is a very real and very present danger), and in general are against any government regulations that offend their “religious sensibilities.”  And these policies have been central planks in both Repub. policy and the Party’s platforms for many years now.
 
The Party has long fought to maneuver the anti-abortion rights (hardly “Pro Life”) movement into a position where Roe v. Wade could be successfully overturned by a Republican Supreme Court.  In modern times, the Party is violently opposed to the Obergefell decision extending gay marriage rights to all 50 states, strongly opposes any efforts the Federal and State levels to provide discrimination protections for the LGBTQ community, and so-on-and-so-forth, and many elements in it would hope that a Repub. Supreme Court would overturn it too.

And so, in every election from 1980 through 2012, win or lose, the Religious Right was a central part of the Republican base.  For example, in the 2004 Presidential election, Karl Rove, running an increasingly unpopular candidate (President George W. Bush), arranged to put antigay marriage amendments-or-such on the ballots of 12 swing-and-usually-reliably-red-but-not-always states to draw Religious Rightists to the polls.  The strategy worked, to perfection.  In 2012, Mitt Romney supported the “person-at-birth” Constitutional amendment.

But then came the 2016 election and the rise of you-know-who.  Not exactly an ideal candidate with whom to woo the Religious Right: twice-divorce/thrice-married, a proudly boastful “lady’s man,” a former Democrat who had supported abortion and gay rights, and who as an upper-crust New York businessman has many gay friends and associates, who in his businesses did not, shall we say, operate at the highest level of ethical standards, was not a regular church-goer, mis-cited the Bible when given the opportunity, and so on and so forth.  Furthermore, he appeared to be appealing to white workers left behind both by the export of capital and the automation of production.

Indeed, A) Trump was openly running on racism (from his birtherism to his anti-Mexican xenophobia), B) he undertook what in hindsight was a brilliant and brilliantly executed strategy to develop a totally non-traditional base, for Repubs., in the white working class, his racism certainly appealing to some of them, and C) openly revealed a strong authoritarian streak.

Now that set of positions just happens to appeal to persons who believe that a particular English translation of the Bible, created by a committee of 52 scholars and theologians at the beginning of the 17th century for the English ruling class --- the “King James Version” --- somehow represents the “inerrant word of God.”  And not only that, that following its prescriptions, as interpreted by the true believers, of course, should be enforced on everyone else, by the use of the criminal law if necessary.

This theory of government places “God,” as interpreted by certain persons, of course, above the Constitution.  It is known as “Reconstructionism/Dominionism.”  Among the prominent Republican Dominionists are the Vice-President-elect, Mike Pence, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Dr. Ben Carson, and Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.  Nevertheless, Trump, even if not an obvious true believer himself, and apparently not a Dominionist (if for no other reason that being one would place God above himself) did appeal in one or another way to Republican Religious Fundamentalists.

The speed at which the volte face in terms of who and what the true Trumpite base is/are is being undertaken is quite remarkable.  I will begin to deal with how the Left may be able to deal effectively with this ever-growing threat in my next column.




 
OpEds: A Trump Retrospective by Steve Jonas
January 4, 2017

Looking back through my files, I have discovered that I have been writing about Trump, Trumpism, and the Trumpites for quite some time.

In this column, I am briefly reviewing my Trump columns that have appeared on The Greanville Post, under my general heading “The Duopoly Watch.”  Not too many observers, including myself, thought he could win the Presidency.  But hindsight is 20/20.
 
Now, given the strength of his combination of bringing out into the open the traditional Republican racism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, and misogyny, and the many weaknesses of the Democratic Party and its candidate, it seems that is was almost inevitable.  So, this column presents something of a time-line following the development of Trumpism along, to the present, where we face the imposition of a 21st century form of fascism on our nation.  That its putative leader was elected by a minority of the voting public, just as Hitler was (indirectly in that case), is no accident.

1. “Trump — Racist — Revisited,” was published on August 18, 2015.  I began that column thusly:
Over four years ago .   .   . I published a column on Donald Trump    entitled ‘Yes, Trump is a blowhard,’ and no he doesn’t have any real programs to    offer that would have a chance of solving the problems he likes to list (some real;   some imagined.  His new [old by Repub. standards] ‘immigration’ policy is a bad joke  [see below]).  But like just about every other political commentator on our side    around, I still find it irresistible to launch broadsides at him.”
2. The next column, on Oct. 2, 2015, was “Hair Trump or Herr Trump?”  At the beginning of that one I noted that: “The Web is suddenly crawling with images of Trump as Hitler — the idea has apparently caught on. To what extent this is the weight of the establishment attempting to quash Trump as an unwelcome messenger is anybody’s guess at this time.”  The column explores the historical similarities, as they were apparent in Trump’s case at the time, between himself and his movement and Hitler’s, and the differences as well.

3. On Armistice Day (now called Veterans’ Day), 2015, I began a discussion of “Fascism in the 21st Century, considering, in Part I, “Briefly, Its 20th Century Background.”  In that column I presented my own, brief definition of the term, drawn from my own work, (see esp. Appendix II of The 15% Solution), and of course many other sources.  It is:
A politico-economic system in which there is: total executive branch control of both the legislative and administrative powers of government; no independent judiciary; no Constitution that embodies a Rule of Law standing above the people who run the government and the executive, legislative and judicial bodies through which they do so; no inherent personal rights or liberties; a single national ideology that first demonizes and then criminalizes all political, religious, and ideological opposition to it; the massive and regular use of hate, fear, racial and religious prejudice, the Big Lie technique, mob psychology, mob actions and ultimately individual and collective violence to achieve political and economic ends; a capitalist/corporate economy; with the ruling economic class’ domination of economic, fiscal, and regulatory policy.”
4. I then continued the discussion: “Fascism in the 21st Century: Part II, A 21st Century Adaptation.”  It describes how the Republican Party in general and Trump in particular have been tailoring the essential components of the fascist system, without of course using the term, to their own 21st century needs and the realities of the time.

5.  On December 15, 2105, I demonstrated how this has been done by the Repubs. over time and now picked up and writ large by Trump in “Trump, the Right-Ward Imperative, and the Republican Party.”

6.  On May 12, 2016, I wrote about “How the DLC Democrats Helped to Make Donald Trump, Presidential Candidate.” And by making the FDR/LBJ-before-Viet-Nam party into a moderate right-wing party under the Clintons, et al, they did just that.

7. On June 16, 2016, I considered how the Trumpite/Repub. response to the Orlando Pulse night club mass-murder solidified their identification as the Party of Hate, in “Orlando, Trump, Identity-Group-Hate-Politics, and the Republican Party.”

8. By June 21, I had come to the conclusion that Trump had definitely turned the corner towards true fascism, as defined above, because he had acquired his first significant economic ruling class support, in “Donald Trump: Turning the Corner Towards Fascism (But First Let’s Define It).”  In it I reiterated my position that we certainly can correctly use the terms “fascism” and “fascists” in relation to Trumpism, the Trumpites, and their supporters within the contemporary “mainstream” Republican Party.

9. On September 14, 2016 I began a two-part series on how, given the rapidly accelerating decline of the effectiveness of the capitalist mode of production in the United States (and elsewhere as well, of course), that fascism would eventually come here, Trumpism and the Trumpites, or no.  In the second part of that series, I posed the question as: “Do You Want Fascism to Come to the U.S. Sooner, or Later?”

10. Just after the election, on November 14, in “Racism—Aided by Democrats’ Numerous Betrayals—Wins Again: The Duopoly at Work,” I returned to the theme of Trump’s underlying racism and how it was one of the major keys to his winning the election.  (And how ironic it is that he won the position because of the existence in the Constitution of the Electoral College, originally emplaced there primarily to help the original slave states protect their human property and property rights [wrongs], an ideology based on the Doctrine of White Supremacy.)

11. Finally (for 2016) there was my most recent column for The Greanville Post: The Duopoly Watch, “Trump and the Ruling Class.”  In it, I defined the term “ruling class” as:
That collection of owners, high-level administrators, and bankers/financiers that controls the major structure and functions of the economy of a nation, and through the exertion of various forms of power (including force when necessary), its political structure and functioning as well.  In the modern industrial world, for the most part they do this through the mechanism of political parties and elections.”
I noted that the economically dominant sector of the U.S. ruling class, manufacturing, fossil fuels, military-industrial complex, big pharma/agricultural/retail, and etc. has not had full control of State Power in the U.S. since the end of the Hoover Administration.  They’ve got it now, and they’ve got a 21st century-type fascist at the head of it.

Next comes the development of the Resistance.  We, and many others of course, will be following that with great interest, as well as taking part in its development.





 
Trump and the Ruling Class by Steven Jonas
December 22, 2016

In my previous column on this subject I defined the term “ruling class” as:
That collection of owners, high-level administrators, and bankers/financiers that controls the major structure and functions of the economy of a nation, and through the exertion of various forms of power (including force when necessary), its political structure and functioning as well.  In the modern industrial world, for the most part they do this through the mechanism of political parties and elections.”
I also noted that in terms of the relationship between the  ruling class and the government in what are generally called “Constitutional democracies,” Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, the great theoretician and leader-in-practice of socialist revolution, who termed government “the State,” concerning the nature of “constitutional democracy” under capitalism, put it this way:
To decide once every few years which member of the ruling class is to repress and crush the people through parliament – this is the real essence of bourgeois parliamentarism, not only in parliamentary-constitutional monarchies, but also in the most democratic republics.”
Now both Trump and Clinton are strongly tied to the ruling class.  Clinton, of course for the most part is still tied to the right-wing of the Democratic Party, what used to be called the Democratic Leadership Council (and to which I still refer by its initials, the “DLC,” even though on paper it no longer exists).  This is the moderate-reformist party, especially in such realms as civil, gay, and women’s’ rights—normally called “identity politics.”  Trump managed to create an amazing mélange of positions during the campaign, while not tying himself to the Republican Party per se in toto.  (I don’t think that he ever once mentioned the Republican Party platform, generally a concoction of far-rightist positions that all but the furthest right Republicans never even mention themselves.  In all likelihood, Hillary would have done much better if one of her campaign themes had been to tie Trump to that platform, over and over again.  But Democrats never engage in that sort of hand-to-hand combat anyway.)

On the one hand Trump brought out into the open, without using modifiers of any kind, the long-standing multi-prejudicial base of modern Republican thought: racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and Islamophobia.  On the other hand, he appealed to the “little guy,” especially those older white workers in the Middle West who have been left behind and generally out-of-work, by both the shipping of manufacturing jobs abroad and the replacement of them in the U.S. by CARs. (That is, Computerization, Automation, Robotization, all inherent in the inevitable technologization of the economy which constantly seeks to make labor more efficient but also shrinks the need for workers and always fails to share with the workers the increased profits arising from evermore automated production). 

In the context of a generally racist message, he did rail against “trade deals” (as if his adopted party did not provide the original impetus for them going back to Nixon), talked about tariffs and stated over and over again that he would “bring jobs back” without ever saying with any precision (except to invoke “tariffs”) how he would propose to do this.  And so, as is well-known, because of the existence of the institution that is a legacy of slavery, the “Electoral College,” (there is no equivalent in any other advanced capitalist country), while Hillary received about 48% of the popular vote and he received only about 46%, a total of about 3,000,000 votes less, he won.  (Trump’s definition of a “landslide,” in his favor of course, is a marvel of modern English, or Trumplish as it might be better called.)

Now, given at least some of his rhetoric, one might think that he might not represent that wing of the ruling class to which I referred in my previous column as the “Dominant Wing.”  Not dominant in the sense that they have always been to control the levers of power of the State, but dominant in the sense that they have always held the levers of power of the economy, in the manufacturing, transportation, energy-provision, pharmaceutical-food-retailing, and especially the banking/financial sectors.  Ironically, because they had a candidate who did NOT appear to represent them in the way that say, Mitt Romney did, they won. 

Trump has very quickly moved to the appointments phase of the “Transition.”   And, as I have said previously, BY HIS APPOINTMENTS THOU SHALT KNOW HIM.  To date, his appointees have a collective personal wealth well exceeding $10 billion.

One wonders if any of his supporters have noticed what is going here and are perhaps having second thoughts. Certainly not at his “rallies,” currently billed as a ”thank you victory tour” which he holds instead of press conferences, and increasingly have a ring of earlier time in another country.  Interestingly enough, Trump is now talking about retaining his own security guards in addition to the Secret Service.  Many people don’t know that in Nazi Germany the Schutzstaffel — literally “protection squadron” — otherwise known as the SS, began its existence as Hitler’s personal body guard because he didn’t trust the instruments of the State which were, theoretically at least, already under his control.
 
(But the Trumpites are taking no chances with making sure that they have a “base.”  They are already assuming that at least some of their white working class base will wise up to the fact that the dominant sector of the ruling class can in no way represent their interests.  And so they are moving very rapidly to firm up their base in the Christian Right, among which, of course, Mike Pence gives them a huge head-start.  Ted Cruz of course recognizes this and is already preparing to run in the 2020 Republican primaries against Pence (very likely, one way or another, Trump will be gone by then), competing for the support of the same base, by sponsoring a bill that would impose Christian-Rightist/Dominionist ideology on just about everyone and every behavior they consider to be “immoral” and “sinful,” and we know who and what they are and that is.)
 
By his appointments, Trump has very quickly provided the dominant sector of the ruling class full control of the Executive Branch.  They also now have full control at the Congressional level and soon will have full control of the Supreme Court as well.  And those folks certainly do not have any interest in meeting the needs of any segments of the U.S. working class, regardless of ethnicity.  In fact, quite the opposite.   And because Trump does not expose himself to the press in open forums, he cannot be asked about the overwhelming contradictions between his campaign rhetoric and the nature/values of his appointees.

Further, as is well-known, he has assembled a group of generally very wealthy, generally white men, with right-wing, indeed often far-right, views on every issue from the minimum wage (it should be as low as possible) to poverty (it’s the fault of the poor) to racism (it’s the fault of its targets) to education (it should be privatized and parochialized to the extent possible) to the provision of energy (it should be fossil-fuel based to the extent possible) to Social Security (it should be cut back), to the rights of women to be free of religion-based criminal law concerning personal health-and-wellness decision-making, to the provision of health care (profit-making should be even more of a major factor in it than it is presently, and if that means removing at least some insurance coverage from folks who have only recently received it, so be it) to, of course the over-riding issue for the future of our species as well as many others, global warming/climate-change.  And so on and so forth.  The list is very well-known.

But there are a few items of both the process and the content of what has been going on with the Trump-transition which are worthy of note (and certainly there are no exclusive notes here).  On foreign policy, there will be a distinct tilt towards Russia.  The “clash of capitalisms” about which I have written previously, is being dropped, or at least downplayed, as Exxon is moving to vastly expand its operations in Russia, especially in the depths of the Arctic Ocean.  (Just imagine what would happen with a well blow-out there.  Oh my!)  Whether there are also Trump personal financial interests in play here remains to be seen.

Of course, the U.S. military-industrial complex always needs an enemy.  Under Obama/Clinton it has been Russia.  With his opening to Taiwan, Trump seemed to tilt towards substituting China for Russia, and with the TPP, designed in part to isolate China in trans-pacific trade, Obama was moving in that direction too.  But Trump may find it politically impossible, even for a politician as slippery as he is, to resurrect the TPP.  And in any case, there are a variety of reasons, from trade, to US investments/markets (think Boeing, GM, and Caterpillar), to the U.S. debt that China holds, that that might be such a good choice. My guess? It’s going to be Iran, and wouldn’t that make a whole bunch of people on the Hill (think Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and the fossil-fuel industry who came out against the deal on the morning it was announced before he could possibly have had more than the vaguest idea of what is in it) as well as in Israel as well as in the Sunni sector of the Arab world (think Saudi Arabia) happy.


And by-the-way, all of Trump’s obvious conflicts-of-interest, his refusal to sell his businesses and put them in a blind trust, his already open-violation of the anti-Nepotism law and the Emoluments clause of the Constitution, are real problems. They could eventually lead to his impeachment as the dominant-ruling class sector Republicans come to the realization that they would do even better with this man who has the attention span of a flea out-of-the-way, with the self-consciously far-right/Dominionist Mike Pence in his place.  (His first response upon being told of the heroin-dirty-needle fueled AIDS epidemic in Southeastern Indiana?  To pray upon it.)  Never-the-less, to my mind they are for now at least, very useful media distractions for the Republicans as they move on so many fronts to set up the bases for and then implement one policy after another that are going to bring real harms to so many in the U.S., now and in the future.
 
Which brings to mind the question “who’s in charge here?”  Is Pence truly running things already?  On occasion during the campaign, both Trump and Pence hinted that Trump in the Presidency would be more like a Chairman-of-the-Board, while Pence would be the CEO.  While Trump made a big show of interviewing the supposed candidates for Secretary of State, a man with no obvious qualifications for the job, all of a sudden became the choice, and very quickly too.  (By the way, I do find it ironic that the “Order of Friendship” that Tillerson received from President Putin used to be called the “Order of Lenin.”)  As is well-known, Trump’s transition has been characterized by Tweets, rallies, and no demonstration of knowledge of or even interest in complex issues.  And of course, there are no easy answers to say, dealing with ISIS and its realities, as much as Trump and the Right-wing Scream Machine told us that there were, during the eight years of the Obama Presidency.  (And no, Bill and Sean, just referring to “Radical Islamic Terrorism,” will do nothing to solve the problem.)

(Again, for the record, and to remind everyone that we face not just a “Trump” problem or a “Republican problem” but a systemic, Duopoly problem:  both political parties represent the ruling class, and always have, just with, from time-to-time different emphases [as I pointed out in my previous column, on this subject.]  And so, to curse the Republicans while giving the Democrats a pass might be an exercise in dishonesty or self-delusion. Why is that so in this instance? Because it was the DLC Democrats, under the Clintons and Al Gore, who did that, not just by playing softball with their supposed ideological foes, but by constant chicanery and betrayals of what on paper they stood for, going back to FDR and the pre-Viet Nam LBJ.)

But getting back to “who’s in charge here?”  Just wondering.  Is Mike Pence, who fairly early on quietly replaced Chris “Bridgegate” Christie as the Director of the Transition, already moving into a controlling position?  I just noticed in The New York Times article about the choice of one Vincent Viola (yet another who should fit into the Trump Orchestra very well) as Secretary of the Army, that:
General [James “Mad Dog”] Mattis (Secretary of Defense-designate) had reached an agreement with Vice President-elect Mike Pence [emphasis added] that the new defense secretary would choose who would fill the top policy jobs at the Pentagon —   like Undersecretary of Defense and General Counsel — while the White House would select the service secretaries, like Mr. Viola.”
Mattis reached an agreement with Pence?  Really?  Who’s in charge here?  Just asking.





 
Part I: A Brief History of the Ruling Class in the U.S. by Steven Jonas
December 19, 2016

The Dominant Sector of the Ruling Class Takes Full Control


Intro: Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon-Mobil and Secretary of State Designate for the Trump “Administration,” has previously conferred with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin.  Putin actually conferred the Russian “Order of Friendship” on Tillerson, a prize known under the Soviet Union as the Lenin Prize. (The only thing that Putin has in common with Lenin is their first name.).  Criminal and duplicitous as Exxon has been in connection with the environment (among other things that it has been aware of human-caused/fossil-fuels-linked global warming since 1978), it is undeniable that for his own reasons, Tillerson might actually defuse the drive to war with Russia, and thereby give a   break to the planet, which a nuclear war would certainly finish off even quicker than climate destabilization. This is a political space that activists should employ wisely and promptly.

The term “Ruling class” can be defined as that collection of owners, high-level administrators, and bankers/financiers that control the major structure and functions of the economy of a nation and through the exertion of various forms of power (including force when necessary), its political structure and functioning as well.  In the modern industrial world, for the most part they do this through the mechanism of political parties and elections, which are naturally presented to the masses as “national” parties above narrow class interests.

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, the great theoretician and leader-in-practice of socialist revolution, said, concerning the nature of “constitutional democracy” under capitalism, put it this way:
To decide once every few years which member of the ruling class is to repress and  crush the people through parliament – this is the real essence of bourgeois  parliamentarism, not only in parliamentary-constitutional monarchies, but also in the most democratic republics.”

The ruling class of the United States has had two or three sectors controlling the political economy of the nation, ever since the Founding.  Up until the Civil War, once mercantile capitalism established itself in the North there were two: the Slavocracy in the South, represented in the national government by the Democrats, (who were anything but democratic), and the burgeoning mercantile- then industrial class in the North (represented by the Whigs).


After the First U.S. Civil War, the Northern capitalist class, operating the rapidly expanding industrial economy, came to be controlling.  The Whigs, with a few bits and pieces including the Temperance movement and the xenophobes of the “American Party” (both of which have remained in the GOP’s elemental fabric down to the present day) morphed into the Republican Party.  Although the latter had of course led the anti-Slavocracy North in the Civil War, it quickly morphed, after 1876, into the party of burgeoning capital. At the same time, it very conveniently allowed the successor to the Slavocracy — that is the Slavocracy in everything but the physical ownership of other human beings — to stay in place in the South.

In the late 19th century a third ruling class branch appeared, bent on reform of the worst excesses of rapidly expanding capitalism and its relations of production.  The leadership was provided by such men as William Jennings Bryan, Theodore Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson, and certain limited reforms were achieved under the Presidencies of the latter two.  It should be noted that even the very mild forms of socialism-under-capitalism, tolerated by their capitalist ruling classes as a way to maintain power without facing the risk of revolution, that appeared in certain countries in Western Europe, was never on the agenda of any the ruling class sectors in the United States.

The control of the dominant U.S. industrial ruling class sector outside of the South was re-established in the 1920 elections.  The appearance of the New Deal in 1933, in order to attempt to deal with some of the worst excesses, and indeed tragedies, of the Great Depression, was brought about by the re-emergence of the third-track reformist element of the ruling class.  Indeed, many observers at the time and since have regarded Franklin Roosevelt’s primary task, in which, with the help of the Second World War which made the United States one of the two dominant world powers, he succeeded admirably, was to preserve U.S. capitalism and it ruling class, without so much as a whiff of European socialist democracy.

The reformist wing of the ruling class preserved much of the New Deal under Eisenhower and then put certain of the demands of the Civil Rights movement, as well as a modest reform of the health care financing system for certain elements of the population, into legislation under Kennedy/Johnson.  Lyndon Baines Johnson planned a moderate expansion of the New Deal in his plan for a Great Society, but that, and he, as well as 2,000,000 Vietnamese and 57,000 U.S. servicemen fell into the swamp of the Big Muddy.  It was during that period that the formerly dominant, industrial-based (now joined by the Petro-chemical sector), right-wing element of the ruling class began its resurgence, starting with the candidacy of Barry Goldwater.  With fits and starts under Nixon, Reagan, Bush I and Bush II, they have been gradually reasserting that dominance.

With the emergence of the Democratic Party as the sponsor of civil rights legislation and what can be called the Second (Partial) Emancipation, the dominant sector’s political party, the Republicans of course, starting with Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” took over the successor to the Slavocracy ruling class sector.  They proceeded to totally integrate (if I may use that term) its policies, its programs, and its propaganda into that of the Republicans.  Indeed, they became the modern party of racism.  They have been greatly helped by the takeover of the Democratic Party by its own right-wing, called the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC).  Bill Clinton’s “achievements” highlight the role and function of this part of the Duopoly that has, since the collapse of the Great Society program, run the country. 
 
Barack Obama represented the modern version of the DLC, sort of fuzzying it up and moving forward on certain issues of personal liberty like gay rights, minor labor reform, and minor health care financing reform.  Of course, the expectation of most observers, including this one, was that this election would be won by the “other Clinton.”  But because of both the interference of the FBI Director, and the fundamental weakness of her campaign, which was stuck with her DLC-past, in the Electoral College she lost.  (There is a marvelous irony there.  In major part the Electoral College was created at the Founding to preserve and protect the interests of the Slavocracy.  It has now given us Trump and the re-emergence of the dominant, right-wing, sector of the ruling class [see below].) 
 
Clinton did not run a truly progressive (even in the capitalist-reformer sense) campaign.  Since the third, reformist element, of the ruling class had been crushed by the very force within the Democratic Party that her husband and she helped to create, she lost states which on paper she should have won, in part at least due to the rampant racism (and xenophobia, mysogny, and Islamophobia) of the Trump Campaign, which she did little to combat, and well as her “DLCish-ness.”
 
And so, surprise!  Trump wins.  No one except perhaps his most die-hard supporters expected that.  I certainly didn’t.  But he did.  And President he will be.  Just what sort of President he will be is another matter.  A real one, or a Twitter-hound who would really rather be doing something else — like making some real money now selling his name around the world? Since he has, for example, told us that he does not attend daily intelligence briefings and will not, because he “is very smart,” the indications are “something else.”  (Many observers are observing on that one and I will too, somewhere down the road.)  But whatever he does and however he conducts himself once in office, what he has done with his announced appointments is make it quite clear that finally, after many fits and starts over almost a century since the election of 1933, the fully-right wing/reform-forget-it, industrial/Petro-chemical/food-pharma-retailing/financier, ruling class sector is fully back in power.

Ironically for the consciousness of most mainstream liberals, actually a shock if they realized it or if someone they trust told them, the GOP’s revival is directly the product of deliberate and typically duplicitous Democratic party policies under the  Clinton/Obama regime. In 2008, even modest but real reforms implemented by Obama when the nation literally demanded change after the Bush2 debacle, was squandered via the continuation of certain Bush policies behind a different mask, while Obama and the DNC, by not confronting the Repubs. directly on so many occasions, went out of their way to help pick them up from the canvas.

Although there is enormous resistance to Trump—much of it as usual for the wrong reasons—and Trump is a minority President, he and the Dominionist Mike Pence are technically fully in control of the levers of government, through the Executive and Legislative branches, and soon enough the Supreme Court too.  And it is those class interests, or, again, more precisely, those specific factions within the ruling class, which without any need to compromise, nor any need to genuflect even slightly in the direction of the traditional element of the Duopoly known as the Democratic Party, will be dominant for at least the next four years.

As I have said previously, BY HIS APPOINTMENTS THOU SHALT KNOW HIM.  We will delve more into what they mean and why they are happening in the next column.





 
The Phony War, Trump, and the U.S. Ruling Class by Steve Jonas
December 8, 2016

In the years leading up to the start of the Second World War in 1939, the Soviet Union tried vainly on several different occasions to get Britain and France to join together in an anti-German pact, in an attempt to deter Nazi aggression in Eastern Europe.  For a variety of reasons, the two Western Powers declined to do so.  Then on August 25, 1939, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union signed the “Nazi-Soviet Pact.”  For the Nazis, the primary objective was to continue their “Drang nach Osten” (Drive to the East).  Previously, the British and the French, refusing Soviet pleas to join in a pact to prevent the German invasion of Czechoslovakia, had strongly encouraged it with the Munich Pact in September, 1938.  For the Soviet Union, the Pact was intended to buy time before the eventual German invasion that Hitler had been writing about since the publication of Mein Kampf in 1926.  (That they made very poor use of the purchased time [and territory] is another story).

On September 1, 1939, using a false flag event, the German’s invaded Poland.  Great Britain and France, citing hastily drawn-up treaty obligations to Poland, declared war on September 3.  Germany rolled up its share of Poland (which included Warsaw) in about five weeks.  The English and the French mobilized, The English sent an expeditionary force to France.  There things stood, with very minor actions (including some at sea), until Germany invaded Norway and Denmark in April, 1940 and the Low Countries (Holland, Belgium, and Luxembourg) on May 10, 1940.  All of a sudden, the war in the West was on in no uncertain terms.  That interim period on the Western Front, in which little or nothing happened, had been quickly labelled 'The Phoney War.'  It was probably first given its name by the isolationist U.S. Senator, William Borah.

By all accounts, Hitler did not expect to be invading Poland with his Panzer divisions, opposed only by a Polish army heavily dependent on cavalry, in September, 1939.  Thus, on the Western Front, the Phoney War.  By all accounts, the Trumpites really did not expect to win the Presidency, although their hopes rose significantly upon the interference in the election by FBI Director, William Comey.  But win they did.  Unprepared and poorly organized for Transition as they apparently were (under the “leadership” of Chris Christie [who?]), I fully expected that Trump would do nothing more than issue his usual blusters on a periodic basis and also try to make nice, in a Trumpian sort of way, now and then.

Only after Inauguration would he then launch into full Trump mode, fully and openly in league with the reactionary forces that were increasingly gathering around him after the leading Far Rightist Steve Bannon, et al, joined the campaign in August.  It happens that the “et al” included Trump’s first really big money outside man, Steve Mercer, a major factor in the “hedge fund” wing of the ruling class.  Trump is rich (or at least he has claimed to be rich although declining to prove it through, let us say, release of his income tax returns), but he had never been a certified member of that class.  Now it was becoming clear that Trump was beginning to seriously move towards it.

And so, I must say that I thought Trump would engage in his version of the Phoney War right up until January 21, 2017, and then Boom!  But I was wrong.  Trump is nothing if not a clever marketer, particularly of himself and his name.  And so, almost since the election he has been engaging in a Trumpian Phoney War while also making it very clear what the Trumpian Real War will be like, once he takes power.  And so, on the one hand he makes nice.  “We all have to come together.”  He meets with the top leadership of The New York Times and, after slamming them as hard as he could during the campaign, he says words to the effect of that The Times is a great and important news organization.  (This, by the way, has to be seen in the context of his threatening libel suits and the “loosening of libel laws [which, by the way, cannot be done at the Federal level] during the campaign.)

He further makes nice with Megyn Kelly, Hillary Clinton, saying that she is a “nice person” and she shouldn’t be “locked up” (except when he threatens to try to do just that when she supports Jill Stein’s recount effort), Mitt Romney (a man of no principle whatsoever), Jeff Bezos, Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico, even Al Gore (who reveals just how much of a DLC-er/neoliberal he really is by even agreeing to meet with Trump, who says he has an “open mind” on global warming/climate change, except that he has appointed a bunch of people who give the lie to that statement), and so on and so forth.  “Making nice,” he doesn’t talk much about immigration policy or abortion rights, and so on and so forth on other Rightist policies too.
 
BUT, when it comes to his announced appointments, that’s where The Phoney War ends and the The Real War on — you name it — begins.  BY HIS APPOINTMENTS THOU SHALT KNOW HIM.  The only difference between now and Western Europe in 1939 is that they are both going on at the same time.  Whether Trump does this consciously or haphazardly is impossible to tell, at least for an outsider.  But it is happening.  After disdaining it in broad brush-strokes during the campaign, he is now clearly lining up with the dominant sector of the ruling class, represented as it always has been by the Republican Party.  And the agenda is the same: cut taxes for the wealthy, slash regulation, increase military spending (whether there are going to be more wars or not or just further pillaging of the treasury is still unclear), strengthen the “drug war,” slash the pitifully small “safety net,” expand fossil fuel production, and so on and so forth.

All of his appointments, so far, represent the ruling class and ruling class interest, writ large.  His Secretary of Education-designate, Betsy DeVos, is a long-time proponent of privatized public education and strong enemy of one of the last bastions of U.S. trade unionism that has any strength, that of the teachers.  His pick for Commerce, the billionaire Wilbur Ross, made at least part of his fortune by buying distressed companies, stripping them of usable assets, and selling off the remainder and the jobs that went with it.  (Sound familiar?  Romney did that sort of thing with Bane Capital, too.)  And the Treasury Secretary, another billionaire, comes from the same Goldman Sachs that Trump so maligned during the campaign, and as a banker (another Trump-maligned group, during the campaign) made tons of money from mortgage foreclosures during the last great (2008) financial crisis.

Rep. Tom Price, an orthopedic surgeon who will be taking over Health and Human Services, wants to make over the health care delivery system to buttress the interests of the insurance companies and private-practice fee-for-service medicine already in place by Obama policy. This is now again and overtly at the top of the healthcare overhaul list.  (And you can be sure that capping malpractice claims will be in there as well.)  Jeff Sessions at Justice?  Well it will become “Justice” in the usual sense of the word for such efforts as civil rights litigation (Sessions is against it), and he has vowed to reinvigorate the “Drug War” (marijuana, which kills practically nobody, as against tobacco products which are still killing about 480,000 persons per year, is such a dangerous drug, donchaknow) which will automatically expand mass incarceration, all of which benefits the private prison industry.

Then there’s Mitch McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao (talk about “draining the swamp,” ho, ho, ho), for Transportation (about which she apparently knows little), a former Secretary of Labor who made a name for herself with her anti-union policies.  One could go on and on (an EPA policy guy who is a climate change-denier, a possible choice for Interior, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, who wants to open up all Federal land to drilling and fracking, a strong anti-labor businessman for the Labor Dept.).  And the CEO of Exxon for Sec. State?  Can’t get any more ruling class running the State (at State) than that, can we?

But one has to finish up with Ben Carson.  Not only is he one of the most poorly informed people ever to run for President (except possibly for Trump himself), but just think of a Secretary of Housing and Urban Development who thinks that poverty is the fault of the poor.  (Of course, that thought has been around since the time of the Elizabethan Poor Laws, so it does have something going for it.)  Since he does come across as not particularly well-educated, he must have been a superb micro-carpenter and perhaps had something going for him that had nothing to do with medicine to become Chief of Pediatric Neurosurgery at one of the finest hospitals in the country, Johns Hopkins.  I would love to know the inside story of how he ever got that appointment, but it’s unlikely that it will ever come out.  And, just like the Vice-President-Elect, Carson is a Dominionist.

SO.  While the Trump-makes-nice Phoney War is underway (except for his Tweetish rants, which we will not get into here), the Real Trump War on the Nation is well underway.  And from Jan. 21, 2017, onwards, watch out U.S.

A couple of afterthoughts.

First, the well-thought-out beginning-of-the-abandonment of the One China Policy looks like it could be the beginning of a campaign to replace Russia as Enemy-No.-1 with China.  As is well-known, Putin and Trump said nice things about each other during the campaign.  We simply do not know how much Trump has invested in Russia and vice-versa.  And as for “Russian aggression,” the Georgian excursion was to protect a Russian-speaking minority, and went no further, while the Crimean excursion was to protect a Russian-speaking majority in that province as well as to secure Russia’s only warm-water port.  Not to mention the certified referendum vote was over 90% in favor of returning to the Russian fold.  Thus, all this talk about Russia’s aggression”, or “Russia’s Crimea annexation” (smells of Hitler, doesn’t it?), or Putin’s Crimean land grab, is so much malicious poppycock.

And any Russian “designs on the Baltic States” are in the real world about as fake news as that put out by the son and close counsel of the incoming National Security Advisor concerning the Clintons and a child-sex ring, the by now notorious “Pizzagate”.

Second, as for Boeing, I think that the threat to cancel the contract for a new set of Air Force Ones may have to do with Trump’s wanting to have his own plane done over at government expense and then make money on renting it each time he flies anywhere.  (That’s technically and security-wise impossible, of course.  Conflict of interest aside, for one thing his Boeing 757 is much too small.  But reality is not known to stop Trump much.)  OR, it may be a clear indication that Trump is intent on cancelling the Iran Deal (to the extent that he can do that given that there are five other signatories who have indicated that they have no interest doing so) and that he (and his foreign policy people of course) are VERY unhappy about the done Boeing contract to sell 100 jetliners to Iran.  And if you think that a Boeing lobbyist will be able to get in the door on that one, you have another think coming.
 

Post Script
 

As if to highlight my description of what’s going on in the Trump-Transition, two days after he had the meeting on climate change that Al Gore, ever the DLCer/neoliberal (stupidly) agreed to --- part of the Phoney War --- Trump appoints as Director of the Environmental Protection Administration Scott Pruitt, global warming/climate change denier and mouthpiece for the fossil fuel industry, as well as Attorney General for Oklahoma, home of the Fracking-Induced-Earthquake, who has spent tons of taxpayer money in his ongoing attempt to poison the air and water --- think non-regulation of water supplies and waste water contaminated by arsenic, lead, and mercury --- by demolishing the EPA and everything it does.  What does the ruling class want more than that?  Perhaps even more than it wants further tax-cuts-for-the-rich.  Pruitt is perhaps the leading avatar of the Real Trump War on the Nation.




 
In Honor of Fidel by Steve Jonas
December 6, 2016

Fidel Castro is one of the great figures, a luminary indeed, in development of socialism for the human species.  As I have written elsewhere (and certainly others have as well), the most important reason for the eventual development of socialism world-wide is that our species, and many others, will not survive in anything like our-their present form if that does not happen.  And so, in my view, we have to rate as Fidel’s primary achievement that with him and through him and the leadership he gathered around him, Cuba has become the only nation on Earth to establish socialism, without resorting to war with enemies both internal and extremal.  Given that Cuba’s most implacable foe is the most powerful capitalist country in the history of nation-states, and is, to the Florida Keys at least, only 90 miles away, for me this has to rank as his most remarkable achievement.

As is well-known, the United States ruling class has been at it for 55 years, time-and-again mobilizing the rabid Cuban-emigre community to do its bidding in a variety of ways.  It should be pointed out that the vast majority of these people chose to leave.  Except for a relative few, during the time of the Fidel-Carter “boat-lift,” only a few left involuntarily.  And of course, the anti-Castro/Cuba propaganda has been incessant, for all of these years.  (I did note, in the generally virulently anti-Castro/Cuban propaganda that has been spewing forth from the U.S. media in the wake of Fidel’s passing, that two of the most virulent commentators have been named Diaz-Balart.  One is a U.S. Congressman, the other a television personality.  One wonders of their particularly high level of hostility to Fidel, personally, has anything to do with the fact that his first wife, Mirta Diaz-Balart, was an aunt to both of them.)

U.S./anti-Castro-Cuban propaganda has from the beginning focused around the words “individual freedom, free speech, and uninhibited travel.”  Of course, if the U.S. had not been determined, almost from the beginning of Fidel’s government and the work to establish socialism in Cuba, to overthrow that government, perhaps it would have been possible to accommodate an opposition within Cuba.  But since that opposition’s no. 1 goal would always have been, and would be in the future were conditions to change within Cuba, to achieve that end, what motivation would there be for the Cuban government to accommodate those demands?

Further, it must be recalled that in the summer of 1962, as I was told by a U.S. Army captain who was part of the build-up taking place all along the East coast of the U.S., (I met him because he was the brother of a nurse I was dating at the hospital in rural New Jersey where I was doing part of my medical internship), the United States was actually preparing for the invasion of Cuba.  (This narrative was much later confirmed to me by a career Army officer, West Point grad., who was in the military at the time.)  That was the true origin of the “Cuban Missile Crisis.” Khrushchev did not arbitrarily place nuclear-tipped missiles in Cuba.  He put them there, in response to a request from Fidel, to provide a bargaining chip in protecting Cuba against U.S. aggression.  As is well known, it worked, although not in the way it is always presented in U.S. propaganda about the event.
 
But Fidel and the Cuban people have had another series of achievements which I think do not receive nearly enough attention.  The Cuban government may not allow those political forces which would attempt to bring them down to have free speech in Cuba. But at the same time, a great series of benefits for the lives of the Cuban people have been achieved.  As I have written previously, let’s consider what the Cuban people would NOT have were socialism to be overthrown there.  As I said in that column:
First off, Cuba would not have the national health service that it presently has that provides free health care to all Cubans, and also to foreign visitors who didn’t happen to travel with emergency health insurance.  [As for the situation in the U.S., of course, not only is there not “Medicare-for-all”, but if Trump’s nomination of one of the most rabidly right-wing physicians in the country to be his Secretary of Health and Human Service means anything, the Republicans are not only going to repeal Obamacare, depriving 20 million U.S. citizens of health insurance, but they are also going to go after Medicare.

"Cuba would not have free education, from pre-school through graduate school.  Cuba would not have an educational system for children/persons with developmental disabilities which a) provides for training so that each can become self-supporting as an adult if possible, and b) if not, then provides residential care for them for the rest of their lives.  Cuba would not have closed to a 100% literacy rate (one of   the first major accomplishments of the Cuban revolution).  By contrast, in 2013 in the    United States, 32 million adults could not read, giving an illiteracy rate of 14%.  Cuba does have an AIDS problem, but unlike in the early days, gay persons are not the subject of official discrimination.  Although heroin use is illegal, unlike in the United States there is a national program for supplying free clean needles to addicts (which vastly reduces the incidence of AIDS transmission)."* 
In Cuba, there are very few police on the streets, at least in the three major cities we visited last spring, Havana, Cienfuegos, and Santiago de Cuba. Of those that there are, we only saw one who carried a pistol.  We did see several who had empty holsters.  Although the population is about 35% Afro-Cuban, it is unlikely that there are very many random shootings of unarmed black men by police.  We were told that there is a certain degree of racism among the generally equal thirds of Cuban society divided between the Latinos, the Mestizos and the Afro-Cubans. But there is certainly no official government-sponsored discrimination against Afro-Cubans and, since there is only one political party, there is none that runs on racism or on homophobia or on misogyny, and xenophobia either (as does the party of, for example, Senators Cruz and Rubio). And so on and so forth.”

To paraphrase what I said back in May, I think that, in honoring the memory of Fidel and his monumental achievement of leading the establishment of socialism on the front porch, as it were, of the most powerful anti-socialist power in the world, in addition to correctly talking about the theory, it is vital also to talk about the practice.  It is vital to talk about what the Cuban Revolution has achieved in practical terms for its people, especially in the context of the “55 Years War” waged against it by the United States.  Would the Cuban people really like to have the “U.S.” model imposed on them, the one so heavily promoted by Senators Cruz and Rubio and then lose everything they have gained over the years?  (By the way, both of those Senators’ parents were indeed Cuban refugees.  But they were refugees from Batista’s, not Castro’s, Cuba. Funny how you never hear those facts either from them or any “news” show.) This in return for having an “opposition party” or two, which if it/they were to be modeled on the Repubs. so close to the Cruz-Rubio model, could actually run on racism and homophobia, while destroying the national health and free national education? I don’t think so.

Go Cuba!  Let’s keep the memory and honor of Fidel intact, as one 21st-century form of socialism reaches for even greater heights, over time.


*
Cuba, unfortunately, from my perspective, does engage in the ‘drug war,’ but their drug-‘crime’-related prison population, unlike that in the U.S., is miniscule.






 
Racism—Aided by Democrats’Numerous Betrayals—Wins Again: The Duopoly at Work by Steve Jonas
November 10, 2016

The controversial (at the time) Goldwater ran in part on his opposition to the Civil Rights Act.

As I have previously noted in this space, racism, set into the Doctrine of White Supremacy, has been part of the basic fabric of life in that land which eventually became the United States of America since some of the first European settlers imported the first slaves from Africa to work their farms at the beginning of the 17th century. What I used to call the First Civil War, as is well known erupted in part over the issue of slavery in the middle of the 19th century.  The central element of the Southern ideology, which fueled that war and got many non-slave holding poor whites to fight and die to uphold the property rights of the slave-owners, is that same Doctrine of White Supremacy.


I have previously discussed how the South actually won the First Civil War because all of its principal aims were achieved, except for the maintenance, in name and property relationships, of the institution of slavery.  In essence, the institution was maintained in the South for 100 years or so through the political structure known as “Jim Crow.”  Interestingly enough, the first objective of the Ku Klux Klan and similar terror organizations established in the South during Reconstruction was to deny the recently freed slaves the vote.  (Sound familiar?)  More recently I have come to the conclusion that actually the Civil War never ended in this country.  It has simply continued through means other than the use of force.

Now, as well known, since the end of the First Civil War there has always been a U.S. political party running in part on racism.  Everyone reading this column knows that until the mid-1960s and the passage of the Voting and Civil Rights Acts it was the Southern wing of the Democratic Party, and that since Nixon developed the “Southern Strategy” it has been the Republicans.  It happens that when the time came, racism and the Doctrine of White Supremacy easily found homes in the Republican Party.  One of its founding components in the 1850s was the “American Party” of the time, otherwise known as the “Know-Nothings.”  It was based on xenophobia, in that instance against Irish immigration.  In the DNA of the Republican Party was subsequently the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1885, the Immigration Act of 1924 which virtually excluded Southern and Eastern Europeans, and Jews in general, and the campaign to lock up Japanese-American citizens in the Western U.S. and Hawaii during World War II (implemented by Franklin Roosevelt but started by California Republicans led by the pre-Supreme Court Earl Warren).
I have previously discussed how the South actually won the First Civil War because all of its principal aims were achieved, except for the maintenance, in name and         property relationships, of the institution of slavery…”
Racism has been part of modern Republican Party doctrine since Barry Goldwater ran in part on his opposition to the Civil Rights Act.  That history is well-known.  But for the most part, they have used “dog-whistles,” employing racism in terms for which they could invoke plausible deniability: “oh that’s not what we meant.”  What many in the Repub. Party didn’t like about Trump was not that he is a racist, but that — being very open about it — he ripped the hood off the Party’s overall inherent  racism.  (In the column just cited, I do have to immodestly say that last March I stated that I thought that Trump could win, precisely because he openly runs on racism.  Furthermore, in a  column just before that one, I discussed the “Republican Genius” of being able to enact policies that are unpopular with many voters — like encouraging the export of capital — and then blaming the very predictable outcomes on the Democrats.  Trump did that to a fare-thee-well during the campaign.)
 
The fierce nativists’ hatred of Irish immigrants was well reflected in Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York.
 
Many political observers “on both sides of the aisle” are trying to account for the surprising Trump win — certainly surprising to the vast majority of political pollsters and long-time political analysts like, for example, Larry Sabato, who though that Clinton would win with about 320 electoral votes — by something else, anything else, than the open exploitation by Trump and the Repub. Party that stayed with him of the racism that is at the center of the Doctrine of White Supremacy, which spread across the whole country following the end of the First Civil War.  But the former White House aide Van Jones put it very well when he referred to what happened nationally in this election as “White Lash.”

Of course, Trump played it to a fare-thee-well by combining anti-black racism with anti-Latino racism, with anti-Muslim racism/religious prejudice, with, coming in at the end of the campaign once the Steve Bannon/Breitbart Far Far Right (my term for them, rather than the mealy-mouthed “alt-right”) took over running the campaign, anti-Semitism.  To many it came as no surprise that the Ku Klux Klan endorsed Trump (and it should not have: many don’t know that in 1980, while the KKK did not actually endorse Reagan, their published platform was very similar to that of the Repubs. that year.)

There were many tactics that Hillary Clinton could have employed in her campaign that she did not.  But playing her role in the Duopoly to the hilt, she did not.  Primary among them were that she could have and should have openly attacked Trump as a racist and an exploiter of racism.  In doing so she should have pointed out to his base not that they are “bad people” — the “deplorables” — but that they were allowing themselves to be exploited by a man and a major wing of his party that had absolutely no interest in the problems of the left-behind-working class.  Further that it has been primarily Republican policies which have created the plight in which such workers find themselves.  As pointed out above, it is Republican genius that has enabled them to blame the outcomes of their policies on the Democrats.

But of course, it is in part that they have been able to do that because of the right-wing, Duopolistic policies of the old Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) which for the most part have run Democratic Party politics since Bill Clinton became President.  In fact, Hillary can be seen as expressing the last gasp (hopefully, anyway) of the DLC in the way she ran her campaign. 

At the center of DLC doctrine is that you do not attack the way the other party is exploiting the underlying racism in the U.S. to distract voters from what the real issues are.  You use a simple-minded slogan such as “stronger together” rather than going after the other guy (on issues other than “character,” especially when you have “character issues” yourself) — who claims he’s a billionaire — in the strongest possible language explaining who his friends are, who his supporters are, and how they are determined to continue the policies that have brought the people to whom Trump is appealing to the state in which they find themselves.  And of course, she did not touch on the class basis of Trumpism.  She did not hammer away at how every single one of Trump’s policies, from further cutting taxes for the rich to ending regulation of the environment and the economy as we know it, benefits those of the owning class who put that white working class exactly where it is.

But she didn’t do any of that, because the right-wing DLC Democrats of the Duopoly just don’t do any that.  And Trump got away with it, and won.
 
In 1991, as one young Democratic candidate put it, so well, when he announced for the Presidency:
For 12 years, the Republicans have tried to divide us, race against race.’ . . .  ‘Here in the shadow of this great building, all of us, we know all about race-baiting.  They’ve used that old tool on us for decades now. And I want to tell you one thing: I understand that tactic, and I will not let them get away with it in 1992.’ “
Well, of course Bill Clinton has let them get away with it since that time and his wife did it again this year.  The first task for a re-building Democratic Party—assuming this party is reformable, which many truly progressive observers seriously doubt, suggesting the people’s energies should be invested in a genuine non-duopoly formation — is to engage vigorously in that endeavor.  It is an equally important one for the Left in this country as it tries to face a future which may well turn fascist sooner rather than later.







 
The Cometization of the 2016 Elections: The Role of the Ruling Class by Steven Jonas
November 2, 2016

On July 5, 2016, The Director of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, James Comey, shooting like a comet over Washington, D.C., announced that after an extensive investigation, no criminal charges relating to the improper use/protection/transmission of classified documents would be brought against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.   At the same time, in a speech he launched into an extensive negative analysis of what had been done with emails, sensitive or not, on State Department or private servers, by Mrs. Clinton and members of her staff.  That statement, very unusual for an FBI Director to make, had a transitory effect on Clinton’s poll numbers.  But at the same time, the Director, in a highly unusual action, little noticed at the time, told leading Republican on the House Intelligence Committee that it would keep them informed of any further developments.

As is well-known, just now there have been further developments.  On October 28, 2016, Mr. Comey announced publicly that there would be a further investigation of (possible) Clinton emails.  He made this announcement before any investigation had begun, much less concluded, and before his agents had obtained even so much as a warrant for seizing a lap-top that happened not to belong to Mrs. Clinton.  Rather it belonged to the estranged husband, Anthony Weiner, of one of Mrs. Clinton’s closest aides, Huma Abedin.  This action by Comey was considered to be highly unusual, to say the least, by a variety of sources/authorities, including, for example, The New York Times editorial page.  It was even unclear as to whether, after some kind of preliminary evaluation, the previous formal inquiry would be reopened.

The U.S. Justice Department strongly discouraged Comey from making such an speculative announcement (as in “there might be a further investigation after we’ve had a look at Mr. Weiner server which — who knows — might simply be filled with photos of Mr. Weiner’s private parts taken from a wide variety of angles.”)  It appeared as if Mr. Comey himself might be violating the law, that is the 1939 Hatch Act, which prohibits government employees from taking actions close to elections which might influence their outcomes.  A Republican, Richard Painter, who worked as the Chief Ethics Officer in the Bush White House (and a Clinton supporter this time around), went so far as to file a formal ethics complaint against Comey, for apparent violation of the Hatch Act (which would be a criminal offense).

There have been a variety of political outcomes from the Comey action, ranging from no change in the Clinton/Trump poll numbers to significant changes in them, from no change in the generally predicted Clinton lock on the Electoral College vote to possibly enough of a Trump swing in the swing states to give the election to him.  Most observers are not attributing ulterior motives to Mr. Comey.  “He made a simple mistake.”  “He was trying to be open about what is going on, but he was premature in making such an announcement — poor judgement.”  “He was under pressure from Congressional Republicans.  Suppose that he had not announced the further investigation [of a bunch of emails that might not even be Clinton’s] in advance of its being undertaken, and then something had come of it after the election?  Boy, would they be mad [or worse].”

Well, folks, I don’t buy any of it.  I think that what Comey did, from the July “even though we have nothing criminal on you, you’re a bad girl” speech to the present, “we are announcing that an investigation will be starting [once we get a warrant], without any idea that anything further that might be incriminating might be found” is all part of a plan.  (And yes, this is a conspiracy hypothesis, but not quite the kind that Alex Jones would come up with.)  In 2013 Mr. Comey was given the customary ten-year term appointment as FBI Director by President Barack Obama.  (Wonder why in all of this bruhaha from the Democrats Obama gave him a vote of confidence?)  A career Federal prosecutor and occasional corporate lawyer who eventually became Deputy Attorney General under Bush, he is a Republican.  He has had a reputation for highly ethical behavior.

But, and it’s a big but, first of all as a prosecutor Comey has been on the Clintons’ case for years.  According to Evan Stark, a Professor Emeritus of Public Affairs at Rutgers, Comey was the prosecutor on the famous “Whitewater” case --- that led to nothing.  He was also the prosecutor of the “Marc Rich pardon” case, which, however distasteful the pardon was, and it was, led to nothing.  But more importantly now, it is important to note that Mr. Comey does not live in a bubble. 

He had to have known that what he was doing when he gave his totally unnecessary speech at the time he announced “no criminal findings” in the original Clinton emails/server case.  He could simply have made the announcement, or have had his public affairs make it, and left it at that.  But he did make his speech, and while it did not seem to have any long-term political effects, it did stir the political pot at the time.  This announcement has the pot boiling.  It could swing the election to Trump. Although the conventional wisdom as of Nov. 1, when this column is being written, is that it won’t, because of Clinton’s heavy advantage in the Electoral College, Glenn Beck, an arch-reactionary who happens to be anti-Trump, thinks that Comey’s announcement is, “one of the most irresponsible things to ever happen” and could swing the election to Trump.   And although unlikely, it could.

So how did this happen?  Well, Comet Comey has a phone (you can be sure that he doesn’t do political stuff by email), and it is as secure a one as can be found.  As I have pointed out previously, there is an increasingly large sector of the ruling class, led by some very wealthy hedge fund managers like the one who came to the Trump campaign along with Steve Bannon (from the Cruz campaign) that REALLY wants Trump to win.  The two biggies for them: further huge tax cuts for the wealthy and the end of economic/environmental regulation as we know it.  My guess is that they got to Comey.  What they offered or promised him, if anything at all, is impossible to know.  But I do believe that that is what happened.

Comey is a long-time Federal lawyer.  He is now the Director of the FBI.  He had to know about the Hatch Act, and that he would be violating it.  He also knows that regardless of the outcome of the election he would never be prosecuted for doing so.  Until last Friday, Trump was sinking and a number of down-ticket Republicans were going with him.  Now, as the result of the “announcement” of something that might or might not happen, Trump is making huge hay of it and could win, and even more importantly the Republicans have a much better chance of holding on to the Senate.

This did not happen by accident.  An unprecedented announcement in October goes back to an unprecedented speech in July.   Unprecedented once?  Well, maybe by happenstance.  Unprecedented twice?  Well, not so much.

PostScript:  According to the FBI, there is no direct connection between Donald Trump and the Russian Government/business sector.  According to a long-time counter-intelligence operative of another country, there are numerous documents showing just such relationships and he gave them to the FBI.  Here’s one excerpt:
Mother Jones has reviewed that report and other memos this former spy wrote. The    first memo, based on the former intelligence officer’s conversations with Russian   sources, noted, ‘Russian regime has been cultivating, supporting and assisting TRUMP for at least 5 years. Aim, endorsed by PUTIN, has been to encourage splits and divisions in western alliance.’ It maintained that Trump ‘and his inner circle have accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin, including on his Democratic and other political rivals.’ It claimed that Russian intelligence had ‘compromised’ Trump during his visits to Moscow and could ‘blackmail him.’ ”
This is stuff for an actual investigation.  Is there any evidence that one is underway?  Well, it would be improper for the FBI to comment on investigations that are still in process (only on those that have not yet begun).  The mainstream media --- so biased against Trump donchaknow (ho, ho, ho) --- have not yet picked up on this one.  But hey, you never know.  Do stay tuned (and remember, I wrote this on November 1).





 
Donald Trump and the ‘Rigged Election:’ What’s it all About, Alfie? by Steve Jonas
October 25, 2016

In the Spring of 1918, the Prussian Army launched what proved to be its last major offensive on the Western Front.  It happened that since the Russian Revolution on October 25, 1917 [November 7, new calendar] and the departure of Russia from The Great War, Germany faced only one front.  But even it proved to be too much for an exhausted army, and the offensive failed.  Also, the British naval blockade had been proving to be increasingly effective in depriving Germany of both military and civilian goods, and food.  And so, the government began the negotiations with the Western Powers that eventually led to the Armistice of November 11, 1918, and then after that to the Versailles Treaty, which proved to be so disastrous for the whole of Europe, in the long run.

However, the two leading commanders of the Prussian Army, Generals Paul von Hindenburg (later the Weimar Republic President who appointed Adolf Hitler as Chancellor on January 30, 1933) and Erich Ludendorff (who was a Hitler supporter from the mid-1920s), did not like the movement to end the war.  They thought that somehow Germany could fight on and did not only because the civilian government was weak-kneed and thus decided to implement the policy to bring the War to an end.  That the civilian government, especially the Social Democratic Party that was part of it, undertook this policy, after the War, and especially after the imposition the onerous Versailles Treaty, came to called, by the German Right, the “Stab in the Back.”  It was used, over-and-over again, to justify the development of various right-wing parties in Weimar Germany, most especially the Nazi Party.  Hitler and Goebbels were still using the phrase in speeches in the 1930s.

As everybody in the United States and indeed around the world who has any interest in the U.S. Presidential elections knows, Donald Trump, at the end of the last Presidential debate, on October 19, 2016, said that he would not necessarily accept the result of the vote on November 8.  If he thought that “something was going on” (a phrase that he uses constantly to describe supposed conspiracies of all sorts [of course without defining them, much less proving their existence]), he would not do so.  In the past several weeks he and his surrogates have been ramping up the claim that the election is somehow “rigged,” somehow by the Clinton forces, by the media, and by the very new claim that there will be massive voter fraud, by the millions.  This fraud will, of course, occur only in “certain neighborhoods, you know which ones I’m talking about.”

It is well-known that the standard Republicans have already begun the plotting to obstruct a Clinton Presidency to the greatest degree possible.  Senator John McCain has already announced that should the Democrats fail to gain 50 seats in the new Senate, that the Repubs. will block any Supreme Court nominees she proposes.  Since the oldest members of the Court are liberals, this would mean that eventually the reactionary Court majority would be re-established, by attrition.  (Would it come to be called “Court Unpacking?”  But that’s another story.)  Back to Trump.

I have been fully convinced for some weeks now that Donald Trump, having realized for some weeks now (the Repubs. have very sophisticated, high-priced, private polling) that he is going to lose, has placed himself fully on the road to the creation of a Far Right Wing party in the United States.  In the beginning at least it will have two main purposes.  One will be to attempt to delegitimize the Hillary Clinton Presidency, using the charges of rigged/stolen election and “crook” the same way that he used birtherism in the attempt to delegitimize the Obama Presidency.  (And of course that worked in lock-step with the Congressional Republican Party plan that was hatched on January 21, 2009 to do everything possible legislatively to block Obama and the Democrats.)  This will fit right in with the already planned Repub. obstructionism, while allowing the Repubs. to disavow the worst of Trump’s charges (just the way they have denied all of these years that they are the party of racism, mysogny, and etc.).  The other purpose will of course be to establish the new Far Right party itself.

This will, of course, split the Republican Party, but Trump doesn’t care about that.  He’s gotten a taste of national power, he knows that he can mobilize millions of followers around the themes pf racism, authoritarianism, and misogyny (and from his following, it is obvious that there are plenty of self-hating women, the products of a misogynist society, who will line up behind him, with enthusiasm).  He will also be able to quietly gain the support of that sector of  the ruling class which indeed wants to institute fascism sooner, rather than later.  I have written at length on Trump and fascism.   As I pointed out in the more recent column, by definition Trump can now be considered to be a fascist.  And with the support of a sector of the ruling class, he has his eyes on the eventual takeover of the Federal government, by one means or another.

As I said above, I believe that Trump will be using the false charge of a “rigged election,” along with the “media/Hillary conspiracy to savage him,” as his “stab in the back.”  I think that the appointment of Breitbart’s Steve Bannon is part of the development of this strategy.  In Trump’s view (whether he truly believes that he was stabbed in the back or not, and given how he seems to think, he may very well truly believe it) he is THE one who can save the United States from all of its enemies, at home and abroad.

Once having let himself loose of the Repub. Party, he will be able to openly align with the Far Right, including its openly racist, xenophobic, and anti-Semitic elements.  (Trump’s Jews will have a problem with that one, but in the Nazis’ early days, there were Jews for Hitler, in an organization called the Association of German National Jews.)  In the beginning, the new party will likely be more like Sir Oswald Mosely’s pre-World War II British Union of Fascists.  But it could develop into a national political party ready to contest elections.  And in three-way races, it could conceivably win in certain areas.  Trump right now seems stuck at around 39-40% of the vote.

But it is useful to recall that Hitler and the National Socialist German Workers Party (clever name, eh wot?) never got more than 37% of the vote in a free election.  Also, there will eventually be an armed uniformed militia in those states where the gun laws are so loose that they can be established.  Can you say “Sturmabteilung,” or “Brown Shirts?”  After all, in certain “open carry” states armed Trump supporters were already showing up at his rallies.

There is much more to say about this, if my prediction is correct.  But let me say at this time:
  •  I think that the idea that when he loses Trump will do “Trump TV” is and always has been a cover — too complicated, much too expensive, with a projected success rate of around 20%;
  • The Breitbart et al/Far Right takeover of the campaign was organized by Trump and his closest (mainly family) advisors when they saw, before many others did, that he would not/could not win this year and thus decided to move firmly in that direction;
  • In terms of historical models, he is much more like Mussolini (not an original thought to be sure) because he does not have a firm ideology, like Hitler did.  Like Mussolini, he believes in himself, he believes in power, and he truly believes that he “can save the nation.”
This is truly scary stuff folks, but in my view it is all part of his long-range plan, of which the “rigged election,” the U.S. “stab in the back” for the 21st century, is a central piece.


 
Donald Trump and the Repubs. Abandoning Ship by Steve Jonas
October 19, 2016
 
As is well-known, since the publication of his gropings, as Trump gropes with ever-less effectiveness towards the Presidency, Repubs. have been fleeing from him like flies flying off a pile of **** when a loud noise is heard nearby.  Even Pretty Boy Ryan, his eyes firmly on the 2020 nomination prize (as are Cruz’, Rubio’s and Pence’s for sure), as of the time-of-writing was getting ever-closer to completely abandoning ship.  By the way, regardless of what happens to the Repubs. in this election, assuming that HRC wins it, what the Repubs. in Congress, whether or not they have control of the Senate or only the filibuster, will do to and with  Clinton will make the obstructionism towards Obama with began with that planning meeting on January 21, 2009, seem mild by comparison.  They simply dis-respected Obama, who was only half-white.  They absolutely hate Hillary, white or not.

So why now?  Why not after any one of the whole slew of Trump outrages, great and small that have occurred on his march towards the Presidency?  Before posting an answer or two to that question, let us review briefly just some of the list of Trump outrages/mis-steps/withholdings/failed businesses/possible associations with criminal activities/ and so forth.  Many of them on their own would have sunk any other candidate and had Repubs. running for the exits.  Why now?  Why this one?

And here, not in any particular order, are some of the Trump travesties (and worse):

    •    He apparently violated the Cuban embargo law, in dealing with a Cuban bank.
    •    
    •    Of course he has failed to reveal his Federal tax returns, which could hide the possibility that he has paid no personal income tax for years (which he actually admitted in passing during the Oct. 9 debate), but also that he has, as suspected, many associations with foreign businessmen who themselves have been accused of criminal activity.
    •    
    •    He has had numerous failed businesses, to say nothing of the bankruptcies.
    •    The constant lying.
    •    
    •    The racism, which started years ago with incidents like the “Central Park Five” (for whom he is still calling the death penalty despite that fact the DNA evidence has cleared them), but he trumpeted for years with birtherism.  Funny how he claimed that he forced President Obama to reveal his birth certificate, as if that were a good thing.  Who has ever asked any other President to produce a birth certificate?  But I forgot.  Obama is only half-white.
    •    
    •    Islamophobia, writ large and dangerously, both general and specific in the case of the Khans.
    •    
    •    Personally attacking Ms. Machado (the Miss universe winner), Senator John McCain, disabled people.
    •    
    •    Praising President Putin, while likely having either major investments in Russia or having Russian investment in his own enterprises, or both.
    •    
    •    The “punishing women for having an abortion” position.
    •    
    •    Having an open affair while married (just the one that we know about, with Marla Maples).
    •    
    •    Engaging in no personal philanthropy since 2008.
    •    
    •    Possibly bribing (a crime) elected officials (or so it has been charged).
    •    
    •    The Trump “University” affair, which has both civil and criminal elements to it, and the racist attack on the case’s judge.
    •    
    •    The generalized mysogny, which has been well-known, like the objectification of women by their body and body-parts shapes and sizes.
    •    
    •    Of course the “Mexicans are rapists and murderers” claim with which he justifies his (totally impractical in any case) Wall (at a time when more Mexicans are going home than coming here, but when have facts ever mattered to Trump?)
    •    
    •    Dealing with an Iranian bank while sanctions were imposed, a potentially criminal activity.
    •    
    •    Viciously dumping on veterans, from McCain to Khan.
    •    
    •    Making fun of the disabled.
    •    
    •    The tolerance of anti-Semitism among his supporters and possibly implied usage of it himself.
    •    
    •    The position of his wife, on anti-Semitic attacks against Jewish journalists, that “they bring it on themselves.

          And so on, and so forth.

So why now?  Why the uproar among Repubs. who are running for the exits in droves over the Groping Scandal (which caught up in it a Bush family member as well.)  This is a topic that by now has visited by numerous commentators, but is, in my view, well-worth revisiting.  Well, it cannot be that they are people of principle.  If they were, why did virtually no one leave over serious matters in the list above, in terms of policy not personal behavior of which this type of mysogny is particularly gross, like the suggestion that U.S. Muslims might have to wear special identification (with the yellow crescent patch coming just after that?)  Well, first and foremost, as I have written on numerous occasions, on most issues Trump is well within Republican traditions, except that he says them out loud.  So what does give?

Well, first he gives the lie to the Repubs. who fancy themselves the Party of Probity.  Despite Senator Vitter, the former Governor of South Carolina, now Congressman from that state, Mark Sanford, the former Congressman Mark Foley, to say nothing of the jailed Denny Hastert, and so on an so forth, the Repubs. just love retaining that fiction.  Well, the Trump story is just really gross, and he is running for President.

But the real reason had nothing to do with morality and it has nothing to do with the fact that the man knows little about what one has to know about in order to be President of the world’s leading capitalist/imperialist power.  As by now, frequently noted, it has everything to do with the undecided/usually-Republican female vote.  Up until now, Trump has had a chance to win.  During the time that he and the media were making something out of the pretty-much nothing of the Clinton “email scandal” and “Benghazi” was just not working for the outside of their base where it works anyway.  Now, with what this one is doing to Trump’s numbers with wavering women, unless there is some major “outside” event, like a (false-flag) “terrorist attack” on U.S. soil, he is sure to lose.  And that’s the principal reason so many Republicans, both in-office and not, are finally abandoning ship.

It has nothing to do with principles or true outrage; it has everything to do with the elections down-ballot, and with the Congressional elections in 2018 and the next Presidential one in 2020.  More on the latter, anon.



 
Mike Pence and the Future of the Republican Party by Steve Jonas
October 17, 2016

The way things are going both within Donald Trump’s head and the 2016 Presidential election campaign it is unlikely that he will win it.

(Although, hey you never know.  He might have turned in a decent performance at the second Presidential debate, or decent in terms of the very low bar that his campaign, the media, and certainly his die-hard supporters set, and turned around the downward polling trend that was clear as the end of the week of October 3 approached (even before the tape of him discussing sexual assault in other than negative terms occurred.   Also, the “October Surprise,” in terms of a “terrorist attack” or something similar that in a column back in August I predicted might happen, might indeed happen, and turn the entire election on its head.)  And now the third (and last) debate is coming up, on October 19.  So hey, you never know.
 
But let’s say that none of things mentioned just above do happen, and Trump does lose, most likely reasonably badly.  Well, the wagons are rapidly circling around the Repubs., well away from Trump, who is a Republican on the racist/economic side, but hardly one on the foreign-policy side, and who only lately has come to the Party’s position on the matter of religious discrimination in matters such as abortion rights.
 
Of course they are circling around the most reactionary mode of Republicanism — that is the classic Repub.  program of tax cuts for the rich, elimination of every regulation of business and the environment that it is possible to eliminate, further expanding the world’s most dominant and expensive military, and so and so forth.  Pretty Boy Ryan (who must be getting pains in his fingers from holding his nose, but who still, as of Oct. 17 has not fully left Trump) has already stated very clearly what he would do with Trump in the White House to get around a Democratic filibuster in the Senate, in order to enact in one monster piece of legislation the whole Repub. right-wing economic/anti-regulatory agenda.   And then, PLUS for the Repubs., whether or not Trump wins or loses, their ticket is finally coming down hard and openly for Right-wing Christian Fundamentalism, not just in the platform, where it has been since the time of Reagan, but also most firmly in the person of their Presidential candidate, where to date it has never been.

And so, yes, for 2020 here we have Mike Pence (Governor of Indiana), Exhibit One.  And Senator Ted Cruz, Exhibit Two (or maybe in the reverse order.  But let’s look at Pence.)  They have both assumed, it is clear, that Trump will lose and, in different ways, they are positioning themselves to be the early favorites for the 2020 Repub. Presidential nomination.   Briefly on Cruz, he could have been modeled on the lead character in my 1996 book, The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the USA 1981-2022, who was the (then future fictional) first, and last, true fascist President of the United States, later of the apartheid state, The New American Republics, one Jefferson Davis Hague.

I wrote a detailed column on this supposition back in March, 2015.  Cruz is far-right on every conceivable policy/issue, but further, he is a Dominionist.  That is, he places his interpretation of the Bible (one particular version of it, the King James first official English translation) above the Constitution.  He has phumphered around with non-endorsement-voting-for-endorsement of Trump.  Much more importantly, in looking at 2020 he has placed two top supporters in the leadership of the Trump campaign, and one of his principal moneymen has come along with them.  There they will all be gaining valuable experience, while lining up future supporters, on the q.t. for now.

But then we come to Pence.  He had thought about running for the current Repub. nomination in 2015.  After that didn’t pan out for him he was actually an early Cruz supporter, who then switched to Trump when the former dropped out.  As far as I can tell, he has not yet been openly labelled as a Dominionist, but his policies clearly place him in that camp.  Not particularly in order of importance:

  1. There was an outbreak, epidemic really, of HIV/AIDS in South Eastern Indiana, related to the use of dirty needles by IV drug users.  Pence believes the scientifically disproven myth that the provision of clean needles to such persons helps spread addiction (which is, of course, a sin donchaknow, as well as being illegal).  Eventually, his public health people and local authorities got to him in terms of persuading him to do something.  The first thing he did was to “pray on it.”  For some reason, that didn’t seem to work, so he reluctantly approved clean needle exchange.
  2. Then there was his well-known support of so-called “religious freedom” legislation in Indiana which legalized discrimination against the LGBT community.  As I have pointed out frequently, this kind of legislation allows members of one religion, with the support of the State, to discriminate against members of another religion (and there are plenty of LGBTQ people who are religious).
  3. As a member of Congress, Pence led a fight to de-fund Planned Parenthood, back in 2011.  Quoting from an article that appeared at the time:  “Abortion-rights advocates and abortion-rights opponents don’t see eye to eye on much, but they do agree on this: Nobody hates Planned Parenthood quite as much as Mike Pence.”  Why?  Because a small portion of their budget goes to the provision of abortion services, none of them funded with Federal money (which would be against the current religion-based, religiously-biased law).
  4. Pence’s position on abortion, but more importantly the basis for that position, became perfectly clear in the last segment of the Vice-Presidential debate between him and Tim Kaine on October 2, 2016.  Pence actually quoted a verse from the particular version of the Bible that he favors to justify his position that abortion should be illegalized.  (He attempted to separate himself from Trump’s sometime position that women having abortions should be punished, mainly by lying and stating that Trump never said that.)
  5. Briefly, this so-called “man of religious principle” certainly did lie a lot in that debate, claiming that Trump didn’t say a whole bunch of things for which there is video-tape evidence showing otherwise.*
But he made it very clear that he wants Roe v. Wade reversed, which would permit states like his to criminalize abortion, on religious grounds.  That is, he would use the power of the State to enforce the religious views of one segment of the population (and it doesn’t matter whether they constitute a majority or not) on everyone else.  That, folks, is called "theocracy," operating under a theory of government called Dominionism or Reconstructionism (the U.S. is to be “reconstructed” under religious law).
 
Consistent with the views of Pence’s Religious Right, after his racism, Trump has run first and foremost on authoritarianism: I, I, I, will do this, that, and the other thing, regardless of the law, let’s say in matters such as the re-institution of torture.  That has locked up a certain base among whites and has also helped with the Religious Right, whose first principle is indeed authoritarianism: "Thou shalt do, under the penalty of the criminal law, what I say thou shalt do, based upon my interpretation of a particular English translation of a book called the Bible."  But, because of his own, hardly personally spotless, background, Trump certainly has not locked up all of the Religious Right.

Thus, assuming that Trump loses, if the Repubs. want to have a future, they are going to have to further consolidate their base in the Religious Right and get those folks out to vote.

The racism will be there of course, although they will likely go back to the dog-whistle approach.  But then, they will have to have a candidate who is the genuine article when it comes to Right-wing religious fundamentalism, put into the law through the Doctrine of Dominionism, authoritarian to its core.  In this contest, Ted Cruz leads at this time.  But, in that last element of the Vice-Presidential debate, on abortion rights or none, Mike Pence made it clear that, since neither Mike Huckabee nor Rick Santorum, the original Political Dominionists, can be taken seriously, Cruz will have at least one serious rival in that arena, the next time around.

And oh yes, if he wins back the Senate seat he swore he was giving up, Marco Rubio, another Dominionist, will be there too.


*
(It should be noted that the particular translation [from Latin and Greek — hardly a   unified text to begin with] of the Bible that Pence would like to make the underlying basis of all U.S. law — the “King James” version, was prepared by a committee of 52 scholars and theologians at the time of the accession to the throne of England of James VI of Scotland, I of England.)





 
The Lesser of the Evils by Steve Jonas
October 10, 2016

Presidential elections and “what is to be done.”  (Well, hardly in the Leninist sense, for there hardly is a revolutionary party afoot nor is there a revolutionary situation [yet].)   But left-wingers (and I presume that the bulk of the readers of the columns on The Greanville Post find themselves in that political category) have been, rightly in my view, spending a good deal of time pondering that question.  In fact, a good deal of electronic ink has been spilt considering it, some of the writing not in the politest of language.

I am on a variety of threads where the language is heated.  Trump is a fascist (obviously I agree with that and said so in an earlier TGP column).  Thus one cannot possibly vote for him — except that maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad idea because a Trump Presidency could stir up the kind of political organization and action that this country desperately needs.  This might be called the “Susan Sarandon” strategy.  For the famous actress actually hinted at this position when she was interviewed on MSNBC some months ago, as a Bernie Supporter, and said that she would have a very tough time voting for Hillary.
 
In supporting this type of position, on one thread one leftist actually described Trump as a “harmless [I don’t know what he was smoking] buffoon,” while at the same time JEB Bush described him just as a buffoon (and an “asshole” and a “clown.”  But JEB just doesn’t like the Repubs. hood torn off.) One could note that before Adolf Hitler became Chancellor on January 30, 1933, many in Germany, particularly in the Left, regarded him as an incompetent joke.  In fact, the head of the Communist Party of Germany, Ernst Thaelmann, has been quoted as saying words to the effect of: “Give him three months, and then it will be our turn.”
 
Germany’s Communist Party leader Ernst Thaelmann.  Brave but wrong about Hitler’s ascendancy. On the afternoon of March 3, 1933 Thälmann was arrested by the police. Thälmann spent over eleven years in solitary confinement. In August 1944, he was transferred from Bautzen prison to Buchenwald concentration camp, where he was shot on 18 August. His body was immediately cremated. Shortly after, the Nazis claimed in an announcement that, together with Rudolf Breitscheid, Thälmann had died in an Allied bombing attack on 23 August. “…All my life, all my strength were given to the finest cause in all the world – the fight for the liberation of mankind.”
 
(And here’s a footnote on Trump.  On MSNBC on September 27, [Dr.] Howard Dean commented on the very noticeable sniffling that Trump engaged in for the whole 1 ½ hours.  Stating several times that he would not engage in diagnosis-over-television, he did just that, coming to a diagnosis of cocaine use.  If that’s true, and if it were to get out somehow, one would think that the election would be over — except that it’s Donald Trump.)

On the other hand, there are lots of reasons not to want a Trump Administration.  From the left, Arun Gupta of The Anarres Project has summarized them well. Here’s just a partial list: Black Lives Matter will be declared a domestic terrorist outfit, just like the Earth Liberation Front was under Bush; the National Guard could be employed to crush all kinds of protest; any action to deal with climate change/global warming would be dead; despite the screaming of major U.S. firms like Boeing, the Iran deal would be canceled; the recognition of Cuba would be withdrawn; once the  Supreme Court was “adjusted,” abortion and gay rights would become things of the past; national parks, forests and wilderness areas would be turned over to above- and below-ground developers; as limited as it is, Obamacare would be abolished and millions would once again be without health insurance of any kind; and massive voter suppression would become the norm.  To say nothing of the institution of Reaganite economics on steroids and of course a variety of attacks on Muslims and Hispanic immigrants (documented and undocumented).

So what about Clinton, then?  Well, she seems to have adopted — rhetorically, that is —major chunks of Bernie’s domestic programs, what I have described as the New Deal on steroids.  Whether, once in office, she would begin to try to carry out these plans, and how she could actually get with them facing a Repub. Congress as implacably opposed to her as they have been to Obama, is another question.  But she might resort to the old “reaching across the aisle/triangulation” trick of which her husband was so fond and that would be the end of any modest attempts to deal with the real problems facing the country, like climate change/global warming, infrastructure rebuilding, and the ever-increasing income and wealth gap between the rich and everyone else.
 
Where the Left has a real problem with Clinton is on foreign policy.  Just consider  this series of columns that have appeared recently on the webpages of The Greanville Post.  Scary stuff indeed!

So then we come to the Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson.  Cannot win, of course, but how about for a protest vote?  Well, Johnson, like Libertarians have always been since I first got to know some of them a bit in the early days of the drug policy reform movement, is nothing more than a Repub. on steroids, except for a few odd, nice sounding bits, like legalizing marijuana (which he likes to smoke) and keeping abortion legal, at least to some extent.  That he didn’t know that “Aleppo” is a city at the center of the Syrian multi-sided civil war (or did he think that he was being asked what “a leppo” is [?]) is to me a minor problem compared to the others this candidate brings to the table.  He would virtually destroy the Federal government, would raise the retirement age to 75, would vastly reduce Federal regulation leaving every citizen at the mercy of the courts if they are harmed by, say, corporate pollution, and as for climate change, well, not much.

I have a natural affinity for Jill Stein, if for no other reason than that we graduated from the same medical school.  Dr. Stein’s platform can be described as Bernie Sanders’ New Deal on Steroids, on steroids.  It has much to admire, on both foreign and domestic policy.  However, if one looks at it at all closely, one is not going to get close to it as long as the present U.S. ruling class stays in control of the nation and the State.  And Dr. Stein hardly talks about class struggle.

And aye, there’s the rub.  In the first two columns in this series I stated the case that A) capitalism is coming to its end game, and B) that fascism will thus be coming to the U.S. sooner or later.  The only long-term solution to the problems of this country, and indeed of every other capitalist country around the world, is the replacement of capitalism with some sort of socialist system — if that can be done before global warming effectively wipes out what we know as civilization and/or nuclear winter arrives.  Readers of mine also know that for quite some time I have thought that a Second Civil War is coming to the U.S., and most recently I have come the conclusion that actually the original Civil War has never ended.

For me, this all provides a framework as to how I am going to cast my vote in the November election.  We have to look long-term and we have to look towards an eventual socialist revolution.  Indeed, for me, the choice of the “lesser of the evils” in this election is which candidate provides the best opportunity for beginning to organize the mass movement, which of course none of them with the possible exception of Dr. Stein, would support, that will be necessary if that objective is to be achieved.  And for now, I am going to leave it there.
 
Addendum: At the Oct. 9 “debate” Trump confirmed his nature as a fascist, who, as I said above, would bring fascism to the U.S. sooner rather than later.  He actually publicly informed Hilary Clinton that if he were elected he would have a special prosecutor appointed to investigate the “missing emails” and that he expected the outcome of the investigation would be indictment, trial, conviction (well he doesn’t understand the U.S Constitution well enough to mention those three elements before he got to) jail.  A truly remarkable statement from a candidate for the Presidency of one of the two major parties.  It says even more about the Repubs. than it does about Trump: they chose this man.   Of course, Hillary Clinton did not have to respond in kind, for Trump is already facing a criminal investigation as part of the Trump “University” matter and who knows what else may be lurking in his income tax returns.








 
Do You Want Fascism to Come to the U.S. Sooner, or Later? by Steve Jonas
September 28, 2016

In my most recent column, “The End(s) of Capitalism,” I discussed the factors that indicate that capitalism is (finally) coming to the end of its useful life.  They are, in no particular order of importance: over the last century or so, the capitalist ruling classes in most countries have managed to destroy for the most part any semblance of working class consciousness and any semblance of a militant trade union movement; in terms of its ability to produce and produce sustained growth, without fiscal or monetary stimulus (and in some cases event that doesn’t work) capitalism is running down; chronic, residual, unemployment is becoming common in many capitalist countries; the wealth and income gap (gulf) is becoming ever wider (as highlighted by a capitalist [on the liberal side] economist, Joseph Stiglitz), but with no significant political or mass-based opposition, the capitalists just keep on concentrating both, reducing thereby the amount of capital available for new investment; capitalist potential for making profit is becoming increasingly financialized, which reduces employment; and then there is CAR: Computerization, Automation, and Robotization, which reduces available employment and thus the workers’ share of the surplus value produced by their work.  And this is only a partial list.

Britain has seen the rise of UKIP, while the Continent has its own ultra-right formations on the move.

Now eventually, this is going to lead to worker revolts of some kinds.  However, they will likely be quite some time in coming because of the growth of the “anti-immigrant” movements in so many capitalist countries, certainly including, with the rise of Trump, the United States.  Examples include the United Kingdom Independence Party in Great Britain, the Front National in France, and the openly anti-Semitic Jobbik Party in Hungary (which was the home of the first fascist state, established by Admiral Miklos Horthy in 1919).

Over the last century or so, the capitalist ruling classes in most countries have managed to destroy for the most part any semblance of working class consciousness and any semblance of a militant trade union movement…

It is difficult to know how many, if any, of these far-right parties, which certainly have major elements of fascism (see below) in their ideologies and programs, presently have any direct connection to a majority of their respective national ruling classes, and/or have been consciously created by them.  However, they are certainly very useful at this stage of history to their respective ruling classes, for they serve extraordinarily well to distract significant elements of their respective working classes from the real source of their difficulties — that is, of course, capitalism and its natural outcomes resulting from its exclusive foci on producing profits and more capital — to focus instead on “immigrants” and “others” who are different, instead of focusing on class struggle.

The Trumpist Republican Party in the U.S. is a prime example of this.  Over the last 40 years, with a policy that can be encapsulated as “Reaganism,” the Republican Party has been the primary political representative of the U.S. ruling class, (although, please do not let us exclude the Democrats from responsibility as well).  It has established and led the policy and program agenda of which has led to misery for so many members of the white working class, from the destruction of the trade unions to the massive export of capital and with it deindustrialization, massive tax cuts for the rich and a steady decline in funding for various government agencies on which significant sectors of the working class depend, like the Veterans Administration.

But through his well-known combination of racism, white supremacy, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and increasingly anti-immigrant rhetoric, even to the extent of putting a prominent leader of the Far Right into a top leadership position in his campaign, Trump has been able to build a significant base of support in the white working and petit-bourgeois classes for what would appear to be a conventional election, under the provisions of the U.S. Constitution.  But further, if you listen carefully to his rhetoric Trump is also moving in the direction of establishing a fascist state (or at least attempting to) of the 21st century sort, of course, now were he to gain power.

To wit, fascism can be defined as:
A politico-economic system in which there is: total executive branch control of both the legislative and administrative powers of government; no independent judiciary; no Constitution that embodies the Rule of Law standing above the people who run the government; no inherent personal rights or liberties; a single national ideology that first demonizes and then criminalizes all political, religious, and ideological opposition to it; the massive and regular use of hate, fear, racial and religious prejudice, the Big Lie technique, mob psychology, mob actions and ultimately individual and collective violence to achieve political and economic ends; a capitalist/corporate economy; with the ruling economic class’ domination of economic, fiscal, and regulatory policy.”
The closer we get to the election, the more Trump is attracting major elements of the ruling class. They may not like his style, but they surely like his policies when it comes to further corporate and individual tax cuts, fracking, opening up Federal lands to energy exploration and exploitation, the elimination of as much environmental and economic regulation as possible, further expanding the military-industrial complex, the increased use of force in dealing with problems in the nonwhite communities which would include strengthening the prison-industrial complex, further emphasizing “differences” in dealing with non-white communities, curbing the media, conventional and social, and so on and so forth.  Obviously they don’t like his stated anti-globalism in both the economic and military spheres, but they most likely think that his mind can be changed on that.  Obviously not only are they are willing to look past Trump’s racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, mysogny and etc., but even the fact that “The Trump Organizations’ Foreign Business Ties Could Up-End U.S. National Security.”

Add to this Trump’s inherent authoritarianism (a major factor why the religious right is so attracted to an obviously areligious person), and the fact that apparently without knowing it he is doing Mussolini impressions all of the time, a Trump Presidency, with a supine Congress and Supreme Court (with his appointments making it that way) and the U.S. could well come to fascism very soon and very quickly.

However, in terms of fascism and the threat that it may well come to the United States, Trump is not sui generis.  History has shown us that when capitalist ruling classes are faced with serious threats to their control of the State, they turn to fascism to maintain it.  And so, if Trump loses and Hillary Clinton becomes President, the likelihood that the U.S. ruling class will have to turn to fascism in order to maintain its control will only be pushed down the road.  It is this understanding that should, in my view, inform how one votes in the upcoming election and who one roots for to win.  That will be the subject of the third column in this series, upcoming.






 
The End of Capitalism by Steve Jonas
September 14, 206

    
This is the first of three-part series related to the upcoming U.S. elections.  The second installment will be entitled “Do You Want Your Fascism Sooner, or Later?” and the third, “The ‘Lesser of the Evils’ Argument from the Class-Analysis Perspective.”

In 1848, in The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels proclaimed that capitalism contained the “seeds of its own destruction.”  They saw the principal seed as the creation by capitalism of the laboring class, the workers who provided the labor power that made the increasing number of machines that the capitalists were creating, that is “the proletariat.”  They saw that the class conflict between the owners and the workers over what would happen to the surplus value produced by the work on the capitalists’ machines by the proletariat would eventually lead to the takeover of these “means of production” by the workers and the establishment of a socialist state.  That would be one in which the means of production would be owned collectively and managed for the benefit of all the people, not just the former owners.

Well, it hasn’t exactly happened that way.  With few exceptions, the international owning (ruling) class has proved itself to be marvelously adept at turning the workers away from active class struggle.   In fact, in numbers of industrialized countries over time since the end of the First World War and the virtually simultaneous occurrence of the Russian Revolution on Nov. 7 (new calendar), 1917, which helped lead to that ending, the ruling classes of various capitalist countries have managed to enlist large numbers of workers to support their efforts to maintain control of the state apparatus.  Thus they brilliantly have been able to maintain their exploitation of those very workers whose support they enlist, as well as of those workers who they don’t.  This pattern has been observed for almost a century since Mussolini created the first fascist mass base, the “Black Shirts” in Italy, to the present time in the United States where Donald Trump is in the process of creating a mass base for his own form of fascism.  In the present time, in most of the advanced (and not-so-advanced) European capitalist countries, this is observed in the growth of the Right-wing parties, anti-immigrant to begin with, just like the Trumpistas.

With few exceptions, the international owning (ruling) class has proved itself to be marvelously adept at turning the workers away from active class struggle.

So it would seem that the self-conscious class struggle, which Marx and Engels predicted would bring capitalism to its knees (and that self-consciousness is very important in their understanding of the class struggle that can lead to the overthrow of capitalism), is presently difficult to discern, except in some very small communist and related parties in certain capitalist countries.  But it certainly does not have any broad political representation at the present time.  If that is so then, how can one talk about the “end of capitalism?”  In three senses.

The first is that capitalism is running down, it is running out of steam, in a way that it will find to be irreversible.  Very briefly, we can consider the following.  In the 1980s it was thought that Japan, then an industrial giant, might overtake the United States in industrial output (without the benefit of foreign capital one might note).  Since then, for a variety of reasons, the Japanese economy has been essentially running at idle, despite numerous attempts by the government to ramp it up again.  Similar conditions began to assert themselves elsewhere. Since the financial crisis of 2007-2009, the European Union, politically wedded to “austerity” (essentially robbing the workers and the poor to pay the rich) has not entered any sort of recovery, except for Germany and a few other members.  And now, even Germany is facing a slow-down with no exit in sight.

IWW’s head “Big” Bill Haywood was a combative and valorous labor leader at the turn of the 20th century, but in the decades to follow, the working class organizations were gradually “tamed” and defeated by the maneuvers of the plutocracy and its well-placed agents.
     
This does not mean that certain capitalists are not making money.  In his book Looting Greece: A New Financial Imperialism Emerges, Prof. Jack Rasmus:
Reveals clearly who calls the shots in the Eurozone—the hardliners, not the remnants and political residue of what was once European social democracy; Follows the negotiations in their excruciating detail as the Troika tightens the screws from 2009 to the present; Shows how Europe’s financial elite enriches itself on Greek debt, privatizations and financial manipulations, turning Greece into an Economic Protectorate.” 
But this pattern, following predictions that Lenin made a century ago, in which money is made by trading in pieces of paper, not good and services that among other things provide employment, is an indicator of the coming end of capitalism, for it cannot go on indefinitely, as production, in theory at least, can.”

In the Obama years the U.S. economy has been running at an historically low (for the post-World War II years) GDP with modest job growth (at the end of the Bush era, the GDP was negative and job losses were in the 100s of thousands), but a major factor supporting this was the printing of money by the Federal Reserve, which managed to do it without kicking off out-of-control inflation.  That cannot continue forever either.

Then there is CAR: computerization, automation, robotization, which is permanently replacing manual labor of all types in all industries, from automobiles to travel services.  To give just one example, Cadillac has built a new plant in China which makes automobiles almost entirely by using robots.  Of course, if the profits that are being made from CAR were shared with the workers, as they would be under socialism, that would be of great benefit to everyone.  There would shorter workweeks with equal or bigger pay, and no unemployment. But they aren’t.  They go to the owners, cutting labor costs.  And that is one major, for the most part unrecognized, reason behind the concentration of wealth and income.  The fruits of automation are not shared; their production, the hoarded fruits of productivity, a critical symptom of the disease, is another sign that capitalism is running down.

Sagen dem Teufel (speak of the devil, in German): After I finished writing this column, I came across the following item of news: “Walmart is patenting ‘mini-robot’ technology that could have terrifying implications for workers.”  This is Walmart, folks, one of the employers of last resort for workers who have lost industrial jobs either to the export of capital or to CAR.  Amazing, no?  But then again, we must remember: for capitalists, it is profit and more capital above all.

The second sign that the end of capitalism is coming is the following.  As previously noted, the primary ends of capitalism, as Marx and Engels together determined, are two: the production of profit from the surplus labor of the workers it employs and the creation of additional capital, those machines and related resources that are employed to create profits.  A major reason that the capitalists have been able to stay in power is that they have been able to convince major sectors of the working class that if they “work really hard,” “keep their noses to the grindstone,” that they too can become capitalists.  In the 20th century, oddly enough it was the growth of the labor movements in the advanced capitalist countries that created the circumstances in which the capitalist myth (and it is a myth, as we can see all around us) could be perpetuated.  For a relatively short period of time, organized labor was able to extract more of the products of its labor for itself, and that enabled the advancing, in economic terms, of more individuals.

But the central elements of the capitalist class in most countries could not accept this.  Thus in country after country the labor movement was minimalized, and along with it its political representatives (in the European countries known as the “social democratic” parties).  In turn, this has been a major factor in the massive concentration of wealth and income, nowhere more apparent than in the United States.  The U.S. ruling class has made particular use of white supremacy and racism in this endeavor, now being brought to a fever pitch by the aforementioned Donald Trump and his minions.  Eventually, this process will lead to a redevelopment of class consciousness and the growth of a revolutionary movement.  But the key word is eventually and there is a number of steps that the ruling class will take before that happens, or could happen.  The major one is called “fascism,” which will be the principal subject of the next column.

And so, in one sense, following in essence the prediction of Marx and Engels (and built upon by their great successor, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin), the End of Capitalism will be brought about by the continuing, unrelenting drive of the capitalists to destroy the labor movement and its political representations, to appropriate more and more of the surplus value produced by their workers, as noted, sharing with them less and less of the fruits of their labors, eventually leading to huge imbalances in society, and the reigniting of class-conscious class struggle and socialist revolution.

But there is a third sense in which capitalism is creating its own end: that is the one which I wrote about in my column “The Suicide of Capitalism.”  Briefly, there are two factors here.  First is the increasingly rapid rate at which the planet’s natural resources are being consumed (and in the case of the planet’s forests which are so essential for maintaining the key factors which enable animal life to survive, their gradual destruction).  Second of all is global warming and climate change, about which the U.S. capitalists are not only doing nothing, but in their claims that the whole understanding of how the earth works and doesn’t is nothing but a hoax (see Donald Trump), they are actually accelerating the process.

And so, the End of Capitalism is coming, but at the present time there can be no time-prediction for that event.  What can be predicted is that: A) the ruling classes will make no attempts to reverse the concentration of wealth and income that will eventually lead to the creation of revolutionary movements and that B) in the United States (and in the United Kingdom as well — on her first day in office, the new Tory Prime Minister, Theresa May, shut down the government Department for Energy and Climate Change) the ruling class will not only not do anything to ameliorate the global warming/climate change problem, but will actually continue to follow policies that actually accelerate it, leading of course to the eventual end of capitalism or the entire human race and everything that lives on this tortured planet.

The question for any thinking person, therefore, is simple: at this point either capitalism goes, or we are finished.

Part II awaits.





 
Revisiting ‘9/11’ on its 15th Anniversary, in the Context of the Reichstag Fire by Steven Jonas
September 8, 2016

The Reichstag Fire, the Tonkin Gulf incident, events like that were major historical pivots in the 20th century, yet they were all engineered, false flags designed to tighten control over the masses. In the 21st, 9/11 is still the granddaddy of all false flags—so far. Much worse is still to come, unless people get really organized.

The 15th anniversary of the 9/11 Disaster will shortly be observed this year.  No single event in recent history has had such an impact on history itself.  I, and many, many others have been writing on it, and the still un-answered questions about it, from the time almost immediately after it happened.  In the view of many of us, the truth about what really happened has yet to be told.  On September 10-11, at New York City’s Cooper union, Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth, the Lawyers Committee for 9/11 Inquiry, the NY State Legislative Action Project for 9/11 Justice, the 9/11 Consensus Panel, and the 9/11 Truth Action Project will be holding the next in the series of “Justice in Focus” symposia on the topic of “9/11 Truth” which have been held annually for some years now.

Hitler’s power grab: The Enabling Act. (March 1933). The Nazis’ payoff for their high-handed false flag which enabled it.

“9/11” is a subject that I have visited periodically over the years, most recently on The Greanville Post last April, upon the publication of the redacted version of “The 28 Pages.”   This time around I thought to go back to some of my earliest writing on the subject.  It appeared on a long-closed webmagazine called “The Political Junkies.net.” This time around, because the 9/11 disaster and the U.S. Republican government’s response to  it has had such a profound impact on world affairs, the multi-faceted and super-deadly current conflict in the Middle East being just one of them, I thought that it might be useful to re-visit a singular event that occurred a long time ago, that also had a huge impact in subsequent years,  That would be the Reichstag Fire, that occurred in Berlin, Germany, on February 27, 1933, just about a month after Adolf Hitler became the German Chancellor.  There are some remarkable comparisons between the governmental responses to the two events, of which this column will only scratch the surface.  This text is drawn from several columns of mine on the subject of 9/11 and the Reichstag Fire which I have written over the years, the first being done in November, 2001.
 
For those who may not be au courant with the history of Nazi Germany, let me lay out the bare facts of the period.  On January 30, 1933, the then President of the German Weimar Republic (1919-1933), the World War I hero Field Marshall Paul von Hindenburg, as part of a deal with the non-Nazi Right-Wing political parties, appoints Adolf Hitler, the leader of the National Socialist German Workers (Nazi) Party as Chancellor.  Among other things, the Nazis begin moving very quickly against the trade unions and the two left-wing parties, the Socialists (SPD) and the Communists (KPD), arresting certain members of their leaderships and driving others into exile.  On February 27, the grand, historic, German Parliament building in Berlin, the Reichstag, is hit by a fire that would make it unusable until it was eventually restored after the end of World War II.

The story of “the cause” that was released almost immediately (within hours) by the Nazis was that the fire was set by a mentally-handicapped Dutch former Communist turned anarchist, acting entirely alone, one Marinus van der Lubbe.  (The Reichstag conveniently happened to be decorated with highly flammable furniture, drapes, and wall-coverings.  Apparently, a few matches did the trick.)  Within hours, Hitler, Goering, and Goebbels, et al had proclaimed the fire to be the result of a KPD plot.  It happened that the KPD knew nothing of it and that the “incriminating documents” quickly produced by the Nazis were later proved to be forgeries.  But that meant nothing at the time.

The Nazis quickly created a national hysteria over the “threat of the KPD and the SPD,” lumped together as “the Marxists,” to the “peace and tranquility of the German nation,” to the “security of the German volk.”  To deal with “the Marxist threat,” on Feb. 28, the day after the Fire, before there could be any kind of investigation beyond the Nazi declarations and proffered false documents, with Pres. Hindenburg’s approval, and in accord with a provision of the post-World War I Weimar Republic’s Constitution, all of the civil liberties protections in it were suspended.  But this wasn’t enough for the Nazis.

On March 24, 1933, a Reichstag from which all the elected Communist deputies had been purged along with a number of the Socialist deputies, and in which many of the Centrist Deputies were totally intimidated (at the time of the vote, the Reichstag’s temporary chamber was surrounded by members of the Nazis’ private army, the Sturm Abteilung, the SA [or “Brownshirts”]), passed a Constitutional Amendment giving virtual dictatorial power to Hitler and his cabinet for a four-year period.  It was called the Enabling Act.  In practice, it made Hitler into a dictator with no checks of any kind on his power (unless it were to come from another non-Constitutional power bloc, like the Army).  It is fascinating to note that the sticklers for the “law” that they were, the Nazis, in what subsequently passed for the “Reichstag,” dutifully renewed the Act every four years of the Hitlerite period.  And so, the Reichstag Fire enabled the Nazi Party to gain something that would have been much more difficult for them to achieve without it: dictatorial control of the nation of Germany.

So who set the fire?

For many years (as is the case with “9/11”) no one knew for sure.  Was it indeed the mentally-handicapped Dutch anarchist Marinus van der Lubbe, acting on his own, who then Prussian Interior Minister Hermann Goering had had arrested at the scene, was it Van der Lubbe acting for Goering in one way or another, or was it a ten member Sturm Abteilung (SA) detachment operating under Goering’s orders?
 
An article, “The Reichstag Fire Trial, 1933-2008” (Tigar, M.E. and Mage, J., The Monthly Review, Vol. 60, No. 10, March 2009), based on evidence both from the time and more recently uncovered, set the record straight.  Van der Lubbe was on the scene, for one reason or another, but the fires were clearly set by the Goering detachment.  Interestingly enough, most of the members of that detachment were murdered during “The Night of the Long Knives,” June 30, 1934.  On that night, Hitler’s operatives killed just about any members of the Nazi Party who could possibly become rivals to him, including the commander of the SA, Ernst Roehm, whose gangsters had been so important in Hitler’s coming to power in the first place.  It happens that the conclusion that, if van der Lubbe played any role at all in the Reichstag Fire it was a minor one, was upheld by the Federal Court of Justice of the Federal Republic of Germany when, in January, 2008, it overturned the conviction and subsequent death penalty on him.

OK.  So the Nazis set the Reichstag Fire and immediately (that is within hours) blamed it on the KPD.  Well, why would they do that?  A month into his reign, things are not going so well for Hitler.  He has already made his first roundups, of known Communists and left-wing labor leaders.  But, the Depression is still on, he still has Pres. Hindenburg to deal with, the army is on the fence (in fact, many of the Old Prussians can’t stand the “Little Corporal,” a Great War enlisted man and an Austrian to boot), and there is still a functioning Reichstag to deal with.  It is minus the elected Communist deputies, but there are enough Socialists and other Nazi-opponents left to deny him the two-thirds majority he needs to change the Constitution.  What to do?

The Nazis either get a mentally-handicapped person to really set the fire for them or let himself get set up as the scapegoat.  But in any case, everything is blamed on the “Communist terrorists.”  Hitler then manipulates the remaining membership of the Reichstag in his favor by scaring off some of the Socialists who are still there, intimidating a few other opponents, and making a bargain with the Catholic “center” party that in power, the Nazis will leave Catholic education alone.  They get the Enabling Act passed by the two-thirds vote it needs, since it is a Constitutional amendment. The rest is history.

Okay.  So what was the possible parallel in the US, at the time of 9/11?  How about the following?  In 2000, the Right-Wing and their industrial partners such Big Oil and the military-industrial complex, succeed in getting a President in place.  That was very important for them for if Gore had won, he might, just might, have been there for eight years and he would not have been as easy a target as Bill Clinton had been.  Although to be sure, like Clinton he was a right-wing Democrat, on matters like energy policy, global warming, and the environment he might, just might, have gotten things done.  So, they, the U.S. Right, avoided that horrible prospect (horrible for Big Oil, at least), by getting the U.S. Supreme Court to elect George W. Bush President, by one vote.  BUT, less than one year into Bush’s first term, just like the Nazis had, they faced certain problems:

  1. They know that their man didn’t really win, and further, in terms of the popular vote,          was a minority President (a fact the media completely ignored).  (Interesting: the Nazis never got more than 37% of the vote in any open election in pre-Nazi Germany.)
  2. Their guy (Bush) is a weakling (just like Hindenburg was).
  3. There is a recession underway.
  4. They have, as least temporarily, lost control of the Congress through the defection of Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont.  Since that happened, none of their programs, from        energy/environmental policy to more tax-cuts for the wealthy and the large      corporations, were going through.
  5. The Enron bubble had burst.
  6. Cheney wouldn’t tell what he had talked about with his oil cronies:  Was it energy     prices? Enron? Invading Iraq (already very quietly on the table, according to Clinton   national security advisor Richard Clarke) to gain a secure supply for many years to come, perhaps?  (The answer to that question is still not known, and probably won’t be until Cheney is dead and buried, and somebody who was at the meeting talks.)

What to do?  Meet their needs, of course.  At what cost?  At whatever cost, just as long the whole thing is kept secret.
The needs to be met included the following:

  1. Replacing a weak chief executive with a strong one, either literally or functionally.
  2. Finding an excuse for the recession, so that this doesn’t get blamed on this Bush and the Republicans, as was the last one.
  3. Bypassing or having a compliant Congress on important measures (since they couldn’t possibly win votes on stuff like securing major, retroactive tax cuts for the large corporations, or trashing the environment).
  4. Being able to ignore the judiciary (which, despite their efforts since the Reagan years, still had some judges who knew what the Constitution is.
  5. Eliminating Constitutional rights by Presidential decree (see The Patriot Act), but even more important, establishing that the President could commit such a revolutionary act by decree.

The document that became the Patriot Act, introduced to Congress about two weeks after “9/11,” was already secretly being written.  It had to be, for two reasons.  First of all, the original was about 340 pages of dense legal language.  Among other things, it overturned, conveniently enough by statute, not by Amendment, major portions of the Constitution, such as the Fourth Amendment which guarantees protection against unreasonable, non- judicial, search and seizure, the Fifth Amendment, which guarantees due process of law, and the Sixth Amendment, which guarantees jury trials in criminal cases.  The bill was introduced into Congress only some two weeks after 9/11.  Try writing a 340-page, extremely complex bill in two weeks.  Moreover, if you are already writing such a bill [that would be DOA in normal times] and you really wanted to get it passed, wouldn’t you hope for, or worse yet try to create, times so abnormal that you could rush the legislation through a panicked Congress?

  • Giving the President the possibility of presiding over a “permanent war” against         “terrorism” (the War on Iraq at that time being only a gleam in the eyes of Cheney,         Wolfowitz, et al).

But, the Right-Wing-Republican/religious-fundamentalist cabal being postulated here couldn’t accomplish that agenda with a finger snap.  Just as Hitler could not have gotten anything like the Enabling Act through the Reichstag with the Communists and Socialists in place, so the cabal had no chance as things stood to achieve their principal goals. In fact, at the time of the 9/11 disaster the political tide was beginning to turn against them, especially with the economy going into recession and the Senate in the hands of a functional Democratic majority that was proving not-too-pliable.
 
How nice would it be in terms both of politics and policy to have an excuse to get their program going in such a way that could withstand criticism from most people and most countries around the world too.  And then, if the same event that could do those things could open up the possibility of beginning the destruction of Constitutional democracy at home.  As noted above, we are not talking here simply about the invasion of individual rights, but also the end of “checks and balances:” the bypassing of the independent judiciary, the bypassing of the legislature, and the substitution of rule by Presidential Decree. And then to top it all off, to be able to sneak through their right-wing domestic agenda under the cover of “fighting terrorism.”  What better than a grand “terrorist” event, like the destruction of the WTC?  Or, in Berlin of 1933, the destruction of the Reichstag?













 
Colin Kaepernick, the National Anthem, the Meaning of ‘Freedom,’ and the U.S. Right by Steven Jonas
September 6, 2016

Colin Kaepernick is a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers in the National Football League.  A former star, he led his team to the championship game, the Super Bowl, for two consecutive seasons, those of 2012 and 2013.  The team lost both games, but it did get there.  Since then his own star has been in the decline, in part due to injury.  The pre-season speculation has been the he will not be the team’s starting quarterback this year.  He is still getting paid well, having signed a lucrative contract after his second consecutive Super Bowl season.

But right now, the talk about Kaepernick does not concern football.  One has to say that there is likely more talk now about Kaepernick, the political figure, than there ever has been about him as a football player.  That’s because it involves people who are only vaguely aware of what the Super Bowl actually is, as well as die-hard football fans.  Of course that is all due to the National Anthem controversy that Kaepernick caused last week.  It happens that, for reasons which are not entirely understood, the “Star-Spangled Banner” is played, often sung by a soloist or chorus, and sometimes by the whole attending crowd as well, before virtually every sporting event held in the United States.  (In fact, and I never thought about why this is so, it has been played before virtually every amateur race that I do as a tri- and duathlete for the last 34 years, usually involving only a few hundred competitors and spectators.)

One is expected to stand during the playing of the Anthem and face the U.S. flag if one is flying. In some circumstances, one is also expected to place one’s hand over one’s heart.  (The U.S. Olympic gold medal gymnast Gabby Douglas [like Kaepernick, an African-American —  that couldn’t have anything to do with the controversies, could it?] took a huge amount of heat for [unintentionally] not placing her hand over her heart during one of the playings of the U.S. national anthem at an award ceremony during the recent Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.)  But Colin Kaepernick has now made a national issue, not just of hand-over-heart-placing, but over whether every professional athlete should stand during it.

According to his Wikipedia entry:

During a post-game interview he was asked why he sat down and stated,

I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."

The 49ers also released a statement which said,

The national anthem is and always will be a special part of the pre-game ceremony. It is an opportunity to honor our country and reflect on the great liberties we are afforded as its citizens. In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose and participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.’“

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black     people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish     on my part to look the other way…”

The uproar has been tremendous.  A retired NFK quarterback, “Boomer” Esiason, (like Kaepernick a two-time Super Bowl loser), now a sportscaster on both radio and TV, ripped him up and down for daring to introduce politics into football.  (Kaepernick did get a good deal of support from other [mainly African-American, of course] football players.)  But of course, it’s not the politics itself that Boomer was objecting to, but rather the particular politics that Kaepernick was expressing (see the above the quote).  And aye, there’s the rub.

It happens that that U.S. national anthem has a rather nasty history (and I did not know this until I read the hyperlinked article).  I have always thought that the worst thing about “The Star Spangled Banner” was, having been written by Francis Scott Key to the tune of an English drinking song, because of the range that that tune covers, it is actually very difficult to sing.  But no, that’s not it.  In a comprehensive history of the origin of the song, Jason Johnson tells us that Key was a racist who was very upset about the use by the British in the War of 1812 of runaway slaves, as what the British called Colonial Marines.  And the third verse of the Anthem, which I don’t think is ever performed these days (wonder why?), referring to a battalion of Colonial Marines that had recently defeated a unit led by Key, tells us the following:

    And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
    That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
    A home and a Country should leave us no more?
    Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
    No refuge could save the hireling and slave
    From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
    And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
    O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Obviously the “free” to which Key was referring does not include slaves.

But the criticism of Kaepernick from the Right is resounding, and it’s all about “freedom.”  On the surface.  But it’s an odd kind of freedom, especially if you are an African-American, and for some even more especially if you are African-American who was adopted and raised by a white couple (hence his German-sounding last name).  According to “Fox and Friends” co-host, Brian Kilmeade, Kaepernick should have stood for the Anthem, especially because both his parents are white.  (Oh boy, Brian.  You just took your racist clothes off in public, or perhaps you symbolically put on the hood.)  And especially because the Anthem is all about “freedom,” and the “American way,” donchaknow.  And it has also become attached to the military and “those who serve” (some of whom have actually come to Kaepernick’s defense).

But for the Right in this country, “freedom” has a set of very special meanings and not-meanings. First and foremost, in this case, their definition of the “freedom” that is supposedly represented by the “Star Spangled Banner” does not include the right to not engage in the symbolism it represents when you feel that there are some major wrongs in this country that need to be righted before the National Anthem truly represents everyone.  “Freedom” for the Right means the “freedom” to carry even military weapons in public, but not the freedom to be free of the threat of being attacked by any such carrier on their whim (as at the Sandy Hook school in Connecticut). Freedom for the Right does not mean, according to Fox News’ ” favorite African-American sheriff (where does the ruling class find these people?), the freedom to form a potentially revolutionary organization like Black Lives Matter.  Freedom for the Right does not mean the freedom to have the untrammeled right to vote.

And finally, “freedom” takes on a particularly different meaning for the Religious Right and their allies in and out of government in the National Religious — Republican — Party.  It does not mean the freedom to have ready access to perfectly legal forms of abortion or even birth control measures.  It does not mean the freedom to marry who you want to, under the civil law in every one of the 50 states, if that person is of the same sex as you are.   It does mean the freedom to discriminate against those who you disapprove of for one reason or another (let’s say, sexual orientation, sexual identity, religion [see Muslim]).  The latter is perhaps the most dangerous in the long run because that form of “freedom” lines up government on the side of one particular religious belief, against all others, there being, for example, plenty of homosexuals and trans-gender people who are themselves religious.   The religious wars of 16th and 17th century Europe, here we come, under that concept of freedom.

And so, applause to Colin Kaepernick.  Maybe he will awaken the country to do some really deep thinking about what “American freedom” does and does not stand for and what the “Star Bangled Banner” does and does not stand for as well.

Addendum:

After this column was originally written, before a 49ers game at San Diego on Sept. 1 before which Colin Kapernick “took a knee” during the playing of the National Anthem, on the San Diego Chargers’ annual Salute to the Military night, which makes his action even more significant, he gave an interview in which he said, in part:

People of color have been targeted by police.  So that’s a large part of it and they’re     government officials.  They are put in place by the government.  So that’s something     this country has to change. . . . “

Says it all, doesn’t it?

 
Mr. Trump and the Damage Done: Where does the Republican Party Go from Here? by Steven Jonas

September 1, 2016

GOP establishment protestations aside, Trump is simply Republican values without the filters.

The headline for the lead New York Times editorial for August 21, 2016 was “Mr. Trump and the Damage Done.”  The Times used the Hindenburg Zeppelin disaster at Lakehurst, NJ in 1936 as an analogy.  It of course expressed the hope that the polls are right, and will not change, and that Trump will go down to defeat, hopefully resoundingly.  It went on to say:
But while that will solve an immediate problem, a larger one will remain.  The message of hatred and paranoia that is inciting millions of voters will outlast the messenger.  The toxic effects of Trumpism will have to addressed.”
The Times was right, and The Times was wrong.  Those “toxic effects” will have to be addressed (although The Times did not note why that would have to happen) alright.  “Trumpism” is indeed a convenient name.  But what The Times totally missed is that what Trump has been spewing is nothing new for the Republican Party.  As is well-known, Trump has only disposed of the dog whistles.  As I have written on numbers of occasions in the past, Trump has only further extended the “Rightward Imperative,” the envelope of political speech that Repub. candidates have been expanding upon for years.
    
Max Boot is one of the most rabidly malicious neocons around, and that’s saying something in a political tribe in which everyone is either a mercenary, a sociopath or a warmongering shill for the American imperialist system, or all of the above. The ubiquitous Boot does know a thing or two about putrid rightwing waters.
     
Indeed, as Johnathan Chait said in a recent column in New York Magazine (August 22-Sept. 4, 2016) entitled “Neocons at Large: Thirteen years after the bombing of Baghdad, the former GOP thought-leaders are now outcasts.”  He began the column by noting that:
On February 29 [2016], Max Boot, a neoconservative columnist and then a foreign-policy advisor to Marco Rubio, wrote that if Donald Trump were to win his party’s nomination, it would ‘confirm everything bad the Democrats had ever said about the GOP.’”
Actually, unintentionally, both Mr. Chait and Mr. Boot have put their finger on a central problem for the Repubs. That the party really hasn’t changed in its principles for many years.  (The main Trump exception in content is that he went off the reservation a bit on foreign policy — about which he appears to know even less than he knows about either domestic policy or what the U.S. government actually does and how it works.  He does now seem to be wondering back.)  As I have noted previously:
For years to bring voters to their side [the Repubs.] have cloaked their real policy positions under the camouflage of the standard, generally meaningless ‘lower taxes, smaller government, etc.’ mantra [smaller government, that is, except in matters such as the constantly expanding “defense” budget, and freedom of choice in pregnancy questions, and what recreational mood-altering (‘RMADs’) to use, not to mention the perennial promotion of prejudice—racism, homophobia, religious bigotry, creationism, sexual repression, etc].  If possible this was done in a supposedly veiled way, by using the so- called ‘dog whistles.’ They allow the GOP for the most part not to talk too much about what they are really about. And when they do, with the abundance of dog whistles about, their noise means that GOP voters hardly notice what their policies really mean.”  It’s just that Trump puts the one he likes out there at full bellow, and many party leaders don’t like that.
On anti-immigrant ideology and policy, for example, as I have previously noted the Repubs. have had a strong strain of it since the party was founded in the 1850s.  It was formed primarily from the Northern Whigs, but it did have a chunk of the strongly anti-immigrant American Party (along with the Temperance Movement) among its founding components.  This has been expressed in legislation over the years, from the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, through the Immigration Act of 1924, which further excluded Asians, along with Southern and Eastern Europeans, and Jews, right down to the present functional illegalization of Latinos.

And of course the racism has been there since the nomination of Goldwater, one of whose claims to fame was that he had voted against the Civil Rights Act.  Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” and his “drug war,” aimed particularly at people of color are well-known.  McCain —a singularly odious politician—notably voted against making Martin Luther Kling Day a national holiday.  And so on and so forth, in terms of policy and legislative emphasis (or rather non-emphasis) down to the present.

Although always profoundly “anti-subversive” in its filtration rules, the U.S. Exclusion Act was primarily a racist instrument. It should also be recalled that in the last quarter of the 19th century, the Irish immigrants themselves were seen and treated as “niggers” by the nativists, an extreme form of prejudice that now seems absurd.
     
But now that its Presidential candidate has put away the dog-whistles for the Party, where indeed does it go from here?  Does it backtrack a bit on domestic policy, especially on immigration? Maybe.  (In fact there is a major struggle on this question going on within the Trump campaign at this time.)  But just where else could it backtrack?  Surely not on its primary goal which is to essentially shut down all of the functions of the Federal government that it does not like, first and foremost in the regulatory arena.   [It must be pointed out that the immigration issue, especially in connection with Hispanics, is a tough issue to play for the Repubs., but also for the Democrats. There’s the consideration of the Hispanic vote to cater to, for starters, an area in which the Democrats, especially now thanks to Trump’s Big Mouth racist insults, have a momentary lock on. But there’s also the question of cheap labor, on which the Repubs., the foremost party in the defense of capitalist advantage, have a definite stake, one, for immediate profits, and two, because cheap and vulnerable labor brings workers’ wages down across the board. — Eds.]

So where do the Repubs. go from here?  As is well-known, its base is shrinking.  If it is ever to win another Presidential election, it is going to have to consolidate that base and firm it up (as well as expand gerrymandering and voter suppression — Trump is already working loudly on this one).  It needs the racist/anti-(non-white) immigration whites that Trump attracts.   But it also needs to bring back the Right-wing homophobic/misogynist Christians put off by Trump for a variety of reasons.  It also needs to solidify its “anti-government” ethic which Trump does not shout about too much.  So, assuming that Trump loses, where to turn?  They won’t want another ill-informed loudmouth.  But they will want a solid reactionary thoroughly behind the whole of the real Repub. platform, who can not only consolidate the base that Trump has assembled but who can also solidly bring the Christian Right back into enthusiastic support of the Party.

That candidate could very well be Ted Cruz, and I think that an early trial run for a Cruz candidacy is already underway.  Even though Cruz is the most prominent Repub. to have not endorsed Trump and he did it very publicly, he (or at least some of “his people”) is already making his move, actually through the Trump campaign itself.  The latest leadership shift, which will most likely be the last, has, in case you didn’t notice, put Cruz people in prominent places.

Start with the new Campaign Manager, Kellyanne Conway, actually a pollster, not a political director type.  But she did some work for Ted Cruz.  Then there’s the new campaign chief, the notorious Steve Bannon from Breitbart, who supported both Trump and Cruz during the primaries.  Of course the one real pro in the campaign, Paul Manafort, got caught with his boots muddied from the Dniester River (Ukraine), so he had to go.  And anyway, Trump seemed to be tiring of the professional approach.   Then there’s the new big money man.  It’s one Robert Mercer, originally a Cruz supporter himself.  I think that what we are seeing in the Trump campaign now is actually a dry run, a trying-things-out of sorts, for a Cruz campaign in 2020. Whether Trump can get far enough outside of his ego to see it and is going along with it, or is totally unaware of these developments (which, given his monstrous ego and miniscule political knowledge is possible) is immaterial.  Assuming that Trump does lose (and given all of Clintons negatives, it is really a matter of him losing, not her winning), in my view Cruz will have the inside track for the 2020 Repub. nomination.

It doesn’t matter that many members of Congress don’t like him personally.  He is a solid reactionary on every issue you can think of.  He never made the Rubio mistake of once-upon-a-time joining in some reasonable compromise on current immigration policy.  He has the “Cuban refugee” card to play (even though his father fled Batista, not Castro).  Most importantly, in terms of possibly putting together a winning racist/Religious-Right coalition, he is a Reconstructionist/Dominionist.  That is, he puts “the inerrant Bible” — that of course is the “King James version,” an English translation put together at the beginning of the reign of King James VI Scotland, I England, by a committee of 47 scholars and theologians, (what? they all spoke directly to God?) — above the Constitution.

And so, the Trump/Cruz-in-2020 campaign is trying out a number of strategies.  Just look at what they are featuring.   Prime right now is Hillary’s health.  Indeed, she will be 73 in 2020.  Even if the Clinton Foundation is totally shuttered by then, of course they will use it.  Regardless of what Clinton might do as President, the emails will always be there.  Policy?  Stay as far away from that as possible, just as Trump does, because with the further tax-cuts-for-the-rich, there will be even fewer Federal dollars than there presently are to do anything — like better flood control, for example; are you listening, right-wingers in Louisiana? — for anybody.  Of course, assuming Repub. Control at least of the House, “nothing will get done in Washington” and as they have done and are doing they will blame that all on the Democratic Administration: geniuses at that one they have always been.

Perhaps most important, because it is so easy to do with someone who doesn’t seem to know, really, truth from un-truth, the campaign Chief, Bannon, is a master not only at the Hitler/Goebbels Big Lie Technique, but also what might be called the “Little Lie” technique (like Hillary uses a catheter).  And so now they use it freely.  The creation of what some in the mainstream media are surprisingly referring to as the “fact-free zone” will be critical to a Cruz win in 2020.  Nobody likes Cruz and ever fewer people, apparently, like Bannon.  But they will make some pair in 2020.  And Bannon, who has never been close to a Presidential campaign, is getting all kinds of experience, from the Right, where he needs to be, using Donald Trump, to get himself, and staff like Conway that he is bringing, ready for 2020.  So where do the Repubs. go from here? Right to the even further, but rather quieter, Right.  That’s right to Ted Cruz.



 
The Bill Clinton Legacy by Steven Jonas


With Bill Clinton’s 70th birthday on August 19, and with, of course, Hillary running for President, there has been a lot of talk about his “legacy.”  The Democrats of course try to place it in the most favourable light, which requires that they mainly focus on what he said, not actually what he did.  As for the Republicans, they of course ignore what he did (for, as we shall see below, he mainly carried out Republican policies), and focus on Clinton-and-sex (some real, some not) and economic/money scandals like ”Whitewater,” which itself actually never came to anything.  Indeed, the real Clinton record, on issues of importance, is an ideal example of the Duopoly at work.

After all, Clinton was the chairman of the Republican-lite Democratic Leadership Council in the 1980s.  And so when he got to the Presidency, after running a campaign that for the most part covered up his true agenda, he proceeded to go DLC all the way.

Despite all the “progressive talk,” “listening to Bernie,” and “listening to Elizabeth Warren,” there certainly are indications that if Hillary does become President she will follow a pathway similar to that followed by Bill, and indeed herself when she was ensconced in the White House.  There are those “Wall St.” speeches, the texts of which she still refuses to release; the “Wall St.” money she has pulled in; and indeed the Republican endorsements she is pulling in, in increasing numbers.  They cannot all be coming about simply because Trump is so awful (which of course he is).  And so, let’s turn to that “Clinton Legacy,” mainly on the domestic side.

I am presenting the elements of it that I find to be most important, but not necessarily in order of importance, for some would think that some are more important than others.  However, I think that most persons, from “true Democrat” on to “true socialist,” viewing this particular list would agree that they are all negative to a greater or lesser extent.  Or at least they would agree that I just happen to have picked out a bunch of negative ones (but I did have a hard time remembering any positive ones).  And so, in no particular order, here’s my list.

Bill Clinton introduced us to Big Pharma advertising for prescription drugs on television.  The main purpose of these ads, at least as they are now constructed, would seem to be an attempt to protect the firms from charges of non-full disclosure when various pharmaceuticals come to suit.  But at the same time, with the visuals all the way through, and the often dream-like text about what the pills can do for you at the beginning and the end, the ads: a) reinforce the US drug culture: “take this pill; it will solve your problem; b) add to the pressure that physicians feel all the time anyway about prescribing; and c) attempt to make patient into self-prescribers.

Following a Reagan decision of 1987, Bill Clinton confirmed the elimination of what was called the Fairness Doctrine that governed the use by private parties of the publicly owned radio and television waves in the United States.  This is what has led to the dominance of US radio in particular by the right-wing political talk that so reinforces the Repub. political agenda.   (By the way, Obama reinforced this elimination in 2011.)

Clinton, aided and abetted by his totally inept Attorney General, Janet Reno, completely mis-handled the Waco affair, allowing the leader of a tiny religious sect called the Branch Dravidians, one David Koresh, to make himself into a national hero for the Christian Right and the gun industry.  Koresh was clearly violating gun laws.  Even a United Parcel Service driver knew that.  He should have been confronted and arrested right up front before he had the chance to develop his clear lunacy into a “movement.”  But the “Good Ol’ Boy” let the thing drag on until in the end it became a tragedy that was totally preventable.

Related to that one was his total failure to make an issue of Domestic Right-wing terrorism in re the Oklahoma City Bombing.  There was an extensive Federal investigation of the roles of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols in the assault, but it never led to the broader investigation of the role and place of right-wing militias in this country, which has grown virtually non-stop ever since.  (A current inventory is provided by the Southern Poverty Law Center.)  A Republican-led Senate “investigation” of the Oklahoma City bombing, chaired by the man who gave us Clarence Thomas, Sen. Arlen Spector of Pennsylvania, led to two days of hearings at which one right-wing hate group after another was permitted to testify to how misunderstood and discriminated against they were.  Neither the Clinton Administration nor the Democratic minority in the Senate did anything to counter that travesty.
 
 Again, the Duopoly at work.  We couldn’t have a serious attack on White Terrorism (e.g., Dylan Roof) back then any more than we can have it now.

One could write a length of course about the Monica Lewinsky affair and its aftermath.  I won’t, here.  Except to say that there are two words that Clinton should have uttered when Lewinsky (it has been alleged) flashed him: “Secret Service.”  Of course, the whole Ken Starr-inspired impeachment thing could have been cut off at the pass had Clinton instructed Reno not to appoint that former law partner of the firm that was representing Paula Jones in her suit against Clinton, but that didn’t happen either, and we know what did.  

Then there was Clinton’s failure to achieve health care reform.  (It happens that I know how poorly organized they were for that initiative, with Hillary supposedly at the helm, from the inside.  For I was what was known as a “Designated Speaker for the Clinton Health Plan.”)  I can tell you that although I did go out to community meetings in the spring of 1994, I also came home from the first “organizational meeting” that I attended at the White House in December, 1993 and told my wife at the time, “If this is how they are going to go about it, they are never going to get anything passed.”  Not only did they not, but that failure led to the Gingrich so-called “landslide” (in which GOP House candidates got 18% of the total eligible voters nationally while Democratic candidates got 17% [betcha didn’t know that, didya?])

In addition, briefly we can mention:

  • There was no fight-back on Whitewater, “travelgate,” etc., even though there was,     as my College Classmate and first Clinton White House Counsel, Bernard Nussbaum,     said, “no there there or anywhere,” from the beginning.
  • There was the bombing of Serbia without UN sanction.  That set the precedent taken     full advantage of by George W. Bush for the Iraq invasion.  (Unfortunately, Bush did     not take advantage of a major Clinton success, the intelligence gathering and “black     ops” that were behind the thwarting of both the 1998 “bombing 25 airliners over the     Atlantic” plot and the “Millennium Bomb Plot” aimed at Los Angeles International     Airport, either of which would have resulted in far more casualties than 9/11.  Of     course we have a pretty good idea of why Bush didn’t do that, but that’s another     story.)  
  • On gay rights, there were the continuation of discrimination against gay and lesbian     service people     under the so-called “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell” doctrine, as well as the     “Defense of Marriage Act” which defined marriage at the Federal level as “between one man and one woman” and extended that authority to state governments as well.
  • Then there was the repeal of “welfare as we know it,” that is the end of the Aid to Families with Dependent Children Program (which, despite Reagan’s “welfare     Queens” spiel, served more whites than non-whites, [betcha didn’t know that     either]).  Of course, that legislation does not prevent the ongoing GOP screams     about what now is a virtually non-existent Federal welfare program except for the     one focused on providing food stamps that feed both the hungry and the food     industry, and the limited “temporary assistance” program.
  • It was the “Three Strikes and You’re Out” law, strongly supported by President     Clinton (and then-Senator Joe Biden as well) that led to the current disaster of mass     incarceration, resulting from, among other things, the expansion  of the “drug war.”    

Much of this was subsumed by Clinton’s infamous announcement, in his 1996 State     of the Union Address, that the “era of big government is over.”  This full extension of Reaganite social and economic policy of course applied only to national domestic     spending, not such areas as the expansion of the draconian “drug war:” a prime example of big government intruding into choices of personal behavior.

And then, in the economic realm, but again also just briefly here, there were the likely two most important actions/disasters of the Clinton Administration, each of which has played a direct role in the continuation and indeed strengthening of Reaganomics and the increasing stranglehold that the GOP has over fiscal policy.  First was the Repeal of the Depression Era Glass-Steagall Act (interestingly enough, they were both Southerners) that had separated commercial and investment banking.  That repeal of course led directly to the Crash of 2008 from which millions of people on this country have never recovered and likely never will.  Second, there were NAFTA (actually, Clinton just gave in to following through on a George H.W. Bush initiative --- the Duopoly at work) and the World Trade Organization initiatives, which led to the massive export of US capital to countries with (much) cheaper labor and that “massive whooshing sound” of job outflow that Ross Perot referred to in the 1992 Presidential Election Campaign).  One could write a whole column about those two, of course.   

They have led invariably to the decline of US manufacturing, the parallel decline of US trade unionism, the creation of the permanent army of the unemployed, the ever-widening gap between the poor and everyone else, the increasingly creative use of the tax code to support the use of overseas so-called “tax shelters” that enable the avoidance of the payment of billions of dollars in taxes, and so on and so forth.  And who is taking advantage of all these negative outcomes of Republican policies that have been further promoted by Democratic Duopolists?  Indeed, Trump, as intellectually limited as he is, has been able to exploit so well what I have called “Republican Genius.”

Some legacy, eh wot?  Clinton’s policies led to long-range disaster on the domestic side, while Bush’s led to long-range disaster on the foreign policy side.  No wonder they seem to get along so well with each other when they meet at various galas.  Indeed, there is every chance that the first Clinton Presidency could be an overture to a second one.  And not an overture by either Mozart or Rossini, either.







 
A Trump Retrospective, in Tweets and Columns By Steven Jonas
August 22, 2016

Everyone who knows anything about U.S. politics knows that Tweeting is one of Donald Trump's favorite means of communication. He has a huuuge Twitter following (I must admit that I don't know how many) and re-tweets frequently (but when those are from far-right-wingers he claims not to know "anything about that" (not Trump's only form of Know-Nothingism). It is impossible to know whether or not Trump writes all of his Tweets himself. But they do at times come thick and fast. So perhaps there are Tweet-ghosts hovering about (although the chances that they are anything like the guilt-consumed/now-confessional ghost writer for "The Art of the Deal" Tony Schwartz are slim).

At any rate, I write Tweets too, on the average of about two a week. My following is just slightly less than Trump's, well, actually a whole lot less: something less than 1,600. My Tweets can be found at TPJ Magazine. (By the way, the publication of the magazine itself is suspended.) Looking back over them, I found that the majority actually were about Trump. And so, I thought that at this time it might be fun (educational, thought-provoking, historical, hysterical [?]) to re-visit some of them, in chronological order.

I have also included references to several TGP columns of mine on the subject of Trump.

1. My very first on Trump , June 16, 2015 (when he declared his candidacy for the Presidency):

Trump goes Full Nativist. Poor guy. Just has nothing else, except $9 bil. made off his father's money and gambling. (Comment: little did anyone know at the time just how far that combination would take him. What a comment on our nation.)

2. I didn't get to him again until August 19, 2015. Like others, I wasn't taking him too seriously at that time: So Trump employs undocumented immigrants. If e-verify went through, how much in fines; how much would profits drop?

3. Then on November 15, 2015 came: Trump reveals himself as equal opportunity "taking-advantage-of-hate" hater: Afro.-Americans, Latino (only) immigrants, Muslims.  Note: By this time, I had already written my first full-length column on him: "Hair Trump or Herr Trump? Then one came out on December 15, 2015: "Trump, the Right-Ward Imperative, and the Republican Party"

4. An important but not much mentioned point about the "Trump U." case is that Trump might face criminal as well as civil charges. No wonder he is going after the judge. Note: A column of mine on Trump and the Orlando Massacre appeared on June 16, 2016: "Orlando, Trump, Identity-Group-Hate-Politics, and the Republican Party"

On June 21, 2016 I published a column on the subject Trump becoming a fascist. That is because he had directly linked his racism, bigotry, xenophobia and etc. to the U.S. capitalist class and protecting its interests: "Donald Trump: Turning the Corner Towards Fascism (but First let's Define it)."

5. Back to the Tweets, on July 7, 2016 I hazarded a guess that Trump might be demented (scroll down). Is Trump rant/rave all act or real person? Convinced it's latter. Made much money younger. Couldn't have with this persona. Perhaps a dementia?

6. On July 26, 2016, I noted that: The only similarity between the Repubs.' and the Democrats' first convention evenings: both featured speeches by Michelle Obama.

On July 27, 2016, I wondered if Trump might appoint his British clone, Boris Johnson, as Secretary of State: Will Trump offer him dual appointment as Secretary of State? US was part of British Empire. History details seem to trump Trump often.

7. On Aug. 2, I speculated, as I have more than once during the whole of the Trump saga (and that's not an original thought) that perhaps he isn't in it to be in it. For readers who like humor in their politics, try this on for size. Maybe for Trump it really is one big book tour. After, a special offer on a limited edition signed copy of "The Art of the Deal" is available.

8. Then finally, just a few days ago I, like so many others, took note of Trump advocating assassination of political enemies (and that's what he did folks, no matter how you want to slice it). This is fascism, pure and simple (see the definition in my column of June 21, 2016, noted above).

Mystery Nick (Kristof of The New York Times), who was at the time, for some unknown reason, giving the man the benefit of the doubt)? Nah. Trump advocates assassination. No joke. By definition, he's a Fascist.

Yes, indeed folks. While many U.S. Presidents have been responsible for the killing of many, many people overseas (as well as many Native and African- Americans on these shores), this is the first one who has his sights firmly set on many (non-Native and African-Americans) right here at home.

There is no leeway to be given here. No guessing about what this true fascist really meant. After getting close to undressing in public on a number of previous occasions, he has now done it for real. (And yes, that's figuratively undressing. Undressing in the flesh might even be more disgusting.) Republicans by the droves are now coming out to get out from under him. Will the rush become an avalanche? And by the way, will one of the most prominent former senior Republican officials who did not sign the "we cannot support Trump" letter, who as a junior officer in Viet Nam slowed down the transmission of the report on the My Lai Massacre as a it made its way up the chain of command --- that would be Colin Powell --- now, finally, be persuaded to do so?

The big question many are asking is, especially since he has now added the "Obama Founded ISIS" bit, is Trump setting himself up for the big fall (see also Michael Moore on this one), or is it just happening naturally, because of who he is and his state of mind at this time of his life?







 
The Impeachment of President Donald J. Trump by Steve Jonas
August 8, 2016

As is well known, even after the Great Rearrangement of Trump (not of his hair, but of his outward persona) that took place in August of 2016, there was little was little expectation that Mr. Trump would be able to win the Presidency.  The list of his political peccadillos had grown to be endless.  Chris Hayes, a political commentator for MSNBC, kept a list of the “Last Ten Trump” gaffs, blunders, political wall-bangers and what have you.  Hayes characterized them as “Things Trump Has Done That Would Have Ended Any Other Campaign.”  However, shortly after the “Gold-Star mothers/Nazr Khan/relations with the Russians” debacles of late July, there came to be a huge gathering of campaign staff, RNC staff, and perhaps most importantly, family.  After what was by all accounts a very intense weekend, Trump’s behavior slowly began to change.

Of course, no one knows to date exactly what went on in the series of meetings, with and without the candidate, that were held.  As is well-known, the best guess to date as to what went on goes something like this.  First, it was established that Mr. Trump really did want to be President, not just look towards raking in the millions that would come from his next book, win or lose.  Second, family members finally got him to pay attention to the “behavioral concerns” that concerned everyone else in the room.  Third, and this is only on speculation of the most speculative kind, it is possible that Mr. Trump, because he really did want to be President, agreed to go on medication.

Whatever it was, his behavior did change.  But his standing the polls didn’t.  He had already done so much damage to himself, that only his “base” that had gathered around him from the early days of the Republican primaries, continued to stand by him.  The process remained the same.  Regardless of what he did or had done, regardless of how many lies he told (and that did not stop with the “new Trump”) his acolytes stood by him.  Trump proved at that time, that for a significant minority of U.S., race trumps everything.  And, and it was a big “and,” big GOP money finally started rolling in (except for, for some reason, that of the Kochs).  

But then came the “race riots” around the country of early October followed by the apparently coordinated terrorist attacks of mid-October that took a death toll surpassing that of 9/11.  Like the latter event, right from the outset, there were strong suspicions of “false flags” behind both sets of disasters.  Nothing has been proven to date, and it might never be.  After all, 15 years after 9/11, even with the release of the famous “28 pages,” although the circumstantial evidence ring grew tighter and tighter, nothing had been proven conclusively by that time.  But, false flag or no, Donald Trump rolled into the Presidency.

The Republican Establishment, even those who had stood to the side, or perhaps just a bit to the side, were thrilled. Trump or no. On meds or no, they had gotten what they were primarily after in the election: control of the Supreme Court, the decimation of all Federal regulatory programs as fast as that could be accomplished, further tax cuts for the rich, further destruction of the U.S.’s pitiable “safety net,” from Social Security to Medicaid, a rapid increase in the already bloated but oh-so-profitable levels of spending for the Military-Industrial Complex, the end of ANY action on global warming and so on and so forth.  Of course with the Trump win, the Republicans actually not only strengthened their House majority but their one in the Senate too.

In rapid succession Mitch McConnell ended the filibuster and got the “Scalia Seat” filled with a judge who made Chief Justice Roberts look like a “flaming liberal.”  Obama Care was repealed on Congress’ first day, and the Ryan “Poverty Plan ,” actually a plan to increase it, started making its way through the committee structure.  Huge authorizations for an increase in military spending were put through, as the U.S. increased the multiplier in that regard for which it stands in reference to the military spending of all the other countries.  And so on and so forth.  

But then came the cropper, or croppers, that lead to President Trump’s demise.  Medication or no.  “Calming down” or no. Trump began to move, to the extent that he could from the Oval Office, on two of his primary themes: “ending free trade” (and with it the free export of U.S.  capital, the chief goal of the U.S. ruling class) and vastly diminishing the U.S. overseas military commitments, especially when it came to NATO.  Neither of these could the U.S. ruling class possibly abide, for reasons that are very well-known.  Trump was counseled on the issues.  He was pleaded with.  Demands were put on him; deals were offered.  But he wouldn’t budge.  “This is what I promised and promises I keep” (an ironic statement giving his business dealings, but that is another story.)  

And so, he had to be gotten rid of.  But how (other than the old-fashioned way?)  It proved to be surpassingly simple.  One of Trump’s first personal actions was to reach down into the bureaucracy and appoint a new Director of the Internal Revenue Service, for he intended to use it for political/revenge/repressive purposes, just as it had been used against, for example, during the McCarthy Period the Progressive Party’s candidate in the 1952 elections, the labor lawyer Vincent Hallinan.  That Director was personally loyal to Trump, but in the wave of new senior managers who were quickly brought in, there was at least one who wasn’t.  And so, Mr. Trump’s income tax records, which he had never opened for public inspection, either before or after the Election, found their way into the hands of Trump’s ruling class enemies.  The record/indications of both criminal and civil fraudulent activity was beyond anyone’s imagination.  

The material was made public like a slow flow of water.  Mr. Trump refused to resign.  Since most members of Congress were bought and paid for by the ruling class, his programs which so troubled the ruling class were conveniently held up in that body.  The impeachment proceedings were started forthwith, however, led in the House by Pretty Boy Ryan and in the Senate by Never-Made-it-to-Admiral-did-he John McCain.  They went pretty quickly (details to follow, anon).  And the ruling class was again firmly in the cat-bird seat.

And so, Trump did make it to the Presidency, although under suspicious circumstances.  With him, the ruling class was able to achieve its major domestic priorities, starting with massive de-regulation in all spheres of governmental and private sector activity.  And then with him too, they achieved even further increases in the already massively bloated military-industrial complex, which just happens to be the mainstay both of the U.S. economy and of ruling class profits.  But then there was the threat to the ruling class’ foreign policy, based first and foremost on military strength, and projecting it around the world. And so, Trump had to go.  

The pathway for discarding Trump was made that much easier because the Vice-President was Mike Pence.  Pence had actually begun separating himself from Trump as early as August, 2016, on the issues of Trump’s attack on the Khan family, to some extent on foreign policy, and on endorsing Pretty Boy Ryan in his primary.  Trump refused to do so; Pence did.  He, a hard-line politico-economic Rightist and a Religious Reconstructionist to boot, is the ideal occupant of the White House, for the U.S. ruling class.  And Pence made his V-P pick very quickly: of course it was the ruling class favorite, Pretty Boy Ryan.

It was a marvelous irony, was it not, that they achieved the objective of getting rid of Trump by getting to the tax returns that he had indeed very good reasons for not wanting to be made public, while at the same time he was using the Internal Revenue Service to pursue personal objectives against others.  Indeed, hoist by his own petard he was.

 
 
The ‘Rightward Imperative:’ on Full Display at the RNC by Steve Jonas
July 21, 2016

Over the years I have written extensively about what I call the “Rightward Imperative and the Republican Party.”  The “Rightward Imperative” is the movement ever rightward of Republican politicians, from the presidential level to the lowliest, if they have any serious interest in getting elected.  The Rightward Imperative sometimes focuses on the real issues that are at the center of the Republican ideology, policies and programs.  For example, Eric Cantor lost his Congressional seat because he wasn’t tough enough on spending and taxes.

Besides being born with a silver spoon in his unfiltered mouth, Trump’s defining trait is his cavalier lack of substance, a man arrogantly devoid of any true ideology or serious knowledge about anything, nor possessed of any real sense of responsibility for his social actions. There’s really no there there. In that he resembles the criminally clueless G. W. Bush, the Idiot Prince, far more than anyone would care to admit.

Indeed, he was “Tea Partied.”  (Yes, indeed, most U.S. have never met a noun that they did not want to verb.)  But more often than not the Rightward Imperative focuses on the mis-named “social issues,” which are really the issues of religious dogmatism and authoritarianism, racism and xenophobia.

As I said, in the column cited above, Ronald Reagan initiated the historical stream of GOP-led right-wing reaction which we now see in front of us, every day.  They do have real policies which have underlain the Party’s programs since that time. As is well-known, the GOP represents major sectors of the US economy: the extractive/fossil-fuel industries, the military industrial complex, the prison-industrial complex, corporate agriculture, the “health” insurance and pharmaceutical industries, and of course corporate and “investment” finance.

But they could, and hardly can, run on a platform of “let the oil and coal companies do whatever they want to,” “we want the rich to get richer, donchaknow,” “we want to export as much American capital overseas where it can make larger profits than it can here, so we really want to de-industrialize our country,” “we don’t care about the health of the American people but we do care about the profits of the health care industry,” “we would like to have permanent war if we can get it,” “we want to completely convert the US economy from industrial capitalism to finance capitalism,” and so on and so forth.

And thus, their real policies have included (see Pretty Boy Ryan, himself a true Far-Rightist): further tax cuts for the rich; creating ever-widening income and wealth gaps; reducing environmental, transportation, workplace, finance, and etc. regulation to the greatest degree possible; further facilitating the export of capital; promoting the Permanent Preparation for Permanent War economy; the abolition of Social Security and the tattered remains of the “welfare” system, and so on and so forth.

And so here came Donald Trump.  He may be poorly educated, poorly informed, and possessed of little knowledge about how the extremely complicated U.S. government actually works, but he is a great huckster.  He also understood well the Rightward Imperative.  Whether or not he consciously set out to employ it, he has proved himself (by lucky instinct) a master of the craft, beginning of course with the “Birtherism Hoax” of which he was the leading perpetrator in the run-up to the 2012 election.  To be sure, he is not himself much with the underlying dogmas of the Religious Right, but he surely has known how important it is to get there in appearance if you want to get the Repub. nomination.

And so he did, starting with his Liberty University speech.  You may recall that even though he revealed that really doesn’t know the Bible that well, using a mis-citation, it was the content of what he said that enthralled the crowd, and then a much wider audience on the Religious Right.  He did it so well, that he swamped the collection of true Religious Rightist Dominionists who had entered the primaries, which included Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, and Marco Rubio.  He has now capped this particular march to the Religious Right by hooking up with Mike Pence.  This guy is a genuine religious rightist: a total homophobe who also sponsored highly restrictive abortion legislation.  He is also ranked as the Most Conservative Governor in the nation.

A religious zealot, abject chauvinist and warmonger, and 100% corporate owned, Mike Pence—who does have a political brain— typifies the excrement that rises to the top in the US political system. A fitting VP choice for Trump.

This guy wants to use the force of the law to allow holders of one religious view to deny civil and public rights to persons of another religious view. And yes folks, that is exactly what the Pences of this word would do: set one religious view against another, with the state standing behind the first against the second.  In the 16th century people slaughtered each other over the issue of whether the wine and wafer of Communion are really the blood and body of Christ, or just symbolic thereof.  In the 4th through the 6th centuries, in the region of the Byzantine Empire, people slaughtered each other over the issues of whether Christ was uni-, bi- or tri-partite (the Monophysite Controversy) or whether Christ was really Godlike or rather a totally remarkable human being: the “Arian Controversy.”  This is what the Mike Pences of this world would lead us to.

Other examples of the Rightward imperative were on full display at the Convention.
 
  • A Trump advisor, New Hampshire State Rep. Al Baldasaro, calling for the execution (presumably without trial) of Hillary Clinton for the Benghazi affair.
  • Ben Carson linked Hillary Clinton to “Lucifer” (which I believe is another name for the devil, no?  Of course, there is no proof of any kind that whatever the being is called he, she or it really exists, for the Carsons of the world it does.)  He then used that opportunity to promote on national television the Religious Rights’ canard that the U.S. is a ”Christian Nation” (even though the words “Christian” or “God” appear nowhere in the Constitution.
  • A pastor with a direct relationship with Trump used his shot at an invocation to make a political speech supporting him.  In it, he happened to call upon “God” to defeat (or maybe it was help defeat) Hillary Clinton and the Democrats.  It happens that this man is an African-American fronting for this racist party.  One wonders how African-Americans can do this — and there are a few — until one knows that in the early days of Nazism there were Jews who supported Hitler. (As there are Jewish plutocrats today funding rabid Nazi militia groups in the Ukraine. History contains many ugly and even shocking surprises.).
  • Chris Christie devoted most of his speech to demonizing Hillary Clinton personally (another element of the Rightward Imperative).  It’s a sure bet that if Trump winds and appoints Christie as his Attorney General (a real possibility), the latter’s first move will be to fire the current FBI director and his second to seek an indictment of Clinton for a wide variety of offenses.  (Indeed, in that way we would be becoming Turkey.)  Of course Christie is already running for the 2020 Repub. nomination, should Trump lose, as are Rubio, Cruz and Pretty Boy Ryan.
  • Finally here (and there are many more examples one could cite) there’s the Republican Party Platform.  While the Repubs., as I have said, are already running on three words, Benghazi, Emails, and Clinton (including, or perhaps featuring, Bill who, I don’t believe is running for President), Clinton might do well just to run against the Republican Platform.

The nomination of Donald Trump is the, so far, furthest projection of the Rightward Imperative.  He is running openly, without the usual “dog whistles,” on racism, xenophobia, religious determinism, religious prejudice, Islamophobia, authoritarianism.  (Funnily enough, he is against, or seems to be against, certain bedrock Republican principles like “free trade” and the export of capital.  However, the Repubs. can live with that for, if Trump wins, the Congress will be more Rightist than ever and such legislation would never stand a chance of passage.  Since, as his campaign chairman tells us, he would function more like the Chairman of the Board rather than the CEO [who would be Pence], this wouldn’t make too much difference to him.)  If indeed Trump does win, and he very well might, in part because the apparent Democratic nominee is so personally damaged by the email controversy, as well as politically compromised, it will the prime example of how the use of the Rightward Imperative can propel the least qualified major party candidate ever in the United States into the most powerful position in the world.  If that happens, gotta give it, and him, credit, for, if the Convention is any example, it sure wouldn’t have been done on policies and programs.






 
The Civil War Has Never Ended by Steve Jonas
July 16, 2016

Following the assassination of the five police officers in Dallas, TX, the New York Post, the Murdoch Empire’s seamy tabloid in the United States, posted a front page headline proclaiming “Civil War.”   (I have with care chosen the word “assassination” to describe the killing of the police officers in Dallas.  For the word originated in Arabic, and means, literally, “political murder.”)  A couple of days later, Newsday, a respectable tabloid which is the leading newspaper on New York State’s Long Island, posted a headline which read, “America’s Anguish.”  The New York Post headline has been heavily criticized as provocative, and consistent with the generally racist line taken by the newspaper over the years and also taken by its sister TV/tabloid, the Fox”News”Channel.  But this is one instance in which I agree with the New York Post.  As for the Newsday headline, “America’s” Anguish?  I don’t think so.  For many U.S., on both sides of the struggle, it is just the continuation of business-as-usual, except that this time five policemen happened to receive a shooter’s bullet, rather than the other way ‘round.

Micah Xavier Johnson: the much vilified shooter in Dallas, especially by the sanctimonious liberal punditocracy. Johnson pulled the trigger, but despicable, entrenched injustice --- as well as the ridiculous “gun laws” that the gun industry, through their shill, the NRA, has unloaded on us --- loaded the gun.  Some Repub. Congressman actually said, “where did he get his arsenal?”  Duh!  Repub. industry-funded “gun laws,” that’s where.  As injustice and inequality become bolder, expect more Johnsons to come forth.

I have come to the conclusion that what happened in Dallas, although quite rare, is just another instance of the continuation of what most historians and other observers refer to as “The Civil War,” which came to an official end on the battlefield, at the Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.  For quite some time, I have referred to that conflict as “The First Civil War.”  I have predicted that there will be a Second Civil War, and in my book The 15% Solution (originally published in 1996), I described one form that that war might take. Indeed, I have also described the South as having, de facto, won the Civil War of 1861-65.  After all, as that column shows, in the long term the South achieved all of its War objectives other than the perpetuation of chattel slavery.

Naive Chicago teenager Emmett Till was savagely murdered in the South, but his killers walked, and even openly bragged about their crime.

However now, following the most recent police murders of black men, in Baton Rouge, LA and St. Paul, MN, and the Dallas assassinations, I have come to the conclusion that actually the U.S. Civil War has never ended.  It has just taken a different form: primarily in the ongoing oppression and repression of the U.S. African-American population that has been underway since almost the day after the implementation of Emancipation Proclamation in the states of the former Confederacy, shortly after the conclusion of the military action.
Further, I have come to the conclusion that this repression, based on the continuation, and indeed spread across the nation, of the Doctrine of White Supremacy that provided, for the Southern Slavocracy, the justification for the institution of slavery, has served a vital class interest for the capitalist ruling class in the United States, down to this very day.
A “justified lynching” was depicted in the 1916 pro-Ku Klux Klan movie, “The Birth of a Nation.” The victim to be hanged is a white actor in blackface. (Wikipedia) The KKK’s main goal at the beginning was to terrorize African Americans to prevent them from voting.

The continued repression of the bulk of the African-American population of the United States has been played out, over time, by for example: the violent institution of what was politely called “Jim Crow” in the post-Civil War South, led by the original Ku Klux Klan, the practice of lynching, designed to put forth a powerful image of what could happen to “uppity ni__ers.”  Images of lynching were actually disseminated by postcard throughout the South for many decades.  As for the Ku Klux Klan, its original, stated, primary objective was the prevention of voting by the newly freed slaves.

There have been breaks in the chain, from the Federal Employment Practices Commission of the New Deal through the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts.  But we are now in the midst of a very well-planned Republican campaign all across the country to repress the votes of various African-American communities all across the country.  (Ku Klux Klan politics, anyone?) Then there is the well-known ghettoization of African-American communities, the (historically) recent mass incarceration of black young men, often for non-violent “drug” offenses (see my book on the “drug war” a lengthy explication of that one), the second- (or third-) class education provided for many African-American communities, and so on and so forth.

But how, one is justified in asking, does this history and social-economic situation (only very briefly summarized above), justify the conclusion the Civil War never ended, but just took on a different form?  Well, first of all, there has always been a political party representing particular economic interests that in the national government has taken the part of those interests.  During the Slave Era, after the original Federalist Period it was primarily the regional Democratic Party, helped by the “Southern Whigs.”  From the time of the end of Reconstruction to the late 1960s it was the post-Civil War Southern Wing of the Democratic Party which staunchly defended Segregation.  From the time of the institution of President Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” in the late 1960s, accompanied by the launching of the “drug war” which singled out the African-American community, for political reasons (see chap. 3 of my book), it has been the Republican Party which has promoted the Doctrine of White Supremacy and the continued repression of the African-American community.

The US ruling class could have wiped out the KKK decades ago, a clear and indisputable terrorist organization, but they know it fills a useful political role of latent intimidation.

Slavery itself (at its base, very cheap labor) served the economic interest of the Southern white ruling class. But it was the Doctrine of White Supremacy which enabled the almost total co-opting of the poor white, non-slave-holding farmers and small businessmen of the South to support that ruling class and indeed die by the several hundred thousand in defense of the institution of slavery.  (There was, however, the occasional, class-based, poor-white resistance to the Confederacy, exemplified by the recent movie, The Free State of Jones. See a splendid review of this film right on this site.)  And the white Southern ruling class kept their dominant position through the continued use of the Doctrine of White Supremacy.  But then the Doctrine began to spread North.

For example, from the time in the 1880s of the first attempts to form trade unions among the newly minted “wage-slaves” that built the industrial North, the northern, then national, industrial ruling class has used the same doctrine to help it keep control of the white working class.  And that effect has lasted down to this very day.  It is seen in the attraction of white workers to the openly racist and xenophobic Republican candidate for the President (as of the time of writing) and in the adherence of many of those same people to the openly racist Propaganda TV Channel of the Republican Party.  It, of course, is being less and less successful in hiding behind its “dog-whistle” racism, as its candidates succumb to the Rightward Imperative of becoming ever more open about their racial and gender bigotry.

But how does all of this mean that the Civil War never ended, but just continued in a different form?  The basis of the original Civil War was the Northern opposition for a wide variety of reasons, from the moral to the economic, to the oppression of vast numbers of people, who happened to be of African descent and the use of the Doctrine of White Supremacy to justify that oppression.  Since that time, the oppression of (now) African-Americans (and it is ironic how much “white blood” flows in their veins but they still don’t make it out to full equality) has been used by the national capitalist ruling class, firmly now represented by the Republican Party (but hardly challenged on the basic issues by the other wing of the political Duopoly), to help them maintain their rule, a rule that has now produced the widest gap in wealth and income in the history of the nation.  Indeed, it is the widest in the world.

Oddly enough, it was Bill Clinton who put it very well when he announced for the Presidency in October, 1991:

“ ’For 12 years, the Republicans have tried to divide us, race against race’ Mr. Clinton said. ‘Here in the shadow of this great building, all of us, we know all about race-baiting. They’ve used that old tool on us for decades now. And I want to tell you one thing: I understand that tactic, and I will not let them get away with it in 1992.’”

We have never heard anything like that from the man since that time, but it did sound good at the time.

Thus it is The Doctrine of White Supremacy, in place since the time of Slavery, that has been significantly employed by the national ruling class, as it has evolved in this country, in order to maintain and expand its dominance of the political economy.  There is continued and unending violence employed against the African-American community, which extends from random and arbitrary police violence against black men to the non-random but equally repressive violence committed by the so-called “criminal justice system” to discrimination in living space, education, employment opportunity, and so on and so forth.

It is in this sense that the Civil War has never ended.  That does not mean that there will not be a formal Second Civil War in the future.  There will be.  But it will simply be the re-ramping up to the broadest and most violent of stages of what the nation has been living with since the first slaves arrived on these shores in 1619.           

Post Script: Ms. Swin Cash, a star player for the New York Liberty of the Women’s National Basketball Association, summed it all up very well:

The scariest part for me right now is that stories that I used to hear from my grandmother, stuff that happened in the civil rights [movement], how she used to talk about how the world was and things that needed to change. It’s like the bogeyman’s come back out of the closet and those things that used to be are now being brought to the forefront once again.”
 
Defining Fascism by Steve Jonas
July 8, 2016

Various observers, analysts and political figures have been labeling Donald Trump as a "fascist" for quite some time. In a column published in this space last October, I considered some of the aspects of that appellation, where Trump qualified and where he did not. Right-wingers have called him fascist, in this case one Dan Hodges from Great Britain (which may be Little England by the time you read this): "Donald Trump is an outright fascist who should be banned from Britain today." In The New Republic one Ryu Spaeth referred to him as a "scary fascist." (By-the-by, unless one is a fascist oneself, is there any other kind?) Mediaite.com noted that Trump was being compared to Hitler. He has also been referred to as a "proto-fascist," whatever that is. It happens that most observers using the term don't stop/bother to define it. But if the term is to have historic/political meaning if and when it is applied to Trump, it is in my view vital that that is done.

Recently, a Professor Emeritus of Economics at Drake University, published a very important consideration of just what fascism is, and how it is distinguished from mere authoritarianism/totalitarianism. The paper is very significantly entitled: "Distorting Fascism to Sanitize Capitalism." Prof. Hossein-zadeh begins his paper thusly:

The facile and indiscriminate use of the term fascism has led to a widespread misunderstanding and misuse of its meaning. Asked to define fascism, most people would respond in terms such as dictatorship, anti-Semitism, mass hysteria, efficient propaganda machine, mesmerizing oratory of a psychopathic leader, and the like. ... Such a pervasive misconception of the meaning of the term fascism is not altogether fortuitous. It is largely because of a longstanding utilitarian misrepresentation of the term. Fascism is deliberately obfuscated in order to sanitize capitalism. Ideologues, theorists and opinion-makers of capitalism have systematically shifted the systemic sins of fascism from market/capitalist failures to individual or personal failures."

The fascist regimes that dominated major parts of the globe from 1919 to 1945, for example in Hungary (from 1919), in Italy from 1922 (and of course it was Mussolini who gave the name to the governmental form), Japan from 1935, and of course Nazi Germany from 1933, all arose to defend capitalism against one form of socialism or another (or even liberal democracy, if the capitalist ruling class viewed it as a threat to their economic dominance). As Prof. Hossein-zadeh points out, it is of critical importance to understand that this is the central defining characteristic of this special form of authoritarianism, if it is to be effectively combated.

Since I wrote my book on the future rise of fascism in the United States The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S., 1981-2022 (originally published in 1996 under a slightly different title, The 15% Solution: A Political History of American Fascism, 2002-2022, I have always been careful to carefully define the term. In fact, in my book, there is a 10-page Appendix (II) devoted to the subject. Currently, I am using the following short definition:

A politico-economic system in which there is: total executive branch control of both the legislative and administrative powers of government; no independent judiciary; no Constitution that embodies the Rule of Law standing above the people who run the government; no inherent personal rights or liberties; a single national ideology that first demonizes and then criminalizes all political, religious, and ideological opposition to it; the massive and regular use of hate, fear, racial and religious prejudice, the Big Lie technique, mob psychology, mob actions and ultimately individual and collective violence to achieve political and economic ends; a capitalist/corporate economy; with the ruling economic class' domination of economic, fiscal, and regulatory policy."

To date, Donald Trump has been demonstrating certain elements of this definition. He has expressed his interest in expanding Executive Branch control over various aspects of the government, from the serious, promising a police organization as per which he would make sure that the death penalty was applied to any killer of a policeman (he did not use the word "convicted" in that sentence) to the ridiculous, nodding vigorously towards Bill O'Reilly, he stated that he would prevent department stores from using the term "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas."

He has stated that the judges he would nominate would all have a far-rightist Republican political ideology (or at least the last of potential Supreme Court nominees that he released all indicated that that would be the case. To the extent that he has read and understands the Constitution he seems to have little respect for it, at least when it comes to the doctrine of the separation of powers and the prohibition of the use of torture which is found in the Treaty Clause of Article Six. He is for the criminalization of abortion (at least some of the time). And then we get to: "the massive and regular use of hate, fear, racial and religious prejudice, [and] the Big Lie technique ..." which we need not detail again here (since we just did it in the previous column [!]).

Nevertheless, I have refrained myself from calling Trump a "fascist" or his movement "fascistic," as hate filled, xenophobic, media-phobic (except when it is positively focused on him), because there has been no clear relationship between Trump's movement and any significant sector of the ruling class. In fact, as is well known, significant sectors of the ruling class, represented by the upper levels of the Repubs., have been shying away from him.

He has been funding his campaign almost entirely out of his own pocket (that is, apparently, using his own pocket to loan his campaign money rather than spending it outright). But that is beginning to change. Trump is now raising money from a very significant sector of the ruling class: major hedge fund managers, bunches of them. Even though hedge funds aren't doing nearly as well as when they were known in the vernacular as "Insider Trading Funds," they still command tons of money and still play a substantial role in the financial sector of capitalism which is responsible for a significant amount of the profits that capital makes these days. One example of the type of Trump-supporter to be found at the meeting reported upon by The New York Times was one "John A. Paulson, whose hedge fund made billions betting on the collapse of the housing market." (Yea, betting on social tragedies is par for the course under capitalism's completely amoral logic.)

Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party truly launched themselves on the road to their dictatorship when the immense German corporation Thyssen Steel -- in conjunction with the embittered reactionary officer corps of the German army--became a financial backer of theirs in 1923 (and happened to bring in certain foreign donors, including one U.S., George Herbert Walker (sound familiar?). Admiral Horthy came to power in Hungary following a communist revolution that almost succeeded.

Mussolini -- a former socialist -- came to power originally in part to crush the trade unions which were gaining significant power in post-World War I Italy. Fascism arose in Japan in 1935, for similar reasons. And of course the Nazis came to power in order to crush the Communist and Social Democratic Parties, in 1933, which were making significant gains on the electoral side of politics.

Trump is now, finally, getting in bed with capitalists other than himself. Combined with all of the other characteristics of the man and his movement, it can indeed be said that it has moved on from one built on the Cult of the Individual to one that, while surely not leaving that behind (for it stands at the center of the successes the man has had so far), is now developing a fascist nature, as it becomes intertwined with the capitalist ruling class and their drive to defend themselves and their positions.

Of course, it is scant consolation for a public cornered into a no-real-choice situation, that the other presumptive standard-bearer for the duopoly, Hillary Clinton, is equally, perhaps more reliably, committed to defending the global and domestic interests of the super rich.








 
Why the Repub. Establishment (such as it is) Doesn’t Like Trump by Steve Jonas
April 6, 2016

There is a core political/economic doctrine that has governed the Repubs. and their policies since the beginning of the Reagan Administration: establish “small government” at the Federal level for spending and regulation of the economy in the arenas that affect the general welfare, but with major spending exceptions for such sectors as the military-industrial complex and the prison/industrial complex and the “Drug War,” and major elements of private behavior such as the exercise of choice in the outcome of pregnancy; reduction of taxes for the rich; maintaining private sector provision of services that in all other advanced capitalist countries are primarily in the public sector, like health care; maintaining a major global military presence; more recently, attempting to stop any action to deal with global warming, protecting the short-term interests of the fossil fuel industry that was a major factor in putting Reagan in the White House in the first place (one of Reagan’s very first actions as President was to symbolically remove the then very primitive solar panels that President Jimmy Carter had put on the White House roof and substantively, to immediately shut down Carter’s Federal alternative energy research program); using racism, misogyny, and homophobia as electoral weapons (but publicly expressed, for the most part, through the use of substitute phraseology collectively known as “dog whistles,” so that plausible deniability for the use of such weapons can be maintained).  And so on and so forth.

Now along comes Donald Trump, leading the field in the Republican primaries from the start.  I do not have to attach all the adjectives to Trump’s performance.  They are well known.  And from the beginning many election observers have been predicting that the next bomb he drops (or gas-break he emits) will bring his campaign to a sudden end.  But that, as we know, hasn’t happened.  So why has he been so successful?  On the one hand, on the centrality of racism to any successful Repub. campaign, he has dropped the pretense.  He has abandoned that particular dog-whistle, beginning with his very public leadership of the “birther” campaign against Barack Obama before the 2012 election.

He has combined his racism with a clearly expressed doctrine of authoritarianism: from the serious “I will introduce the death penalty for the killing of any cop” to the frivolous “department stores shall put up signs saying ‘Merry Christmas’ instead of ‘Happy Holidays’.”   And for the right-wing “evangelicals” (in reality Dominionists) to whom he appeals, racism and authoritarianism (think “following the word of God” to the letter, as it is expressed in the multi-authored King James version of the Bible, of course) are at the center of their thinking.  Indeed, Trump represents the current end-stage, the “opening up,” if you will, of what for some years I have described as the Repubs.’ Rightward Imperative.  (Of course, at the rate the Repub. Party is going, by 2020 someone might come along who makes Trump look mild by comparison.  Do remember that the “establishment” John McCain picked Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008.  ‘Nuff said.)

Trump very cleverly uses combatting the national de-industrialization that has been part of Repub. policy since Nixon (aided and abetted by W.J. Clinton and the DLC Democrats) as a campaign wedge, because most of his supporters don’t know who they primarily have to thank for it.  He then expands his racism to Latinos, especially Mexicans, and expresses his elemental religious bigotry against Muslims and Islam.  He proposes decreasing foreign military aid at the same time he calls upon the U.S. allies to increase the “fight against ISIS.”  While Ted Cruz proposes using “carpet bombing” (which he obviously doesn’t understand) to deal with ISIS, Trump proposes to use nuclear weapons (which he obviously doesn’t understand).  And so on and so forth.

So then, why doesn’t the Republican establishment(s) like him?  And there are several of those, actually.  For example, see: those for which the central issues are those of religious determinism on such issues as abortion and gay marriage rights; those, like the Club for Growth, for which the central issues are further shrinking both government regulation of private industry (while of course vigorously blaming the E.P.A. when things go wrong in a given locality), and taxes on the rich; those for which the artificially maintained Federal deficit and debt are the major concerns [see the “Tea Party”], who would like to shrink both by shrinking further the tiny social safety net that exists in this country.

But first and foremost, most of the Repub. establishment doesn’t like Trump because he has ripped the hood off Republican racism.  On the matter of discrimination against African-Americans, he has clearly not totally rejected a KKK endorsement.  However, it should be noted that the KKK and Repub. Presidential platforms have been pretty much in sync. since Reagan began his 1980 Presidential campaign at Philadelphia, MS, the site of the murder of the three civil rights workers during the “Freedom Summer” of 1964.  Reagan formally rejected the Klan endorsement, but that was really immaterial.  What was material was the similarity of the Klan Platform to his.  And they have been similar ever since (although attention to that fact has never been drawn).  But now, Trump is on the border of accepting it.  One dog whistle down.   On the Latino immigration issue, the Repubs. would never want to have a legislative solution, for they would then lose the issue for electoral purposes.  But Trump, with the “murderers and rapists” claim, has taken the hood off that one too.

Religious discrimination, in terms of establishing a legal system to maintain the supremacy of one religious doctrine, that, for example, homosexuality is a “sin,” against all others, with the force of the State behind it, has always been covered up too, now in the doctrine of “religious freedom.” (In reality this is a policy that uses State power to promote one religious belief at the expense of all others.  E.g., many women seeking abortions are quite religious as are many gay couple wanting to get married.)  So then Trump proposes discriminating against Muslims, in the name of “national security.”  That doesn’t sit well with many Repub. establishment types, especially those who do business with the Muslim world (like guess who?)

But then there are those major elements of Repub. doctrine that Trump doesn’t talk about, like abortion rights and gay marriage suppression.  Furthermore, they are saying to themselves, suppose he really means it when it comes to trying to reverse de-industrialization?  The issue of course, and Trump may well not understand this, is not “free trade” per se, but national policy, put together by the Repubs., that encouraged de-industrialization.  It is quite possible to have relatively free trade without de-industrialization: see Germany and Japan.

This list could be quite a bit longer, but it won’t be here.  Because the primary reason why the Repub. establishments are against Trump is that he obviously would be uncontrollable and unpredictable.  They don’t care so much about the wild statements as they do about the fact that so far he has run on his own money and his phenomenal ability to get free air time.  So, although this would change in the general election campaign, at least for now he doesn’t owe them anything.  But supposing once in office he did try to close down the export of capital, did want to maintain Social Security which the Tea Party is so determined to slash, really did try to mount a major military intervention in the Middle East (which could lead only to disaster).  It’s one thing to talk about these things, and another to actually try to do them.  And Trump just might.  Recall that until June 30, 1934 when it was literally eliminated in “The Night of the Long Knives,” there was a left wing in the Nazi Party, which is why “socialist” was part of its name.

Another problem with Trump for the GOP establishment is that he clearly doesn’t know what he doesn’t know (the same goes for Cruz, by the way).  Thus, some of them are clearly concerned about the quality of the people around him, who otherwise might fill him in on such things as what the map of the Middle East really looks like, that the Turks have a real problem with the Kurds and so you can’t just go arming the latter to the teeth without really pissing the former off, that certain elements of the Saudi ruling class are entirely in synch with ISIS, theologically and monetarily, and at the center of everything that is going on there is the Saudi/Iranian contest for power in the region.  Thus they are very concerned about who from the U.S. Reactionary Elite might NOT have places at the table.  In terms of his uncontrollability, a few may be aware that the German ruling class thought that they could control Hitler, once he became Chancellor.  And we know where that went.  So there are many reasons for the enmity.

Finally, they also of course don’t think that he can win.  But I do.  Combine these facts. In the end, most of the Repub. establishment would rally behind him like many of them are now rallying behind the equally odious Dominionist Ted Cruz.  The likely Democratic candidate will be Hillary, against whom the Repubs. will run using three words: “Email (regardless of the facts, as established by that time — of course if she is indicted for violation of national security statutes she will have to drop out, which would be most inconvenient if that happens after the Democratic Convention); “Benghazi,” and “Clinton” (both she and Bill, of course).

Once he gets the nomination, the money will begin to flow into the campaign because the Repubs. are desperate to get control of the Executive Branch, regardless of who is running it.  That is because they want to lay waste, to the extent possible, to Federal regulatory power, in manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, the environment, unions, workplace safety, gender discrimination, and so on and so forth, and they want to lay waste too to the falsely-named “entitlement programs.”  Further, they want to firmly put the Supreme Court into reactionary hands for the foreseeable future.  So not only will the money flow in, but the now well-established voter-suppression campaign will be put into high gear.  Remember “better dead than Red?”  For the Repub. establishment it will be “better Trumped than dumped” at the polls once again.  They just don’t know it yet.  And oh yes, should either Trump or Cruz get the nomination, you can bet your bottom dollar that there will be an “ISIS-inspired terrorist attack,” in this country, about two weeks before the election.






 
Republican Genius: Democratic Complicity by Steve Jonas
March 30, 2016

Many observers, especially on the Left, think that the Republican Party is pretty dumb.
 
Torture, the Republican Party and the Constitution By Steven Jonas
 February 22, 2016

As the world that is interested in such matters knows, in 2014 the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee finally released the (redacted) 524-page Executive Summary of its 6,000-page report on torture and the CIA. The New York Times article is entitled: "Panel Faults C.I.A. Over Brutality and Deceit in Terrorism Interrogations."

But even just the Executive Summary presents a huge amount of horrifying detail about the program (see The New York Times article cited above and many other news sources, print, electronic and other.) The most important conclusion to come away with in examining the Report is the Senate Intelligence Committee's major finding about the CIA's torture program: that it was bad because it didn't work. And they produced huge mountains of evidence to support that claim.

At the time, the Republicans, who for some time refused to participate in the work of the Committee, reacted in horror, not at the details of the torture itself and the catalog of CIA cover-ups, incompetence, disorganization, amateurism, and what-have-you, but at the fact that they have all been made public. Most importantly, despite the fact that the Senate Committee assembled an overwhelming amount of evidence on the program and that torture doesn't work, despite the fact that the Republicans did not avail themselves of it, they claimed that torture does work, in intelligence gathering, and related matters. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz of course just assumed that their listeners would believe that that is the case.

Of course the torturer-in-chief, Dick Cheney, went bananas over the report's release. He argued, as he always did, both that torture works and then (oops!) that what was done wasn't torture anyway. So he, and all of his GOP and other cheerleaders, first try to deny reality and then if that doesn't work, get the argument onto definitions.

Apparently Trump and Cruz are just parroting Cheney on these claims. However -- and it's a big however -- the Senate Committee's whole premise was that: the program was bad because it didn't work. Which raises the question: would they have concluded that torture was OK if it had produced useful intelligence? Uh-oh and Oh my. If Cheney et al were, and Cruz/Trump are, right about the utility of torture, at least as practiced by the CIA, then the Committee's whole argument against it collapses in a heap.

However, the argument should have been based on the fact that the use of torture violates both domestic and international law. Its use by U.S. agencies is clearly prohibited by various Federal statutes. But on the international scale, the use of torture by any signatory to them is prohibited by the Geneva Conventions and the UN Convention Against Torture.
 
The United States is a party to both, and both are signed and ratified US international treaties. As to the definition, the authors of the Geneva Conventions just assumed that everyone "knows" what torture is; they didn't bother to define it any detail. The UN Convention defines it in general terms as "Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession . . ." It does not provide a laundry list of just what torture is and is not, one reason being that to do so would invite repeated uses of the Cheney "no-it's-not" argument for a wide variety of techniques designed to intentionally inflict "severe pain or suffering" to, for example, gain a confession.

But at the base here is the truly inconvenient truth that the use of torture by US authorities is simply unconstitutional. Under article VI of the U.S. Constitution, as treaties signed and ratified by the U.S. government, both Conventions are part of "the supreme law of the land and [further] the judges of every state shall be bound by them." This, not arguments over whether it "works" or doesn't, is the central one for this country and its political leadership.

But what about the Constitution and its meaning, then? The Republicans of every stripe complain over-and-over again, that "Obama ignores the Constitution" (when he takes actions under the Administration's interpretation of the Constitution that they don't like).

Cruz says that he carries a copy of the Constitution around in his pocket, but then like many other Repubs. there are a variety of its parts they obviously skip, like the General Welfare clause of the Preamble, the provisions for the separation of church and state in Article VI and the First Amendment, the first clause of the Second Amendment, the "inherent rights" Amendment (the IXth, which certainly can be interpreted to provide women the right to control what goes on in their own bodies), and the one we are talking about here, the treaty -- obligations section of Article VI.
 
And of course in their "Christian Nation" argument and the liberal use of "I'm in this to serve [what I think of as] 'the Lord'" statements by Cruz and Marco Rubio, they totally ignore the fact that neither "God" nor "Christian" appears in the Constitution. But then when in modern times has the Republican Party ever been consistent? We will wait a long time before we see that. One must then wonder too if the other half of the Duopoly, including Bernie Sanders, will ever challenge them on this most fundamental of Constitutional questions.

Postscript:

I am wondering if it ever occurred -- or ever even would occur -- to these "let's-use-torture" Repubs., that their justification of the use of torture could be used by ISIS et al, to justify their use of it on captives, especially on U.S. persons? Oh my.



 
Antonin Scalia: a Bundle of Contradictions by Steve Jonas
February 18, 2016

Michael Parenti was quoted by  The Greanville Post on the matter of Scalia, shortly after his death (from, at the time of writing, unknown causes.  Since there may well never be an autopsy, we will likely never know for sure what the cause(s) were.)

Supreme Court Justice Scalia just died an hour or so ago. He will not be missed by everyone. Many of the wimpy Democrats are of course already hailing him as “brilliant.” Brilliant, bullshit. He served the powerful corporations and the conniving plutocracy. He pretended to abide by his empty inflated “Originalist” constitutionalism.  He battered the weak, stomped on the defenseless, and strutted around dwelling on his judicial contrivances. He died while hunting in West Texas. He died the way he lived, destroying the weak and the innocent.” (Antonin Scalia: No R.I.P. for this piece of scum. See you in hell, Antonino.)

In the process, Scalia worked very hard to destroy the Constitution and (to the extent that it still exists) Constitutional Democracy in the United States, too.  And it is Scalia’s most at-the-margins concept of the Constitution that is the subject of the column.

Scalia claimed that he was an “originalist,” that is that the Constitution should be interpreted by judges on the literal meaning of the text, as it was written in the 1780s, and that “modern” interpretations, updatings, and applications were not to be permitted.  A full critique of Scalia’s version of Constitutionalism would be very long, and indeed they have extended to book length.  But it is the fundamental contradiction of “Scalia Thought” that has always impressed me.  Scalia claims that the Constitution is an absolutist document and that therefore there is only one way to interpret it (his, of course).  But there is a fundamental problem with this approach: the Constitution itself is filled with ambiguity, and Scalia’s approach to it is filled with inconsistencies and self-contradiction.

Take for example, the Preamble:

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

What could be more ambiguous than that?  Except of course for the introductory phrase, “We the people of the United States.”  Scalia and his right-wing supporters have always interpreted that phrase to mean something like “We the people of the separate states, getting together on policy and program now and again, and then pulling back and going our separate ways whenever we are inclined to do so [otherwise known as the “Doctrine of States’ Right] do declare that . . .”  But as for the rest, one can say “surely open to interpretation, n’est-ce pas?”

And then in Article I, Section 8, we come to the famous interstate commerce clause: “To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes;”   Many Republicans over time, and presumably Justice Scalia too, seem to have interpreted that power of Congress to cover only such things as trade carried out between the governments of the states.

Turning to the Bill of Rights, how about the Ninth, the one that Scalia’s soul-mate Robert Bork, termed “an ink-blot on the Constitution:” “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”  Pretty ambiguous, no?  So ambiguous in fact that it could be used to guarantee the right to choose in matters of abortion and also the right to marry, within the other provisions of state law, whom one wants to, regardless of sex.  How inconvenient for Scalia.

And then there is the 10th, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”  For the Rightists, this is the “States’ Rights” amendment, except that once again it is quite ambiguous, beginning with, just how does one interpret the clause: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution?”  Absolutist, unambiguous, hardly.  On the other hand, there are certainly quite clear provisions of the Constitution, like the provision in Article Six that makes ratified treaties part of the “supreme law” of the land (and thus prohibits the use of torture).  But the Right has never paid any attention to that one, and I don’t know of any of the many speeches that Scalia made in which he said that they should because it is so unambiguous.

On the other hand, it just so happens that Scalia takes parts of the Constitution he doesn’t like and interprets them in a way contrary to that of many (including, it would seem, “the framers” to whom he likes to make you think he is so devoted).  Take the first clause of the First Amendment, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;” It would seem that it guarantees the separation of church and state.  However, Scalia saw it entirely differently when he talked about “God’s Justice and Ours.”  Ooops!

As for the “equal protection” clause of the 14th amendment (for some reason, Scalia allows that amendments, although not part of the original text, should be “strictly interpreted”), well it just doesn’t apply to people that Scalia doesn’t like (or thinks are “sinful,” oops, there’s religion creeping into his thinking again).  And then there is the “corporations are people” dictum (which does go back to the 1880s when a right-wing Court made that one up out of whole cloth), nowhere to be found in the Constitution.  It is also nowhere to be found in any of Scalia’s condemnations of how the Court carries out its business.  In fact, he is a strong supporter of the “Corporations are people” doctrine.

But, I must say that there is one area in which I am entirely in agreement with Scalia: the whole matter of judicial review of the Constitutionality of actions of the legislative and executive branches.  It is nowhere to be found in the Constitution.  Then Chief Justice John Marshall made it up starting with his famous decision in Marbury v. Madison (followed up by a series of decisions that broadened the doctrine and its applications).
 
In chapter 5 of my book The 15% Solution I had a fictional then-future Supreme Court led by a Chief Justice Steps (Scalia, get it?), hold that under the Doctrine of  Originalism to which it had bound itself, those powers were nowhere to be found in the Constitution.  It then overturned Marbury v. Madison and all the subsequent related decisions, thus removing the courts from carrying out the function of judicial review.  If Scalia were consistent, that of course is a doctrine that he would have been espousing.  But Scalia just loved undertaking judicial review, as when in Heller he reversed a history of Supreme Court decisions on the Second Amendment and just severed the “well-regulated militia” clause from it.

And this review barely scratches the surface of the inconsistency of this most political justice in the service of his far right-wing politics. (If, as is rumored, along with his soul-mate Clarence Thomas, he is a member of the right-wing secret Catholic society, Opus Dei, that religious affiliation, to which members pledge first allegiance, would strongly influence his behavior on the Bench.)  And by the way, if you think that the Repubs. are going to give in on even considering the Obama nominee to fill the seat, you’ve got another think coming.  Hopefully, Obama will make the rumored nomination of Loretta Lynch to the High Court.  Whatever you think of Obama (and I am hardly a big fan of his), such a choice would be brilliant, starting with its political implications.  But that is for another time.

In sum, the only thing Scalia was consistent with was his consistent pursuit of his far-right-wing goals.  He was an “originalist” when it suited his politics; not one when it didn’t.  Or one can more kindly say, please do think of Scalia as an originalist — that is except when he wasn’t.






 
The GOP: the Party of Hate and religion by Steve Jonas
February 15, 2016

In the Sports section of the Sunday New York Times of Jan. 31, 2016, the Times regular columnist William C. Rhoden wrote:

“As he prepares to take the greatest stage in American sports, Cam Newton has used the spotlight on him to discuss our country’s most persistent and vexing problem: racism.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Newton, the starting quarterback for the Carolina Panthers [of the National Football League], ensured that Super Bowl week would have a fiery discussion point when he suggested that the criticism of his exuberant style of play might be rooted in racism.

“ ‘I’m an African-American quarterback that scares people because they haven’t seen nothing that they can compare me to,’ Newton said.  As a result, Newton suggested, he does not receive his due as a player: ‘I don’t think people have seen what I am or what I’m trying to do.’ Racism is the third rail of American consciousness, but raising it just before Super Bowl festivities begin this week, ahead of the Panthers’ game against the Denver Broncos on Feb. 7 in the San Francisco Bay Area, is fascinating.”

I have a friend from Ghana who lives here to earn money which she sends back to Ghana.  Her husband, two children and mother live there, although they too could emigrate and live here.  Obviously this is a temporary arrangement.  But why, I asked, would her husband and family not want to live here?  Is it the racism, I asked. Without hesitation, she replied “yes.”

Some years ago, I was riding up on a chair lift at the ski resort at Breckenridge, CO.  I happened to be riding with a young, white, couple, who were visiting from South Africa.  They made it clear that they were very happy that Apartheid was behind their beloved country.  We got to talking a bit about their experiences in the United States.  Not shy, and picking up my vibes that I am left-wing, they allowed that one of their impressions of the United States was that they had never been in such a racist country.  Two anti-Apartheid whites from South Africa!

We know the origins of racism in this country.  White supremacy and its close companion racism/racial superiority, were concepts invented in the 17th century South in order to justify slavery and also to sell it to the poor white, non-slaveholding farmers.  The Civil War was fought over slavery (there were of course other issues, but none that either side would have gone to war over — in fact the South made it very clear that they were fighting to preserve it).  So.  Slavery gone.  Shouldn’t the doctrine of White Supremacy and its evil twin racism go too?  Well, no.

It is well-known that the Southern ruling class never gave up, that they fought against every aspect of Reconstruction and won that battle, that they re-established segregation in the South, and that even after the struggles that led to the passage of the Civil and Voting Rights Acts of the 1960s, the Doctrine of White Supremacy and racism have continued to underlie politics in the United States and exert tremendous power over the political and governmental processes.  But why should that be?  The answer is a simple one.

Since the time of Reconstruction there has always been a major U.S. political party which has set its ideological and political foundation on the Doctrine of White Supremacy and racism.  It has centered its geographical nexus on the Old South.  From the end of the Civil War until the Civil Rights Era of the 1960s it was of course the Democratic Party.  There was some historical logic to this because from the time in the early 19th century when the existence/preservation of slavery had begun to become a political question (see the Missouri Compromise of 1820) it had been the Party of Slavery.

However, we all know that when in the 1960s the Democratic Party under John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey became the party of Civil Rights, that when Richard Nixon smelled a political opportunity, he and his team created the “Southern Strategy.”  In one of the great ironies of history, “The Party of Lincoln” (and some Republicans still have the temerity to refer to themselves in that way) became the party of white supremacy and racism, with its geographical fulcrum in the South.  They did this, of course, not because they necessarily believed in the Doctrine (like, for example, George Wallace did), but because they thought that adopting it would be the way to secure their political power in the future.

The United States continues to exist as a racist nation precisely because one of its two principal political parties runs on it.  Cam Newton can feel the racism, a Ghanaian family that could (legally) emigrate chooses not to, two white anti-Apartheid South Africans tell me that they have never been in such a racist country, solely because one political party owes its continued existence to it.  Can you imagine where our nation would be if this situation did not exist?  Can you imagine if both major political parties rejected racism as doctrine and ran on the real issues that affect us?  Of course, if the Republicans had to run on what they really stand for they would not be remain politically standing for long.  But that is another matter. (With the Democrats the only game in town, the prop of “Lesser Evilism” would also melt away, exposing that party for the criminal fraud it is.)  Of course, as the intra-Republican competition becomes ever-more intense (especially between the two Latinos) as to who is the more anti-Latino immigrant,  it should be pointed out (as I have previously) that a general "anti-immigrant" theme has been part of the Republican Party since the time in the 1850s that the "Know-Nothings" were a part of its founding coalition.

Which brings us to the Repubs. and religion.  In a nation that supposedly has separation of church and state under the Constitution, that among other things (like the plain language of the Constitution, see Article VI and the First Amendment) numerous Presidents, both 19th and 20th century, have endorsed, many Republican candidates, even more so this year, are markedly focused on religion, of a particular kind.  Do you want to get really worried?  See Frank Bruni’s column, “The GOP’s Holy War.”  And then take a look at the religious-sermon ad of the supposed “mainstream” Republican Marco Rubio.  It begins with this:

GOP’s Marco Rubio: opportunistically going after any issue that will give him leverage in a crowded field.

“Our goal is eternity, the ability to live alongside our Creator for all time. To accept the free gift of salvation offered to us by Jesus Christ.  The struggle on a daily basis as a Christian is to remind ourselves of this. The purpose of our life is to cooperate with God’s plan.  To those whom much have been given, much is expected.  And, we will be asked to account for that. Were your treasures stored up on earth or in heaven? And to me, I try to allow that to influence me in everything that I do.”

And this man, this Republican, wants to be President of the United Sates.  Combine this with their racism, and the Republicans offer us a deadly mixture.  The Republicans USE these religious-based doctrines just the way they use racism: to promote their political objectives to support their central economic doctrines/policies.  Let’s hope that someone in the Duopoly begins to wake up to this reality and begins to fight the fight on the issues on which it should be fought, before it’s too late (and in that regard, see my book The 15% Solution).

Postscript



Who do I think will win the GOP nomination?  It’s neither of the out-front Christian Rightists (Cruz and Rubio --- and given his paean to the Right-wing Christians above, why Rubio is considered a “mainstream” Republican is absolutely beyond me) nor the Grand Narcissist.  I really don’t think that the Grand Poo-Bahs of the Republican Party will allow that.  It’s a recipe (thank goodness) for electoral disaster. Back in August I said I thought the ticket would be Kasich-Fiorina, produced from a deadlocked convention (which the Pooh-bahs will do their damnedest to arrange).  Another possibly from a deadlocked convention would be Pretty Boy Ryan, who happens to be as reactionary as they come when it comes to policy.  But he has a “nice” look and way about him (how about that beard?)  But then the legendary Depression Era gangster Pretty Boy Floyd, immortalized as Robin Hood type by Woodie Guthrie, did too.  More on him (Pretty Boy Ryan) anon.





 
The Republican-Christian Alliance Begins to Come Out by Steven Jonas
January 20, 2016         

The GOP candidates fight to outdo each other in their protestations of piety and belief in the Almighty.  Of course, all profess to know God’s plan for all lesser creatures. 


“On this day (January 8) in 1697, Scottish medical student Thomas Aikenhead, 18 or 19 years old, was hanged to death for blasphemy, in Britain’s last execution for blasphemy. The young Edinburgh student was found guilty of denying the trinity. . .[emphasis added]”.

Ted Cruz: The Kids, the Wife, the Flags. Living the American Dream by the book. Yay!

In 1996, as many readers of my columns know, I published the original version of the book now known as The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S.: 1981-2022.  (The current version of the book, the third, is published by my dear friend and comrade Patrice Greanville, Editor/Publisher of The Greanville Post and Publisher of Punto Press.)  In that book, based entirely on what the Republicans and the Religious Right were already telling us back then what they would do if they ever got significant control of the U.S. government at both the Federal and state levels, I predicted that a transmogrification of the Republican Party into something I called the “Republican-Christian Alliance” would occur sometime in the first decade of the 21st century.  Well this is what is happening folks, about ten years after the time I originally projected for it.
 
The presidential candidates fielded by the system are all sincere charlatans—a subculture dominated by oxymorons.

I pointed out in my last column that one of the “mainstream” Republican candidates, JEB Bush, in responding to Donald Trump’s policy proposal for barring all Syrian refugees, allowed that he would let in the Christian ones.  However, given what happened to the unfortunate Mr. Aikenhead, JEB, suppose they took a different positon on the validity of the Doctrine of the Trinity than you do, would they still be allowed in?  And while it might make no difference to JEB himself, there are still some serious doctrinal differences among Christians of various stripes on this one.  And, then must one wonder which version of the concept of the Trinity and of the Eucharist would be approved by John Kasich’s proposal for the establishment of a governmental office for spreading “Judeo-Christian values.”  (In that last column I discussed the difficulty — actually the impossibility — of getting the various Jewish denominations to agree on almost anything that might, or might not, be considered a “core Jewish value.”  I gather from numerous conversations that Christians would have the same problem.)

Of course we know that Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, and Ben Carson are Dominionists (that is they put “God” above the Constitution), and Ted Cruz likely is too (for his father is one, quite openly).  Of course, no media person is ever going to ask any of them a direct question on the matter.  Just as no media person will ever go beyond the word “evangelicals” to describe the Christian Rightists in Iowa who are very strong in the Republican Party to get to a definition of the term.  But, in any case, these four, along with Trump, are usually considered outside of the Republican “mainstream.”

(Of course Trump could be described as a Dominionist too.  Except that it would be a special type of Dominionism, not of “God,” but of Donald Trump.  Consider, for example, that at a meeting of police officers he announced that on his first day in office by executive order he would institute nationally the death penalty for killing a police officer.  Except that the use or on-use of the death penalty is a matter of law, at the Federal and state levels, and in the ordinary course of events could only be changed by legislation.  Then there was his statement that he would end, nationally, gun-free zones in schools, another matter ordinarily handled by government, state and local.  I have discussed Trump’s flirtations with fascism, another term for Trump-Dominionism, in this space before, and it is a matter to which I shall likely return.)

But then along comes Marco Rubio.  He is considered by the media as a “Republican Establishment” candidate along with Bush, Kasich and Christie.  As such, however, he is a candidate for the Presidency of a Republic governed by a Constitution in which neither the word “God” nor the word “Christian” appears.  In this context, he made some utterly remarkable statements in a TV ad aimed at the Iowa Republican-Christian Right.  I present for your consideration a discussion of it that appeared in a publication called the Christian Post (which seems to be rather favorable towards Sen. Rubio).

“Florida Sen. Marco Rubio released a new web ad (watch below) Tuesday discussing his Christian faith, saying our ‘ultimate goal is to live in all eternity with our Creator.’  Rubio, like many presidential candidates in the Republican field, has been open about sharing about his faith on the campaign trail. The Roman Catholic candidate, who also attends Protestant services with his wife, has admitted in the past that there have been times he was not a strong spiritual leader in the home. The new ad focuses on higher truths beyond politics, reflecting on the purpose of life and the created order.

 ‘Our goal is eternity,’ Rubio says. ‘The ability to live alongside our Creator for all time. That is the purpose of our life to grow closer in our relationship and to accept the free gift of salvation to us offered by Jesus Christ.’  Rubio affirmed the dignity and importance of work in the ad saying that our vocation is a way to reflect the glory of God but added our ‘ultimate goal is to live in all eternity with our Creator.’ “

The Christian Post article goes on to say about Rubio:

Marco Rubio: Thirsty for power. He has now tasted it, ergo he’s doubly dangerous.

“Rubio said that the struggle ‘on a daily basis’ for Christians ‘is to remind ourselves of this, to remind ourselves the purpose of life is to cooperate with God’s plan.’ The Florida Senator quoted the notable passage from Luke 12:48: ‘From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.’ Rubio adds that God will ask humanity to account for the gifts that He has given to us.

‘Were your treasures stored up on earth or in heaven?’ asks Rubio, ‘and for me I try to allow that to influence me in everything that I do [emphasis added].’  In his book American Dreams, Rubio discusses the imago Dei teaching and the dignity of work: ‘For Christians, the centrality of work to human meaning and happiness comes from our being made in the image of God,’ wrote Rubio. ‘Being made in His image means we have dignity, worth and creativity. Work is how we use these gifts to contribute to our fellow men and women and to honor His name [emphasis added]’.”  Presumably as President too. 

If you don’t find this philosophy of life in a man who wants to be President of all of the people of the United States totally frightening, you should.  Even more frightening for me is that the likelihood of the mainstream media asking him about his theology and how it would govern his mode of governing as President is about as high as the likelihood that the Doctrine of Global Warming is a myth.  One can say the same for any such questions coming from any representatives of the Democratic side of the Duopoly.

Post-script on Iowa, South Carolina and the evangelical/Republican vote (1-20-16):

Every four years as the Presidential primary season starts, for the Republicans we hear about the battle for the "Evangelical" vote in Iowa in particular and also in South Carolina (those being two of the three very atypical US states [add New Hampshire] from which a small number of voters exert a huge influence on the Presidential elections.  In an upcoming column I will be discussing what this means for what is triumphantly called "American Democracy.")
 
The term "Evangelical" has a very broad meaning both in the United States and around the world.  In Republican politics, however, it has a very specific meaning (to which the media, heaven forfend, never choose to refer): Right-wing Christian Republican.  Among other things for this kind of evangelical, "fundamentalism" is central to their thinking.  That is, a particular English translation of a set of Greek and Latin translations from the Hebrew and Aramaic, rendered into English at the beginning of the 17th century in England by a committee of 48 to 52 theologians and academics, called the King James Version because it was developed for the Church of England upon the accession to the throne of King James VI of Scotland, I of England, to help cement the predominant position of the Protestant Church of England, somehow becomes the literal, "inerrant," word of God and has to be followed to the letter (except when it doesn't, as in "love thy neighbor as thyself," which does not apply when your neighbor happens to be an undocumented Latin immigrant.)  It is unclear how many of these evangelicals are also Dominionists, that is the "word of God" (as they interpret it) stands above the civil law, including the U.S. Constitution.
 
But what is known is how important winning the Right-wing Christian vote in Iowa is to winning the Republican primary.  In fact the last two winners, Mike Huckabee in 2008 and Rick Santorum (by a 15 vote whisker over Mitt Romney in 2012) are both Dominionists.  And so, the Repubs. are fighting hammer and tong for the evangelical vote.  And they are coming more-and-more out in the open about it and how, for them, in practice there is no separation between church, or at least between religious belief, and state.





 
The Duopoly at Work: The Democratic Party Debate, 12/19/15, and the GOP by Steven Jonas
January 9, 2016

If you wanted to see the Democratic/Republican political Duopoly at work, outside of the Congress and the Administration, you needed to have looked no further than the Democratic Party debate on television on Saturday evening, Dec. 19.  First of all, these debates were carefully arranged by the Clinton Campaign’s de facto chairwoman, Cong. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, otherwise known as the Chairwoman (sic) of the Democratic National Committee, to be at a time when the fewest people could possibly be watching.  My-oh-my, we would not want anything — like Bernie Sanders’ candidacy, for example — to get in the way of the coronation of Hillary Rodham Clinton at the Democratic Party’s nominee, would we?

Holding up the Democratic Party establishment’s end of the Duopoly bargain, that of course plays right into the hands of the Republicans.  For while the Democratic candidates actually debate substantive matters, at least to some extent, the Republicans don’t.  But then, there is no prime time opportunity for the Democrats to get a head start on next year’s campaign, by showing up all of the Republicans as empty, but very loud and nasty (or soft and very nasty, like Carly Fiorina) suits.  And then there was Debbie making a fuss about a “data breach” (the type of which apparently happens all the time) that allowed much of whatever airtime the Democrats got after the debate (when most of it, in the mainstream media plus Fox ”News” of course goes to Trump) to be caught up in a molehill-like mountain instead of again, being on the real issues.
 
But then, second of all, when confronted with real  issues and real differences between Democrats and Republicans, particularly on national security and foreign affairs, the Democratic candidates (well at least Clinton and Sanders, dunno much about O’Malley) the Duopoly-in-action was clearly demonstrated.  For example, Clinton was asked if she could guarantee that “San Bernardino” could never happen again.  That is, could a slaughter perpetrated by a U.S. citizen, obtaining on the open market with the help of a friend perfectly legal (!) assault rifles, assisted by his wife who entered the U.S. under a “fiancée” visa program of long-standing, be absolutely prevented?  (Of course nothing was said at all about a U.S. citizen who got his guns because of a background-check flaw and then went out and slaughtered other U.S. citizens of a different skin color.  Which event is, of course, not characterized as “terrorism.”)

So Clinton goes into her three-part “national security plan” and of course doesn’t say anything like, “well, you know, each Administration does absolutely the best it can. But after all, let’s remember that with the best of intentions, after warnings were coming all the summer before, 9/11 did happen on President Bush’s watch.”  You can just imagine the reaction to THAT one, but those are the facts, Ma’am!  And oh yes, she might have added that no terrorist attacks of anything remotely close to that magnitude have happened on President Obama’s watch, and that on her husband’s, two that could each have been larger than 9/11 were prevented: the 1998 “25 airliners plot” and the 2000 “LAX Millennium Bomb plot.”

Turning to Trump (since everyone else does and for me too he’s such an inviting target), the New York Times noted that “Clinton’s Focus in 3rd Debate is on Trump.”  Well, yes,  if you can call what she did focusing.  She did note that Trump’s “plan” (if you can call it that) is sending the wrong message here and around the world about the U.S. attitude towards Muslims, and that the U.S. is not, I repeat NOT, in a “clash of civilizations with Islam.”  Well, that’s good to know.  But how about Trump’s call to have every U.S. Muslim be issued a religion-based identity card (to be followed by being required to wear a Yellow Crescent, perhaps?)  (Even Trump did not get into the administrative problems the Nazis faced when doing the same to the German Jews, like identifying them first-off, dealing with the problems of the “Mischlings” [you could look it up]  and so forth.)

Whether or not Daesh actually made Trump-insulting-Muslims videos, there is plenty of Trump stuff on You Tube that Daesh could make use of, directly or indirectly, and according to Arab newspapers, the material is circulated widely (an important point that she did make).  But, Clinton did not go on to challenging Trump on his proposal to halt all Muslim immigration to the United States, on which she could have given the example of the Republican-sponsored Chinese Exclusion Act of 1885 or the Republican-sponsored Immigration Law of 1924 which severely limited the immigration of Southern and Eastern Europeans and Jews to the U.S.  (And Bernie didn’t do any of this sort of thing either.)

In attacking Trump — described by the Times reporters as “setting herself above the intra-party fray, while looking ahead to the General Election, she didn’t, to my knowledge, get into Constitutional issues, to demonstrate that whether or not Trump understands it (or has even read it), it certainly easily lays it aside.  For example, in accepting the endorsement of some police organization he casually mentioned that if elected President on this first day in office he would issue an executive order mandating the death penalty for killers of police.  The Constitutional/legislative niceties not to be observed here would make up a fairly long list, but this is Trump’s approach to governing.  About which she could have made a very important point, but it was not, to my knowledge, mentioned.

Nor did she trouble herself with Trump’s proposal to bring back water-boarding (which not only doesn’t work for intelligence gathering, but also violates Article VI of the Constitution).  Nor did she note that he wants to do it not only for intelligence-gathering but also because “those guys deserve it” (to great roars from the crowd).  The niceties of such items ranging from probable cause to trial by jury to “cruel and unusual” punishment clearly escape Trump.  But heaven help any of the Democrats up there to call sharp attention to the Republican approach to the Constitution and or governing, by fiat (and that approach to governing was originally established in the country that makes Fiats).  And, yes one can say “the Republicans” because very few of them dare to fault Trump on very many of his recommendations.

And so, one could go on about the Far Rightist positions of virtually all of the Republican candidates on a variety of issues, should one want to launch the general election campaign now.  Let’s see.  Dominionist Ted Cruz has attended meetings run by one of the foremost Islamphobes in the United States, Frank (“let’s make up some poll numbers”) Gaffney (also attended by Rick Santorum and Carly Fiorina).  He also attended a meeting addressed by a leader of the religious far-right who calls openly for the execution of gays — for being gay (also attended by the Dominionists Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal).

Then the “trying-hard-to-be-an-’establishment’-candidate” Marco (“if I were to tell the truth, which I try hard not to, my ‘refugee Cuban parents’ actually fled from Batista, not Castro [as did Cruz’ father, by the way]”) Rubio has called for criminalizing abortion with no exceptions.  As for the “moderates” JEB Bush, in commenting on Trump’s “ban the Muslims” proposal, said that the U.S. should let in the Christian ones (all Christians, JEB, or just ones of whom you approve?), while John Kasich has called for the establishment of a governmental office for spreading “Judeo-Christian values.”  Forget about the Constitutionality of that one.  Forget even about bringing the Christians — from the Dominionists to the Catholics to the Unitarians — into it.  Just think about putting a Hasid, a modern Orthodox, a Conservative, a Reform, a Reconstructionist, and a Secular Humanist (like me) Jew in a room to figure out just what is meant by the “Judeo” part of “Judeo-Christian” values.  OY Veh!

Anyway, no, these issues and many more like them (to the best of my knowledge) did not come up.  Nor are they very likely to.  This is the (there’s a bunch of issues Democrats don’t touch) Duopoly at work, whether it is led at this point by Hillary Clinton, Bernie (the New Deal on steroids) Sanders, or Barack Obama.  And it is going to stay that way for quite some time.






 
Terrorism, US Politics, and the US Media by Steve Jonas
January 5, 2016

Is Robert Dear a “radical”, a “hate crime offender”, or a terrorist? And if he is a “radical”, who radicalized him? The media has failed to focus on this nutcase’s history of violence to women, including repeated rape, and the ideological forces that remain part of the “respectable” value system of many Americans.

First question: what is terrorism?  One definition is that it is an armed technique, usually used against non-combatants, in a conventional or non-conventional war situation.   (Well yes, I did make that one up.)  One dictionary definition is: “1. the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes; 2. the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization; 3. a terroristic method of governing or of resisting a government.”  Another is: “the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal; the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.”  But then the good old Wikipedia tells us that: “There is neither an academic nor an accurate legal consensus regarding the definition of terrorism.[1][2] Various legal systems and government agencies use different definitions. Moreover, governments have been reluctant to formulate an agreed upon, legally binding definition. These difficulties arise from the fact that the term is politically and emotionally charged.[3] “

One thing that all of these definitions have in common is that they describe a tactic, or at best a strategy, of war.  Nevertheless, since the time of President Bush (who described the 9/11 disaster as a “terrorist attack” before anyone had the foggiest notion of who/what was responsible), we have somehow had the “War on Terror” (which for the military-industrial complexes involved in fighting it has the advantage of being a Permanent War).   It just so happens that the “War on Terror,” was declared by Bush, and, as Eugene Robinson noted, continued under Obama without a definition of the term having ever been provided.  However, as Robinson also said, paraphrasing an unknown U.S. general, declaring a “war on terror” is like declaring a war on “flanking maneuvers.” 

Except that in the United States, acts that can be described as “terroristic” using any of the definitions quoted above, such as “the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes,” or “the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal” or any others that one could think of for that matter, have one very peculiar characteristic.  That is, in this day-and-age, flanking maneuvers or no, according to most U.S. politicians (and all Repub. politicians), and most of the U.S. media (most especially what is referred to as the “mainstream media”), for the most part to be labelled as “terrorism,” a violent act carried out against civilians has to have been done, or made to appear to have been done by Muslims.

And so, since “San Bernardino,” (an absolute horror to be sure) we have been hearing about it and its apparent perpetrators virtually 24/7.  Most especially we are hearing about their “radicalization,” and how the Pakistani woman got into the country.  (We don’t hear so much about how they happened to be able to freely get themselves, or through a friend, military-style assault rifles, but of course we know the reason for that.)  That word, “radicalization,” as though it were some kind of secret process conducted by witches (think “Macbeth”), is repeated over-and-over again.  The implication is that it must be Muslims who are the potential subjects for it, and that it, the process, must be found out.

“An anonymous U.S. general has stated that declaring a ‘war on terror’ is like declaring a war on ‘flanking maneuvers.'”

One does have to wonder why we don’t hear too much about Robert Dear, who murdered three people at the Planned Parenthood Clinic in Colorado Springs and how he got “radicalized.”  Lots of people think that abortion is murder (after all, the Repubs. and their echo chambers at Fox”News” and right-wing talk radio spew that stuff 24/7.  Remember O’Reilly and “Diller the bay killer,” on the murdered abortion doctor.)  But fortunately not-too-many are “radicalized” enough to go commit murder.  We do hear some about Sandy Hook, but that was not “terrorism,” mind you, because it was committed by a clearly mentally ill young man who had a mentally ill mother for an accomplice (and they both happened to be white).

But have you ever heard of the 2009 mass killing at an adult immigrant resource center in Binghamton, NY?  Well, you may have, but I had to be reminded of it by a recent column on the Huffington Post.  Of course, they were all foreign nationals, but I wonder if the killer had become “radicalized” against such folk.  I don’t think that we’ll ever find out.

And then what about the “massacre [that] took place at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, where 40-year-old Wade Michael Page fatally shot six people and wounded four others.[3][4] . . . . Page was an American white supremacist and United States Army veteran. . . .”  I can’t recall much of an investigation about how this known white supremacist got radicalized.  And oh by the way, Page thought that he was murdering Muslims.  Sikh’s aren’t.

Next we come to the out-lier rancher Cliven Bundy and his gang of “militia-men” who threatened to murder Federal law enforcement officials if they attempted to stop him from breaking the law on grazing his cattle on public lands.  How did such folks “get radicalized?”  Hmmm?  And when Dylann Roof, known for his open association with white “The Confederacy Will Rise Again” hate groups (of which there are many not only in the South but other parts of the country as well), slaughters eight church-goers in Charleston, South Carolina (the capital of the first of what became the Confederate States of America) we don’t hear the media going on and on about “how was he radicalized?”

But heck, we would be getting much too close to home (literally).  After all, the Southern Policy Law Center has identified about 1600 armed and dangerous right-wing “militias/hate-ist/domestic terrorist groups.”  But when early in the Obama Administration the Department of Homeland Security announced that it was going to launch an investigation into domestic organizations posing potential terrorist threats the screams and outrage from the supposedly “anti-terror” Republicans in the Congress brought that one to halt quickly.  And we could go on.

However this is not just the work of Republicans and their Propaganda channels who run very well when they can get the country terrified about “foreign,” especially “Muslim” terror.  The so-called “mainstream media,” from The New York Times to the “liberal” cable news channels, are focusing almost exclusively on “San Bernardino” and the apparent killers’ “radicalization” (that’s quickly become the in-word).  And so on most of the media “terrorism” has a very narrow focus, because it is of course linked to Muslims and furriners, donchaknow.  They are just stoking the fire, which the likes of Trump breath in and then spew out into general Muslim suspicion, which can very quickly turn to hate (yellow crescents, anyone?)

And so, where are the Democrats?  When on the day I wrote this column (December 17, 2015) President Obama gave another one of his patented “calming” speeches about terrorism he mentions just one place: San Bernardino, where he is stopping off on his way to his annual holiday-time Hawaii vacation to “comfort the families of the victims.”  “What?” (as the great sports commentator on New York City’s WFAN Steve Sommers likes to say about subjects of much less importance).  The President could have also stopped in Colorado Springs to comfort the families there.  After all it’s on the way.  But that would mean not feeding into the narrative that his enemies intend to use to win the 2016 election.  And it would also mean standing up for Planned Parenthood.  And we can’t have either of those, can we?

Please indulge for one more “oh, by the way.”  There will be at least one more “Muslim terrorist attack” between now and the next election, most likely about two weeks before it.  After all, the Repubs. really do want to win, even if it means having a former pro-choice Democrat totally loose cannon in the White House.

 

 
Trump, the Right-Ward Imperative, and the Republican Party by Steven Jonas
December 29, 2015

The Democrats—as the veiled party of the capitalist class—have played the pretentious game of political choice with the GOP to perfection, always presenting themselves as an alternative to the rightwing barbarism evidence put forward by the Republicans.

 
The U.S. Republican Party has been riding what I have called the “Rightwing Imperative” for several decades.  The Republican Party could not possible openly run on its real platform, that is, for example, enabling the rich to become richer while driving the working class further towards poverty, enabling global warming at an increasing rate to further increase the profits of the fossil fuel industry and creating a state of Permanent War and/or Permanent Preparation for Permanent War.  And so, as I said:

“[f]or years to bring voters to their side they have cloaked their real policy positions under the camouflage of: the standard, generally meaningless “lower taxes, smaller government” mantra [smaller government, that is, except in matters such as freedom of choice in the outcome pregnancy and freedom of choice in what recreational mood-altering (‘RMADs’) to use], and the promotion of prejudice: racism, homophobia, religious bigotry, creationism, sexual repression, etc.  If possible this was done in a supposedly veiled way, by using the so- called ‘dog whistles.’ They allow the GOP for the most part not to talk too much about what they are really about. And when they do, with the abundance of dog whistles about, their noise means that GOP voters hardly notice what their policies really mean.”

Mexican movements across the border are not new. This photo is from the 1930s. After all, big chunks of the US South, West and Southwest were taken from Mexico in trumped up wars of plunder and aggression.
 
This guy —a “legal  racist”—forgot that his genes also came with immigrants across the Atlantic. Everyone from Europe and other points displaced by force and subterfuge the native Americans. Racism was often the main if not sole root of such prejudicial treatment.

Mexicans boarding trains for “repatriation” to Mexico in 1931. Many were born in the USA, but not white enough for the racists commanding US policy and sentiment in the media.
But something new has happened in the current campaign for the Republican Presidential nomination (which we have also been discussing over the past several weeks): the Rightward Imperative has become ever more open and its elements have been used to propose actual policies.  Trump of course started very early on the anti-“Mexican” rampage demanding that the border be made impenetrable and that all undocumented immigrants (at least the Latino ones) should be deported forthwith.

Trump never did deal with the fact that the Obama Administration until recently has deported more undocumented folks than had ever been done previously (something that the Administration did not want to publicize for obvious reasons) and that currently “immigration” from South of the border is negative.  (It should be noted that in the past year that policy has undergone a profound shift).  Nor has Trump discussed the enormous costs and practicality both of completing the current walls and finding and deporting approximately 11,000,000 people and how the funds would be raised.

And I’m not just speaking of Donald Trump in terms of taking the Rightward Imperative into the policy realm.  Several GOP candidates, such as Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson and Ted Cruz, are either open Dominionists or will not state that they are not.  Marco Rubio has taken the position that abortion should be criminalized with no exceptions say, for rape or incest (or rape and incest).  Ted Cruz has said that to prevent more mass slayings is that everyone should be armed.  (Can you imagine by how much gun deaths, already over 33,000 annually, would increase if that were to be the case.)

Then Donald Trump, not to be outdone, and following the Rightward Imperative ever further, as we know, after proposing the Muslims residing in the U.S., citizens or not, should be registered and carded.  (How long would it take for wearing the Yellow Crescent to be required of Muslims?)  Then he proposed banning immigrants from among the Syrian refugees (fleeing a conflict which was in major part caused by Republican policy in Iraq). 

This despite the fact that that U.S. imposes a “vetting process” for immigrants that generally takes about 1.5 years.  (If you are interested in this one, take a look at that vetting process.  On the one hand, the Republicans are saying that there is none, which makes one wonder how they define the word “none.”  On the other hand, one wonders how the process could be conceivably made any more rigorous unless, of course, the aim is to prevent all or most immigrant entries.)

This was a little much for some of the Republican candidates (but not too much too much for most).  JEB Bush said that at least Christian Syrian refugees should be let in (but, agreeing with Trump, I suppose because he, Bush, is so far behind, on the matter of Muslims).  JEB did not share with us just who would qualify as a “Christian,” nor did he note that among the most ferocious religious wars in human history have been those between Christians (over such issues as to whether the Eucharist is symbolic or real). 

Gov. Kasich, who in September had supported President Obama’s munificent plan to admit a relative few Syrian refugees by November had turned around on that one.

“The Democratic Wing of the [Corporatist] Duopoly has facilitated these developments, keeping the pretense alive that America offers meaningful political choices at the polls…”

And then came Trump’s “ban the Muslims” proposal.  It has nothing to do with any of our nation’s real problems, not even the one recent terrorist attack that was carried out by Muslims — the San Bernardino horror.  Syed Farook was a native U.S. and his wife Tashfeen Malik entered on an entirely legitimate fiancée visa.  (Virtually all of terror/mass-killings in the United States have been carried out by white Christians, but somehow those connections a) never get investigated much if at all, and b) are never — well, hardly ever — discussed on the mass media.  But that is another story.)  For now, all of the Republican candidates, with the exception of Ted Cruz, have criticized both the proposal and Trump for making it.  But that’s for now.  One wonders who will be the first on this one to follow the example of Kasich, who within two months had reversed himself on the matter of Syrian refugees.

The Republican Party has become the open captive of the Rightward Imperative.   It is moving in a direction that is increasingly dangerous for the future of the country: one in which fascism could be imposed through Constitutional means.  Whether or not it will be hoist by its own petard depends upon two factors: the “liberal” sector of the mainstream media such as The New York Times and CNN/MSNBC and the Democratic Party.  They are going to have to deal with a) the content, b) the money, c) the true interests of the Republican Party, and d) where the implementation of such policies will necessarily take us.

The Democratic Wing of the Duopoly has facilitated these developments by not a long time ago taking on the Repub. Party on a) the Rightward Imperative and b) its true policies. 

There is not too much time left.

 


 
The Modern Middle East Imperialist War III: What’s it All About by Steven Jonas
November 30, 2015


“Modern Middle East Imperialist (MMEI) War III,” you say?  How are you counting (?) might be the first question.  Of course, Western Imperialist Wars have been waged on the region at least since Alexander the Great marched through the region in the 4th Century, BCE.  The modern (contemporary) set can be said to have begun when George H.W. Bush tricked Saddam Hussein into invading a Kuwait that, among other things, had been diagonal drilling across the Iraq/Kuwait boundary, stealing Iraqi oil.

Militarily that war ended quickly.  But through subsequent U.S. policy (e.g., the Bill Clinton “No Fly” zone) over the years it wreaked havoc on many tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians (especially children).  Then came Bush II’s infamous War on Iraq which, by all logic it seems to be, was waged in order to establish a state of Permanent War for the U.S., if not one or more other Western Powers, and perhaps to create the “Permanent Republican Majority” (or at least Presidency) in the U.S. that was the dream of Karl Rove’s Repubs. (and of course the nightmare for the rest of us).

The United States is now in the midst of MMEI War No. III. Since there are so many sides involved, with shifting alliances, sometimes from month-to-month, this one is rather more complicated, and not easy to figure out.  Certainly for me, I must admit, it has been confusing.  But now, with several thoughtful, insightful columns that I have read recently, and with the shooting down of the Russian (I almost wrote “Soviet,” the way “Russia” is referred to by many authorities in this country) plane by the Turks, I have come up with an hypothesis, which I am going to share with you.  I now have come to the conclusion that this multi-pronged, multi-front battle has at its center Iran and the hatred of key Arab states and Turkey for it.  The hatred and urgency to attempt to rein Iran in has only intensified with the signing of the “Nuclear Deal.”

Iran is, as is well known (although perhaps not to all U.S. persons and perhaps not even to all Repub. Presidential candidates) one of the two major non-Arab Muslim powers in the Middle East.  (The other one is of course Turkey which, of course too, both geographically and by treaty has a foothold in Europe as well.)  Iran is Shia, but it is also modern in Middle Eastern terms, has a goodly supply of oil, has a going nuclear industry designed to provide power for it once the oil is gone, and of course sits on one side of the aptly named Persian Gulf and astride the Strait of Hormuz.  The latter happens to be the only exit from the Gulf, through which lots of oil from the aptly-named “Gulf States” must pass.   

To the reactionary Sunni Muslim Arab oil states like Saudi Arabia, Iran is a menace.  To Turkey, Iran is also a menace because a) it is a relatively modern Muslim country like Turkey (even though it is nominally religious, unlike Turkey), and b) Turkey is very concerned about the decades long indolent war with its Kurdish minority with aspirations for independence that Iran probably supports even though it has a Kurdish minority of its own with the same aspirations.  But Iran has Arab friends as well as enemies, mainly the Alawite/Shia-controlled government of the Baathist Assad in Syria and the Shia government of Iraq.

A somewhat strange alliance has been attempting, without success, to dislodge Syria’s Assad.  Besides Washington and the Saudis — both covertly and overtly — the principal fighter in this one at the moment, is the 7th-century (by their own admission) Islamic State in the Levant (ISIL and a few other names).  It has received essential support from private elements in Saudi Arabia and several of the Gulf States (and from their governments too).

Russia is the major world power supporting Assad, certainly in part to maintain its Mediterranean bases at Latakia and Tartus, and also as matter of principle mixed with pragmatism: Russia is a lynchpin of the multipolar alliance against ISIL that also happens to include China.  The ISIL bombing of the Russian airliner, and the cold-blooded shooting down of a Russian fighter by the Turks near the Syrian/Turkish border have only deepened and probably hardened Russia’s involvement in the fight against it. 

When they started bombing in Syria a month ago or so the usual Western sources said that the Russians were focusing more on the anti-Assad forces than on ISIL—as if they weren’t one and the same.  That has been a pathetic propaganda line disseminated by Washington from the start, part of its information war on Russia, which has also included an all-out demonization of Putin. The accusation shows no sign of being retired any time soon.  On the morning of Nov. 29, on CBS’s Face the Nation, both the new host, John Dickerson, and his guests, the usual “worthies” du jour, were sanctimoniously complaining that if Russia were to be included in the US coalition fighting ISIL, Moscow would have to stop supporting Assad.

The absurdity of thinking that Moscow would need to be accepted by Washington into some sort of fake coalition to fight these barbaric terrorists -— which anyone except those utterly bamboozled by the American media know quite well Washington itself created -— is the kind of audacious arrogance that typifies imperial “journalism”.  (All these US celebrity journalists are witting presstitutes, albeit high-priced ones, who, as abettors of international war crimes, remain subject to trial just like the Nazi defendants in Nuremberg at the close of WWII. In a world with a semblance of justice and genuine democracy, that’s exactly what they would be facing, along with their equally corrupt masters, who strut around in high positions of power with impunity.—Eds.) Further, none of them, seem to be aware that in 2012, as reported in the Los Angeles Times, Pres. Putin offered to engage in negotiations through the UN that could well lead to the replacement of Bashir Assad as Syrian President.

It happens that at that time, Iran supported a similar position.  A major opportunity that could have saved tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of lives, plus the current Syrian refugee crisis, plus the establishment of ISIL as a force with power, could have been avoided.
                                
Now, in 2015, Russia seems to have a clear policy and is moving to implement it.  That is to surely shut down ISIL, with the cooperation of other powers or not.  Indeed Russia, over original U.S. objections, has obtained a UN Security Council Resolution supporting their campaign to do just that.  Now it happens that the best way to achieve that aim is to effectively close the Turkey/Syrian border.  Turkey, of course, has at best been ambivalent about ISIL because they would really like to get rid of Assad in order to move the Iranian influence out of Syria.  Further, Turkish President Erdogan has long dreamed of grabbing a chunk of Syria as part of his Greater Turkey vision, harking back to the days of the Ottoman Empire.  (Where is Lawrence of Arabia when we need him?) But, not so fast, for of course Iraq already has a Shia government and openly cooperates with Iran.  And the Turks have their enmity against the Kurds, who just happen to be the most effective indigenous grouping fighting ISIL.  In any case, the fact remains that while Turkey talks tough against ISIL, its border is a sieve with fighters, supplies, oil, and money moving freely across it.  Not to mention medical support, facilitated in collaboration with the CIA.

It is now clear that Russia is determined to jam up the sieve.  To do that they need to remove the Turkish-supported anti-Assad rebel groups from along the Syria-Turkish border, substituting the Syrian Army of Assad for them (which is why they are bombing those anti-Assad groups).  The latter then could effectively shut down the free flow of whatever element wishes to infiltrate/exfiltrate Syria, across the Turkish-Syrian border.  That is the reason Russia is now supporting Assad’s army in that sector with some very serious air power.  Turkey shot down the Russian jet (apparently over a 5-mile-wide strip of land in Syria along the traditional Turkish-Syrian border that Turkey claims is part of Turkey but other power recognizes as such) as a warning shot across the bow at the Russians.  Their response has been immediate: “Are you kidding us?” and, “Oh, by the way, we can do sanctions as effectively as the Western powers can.”  And so, the Russians very quickly moved some very modern anti-aircraft firepower into the region; a clear message to Turkey.  The game is now afoot.

If the Russian/Syrian government campaign is successful, the border which currently allows, for example, oil to flow one way and weapons and personnel to flow the other, will be shut down.  ISIL as a territorial body will slowly choke and wither away.  (Of course its potential for terrorism around the world will hardly do that, since the sources of militants exists in many bankrupt, backward nations, a world reality primarily of Washington’s making, but that is another story.)  Through Syria and Iraq, Iran will be firmly established as a power in the Arab world.  Further, if Iran chooses to do so, it could abet the establishment of an independent, though land-locked, Kurdish state comprising the Syrian, Iraqi, and possibly Iranian portions of Kurdish territory.  Of course such a Kurdistan would be, shall we say, very friendly with Iran.  Further, the Kurdish portion of Iraq happens to sit upon one of the largest not-fully explored oil regions left in the world.  And oh yes, there is the Iran supported Hezbollah, which would be strengthened much to Israel’s dismay (which is why, some claim, with some credible evidence, that Israel is and has been supporting ISIL all along [!?!]).

And so, I think that the ongoing struggle is quadripartite.  In part this is all about the traditional Sunni/Shia war that has been going on since just after the death of Mohammed.  In part it’s about the place and role of Iran in the Arab world.  In part it’s about Turkey playing both sides of the street in their objective of removing Assad and his Iranian allies/patrons while appearing to be a U.S./NATO ally.  And in part it’s about US policy (supported by both elements of the Duopoly).  Among other things that policy has finally succeeded in awakening the Russian bear which, it now appears, is both determined to and capable of finishing the job against ISIL, while at the same securing the future (at least for now) for the Assad regime (and its Mediterranean bases) and for the Kurds as well.  And that, in my view, is what the Modern Middle East War III is all about (Alfie).

Hmm.  I just wonder what the Repubs. and their propaganda machine are going to say about this one:  ISIL gone, requiring no U.S. “boots on the ground” (except that “the Russians” did it).  Oh, I know.  Regardless of what happens on the ground, regardless of what happens to ISIL, it will be, “Obama is weak, weak, weak,” Russia is who-knows-what, and somehow they will weave Benghazi into their narrative.


 
Fascism in the 21st Century: Part II, A 21st Century Adaptation by Steven Jonas
November 25, 2015


They seem a bit Chaplinesque now, but there’s nothing funny about Nazism.


As I said in beginning the first column in this series, “fascism” is a term we hear from all sorts of folk these days, ranging from some of those on the Left over occasionally to some on the Right.  I then presented a “classical” definition of the term (and there surely are a number of useful ones):

A politico-economic system in which there is: total executive branch control of both the legislative and administrative powers of government; no independent judiciary; no Constitution that embodies a Rule of Law standing above the people who run the government and the executive, legislative and judicial bodies through which they do so; no inherent personal rights or liberties; a single national ideology that first demonizes and then criminalizes all political, religious, and ideological opposition to it; the massive and regular use of hate, fear, racial and religious prejudice, the Big Lie technique, mob psychology, mob actions and ultimately individual and collective violence to achieve political and economic ends; a capitalist/corporate economy; with the ruling economic class’ domination of economic, fiscal, and regulatory policy.”

Fascism has almost always appeared in advanced or moderately-advanced capitalist countries which were hitherto ruled by some sort of “parliamentary democracy.”   Fascism has always been imposed upon a country by the dominant sectors of its capitalist ruling class when that class has come to the conclusion that it can no longer retain control of the political economy through “parliamentary” means.  Note that in the definition above I did not include as part of it the ultimate control of state power by one person, usually known as the “dictator” or “leader”.   Of course it happened that in the two principal 20th century examples of fascist states, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, there was one such person.  As noted in the first column in this series:

“Because of the roles that Hitler and Mussolini played in leading and ruling their respective countries it is often thought that fascism requires such a singular leader/dictator and the cult-of-personality that was built around each.  In fact Hitler and Mussolini both adopted the term ‘leader’ to describe themselves, ‘führer’ in German and ‘Duce’ in Italian.”

Very strong cults of personality were carefully built around the two men by their respective propaganda apparatuses. For example, after 1938 or so, in Nazi Germany if one did not substitute “Heil Hitler” for the usual “Good Morning,” etc. throughout the day, one might be looked upon with suspicion.  Furthermore, a singular characteristic of 20th fascism was that its institutionalization in a given country was accomplished by the use of violence, of one form or another.

When we are looking at 21st century fascism, in the context of what is happening in certain of the capitalist states, at the present particularly in the United States, it should be noted that it is entirely possible that wholesale violence will not be required for its introduction.  Nor will a maximum leader necessarily be required.  Like the fog in the famous, ultra-short poem by the U.S. person Carl Sandburg, it may well come in “on little cat feet.”

As the history of the last 150 years or so shows us, in most capitalist countries the ruling class would much rather retain its private ownership of the means of production and control of the State apparatus through the aforementioned form of “parliamentary democracy” (as long as it can control it).  There are a variety of reasons for this, one being that it maintains the fiction that the non-owning classes have some real say in the governance of the economy as well as of the State.

But the principal contradictions of capitalism eventually begin to settle in, as is happening right before our very eyes in the United States: the export of capital and the resulting de-industrialization; the declining rate of profit, the necessity of the creation and expansion into unorthodox profit centers like prisons and the educational system; increasing numbers of workers languishing outside of the labor market, and so on and so forth.  Under such conditions—all inherent in capitalism’s dynamics—it becomes less-and-less easy for the ruling class to maintain control.  At that point, some sort of fascism starts to become ever more attractive.  But how to get from A to B?  In a nation like the United States, with Constitutionally-split government authority, that’s easy: through the Constitution.  And so, in the 21st century, in the United States at least, I believe we will eventually arrive at what can be called Constitutional Fascism.

Prominent Repubs in 2015: they lead the charge toward “constitutional fascism” with little or no opposition. Who needs goons in the streets? Hitler would be envious.

Using the increasingly corrupt electoral system, which the Republicans have been deliberately undermining by gerrymandering, voter suppression, and outright vote-count cheating, they have been taking total control of an increasing number of state governments, upwards of 2 dozen after the 2015 elections.   For the same reasons they will control the House of Representatives for the indefinite future.  If they retain their Senate majority in 2016, they will very likely do away with the filibuster on Jan. 3, 2017.  For a variety of reasons, if they somehow manage to choose the right candidate, they could very well win the Presidency in 2016, for they have managed the very clever trick of forcing President Obama to accept many of their economic/fiscal policies and then getting to blame him for the negative outcomes of same.  Finally, the other side of the Duopoly plays right into this because the Democrats—the other face of the deep corporate state and international imperialism— rarely fight back on the real issues, the issues that matter from a class perspective.

“In the 21st century, in the United States at least…wholesale violence may not be required. Gradually, step by unnoticed step, I believe we may well eventually arrive at what can be called Constitutional Fascism.”

So, as we have seen, in this cynical Kabuki, it is the Repubs who take the lead toward the slaughterhouse, while the Democrats simply follow, by passively assenting to most policies proposed by the “party of business.” Thus, in a systematic way, more and more, the Repubs. are running on and/or intent on implanting most of the central elements of the definition of fascism offered above, through the use of the electoral system, which they can do because A) as mentioned earlier, the limp opposition of the Democratic Party, and B) the non-existence of any sort of mass labor union movement (and associated political parties), following the Repubs.’ successful campaign to destroy it, a process that has been going on since the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947. (Again a bipartisan project).

None of this would be so outrageously easy in the presence of a functioning, autonomous media that took its duties seriously. That, however, does not exist in the US any more, if it ever did. The American media, conceits aside, in the complete hands of the corporate plutocracy, are simply one more propaganda platform—perhaps the most effective—to bolster and disseminate the prevailing capitalist ideology.  The true left, minuscule in its media presence, forever fragmented and improvident in strategic regards, has nothing to respond with, no instruments with which to access the public debate. That is why the fascism mongers will achieve their goals “constitutionally.”  What they will do to the Constitution by amendments (that they are already talking about) once they get full control of the Supreme Court, 40 state governments, 2/3’s of the Congress, and the Presidency will then play itself out.  And the nation will have become fully fascist functionally, without violence, without a maximum leader, with, on paper two political parties offering “choice.” A perfect Orwellian democracy.

American Nazis. Not really needed, since the state will have the army and police in its pocket—and the media to cover their crimes. Still, they could be used to carry out “boutique murders” of select opposition activists.

If you would like to see how this may well play out, please see my book, The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S., 1981-2022 (Punto Press Publishing, 2013).  The original edition was published in 1996, and believe me I didn’t make up any of it.  “The 15% Solution” in the title comes from a voter-suppression program designed by an organization called the “Christian Coalition” in the late 1980s.  I just looked at what the Republicans and their soul-mates in the Religious Right were telling us, back into the 1980s, what they would do if they ever got significant control over the levers of government.  And they are doing it.  Indeed, as the overall economic conditions continue to worsen, and as racism, homophobia, and misogyny, all underlain by religious determinism continue to expand in their domination of Republican politics, fascism will creep in like Sandburg’s fog, on little cat feet.  But it will be a highly poisonous fog.


 


 
Fascism in the 21st Century: Part I, Briefly, Its 20th Century Background by Steve Jonas
November 23, 2015

The Fascist phoenix:  Toward a basic taxonomy.  In America even the rise of a new party or formation identifying itself as “fascist” may not be necessary, as the degeneracy of existing parties suffices to fill that function, setting off no alarms.

Fascism (and Fascist) is a term we hear from all sorts of folk these days, ranging from some of those on the Left over occasionally to some on the Right.  It is usually used as a term of opprobrium (except perhaps for those elements in the coalition of the U.S.-sponsored regime in Ukraine which openly hark back to the Ukrainian military units that fought on the side of the Nazis in World War II, or certain far-right organizations in the United States itself).  The original “fascist” party was founded by then-future Italian dictator Benito Mussolini in 1919.  Mussolini (or his public relations team) took the name from a symbol used in the days of the Roman Empire.  It referred to a bundle of rods tied around an axe, representing civil power and authority.

I should think that few users of the term today are thinking about the Roman origins of the term.  Most would think back to what it meant in the 20th century.  There were three major powers described as “fascist,” sometimes by themselves, often by their opponents.  They were of course the self-described “Axis Powers,” Italy (the first self-described fascist state), Germany, and Japan.  There are also a number of smaller states that were, as we shall see in the definition below, described as fascist.  The most prominent ones were Spain under Franco and Portugal under Salazar.  Further, in the sense that it was the first nation in history to have an autocratic, absolutist government not headed not by a monarch (see below), Hungary under Admiral Miklos Horthy, could be considered to be the first fascist state.  It came into existence in 1920 following a failed communist revolt.  Over time, a number of Latin-American countries could also be considered fascist: Argentina under Peron (although peronismo is a hybrid with a generous amount of genuine leftist populism in the mix); Paraguay under Stroessner, Cuba under Batista, Chile under Pinochet, and Brazil under “the generals” for 20 years from 1964.

Fascists—especially the German and Italian varieties—were keen on public rallies and marches designed to build morale and intimidate opponents.

Based on the 20th century model, the principal political and economic characteristics of fascism can be briefly described as follows:

“A politico-economic system in which there is: total executive branch control of both the legislative and administrative powers of government; no independent judiciary; no Constitution that embodies a Rule of Law standing above the people who run the government and the executive, legislative and judicial bodies through which they do so; no inherent personal rights or liberties; a single national ideology that first demonizes and then criminalizes all political, religious, and ideological opposition to it; the massive and regular use of hate, fear, racial and religious prejudice, the Big Lie technique, mob psychology, mob actions and ultimately individual and collective violence to achieve political and economic ends; a capitalist/corporate economy; with the ruling economic class’ domination of economic, fiscal, and regulatory policy.”

In Italy and Germany fascism was also characterized by a single head of government/state who with originally privately-funded armed forces behind him had seized control of the predecessor state apparatus of a parliamentary democracy.  Then, with the support of that same body of armed men, augmented and eventually replaced by the regular armed forces, projected themselves into the position of larger-than-life, all powerful dictators.  Again, at first these “bodies of armed men” were privately funded by elements of their respective ruling classes, the “Brownshirts” (the Sturmabteilung or “SA”) in Germany and the Black Shirts in Italy.  In the other major 20th century fascist state, Japan, while during World War II there was an all-powerful cabinet headed by a Prime Minister, Hideki Tojo, for a wide variety of reasons Tojo never acquired the almost mythical status in his own country that Hitler and Mussolini did in theirs. (The Emperor figure remained far too powerful --- as a figure --- for that to occur. The spectacle of Tojo strutting around like Hitler or Mussolini would have appeared insolent to many conservative Japanese, as it would have been an injury to the image of their living divinity, Emperor Hiro Hito.)

Chile’s dictator Pinochet: During his reign something of a personality cult emerged, which persists to this day among various sectors of the population, including the ruling class, lower middle class, and former members of the state security and military apparatus.

Because of the roles that Hitler and Mussolini played in leading and ruling their respective countries it is often thought that fascism requires such a singular leader and the cult-of-personality that was built around each.  In fact Hitler and Mussolini both adopted the term “leader” to describe themselves, “Fuehrer” in German and “Il Duce” in Italian.  It is important to note that that term has a meaning beyond “President” or “Prime Minister.”  Both dictators developed that meaning to be understood by the people of their nations, supporters and opponents alike, that they were not only in charge of all aspects of the government, but well beyond such ordinary powers.  In fact, every person was to think of them as their personal leader and that as such they were required to follow him wherever he might take the nation.  In Germany this was encapsulated by the fanatical term “Mein Fuhrer” not just “leader,” but “my leader.”

“Because of the singular German Nazi and Italian examples, it is often thought that fascism requires a singular leader who takes on for himself almost mythical powers and…that it can only arrive through violence. Both ideas are actually erroneous. Far more subtle forms of fascism can develop, with almost identical social results.”

In Germany, among other things this led millions of members of the German armed forces to, at Hitler’s orders, fight to the last man in increasingly hopeless situations after the Red Army had turned the tide (and won the war) on the Eastern front.  Perhaps blessed (or accursed, depending on the viewpoint) with less abstract romanticism and fealty to ideologies, the Italians never allowed themselves to go that far for Mussolini.  For example, the Italian Army in North Africa surrendered by the hundreds of thousands before the relatively undermanned and under-equipped British Army, did not fight the Allies much in Sicily, and promptly gave up completely when the Allies landed at Salerno in southern Italy before taking over the major city of Naples without too much of a fight. (More fanatical Fascist formations, akin to the German SS stood their ground with more zeal, but their efforts were pallid by Teutonic standards, hence the barely concealed contempt of the Germans for the Italian people, whose nation they occupied with unusual harshness. (The only Italian that Hitler respected was Mussolini).

But, because of the singular German Nazi and Italian examples, it is often thought that a) fascism requires a singular leader who is granted/takes on for himself almost mythical powers and b) because of how fascism came to Germany and Italy (by coup d’état) and Spain (civil war) that it can only arrive through violence. In Germany, technically the Nazi violence did not start until Hitler had gained the Chancellorship (Premier) through Constitutional means.  Indeed he was appointed Chancellor by the nation’s President, the Prussian Army’s Chief of the General Staff during World War I, Paul von Hindenburg.  But Hitler had his forces very well-prepared for what they would do once he gained the position and the Nazi Terror, aimed first at the leading German Communists and Socialists, started on that very night, January 30, 1933.  Mussolini came in with the support of his country’s king, but very much with his Blackshirts behind him from the beginning, and he too began rounding up political enemies immediately upon taking power.

For the United States in the 21st century, as the economy and living standards for the majority of the population decline, as income and wealth inequality increases, and as the ruling class further cements its control of the State through “Citizens United-facilitated   campaign contributions,” voter suppression, gerrymandering, and outright election theft, the question is whether full-fledged fascism will arise and if so, how it will be imposed and what form it will take.  We shall begin to turn to a consideration of that question in the next column in this series.

 

 
“Bridge of Spies: A Review by Steven Jonas
November 3, 2015

Even though the previews indicated that the movie “Bridges of Spies” was going to be a rollicking good spy-exchange story, and even though I remember the “U-2 Incident” on which it is based pretty well, I had been planning not to see it.  I figured that it would be part of the gradual build-up underway in this country of anti-Russian sentiment that has been going on in the context of the current decline in U.S.-Russian relations.  Many U.S. persons have a very hazy knowledge of history and certainly some of them confuse modern-day Russia with the Soviet Union.

Indeed, I noted in a previous column that even a TV news correspondent, commenting on the recent Russian build-up in Syria, twice referred to the country as the “Soviet Union” before, on the third reference, naming it correctly.  So, a historical drama that concerns the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. could easily be confused by some viewers at least as representing what is currently going on between the U.S. and Russia.  (That at its base, quite unlike the U.S./U.S.S.R. conflict, it is what I have termed a “clash of capitalisms” is a matter that I have dealt with elsewhere.)

But, presently, Russia is increasingly described anywhere on a scale from “enemy” to “dangerous rival” to “a nation sticking its nose in where it doesn’t belong.”  (Those references never seem to mention the U.S.’ 750 or so bases around the world nor the U.S. policies that have stimulated violence throughout the Muslim, especially Arab world.  But that is another story).  Russian President Putin generally receives bad media coverage here.  And there seems to be a general build-up of “Russia-is-bad” reporting.  And so, I thought to myself “this one has to be nothing more than a revival of Cold War propaganda, and I do not have to subject myself to that.”

Well.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  I went to see the movie because my wife, who usually doesn’t like movies with such subjects, was intrigued by it.  What a pleasant surprise of a film.  First of all, there are the Spielberg settings.  So authentic, whether in Brooklyn, Lower Manhattan, Berlin (East and West), or European cities standing in for Berlin.  Then there is the acting, starring that grand actor-with-great-range, Tom Hanks.  Terrific as an insurance lawyer — the movie doesn’t tell you that he was a counsel to the Office of Strategic Services during World War II (same name, but no relation to “Wild Bill” Donovan, the war-time commander of the O.S.S.), although it does mention that he was part of the prosecution team for the Nuremberg Trials — gradually drawn into becoming a spy-exchange negotiator.  Then there is Mark Rylance, last seen here as King Henry VIII’s hatchet man (literally) Thomas Cromwell in the TV series based on the Wolf Hall novels.  Whether or not the Soviet spy Rudolf Abel was actually as Rylance portrayed him, he certainly could have been.  A superb job.

Most important is the story and the way it is presented, focusing on Donovan, Abel, Francis Gary Powers (the U-2 pilot whose plane was shot down by the Soviet air defense system and who did not, contrary to orders, commit suicide before he could be captured), and the process of the exchange.  Although one knows, even without having any familiarity with the real story, what the outcome is going to be (what big budget film-maker is going to do a movie about a potential spy exchange that fails) the film still keeps you on the edge of your seat.

It is interesting note (at least it is for students of history like me) that several very important political-historical elements/events were left out. First it is made to appear that the spy plane flight by Francis Gary Powers was the first or one of the first of its kind.  Actually, the program had been underway off and on for several years. The Soviets knew about it but had no weapon that could reach the very high-flying U-2s until they had the one that brought down Powers.   Second, no mention was made of the Four Power Summit Peace Conference between the United States, Great Britain, France and the U.S.S.R. that was to have taken place in Paris in May, 1960.

That Summit was intended by both sides to attempt to continue and broaden the first post-World War II opening to “détente” between the Soviet Union and the Western Powers that had been made by Vice-President Richard Nixon’s visit to the Soviet Union in 1959 and the mutual national shows that took place that summer in New York City and Moscow.  (I was lucky enough to have attended the opening of the U.S. show in Moscow and although not knowing it at the time, I was on the other side of a wall in the U.S. model house when the famous “kitchen debate” took place between Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.) The U-2 incident took place just before the Summit was to start and that start quickly become its end.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower did take public responsibility for the very embarrassing series of events.  However, it is thought in some quarters that the CIA spy-master Allen Dulles purposely arranged the Powers flight, without Eisenhower’s knowledge of that specific one and its timing, with the hope that it would be discovered or even brought down (and the U.S. knew that Soviet air defenses were steadily improving) so that the Summit would be sabotaged.  Dulles, along with his brother John Foster, who had been Eisenhower’s Secretary of State until his death in 1959, from the end of the World War II had at the top of his agenda the eventual destruction of the Soviet Union.  Four Power peace summits were not his cup of tea. And the “peaceful co-existence” that Khrushchev was aiming for (as was John F. Kennedy before he was murdered — see his not-so-famous “American University” speech of June, 1963) was viewed by the likes of Allen Dulles as poison.

But this movie did not require a full treatment of the history in order to make its primary point, which was not, much to my surprise, to paint the Soviet Union in a bad light.  (The German Democratic Republic — East Germany — not so good, but that’s another matter.)  Rather, in my view it had two major points to make.  First, that in the 1950s and 60s in this country there were honorable men, like James B. Donovan the real-life attorney portrayed by Tom Hanks, who firmly believed in the Constitution and the rule of law, even for foreign spies.  (And Donovan’s law firm was what was called a “white shoe” firm, generally conservative and generally Republican.  But there were plenty of Republicans in those days, like the ones who brought down the rabidly red-baiting Senator Joe McCarthy, who the Tea Party/so-called “Freedom Caucus” in the House of Representatives today would be calling “Reds.”)

Second, the movie makes a very John le Carre-like point.  Secret service agents on both sides are generally not nice people (unless, of course, they are Jimmy Cagney in “13 Rue Madeline”).  Spying corrupts (although the Russian spy, “Rudolf Abel,” is portrayed as someone just doing his job), whether they are “ours” or “theirs.”  Neither the CIA guys, nor the KGB guys, nor the Stasi (East German secret police) come across particularly well.  And so while it does have plenty of greater or lesser villains, on both sides, it does have one hero, and that is a classic Honorable Man, James B. Donovan.   He fought the Nazis, and then, before he got involved in the spy-exchange drama, he fought for the U.S. Constitution and the rights it, on paper at least, provides for everyone within the borders of the United States.  What a difference between Republicans like Donovan and Republicans like Cheney and the ilk he has so successfully fostered within his party.
      







 
Bernie Sanders’ ‘Democratic Socialism’ by Steve Jonas
October 28, 2015

A lot is being made, both pro and con, of Bernie Sanders’ most honest declaration that he is a “Democratic Socialist.”   To his credit he has not backed away from that statement in the face of the totally expected red-baiting coming from the Repubs., led at this time by Trump.  Among the best responses would be: “Some people say I’m old (I don’t). But nothing’s older than that one, nor as meaningless,” or “Is that all you’ve got, Don? Try again.”

But let’s dissect Bernie’s “socialism,” to see what it really is. At the bedrock of the historical definition of socialism stand “collective ownership of the means of production,” “production for use, not for profit,” and in the Leninist sense, “concentration of state power in the hands of the working class and their representatives.” Not making any value judgments here, but Bernie’s “democratic socialism” simply does not qualify as “socialism” in terms of its historical definition. (I have further defined “socialism” in its historical sense elsewhere.) Further, Bernie has made it clear that if he does not get the nomination he will not challenge the Democratic Party’s candidate, who will surely have the ruling class’ imprimatur. So he is committed to staying within that boundary.   Nor does he advocate the nationalization of any industries currently held in private hands.  Nor will he challenge any of the major elements of the current ruling class’ foreign policy (although he might tinker with it a bit, here and there).

Bernie’ “socialism” focuses primarily on domestic policy and is nothing more nor less than the New Deal on steroids. (And sorry, Don T.. that just ain’t really very Red.) Indeed under various forms of “Democratic Socialism” in Western Europe, going back 100 years to Karl Kautsky of the German Socialist Party (SPD) and beyond, it serves/is-a-form-of capitalism, one in which the government plays an important role in the political economy. In fact, in all of the capitalist countries in Western Europe, in some of them going back more than a century, under democratic socialism the government indeed has a major role to play in the economy and in providing the underpinning for capitalist enterprise.   But the capitalist ruling class has never given up its ownership of the central elements of the means of production. Nor has it turned over its control of the state apparatus to the working class or its representatives.

Otto von Bismarck (without the Prussian Army’s spiked helmet): Already in the late 19th century, a rancid feudalist like Bismarck, the Iron Chancellor, granted health benefits to the working class that Americans can only dream about. He did it because the German workers didn’t beg, they fought.

Under working class pressure in Europe the ruling classes have provided certain benefits to the workers, going as far back as the 1880s. For example, at that time the Prussian Empire instituted what became the first national health insurance program in history. In his speech introducing his program to the Reichstag (Prussian parliament), Chancellor von Bismarck said words to the effect of: “the workers are revolting; we had better give them something.”
“Bernie’ “socialism” focuses primarily on domestic policy and is nothing more nor less than the New Deal on steroids…”

Thus Bernie is certainly not a socialist in the Marxist/Engelsian sense and he makes no claims to be. He is a “social democrat” in the (underlying capitalist) European sense, and also has a strong interest in certain issues of social justice that are peculiarly U.S.

Over time, central and western European governments, especially those subject to major trade union, and at one time Communist and Socialist Party, pressure have taken major roles in such realms as: transportation, environmental protection, infrastructure, social insurance, social supports, regulation of working conditions, national health insurance, and regulation of the finance sector. But that did not make those countries socialist, even though the term “social democratic” has been applied to them. Indeed, the more correct term would be something like “social capitalist” or “national interest capitalist.”

Indeed, for the most part, the social democrats in Western Europe have served the underlying interests of their own capitalist ruling classes ever since Kautsky led the SPD to support war credits for the Kaiser at the beginning of the First World War in 1914. In our own time, Bernie was certainly strongly against the Wars on Viet Nam and Iraq, but other aspects of his current foreign policy positions, whether driven by ideology or political expediency/necessity (depending upon your point of view), are hardly “socialist” in any sense of the word.   Socialists (rather than social democrats) in the United States of course have had a very different history.

But I don’t think that we should judge Bernie on something that he is clearly not and does not claim to be. We can criticize him on a variety of grounds, perhaps most importantly for prompting, inadvertently or not, the myth that achieving his program(s) is something that is actually achievable in the present United Sates with its present ruling class.

Finally, the Sanders candidacy can be of great use to the true Left in the United States. He puts forth a whole set of policies and programs that he could never get through the Congress, even with “Democratic” majorities. Of course through Repub. manipulation of the electoral process and the underlying non-democratic nature of the U.S. federalist government (see the disproportionate make-up of the Senate, originally designed to protect the interests of the slaveholding states for openers) we are hardly likely to see those anytime soon, certainly in the House. In one way or another the U.S. ruling class would make sure of that. But the true Left in the United States could use Bernie’s platform to say to the workers and their allies, “we are going to need something quite different from the present form of state/government if we are ever going to catch up even with the still-capitalist countries of Europe.”   More on these matters anon.

 
Maria Bartiromo and the “Moral Imperative” of Capitalism, Again by Steve Jonas
October 20, 2015

Lavishly paid celebrity journo Bartiromo at her desk: cheerfully spreading ignorance and misinformation about social and economic realities. Her gender —and looks—in a milieu overpopulated by geeky, frat-boy mentality Wall Street honchos certainly didn’t hurt her career.  Then came Fox.

Bartiromo’s Blitz resume:  Born: Sep 11, 1967 (age 48) · Brooklyn, NY Height: 5′ 5″ (1.65 m) Net worth: $22 million USD (2015) Spouse: Johnathan Steinberg (Since 1999) Awards: News & Documentary Emmy Award for Outstanding Business and Economic Reporting – Long Form (2010)

Maria Bartiromo was a long-time financial market analyst for CNBC [if we can call what she did “analysis”] who left that channel and transferred over to the more consistently right-wing Fox Business Network. She appeared occasionally on CNBC’s pre-market-opening show, “Squawk Box.” On one of those occasions, she was engaged in a discussion about the problems that capitalism is facing. I believe that it was in the context of what one of Squawk Box’s co-hosts, Andrew Ross Sorkin (also of The New York Times, and not so right-wing), was saying about the subject. In the course of it, Bartiromo uttered a quite remarkable phrase, hailing what she termed “the moral imperative of capitalism.”  In that context I wrote a column about the tobacco and fossil fuel industries, and their “moral imperatives.”

Several items came over the wires recently that made me think about the topic once again.  First, there was the Times article on Thomas Donohue, President of the US Chamber of Commerce, who acts as a flunky (oops, I mean lobbyist) for the US tobacco industry in their attempts to prevent foreign governments of countries that are their export targets from enacting strong anti-smoking regulations against the world’s number one drug-habit killer.

Then of course there was Volkswagen and the diesel-emissions cheating scandal (which seems to be getting bigger almost by the day).  Coming right along, were a number of drug companies — Valeant comes to mind — that somehow corner the market on the supposedly cheaper generic versions of pharmaceuticals that are oldies but goodies and then jack up the prices.  Finally, there’s Exxon, which knew back in the 1970s (!!!) that global warming was coming and that the burning of fossil fuels had a lot to do with it.  It still funds PR companies and etc. that sow the winds of confusion on the subject, the whirlwinds of which all humanity will eventually reap.

Now of course all of these moves were in search of profits, greater ones if possible, which of course is the number one focus of capitalism.  However, given the “side effects” (or major effects, one might say) of each of these moves, all of which happen to affect health from the individual to the global level in one way or another, some would question the morality of all of them.  Yet Ms. Bartiromo tells us that there is a “moral imperative” underlying capitalism, especially in contrast to “socialism,” even Bernie Sanders’ “democratic socialism” (otherwise known as 'The New Deal on Steroids,' but that subject is one for another time).

Golly gee, Ms. Bartiromo (and every other similar apologist for capitalism and its destructive forces), I just wonder how you square that circle.



 
Hair Trump or Herr Trump? by Steve Jonas
October 5, 2015


The Web is suddenly crawling with images of Trump as Hitler—the idea has apparently caught on. To what extent this is the weight of the establishment attempting to quash Trump as an unwelcome messenger is anybody’s guess at this time. See other images below.
In America anything goes, given the appalling level of political illiteracy in the political class and media, not to mention the masses, so you can believe that, yes, there is now an increasing amount of speculation —the new “buzz”—that Donald Trump has one or more characteristics in common with the German Nazi Chancellor/President/Dictator (yes, he was all of those things) Adolf Hitler.   And there has been at least one plea to stop doing so.  So, I thought, I might as well enter the game.

First, the similarities.  There’s the racism, the xenophobia, and in Trump’s case, substituting for Hitler’s extreme prejudice against one religious grouping, the Jews, it’s another, the Muslims.   There’s the speaking style (although Hitler’s was apparently well-practiced, while Trump’s apparently isn’t), and with it the ability to whip up the right audiences into a frenzy.  There’s the frequent name-calling in re opponents.

There’s the “our nation must be great again” — although Germany had lost the last big war it fought, and while the U.S. cannot be said to have “won” the last big one it engaged in, the War on Iraq, while millions of people on the region have clearly lost much, starting with their lives, militarily at least the U.S. did not lose.  But that doesn’t stop Trump from trumpeting on that one, just like Hitler did.  For Hitler, after the Jews, the Great Enemy was “Soviet Bolshevism.”  For Trump it seems to be Russia (although I do think that bunches of U.S. persons are confused on that point, especially with the constant demonization of Russian President Putin [the new “Stalin”, of course]).  (And yes folks, on a newscast on MSNBC on the morning of October 1, 2015 I actually heard a reporter refer to Russia as “the Soviet Union,” not once but twice, before she caught herself.  Well, you know there’s that new Steven Spielberg movie about Gary Powers and the swap coming out.)

Then there are the vague promises of a great future, without telling much about exactly how they planned/plan to get there.  There’s the ample use of the Big Lie Technique (but that it common to all of the current crop of Republican leaders, and the entire political class in America).  There are others too, but among the most important, a characteristic that kept/keeps both men going is that they didn’t/don’t embarrass.  They never had/have to apologize, explain, defend.  They were/are the prefect avatars of Lee Atwater’s consummate principle of politics: “Always attack; never defend.”  (Would that the Democrats would learn this principle, but that’s another story.)  Finally, it is clear that Trump just loves personal power, just like Hitler did.

Now for the differences.  First, as most readers of this site are well aware, Trump does not have nearly the mass following that Hitler had.  While before the functional coup d’etat of January 30-31, 1933, Hitler’s Nazi Party did never command more than about 37% of the vote (in a country where most people voted), Trump has only gotten into the 30’s, of Republican voters, which amounts to about 15% of the total.  Of course, we do have to remember that in a Presidential election, only about 50% of the eligibles vote and in 2016, Republican voter suppression will begin to exact a major impact on the number of Democratic votes recorded.

Second, Trump does not have a mass, very well-organized political party behind him, personally.  For Hitler the National Socialist German Workers Party (yes, hard to believe, but that was indeed the literal translation of what “Nazi” in German stood for, a calculated move to steal some wind from the socialists’ sails and other genuine workers’ formations) provided huge electoral clout in the localities in which it was powerful.  If Trump does get the Repub. nomination, we really don’t know what the National Republican Party will do for him.  But whatever that would be, it could not compare to the personally loyal Nazi Partei.

Third, Hitler had a huge (up to three million part-timers strong) private army, the “Sturmabteilung,” the SA, the Storm Troopers, the much feared and despised—and in other quarters admired—“Brownshirts.”  They were his enforcers, frequently engaging in violence against his primary opponents, the Communists and the Socialists.  As documented by numerous historians and journalists, the NSDAP was cradled from inception by the Reichswehr and paid for from the beginning by major members of the German ruling class led by the steel magnate Friedrich “Fritz” Thyssen.  (An early [1923] foreign supporter of the Nazis was a U.S. person named George Herbert Walker.  [Sound familiar?].) Trump has nothing like this.  But since there is no organized resistance at present to the kind of long-term authoritarian threat that Trump might become —or suggest to better skilled politicos—in the future, that is immaterial.

Fourth, one huge (huuuuge[!]) difference in practice is that while Hitler was arguably the world’s greatest Keynesian political economist, in terms of the government’s role in making the economy hum, Trump would likely be as far away from that as he possibly could, although possibly not for infrastructure, which might be as big for Trump as it was for Hitler (except that Trump would likely attempt to privatize any major expansion).

Fifth, as far as we can tell so far, Trump has no Thyssen equivalents.  He is wealthy (although it is not known for sure just how wealthy he is).  And he seems—as part of his calculated appeal of being “unbribable” —not to be seeking outside ruling class money, so we don’t know how much he could attract.

Finally, and this is certainly another major difference, obvious to many here but important to note for the record, Trump seems to have no firm belief system.  Presently, he is of course riding racism of two types: a) no one who supports him has forgotten his racism-based “birtherism,” you can count on that, and b) of course the anti-Latino (especially Mexican for some unknown reason — maybe because they are the closest ones) variety.   His tax plan clearly benefits the wealthy (including himself) even more than they are already benefitted.  His xenophobia is right out front — see his attack on the Syrian refugees.  He has grandiose ideas for “making America great again” (as if it were not, militarily at least, right now) but, characteristically, has given no clear ideas on how will do that, on either the financial or the military side.  And so on and so forth.

But, he has in the past been rather a liberal, endorsing a single-payer health care payment system, freedom of choice in the outcome of pregnancy, a friend of the Clintons, and certainly not until 2012 not an outspoken Republican.  Hitler, in contrast, despite his malignant political philosophy, had a very firm belief system, probably as firmly wrapped around his messianic ego as Trump, a raging megalomaniac.  Just read Mein Kampf.  He was not an anti-Semite for electoral purposes (although he used it in that way).  He really believed that “The Jews” were not only the cause of every single problem facing Germany, but the rest of Europe as well.  He really believed that if The Jews were all killed, the world would be a much better place.  He really believed that the “Aryan” German people (you know, blond like Hitler, slim like Goering, and tall like Goebbels, as the old joke goes) amounted to a “race,” were superior to everyone else, and deserved to rule the Earth.  Trump doesn’t seem to have that level of racialism or even degree of intellectualism. In that area, Trump is a midget.

And so, do I think that “Trump” equals “Hitler?”  Well, not yet.  But hey, you never know in a land as benighted as America, and remember that international events always play a big role in how the plutocracy plays its cards at home.


 
Observations on the 2nd Repub. ‘Debate’ by Steve Jonas
September 29, 2015

Note to the reader:  I originally wrote this column shortly after the debate.  So, you might ask, isn’t it a bit dated now?  Only if you expect something new, other than more lies and insults, to be coming forth at the next one, whenever it will be.  Republican politics don’t change much.  And so, here ‘tis.

"Well," I said to myself, "just about every other political commentator has chimed in on this one."  And I keep saying, to myself and others, that I’m not going to do this this time around.  But the pickings are so rich that I cannot resist.

Chris Christie illustrated the Repubs.’ capability for using the results of their policies and then blaming them on Obama.  He talked about the despair of the 55 y.o. unemployed construction worker — who would have plenty of work if the Repubs. had even modestly funded a national infrastructure repair and infrastructure construction/reconstruction program that Obama proposed.  Christie then highlighted his experience as U.S. Attorney — to equip him as President to go after Hillary Clinton, especially on the criminal side. Finally, he would maintain the totally failed “Drug War.”  Over the 45 years since Nixon launched it, it has totally unaffected the use of the targeted drugs while costing an estimated $2 trillion.  (See my book forthcoming next spring from TGP’s Punto Press entitled Ending the Drug War; Solving the Drug Problem.) Some manager he.

Carly Fiorina would spend much more money on the VA.  One wonders how much of the $1.4 billion VA increase requested by President Obama that the Repubs. in Congress are refusing to fund Fiorina would restore and just how she would manage that trick as President.  She did allow that she would save money by reforming the U.S. Tax Code from 70,000 pp. down to 3 and firing bunches of IRS employees.  Dunno if that would save $1.4 billion.  She would vastly expand the military — being very specific about such things as brigades and ships — without saying how she would pay for it. Nor did she say in detail what the mission would be, except to “stand up to Putin” (with whom she would refuse to talk).  She would do all of this, of course, while massively cutting the debt and deficit.  She explained away her failure at HP that got her fired and tanked the stock by saying “some Board members supported me.”

Fiorina: GOP in skirts—Disgraceful Pentagon pandering and tormented economics. Her current spike in the polls may prove just a flash in the pan.

JEB told us how his brother kept the country safe.  Well, just about everybody on our side of the political divide, that is the divide between those who live in the world of real history and those who live in the Repub. alternate universe, has noted that “W” did not become President on Sept. 12, 2001.  He was actually the President throughout the summer of 2001 when those warnings of imminent terrorist attack(s) kept coming.  JEB also noted that as Governor he served the people of FL, not the special interests (except when those special interests just happened to be the real estate developer class in Florida, who built their very own real estate bubble that actually started collapsing in 2007, just at about the time that JEB left office).

“Speaking of the Kochs, one wonders where there will go with their money.  My guess is to the quiet man on the set, Gov. John Kasich of Ohio.  He is truly far-right, but in that group he appears to be “reasonable.”

Lindsey Graham wants to send 50,000 troops to Syria, but like Fiorina he shared with us neither a mission plan nor a plan for paying for the enterprise.  One does have to give the Senator credit however, for coming down hard on Trump for his wordless nod to the man who clearly stated that “Obama [was] a Muslim.”  “Not factual.”  Well, of course it is not factual.  But of course too the real answer is “so what[?]” to the contrary notwithstanding Pastor, I mean Dr., Ben Carson (whose reading the Constitution apparently never took him to the “no religious test” section of Article VI).

Speaking of Carson, apparently he was a fine and cutting-edge pediatric neurosurgeon, being the first to successfully separate the brains of a pair of Siamese twins, and being chief of the service at Johns Hopkins for quite some time.  But his wiggling around when Trump made his off-the-wall statement about vaccination and autism led one to believe that pediatrician or not he has not kept up with the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation on the practice.  As for his main attraction in Iowa, his Dominionism, it is highly unlikely that any moderator or interviewer will ever ask him, or Huckabee or Santorum or Cruz or Rubio, about it.  (Carson did later backtrack on the separation of church and state, coming out as a strong supporter of the Constitutional requirement for it.  But one has to wonder a) if he recognizes just how inconsistent he has been on the issue, and b) how that will go down with his Dominionist supporters in Iowa.)

Sen. Rubio has a nice explanation for his frequent absences from the Senate: it’s more important to be running for President.

Former New York State Governor Pataki?  One wonders why he is there (except to somehow qualify himself for a cabinet post).

Bobby Jindal is continually talking about criminalizing abortion (although of course he doesn’t use that term).  Of course, everyone up there wants to do that too (moderator question, please) but Jindal makes a special point of it, as if that were the most important issue on the nation’s agenda.  

Mike Huckabee was invisible. Again.  His Iowa poll numbers are related to his Dominionism.

Donald Trump (can’t resist.  Sorry.)  Last week was name calling week (although not at the debate).  The Club for Growth was crazy, Karl Rove was useless.  One wonders what he would call Chancellor Merkel, Prime Minister Cameron, President Xi Jinping, President Putin, or President Hollande when they called him to tell him that they were not going to enter into any renegotiation with Iran.  I haven’t heard Trump take a position on the “Drug War,” but of course he is a major promoter of gambling, just as much of a life/family destroyer as the use of any drug, legal or not.   And of course he never seems to tell us in detail just what the present “American” (that is U.S.) defects are (except that whatever they are is all the undocumented immigrants’ fault), what “America” needs to be made “great” at again, and just how he plans to do that and pay for it.  But nobody asks him either.

They all talked about the US as if it were in a Depression.   Now, readers of my columns know that I am not a fan of President Obama. But, unemployment continues to drop (and I know the problems with the counting), the GDP remains decent, and many of the major problems domestically arise from Repub. policies: no infra-structure spending, no National Health Insurance, the continuing rich-poor gap widening, the export of capital, drug war/massive incarceration, police violence, and so on and so forth.  But as I said above, and it is worth repeating, the Repubs. have a genius at creating/not-solving problems and then blaming them on the President (while they also have a President who has not fought back much [although lately his game has been picking up a bit]).

Of the remaining ones, there was Ron Paul, a real outlier who, if he were not a total contra-libertarian on abortion rights, could be a Democrat.  He is totally into the Tenth amendment.  Too bad he isn’t equally into the Ninth (which Robert Bork, remember him [?] once labelled an “ink blot on the Constitution”).  Ted Cruz is apparently always angry, about everything, which is probably why he has that crooked grin permanently implanted on his face.

Of Scott Walker, in the Sept. 17, 2015 New York Times, columnist Gail Collins noted that he “repeated his previous debate trick of vanishing entirely into the scenery.”  And now he has vanished from the race.  I guess the Koch Brothers pulled the plug on him.

And finally, speaking of the Kochs, one wonders where there will go with their money.  My guess is to the quiet man on the set, Gov. John Kasich of Ohio.  He is truly far-right, but in that group he appears to be “reasonable.” He is still my pick for the Repub. nomination, with Fiorina for Vice.  And I think that after due consideration, the Kochs will go there too.

As for the The Duopoly Watch aspects of this one, we can start with one of the most important of the underlying issues for many of the Repub. candidates: Dominionism.  The Dems. will never go there.



 
Whose God is it, Anyway? by Steven Jonas
September 7, 2015

You know the one (ones, actually) about “two men walk into a bar, and . . . “  Well, here’s a new variant. Two couples walk into a county clerk’s office, each wanting to get a marriage license.   The gay couple belongs to the liberal branch of the Lutheran Church, and on most Sundays attends their local parish, whose minister happens to be a married lesbian.  The members of the lesbian couple are both atheists.

They approach the counter, where they are greeted by the County Clerk who asks them what they are there for.  The gay couple tells him that they want to get a marriage license, and that the ceremony will be held in their church the following Sunday.  They are just so happy, they tell the clerk, that the Supreme Court has, under the 14th amendment, recognized the Constitutional right to marriage throughout the nation, regardless of sexuality.  The clerk responds that he cannot give them a license because for him, “God” stands above the Constitution and that the deity has told him that it would be a sin for him to issue the license.

One member of the gay couple says, well, no.  “God has told us that she is pleased as punch that the Supreme Court of the United States has finally recognized that marriage is about her favorite human value, love.  It was not about some ancient prejudice that was written into what was supposed to be ‘God’s book’ by some homophobic men wandering around in the desert 4000 years before.  Anyway, God has also told us that she is delighted that the Supreme Court has finally established gay and lesbian marriage to be permissible, as the law of the land under the highest civil law, the Constitution, which of course God fully recognizes and respects as the highest law in the civil realm.  And of course, since marriage law is found in the civil statutes of each of the 50 states, it is a civil institution first and foremost, then to be happily celebrated in church or synagogue or mosque or temple, for those of those persuasions.   Finally, God told us that while you of course have a right to your personal religious beliefs (which in this case God finds abhorrent), as a civil law official you have neither the right nor the power to place what you say is God’s word (and believe me, it isn’t) over the civil law.  That,” said the gay man, “is what God really said.”

Then one of the two atheist lesbian women spoke up.  “Well, with all due respect to my friends here who also want to get a marriage license, of course there is no such thing as ‘God.’  This,” addressing the clerk, “is something that of course you can believe in.  But I am in agreement with my friends that in our civil society, under Constitutional Law, you have absolutely no right to impose your religious views on me.  But beyond the Constitution, I am a Reasonist, not a theist.  And in our pluralistic society you certainly have no right to impose your theological views on me, that is, your view of what the imaginary creature you call ‘God’ holds or does not.”

The clerk stood there shaking his head.  The news media were delighted that they had something new to throw into the hopper, especially the statement from the atheist, and hoped to do it before the social media were brimming with it.  The two couples, in the company of their attorneys, theists for the gay couple, Reasonists for the lesbian couple, immediately left the clerk’s office and marched off to the nearest Federal District Court.



 
Marco Rubio, Political Religion, and the Republican Party by Steve Jonas
September 3, 2015


Marco Rubio is only the latest Republican to state that if he were President, abortion would be illegal at any time of a pregnancy.  Further, there would be no exceptions, such as for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest or to save the life of the mother.  (For the latter, Rubio claimed that he didn’t know of any instances in which abortion would or could save the life of an expectant mother.  He’s not a physician, and apparently not a scientist of any kind either --- the reason he sort of gave for not taking a position on global warming.  But he is willing to say, in no uncertain terms, that there would never be an instance where abortion would/could be necessary to save the life of the mother, making any exception for that purpose totally unnecessary.  Ah well, as I --- and many others --- have said many times, consistency is not a property that runs abundantly in Repub. minds.)   Sharing the Rubio position aggressively are such Dominionist Repub. candidates as Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum.  Most of the other Repubs. are chiming in to a greater or lesser extent --- Scott Walker comes to mind --- but right now Rubio is the one out in front on this one.  

There has be much response to the Rubio position.  The first level has been on the very correct “what, not even in the case of rape or incest [much less to save the life of the mother]?”  (Huckabee allowed that it shouldn’t be allowed for a ten year-old girl raped by her step-father.)  The second level has been on the long-standing and very correct position of the right of every woman to have control, if she wants it, over what is going on inside her body, and in the case of fetuses, up to the time of viability.  (The long-time The Nation columnist, Katha Pollitt, has recently stated this position very well.)   

The next level up in terms of the potential impact of the ban-choice argument is that Rubio et al would enforce their views on abortion rights by the use of the criminal law.  This is the matter which I think we must now begin to face, and loudly.  Repubs. never talk about this themselves, and they are rarely questioned on it.  But what this policy would mean is that both licensed medical and nursing professionals performing abortions would be committing a crime punishable by a fine and prison (that is, if it to be treated like just about any other felony, and presumably the men and women holding to this position would make this crime a felony), and so would the formerly pregnant woman.  (The long-term, predictable, outcome of such a policy is presented in Chapter 7 of my book, The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S., 1981-2022.  It is entitled “The Morality Amendment” [which, by the way, would put abstinence-only sex education into the Constitution].)

But it is the next level up that concerns me the most.  That is that the Republican Party is basing its platform for national policy, not only on abortion rights, but also on the rights of the LGBT community, entirely on its own interpretation of certain texts in a particular English translation of the Bible known colloquially as the “King James version.”  (It happens that this so-called “inerrant word of God” [of course as presented to us by particular human beings selectively reading the text as they will] is a translation from the Greek and Latin authorized by King James VI of Scotland, I of England, created by a team of 48 scholars and theologians appointed by him.)  But well beyond that is the fact that virtually every Repub. candidate this time around wants to use the criminal law to enforce a particular religious view as to when life begins.  This is one of the most dangerous challenges that our nation faces.  This is just the sort of theological question that led to 150 years of murderous religious wars in Europe and England in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Further, the Republican Party wants to place its religious concept of pregnancy and pregnancy rights above all others.  Let us pause to remember that many pregnant mothers --- as well as many gays who want to marry the person they love --- are themselves religious.  So the Republican Party is saying that their religion, based on a particular form of Christian theology (that most would refer to as Right-wing), is to be placed above everyone else’s and that it and its interpretations are to be enforced using the criminal law.  My book is just one of those that details the very dangerous slope down which this sort of politicized theology will certainly lead.  See also, for example, Christian Nation by Frederic Rich.   Thus the state would be using the criminal law to uphold and defend one particular religious doctrine above all others.

Contrary to this religious doctrine is the view, based in the First Amendment by the way, that it is the right of the pregnant woman, religious or not, to believe that life begins sometime after fertilization --- presently up to the time of fetal viability, as in Roe v. Wade. 

And it is the right of gay couples to marry, under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

But I do firmly believe that if this struggle is to be won in the long run, by both the pro-choice movement and the gay rights movement it must be raised to the level of religious freedom and the potential outcomes of the drive to enshrine certain religious beliefs in the law, by criminalizing others, religious and non-religious alike.  This one is not going to won solely on the psitions that women have the right to control her own bodies (and of course they should be able to), and that LGBT people have the right to marry whom they choose, just because it is fair (and of course it is).  If the Republican Party is not caught up short, and soon, on the matter of their drive to put their particular religious beliefs into the law (already well underway, by the way) and then backing that up with the criminal sanction, this nation will ultimately doom itself to going back to the era of Bloody Mary, The 30 Years War, and Oliver Cromwell.

Oh yes, “The Duopoly Watch” aspect of this is that the Democrats play right into this narrative by never, ever challenging Republicans on the matter of religious freedom on either the abortion rights or the gay rights issues.








 
Trump —Racist—Revisited by Steve Jonas
September 1, 2015

The Southern white poor were controlled by the plantocrats via the myth of “white supremacy.” Many still are.

Over four years ago, on BuzzFlash, I published a column on Donald Trump entitled “Trump is the Race Card.”  Yes, Trump is a blowhard, and no he doesn’t have any real programs to offer that would have a chance of solving the problems he likes to list (some real; some imagined.  His new [old by Repub. standards] “immigration” policy is a bad joke [see below]).  But like just about every other political commentator on our side around, I still find it irresistible to launch broadsides at him.

In a recent column for The Greanville Post, I placed Trump in the Repub. tradition of anti-immigration doctrine that began with those Know-Nothings who were part of the Republican Party from the beginning.  Looking backwards, in this space I am re-visiting a 2011 column (edited down, to be sure), showing, if nothing else, that Trump’s racism is nothing new.  Except that this time around, it happens to be directed at Latinos.  One does not need to emphasize the point now made by a number of observers that the only thing different between Trump and the “Main-line” Repubs. is that he says out loud what has been Repub. doctrine, signaled by dog-whistles, for years.  (And of course now, following the Rightward Imperative of the Repubs., the so-called “mainstream” candidates, from Rubio to Walker, are even jumping on the openly racist specifics of the Trump immigration bandwagon.)  And so:

Not so long ago in a land not at all far away, part of it was ruled by a tiny oligarchy of very wealthy large landowners.  They made their wealth in part off the backs of unpaid farm laborers for whom they provided nothing more than minimal food and shelter, in part by trading in those laborers as property, and in part off the backs of another group of (much smaller) landowners/small farmers, who were generally poor, although definitely better off than the aforementioned unpaid laborers.  Actually, the latter two groups had much in common.  They worked hard, got nothing (in the case of the first) and precious little (in the case of the second) for their labors.  They were both dominated and exploited by the oligarchy.  One would have thought, in fact, that the two groups of laborers might actually join forces and struggle to improve their respective states in life.

White sharecropper shack in the Tennessee valley, 1930s. Abysmal poverty and backwardness were the rule among this class of people.

Trump’s racism is nothing new. But the only difference with the “Main-line” Repubs. is that he says out loud what has been GOP doctrine for years.

But of course this did not happen in the slaveholding South (or the other non-Southern slaveholding states before the First Civil War either).  For in the South in particular, the ruling oligarchy had, over a period of two centuries since slaves were first brought to North America in 1620, very carefully nurtured the false doctrine of white supremacy.  They trumpeted this doctrine even though there had been interbreeding between European settlers and African slaves from the earliest days and the coloring became quite muddled.  Given that inbreeding, the grouping “black people” in particular was a totally artificial construct and of course still is.  But logic and facts never troubled the Right back then any more than they do now.

A Hollywoodesque Southern mansion, not in Georgia, as in Gone with the Wind, but in Mississippi. The white oligarchy lived well and aimed to keep that way of life by any means necessary, including the conscious brainwashing of their fellow whites.

Whatever could be said about the status and living standards of the poor whites in the South, the oligarchy could and did always buy them off with the notion that whatever else was going on in their lives, they were somehow “superior” to the “blacks.”  Of course, the doctrine of White Supremacy and its power over the “white” people of the U.S. has never gone away.  In fact, its presence and wide-spread influence on the thinking of United States folk of all kinds to this very day is a major indicator of how the South actually won the First Civil War.

Race is still the trump card for the Right.  And Donald Trump used it back in 2011-12, just as he uses it now.  Trump is a former Health Care Single-Payer supporter, a former pro-choicer, a former supporter of other liberal causes.  But now he is apparently really running for the Repub. Presidential nomination.   The racist issue he is using this time around is of course “immigration.”  But racism is nothing new for Trump.  In 2011-12, when he appeared to be, or at least claimed to be, running for the Repub. nomination, it was the so-called “birther issue.”

Yes, the State of Hawaii had produced a birth certificate and the President eventually released it.  Yes there were the also the contemporaneous birth announcements in Honolulu newspapers.  But the Right knows better than to confuse any of its adherents with facts.  There is still an ample “birther movement” and Trump still refuses to affirm that he is convinced by the existence of a Hawaii state birth certificate.  (Of course, it doesn’t matter where Obama was born.  He had a U.S. citizen mother and therefore is a U.S. citizen; just ask Ted Cruz, who was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, of a U.S. mother.)

Every racist idiot and opportunistic politician in the US dumps on hardworking Latino immigrants, conveniently forgetting what a contribution they make to the nation’s cheap food supply. For so many vociferous Christians, there’s little sign of compassion.

Trump knew full well what the facts were.  But how better to distinguish himself from the rest of the undistinguished Repub. field than to openly play the race card, using the dog whistle of “birtherism” resting on the foundation of the Doctrine of White Supremacy that has been in place in this country since long before the First Civil War.  The attack was/is on Obama’s legitimacy as a person/President, and “we all know what that means, don’t we.”

And then came the Trump attack on Obama’s credentials for and in higher education, which he is still playing.  As Trump said: “I have friends who have smart sons with great marks, great boards, great everything and they can’t get into Harvard.  We don’t know a thing about this guy. There are a lot of questions that are unanswered about our president.” Must have been affirmative action, donchaknow.  How else could he have gotten into Columbia College and Harvard Law School?  And never did release his transcripts (as if they were anybody’s business).  He must have made President of the Harvard Law Review and Magna cum Laude by affirmative action too.  And we know what THAT all means.
 
Of course, “affirmative action” has always not meant granting admissions or jobs preferentially to discriminated-against minorities, but rather simply giving them equal opportunity to apply and be considered on their own merits.  However, that fact has never stopped the racists from using “affirmative action” as a weapon in their race war.  Yes indeed.  Race was the trump card for the Right and for Trump himself, back then, and it still is.

Postscript I

On Trump’s immigration “policy.”  1. Build a wall.  There are already substantial sections of a wall, built at great expense.  They apparently are not too effective.  2.  Ramp up deportation.  Deportation already runs at a fairly high rate under the Obama Administration.  Obama’s first Homeland Security Sec. Janet Napolitano ramped up “border enforcement” in the mistaken belief that doing so would call off the Repub. dogs on the immigration issue: ho, ho, ho.  3.  Pay for a wall by increasing visa fees: ho, ho, ho.  Quoting from Seinfeld: “You can’t be serious.”  4.  End U.S. citizenship for persons born in the U.S. of undocumented aliens. Well that would require amending the U.S. Constitution, and actually echoes the fictitious  “30th Amendment” to the U.S. Constitution passed by a fictitious future Republican government, as told in chapter four of my book, The 15 Percent Solution, (which was written in 1994-95 --- based on what some Repubs. were already talking about back then).

Postscript II

The Duopoly Watch aspect of all this is that a) no one on the Democratic side will really go after Trump, and indeed the rest of the Repubs., on his/their racism, and b) the Obama Administration can hardly boast about its vastly increased anti-immigration enforcement measures, about which, apparently, only a minority of the Latino community is aware.

Postscript III

For a brief review of Repub. lies about the true state of immigration policy presently, see Robert Reich’s comment at: http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/31899-focus-trumped-up-myths-and-downright-lies-about-immigration.  To which one could add that if any significant number of working age undocumented immigrants were deported, given the many very important jobs they hold in many US industries, the U.S. economy would suffer a severe downturn, if not collapse.

Postscript IV

It now turns out that Trump employs undocumented immigrants.  One has to wonder.  Were e-verity to be applied to all of his enterprises, how much would he have to pay in fines, and how much would his profits drop?



 
Who Won the Fox Republican ‘Debate?’ Why Fox, of Course! by Steve Jonas
August 12, 2015

Chris Wallace, Megyn Kelly, and Bret Baier, Fox’s GOP debate moderators. All vetted media critters for the establishment’s most reactionary wing. To claim they had no marching orders is a bit naive.

As I recently pointed out in this space, The Fox 'News' Channel, set up originally as the propaganda wing of the Republican Party, is now in the process of taking that party over. 

The “Debates” held last week, in both prime time and drive time on the East Coast, were really more of a series of joint interviews for the position of Fox favored nominee, than they were debates between the candidates.  Yes, Christie and Paul did have a go at it and there were one or two other instances of that sort of thing.  But the reality of this reality show was that a set of high-profile Fox 'News' anchors asked a series of sometimes tough questions (tough on subjects that Fox is interested in, like immigration, but of course nothing on, for example, the looming disaster issue of our time).  And it was a reality show, with a strong touch of sports-show business.

The “debate” was held in a sports stadium — Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

Appropriate for a Repub. gathering — just recall the kind of Repub.-smiled-upon “sub-prime” (otherwise known as “predatory”) lending that took place in the run-up to the 2008 crash — Quicken Loans just happens to have a history of being sued on the claim of predatory lending.   It was actually set up like a broadcast sporting event.  There were three “play-by-play” “moderators” (political debates usually have one) and then there were three “color commentators” (a task most televised political debate operators leave to the news organizations and the “spin room”).  The crowd, obviously a carefully chosen one, was loud and cheered as if either the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA basketball team or one of the other sports occupants of the Arena — the Lake Erie Monsters of the American Hockey (minor) League or the Cleveland Gladiators of the Arena Football League — were playing in front of them.  In the pre-game commentary, Megyn Kelly — who would later become much better known for some much more important questioning/commentary — actually referred to the whole event as “The Show.”

The Donald attempting a rebuttal. “Honestly, Megyn, if you don’t like it, I’m sorry…I’ve been very nice to you, although I could probably not be based on the way you have treated me. But I wouldn’t do that.”

(Megyn is prone to gaffes. She made herself the butt of acid jokes by liberal comedians like Jon Stewart by proclaiming a few years back that “Jesus was white.” The declaration was well received by the Fox audience.—eds)

Fox desperately wants the Republicans to win the Presidency the next time around.  They have not taken over the Party for the purpose of seeing it lose.  But they would appear to want the win for two reasons, not just one: that is, both policies and ratings.  Led by the old Nixon, Reagan, Bush I, Giuliani, hand, Roger Ailes, of course they want to see Repub. policies, which have pretty much ruled the nation since the time of Reagan, even more firmly put in place.  Like the Party’s major funders, such as the Koch Brothers, on behalf of all the members of the ruling class they represent, in my view most of all they want all government regulation — commercial, industrial, financial, environmental — whittled down to the lowest level possible.  And that can happen only with a Republican in the White House.

But there is another reason Ailes and his bosses want the Republicans to win: ratings. 

Disgracefully, and with highly nefarious consequences for the US and the rest of the world, Fox 'News' is already way on top of the U.S. news channel list.  But you can just imagine if there were a Republican Administration in place, especially one that Fox 'News' helped put in place?  WOW!  And that, sure as shootin’, is what Ailes sees.  Actually, you could have seen elements of this  plot in the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies. A number of observers observed that the villain of the piece, a media mogul named Elliott Carver, was modeled on Rupert Murdoch.

And so, to win, Fox 'News' needs the best candidate.  Of course that person has to win the nomination through the primary process.  But given the politics of the voters who watch Fox 'News',  the channel will have an inordinate influence on that outcome.  And so we come to Donald Trump.  In my view, in the last month or so the powers that be at Fox 'News' have come to view Trump as their biggest obstacle to winning the Presidency.  Enough has been written about Trump and his positions, if you can call them that, on the major issues of the day, as well as his many prejudices (including a piece by myself), so that I don’t have to repeat it here.  But Trump does represent the biggest obstacle the Fox 'News'/GOP has to winning the Presidency.

As many other observers, like Frank Rich and Timothy Egan, have noted, it is not because of his positions.  They have been the bread-and-butter of Republican politics since the time that Richard Nixon instituted the “Southern Strategy;” a few years later passed the “Hyde Amendment” limiting choice in the outcome of pregnancy for many of the nation’s poor women; and then in 1985 had Newt Gingrich say the following about the AIDS epidemic:
AIDS is a real crisis. It is worth paying attention to, to study. It’s something one ought to be looking at. . . . [For] AIDS will do more to direct America back to the cost of violating traditional values, and to make America aware of the danger of certain behavior than anything we’ve seen. For us, it’s a great rallying cry.”
The “problem” for the Repubs results from how Trump says these things: VERY out loud and loudly, with no codes or dog-whistles.  (Note that he hasn’t gotten to homophobia — yet — and given the changes that have taken place in U.S. culture, to say nothing of the fact that he likely has numerous [wealthy, Republican] gay friends, he likely never will.)  So, given that very first question about running or not as an independent, I think that Fox 'News' was out to get Trump.  Then Kelly put more bait out in front of him (obviously planned from the beginning).  He rose to it and has been rising to it ever since.

The Fox 'News' folks are nothing if not smart.  They knew that they were not going to get rid of Trump by either debating him on a rational basis or being nice to him.  They figured that the only way to get rid of him was to let him sink himself, which they hope, with every utterance, he is doing, with the majority of Repub primary voters (as well as the Party powers-that-be, to the extent that they have influence — and money to spend).  As for the risk of an independent challenge by him (not “third party;” Trump is not really into parties, of the political kind, anyway), that risk is always there.  No-one is going to talk Trump out of that one, so Fox 'News' figures that’s just a risk they are going to have to take.

As for the rest of the beginning of the Fox 'News' elimination process, with the joint job interview, it seems to me that one candidate came out very well, and given the questions he was asked, I think that that was a set-up too.  It’s not Carson — so out of his depth he didn’t know that the Baltic States belong to NATO.  Walker looked like a school-kid, although he is dangerous because he has Koch money — and that’s a lot — behind him.  But he is too raw to win, and Fox News' knows it.  Paul and Christie looked like they were in the sand-box, throwing the stuff at each other.

Rubio looked young and vigorous — vigorous enough to want to set up the war plans for an Iran Attack the day after he reached the Oval Office, just as Bush was totally focused on Iraq at his first National Security Council meeting, as reported by then outgoing National Security Advisor Richard Clark.   By next year, regardless of what happens to the “Iran Deal,” that — possibly meaning “boots on the ground” as well as missiles, drones, and planes in the air — will not be a winning strategy with the bulk of the U.S. public, and Fox 'News' knows it.  JEB just looked old and tired, as if he were a re-tread of his brother (which he is, really).   Ted Cruz is way out in right field, by himself: also not a winning strategy.  Huckabee fully revealed himself as the Dominionist he is (he shares that belief system with one of the kiddy-table candidates, Rick Santorum), when he said, very clearly, that “the Supreme Being is above the Supreme Court.”  That view would eventually come out, even in a media very shy of getting into such truly important controversies, and would not go over well with enough voters.

So who does that leave?  Well, none other than Gov. John Kasich of Ohio (above).  He is just as much a hard-right reactionary as any of them, going way back to when in the House of Representatives he was one of the point-men leading the fight against the Clinton Health Plan in 1994.  But he comes across as oh-so-nice.  He would even still love his own daughter if “she happened to be that” — gay, that is — (which phraseology in Republican circles counts as “nice”).  And boy, did Kasich get the soft-ball questions compared to the others.  My guess?  Fox 'News', and a few other Repub. big-wigs at least, have picked Kasich, at least at this point.

As for the Vice-Presidential nominee?  That one’s not hard.  It’s the consensus pick as star of the kiddie-table show.   That would be Carly Fiorina, a slight, blond, failed business-executive, who would be a superb attack dog against Hillary Clinton (the role for which she has been rehearsing vigorously since she entered the race).  And boy did she go after Obama on the Iran Deal.  You just can’t trust those wily Iranians, donchaknow.  

So these are my early indicators, gleaned from the joint interview — I mean debate.”  Again, my choice for overall winner?   Fox 'News,' in a landslide.

Postscript:  How does all this relate to “The Duopoly Watch?”  Just notice how the Democrats will never go after the Republicans on the most dangerous part of their campaign platform: the dominant place of religious belief in much of their thinking and platform design.  Marco Rubio said that he denied the “rape/incest” exception for abortion, because “every embryo/fetus is a child.”  That is an entirely religious view.  Hillary Clinton attacked Rubio, correctly, on the “denial of women’s rights” issue.  But did she go beyond that to the much larger one, the place of religious belief in national policy making?  Well no, despite that fact that the issue is one which affects everyone: male and female.  I have written on this major constitutional issue in the past, and surely will be getting back to it soon.

Postscript II:  Notice how Roger Ailes handled Trump: very nicely.  Ailes has surely not changed his mind about getting Trump out of the way for the Repub. primaries, while at the same time doing nothing to push him into a third-party run.  So Ailes is treating him with the utmost “respect,” something Trump says he needs if he is not to go 3rd party.  So there he was right back on Fox, with Hannity, who surely treated him with the utmost “respect,” if not, given that it was Hannity, overweening admiration (I didn’t watch).  Of course none of this does anything but boost Fox 'News’ ratings, making Ailes doubly happy.



 
The Iran Deal: Who Can You Trust? by Steve Jonas
August 4, 2015

Speaking of trust: Can arch-Zionist warmonger and casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, a cynical supporter of Netanyahu, who buys American politicians by the score, one of the dark forces behind the advertising blitz condemning the treaty, be trusted?

Trust — who can you  trust, and who you cannot — has come up as a major issue in the aftermath of the signing of the “Iran Deal” on Iran’s nuclear energy program, between Iran and the “Five + 1” negotiating group.  As is well known, the Republicans in the United States and their vassals in Israel gathered around Prime Minister Netanyahu (or is it t’other way round), have been in full-throated roar against any agreement with Iran since long before the final negotiations concluded with the deal that is now on the table.

It has been pointed out repeatedly that the critics of the deal have never seemed to offer a viable alternative to it, unless the alternative, which many observers, although not all (like the U.S. Sec. Def.), would consider not viable, is the “military option.”  But the complete lack of any stated alternatives, other than “no deal is better than this one,” doesn’t stop the critics from criticizing.  They get louder, and nastier, by the day.  One Republican Congressman questioned Purple-heart awardee Sec. John Kerry’s record of service to the United States.

And speaking of nasty, John Bolton --- surprise, surprise --- one of the staunchest critics, claims that Obama lies when he says that sanctions would “snap back” should Iran violate the terms of the agreement.  On top of that one, like all of the rest of the critics, he offers no alternative strategies, except, unstated, I suppose the “military option.”  But having no alternatives to openly offer, viable or not,  does not stop them from being determined to scuttle the deal by getting a veto-proof Congressional majority that would prevent President Obama from lifting the U.S.-imposed economic sanctions against Iran.

And so, we hear lots about Iranian ”cheating” and “you can’t trust the Iranians.”   It happens that a large set of top experts have said that the deal is about as air-tight as one could make it.   For example:
Anthony Cordesman, the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a former national security aide to Sen. John McCain, and a former director of intelligence assessment in the Office of the Secretary of Defense [not exactly screaming liberal] said: ‘[T]he proposed parameters and framework in the Proposed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action has the potential to meet every test in creating a valid agreement over time…It can block both an Iranian nuclear threat and a nuclear arms race in the region, and it is a powerful beginning to creating a full agreement, and creating the prospect for broader stability in other areas.’
And there are many other experts quoted in the article cited just above.  So it would seem that, in dealing with Iran, at least, concerning the Reagan motto “trust and verify,” the agreement goes very heavy on the verify side, so that trust really doesn’t play into it too much — for the U.S.

But there is a major trust issue in play here.  That is: Why should the Iranians trust the U.S., and Israeli, politicians, interest groups, and money-men arrayed against the deal, and then beyond them, the U.S., should they ever get into power?  After all, a leading Republican politician, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, in discussing the possible risk of the deal to the nation of Israel, has compared the deal with preparing the way for another Holocaust.  Funny, I don’t recall that the 6,000,000 Jews murdered by the Nazis were holding in front of them, on their way to the Death Camps, 400 operational (and totally un-inspected) nuclear weapons, that for some unknown reason they chose not to use.  But maybe I missed something.  And oh yes, in case you didn’t know, Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty while Israel is not.  Should the Iranians really trust Huckabee and his people (to say nothing of Israel)?  Well, no.

When there is Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, the one who sent the “we won’t support it” letter directly to the government of Iran during a critical stage of the negotiations.  According to the letter “Cotton promised Iran that the United States would not live up to its end of the bargain.”  Cotton appears to be in the pocket of the U.S. military-industrial complex, which stands to lose a lot of juice (as well as billions in profits) should the deal be ratified in the end.  Should Iran trust him (and them)?  Then there is Sen. Marco Rubio, the son of refugees from Batista’s (not Castro’s) Cuba, a candidate for the Republican nomination for President who, unlike Huckabee, actually stands a chance of getting it.  Rubio has actually said that if he is elected President, one of his first acts would be to scrap the deal.

Once one takes a careful look at what the opponents of the deal are saying, it becomes quickly apparent that it is not the details that they are against, for if that were it, they would be offering all kinds of alternatives, which they are not.  So if it’s not the deal itself, what are they against?  (I dealt with this issue at length in an earlier column on the subject.)  Well, in summary, I am revealing nothing very mysterious in saying that of course they are against it because a) it will have President Obama’s name on it, and b) with the onset of a modicum of peace in the Middle East and the economic (not the military) resurgence of Iran as a player on the world stage, the U.S./Israeli military-industrial complexes would take a big hit.  They have their very well-known huge influence in the Congress, which is where the Duopoly issue comes in on this one.  Those Democrats who leave the President on this one will do so for one or more of three reasons: a) they haven’t read the proposed agreement and truly accept the Repub. propaganda that it is fatally flawed, b) they are terrified of and/or beholden to the Likud/Israel lobby, c) they are beholden to the military-industrial complex.

So, getting back to it, there is a trust issue on the table alright.  It’s whether Iran should trust the United States to keep to its pledge to lift sanctions permanently, as long as Iran keeps its end of the bargain by not pursuing the development of nuclear weapons through a very-heavily inspected nuclear energy program.  (Oh yes, the [lying] critics to the contrary notwithstanding, the “24-day-delay-before-inspections” thing applies only to inspections of military bases, not the regular, ongoing inspections of the nuclear sites, the locations of which U.S. and Israeli intelligence know very well.  And of course, the Iranians want some protections for their military bases.  They don’t want U.S./Israeli spies dropping into them at the drop of an overseas cap.) 

Now, it would be much easier for the U.S. to re-impose sanctions at the drop of a political hat than it would be for Iran to start/re-start the nuclear bomb program (that in any case the CIA has for a long-time said does not exist). Given the political/economy of the U.S., Iran probably does not trust it as far as it can throw it.  But they desperately need to have the sanctions lifted.  With the European nations already charging into Iran on both the import and export sides of their economy, and with Russia and China very likely to become major lenders should the U.S. insist on maintaining its sanctions, the Iranians very likely feel that they don’t have to trust the U.S.  And given the Republican/Likud screaming match, they shouldn’t.  It is apparent that, being the inheritors of a nation that has been around for 3000 years and once boasted the world’s largest empire, they are willing to take the risk of a U.S. turnabout for their potential gains.  And that, my friends, is the real “trust” issue around “the deal.”


 
No. 1: Lessons in Greek — for Leftists by Steve Jonas
July 29, 2015

Alexis Tsipras, leader of the Greek Syriza party, addressing the masses, when the rose had  not yet lost its bloom.

One of the most important books by the great leader on the Russian Revolution, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, was “The State and Revolution.”  It deals with the nature of the state apparatus under capitalism. It is important to understand that the state apparatus never exists independently of the economic system of the country within which it stands.  Rather it is there to make sure that it, the economic system, stays firmly in place.  The disagreements between political parties in the capitalist nations come over how best to go about maintaining the ruling class’s control, the ruling class being those individuals, corporations, organizations, and interests that have their hands on the levers of economic power in the nation. In other words, the direct and principal beneficiaries of the rule of capital.

“Concerning the nature of ‘constitutional democracy’ under capitalism," Ulyanov himself put it this way:
‘To decide once every few years which member of the ruling class is to repress and crush the people through parliament – this is the real essence of bourgeois parliamentarism, not only in parliamentary-constitutional monarchies, but also in the most democratic republics’.

Now, every once in a while comes along a leftist party, although pledged to operate within the confines of capitalist “constitutional democracy,” that truly believes that it can get elected (a), and (b), that it can really change ruling class control, through the parliamentary system.

Well, Greek lesson 1: what has happened to Syriza and Tsipras shows, once again that is not possible.  The ruling class is the ruling class, and short of revolution, as Lenin so rightly noted, it will always rule, one way or another.

Greek lesson 2:  The Greek ruling class seems to be coming out of the mess in very good shape.  They managed to make sure that the worst of the “austerity” measures, imposed by their brethren in the European Union, were carried out under the nominal governmental control of a “leftist” government rather than its “center-right” predecessor.  Of course it was the latter that was largely responsible for presiding over the making of the mess to begin with, e.g. (a VERY important article): “How Goldman Sachs Profited From the Greek Debt Crisis: The investment bank made millions by helping to hide the true extent of the debt, and in the process almost doubled it,” by Robert B. Reich (who, by the way, is no socialist).
Please note also, that the tax increases demanded by the European Union do not seem to be falling on the Greek ruling class (although I may have missed something there), nor do the demanded “reforms” (read further punishment for the Greek working class to pay for the ruling class’s mistakes/greed) seem to include, for example, forcing the Greek billionaires to pay the taxes that they have avoided for years by shipping their profits overseas.

The upshot of all of this is that the Syriza government has now become the enforcer for the evermore punitive measures being imposed by the European Union on the Greek working class.

Greek lesson 3
: The international capitalist ruling class (of which the Greek ruling class is of course a part) is absolutely intent on showing the people of Italy and Spain what would await them if they were to elect a left-wing government that would attempt something along the lines of what Syriza originally intended to do, if we are to take their rhetoric as a true reflection of intent (at bottom, force a significant amount of loan forgiveness upon the most irresponsible of the original lenders).  In my view, it is the teaching of this political lesson, even more rather than the “regardless of who was responsible for incurring them, good people pay off their debts, donchaknow” lesson, which Angela Merkel and the joint ruling classes of the EU nations, want to accomplish through the “negotiations.”

There are more lessons for the left in parliamentary so-called democracies, of course, but to my mind, thanks to Vladimir Ilyich, these are the most important ones.



 
The Charleston Massacre, the Confederate Battle Flag, and the Coming Second Civil War by Steve Jonas
June 25, 2015

The Charleston Massacre means many things. Most importantly it means that the Doctrine of White Supremacy that drove the Institution of Slavery, and drove what became the Confederate States of America to secession from the Union, is still alive and quite well, in the citizenry at large. (The seemingly increasing succession of white cop/black victim murders of course has been raising the poisonous topic in the public consciousness in the past year or two; see my column "Ferguson Worked as Intended.") But now here it is, writ large, in the person of a violent, young, openly and proudly defiant, white supremacist.

Interestingly enough,  Dylann Roof not only reflects the sentiments of the native US white supremacy movement, but of its international relatives as well. (The Southern Poverty Law Center is a very important source of information of right-wing hate/potential terror organizations in the United States.)

I have written previously on the topic of "How the South won the Civil War" and the coming Second Civil War. This particular horror has been perpetrated, not by a "lone gunman," not by a "whack job," as Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina would have us think, but by a self-conscious representative of the hate groups to be found all over the United States. (Interestingly enough, when the Department of Homeland Security, at the beginning of the Obama Administration, attempted to start an investigation of potential, domestic, right-wing terrorism, it was shut down fairly quickly by the Republicans in Congress.) The principal element in the victory of the South in the Civil War has been the spreading throughout the land of the Doctrine of White Supremacy (invented in the 17th century to justify white-on-black slavery) from the South.

This outrage was immediately responded to, as is by now well-know, by the Right's Propaganda Central as an "assault on Christians," which would be funny if it itself were not so outrageous. Much more importantly, it has brought the conflict over the Doctrine openly back onto the national agenda. In the current debate, it is symbolized by the Confederate battle flag that flies on the grounds of the State Capitol of the Home of the Confederacy, South Carolina. The most laudable, apparent removal of the flag from the grounds of the South Carolina state capitol, as well as other governmental removals of various types throughout the South, will not remove the Doctrine from the minds of oh-too-many U.S.
 
That flag it turns out, is indeed a most apt representation for the Doctrine that drove slavery and the Confederate States of America, and has now, as I said, spread across our land. In my previous columns on the South, the Civil War, and what it really was about, I regularly quoted the well-known "Cornerstone Speech" by the CSA Vice-President Alexander Stephens, justifying slavery, on the basis of the Doctrine. What has very recently come to wide public attention is the statement by the designer of the aforementioned CAS battle flag, which was created only in 1863. That designer, one William T. Thompson, said:

"As a people, we are fighting to maintain the heaven ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race; .... we still think that a battle flag on a pure white field would be more appropriate and handsome [than its predecessor]. Such a flag would be a suitable emblem of our young confederacy, and sustained by the brave hearts and strong arms of the south, it would soon take rank among the proudest ensigns of the nations, and be hailed by the civilized world as THE WHITE MAN'S FLAG."

Thompson also noted that the flag's white border, unusual as flags go, was not placed there by accident. Many Southerners, in justifying its continued use and display, refer to it as some kind of "historical reference," representing the "heritage of the South." Well, in the words of the flag's designer himself, to the extent that that "heritage" is the institution of slavery, secession, and White Supremacy, it does.

And the flag and what it stands for are central to the heritage of the modern Republican Party. That heritage stems, not from its beginnings, of course, but from the Compromise of 1877 that ended Reconstruction and brought on the White Racist Southern "Reclamation" that eventually led to Jim Crow and 100 years of the denial of civil rights of any kind in the South. As it happens, that process was led by the Southern Democrats until the mid-1960s, when the national party seriously took up the cause of Civil Rights. And then the Doctrine found its modern home, through Nixon's "Southern Strategy" and what has followed it. Which brings us once again to the topic of the "Second Civil War," which we shall continue to return to over time.

The First Civil War, at its beginning was a clash between the two dominant branches of the U.S. ruling class, Northern and Southern, over A) the expansion of the institution of slavery into the Western territories and B) over the role of government. The growing Northern manufacturing sector did not want slavery in the territories. For one major reason, it is difficult to grow industry without some modicum of education for the workers, while it is difficult to maintain slavery if the slaves are educated.

Also, they had already figured out that the doctrine of "free labor" which was well under development at the time, meant that they needed to take little or no responsibility for the living conditions of their wage-slaves, whereas if one owned real slaves one had to at least clothe, house, and feed them. Also, the nascent manufacturing class loved "big government," especially in the arena of massive public works, like the construction of the trans-continental railway and the establishment of public "land-grant" colleges, both favorites, as it happened, of Abraham Lincoln. The slaveholders did not. The Southern ruling class wanted to maintain and advance slavery, both to expand agriculture and to sell more slaves, and also wanted as little "government interference" in anything except such matters as catching and returning runaway slaves (sound familiar?)

And so came the War, and then the originally unanticipated Abolition. But once the war was over, the Northern ruling class realized that with the disappearance of formal slavery but with the return of the South to a system similar to it in many way s, through "Reclamation," it did not need to be concerned at all about maintaining true freedom for the Freedmen. They could just "get on with it," with the two branches of the ruling class for the most part eventually becoming one. In our time, the ruling class appears on the surface to be represented by the Republican Party alone, but in fact its overall interests are fully protected by the reigning political Duopoly.

As noted, in our time the Republican branch of the Duopoly does make special use of the Doctrine of White Supremacy. As a rising, white, border state politician once said about the Republicans on the subject of race and racism:

"For 12 years, Republicans have tried to divide us - race against race - so we get mad at each other and not at them. They want us to look at each other across a racial divide so we don't turn and look to the White House and ask, why are all of our incomes going down, why are all of us losing jobs? Why are we losing our future? Where I come from we know about race-baiting. They've used it to divide us for years. I know this tactic well and I'm not going to let them get away with it."

Yes, Bill Clinton actually said that when he announced for the Democratic nomination for the Presidency in 1991 (and, knowing nothing at the time about the Democratic Leadership Council of which he had been the head, and what it really stood for, it was on the basis of that statement that I decided to support him in his campaign). Of course, we never heard that sort of statement from Clinton again, but that's another story.

The Doctrine of White Supremacy remains a major factor in U.S. politics, courtesy of the self-same Republican Party. Its existence will once again be a major issue at the center of a Civil War in our nation. But this time around, the ruling class is generally united. And so while the Second Civil War will be over, on the one hand, the Doctrine and its uses, very much on the other it will also be about the authoritarian state which the ruling class is having to develop as so many workers see their incomes dropping and so many U.S. are slipping into poverty or near-poverty. But more on the particulars of this subject anon.

 
From Millard Fillmore to Donald Trump: Nativism and the GOP by Steve Jonas
June 22, 2015

Millard Fillmore was the 13th President of the United States.  He succeeded to the position when the man to whom he had been Vice-President, Zachary Taylor, a “hero” of the Mexican War, died in office in 1850.  Fillmore, a somewhat anti-slavery Whig, failed to get his party’s Presidential nomination in 1852.  When the Whig Party broke up in 1854, Fillmore had a choice.  He could have gone with the newly formed Republican Party, which was anti-slavery, at least on the question of the expansion of the practice to the Western territories, as many “Northern Whigs” did.  He chose instead to join the newly formed American Party, the political wing of the militantly anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic movement known as the “Know-Nothings.”  He in fact was its Presidential candidate in 1856. 

Running as a third party, Fillmore was possibly responsible for the loss by the Republican John C. Fremont, which led to the election of the pro-Southern Northerner, James Buchanan, which led directly to the election of Abraham Lincoln, Southern secession, and the First U.S. Civil War.

The American Party/”Know-Nothings” “promised to purify American politics by limiting or ending the influence of Irish Catholics and other immigrants, thus reflecting nativism and anti-Catholic sentiment. It was empowered by popular fears that the country was being overwhelmed by German and Irish Catholic immigrants, whom they saw as hostile to republican values and controlled by the Pope in Rome.”  The prime saying of the Fillmore’s 1856 campaign was: “I know nothing but my country, my whole country, and nothing but my country.”  The American Party disappeared shortly thereafter.

In his Gangs of New York (2002), director Martin Scorsese reminded the nation of the viciousness of nativism through the charismatic figure of one of their leaders, “Bill the Butcher” (Daniel Day-Lewis).

Fillmore stayed active in politics.  He was still generally a “Northern Whig” type, anti-slavery to a certain extent, but he opposed Lincoln and specific Republican policies during the Civil War, most especially the Emancipation Proclamation.  Although of course Reconstruction at first represented Republican policy towards the South.  But over time support for it in the GOP began to weaken.  The emerging corporate sector, which had been behind the Whigs and their government-sponsored infra-structure programs (like the Trans-continental railway), began the takeover of the Party which would conclude with the abandonment of Reconstruction in 1877.  At that point, Nativists of the Fillmore type, more than happy to turn their backs on the problems of the newly-freed slaves in the South, along with many members of the Temperance Movement, began migrating to the reconstituted Republican Party. 

The targets of Nativism changed over time.  Older immigrants, like the Irish and the Germans, came to be more accepted and newer ones like the Italians and the Jews, took their place as convenient scapegoat.  Nevertheless, with the changing targets, Nativism itself has remained a part of the Republican Party ethos ever since that time.  Interestingly enough, while the Temperance Movement heritage of the Republican Party was certainly the prime mover in creating Prohibition, Nativism had a role to play in passing it too, in aiming at the supposed “German” alcoholic beverage, “beer,” the supposed “Irish” alcoholic beverage of choice, whiskey, and the supposed “Italian” alcoholic beverage of choice, wine.  Then when Prohibition was at its height, the Republican Party passed the Immigration Act of 1924.  It severely limited immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe, and totally excluded Asian immigration.  At this time, Republican Nativism and “Temperance” went hand-in-hand.

In a party awash in repugnant and even ludicrous figures, Donald Trump manages to stand out. His impossible to miss imbecility makes all those sycophants on his show, The Apprentice, look even worse. Ironically, nativists persecuted Germans at one point, but that thought could not possibly trouble Trump, himself of German descent, as the man possesses no real culture.

And so we come down to the present time.  Certainly the “anti-immigrant” strain of Republican Nativism has once again been playing itself out, for the last 20 years or so.  This time of course, it is arrayed against Latino immigrants, especially undocumented ones.  They have been fleeing ongoing unemployment and (U.S.-caused) drug war-related violence in their native countries, to come to the U.S. which, while on the one hand arresting the ones it can catch and deporting some of them, on the other hand has employers only too happy to take advantage of their cheap labor and natural docility in the workplace.  As is well-known, the Republicans have been riding this one for years.  The last thing most Republican politicians want to do is immigration reform of any stripe for it rob them of the Nativist them which so much of the Republican base can get so excited about over-and-over again.  Even a Republican President, George W. Bush, in 2007 could not get a somewhat reasonable reform plan through a Republican-controlled Congress.

But over the years, except in the mouths of such outliers as Rep. Steve King of Iowa, the rhetoric has not been too outlandish.  Until now.  Here comes Donald Trump, sounding as if he had just come out the American Party/”Know-Nothings” nominating convention in 1856. The now widely circulated quotation is:

“When do we beat Mexico at the border? They’re laughing at us, at our stupidity. And now they are beating us economically. They are not our friend, believe me. But they’re killing us economically. The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems. . . . When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you.  They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.  But I speak to border guards and they tell us what we’re getting. And it only makes common sense. It only makes common sense. They’re sending us not the right people.  It’s coming from more than Mexico. It’s coming from all over South and Latin America, and it’s coming probably— probably— from the Middle East. But we don’t know. Because we have no protection and we have no competence, we don’t know what’s happening. And it’s got to stop and it’s got to stop fast.”

The broad Republican response has been muted for the most part, although Karl Rove, Mr. Republican Establishment, did call Trump a “complete moron.”  (One must wonder what the difference is between a “complete moron” and an incomplete one, but that’s another story.)

Nativism has been in the bone marrow of the Republican Party almost since its beginnings.  It just took Donald Trump (whose worst feature really is not his hair, folks) to bring it to the surface once again
on the national stage.


 
Tomorrowland: Disney Studios in Fantasyland by Steve Jonas
June 11, 2015

Walt Disney began his career, or at least first came to major public notice, with the fantasy creature, cartoon character, Mickey Mouse.  While over the years Disney Studios has gone well beyond fantasy, and well beyond Mickey Mouse, it still does like to deal in fantasy from time-to-time.  And so it has done in Tomorrowland, a sort-of science fiction, past-time-present-time-future-time, essay into the future of the Earth and human civilization.  (Actually, The New York Times reviewer, A.O. Scott, took the movie to task for “its blithe disregard for basic principles of science-fiction credibility.”)

The story is complex and I must admit that I wasn’t able to follow every one of its ins and outs.  But it starts in a time past at the 1964 New York City World’s Fair (with, among other things, a good deal of product placement).  It then seems to come forward to just about the present or perhaps just a bit into the future, with the central character, a child science-junkie in 1964, now a grown-up super science/electronics junkie.  And then it goes into two versions of a future place called — you guessed it — Tomorrowland.  When it first appears, Tomorrowland is a bustling metropolis, set in the middle of one-is-not-sure where, sometime in the future.  It is all clean and bright and white, occupied by a very diverse population of well-fed, seemingly well-educated, and very busy people.  It bears some resemblance, from a distance at least, to the Disney World Magic Kingdom (my, what a coincidence).

Very importantly, allusions are made to the fact that in our time, more-or-less, the Earth and we are succumbing to climate change, environmental degradation, filth, over-population, water shortages, and so on and so forth, all of which are inevitably leading to the “Sixth Extinction.”  (Pointedly, at least pointedly to me, excluded from the list are Permanent War, which now seems to be permanently with us, and the threat of nuclear war/annihilation and its probable successor, nuclear winter [which seems to be making a comeback as a major threat].)

As I said, the plot is complex and I wasn’t able to follow all of its twists and turns.  In particular, I was confused by the fact that when we first see Tomorrowland, as noted, everything is working beautifully.  But then when we see it again at the end of the movie, as the setting for the de rigeur mano-a-mano that just seems to be an absolute MUST for such movies, between the hero, played by George Clooney, and the villain (who is a villain, but does not for the most part come across as villainous) played by the well-known British character actor Hugh Laurie, it is, while still white, run-down and deserted, with trash blowing all around.  I’m sure that that state of affairs is explained somewhere, but I missed it.

At any rate, what we do get that appears in very few post-apocalypse movies (which seem to be growing in number every year — wonder why?) is a very uplifting new beginning: a large, very diverse, group of seemingly very bright, very well-educated, very good-looking, young adults are recruited to go forth in the world, show people the positive way, somehow restore Tomorrowland, and then, I guess, spread the good word and the good works, all around the world (that is assuming that indeed the whole world did succumb to climate change, species extinction, environmental degradation, and so-on-and-so forth).


Tomorrowland and similar works aptly reflect the pervasive sense of impending doom gripping the world, but as works of artistic creativity they also accurately mirror the complete bankruptcy of capitalist culture and the fact the system cannot even conceive of a rational (let alone moral) way out of the crisis it has itself created.

So.  Very positive.  Very upbeat.  Very supposedly uplifting.  Yes, somehow, the Earth and human civilization will be saved, renewed.  BUT, and it’s a very big BUT, neither the principal cause of the decline and fall of civilization nor what would be needed to create a Tomorrowland that could actually work are mentioned, even in passing.  And that cause of course is capitalism, as the principal form of economic organization in the contemporary world.  As has been said many times, the principal goals of the capitalists are the making of profits from capital and the accumulation of ever-increasing amounts of capital with which to make evermore profit.  The ultimate outcome of capitalism, which depends upon the ever-increasing exploitation of both human and natural resources, is its suicide.

Disney, of course, can, and could, have none of this.  Which is what, ultimately, makes this movie a fantasy.  The on-coming destruction of the Earth as we know it, which is referred to in the movie, is “cause-less.”  It, apparently, just happens.  As for the reconstruction of the Earth, which is to be achieved by the legions of earnest young people recruited at the end of the film, it is seemingly to be achieved without any system of social organization and with no mention of the resources — physical, organizational, economic, and political — which will/would be needed to achieve the desired end.  To say nothing of the fact, that if this reconstruction were to be tried under capitalism, rather than the alternate form of socio/political/economic organization known as communism, exactly the same outcome would eventually be realized.  And that, of course, is the definition of insanity.

Postscript:  The day after I wrote this column, the following item appeared in The New York Times: “Pink Slips at Disney. But First, Training Foreign Replacements.”  At Disney World, Florida, long-time hi-tech U.S. employees have been replaced by lower cost temporary immigrants, coming in on “H1-B” visas.  The latter were originally intended to be used to bring in foreign workers to fill jobs that cannot otherwise be filled in the U.S.  But of course, these particular jobs were already being held by U.S. workers.  Right here in the Magic Kingdom we can see the true “Tomorrowland” at work: capitalism — and profits — over all.














 
There Is No Middle Ground by Steve Jonas
June 10, 2015


A recent publication in The Nation (June 8, 2105) by Mike Konczal was entitled: “The Proof That Centrism is Dead: Every story that centrists told about the recession turned out to be wrong.”  It focused on economic policy and certainly made a very strong case for the proof that the title tells us is offered by the column: that is that there is no “center” on the major economic issues facing our nation.

Back in 2005 I authored a column that dealt with the “middle ground” issue on a broader basis.  At that time the powerful Democratic Rightists who had come together under the leadership of “The Great Triangulator,” Bill Clinton, were led by something called the Democratic Leadership Council (a self-styled, falsely-labelled, “Centrist” Democratic organization). The DLC supposedly passed away, fairly quietly, about five years ago, but its ethos is still very much around.

Taking off from where the DLC left off, the last several years have seen the festering of the so-called “third-way” organizations, like (yes, they call themselves that) the “Third Way” and “No Labels.”  They make believe that is (mainly Democrats) would “only reach across the aisle,” so many problems could be solved.  What they go out of their way to deny, over and over again, is that on most of the major domestic issues facing the nation today, there is simply no middle ground over which the aisle could be crossed.  The economic arguments presented by Mr. Konczal are certainly very important.  But there are a number of other important issues that should be considered as well, on which there is indeed no “middle ground.”

We begin with the critique of Iraq policy, which all of a sudden has made its way back onto the political stage.  (Couldn’t have to do with another Bush running for President, could it?  A Bush who waffles all the way to the bank on this one, could it?)  No, the Cheney/Bush War on Iraq was not “a mistake” that would not have happened “if we knew then what we know now.”  Along with everything else that we knew then were the findings of the Chief UN weapons inspector, Hans Blix.  He had been given full searching access by Saddam Hussein.  Blix’s response to the US WMD claims leading up the invasion was: “The CIA doesn’t know whether or not there are WM there?  Please, have them call me.  There aren’t any and I will be happy to share with them everything I haven’t found.”  The CIA never called.  Is there a “middle ground” on what really happened in Iraq?  No.

There is no “middle ground” on the matter of global warming and what is causing it.  One either accepts the scientific evidence or one doesn’t.  If one accepts the evidence, there is certainly much worthy debate on how to go about dealing with the problem, but the evidence-deniers are not part of that discussion.  And they will go to great lengths to put their denialism into the law.  GOP Rep. Sensenbrenner (literally “scythes burner”) of Wisconsin (who must share lots of votes with Scott Walker), added an amendment to the TPP legislation that it cannot be used to address climate change.  Rep. Steve “the only good [Latino] immigrant is a deported one” King added language furthering his war on immigrants.  And so on and so forth.  Not shy, are these folk, and there is no middle ground at all, for them.

Continuing, “Intelligent Design” either is science or it is isn’t.  No middle ground there.  One either believes the religious doctrine that human life begins at the moment of conception or that it begins sometime later.  Further, one believes, or not, that when it begins, up to the time of viability, is matter of personal belief, that should not be subject to a religion-based criminal law.  In this context, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick of Texas once wondered how “God” would vote in a debate over abortion rights in that state’s Senate.

There is no middle ground on the matters of voter suppression and gerrymandering.  (And indeed there is a very easy solution to the so-called “problem of voter fraud,” even though it is virtually non-existent.  Offer free voter ID/photo cards, available at many sites throughout each state that is concerned with the matter.  Why the Democrats haven’t taken this up since the beginning is beyond me.)  There is no middle ground on the rich being able to buy the government they want, with virtually no limits.  One is either for the Citizens United “system” for buying elections, or one isn’t.  Nor is there a middle ground on whether or not the national infrastructure requires truly major, tax-based, government expenditures or it should be left to continue withering away to the point where the public will acquiesce in letting for-profit companies take it over (in which case tings would only get worse.  But that is another story.)

There is no middle ground on the matter of Separation of Church and State on, once again, abortion rights, as well as on gay marriage, LGBT discrimination, and the promotion by the state apparatus of one religion over another through the mis-named “Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”  The “middle-grounders” can only help the Republican Religious Right by muddying the waters on these fundamental issues and pretending that compromises can be reached.  They cannot.  The sooner the mainstream Democratic Party, and some well-meaning liberals as well, realize this, the better off our nation will be.

And so, how does the Duopoly play into this?  Well, the Republicans are very forthright in presenting and promoting their positions.  Consider, for example, what various Republicans are inserting in the truly job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership legislation.  Then consider how so many Republicans are not at all shy about putting forth the religious basis of their positions on the criminalization of abortion and the state sanctioning on one religion over another, as Indiana tried to do in dealing with discrimination against the LGBT in the matter of public accommodations and services.

On the other hand, most Democrats, if they take any positions at all, just sort of mumble about them.  Certainly no “lines in the sand” are drawn.  And so, to what does this lead?  On many fronts, just the continuation of Reaganite policy that has ruled this country since 1981, the doing-nothing about global warming (did you know that on January 21, 1981, as one of his first steps the petroleum industry’s man-in-the-White-House Reagan a) dismantled the research operation that Pres. Jimmy Carter had set up to develop alternative energy sources and very symbolically removed the solar panels that Pres. Carter had had installed on the White House roof?), the ever-widening assault on abortion rights, the ever-expanding intrusion of the doctrines of the organized Religious Right into government policy at the Federal, state and local levels, and so on and so forth.  Republicans trumpet all of this stuff.  Democrats rarely even say boo to the GOP goose.  And so, although we seem to have two parties, despite the fact that objectively there is no middle ground, with a few exceptions here and there, whose sincerity and effectiveness are yet to be determined, like Senators Warren and Sanders, the Duopoly just rumbles on.

 

    


 
Rick Santorum: Back for a Second Try by Steve Jonas
June 3, 2015

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, who made an early splash before fading fast in the GOP primaries in 2012, is back for another go.  Despite the fact that he is very unlikely to win the GOP Presidential nomination or even the Vice-Presidential offering, he is an important symbol for and of the GOP Religious Right, which is becoming more dangerous with each passing day.  There are other direct representatives of it, like Santorum’s fellow-Dominionist Mike Huckabee, and those who make deep bows in that direction, like Senator Ted Cruz and Wisconsin’s Gov. Scott Walker.  But he is a leader of the pack. 

What is Dominionism, you might ask?  Oh, just a branch of Christianity that wants to establish a theocracy in the United States, placing “God,” as interpreted by its torch-bearers, of course, above the United States Constitution.

At any rate, back in 2012 I published a column (on TGP and several other websites, no longer available on-line) posing 11 questions for the Senator.  I thought that it might be useful to re-visit most of those questions, adding a couple of new ones for good measure and upping the total to an even dozen.  And by the way, given the Political Duopoly and the thoroughly in-line mainstream media, if you hear any politician or newsperson raising any of them, please do let me know.

1.  You put yourself forward as the “candidate of the working man.”  Do you really think that as such you could get the nomination of the party that is owned (literally) by the rich and the powerful, like your backer (present or former [?]) Foster Friess?

2. You frequently talk about your grandfather, a coal miner. I’m wondering why you never talk about the union he most likely belonged to, the United Mine Workers (UMW). Its President, when it was at the height of its powers in the 1930s and 40s, when your grandfather was presumably working, was John L. Lewis, one of the most militant non-Communist labor leaders in US history. Or is the possible reason that you don’t talk about your grandfather’s union is that he belonged to the Communist-led rival to the UMW, Progressive Mine Workers?

3. Speaking of Communists, are you aware that members of your family still living in the north of Italy are ardent members the Communist Refoundation Party, the successor to the former Communist Party of Italy?

4. Speaking of ancestors, while you talk frequently about your grandfather, you never seem to mention your parents. Could that be because both your father, a clinical psychologist, and your mother, a nurse, worked for the largest socialized medicine service in the U.S., otherwise known as the Veterans Administration Hospital system. Could that be because you at least formerly vowed to repeal even the modest changes to the world’s most expensive health care system that are contained in the Affordable Care Act? You have gone so far as to call the latter “socialized medicine,” or worse, when all it does is make some relatively modest changes to the health insurance system. It is a far cry from the coverage and services provided by the government-owned and operated system both your parents worked for. But you don’t talk about them.

5. In the past you have referred to the science behind our understanding of global warming and the threats to humanity and indeed many of the Earth’s species that it presents as “punk science.” You felt that we should continue to rely on fossil fuels and indeed would vastly expand the extraction of same regardless of the pollution of the air, water and ground that such extraction causes. You are also against any government-supported development of alternative fuels and energy sources. Do you still hold to those views?

6. You seem to be bothered by homosexuals and homosexuality to a rather extraordinary degree. In the past you have compared homosexual intercourse to “bestiality,” for example, and would outlaw it. (One wonders how such a law would be enforced, but that is another matter.) You have a lot of sweater vests in your closet. Whole bunches of homophobic Republicans come out or are exposed as gay on a regular basis. Is there anything else your closet we should know about?

7. In referring to the excesses of the French Revolution, you inferred that you believe in the “eternal values” upheld by the absolute monarchy that it overthrew.  Really?

8. On the abortion issue, based on your religious belief about when life begins you are against it and want it to be criminalized, in the process criminalizing the religious/secular belief of those of us who hold that life begins at the time of viability (which criminalization would violate the First Amendment, but that is another matter). Would you be for sending just the abortion providers to prison, or would you also include those women who have them? And if the latter were sent to prison for violating the law, who would care for their children? Of course, since you think that abortion is murder, would you be going for the death sentence, for the providers, for the recipients? How would you go about paying for the massive increase in the size and scope of the criminal justice system that the criminalization of abortion in the way you contemplate it would entail?

9. You have said in the past that you would be in favor of bombing Iran over their supposed nuclear weapons program. Several questions.
A.  Do you still hold to that position?
B.  Do you remember the “WMD threat” from Iraq that turned out to be bogus?
C.  Have you given any thought to the massive loss of civilian life that would be incurred in any US/Israeli bombing raid massive enough to eliminate the Iranian nuclear program, whatever its true objectives?
D.  How would you explain to our nation the incredible rise in the cost of gasoline that would result from the closing of the Strait of Hormuz which would certainly occur should such raid take place, and the resulting anti-American acts of violence that would invariably take place around the world?
E.  How would you pay from the vast expansion of war at home and abroad that would follow upon such raids?
10. You have been bombarded with the “contraceptive question.”  Is your position unchanged since 2012?  And if it is, might I note that if you and your wife do still engage in sexual intercourse and she has not been pregnant for a while, either she is past menopause or you two are incredibly lucky at Vatican Roulette, and taking the literal meaning of the term, isn’t that a form of contraception?

11.  Could you enlighten us as to how Dominionism differs from Sharia Law, which, at its center is built on exactly the same principle: that religious law should be supreme over civil law?  And then could you tell us, are you still a Dominionist?

12.  If you are not a Dominionist, could you enlighten us as to what you meant when you said:
“… a country that is given rights under the god, under god, not any god, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and that God that gave us rights also gave us a responsibility, and laws, by which our civil laws have to comport with. A higher law. God’s law.”
Thank you, Reverend, I mean “Senator.”


 
A Clash of Capitalisms, Revisited by Steve Jonas
May 28, 2015

Boris Yeltsin: the personification of a corrupt politician and later Oligarch-maker who, as an eager puppet of U.S.-led Western Imperialism, delivered Russia to the tender mercies of brutal free-market capitalism. During his tenure, the business catechism was injected into Russia’s veins by consultants like Jeffrey Sachs, who acted as the new Jesuits for the new business religion.

World War I has been interpreted in a variety of ways, from the “Accidental War” to a continuation of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71.  But at its base it was a conflict between three imperial powers working together, Great Britain, France, and Russia, against the other three major ones of the time, Prussia, the Ottoman Empire, and the grandiloquently named Austro-Hungarian Empire, also working together.  


World War II has also been characterized in various ways, from the “fight against fascism” to the battle to protect and defend “freedom and democracy.”  In reality, at least from the time that France quit, it was the battle of Great Britain to defend its Empire, then the battle of the Soviet Union to defend its territorial integrity and prevent its dismantlement in the jaws of a rapacious, genocidal Nazi Germany, and finally, with the US entry into the war, the first major stage in the establishment of the US World Empire.

Similarly, the current conflict in and around Ukraine has been variously characterized, from the battle of Ukraine to wrest itself from the control of a “rapacious” Russia, to a battle of the Russian-speaking Ukrainians of the Eastern part of the country to preserve their culture and a certain degree of political independence, to an attempted takeover by Russia of Eastern Ukraine, beyond the Crimea and its naval base at Sevastopol (which just happens to be Russia’s most important warm-water port and has been in Russian hands for centuries).  What is actually happening in Ukraine has been followed closely by The Russia Desk of The Greanville Post, to which readers are referred for everything from the history of the region going back to the days of the Russian Empire to what is actually going on on the ground, right now, both in Ukraine and Russia.

In the earlier version of this column, I presented a summary of the recent history of Ukraine and the role of the West in creating the current situation.  That reality certainly did not start on the day after the coup-d’état that overthrew the former elected President of the country, Viktor Yanukovich, who just very conveniently has been on Interpol’s “wanted” list since January 15, 2015.  Despite the fact that that is the way current Ukrainian history is presented in the Western media, it started some time before that, as summarized in the earlier version of this column and presented at length at TGP’s “Russia Desk.”

Since the end of the Second World War, with the elimination of the Japanese Empire and the soon to be total decline of the British and French Empires, the United States has become the next world Empire.  US-led capitalist imperialism has spread all around the world, monstrously metastasizing, more by economic dominance and the primacy of the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency than by large physical holdings of land, as previous empires have done.    However, the US does have about 750 military bases scattered around the world and so retains a military presence just about everywhere, except in Russia, China and the Indian sub-continent.

As many alternate historians and journalists have documented, since the end of WW II the US has not been shy in using its power and intelligence tentacles to stage coups in scores of nations, invariably supplanting the target government with an anti-democratic dictatorship entirely subservient to Washington. This route to empire has become a perfected art in the last 25 years with the rise of even more hypocritical forms of destabilization from “Orange” revolutions, right-to-protect interventions, and so on, to outright massive invasions under entirely false pretenses, as we saw more recently in Iraq.  (The latter actually marked a turn from empire-expansion to the creation of Permanent War, but that is another story.)

But US imperialism is entering the same stage of decline that every other imperial power since Rome has encountered (see Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, Random House, 1987).  It has spread too far for the power of its military to maintain it; its expansion has been financed by debt and it refuses to support the continued expansion by taxing those who can afford to pay; it is losing allies; and it is more and more focusing on profit-making through the trade in pieces of paper and through dominance of the international supply of non-renewable energy supplies. With the dominance of the profits-at-all costs sector of the ruling class at home, domestically the US is also facing a rising Permanent Army of the unemployed, an exploding health care delivery system, widespread de-industrialization, a failing educational system financed more and more by private debt rather than government expenditure, a rapidly deteriorating infra-structure, from water supply to transportation, and so on and so forth.

So where does the Western-led economic/political assault on Ukraine come in?  Russian capitalism is in the very early stages of development.  With the stealing of the productive resources of the Soviet people that had belonged to them collectively under the Soviet Union, facilitated by the US stooge, the alcoholic Boris Yeltsin, there was the instant creation of a 19th-century type of “Robber Baron capitalism,” dominated as it is by what are called the “Oligarchs” (“billionaires” in Western parlance).

It is hard to be sure how well the US interests predicted what the Russian response to the Ukrainian coup would be, but it could have certainly been predicted to be what it was, especially since the naval base at Sevastopol, held by Russia only under a long-term lease from Ukraine, was threatened.  Then the US would be able to move to economic sanctions.  In this space last Spring I wrote that I thought that the objective for the whole venture from the US point of view was to get the Oligarchs to overthrow the Russian nationalist Vladimir Putin and install a leadership that, with their cooperation, would open up all of Russia, along with its immense energy reserves, to US-led Western Imperialism, with the immature Russian robber-baron capitalism gradually being taken over.  In other words, two capitalist ruling classes are engaged in an immense battle, in a very small space, using very small proxy militaries, battling for a very large prize.
 
“Besides old-fashioned coups…the route to empire has become a perfected art in the last 25 years with the rise of even more hypocritical forms of destabilization from “Orange” revolutions, right-to-protect interventions, and so on, to outright massive invasions under entirely false pretenses…”

The United States is in the declining phase of Capitalist Empire.  It can survive for a bit longer (in historical terms) only by gobbling up more resources and having access to more low-paid workers in other countries for the manufacturing of its products (see the Trans-Pacific Partnership).  Russian robber-baron capitalism is clearly on the upswing.  Presently it has its huge energy reserves.  It has an industrial base dating from the time of the Soviet Union.  It is in desperate need of modernization but that can certainly happen if it is left alone.  And now, it may well have access to new capital, coming from the new Chinese development bank.  Putin is no saint and neither is the Russian ruling class he serves a collection of them.  But he, and so far the Russian ruling class, are standing up to the US.

There may also be developing an alliance between China-Russia and Iran, which may account for the sudden severe hardening of the Iranian line in the nuclear-restriction talks.

Such an alliance, with Iranian access to the new Chinese banking and other economic services, might enable them to get around the most severe of the Western sanctions.  The recent rapprochement of Russia with China ended 50 years of separation that began with the China-Soviet split (over entirely different issues, of course) that took place under Mao and Khrushchev in the 1960s.  It will be fascinating to watch as two post-socialist state-capitalist societies, with different forms, work together to combat the other principal capitalist powers, the Western Imperialist Alliance, led by the United States.  And so, if the possible survival of the world as we have known it until fairly recently, is dependent upon the decline, if not the fall, of US imperial power, then at this juncture at least we do have to hope the Russian robber-baron capitalism can win its struggle-by-proxy with US-led imperialist capital, in Ukraine.  Of course, for the long-term survival, not only of our species, but all the rest of the still-surviving ones on Earth, we then have to move on to the replacement of all brands of capitalism.  But that too is another story.

And oh, by the way, are there any differences in policy on Russia/Ukraine between the two branches of the U.S. Political Duopoly?  Well, if you have noticed one, please let me know.

 

 
The Soviet Union, Propaganda, and World War II By Steven Jonas
May 22, 2015

For the propagandists and the propaganda analysts, "our" propaganda is always "good" and "theirs" is always "bad." Nazi Germany's Josef Goebbels was a brilliant inventor of modern propaganda and its tools and rules. As eloquently pointed out by my dear friend and valued colleague, Michael Faulkner, throughout the decades of the Cold War the major part played by the Soviet Union in the wartime alliance against Hitler was ignored or downplayed. This continues to this very day. For example, in the U.S., the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp on January 27, 2015, in the United States was often noted without noting that it was the Soviet Red Army that did the liberating.

It has been widely noted the Western imperialist nations, especially the United States and the United Kingdom, very publicly dissed Russia on the 70th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II. This despite the fact that the Soviet Union had the predominant role in the winning of World War II. Very briefly:

The USSR tied down the Germans on an increasingly difficult front which eventually, finally, after the United States and Great Britain delayed their pledged invasion of France from 1942 to 1944 became a Second Front (the Western allies followed Churchill's preferred serial invasion of the "soft underbelly of Europe through North Africa, Sicily and Italy);

Denied the Germans access to the oil of the Caucasus;

Used up enormous amounts of German equipment which they found increasingly difficult to continue to manufacture;

Killed many German and German-satellite soldiers who could have been used elsewhere; prevented the Germans from fully exploiting the Ukrainian agricultural heartland which they desperately needed, and so on and so forth.

Why the ongoing campaign of propaganda down to this very day to diminish the understanding of people in the West of the predominant role of the Soviet Union in winning WW II? Because of the necessity of carrying through to what became its eventual conclusion of "The 75 Years War Against the Soviet Union," and now to continue it against a prominent capitalist rival, that refuses to buckle under to U.S.-led Western capitalist imperialism. That war, which Winston ("Soft-underbelly-of-Europe-first") Churchill, as a leader of the original Western Imperialist Intervention against the Russian Revolution, was instrumental in starting, began virtually the day after the beginning of the Russian Revolution, on November 7, 1917. Then Churchill, who was very happy to have the Soviet Union enmeshed in WWII for the reasons mentioned above, many years later signaled the beginning of the Cold War with his "Iron Curtain" speech in Fulton, MO on March 5, 1946, less than one year after the Allied victory in WWII.

Western propaganda since then has always couched the speech in terms of an announcement that Stalin had done this dreadful thing, and was dividing Europe. Actually, at that time Stalin was still very hopeful of establishing an era of "Peaceful Co-existence," (much as Khrushchev would later call for it in the early 1960s"). It was the West that was dividing Europe, beginning with the independent, US-led currency reform in what became "West Germany" (that led directly to the "Berlin Blockade," a fact never noted in Western propaganda about that event), the refusal to include the Soviet Union in the Marshall Plan for European recovery that was at its center a scheme to rebuild German capital as quickly as possible as a blunt instrument aimed at the Soviet Union and its recovery as a major industrial power, and then the formation of the "North Atlantic Treaty Organization" which is more correctly known as the "anti-Soviet Alliance" and now as the "anti-Russia Alliance".

In reality, the Cold War was simply a continuation of the campaign to eliminate the Soviet Union as a nation state that began, as noted above, with:

  1. The hot war of the foreign "Intervention," 1917-21, in the Russian Revolution and subsequent Civil War;
  2. Followed by a cold peace (during which the United States refused to recognize the Soviet Government until the election of Franklin Roosevelt, 1932; recognition coming in 1933);
  3. Followed by the ignoring of many overtures from the Soviet Union to Great Britain and France made to form a common front against Nazi Germany during the 30's;
  4. Before the USSR finally gave in to buying some time with the Nazi-Soviet Pact before the expected eventual Nazi invasion --- Stalin's HUGE mistake was misestimating when it was actually going to occur and failing to establish a defensive rather than the offensive posture he did approve for the Red Army which made it totally incapable of withstanding the blitzkrieg strategy and tactics of the Nazis for over a year until the Battle of Stalingrad, Sept. 1942-January 1943, which finally turned the tide against the Nazis;
  5. Then continuing after World War II with greater or lesser intensity during the Cold War until the US-led Western imperial powers, in the last stages led by the arch-reactionaries Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, had spent the Soviet Union into the ground during the long-lasting arms race that characterized the Cold War period.

And now, as Mike Faulkner so dramatically illustrates, Western Imperialism is once again trying to bring Russia (not even the Soviet Union) to its knees and so pave the way for the expansion of Western capitalism into that sphere, even though Russia itself is a thoroughly capitalist country albeit a very peculiar one. The appetite for the making of profits and the further accumulation of capital, which as Karl Marx laid out for us in such detail as the central characteristics of capitalism, for Western capitalist imperialism is absolutely insatiable.




 
Let’s Hear it for Prohibition: an Interim Way Out of the ‘Drug War’ Mess, II by Steve Jonas
May 21, 2015

Tobacco advertising was ubiquitous.

In my previous Commentary on this subject, I noted that in the period immediately following “the post-Baltimore police riot that resulted in the death of Freddie Gray was a call for the ‘reform of the criminal justice system.’   There were even some Repubs. who chimed in on that one, although one has doubts as to just how long Repub. devotion to the cause will last.”  In the column I compared some of the major features, in terms of their effects on their criminal justice systems of their respective times, of the two prohibitions.  In the classic Prohibition, now remembered in movies, TV series, and even a recent ad for Budweiser beer, it was the trade, the domestic manufacturing, the importation, and the wholesale and retail sale of spirits and beer that was criminalized.

In contrast, in the “Drug War” not only are the above practices criminalized but so are the possession and use of the named currently prohibited substances: marijuana, heroin, and cocaine, and more recently methamphetamine.  All of these substances, prohibited then or now are part of a group of chemicals called “RMADs” [OK; I made up the term, many years ago]: Recreational Mood-Altering Drugs.  It happens that the most commonly used RMAD around the world is caffeine, and of course nicotine in tobacco products is widely used (and perfectly legal now in the U.S., although that was not always the case), and just happens to be, by a very large margin, the most harmful of the RMADs on a population basis.  Of course one of the problems that makes RMAD-use a particular problem in the United States is the role of the drug culture we live in and the advertising that has in the past promoted it (see these cigarette ads) and of course still does, e.g., the saturation advertising for beer.

As I also pointed out, it is the “Drug War,” criminalizing possession and use, that fills our prisons with so many black young men, way out of proportion the number of whites, percentage-wise, imprisoned for the same offenses.  Under prohibition, simple users of the prohibited substance caught in “a raid” were simply sent home.  Under the “Drug War,” simple users of the prohibited substances, especially if they are non-white, are sent to jail and then on to prison.  “But supposing,” I said, “that the criminality elements of the ‘Drug War’ were the same as they were for the earlier national prohibition aimed at the use of certain of the ‘Recreational Mood-Alerting Drugs,’ the RMADs.  Yes, just suppose.”

Everybody pushed cigarettes, from doctors…

to celebrities…like Bob Hope…


I then proposed that a simple lesson learned from Prohibition, if applied to the “Drug War” would lead to a very rapid change in the U.S. criminal justice system.  That is to remove “possession and use” from the list of crimes as defined under it.  Many fewer people would be sent to jail and then on to prison.  If the law were applied retroactively to persons currently serving time for non-violent “possession and use” crimes, hundreds of thousands of persons would be released from the U.S. penal system.

To the all-American dream couple…

Such a change would have enormous implications at a variety of levels.  First of all, in the Federal prison system close to half of all inmates (close to 100,000) are serving time for “drug offenses.”  Some of those of course are incarcerated for violent and trade-related drug crimes, but many are not.  At the state and local levels, it is possible that as many as 700,000 persons are incarcerated for a ”marijuana conviction” of some sort, with many incarcerated for possession or use.

To Ronnie Reagan. Everybody could be recruited and in the course of time was.

And so, if it were desirable to “reform the criminal justice system,” the logical place to start would be to make the “Drug War” like Prohibition in its focus.  Logical, “right” (as Michelangelo Signorelli, the SiriusXM Satellite Radio Progressive Talk host, 4-P.M. ET weekdays, is fond of saying)?  Money-saving, right? A quick fix, without actually bringing the “Drug War” to an end, right?  A move that would not only unburden the police, the courts, the jails and prisons, and the parole system (among others), but it would also remove the “criminal/felon” label from so many mostly non-white young men and women, a label that they have for life whether on drugs or not.  A move that would be welcomed by oh-so-many in the non-white communities that have been the focus of the “Drug War” since it started, as well as at least certain of their organizational and political representatives.

Overcrowding in California prisons.

But not so fast.  From the social and economic perspective, ending the “Drug War” while at the same time developing a massive Public Health Approach to deal with the drug problem, for the currently illicits as well as all of the legal RMADs ( see “The Public Health Approach to the Prevention of Substance Abuse,” chapter 70 in Lowinson, J., et al, Eds., Substance Abuse: A Comprehensive Textbook, 2nd ed., Baltimore, MD: Williams and Wilkins, 1992; chapter 77 in the 3rd ed., Baltimore, MD: Williams and Wilkins, 1997; chap. 79 in the 4th ed., Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2004, by myself) seems to be oh-so-logical.  However, and it’s a big HOWEVER, there is a group of stakeholders in maintaining the “Drug War’ exactly the way it is.

There is not room in this space to consider any of them in any detail. (I will be doing just that in my forthcoming book, referenced below.)  But just consider who they might be.

First, the tobacco and alcohol industries are not interested in encouraging competition for their own RMADs.  Presently, advertising in not permitted for marijuana in the states where it has been legalized (and contrary to the shouts of the drug warriors, simple availability of an RMAD does not ordinarily make its use go up.  In fact, in Colorado, for the first year of the legal use of marijuana, tax receipts were below projections, meaning that sales were below expectations.)  The sale of beer is certainly heavily dependent upon advertising, otherwise the beer industry wouldn’t spend so much money doing it, and elements of it have opposed marijuana legalization, in California.

Second, of course the prison-industrial complex, both the private and public sectors.  Private prisons are heavily dependent of “drug offenders” for the profits they earn.  There are rural communities in many states that are dependent on state prisons for jobs and commerce in supplying those prisons.  Then there are the prison guards.  For example, when a marijuana-legalization proposition was on the ballot in California, the prison guards unions contributed to the forces opposing it.

Finally, there is the political driver of the “Drug War,” the Republican Party.  Certainly the US Political Duopoly has been behind it.  Under the “liberal” Gov. Mario Cuomo, New York State built more prison beds than have all the previous governors combined.  The “liberal” Pres. Bill Clinton signed the 1994 “Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act,” introduced in the Senate by the “liberal” Joe Biden.  That Act is now recognized as a major driver of mass incarceration, especially of minorities.

Now these liberals’ actions were thoroughly in contrast to supposed “liberal” values and principles (oh-so-often honored only in the breach), and may have been reactive to Republican claims that Democrats are “weak on crime” (although they may also be using the “the-Repubs.-made-me-do-it” line as a cover).  But it is the Republicans, since Pres. Nixon began the “Drug War” in 1971 that have been the most consistent supporters of that “tough on crime” line.  It is particularly easy to run on when the actions under it create and define the crime, and have the added “benefit” of targeting non-white population groups.  While, as noted, some Republicans talked about the ills of “mass incarceration” following the Baltimore police riot, it remains to be seen just how many of them will hew to that line.  I’m not holding my breath on that one.  And as soon as one or more Repubs. starts chanting the “weak on crime” line, many Democrats will run away from the issue of dealing with mass incarceration, especially through a measure as simple as redefining “crime” under the drug law, as quickly as their little feet can carry them.

Finally, it should be pointed out that the “drug policy reform” movement, presently led in the U.S. by the Drug Policy Alliance, has for quite some time focused principally on marijuana decriminalization (DPA: “Approaches to Decriminalizing Drug Use & Possession,” February, 2015, newsletter).  They would decriminalize the whole of the drug trade/possession/use system, just for marijuana.  That is rather different from what I am proposing, which might, or might not, be easier to achieve, since one would not be decriminalizing the drug trade.  It should be noted that the DPA has never been interested in linking their opposition to one part of the “Drug War” to the larger matter of the use of RMADs, currently legal and currently not, and the effects of that use on health in general and the use of the currently illicits on the other, in the U.S. society and what to do about it.  One cannot predict how they would respond to the idea presented here, if they were to choose to do so.

 
Let’s Hear it for Prohibition: an Interim Way out of the ‘Drug War’ Mess by Steve Jonas
May 11, 2015

A feature of the immediate post-Baltimore police riot that resulted in the death of Freddie Gray was a call for the “reform of the criminal justice system.”  There were even some Repubs. who chimed in on that one, although one has doubts as to just how long Repub. devotion to the cause will last.  After all, for years they have been running on being “tough on crime” and as a major element of that “toughness,” on the “Drug War.”  

The latter is of course the feature of our society that fills our prisons with so many black young men for the “drug crimes” of “possession and use.”  It happens that that number is way out of proportion to the number of whites, percentage-wise, imprisoned for the same offenses.  But supposing that the criminality elements of the “Drug War” were the same as they were for the earlier national prohibition aimed at the use of certain of the “Recreational Mood-Alerting Drugs,” the RMADs.  Yes, just suppose.

A review of a 2013 exhibition at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, PA on what is formally known in the United States as “Prohibition” began this way: 
“It has been a long time since anybody said: ‘You know, the 18th Amendment was a pretty good idea. Too bad it was overturned by the 21st.’ and perhaps only the most prescriptively devout among us is likely to advocate banning the sale of alcohol again in the United States [to which list Mr. Rothstein could have added the highly profitable alcohol industry and their political allies]. . . .
“[It was a] movement [that] altered the Constitution in a radical fashion, extending its reach to matters once considered personal and restricting freedoms rather than expanding them. In effect from 1920 to 1933, Prohibition drastically altered the legal system of every state, and overturned ordinary citizens’ behaviors and expectations. . . .
“We [now] tend to think of Prohibition as some kind of crazed moral paroxysm, reflecting the worst in the American character.”
Ethyl alcohol, the intoxicating agent found in alcoholic beverages, is just one of the group of RMADs.  (It is one that just happens to cause about 60,000 – 100,000 deaths per year in the U.S., depending upon how one counts, in comparison to virtually zero deaths for, let us say, marijuana.  But that is a matter for another time.)  Prohibition criminalized the importation, distribution, and sale, but not the use, of the criminalized substances.  Another commonly used RMAD is nicotine, a mild central nervous system depressant, found in tobacco products.  There are certain restrictions on its sale, by age, and by place of use for all persons. It happens that the manufacture, distribution, and sale but not the use of cigarettes were prohibited, in one form or another, in 15 U.S. states and the Dominion of Canada, between 1903 and 1927.  Notice the term “but not the use” just above.  That was a common feature of both cigarette and alcoholic beverage illegalization.  The prohibition of both aimed at the trade for each.

But when it comes to the current “Drug War,” aimed primarily at marijuana, cocaine, and heroin, and to some extent methamphetamine, commonly known as the “illicits,” the law is rather different.  For it not only illegalizes the trade, but also possession and use of the substances.  In terms of the criminal justice system, its targets, and the outcomes of that targeting, this is the critical, nay crucial, difference between Prohibition for alcoholic beverages and prohibition for cigarettes and the “Drug War.”  The former criminalized commerce in the target substances.  Simple drinkers caught in raided speakeasies were simply sent home.  They were not sent to jail or, eventually, prison.  The latter targets commerce and possession/use of the target substances.   It is the latter that has led to such high incarceration rates for “non-violent drug offences,” especially among the non-white population, and particularly in the United States.  They do go to jail and prison.
“Alcohol causes… 60,000 – 100,000 deaths per year in the U.S., depending upon how one counts, in comparison to virtually zero deaths for, let us say, marijuana…”
Funnily enough, while Prohibition was repealed in 1933, nowhere in Mr. Rothstein’s review of the Philadelphia exhibition was the fact that for certain of the RMADs its contemporary form, the “Drug War,” has been with us in a very forceful way for over 40 years. The “Drug War” was launched by President Nixon in 1969.  It had predecessors going back to 1914, when the Harrison Act criminalized the use of opiates by “addicts”.  But it was Nixon who made the “war” on the users of opiates and cocaine and marijuana into a national campaign.  (It is interesting to note that presently on the street, low-potency heroin is known as “Nixon.” One can take that for what it is worth.)  By criminalizing the use of, as well as the commerce in, the so-called “illicits,” this “war” came to be one on certain people who use certain drugs, rather than on the substances they might use (which is why “Drug War” is put in quotes).

Interestingly enough, many of the phrases that Mr. Rothstein applied to Prohibition certainly could be applied to the “Drug War.” Consider that it has: “altered the Constitution in a radical fashion,” and continues to alter it with every illicit drug detection case that reaches the Supreme Court.  The “Drug War” has: “extended its reach to matters once considered personal and [has] restrict[ed] freedoms rather than expanding them.”   The “Drug War” has: “drastically altered the legal system of every state, and overturned ordinary citizens’ behaviors and expectations. While claiming high virtue and utopian prospects, it [has] inspired spectacular violations and grotesque criminal violence.”

But another major difference between Prohibition and the “Drug War” is that to a major extent over the 13 years of its existence the former worked in reducing the use of the substances at which is what aimed, while over its 45 year life the latter has not (see also “SAMHSA: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Results for the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings, NSDUH Series H-44, HHS Pub. No. (SMA) 12-4713, Rockville, MD, SAMHSA, 2012”).
 
Why did the former work?  Well, it was aimed at both spirits and beer.  The latter can be described as “big,” big (back then at least) in the physical area required for the breweries and (relatively) big in the amount of the substance needed to get reasonably high.  During Prohibition, beer consumption fell to almost nil (and in fact it took the beer industry almost 40 years of advertising to get per capita consumption back to where it had been in 1919.  Any guesses as to why the industry currently spends so much money advertising the stuff?)  Spirits on the other hand are relatively “small.”  And so between bootlegging and domestic production of various kinds, per capita spirits consumption did not fall much.

But what then is the simple lesson that could be learned from Prohibition that could be applied to the “Drug War” that would lead to a very rapid change in the U.S. criminal justice system?  Why just change the current law to apply only to the various aspects of the trade in the named substance and remove “possession and use” from the list of crimes as defined under it.  In the next column (next week, I hope) we shall consider how such a change might be accomplished, who would be for it, who would be against it, what implications it would have for the nation, not only for the criminal justice system but for a range of social and economic issues that we face today, and how The Political Duopoly has dealt and might deal with it.





 
THE DUOPOLY WATCH by Steven Jonas
April 30, 2015

A now somewhat obscure Russian political scientist named Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov lived from 1870 to 1923.  (He is rather better known as the leader of the Russian Revolution, by his nom de guerre “Lenin,”.)  Ulyanov was a very prolific writer.  In this writer’s view, his three most important works were What is to be Done? (1902) about the organization, structure, function, and role of a socialist revolutionary party, the remarkably prescient Imperialism, the Highest form of Capitalism,  (1917), and The State and Revolution  which, among other things, deals with the nature of the state apparatus under capitalism, and also has a lengthy discussion of the role and structure of the state apparatus in a future socialist nation.

This new feature for The Greanville Post will focus substantively on the structure and function of the state apparatus in the United States and of course on the two political parties which compete for control of that state apparatus.  By “state apparatus” is meant all of the institutions, executive, legislative, and judicial, including both the civil and police/military agencies, used for social control, management, and operations in both the “public” and “private” sectors of the economy, that exist in a particular nation.  In the United States, the two parties, Democratic and Republican, compete for control of the state apparatus within certain limits of course, because both parties serve the interests of the ruling class of the U.S. capitalist enterprise.  They just offer variations on how to best serve those interests.
 
It is important to understand that the state apparatus never exists independently of the economic system of the country within which it stands. Rather it is there to make sure that it, the economic system, stays firmly in place.  The disagreements between political parties in the capitalist nations come over how best to go about maintaining the ruling class’s control, the ruling class being those individuals, corporations, organizations, and interests that have their hands on the levers of economic [and consequently political] power in the nation.

Concerning the nature of “constitutional democracy” under capitalism, Ulyanov himself put it this way:

“To decide once every few years which member of the ruling class is to repress and crush the people through parliament – this is the real essence of bourgeois parliamentarism, not only in parliamentary-constitutional monarchies, but also in the most democratic republics”.

Lenin at his desk. An encyclopedic reader, and disciplined thinker who strove for grounding every conclusion in the ultimate, incontrovertible reality of events, his insights into the nature of the bourgeois state have not lost their power to explain contemporary history.

In the United States, as in most developed capitalist nations today, there is a dominant Political Duopoly.  Indeed the Democrats and the Republicans do have significant policy differences, but those policy differences are over the question of how to best preserve, protect, and expand capitalism, just as Ulyanov said above.  There are also some very significant differences within each of the two major parties about policy and about how they should go about gaining and keeping the levers of power, especially in a nation that has such an incredibly complex system of government.  It is complex at the Federal level, with the three supposedly equal branches of government, and it is complex because of the distribution of power and sovereignty between the Federal government and the states.  The nature of both distributions has been the subject of constant conflict since the founding the nation in 1789.  But again, those conflicts are never over the question of: “might there not be a better system of control of the productive resources in our society that could benefit everyone, not just for the most part those who happen to own the bulk of them.”

This ongoing series of Commentaries will be concerned with U.S. party politics, with the role and function of the political parties, with the election campaigns and what they are really about, with what’s going on within both parties (of course, the Repubs. make such an easy target that perhaps more attention will be paid to them, but I shall not forget the Democrats either).  It will also consider from time-to-time, for example, Constitutional questions, historical matters such as the influence of the Southern victory in the Civil War (yes, it did) on the structure and function of our nation today, the special role, in contrast with every other parliamentary “democracy” in the world today, that religion and its much-more-evil off-spring, organized religion, plays in the politics and governance of the United States, and U.S. foreign policy.  On occasion, too, I will deal with matters not directly concerning the US Political Duopoly, such as in an upcoming column on “The Historical Stages of anti-Semitism.”  For those I will note that the column is an exception to the theme, although once I get going on it, it may simply turn out, at least in part, to be another variation on the theme.

I am looking forward very much to this undertaking and I thank my friend, comrade, and (too [!]), Editor/Publisher, Patrice Greanville for providing me with this opportunity.  It is going to be a fun ride (fun in the sense of having the opportunity to engage in such analyses on an ongoing basis) and I look forward to having you join me for it, at least from time-to-time.




 
THE DUOPOLY WATCH by Steven Jonas
April 19, 2015

Enter the GOP, 2016: Not Laughing

Do you want to know where the GOP stands, generically, for 2016?  Well, there is one fascinating place to get that information.  It’s called “GOP.com” (in the logo there is an elephant in the dot — that’s the party of non-cuteness trying so hard to be cute).  It is indeed the main website of the Repubs.  I put myself on their mailing list just so I can stay current with what they are talking about.  (Of course that does from time-to-time [ho, ho, ho] stand at variance with what they are actually doing). 

It presents what I presume is the (lowest?) common denominator, currently, that will underlie the 2016 GOP platform.  I share its main features with you, below.  For they are most revealing about what the party is about, and even more what it is not about.
Of course, as you know well, a number of candidates for the Repub. nomination have already entered the race.  They each present certain variants to the common denominator, or at least they try to, to “show their independence” (even though whomever gets the Party’s nod will be so dependent upon its big money men and their whims and wishes.)  There’s Ted Cruz, who along with the standard stuff is trying very hard to capture the standard of the Christian Right.  He started out right there at Liberty University and at times seemed to be claiming the endorsement of the Liberty University version of Jesus Christ himself.  (Of course, that version varies in many dimensions from those of many other Christian churches, but that is a matter for another time).

Then there is the self-styled “libertarian,” the ophthalmologist, Rand Paul, MD.  No one ever seems to stop to bother defining exactly what “libertarianism” is in any detail, but whatever it might be, Paul’s very own definition of “liberty” does vary in meaning from that of the commons. On the one hand, not being officially Board Certified in his specialty by the American Board of Ophthalmology, Dr. Paul once upon a time took the liberty of setting up his own Ophthalmological Board in his home state of Kentucky.  That might be called “taking some liberties.”  On the other hand, he is firmly opposed to liberty for pregnant women to decide for themselves the outcome of pregnancy until the time of viability.  Until very recently he had been a sponsor of the religion-based “Life at Conception Act”.  Now his site settles for advocating every single religious-belief based possible restriction on the exercise of abortion rights, still with the website heading for the subject area: “Sanctity of Life.”

Next we find Marco Rubio, son of Cuban refugees, but not from Castro, rather from Batista,  who doesn’t seem to know what he stands for on a variety of issues, such as immigration, exactly of which church he is a member (Mormon, Catholic, or Baptist — on certain policy issues they vary widely), and even Cuba, for there are strong right-wing business interests that are very happy with the “Obama-opening.”

But whoever the nominee is, he/she (don’t forget the failed HP executive Carly Fiorina) will have to gravitate back to the GOP version of the (Far Right) “center.”  And here ‘tis, right from GOP.com.  If you are a good Repub., site says, you will believe mainly in a set of slogans and sayings (with exceptions):

  • “Our country is exceptional” (as long as you don’t mention such “exceptionalities” as being the only advanced capitalist country not to have some form of national health insurance);
  • The “Constitution should be honored, valued, and upheld” (as long as you also support violating the provisions of Article VI pertaining to such international treaties as the UN Convention Against Torture);
  • “Leaders should serve people, not special interests” (as long as “special interests” in this context does not mean, for example, the Koch Brothers or Sheldon Adelson);
  • “Families and communities should be strong and free from government intrusion” (except when there is “government intrusion” on such matters ranging from freedom of choice in the outcome of pregnancy to communities choosing to ban fracking locally to protect their drinking water);
  • The “institution of traditional marriage is the foundation of society” (as long as “marriage” is defined according to certain religious preferences);
  • “Government should be smaller, smarter and more efficient” (except when it comes to such matters as continuing to carry on the totally failed “war on certain drug users”);
  • “Health care decisions should be made by us and our doctors” (except when they come to such matters as end-of-life care);
  • “Paychecks should not be wasted on poorly run government programs” (unless it’s for the F-35 program or ships the Navy cannot use effectively);
  • The military must be strong and prepared to defend our shores” (without defining what “protect our shores” means, precisely, how much that would cost, and where the money would come from);
  • “Culture should respect and protect life” (seemingly to define “life” as existing before birth but not after it);
  • “Children should never be left in failing schools” (without defining “failing schools” or proposing what to do too fix them other than crushing the teachers’ unions);
  • “Veterans should have the best care and opportunities in the world” (unless that would require at least the restoration of funds to the VA that consecutive Repub. Congresses have cut out of their budgets as demands for service have increased)
  • “Social programs should help lift people out of poverty” (except when they are members of the very useful — for the capitalist class — permanent army of the unemployed); and “America should be energy independent” (except when it comes to solar, wind, and other renewable sources of energy).

My-oh-my, what a target the Repubs. give us.  It is redolent with the smell of oh-so-easy political pickings.  But ah, is there a Democrat out there who can pick at those pickings and who has the nerve to do so?  Aye.  There’s the rub.  Where is Thomas Cromwell when we need him?


 
The Iran Deal: Who is Against it, for it, Why, and What Happens if it’s Killed by Steve Jonas
April 8, 2015

Ah yes, “the Iran Deal,” which isn’t actually a deal yet, but rather an apparently very detailed framework for one.  David Stockman of all people (remember him: one of Reagan’s hatchet men who himself eventually got “taken to the woodshed” in Reagan’s quaint terminology --- now a man of rather changed politics) has provided one of the more lucid and detailed descriptions of the “framework” that I have seen.  He also explains why the deal is nothing like “Munich” (which was actually not about “appeasement” at all but rather an attempt by the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain to keep Hitler pointed East at you-know-who).  If the objective is to prevent Iran from “getting the bomb,” at least for quite some time, it would seem to have a pretty good chance of doing that.

Now we all know who the opponents are.  The GOP/Likud Alliance lined up very clearly towards the end of the negotiations, highlighted by the “47 Senators Letter” and the “Netanyahu speech” to Congress.  It is clear that this alliance wants no deal, ever, because so far they have not been able to come up with a “better deal.”  The GOP end of it has yet to come up with any proposal for anything “better,” while the Likud end of it put an end to be taken seriously about finding one when Netanyahu insisted that any deal on limiting Iran’s nuclear capabilities had to include an explicit recognition of Israel “as a Jewish state.”  

So why don’t they want a deal?  One prominent Republican, former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s Deputy, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, thinks that they actually want to go to war.   I doubt that.  As I have said elsewhere, I think that there are three primary reasons on the Likud side: doing nothing that would diminish the role of Israel’s military-complex in Israel’s economy, doing nothing to diminish the maintenance-of-fear level in Israel on which Likud’s political dominance is so dependent, and trying to help elect a GOP President in 2016 following on the very open and clear failure to do so in 2012.  The GOP shares with Likud the dependence on the military-industrial complex as a major reason for its existence.  Further, as is well known some of its elements reach a high level of hysteria in their attempts to discredit anything that has President Obama’s name for it.

But perhaps the primary reason that both are against it, at least at their more “intellectual” levels, is that they can readily see what a deal would do in terms of the balance of power in the Middle East, and indeed to a certain extent around the world.  First of all, it would show the power of diplomacy to achieve major goals, as among conflicting nations.  Bad example for the military-industrial complexes.  Second of all, the lifting of sanctions would not only strengthen Iran’s economy internally, but would also provide major opportunities for foreign investment, which would further help Iran and also further diminish the possibility of the deal falling apart down the road (see Asa Fitch and Nicolas Parasie, Wall Street Journal [of all places], “In Iran, Western Companies See a Possible New Market,” 4/7/2015).  

The other “againsts” may or may not be the autocratic Arab nations led by Saudi Arabia.  On the one hand, the Saudis made some fairly loud noises against the deal before it was announced, but then afterwards they seemed to adopt more of a wait-and-see attitude.   There is the concern that the deal might kick off a war, or at least more intense conflict, “between the two blocs”.  (The “two blocs,” by the way, are not strictly Sunnis on one side and Shia on the other.  If you want to get some idea of how complicated this whole situation is, read the just-cited article.)  There are certainly elements on the U.S. side which, some observers think, are intent on creating just such an ongoing conflict in the Middle East, designed to create a “divide-and-rule” opportunity.  “No deal,” with a general increase in antagonisms, would help grease the skids in this direction.  On the other hand, according to the Wall Street Journal article cited above, Dubai, an Arab autocracy, is taking something of the lead in setting up foreign investment opportunities in Iran.  

But, if the US military-industrial complex can pull together a GOP/Democratic coalition in the Senate to over-ride an expected Presidential veto of any bill designed to kill the deal, and it then falls apart, then what?  Well, first of all, it remains to be seen what “falls apart” means.  There are five other nations aside from Iran that are party to these negotiations: Great Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia.  There is every chance that Iran could come to an agreement with them on its nuclear program in return for their dropping their sanctions and re-establishing trade.  This is especially so if it is true that their program is indeed primarily designed to develop and implement a major nuclear energy for their nation.  They do have plenty of oil, but unlike certain other countries that shall remain nameless they know very well that eventually oil runs out.  That would leave the US totally out in the cold, especially in terms of Iranian trade and investment.  

Furthermore, Russia and China alone, without the Western European powers, could say “OK, we will supply you banking services and investment.”  Given the frail nature of the Russian economy, suffering from the Western sanctions on it, that would come more from China.  It just happens that the latter has just started its Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, as an intended rival to the US-led World Bank and International Monetary Fund and has signed up the major US allies, Great Britain, Germany and Australia.  

And so, while they seem to be completely unaware of this reality, the GOP/Likud Alliance does have a lot to lose here, whether or not there is a deal that the U.S. is party to.  (There is also the chance that Iran would say “OK, you don’t want to make a deal?  Well in that case, we will go for the bomb”.  But that would play right into the hands of the GOP/Likud Alliance, and might, horribly, bring Col. Wilkerson’s estimation of what they are really after to pass.)  Thus, it would appear that Iran may well accept what would appear to be half-a-loaf: a deal with the Five other than the U.S., splintering a major part of the Western alliance which, in the case of the Ukraine sanctions is showing some signs of wear anyway.    In that case, one would be wondering what Sens. Cotton, McCain, and Graham, and Prime Minister Netanyahu would be screaming about next, to an audience paying less and less attention to them.


Post Script:  Sposin’ that the original CIA report on Iran, that they had no nuclear bomb program, was correct.  That of course would mean that the original Bush/Cheney sanctions program was not aimed at a known-to-be-non-existent “nuclear bomb program.”  Rather that charge was used as an excuse to attempt to achieve “regime change,” to restore a government in Iran that would be compatible with US-led capitalist imperialism.  That would also mean that the results of the current UN/I.A.E.A. inspections program, carried out under the terms of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty to which Iran is a party, which has never shown any evidence of a nuclear bomb program, were/are valid.  That would mean further that Iran has never had anything real to negotiate with the US-led “5-plus-1” Group in return for the lifting of the sanctions. Which would further mean that Iran has been leading the Group on all along, trading an inspections program of nothing in return for a very real something: the lifting of economic sanctions, without having to undergo “regime change.”  It is not for nothing that the history of Persia boasts one of the earliest great empires in human history.

 
Indiana, Religious Liberty, and Religious War by Steve Jonas
April 2, 2015


So the Indiana Legislature passed and the Governor signed a law that, claims to the contrary notwithstanding, as Frank Rich and many others have noted, surely seemed intended to permit persons operating public accommodations and publicly licensed and/or per-mitted businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ persons, based on their sexual orientation.  Certainly the list of organizations which sponsored the legislation in Indiana (and have done so in many other states) have not been shy about saying that that’s what it is all about.  Those organizations include the American Family (sic) Association (state and national), “Advance America,”  the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the Heritage Institute, and the Family (sic) Research Council. 

Of course, one wonders just how Indiana businesses which want to discriminate against LGBTQ persons would pick out the discriminatees.  Since most LGBTQ persons look just like everyone else, would there be a law in Indiana requiring the known among them to line up to receive, let us say, a Pink Triangle?  Now it is true that that was the insignia the Nazis used to identify homosexuals, starting just after they took power in 1933, two years before they came up with the Yellow Star of David to identify the Jews.  So there might a problem in that.  Perhaps someone in one of the organizations listed above could give it some thought and come up with a better one.

One does have to admit that the wording of the law is a bit dense and can be confusing.  So despite the fact that it was: the Republican Right in the Indiana State legislature that made sure that the law went through with language specifically “protecting” potential discriminators who claimed a “religious exemption” from any government action against them; that the above list of known homophobic organizations had lined up behind passage of the law; and that several of their leaders had physically lined up behind Indiana’s Governor Pence when he signed it; with a straight face the Governor said over-and-over again (at least until the economic pressure began to build) that the law did nothing of the sort, and did not need to be “fixed.” 

The national reaction to the law was very gratifyingly swift and overwhelmingly negative, from organizations like the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) which is headquartered in Indianapolis, to businesses like Yelp and Apple, to associations like the Indiana Chamber of Commerce [!].  After first saying that no changes were needed, by Tuesday, March 31, Gov. Pence was calling for a clarification that apparently would prohibit using the law to discriminate against members of the LGBTQ community.

By the time this column appears such legislation may well have passed, or it may not.  If it does, the political fallout would be severe for Pence (who apparently has been “thinking about” running for President [more than likely Vice-President]) and every Republican legislator who would vote for the roll-back.  Certainly all the homophobic organizations listed above would be very unhappy with such an outcome as would individual homophobic business owners.  Not only Ted Cruz but that supposed “centrist” Republican Presidential candidate JEB somebody-or-other came out over the past weekend in full support of the law (and subsequently apparently took some version of opposition).  Then all of the other GOP hopefuls, including that so-called “libertarian,” named after some Jewish atheist, who happens to support the very contra-liberty “an embryo is a person” Constitutional amendment.  Presumably they would not be unhappy vis-a-vis Pence, because a potential rival (or petitioner for the Vice-Presidential slot) would have removed himself from consideration.  But any number of Repub. state legislators would be “primaried” right out of the State House because they “groveled to the gays and the media.”

In principle, Republicans all over the country just love this sort of legislation.  That is why they have passed do many versions of it.  Pull-backs occur only when business interests, often Repub.-oriented business interests, realize what can happen and happen very quickly.

But that doesn’t stop Repub. politicians, and the homophobic organizations to whom they are so beholden, from going to the next venue (like Arkansas where they were running into the Walmart buzz saw, believe it or not) to try to get it done.  These laws of course patently discriminate against classes of people based upon who they are, by nature.  Outrage is most appropriate.  The actions taken by businesses and organizations against such laws is most appropriate.

But there is an additional very important point here.  This is a matter that goes beyond just discrimination against certain individuals by other individuals.  This is not simply a matter of a person saying “my religious belief is that LGBTQ people are sinful [or whatever] and on that basis I will not serve them,” and it’s OK to let them discriminate in the public square.

Above that, in the realm of government and governance, is the very important matter of putting one set of religious beliefs above another. 

There are plenty of LGBTQ people who themselves are religious.  While the homophobic religious types think that homosexuality and gay marriage are sins, obviously the religious homosexual folks don’t.   They attend church or synagogue or mosque on a regular basis. 

They are married in places of worship across the nation all the time.  There are numerous gay clergy, who may themselves be married.  But the Indiana civil government has said to the homophobes, your religion is better, is more highly valued, than theirs, and we will use the power of the state to protect and indeed promote your religious belief, as against theirs.

At the same time, every business has one or more permits, licenses, certificates of occupancy, and etc. granted to them under civil law.  They pay taxes, under civil law.  They operate under a whole series of regulations established by civil law.  They receive benefits, like paved streets, sanitary sewage disposal and pure water supply, under civil law.  Thus by definition they fall under the requirements of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution.  To permit one person or business to claim exemption from having to abide by the protections of the 14th Amendment based on their religious belief, as against another’s religious belief, places the discriminator’s religious belief on a higher level, gives it more value, than the religious belief of the person discriminated against. 

That’s fine, within the confines of one’s own home, one’s own church, one’s own media sources and outlets.  But it is not fine in the public sector which is controlled by civil, not religious, law.  Religious wars between Catholics and Protestants embroiled Europe for a century and a half from the time Martin Luther may or may not in 1517 have actually nailed his 95 Theses on the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg.  Although there were matters of political economy underlying all such wars, on the surface they were very much “religious” in nature.  They did not indeed end until the religious war to end all religious wars, the Thirty Years War, which began in 1618, in fact ended in 1648 as very much a war of political economy, right on the surface.

What Republican state legislatures are doing now would establish one religion as supreme over all of the others, with the power of the State to determine which is which.  Above and beyond discrimination against one or more targeted groups of individuals, this is a recipe for a Second Civil War, not only about race, but now about religion.  The central issues of the First U.S. Civil War to this day remain unresolved.  Then there is the over-riding issue of U.S. economic disparity and the ever-greater concentration of wealth, income and power, in the hands of an ever smaller number of people.  Are we now to have Republican state-sponsored religious supremacy/determinism added to the mix?   Is this not the recipe for a Second Civil War?
 
Ted Cruz, Meet Jefferson Davis Hague by Steve Jonas
March 26, 2015

In 1996 I published a book which in its third release (2013) is entitled The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S., 1981-2022.  The style is what I call “fictional non-fiction,” for it is a fictional history of the United States from the time of the election of Ronald Regan as President to the year 2022, written in the style of a history book and supposedly published in 2048 on the 25th anniversary of the restoration of Constitutional Democracy in the United States.  In 2022, with the help of an International Intervention, the Movement for the Restoration of Constitutional Democracy completes the overthrow of the race-based, quadripartite “New American Republics.”  They had been established by the successors to the current Republican Party, first “The Republican-Christian Alliance” and then “The American Christian Nation Party.”

The primary fictional character in the book is a Republican President, first of the United States, then of the New American Republics, named Jefferson Davis Hague.  He is the second son of a truck driver who emblazons the radiator grill of his semi- with an image of the Confederate battle flag, who named his first son Nathan Bedford Hague, after the founder of the Ku Klux Klan.  Summarizing very briefly, Hague, is a relatively young member of the House of Representatives from the first “Gingrich Class” of right-wing Republicans, elected in 1994.  He wins the Presidency the first time around in 2004 (remember, please that this book was written in 1994-95 and first published, under a slightly different title, in 1996.)  

Hague won the Presidency on a platform of “ending welfare, cutting taxes, emasculating ‘government regulation,’ especially of the environment and for consumer protection, criminalizing abortion, banning ‘sodomy’ [gay marriage was hardly an issue when the book was written], and establishing ‘the centrality of God in America’ ’’ (a phrase in the book actually taken from a fund-raising letter circulated by Newt Gingrich in the summer of 1995).  And Hague was able to win the Presidency on a platform like that because his Democratic Party opponent was an old-fashioned Bill Clinton-like, Democratic Leadership Council type, center-right, “let’s-all-work-together-to-find-the-middle-ground,” Democrat. He had no stomach for fighting the kind of no-holds-barred fight that would have been necessary to defeat Hague.  And so, with massive turnout, especially of the Christian Right, Hague won easily.

All of Hague’s positions were drawn from real Republican/Religious Right speeches, legislative proposals, platform planks, and etc. from the 1980s and 90s.  So the writing in the book is not prescient, just observant.  But does this all of it possibly sound familiar now?  Well, it should, because it was all there front-and-center in the Presidential-candidacy announcement speech of Ted Cruz on July 23, 2015.  In fact it was eerily familiar, and in my view has to be taken very seriously.   As a commentator on NPR on March 23 noted, most candidates announce their candidacy on home grounds, often from a favorite place in their states.  Picking another location can be considered very symbolic.  For example, Ronald Reagan announced his 1980 candidacy at Philadelphia, MS, where the three civil rights workers had been murdered in the Freedom Summer of 1964.  And he made it clear that he was not there to memorialize them.

Cruz chose to announce his candidacy at the late Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, which was during Reagan’s time and still is a hot-bed of Republican-Christian Rightism.  As noted, his platform sounds very much like Hague’s.  But further, he claimed that “Americans’ liberties” are granted by “God,” and that that wording is found in the Constitution.  In fact, neither the word “God” nor the word “Christian” is to be found anywhere in the Constitution.  Cruz was in fact referencing the Declaration of Independence (which while a great document is not part of the Constitution), misquoting it by claiming that the famous phrase about “inalienable rights” were said to “be endowed” by God.  Actually, this is mistake, intentional or not, the the Repubs. are making over-and-over again, with increasing frequency. The writers of the Declaration, who could certainly have chosen the word “God,” chose instead the word Creator.  It happens that I, a non-theistic Reasonist, am entirely comfortable with that word, for for me our Creators are the immutable laws of chemistry, physics, and biology.  

Cruz’ concept of “God” is at the very center of his thinking.  I do believe that, unlike my character, J.D. Hague, who just used “the preachers” as he called them, to gain power, Cruz really believes this stuff, which makes him even more dangerous.  A right-wing columnist said that talking privately with Ted Cruz was like listening to a set of stump speeches.    
Although he is now regarded as a long shot], his shot may not be so long, especially because right at the beginning of his speech he talked about getting a very strong ground game going.  He will not only be able to call upon the Christian Right (and “Evangelicals” is a polite misnomer: there are plenty of non-Republican, non-political evangelicals.)  Of course he will also be able to call upon the Tea Party activists of the type who propelled him to the Senate in Texas.

So Ted Cruz is a real threat.  And if he gets the Repub. nomination he is not going to be defeated by arguing about what the Constitution doesn’t say about “God” and “Christianity.”  Nor is he going to be defeated by talking simply about women’s rights and gay rights, just in the context of those rights, per se, which certainly exist under any reading of the Constitution besides that of Cruz and his ilk, as found in Article VI and the First, Ninth, and 14th Amendments.  The attack has to go on to Cruz’ own ground, that which he claims as “religious liberty.”  For example, how ironic it was that when Cruz resolved to restore “American liberties” he also vowed that under his Presidency the right of women to determine the outcome of pregnancy and to determine, according to her own religious beliefs (or non-religious beliefs for the Reasonists among us) when a fetus becomes a “baby” whilst still in her womb, let’s say at the time of viability as in Roe v. Wade, would be criminalized.  

Indeed, these are issues of religious liberty, for ALL people, not just for those who claim a particular association with “Christ,” as they conceive of him, and the “inerrant word of God,” as set forth in the King James version of the Bible, which happens to be an early 17th century translation put together by a team of 48 theologians and academicians.

There are plenty of women who choose to have abortions who are religious, just as there are plenty of LGBT people who are.  The height of religious oppression is for a legal system to place one set of religious beliefs above all the others, and then go on to criminalize everyone else’s.  This is where the stand must be taken.  This is where the battle must be won.  There is no “middle ground” on these issues and any candidate who claims otherwise will lose, for themselves and for us too.  This is an issue to which I shall return on a regular basis throughout the upcoming Presidential campaign.  Whether or not the Repub. candidate is Ted Cruz, that party is going to use the false claim of “religious repression” to justify religious repression.  And they must be stopped.  Or the rest of the predictions made in “The 15% Solution” will come true.



Postscript

Three days after I originally wrote this column an article with the following headline appeared on p. 1 of The New York Times: “Conservatives Are Looking to Unite Behind Alternative to Bush.”  What are the issues they most care about?  Two of the top three are banning same-sex marriage and rolling back abortion rights.  (The third is stopping immigration from Latin America.)  With his speech, which focused like a laser-beam on those three issues, Ted Cruz would seem to have placed himself right at the head of line for the support of the Christian Right.  As I have said elsewhere, “Ted Cruz, meet Jefferson Davis Hague.”  And that ain’t no joke.









 
Likud, the Repubs., and their Respective Class Interests by Steve Jonas
Mar. 19, 2015

As is well-known, apparently coming from behind, in Israeli terms from way behind, “Bibi” Netanyahu has won another term as Prime Minister.  How did he do this?  By being honest.  Although he has in the past said that he was in favor of the “Two-State Solution” in principle, as is again well-known, at the end of the election campaign, he said that as long as he is Prime Minister there will be no Palestinian state, on any terms.  While this clearly has been his position for quite some time, this was the first time he said it in public.  Then, again as is well-known, he came out with his racist statements regarding Arab-Israeli citizen voters and voting.  This had all been proceeded in the final two weeks leading up to the election by a massive scare campaign, about “the Palestinians” and about “Iranian nukes.”

Although he had been running behind in the polls, these tactics obviously worked.  In so doing, Netanyahu stitched together an electoral coalition that itself had been previously somewhat fragmented, but in this case now highlights the strains and internecine struggles over sharply competing differences on policy and needs that has underlain Israeli society for quite some time.  Not taking into account the Arab-Israeli citizens, among Jewish Israelis there are now two clear rival groupings.  

Netanyahu’s base is made of up the Sephardim (mainly Jews who came from Arab lands after the State of Israel was established in 1948, distantly descended from the Jews who were expelled from Spain in 1492), the (largely secular) Russian Jews who came starting in the 1970s as the Soviet Union opened up for emigration, the far-right-wing Settlers, who have many U.S. Jews among them, and the far-rightists among the Orthodox Jews.  Formerly, Netanyahu had to pull various small parties representing one or another of these groups (and sub-groups among them) into a coalition.  Now he has many of them directly behind him.  The opposing group, now represented by the “Zionist Union” (made up of the old Labor Party and the “left” wing of Netanyahu’s party), consists primarily of what are known in Israel as the “WASPs.”  Yes, folks, only in Israel could you find Jewish Wasps: white, Ashkenazi, sabra, for peace.

Much has already been written about the election, the tactics Netanyahu used (including his controversial address to Congress which may have actually hurt him, at least for a time, in Israel), what future relations between the U.S. and Israel will be for as long as Barack Obama is President, how Netanyahu might “walk back” some of his statements and proposed policies, and etc.  First, let us note that although it has been on the back-burner through a whole series of right-wing governments in Israel, the stirring words of the Israeli Declaration of Independence (Israel has no constitution) on what was to be the multi-cultural nature of the State have clearly been abandoned:

“The State of Israel will be: open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants;
it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel;
 it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”

But central to the understanding of what is going in Israel is understanding what are the class interests that are being represented there.   In a very important column, Paul Krugman has summed up what the current structure of Israeli society is.  Straying far from its original roots with a major emphasis on Zionist socialism, Israel has become a nation that economically mimics the United States in many ways.  There is an increasing disparity in income and wealth and its economy is increasingly dominated by a military-industrial complex.  Ownership is so concentrated that, Krugman tells us, “According to the Bank of Israel, roughly 20 families control companies that account for half the total value of Israel’s stock market.”  As in the United States, income and wealth inequality and a military-industrial complex go together.

This is precisely why Netanyahu’s party, Likud, and the Repubs. are so closely linked.  So closely linked in fact that it was the current Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., one Ron Dermer, who arranged for Netanyahu’s speech to the U.S. Congress, without consulting with the White House.  That Mr. Dermer, a former (and perhaps still) U.S. citizen is also a former “Republican operative” should come as no surprise.  And as I have pointed out previously, one of the primary interests of the Repubs. is the maintenance, of the military-industrial complex.  (Note that in their current budget proposal, designed to “eliminate the deficit and start reducing the national debt” without raising taxes [which could easily accomplish both ends], military expenditures are exempted from any “balancing” steps.) And so in both countries we have the focus of the Rightists on the big, bad Persian (Iranian) leopard (the national animal of Iran).  

(Apparently some folks regard the Persian cat as the national animal of Iran, but as a long-time cat staffer who once had a half-Persian puss, they are not really very scary.  “Cat staffer,” you might ask?  Well yes.  You know the difference between dogs and cats, don’t you?  Dogs have owners; cats have staff.  And believe it or not, just as I was writing this, my beautiful Tabby, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, “Lenny” for short, came walking into my study looking for a pat from his staff.  By the way, Lenin himself was a great cat lover.)

So the class interests of Likud and the Repubs. are very much the same.  As he did in 2012, when Netanyahu gambled his U.S. relationship with the hope that Mitt Romney would win the Presidency (and lost), he has now doubled down on alienating the current U.S. administration in the hopes that the Repubs., representing the same class interests in the U.S. that he represents in Israel, will finally win the White House again in 2016.  If he is wrong, Israel could be in for a very difficult time in the international arena indeed.







 
The Exceptional Rudy Giuliani by Steve Jonas
March 18, 2015

Several weeks ago, on the occasion of his “Obama doesn’t love America” outburst, I was about to write a column on Rudy Giuliani. 
 
The Role of Chance in Hillary Clinton’s Presidential Prospects by Steve Jonas
March 4, 2015


On the morning of June 18, 1815, it rained in what would become, in 1830, Belgium. A chance event. Napoleon Bonaparte, triumphant in his "100 Days," felt that he had to wait for the ground to dry before launching his main assault against the Duke of Wellington's men. Had that not happened, Napoleon might well have achieved his aim of destroying the British force before they could get organized and before their main supporting Prussian force could arrive later in the day. Thus, the outcome of the battle that has been famous since that day might have been such that it would have been more of a footnote to the history of Napoleon's re-establishment of his Imperium than the metaphor for his final defeat. But it did rain. 



On July 18, 1969, Mary Jo Kopechne was attending a party that Sen. Edward M. Kennedy was giving on Chappaquiddick Island, MA, just off Martha's Vineyard.  It was for the "boiler room girls," veterans of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy's 1968 Presidential Campaign staff. The official story is different, but what really happened, according to an eyewitness whose name must of course remain confidential (and apparently will forever) is as follows. Rather intoxicated, Ms. Kopechne left the party, went to Sen. Kennedy's car, curled up in the back seat and went to sleep. Later, Sen. Kennedy, rather inebriated himself, left the party with another young lady (destination unknown), made that famous wrong turn and drove off the bridge. Neither he nor his passenger were aware of the presence of the sleeping Ms. Kopechne. If they had been, they presumably would have pulled her out of the car when it went into the water. Like "Waterloo," if it had not rained, and/or if Sen. Kennedy had been aware that Ms. Kopechne was in the back seat, "Chappaquiddick" would simply have become some long-forgotten footnote to history. 



On June 18, 1972, as I usually do to this day, I scanned the front page of The New York Times. I noticed a secondary lead about a break-in that had occurred at the Democratic National Committee offices in the Watergate complex in Washington, DC. I had known of Richard Nixon and his political thuggery since he ran his first red-baiting campaign for Congress against the totally unsuspecting, mild-mannered, five-term Representative Jerry Voorhees in Southern California. "Nixon's behind this," I said to myself. 



Well, yes. But the word "Watergate" never would have entered the vocabulary nor would its third syllable have been applied to so many scandals since that time, if by chance, a security guard had not noticed tape applied to several door locks in the complex. Frank Willis simply removed the tape and took no further notice, the first time around. But then retracing his steps about an hour later, he noticed that the locks had been re-taped. At the point he called the police. Some months later, once James McCord sent his letter to Judge John Sirica in the spring of 1973, the unraveling began. Had Frank Willis not noticed the tape, twice, or had G. Gordon Liddy's and E. Howard Hunt's grounds men not been such incompetent burglars, Nixon would have finished his term and the word "Watergate" would simply have referred forever to that particular building complex. But chance did play the role it did. 



So why am I telling, re-telling these stories? Because all of a sudden, a chance event might come around to derail Hillary Rodham Clinton’s up-to-now apparently free ride to the Democratic Presidential nomination.  And if the Republicans nominate anyone other than JEB Bush, even with their massive voter-suppression drive they will be rolling out for 2106, she would have had a fairly free ride to the Presidency.  But then chance plays a role in history again.  Hillary, apparently without giving it too much thought, decides to follow the Colin Powell example and not set up a .gov email account at State.  That’s a chance occurrence, a flip of the coin.  Hillary’s sense of entitlement probably had a role to play on the decision, but if she had given it any serious thought at all, she most likely would not have gone in that direction.

This was not a chance occurrence in the sense that rain at the town of Waterloo in 1815 was.  But given the apparently off-hand way that she made the decision makes it “chance-i-full” (if I may be given the privilege of making up a word).  If she had given it any serious thought at all, and consulted with either a State Department attorney or one of her own, it is hardly likely that she would have gone in that direction.  (That she is also an attorney is true, and perhaps she consulted only herself.  But there is that old saying, “the lawyer who represents oneself has a fool for a client).  And so, perhaps being so busy that she did not want to go through the fuss and bother of setting up a .gov account, she went he own way.

In my view, her candidacy is already derailed.  It really doesn’t matter what the legalities are.  (And it is just wonderful to see David Brock of Media Matters jumping to her defense with an apparently correct legal defense.  After all, Mr. Brock was the leader of the offense against the Clintons all through the 1990s.  I do have to say on most issues, especially those dealing with the Propaganda Channel, Media Matters under his leadership does a great job.)  The Repubs. have never cared about legalities when dealing with opponents, especially those they hate viscerally and just want to destroy, and HRC certainly falls into that category. 

Exhibit One?  Just what they have done with “Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi,” despite seven (?) investigations, including one from the GOP-controlled House Foreign Affairs Committee that showed that there was no way the killing could have been prevented (except for Stevens and his men not to have been there) and no White House/State Dept. cover-up of what happened.  As for what really happened, neither side is talking about that one.

And so, the Clinton team will be arguing legalities, and to the-contrary-notwithstanding her Repub./Rightist-talk-show opponents will wipe the floor with, “She broke the law. She’s hiding things. She’s a security risk. She’s a typical always-a-Clinton scandal [despite the fact that the only real one was Monica Lewinsky]” and so on an so forth.  She may want to try to struggle through this.  She may want to hope that it will just go away.  But her enemies will make sure that it doesn’t.  Just like “Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi” the Repubs. and the Rightist talk show world will absolutely not let go of it, whatever the legalities and the finer points of what The New York Times included in its articles are.  For 2016, she’s toast and the sooner she realizes it and gets out of the race, the better it will be for both the Democratic Party and the nation.

 
Why the Attack on Tenure? by Steve Jonas
February 17, 2015

Tenure for K-12 teachers has been under attack from the Right for a long time. In many states, like Virginia, it does not exist. But now a new attack is being mounted by an ex-news anchor named Campbell Brown. Brown claims that THE cause of bad education in bad schools is bad teachers. And then she goes on to claim that THE solution to getting rid of bad teachers is to end tenure. Of course, the substitute for no tenure would presumably mean no protections of any kind for teachers, against arbitrary firings. They could be done by whomever would then be in charge of the firings. However, details on the latter do not seem to be on Brown's agenda for description.

But critics of the Brown type, and the Joe Klein type, don't often get into the programs that they propose to substitute for the programs they wish to eliminate (like the Repubs. on Obamacare, but that's another matter.) Joe Klein, you may remember, is the businessman that Mayor Mike Bloomberg of New York City first put in charge of the city schools. He did prove one thing: someone with no background in education other than his own is unlikely to be able to effectively lead the nations' largest school system (and one of the worlds largest, to boot).

The main argument here is that indeed there are bad teachers in every school system whether they have tenure protections or not. Of course there are bad news anchors who cannot hold a job and there are businessmen who cannot effectively run a school system, but that's another matter too. Not that there are that many bad teachers, possibly up to 5 percent. But, and this is the big BUT, getting rid of tenure would in no way ensure that bad teachers would be gotten rid of.

If there were fewer bad teachers and even more good ones (95% ain't bad, although doctors and lawyers do better; only somewhere around 1 in 57 doctors and 1 in 97 lawyers lose their licenses at some point during their careers), U.S. education would likely be marginally better than it is. One wonders if, once tenure were to be gone, Ms. Brown and Mr. Klein would be running around the country speaking and writing books about arbitrary firings by principals, school boards, politicians, and what have you, with possibly no effect on the overall quality of teachers. That is because, of course, there is no guarantee that the new teacher-firing system would do any better than the present one.

Yes, the tenure protection system could be significantly improved. But it must be recalled that what can be complex procedures for removing under-performing teachers were put in place, not by the teachers’ unions alone, but by the collectively bargained negotiations between the unions and the employer local school boards and governments.  The latter were often happy to provide for rather byzantine removal processes in exchange for concessions on wages, working conditions, and pensions.  At the same time, the more progressive unions, like the United Federation of Teachers in New York City, have made proposals to make them less byzantine, without getting rid of tenure protections. But, as noted, getting rid of tenure would be no guarantee to getting rid of bad teachers. In fact, depending upon how one defines "bad," there might be more of them in non-tenure systems than in systems with tenure. Randy Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, has pointed out "that the states with the best protections for teachers also have the best academic performance."

So why, really, the attack on tenure? First of all, somehow there always (or, OK, almost always) seems to be an association with the anti-tenure folks and the charter school folks. In most states (but not all, Maryland is one exception) teachers in charter schools do not have union protections. So there would seem to be an association between destroying tenure and destroying the teachers' unions. Doing so would remove one of the last remaining redoubts of trade unionism that has been under the assault of the US ruling class since the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947. Trade union membership in this country has never been very high, reaching a peak of about 35% right after World War II. By 2013 it had declined to about 11% and it continues to decline. But it is the public employee sector that still has the highest percentage of union membership and that's the one the Kochs and like-minded members of the ruling class are going after.

Further, as profit opportunities for US capital in the US continue to decline (collateralized mortgage obligations/derivatives, anyone?) it is looking sheep's-eyes at the education system. Could it be a coincidence that many Wall-Streeters are on the side of destroying the unions to get at public education and replace it with for-profit charter schools? At the same time, polls show that tenure protection is so important to teachers who have it, that their salaries would have to be increased by up to half were it to be taken away (Richard Kahlenberg, Carnegie Foundation). Of course that wouldn't happen, so what kinds of teachers do you think would be working for less?

The ultimate tragedy for parents of children receiving poor education in their schools who have become Brown followers is that they have been tricked into thinking that getting rid of tenure to "get rid of bad teachers" (which it might very well not do anyway) is going to solve the problem of bad schools. That is when the additional major causes range from class size, to antiquated buildings, to the lack of basic supplies, equipment, and library books) to, in order to save money, the mainstreaming of children who really require special help and in regular classes become regularly disruptive, to not enough teachers (at the height of the Bush Great Recession and the same decline in the local and state tax revenues that support public education, 700,000 teachers had lost their jobs). But these are tough targets so Brown and Klein target the easy one. What was that about sitting in an Ivory Tower?






 
The Tragedy of “American Sniper" by Steve Jonas
February 10, 2015

First let me say, dear reader that this is a political commentary, not a movie review.  If you are looking for the latter, please be so kind as to look elsewhere.  And now to the matter at hand.

American Sniper has stirred up the Right (see Fox News, etc.), and it has stirred up the Left. The Right sees the movie as one about a “patriotic American,” “doing his duty to protect our country and the freedoms it stands for.” The Right sees any critic of the film, as a commie, as a traitor, as “un-American,” if not “un-Christian” (for after all, sniper Chris Kyle was fighting the Muslims, wasn’t he?) The Left, and of course I include myself in that group, see the movie in much more complex, much starker terms.

First, referring to the standard Right-wing propaganda lines, oddly enough Kyle didn’t see himself as “fighting to protect the American way of life” at all. Rather, when asked a direct question on a Fox News show, he said that he did what he did in order to protect his buddies. Then, there is the well-discussed historical fallacy that the Iraq War had anything to do with 9/11. There was an old canard, widely splashed about by The York Times’ widely forgotten (yes, I had to look him up) Nixon-flack William Safire.  It held that a representative of Saddam Hussein’s government went to Prague, Czech Republic, to meet with a representative from al Qaeda.  That trip of course meant that they were hooking up to plan dirty deeds. 

The story has long since been disposed of as false, most recently by no less an authority than Sen. Carl Levin, recent chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Do you really think that a secular Hussein, already facing strong threats from the United States, would have formed an alliance with a religiously-based terror organization that had originally been formed in Afghanistan by the same United States? The historical distortions are a minor tragedy, but a tragedy nevertheless.  As is very well known, the war was sold to the U.S. public on the basis of the lie told by Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Powell/Blair that there were Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq.  Furthermore, the aforementioned knew that they were lying because the very intensive investigation by the chief UN weapons inspector, Hans Blix, unrestricted by his own account, had turned up nothing.

Second, there are the questions that have been raised about the movie’s definition of heroism. There was a great 2001 film about the Battle of Stalingrad (one of very few US films about the Soviet role in winning World War II) called Enemy at the Gates. The hero is a Red Army sniper. The villain is a Wehrmacht sniper. But hero/villain depends very much whose side he is on. Too many U.S., Kyle was a hero, but a sniper on the other side would be a wicked villain, killing people with abandon.

Third, and much more importantly, this film can and should be used to revive the whole argument about the invasion of Iraq, why it was done, what it has cost the U.S. in casualties, money spent, and major disruptions of our society (most of which go unnoticed), and the much, much higher toll of Iraqi dead, injured and refugees. What we are seeing now in terms of the turmoil of the Middle East, which was unleashed by the U.S.-U.K. invasion. This is one of the major tragedies of our era. We need to re-visit the ultimate villains of the piece, the Bush/Cheney alliance and the people who worked for them. We need to revisit how the Bush/Cheney drive to create permanent war, which was much more important to them than the drive for oil and bases, has put our nation into the perilous state in which it finds itself, and use the film to help us do that.

Fourth, another tragedy was of course that while Kyle was an operative, he was also a victim. He suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (who wouldn’t, having gone through what he went through, under orders) as did the vet who eventually murdered him. A majority of the vets of Iraq/Afghanistan suffer from some degree of diagnosed or undiagnosed PTSD. The suicide rate among them is remarkable, about 22 per day.

Fifth, we should be saying to the Right, “what are you so excited about?” Despite the killing of service members like Kyle, the Middle East is a mess and the U.S. is in the middle of it. It is the ultimate tragedy of the U.S. War on Iraq.  Should we really listen to the McCains and the Grahams who, though they won’t say it out loud, really think that the solution is “put more boots on the ground?” After all, before the 2008 elections, and after Bush was forced by the Iraqi government into negotiating the eventual U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, McCain was saying that the U.S. should stay there “for a hundred years.”

If the U.S. should be “strong,” should be “tough,” just what is it that you on the Right have in mind, other than slogans? Where is the money going to come from? The costs of the Afghan and Iraq wars so far have been estimated at up to $6 thousand billion (that’s $6 trillion). 

How are you going to convince the majority of U.S. people that it is in the U.S. national interest to go to war on the ground in the Middle East once again? And how many more Kyles and their murderers at home, how many more tragedies, do you want to create? How many more people do you want to glorify for killing people from a safe, secure perch?

Finally, is it not a tragedy that a movie designed to make certain U.S. people feel good about the War on Iraq, based on the false idea that it was in response to 9/11 and that, as Kyle was recorded as saying in the movie, the Iraqis are “savages,” has become the best-selling war movie of all time.  Another victory for Cheney/Bush and their War to End All Peace.



 
The Tragedy of “Selma” by Steve Jonas
January 29, 2015


The “Tragedy of Selma?” you might ask.  Wasn’t it a triumph for the civil rights movement?  Did it not lead to further advances in that struggle?  And if you are referring to the movie, is it not a triumph as well, getting a film that portrays one of the signal struggles of the Movement during the 60s with such searing honesty, no holds barred in dealing with the “Which side are you on?” question, applied to this event?  Well, yes, the Selma March was a triumph for the civil rights movement.  It played a very important role in getting/helping Lyndon Johnson to support what became the Voting Rights Act.  (More on the “role-of-LBJ” controversy later.)  It did lead to further advances in that struggle.  The movie is a triumph as well, a brilliantly staged and acted docu-drama which, among other things, uses the real Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, AL as the setting for the real march that took place across it in 1865. (One has to wonder if the photographer, Peter Pettus, see above, was a relative of Edmund Pettus.)

Ironically enough, the bridge is named for a Confederate Brigadier General, who later, operating out of his law office(!), became the leader of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan in Selma and went on to become a U.S. Senator from Alabama.  This is particularly ironic in the context of the Voting Rights Act and the struggle to enact it.  The Ku Klux Klan was founded very shortly after the end of the First Civil War by an association of ex-Confederate generals, planters, certain Democratic politicians, and other white leadership who wanted to return the civil society in the South as much as possible to what it had been before the First Civil War, with the exception of not having the institution of chattel slavery in place.  (On the Klan, see also pp. 425-44 in Prof. Eric Foner’s magnum opus, Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, Harper and Row, 1988.) 

One of the principal objectives of the Klan, from the earliest days of its founding, was to prevent the newly freed slaves from the exercising the right to vote that had been granted to them by the 14th (1868) and 15th (1870) Amendments to the Constitution.  The language of the latter is particularly instructive: “1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.  2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”  But with the power first of the Klan, with the ever-spreading denial of the vote to African-Americans, and then with the institution over a period of some years of what was called the “Jim Crow” laws by the Democratic Party in the South, African-Americans were indeed systematically denied the right that had being guaranteed to them by the 15th amendment.

Well then, again, why do you say “Tragedy?”  The principal tragedy of Selma is that it did not end the struggle for civil and voting rights for people of color in the United States.  (Why do I say “people of color” rather than African-American?  Because since 1965, with the large influx into the United States of non-Europeans, the practice of discrimination has often been spread to them as well.)   As I pointed out in recent column, except for the literal abolition of chattel slavery, in terms of its central goals, the South essentially won the First Civil War.  It is a tragedy that one of the two major U.S. political parties still runs in part on racism, just as the old Southern Democratic Party did.  The story of how Nixon took the “Southern Strategy” that had been originally invented, but not in a formal way, by Barry Goldwater, and broadly implemented it for the GOP, and how Ronald Reagan cemented it in place need not be re-told here.  It is a tragedy that the virtual-Jim-Crow-of-the-North, established in response to The Great Migration of African-Americans from South to North that began in the early 20th century, in many parts of the country has continued unabated.
Indeed it is a tragedy that the Voting Rights Act for which so many whites and African-Americans had fought so hard for so many years has been recently been gutted by the Republican Supreme Court.  (That is the same Republican Court that may be on its way to gutting the Fair Housing Act as well.)  It is a tragedy that indeed Martin Luther King’s words 50 years ago, about segregation and discrimination, about racism, about the lack of economic justice for non-whites (and now, of course, increasingly for many whites as well) still, as the Southern Poverty Law Center points out, echo down to us to this day.  Dr. King’s vision of a civil rights-labor alliance, which has never been achieved, echo down to us today as well.  It is a tragedy that off-duty black police officers need to fear white cops just as black young men who “don’t look right,” like New York Times columnist Charles Blows’ son at Yale, do.

It is a tragedy that Voter Suppression, aimed at African-Americans and other population groups who tend to vote for Democrats, has become an official policy of the Republican Party, under the guise of “battling voter fraud” (which happens to be virtually non-existent, and even if it weren’t could easily be dealt with by offering free, easy-to-obtain voter ID cards).   It is a tragedy that lynching, a major tool of black-suppression in the Jim Crow South, which was dying out by the time of “Selma,” has returned to this country in the form of white police officers killing black young men at an astounding rate.  These are all tragedies of Selma, the historical event.

Now let us turn briefly to the tragedy of Selma, the movie.  First, of course is the fact that when it came to Academy Award nominations (not the awards themselves), while the movie itself did receive one for Best Picture, the Director, Ava DuVernay, and the lead actor, David Oyelowo, who had received awards and nominations elsewhere, were complete shut out.  
Second, in much of the mainstream media discussion of the issues of the movie and how the primary ones remain with us down to this very day because of the policies and politics of one of our two leading parties, got glossed over.  They were actually submerged, is more like it, by the flap over whether or not the movie and its writers/director gave credit where credit was due to the role of Lyndon Johnson in bringing forth the Voting rights Act and was a fair representation of the relationship between the President and Doctor King.  To me, as my regular readers will know well, this is largely irrelevant.  Where exactly LBJ was in the time-line pales before the fact that he did bring the Voting rights Act forward, that he did send federal troops to defend the Selma marchers against the local police/sheriffs. And that he did stand down the racists J. Edgar Hoover and George Wallace.

The bottom line, which really has been lost, is that the South did win the First Civil War and one of our two major political parties runs on racism (as well as religious authoritarianism and the demonization of various “others”).  These are two of the major issues facing this country just as they were back at the time of Selma.  That is the principal tragedy of the movie.

 
Cuban Human Rights Organization Outraged over Pact with the U.S.? by Steve Jonas
January 7, 2015


Author’s Note:  The “Human Rights Organization of Cuba,” whose “statement” is presented below, is a fictional body.  Of course, the “statement” is itself fictional (except that it is of course, in its content based upon fact).

Following the joint announcement by the offices of the Presidents of Cuba and the United States of the intention to re-establish diplomatic relations and in the meantime ease joint restrictions on travel, cultural exchanges, certain types of commercial relationships, etc., while jointly releasing/exchanging several high-profile prisoners, a wide variety of anti-Cuban US organizations, politicians, and individuals went nuts over that announcement. 

They cited “human rights violations” on the part of the Cuban government (mainly dealing with civil liberties, and the supposed “rights” of those who would violently overthrow the Cuban Revolution) as THE reason why there never should or could be normal relations established between the two countries. 

Sen. Marco Rubio, the son of “persons who fled dictatorship in Cuba” is a prime example of this sort of thinking.  (Somehow, it happens that Sen. Rubio never happens to mention that the Cuban dictatorship they fled was that of the U.S.-supported Fulgencio Batista, and that they “fled” for purely economic reasons. The family saw greener pastures elsewhere. But that is another story.)

Suppose in Cuba there were something like an “ODHC” (the “Human Rights Organization of Cuba”), concerned with human rights violations — in the United States.  And then who knows, if there were such a one, they might issue the following (totally fictional) blistering attack on President Castro for his move towards normalization.  For this space, this is how such a statement would read in English.

“We, the Human Rights Organization of Cuba, are outraged by the recently announced joint decision by our President and President Obama of the United States to move towards a normalization of relations between our two countries.  Of course, one could point out that until the trade embargo imposed by the United States in 1961, put into law by the U.S. Congress in 1992 and then further expanded by President Clinton in 1999, is lifted, there can be no true “normalization.” 

But even before that were to occur, we must take exception to the whole idea of our nation entering into such a series of agreements with the greatest violator of human rights on the face of the Earth.

Ion Antolin Llorente, La Habana (2012).
“It should be noted that Rightists in both major U.S. political parties (which are actually one party with two faces) have criticized President Obama for engaging in this significant change in the relationship between our two nations, based on what they claim is Cuba’s record on human rights.  However, all they can refer to is our nation’s acting to protect itself against both open and covert allies of the United States who would overthrow our Revolution if they could.  We, on the other hand, can point to a long record of human rights violations by the United States, both domestic and foreign, which is second to none, and which have nothing to do with any planned or hoped for attempts to overthrow the U.S. government.  This list is far from complete.  It should be noted that we are here briefly reporting what we regard only as the principal ones.

“1. Perhaps the greatest one is the manner in which the United States, at both the governmental and non-governmental levels, treats its citizens of color — African-Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans are the principal groups here, in segregation, especially in housing, in educational disparities, in employment opportunity, in imprisonment, and of course, in a series of incidents, highlighted recently but representing what the Yankees call “business as usual,” illustrating how their young males are routinely treated by the police.  The originally Southern Doctrine of White Supremacy now covers the nation as a whole.

“2. The extent that one of the two leading political parties can manage it, women are routinely discriminated against in terms of abortion and contraceptive rights, employment opportunities, and equal pay for equal work.

“3. Until very recently, one of the two leading political parties has made discrimination against the lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender (LGBT) community a central plank in their party’s national and state platforms.  Although there have been major changes in the U.S. on these issues in recent years, the Party is still fighting a strong rear-guard action against them.  The Republican Party is still fighting hard to allow discrimination in employment based on “religious beliefs” that tries, without success, to hide the policy’s blatant homophobia.

“4. To the extent that class divisions and concentration of wealth and income can be characterized as human rights issues, among the advanced capitalist countries, the United States has one of the widest gaps on both measures, between the wealthy and everyone else.

“5. The right to vote is, in the United States, presented by the ruling class itself as perhaps the most basic of the civil rights.  Nevertheless, the Right-wing in the United States, sometimes Democratic, sometimes Republican, has always attempted to deprive working people, especially those of color, and women, of their right to vote.  In the aftermath of the U.S. Civil War, the first objective of the then newly formed Ku Klux Klan, was to prevent the newly freed slaves form voting, by the use of violence.  This was the policy of the Democratic Party in the South until the explosion of the civil rights movement in the 1960s.  Then, first under President Nixon, the Republican Party’s “Southern Strategy” was implemented.


In its contemporary form, the Republican party is using its control of an increasing number of state governments, in part through changing the borders of the electoral districts to concentrate Democratic voters in a small number of them (quaintly called “Gerrymandering”), and in part by requiring “Voter IDs” which are for the most part made very difficult and relatively expensive to obtain, especially by students, non-whites and the elderly, the Republican  Party is engaged in an increasingly effective campaign to sharply limit voting rights among those groups in society which are less likely to vote for them.

“6. Then there is money in politics.  Increasingly, with the cooperation of the Republican Supreme Court and politicians of both major parties, at both the Federal and State levels, an increasing number of government offices are simply bought and sold.  This practice certainly violates the human right, in what is supposed to be a democracy, to have truly representative government.

“7. One could go into great detail about the fact that the United States does not guarantee the basic right to health care for all of its citizens, as every other developed capitalist country, to say nothing of our own, does.  We will not, here.

“8. Finally, for this list we come to the use of torture as an official policy of the U.S. government.  There can be no worse violation of human rights than engaging in this medieval practice on a regular basis, with the support of the highest levels of government.  It happens that its use violates Article VI of the United States’ own Constitution, which supposedly makes both the Geneva Agreements and the United Nation Convention against torture part of its “supreme law of the land.”  For Cuba, this practice is especially egregious since so much of it occurred on Cuban soil in the so-called ‘Guantanamo Bay Naval Base,’ that was stolen from our nation under an unequal lease originally negotiated in 1903.
“Unfortunately, this list could go on and on.  In the meantime, we are here expressing our outrage that our government, led by the Communist Party of Cuba, would make such a deal with a nation that some call ‘The Great Satan,’ without at least raising with it its abominable record on the matters of human rights, that go back to its founding as a nation in which perhaps the most inhuman practice of all (other than genocide, of which — see its treatment of its native-American population through the 19th century — the U.S. is, of course, not innocent), that is holding certain persons in slavery, was embedded in its original Constitution.”



 
If “Torture Doesn’t Work” Doesn’t Work, Why Torture? Part 2 by Steven Jonas
Dec. 29, 2014

The exhaustive report of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA’s torture program came to the conclusion that torture doesn’t work for the gathering of intelligence.  They also pointed out that many in the CIA knew (and know) this.  For one thing, they weren’t able to extract one recorded otherwise unknown fact about enemy/terrorist plans, movements, and etc. from its use.   Yet, with the blessing and shoving of Vice-President Dick Cheney they continued to use the technique in the treatment of many prisoners.

So the question must be asked:  why did the CIA develop the program and why did they continue to use and surely attempt to perfect it?  

Well, as I have said in the longer essay from which this one is drawn, while torture serves no useful purpose in intelligence gathering, it does have a wide variety of other uses.  First and foremost it is a major instrument of terror that can be used against a government's own population: it is a really good repressor of dissent. A principal tool of Gestapo control in Nazi Germany was to pick up someone who had been making mildly anti-Hitler remarks, give them a good session or two of torture downtown, and then send them back to the neighborhood. You can bet the neighbors got the message. 

Second, it is indeed very useful in extracting information from politically active civilian regime opponents who have no military training or training in resisting torture, such as the civilian opponents of the Pinochet Regime in Chile and the civilian targets of the Argentine "Dirty War." 

Third, it is a very good tool for extra-judicial punishment, just as long as the regime using it makes sure that its details leak out, in a totally deniable way of course, to its own citizens.

Fourth, it is a very useful tool for civilian repression in military-occupied territories. Just ask the Japanese Kempeitai that operated in Korea (1910-45) and Occupied China (1931-45).

Fifth, it is very helpful when a regime is out to change the culture of its country, and to wipe out historical memory of anything that went before it came to power. Once they had restored corporate-clerical control of the country, doing so was perhaps the next principal long-term goal of the Spanish fascists, the Francoists. Torture was one of their stocks-in-trade to achieve that goal.

Sixth, it is really good at extracting false confessions, then to be used in show trials, such as those of the Soviet Union of the late 1930s that killed off so many of the good Communists who were already challenging Stalinism as the way not to try to build socialism.  (As Lev Bronstein [otherwise known as Leon Trotsky] famously said, “Stalin will be the grave-digger of communism” [in the Soviet Union at least], and how right he was.) 

Seventh, in countries that use it but try to re-define their way out of it convincing no-one but themselves (guess who?), it helps to establish a record of lawlessness, of total disregard for the rule of law and in the case of the United States, provisions of its Constitution, as long as the government says things like, "We are doing what we are doing to keep our people safe and fight terror." This was likely a major objective of BushCheney, et al: to change the culture here. "Torture [except of course we don't call it torture, just 'enhanced interrogation'] is OK, that is as long as we are doing the Deciding as to who gets it." No rule of law, no adherence to international treaties and our Constitution of which they are a part, just as long as they say there's a good reason for it. 

Finally, to have torture as a useful instrument of national policy, there has to be a cadre of torturers, most likely another reason for the BushCheney torture program. Until they came to power, Americans didn't do such things, officially at least. So there weren't very many, if any, trained torturers amongst our armed and intelligence forces. But now there are, or at least were.  And you can bet your sweet pitootie, once you learn how to be a torturer, you don't forget what you learned.   So, don't tell me torture isn't useful. It's just not useful for what the current torturers tell us it's useful for.  Down the road, however, there may be a different story.


 
Why “Torture Doesn’t Work” Doesn’t Work, Part 1: Torture and the U.S. Constitution by Steve Jonas
Dec. 18, 2014

As the world that is interested in such matters knows, the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee finally released the (redacted) 524-page Executive Summary of its 6000-page report on torture and the CIA. It is entitled: “Panel Faults C.I.A. Over Brutality and Deceit in Terrorism Interrogations.”   But even just the Executive Summary presents a huge amount of horrifying detail about the program. (I need not detail it here; it and a huge amount of commentary has already appeared in The Times and many other news sources, print, electronic and other.  A particularly useful historical analysis has appeared on The Greanville Post.)

It happens that a good deal of the information contained in the report has been known, in relative bits and pieces, for quite some time.  What the Senate Committee has done is assemble a huge amount of material in one place, and then put their imprimatur on the information, which it has been collecting in sometimes gruesome detail over the past six years.  The most important conclusion to come away with in examining the Report is the Senate Intelligence Committee’s major finding about the CIA’s torture program:  that it was bad because it didn’t work.  And they produced huge mountains of evidence to support that claim.  

The Republicans, who for some time refused to participate in the work of the Committee have reacted in horror, not at the details of the torture itself and the catalog of CIA cover-ups, incompetence, disorganization, amateurism, and what-have-you, but at the fact that they have all been made public.  Most importantly, despite the fact that the Senate Committee assembled an overwhelming amount of evidence, and despite the fact that the Republicans did not avail themselves of it, they claimed that torture does work, in intelligence gathering, and then on, as they so often do, to try to change the subject.  Consider:  “Many Republicans have said that the report is an attempt to smear both the C.I.A. and the Bush White House, and that the report cherry-picked information to support a claim that the C.I.A.'s detention program yielded no valuable information. Former C.I.A. officials quickly began a well-prepared and vigorous public campaign to dispute the report’s findings.”

Of course the torturer-in-chief, Dick Cheney, went bananas over the report’s release.  He argues both that torture works and then (oops!) that what was done wasn’t torture anyway.  So he, and all of his GOP and other cheerleaders, first try to deny reality (just as they do on so many issues, from global warming to racism) and then if that doesn’t work, get the argument onto definitions.  Cheney has also famously said that whatever what was done is or isn’t torture, a) he would authorize it all over again, and b) even if innocent people were picked up and put into the program, that really didn’t matter in the pursuit of its overall goals.  Interestingly enough, I did not hear of anyone asking him, if what the Senate Committee defined as torture wasn’t, what would he define as torture and would he authorize its use if he thought circumstances warranted that intervention.  

Demonstrating his complete lack of knowledge of human anatomy and physiology Cheney even claimed that “rectal feeding” was OK, if done for “medical reasons.”  Note to the former Vice-President: the colon a) is not a digestive organ, b) as a physician for over 50 years, I have never heard forced ramming of food into the rectum described as a medical therapy.  Of course if Yoo and Bybee (who defined what the CIA was doing as not torture) were quack physicians instead of quack lawyers they might well have defined “rectal feeding” as a “medical therapy.”   Andy Borowitz tells us (WARNING, satire) that to, in his terms, properly deal with the subject, Cheney has even called for an international ban on the issuance of reports on the use of torture.  Nevertheless, despite what Cheney and his fellow cheer-leaders have said, we know that the CIA has done some very bad things (bad, that is, if you think that torture is bad), fully justified by the Bush Administration.  Indeed, even though the Committee said that it wasn’t, we know, as directly confirmed by Cheney himself, that the program was fully authorized by the Bush Administration.   

However, and it’s a big however, the Senate Committee’s whole premise is that: the program was bad because it didn’t work.  Which raises the question: would they have concluded that torture was OK if it had produced useful intelligence?  "Uh-oh!" and "Oh my!"  If Cheney et al were right about the utility of torture, at least as practiced by the CIA, then the Committee’s whole argument against it collapses in a heap.  Indeed by focusing primarily on "torture doesn't work" for its primary criticism of the program, the Senate Intelligence Committee has let the Republicans and the Right-wing generally off the hook.  For they can simply come back, as they are, as noted, doing vociferously, saying, "Yes, it does."

The argument should have been based on, "It's wrong!" More importantly, that it violates both domestic and international law, and, most importantly, violates the U.S. Constitution.  The use of torture by U.S. agencies is clearly prohibited by various Federal statutes.   But the central issue here is the violation of Constitutional law.  The use of torture by any signatory to them is found in the Geneva Conventions and the UN Convention Against Torture.  The United States is a party to both, and both are signed and ratified U.S. international treaties.  But before considering the Constitutional question, let us consider just what “torture” is, in anybody’s terms other than Cheney’s et al.

The authors of the Geneva Conventions just assumed that everyone "knows" what torture is; they didn't bother to define it in any detail.  The UN Convention defines it in general terms as, "Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession . . ."   By exclusion, the U.S. Army Field Manual is rather explicit about it.  The Bush Administration’s quack law firm, Bybee and Yoo, tried to define their way out of the quagmire, that “finding” being what Cheney (who probably dictated it to them, or perhaps it was his hatchet man Addington) falls back on.  But no one outside of themselves and the US Right would agree that what was done to numbers of prisoners of the US was not torture.  And the Senate Committee has certainly concluded that it was and uses the term “torture” over-and-over again.  

But then comes the truly inconvenient truth that the use of torture by US authorities is simply unconstitutional. Under article VI of the U.S. Constitution, as treaties signed and ratified by the U.S. government, both Conventions are part of, "the supreme law of the land and [further] the judges of every state shall be bound by them."  This, and its illegality under various U.S. statutes and Codes, are the only arguments that one can make against the use of torture by US agencies that can withstand the, “But, it works!” argument, even if the latter were true.  Thus, torture both doesn’t work and is unconstitutional as well as illegal.  

The CIA surely knew the first: they haven’t been able to come up with even one provable example of its effectiveness.  (Further, it should be noted that during the Clinton Administration two attempted terrorist attacks that would have produce much larger death tolls even than 9/11 were thwarted, presumably through the use of conventional intelligence and interrogation techniques. The first was the 1998 “25 Airliners” plot and the second was “Millennium Bomb Plot” against Los Angeles International Airport.  This was done apparently without using one tortuous twitch.)  But the bottom line is that the use of torture by any U.S. agency is unconstitutional, and that - not, “It doesn’t work,” is where the argument against such use should start.  Indeed, “It doesn’t work,” just doesn’t work in the battle to ban the use of torture by the US government, which, as it happens, may well be renewed if the next President is a Republican.


 
Ferguson Worked as Intended: For the Maintenance of White Supremacy in the US by Steven Jonas
December 3, 2014

The doctrine of white supremacy was invented in 17th century North America to justify the use and practice of slavery in the British colonies (and at the time not just limited to the south of what became the United States, but in all of them).  Just before the First US Civil War, the doctrine was well-summarized by Alexander Stephens, a Southern Unionist who later became Vice-President of the Confederate States of America under the arch-secessionist Jefferson Davis:

Many governments have been founded upon the principle of the subordination and serfdom of certain classes of the same race. Such were, and are in violation of the laws of nature. Our system commits no such violation of nature's law. With us, all of the white race, however high or low, rich or poor, are equal in the eye of the law. Not so with the Negro. Subordination is his place. He, by nature, or by the curse against Cain, is fitted for that condition which he occupies in our system. Our new government is founded on the opposite idea of the equality of the races. Its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the Negro is not equal to the White man; that slavery --- subordination to the superior race --- is his natural condition."

As I wrote in a column published in 2009, as it started the First Civil War in support of secession, the South had six principal war aims:
  1. The preservation of the institution of African and African-American (the latter the courtesy of the slave owners and slave masters) slavery and its uninhibited expansion into the Territories of the Great Plains, the Rocky Mountain region, and the Southwest.
  2. The acceptance by the whole United States of the Doctrine of White Supremacy on which the institution of slavery was established.
  3. The establishment and subsequent strong prosecution of American Imperialism outside of North America (a position much more strongly held in the South than in the North).
  4. The full, irrevocable, placement in Constitutional law of the Southern version of the doctrine of "States Rights," that before the First Civil War primarily was in place to serve the maintenance of the institution of slavery.  
  5. The South strongly supported low tariffs on foreign manufactured goods while the North wanted high tariffs to protect domestic industrial development. 


  6. A major element of Southern politics was the use of the Big Lie Technique in politics, that, for example, the First Civil War was most ironically about "Southern Freedom," that is the freedom to keep an element of the population enslaved.  Further along these lines, whatever the war was, it was not a rebellion, but rather a "War Between the States," as Pat Buchanan (who had relatives from Mississippi who fought for the CSA) still refers to it, or the “War of Northern Aggression,” what it is called by James Porter, II, President of the National Rifle Association.
Except that the institution of chattel slavery does not exist, the South achieved all of its war aims, some of them beyond the wildest dreams of any of its leaders.  While for the most part that victory is pretty-well self-evident, I have detailed how they did that in, among other places, the column cited above and in my book The 15% Solution.  Perhaps most importantly, the Doctrine of White Supremacy dominates the thinking of much of the white US, both consciously and unconsciously.  

Then, what immediately followed the end of the First Civil War in the South was, on the economic side, the assurance of the perpetuation of a living situation for the freed slaves that in many ways mimicked slavery, that is share-cropping (“40 acres and a mule” died under the veto pen of the Southern successor to President Lincoln, Andrew Johnson).  On the political side, the first objective of the formation of the original Ku Klux Klan was to deny the freed slaves the vote, which was fully accomplished following the withdrawal of the Union Army occupiers in 1877.  This system, along with social and commercial segregation, “Jim Crow,” stayed in place until the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.  With the recent Supreme Court decision voiding a key section of that Act as it applied to the South, along with the Republican national voter suppression campaign,  African-American, as well as Latino, voting is being once again repressed, both by making it physically more difficult as well as by the imposition of a version of the poll tax: the acquisition, with no taxpayer support, of the “Voter ID.”  And etc., etc., etc.

And so, you might be saying at this point, what this all has to do with the killing of Michael Brown, black, by the police officer Darren Wilson, white.  It has everything to do with it.  An unusual event?  No, of course not.  For example, in the month between July 17 and August 17, 2014, 60 persons were killed by police officers, almost all of them black or Latino virtually none of them involved in committing a potentially fatal offense.  As "The World Can’t Wait" put it: “The murder of Black and Brown youth by the state goes on like clockwork.”

There is a reason for this state of affairs and it is not just that some white cops are racists and truly regard blacks and Latinos as second-class or non-citizens, with no rights.   It is not just because a district attorney decides on his own that he is not going to play prosecutor in this particular case, but rather defense attorney for the accused, which he can do until the cows come home in the absence of any means of cross-examination either of the accused or his witness supporters (one of whom made her own racism abundantly clear in her personal journal.  Furthermore, there was no attorney to stand in on the true prosecutorial side to challenge, before a judge, what the mis-named “prosecutor” was actually doing in defending, not prosecuting.  

Oh yes, and as for why District Attorney Robert McCulloch chose to make his announcement of the Grand Jury’s decision in prime time rather than around the time when it was reached, about 2:00 PM in the afternoon?  Well, he did just win re-election, so that’s not it.  No.  This man was addressing all white US who think the way that he does, and all the white law enforcement personnel across the US who don’t want to have to worry too much should they just happen to kill an African-American or Latino in the course of duty.  McCulloch, who would likely deny vigorously that he consciously thinks in this way at all, it being so ingrained in the thought-processes of so many US, is, along with the modern Republican Party in the Congress, the Supreme Court and many state and local governments sending out a clear message: White supremacy lives.  And so, not to worry.

For many US, white supremacy is the doctrine that governs their lives.  They, sub-consciously for the most part, need to feel secure in that thinking.  And they need to feel that US “law enforcement” is doing its part to provide them with that security.  I am not talking about feeling secure in their physical surroundings, for given how highly segregated US society is, that is not too often an issue.  I am talking about what goes on inside their heads.  And so Michael Brown is killed, and the killing will not stop.  Actually, in terms of the number of deaths, police killings of black and Latinos make lynching the Old South (which was not always of blacks, mind you), except in the early days of the practice, look like much ado about not too much.  Marches, demonstrations, police lapel cameras (“Oh dear, in the heat of the moment mine fell off!”), civilian review boards, etc. are not going to change the reality in the US, still submerged under the victory of the South in the First Civil War and what it accomplished.  Only the Second Civil War, which is coming, is going to change that.




 
A No-Wave Election in No-Democracy America by Steve Jonas
November 11, 2014

Every other political commentator, along with their sisters and their brothers and their cousins and their aunts (to quote W.S. Gilbert in H.M.S. Pinafore) is commenting on them, so why, I thought, not me too.  So, not in any particular order of importance, here goes.

Let’s start with a comment on the observation of Frank Rich, with whom, more often than not, I find myself in agreement, that a “Dispirited America Votes for Change, Gives Up on Hope."  Well, no.  Actually, unless one counts those people who didn’t vote as “voting,” (and, of course, in a way they did; it’s just that those sorts of votes don’t get counted), America did not vote for change.  Turnout was the lowest since the 1942 mid-term (one year after the start of WWII, of course). About 37% of the eligibles voted. In terms of turnout, the GOP strategy of voter suppression combined with Obama-demonization with no effective counter-attack from the Obamaites, worked to perfection, for them.

Which brings us next to the Republicans’ Grand Plan, which indeed also worked to perfection, on a grander scale.  It began back in 1992 with the hatching by the Republican political ally, the Christian Coalition, of something they called
The 15% Solution.  (I wrote a book with that title, on the theme of what the GOP/Religious Right would do if they were ever to attain significant power in US government. The 15% Solution itself is to be found on p. 17 of that book).  It was a strategy designed to lower voting participation, down to a level where the loyal rightist “15%” could win elections, all by themselves.  As Paul Weyrich, one of the creators of the Republican Religious Right Alliance, famously said: “We don’t want everyone to vote.  Quite frankly, our leverage goes up as the voting population goes down,” (see p. 18 of The 15% Solution).

And so came the national Republican Voter Suppression Campaign, led by Fox News on the theme of fighting the statistically non-existent problem of “voter fraud.” As is well known, it is aimed specifically at the population groups which generally vote Democratic, if they vote at all.  Funnily enough our side spent all of its time trying to expose the Campaign for what it really was, which of course got nowhere.  What should have been done, in my view, was to say:
We absolutely agree with you.  Every voter should have a voter ID, which of course would then have other uses beyond voting.  And so, since we are the greatest democracy on Earth (at least folks like Sarah Palin keep telling us that), we should want every single Person to vote.  To facilitate that each state should set up a vast series of voter ID offices, where at no charge (for we do want to encourage voting, don’t we) every legible person could get a voter ID, with photo, at no charge.  What?  You’re not doing this?  Please do tell us, why not?”
Then along with voter suppression came gerrymandering, for which the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) began planning in 2008 leading up to the state legislature elections heading into re-districting in 2011.  The third piece of the Republican puzzle was the demonization of and non-cooperation with President Obama from the moment he took office.  Thom Hartman has summed up the strategy, well-known from the time it was put together in 2009, in a fine post-election piece entitled, “Dems Duped by the Caucus Room Conspiracy."  So once again, the Republicans had a long-range strategy on the political side, and it too worked to perfection this year.  It would, of course, have worked in 2012 for the Presidency if they had run a half-way decent candidate.  But they didn’t.  I believe that they will in 2016.  JEB Bush, anyone?

Which brings us to what the Democrats did wrong.  First of all, there is no “The Democrats.”  There are folks who vote Democratic because they think that the elected Democratic Party will DO something about the major problems facing the country, from fixing the health care system to renewing the desperately outdated infrastructure, to regulating the economy, to installing a fair taxation system that would also raise the funds the national desperately needs to be spent on a host of projects and problems, to education, to the environment and climate change, and etc. Or they would vote for Democrats if they trusted that they would do such things.  

And then there is the electoral Democratic Party, which for a variety of reasons, since the Clinton/DLC years has paid as little attention to this list as they can get away with.  For example, Gov. Malloy of Connecticut was re-elected running on what some trumpeted as “the progressive agenda.”  It consisted of raising the minimum wage and requiring paid sick leave at some level of employment.  Wow!  If that’s a “progressive agenda,” no wonder so many people stayed home.  President Obama’s Presidency can be best characterized as much talk, not much action on the major domestic issues, while he has pursued a generally US imperialist foreign policy, just not quite so loudly as the Republicans do (e.g., Libya, Syria, Ukraine, the original Afghanistan “surge,” Central Africa, Venezuela, drones all over the place).  And so, if you don’t have too much to vote for, why vote?

Finally, for this essay, what about the old saw about “why do those people (that is working and middle-class folk) who vote Republican vote against their own best self-interest?”  Well, that’s an example of our side defining what the voters who vote for their side define as their “best self-interest.”  It simply is not ours, in terms, for example, of the major national problem list laid out above.  That’s why they don’t vote for that list.  For many Republican voters, quite obviously dealing with the economy for the benefit of everyone is not at the top of their list, and may not even be anywhere on the list.  For if it were, seeing what Reaganite economic policy, under both Republican and Democratic Administrations, has done to the country over the last 35 years, they would not only not vote Republican, they would vote Progressive Democratic (if such a party ever were to appear).

But for many Republican voters, those are not the issues that they are most concerned about, and the Republican Party knows it.  So for many Republican voters, other than the standard economic-policy reactionaries, at the top of their list of what is in their own best self-interest are indeed: no gun control, homophobia as national policy, religious determinism in such matters as abortion rights, and of course underneath it all, racism .  And etc., along these lines.

It thus should be no mystery that, as Andy Borowitz predicted: “Billionaires to Retain Control of Government."  They, and their party, do know how to run campaigns, as they make a joke out of what used to be some semblance of democracy (within limits, to be sure) in the United States.










 
Joni Ernst: The Future Face of the Republican Party by Steve Jonas
 

Oct. 30, 2014

Joni Ernst is well on her way to becoming the future face of the Republican Party.  First, she came from behind in the Iowa Republican primary last June to win the nomination for the upcoming Senate seat over a group of wealthy businessmen.  Apparently an important factor in that victory was her famous “as a kid I castrated hogs” ad.  Now she is poised to win the general election next Tuesday.  An important factor in that potential win is this campaign comment: “‘I have a beautiful little Smith & Wesson, 9 millimeter, and it goes with me virtually everywhere,’ Ernst said at the NRA and Iowa Firearms Coalition Second Amendment Rally in Searsport, Iowa.  
 
“ ‘But I do believe in the right to carry, and I believe in the right to defend myself and my family -- whether it’s from an intruder, or whether it’s from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important.’ ”

Earlier in the campaign Ernst “released a new TV ad vowing to ‘unload’ on Obamacare, in which she takes target practice at a shooting range with a handgun."

Should Ernst indeed win it is likely that she will become Right-Wing Female Exhibit One for the Republican Party.  Michelle Bachmann is leaving the House.  (Likely because early polling showed that she would lose this time around to the candidate who has previously come very close to beating her.)  Sarah Palin is becoming old news and she hasn’t been an office-holder in a long time.  So Col. Ernst (she is a light colonel in the Iowa National Guard) would have a good shot (get it?) at the position.  So what does this tell us a) about the party and b) how the Democrats should attack it.   

Democrats attack, you say?  Ohmygosh, isn’t that almost too much to ask?  Well, a) that’s the only way they are ever again going to win statewide and local elections in any significant number, and b) the Clintonesque policy of going along to get along with which, until very recently President Obama has been in lock-step, has in the last six years been demonstrated to be a loser, over and over again.  Noises along those lines are starting to be made on the Democratic left, such as it is, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren out in front, of course.  But more on that in another column (or two or three or four over the next two years).  For now, back to Ernst.

On policy Ernst holds to the standard right-wing Mantra: government helps everyone and everyone is dependent on it --- that has to change; Obamacare should be repealed; the Department of Education should eliminated (and a few others, I should imagine); Social Security would best be privatized; the family must be strengthened; pork (not pigs) must be eliminated (on that one she apparently does not know that Congressional “earmarks,” were called “pork” when they were anyone else’s, “bringing home the bacon” when they were yours, were eliminated from the Congressional appropriations process several years ago); government spending must be slashed (presumably on everything except subsidies to corporate farmers, especially if they raise hogs in Iowa); and the budget must be balanced while the deficit must be eliminated (apparently she is unaware that it has been steadily dropping over the past several years).  The latter two are or course presented in the usual Republican way without --- because of course taxes cannot be raised --- any specification as to what further spending cuts should be made --- perhaps another $600,000,000 from the Centers for Disease Control, Col. Ernst?

But it’s the special Joni Ernst show that is quite remarkable, and it’s that show that will become one of the main faces of the GOP.  First of all, it will become the party of castration.  Of whom and for what, oh, never mind.  But if Col. Ernst gets to the Senate because of an ad boasting that she castrated pigs on the “family(?)” farm when she was a teen-ager, questions (or at least thoughts) might be raised like: a) what exactly did she mean by the metaphor? b) Who did/does she have in mind, possibly among humans? And c) what might she mean to do with the skill when she gets to Washington.  

Actually, that one would become more of the stuff “The Daily Show” and the late night comics.  Much more serious, and the position that Democrats and Progressives should immediately and loudly turn against her and her party is the one on guns and shooting.  In an ad she used a gun, not any sort of rational or even irrational arguments, to illustrate her opposition to Obamacare.  Then she says that she has the right to shoot at any government employee who comes to her representing a law (or presumably regulation) that she does not like, in her terms that agent or agency having decided “that my rights are no longer important.”  Of course, if it’s “government” here, he, she, it or they would be acting under the prescriptions, proscriptions and requirements of a law --- that’s a LAW, Col. Ernst --- that was passed through the democratic process, at the Federal, state or local level.

Thus, what this representative (presumably one elected to the highest legislative office in the land), a member of the traditional “law and order” party, is saying is that if she doesn’t like a particular law she doesn’t have to obey it.  Beyond that she will use a firearm to prosecute her right to disobey the law.  This is of course exactly the position that is taken by hundreds of right-wing “militias” all around the country.  This is the next step in the dismantlement of our nation of laws.  This is the next step on the pathway towards the coming Second Civil War.  This is Lt. Col (!) Joni Ernst, a member of U.S. armed forces who has taken an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States, most likely the next Senator from Iowa, and one of the new beaming faces of the Republican Party, taking it upon herself to decide was is lawful and unlawful, what is Constitutional and un-Constitutional, and use firearms to back up her view.  

So far, I have heard of no Republican voice condemning Ernst’s position that she can disobey any law she doesn’t like and use a gun in carrying out that disobedience.  If she does indeed make it to the Senate, I do hope that I will hear many Democratic and Progressive voices condemning her for it.






 
Ebola & the GOP by Steve Jonas
An epidemic is sweeping the country. Congress - especially the GOP - is outraged. The Republican propaganda machine, especially Fox - and increasingly CNN - is going full blast with an ongoing headline basically blaring, "The Increasingly Incompetent President's Responsibility to do Something, now!", claiming dilly-dallying, shilly-shallying on the part of the White House, the CDC and what have you.

After all, an epidemic can kill about 1,200 people per day in the US. But wait (as Paul Krugman is fond of saying), that's deaths due to cigarette smoking. It happens that the nation, principally various government agencies, is doing something about this epidemic, using a wide variety of interventions. Smoking rates among adults are down by over half since the publication of the first Surgeon General's Report on Smoking and Health in 1964. (The truth of the science in that report was of course denied with vigour by the tobacco industry until the late 1990s - sound familiar?) In fact, due to the various smoking prevention and quit-smoking programs, tobacco-related deaths should be down to about 600 per day in 30-40 years. But that will still be a lot of preventable deaths that will occur from ongoing peddling of cigarettes for massive profits.

There's another epidemic that kills at least 180 people per day. But wait. Those deaths are due to drinking alcoholic beverages. Not only is there not a national program to deal with the problem, there is an ongoing massive advertising campaign to use the substance. And the ads are usually accompanied by some version of the alcohol beverage companies' idiotic "know when to say when" slogan. Really? You mean when you get drunk, and, say, "I shouldn't drive," you should be capable of "knowing when to say when?"

Then there's another epidemic that kills at least 80 people per day. But wait. Those deaths are due to gun violence. Not only do we not have a national program to deal with this vastly reducible scourge. But the gun industry, which includes the weapons and ammunition makers and the gun dealers, through their national shill, the National Rifle Association, actually promote gun purchases and ownership and potential use, which promotion, of course only increases the number of gun deaths. Further, in the howling on the Right to have a "knowledgeable national leader with prestige" for the "fight against Ebola," it is the NRA-fuelled GOP that has for a year and a half held up the appointment of a new US Surgeon General because President Obama's nominee has publicly stated that gun violence is a national health problem that should be addressed in some minimal ways.

Then there are common preventable diseases such as influenza. In a "good" year, there are about 3,000 preventable deaths from the flu alone. That number can range up to 50,000.

So what is really going on here? Two things. One, the GOP is using Ebola as a hammer against the President, coming up to the mid-terms. Second, a point that is perhaps made less-often is that the United States lags behind many other countries in its approach to preventable diseases (and public health in general), often due to Republican policies.

For Republicans, they are on principle opposed to federal programs.  They much prefer the "states' rights" approach to virtually any public-service/protection issues/problems/programs. But public health programs to prevent the deaths cited above require a broad national approach - and the development of the best research from the federal US health research and implementation agencies.

Next, GOP budget-cutting since 2010 has led to a close to $600,000,000 cut in Centers for Disease Control (CDC) funding (which is close to a 10 percent drop). This certainly could explain the slightly slow and a bit limited response to Ebola by the CDC right at the beginning (which by now certainly seems to be up-to-speed). Of course, Ebola has hardly spread in this country, it should be noted, despite the hysteria on the Right. The Republicans are also always fighting to reduce the research budget at the National Institutes for Health (NIH).

The GOP and its right-wing talk radio allies spread falsehoods about the disease as if so doing were a disease itself. Then there is the constant GOP "anti-regulation" mantra (except when it comes, of course to regulation of personal behaviors such as female control of their own bodies and everybody's choices when it comes to the use of the recreational mood-altering drugs [RMADs]), which, on now finds itself in the contradictory position of encouraging more DC regulation when it comes to Ebola. Just the other day, the house FOX lawyer Peter Johnson, Jr., was letting us know that "this Obama-led government is failing the nation, by not regulating nearly enough." Finally, of course, left for the most part unstated, but underlying all GOP propaganda is the fact that Ebola originated in Africa, black (OMG), you know, and where the President was born, you know.

Yes, indeed. It all fits together so neatly into one hypocritical GOP pre-election propaganda package, doesn't it?



 
Bill Clinton’s Legacy by Steve Jonas
October 18, 2014
 

There is a lot of talk these days about “Presidential Legacies.”  Obama is supposedly trying to burnish his.  George W. Bush has spent the last six years trying to run away from his, from his failure to prevent 9/11, to his invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, to his failed attempt to destroy Social Security.  And then there’s the very real legacy of Bill Clinton, which doesn’t seem to garner much attention.  However, on the domestic side it has been, over the long term, just as damaging to the nation as has been George W. Bush’s on the foreign side.  But as Hillary apparently prepares to run for the Presidency, Bill will certainly be part of the equation, whether she likes it or not.   And she will not be able to try to ignore him and his record, as Al Gore did in the 2000 campaign for better or worse.  

So it might be a good idea at this time to take a look at that picture, even though, alas, it is hardly a pretty one.  I am presenting the elements of it that I find to be most important, but not necessarily in order of importance, for some would think that some are more important than others.  However, I think that most persons viewing this particular list would agree that they are all negative to a greater or lesser extent.  Or at least they would agree that I just happen to have picked out a bunch of negative ones (but I did have a hard time remembering any positive ones).  And so, in no particular order, here’s my list.

Bill Clinton introduced us to Big Pharma advertising for prescription drugs on television.  The main purpose of these ads, at least as they are now constructed, would seem to be to attempt to protect the firms from charges of non-full disclosure when various pharmaceuticals come to suit.  But at the same time, with the visuals all the way through, and the often dream-like text about what the pills can do for you at the beginning and the end, the ads: a) reinforce the US drug culture: “take this pill; it will solve your problem; b) add to the pressure that physicians feel all the time anyway about prescribing; and c) attempt to make patient into self-prescribers.
 
Following a Reagan decision of 1987, Bill Clinton eliminated what was called the Fairness Doctrine that governed the use by private parties of the publicly owned radio and television waves in the United States.  This is what has led to the dominance of US radio in particular by the right-wing political talk that so reinforces the political agenda of the GOP/TP.   (By the way, Obama reinforced this elimination in 2011.)

Clinton, aided and abetted by his totally inept Attorney General, Janet Reno, completely mis-handled the Waco affair, allowing the leader of a tiny religious sect called the Branch Dravidians, one David Koresh, to make himself into a national hero for the Christian Right and the gun industry.  Koresh was clearly violating gun laws.  Even a United Parcel Service driver knew that.  But the “Good Ol’ Boy” let the thing drag on until in the end it became a tragedy that was totally preventable.

Related to that one was his total failure to make an issue of Domestic Right-wing terrorism in re the Oklahoma City Bombing.  There was an extensive Federal investigation of the roles of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols in the assault, but it never led to the broader investigation of the role and place of right-wing militias in this country, which has grown virtually non-stop ever since.  A Republican-led Senate “investigation” chaired by the man who gave us Clarence Thomas, Sen. Arlen Spector of Pennsylvania, led to two days of hearings at which one right-wing hate group after another was permitted to testify to how misunderstood  and discriminated against they were.

One could write a length of course about the Monica Lewinsky affair and its aftermath.  I won’t, here.  Except to say that there are two words the Clinton should have uttered which Lewinsky (apparently) flashed him: “Secret Service.”  Of course, the whole Ken Starr-inspired impeachment thing could have been cut off at the pass had Clinton instructed Reno not to appoint that former law partner of the firm that was representing Paula Jones in her suit against Clinton, but that didn’t happen either, and we know what did. 

Then there was his failure to achieve health care reform (and I know how poorly organized they were, with Hillary supposedly at the helm, for that one from the inside.  For I was what was known as a “Designated Speaker for the Clinton Health Plan.”)  I can tell you that although I did go out to community meetings, I also came home from the first “organizational meeting” that I attended at the White House and told my wife at the time, “If this is how they are going to go about it, they are never going to get anything passed.”  Not only did they not, but that failure led to the Gingrich so-called “landslide” (in which GOP House candidates got 18% of the total House vote nationally while Democratic candidates got 17% [betcha didn’t know that, didya?])
 
Briefly, we can mention, among other things: there was no fight-back on Whitewater, “travelgate,” etc., even though there was, as my College Classmate and first Clinton White House Counsel, Bernard Nussbaum, said, no there there or anywhere, from the beginning; the bombing of Serbia without UN sanction, that set a precedent taken full advantage of by George W. Bush who, unfortunately, did not take advantage of a major Clinton success, the intelligence and “black ops” that were behind the thwarting of both the 1998 “bombing 25 airliners over the Atlantic” plot and the “Millennium Bomb Plot” aimed at Los Angeles International Airport, either of which would have resulted in far more casualties than 9/11; and the repeal of “welfare as we know it,” that is the end of the Aid to Families with Dependent Children Program (despite Reagan’s “welfare Queens” serving more whites than non-whites, betcha didn’t know that neither) (even though you would never know that the way the GOP/TP screams about what now is a virtually non-existent Federal welfare program except for the one focused on providing food stamps that feed both the hungry and the food industry).

 
Finally, but again also just briefly here, we must mention what were likely the two most important actions/disasters of the Clinton Administration in the economic realm, each of which has played a direct role in the continuation and indeed strengthening of Reaganomics and the increasing stranglehold that the GOP/TP has over fiscal policy.  First was the Repeal of the Depression Era Glass-Steagall Act (interestingly enough, they were both Southerners) that had separated commercial and investment banking.  That repeal of course led directly to the Crash of 2008 from which millions of people on this country have never recovered and likely never will. 

And there were NAFTA and the World Trade Organization initiatives, which led to the massive export of US capital to countries with (much) cheaper labor and that “massive whooshing sound” of job outflow that Ross Perot referred to in the 1992 Presidential Election Campaign).  One could write a whole column about those two, of course.   Let me just say briefly here that they have led invariably to the decline of US manufacturing, the parallel decline of US trade unionism, the creation of the permanent army of the unemployed, the ever-widening gap between the poor and everyone else, the increasingly creative use of the tax code to support the use of overseas so-called “tax shelters” that enable the avoidance of the payment of billions of dollars in taxes, and so on and so forth.

Some legacy, eh wot?  Clinton’s has led to long-range disaster on the domestic side, while Bush’s has led to long-range disaster on the foreign policy side.  No wonder they seem to get along so well with each other when they meet at various galas.
 
A GOP Senate: Good News or Bad News? by Steve Jonas
September 16, 2014

Just the other day I received the following communication from the GOP (and that’s how they referred to themselves in this particular email):

Subj: GREAT polls for Republicans:

“Steven, Just wanted to update you on the state of play in the critical battleground races: This weekend, there were a number of positive polls released for Republicans. One forecast showed Republicans holding “at least a nominal lead in eight states held by Democrats, more than the six they need to retake the chamber.” One leading forecaster predicted Republicans have a 65.1% chance of winning a Senate majority this November — up from 63.5% two days prior. And another forecasting model gave Republicans a 61% chance of taking back the Senate — up from 58% since a wave of new data was released. The momentum is growing, and the odds are on our side. But every single one of these Senate battleground races is just too close for comfort. With less than two months until Election Day, we can’t afford to leave the odds making to the pollsters. It’s up to us whether we clear the path, seize the lead and deliver a victory in each battleground state.” 

Then they go on to ask for money. What? They don’t get enough from the Koch’s et al? But that’s another story.

From what I (and you too, I should think) have been reading elsewhere, this prediction, as of now at least, is likely to be fairly accurate. And when the Dems., collectively or individually ask for money, when they are in the “let’s scare them” mode in contacting their potential contributors, they cite similar numbers. So the Senate might indeed go Republican, by one of several routes. First, with the Independents Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont still voting with the Democratic Caucus, the GOP might win 51 or more seats. Second, there might be a tie. Ordinarily in that case the Vice-President would be able to cast the tie-breaking vote, which might very well be the case. But there is a rumour going around Washington that if there were to be a tie, Senator Coal (otherwise known as Joe Manchin) from West Virginia would switch parties (apparently in preparation to run as a Republican for West Virginia governor in 2016). 

And thus the question is raised, for those who count themselves as liberals, or progressives, or just unmodified Democrats, or folks who really care about the direction that this country has been taking for the past six years, in which for most of the time the Republicans have directly controlled the House and indirectly, through the use of the filibuster, controlled the Senate.  Of course, that question is: if the GOP were to take over the Senate, would this be good news or bad news? Well, says the great Seer (as well as Oracles of Delphi), it all depends --- upon two things.

First, would the Republicans end the filibuster? They have used it to a fare-thee-well over most of the past six years (except for that short window when the Democrats had 60 Senate seats and were able to squeeze through the Affordable Care Act). With it, they have pretty well bottled up the Senate, especially since the Senate Majority leader Harry Reid has for the most part let them get away with preventing the Senate from voting on bills reported out by committee simply by saying “filibuster,” rather than forcing them to actually do the act.

With the shoe being on the other foot, and the GOP never being worried about inconsistency, hypocrisy or whatever, even though they screamed bloody murder when the Dems. removed the filibuster simply for judicial appointments below the Supreme Court level, they might very well remove it anyway.  On the other hand, the GOP might let the present filibuster rule stand, although they almost surely would force the Dems. to really filibuster, not just stop bills from coming to a vote by simply saying “filibuster.”  Further, there is a long range political reason why they might not touch it.  While the Dems. are in danger of losing the Senate this time around, in terms of the seats up for grabs, the elections in 2016 and 2018 actually favor the Dems.   Thus the Republicans might want to keep the filibuster in place just as it is, so that, given a Democrat in the White House in 2017, they could continue to control the work of the Senate without holding the majority.

Second, regardless of what a GOP majority would do, or not do, to the filibuster rule, in terms of good news/bad news it depends very much upon just how the Democratic Party, both within the Senate and outside it, would react to GOP control of the Senate. They would, of course, become even more obstructionist to President Obama than they already are. Especially if they canned the filibuster, in cooperation with the House they would pass legislation designed specifically to draw a Presidential veto, starting with repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

They would also pass legislation on: further tax cuts for the wealthy and the large corporations; an increase in military spending (without, of course, raising taxes to cover those costs); possibly even repeal or pass a massive re-structuring of Social Security; Bob Corker’s “let’s attack Russia” bill currently bottled up in committee; crippling all kinds of environmental, industrial, worksite, and employment regulation, and etc., to say nothing of government shutdown over the debt ceiling, regardless of whether it would be being breached by increases in military spending or not.   As for any Obama appointments, fuhgeddaboudit.

Thus with a GOP Senate in place, it would be even more of a testing time for the President and the Democratic Party as a whole (a past test that has been largely failed, of course). They could, as they have done for the most part over the past six years, try to go along to get along, as the President did with the “Sequester,” which has drawn down so much Federal government spending in so many areas. Or they might not, or at least that sector of the Party not under the control of Hillary “Wall Street’s favorite Democrat” Clinton might not. They might actually run against the Republican Party and its true program, as a whole, using what Republican control of the Congress as a whole actually would, and would not, produce for the nation.

There might be one or more candidates for the 2016 Presidential nomination who would: a) run on a classic pre-Clinton/Democratic Leadership Council/Center-right (really more Right than center) Democratic Platform (and we all know what that means), b) resurrect Howard Dean’s “The Democratic Party is in 50 States” strategy, and c) run a Presidential campaign as if it were occurring in a country with Parliamentary form of government, not the un-democratic, minority-dominated (see the US Senate), form that we have. That is it would be campaign focused not just on “vote for me,” but rather on “vote for US, and the U.S. and here’s why.” Now, that would be fun, and original too, wouldn’t it?




 
Is the GOP/TP Really Against “Big Government?” Fuhgeddaboudit by Steve Jonas
Tuesday, 02 September 2014 07:13

"Small Government Conservatism" has been THE GOP mantra ever since Reagan gave out with his famous pronouncement on "the government isn't the solution to your problems, it IS the problem," or words to that effect. This mantra today resonates from the so-called "sensible" Republicans in the Joe Scarborough (of "Morning Joe, in case you didn't know) mold to the most far-out of the Tea Partiers like Rep. Steve (8-year-old-undocumented-immigrants-have-calves-the-size-of-footballs-from-toting-drugs-across-the-desert [or words to that effect]; my-you-speak-English-well [to a couple of Dreamers who came to the US as infants]) King of Iowa.

Before going on to the discussion of the substance of this column, let me say that I think that it must be understood that the difference between today's "mainstream" Republican Party, led by such eminences as John (gay-marriage-is-a-sin-because-the-Bible-tells-me-so) Boehner and Mitch (I-will-filibuster-any-bill-I-don't-like, said-in-December, 2008) McConnell and the “Tea Party” is solely a matter of style and rhetoric, not substance. They have the same agenda, to first and foremost serve the interests of their paymasters. That is, of course, a group of named and nameless leaders of the dominant wing of the US ruling class, for which the Koch Brothers make an oh-so-convenient twin figurehead. Those true interests are reflected precisely in just what the GOP/TP actually means when it talks about "Small Government Conservatism."  The Tea Party is simply a very useful GOP Front/diversion, designed (and it was indeed designed, by such figures as former GOP House Majority Leader Dick Armey [1995-2003]) to make the GOP’s very-central-to-its-true-meaning far-Rightedness, seem just perhaps not-so far-Right.

Many liberals and even some progressives get into direct and/or indirect battles with such folk over the question of what indeed is the role of government, Federal, state and local, in a large country like ours, with the Constitution that we have. But to me, that discussion does our side no good. For in fact the GOP/TP is hardly for "Small Government Conservatism" across the board. They use the mantra to attack programs that they don't like. But in many sectors of our society, they are for precisely the opposite. And that is what the argument should focus on: the substance of what they are for and what they are against, not the formalistic “big government/small government.”

So let's see what they mean when they talk about "shrinking the government."  In no particular order, and for example, of course they would like to get rid of Social Security and replace it with some sort of private system through which the financial sector could make additional profits. Funnily enough, they hate the Affordable Care Act, just because it's got Obama's name on it (courtesy, of course) of their own propagandists, even though the principal function of the ACA is to help the private health insurance industry stay afloat.

They hate the IRS when it is doing its job, like trying to determine if some organization that is seeking 501.c.4 status (so that it needn't reveal its donors) is actually doing "social welfare" work in addition to funding political campaigns. (In reality, the current GOP-controlled Congress --- yes under the minority rule that holds in the Senate the GOP does for the most part control Congress, has made sure to cut IRS funding in areas like the ability to audit the returns of persons with high incomes.) They are well on their way to eviscerating Medicaid. Some would like to shut down the National Parks and Forests Services and turn them into opportunities for private development. They cut the funding for the VA and scream about how Obama is “short-changing our veterans.”  And so on and so forth for government services that help to make the lives of our nation's citizens better in one way or another.

Of course the most important target for the GOP/TP is government regulation, of the environment, of the workplace, of transportation, of pharmaceuticals, of a wide variety of manufactured goods, and especially of the economy and the financial sector that is such an important part of modern US capitalism's focus for profit-making. Just let the (so-called) "free market" (which of course exists only in their imaginations) do its thing, and all will be well --- no matter how many harmful drugs are released, defective and unsafe automobiles are sold, oil spills on the land and at sea there are, coal mines collapse, chemical-plant explosions occur, and most especially how much additional carbon is released into the air and water. The latter is of course the Koch Brothers' dream and the nightmare for the rest of us.

So. Get rid of "Big Government" and all will be well, in the GOP/TP mantra.   However, the important point here is that Republicans actually love big government, when it is doing what they want done.  They love government when it produces by far and away the world's largest military and the profits that go along with supplying it. They love big government when it provides huge subsidies for the agricultural and fossil fuel industries. They love big government when it picks out certain Recreational Mood Altering Drugs (RMADs) to make illegal and then constructs the world's largest prison system to incarcerate a predominantly non-white element of the population that trades in them and uses them. Indeed the so-called "Drug War" not only disproportionately imprisons non-whites for "drug offenses" (when the white/non-white rates of use are about the same), which serves to bolster the racism on which the GOP runs (e.g., their support of police violence in the matter of Ferguson, MO.). It also has created a huge, highly profitable, private prison system. Big Government at work once again.

And then there is the Big Government that uses a doctrine based purely in certain religious beliefs which would, if they GOP had their way, deny women the right to choose to have an abortion within the pregnancy time-frame determined by fetal viability. And while they are working to develop the basis for overturning Roe v. Wade, the GOP/TP in a number of states has literally extended government into the vaginas and uteri of women seeking to have abortions. Furthermore, although they are gradually in the process of losing on this one, for many years, again using religiously-based doctrine, the GOP has run on denying gay couples equal access (see the 14h Amendment) to the civil law on marriage that is on the books in every state. Big Government in action again.

And so, in the final analysis, the argument with the GOP/TP should never be about "big government/small government." It should always be about what the government should be doing in terms of policy and practice, in terms of programs, for whom and why, and who is actually for what, in terms of “big government/small government.”






 
Israel’s Final Solution for Gaza by Steve Jonas
August 27, 2014

Almost since the beginning of the Zionist Movement in the British Mandate of Palestine, there has been a wing of that movement that has said: “we want it all, and we want all of the Arabs out.”

As noted, ever since the Right-wing took over the Israeli government under the former terrorist Menachem Begin, except for a few brief intervals, Israeli policy has been not to seriously negotiate with the Palestinians.  For serious negotiations would lead to a) a settlement, and b) recognition that the Palestinians had a right to live peacefully in what the Israeli Right calls “Greater Israel.”

Hollywood embellished and glorified the creation of Israel, stressing the suffering of Jews but ignoring the land expropriation and terrorist acts on Palestinians that carved up the first zones toward “Greater Israel.” The blockbuster film Exodus, with Paul Newman supported by a stellar cast, was a powerful propaganda vehicle to whitewash the state of Israel’s “original sin.”

In fact, significant members of the ruling Likud-led coalition, such as the Deputy Speaker of the Knesset has called for the forcible expulsion of all Palestinians from “Greater Israel,” including Arab-Israelis from Israel proper.  Danny Danon, long-time prominent leader of Likud, has expressed similar views, while the current Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, has proposed expelling all Arab-Israeli citizens from Israel.


Aliyah is the immigration of Jews from the diaspora to the land of Israel (Eretz Yisrael). Also defined as “the act of going up” or as in progressing towards Jerusalem. It is one of the most basic tenets of Zionist ideology. The opposite action, emigration from Israel, is referred to asyerida (“descent”).[1] The concept of Aliyah (return) to the Holy Land was first developed in Jewish history during the Babylonian exile. During the Jewish diaspora, Aliyah was developed as a national aspiration for the Jewish people, although it was not usually fulfilled until the development of the Zionist movement in the late nineteenth century. Large-scale immigration to Palestine began in 1882.[2] Since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, more than 3 million Jews from over 90 countries have ‘made Aliyah’ and arrived in Israel.[3]  (Wikipedia)

It is quite obvious that the current Israeli offensive is aimed at creating that desired “final solution” at least in Gaza.  Forgetting about, for example, the shelling of yet another UN school (intended of course to drive the UN and any independent observers it might supply out of the Gaza Strip), the event that fully signaled that intent to achieve a modern “final solution” to the “Palestinian question” took place yesterday: the complete destruction of Gaza’s only power plant.  Forgetting about all the power-run amenities of modern life, without power there can be no reliable pure water supply and no sanitary sewage disposal.  Just guess what comes next.  Either the Gazans will leave or they will eventually die in place, of a variety of communicable diseases.  “Exodus” and a “final solution.”  How horribly ironic that it is Jews who are creating the conditions for these contemporary equivalents of these two horrors visited upon their forebears.




 
What is HRC Doing? by Steve Jonas
August 13, 2014

What is Hillary Rodham Clinton doing these days?  Well, she is certainly making a lot of news.  Some of it is good for her, some not so good (although the “good” here often depends upon which side of HRC, politically, one is standing).  "But why would she be doing that?" one might ask.  And so, let us consider that question.

First one can say that, given that her health holds up, she is definitely running for President.   Her book has to be seen as a thrust in that direction.  Unfortunately for her, it has not done particularly well on the sales side, and she has not done particularly well on the sales-promotion side.   In addition to what she says on the book, as the Gaza and Iraq/Syria events unfold, she has been making a series of foreign policy statements, beyond what she says in the book.  Perhaps trying to sound Presidential, in the “decisive” sort of way, "No?"  Indeed, no other right-wing-reactionary authority than Laura Ingraham has said she sounds just like John “We Should be in Iraq 50 Years” McCain.  And she has lined up very solidly with the Israeli Likudniks on Israel/Gaza, while the President has been trying to find some way to help both sides find a way out of the horror.  As Glen Greenwald has said, it is very hard to find much space between HRC and Bibi.

Indeed (Martha’s Vineyard “hugs” aside), the way she is talking about President Obama and his foreign policy, (funnily enough one that she actually helped devise) along with the positions that she is taking on a variety of issues, on the domestic side too, like warming up to Goldman, Sachs, one might think that she is running for the GOP, not the Democratic, nomination for President.   I think that actually, going back to her right-wing Democratic Leadership Council roots, she is considering lining up with the so-called "Third Way/No Labels" folks and, at the right time, formally breaking off from the Democratic Party.
 
She is taking positions on foreign policy that would set her up for defeat in certain of the Democratic Primaries, and one or more good opponents could flesh out her true, Wall Street-friendly positions on domestic policy too.  Such opponents would be well-advised to bring Bill into it too, since he is always around and would certainly seem to be being set up to take a very prominent role in a Hillary /Clinton White House.  Just using Bill’s Presidential domestic policy record could stand any liberal/(hopefully) progressive opponent in very good stead.  As for HRC’s current foreign policy, taking Syria as an example, any of those arms which HRC thought should go to the Syrain “moderates”  could very well have ended up in not-so-moderate hands.  Indeed, with the aggressiveness of the Saudi-backed ISIS forces in routing a variety of US-equipped opponents, in certain instances the US has ended up bombing equipment of its own manufacture.

The “Third Way” folks claim to occupy “the center.”  But that’s all mythology.  From where one stands on the role of government to where one stands on the ever-widening gap between the ultra-rich and everyone else, to where one stands on abortion rights, just as in the famous Depression-era United Mine Workers song: "They say in Harlan County, there are no neutrals there. You either are a union man or a thug for J.H. Blair." There is no "middle ground."  The “Third Way,” in fact is the home of the modern-day so-called "liberal" Republicans, who, of course, gave us first, the Gingrich Republicans and now the “Tea Party” Republicans (all of whom, of course, were/are Republicans), as well as the Clintons' right-wing Democrats.  For the most part, their positions on the important issues of both foreign and domestic policy are right-wing.

In the past I have written of the necessity of splitting the Democratic Party for 2016, if there is to be any hope of saving the nation from the complete triumph of our own version of The Oligarchs.  Of course, I saw the split coming from the Left.  Now, it may well be that there will be a split, but, with HRC leading the charge, from the Right.  She wants the Presidency.
 
 As she moves further to the Right, it is becoming increasingly difficult to see her winning too many Democratic primaries, even if one or more viable more-to-the-left candidates has yet to be identified.  Thus, I think that one has to keep one’s eyes open for such a development. One party split did work in US history, the Northern Whigs (with, among others, the Nativists [surprise, surprise] and the Temperance Movement [in modern times read "Drug War"] folks), but dominated by the growing industrial class which wanted a) an open West and b) all kinds of government assistance in getting there and settling it, became the modern Republican Party.  None of the other splits, most prominently that of Teddy Roosevelt in 1912, have worked (and I am here talking of attempted party splits, not third parties).   A split to the Right, you might ask?  Isn’t that unusual in US politics.  Well, yes, but not unheard of.  Think Strom Thurmond and the “Dixiecrats” in 1948.  And so it’s rare, and success is rarer.  But indeed, it could happen, if HRC sees it as her only way to the White House.  And she could win, especially if the GOP nominates a Ted Cruz and no significant sector of the ruling class lines up behind a liberal/progressive Democrat.  Stay tuned.










 
On the Road to Theocracy: The Hobby Lobby Decision by Steve Jonas
July 7, 2014

The Hobby Lobby decision has many implications. First, one must agree with Justice Ginsburg that regardless of Justices Alito's caveats, the tide unleashed by the decision of the Right-wing Five is not going to stop at the shoreline of the separation of church and state any time soon. And for the long-range future of the United States, that is the most significant element of the decision.
 
US Wars From Viet Nam Onwards: Wins and Losses by Steve Jonas

Were wars since Vietnam won or lost by the US? The answer to those questions may not appear to be the obvious ones. If the unspoken government objectives of the various wars are taken into account, indeed they aren't. Let us start with Vietnam.

The standard interpretation of the US War on Vietnam is that the US lost it. The classic picture is of that last helicopter taking off from the roof of the soon-to-be former US Embassy in Saigon. But if one considers the original US objectives of the intervention-to-become-war in Southeast Asia, it was actually a win.

The French-Vietnamese War ended in 1954. The Geneva Conference of that year produced a treaty signed by the French and the Vietnamese and guaranteed by Great Britain and the Soviet Union. It brought hostilities to an end, temporarily divided the country in two, and provided for national elections to be held in 1956 -- elections that everyone knew would be won by Ho Chi Minh and his people. Pointedly, the US refused to sign or recognize the treaty.

They knew that if the plan in it were allowed to proceed, the chances were very good that Vietnam would peacefully progress to socialism and could be an economic success. If that happened, the same thing might well peacefully occur in other Southeast Asian countries, were democracy to be given a chance. Even as certain US analysts attempt in hindsight to disavow it, the "domino theory" about the spread of "socialism with a national face," distinguished from and not necessarily allied with the Soviet Union, and certainly not with the traditional enemy, China, communist or not, was quite correct.

And so, in the view of the US leadership of the time, the Dulles Brothers, John Foster at State and Allen at the CIA, everything had to be done that could be done to prevent the democratic process from introducing socialism to a country and then possibly succeeding in a peaceful setting. Once started, the process just continued on its own momentum, especially since any opponent of the war was labelled a "commie sympathizer" or worse by its supporters.

If looked at in this light, the Vietnam War was a US victory. The peaceful establishment of socialism was prevented. Its spread by example and peaceful means to neighbouring countries was prevented. Vietnam today has a sort of market socialist economy, becoming more "market" and less "socialist" by the year. But the country was ravaged by almost 20 years of war and two to three million of the best and the brightest of its people were killed. It is hardly the economic or social engine of the development of democratically-installed socialism that it might have become had it been left alone. In terms of the original American goals for the intervention, this was a win, a palpable win.

Next, let's consider the various interventions in the former Yugoslavia. Certainly lives were saved and a good deal of stability was eventually established, in Bosnia and Kosovo. But they do not fall under the usual rubric of "victory." In terms of the promotion of US imperialism around the world, however, "victory" was achieved. The US showed, for example, that it could bomb the capitol of another sovereign nation for 70 or so days straight, without UN sanction, and no one with any authority could say, "Boo!" to a goose. In terms of international law, it was sort of like the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, the Italian invasions of Libya and Ethiopia, and the German-Austrian Anschluss. In terms of Kosovo, the US showed that a piece of a sovereign country, in this case Serbia, could be split off from it and made into an independent country, again without UN sanction. (Ukraine/Crimea, anyone?) And the US has a quite large permanent military base in Kosovo. Spoils of war?

And then we come to Iraq. It is now teetering on the brink of even more disaster than it has been subject to since the US invasion, and political figures like "Negative Ace" McCain are now shouting that the US should have stayed there, and it's "all Obama's fault." As I said in a recent Tweet, "Blaming Obama for Iraq tragedy is like blaming the sweepers for the elephant droppings needing clean up after the circus parade has passed." (Yes, and the "elephants" were purposely chosen.) This is so even though George Bush could not negotiate a Status of Forces Agreement with his hand-picked Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, to exempt US troops and civilian contractors from local law in the case of violations of it, and that Obama has just lost it by the pull-out. (That's an excellent, in-depth column by Dexter Filkins, by the way.) If Iraq falls into civil war or is split up into three parts (which Joe Biden and I must say myself both suggested shortly after the beginning of hostilities), many voices will indeed be shouting "loss." But once again, in terms of the original objectives, it was not.

First of all, one of its original major justifications, other than the non-existent WMD, was that the War on Iraq was a part of the "War on Terror" (which is still going on). One should note (and I must note that I have done so on a number of occasions) that, according to one retired Army General, to call a military action a "War on Terror" is akin to calling another action a "War on Flanking Manoeuvres." "Terror," however you want to define it, is a tactic used by an enemy. It is not itself an enemy. But it was very much in the interests of those forces which forced the US into war to cement the "terror/fear" environment in the minds of the US people. And they certainly have achieved that goal, within the GOP/TP "base," at least.

Second of all, sometime after the Iraq invasion began, it started to become clear that the primary objective was not at the beginning what many of us on the Left thought it was: "oil and bases" - and it was to a degree. However, there was a goal that was probably more compelling to the neocons, although not mutually exclusive.

On the surface, the CheneyBush War Policy was becoming curiouser and curiouser. "Things are getting better in Iraq," they said, when they were clearly getting worse. "We must fight on to 'victory' " they said, without ever defining what they mean by "victory." And "we must fight on to 'victory'" when virtually every other military and political authority on the matter said that no matter how you would define it, "victory" was impossible. But that would be "victory" in military terms.

However, let's connect the dots to see what was really happening.
1. As is very well known, Bush/Cheney lied the U.S. into war.

2. There was no post-war planning, as is also well known. The U.S. State Department had a plan, and all 2,200 pages of it were just ignored.

3. The museums looting that could easily have been prevented could have part of a plan (well a different kind of plan) to develop permanent chaos. That would also explain the staffing of Paul Bremer's pro-consulate by totally unqualified, very young, Republican political operatives: not accidental or careless, but purposeful. In essence it was thinking what might be stated like this: "Let's do whatever we can to gum up the infrastructure even further than it is already gummed up by Saddam and our invasion."

4. In late 2006, the report of The Iraq Study Group, headed by no less than the man who coordinated the effort to steal the 2000 election for Bush, James Baker, had provided a perfect cover for withdrawal to begin then. CheneyBush disposed of it before the ink was dry, and [the famous/infamous "Surge" was begun.

5. At various times, the major Muslim countries offered to provide cover for an American departure, especially if it were attached to a real settlement of the Palestine/Israel problem. They were not taken up on those offers.
In the 2008 Presidential campaign, John McCain at one time rattled on about "staying in Iraq for 50 years." (Gosh. Some things never change, changing conditions to the contrary notwithstanding). Indeed, the US eventually left Iraq, not with any kind of "victory" but because it was pushed out, by the very puppet government that Bush/Cheney set up. But the Permanent War Society, or at least the Permanent Preparation for Permanent War Society, is very much in play. In terms of its original objectives, regardless of what happens in the Middle East now, the War on Iraq can only be said to have resulted in a victory - for those who originally planned and prosecuted it.

As for Afghanistan, that may be the one major war the US has fought since World War II that could not be said to be, in any sense of the term, a "victory." But that one's for another time.

 
The City of Conversation: Remembrances by Steve Jonas
May 28, 2014

My wife and I recently saw a new play entitled “The City of Conversation,” at the Lincoln Center Theatre in New York City.  The play is centered on the adult life of a once-famous “Washington Hostess,” a power-broker of sorts for whom there were several real-life models.  In the days before the Reagan/Gingrich/Tea Party GOP, when there was true give-and-take between the Democrats and Republicans, on some level at least, these women played an important role in bringing leading members of both parties together for informal negotiations, out of the public eye.  The brilliance of the play is that it intertwines public and personal lives, the political and the emotional, and how they interact, in this particular telling leading to no good outcomes on the latter side.  Historically, in three acts, it is set in 1979, 1987 and 2009.  But it does reach back to the Kennedy/Johnson/Nixon era as well.

This column is not a review.  It is rather a collection of some of the remembrances that I had during the play, which covers the period of my adult political life.  Some are related directly to the substance of the play; many are not, but the play brought them up into my consciousness.  And so let me share some of them with you.

There was President Kennedy’s little-remembered “American University” speech of June, 1963.  In it he essentially proposed taking Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev up on his earlier proposal to try “Peaceful Co-existence” as the basis for relations between the US and the USSR.  With that speech, perhaps even more than with his not-too-well hidden intent to withdraw US forces from Viet Nam after the 1964, JFK signed his own death warrant.

Many of us who fought hard against the War on Viet Nam from the beginning of the escalation (I was marching in 1965 when people would come up on the street and ask “what’s the Viet Nam War?”), wondered just why it was that LBJ gave up on the Great Society, only to get sucked into the “Big Muddy.”  Had he not, he would have gone down in US history as one of the greatest Presidents of all time.  Only recently did a Johnson tape come to light in which he offered his prime reason: He was afraid that if he didn’t escalate, the Republicans would call him a “commie.”  And we are still living with the droppings of the Era of McCarthyism.

Just before the 1968 election, the Democratic candidate, Sen. Hubert Humphrey wanted to declare that he would end the Vietnam War right after election, just as Dwight D. Eisenhower had done with the Korean War. For reasons that have never been clear, the by-then totally lame-duck Johnson told him, “No!” and for equally unclear reasons Humphrey listened to him.  In the meantime, the GOP candidate Richard Nixon was secretly negotiating with the right-wing South Viet Namese government which Johnson was trying to steer towards a settlement at the “Paris Peace Talks” to scuttle these talks (which they did).  Johnson knew about the treason but decided to do nothing with the information.

Sen.  George McGovern’s 1972 Democratic candidacy, featuring the slogan “Bring America Home,” was doomed from the start when the right-wing Democratic establishment, the predecessors of the Democratic Leadership Council, led by Washington State’s Henry “Scoop” Jackson, the “Senator from Boeing,” refused to support him.  McGovern was portrayed by Nixon as a weak-kneed, lily-livered liberal.  Not once did George McGovern, whom I later came to know (he wrote the Foreword to my first political book, The New Americanism) ever mention that during World War II, when Nixon had a nice desk job in the US Navy, McGovern, was flying 35 missions (volunteering for an extra 10 over the required 25) piloting one of the “flying coffins” (because it was so difficult to escape from when hit by enemy fire) B-24 bombers.  George, who had survived the famous Second Ploesti Raid (Romanian oil fields, vital to the Nazi war effort), didn’t have a chance.

On Nixon, I recall that when in 1972 I saw the first article in the New York Times about the Watergate break-in (front page, but a single column, “below the fold”), at which time there was not the least hint that Nixon had anything to do with it, having known of “Tricky Dick” as he used to be called, since he ran his first red-baiting campaign against the unsuspecting California Congressman Jerry Voorhis in 1946.  I said to myself, “Nixon’s behind this one.”

Ronald Reagan, counseled by the famous political consultant Lee Atwater brought racism into the mainstream of Republican politics.  In March, 1980, he symbolically opened his Presidential primary campaign in the tiny town of Philadelphia, MS.  It just happened to be the site of the murder of the three civil rights workers during the “Freedom Summer” of 1964 (one of whom, Andy Goodman, I had known a bit at high school). 

Reagan also was the first to make abortion rights a political issue.  Starting down that track from the beginning, he made the resignations of George and Barbara Bush from their long-time Board memberships with Texas Planned Parenthood a condition of giving the Vice-Presidential nomination to Bush.  On energy policy, one of Reagan’s first acts as President was to shut down, on January 21, 1981, the Federally-funded alternative energy research program that President Carter had started, as well as ordering the removal of the solar panels that the former president installed on the roof of the White House.  The Global Warming Denial Movement is a direct descendant of the Reagan Presidency.   Just imagine where this country could have been in the alternative energy technology movement had that program stayed in place.  But Big Oil was as much behind Reagan as it is behind the present whole of the GOP/TP. 

And oh yes, in the 1980 election Reagan’s victory was called a “Landslide.”  Actually, he got 50% of the vote, Jimmy Carter got 43% and a third party candidate (for whom I had worked), former Congressman John Anderson, got 7%.

On “Iran-Contra,” during his Presidency Reagan broke the law by supporting the right-wing rebels in Nicaragua, such support being specifically prohibited by an Act of Congress.  (He also broke the law by secretly dealing with the Iranian “terrorists,” with whom, during the 1980 Presidential Campaign, much like Nixon he committed treason by bargaining with them not to release the US Embassy hostages until after the Presidential election, thus making sure that Carter would continue to be saddled with the continuing crisis.)  "Iran-Contra" eventually got to a joint Congressional Committee.  Ted Kennedy and other liberals were kept off the Committee by Indiana Congressman Lee Hamilton, the Democratic fixer for the GOP, who would in the future play a similar role on the “9/11 Commission.”  It is interesting to note that current Democratic “fixer,” Cong. Steney Hoyer, has arranged to keep such liberal lights as Cong. Alan Grayson off the newly minted House “Benghazi” (Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi) Committee.  Hamilton also arranged for Col. Oliver North, who was at the center of the Iran-Contra plot, to be given Congressional immunity.  Otherwise, he would have been forced to take the Fifth, which likely would have rightly led to Reagan’s impeachment.

The appearance of two gay men in the third act of the play (2009) made me think back to the first AIDS Crisis, which broke about in the middle of the Reagan Presidency.  Reagan, so strongly indebted politically as he was to the “Revs.” Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, who had immediately labelled AIDS as, “God’s punishment for the sins of homosexuality,” of course Reagan had known many gays during his days in Hollywood, including the “Male Archetype” Rock Hudson, who happened to have been one of the early victims of the dread disease, couldn’t bring himself to mention the word (AIDS) for more than two years after it had been coined.

Finally, you might ask, why so many negative memories and so many that feature Republicans and Ronald Reagan.  Only because it is the Republicans, and the policies with which they have been running our country, whether in the majority in Washington or not, and gradually running it into the ground, for the bulk of my adult life.  And, it was Ronald Reagan, the “failed B-movie actor,” as he is described by the leading liberal at the beginning of the play, who set the pattern on so many levels for what the Republican Party and our nation have become today. 

Yes indeed, Sean, “What would Reagan do?”  One only has to look at the record.














 
Ukraine? Russia? Keep Your Eyes on the Prize by Steve Jonas
May 13, 2014

It is always the economic ruling class that controls the state apparatus, the government, in one way or another.  This is unless the government has become so violent that it can maintain itself in place by the use of force, massed and personal, against even the most highly placed, in both the ruling class and the military, as was the case in capitalist Nazi Germany…”
 
Ukraine, the Cheneyites, and Permanent War by Steve Jonas
March 13, 2014

Rachel Maddow of MSNBC.com presented a very well-documented case for the hypothesis, long-standing on the Left in the U.S. and around the world as well, that the principal reason the U.S. invaded Iraq was for oil. (It had also been thought that the invasion had as a goal establishing permanent military bases in the Western Iraqi desert).  Of course it was known before the invasion that Iraq had no "weapons of mass destruction." That had been well-documented by the team led by the Chief UN Weapons Investigator Hans Blix. Thus it was widely known at the time that the reason(s) given for the invasion were bogus. (To its credit, in 2013 MSNBC also ran a documentary on the selling of the Iraq War).  Indeed, given the preoccupation with petroleum products and policy of the then chief driver of U.S. foreign policy, Dick Cheney, that it was really for oil (and bases) was a very reasonable proposition. Ms. Maddow has now provided much evidence that it was the case.

Nevertheless, for quite some time I have felt that beyond oil and bases the primary reason for the invasion, coming as it did on the relative heels of the Neo-cons' wished-for "next Pearl Harbor" 9/11, and with the (totally bogus) claim that "Saddam was behind 9/11," was to help establish a U.S. policy of Permanent War. And so we come to Ukraine.  Although the situation continues to unfold, let us look at some of what we know as of March 13, 2014.

The U.S. war on Iraq has ended, with US being kicked out by the Iraqis under an agreement made by George Bush with his hand-picked puppet Prime Minister. Pres. Obama, after being pulled into another of those famous "surges" (which while accomplishing domestic political goals tend to make things worse in the field in the long run) is pulling the U.S. out of Afghanistan. North Korea and its very real nuclear weapons are very inconveniently close to China (which happens also to be their only ally). So, that nation is not too useful for promoting Permanent War. The Republic of Georgia thing, even with GW Bush in the White House, didn't help the Permanent War cause either.  Then we come to the present and President Obama.

As my regular readers know well, going back to before the 2008 election, I am not at all a fan of his on domestic policy or how he deals with the Republicans. However, on certain critical aspects of his foreign policy, it must be pointed out that he has not been totally cooperative with the neo-con/Cheneyite permanent policy of maintaining Permanent War or at least The Permanent Preparation for War Society. Libya was quite complex but he did not put "boots on the ground," leading to endless conflict involving the U.S. there. He was apparently about to engage in at least selective bombing of Syria, but with some timely help from (oh my) Russia's President Vladimir Putin, he was able to avoid doing that.

(And regardless of whatever else is going on in Syria, apparently the germ warfare weapons have been removed.) He and Sec. of State John Kerry are making what seems to be a serious attempt at finding a settlement for the Israel-Palestine problem, and are putting some pressure on the Netanyahu government to move in that direction. And, even with a Republican Secretary of Defense, military spending is starting to decline somewhat (although in part that is due to the Sequester). For the Neo-con Permanent War team this is all bad news. And so, where to turn?

Hey, how about the old reliable long-time enemy, Russia. Well, yes, that enemy was actually the Soviet Union, but a) there are surely many U.S., especially GOP/Tea Partiers, who really don't know the difference (and Fox”News” surely won’t help them to determine that fact --- I heard at least one F”N” “expert” totally confuse the two), and b) Russia, or the Russian Federation, occupies much of the physical territory of the old USSR. It happens also that Obama was trying to develop and maintain some kind of reasonable relationship with Russia. That doesn't help either the Permanent War folks either. Neither did the very expensive, very corrupt, with the very-late-to-be-completed facilities, but nevertheless very successful (on the surface at least) Sochi Olympic Games, which just happened to have received enormous and very well-done coverage by NBC in this country. This was despite the wretched new Russian policy in dealing with it LGBT community, one that received GOP support in this country.

And so, as other options for maintaining Permanent War start to disappear, let's see, the Neo-cons said, how we can once again make Russia (read Red, read the Soviet enemy) into the big, bad, bogey bear, that would justify at least Permanent Preparation for War Society if not Permanent War itself (the latter having become very unpopular with the U.S. people). Further, they would be saying to themselves, if we can make Russia into the enemy and at the same time use our manoeuvring to dump all over Obama, wow! We've got ourselves a daily double winner. And with Ukraine that's what they seem to have achieved.

US Ukraine policy, seemingly run independently by the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland (who just happens to be married to one of the original neo-cons, Robert Kagan) and the NGO the National Endowment for Democracy, along with the European Union and the IMF, has for some time been focused on weaning Ukraine away from any relationship to Russia, other than a stand-off one at best. They were prepared to do this even if it meant supporting a government that includes open fascists. The latter are descended directly from the pro-Nazi forces that fought alongside the Wehrmacht in World War II, whom they openly celebrate, are openly anti-Semitic, and not only display the swastika, but also the Confederate flag (which would make them feel right at home in a number of states in our Union).

Forces were assembled that overthrew the Ukrainian President (an apparently totally corrupt personage, but democratically elected), when he started to end talks that had been held on having Ukraine join the EU and moved back towards a closer relationship with Russia. (According to Paul Craig Roberts, these forces included paid protesters, paid by guess who, including some recruited from the neighbouring country of Moldova.) The new, "Yats the guy" government of Sec. Nuland is of course talking not only with the EU but also with NATO (as if having the Baltic countries, Poland and Slovakia, all on Russia's borders, being in NATO were not enough). President Putin's response was predictable.
 
Forget about Crimea being majority-Russian or that for several centuries it was part of Russia and then the Russian Federated Soviet Republic. It is home to Russia's only warm water port, in historic Sevastopol. Presently (that is before this Sunday's referendum), it is Russia's under a lease from Ukraine until 2042. Do you really believe that any Russian President would allow a country that most likely will become a NATO member to have effective control (like unilaterally cancelling the lease) over that base? So, if for no other reason, Russia very predictably moved.

And finally, here came the Permanent Warriors, led of course by "Bomb, Bomb, Bomb" Iran, "the US should be in Iraq for 50 years," Negative Ace John McCain. But then, as if he, Lindsey Graham, and the rest of the Obama-bashers weren't enough, there came the grand old man of the Permanent Warriors, as Charlie Pierce calls him "The Well-Known Zombie War Criminal Dick Cheney." He was actually talking about military options short of (for now) actually shooting.

The Neo-con/Cheneyites are wedded to Permanent War or the Permanent Preparation for War Society for three principal reasons: maintaining the military-industrial complex, maintaining U.S.-centered global capitalism, and maintaining as high a fear level among the U.S. population as they can manage, for that is so useful politically for the Republican Party and their patrons. Do they really care about Crimea and the "territorial integrity" of Ukraine? No. But they helped to arrange to overthrow an elected government that was moving back-and-forth between the EU and the Russian trade federation, but would never consider joining NATO.  They then installed one, with, as noted above, local openly fascist support (members proudly wear swastika tattoos), that will go EU/IMF and likely NATO as well.  And so, congrats Neo-Con Cheneyites.  You have forced Putin's hand, principally over Sevastopol (a place name that once again has great historical significance --- think the Crimean War and World War II), and have created just the "enemy" you need for the maintenance at least of the Permanent Preparation for War Society, for some time to come.



 
An Enlightened US Drug Policy Would Reduce Heroin Deaths by Steve Jonas
February 11, 2014

In light of the tragic death of the great actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman, from the use of an unregulated, so-called “illicit” pharmaceutical heroin, and thus a victim of the so-called “Drug War,” it was thought useful to republish it at this time.

On April 8, 2012, our esteemed Editor/Publisher at BuzzFlash at Truthout, my good friend Mark Karlin, published a column entitled "The US War on Drug Cartels in Mexico Is a Deadly Failure". In his column he noted that: "Approximately 50,000 or more Mexicans have been killed since Mexican President Felipe Calderon launched a so-called war on drug cartels. (In a recent appearance in Toronto, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta claimed 150,000 people have died in the drug war in Mexico, but the timeline Panetta was referring to was unclear, as was the origin of the figure he cited.)."

Mark went on to say: "Here is the US policy in a nutshell: we pay Mexicans to kill Mexicans, and this slaughter has no effect on drug shipments or prices." Nor on the use of those drugs in the United States, which has generally not significantly changed over the 40-plus years of the "war".*

Over the years I have written at length on this subject in the academic literature.* The "War on Drugs" has never been such a thing. From its inauguration by President Richard Nixon, it has always been a "War on Certain Users of Certain Drugs", for the most part minority drug users at that, although some non-minorities do get caught up in its tentacles. The so-called War on Drugs was begun shortly after the invention of the race-based "Southern Strategy" that has controlled the fortunes of the GOP and unfortunately the country for most of the time since Nixon installed it.

The correctly labelled "War on Drug Users" has primarily been a racist enterprise too. It has been aimed at the users of one minor class of the Recreational Mood Altering Drugs (RMADs), those that are currently "illicit" (as alcohol was nationally between 1920 and 1933. But Prohibition was for the most part actually aimed at the drug, ethyl alcohol, not at the users.) Although the ratios have declined a bit in the last few years, for most of its duration under the War on Drug Users, while approximately 75 percent of those in prison for drug-related offenses are non-white approximately 75 percent of illicit-drug users are white. Further, the War on Drug Users has been race-based in terms of the neighborhoods in which it has been waged.

The commonly used RMADs are alcohol, nicotine in tobacco, the non-prescription use of prescription drugs, and the illicits, primarily marijuana, heroin, cocaine, and fairly recently, methamphetamine. In terms of negative outcomes of RMAD use, for example, tobacco-use still kills about 430,000 people per year and alcohol between 60,000 and 100,000, depending upon how one counts. As of the turn of the century, in this country the illicits killed about 20,000, half that number as a result of drug-trade violence that would not exist absent the War on Drug Users and some of the other half due to forced unsterile use of the drugs. Tobacco and alcohol are not only the major drug killers but they are the "starter drugs," most often in childhood, for almost every problem-user of them in adult life and almost every user of the illicits, regardless of age.

Logic has not ended the War on Drug Users. Neither has the mainstream drug policy reform movement, which views RMAD use as the same false duality the Drug Warriors do. Logic did not end Prohibition either. Over-riding policy concerns did: rampant crime on the one hand and a major need for new tax revenues to deal with the Depression on the other. Major funding for the final Repeal campaign of the early 1930s came from a John D. Rockefeller-lead group of financiers who wanted to prevent any increases in income tax levels that an incoming Democratic Administration might enact.

There is a major series of problems that could be addressed by ending the War on Drug Users and legalizing the illicits. First, all of the ever-rising toll of death, both in the US and abroad would be brought to an end.

Second, a major new source of tax revenues would be created. The prison population would be significantly reduced, resulting in significant reductions in federal, state and local spending on incarceration. Doing so would significantly unclog the courts, especially at the Federal level where they are so over-burdened with drug cases that the waits for trials on much more important matters, especially in the civil realm, can become interminable.

Third, there would be a significant reduction in the demands on the law enforcement sector of government, which could either save money or enable the diversion of resources to other important areas, such as financial fraud, that do not always receive the attention they deserve. The Taliban would be largely defunded.

Finally, the recognition of the unitary nature of RMAD use would enable for the first time a comprehensive public health program to deal with all of the negative aspects of that use, especially among children for whom it is the major licit drugs which are the stepping stones both to later habitual, damaging use of them, and, currently, to the use of the illicits.

But this is all logic, which increasingly has less place in politics. There are major stakeholders in maintaining the current War on Drug Users who would have to be dealt with, and that would not be so easy. Many politicians of both parties, if given the chance would just love to run on the "soft-on-drugs" issue. Although the tobacco industry has reportedly for many years has registered a variety of names to use in the case of the legalization of marijuana, the alcohol industry would not welcome the competition from RMADs that produce results similar to those achieved by its products.

Both the private prison industry and the workers in major prison systems would be negatively affected by legalization. (In California, for example, the prison guards union contributed to the campaign against a proposition that would have legalized marijuana.) The powerful drug cartels, politically well-connected in certain countries, also have an interest in maintaining their very profitable enterprise.

As for the non-prescription use of the prescription drugs (the latter of which has been a much more serious problem than the use of heroin and cocaine combined), a variety of approaches could be explored. The non-prescription use of illegally-produced methamphetamine (a prescription drug) presents a particularly serious problem.

This all would have be combined with a major public-health based anti- and safe-RMAD use program, combining tax policy, controls on advertising, packaging, and marketing, and effective education programs for both adults and children. The result would be a much healthier nation, in many senses.
Since finding sources of new government revenues in the face of ever-increasing deficits has become such a major concern and since certain major foreign policy aims could be achieved so easily, now is the time to begin developing strategies and tactics for ending the War on Drug Users, once and for all.

To deal with the real drug problem, that caused by the use of alcohol and tobacco products, reform policy would have to go way beyond the current narrow "legalize marijuana" focus of the current drug policy reform movement. But if it were couched in the terms of saving money as well as saving lives, success just might be possible to achieve.

Addendum: One commentator on the column as published on the BuzzFlash at Truthout website had this to say: "We need the drug laws to use against individuals who are otherwise a threat to society." Indeed. A common argument from the Drug Warriors and an excellent rationale for prohibition of tobacco and alcohol, each far more destructive to society than all of the illicits put together.

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Reference:

*Jonas, S., "The Public Health Approach to the Prevention of Substance Abuse," chapter 70 in Lowinson, J., et al, Eds., Substance Abuse: A Comprehensive Textbook, 2nd ed., Baltimore, MD: Williams and Wilkins, 1992; chapter 77 in the 3rd ed., Baltimore, MD: Williams and Wilkins, 1997; chap. 79 in the 4th ed., Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2004.



 
David Brooks on Pot: “Lets’ Return to Good Old-Fashioned Prohibition” by Steve Jonas
January 10, 2014

Remember Prohibition? I mean the Prohibition of "Boardwalk Empire." Well, there are not too many people alive now who do remember it, although I was born just three years after it came to the end of its very short life (1920-1933). But it had come to pass, through a Constitutional Amendment no less, due to the diligent work of the Temperance Wing of the Republican Party. Indeed although the center of the original Republican Party was that of the anti-slavery Whigs, both the nativist "No-Nothings" and the Temperance Movement also were there at its beginnings. That accounts at least in part for the long association of the Republican Party with both recreational mood-altering drug (RMAD) illegalization and anti-immigrant legislation of various types at various times.

That Prohibition was aimed at alcohol, of course. It happens that before it, around the turn of the 20th century, 15 states had prohibition of one kind or another for tobacco use. The major difference with those Prohibitions and the modern so-called "War on Drugs" --- really a war on certain users of certain drugs --- was that the former criminalized importation and sale of the target RMADs, while the latter also criminalizes possession and use.

And so here comes David Brooks of The New York Times who makes an excellent argument for returning to the original, 1920s, Prohibition. He happens to have been writing about marijuana and its legalization (small amounts, for personal use) in certain parts of Colorado. But it is fascinating to note that the arguments he uses against marijuana legalization are just like those that have been used for alcohol and tobacco prohibition going back to the 19th Temperance movement. To quote Mr. Brooks:
"[Marijuana use] is addictive in about one in six teenagers --- smoking and driving is a good way to get yourself killed --- young people who smoke go on to suffer I.Q. loss and perform worse on other cognitive tests. . . . . We now have a couple states — Colorado and Washington — that have gone into the business of effectively encouraging drug use. As prices drop and legal fears go away, usage is bound to increase. Colorado and Washington, in other words, are producing more users. . . ."

And there you have it. Just like the arguments in favor of 1920s Prohibition. So why not bring it back for all of the RMADs, not just selected ones? In fact, tobacco and alcohol use are much more harmful than marijuana use. The former kills about 440,000 people per year while the latter kills between 60,000 and 100,000, depending upon how you count. (There have been very few, if any, deaths associated with marijuana use.) Brooks tells us that “Smoking [marijuana] was fun, for a bit, but it was kind of repetitive. . . . We graduated to more satisfying pleasures. . . . We aged out.” However, many childhood users of one or the other or both don't age out. In fact, childhood teenage use of alcohol and tobacco is the “gateway” both to life-long use of those substances, as well as to the use marijuana, heroin, and cocaine. 

Life-long cigarette smoking is found mainly among those who started in their childhood/teenage years. The same can be said for childhood/teen-age alcoholic beverage consumption. That's the age where much alcoholism, a terrible, usual fatal disease, gets its start. Then there is the fact that alcohol use is associated, on the part of the perpetrator or the victim or both, with about 50% of gun deaths in the United States. And then there is drunk driving and death. And so, and so forth with the negative health data on alcohol and of course tobacco use. So let's hear it for a return to 1920s Prohibition for the Big Killers, Mr. Brooks.

As for Colorado and Washington (the other state to have legalized small-scale marijuana use) "producing more users," if simple availability of an RMAD were the key to its use, do you think that the alcohol industry would spend so much, time, energy, creativity and money promoting its product? (The tobacco industry used to be right up there in advertising --- even a former President, none other than Ronald Reagan, was a pitchman for Chesterfields, along with those other "wholesome" figures from the entertainment world, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Perry Como, and Arthur Godfrey --- at a time when subsequent legal discovery showed that the tobacco industry already knew just how deadly its product was.) So here we have a society in which the production, distribution, sale, use and advertising of the two most harmful RMADs are legal.  In fact, it is a society that can be said to have a drug culture, starting with the two most commonly used RMADs.

I do not associate myself with those who argue for marijuana legalization because it's "not very harmful" or it's "less harmful than alcohol or tobacco." It seems that the latter is the case (although intensive marijuana use certainly can be health-harmful).  But what I am primarily concerned with as a public health physician is that we do know for sure just how harmful the Big Two are. Nevertheless, both are legal, at least for persons 18-21 and older (depending upon the drug and the jurisdiction). And since they are legal, there is no rational argument for illegalizing marijuana (and most of the other RMADs, most of them small-use, as well). In fact, there are important lessons to be learned from how tobacco and alcohol are handled that could be used in dealing with all of the RMADs. Advertising and price, their use and control, are key.

Since the publication of the original Surgeon General's Report on Smoking and Health in 1964 the adult prevalence of cigarette smoking has dropped by about half. That outcome has been achieved by a combination of severe limitations on cigarette advertising, very strong antismoking campaigns, increase in price through taxation, and limitations on where one can smoke. On the other hand, the alcohol industry has demonstrated over the years just how important advertising is to their continued success. They learned the post-1920s-Prohibition lesson for their industry very well. While during 1920s-Prohibition the consumption of hard liquor fell hardly at all (yes, Joe Kennedy and all of the other spirits bootleggers were remarkably successful in importation and sale), the consumption of beer, not readily imported because of its bulk, fell to almost nothing. It took the beer industry 40 years of advertising to get consumption back to where it had been in 1920, before 1920s-Prohibition. And of course Colorado, the state that Mr. Brooks is so very concerned with, especially their morality, is the home to one of the two biggest brewers in the US, Coors. How about their morality, Mr. Brooks?

But that aside, as I said at the outset, Mr. Brooks has made all of the central arguments that the proponents of 1920s-Prohibition made. So, hurrah for him, for once again getting the Reurn-of-1920s-Prohibition ball rolling.





 
Pope Francis and Change in the Roman Catholic Church by Steven Jonas
December 24, 2013


Pope Francis has been taking some pretty remarkable positions, for a Pope at any rate, during his first year in office.   Indeed, in the context of the Roman Catholic Church they could be considered radical.

For example, he has opened the door to gay Catholics, he has acknowledged that there is a sort of “gay lobby” within the Vatican itself, he has said that atheists might well be welcomed into heaven.  He has also been engaging in some fairly substantive house-cleaning and reorganizing, like bouncing more than one reactionary Cardinal from places of influence on policy making and politics within the Church hierarchy.  Finally, and most remarkably, he has ripped into contemporary capitalism, to the extent that Rush Limbaugh (not a Catholic) felt it necessary to engage him in an extensive bout of red-baiting.  Funnily enough, several recent Popes, even including Benedict XVI (no radical, for sure) have criticized modern capitalism, but this Pope has done it in a context of possibly making changes in Vatican policy, as, for example, towards Liberation Theology.   So what is going on here?  Is this just a Cardinal who happened to get elected Pope striking out on his own?  I don’t think so.

It must be assumed (although we have no way of knowing) that votes are not taken blindly in the College of Cardinals. We must assume that Cardinals do not vote for their candidate for the next Pope simply because they like him personally, or he comes from a Hemisphere that has never had a Pope before, or speaks Spanish as his first language. The Pope is one of the most powerful political figures in the world. Therefore it is only logical that those voting know of the several candidates' politics (and of course their economics as well). If these suppositions are correct, that could very well mean that this Pope was chosen by a majority of the College to bring real reform to the Church (which happens to have undergone real reform a number of times in its history). If that is true, that would mean that Pope Francis has a powerful bloc within the Church behind him and will continue to push forward with his reform agenda.

Indeed, in order to deal with changing realities over time, the Church has changed policies numerous occasions over its long history, from the time of the Council of Nicaea in 325, which following the conversion to Christianity of the Roman Emperor Constantine, a) brought the Church fully out into the open, beyond persecution, and b) made it a political partner with the Roman Empire.  Over time came, for example: St. Augustine, who among other things codified the doctrine that the “Jews killed Christ,” so that anti-Semitism became a driving force for the Church and Church policy over so many centuries; St. Thomas Aquinas who, of course with colleagues, introduced an element of rationality into church doctrine; the Crusades, which made the Church into a major military power for a time; the focus on the use of torture on so-called heretics for centuries, starting well before the Reformation, which “anti-heretical” process then led to Church-sponsored massive civil wars in Europe for 150 years.

For many centuries the Church was a major geographic/political power in Europe, through the Holy Roman Empire, which came to an end only during the Napoleonic Wars.  It continued to be a major political player in Italy, down to the time of Unification in 1860, which deprived the Church of virtually all of the Italian landscape that it had once controlled.  In the 20th century, the Church openly sided with fascism, from Mussolini through Hitler and Franco to the Dirty War in Argentina (of which, unfortunately, this Pope knows much from the inside, some of it admirable, some of it not so --- which experiences could, incidentally have played a very important part in the development of his thinking).

So indeed, the Church has played many political, military, and economic roles over time, to be sure almost invariably on the side of the varying ruling classes.  But, capitalism is reeling towards its predicted self-destruction, possibly taking our species and many others with it.  At the same time an increasing number of people, including numbers of Catholics, are seeing the Church as becoming increasingly irrelevant in terms of these challenges.   Following, then, its two-millennia tradition of changing for self-preservation, could the Church make a turn to the Left?  Could it side with some form of anti-capitalist-as-it-has-come-to-be social democracy in the future? Who knows? Remember, Francis is not the only recent Pope to criticize the system. 

But what about religio-social policy?  Could any significant changes be coming there as well?  Let’s take abortion, the prime example in the social policy arena.  The modern position of the Church on abortion was established by Pope Pius IX in 1869. He reversed the long-time Church position, established from the time of St. Augustine and reinforced by St. Thomas Aquinas, that abortion was OK up to the time of "quickening" (16-20 weeks). It was Pius IX who also established the Doctrine of Papal Infallibility.

Since abortion-rights is the number one social issue on which so many people oppose the Roman Catholic Church while they might approve of it on so many others, it will be fascinating to watch what the Pope might do on this one.

If his support among the Cardinals is strong enough, he might actually make a totally remarkable move here, striking down the arbitrary position on abortion established by Pius IX by taking advantage of the other arbitrary position (Papal infallibility) established by the same Pope. For example, without going back to the pre-Pius IX doctrine, he could say something like: “For Catholics, life begins at the moment of conception; for Catholics it is sacred, and thus for Catholics it may not be interrupted in utero at any time.  However, it is not incumbent upon the Mother Church to attempt to legally enforce our doctrine on non-Catholics.  Thus from this time forward, the Church is to cease to attempt to enforce our position on others through the use of either the criminal or the civil law.”  A similar formulation could be developed to deal with the issue of gay marriage.  Oh boy, the reactionary Catholic leadership, especially in the United States would go absolutely nuts.  But just imagine how so many non-Catholics would react.

Some authorities for whom I have a great deal of respect have said that the Pope’s social and economic initiatives could simply be an attempt to take the heat off the child molestation scandals, the alleged gay-prostitutes-in-the-Vatican scandal, the Vatican bank financial/possible corruption scandal, and the other who-knows-what that occurred, especially under Benedict XVI. But would Francis really need to go to attacking the essence of capitalism, which is making profit to the exclusion of everything else, in order to do that? I do not want to jump the gun with a definite prediction. I am just talking about "possibles" in the historical context of an institution that has made many major changes in doctrine and organization over time since the Council of Nicaea in 325. The Catholic Church is the longest-lasting religious and political institution in the Western World.  It has not achieved this state-of-grace by standing still.