Posts Tagged ‘Koch Brothers’

Bernie Sanders: Our Revolution – A Future to Believe In

April 2, 2017

London: Profile Books 2016

Bernie Sanders is the ‘democratic socialist’ senator for Vermont, who ran against Hillary Clinton last year for the Democratic presidential nomination. He didn’t get it. Although he had more grass roots support than Killary, he was cheated of the nomination through the intervention of the Democrat superdelegates, who massively favoured her. He is the man, who should now be occupying the White House, rather than the gurning orange lump of narcissistic Fascism now doing his best to drag the country back to before the Civil War. The polls show that Bernie could have beaten Trump. But he wasn’t elected, as Bernie’s far too radical for the corporate state created by the Republican and mainstream, Clintonite Dems.

How radical can be seen from this book. It’s part autobiography, part manifesto. In the first part, Sanders talks about his youth growing up in Brooklyn, how he first became interested and aware of politics as a student at Chicago University, his political career in Vermont, and his decision to run for as a presidential candidate. This part of the book also describes his campaigning, as he crisscrossed America holding rallies, talking at town hall and union meetings, appearing on TV and social media trying to get votes. A strong feature of the book is Bernie’s emphasis on his background as one of the country’s now threatened lower middle class. His father was a Jewish immigrant from Poland, who worked as paint salesman. He and his family lived in a rent-controlled apartment in Brooklyn, where conditions were cramped so that they often slept on couches. He freely admits that his parents were also relatively affluent and had more disposable income than others.

After having left uni, he began his political career in Vermont in 1971 when he joined and campaigned for the senate in the Liberty Union party, a small third party in the state. During the same period he also ran a small company producing educational films on the history of Vermont and other states in New England. Finding out that none of the college students he spoke to had ever heard of Eugene Victor Debs, he went and brought one out on the great American labour leader and socialist politician. On the advice of a friend and college professor, Richard Sugarman, Sanders ran for election as mayor of Burlington. He won, introducing a number of important welfare, educational and municipal reforms he called ‘socialism in one city’, a play on Stalin’s slogan of ‘Socialism in One Country’. He was strongly opposed by the Democrats. A few years afterwards, however, he was elected to Congress as an Independent, where, despite some resistance from the Democrats, he was finally admitted to the Democratic Caucus. In 2006 he ran for senator, contested the seat vacated by the Republican, Jim Jeffords, who had retired. By 2013 he was being urged by his supporters to campaign for the presidential nomination. To gauge for himself how much support he was likely to receive, Sanders went across America talking to ordinary folks across the country. After this convinced him that he had a chance, he began to campaign in earnest.

At the beginning of his campaign for the nomination, Sanders was very much the outsider, getting 15 per cent of the votes polled to Clinton’s 60 per cent. Then he started winning, climbing up the ladder as he took something like seven out of eight states in a row. The corporatist wing of the Democrats did everything they could to block his rise, culminating in the theft of the nomination through the intervention of the superdelegates.

Sanders is a champion of the underdog. He garnered much support by going to communities, speaking to the poor and excluded, often in very underprivileged neighbourhoods where the police and security guards were worried about his safety. He spoke in a poor, multiracial community in New York’s South Bronx, and to poor Whites in rural Mississippi. The latter were a part of the American demographic that the Democrats traditionally believed were impossible to win. Sanders states that actually speaking to them convinced him that they were way more liberal than the political class actually believe. During a talk to a group of local trade unionists, Sanders asked why people in such a poor area voted Republican against their interests. This was one of a number of counties in the state, that was so poor that they didn’t even have a doctor. The union leader told him: racism. The Republicans played on Whites’ hatred of Blacks, to divide and rule the state’s working people.

Sanders makes very clear his admiration for trade unions and their members, and how frequently they know far better than the politicians what is not only good for their members, but also good for the industry, their customers, and their country. He praises the nurses’ unions, who have endorsed his campaign and backed his demand for a Medicaid for all. He similarly praises the workers and professionals maintaining America’s infrastructure. This is massively decaying. 25 per cent of American bridges are, according to surveyors, functionally obsolete. Towns all over America, like Flint in Michigan, have had their water poisoned by negligent water companies. The electricity grid is also unspeakably poor. It’s ranked 35th worst in the world, behind that of Barbados. Yep! If you want to go to a country with a better electricity network, then go to that poor Caribbean country.

He describes how the poor in today’s America pay more for less. Drug prices are kept artificially high by pharmaceutical giants like Pfizer, so that many poor Americans can’t afford them. In one of the early chapter, he describes leading a group of women from Vermont over the Canadian border, so that they could buy prescription drugs cheaper. These same companies, like the rest of the big corporations, do everything they can to avoid paying tax. In some cases, these big corporations pay absolutely none. This is because of the corruption of American politics by donations from big business. As a result, the country’s politicians don’t represent the ordinary voters. They represent big business. He makes it clear he respects Hillary Clinton, but ran against her because you can’t combine representing ordinary people with taking money from the corporate rich. And at the heart of this corruption is the Koch brothers, oil magnates with a personal wealth of $82 billion and a corporate wealth of $115. They are not, explains Bernie, small government conservatives, but right-wing extremists. Their goal is to dismantle taxation completely, along with Medicaid and what little the country has of a welfare state. All so that the 1 per cent, who own as much as the poorest 90 per cent of the American population, can get even richer.

Sanders goes further to describe the massive inequalities that are now dividing American society, including the racism and sexism that ensures that women, Blacks and Latinos are paid less than White men. The notorious drug laws that have ensured that more Blacks are jailed for marijuana and other drugs than Whites. The crippling debt that faces more and more Americans. 48 million Americans are in poverty. 24 million have no health insurance. Many of these are people, who are in work, and frequently working their rear ends off just to make ends meet. He describes talking to a charity worker, who purchases just out of date food to give to the local food bank. According to the young man he spoke to, 90 per cent of the people using the bank are working Americans, whose jobs pay so little that they literally can’t afford to eat. In this section of the book he quotes a letter from a woman, who states that she and her husband are work 2 and 3 jobs each, but still can’t make a living. As a result, the young can’t afford to buy their houses, or go to university. He contrasts this with the situation in the 1950s. It wasn’t utopia, and there was still massive inequalities in wealth according to race and gender. But the economy was expanding, more people had the prospect of good, well-paying jobs, owning their own homes, and sending their children to college. This America is disappearing. Fast.

Sanders has given his support to women’s groups, and is a very staunch anti-racism campaigner. Amongst those who backed his campaign were Harry Belafonte and Dr. Cornel West, among other Afro-American intellectuals, performers and politicians. He also received the support of a number of Hollywood celebrities, including Seth MacFarlane and Danny DeVito. And comic book fans everywhere with genuinely progressive values will be delighted to here that his campaign manager ran a comic book store in Vermont. Presumably this guy is completely different from the owner of the Android’s Dungeon in The Simpsons. Sanders talks about his support for the Civil Rights movement, and Selma march, paying due tribute to its heroes and heroines, including Dr. Martin Luther King. He’s also a keen supporter of Black Lives Matter, the Black movement to stop cops getting away with the murder of Black people. As part of his campaign against racism, he also actively supports the campaign against the demonization of Muslims and rising tide of Islamophobia in America. When he was asked whether he would support this by a Muslim American, Sanders replied that he would, as his own father’s family were Jewish refugees from Poland.

Sanders is also strongly opposed to the current wars in the Middle East. He was not in favour of Gulf War 1 in the 1990s, and has attacked the invasion of Iraq under Bush for destabilising the country and region, and causing massive carnage. But he was no supporter of Saddam Hussein, and is also a staunch supporter of veterans, adding his political clout to their campaigns to stop the government cutting their benefits. He points out that the blame for these wars lie with the politicos, not the soldiers who had fight.

Bernie also takes worker ownership very seriously. Among the policies that he recommends for saving and expanding the American middle class are strengthening workers’ cooperatives and allowing workers to purchase their companies. One of the measures he states he will introduce will be to establish a bank to lend funds to American workers so that they can buy their own companies. He also wants to end the ‘too big to fail’ attitude to the big banks and start regulating them again. And as part of his campaign to strengthen and expand American democracy, he is a very harsh critic of the various laws the Republicans have introduced in states across America to stop Blacks, Latinos, the poor and students from voting. He also asks why it is that European countries can afford free medical care, but America can’t. And why Germany can provide college education free to its students, while Americans are faced with a mountain of debt.

Sanders is a genuine American radical in the tradition of Eugene Debs. It’s no wonder that the rich and the powerful now trying to pull the country back into the colonial era, when it was ruled by coterie of rich White men. He states that his country is now an oligarchy, and even a ‘banana republic’. He’s right, and right about the ways these issues can and should be tackled.

The Republicans have also tried to deter people from voting for him based on his apparent lack of interest in religion. They couldn’t attack him for being Jewish – although with those monsters Spencer and Gorka in the White House, I don’t know how long that will hold – so insinuated that he was an atheist. Well perhaps. But Sanders does have religious supporters. His friend and support Richard Sugarman is an Hasidic Jew and Sanders himself several times states how impressed he is with Pope Francis’ support for the global poor. He also made it clear in a speech he gave to the very Conservative Liberty University that he was impressed with the good in all religions, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, whatever. So he’s secular, but not anti-religious. Just anti-bigotry, and the way the right is trying to use religion to divide America.

It’s also remarkable that Sanders was the focus of a popular phenomenon far beyond his own campaign team. He states in the book that he wanted to control the campaign, and not have a SuperPAC telling people what he didn’t or didn’t believe. But he also found that up and down America, people at the grassroots were organising independently of his campaign team to support him. Unlike the astroturf fake populist campaign the Republicans and Libertarians have set up, Bernie’s genuinely popular with a growing number of American working people.

America desperately needs him. And so do we in Britain. The predatory, parasitical capitalism at the heart of American society has also been exported over here by the Conservatives. Just like the Americans need Bernie, we need Corbyn. And we need the two together, because if Bernie can do anything to stop the current political degeneration in America, it will also help stop the process over here.

Incidentally, Bernie has a personal connection with Britain. His brother is a member of the Green party in Oxfordshire, and campaigns against the privatisation of the NHS. Sanders also has a strong interest in protecting the environment and promoting renewable energy.

I also recommend this book to aspiring young politicos because of the chapters in which he talks about running a campaign, funded by your own supporters, not corporate backers, and what you need to do when running about the country. Like making sure you can get there in time and aren’t double-booked. It’s good advice, and although the latter seems obvious, he talks about a number of incidents in which he disastrously failed to follow it.

Sanders talks about the way people are being turned off politics in America, thanks to the massive corporate corruption. This also reaches into corporate media. Sanders also has a few ideas how they can be reformed. He himself was the subject of a media blackout, as the TV and news companies definitely did not want to cover him, and very much favoured Killary. Hopefully Bernie’s book will reach more of the alienated folk now being excluded from American politics, and show them that there is someone actively fighting for them. And so encourage them to get involved for themselves.

The Empire File’s Abby Martin on Trump’s Advisor, Steve Bannon

March 22, 2017

In this video from Telesur’s The Empire Files, Abby Martin discusses the repugnant rise on Steve Bannon, the head of Breitbart and pillar of the Alt Right now serving as the chief advisor in Trump’s cabinet. She describes how Bannon began his career as an officer in the US navy. An ardent militarist with a love for war and staunch supporter of Ronald Reagan, Bannon was nevertheless disappointed at not seeing active combat as the conflict he was hoping for with Iran did not materialise. He left the navy to work in the US financial industry for Goldman Sachs, before leaving them to form his own investment house. He got the job with Goldman Sachs after personally meeting the first head. After selling his investment company two years later, he began making right-wing documentary films. These are apocalyptic dystopias of a collapsing America under assault from armies of criminals. But they weren’t successful beyond the restricted circles of the Tea Party. So in 2004 he moved to working for an internet company, IGE, or Internet Gaming Entertainment. This made its money from paying people to mine the Virtual resources in internet game such as World of Warcraft to sell to the games’ players. Bannon managed to convince Goldman Sachs to plough $60 million into this fantasy world. However, IGE was run by some ‘highly problematic’ people. Its founder, Marc Collins-Rector, was wanted for child rape, and eventually all three of the company heads were sued for the abuse of underage boys. Eventually IGE itself collapsed, sued in a class action by games.

A new company, Affinity Media, rose from the remains of IGE. Bannon overthrew the head of this company and replaced him with himself. He then left it a few years later to work for Breitbart.

The film also discusses his abusive second marriage to Mary Louise Bacard, whom he married after she became pregnant. Bannon postponed marrying her until only three days before she gave birth, stating that he wasn’t going to marry her unless the children were normal. Fortunately, amniocentesis scans showed they were. He did not pay much attention to his two newborn daughters and refused to pay child maintenance. Less than a year into the marriage, a domestic argument broke out between Bannon and Bacard, which ended with Bannon becoming violent and trying to strangle her. The police had to be called, and Bannon was charged with domestic misdemeanour, battery and witness intimidation. The trial broke down, however, as Bacard did not appear in court. Bacard divorced him, and later revealed that Bannon and his lawyers had threatened to ruin her life if she pursued the charges against him. After the divorce, Bacard also had the terms of Bannon’s visitation rights to their children changed after she caught him hitting one of the 17 month old babies. She also said that he argued with her in front of them and that she did not feel safe.

It is not just his wife he has abused. He has also been charged with the coarse verbal abuse of female employees.

Martin also goes into Bannon’s opportunist support for Conservative and reactionary political movements, which he thought he could promote as vehicles for his own views, such as the Tea Party and then Sarah Palin, about whom he made a documentary. Curiously, this does not include an interview with Palin herself.

Bannon became friends with Andrew Breitbart, the news agency’s founder, because of their shared love of reactionary media. Breitbart even admiringly referred to Bannon as ‘the Leni Riefenstahl of the Tea Party’, referring to the Nazi propagandist who directed Triumph of the Will, about the Nuremberg rally and an equally celebratory account of the Munich Olympics. Breitbart was a protégé of Matt Drudge, the creator of the Drudge Report, who converted the style and approach of Conservative talk radio, in which subjects were discussed in a manner unsuitable for television, to the internet. Drudge took other media stories, but manipulated their headlines and contents to fit its bias against the progressive Left, women, the working class and ethnic minorities. Along with Bannon, Drudge also picked up and promoted the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. She notes that while Jones is viewed as an internet ‘sideshow’, he has an audience of millions that hang on his every word. Bannon was brought into Breitbart to encourage outside investment into it. But the company was itself experiencing severe problems. These stems from it being blacklisted after it manipulated footage of a female government employee to make it appear that she was advocating violence against Whites. After Breitbart’s death, Bannon took over the leadership of that company too. He then set up the Government Accountability Institute, which issues spurious reports alleging government conspiracies. These include the allegation that protest movements are secretly funded by the government. Among the millionaires supporting Breitbart is Robert Mercer, the investment banker who ran anti-Muslim ads attacking the Ground Zero Mosque and advocating the death penalty, and who has one of the largest private collections of machine guns. Other donors included the billionaire Koch brothers. Martin notes how the Institute acted to allow these millionaires to launder money, which could be invested in Breitbart. The money donated to the IGA was then used to pay the wages of Breitbart employees, which is illegal.

Ex-employees have stated that Bannon has a tight, dictatorial control of the company and expects both journalists and guests to follow his editorial line. Among those, who have been published in his organisation are the anti-Muslim activists Pamela Geller, Michael O’Flynn, Trump’s short-lived national security advisor, and the bigot and paedophile enabler, Milo Yiannopolis. She shows how the site manipulates and aggregates news stories to attack Blacks and Muslims. Following the rise of massive anti-Muslim feeling in Europe, Breitbart has focused on promoting and playing on this fear. Breitbart’s audience is mainly angry White men, and the organisation’s audience figures shot up from 8 million to 18 million after the election of Donald Trump.

Martin discusses how Bannon has also attacked traditional Conservativism, stating that he wants to destroy the traditional Republican party as well as everything left of it. He is a populist, but only defends and promotes the White working class. He rejects ‘globalism’ in favour of economic nationalism. She states how this has been used by extreme right-wing regimes since Nazi Germany to divert attention away from capitalism as the cause of systemic economic crises. Bannon is happy to describe himself as an economic nationalist, but vigorously rejects the accusation that he is a White Nationalist, despite his attacks on non-White immigrants as a threat to Judeo-Christian civilisation, particularly Muslims. His views on Islamic immigration are even more extreme than Trump’s. If he was in charge of government, then not a single Muslim would be allowed into America. He has made documentaries showing American border towns as under siege from immigrants. Unlike Trump, he also does not want legal, well-educated and productive immigrants to stay in the country. There exists a tape, which shows him arguing against Trump on this point, when Trump protested about an Indian man, who was deported back to his homeland, where he set up a successful company employing thousands of people. Breitbart also runs stories portraying Black Americans as violent criminals and welfare scroungers. Bannon also claims that the Alt Right’s appeal to racism is entirely coincidental. He looks back to the 1950s as a golden age, whose stability and prosperity has been destroyed by the decline of Judeo-Christian civilisation. She notes that he does identify correctly some of the current problems, such as the increasing lack of upward mobility and the poverty caused by neoliberalism, and also points out that the 1950s were definitely not an era of prosperity for Black Americans and others, who were exploited and brutalised. In his view, the civil rights and other protest movements of 50s and 60s destroyed the working class and small businesses, and allowed big business and big government to collude against working Americans. She states that in his hatred of the civil rights and other movements, he attacks the very people, who have been hurt the most by globalisation. The video includes a clip from one of his wretched documentaries in which he criticises ‘White guilt’ for encouraging the belief that ‘everyone should have a house’. She then moves on to discuss another of his tawdry epics, in which he attacks the Occupy Wall Street movement. He tries to portray organic popular protest movements as vehicles for Communists, Democrats or George Soros, and attacks millennials for supposedly undermining American culture and values with the vapidity and materialism of popular culture. He even goes as far as to blame this for the rise of ISIS.

Martin makes the point that Bannon’s message was extremely effective during the 2016 election campaign, because it addressed issues that the Democrats did not want to confront. She credits Bannon with formulating the most extreme elements of Trump’s Muslim ban and his harsh hostility to the media, as well as showing how Trump’s proposal to publish a list of crimes committed by immigrants is also strongly similar to Breitbart’s strategy. She also points out that Bannon’s militarism may, as a Chinese army officer observed, make Bannon’s prediction that in five to ten years America and the Chinese will be at war a reality. Bannon has said several times that Islam and China are expanding because they believe the Judeo-Christian West is in retreat. And Trump has also appointed more generals to his cabinet than previous administrations.

Martin concludes the piece by stating that Bannon’s rise shows how corrupt and illegitimate the system is, and that the Democrats, who wish to fight the same wars and are in debt and the pockets of their own corporate donors, are unable to fight him. He can only be fought by a united, multicultural progressive movement on the streets.

American Scientists Plan March against Trump

January 28, 2017

After the massive numbers of people involved in the women’s marches against Trump held around the world last weekend, American scientists are also planning to organise their own demonstration against the Orange Caudillo in protest at his disastrous environmental and health policies.

In this video, TYT Nation’s Jeff Waldorf discusses a report in Forbes’ discussing the formation of the new group of scientists planning this march. The group has it’s own internet page, and in five days its members grew from 200 to 200,000 +. The group says it will include non-scientists as well as scientists, and is intended to advocate the greater involvement of science in government. It’s purpose is to defend climate science, evolution, and alternative energy. Waldorf states that he too believes strongly that science should be more involved in government. He also quibbles with the phrasing in the Forbes’ article, taking issue with the magazine’s description of the scientists as ‘believing’ in the environmental damage caused by the fossil fuel industries. Waldorf argues that scientists’ in these areas don’t believe, because they have proof that oil pipelines, such as DAPL, can rupture, creating massive oil spills and environmental destruction.

Waldorf also argues that, although he understands why people in America’s coal country wish to retain the industry for as long as possible for the sake of their jobs, renewables are now becoming cheaper than oil for the first time. It’s time to move from the horse and buggy to the automobile, is the metaphor he uses. He also notes that 75 per cent of Trumps’ own supporters are also in favour of solar and wind power, and natural gas. Waldorf himself is not in favour of natural gas, as it’s still a fossil fuel, with the environmental problems that poses. At the moment, the movement is still in the planning stage, but hopes to issue a mission statement soon. In the meantime, they state that a government that sacrifices science to ideology is a threat not just to America, but also the world.

I wish the scientists the best of luck in their campaigns against Trump’s attack on climate change and green energy. I think, however, Waldorf has a rather too optimistic view of science. There’s quite a debate in the philosophy of science over what constitutes ‘proof’. In one view, articulated by the great philosopher of science, Karl Popper, science advances through falsification. You can’t prove a particular theory. What you do instead is show that other explanations are false. In many areas of science, the observable effects of experiments, may be tiny and ambiguous. This is why scientists have developed very sophisticated statistical methods for sorting through their observations in search of factual evidence that will support or disprove their theories. Thus, at the risk of nit-picking, it might be fairer to say that climate change and environmental damage by the fossil fuel industry is far better supported by the available evidence, than the minority view that no such change or damage is occurring.

I also think you have to be careful about relying too much on science to solve social problems. The British philosopher, Mary Midgeley, in one of her books pointed out that in some areas, what is needed is a social and industrial solution to a particularly issue, rather than scientific innovation. For example, it could be argued that in the struggle against world hunger, what is needed is not new, genetically engineered crops which produce vast yields, but better transportation methods and infrastructure to supply people with the food that has already been grown.

Despite these very minor quibbles, it is true that orthodox, respectable science in the above areas has been under attack for a long time to serve powerful interests in the fossil fuel industries. Trump this week imposed gagging orders preventing scientists and government workers in the Environmental Protection Agency from revealing their findings. Climate change is happening, and is a real danger to America and the globe. But this awareness frightens the Koch brothers and their wealth in the petrochemical industry. So they, and millionaires like them, are spending vast sums to keep the facts from ordinary peeps. America’s scientists are right to challenge this. Let’s hope their march in support of proper science goes ahead and is well-attended.

Trump Imposes Gag Order on Government Environmental Scientists

January 28, 2017

The Republican party since the 1980s, if not before, has a bitter hatred of environmentalism and loathes just about any and all laws, movements or protests to protect Earth’s precious natural resources, and the creatures with whom we share our beautiful world. Now Trump’s taken it to its latest development.

In this video, The Young Turks’ Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian discuss Trump’s imposition of a legal ban gagging members of the Environmental Protection Agency from releasing details of their work to the general public. Trump has also frozen official funding, so that the Agency may only publish its results and findings if these meet the official, ideological approval of his administration.

Uygur and Kasparian point out that this is intended to keep people ignorant, powerless and deprived of decent science education before Trump’s government. They also point out that this action by the Orange Dictator shows without question that the Republicans are anti-science. It doesn’t matter whether individual Republican voters support Trump’s policy, or they merely have to go along with it because they agree with his others reforms. The Republicans are anti-science, and they should now own it.

They also make the point that in any jobs that may actually be brought back to America through these bans, Americans will be fighting for scraps. The jobs in the petrochemical sectors drilling for oil, which the attacks on the EPA are designed to protect, will not be such to give Americans the standard of living they want. It would make far greater sense for the government to begin investigating in renewables – a whole new industry. At the moment, even the Chinese are beating America in investment and research into renewable energy, because, says Uygur, ‘the Chinese are smart’. But there’s no reasons why America shouldn’t be no. 1 in renewable energy. They’ve got enough sun in Arizona and wind in Chicago, the notorious ‘windy city’.

The Young Turks here are right. This is all about protecting the Republican party’s corporate backers in the petrochemical industry, like the Koch brothers. These two have financed a slew of fake astroturf ‘Green’ organisations and campaigned against genuine climate science produced by independent university laboratories. Koch money has been poured into Unis and state coffers instead to produce very politicised labs that have been set up to deny that climate change is occurring, and that drilling for oil is having a harmful effect on the local landscape of the US. This is despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, such as vast stretches of Louisiana wetland now made little more than one vast oil bog. Or the fact that there were over 300 spills from the oil pipelines crisscrossing America last year. The Kochs and their dollars try to keep facts like these well-hidden from the voters and the folks that have to live with the results of their environmental pillage.

And whatever the Republicans do, the Tories are nearly always bound to follow. The Republicans have heavily embraced fracking, and so have the Tories and their Lib Dem enablers. So you can bet that at this moment, Theresa May, members of her cabinet, or perhaps the members of some Tory think tank somewhere, is looking at these gagging laws, and wondering how something similar can be introduced over here.

The Young Turks on American Conservatives Setting Up Black List of Liberal Professors

December 6, 2016

Another attack on freedom of thought and speech in America, the Land of the Free. Yesterday I put up a piece about two articles from Counterpunch, discussing Obama’s failure to repeal the gross infringements of the US Constitution he inherited from his Republican predecessors, his plans to set up some kind of official body to tell Americans what sources they should believe on the internet, and an outrageous article in the Washington Post smearing dissenting journalists as treacherous purveyors of Moscow propaganda. The latter article appears to have come from the corporatist wing of the Democrat party trying to find scapegoats for Hillary Clinton’s failure to win against Trump, and the establishment media to clamp down on its liberal, new media rivals.

Now it seems the Republicans are also trying to get in on the act. This time it they’re coming for university and college professors. In this snippet from The Young Turks, the hosts John Iadarola and Ana Kasparian discuss a Conservative student organisation that has set up a website, Professor Watch List, which aims to expose 200 or so university lecturers, who deliberately target and victimise Conservative students. They claim that they are only publishing the identities of professors, who have already been in the news. However, analysis of their sources shows that these are fake news sites. They pretend to be by students, but in fact are by ‘very old Republican guys’. Iadarola and Kasparian state that they would have no problem with the website, if it honestly did what it claimed to do – protect students, who are being targeted for their political beliefs by their lecturers. But it’s not. It’s a partisan attempt to prevent lecturers presenting facts and arguments that Conservatives find uncomfortable, and which could lead to the lecturers themselves being disciplined or even fired.

Conservative students are also demonstrating against ‘safe spaces’ on campus. This includes setting up fake ‘safe space’ events, such as bake sales, and then waiting to see who turns up. They then lay out juice boxes, crayons and other children’s items to make the point that the people, who support ‘safe spaces’ are childish, in their opinion. The two presenters make the point that they are doing so by acting as children themselves. Ana Kasparian is particularly annoyed about this. She states she does not like safe spaces, as she only really learned things at college when her beliefs were being challenged. This is part of the experience of higher education. Having your beliefs challenged forces you to present evidence to defend them, or having to admit that you’re wrong if you can’t. She states clearly that what she believes is a bigger threat to academia isn’t some Conservative students feeling uncomfortable because of what is being taught by a Chicano studies professor, but the Koch brothers funding scientific laboratories in American universities so that they’ll push out spurious ‘research’ denying climate change. The Koch brother are multibillionaire oil magnates, and they have been responsible for getting meteorologists sacks, who have spoken out about climate change. Due to their influence independent climate science laboratories have been closed down, and replaced with institutions, funded by the Kochs, which have given them the propaganda about the non-existence of climate change they want.

John Iadarola also makes the point that the definition of ‘safe space’ is so wide, that it’s practically meaningless. It can mean something like a Black union, which doesn’t want White Supremacists coming in and distributing Nazi literature. Or it could mean a classroom, where the discussion of a particularly controversial topic is not permitted. They also make the point that refusing to allow a particular individual to speak on campus, because they’ve charged too high a fee, is not censorship. It’s a perfectly reasonable attitude. It only becomes censorship if the speaker is turned down, despite requesting a reasonable fee.

The two also make the point that no political ideology should have the monopoly on education. Academic freedom is too important for this. What is needed is more dialogue, as so far the differences in political opinion have become extremely polarised and people are no longer speaking to each other. There needs to be more dialogue, and integration.

This is an immensely important issue, as academic freedom is one of the cornerstones of democracy, as is preserving students’ own freedom of thought by protecting them against indoctrination. The Blair government passed legislation intended to prevent it in schools. Part of this stipulates that if a teacher is asked a question about a particular controversial issue in religion or politics, they may give an answer provided that they make it clear that it is just their personal belief. Obviously matters become far more complicated at the level of tertiary education as the discussion of the topics being taught is much deeper, and the conclusions drawn from the facts may be more subjective. But it also demands that students also act as adults, and are able to accept and deal with material that contradicts their own person viewpoints. Kasparian has said in a previous broadcast that she came from a very Conservative background, and only became a liberal when she was exposed to left-wing views and opinions at College. She’s also a college professor herself, and so this issue directly affects her.

Many people, who’ve been through college or uni, have had lecturers with very distinct academic views, both of the left and right. That should not prevent them from holding their jobs, provided they don’t penalise students simply for holding different opinions. This Professor Watch List isn’t about protecting students from indoctrination, however. It really does appear to be an attempt by Conservatives to use claims of indoctrination to close down contrary viewpoints. They aren’t really against indoctrination. They’re just outraged that students aren’t being indoctrinated with Conservatism.

I haven’t heard of any similar movement to this having appeared in Britain. Yet. But as the Tories have launched attacks on the way history is taught, as Conservative MPs like Michael Gove decided that the teaching of the First World War in schools wasn’t sufficiently patriotic. In fact, he went on a rant comparing it to Blackadder. I think the Union of Conservative Students has been closed down and merged with the Young Conservatives to form Conservative Future. But compiling a list of left-wing university tutors certainly seems like one of the stunts they would have done. And the National Front or BNP in the 1980s did encourage school pupils to send them the names of teachers, who were supposedly indoctrinating children with Communism, so they could beat them up. It also reminds very much of the way real totalitarian regimes, from Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China and Nazi Germany, have encouraged children to betray their parents and other adults, including teachers.

Freedom of thought is under attack from the corporatist Democrats and the Nationalist Republicans. This is a very dangerous time, and these trends need to be defeated and reversed, if our societies are to remain genuinely free.

Barack Obama and the Corporatist Democrats Attack Free Speech

December 5, 2016

It’s very clear that in the next few years under Trump, the treasured freedoms enshrined in the US Constitution and the civil rights women and people of colour have fought so hard for are going to come under sustained attack. In many ways, Trump will just be continuing the rise of an exclusive nationalism and an all-pervasive surveillance state that began under George Dubya as he launched his invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Unfortunately, it seems that the corporatist wing of the Democrat party, led by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, also wants to close down Americans’ freedom of speech and information by singling out dissenting journalists, news organisations and demanding a greater role for the state in telling you what information you should believe on the Web.

There were a couple of very important articles about threat to freedom of thought in last weekend’s Counterpunch. This followed an article on Thanksgiving by Craig Timberg in the Washington Post that claimed, on the authority of a group of media researchers, Propornot, that there were about 200 or so journalists, magazines, websites and organisations disseminating fake news intended to serve the Russians’ nefarious interests. Renee Parsons in her article discusses how the 200 websites identified by Timberg as outlets for Russian propaganda don’t actually show any evidence that they are acting on false information provided by Russian state media outlets like RT or Sputnik. And a careful reading of Timberg’s article also shows that, actually, RT and Sputnik haven’t invented any stories either. What they have done instead is identify items that the rest of the media ignored or paid little attention to, and made them more prominent. Or, to put it another way, they scooped the rest of the media.

As for Propornot itself, the organisation’s website states that it is “Your Friendly Neighborhood Propaganda Identification Service, Since 2016!” And the only person identified with it is the satirist and comedian Samantha Bee, who is the anchor on the news comedy show Full Frontal. Propornot are frightening, as they call on Barack Obama and Congress to investigate how the Russians manipulated information sources to upset the American political process. Which shows that it’s a body of Clintonian Democrats desperately trying to find suitable media scapegoats with the new, anti-Russian McCarthyism for her defeat by Donald Trump.

The site is even more malign, in that it appeals to the American public to identify not only those individuals and organisers echoing Russian propaganda, but also ‘sympathisers’. She states

If there is any doubt whether the Timberg article and Propornot itself is a partisan effort, the YYY implication is that anyone “echoing a Russian propaganda line” such as those who speak “how wonderful, powerful, innocent and righteous Russia and Russia’s friends are: Putin, Donald Trump, al-Bashar Assad, Syria, Iran, China, radical political parties” will be considered tools of Russia as compared with those who speak “how terrible, weak, aggressive, and corrupt the opponents of Russia are: the US, Obama, HRC, the EU, Angela Merkel, NATO, Ukraine, Jewish people, US allies, MSM and Democrats” will be considered enemies of the State. Anyone with such information is encouraged to ‘come tell us at Propornot about it.”

This came nearly two months after Obama made a speech to a political organisation about the internet, in which he made it clear that he wanted to set up some kind of official body to manage what they trust on the Web. She states

During a visit to the White House Frontiers Conference in Pittsburgh on October 13th, the President, known for his smooth, glib reassurances so successful at placating the public, suggested that “we are going to have to rebuild within this wild-wild-west-of-information flow some sort of curating function that people agree to” and that “democracy requires citizens to be able to sift through lies and distortions” and further that “those that we have to discard, because they just don’t have any basis in anything that’s actually happening in the world.” The President continued that “there has to be some sort of way in which we can sort through information that passes some basic truthiness tests.”

The President’s statement does not adequately capture what democracy requires of its citizens and reads more like what George Orwell epitomized as ‘political speech’ deliberately meant to confuse and demean citizen awareness. What Obama failed to acknowledge is that every American has a right, an obligation as an engaged citizen to determine for themselves what is a lie, distortion or truth; that ‘fake news’ is in the eye of the beholder and what a citizen believes and what they do not believe is their business and requires no justification to the government or anyone else. Most importantly, it was the President’s obligation to say that with a tremendous divergence of opinion on the www, some of it wacky, some of it conspiratorial, some of it incredibly incisive and intelligent and important – all of it is protected by the First Amendment.

To briefly parse the President’s words, most of which are painfully obvious,

suggestions of a “curating function” as in some official government entity assigned for the purpose of “protecting” (“ added) the public interest and “some sort of way…sort through information that passes some truthiness test” are presented in the President’s usual folksy, innocuous dialectic used to serve the public pablum while a further shredding of their Constitutional rights slips by under their nose.

She states that this is a further attack on American’s Constitutional freedoms by Obama. Despite his election promises, Obama has not ended surveillance without warrant, restored habeas corpus and the prohibition against detention without trial, torture, and excessive secrecy of government branches. Moreover, the Constitution also explicitly forbids presidents from starting wars without the approval of Congress. This has also been violated by successive administrations, and Obama hasn’t restored this Constitutional provision either.

See: http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/12/02/obama-and-propornot/

Further information on Timberg and his witch-hunt is provided in the same issue by Pam and Russ Martens. They discuss the possible reasons for this article, including that discussed by Parsons, and first put forward by Max Blumenthal of AlterNet, that it’s the Democrats trying to blame the Russians for Killary losing the election. Other theories are that the mainstream media is also trying to ensure its survival in the age of the internet and alternative media by smearing its new media competitors. Glen Ford, the editor of the Black Agenda Report, one of the organisations smeared as a Russian propaganda outlet, has suggested that the corporatist Democrats are very close to Bezos, the owner of the Washington Post, and that had Hillary won the election, she would also have launched a similar attack on alternative news sources on the Net. The Martens also state that during his career, Timberg was the National Security deputy editor for the Washington Post, before taking up his current position as the paper’s technology editor. He has also made speeches about the facial recognition technology used for law enforcement, and interviewed the executive chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, on the information revealed on the NSA’s programme of mass surveillance. This latter interview was done at the Cato Institute, a right-wing think tank, that was secretly part-owned for several decades by the Koch brothers.

The Martens themselves believe that this latest McCarthyite smear is an attack on the news organisations that ran stories from the WikiLeaks materials exposing the massive corporate corruption in the Democrat party. Both the Washington Post and New York Times did report that information from WikiLeaks revealed that a Citigroup executive, had made the decisions on who Obama should hire as key personnel during his first term. Citigroup was one of the massive banks that had to be bailed out during the 2008 crash. And both the Washington Post and New York Times editorial boards supported Killary’s presidential campaign.

See: http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/12/02/timbergs-tale-washington-post-reporter-spreads-blacklist-of-independent-journalist-sites/

Fortunately, Timberg’s article has met with widespread derision and ridicule, with many of the commenters on the online version of the article criticising it as a piece of shoddy, McCarthyite journalism. Regardless of the precise motives for the attack – and the various theories put forward above aren’t mutually exclusive – it’s clear that the Clintonite wing of the Democrats are just as keen as the Republicans to subvert the Constitution for their own backers in big business and the surveillance state. Obama and Clinton have shown that they are determined to maintain the infringements on the Constitution introduced by George Dubya, and, indeed, expand them to smear their own enemies.

And unfortunately, this mindset appears to be spreading to the Blairites over here. Mike last week reported that Tom Watson had made a rant, attacking websites producing false information. By which he meant the pro-Corbyn site, The Canary. Tony Blair modelled New Labour on Bill Clinton’s New Democrats. Watson’s comments seem to show that the Blairites in the Labour party also want to crack down on British websites that don’t follow the required New Labour line. Just as Blair himself used to organise ‘negative briefings’ against ministers, who were deemed ‘off-message’.

If America and Britain are to have healthy, functioning democracies, where the people genuinely have power and not a narrow clique of politicos acting for the benefit of the corporate elite, it will mean purging the Democrats in the US of the Clintonites, and the Blairites in the Labour party over here, as well as defeating the Republicans and Conservatives.

Reichwing Watch on Hillary Clinton as the Republican Democrat

November 15, 2016

The world was shocked last week by the election of Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton as the next president of the United States. The news showed footage of Clinton and her supporters weeping at the result. Yet as this documentary from Reichwing Watch shows, Clinton herself was no liberal. They describe her as a Republican Democrat. The description is accurate. As this documentary shows and concludes, she is like her Republican opponents a corporatist militarist, backing powerful companies, the military and the armaments industry against ordinary Americans, the environment, and the smaller nations of Latin America and Iraq, which have had the misfortune to feel the boot of American imperialism. And far from a supporter of women and ethnic minorities, the documentary also shows how she cynically sponsored the punitive legislation that has seen the mass incarceration and denial of federal welfare support to Blacks, defend truly horrific rapists and cover up Bill’s affairs and sexual assaults. All while claiming to be a feminist. The documentary also shows how Hillary was also extremely cynical about gay marriage, opposing it until the very last minute when it was politically expedient.

The documentary is divided into several chapters, dealing respectively with imperialism, Black rights, the gun lobby, the war on women, LGBT rights and corruption. It begins with a quote from Christopher Hitchens urging people not to vote for Hillary, as it is a mistake to support candidates, who are seeking election for therapeutic reasons. He then cites her husband, Bill, as an example.

Chapter 1: Building an Empire

This chapter begins with Killary’s support for the Iraq invasion, despite admissions from other members of the US Congress that the full scale industrial equipment needed to produce weapons of mass destruction was not found, and opposition to her and the invasion from Congressmen Kucinich, Bernie Sanders, Gravett, and the liberal news host, Jon Stewart. It also shows clips of Obama and Christopher Hitchens stating that she had the support of the Republicans for her stance on the Iraq invasion, including Henry Kissinger. Kissinger is rightly described by one of the speakers in this documentary as ‘the greatest unindicted war criminal in the world today’. It discusses how the US supported coup in Ecuador recalls the Kissinger sponsored coup in Chile that overthrew Salvador Allende in favour of the Fascist dictator, General Pinochet. It also mentions Killary’s sponsorship of the military coup in Honduras and the assassination of the indigenous rights leader, Berta Carceres. After the coup, Killary ensured that the regime received American aid, including military, in return for which American corporations also received lucrative contracts, especially in the construction of the dams. This section of the documentary also shows how Killary is absolutely ruthless and single-minded when it comes to pursuing her own projects, even at the possible expense of her husband’s interests. When Bill Clinton was finally considering intervening in Bosnia in the 1990s, Killary refused to support him until the very last minute as she was also afraid that this would affect her own healthcare reforms. She was also a firm supporter of No Fly Zones in Syria, despite the view of many others that these would lead directly to war with Russia.

Chapter II: Black Lives Matter

The title of this section of the documentary is highly ironic, considering that for much of her career, Shrillary hasn’t been remotely interested in Black rights, and indeed began her political involvement actively opposing them. She herself freely admits that when she was in college, she was a Goldwater Girl, supporting the segregationist Republican candidate Barry Goldwater. When Bill Clinton was governor of Arkansas, he and Hillary continued to celebrate Confederate Flag Day along with the rest of the reactionaries. There’s also a clip of her describing the threat of urban ‘super predators’ connected to the drug gangs. This was a term that at the time was used almost exclusively to describe Black men. There’s a clip of Michelle Alexander, the author of The New Jim Crow, about contemporary legislation designed to marginalise and impoverish Black America, denouncing the extremely punitive legislation Killary and Bill introduced as part of the war on drugs. These deny federal welfare aid to those convicted of drug offences for going to college, access to public housing and even food stamps. This was part of the Clinton’s strategy to win back swing voters, who had voted for Reagan and the Republicans. Clinton herself continued her strategy of appealing to White voters at the expense of Blacks. In 2008 she credited White voters for supporting her against Barack Obama. She also at one point discussed the assassination of Bobby Kennedy when answering a question about how long she planned to continue her campaign against Obama. She was viciously attacked for this by Stewart, who was outraged that she should mention this at a time when Obama was receiving death threats because of he was a Black man aiming at the presidency. Hillary was also herself extremely cynical in mentioning Obama’s Muslim background and upbringing. Without ever quite saying that he was a Muslim, and therefore shouldn’t be president, she nevertheless reminded people that he had been, thus reinforcing their prejudices.

Chapter III: The Gun Lobby

This begins with Hillary denouncing the armaments industry. However, once in power, she approved $122 million in sales for the gun firms, many of which produced the weapons used by Adam Lanza to shoot his mother and the other children at Sandy Hook school. She also managed to raise American armament sales abroad by 80 per cent over her predecessor, Condoleeza Rice, approving $165 billion of armaments sales in four years. These companies then invested part of their profits in the NRA, which sent lobbyists to Washington, several of whom, including representatives of Goldman Sachs, then went and attended a fundraising dinner for the Clintons.

Chapter IV: The War on Women

This concludes with a clip of Madeleine Albright urging women to vote for Clinton as ‘there is a special place in Hell for women, who do not help other women’. Yet Clinton’s own feminism and support for women is extremely patchy. This part of the documentary begins with her making a speech about how women’s rights are human rights, and vice versa. Which is clearly true. However, it then goes on to play a recording of her talking in 1975 about how she successfully defended a monstrous rapist, who had attacked a 12 year old girl. The girl was left in a coma for several months, needed considerable therapy to help her back on her feet afterwards. She has been on drugs, never married or had children. Her life has been ruined because of this monstrous assault, by a man Clinton knew was guilty, but successfully defended. Due to plea bargaining, he only served a derisory two months in prison.

This part of the documentary also shows how Hillary covered up for Bill’s affairs, and his sexual assault of Juanita Broderick. Broderick, then married, was a nurse at a nursing home, who had done some campaigning for the Clintons. They visited the home, during which Clinton sexually assaulted her in one of the bedrooms. Afterwards Killary approached her, caught her by the hand, and said that they appreciated how much she meant to her husband. Broderick clearly, and not unreasonably, considers this to be a veiled threat, and states that Killary frightened her. The section concludes with a piece about her support for another Democrat, Cuomo, and how this candidate was really another Republican in the guise of a Democrat, who believed in trickle-down Reaganite economics.

Chapter V: LGBT Rights

This begins with a clip from an interview with a gay serviceman, stating how it was very difficult initially in the navy when his sexuality was first known about. This section of the documentary shows how she actively opposed gay marriage until she thought there was votes in supporting it. She is seen supporting her husband’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy towards gays in the military as a progressive position, despite the fact that Bill himself said it was only a compromise. It then shows her making speeches declaring that she believed marriage should only be between a man and a woman, and that New York State should not recognise gay marriage.

Chapter VI: Corruption

This part begins by discussing how the Clinton’s took money from Tyson’s, one of the major poultry producers in Arkansas, and one of the agri-businesses credited with polluting 3,700 miles of the states’ waterways. Clinton passed laws setting up a task force to looking into the problem, while ensuring that about a third of the seats on this quango went to Tyson’s. Tyson’s were an important contributor to the Clintons’ campaign funds, in return for which Bill passed laws favouring the firm, and allowing them to grow into the state’s biggest poultry firm.

And the corruption didn’t stop there. It goes on to show how Killary did absolutely nothing to challenge Walmart’s ban on trade unions when she was on their board, and the company still lags behind others in promoting women to important positions. She was also hypocritical in her ‘Buy American’ campaign to persuade Americans to buy domestically produced goods. While she was at Walmart, the company continued to sale imported goods, some of which were even misleadingly labelled as ‘made in America’. This included clothing made in factories in Bangladesh which employed 12 year old girls.

Elsewhere, Killary also campaigned against a bankruptcy bill promoted by the credit card companies in their favour, in a reversal of her previous policy. The also made $675,000 from three speeches to Goldman Sachs, speeches which she refused to release.

She has also been duplicitous in her support of the NAFTA and TPP free trade agreements. She accused Obama during his election campaign of supporting NAFTA, while secretly reassuring the Canadians that she really backed it herself. There is also a clip of Elizabeth Warren, another Democrat politician, attacking the TPP. Warren states that this free trade deal isn’t about developing commerce, but in giving more power to multinational companies at the expense of national governments and hard-working ordinary Americans. America already had free trade deals with very many of the countries included in the treaty. And about half of the TPP’s 30 chapters are devoted to giving more power to the companies.

This section of the documentary also includes a clip of Mika Brzezinski, the daughter of Carter’s foreign policy advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, talking about how Killary has no personal convictions of her own, and will say anything to get herself elected. This is followed by the veteran radical, Noam Chomsky, stating that Clinton’s Democrat party is really that of moderate Republicans. President Truman, who warned about the threat of the military-industrial complex, is by their standards now far to the Left. It also has a clip from an interview with one of the multibillionaire Koch brothers describing how they liked Bill Clinton over many Republicans. This one is, admittedly, rather more hesitant when it comes to whether he’d support Killary. There’s then footage from a speech by Bill Clinton promoting small government and how there isn’t a programme for every problem. This is followed by footage of Hillary herself stating that she isn’t dogmatically Republican or Democrat. The documentary ends with the description of her as the worst of the two defects of the American political system. She is both a militarist, and a promoter of corporate power.

Donald Trump is a monster, and his election has brought fear to many millions of ordinary Americans, particularly those from ethnic minorities. The Beeb yesterday reported that 300 racially motivated incidents had been recorded since he was elected last week. Non-white children have been bullied at school, racist slogans sprayed on Black and ethnic minority people’s property and vehicles, and the Nazis from Alt-Right have crawled out from their pits to spew hatred against the Jews. Trump’s even appointed Steven Bannon, a racist and anti-Semite executive from the right-wing news organisation, Breitbart, his ‘chief strategist’. America and the world are facing the prospect of a Nazi in the White House.

But Hillary herself is no angel. She’s a corporate, militarist monster, who supports the very big businesses that are bringing poverty to working people in America by lowering wages, denying union rights, polluting America’s great natural environment, and shipping jobs overseas.

And abroad, her pursuit of American imperial power, as expressed in the American military complex’s own jargon of ‘full spectrum dominance’ – in other words, absolute military power over the rest of us – has threatened to plunge the world once again into a Cold War and the prospect of nuclear annihilation. And her embrace of Henry Kissinger should be a mark of shame to any decent human being. This is the man, whose firm support of dictators in Latin America and Asia, and whose conduct of the Vietnam War, brought death and torture to tens, if not hundreds of millions of innocents.

And Killary herself has blood on her hands through her support of the Iraq invasion, and the coups in Ecuador and Honduras.

Quite frankly, considering the millions she’s threatened with torture, assassination, disappearance and the Fascist jackboot, I really honestly don’t have any sympathy with her weeping over her election defeat. She’s lucky. She didn’t get to be president, but no-one will be rounding her or her husband up to be raped or tortured by the secret police, before being murdered in a concentration camp. She doesn’t have to worry about Chelsea being murdered by a death squad. She gets to live, and enjoy her very privileged life as a major politico and businesswoman. The people she and the rest of the administrations she served and supported, who’ve had their lands invaded and governments overthrown, haven’t been so lucky.

More Military Tension between NATO and Russia; Pat Mills Right in ABC Warriors

October 9, 2016

Mike today put up a very chilling report about the escalation of military tensions between NATO and Russia. Russia has deployed Iskander missiles in its westernmost province of Kaliningrad. Formerly Koenigsberg, this is small Russian enclave between Poland and Lithuania, was formerly part of Pommerania under the old Reich. The missiles are capable of carrying nuclear weapons, and are presumed capable of reaching Berlin, or the various Baltic states.

Russia is believed to be deploying these missiles in response to NATO manoeuvres in eastern Europe, and the stationing of four more NATO battalions in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. These were in response to Russia sending troops into Ukraine.

Mike states that he recalls either Gorbachev or possibly Yeltsin receiving a promise from NATO that it would not expand into the Russian’s back garden. He is correct. That promise was given. And broken. NATO’s borders are now right up to the very frontier with Russia. Mike asks us how we would feel if the roles were reversed?

That question has been asked by others in America. Left-wing and Libertarian critics of American military expansion have posed the rhetorical question how Americans would feel if Canada broke away and joined Russia. This is the parallel in the Anglophone world Ukraine, which has ties going back thousands of years to the very foundation of Russia, joining NATO.

Actually, it’s not hard to see how Americans would react, as there’s one section of the American conspiracist fringe which actually believed it. FOAFtale News, the journal of the International Society for Contemporary Legend Research, in the 1990s report an urban legend then going round the paranoid American Right, that the Fall of Communism was all a ruse. The Soviets had established secret underground tank bases in Canada and Mexico. When everything had been properly prepared, and they were ready, the order would be given and the Soviet tanks would roll over the border to occupy America. You can bet given the paranoid, extreme-rightwing mindset of the kind of people, who voted for Trump, that if Canada ever had joined Russia in a close alliance, most Americans would believe exactly the same thing.

And Mike reported on Friday that it was feared that rising tensions over Syria could result in a nuclear war with Russia. Mike comments

And on it goes. And we all become a little more nervous every day. And that makes us a little more twitchy, and prone to jump to conclusions, and likely to make mistakes…

Everybody concerned needs to step back.

They all need to have a serious think – and maybe a couple of conversations – about what little they stand to gain by acting on accusations and suppositions.

And how much we all stand to lose.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/10/08/nuclear-missiles-deployed-in-russias-westernmost-area-as-fears-grow-over-syria/

I’ve blogged about this issue previously. In the case of Ukraine, it seems to me that it is actually the Russians, who are this time the injured party. The Orange Revolution which ousted the previous, pro-Russian president was staged with covert funding from the Americans. The new ruling coalition includes real, card-carrying Nazis from the Pravy Sektor – the Right Sector. Their uniforms are those of the auxiliary Ukrainian SS units, who were responsible for pogroms against the Jews, and participated in the Holocaust during the Second World War. During the Orange Revolution, a section of these thugs shot at left-wing protesters on their own side before chasing a group of trade unionists into a building. They were then savagely beaten, and one attempted to escape by jumping from a third-floor window. I’ve also seen footage alleging that the Ukrainian regime is responsible for the ethnic cleansing of Russians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians in the east of the country.

The situation is made even more terrifying by the fact that a former NATO general has written a book, predicting that by May next year, 2017, Russia will have invaded Latvia and we will be at war. George Galloway in his speech the other year to the Stop the War Coalition described how he had taken the general to task for this, when he was on a panel with him at the Hay-on-Wye literary festival. Counterpunch has also reported that Obama has stepped up the production of nuclear missiles, and is trying to develop short-range ‘battlefield’ nukes. This seems terrifyingly similar to an idea going round in the 1980s when I was growing up. This was part of the madness of the ‘New Cold War’ under Thatcher and Reagan, when these idiots believed that a limited nuclear war could be fought in Europe.

Looking at this site’s stats, a couple of people have been looking at a piece I wrote about a year or so ago discussing some of the very astute satirical comments Pat Mills had put in the ‘ABC Warriors’ strip in 2000 AD. This followed the adventures of Hammerstein, Blackblood, Mongrol, Deathlok, Zippo and co during the Volgan War, a conflict between America and Russia for possession of the latter’s oil.

This was clearly aimed at the real reasons behind Gulf War II and the invasion of Iraq. One of the chief war aims was to seize the country’s vast oil reserves, which are the largest outside Saudi Arabia.

And I’m very much afraid the same is true here. Russia possesses vast natural resources in Siberia, and exports much of it to Europe. Some of the former provinces of the Soviet Union – the Baltic states – are extremely dependent on it for their power supplies. When one of the Baltic states was accused by the Russians of persecuting their people, the Russians also cut off, or threatened to cut off, the oil supply to their country, which would have resulted in massive power cuts.

American politics is heavily driven by corporate interests, and particularly that of the oil industry, dominated by the Koch brothers. These two are supposedly worth over $300 billion. They donate to the Republican party, and to organisations which deny climate change, in order to keep those barrels pumping out of the ground. Just as the Iraq invasion was to steal that country’s oil, I can see Pat Mills, the creator of ‘ABC Warriors’ strip, being in this case literally correct about the real reason for the current tensions.

It’s disgusting. I can remember the feeling of relief I felt when Communism fell, and the Soviet empire collapsed. Despite the horrors of capitalism and the poverty caused by the mass privatisation of Russian industry, which wiped out the savings and pensions of millions of Russians, nevertheless it seemed the dawn of a better world. The threat of nuclear annihilation had been lifted just a little. People from both sides of the continent could travel to each other’s countries to work and open businesses. It’s why I don’t really have a problem with eastern European workers coming over here. Our peoples meeting in friendship and peace is far better than the fear and hatred that was whipped up when I was young in the 1980s.

Now our leaders seem to be determined to destroy this golden opportunity to create a truly peaceful co-existence between the West and Russia. And despite whatever nonsense Obama’s and Putin’s generals may be telling them, there is no way to survive a nuclear holocaust. As Sting sang, ‘It’s a lie that we don’t believe any more.’

He’s right. And so’s Mike: instead of preparing to launch attacks, everyone needs to step back a little. As one of 2000 AD’s other creations, Judge Dredd, also said: ‘War is sick. War is evil. War is hell.’

Let’s follow the ABC Warriors instead and ‘Increase the Peace!’

Let’s Get Fascist with Neoliberal Corporatism

August 1, 2016

By which I certainly don’t mean supporting racism, xenophobia, genocide and the destruction of democracy, or vile, strutting dictators.

British and American politics are now dominated to an overwhelming extent by the interests of corporations and big business. Corporations in America sponsor and donate handsomely to the campaign funding of congressmen and -women, who return the favour, passing legislation and blocking other acts to the benefit of their corporate sponsors. I put up a piece a little while ago from the radical internet news service, Democracy Now!, reporting on how funding by the Koch brothers has resulted in policies that massively favour the oil industry, against the Green movement and efforts to combat climate change. Hillary Clinton, the wife of former President Bill Clinton, is also part of this corrupt web. She sits a number of leading American companies, and was paid something like a quarter of a million dollars for speeches she made to Wall Street. This has had a demonstrable effect on her policies, which strongly favour big business and, naturally, the financial sector. This corruption of American democracy ultimately goes back to the 1970s, when a court ruled that sponsorship by a corporation constituted free speech under the law, thus undermining the legislation that had existed for over 150 years against it. After about forty years of corporate encroachment on the res publica, the result is that America is no longer a democracy. A recent report by Harvard University concluded that the nation had become an oligarchy. This is reflected by the low rating of Congress in polls of the American public. These have shown that only about 14% of Americans are happy that their parliament represents them.

This situation is no different over here, although the corruption has been going on for much longer. ‘Gracchus’, the pseudonymous author of the 1944 book, Your MP, detailed the various Tory MPs who were the owners or managers of companies. Earlier this evening I posted piece about the recent publication of a book, Parliament Ltd: A Journey to the Dark Heart of British Politics, which revealed that British MPs have about 2,800 directorships in 2,450 companies. It’s blurb states that MPs are not working for the general public. They are working for these companies. Nearly a decade or so ago, George Monbiot said pretty much the same in his book, Corporate State, as he investigated the way outsourcing, privatisation and the Private Finance Initiative meant that the state was increasingly in retreat before the encroachment of corporate power, which was now taking over its functions, and official policies were designed to support and promote this expansion. This has meant, for example, that local councils have supported the construction of supermarkets for the great chains, like Sainsbury’s, despite the wishes of their communities, and the destructive effects this has on local traders, shopkeepers and farmers.

In America, there is a growing movement to end this. One California businessman has set up a campaign, ‘California Is Not For Sale’, demanding that Congressmen, who are sponsored by corporations, should wear sponsorship logos exactly like sportsmen. In my last blog post, I put up an interview between Jimmy Dore, a comedian with The Young Turks, and David Cobb, the Outreach Officer with Move to Amend, a campaign group with 410,000 members across America, working to remove corporate sponsorship.

As I’ve blogged before, we desperately need a similar campaign in Britain. But it would be strongly resisted. Tony Blair’s New Labour was notorious for its soft corruption, with Peter Mandelson’s notorious statement that the party was ‘extremely relaxed about getting rich’. The Tories are no better, and in many ways much worse. When this issue was raised a few years ago, a leading Tory dismissed it with the statement that the Tory party was the party of business. David Cameron pretended to tackle the problem of political lobbying, but this was intended to remove and limit political campaigning by charities, trade unions and other opposition groups, leaving the big lobbying companies and the Tories’ traditional corporate backers untouched.

This corporate domination of politics and the legislature has been termed ‘corporatism’. This also harks back to the corporate state, one of the constitutional changes introduced in Italy by the Fascists under Mussolini. This was partly developed from the Italian revolutionary syndicalist tradition. The corporations were supposed to be a modern form of the medieval guilds. They consisted of both the employer’s organisations and the trade unions for particular industries, and were responsible for setting terms and conditions. Parliament was abolished and replaced with a council of corporations. Mussolini made much of this system, arguing that it had created social peace, and that it made Fascism a new political and economic system, neither Socialist nor capitalist.

In fact, the corporate state was nothing more than ideological camouflage to hide the fact that Fascism rested on brute force and the personal dictatorship of Mussolini. The power of trade unions was strictly subordinated to the control of the industrialists and the Fascist party. The Council of Corporations had no legislative power, and was really just there to rubber stamp Musso’s decisions.

But if the Tories and big business want a corporate state, perhaps they should get a corporate state, though following the more radical ideas of Fascist theorists like Ugo Spirito. Spirito was a philosophy professor, teaching at a number of Italian universities, including Genoa, Messina, Pisa and Rome. At the Ferrara Congress on Corporative Studies, held in May 1932, he outraged the Fascist leadership and conservatives by arguing that the Corporate state had resulted in property acquiring a new meaning. In the corporations, capital and labour would eventually merge in the large corporations, and their ownership would similarly pass from the shareholders to the producers, who manage it based on their industrial expertise. It was attacked as ‘Bolshevik’, and Spirito himself later described it as ‘Communist’. Despite the denunciations, it was popular among university students, who wanted the Fascist party to return to its radical Left programme of 1919.

If we are to have a corporate state with industrialists represented in parliament, as so promoted by neoliberal politicians, we should also include the workers and employees in those industries. For every company director elected to parliament, there should be one or more employees elected by the trade unions to represent the workforce. And as another Fascist, Augusto Turati argued, there should be more employee representatives elected than those of the employers because there are more workers than managers.

And as the outsourcing companies are performing the functions of the state, and those captains of industry elected to parliament are also representatives of their companies, these enterprises should be subject to the same public oversight as state industries. Their accounts and the minutes of their meetings should be a matter of public record and inspection. Considerations of commercial secrecy should not apply, because of the immense responsibility they have and the importance of their duties to the public, particularly as it affects the administration of the welfare state, the health service, and the prison and immigration system.

On the other hand, if this is too ‘Socialist’, then industry should get out of parliament and stop perverting democracy for its own ends and inflicting poverty and hardship of the rest of us.

Secular Talk on the Appeal of Donald Trump

February 14, 2016

This is a very interesting piece of analysis by Secular Talk’s Kyle Kulinski, of the replies given by a Trump supporter interviewed at the caucus by David Pakman. The man said he voted for Trump, because he wanted a national health care system in America, like that in Britain and Canada. Trump had said he supported this. Pakman pointed out that Bernie Sanders also said that he supported an NHS for America. The man also stated that he liked Trump because he was anti-establishment and showed leadership. He would make America great.

Kulinski shows how much the man’s views reflects the carefully constructed rhetoric of Trump, and his campaign strategy. Trump is winning the Republican electoral race, because he talks at a fourth grade level. While others have seen this as a handicap, showing how stupid Trump is, Kulinski states that it’s actually very clever. It boils everything down to punchy statement with a real emotional clout.

Trump is also winning because he’s extremely confident, much more so than his rivals. Few commentators on the electoral contests have recognised just how convincing and persuasive this is to voters. Trump tells people he’s winning, even when he isn’t, and so they believe him. When he says he’s got leadership, they swallow the line that he will be a great leader.

Then there’s the issue of Trump’s alleged support for socialised medicine. This, Kulinski points out, is a case of people hearing what they want to hear. Trump has at various times made noises that he supports the creation of a single-payer healthcare system in the Land of the Free. At other times he’s said the exact opposite, and stated he’s in favour of more private healthcare, more competition. This is frequently in the same speech. Kulinski remarks that Trump throws everything in his speeches, whatever will appeal to the voters. One person will support an NHS for America, while another person will take away and vote for him because he’s said the exact opposite. The only person who is unequivocally for an NHS is Bernie Sanders, as the man interviewed by Pakman himself recognised.

Trumps stance on the Middle East is similarly muddled. On some occasions Trump says he’ll stand back and let Putin attack ISIS. And then on others he’ll state that America shouldn’t let Putin take the lead in Syria, and that America should make greater efforts to eradicate Islamist terrorism in those nations.

And then there’s the issue of his independent, anti-establishment stance. This is pretty much a case of necessity becoming a virtue. Trump initially approached the same donors as the rest of the Republican candidates. It was only after they turned him down that he decided to fund his own campaign. But he’s massively popular because, as the man interviewed by David Pakman said, he is independent and not beholden to the Republican donors.

Americans are heartily sick of a congress dominated by corporate interests. A study by Princeton concluded that America was no longer a democracy, but an oligarchy. And this is reflected in Congress’ approval ratings. They’re as low as 15%. At one point, they even dipped to 9%. Trump’s supposed anti-establishment stance matches the overwhelming mood of the country. Kulinski points out that in New Hampshire caucus, Trump polled twice as much as the man who came second. He concludes that the game is Trump’s to lose.

Okay, I’ve already followed Godwin’s Law this morning in comparing the Tories to the Italian Fascists with their gerrymandering to stay in power forever. Now I’m going to do the same, and compare Trump with Hitler. But the parallels are there, and real.

Firstly, Trump is venomously racist, like Hitler, although mercifully he’s just calling for the expulsion of immigrants and the registration of Muslims, not their extermination. Yet. Mind you, neither did Hitler. The Nazis took great pains to make sure that the ‘Final Solution’ was hidden from the German people. They disguised the incarceration in the concentration and extermination camps as ‘resettlement in the east’. To make this convincing, they shot propaganda films supposedly showing the Jewish settlers in Poland well-fed and happily tending their farm plots. This idyll lasted about as long as the movie took to be shot. After it ended, the Jews featured in this horrendous lie were back to being brutalised, and carted away for extermination. This is why Jews came out and demonstrated against Trump’s comments about Muslims in 17 US cities a few weeks ago.

Hitler also, like Trump, was loudly anti-establishment. Indeed, he loudly condemned the ‘November criminals’ in the four existing German parties, the Social Democrats, Catholic Centre Party and the two German Liberal parties, for their betrayal of Germany. He attacked the middle-aged character of the established German politicos, shouting, ‘Mach Platz, ihr alter!’ – ‘Make space, you old one!’ The Nazi party anthem, the Horst Vessel Song, as well as attacking ‘comrades of the left’ also has the Nazis ranged against the ‘Braune Reaktionesn’ – ‘Brown Reactionaries’ – the forces of traditional liberal Germany.

And like Trump, Hitler carefully crafted his speeches to the areas in which he was speaking. In rural areas with a hatred of Jews, he played up the anti-Semitism. In urban areas with a strong left-wing tradition, he stressed the anti-capitalist sections of the Nazi programme. And the Nazi programme itself was deliberately vague and contradictory, like that of the Italian Fascists, to appeal both to the traditional extreme Right and the extreme Left. You could read into it whatever you wanted. And tragically, all too many did. In Italy a decade before the Nazis took power, some intellectuals did support the Fascists, because they thought their lack of ideology gave them a greater freedom to do what was necessary to solve the country’s grave social and economic problems, breaking the paralysis that affected the existing parties and which kept them from working together to solve them.

The Young Turks have said what Trump is: the beginning of Fascism. He has all the electoral and rhetorical strategies, the populist appeal and the venomous racial hatred. And there’s broader issue here. Trump is popular because Congress is held in such low esteem, because it reflects the wishes of the rich donors, like the Koch brothers, rather than the desires of Mr and Mrs Average America. For Americans genuinely to have their country back, they need to curtail the corruption and political funding through those same rich sponsors.