Archive | February 7th, 2020

Roaming Charges: The Steal of the Century


Street mural, East Hollywood. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

+ An impeached president meeting in the White House with a Prime Minister indicted for corruption and bribery to pitch a giant land swindle in the Middle East, which they market to a gullible press as a “peace plan.” Is there a more precise image for the current state of our political condition?

+ The best thing you can say about the Kushner/Netanyahu land theft plan is that all pretense of the US ever having been an “honest broker” in the Middle East has now been dropped. To quote Denny Green: “They are who we thought they were…”

+ Kushner: “The White House’s Middle East plan is a great deal and if Palestinians reject it, they’re going to screw up another opportunity, like they’ve screwed up every other opportunity that they’ve ever had in their existence.”

+ If there’s one thing Jared Kushner knows, it’s how to kick current tenants out of their homes and pull off a real estate heist…

+ Rarely has a crime (land theft) been so premeditated and brazenly documented and publicized by the perpetrators…

+ The Kushner/Netanyahu land grab plan gives new meaning to ghost-writing, since it seems to have been drafted by Andrew Jackson…

+ How Jared became the Expert-Texpert on the Middle East…

+ Nancy Pelosi on the Kushner/Netanyahu Land Swindle Plan: “There are some areas of common ground here.”

+ Usually, David Ignatius columns in the Washington Post are boring and tedious reads. Occasionally, he writes something that is boring, tedious and also morally repugnant, like this one: “The Trump Peace Plan is a Squeeze Play Against the Palestinians. It Might Work.

+ Trump and Kushner have no more right to draw the maps of Palestine than did Sykes and Picot, Balfour, Allenby, Harry Truman, Ben Gurion, the UN, Anwar Sadat or Jimmy Carter…

+ Ilan Pappe: “Most Zionists don’t believe that God exists, but they’re quite certain that He promised them Palestine.”

+ Palestinian protester reenacts the Bush shoe toss during Trump’s speech on his Swindle of the Century…

+ A few hours later, the Palestinians issued their official response…

+ There is no viable and sustainable two-state solution. There never has been. But credit the Kushner/Netanyahu land grab plan for making that clear to almost everyone…

+ Are there any transcripts of White House phone calls, locked in that secret vault, making US aid to Israel contingent on cleaning up corruption?

+ Did Bolton tell the “truth” about Iraq, Chuck?

ABC News Politics@ABCPolitics

Sen. Chuck Schumer: “Between Pres. Trump and Amb. Bolton, only one of them is willing to testify in the Senate under oath. Only Mr. Bolton is willing to swear that he is telling the truth.” 2273:27 PM – Jan 28, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy100 people are talking about this

+ Lou Dobbs says the darnedest things…

+ Sorry Dershowitz, you don’t need to commit a crime to be impeached. The most serious offenses a president can commit are against the Constitution itself: waging unauthorized wars, assassinating political leaders, droning American citizens, taking money from projects Congress authorized and using it to fund projects Congress forbid, engaging in torture, refusing to enforce health, safety and environmental laws putting the lives of 10s of thousands of people at risk, using the power of the government to enrich yourself. Too bad Congress has turned a blind eye to these kinds of transgressions for decades.

+ It would be amusing to watch Dershowitz and Starr cross-examine Bolton in a battle of the former FoxNews blowhards…

+ On November 21, 1974, as the Watergate trials of Nixon’s henchmen were getting under way, Alan Dershowitz told the Associated Press: “I’m not happy seeing Nixon’s gang being tried by blacks and liberals in the District of Columbia.”

+ Tim Wu, author of The Curse of Bigness: “When Dershowitz taught me professional ethics at Harvard, his overriding message was that there is almost no such thing as unethical conduct when it comes to the zealous defense of a client. The whole semester was a prolonged exercise in self-justification for low behavior.”

+ Six years ago, Rand Paul received the Pillar Human Rights award from a whistleblower advocacy group. On Thursday, he publicly revealed the name of the alleged whistleblower in the Ukraine scandal.

+ Should I feel any pride in the fact that Trump has pilfered my “MSDNC” moniker?

Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump

Our case against lyin’, cheatin’, liddle’ Adam “Shifty” Schiff, Cryin’ Chuck Schumer, Nervous Nancy Pelosi, their leader, dumb as a rock AOC, & the entire Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrat Party, starts today at 10:00 A.M. on @FoxNews, @OANN or Fake News @CNN or Fake News MSDNC!118K2:37 PM – Jan 25, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy96.7K people are talking about this

+ Joke heard this morning at Belle’s Bakery and Cafe in Studio City: Trump could shoot someone in the Senate and still get acquitted 53-47. Unless he shot a Republican, then it would be 52-47.

+ Elizabeth Warren may have submitted the best made-for-TV question (assuming there was anyone left watching this tedium on TV) for Chief Justice John Roberts to read aloud: “Does a trial presided over by the Chief Justice without witnesses further undermine public confidence in institutions like the Supreme Court?”

+ 18 years after the Bush administration went to war in Afghanistan against a terrorist group financed by the Saudis, the US is now “dropping” more bombs than ever. Isn’t this an admission of colossal failure? Who are we bombing? Why? What will it yield but more war?

+ Meanwhile, in Syria US combat missions are on the uptick. They can check out, but they’ll never leave…

+ So as Bernie gets closer to winning the Democratic nomination will the party elites screw him over the way they did: a) Eugene McCarthy, b) George McGovern, c) Jesse Jackson or d) Sanders 2016?

+ It’s going to get uglier and uglier for Sanders. A group called Democratic Majority for Israel is running $680,000 worth of attack ads against Sanders in Iowa, some of them raising questions about his physical health by highlighting his heart attack.

+ Is this a case of Israel meddling US elections, trying to subvert the campaign of a Jewish candidate?

+ David Frum, who was given a second act in American political life by MSDNC, is one of the crazier neocons, right out there with Richard Perle and Frank Gaffney. Here’s From writing in The Atlantic, now edited by another Iraq War hawk, Jeffrey Goldberg: “The members of the team around Bernie Sanders are about to experience what happens when a militia faces off in on an open field against a ruthless modern army armed with cluster bombs and napalm. They will be shredded and torched.”

+ Hillary says she still has the “itch” to run for president again and that she’d win in 2020 if she did. Bill may not have inhaled, but Hillary sure bong-sucking her own fumes…She also took time out to smear Sanders (who did 58 campaign events for her), saying “no one likes him, no one wants to work with him.”

+ Trump is the undisputed master of projection, but, tutored by Roy Cohn, he often does it tactically. Hillary, on the other hand, is psychologically incapable of facing any of her own flaws and compulsively accuses others of her own malignant character defects.

+ I agree, of course, with the thrust of Ralph Nader‘s counterpunch to Hillary. I would just note for the record that far from opposing the Libyan coup, Sanders not only supported the Senate Resolution calling for UN intervention, he co-sponsored it.

Ralph Nader@RalphNader

Hillary Clinton, the butcher of Libya and neighbors, backer of the criminal Iraq war-slaughter, and lucrative toady of Wall Street, now blasts Bernie Sanders, who opposed all the above, and campaigned for her in 2016, before she gave America Trump. Disgraceful! -R44.2K5:06 PM – Jan 24, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy14.5K people are talking about this

+ In 1972, Bernie Sanders sat down for an interview with the Brattleboro Informer. Sanders was 31-years-old and making his first run for office as gubernatorial candidate for the Liberty Union Party. The topic turned to George Wallace, the segregationist Governor of Alabama, who was mounting a bid for president as a Southern populist. “Wallace,” Sanders said, “advocates some outrageous approaches to our problems, but at least he is sensitive to what people feel they need. What we need are more active politicians working for the people.” The interview was unearthed and ruthlessly de-contextualized this week by the Washington Examiner, a few days before the Iowa caucuses.

+ So it’s the year 2020 and it turns out that the two leading Democratic Party candidates for president, Biden and Sanders, have both praised hardcore segregationists and are old enough to have known them in the flesh. And the previous Democratic Party nominee was a Goldwater Girl. Tell me again why we need a Republican Party, when we’ve got the Democrats? Anyone who wants a vivid portrait of who George Wallace was in his prime should read Robert Sherrill’s Gothic Politics in the Deep South, which came out in 1968 but remains as relevant to our politics now as it was then…

+ It should be noted that Jesse Jackson sought George Wallace’s support during his 1988 campaign. But the Wallace of 1972 was not the Wallace of 1987. After he was shot and paralyzed by Arthur Bremer in a Laurel, Maryland parking lot, Wallace had a coming-to-Jesus moment & by the late 70s he had apologized for his segregationist past and had sought redemption, a spiritual cleansing the Rev was willing to help facilitate…

+ Whether Bernie’s praise, faint though it may have been, of the segregationist George Wallace will help or hurt Sanders in all-white Iowa and New Hampshire is, of course, an open question.

+ It’s questionable how much real appeal Wallace had for working class voters. In 1976, running as a full-throttle populist, he only managed to win three southern states: AL, SC and Mississippi and garnered less than 2 million total votes, in a party that was still hospitable to many blue dogs. Jerry Brown, whose campaign was championed in the Village Voice by Alexander Cockburn and James Ridgeway, entered that primary very late (mid-May) and only really contested in 5 states. Still Brown won 500,000 more votes than Wallace and earned 301 to Wallace’s 57 delegates.

+ Biden keeps telling people, especially environmentalists and anti-war activists, to vote for someone else. I assume they’ll all take his advice…

+ Remember when Hillary cried on the eve of the 2008 New Hampshire primaries against Obama, claiming has campaign had maligned her in Iowa. It worked for her, she won in NH. If Joe sheds a snowflake/tear, he’ll end up like Ed Muskie…

+ Biden, who has just accused Sanders of not being a member of the Democratic Party, is the only candidate who has said he’s willing to consider picking a Republican as his running mate.

+ In attacking Sanders, Biden says “I’m a Democrat” like it’s a badge of honor instead of ignominy. Were Hubert Humphrey, Gene McCarthy or Paul Wellstone “Democrats”? They were members of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, who, like Sanders, caucused with the Democrats and, to varying degrees, voted with them…

+ Biden and the pre-teen “Super Predators”: “In the 1998 address, [Biden] went on to give his support for the ability to try “these 100,000 bad kids” in the adult criminal justice system rather than a separate juvenile system. (It’s not clear exactly where the 100,000 number came from, but in a 1997 press release, Biden said: “About 3,000 kids were arrested for murder in 1995, and a total of about 100,000 arrested for other serious, violent crimes — clearly these are the ‘lost’ children, all are not irretrievable, but plainly all must be subject to serious punishment.”)”

+ Social Security is the most common source of income for black women aged 62 and older, received by 49 percent of black women aged 62–64, 83 percent of those aged 65–74, and 88 percent of black women aged 75 and older. Why would any older black woman support Joe “the Slasher” Biden?

+ How “electable” is Biden if he can’t win the Iowa caucus or New Hampshire primary?

+ Mayor PeteBot blew off meetings on police oversight in South Bend to attend fundraisers and events across the country. Of course, his input would have been entirely counterproductive…

+ My money was on Manchin or Doug Jones as the first Democratic Senator to fold on impeachment. But never, EVER, underestimate DiFi‘s ability to muck things up…

+ Think how many food banks and shelters this could fund…Ad spends by 2020 candidates (includes future bookings, since 1/1/19):

Bloomberg: $270.4 million
Steyer: $156.8 million
Trump: $52 million
Sanders: $28.3 million
Buttigieg: $26.6 million
Warren: $20.9 million
Yang: $12.1 million
Biden: $11.6 million
Klobuchar: $7.3 million

+ News comes from Brazil that Glenn Greenwald has been hit with trumped up charges of “cybercrimes” by the Bolsonaro regime. One by one, the fascist thugs who run the planet are going after the journalists who expose their crimes and far too many other journalists sit in self-condemning silence as it happens…

+ Silly Pompeo. The way to get NPR to soften its coverage of your villainy is not to publicly berate its reporters but to become a corporate sponsor, like Monsanto, Boeing and the Koch Brothers…

David Gura@davidgura

NPR President and CEO John Lansing:

“We will not be intimidated. Mary Louise Kelly won’t be intimidated, and NPR won’t be intimidated.” After Contentious Interview, Pompeo Publicly Accuses NPR Journalist Of Lying To HimThe secretary of state issued an angry salvo on Saturday against Mary Louise Kelly, co-host of All Things Considered. NPR stands by her reporting.npr.org32.4K10:45 PM – Jan 25, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy8,459 people are talking about this

+ Thanks to Pompeo’s crack-up, NPR hasn’t been this relevant since Nina Totenberg snagged that interview with Anita Hill…

+ After Pompeo gets cheers at the Steal of the Century event, Trump said, “That reporter couldn’t have done too good a job on you yesterday, right? Think you did a good job on her, actually. That’s good. Thank you, Mike…Are you running for Senate? I guess the answer is no, after that.”

+ Trump’s approval rating by gender via new ABC/Post poll:

57% approve
39% disapprove

33% approve
62% disapprove

+ More than 50 US troops suffered from brain trauma after a couple rounds of Iranian rocket attacks in Iraq. Imagine the number of brain traumas inflicted on the citizens of Gaza, after three weeks of nonstop bombing during Operation Cast Lead…

+ Trump was today why he said no Americans were hurt after Iran retaliated for the Solemaini assassination even though more than 50 US service members were airlifted out for treatment. He said he heard they had “headaches,” but doesn’t consider potential traumatic brain injuries to be serious compared to losing limbs.

+ Trump told a soiree of mega-donors at Mar-a-Lago that Soleimani was “saying bad things about our country” before the strike, which led to his decision to authorize his assassination. “How much of this shit do we have to listen to? How much are we going to listen to?” Will he drone Kaepernick or Chomsky next?

+ New York Times called the Venezuelan pretender Juan Guido a “man whose moment has passed.” But did Guido even have a subliminal moment?

+ Trump in NJ: “Mexico is in fact — you will soon find out — paying for the wall. OK? You know?…No, the wall is ultimately, and very nicely, being paid for by Mexico.” Has anyone told AMLO?

+ The Pentagon made $35 trillion in accounting adjustments last year alone, a total that’s larger than the entire U.S. economy.”

+ Last week Gitmo torture shrink James Mitchell described taking Abu Zubaydah’s diaper off because he was worried feces would drip into his leg wound & cause infection during interrogations. This week Mitchell contradicted his previous testimony: “I don’t recall ever being in a situation where anyone used diapers except in renditions”

+ Corey Pein: “Maybe the CIA shouldn’t be running America’s wars and maybe mobsters shouldn’t be running the President and maybe Republicans shouldn’t be running the Democratic Party. Forgive me, I know how unreasonable this sounds.”

+ In 2016, it won almost twice the share of votes in the nation’s most destitute counties — home to the poorest 10 percent of Americans — that it won in the richest. And the more poor the GOP create through their savage economic and social policies, the bigger their base becomes! Voodoo Economics works!

+ Trump’s always talking about “human scum”. There’s a virulent strain of it sitting right next to him most mornings…Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross proclaimed this week that coronavirus will be good for American jobs: “I think it will help to accelerate the return of jobs to North America.”

+ The latest from the man who saw the inner goodness in the maniac who ran down Heather Heyer…

Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump

That is a real fan. Thank you!

View image on Twitter

250K9:50 PM – Jan 23, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy61.4K people are talking about this

+ The starting salary for a judge on the California Court of Appeal is $249,700. And it goes up with each appeal they deny…

+ A judge in Ohio has been calling ICE on defendants he “has a hunch” might be undocumented immigrants…

+ I was driving back from Long Beach on the 405 yesterday and if I’d been going faster than 3 MPH I’d have wrecked my daughter’s Prius when I saw that this mutant has a huge billboard near Century City exit promoting his noxious drivel…

Jason Campbell@JasonSCampbell

Ben Shapiro: “Bernie Sanders, during World War II, if he had been a politically active man at that time, would’ve been on the side of the USSR, which at the beginning was, at least, on the side of the Nazis”1,8135:35 PM – Jan 27, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy2,589 people are talking about this

+ On the side of the Nazis at the beginning of WW 2? That would more accurately describe the position of Henry Ford, Prescott Bush and Fred Trump, wouldn’t it, Ben?

+ In the name of diversity, Indonesia has just introduced a new all-female flogging squad. “I think she did a good job. Her technique was nice,” Banda Aceh Sharia police chief investigator Zakwan, who uses one name, told Agence-France Press.

+ JP Morgan supremo Jamie Dimon went on CNBC to warn that socialism will lead to an “eroding society.” Of course, mere “erosion” would be a helluva improvement over the wholesale strip mining of society (and nearly everything else) that Dimon and his fellow predators are so ruthlessly engaged in…


JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon takes on socialism, says it will lead to an ‘eroding society’ JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon takes on socialism, says it will lead to an ‘eroding society’Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Dimon told CNBC that capitalism is not perfect but is capable of fixing the problems of today.cnbc.com2,3341:01 PM – Jan 22, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy4,025 people are talking about this

+ Among 41 countries, only the U.S. lacks paid parental leave.

+ Under Trump’s new healthy food pyramid for school lunches, pasta has been reclassified as a vegetable. Put some Reagan-era ketchup on it and you’ll have a complete vegan meal…

+ If Mel Brooks had made a mafia movie, the dialogue would have gone something like this

Lev Parnas:  …A lot of the European countries they’re backstabbing us basically and dealing with Russia. That’s why you’re having such difficulty. I think if you take a look, the biggest problem there I think where you need to start is, we’ve got to get rid of the ambassador. She’s still left over from the Clinton administration.

Donald Trump:  Where? The ambassador where? Ukraine?

Lev Parnas:  Yeah. She’s basically walking around telling everybody, “Wait, he’s going to get impeached. Just wait.”

Donald Trump:  Really?

Lev Parnas:  It’s incredible.

Donald Trump: He’ll be gone tomorrow.

Lev Parnas:  Yeah.

Donald Trump:  What’s her [crosstalk]?

Speaker 12:  I don’t remember.

Lev Parnas:  I don’t have a name off back.

Speaker 6:  So one of the things that will be, now that we have a Secretary of State-

Donald Trump:  Get rid of her. Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care, get her out tomorrow. Take her out, okay? Do it.

Lynn:  Take a note.

Lev Parnas: Excellent.

+ Trump on AOC: “an embarrassing, barely-literate moron.”

+ AOC: “They can’t figure out if I’m a know-nothing or I’m a mastermind controlling the party. They can’t figure out if I’m an elitist or I’m embarrassingly poor. There’s no such thing, by the way.”

+ Kellyanne Conway explaining how Trump marked MLK Day…

+ Berkeley Law School’s Boalt Hall has been renamed simply “The Law Building,” a recognition of how its namesake, John Boalt, zealously argued, in the context of Chinese immigration, in favor of “extermination”–not “reconciliation”–of different races.

+ Rosemary’s Baby, the White House Version…

Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons@GuthrieGF

“We command all satanic pregnancies to miscarry right now” — Special Adviser to the White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative Paula White 15K11:10 PM – Jan 25, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy23.5K people are talking about this

+ So much for these zealots being right-to-lifers…

+ Federal minimum wage:
2009: $7.25
2010: $7.25
2011: $7.25
2012: $7.25
2013: $7.25
2014: $7.25
2015: $7.25
2016: $7.25
2017: $7.25
2018: $7.25
2019: $7.25

Number of US billionaires:
2009: 359
2010: 403
2011: 413
2012: 425
2013: 442
2014: 492
2015: 526
2016: 540
2017: 565
2018: 585
2019: 609

+ The 22 richest men in the world have now amassed more wealth than all of the women in Africa…

+ Hey, Boris, you Brexit, you own it.

+ Anaïs Nin: “All of America is still in elementary school.”

+ Trashing giant saguaros for Trump’s vanity wall…

Laiken Jordahl@LaikenJordahl

More sacred saguaros plowed over by earth-movers, sawed into chunks like firewood and tossed into trash heaps at the border. @DHSgov is crushing everything in its path to build Trump’s despicable #BorderWall.7469:29 PM – Jan 29, 2020 · Organ Pipe National Monument – Kris Eggle Visitor CenterTwitter Ads info and privacy922 people are talking about this

+ I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll BLOW your wall down. It wouldn’t take much lung-power, Mr. Wolf. A mere 37 MPH gust of wind sent the wall tumbling down in El Centro…(Buildings in the Portland area are required to withstand 137 MPH winds.)

+ And the hits just keep coming for America’s most ludicrous construction project. It also turns out that Trump’s border wall is vulnerable to flash flooding, and will require the installation of hundreds of large storm gates that will remain open for months every summer to prevent the structure from being damaged or toppled

+ Meanwhile, the Del Puerto Canyon Reservoir, a key feature of Big Ag’s California water grab, would inundate active landslides, creating the risk of a lake tsunami, which could trigger the collapse of the dam.

+ Oceolots are cool as hell and will probably be doomed in the US by Trump’s Extinction Wall on the border…

+ Give us your white, your rich, your well-nourished..

+ Seems like old times…E. Jean Carroll, the writer who claims that Trump raped her in Bergdorff Goodmans back in the 90s, has collected “genetic material” from the dress she wore that day and, as part of her lawsuit against Trump, is requesting a DNA sample from the president to see if there’s a match.

+ There’s a forest version of Tea Pot Dome scandal unfolding on the Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska, where the Forest Service is paying the timber industry to mark the trees it wants to log in one the largest timber sales ever offered by the agency….”Documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act reveal a series of agreements linking the federal agency, the Alaska Forest Association, and the Alaska Division of Forestry in a public-private partnership arrangement that ultimately grants logging companies first pick in the largest timber sale undertaken in any national forest in more than 30 years. The timber sale, dubbed the Prince of Wales Landscape Level Analysis (POWLLA), will take place over an area spanning roughly 1.8 million acres.”

+ Researchers working on the Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica, an ice-mass the size of Florida, recorded water temperatures at the base of the glacier of more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above the freezing point. Critically, the measurements were taken at the glacier’s grounding line, the area where it transitions from resting wholly on bedrock to spreading out on the sea as ice shelves. In other words, the Antarctic ice sheets are melting from the bottom up…

+ According to a research paper published this week, “If temperatures rise by 2 degrees C, the regions of the world that are suitable for growing wine grapes could shrink by as much as 56%, according to a new study. And with 4C of warming, 85% of those lands would no longer be able to produce good wines.”

+ Trump in Iowa: “They want to kill our cows. I love cows. But they want to kill our cows. And that means you’re next.”

Aaron Rupar@atrupar · Jan 31, 2020Replying to @atrupar

“You’re going to make so much money” — This is the language of a mob boss, not a president

Aaron Rupar@atrupar

TRUMP: “They want to kill our cows. That means you’re next.”1,4792:18 AM – Jan 31, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy1,940 people are talking about this

+ I drove by the Harris Feed Lot a couple of weeks ago. It’s in the San Joaquin Valley, off I-5 near Coalinga. You can’t miss the place. The stench is overpowering. The vast killing operation, in the heart of California Trump country, slaughters nearly 1000 cows a day. Who will tell, Donald?

+ William Gibson talking about his new near-future novel Agency: “Even before we became as aware as some of us now are of climate change, and of the fact that our species has inadvertently caused it, we seemed to be losing our sense of a capital-F Future. Few phrases were as common throughout the 20th century as “the 21st century,” yet how often do we see “the 22nd century”? Effectively, never.”

+ The “former” clients of Interior Secretary David Bernhard have invested $29.9 million in lobbying the Trump administration since January 2017 and they’re getting some big returns on their investment.

+ The environmental activists who live in Idaho are some of the most courageous people I know and they deal on a daily basis with depraved shit like the new plan to institute a year-round wolf hunting season with the objective of creating “wolf-free zones” ..

+ A swan slaughtering bill has just been introduced into the sadistic Idaho legislature…

+ Whenever I hear about an explosion that levels huge buildings and small towns, I just assume it happened in Texas and that the response will be to gut whatever health, safety and enviro regulations are still on the books…

+ Mega (L41), the oldest male Southern Resident orca, hasn’t been seen since August and researchers now believe he’s probably dead. Mega, who was born in 1977, frequently traveled with his sisters Matia (L77) and Calypso (L94), as well as Lolita’s presumed mother Ocean Sun (L25).

+ The Trump administration falsified the data after the California wildfires in order to promote more logging of public forests: “The emails show officials seeking to estimate the carbon emissions from devastating 2018 fires in California so they could compare them to the carbon footprint of the state’s electricity sector and then publish statements encouraging cutting down trees.”

+ Brian Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America, said banks need to be lending more money to fossil fuel companies not divesting from them. His logic seems to be: We need to put the planet out of its misery as fast as possible. It’s inhumane to allow it to linger…

Canada’s shame: “Indigenous people account for roughly five per cent of the population in Canada, but when it comes to federal custody Zinger said they now account for more than 30 per cent of the federal inmate population, up from 25 per cent four years ago. Indigenous women now account for 42 per cent of women in federal custody.”

+ On the very same day I wrote a short photo essay (“Who Cares If It Leaks?”) for CounterPunch on Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House in Los Angeles came the distressing news from Taliesin that after 88 years, the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture is closing

+ How much money does Donald Fagan really need? Doing a “Steely Dan” tour after Walter Becker’s death is like marketing a Crosby, Stills and Nash tour without Stills and Nash (which, of course, I think David Crosby should do for pleasure of pissing people off)…

+ Many of the Washington Post’s best reporters (Wesley Lowery, Gene Scott, Juliet Eilperin, Ashley Parker, Phil Rucker, Monica Hesse) signed this letter of protest against the suspension of Felicia Somnez for Tweeting out a link to story exploring the Kobe Bryant rape case…and one of their worst, Craig “Prop or Not’ Timberg, didn’t…

+ Here is a cringeworthy sentence written about Elizabeth Warren in The Nation by DD Guttenplan: “And Warren’s policy chops and personal warmth and cold intellectual fury at the same bankers and billionaires and predatory monopolists targeted by her rival….” This language disturbed many readers and prompted a request for a prosecutorial ruling against further use of the phrase “policy chops.” The tribunal has deliberated on the matter and speedily concurred. Escort it to the tumbrils and don’t worry about being too rough with it along the way…

+ Our position at CounterPunch has always been that the NYT runs the occasional correction in order to make its readers believe that everything else in the paper is true. But this is one for the ages…

+ Trump Koan of the Week: “We have to protect all of these people that came up with, originally, the light bulb and the wheel and all of these things.”

Goo Goo G’Joob, Goo Goo Goo G’Joob…

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump’s Testing of America
Philip Rucker and Carole Leonnig

Transcendence: How Humans Evolved Through Fire, Language Beauty and Time
Gaia Vince
(Basic Books)

Processed Cheese: a Novel
Stephen Wright
(Little Brown)

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

Is That So?
John McLaughlin, Shankar Mahadevan & Zakir Hussain
(Abstract Logix)

Mind Hive
(Pink Flag)

Football Money
Kiwi Jr.
(Persona Non Grata)

Democracy for Some, Dispossession for Others

“In the end, my desire to live in Gaza stemmed neither from adventurism nor from insanity, but from that dread of being a bystander, from my need to understand, down to the last detail, a world that is, to the best of my political and historical comprehension, a profoundly Israeli creation. To me, Gaza embodies the entire saga of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; it represents the central contradiction of the state of Israel – democracy for some, dispossession for others; it is our exposed nerve.” (Amira Hass, Drinking the Sea at Gaza)

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZIComments Off on Roaming Charges: The Steal of the Century

After Iowa, Does Bernie Have What It Takes?


Photograph Source: Matt Johnson – CC BY 2.0

In his most famous work, The Prince, Machiavelli compared the behavior of a successful new prince to a fox and a lion: “The lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten wolves.” Cersei Lannister, whom George RR Martin wrote as a fictional new prince, similarly argued that “in the game of thrones you win or you die.” For Bernie Sanders supporters, the true debacle of the Iowa caucus meltdown was not the failure of the Shadow app, but rather their candidate’s failure to claim victory when he had the chance. Instead he unwisely ceded that role to the corporate candidate extraordinaire, Pete Buttigieg. It stands in stark contrast to Donald Trump, who for all his faults would not have hesitated to declare victory, and who would have energized his supporters with the statement and cowed the party establishment.

As of this writing, a portion of the results have finally been reported by the Iowa Democratic Party, the enormity Sanders’s missed opportunity has become apparent. Bernie won the statewide popular vote in both the first and second rounds of caucusing, yet Buttigieg won thirty more State Delegate Equivalents, and tied Bernie with ten pledged delegates. Why not take the opportunity to claim victory last night, when your campaign should have known it won the popular vote? He could have used it to rally his forces, to excoriate the DNC and embarrass it after four years of loud complaining that Clinton had won the popular vote but lost the presidency, and to deny Buttigieg’s win legitimacy.

Instead, Sanders decided to tell his supporters they’d be pleased with the results. Why? If I were a Bernie supporter, I’d be pissed off, not happy. Instead of channeling that anger, nothing.

To achieve the victory and transformation he and his supporters want, Sanders must be like Machiavelli’s new prince. He must display cunning, strength, and above all else ruthlessness in dispatching his enemies and constructing a new state. Sanders faces a myriad of challenges from a hostile Democratic Party establishment to a Republican Party united behind Donald Trump. In fact his tasks are not dissimilar to that of Trump’s four years ago, who similarly had to smash his internal opponents, create a bond between himself and the masses of his supporters, and defeat his rival, Hillary Clinton.

There are those who would say that Bernie is respecting the process in Iowa, and that he will likely win New Hampshire so it is mostly irrelevant for him to have claimed victory on national television. But consider that his refusal to claim victory has given Mayor Pete momentum in New Hampshire to claim the role of chief opposition to Bernie. It saved Biden’s campaign from the wreckage and allowed him to limp into next week causing trouble for Sanders. The Democratic Party establishment in Iowa and nationally may be embarrassed, but does not face the same wrath as if Sanders had denounced the use of an app, one that happened to be constructed by a company with ties to Buttigieg’s campaign, rather than hand-counting caucus results and phoning them in. It does not have to contend with a candidate and his followers raging over winning the popular vote but not the caucus. And pundits that talked up everyone but Sanders don’t have to give him any airtime; it’s the Mayor Pete show for now. Meanwhile, Mike Bloomberg, who had the DNC rules changed so he can participate in the next debate, waits in the wings. Finally, Donald Trump tweeted about the rigged and faulty process while Bernie sat by silently – a victory for the President as well whose approval rating now sits at 49%.

A new prince must above all else have what Machiavelli termed virtù: a combination of talents including courage, skill, and ruthlessness, and above all the ability to act quickly and decisively in the face of danger and rapidly changing and unpredictable political events. The new prince, in a way, takes material reality and bends it to create one favorable to themselves.

Now imagine what Bernie says he wants to change as president. Single-payer universal healthcare is vehemently opposed by the Democratic establishment and their health insurance donors. Tuition-free college education is opposed by the student-loan industrial complex, and their supporters in both parties. Higher living wages, progressive taxation, and pro-labor policies are opposed by the Democratic and Republican establishments, and their capitalist donors. Everything Sanders wants to do will require a devoted mass of supporters willing to challenge an entrenched political and economic leadership.

Does Sanders have the ruthlessness, the virtù to win against an incumbent president, a hostile party establishment and remake the political order? This is the question his supporters should be asking. As an outsider to the Democratic Party I do not have the same emotional connection to Bernie’s candidacy, but (to paraphrase Machiavelli) there’s an objectivity to outsiders commenting on politics. Perhaps he does, but I wonder if he is too nice, too bound by custom and decorum to win what he wants to win. Leaving the declaration of victory on the table yesterday and the easy attack on his rivals, plus the DNC was not a good sign.

Of course, there’s another way to see the new prince. Antonio Gramsci, the Italian Marxist, wrote a century ago about a radical, independent, socialist party as the Modern Prince. Where a single person could affect politics centuries ago with enough charisma, talent, and luck, today a revolution needs a party with a political leadership, ideology, and committed membership to do so. Perhaps Bernie and his supporters cannot win from the inside, but need to split and help build an independent left electoral force. We in the Green Party have been walking that path for decades. Sanders and his supporters would give an independent left a jolt. Maybe then Bernie would also have shown he has what it takes to defeat a system aligned against him for so long.

The alternative may be another capitulation to a party establishment that rigged the primary process four years ago and seems poised to do so again.

Posted in USAComments Off on After Iowa, Does Bernie Have What It Takes?

The Holocaust, the BBC and Antisemitism Smears


Photograph Source: Front cover of The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem by Benny Morris – Public Domain

Senior BBC news reporter Orla Guerin has found herself in hot water of an increasingly familiar kind. During a report on preparations for the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp, she made a brief reference to Israel and an even briefer reference to the Palestinians. Her reporting coincided with Israel hosting world leaders last week at Yad Vashem, its Holocaust remembrance centre in Jerusalem.

Here is what Guerin said over footage of Yad Vashem:

“In Yad Vashem’s Hall of Names, images of the dead. Young [Israeli] soldiers troop in to share in the binding tragedy of the Jewish people. The state of Israel is now a regional power. For decades, it has occupied Palestinian territories. But some here will always see their nation through the prism of persecution and survival.”

British Jewish community leaders and former BBC executives leapt on her “offensive” remarks, even accusing her of antisemitism. Guerin had dared, unlike any of her colleagues in the western media, to allude to the terrible price inflicted on the Palestinian people by the west’s decision to help the Zionist movement create a Jewish state shortly after the Holocaust. The Palestinians were dispossessed of their homeland as apparent compensation – at least for those Jews who became citizens of Israel – for Europe’s genocidal crimes.

Guerin’s was a very meek – bland even – reference to the predicament of the Palestinians after Europe’s sponsorship, from the 1917 Balfour Declaration onwards, of a Jewish state on their homeland. There was no mention of the Palestinians’ undoubted suffering over many decades or of Israel’s documented war crimes against the Palestinians. All that Guerin referred to was an indisputable occupation that followed, and one could argue was a legacy of, Israel’s creation.

Holocaust weaponised

In fact, as we shall see in a moment, Israel’s establishment is today invariably and necessarily justified by antisemitism and its ultimate, horrifying expression in the Holocaust. The two are now inextricably intertwined. So Guerin’s linking of these two events is not only legitimate, it is required in any proper analysis of the consequences of the Holocaust and of European racism.

In fact, the furore among Jewish groups in Britain seems all the more perverse given that the Israeli media have extensively reported on Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s explicit efforts to weaponise the current Holocaust commemorations to harm the Palestinians.

He hopes to leverage sympathy over the Holocaust to win assistance from western capitals in bullying the International Criminal Court in the Hague into denying that it has any jurisdiction over the Palestinian territories Israel is occupying. That would prevent the court from enforcing international law by investigating war crimes perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinians. (In fact, aware of the diplomatic stakes, the ICC’s prosecutors have so far shown zero appetite for pursuing those investigations.)

This extract from a commentary by noted Israeli human rights activist Hagai El-Ad, published in the liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz (Israel’s version of the New York Times), gives a proper sense of how inadequate was Guerin’s solitary reference to the Palestinians – and how her colleagues are actually complicit through their silence in allowing Israel to weaponise antisemitism and the Holocaust to oppress Palestinians:

“How dehumanizing [of Netanyahu and the Israeli government], to insist on denying a people’s last recourse to even an uncertain, belated, modicum of justice [at the ICC]. How degrading to do so while standing on the shoulders of Holocaust survivors, insisting that this is somehow being carried out in their name. …

“It remains in our hands to decide if the past’s painful lessons will be allowed to be turned on their head in order to further oppression – or remain loyal to a vision of freedom and dignity, justice and rights, for all.”

History in the shadows

By not echoing the rest of the western media in entirely airbrushing the Palestinians out of Europe’s post-Holocaust history, Guerin stood isolated and exposed. None of her colleagues – supposedly fearless, muckraking journalists – appear willing to come to her aid. She has been made a scapegoat, a sacrificial victim – one that will serve as a future reminder to her colleagues of what they are permitted to mention, which parts of Europe’s history they may examine and which parts must remain forever in the shadows.

Guerin’s comment was denounced as “offensive” by her former boss, Danny Cohen, who was previously the director of BBC television. No one, of course, cares that the Palestinians’ experience of being wiped out of recent European history and its legacy in the Middle East is deeply offensive. The Palestinians are what historian Mark Curtis refers to as “Unpeople”.

What he and others meant by “offensive” was made explicit by the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA), which argued that Guerin’s statement was antisemitic.

The CAA is one of the groups that, using similarly twisted logic, led the attacks on the British Labour party over claims of antisemitism in its ranks under leader Jeremy Corbyn. It helped to foist a highly problematic new definition of antisemitism on the party that downgrades concerns about racism directed at Jews to prioritise a supposedly bigger crime: criticism of Israel. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition offers 11 examples of antisemitism, seven of which refer to Israel rather than Jews.

Preposterously, the CAA alleged that Guerin had violated one of these examples. It said her report had included “drawing comparisons between Israeli policy and the Nazis”. Very clearly, she had done no such thing.

Erasing the record

The most that could be inferred from Guerin’s extremely vague, overly cautious remark was two things. First, that Israel justifies the need for a Jewish state on the threat to Jews posed by antisemitism (as evidenced by the Holocaust). And second, that the resulting state of Israel has inflicted a very high price on the Palestinians, who had to be displaced from their homeland to make that state achievable. At no point did Guerin make a comparison between the suffering of Jews in the Holocaust and the suffering of Palestinians.

She simply, and rightly, hinted at a chain of related events: European racism towards Jews culminated in the Holocaust; the Holocaust was used by the Zionist movement to justify European sponsorship of a Jewish state on the ruins of Palestine; Palestinians and their supporters feel aggrieved that the Holocaust has become a pretext for ignoring their plight and suppressing criticism of Israel. Each of those links is irrefutably true. And unless the truth is now antisemitic – and there is mounting evidence that it is being made so by Israel, its lobbyists and western governments – what Guerin said was not conceivably antisemitic.

It may seem obvious why Israel and its lobbyists would want to silence criticism, or even a basic historical understanding, of the context and consequences of Israel’s founding. But why are western officials evidently so keen to aid Israel in this project of erasing the historical record?

Israel could never have been established without the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians from their homeland and the destruction of hundreds of their villages to prevent any return. That is why a growing number of historians have risked the wrath of the Israel lobby to declare these events ethnic cleansing – in other words, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Western hypocrisy

Let us note that the circumstances in which Israel was created were not exceptional – at least, from the point of view of recent western history. In fact, Israel is an example of a typical settler colonial state. In other words, its creation depended on the replacement of the native population by a group of settlers, just as occurred when Europeans founded colonies in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere.

The difficulty for Israel and its western allies has been that Israel’s crimes are being committed in the modern era, at a time when the west has claimed to have learnt the lessons both of its colonial past and of the Second World War. In the post-war period the west promised to change its ways, with a new commitment to international law and the recognition of human rights.

The shameful irony about the west’s complicity in Israel’s creation is that Israel could only have been established through the dispossession and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. Those outrages occurred in the very same year that, via the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, western states pledged to create a different, better world.

In other words, Israel was launched as an old-style western colonial project at the very moment when the western powers promised to decolonise, giving their colonies independence. Israel was embarrassing proof of the west’s hypocrisy in promising to break with its colonial past. It was evidence of bad faith from the outset. The west used Israel to outsource its colonialism, to bypass the new limitations it claimed to have imposed on itself.

A colonial spin-off

So committed were the western powers to Israel’s success that France and Britain helped it from the late 1950s to build a nuclear arsenal – the only one in the Middle East – in violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Predictably, that further destabilised an already highly volatile region as other states, especially Iraq and Iran, considered trying to level the playing field by developing their own nuclear weapons.

In another sign of the west’s commitment to this colonial spin-off was its determination to turn a blind eye in 1967 to Israel’s greedy expansion of its borders in conquering the rest of historic Palestine. For more than half a century Israel has been given free rein to entrench its occupation and to build settlements in violation of international law. All these decades later the International Criminal Court is still dragging its heels – indefinitely, it seems – rather than prosecute Israel for settlements that are irrefuably a war crime. And more than 50 years on, Europe continues to subsidise the settlements through trade agreements and a refusal even to label settlement products.

Rather than account for these outrageous violations of an international order the west founded, Israel’s allies have helped to obscure or pervert this real history. Israel has developed a whole industry, hasbara, to try to prevent outsiders from grasping what has happened since 1948.

It is therefore important for Israel and its western allies to promote justifications for Israel’s creation that appeal to emotion, not reason, as a way to dissuade observers from delving too seriously into the past. In fact, there are only three possible justifications / explanations for the transformation of what was once Palestine into Israel, a state created by and for European Jews on the ruins of Palestine. Two of these rationales play extremely poorly in the modern west.

That leaves only the third justification, as Guerin intimated in her report, and one that resonates well in an age saturated with identity politics.

A Biblical promise

The first justification says that the Zionist movement was entitled to rid Palestine of the overwhelming majority of its Palestinian natives because God promised Jews the land of Palestine thousands of years ago. This argument tells Palestinians: Your family may have lived for centuries or even millennia in Nazareth, Nablus, Bethlehem, Beersaba, Jerusalem, Jaffa, Hebron, Haifa but that counts for nought because God told Abraham the land belonged to the Jews.

Let us not discount the continuing power of this argument. It was what inspired the 19th century, apocalyptic movement of Christian Zionism – a longing for the “restoration” of Jews to the Promised Land to bring about an end-times in which only true Christians would be saved.

Later, Christian Zionism was repurposed and adopted by small numbers of influential Jews like Theodor Herzl who realised they needed the support of Christian Zionist elites if they were ever to build a Jewish state. They finally found a sponsor in colonial Britain. In part, it was an appetite for Biblical prophecy that guided the British cabinet in approving the Balfour Declaration.

Today, much teaching in Israel depends on unspoken, unexamined claims in the Bible that Jews have a superior right to the land than Palestinians. Nonetheless, Israeli officials know that nowadays Biblical arguments hold little sway in much of the west. Outside Israel such claims play well only with evangelicals, mostly in the US, and have therefore been deployed selectively, targeted chiefly at US President Donald Trump’s base. For the rest of us, the Biblical rationale is quietly set aside.

White man’s burden

The second justification, frequently resorted to in the early years of the Zionist project, was a fully fledged colonial one, and closely tied to ideas about a superior Judeo-Christian civilisation.

Colonialism assumed that white westerners were a biologically separate race that had to assume responsibility for taming and civilising the savage nature of inferior peoples around the planet. These inferior beings were treated like children – seen as impulsive, backward, even self-destructive. They needed a role model in the white man whose job was to discipline them, re-educate them and impose order. The white man was compensated for the heavy burden he had to shoulder by awarding himself the right to plunder the savage people’s resources. In any case, it was assumed, these barbarians were incapable of managing their affairs or putting their own resources to any good use.

If all this sounds improbably racist, remember that Trump right now is proposing a variation of the same idea: Mexicans must pay for the wall that keeps them out of a white America, even as US corporations continue to exploit cheap Mexican labour; and ungrateful Iraqis are threatened with being made to pay for the soldiers that invaded their country and the US military bases that oversee their occupation.

Liberals are no less averse to colonial ideas. The white man’s burden underpins the “humanitarian intervention” project and the related, endless “war on terror”. It has been easy to paint other states and their peoples negatively as they continue to reel from centuries of colonial interference – the theft of resources, the imposition of artificial borders that stoke internal, tribal conflict, and western support for local dictators and strongmen.

Developing states have also struggled to prosper in a world dominated by western colonial institutions, whether NATO, the World Bank, the IMF or the UN Security Council. Doomed to failure by the very rules rigged to ensure the western powers alone prosper, developing states find their dysfunctional or authoritarian politics turned against them, used to justify continuing invasion, plunder and control of their resources by the west.

‘Death to the Arabs’

Whatever Zionism claims, Israel was not an antidote to this “white man’s burden” ideology. It was an extension of it. Much of Europe may have been deeply racist towards Jews, but Europe’s Jews were usually viewed as higher in the racial hierarchy than black, brown or yellow people. Typically Jews were despised or feared by antisemites not because they were seen as backward or primitive but because they were presented as too clever, or as manipulative, secretive and untrustworthy.

The Zionist movement sought to exploit this racism. Its founders, white European Jews, impressed on potential sponsors their ability to help colonise the Middle East on behalf of the European powers. After the Balfour Declaration was issued, the British government put the Colonial Office in charge of shaping a Jewish “home” in Palestine.

An indication of the degree to which European ideas of racial categories polluted the thinking of the early Zionist movement can be gauged by the treatment of the Mizrahim – Jews from neighbouring Arab states who arrived in the wake of Israel’s creation.

The Ashkenazi (European) Jews who founded Israel had no interest in these Jews until the destruction of large parts of European Jewry in the Nazi death camps. Then the Mizrahim were needed to bolster Jewish demographic numbers against the Palestinians. Founding father David Ben Gurion was disparaging of the Mizrahim, terming them “human dust”. There were vigorous debates inside the Israeli army about whether the supposedly inferior, backward Arab Jews could ever have their savage natures tamed sufficiently to serve usefully as soldiers.

Israel launched an aggressive campaign to de-Arabise the children of these Jews – so successfully that today, even though Mizrahim constitute half of Israel’s Jewish population, less than 1% of Israeli Jews can read a book in Arabic. So complete has their re-education been that Mizrahi supporters of the Beitar Jerusalem football club lead chants of “Death to the Arabs” at the ground, apparently unaware that their grandparents were Arab in every sense of the word.

Virus of hatred?

Again, Israel and its western allies understand that few observers will accept overtly colonial-style justifications for Israel’s creation, except of the vague, war-on-terror kind. Such arguments run counter to the spirit of the times. Nowadays western elites prefer to pay lip service to identity politics, intersectionality, native rights – at least if they can be used to provide cover for white privilege and to disrupt class solidarity.

Israel has proven particularly adept at inverting and weaponising this form of identity politics. Now deprived of traditional Biblical and colonial rationales, Israel has been left with only one palatable argument to justify its crimes against Palestinians. A Jewish state is supposedly needed as inoculation against a global plague of antisemitism. Israel, it claims, is a vital sanctuary to protect Jews from inevitable future Holocausts.

Palestinians are not just collateral damage of the European project to create a Jewish “home”. They are also presented as a new breed of antisemite – their anger supposedly driven by irrational, inexplicable hatred – that Jews need protecting from. In Israel, roles of oppressor and victim have been reversed.

Israel is only too keen to extend the accusation of antisemitism to any western critic who champions the Palestinian cause. In fact, it has gone much further. It argues that, whether consciously or not, all non-Jews harbour the virus of antisemitism. Other Holocausts have been averted only because nuclear-armed Israel behaves like “a mad dog, too dangerous to bother”, as Israel’s most famous military chief of staff, Moshe Dayan, once declared. Israel is designed as a garrison state for its Jews, and an impregnable bolt-hole in time of trouble for any Jews who foolishly – Israeli leaders imply – have not understood that they face another Holocaust outside Israel.

White European racism

This is the self-rationalising appeal of antisemitism for Israel. But it has proved the perfect weapon too for western elites who wish to besmirch their opponents’ arguments, as Corbyn, Labour’s outgoing leader, found to his cost. Just as the Zionist movement and its Jewish state project were once the favoured vehicle for spreading British colonial influence in the Middle East, today Israel is the favoured vehicle for impugning the motives of those who criticise western imperialism or advocate for political alternatives to capitalism, such as socialism.

Few outside Israel understand the implications of the mischievous, self-serving antisemitism rationale crafted long ago by Israel and now embraced by western officials. It assumes that antisemitism is a virus present in all non-Jews, even if often lies dormant. Non-Jews must remain vigilant to prevent it reviving and infecting their thinking.

This was at the heart of the claims against the British Labour party. So-called “extreme leftists” like Corbyn and his supporters, so the argument goes, were so sure of their anti-racism credentials that they dropped their guard. Largely free of a fear of immigrants and non-white populations, they mixed with British Muslims and Arabs whose attitudes and ideas were easily passed on. Arab and Muslim resentment towards Israel – again, presented as inexplicable – supposedly provided fertile soil for the growth of antisemitism on the left and in Corbyn’s Labour party.

Guerin’s mistake was to hint, even if briefly and vaguely, in her report at a deeper, even more discomforting recent history of European white racism that not only fuelled the Holocaust but also sponsored the dispossession of the Palestinians of their homeland to make room for a Jewish state.

The connecting thread of that story is not antisemitism. It is white European racism. And the fact that Israel and its supporters have signed up as cheerleaders for that kind of racism makes it no less white and no less racist.

Posted in ZIO-NAZI, UKComments Off on The Holocaust, the BBC and Antisemitism Smears

Live From the Iowa Caucuses: In Search of Lost Time and Votes


This is the third article of periodic reports from the primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire, and perhaps beyond, should the republic last until South Carolina and Nevada. This was written as the results were being released in Iowa.

Joe and Jill Biden and the press gaggle, Des Moines, Iowa. Photo by Matthew Stevenson.

Des Moines, Iowa

With 1700 precinct votes in Iowa on the night of the caucuses, you would have thought that I could find one of the gatherings without breaking a sweat in the sub-freezing Des Moines night air.

I had thought about driving into the heartland and finding a caucus in some four-corners small town, to watch democracy-in-action as it is imagined in an eighth-grade civics class.

One of quirks of the caucuses is that the locations of the votes can and do change, even at the last minute. Talk to a group of Iowans about their “voting experience”, and the first thing they will describe is how at the last minute the location of their caucus changed—American democracy as a variation on Three-card Monte.

Not having found a caucus site online, I set off in my rental car, in search of an elementary school or town hall surrounded with parked cars, if not a few Bernie signs driven into the frozen snow.

Given the hype surrounding the caucuses—the first primary, America speaking, cradle of the democracy, etc.—around the time voting started I had expected to find few cars on the road and stores to be empty (equivalent to the reverence of the Super Bowl).

At least in the malls that I passed in my caucus searching, it was business as usual, Mammon still holding more sway than the statutes of liberty.

In something of a panic, not having found any grass roots in the snow of suburban West Des Moines, I set my sails for Drake University, figuring that a caucus of college kids would highlight the divide between front runners Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Joe Biden.

Drake did not disappoint. Along University Avenue I found a parking lot chock full of TV sound trucks and then got directions to the Knapp Center, where a few nights earlier I had attended a Donald Trump rally—the executive branch of government set to the strains of mixed martial arts.

The Knapp Center is Drake’s basketball arena. When Trump was playing the house, it was covered in patriotic bunting and the rafters were beating to the line dances of the Village People, notably “Macho Man”. (Trump and Pence had the look of a wrestling tag team.)

On this evening the Knapp Center was yet again a basketball court, but this time, in addition to gathering caucusers, it was filled with TV crews in search of common man quotes from those riding the pine for their favorite candidates.

The Iowa Caucus’s Chamber of Secrets

The Iowa caucuses are America’s chamber of secrets—in how the votes are cast and counted—and on this particular night the Knapp Center was one of the deathly hallows.

Citizens don’t vote for the candidate of their choice. They gather across the state in public spaces and then stand or sit in groups for the candidate of their choice. You get delegates to the county and state conventions if you exceed a 15% threshold. But that’s just the start.

In the Knapp Center, after signing in and providing voter bona fides, the groups took their places in the lower stands—a bit like marching bands or booster clubs. Then there was a lull, while the caucus chairman (a local Democratic volunteer) counted the total number present in the hall.

The roll call total in the Knapp Center was 849, which became the figure used to calculate what locally is called “viability,” or 15% of the total number present.

Any candidate in the first round who did not get 15% of the total would be deemed “non-viable”, and then, in the next round of voting, his or her supporters would be free to change their vote to one of the remaining candidates.

The local term for this subsequent jockeying is “realignment”, during which time spokespersons for “viable” candidates make deals with voters in search of a candidate.

Before the final vote is taken, each person present at the caucus has to fill out a “presidential preference card” listing their “First Preference”, which is the paper trail that was much discussed when it became clear that Iowa’s caucus votes had vanished down either a rabbit or an app hole.

A Des Moines Caucus: Voter Early, Vote Often

All this at the Knapp Center took more than an hour to organize. Meanwhile, the local Democratic party passed the hat to raise some money, and TV journalists—NBC’s Katy Tur among them—worked the aisles of the box seats, in search of truths that were probably self-evident.

Finally the vote totals were counted and announced over the PA system (so much for the local Democratic committee not knowing the results), and in the Knapp Center the first take looked like this:

Warren 212

Buttigieg 172

Klobuchar 140

Biden 131

Sanders 129

Yang 28

Steyer 26

Gabbard 2

Uncommitted 7

The non-viable candidates were Yang, Steyer, Gabbard, and the uncommitted, and their voters were given 15 minutes to decide on another candidate. Sometimes the voters for non-viable candidates move elsewhere as a bloc; other times they just scatter individually.

It took more than fifteen minutes for realignment, after which the vote total was this:

Warren 227

Buttigieg 194

Klobuchar 149

Biden 138

Sanders 134

In the realignment Buttigieg gained the most votes (22), while Bernie gained the fewest (5). Some of the uncommitted remained uncommitted (6) and simply went home.

Realignment is a public clue about the person relations among the candidates. For example, a lot of the Yang supporters went to Warren, and not many non-viable voters went to Bernie.

Iowa and The Great State of Confusion

The confusions of the Iowa caucuses don’t end with realignment. All that this first round of voting determines is the election of delegates who will attend their party’s county conventions, which in turn will select delegates to a state convention.

In the end, the 1700 precincts that held caucuses on February 3 will produce 41 delegates who will attend the Democratic National Convention next summer.

In theory all the candidates who remain “viable” through the county and state conventions will win a proportionate number of national delegates, but sometimes the winner of the first round in the caucuses isn’t the candidate who, in the end, gets the most number of delegates.

In 2012, Mitt Romney thought he had won the Republican Iowa caucuses, and on the night of the voting, he was crowned the winner on network television. Two weeks later, it became clear that Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum had actually won the most delegates in Iowa.

There is another quirk of the Iowa caucuses: the television networks usually report the results as a percentage of delegates won, not based on the total number of votes received. And in calculating the total number of votes a candidate receives, there are two numbers: one before and another after realignment.

To put in perspective how few people actually vote in Iowa (and thus how few Americans determine the front-running nominees of the two major parties), consider the following statistics:

Iowa has a population of roughly three million people of whom about two million are eligible to vote. Of that number about 700,000 are registered Democratic, although less that 200,000 people turn up, in presidential years, “to caucus.”

The so-called winner in Iowa will often receive less than 40,000 direct votes, which means that the proclaimed “winner” of the Iowa caucuses will have received the vote of 2% of Iowa’s population.

Of the 235 million eligible voters in the United States, 0.02% will have had a say in what is regarded as one of the most influential votes in the presidential primaries. So much for the pretensions of the democracy. (A Gallup poll of 500 Iowans would take less time and might be more accurate.)

Iowa: Not What It Used to Be

Why, you might ask, does the country, let alone the party, waste its time with an Iowa caucus, especially as an early barometer of relative strength among the presidential candidates?

Iowa is hardly representative of the nation as a whole. (It’s an egg white, not an omelette.) Nor is it particularly adept at turning out voters (or, as it now turns out, counting the votes). In Chicago, they can stuff ballots faster than they can count them in Iowa.

Iowa’s position as an early primary is a by-product of its caucus system (only five states still use them).

Back in the day, time was needed for Iowans to caucus at the precinct, county, and state levels, and then to send its delegates to the national convention. But those reasons to let Iowa be “the first in the nation” are no longer valid.

Another reason for Iowa’s preference among presidential primaries is nostalgia and the romantic idea that almost anyone can charter a bus, raise a little money, and throw themselves at the mercy of the caucuses, which might just favor an unknown outsider, such as Jimmy Carter (1976), George H.W. Bush (in 1980), or Barack Obama (2008).

The argument is also made, among party insiders, that Iowa “has the infrastructure” to host the early presidential vote. (It sounds a little bit like saying that Los Angeles is ideally situated to host the Rose Bowl.)

In this logic, Iowa is best suited—in terms of county chairmen, chartered buses, and Grange halls—to put on the show, about which Iowans have become sentimental. Think of an apple festival in Montana.

Iowans like the quirkiness of the caucuses, which require their presence for an evening in a public space, and they like having a chance to listen in person to the candidates. They like the sociability of the night, with neighbors dragooning other neighbors to come out in the cold to support one of the candidates. But keep in mind that the crowds at a state fair are almost more representative of a state than are those who “caucus” in Iowa.

Iowans, at least those who turn up for the caucuses, have a soft spot for their idiosyncratic system. They believe that the demographics of Iowa—the mix between the larger university towns and the vast stretches of farmland—test a candidate’s ability to organize a campaign and to appeal to a cross-section of Americans.

Personally, I have no quibble if Iowa wants to select its delegates with a system that James Garfield might have found antiquated (he ran for president in 1880 and won at the nomination at the national convention). But picking candidates in Iowa is only marginally more democratic than picking names out a hat.

The Party’s Over: Joe Biden’s Victory Celebration in Des Moines

Because it was close by and the night air was freezing, I decided to drop in on the Biden victory party, which was being held in another building on the Drake campus (where, most importantly) I already had a parking place.

I had thought that by the time I got there, the results of the caucus would be known and that, in the lobby around the bar, I might come across a few spin doctors, who would explain to me that Joe Biden never expected to come in better than fourth or fifth place.

The Biden party had everything except a win. It had a ballroom with bunting and TV cameras, a large press room with televisions streaming CNN, two well- stocked bars, and enough political middle men to overstaff a presidential campaign.

With no results to analyze, I took a seat in the press room. All around me were bored TV and radio crews, interviewing each other on why an app was a poor way to run an election. For two hours, I watched Wolf Blitzer tread studio water, answering his own questions.

Finally, before it got too late, Joe and Jill Biden took what was scripted as a victory lap in front of the adoring crowd.

Joe waved and pointed to his friends, and made a brave new world speech about how he was running a national campaign“in all fifty states…”, with his eyes on places such as South Carolina and Super Tuesday. I didn’t get the feeling that anyone was buying the line. He sounded as though he was trying to convince himself.

Without any of the results in Iowa announced, here was Biden at his victory party, giving what sounded like a concession speech. Just after he stopped speaking, the party had the feel of a wake.

* * *

Around the bar at the Biden after party, the great tragedy of the Iowa vote-count debacle wasn’t that the leader (in this case they were still hoping it would be Biden) was deprived of his or her fifteen minutes of fame, but that the computer glitch had delayed the departure of numerous private jets that were to fly the candidates that night from Iowa to New Hampshire.

On the stump, all you ever hear from candidates such as Warren, Sanders, or Buttigieg is that climate change is threatening the planet. But to make their appointed rounds in the primaries, nearly all the candidates (I don’t have an exact list) have private planes standing by, as if in a great presidential cab rank. (The words limousine liberal feel almost quaint.)

During the time I was in Iowa, all three senators—Warren, Sanders, and Klobuchar—made several fleeting roundtrips between Washington and Iowa, so that they could continue to campaign while attending the impeachment trial.

And all the campaigns on the ground are little more than vast fleets of cars and SUVs, frantically crisscrossing Iowa as if delivering packages for FedEx. It’s something to keep in mind when, for example, you review Elizabeth Warren’s I-have-a-plan for reducing climate change.

The Coming Democratic Wave

What does the Iowa caucus tell us about the general election? I didn’t get many answers to that question at the Biden after-party, so the next morning, when the votes still had not been counted, I went to an early breakfast that pulled together columnists, activists, and pollsters who were making themselves available to answer insider questions.

It turned out that we were fewer than ten at the breakfast, and nearly everyone there had voted the night before at their neighborhood caucus. (It felt like stories from jury duty.)

Those at the breakfast told stories about caucuses that had changed their locations, and replayed the irony that all the results had been tabulated for more than twelve hours, as before adjourning for the night each precinct caucus had public announced the results. (A simple email to headquarters would have sufficed.)

What interested me at the breakfast was the presence of a Virginia-based political scientist, Rachel Bitecofer, who said that, prior to the 2018 election, her computer model accurately predicted that the Democrats would pick up 40 seats in the House of Representatives.

I asked her a number of questions about the 2020 general election, and her answers surprised me, as the common wisdom on the ground is that Donald Trump will beat a left-wing Democratic candidate, such as Sanders or Warren.

She is the first person that I have encountered in Iowa whose data indicates a Democratic victory in 2020, no matter who the nominee is, including Sanders and Warren.

In Iowa, she was trying to gauge if turnout in the caucuses would be greater than 2012 or 2016, and if so whether it might indicate a Democratic revival in a state that otherwise has been red in recent general elections.

For the moment, she was pessimistic about the possibility that Iowa will flip to the Democrats, but in broad electoral terms she described the Trump victory in 2016 as a political aberration, in which some disgruntled Democrats stayed away from Hillary Clinton while Trump energized a bloc (the MAGA crowd) that had not voted in other elections.

By her account, Democrats are not as weak nationally as anecdotal evidence might indicate. She is predicting that at least three swing seats in the Senate will flip to the Democrats: Maine, Colorado, and Arizona, although she thinks the Democrats will lose in Alabama.

She made the point that in 2016 Trump won in a number of swing states, but only by a plurality, and that some of those states will revert to the Democrats in 2020.

In particular, she does not think Trump can win in Pennsylvania or Michigan, and she thinks he is vulnerable—again, no matter who the Democrats run—in Florida, North Carolina, Arizona, and Wisconsin. (She thinks Iowa stays Republican.)

She described the leadership of the Democratic Party as “strategically inept,” and said that the Democrats could have won another twenty House seats in 2018 if money and time had been allocated wisely.

Again and again, she emphasized that her model for 2020 was not based on any one candidate running against Trump. (She finished it in July 2019.) She said she might have to reassess her numbers if Sanders were the nominee, but said that as long as the Democratic nominee presented “an affirmative case” to the electorate he or she should win.

She also emphasized that the Democratic ticket needs to “embrace diversity” to turn out a broad coalition in the general election. In 2016, a number of African-Americans who had voted for Obama in 2012 did not turn out for Hillary.

Where Bitecofer thinks Trump has been strongest is in targeting and energizing his MAGA base and by having his flag-waving rallies in key swing districts around the country.

In political science terms she said that he has “inflamed negative partisanship” and was very lucky with how the voting went in 2016. (“He was a seriously flawed candidate.”) But she does not think that in 2020 Trump will carry the Democratic states that he did in 2016.

When I asked her about pivotal groups to watch in the election, she said that the bloc of 5-6% independent and uncommitted voters hold the key to the 2020 election. She said that in general terms this group was “motivated by change” and “never happy.”

In 2016, these independents stayed away from Hillary and voted for Trump (“motivated by change”), and that was their margin that won states such as Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan for Trump and the Republicans. She doubts it will happen again.

I asked which potential Democratic candidate “was the biggest gamble for the Democratic party,” and she mentioned Sanders and Biden as “risks.” She didn’t think it was “impossible for Sanders to win,” but did say that he might need to trim his socialist sails. She said Biden was a risk because of his age and his predilection to go off script.

A centrist, such as Klobuchar, would probably defeat Trump easily, given her forecast of the realignment of the American electorate, and in the not-too-distant future she sees many more states in the West, including Texas, in play for the Democrats.

She said Hillary was a weak candidate (those cranky independents sat on their hands) and then she became a victim to a perfect Trump storm, but Bitecofer doesn’t think it will happen two elections in a row.

Iowa’s Winners and Losers

The only surprise of the Iowa caucus was that Pete Buttigieg did as well he did in precincts across the state, including in rural and suburban districts. He took the most votes from Joe Biden, who would have loved the demographics that Buttigieg won, although Pete’s voters were younger than Biden could ever have expected to attract.

The Sanders vote was more regionally distinct. He did well in the university enclaves, the people’s republics around Ames and Iowa City, and in pockets of Des Moines (which is more suburban than you might think).

He did not do well in rural districts, which is no surprise, as in his litany of American ills Bernie never mentions the word “farmer” and he has a way of describing “the working class” that makes it sound like the Lumpenproletariat (a standby Karl Marx expression for those who are aggrieved but lack class consciousness).

Elizabeth Warren’s votes came from women of all ages, but she will need to do better among men if she wants to advance further. (Bailey didn’t help there.) Nor did she win many, if any counties, placing a respectable second or third across the state.

Amy Klobuchar’s spin is that she is finishing very close to the Biden, in terms of total votes (the difference is less than 1%). She has also pointed to the fact that she started with zero name recognition in Iowa, except in counties along the Minnesota border, while Biden spent eight years as vice-president under Barack Obama. She has to be a little disappointed that caucusers preferred Pete’s white bread messages over her own.

Perhaps the most interesting story I picked up in the spin rooms and around Iowa is the anger that the Sanders campaign has for the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the poobahs of the party.

The Sanders crowd remains angry that the DNC had its thumb on the scale for Hillary in 2016, and there were mumblings that some of the delay in announcing the caucus results was to downplay Bernie’s victory and strength heading into New Hampshire, where he has a good chance of winning (and running away with the nomination).

In his party Sanders is almost as much an outsider as was Trump with the Republicans in 2016. Sanders has identified as either an independent or a socialist for most of his career.

He only became a Democrat officially in 2016 to run against Hillary, and even now he looks more like William Jennings Bryan—a 19th century figure of the Progressive movement—than a president-in-waiting.

Bryan ran for president three times and eventually served (very poorly) as Wilson’s secretary of state. From Byran came many ideas—the income tax, child labor laws, an end to the gold standard, conservation, etc.—that later were incorporated into the liberal Democratic, New Deal cannon.

Sanders is already claiming that his ideas about universal health care, a livable wage, and climate change have become mainstream Democratic principles. But whatever the pollsters say about the coming Democratic wave, I have a hard time imagining that a cranky socialist can win the general election. (Bryan lost three times, and Eugene V. Debs lost five times, running as a socialist.)

The Dark Arts of Front-Running

The easy story in Iowa is that Joe Biden has been run over and left for dead in a cornfield near Dubuque, and that may well be the case. The Biden people that I met at the after-party and beyond all said they never expected Joe to get much traction in Iowa and that he will come alive in racially diverse South Carolina, where Buttigieg is polling at zero among African-Americans, and Bernie will not have his liberal base of Sandernistas knocking on familiar doors.

It’s a brave face, and Biden could well be right, although three of the first four primaries (Nevada is the fourth) favor Sanders. Biden has the additional problem of Michael Bloomberg and his billions lurking around the centrist corners of the race.

In the fight for the Democratic soul of the primaries, there are those on the left wing (Sanders, Warren, Steyer, and Yang), those in the center (Biden, Klobuchar, Bloomberg), and those who wobble between several axes (Buttigieg and Gabbard), although I get the impression (without having heard her speak) that Gabbard’s constituency is from Krypton. Certainly her billboards, floating above the fields in Iowa, gave her an other-worldly appearance.

Biden’s biggest defeat in Iowa came in the money primary. I heard that his campaign is down to $9 million and on life support from super PAC bagmen, who weren’t impressed with his fourth place finish in Iowa. (Win it, and they will come.)

Needless to say, running from the vaults of Pluto, Bloomberg has no money constraints or masters with checkbooks to appease, and he could well become the centrist survivor (along with Klobuchar) to take on Bernie and Buttigieg in the quarter finals. That said, the last thing the Democrats want is to have two finalists for the nomination who, until recently, were never part of the Democratic Party.

Ironically, despite all the network primetime devoted to the caucus returns that vanished in the night, Iowa rarely decides much of anything. It’s the first game of spring training, after a four year layoff, and for that reason the network chieftains and reporters cover Iowa as if it were the seventh game of the World Series.

At this point in the counting, Sanders is ahead in the popular vote in Iowa (with about 31,000) and tied with Buttigieg with a grand total of 10 delegates pledged to him. Yet in the TV caucuses, Sanders is relegated to second place, another reason for his anger at the DNC. If Sanders does win the nomination don’t expect him to be a gracious winner. That’s not how the game is played in Brooklyn.

Posted in USAComments Off on Live From the Iowa Caucuses: In Search of Lost Time and Votes

Boris Johnson’s Brexit Got “Done”


Photograph Source: Matt Brown – CC BY 2.0

Formally, BoJo’s Brexit got “done” at 11pm on Friday, 31 January.

The impression that Brexitannia is now no longer a member of the EU is somewhat misleading. The UK now enters an 11-month transition period, due to last until 31 December 2020, that will still keep the UK bound to the EU’s rules.

The UK will remain in both the EU customs union and single market during this time, while it works out a trade agreement with Brussels. Or any trade deals with other countries that can substitute for those the UK relinquished as a result of leaving the EU.

BoJo, persuaded more by his love of the grand gesture than any sense of realism, set himself a deadline by end of 2020 to get a comprehensive deal with the EU, but the EU has set time-frames (both sides have confirmed that negotiations will begin on March 3rd) and conditions the UK– with increasing certainty as time runs out—will be unable to meet.

The UK faces a dire economic situation if it settles for a No Deal Brexit, and the EU’s game plan from now on is becoming obvious.

While observing all protocols, run out the negotiating clock on the UK, so BoJo has to plead for an extension to his end of 2020 deadline, which, given that he had promised to die in a ditch if he didn’t get Brexit “done” by Halloween last year, could start to dent his credibility with his Ukanian base.

BoJo, like his exemplar Trump, relies on a team of toadies and a compliant Murdoch-led media to abjure strategy in favour of impression-management and PR.

Trump in his cheesy flummery calls this “listening to his gut”, claiming, however improbably, that his “gut” outdoes those around him who rely on their intellects.

BoJo, though just as crass and vulgar as his American counterpart, enjoyed a more patrician upbringing, so such earthy references to sounding out their bowels is something the presumably genteel Johnson nanny taught BoJo and his siblings to eschew.

BoJo is a chancer, bully, and manipulator, with all the weaknesses these dispositions entail, and the EU negotiating team has already started to take advantage of these traits.

Step One: confirm all the way that you are impervious to such bullying and posturing, since they are intended solely for the UK electorate.

Step Two: take every opportunity to remind the UK, and the Tories especially, that this mess was entirely of their own making, so the onus for resolving it is placed on BoJo and not the EU.

Step Three: allow as many proxies as possible to complicate the life of the bully, such as having EU-member Ireland confound BoJo on its post-Brexit relations with the UK’s north of Ireland (hence when northern Ireland expresses a desire for reunification with the Republic the odds are that the EU will back reunification); or saying and doing nothing about Remainer Scotland’s threat of secession from the UK (the EU flag was taken down in the rest of the UK but Scotland is continuing to fly it); or showing partiality with respect to the British colony Gibraltar’s strong Remainer desire as a result of its close economic ties with Spain, and so on.

Spain has territorial claims to Gibraltar, and the EU has backed Spain in the forthcoming Brexit negotiations by giving Madrid the power to exclude Gibraltar (designated as a British overseas territory) from any trade deal agreed with Brussels. This will have serious implications for Gibraltar’s economy and its fiercely pro-British inhabitants, pitting their economic interests against their British identity.

Step Four: the UK will require trade deals with non-EU countries after Brexit, so put in place conditionalities and baselines with regard to the UK that will require these non-EU deals to be absolutely congruent with EU interests.

The EU insists the UK must agree to alignment with its rules on workers’ rights, the environment and state aid, as the condition for a deal, in order to preempt the UK stealing a competitive advantage. BoJo however insists he will make no such concessions, and that there will be no alignment of any kind. Something, someone, will have to give.

Many countries have for decades traded with the UK under the auspices of the EU, so they will wait to see what (if any) deal the UK will strike with the EU before they negotiate bilaterally with the UK.

BoJo and his handlers are now touting the prospect of a Canada-style trade deal with the EU. Canada’s deal with the EU took 9 years to negotiate, and eliminated 98% of tariffs on goods, but did little for financial services, the latter being of course a key UK objective in any trade deal.

It also turns out that France still has the ability in the transition period to veto the sale of British Steel to a Chinese corporation. British Steel has a plant in France, which the French now say is of vital “national interest” to them.

Japan has already indicated to the UK that securing a Japanese trade deal will depend on BoJo completing one with Brussels first. Since much of the business Japan does with the UK is undertaken via the EU, Japan will need to know what kind of relationship the UK will have with the EU before it strikes a bilateral deal with Johnson.

Several Japanese car manufacturers have plants in the UK, and they will want a UK-Japan deal which does not expose their operations to any commercial risk as a consequence of Brexit. For instance, if British-manufactured Japanese cars face a tariff barrier when exported to the EU, it is almost certain the Japanese will relocate production to the EU itself—the EU has 27 member states versus the UK on its own, so the arithmetic on this is a no brainer if you are Japanese. Japan will want UK alignment with the EU’s trade rules, a possibility already ruled out by BoJo. Something, someone, will have to give.

BoJo added a complication to a possible trade deal with the US when he announced that the Chinese tech company Huawei would be allowed to supply Britain’s 5G network,. The US has voiced its concerns over data security. To quote The Guardian:

“The green light to Huawei was given in the teeth of concerted opposition from the US and some of the prime minister’s own backbenchers. America has warned that the company’s participation in 5G networks would represent a major security risk to the west, given its close relationship to the Chinese state. Huawei has already been excluded from 5G networks in Japan and Australia on the grounds that control of vital infrastructure could fall into the hands of a potentially hostile power. One Republican senator said on Tuesday that “London has freed itself from Brussels only to cede sovereignty to Beijing”.

While the US’s “security concerns” are no doubt overblown (Trump talks about upcoming military operations with fawning guests at Mar-a-Lago, and speaks in advance with Putin about US air strikes in the Middle East without extending the same courtesy to his western allies), BoJo has always shown he’s pretty challenged when it comes to technology.

This is obvious when we see video of BoJo sitting at a computer, but his use of the demarcation between “core” and “non-core” 5G functions to say that Huawei’s participation in the UK’s 5G network would be confined to the latter prompted much derision in the media—the main reason why 5G is superior to previous phone technologies is that it is designed to operate seamlessly across the entire system, thereby eliminating any barrier between “core” and “non-core”.

No doubt BoJo will seek to convince the Americans that a trade deal is completely different from such security concerns over phone technology, but will this carry weight with Trump, with his penchant for taking advice from the mercurial Rudy Giuliani, Sean Hannity on his latest Fox News show, an array of rightwing evangelical “spiritual advisers” keen to tell him he was “sent by God”, and his fat-cat golfing partners?

The Tories owed their convincing election victory to persuading voters in Labour strongholds that voting for a Tory-Brexit will bring them a boatload of goodies (which of course Corbyn and “socialism” would not).

This was a snake-oil con, but it worked in the election. The possible evidence so far that it wasn’t a con is receding over the political horizon.

Despite a Tory election pledge to have it lifted, austerity is continuing because of Brexit — the Bank of England is moving interest rates from the current emergency rate to an even lower rate, and BoJo has told all his ministers to reduce spending by 5%.

BoJo promised that the Labour areas which switched to the Tories over Brexit would reap rewards in the form of increased investment, and so on. The opposite is now materializing, as funding already earmarked for these “Left Behind” areas is being transferred to prosperous Tory shires in the south-east of England. A review of local authority funding could move £300m/$357m from councils in highly deprived areas to Tory-controlled shire councils.

This being Brexitannia, a moment resembling a Monty Python sketch, or Bertie Wooster in a PG Wodehouse novel putting his foot where he shouldn’t put it, is not likely to be far away.

+ A couple of Brexiter MPs, with BoJo’s support, launched an online GoFundMe campaign called “Big Ben must bong for Brexit” to pay for its chimes (which had been silenced during renovation) to sound on Brexit day. The sum needed was not reached, so there was there was no Big Ben bong.

+ A 50p coin to commemorate Brexit was released. The original Brexit memorial coin had to be melted-down, at taxpayer expense, because it was marked with the original departure date of 31 October 2019. The replacement coin bore the mendacious inscription “Peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations”, and a storm in the proverbial teacup arose when various members of the Ukanian cognitariat said an Oxford comma was needed after the word “prosperity” to meet some hard-to-identify linguistic norm.

+ The Conservative HQ issued a tea towel to commemorate Brexit with a triumphant “Got Brexit Done” slogan and BoJo’s jowly visage stamped on it. Over-priced at £12/$15, the towel’s critics said it resembled something to be found on a roll of toilet paper, and that Brexit would of course not be “done” until the UK and EU finalized an exit deal.

Also on Brexitannia-related display:

+ A sign seen in a Dublin Bar: “All Brits must be accompanied by a European after 11PM,
Except Scots, they’re sound”.

+ A “Brexit Day” poster demanding that all residents speak the “Queen’s English” has been posted on every floor of an English city tower block.

+ A Dutch city replaced the Union Jack with the Scottish Saltire in a line-up of EU flags.

In the midst of all this kerfuffling, the EU’s message to Brexitannia has been unambiguous and unwavering: whatever deal we give you will be inferior to what you had as an EU member.

The Tory Brexit has never been more than a marketing ploy for the electorate, so all BoJo can do in response to an implacable Brussels is to repeat to his supporters the plaintive refrain that “Brexit is Brexit”.

To which Brits like me say: “Of course it bloody well is, so what’s next?”.

Posted in Europe, UKComments Off on Boris Johnson’s Brexit Got “Done”

Left Election Strategy: Lesser Evil or Independent Left?


A Response to Michael Albert’s “Battle Strategically Everywhere”

Michael Albert’s safe states strategy says the Green presidential candidate should go into the battleground states to campaign for the Green program but then say vote for the Democratic ticket. Most people who hear that will wonder why the Greens are even bothering to campaign if they want us to vote for the Democrat. Media commentary will make fun of it. Safe-states messaging in the battleground states will also undermine the Green campaign in the so-called safe states. Why vote for a Green candidate in this state who is telling people in other states to vote Democratic? Safe states is just not a serious approach grounded in the practical realities of election campaigning.

Albert even suggests that Greens should work for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries. The Greens have their own primaries and ballot access petitions to do. They are busy with ongoing issue campaigns. It is not the job of the Green Party to help a candidate in another party win that party’s nomination.

Albert argues that electing a Democratic president, even a Biden or a Bloomberg, is needed to stem the rising authoritarian right around the world that Trump is very much a part of. I don’t see much Democratic anti-authoritarianism. A strong majority of congressional Democrats consistently supports the US global military empire that enforces authoritarian stability against democratic uprisings. They support Trump’s attempted coup in Venezuela. The previous Democratic administration backed the anti-democratic coups in Honduras, Egypt, and Ukraine. Trump’s imperial presidency builds on dangerous autocratic precedents set by Obama’s presidency, notably his thousands of drone-strike assassinations and his unprecedented use of the repressive 1917 Espionage Act to prosecute whistleblowers.

There are differences between the Democrats and Republicans. The problem is how much they agree on pro-corporate economic and foreign policies. The Democrats’ “all-of-the-above” pro gas and oil energy policy is not much different from Trump’s policy in its practical effect on the climate. The nuclear weapons modernization program initiated under Obama and continued under Trump has sparked a new nuclear arms race without challenge from any but a very few congressional Democrats. I could go on at length. Voting for the lesser evil does not stem the greater evil; it legitimizes it.

When a progressive votes for the Democrat as the lesser evil, nobody knows if their vote is from a Sanders socialist or a Clinton corporatist. It gets lost in the sauce. The progressive Democratic votes are seen as votes for the corporate militarist Democratic agenda. On the other hand, nobody confuses what a vote on the Green Party line means.

Democrats take progressive votes for granted. They feel they have progressive voters in their pocket. As long as prominent progressives promulgate lesser-evil doctrines like safe states, Democrats are reassured that they can appeal to voters of the center-right without worrying that progressive voters will bolt for the Green left alternative.

The safe states strategy is inside baseball that requires knowing how the Electoral College works and what the polls say in a particular state going into the voting booth. Most voters are not steeped in those details, or care much about them if they are. Most people use their vote to make a statement about their values and the policies they want. For example, most Democrats vote Democratic even in overwhelmingly Republican districts where their candidate has no chance of winning. Often that values-and-policies vote is defensive; it is simply against what they see as the greater evil. Telling progressives to vote for the lesser-evil Democrat is telling them to vote against their values and the policies they want. It is telling them to vote against the Green left alternative.

In response to my statement that a 2016 vote for Jill Stein was “a vote to demand a Green New Deal, improved Medicare for All, a job guarantee, student debt relief, ending US military aggression, and fair elections,” Albert asks “how did that go?”

Well, every presidential candidate, Democratic and Republican, is now talking about the Green Party’s signature issue of the last decade, the Green New Deal. The Democratic versions may be watered down. The Republicans may be creating sham caricatures of it to ridicule. But everybody is now talking about it. The Greens are in the debate as the original Green New Dealers with the full-strength emergency program for averting climate apocalypse. Getting into the debate is half the battle. That is what third parties have done historically in the US. They force neglected solutions onto the nation’s agenda.

When I ran for governor of New York in 2014 against the Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, I got 5 percent of the vote campaigning for a ban on fracking, a $15 minimum wage, paid family leave, and tuition-free public college, among other demands that the governor either opposed or ducked taking a position on. Cuomo had wanted to get a higher vote than he got in 2010, more than his father Mario Cuomo ever got, in order the lay the foundation for a presidential run. Instead, his vote went down from 2010. Realizing that he could not take our 5% progressive voting block for granted anymore, in his following term Cuomo began calling himself the “pragmatic progressive” and backed the fracking ban, the $15 minimum wage, paid family leave, and a new state scholarship for public college students.

Voting for what you want works. It makes the politicians come to you to compete for your vote. As Eugene Debs famously said, “It is better to vote for what you want and not get it, than to vote for what you don’t want and get it.” That is not just a moral statement; it is a strategic statement.

Let me end with a point of agreement. Michael Albert is correct to note that he and the others who signed their Open Letter advocating a safe states strategy for the Greens are on the left. They are not the same as the regular Democrats who routinely attack the Greens as “spoilers,” “useful idiots for Republicans,” “Russian assets,” and, more consequentially, work to keep Greens off the ballot with their lawyers filing challenges to Green ballot petitions, their officials “losing” Green ballot access filings, and their legislators changing election laws to make it harder for the Greens to qualify for the ballot.

It may be understandable that Greens who are under this constant assault saw the Open Letter as another incoming salvo coming from the same Democratic army’s artillery. But I would urge Greens and others on the independent left who want to argue against lesser-evil and safe-states electoral strategies not to conflate our progressive critics with the corporate Democrats.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a progressive to the right of the signers of the Open Letter on electoral strategy because she advocates a Democratic vote in every race. But she made an important point recently when she noted that in any other country she and Joe Biden would not be in the same political party. The Greens and the signers of the Open Letter would be in the same political party in any country with a reasonable electoral system based on proportional representation in legislatures and ranked-choice voting for executive offices.

Despite our differences on electoral strategy in 2020, we have broad agreement on policy demands. We should have our strategy debate with the idea that we are allies on policy, including transforming our anti-democratic electoral system, and that we want to get to a future where we are comrades in the same major party of the left.

Posted in USAComments Off on Left Election Strategy: Lesser Evil or Independent Left?

Democrats’ Wimpy Impeachment Has Made Trump Stronger Than Ever


“Many Democrats fear that Trump may be laying an impeachment trap,” Stephen Collins wrote for CNN last May. “It’s possible that the wider political divides get, the more Trump benefits. The spectacle would help him charge up the political base he needs to turn out in droves in 2020 with claims their 2016 votes were being stolen by political elites.”

Give that man whatever passes for a cigar in this smokeless age.

Any number of metaphors serves to illustrate the unintended effect that the hapless failed impeachment of Donald Trump is having on his base of support. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger; the Democrats did just that with an attack that didn’t stand a chance of felling its target.

If you’re thinking about taking a swing at a bully at a bar, be sure you can deliver a roundhouse punch that’s going to lay the bastard out flat on the floor. But if you don’t have what it takes to bring him down with the first blow, sneak out to the parking lot.

The coronavirus outbreak has me thinking about disease. There’s a medical metaphor that I like best: when fighting off an infection it’s better not to use any medication than to take a weak antibiotic and risk strengthening what ails you.

No matter the analogy, President Trump emerges from his Senate impeachment trial as a more formidable adversary than he was before. While his overall popularity remains at about 46%, the number of voters who “strongly” support him just hit a three-year high, indicating that he is better off than before impeachment. This should come to the surprise of no one who remembers the humiliation of Bill Clinton. Republican overreach over Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky led to the Democrat leaving office in 2000 with soaring popularity.

Probably the biggest movement in favor of Trump has been with formerly “anti-Trump Republicans” who now see the truth of the President’s supporters’ claims that Democrats would do and say anything in order to get rid of a sitting Republican president. The ranks of Never Trumpers are shrinking, throwing a wrench into the strategy of centrist candidates like Biden and Buttigieg.

Polls in key swing states show disproportionately high disapproval for impeachment. Voters in these places tend to prefer antiestablishment candidates. Impeachment allows Trump to frame himself as the rebel getting picked on by the in-crowd, Congressional Democrats.

Impeachment — more specifically, this very lame, rushed, pro forma impeachment — also dispirits Democratic voters who see, once again, that the Democratic Party only seems to wage wars it knows it can’t win. What’s the point of voting for these clowns?

One thing is for sure: no matter what perfidy is discovered or comes to light in the future, it’s going to be all but impossible to take a second stab at impeachment. Now Trump really could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it. Impeaching the same President twice is all but inconceivable.

How did this happen? Democrats made one mistake after another.

First and foremost was the lousy choice of impeachment counts. Pressuring Ukraine to investigate the Bidens looked and felt too much like political business as usual, not a breach of normality so outrageous as to justify removal from office. Shades of Rob Blagojevich, former governor of Illinois.

The Ukraine line of inquiry prompted as many questions as it tried to ask. If Trump is corrupt, what about the Bidens? Why were we giving aid to Ukraine in the first place when millions of Americans are homeless or poor? Why should Americans care about Ukraine? The country certainly isn’t, as Democrats alleged, important to American national security.

A slim majority thought the Ukraine call was wrong. But they didn’t care enough to impeach him over it.

Americans did care about emoluments and the president using his office to enrich himself. They did care about his wacko temperament and erratic behavior. They did care about separating children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. Inexplicably, the Democrats let the good bad stuff go.

Democrats screwed up badly with timing. You don’t have to be James Carville to know that it’s foolish to start an impeachment trial at the beginning of a presidential election campaign. You certainly don’t do it when many of your big-name candidates are senators who can’t campaign because they are stuck in Washington. Yet that’s exactly what Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff did.

Starting the impeachment process so late in Trump’s first term forced Democrats into a rushed pro-forma process. Because Trump Administration officials broadcasted their intention to resist congressional subpoenas and the courts might have taken months to compel them to testify, Democratic prosecutors didn’t bother to subpoena key Republican witnesses or documents. (GOP obstruction became the basis for a dubious second count, “contempt of Congress.”)

None of this would have been a problem had the “resistance” started working on impeachment in 2017. If they were worried about the politicizing effort of impeachment on the midterm elections, they could have begun impeachment in December 2018, which would have given them enough time to work through the court system last year.

No serious student of politics thought there was a real chance that this process, rushed over a relatively inconsequential issue, could convince 17 Republican Senators to vote to remove a president for the first time in American history. Nevertheless, Democrats started a fight they knew they couldn’t win.

Now liberals are dispirited. The president goes into his reelection campaign stronger than ever. A second term looks likelier than ever. Heckuva job, Nancy and Adam.

Posted in USAComments Off on Democrats’ Wimpy Impeachment Has Made Trump Stronger Than Ever

Retail Politics, Iowa Style


Photograph Source: Phil Roeder – CC BY 2.0

While watching the travesty in Washington the last few weeks I decided that my best action was to volunteer for change. The closest and most immediate opportunity was working for Bernie in Iowa. I signed up for canvassing in nearby Dubuque for caucus day. I received a request from a Bernie staff person on the east coast to instead be a precinct captain for Bernie. The Iowa caucus system has people gather in different corners of a room, each campaign’s captain having the job of reading a short speech and trying to persuade undecideds to join their group. Most caucuses have a second round, where those supporters of a candidate who do not reach a predetermined viability threshold can move to another group for the final tally.

I was included on a webinar of 276 people that was national in scope, literally coast to coast, though many out-of-staters were in Iowa already, volunteering in the canvas. On caucus day I met with a field organizer, a local, 25 year old farmer, in charge of 28 precincts. He asked me to wait for two more out-of-state captains, arriving from Chicago, and pass them their packets so he could run off to meet others in this sparsely populated rolling rural area. I was really thrilled to be part of such a grassroots effort in helping Bernie set a record. For the first time in history of Iowa caucuses, precinct captains were named for every one of the 1681 precincts.

My first impression was how friendly the process is. There is a definite sense of competition in the room, tempered by the recognition that everyone was on the same larger team. Everyone shared my disgust with recent Washington events. Most people had a very firm favorite already picked out.

I was able to “persuade” a few undecideds to join Bernie’s side.

This Upper Iowa University campus had a town precinct with 61 attendees, and my rural precinct had only 9. As a small group we were allotted only 1 delegate, so we had only one round of dividing into groups. The Pete organizers were trying to cement their small initial majority without discussion, but I was able to slow the process enough to make sure everyone had a chance to discuss the different candidates. Several people were new to the caucus format, and my training allowed me to explain that our small size meant we would not have a realignment round. A couple people did move to join/form a larger group. End result: Biden 2, Bernie 2, Pete 4, Warren 1.

The Biden captain was an older gal who was worried about Pete winning in the Bible Belt and that Bernie was too old (go figure). The Pete folks kept saying that we need new young ideas, and were not concerned by his old wall street money or wine caves.

We were finished in a few minutes so I went back in the larger room as an observer. The larger precinct had just finished the first tally. Pete was ahead by a couple, Bernie in second, and only the Yang Gang was not viable. I was able to cajole a few Bernies into schmoozing the Yang Gang who had not reached viability. I left before the the second tally was finished.

On the two and a half hour drive home I listened to Iowa Public Radio. Clearly the smaller areas were excited by Pete. These represent cash crop farming areas.The farmers in these areas are the ultimate small business people, risking hundreds of thousands of operating dollars, and many more hundreds of thousands of capitalization on volatile commodity prices, in the hopes of providing a middle class income. Many have at least one off-farm bread-winner to get them health insurance, and often their farming gambles do not pay off. Their conventional AG systems are full of bad consequences for the wellness of people and the Eco-system, so the contradictions of their positions are as inconsistent as their choices. The health industry propaganda that became “Medicare for those who want it” clearly was not debunked by the year long campaigning/organizing in the state, or perhaps overwhelmed by the industry’s own efforts, an ominous sign for areas of the country which have been ignored so far.

To add some reality to the night, I need to mention that I stopped for dinner at the only open restaurant in town before the caucus. It was a nice, friendly bar/grill/pizza joint. Wearing my Bernie credentials and my hounds-tooth sport coat and blue jeans, and clearly not a local, I was aware that making some conversation was the necessary, polite thing to do. I asked the folks at the bar if everyone was ready for the caucus. They all just kind of laughed. None of it mattered to them and they were sick of the attention. One had a MAGA hat on and said he knew who he was voting for. I bantered back that Bernie would beat him easily. After a some lightweight, back and forth, the MAGA guy told me in a low voice that he had voted Democrat his whole life until Trump, and that he couldn’t stand HRC. I acknowledged my disgust for the corporate types of all stripes and we ended up “best buddies”. There were about 25 people in the place, and none of them joined the 70 in the caucus up the road. This region was very similar to our driftless in demographics, but seemed quite a bit more accepting, less tribal, less hardened. Perhaps this is the musings of a passing traveler but the more open skyline and emptier spaces seemed to be reflected in the people.

So the young, the new, and the activists are the caucus system, but the corporate types may have killed it for good with their IT problems. The controversy in 2016, where HRC and Bernie finished within a few tenths of a percent, but the delegates were apportioned to disadvantage students and growing population centers that favored Bernie, led to a new data collection requirement. Rather than reporting just delegates, the actual tallies of both rounds of votes were to be reported. The party decided to use a new phone app for reporting data, and then failed to test it before the big night. Details of the problems with the ap are still to be disclosed, but the lack of a simple phone tree to manually report caused huge waits, hang ups and disgust.

The focus on momentum from this first contest was transformed into fake news for each candidate’s spin team, proving once again if grassroots folks want to see their hope realized they will never be able to trust the people massaging the data. Bernie has said repeatedly that we need to build a movement, elections by themselves are not enough. He is absolutely right about that.

On my way home, after crossing the river and winding through the driftless, my 25 year old farmer friend called and expressed his thanks for my little bit of help. We both shared a bit of happiness for pushing back, and moving forward, and talked about next steps. We agreed we are not done for this cycle. The face to face, retail level is where the change will happen, in spite of the inertia, stupidity, and malfeasance at the top. Bernie may be old, but he is definitely correct that it’s not him, it’s us.

Posted in USAComments Off on Retail Politics, Iowa Style




How “Banker Logic” is destroying the world.

War, rising prices, corrupted medicine, and poverty are all its byproducts.

Amazingly, throughout history, advanced civilizations were aware of the dangers of “Banker Logic” and had means for controlling its undermining effect on society.

Rome was one of the first civilizations to abandon the practice of reigning in and now the US and UK are carrying this bad trend into the present day with predictably disastrous effects.

A fascinating interview with Michael Hudson

Posted in USA, Campaigns, Politics, WorldComments Off on HOW “BANKER LOGIC” IS DESTROYING THE WORLD ‘VIDEO’

Trump’s ‘Red Meat’ SOTU Speech: US Political Crisis Now Deepens


Photograph Source: The White House – Public Domain

On Tuesday, February 4, 2020 Donald Trump delivered a State of the Union speech that revealed his election 2020 strategy, designed to roil and mobilize his political base, and to declare to the Democrats that his political war with them will now escalate further.

If anyone thinks the recent impeachment and Senate trial was the high point of the growing conflict between the two political parties, Republican (correct that: Trumpublicans now) and Democrat, they haven’t seen anything yet. The worse, much worse is yet to come in the months leading up to the November 2020 elections.

The visual personification of this intensifying conflict was evident during Trump’s speech: As he began speaking Trump turned to vice president Pence and House of Representatives leader, Pelosi, both sitting behind him on a dais. Trump handed them his written speech, as is the tradition. He then abruptly turned away from Pelosi refusing to shake her extended hand—as traditional decorum has always required. Pelosi, shocked by the snub, after Trump finished, in turn symbolically tore up the written speech. All this was caught on national TV. The event was symbolic of the fight will now escalate and get even more vicious in the run up to November.

If Trump’s speech summarized the conflict up to this point, the exchange between him and Pelosi reflected the ‘gloves off’ political conflict now about to begin. As the saying goes, “We ain’t seen nothing yet”!

It is not difficult to understand the true meaning of Trump’s SOTU. Above all, it represents a toss of ‘red meat’ to his radical political base. There was very little in it about what he proposes for the country in the future, as is normal for a SOTU speech. Instead, what we got was a speech designed to agitate and mobilize his political base based on themes of fear (of the immigrant) and hate (of Pelosi and the Democrats). The dish of fear/hate was sauteed with a large dose of lies and misrepresentations, and served up with a new recipe of racism designed to help Trump hold on to the swing states that delivered his electoral college majority in 2016.  The speech marks what will be a significant escalation of extraordinary political attacks by Trump and his movement against his Democrat opponents in the election. And if past practice is any clue, the Democrat leadership is likely unprepared for what is to come.

The ‘Red Meat’ to the Base

The speech was replete with what Trump’s base wants to hear, with no punches pulled. Once again, as in 2016, the immigrant is the dangerous criminal and killer. The immigrant is of course anyone of color, but especially Latinos crossing the southern US border, and anyone sympathetic in any way to them or even those already legally here. Trump wants to protect us from the immigrant. And according to Trump’s appeal to this base: the Democrats want to embrace him, protect him with taxpayer money, and thereby identify themselves with the criminal-killer element among us.

In the same breath as he reiterated his politically successful anti-Latino racist appeal, Trump touted his “long, tall and very powerful” wall, claiming 100 miles have already been built and another 500 coming next year. More money for the wall will thus by inference be necessary. Or else we may all suffer the fate of the anecdotal killer-criminal-immigrant, who of course is Latino.

A variation on this illegal (read: Latino) ‘enemy within us’ theme is the Sanctuary Cities movement and, by association, the entire state of California which has declared itself a sanctuary state. Trump spent a good deal of time in his speech attacking sanctuary cities.  In the past, his bete noir was a person (Hillary, Pelosi, etc.) Now it’s a geography, even a state. Watch out California. Trump is about to swing his ax, far and wide, and in your direction!

Like most demagogues, Trump likes to make his case with anecdotal, emotional appeals. Thus, with a fear-mongering, melodramatic anecdotal example early in his speech he cited a criminal illegal running amuck, shooting everyone in California. That cleared the way for his proposal for legislation to go after Sanctuary Cities, in particular in California. The legislation proposed was the ‘Justice for Victims of Sanctuary Cities’ Act that would allow individuals to sue Sanctuary Cities.  It is clearly a move to open the door for radical elements of his base to protest and engage in even more militant, perhaps even violent, action—-not unlike how anti-abortion radicals were encouraged in the past to physically attack abortion clinics and threaten and assault doctors and nurses.

Like all extreme nationalist and proto-fascist movements, there must be an ‘enemy within’ that is identified as the source of the country’s problems—including those who might defend them.

Another ‘red meat’ toss to his base in his speech was his proposal for legislation to bar late term abortions. Still another dish offered up was allowing prayer in public schools, which he followed up with a pledge to increase federal funding to promote it.

Another fresh bone thrown to the base was Trump’s strong endorsement of 2nd amendment gun rights. In contrast, throughout the speech not a word was said about mass killings at US schools or the fact that studies show a shooting and killing goes on in schools in America at least once every day somewhere.

His base was no doubt pleased as well with his solution to the growing climate crisis: somehow business and the public will plant 1 trillion more trees, he proposed. That would presumably create enough oxygen to prevent the oceans from acidifying, glaciers from melting, and Australia and California from burning.

There was also an attack on public schools. Trump claimed they were failing everywhere and that every parent should have the choice of sending their kid to whatever school they wanted, and receive scholarship money paid by the taxpayer to send them to a private school of their choice. Trump touted the ‘Educational Freedom & Scholarship Act’.  In one of at least a half dozen examples, best described as ‘gallery melodrama’, he turned to the gallery in the House chamber and introduced a young black girl and her mother, announcing on the spot he personally was giving her a scholarship under the Act.

One of the more disgusting examples of ‘gallery melodrama’, that has become ready fare apparently in these SOTU speeches in recent years, was Trump’s introduction of the right wing radical talk show pundit, Rush Limbaugh.  Long an ideologue of the radical, extreme right who has dished up lies and misrepresentations on a daily basis, Limbaugh was introduced as having stage 4 lung cancer. That was to set up the sympathy appeal, of course. Trump then announced he was giving Rush the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Rush acted surprised. The person next to Rush then immediately pulled out the medal and draped it around Limbaugh’s neck. We’re supposed to believe it was all unrehearsed and spontaneous. Not a dry eye in the gallery. Trump’s message: all you liars and hate mongers on the right out there, you too can become a hero under Trump. Just keep up the good work in the coming election year!

The New Racism Card

Democrats should take note of Trump’s new racism strategy. He clearly is now appealing to the African-American voter—even as he writes off and declares the Latino as the illegal alien threat.

In at least six episodes of ‘gallery melodrama’, Trump’s subject was a black American. In addition to the young girl and her mother, noted above, Trump introduced a black former drug user who became a businessman, enabled by Trump’s ‘opportunity zone’ legislation—in fact a piece of legislation designed to give special tax cuts to businesses in certain cities.  Then there was the black kid who wants to become an astronaut. He was introduced with his 100 year old grandfather, a former Air Force officer, Charles McGee, who served in Korea and Vietnam, next to him. Trump announced he just made McGee a brigadier general. That kills ‘three birds with one stone’, as they say: a kudo to senior citizens, to blacks, and to the military all in one melodrama bundle.  Trump then proposed an increase in funding for black colleges.

In only one, and very brief, ‘gallery melodrama’ episode during the speech was a Latino introduced. Unlike all the black kids and moms, he was a Latino ICE officer. Not as much emotional sympathy appeal there.

See where this is going? Up with blacks; down with Latinos? Split the minority vote.

Why the strange pro-black strategy? A strategy launched, by the way, a few days earlier in his unprecedented election Ad in the super-bowl, where Trump took credit for the bipartisan criminal reform legislation just passed, by showing a middle aged black women crying in relief now that Trump had released her relative from prison.  Trump now a defender of African-Americans? A reformed former racist? Trump the declarer that Africans lived in shithole countries?

It’s not that Trump has overnight given up his racist attitude against African Americans. What he’s doing is counting the electoral votes in the swing states. The new appeal to blacks is designed to provide him a margin of extra votes in those swing states, a safer margin in the red states, especially the south in places like Georgia, all to ensure he wins the electoral college votes in those states as he did in 2016. That black vote margin is needed to offset the possible loss of middle class white women in the swing states that are, according to polls, put off by Trump’s aggressive and off the cuff tweets and statements.

Manipulate blacks. Mobilize white nationalists by vilifying Latinos and other peoples of color. Split the minority vote, in other words.

Trump’s Lies by Commission

As heard so often from Trump, much of his SOTU speech was laden with outright lies. In the roughly one-third of it devoted to the economy, this was especially the case. (Another one third of the speech was devoted to domestic issues and another third to foreign policy).

First there was Trump’s claim that the under him the US economy is “the best it has ever been” in US history. But what are the facts?  Not so in terms of US GDP. Trump’s roughly 2% growth rate today is not that much different from the average since 2000. Nevertheless he said “Families are flourishing”. Oh? What about the more than half of families today who have less than $400 to their name for emergencies? Or the more than half in each of the last two years who say, in polls, they received no wage increase at all in either year? Or what about the tens of millions of millennials and youth indentured with $1.6 trillion in student debt and can’t get homes or families even started?

In the speech, Trump claimed the unemployment rate was the lowest ever. But that’s the so-called U-3 rate which covers only full time workers, whose employment ranks by the way have been declining in absolute terms. It further excludes altogether the roughly 60 million US part time, gig and temp workers. If they were accurately estimated and included in unemployment figures, the true unemployment rate would be 8%-10%.

And what about wages? In the speech Trump repeated the oft-heard statistic that wages have been rising on his watch. But behind that figure lay several deeper facts: first, there’s the more than half of the labor force who acknowledge they received no wage increase at all last year or the year before. That suggests it is the top 10% of tech, professional, and other workers who are getting most of the wage gains. Moreover, the wage figures and gains noted by Trump are an average: if those at the top get more, those at the middle and below are getting less or even nothing. In addition, the numbers are for full time workers, leaving out the 60 million part time and temps. Finally, they’re wages not adjusted for inflation.

The real picture is that unemployment is much higher and wages are stagnating for the vast majority or worse. But this didn’t stop Trump in his SOTU speech from saying “companies are coming back to the US” and creating jobs. Or that this is a ‘blue collar boom’ with wages rising.

Trump also declared in his SOTU that he would protect social security and Medicare. But in his recent speech to the billionaire crowd in Davos, Switzerland he let it slip to the well-heeled in attendance he would be going after both once he won the election again. One wonders which audience he’s speaking the truth of his real intentions to.

In the SOTU he also gave support to infrastructure spending. But his prior proposals define ‘infrastructure investment’ as tax cuts for real estate developers.

He also declared in the SOTU speech that his recent proposals would lower prescription drug prices. But by this he really meant consumers being gouged by the Pharma companies would get to see how much the various drugs were being raised, in order to choose which one that would gouge them less. Market transparency does not mean lower drug prices. Big Pharma is not a competitive market where the consumer can choose among multiple offerings.

An even more outrageous, blatant lie was Trump’s declaration he was giving his “ironclad” guarantee that those with health related, pre-existing conditions would have access to health care–when in fact what he has proposed to date are various measures to roll back pre-existing conditions guarantees.

Trump’s most ridiculous lie was that Medicare was socialist. Here he was obviously attacking the growing support for a Medicare for All solution to the health crisis, increasingly supported both by the public and within the ranks of the Democrats. As he put it, 180 million Americans love their private health insurance. And he promised not to let the socialists take that away, even though it’s quite clear that 70% of the US population is now dissatisfied with private health insurance and want something better.  And if Medicare is socialist, does that mean the 50 million seniors on Medicare and Social Security are socialists as well? Add the millennials and seniors, and America must have already gone socialist!

One of the more disgusting outright lying claims of Trump was his comment that, under his regime, 7 million on food stamps had left the program.  But what he didn’t mention was he and the Republicans just declared 700,000 no longer eligible for food stamp support, including single moms with kids.

Trump’s SOTU: Lying by Omission

Lies may be committed by carefully not elaborating on topics. Here Trump excelled as well in his SOTU speech. For example, he boasted that the stock markets had risen in value by $12 trillion on his watch. But what he didn’t say is that more than $1 trillion every year has been passed on by corporations to investors and stock holders in the form of stock buybacks and dividend payouts. That’s what drove the $12 Trillion, making the 2% of the voters who own most of the stock richer than ever in history.

He then glossed over the recent signed China-US phase 1 trade deal as well as the NAFTA 2.0 USMCA trade deal. he said they were great achievements, but refused to indicate in what sense.  In recent weeks he has declared China would buy $100 billion more in US goods this year as part of that deal. But the fact is China never agreed to that and most economists estimate it will be well less than $50B, and maybe not even that now that the coronavirus is undermining US-China trade.

And so far as the USMCA is concerned, Trump in the SOTU speech reported it will produce 100,000 new US jobs. But even a cursory reading of the terms of that deal show there are no measures designed to bring back jobs from Mexico to the US. In both the trade deals, there’s really ‘no there there’, as economists are now beginning to determine. Both the China and USMCA trade deals are just old wine in new bottles, as they say, corked up with a lot of bombast, hyperbole, and factual misrepresentation.

Missing totally from the SOTU speech was any reference how Trump’s multi-trillion dollar tax cuts for corporations and investors and war spending have driven the US budget deficit in excess of $1 trillion a year, with trillion dollar additional deficits for another decade! In short, unlike all Republican presidents before him, in his SOTU speech Trump said nothing about the accelerating deficit, and in turn the $23 trillion national debt, or how he proposed to address it in the coming year or beyond.

In yet another example of lying by omission, in the speech Trump claimed that low wage workers had experienced an increase of 16% in wages on his watch, but then didn’t bother to explain that most of that was due to the raising of minimum wages by governors and legislatures in the ‘blue’ Democratic states.

Lying by omission means taking credit for things you never did, or were done by others. That’s become a norm for Trump, and he kept up that practice throughout the SOTU speech.

Foreign Policy Fantasies

Trump has had no actual foreign policy accomplishment during his entire term in office. Nothing came of the North Korea deal. He was able to get only a few token European countries, like Greece, to increase their NATO spending a little, but not much. His attempted support for a coup in Venezuela collapsed. (That didn’t stop him by bringing to his speech the US selected puppet, Guaido, and introducing him in the gallery). His trade deals produced very little in actual gains for the US ballooning trade deficit. He achieved nothing in Syria or Turkey except to allow Russia to increase its influence in both. And he failed to get Iran to the bargaining table to renegotiate the nuclear deal.

What he did declare in his SOTU speech as victories in foreign policy was his reversal of the Obama administration’s opening to Cuba. His recent launch a new Mideast Israel-Palestine initiative that was dead on arrival. The claim he destroyed ISIS, when in fact it was mostly the Iranians, Kurds, Russians, and Turks that did it. And his declaration that peace talks in Afghanistan to end that conflict were making “tremendous progress”, when in fact a deal isn’t even close.  And, not least, his assassination of the Iranian general, Soleimani, that almost pushed both countries over the brink of war. Not much there in foreign policy either.

The SOTU Message: Domestic Political Warfare

Where Trump has succeeded is in his domestic political war with the Democrats. As he noted in the SOTU speech, he has approved 187 new Federal Court judges and two Supreme Court judges, giving him a clear majority in the Judiciary. The US Senate has become no less myopically committed to him than his political grassroots base and media machine. Senate leader, McConnell, has proven to be one of the most obsequious Senate leaders in history.  With the Judiciary and one house of Congress firmly in his pocket now he has not been reluctant to break whatever rules and norms he deems necessary.

Having outmaneuvered the Democrats in the Mueller Report and Russia interference affair, and now as well in the impeachment attempt, Trump is now even more confident no doubt that he can run roughshod over Pelosi and the Democrats in this election year. And he will.

His SOTU speech was in effect a declaration of his intent to do so. And the confrontation at the end of the speech between himself and Pelosi—-Trump refusing to shake her extended hand and Pelosi then ripping up his speech—is symbolic of the political dogfight about to come. Throughout it all, Trump’s approval rating has survived in safe territory.  His red state allies are intent on ensuring his electoral vote majority via both gerrymandering and voter roll suppression.  His grass roots minions are itching to release more aggressive protests, demonstrations and action. His strategists are formulating a new racist appeal to split Democrats’ historical minority base of support.

Meanwhile, the Democrats themselves are sliding into their own internal conflict, with the corporate wing planning to scuttle Sanders by any means necessary and replace him with Bloomberg as their candidate at the convention.

In short, Trump’s SOTU speech was less about the state of the union and more about the state of Trump’s re-election and the Trump strategy to win a second term in November. And it appears he may succeed in domestic politics, while having clearly failed in economics and foreign policy.

Posted in USAComments Off on Trump’s ‘Red Meat’ SOTU Speech: US Political Crisis Now Deepens

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