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South Korea Slips Off the US Leash

Standing up to empire

 

The mainstream US media, when it comes to the idea of talks between the governments of North and South Korea, are focused on the idea that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is trying to drive a wedge between the Republic of Korea and the United States. No doubt that is true, but this focus misses a major part of the story.

What we’re really seeing here is South Korean President Moon Jae-in making a bold move to assert South Korea’s independence from the United States.

Nobody should be surprised that Moon, who was swept into power thanks to a surge of voters (he won by 41.1% against two conservative parties which received 24% and 21.1%) last year on a promise to reach out to North Korea and attempt to bring the two warring halves of the Korean Peninsula (they are still technically in a state of war that began in 1950, nearly 68 years ago) back together.

Taking the seeming baby step that he has taken of inviting North Korea to compete in the Winter Olympics being held next month in South Korea might seem like a small thing, but it was actually a bold step for Moon. What most Americans don’t know is that South Korea is technically a kind of colony of the US, given that its military is still under the control of the United States. This is thanks to a UN Security Resolution passed in 1950 authorizing a UN military action against the North and designating the US as the lead authority of the UN operation — a controlling role that the US still clings to.

Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in, leaders of North and South Korea, are talking, and Trump and the US are not amusedKim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in, leaders of North and South Korea, are talking, and Trump and the US are not amused
 

That situation explains the bizzare warning given about North/South two-party-only negotiations by former Obama-era US State Department Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs David R. Russell, who is quoted in a Jan. 3, 2018 article in the New York Times by Mark Landler as revealingly saying, “It is fine for the South Koreans to take the lead, but if they don’t have the US behind them, they won’t get far with North Korea…And if the South Koreans are viewed as running off the leash [my emphasis], it will exacerbate tensions within the alliance.”

Imagine US diplomats telling NATO allies UK, Germany or France not to “run off the leash” in bilateral discussions say, with Russia! Sure, they too are on a leash to some extent, but nobody associated with the US State Department, would ever stick it in their faces like that.

Leo Chang Soon, a Korean-American historian who was a teenager during the Korean War, and whose father faced an assassination threat for standing up, as vice president, to Korean dictator Rhee, says “South Korea has been under the US leash since Syngman Rhee flew into Korea on General Douglas MacArthur’s plane to become the first president of South Korea (ROK) on September 2, 1945.”

Sleepwalker

 
 
He committed murder.
He burned down a house.
He didn’t know what he was doing.
Let him go.
 
We can’t wake him up.
 
The sleepwalker is bulding a big bomb
To blow up a church.
In his sleep now
He is weaponizing his unconscious hatred.
 
The defense: He doesn’t know what he’s doing.
Judgment: Let him go.
 
Now the sleepwalker
Votes in a racist.
Abuses women.
Embraces violence like a lover.
 
In a rare lucid moment
He pleads innocent:
 
I didn’t know what I was doing.
 
The sleepwalker
Asks the judge,
Can I go now?
I didn’t know.
I didn’t know anything.

 
Judge: Let him go.
 
Prosecution: Let there be nuclear war.
Let there be the end of things.
Let the sea rise.
Let the homeless wander the earth.
 
The sleepwalker walks out.
He walks down the middle of the street.
Cars swerve around him.
He is innocent.
 
Leave him be.
 
 
--Gary Lindorff

Rep. Gabbard Speaks Truth to Power about the Real Reason North Korea has Nukes

One Congresswoman who tells it like it is

 

We already knew that Tulsi Gabbard was courageous, when the Democratic congresswoman from Hawaii resigned from her position as vice chair of the Democratic National Committee in disgust during the primary season in 2016, declaring publicly what we now know to have been true — that the DNC was manipulating the primaries to favor Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders — was courageous. Now as basically the only member of Congress with the guts to call out the US as the cause of our current knife-edge threat of a nuclear war, she’s demonstrated her courage again.

Gabbard, interviewed on ABC News, declared unambiguously that the reason that North Korea has worked so diligently to develop nuclear weapons and missiles capable of delivering them to the US is that the United States over several decades and under a number of presidents, has had a policy of “regime change,” and a history of violently attempting to overthrow governments that it doesn’t like. As she put it in an interview over the weekend with ABC news host George Stephanopolos, “Our country's history of regime-change wars has led countries like North Korea to develop and hold on to these nuclear weapons because they see it as their only deterrent against regime change.”

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) on ABC, Click image to go to interview (sorry for the ad at the start)Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) on ABC, Click image to go to interview (sorry for the ad at the start)
 

Rep. Gabbard, who has been calling for the US to negotiate directly “and without pre-conditions” with North Korea to resolve the crisis, says the US also needs to recognize the reality that North Korea already has nuclear weapons and is not going to give them up unless it feels secure from US attack.

She is firm in saying that the US history of overthrowing Libyan leader Muamar Gaddafi after first convincing him that if he dropped his efforts to develop a nuclear weapon they would not attempt to overthrow his government, and then invading and overthrowing him, and of invading and overthrowing Saddam Hussein after trumping up a fake claim that he was attempting to develop nuclear weapons, will make it all the harder to convince North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to agree to halt or scale back, much less eliminate his nuclear weapons and missile arsenal. She adds that President Trump’s current threat to cancel an agreement reached by his predecessor, President Barack Obama and the leaders of Iran to terminate their nuclear fuel enrichment program in return for the US dropping sanctions on that country will also undermine any future efforts by the US to reach negotiated agreements on weapons and nuclear disarmament with Kim and any other countries that might seek to go nuclear.

Identity Politics Gets Into Our Pants

Gender Politics and Political Justice

 

Urge and urge and urge,
Always the procreant urge of the world.

- Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

[T]he trick of being a man is to give the appearance of keeping your head when, deep inside, the truest part of you is crying out, Oh shit!
- Michael Chabon, Manhood For Amateurs

A shaming can be like a distorting mirror at a funfair, taking human nature and making it look monstrous.
- Jon Ronson, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed
 

God must have a sense of humor in that he gave a man an excitable phallic shaft extending outward from his body that leads him around as if there were a ring in the end of the damn thing and some demon was yanking him into all sorts of dicey predicaments and shame-inducing behaviors. As a kid first getting to know this physiological organ I was blessed or doomed with, I recall an adolescent joke we snickered at: What’s the lightest thing in the world? A dick. You can lift it with a thought.

An ashtray, circa 1950s, from my father's effectsAn ashtray, circa 1950s, from my father's effects
 

God, in his ribald wisdom, gave women the key to the future in the form of a vagina and uterus. Women got an in-ee and men got an out-ee. He, then, gave men and woman the exact same brain with the same complex and mysterious circuits extending throughout their bodies, an arrangement that makes the joining of the two aforementioned physiological components an incredible pleasure. He or She (I confess: I was a sexist in the first paragraph) also enabled men and women with their powerful minds to be culture-creating creatures, which handed them a great conundrum that has been the source of conflict and narrative delight since humans first carved images on fire-lit cave walls. Non-humans -- ie. animals -- of course, tend not to be culture-creating creatures, and therefore they’re not susceptible to identity politics; they rely on simple and direct allure and brute strength to copulate whenever they get the biological signal to do so.

This God -- I’m not a believer, so the term is used here to mean The Great Mystery -- thus made the enterprise of human sexual intercourse akin to playing chess in a muddy, overcrowded pigpen. Think Last Tango In Paris and the scene where Marlon Brando makes snorting pig sounds while Maria Schneider trills like a bird. Of course, the film is a tragedy, and the male dies in the end from his own aggressive actions, killed by the woman who no longer finds his aggressiveness attractive.

Yesterday's 'Shithole Countries' Can Become Classy Places Donald, and Vice Versa

The shit's everywhere

 

When Donald Trump referred to countries like Nigeria and really, all of Africa, and the long-suffering island of Haiti in the Caribbean as “shitholes” to a bunch of stunned members of Congress yesterday, he was not just showing his deeply-rooted ugly racist self, but also his profound ignorance about the world — and his own country.

The truth is that yesterday’s “shithole countries” often become today’s modern success stories. Norway is a case in point. As late as the early 1960s, Norway, as Paul Thornton, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, himself a descendant of Norwegian immigrants to the US, writes, once was “the shithole of Scandinavia,” its people viewed by more prosperous and modern Swedes and Danes as poor, ignorant farmers, Then the country struck oil in the North Sea, and since then, avoiding going the route of many oil-producing nations, has become one of the richest countries in the world on a per-capita basis, with a standard of living about 25% higher than ours here in the US, and with the wealth much more evenly and fairly distributed, too.

Why can’t the US get immigrants from Norway, instead of “shithole” countries in Africa and the Caribbean, the president asked? Well, because nobody in Norway, with its gold-plated free national health care system, excellent and well-funded retirement system and educational system, etc., would want to live here, duh. In fact, Thornton says many second and third-generation Norwegians living in the US are looking at whether they might have a chance of getting citizenship rights in Norway these days.

Shanghai workers commuting on bicycles in the 1990s and Shanghai 25 years laterShanghai workers commuting on bicycles in the 1990s and Shanghai 25 years later
 

I know what I’m talking about. Back in 1991 when my I got a Fulbright professorship to China and moved for a year with my family to Shanghai, which at the time was one of China’s wealthier cities, the place was, frankly, what you’d call a “shithole.” Most people, including professors at Fudan University, a leading institution of higher education where I was placed to teach journalism, were living in one or two-room concrete flats with no heat and only cold water, often without even a private bathroom or kitchen. (Our daughter’s local elementary school had no heat either, so in the winter, they left the windows open to warm the classrooms up during the daytime, while the kids wore gloves with the tips cut off so they could use their pencils.) As for working class people, many were living in far worse accommodations. The air in winter was filled with soot as people tried to keep warm with charcoal stoves in their apartments, which caused everyone to suffer wracking coughs, myself included.

With @TheRichKidsOfIran Instagrams, Somebody is Stirring Up a Hornet's Nest

Wanna place bets on who's behind the account?

 

Scroll through the Instagram account @TheRichKidsofTehran or RKOT and ask yourself: Knowing how aggressively the Iranian regime has gone after those -- particularly women -- who flaunt their sexuality and expose themselves with hair uncovered and with parts of their body exposed that in Iran are supposed to be kept covered except at home, who would be putting these clearly inflammatory images of both semi-nudity and ostentatious financial excess online?

If anything would set off riots in Iran, it would be these brazen images of young Iranians who clearly have more money than they know what to do with, thumbing their nose it Islamic rules and at the long-suffering Iranian working class, who have been enduring staggering unemployment rates, inflation that has robbed them of life savings, and repressive religious police who force them to adhere to behaviors that many would prefer to ignore, or to violate them at home at the risk of punishment if caught.

Two images from the Instagram account @TheRichKidsofTehranTwo images from the Instagram account @TheRichKidsofTehran
 

I have no hard evidence, but you have to wonder why anyone would have participated in this project, and about who is behind it. According to Huffington Post, the "poster or posters" behind the account have announced that its intent is "apolitical." As they wrote, apparently anonymously, in an Instagram post that has subsequently been taken down:
 

“We Love our city of Tehran. We are in no way trying to put a difference between rich and poor. We are trying to show the world how beautiful Tehran and people from Tehran are. The Middle East is always on TV receiving negative attention and we just wanted to show that Tehran is not like that. This page is in no way political and we never had any bad intentions. We never thought the page would make headlines all over the world. Some of the people featured in this Instagram account don’t live in Iran. #richkidsoftehran #welovetehran”
 

The Huff Post article also reports that at least some of the people shown in the RKOT Instagram images are the children of powerful men in Iran, and so are immune from any penalties for their exhibitionism, which may well be true. But still, it's significant that this account first came out in mid-September right at the time that the Iranian government was launching a crackdown on social media in the country. As the article points out: "Last month, for example, seven young Iranians received suspended sentences of jail time and 91 lashes for posting a video online of themselves dancing to Pharrell’s “Happy.”

Nobody behind this account could have been unaware of how Iran's poor and working class would react to its depiction of the obscene wealth of Tehran's elite. Half of Iran's urban population is reportedly living below the country's poverty line -- a result both of the sanctions imposed by the US and at least some of its allies, and of corruption in a government that is only nominally democratic, subject as it is, in the final analysis, to the dictates of an unelected group of religious leaders. And indeed, according to foreign news reports, much of the anger fueling the protests in the face of fairly brutal repression (so far 22 protesters are reported to have died at the hands of police since protests began on Dec. 28), resentment at the wealth gap in Iran has been a significant factor in stoking anger among the lower classes across the country. (Though it's worth noting that polling conducted in Iran by the University of Maryland University's Center for International and Security Studies would suggest that most Iranians, while upset at the country's economic situation, aren't that upset with the government, with 81% even supporting President Rouhani's economic policies.)

Iran is a big country, and is going through difficult times, not least because the US under President Trump has has reneged on an international agreement reached by the administration of President Obama and governments of the UK, France, Germany, China and Russia with Iran to lift economic sanctions on that country in return for its agreement not to pursue any nuclear weapons development for a decade and to open its nuclear program to a regime of serious inspections. It would not have taken, nor do I think dirty tricks by such agencies as the CIA or Israel's Mossad could in themselves have sparked the kind of broad protests taking place in Iran. But having said that, I find it hard to believe that those two agencies -- both with their history of dirty tricks and given both countries' stated desire to see "regime change" in Tehran, have not been seeking ways to stir the pot of simmering public anger towards Iran's rulers.

And how easy it would be to do that with something like this Instagram account.

Parallel reality -- a poem

 
A seahorse thought,
A very small wave
Followed by another.
 
And way down below,
Its counterpart,
The seahorse . . .
 
And maybe deeper,
Some quiet resolve
To explore vast spaces
 
Of eternal quietude beneath oceans
That seem to never end. And yet,
Someday we wind up in the sunlight on a shore
 
As beautiful as any place imaginable
With no plastic
Nor any trace of war,
 
And there, to make peace with the memory
That we made it through
By simply being kind.
 
 
--Gary Lindorff

Time to Call out US Militarism for What It Is: The Key Threat to America’s Security

No more worshiping of the military

 

US special forces troops of Southcom helping prop up the US empire in South America (DOD photo)US special forces troops of Southcom helping prop up the US empire in South America (DOD photo)
 

I was in the grocery store a while back when, after my items were tabulated, the checkout clerk asked, “Would you like to contribute to the Wounded Warriors fund?”

I glanced at the line of people to my left — a little cross-section of America — and feeling a little skeptical about how they’d respond, I said, “No I don’t think so. I’d rather put my money towards some anti-war organization working to try and make sure that there are no more wounded soldiers, and to relief organizations that are supporting the hundreds of thousands of victims of America’s illegal wars abroad.”

The clerk looked a little taken aback and muttered “okay,” but to my surprise nobody spoke up in the line. I was expecting at least one person to call me out as a “terrorist supporter” or a “commie” or who knows what, but instead there was just silence.

Maybe people were thinking about it. Maybe they just didn’t know how to react.

But in any case I think it’s past time that we on the anti-war left started making it clear that this glorification of American wars, the thanking of people in uniform for their “service,” and the blind acceptance of the prevailing argument that everyone in the military is “defending our freedom,” has to be challenged at every opportunity.

Look at the map of the globe. According to Nick Turse, writing in the Nation magazine and quoting information from Ken McGraw, a spokesman for troops are fighting in the Pentagon’s Special Operations Command, US Special Forces are stationed in 177 countries, and on any given day are conducting missions — actual or training missions — in 80-90 of them. As we saw recently with the deaths of several Green Berets in Niger, even members of Congress with a need-to-know responsibility, like those on the Intelligence Committees and Armed Services Committees of the House and Senate, don’t know (or claim they don’t know) where all those operations and those Special Forces are.

As well, US troops are fighting hot wars in places like Afghanistan and Iraq and Syria, most of them completely illegal, like most of the Special Operations actions, and the drone wars in a host of other countries from Pakistan and Yemen to Somalia, Sudan and, of course Syria again.

Not a single one of those operations involves anything that remotely threatens the security of the United States, nor are those troops — regular or Special Forces — in any way “defending our freedom,” which is not under serious threat by any country in the world which cannot be addressed by foreign and domestic police and the FBI.

Cops Killing Kids Has Got to Stop!!

Offing unarmed adults is bad enough

 

Kameron Prescott is dead — the latest in a horrific string of children killed by America’s fearful and quick-to-shoot law enforcement professionals.

Six-year-old Kameron, who was shot in Bexar County outside San Antonio, Texas, wasn’t killed like Tamir Rice in Cleveland, who was mowed down by a police officer within seconds of his arrival on the scene as the boy sat peacefully on a bench in a park pavilion holding a toy gun. Kameron wasn’t deliberately shot. He was just “collateral damage” in America’s militarized police war on the public — killed inadvertently by a deputy’s bullet which had missed its intended target (an unarmed woman), instead penetrating the flimsy wall of the trailer and the soft abdomen of the little kid who was playing peacefully by himself inside.

The reason given for Kameron having his all too brief life cut brutally short was because some deputy “feared for his life.” What the shooter presumably feared was 30-year-old Amanda Jones, whom he had been reportedly chasing for two hours through the woods and a deep stream after having interrupted her allegedly trying to break into a car. According to news reports, halfway through the long pursuit, Jones had been found by police hiding in a closet in a mobile home she had broken into to. They claimed she had “brandished a gun,” though inexplicably, she had managed to escape them and run off again.

Six-year-old Kameron Prescott, killed by Texas sheriff's deputies (photo courtesy Shertz-Cibolo-Universal City Unified Schools)Six-year-old Kameron Prescott, killed by Texas sheriff's deputies (photo posted by the Shertz-Cibolo-Universal City Unified School District). A GoFundMe
campaign has been set up to raise money for Kameron's funeral costs. So far, $18,000 has been raised.

 

When the Bexar County sheriff’s deputies — four of them by then — finally caught up with her, Jones was standing on the porch of young Kameron’s trailer. At that point, whether she in fact had ever actually had a gun at all, there is no indication that she had a gun in her hand. But no matter, the four deputies on the scene all reportedly opened up on her with their service revolvers and also with a rifle. They managed, among them, to kill her, but they also missed her in their panicky fusillade, and one of those errant bullets pierced the trailer and killed the little boy inside. No gun was found on the scene, which raises the question: Why did they shoot the woman? We’re to believe that four burly sheriff’s deputies — no doubt wearing body armor — couldn’t subdue an unarmed young woman? Frankly, the fact that she didn't have a gun in hand when shot suggests to me that the real reason she was murdered was because the cops who had been chasing her were amped up on adrenalin and probably were angry too, at having had to run after her for two hours, so they took her out.

There were reportedly two adults — grandparents according to one report, unrelated to Jones — also inside the trailer who had better luck than little Kameron. They were not hit by any stray bullets, but I’m sure their hearts were broken.

Poor, Abused Honduras; Groped Again

A Case of Imperial Misconduct

 
Mr. Hernández and his allies control the much-protested ballot-counting process, the election oversight commission, the army — which under Honduran law moves the ballots — and all appeals processes.
                                             - U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, (D) Illinois

 
Poor Honduras.

The word honduras means depth or profundity in Spanish. It’s also the name of one of the most abused nations in the Western Hemisphere. Its citizens are largely poor and overwhelmed by a state of corruption historically linked with the much more sophisticated and wealthy network of corruption that overwhelms the citizenry of the United States. The November 26 election for president of Honduras was the latest chapter in this sad historic reality.

Honduras is now embroiled in street protests following an election count that stinks like three-day old fish in the sun. President Juan Orlando Hernandez was running for a second term, despite an apparently un-amendable Constitutional provision that precludes a second term. Former sportscaster and TV game-show host Salvador Nasralla ran against Hernandez, who was favored to win. The Organization of American States says the election count was seriously flawed and it’s pushing for a new vote. Here’s how the count went: The day after the election, it was announced Nasralla led the vote count by five percentage points, which suggested a real upset. A third candidate for president conceded Nasralla was the winner. At that point, the election tribunal suddenly stopped communicating with the public. After a hiatus, the next communication was to declare Hernandez the winner by one-and-a-half percentage points. Immediately, the nation erupted in protests that led to fatalities. Knowing how important the United States is to Honduras, Nasralla flew to the US to consult with friends and the OAS. The OAS publicly called for a new election.

Removed President Manuel Zelaya, the incumbent Juan Orlando Hernandez and Salvador NasrallaRemoved President Manuel Zelaya, the incumbent Juan Orlando Hernandez and Salvador Nasralla

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