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The Shadow of Smuts on Trump's Jerusalem Declaration

Trump's Destructive Declaration

 
Protest art in the Orange Farm settlement of South Africa circa 2014. LBWPhotoProtest art in the Orange Farm settlement of South Africa circa 2014. LBWPhoto
 
U.S. President Donald Trump and Jan Smuts, a former prime minister of South Africa are politicians from two different eras who share two things in common.

Actions by Trump and Smuts, while separated by several decades, prompt many people in America and South Africa respectively to use the same word to describe each leader: racist.

And, Trump, like Smuts, has acted decisively on behalf of Israel.

Trump has created a “racially hostile climate” the President of America’s oldest civil rights organization, the NAACP, noted recently.

The actions of Smuts and other white supremacist leaders in South Africa over a century ago triggered the creation of the African National Congress (ANC) in 1912, three years after the formation of the NAACP in America. A long-time leader of the ANC was Nelson Mandela, the legendary activist/statesman.

Recently President Trump smashed decades of American policy with his declaration that recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In the early 20th Century Jan Smuts played a pivotal role in laying the foundation for the creation of Israel.

Trump’s declaration on Jerusalem received applause in Israel by top governmental officials and citizens alike. Trump received Israeli accolades despite the fact that a few months ago Trump publicly praised Israel hating Neo-Nazis after that rampage by racists in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Trump proclaimed his declaration was “the right thing to do” irrespective of the fact that it flouts international law that has opposed Israeli occupation of Jerusalem since 1967. Trump said his declaration was simply a “recognition of reality.” Trump critics point out the ‘reality’ of Israel’s control of Jerusalem is tied to decades of the U.S. providing Israel with military aid, financial support and diplomatic backing that strengthened Israel’s occupation of Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Time to Organize a Mass Movement in Defense of Social Security and Medicare for All

Call to (locked) arms

 

Now that it looks like President Trump and the Republican Congress will succeed in ramming through the most regressive tax bill (not “reform” bill as the media keep slipping into calling it) in the history of the income tax, it’s time to gear up for the real battle — a battle that calls for not more lame Soros-funded, Democratic Party-led “resistance,” but rather a deadly serious mass movement to defend and expand Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and what remains of federal welfare assistance.

The Republicans have made it clear that their claim that this tax bill, in slashing taxes on corporations and the rich, will “pay for itself” through supposed higher economic growth is bogus and that the real goal is to, as conservative strategist Grover Norquist once put it, “to shrink government down to the size that we can drown it in the bathtub.”

But make no mistake, the Republicans aren’t talking about shrinking the biggest drain on the federal budget — the military — which consumes 54% of each year’s discretionary budget. No, they’re talking about cutting social spending, or in other words the key elements still left from Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal (the Social Security program) and Lyndon Johnson's Great Society (Medicare and Medicaid).

This campaign will be based upon a lie which the corporate media tend to repeat uncritically: that Social Security is “bankrupt” and more importantly that it is the main cause of the nation’s $20-trillion deficit (soon to be a $21.5-trillion or higher deficit after the new tax law works its magic). In fact, Social Security benefits are, always have always been and will through 2019 continue to be fully funded by payments made into the program by past and current workers’ FICA payroll taxes. The program has over its 81-year history contributed exactly nothing to the federal deficit. Rather, that deficit is the result primarily of the nation’s massive military budget and endless series of wars and cold wars since the end of World War II, as well as to a gutless Congress that continually adds to to the red ink by refusing to fully fund government programs, preferring to borrow and push the costs onto future generations. (Truth to tell, Congress has since World War II cravenly used borrowing from the Social Security Trust Fund to finance US wars without having to raise income taxes to pay for them.)

The strategy for going after what Republicans scornfully (and Democrats ignorantly and lazily) deride as “entitlements” such as Social Security and Medicaid, are actually earned benefits that workers have, over their lifetimes, paid for with taxes taken from both their paychecks and from their employers, is to claim that the government just can’t afford these programs anymore.

XX

Sad Truth

 
We’re not going to get rid of Trump
because Trump is an archetype.
Trump was already here
long before we voted him into office.
He was more like a transparent pink bear
but he was here,
filling up tons of space,
being bombastic
throwing his weight around,
baiting us in dreams that we repressed,
letting us know there were big holes in our dystopia,
the Benighted States of America.
He, or his aura, were around
swimming across the screen of everyday.
Long before the Republican Party
made him magically appear in the flesh
he was a big floater in our eye.
(But this floater is a bitch, man!)
And you know what the doctor says
when you get a floater?
“You’ll get used to it.”
And aren’t we? Getting used to being bullied,
lied to? Used? Impotent?
Used to living on the edge,
used to feeling ashamed
used to being shocked by our own sheepishness.
Emergency after emergency after emergency!
The pink bear, the annoying floater,
call it Trump, or whatever you want.
Call it the new reality show of shows,
call it the ubiquitous traveling circus,
the new all-day all-night show.
Call it the last act in the theater of fools
where there is no curtain
and no exits, and there is some guy
shouting “Fire!” ”Fire!”
And everyone looks straight ahead with knitted brows.
But relax, it’s just a dream.
It’s just a poem.
It’s just another daydaydaydayday. . . .
 
 
--Gary Lindorff

The US Government Requirement that RT-TV Register as a ‘Foreign Agent’ is a Threat to Our Press Freedom

Suddenly, I’m a ‘Russian agent’

 

For a number of years now, I have been periodically interviewed as a source or a commentator on news programs and as an occasional panel participant on RT TV, the Russian government-funded English-language television station. For the past year, I’ve been paid a small amount for my work.

Effective Monday, November 13, something changed, though. RT suddenly became a “registered foreign agent.” The Russian government-funded news service, which has its headquarters in Washington, with bureaus in several other US cities, filed the required papers under protest — the only foreign news service operating here that is required to do so — and said it intends to sue. Russia is also retaliating and will be requiring some US news organizations operating in Russia, including Voice of America, to similarly register as foreign agents.

This means that as of two weeks ago, I have been working, at least on a minimal basis of perhaps one short 5-10-minute interview per week, for a “foreign agent.”

The US government, a lot of heavy-breathing members of Congress, and the bulk of the corporate media in the US at this point are suggesting that journalists like me are at best “useful idiots” helping to promote Russian propaganda in the US — propaganda that our government claims is designed to sow discord among the citizenry and to undermine support for American democracy. Why, RT has been accused of such heinous behavior, according to former National Security Director James Clapper, as “promoting a particular point of view, disparaging our system, our alleged hypocrisy about human rights, etc.”

Scary stuff, huh? Clapper, during a Congressional hearing into Russian evil-doing in the US, even accused RT of airing debates by third-party presidential candidates during the 2016 campaign — something the corporate media for years has dutifully refused to do in what I guess they consider a patriotic defense of our two-party system.

XX

Pathetic as the case against RT may be, I’ve been the butt of jokes by liberal friends who say that I’m a “Russian agent” because they’ve bought the spurious argument that Russia “hacked” the US election and delivered us a Trump presidency. I wonder though, how many such Americans have ever actually watched RT-TV. I suspect it’s very few. First off, it’s not that easy to see it on your TV, since most cable and fiber-optic television bundlers leave it out of their packages, as they also leave out the Al Jazeera English Channel option, in response to pressure from the government. If they did watch it — which you can and should do at least to check it out at RT-America and at RT.com (the international edition) — they would find shows hosted not by Russians, but by American journalists, many of them well known names like Larry King, Ed Schultz, Jesse Ventura and Chris Hedges. A number of these people are working for RT because they were either sacked by US media outlets, like Schultz at MSNBC or had a planned program cancelled like Ventura, also at MSNBC, or left in disgust like Chris Hedges, a veteran war reporter for the NY Times.

Comparing Medical Care in Britain and the US

The UK's National Health Service up close and personal

 

In late September, AmerisourceBergen, one of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical distribution companies with revenue of $150 billion, was fined $260 million by the US Food and Drug Administration for emptying pre-filled glass syringes of expensive cancer drugs and reloading the drugs, in slightly smaller doses, into cheap plastic syringes before distributing them to oncology centres. For years, the company allegedly pocketed the profits obtained by creating and selling 10 per cent more pre-dosed syringes in this manner. Prosecutors claimed that because the refilling process was not conducted under sterile conditions, it led to ‘floaters’ and bacterial contamination, putting at risk the health of thousands of cancer patients with compromised immune systems.

Earlier this year, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit, based on evidence from a whistleblower, against UnitedHealth Group, the largest provider of subsidised private medical insurance for the elderly, accusing it of overcharging the government by more than $1 billion, by claiming patients were sicker than they actually were.

The FBI estimates that fraud, both private and public, accounts for up to 10 per cent of total US healthcare expenditure, or about $350 billion, of the annual $3.54 trillion that Americans spend on healthcare. The scale of medical fraud in the UK is still small by comparison, but some of the companies that have paid huge fraud fines in the US – including UnitedHealth, McKesson, Celgene and the Hospital Corporation of America – are becoming increasingly involved in NHS privatisation schemes, in accordance with the government’s wishes.

The Health and Social Care Act pushed through by Andrew Lansley as health secretary in 2012 was intended to increase privatisation, outsourcing, inter-regional competition and ‘marketisation’ in an already strained system. There is little sign that it is improving services or reducing costs, but private firms see profits to be made.

The John Radcliffe NHS Hospital where the author spend five days last summerThe John Radcliffe NHS Hospital where the author spend five days last summer
 

My wife and I flew to the UK last summer to see our daughter receive her DPhil at Oxford. On arriving, I found myself increasingly short of breath. Within a few days I was having difficulty, for the first time in my life, walking up gentle slopes or climbing a flight of stairs. A private doctor whom I consulted found my blood oxygen level to be only 91 per cent – a reading one might expect of a person suffering from pneumonia. He also detected fluid in my right lung and swelling in my ankles. He referred me to the John Radcliffe Hospital’s ambulatory assessment unit the next day. For the time being, he said, I could forget flying home.

After years of negative articles in the US media about overworked doctors, cursory exams and brusque support staff, I wasn’t expecting wonders from the NHS. But my experience was quite the opposite…

To read this article in full, please please click here to go to the London Review of Books.

'Manufacturing Consent' Co-Author and Media Critic Ed Herman Dead at 92

His critique of US media still resonates

 

Edward Samuel Herman, who died peacefully in his sleep at the age of 92 on Nov. 11, didn’t just cry out “fake news” like so many politicians and media pundits do today referring to stories that they object to. Rather, he explained why so much of the news in the US is and has long been fake and how the seemingly independent system of news organizations go about creating it, almost as if they were operating under the direction of some government of propaganda.

The co-author (actually the primaryauthor, as his non-alphabetical top billing on the cover makes clear) with Noam Chomsky of the ground-breaking 1988 book Manufacturing Consent, Herman, a professor of economics in the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, devoted much of his career to exposing the lies and distortions of the US media. But unlike most media critics, he took his critiques much deeper, explaining how the US media, especially since the end of World War II, have actually come to function as an unofficial Ministry of Truth, creating a false narrative of the US as a benevolent, democratic promoter and defender of freedom around the world, even as it has actually become the world’s greatest purveyor of violence, defender of tyrants and transgressor of international law.

Ed Herman, 1925-2017 RIPEd Herman, 1925-2017 RIP
 

I first got to know about Ed through his writings in publications like Lies of Our Times and Extra!, but especially because of Manufacturing Consent, a touchstone of any serious modern media criticism. After reading that book for the first time 15 years after I had begun my career as a journalist, I suddenly understood exactly why I had become alienated from my employers — both in newspapers and television — that I had to quit working as a staff journalist and become a freelancer after just seven years in the business. When I would find my best stories killed by editors, or buried on inside pages, I used to blame it on the gutlessness or idiocy of individual editors, not realizing that it was a systemic problem, bigger than individual editors or even individual news corporations.

Herman and Chomsky explained what I had, before reading their book, never quite realized: that what I was doing in reporting and writing news articles, was not at all the product of the industry I worked for. I was merely a cog in the machine helping them to harvest the real product, which is “eyeballs” — the readers or viewers of my work — which they could then sell to advertisers. Viewed in that light it became clear why our employers wanted us journalistic workers to focus on stories that had drama and controversy but that didn’t make readers feel overly angry or depressed, and they certainly didn’t want stories that offended major advertisers or, god forbid, entire industries or government regulators.

Realizing that, like a scythe or a threshing machine on a farm harvesting wheat, as a staff journalist I was just a tool, a cog, part of a machine on the media plantation harvesting eyeballs, and not a creator and a crusading tribune of truth, was a profound awakening.

No President Should Have the Authority to Launch Nuclear Weapons

Trump and the nuclear 'football'

 

Maybe having a president in the White House who acts like an impulsive child is a good thing — at least if it convinces the Senate, a body that has for decades surrendered its vital Constitutional power over war and peace to the Executive Branch, to wrest it back.

This is particularly important in the case of nuclear weapons. As things stand, going back all the way to Harry Truman, te only world leader to have actually ordered the use of nuclear weapons in war (twice!), US presidents have been accorded the unfettered power and the technical ability to launch a nuclear strike with no input from Congress.

President Trump has alluded ominously and even gloatingly to his having that awesome power, literally at his fingertips.

US nuclear bomber strike force in a threatening show of force action over the Korean peninsula (USAF photo)US nuclear bomber strike force in a threatening show-of-force action over the Korean peninsula (USAF photo)
 

That has led the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, headed by Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who has publicly referred to the Trump White House as an “adult daycare center,” to hold a hearing earlier this week to at least consider putting constraints on Trump’s power to launch nukes. No conclusions were reached, but the issue will likely come up again.

As one might have expected, critics are already decrying the idea of tying this or any president’s hands when it comes to the decision to launch nuclear missiles because they claim that a nuclear missile, even if fired from the opposite side of the earth, would only need 15 minutes to reach the US — far too little time for the Senate to debate and authorize a counter-attack.

But that argument is a red-herring. Nobody is proposing that a president should not have the authority to order a retaliatory strike the minute it were to be confirmed that some country had launched missiles towards the US. (Looked at objectively, it seems stupid to order an action that would insure the total destruction of the earth in retaliation for an attack that might only destroy part of it, but I suppose that as long as we have countries with nuclear weapons, there has to be a credible threat of mutually assured destruction or such an attack could happen. Crazy or not, the policy of MAD appears to have successfully prevented a nuclear attack anywhere in the world for 72 years since they were first used by the US, back when it faced no such risk of retaliation in kind.)

Rather, the issue Corker is proposing be debated is whether a president should be able to launch a pre-emptive first strike on an enemy using nuclear weapons, or to decide to use nuclear weapons in a non-nuclear conflict already underway.

I would offer a resounding “No!” to those situations.

Let’s look at them separately.

First, take the idea of a US first strike. Should a president — and go ahead and think in terms of our current mentally unbalanced President Trump as you ponder this question — be able on his own with no input from the Senate to decide to launch nuclear-tipped missiles at another country that is not attacking us, simply to deter them from doing so?

Meek Moment Triggers Demands for Justice Reform

But where are those supporters when ordinary folks are facing injustice?

 
Meek Mill supporters rally outside Philadelphia's City courthouse. LBWPhotoMeek Mill supporters rally outside Philadelphia's City courthouse. LBWPhoto
 
The recent incarceration of star Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill brings up many issues beyond how the justice system should handle obstinate individuals. A judge imprisoned Mill for serial violations of his parole conditions.

One issue is many of those supporting Mill have never engaged in activities to address structural injustice in the justice system – the kinds of problems those supporters say must be reversed in the case of their revered rapper.

Pennsylvania has one of the nation’s highest racially disproportionate prison populations where 47 percent of the inmates are black and 10 percent are Hispanic. Blacks comprise less than 12 percent of Pennsylvania’s population and Hispanics are seven percent. Nearly 30 percent of all inmates in Pennsylvania’s state prisons are from Philadelphia only accounts for 12.8 percent of the state's residents.

Another issue implicated in the Mill matter involves the advocacy for more minorities in the criminal justice system as a remedy for reducing structural inequities based on race/racism. The two Philadelphia police officers that severely beat Mill severely during an arrest were black as is the judge who sentenced Mill.

The imprisonment of Mill for parole violations provoked condemnation around the world. A Change.org petition calling for Mill’s release contained over 351,000 signatures one week after his sentencing to a 2-4-year prison term

The recent celebrity-studded rally outside of Philadelphia’s City courthouse, where hundreds demanded the release of rapper Mill, included sharp criticisms of inequities in the criminal justice system.

We'll make it, a little worse for wear

 

Here there is the rip tide.
And you know what you do when you are caught in a rip tide?
You ride it out.
It carries you further away from the beach
but if you don't panic eventually the current releases you
and you can swim in.
Then you only have to worry about exhaustion
or being swallowed by something from below. . .
When I look at myself,
I see someone
who has been just a little beaten up.
My white skin is blotchy from sun exposure. My eyes are bloodshot.
I'm slightly unshaven. A little hurt in my sleepless eyes.
No anger though. I don't feel any anger at all.
I feel disappointment, and sometimes a deep sadness
for all the suffering of life on the planet.
By 66, you need to have figured some things out on your own!
To be able to close your eyes, set up the video camera and talk about life,
talk about what you have figured out.
No ranting. No whining.
No bullshit.
No bitterness.
Just talk.
Talk to your children, your grandchildren,
other people’s children.
Talk to your people.
Talk about how you experience the universe,
what you make of the unconditional love of the universe,
what you make of aging,
and the wonder of it all.
 
 
--Gary Lindorff

General Kelly - Historically Ignorant or Hysterically Bigoted?

Bigotry on the brain

 

The events of November 10, 1898 in Wilmington, North Carolina provide added evidence to rebut the recent claim by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly that the U.S. Civil War resulted from a failure to “compromise.”

On that Thursday nearly 120-years ago a rampaging mob led by a former Confederate Army officer unleashed the only successful insurrection in American history with the violent overthrow of Wilmington’s legitimately elected municipal government.

During that insurrection – allowed to stand by state and federal authorities – dozens of African-Americans were murdered. Insurrectionists ordered hundreds to leave that coastal city including liberal whites the insurrectionists felt embraced blacks by respecting the rights the U.S. Constitution extended to all including blacks.
 
Wilmington insurrectionists burn building of black owned Daily Record newspaper.Wilmington insurrectionists burn building of black owned Daily Record newspaper.
 
Those Wilmington insurrectionists had no desire for compromise because their intent was control through white supremacy. Since those insurrectionists sought to reestablish pre-Civil War total political and economic dominance for whites over blacks, no compromise was acceptable.

The “White Declaration of Independence” issued by those Wilmington insurrectionists asserted whites in that area would, “never again be ruled” by blacks. That Declaration’s “never again” phrase was unequivocal evidence the insurrectionists had no desire to compromise.

The stance of those Wilmington, N.C. insurrectionists, cemented in white supremacy, was similar to sentiments of the Confederates who launched an armed revolt against the authority of the United States government in April 1861.
Confederates disregarded an attempted compromise in the form of a planned amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would have barred Congress from outlawing slavery.

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