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Is Trump’s Idea To Fix a ‘Rigged System’ by Appointing Crooks Who’ve Played It?

Too busy getting rich to commit war crimes?

 

Donald Trump’s cabinet choices are suggesting a governing philosophy along the lines of a corrupt municipal police force relying on gangsters to help it keep street crime held in check.

Trump has been naming top Wall Street bankers and hedge fund owners to staff his Commerce Department (former Rothschild banker and billionaire Wilbur Ross), Treasury (former Goldman Sachs executive and hedge fund executive Steve Mnuchin), and more recently, as top “economic strategy advisors”, Blackstone Group CEO Steven Schwartzman and JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, the bank chief who, together with Goldman Sachs' Lloyd Blankfein and other too-big-to-fail bank leaders almost single-handedly cratered the US economy in 2008 with their casino betting on derivatives, .

The president-elect has actually demonstrated a predilection for considering people who have played the "rigged system' and even actual criminals (albeit unindicted ones in some cases) in his cabinet and White House advisory staff. Dimon, of course, heads a TBTF bank that was one of five that pleaded guilty last year to federal felony charges involving a huge currency manipulation conspiracy. Dimon had his bank cop a plea and pay a $5.6-billion fine that allowed him to avoid facing criminal charges himself for the bank’s admitted criminal behavior and even to stay on in his lucrative top spot running the felonious institution . Meanwhile, Trump is reportedly considering naming as secretary of state the disgraced former General David Petraeus, who in 2015 also copped a guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of “mishandling top-secret information” while he was CIA director (a post he had to resign), in order to avoid more serious felony charges of providing national security secrets to his paramour and biographer Paula Broadwell, and of potentially of lying about it to FBI investigators, also a felony. Petraeus, who did not have to do jail time under the plea deal, is still on two-year’s probation through April 23, 2017 though, and if appointed Secretary of State would have to report his new job to his probation officer, and also obtain advance permission for any work-related travel until that date -- a historic first for a top federal government appointee. It would be kind of equivalent to the election of the epically corrupt Mayor James Michael Curley, who back in the early 20th century was elected and served one of his four terms as mayor of the city while in jail after serving time for felony corruption.

Either that or Trump, once inaugurated President, would have to pardon Petraeus before appointing him.

David Petraeus and Jamie Dimon, both felony dodgers and Trump White House appointment prospectsDavid Petraeus and Jamie Dimon, both felony prosecution dodgers and Trump White House appointment prospects
 

Could the idea of putting the gangsters in charge of national economic and foreign policy and economic regulation in order to fix what Trump calls a “rigged system” work as a governing philosophy?

I guess you’d have to ask how well having a crooked, mob-linked police force in New York, Philadelphia, Boston or Chicago worked in years past at keeping crime in check in those cities. The evidence is not particularly good, I would suggest, having lived in several of those venues.

We should also note that Trump’s idea of appointing top Wall Street weasels to key cabinet posts involved in regulating the economy is hardly unique to him. We can be sure that had the recent election been won by Hillary Clinton, who raked in millions of dollars both in personal gifts (excuse me: speaking “fees”) and in campaign contributions and donations to her family “charity” both before and during the campaign, would have also placed top bankers and capitalists in key cabinet posts, just as Presidents Obama, Bush II and Bill Clinton did in their presidencies.

Repeal of Affordable Care Act is Politics Playing with the Wellbeing of Americans

Three clear ways the Affordable Care Act has made healthcare better

 

It’s the weekend after Thanksgiving and, for once, I’m not scheduled to work at the hospital. Yet, on Friday evening I found myself fastening my badge to my clothes and walking into the Intensive Care Unit.

One of my most beloved patients, Ms. Chhem is passing away. I’ve come to say goodbye. It’s not a complete surprise as she’s had serious chronic medical issues for years, but after being part of her care team for a countless number of prior hospitalizations, it’s hard to believe that this will be her last.

When I first met her five years ago, I was shocked at the number of hospitalizations she had survived. Her chart identified her as a refugee from Cambodia with significant psychological trauma, two kinds of hepatitis from poor healthcare, and end-stage kidney disease requiring dialysis three times a week. She had low health literacy, few resources and didn’t speak English. I was terrified to be the young doctor in charge of coordinating her care and keeping track of all the pieces that inevitably get lost in our complex medical system.

Of course, in real life, she was nothing like the chronically ill patient her chart suggested. Despite the physical and emotional trauma her life had brought, she was always upbeat, laughing, and ready to experience life’s next moment. Or perhaps it was because of that trauma that she learned that this was the only way to cope.

During our visits her delightful pragmatism grounded me in what otherwise seemed like an impossibly chaotic healthcare plan. Our last visit had only been only 72 hours ago. As I walked into the exam room she had erupted into laughter, jumped up, and grabbed my hands with both of hers in greeting. It was a relaxed visit. Ironically, for once I was feeling good about her medical care. All of the loose ends I had been trying to resolve had recently been tied up.

Protestors in Washington the first time the ACA was challengedProtestors in Washington the first time the ACA was challenged

So despite being familiar with intubated patients, it was jarring to see Ms. Chhem, the same woman who just a few days ago was relating to me the hilarity of coping with recently misplaced dentures, as a patient, intubated, sedated, and surrounded by machines and IV drips. Death doesn’t impact me the way it used to when I first became a doctor, but I still choked up as I held her hand and said goodbye.

As I walked home, I reflected on how, despite all the obstacles, she had received top quality medical care in her lifetime. For Ms. Chhem, medicine did exactly what it was supposed to do: prolong and improve health to allow patients to lead more fulfilling lives.

And then my thoughts darkened. What would happen to my patients if the Affordable Care Act is repealed?

I fear its repeal. As a queer person, I fear its repeal even more than a repeal of same-sex marriage.

Fidel's Death Brings Forth Great and Sad Memories

Fidel Castro: 1926-2016

Fidel Castro (lower left) in tank, directing the successful battle against a US sponsored invasion at the Bay of Pigs in 1960, aFidel Castro (lower left) in tank, directing the successful battle against a US sponsored invasion at the Bay of Pigs in 1960, and as an old man, retired from government.
 

“Yankees Go Home!”, “Out of Cuba!”, “Cuba Si, Yankee No!” We sang and we wrote on placards that we carried back and forth before the US Federal Building in downtown Los Angeles, California on April 19, 1961. It was here that I joined the Fair Play for Cuba Committee.
 
This was the first time I had demonstrated, and here I was opposing “my” government, which I had “defended” between 1956 and 1960. I had recently been discharged from the United States Air Force, which I had joined at 17, in order to fight “communism”. What I learned those years was that it was the US that was the aggressor. We constantly flew over and harassed Russian, Chinese and Cuban territory, yet we airmen and soldiers had orders that if “the enemy” did the same we were to shoot them down. They never did “trespass” however.
 
It was Cuba’s revolution that woke me up to the reality of US’s murderous, domineering foreign policy, which had been true since the very beginning of its independence from Great Brittan.
 
Born in the USA: regimen of permanent wars describes this history.  

At the top of my website are quotations, which explain why I became an activist against US Manifest Destiny and the Monroe Doctrine and for a socialist alternative, something Fidel stood for:
 

"It is the function of the CIA to keep the world unstable, and to propagandize and teach the American people to hate, so we will let the Establishment spend any amount of money on arms.”
-- former CIA official  John Stockwell

"All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."
-- Edmund Burke
  

Fidel was a champion in the pantheon of the people, a man who made indelible contributions in the global struggle for equality and emancipation. He will be remembered for many reasons, among them: 
  

¤ Fidel led his country out of poverty, creating employment for all, bringing the infant mortality rate down under the US level, advancing the literacy rate higher than in the US, abolishing official racism, acting in solidarity with the poor and oppressed throughout Latin American and Africa, assisting Vietnam militarily against the US goliath. These struggles favoring the poor over the rich inspired billions of people, many of whom voted their progressive political parties into power.
 
¤ Without the solidarity Cuba’s leadership and soldiers offered to Angola, and indirectly to Namibia and the black people of South Africa, white racist South Africa with US-Israel support would have likely crushed their struggles for sovereignty. Furthermore, Nelson Mandela would have died in prison—that is what I heard him say in Cuba standing beside Fidel soon after his release from prison. And Fidel not only sent military assistance, he organized the sending of hundreds of thousands of highly educated Cubans around the world to heal and to teach. 



¤ Fidel was Cuba’s Don Quijote, alongside Che Guveara. His idea of socialism was different from the Soviet’s and China, and surely more humanitarian than capitalism’s. No police or soldiers shooting in the streets, no death squads, no massacres, no Gulags, no torturing, plenty of social human rights, yet with fewer civil rights than promised.

Is the Pentagon Behind the Washington Post's McCarthyite Hit on independent Alternative Journalism?

Smeared and Russia-bated in a ‘false news’ attack by one of America's leading papers

 

ThisCantBeHappening.net didn’t make the Washington Post’s list of 200 news sites that are “purveyors of Russian propaganda” designed to “undermine Americans’ faith in democracy,” but an article by yours truly published on our site on September 29 which was picked up by Counterpunch.org and run the following day was cited as “proof” that Counterpunch is just such a perfidious agent of Russian subversion of the US -- which I guess supposedly "outs" me as one of those secret Russian agents in the US alternative media.

The article in question, headlined US Propaganda Campaign to Demonize Russia in Full Gear over One-Sided Dutch/Aussie Report on Flight 17 Downing, called out the Dutch “investigation” into that horrific shoot-down of a fully-loaded Malaysian jumbo jet over war-torn eastern Ukraine in 2013, pointing out that the prosecutors and investigators involved refused to accept any radar or transmission monitoring evidence offered by Russia or by separatist rebels in the region, using instead only evidence provided by the Ukrainian intelligence service and government -- this despite the fact that both Ukraine and Russia possessed quantities of the BUK missile and mobile launchers that were known to have been involved in the downing of the plane, and should thus both be potential suspects in the case. I also noted that as reported by noted former AP investigative reporter Robert Parry on his own Consortium News site (also on the Washington Post’s hit list of Russian propaganda sites), and by retired CIA Senior Analyst Ray McGovern, the Dutch investigators never asked for nor received any satellite surveillance photos or NSA transcripts of relevant telecommunications concerning the shoot-down from the US, though such evidence certainly exists.

The Washington Post article, written by Craig Timberg -- surely either one of the most credulous and lazy journalists working in a major US news organization (and that’s really an accomplishment!), or a diplicitous propagandist for the US government posing as a journalist at the Post -- relied upon only two sources for his dramatic “exposé” purporting to prove that a massive Russian propaganda campaign had surreptitiously attempted to undermine (perhaps successfully!) the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign and to throw the race to Donald Trump, at the same time undermining US foreign policy and faith in the US government while elevating the reputation of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Both sources are falsely described by Timberg as being “two teams of independent researchers.” The assumption we clearly are meant to have is that these organizations have no institutional bias.

Like Sen. Joe McCarthy over half a century ago, reporter Craig Timbeck and the Washington Post "have a list" of  subversivesLike Sen. Joe McCarthy over half a century ago, reporter Craig Timberg and the Washington Post "have a list" of subversives
 

In fact, the first of these sources, the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI), turns out to be a hoary relic of the Cold War founded in 1955 by Robert Strausz-Hupé, an Austrian emigré and passionate anti-Communist. It has continued its anti-Russian propaganda stance since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the 2002 death of its founder and now boasts on its board of trustees jailbait like former Reagan National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane, a key player in the Reagan-era Iran Contra scandal who pleaded guilty to four counts of lying to Congress but was pardoned by President Reagan, arch-neocon and Russia-phobe Robert Kagan, a key promoter of the the US invasion or Iraq in 2003, and a whole host of other right-wing anti-Russian fanatics.

It’s Cowboy Cops Cavalry against Peaceful Indians and their Anglo Supporters at Standing Rock

Wounded Knee III in the making?

 

"As darkness does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances there's twilight where everything remains seemingly unchanged, and it is in such twilight that we must be aware of change in the air, however slight, lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness."
-- Justice William O. Douglas
 

The struggle at Standing Rock, North Dakota, between the Sioux people and their supporters and the oil corporations and banks trying to run a dangerous pipeline for filthy Bakkan crude oil through their sacred lands and underneath the Missouri River was cranked up to a new level of violence Sunday and in ensuing days as National Guard troops and the Morton County Sheriff’s Department, bolstered by volunteers from various other police departments conducted an all-night attack using maximum violence, including flash-bang concussion grenades, rubber bullets, mace, tear gas and three water cannons -- this at a time the temperature on the prairie had fallen to a low of 22 degrees fahrenheit.

The casualties of this one-sided battle against peaceful protesters on a bridge were enormous, with some 300 of the estimated 400 protesting water protectors, both native people and non-native supporters, injured, 26 of them seriously. There was evidence that police were aiming rubber bullets at protesters’ heads and groins to inflict maximum pain and damage, with eight of the injured hospitalized, including a 13-year-old girl shot in the face, whose eye was reportedly damaged.

The gravest injuries were a tribal elder who suffered a cardiac arrest, and Sophia Wolansky, a 21-year-old New York City resident who had come to back the Standing Rock Sioux in their struggle to halt construction of the pipeline. She was hit in the arm by a flash-bang grenade thrown at her by a Morton County Sheriff’s deputy, which blew up on impact, blowing away the flesh and muscle and reportedly some of the nerves the length of her forearm and some bone of the elbow joint (see accompanying photo below of the wound). She has been evacuated to a hospital in Minneapolis where physicians and nurses are fighting to save her arm and hand from an amputation.

Wolansky’s father Wayne, a 61-year old lawyer in New York, angrily called on President to put a halt to the violent repression at Standing Rock. He said of his daughter’s injury, which was the result of a flash-bang concussion grenade being thrown directly at her, “This is the wound of someone who's a warrior, who was sent to fight in a war," Wayne said. "It's not supposed to be a war. She's peacefully trying to get people to not destroy the water supply. And they're trying to kill her." Concussion grenades are not supposed to be used to target people.

The grenade wound suffered by Sophia Wolansky blew away the muscle, exposing bone, looking like a war injury, not the typical poThe grenade wound (left image) suffered by Sophia Wolansky (right) blew away the muscle, exposing bone, looking like a war injury, not the typical police-abuse type injury.
 

The attack on Sunday night, which has been rightly condemned by UN human rights observers as an atrocity, harks back to the simultaneous country-wide crushing of the Occupy movement occupations in cities across the US during early November, 2011, when local police aided in some cases by armed federal parks police, assaulted occupiers with maximum violence, almost always at night, barring the media from witnessing their deliberate and coordinated over-the-top violence.

To make it our battle (based on a prose reflection by Lee Burkett, "Walking my dog while the battle rages")

New poem:

The water from my tap smells like mildew
on oily rags.
When I drink it there is a moment when
I have to tell myself to swallow
or I will spit it out.

I boil water for my coffee
to get rid of the taste.

Every morning I take Duff for a long walk.
It’s cloudy and rainy today,
but through the clouds and rain
I can feel the Earth warming as the sun comes up.

I can smell the odor of the water treatment facility
a few blocks from where I live.
An aggressive smell, somewhat sweet,

like artificial fruit.

We don’t own our water.
It was bought
and now it’s sold back to us.

Brexit-Trump Comparisons Miss Key Points

Trans-Atlantic bigotry

 

"Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful."
-- George Orwell, author of "1984."
 

The election of Donald Trump as U.S. president, upending projections of pollsters and pundits that predicted his defeat, has triggered comparisons with Brexit, the vote earlier this summer where British citizens voted to leave the European Union, also catching the pollsters and pundits by surprise.

And yes, the campaigns for Brexit and the Trump presidency each employed similarities. Each campaign utilized ‘make our country great again’ slogans.

Further, each campaign also targeted immigrants as the source of deep-seated societal problems, particularly in the employment arena. Trump targeted Mexican immigrants while Brexit targeted Eastern European immigrants in Britain, primarily those coming from Poland as well as Muslims and blacks.

Brexit support sign in former home of author George Orwell. LinnWashingtonPhotoBrexit support sign in former home of author George Orwell. LinnWashingtonPhoto
 

Despite accurately citing some similarities, too many of the news media comparisons of Brexit and Trump on both sides of ‘The Pond’ have been simplistic, infused with failures to sufficiently contextualize the array of forces entangled in those stunning votes.

Comparisons on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, for example, have downplayed the upsurge in racist attacks, primarily targeting blacks and Muslims during the immediate aftermaths of both the Brexit and Trump victories.

Obama Falsely Claims He ‘Can’t Pardon’ Snowden Unless the Whistleblower Returns to the US to Face Trial

The president’s last big con

 

Much was made when Barack Obama made his historic first run for the White House of the fact that in the course of his relatively young life he had been a “community organizer” and that in addition to having a law degree, he had actually taught Constitutional law. Just nine days after his inauguration as the nation’s first black president, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, which he was awarded that October. Norwegian Nobel Committee Chairman Thorbjorn Jagland, while insisting that the prize had not been awarded “for what may happen in the future,” did admit at the time that the award left the committee fearing”being labeled naïve for accepting a young politician's promises at face value.”

As it turns out, all of these promising signs of progressive integrity and principle, based upon the thinnest of evidence and experience, have turned out to have been false.

Obama proved to be a disaster as an organizer president, except when it came to organizing support for his initial election win. He failed, even with majority control of both houses of Congress, to even try to rally his supporters to fight for real progressive change during the critical months after he had taken office, quickly, for example, abandoning workers whom he promised to provide with a more union-friendly National Labor Relations Act. Premature Peace Prize in hand, he failed to end the nation’s wars, and instead began new ones, leaving this country mired in several conflicts -- including Iraq and Afghanistan -- even eight years later as he was leaving office, and adding a new disastrous precedent of presidential murder-by-drone.

Now, to add to the disappointing list of false hopes and promises, it turns out that Obama is no constitutional scholar either...or a man with even a scintilla of spine or principle.

The evidence: On a final trip to Europe, Obama, in an interview with the German news weekly Der Spiegel, asked whether he would consider pardoning NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, replied, “I can't pardon somebody who hasn't gone before a court and presented themselves, so that's not something that I would comment on at this point.”

This facile answer is simply wrong. The founders, in the Constitution, deliberately and explicitly gave presidents unlimited pardon powers, exempting only the right to pardon him or herself in the case of an impeachment -- a logical exclusion. Otherwise there are no constraints on and no power to undo a presidential pardon. Nor does a pardon have to follow a person’s being convicted or even indicted.

Obama leaves office as he came in, conning usObama leaves office as he came in, conning us
 

Obama Has a Small Window to Go Out with Some Flair and Excitement

About that legacy, Mr. President

 

There is a lot of talk going on among the pundits about how President Obama is leaving no enduring legacy -- that his progressive actions as president, few and small that they may have been, were written in the sand of executive orders, which can and likely will be erased within days of Donald Trump’s inauguration.

In fact though, while there is truth to that observation, there is a legacy of President Obama that will last. It’s just that it’s a terrible one: His failure to prosecute and put an end to the many crimes and constitutional violations of the prior George W. Bush/Dick Cheney administration, like torture, the horrific and unconstitutional war-crime prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; the Tuesday morning White House drone murder-planning sessions (which he actually institutionalized); the continuation of a program of mass incarceration (mostly of males of color); the expansion of the NSA’s domestic and international surveillance program, aimed at monitoring all electronic communications domestically and eventually globally; his signing instead of vetoing of a renewal of the wretched USA PATRIOT Act and related constitutional atrocities; and of course the decision to authorize a trillion-dollar upgrade of the US nuclear force, including the development of “useable” tactical nukes, coupled with the emplacement of nuclear missiles along Russia’s western border. I could go on, but in the interest of brevity I’ll let the reader finish this list of horrors.

Trump has vowed to cancel most of Obama's legacy of executive orders, but he still can act to leave an immutable legacyTrump has vowed to cancel most of Obama's legacy of executive orders, but he still can act to leave an immutable legacy
 

It’s too late now to undo most of this legacy of horrors, but there are still some things that our ill-deserving Nobel Peace Prize Laureate president could yet do as a lame-duck and largely powerless president before Trump’s move into the White House to at least do penance for his failures, and to perhaps salvage some measure of integrity as a legacy. Here’s my list:
 

1. At this point, with Trump waiting in the wings ready to reverse them, any new executive orders would be a waste of time, without even any symbolic value. But there is one power conferred specifically in the Constitution which Obama owns until the minute Trump finishes taking the presidential oath, and that is the power to commute sentences and to pardon. To date, Obama has been one of the most stingy presidents in history in his application of this awesome power. He should start wielding it like a saber, cutting the chains of all those languishing in jails around the country who are non-violent offenders, primarily for possession of drugs, all those sentenced to lengthy terms or to life in prison for minor crimes because of harsh mandatory sentencing guidelines and especially “three-strikes” laws, all those sentenced to life in prison for crimes they committed as minors or even young kids, all those sentenced to death in a system that we all, including this president, know were tried, conficted and sentenced by a wholly unfair and corrupted judicial system that excludes from capital juries anyone who opposes the death penalty, all those young people in juvenile detention who were sentenced without a lawyer, and all those jailed because of unpaid debts. Obama could go further: He could pardon all those in prison who have served, say, five years of their sentence and who are over 60, or perhaps 50 years old. Statistics show that older people do not commit much violent crimes. If rehabilitation is to mean anything, then keeping such older prisoners in jail any longer is simply a self-destructive, incredibly costly act of national vengeance, not intelligent and humane justice.

Here and There

 
 
We worship the moon here;
we sing her songs.
She charms us,
she heals us.
There they bow deep to the sun.
 
Here we plant our dreams
and harvest visions.
There they plant periods,
and harvest silence.
 
Here we intuit.
There they know.
 
Here we weave stories out of dreams and grief.
There they weave cities of blood and sand.
 
Here the tide ebbs
and rises and when it rises
the barnacles open and wave little ferns.
There the coral reefs are dying;
the bottle with their message
never reaches shore.
 
Here we call out names
in celebration of the family of life.
Here a name holds power.
There a name is lost and found,
cemented to a building
printed on the sky.
 
Here a fish leaps and the river sings.
There a river
is a million drinks of water,
a million sad stories of once upon a time.
 
Here the land is alive,
and the wind
and the stones are alive.
There the land is thirsty
and confused.
The wind is hungry,
the stones, asleep.
If you disturb them
they will begin to whisper
to the minerals in your bones
and they will gently ask you to return
the diamonds in your necklace.
 
 
--Gary Lindorff

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Fightin' Cock FlyerFightin' Cock Flyer

Listen as Chuck, John, Dave and Linn Join Prairie Radical Mike Caddell of the Fightin' Cock Flyer on Radio Free Kansas

Here's the link to prairie radio radical Mike Caddell's Radio Free Kansas program, where you can hear the podcast of the whole group interview that was conducted on Saturday, May 8.

Also, listen to Dave Lindorff on Chris Cook's Gorilla Radio on CFEV Radio in Victoria, Canada.

Donate $50 to ThisCantBeHappening.net and get a free signed copy, postage paid, of Dave's classic tome The Case for Impeachment (St. Martin's Press, 2006). Just click on the cover image to go to the Paypal payment page, make your payment, and send a note to Dave calling his attention to the payment, and giving your mail address and the name you want the inscription addressed to.

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by Dr. Radut