Counterpunch Articles

Bloomberg is a Climate Change Con Man

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

It’s an open secret in environmental circles that Michael Bloomberg is a climate change con man, and organizations like the Sierra Club that take hundreds of millions in donations from the former New York City mayor to fight coal, are complicit in his fraudulent scheme to coopt the climate change movement for his own profit.

In Wednesday night’s Democratic debate, Bloomberg pompously claimed, “We’re closing the coal-fired power plants. If we could enforce some of the rules on fracking so that they don’t release methane into the air and into the water, you’ll make a big difference. But we’re not going to get rid of fracking for a while. And we, incidentally not just natural gas. You frack oil, as well. It is a technique, and when it’s done poorly, like they’re doing in too many places where the methane gets out into the air, it is very damaging. But it’s a transition fuel…”

There’s a reason the mumbling Bloomberg has committed a portion of his fortune to fight coal while arguing that fracked gas is a “transition fuel” — he has massive investments in natural gas. A mysterious money management group called Willett Advisors, that handles Bloomberg’s riches, states they “are natural gas bulls” and “we invest a lot in the energy sector.” He’s banking on fracked gas and not renewable energy to power the US economy into the future.

“I don’t want to ban fracking (just do it safely) or stop the Keystone pipeline (the oil is coming here one way or another), and I support nuclear power.” Bloomberg writes in his book Climate of Hope. “Natural gas, when safely and responsibly extracted, has been a godsend for the environment and public health,” and that “fracking allows for the most efficient extraction of natural gas”  and that “it makes sense to frack.”

Fracking might pad his portfolio, but it makes zero environmental sense.

While the US weens itself off of coal, it’s fast becoming a natural gas powerhouse, which is no doubt making Bloomberg even wealthier.  Many coal-fired power plants in the US have been converted to natural gas and over 150 new gas plants and hundreds of miles of pipelines have been proposed across America — a dirty gas boom Bloomberg embraces and wants to expand. According to Global Energy Monitor, there are also 300+ liquid natural gas export terminals under construction in the US, totaling $927 billion in investments. And despite Bloomberg’s bold assertion, no new rules will stop methane from being released during the extraction process, and of course, there are carbon dioxide emissions along every step of the natural gas lifecycle — from drilling to transporting to burning, which releases a fair amount of CO2 as well.

It’s also well-documented that natural gas pipelines crisscrossing the country are major contributors to climate change. These pipes are leaking a lot more methane than Bloomberg and his pals at the Sierra Club would like to admit. Methane emissions are considered 84 times more potent than CO2 in the initial twenty years after being released, which means methane has a more immediate impact on our climate than burning coal. In the US, these leaks account for approximately 32 percent of the natural gas industry’s total methane pollution.

Bloomberg believes capitalism and massive interests in natural gas will save our planet. He’s dead wrong. If Democrats nominate this billionaire huckster, they’ll get what they deserve. It’s just too bad the rest of the planet will end up paying the price.

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Roaming Charges: Billion Dollar Babies

Walls (sea) and Bridges (Astoria). Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

+ Michael Bloomberg is, of course, the perfect person to lead a party which has been the driving political force behind the neoliberal policies which helped make him the 9th richest person in America. In fact, he may be its apotheosis. Finally, we’ll have some clarity about what the Democratic Party has really been up to for the last 40 years.

+ The Democratic Party has been bought for decades. Now we get to see the owners on stage for once…

+ If true, this is the first compelling reason I’ve heard for backing Bloomberg…

+ Apparently, it may take the DNC several days to fix the results in Nevada…

+ Another debate, another migraine.

+ Like Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg has been destroyed in every debate he’s participated in, most viciously by Mark Green. Unlike Joe Biden, Bloomberg has gone on to win anyway, propelled by his fortune and the fortunes of those he serves.

+ It Elizabeth Warren, not the most skilled debater, all of about five seconds to put Bloomberg on the mat. He got up, staggered, and she put him back down again. He was out on his feet for the rest of the night.

+ This was Warren at her best. But it took a sleaze bag billionaire to bring it out of her.

+ Still, you have to wonder about Bloomberg’s investment smarts after sinking his money into a campaign that seems to have self-destructed on Day One.

+ Biden’s like the guy who wakes from a coma, blurts out a couple of slogans, and lapses back into his bed…

+ Bloomberg is lying his ass off about stop and frisk, claiming to have had an epiphany.

+ Now Biden is lying his ass off on stop and frisk. Obama didn’t stop it, the ACLU did.

+ Warren makes the key point on stop and frisk. This wasn’t a good policy that went wrong. It was a racist policy that did exactly what its authors wanted it to do: harass, humiliate and terrorize young black men.

+ Klobocop knows how many members there are in the Israeli Knesset but doesn’t know who the president of Mexico is…which pretty much sums up American politics.

+ The campaign to scare people into thinking that Sanders and Warren want to take away their health care is one of the PR triumphs of our time.

+ The insurance industry had to put up some fake resistance to ObamaCare to conceal just how much they were making out from a plan that required everyone to buy private health insurance.

+ Bloomberg: the NDAs women signed about acts of non-consensual sexual harassment were all consensual.

+ Bloomberg proves he’s still a Sierra Club guy, defending fracking of natural gas as a “transition fuel”…(And Klobocop went along for the ride.)

+ Why isn’t Biden saying, as he does with every other Obama policy, “I’m the guy, I’m the only guy up here, I’m the guy who helped globalize fracking…”

+ Oregon’s only real senator, Jeff Merkley: “In the debate, people were arguing over whether natural gas is a hazard or bridge fuel. Atmospheric methane has more than doubled due to natural gas leaks. The more we know about massive leaks in nat. gas & hazards of methane, the more we know it’s a menace & not a bridge fuel.”

+ Warren is shredding Bloomberg alive. He won’t even look her in the face.

+ Bernie said the O word. Surprised they didn’t bleep it. “Real change never takes place from the top on down, never takes place from an oligarchy controlled by billionaires. We need to mobilize millions of people to stand up for justice—that’s our campaign”

+ Give PeteBot credit, he shivved Klobocop and drew blood on her atrocious record on immigration and judges…

+ Biden knows all the presidents and prime ministers around the world but he knows President Malarkey of Ireland best…

+ One of Bernie’s best Marx for Beginners lines of the night, delivered after Bloomberg claimed that he “worked hard” to amass his $69 billion fortune: “You know what Mr. Bloomberg, it wasn’t you who made all that money, maybe your workers played some role in that as well, and it is important that those workers share the benefits.” Bloomberg responded pathetically by calling Sanders a communist.

+ PeteBot: I was into Bernie before he was cool. But because I am not cool once he became cool I had no choice but to turn on him…

+ Bloomberg would have done better to show up as a monitor simply running his TV ads. Every time he tries to answer a question, he’s going to have to spend $100 million to wipe the memory from people’s minds…

+ Not one single question on foreign policy tonight. Imperialism wins by default!

+ My pal Jack Shafer over at Politico compiled this clip of Bloomberg’s performance in Vegas…

+ A search of SEC records reveals that Bloomberg owns ACME, Inc…

+ Just how rich is Bloomberg? It’s hard to conceptualize…

Mike Bloomberg is WAY richer than people realize.

Bloomberg's so rich that it’s nearly impossible to conceptualize just how much money he has. So we made an animation to help.

— Mother Jones (@MotherJones) February 19, 2020

+ As part of the shock-and-awe blitz against Sanders by the Democratic establishment, they are reprising an old story alleging that Sanders is an ungrateful and divisive character that he considered challenging Obama in the 2012 primaries. But surely it reflects poorly on Sanders, the independent socialist, that he didn’t primary the President who failed to close Gitmo, led a fatal surge in Afghan, droned American citizens, executed a disastrous and illegal regime change operation in Libya, enabled a coup in Honduras, did nothing for victims of Wall Street, as he bailed out financial predators, deported more people than Trump, expanded nuclear power & weapons, globalized fracking and signed off on the oil leases that nearly killed the Gulf of Mexico…

+ Sanders on Israel: “To be for the Israeli people and to be for peace in the Middle East does not mean that we have to support right wing racist governments that currently exist in Israel.”

.@BernieSanders on #CNNTownHall: "To be for the Israeli people and to be for peace in the Middle East does not mean that we have to support right wing racist governments that currently exist in Israel…

— People for Bernie (@People4Bernie) February 19, 2020

+ These are sensible remarks by Sanders and have been all but forbidden in presidential politics for decades but they’re also somewhat deceptive. What if that is the very nature of the regime, Bernie, and not just the “corrupt” government of Netanyahu? Are the policies of Netanyahu really any more racist than those of Ariel Sharon, Ehud Barak, Menachem Begin, Golda Meir?

+ Israel is reducing the amount of bread it is serving to Palestinian prisoners.

+ As Israel was conducting its 51-day bombing assault on defenseless Gaza, a campaign that killed at least 2104 Gazans, more than half of them civilians, the FAA imposed a ban on flights over Israel. Bloomberg made a point of flouting the ban, chillingly tweeting out: “Safely landed at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv – here to show support for Israel’s right to defend itself…”

+ Sanders is taking flack for promising before his heart attack to release all of his medical records and then afterwards refusing to release anything more than some summary letters from his doctors.  I think Bernie should release everything and use it to talk about health care. Otherwise, this will become a debilitating issue for him, that he’ll never be able to get beyond. But you can see what Briahna Gray means. No amount of records will ever satisfy his critics or the media now, they’ll be demanding every EKG, every blood platelet test, urinalysis & stool sample…

Here's Bernie Sanders press secretary Briahna Joy Gray on CNN comparing demands for Sanders's medical records to birtherism and dismissing them as "a kind of smear campaign."

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) February 19, 2020

+ “There is one settlement, and it’s Israel,” says Bassem Tamimi, who has led popular protests in Nabi Saleh for more than a decade, and now proclaims that the two-state solution is dead. “The problem is not just that we cannot build houses on our own land. That’s part of it, but we want freedom, respect and rights.”

+ The Great Wall of Modi…”The city of Ahmedabad’s municipal corporation has built a nearly half-kilometer (1,640-foot) long, four-foot-high wall to hide a stretch of slums on the American leader’s route. Trump and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi are expected to inaugurate and share the stage at Ahmedabad’s Motera cricket stadium at a public reception being touted as “Namaste Trump” on Feb. 24.”

+ What an insane country we live in….“Approximately 50 million—or 20 percent—of American adults reported donating to a crowdfunding campaign to help raise money for a medical bill or treatment.”

+ Average Americans pay $2,497 a year for insurance overhead and admin costs, while Canadians pay just $551

+ New study in Lancet by Yale epidemiologists determines that a Medicare-for-All health care system will save $450 billion and prevent 68,000 unnecessary deaths, each year…

+ Black students were more likely to drop out of school under Bloomberg’s stop-and-frisk operations: “In the short run, the tactic led to notable upticks in school absence rates, particularly for black students, who were 1.4 percentage points more likely to be chronically absent from school in areas with substantially more stops.”

+ There are some things you really shouldn’t see until having a shot of tequila, no matter what time of day it is…

+ Klobocop would support Mayor Stop&Frisk, naturally…

+ Bloomberg was granted another financial disclosure delay the Federal Election Commission — the second such one he has received — allowing the billionaire to delay the release of his financial records until March 20, after the Super Tuesday primaries…

+ Bloomberg justifying his opposition to living wage proposals: “It’s interesting if you think about it. The last time we really had a big managed economy was the USSR and that didn’t work out so well. It would be great if all jobs in the city paid a lot of money and had great benefits for the workers. Not good for the employers. But if you force that you will just drive businesses out of the city.”

+ Bloomberg’s longtime aide, Arik Wierson, spent much of 2018 helping Jair Bolsonaro “soften his image” in order to get the neo-fascist elected President of Brazil.

+ How Joe Biden provided cover for the Iraq War and has tried to cover his ass about it ever since…

+ 2020 support among voters under 45 years old according to the new NPR/PBS/Marist poll:

Sanders 54%
Warren 16%
Bloomberg 8%
Biden 6%
Buttigieg 5%
Klobuchar 5%
Everyone else 2% or less

+ Kim Gordon out pounding the streets for Sanders in her Black Flag-style t-shirt designed by Raymond Pettibon…

+ Christopher Dodd, the former Senator From Aetna: “I think Sanders’ supporters are living in a different country than I am.” (They’re living in ruins of the country Dodd made in order to buy his penthouse.)

+ What is it about the Democratic Party that would lead anyone but the most politically naive to believe that their primaries are the least bit “democratic”?

+ There doesn’t seem to be anything in the DNC rulebook that would prohibit from Bloomberg paying each Superdelegate $1 million each for their vote in the second round at the convention.

+ Has there ever been a more willing stooge than Bill Barr? The one quality Trump possesses that I enjoy watching him exert is his ability to make the most appalling people, like Barr and Sessions and Bolton, look like complete fools…

+ Just when you thought it was safe to turn your cable back on, a new shipment of Russian junk arrived to fuel the Maddow Crackhouse at MSDNC for another couple of years…

+ Erik Diaz Cruz, an unarmed man shot in the face by an ICE agent during a deportation raid in Brooklyn, still has the bullet lodged in his head and has now filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the officer…

+ Human Scum Alert: In a lawsuit filed in Florida on Tuesday, George Zimmerman, who killed Trayvon Martin in cold blood, accused Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of “maliciously defaming” him by using the killing “as a pretext to demagogue and falsely brand Zimmerman as a white supremacist and racist to their millions of Twitter followers.”

+ Wait until Trump appoints Zimmerman to run the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department.

+ American attitudes (by generation) toward drone strikes…OK, BoomerBombers!

+ The Pentagon has once again “lost track” of thousands of weapons worth more $715 million in Syria after leaving them “vulnerable to loss or theft.”

+ A federal judge has finally ordered the U.S. Navy to begin releasing unclassified documents in relation to the USS Thresher, the nuclear submarine that imploded 57 years ago, taking the lives of 129…

+ The Electoral Tribunal has ruled that Evo Morales cannot run for the Senate because he is not living in Bolivia. Why is Morales not living in Bolivia? Because the coup government refuses to allow him to return from Mexico.

+ Pay-for-Pardons: The son of Ben Pogue, one of Trump’s white collar criminal pardon recipients gave $85,000 to the Trump Victory Fund this August. His wife gave $50,000 that same month. In addition, they made an in-kind contribution for $75,000 in air travel.

+ In addition to clearing his record, Trump’s pardon of Bernard Kerik cancels out $103,300 in restitution that Kerik still owed the Internal Revenue Service as part of his sentence.

+ Trump on the commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence: “Ungrateful TRAITOR Chelsea Manning, who should never have been released from prison, is now calling President Obama a weak leader. Terrible!”

+ They will never forgive Chelsea Manning (now approaching a year in jail for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury), we must must never forget her…

+ Foussene Pemba was tackled, beaten and tasered by Louisville police officers, as he was screaming for help, his mouth foaming…

+ Separating refugee kids from their families…it didn’t start with Trump.

+ The Gitmo School of “Therapy” has found a new gig, as immigrant detainees are forced to see “therapists,” then have their confidential session notes used against them

+ Countdown to the Twitter Beheading of Mitch Mulvaney: “My party is very interested in deficits when there is a Democrat in the White House. The worst thing in the whole world is deficits when Barack Obama was the president. Then Donald Trump became president, and we’re a lot less interested as a party.”

+ The median hourly wage climbed a meager 15% between 1979 and 2019, but pay for workers in the 95th percentile grew more than 63% over the past 40 years.

+ Walter Moberly: “The executioner pays the murderer the compliment of imitation.” (The Ethics of Punishment.)

+ The Bride Wore White (Sheet…don’t know the thread count). Bridal registry at Blood, Bath and Cages…

+ According to longtime tech writer Steve Levy’s new book, Facebook: the Inside Story, Mark Zuckerberg commanded his staffers to blow-dry the CEO’s armpits before his speaking gigs in order to eliminate “anxiety sweat.”

+ Joel Kaplan, the Republican lobbyist who now runs Facebook’s DC office, argued against removing fake news pages on the grounds that that would “disproportionately affect conservatives” who “don’t believe it to be fake news.” 

+ The Billings Gazette, the paper for the largest city in Montana, is eliminating its editor and editorial page editor positions. The editor of the Montana Standard in Butte will now oversee the Gazette as regional editor. Now the dominate newspaper chain in Montana is owned by Lee Newspapers based in…Iowa.

+ As mayor of New York City, Bloomberg vetoed two bills in 2003 that expanded access to emergency contraception, including one requiring emergency rooms to offer rape victims access to the morning-after pill…

+ Why Trump ranks as America’s 10th highest paid athlete

+ The faces MSDNC’s Chris Matthews makes when talking about Sanders…

+ Draining California dry to satiate the Swamp Creatures: Trump’s Interior Secretary, David Bernhardt, is awarding a “permanent: water supply contract to Westlands Water District, which serves the country’s wealthiest corporate farmers. Bernhardt was a lobbyist of Westlands Water District through 2016.

+ The strange green glow in the distance as you drive through the eastern Gorge on I-84 is Arlington, Oregon, hometown of Doc Severinson. Don’t stop to pay tribute, the town is now radioactive….”Oregon Department of Energy officials issued a ‘notice of violation’ to Chemical Waste Management’s landfill near the small town of Arlington on Thursday for accepting a total of 2 million pounds of Bakken oil field waste that was delivered by rail in 2016, 2017 and 2019.”

+ No one has ever won the war on coal as decisively as Trump. Jobs in the coal mining industry were lower in the fourth quarter of 2019 than at any time in the Obama administration and will fall even more sharply in 2020 as more coal-fired plants go offline.

+ Fossil fuels are the driving force behind soaring methane levels: “We’ve identified a gigantic discrepancy that shows the industry needs to, at the very least, improve their monitoring,” Benjamin Hmiel, a researcher at the University of Rochester, told the NYT. “If these emissions are truly coming from oil, gas extraction, production use, the industry isn’t even reporting or seeing that right now.”

+ By the middle of the century, the loss of key “ecosystem services” could cost the world $479 billion each year. The U.S. will experience an $83 billion loss to the GDP per year by 2050.

+ Since 2000, the average annual flow of the Colorado River has dropped by more than 1.5 billion tons of water, equal to the annual water consumption of 10 million Americans. Most of this decline has now been linked to climate. But the situation is only going to get more extreme as the snowpack in the Rockies declines and melts off earlier in the spring and summer months. Less snow reduces the ability of the mountains to reflect heat from the sun, known as the albedo effect, which then increases local temperatures, which in an endless feedback loop increase the rate of melt off…

+ When Bloomberg refused to evacuate prisoners from Rikers Island as Hurricane Sandy bore down on NYC…

+ The materials used by the global economy have quadrupled since 1970, far faster than the population, which has doubled. In the last two years, consumption has jumped by more than 8% while the reuse of resources has fallen from 9.1% to 8.6%.

+ More than 4-in-10 deaths in the U.S. associated with air pollution can be attributed to emissions that came from states other than where the deaths occurred.

+ Remember how thrilled people were to see the Democrats finally assume complete control of the Virginia state legislature? Dreams die fast and hard…In a near unanimous vote, Democratic-led committee in Virginia voted against beefing up enforcement of violations from destructive pipeline projects.

+ They settled (stole) land that wasn’t theirs, committed genocide against the indigenous inhabitants, slaughtered the great herds of buffalo, built railroads with Chinese slave laborers, workers who they later either killed or evicted from the country, banned blacks from owning property after the Civil War, butchered the greatest temperate rainforests on Earth, flooded the world’s most glorious canyon and detonated nuclear weapons in the New Mexico and Nevada deserts…

+ From Trunk Music

Edgar: How do people live out here [in Vegas]? It’s a fucking desert.
Bosch: LA’s a desert.
Edgar: With an ocean.
Bosch: It’s still a desert.
Edgar: I thought you loved LA?
Bosch: I do. But at least I know what it is…

+ Faulkner on Hollywood: “The plastic asshole of the world.”

+ The sublime stage actress Zoe Caldwell died this at age 86. I vividly remember Caldwell’s searing embodiment of Medea, a performance so electric that even now, if shown some late night at the White House while Trump is off at a rally in Tonopah, it might stir to life some latent impulse lurking inside Melania’s icy veins…

+ Jazz guitarist Jim Hall tells of passing Thelonious Monk on the street one day and asking Monk, “What’s happening?” Monk replied, as he just kept right on walking: “Everything’s happening, all the time”.

+ Fascinating interview with the great LA-area bassist Carol Kaye: “The pay in the late ‘50s at a jazz gig was about thirty-five bucks maximum, sometimes you might even get fifteen or twenty five, but as soon as I did that first Sam Cooke date, for three hours work I got forty-two dollars and I said “Oh boy!” And you weren’t fighting off the drunks and the stuff in nightclubs.”

+ When the Sex Pistols were tabloid clickbait: “He’s not really violent, says Mum.”

+ Musicians upload more than 300,000 songs to the web each day…still can’t make any money from online streaming.

+ Trump (racist) Koan of the Week: “How bad were the Academy Awards this year.? And the winner is: a movie from South Korea. What’s that all about?”

Reckless Like a Gambler, Million Dollar Maybe…

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

The Robbery of Nature: Capitalism and the Ecological Rift
John Bellamy Foster and Brett Clark
(Monthly Review)

Killer High: a History of War in Six Drugs
Peter Andreas

Dave Brubeck: a Life in Time
Philip Clark
(DeCapo Press)

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

Alter Ego
Prince Royce

The Slow Rush
Tame Impala

Wherein Lies the Good
The Westerlies

Stop the Tinkering

“The chief causes of the environmental destruction that faces us today are not biological, or the product of individual human choice. They are social and historical, rooted in the productive relations, technological imperatives, and historically conditioned demographic trends that characterize the dominant social system. Hence, what is ignored or downplayed in most proposals to remedy the environmental crisis is the most critical challenge of all: the need to transform the major social bases of environmental degradation, and not simply to tinker with its minor technical bases.” (John Bellamy Foster, The Vulnerable Planet: a Short Economic History of the Environment)



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More Real-Time Reflections from Your Friendly South Loop Marxist

Sunday 2/16

Monday, 2/17

Nina Simone 1968: “Ain’t got no class, ain’t got no culture, ain’t got no faith, ain’t got no water, ain’t got no money, ain’t got no country…ain’t got no God.”

Stirring the Caldron

So the demented fascist oligarch Donald Trump took “the Beast” on a Victory Lap around the Daytona 500 track. Fossil fuels were burned with pride as the Trumpenvolk and NASCAR engines roared deep down in Dixie. Frau Melania looks semi-nauseated and couldn’t wait to get back to New York.

This was Ferdinand Marcos-type shit. “He’s saluting the base and giving them a story to share with their family and friends,” writes Steve de La Rosa: “He is PT Barnum incarnate stirring the cauldron of White Nationalism.”

I bet Trump enjoyed the fiery finish of the Daytona 500 (delayed one day by rain). He’s a sadist who likes to see “losers” crash and burn.

Imperial Blowback?

Trevor Noah said last year that Trump reminds him of “an African dictator.” I get that but there’s more to say. The United States has imposed and backed dictators and despots like Marcos, Suharto, Duvalier, Trujllo, Mobutu, Habre, Mbasogo, Kagame, Pinochet, Pahlevi, Mubarek, el-Sisi, Karamov, Aliyev, Zenawi, Museveni, Lobo, the Saudi crown princes and countless other murderous authoritarians over the many years. It loved Mussolini. Washington appeased Hitler as a bulwark against the Soviet Union for many years.

Why wouldn’t it end up turning itself into an authoritarian dictatorship at some point in the future? Lots of Americans who never raised a finger against U.S. sponsorship of Third World dictatorships are horrified to see that they are living under an openly authoritarian Amerikaner regime in their own sacred and “exceptional” homeland.

What goes around, comes around. Empires blowback on their homelands.

“Everyone Dies”

The grotesquely obese Christian Fascist Attorney General Bill Barr is badly overdue for a fatal heart attack. Explaining his indifference to how his reputation will be besmirched by his abject fealty and service to Donito Trumpolini last year, Barr explained that “everyone dies.”

Godspeed, William Barr.

Taking it the Streets?

Gee was Chris Hayes, the leftmost host on MSDNC (that’s not saying much), almost calling here calling for mass popular protests by the American people to stop “their” nation’s accelerating slide into fascism? Not really. Too bad (more on that below).

Hurt Feelings

The Mike Bloomberg campaign is feeling “hurt” by online abuse from “angry Berniebros.” What might have set these “haters” off – a mega-billionaire oligarch trying to openly purchase the Democratic presidential nomination on the model of a hostile corporate takeover, perhaps?

Tuesday, 2/18

“An Unacceptable Price to Pay”

MSDNC morning host and former leading global derivatives trader Stephanie Class-Ruhle was soiling herself over this story this morning: “Sanders Surges to Double Digit Lead.” The “liberal” Ruhle, who calls Wall Street her “favorite place” and lives in luxury in East Central Park, had on one of her many Republican friends (some former aide to McCain) to explain that Sanders’ progress is a catastrophe and that Trump will crush “a socialist.”

This is the recurrent theme across the “liberal” media landscape. The idea is to just say it so much that millions of people come to believe it and give up on having a real intra-party competition and fighting for their own interests in the primary process.

Oddly enough, I can’t imagine anyone more un-electable than Moneybags Mike Bloomberg, the ridiculous buffoon Corn-Pop-a-bin-Biden, or Alfred E. Wine Cave. This is pretty good, from Greg Sargent at the Washington Post:

“Bloomberg’s success [in buying his way into second place in the Democratic race] raises the prospect of a series of scenarios that should give every Democrat serious pause….What happens if Bloomberg spends massively from his fortune to try to demolish Sanders, whose tremendous success in stockpiling small-dollar donations is forging a new, people-powered model for funding presidential campaigns as we speak?… Sanders’s fundraising success is a truly monumental achievement. Sanders, like Warren, has forsworn both help from corporate PACs and high-dollar donations…. Sanders has shown that a campaign can be entirely grassroots-funded….If Bloomberg successfully overwhelms the process with his personal financial firepower, it will deeply stain Democrats’ claim to being the party arrayed against big-money corruption of our politics….A Bloomberg effort to overwhelm Sanders with his personal fortune is particularly unbearable to contemplate, precisely because of the contrast it would present with Sanders’s own fundraising….The blithe tossing aside of this new grass-roots model of fundraising — simply by virtue of the fact that a single plutocrat, whatever his own considerable accomplishments, came along who can personally outspend millions of politically motivated Americans — is itself an arguably unacceptable price to pay….Untold numbers of Democratic voters will probably not countenance this. Such a scenario threatens to constitute a moral and political disaster that risks tearing the party apart.”

Bloomberg isn’t remotely viable against Trump. He’s an oligarchic train-wreck who will collapse the (eminently crash-worthy) dismal dollar Dems.

Also un-electable are the corporate right-centrists Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar, Deval Patrick, Michelle Obama, a de-iced Hillary Clinton or any other Wall Street-Silicon Valley-Lockheed Martin front-person the dismal, dollar-drenched Democrats try to impose on the electorate.

Sanders would be the “practical” electability choice for a party that valued winning elections more than serving corporate sponsors – for a party that privileged defeating the evermore fascistic Republican Party over defeating the moderately left wing of its own party. But that’s simply not the Democratic Party. Many of the party’s top bankrollers share Stephen Cloobeck (see below) and Donny Deutsch’s preference for a second neofascist Trump term (what about a third?) over a first Sanders term.

Single-Payer Pays.

Do NOT believe what corporate lackeys like Sleepy Creepy Joe, Stephanie Class Ruhle, Mikey Moneybags, Wall Street Pete, and Amy Klobocop tell you about Medicare for All. They are lying sacks of oligarchic shit. In a recent study published by The Lancet, leading epidemiologists from the Yale School of Public Health, University of Florida, and University of Maryland School of Medicine find that a Single Payer system would slash national health expenditures by 13 percent – more than $450 billion a year – and save 68,000 lives a year. By replacing premiums, deductibles, co-payments and out-of-pocket costs with a progressive tax system, Medicare for All will save the average U.S. family $2,400 a year and give lower-income household new access to medical services they need. Republican and corporate-Democratic objections to Single Payer based on the prediction of rising costs are not based on empirical reality. Economics aside, the authors believe that it is (imagine) “a moral imperative to provide health care as a human right, not dependent on employment or affluence.”

A Nevada Prediction

Bloomberg may work for Sanders. “Mini-Mike” is a made-to-order central casting foil for the Bern-man. He is the very embodiment of the arrogant and plutocratic “billionaire class” that Sanders has been railing against for many years. He epitomizes the un-elected dictatorship of money that reigns across both “two [major party] wings of the same bird of prey” (Upton Sinclair, 1904).

The high turnout in early Nevada voting suggests strongly that Sanders is gearing up for a major victory there. Watch Sanders crush the Nevada Caucus and “liberal” media say that the process was an unreliable “debacle” like the app- crashed Iowa Caucus.

Ruling Class Unity

Who does “liberal” corporate media hate more: the demented fascist oligarch Donald Trump or the progressive populist social democrat Bernie Sanders?

This is very good – from Chris Hedges at Truthdig: “The ruling elites, once divided between Trump and Hillary Clinton, with most of the elites preferring Clinton, will be united against Sanders. They will back Trump as the least worst. The corporate media will turn its venom, now directed at Trump, toward Sanders. The Democratic Party’s mask will come off. It will be open warfare between them and us.”

One caveat though: the venom is already coming at Sanders. It’s hot and heavy. Just watch MSDNC.

Notice the recurrent false theme of equivalence between the two and their backers.

A Dark Episode

So the felonious clown Rod Blagojevich’s federal prison sentence has been commuted by Demented Orange. All “Blago” did was put Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat up for sale (along with other criminal abuses of gubernatorial power). Once you get past the comedy of it all, the Blago commutation is a dark authoritarian episode. This bizarre fool committed high-state crimes of brazen corruption. He has been released from prison early as a reward for his and his wife’s political service to Herr Donald. It’s another nail in the authoritarian, neofascist coffin. It’s about trumping the rule of law with the rule of men/a man – with might over right. The pardons Trump granted today send the same message. Will the “African Dictator” Trump pardon Manafort, Flynn, and Stone, banana-republic-style? If not before the election, certainly after.

Who Trump Fears Most

Big Bucks Bloomberg says that he’s the one that Trump fears most, not Sanders. Trump says otherwise. On Tuesday, February 11, 2020, Dump said the following in the Oval Office: “Frankly, I’d rather run against Bloomberg than Bernie Sanders, because Sanders has real followers…” (Quoted in Catherine Lucey, “Trump Sizes Up Sanders as an Opponent,” Wall Street Journal, February 14, 2020, A4.) This is rare case where Trump isn’t lying.

(Still, former CIA intern and leading CNN talking head Anderson Cooper just asked Sanders “why do you think President Trump wants to so badly to run against you?”)

In a CNN Town Hall from Las Vegas, Sanders just eviscerated Bloomberg with expertise. Now, in response to a voter’s question, he is drawing out his campaign finance differences with Mikey Moneybags

Arresting Norman Solomon

It is difficult to overstate the evil of Buttigieg: Norman Solomon, “Why the Buttigieg Campaign Tried to Have Me Arrested.” Please read this excellent piece (“Buttigieg Is a Wall Street Democrat Beholden to Corporate Interests”) on Wall Street Pete, who I sometimes call Alfred E. Wine Cave. Here is the dead-on conclusion of this empirically rigorous, well-framed report by Kenneth Peres, the former chief economist of the Communication Workers of America:

“Buttigieg and his supporters like to portray him as a ‘change agent.’ However, he has proven to be a change agent that will not in any significant way challenge the current distribution of power, wealth and income in this country. Given his history, it is no surprise that Wall Street, Big Tech, Big Pharma, Health Insurers, Real Estate Developers and Private Equity have decided to invest millions of dollars into Buttigieg’s campaign. And based on past actions, Buttigieg will make sure that investment pays off if he is elected” (emphasis added).

Maddow Gets Some Things Right Sometimes

Rachel Maddow just said something I hadn’t thought about. She might be right: The Twisted Tyrant Trump and his big fat sick puppy AG Barr will open a federal investigation of their Dem opponent in the 2020 race.

A demented Trumpenlefty, an older white male as usual, just mocked me by saying “madwoman sez it and you take it seriously???” Did this bitter old white guy just come out of a three-year coma? No great love for Maddow here but it’s not a remotely controversial thing to suspect might happen.

The New Cold Warrior Maddow gets a lot of things wrong but one thing she’s obviously right about is that Trump is conducting a relentless war on what’s left of the rule of (merely bourgeois) law and trying to turn the country into a damn near openly authoritarian state.

Wednesday, 2/19

“Black Bloc Bernie”?

MSDNC morning anchor Stephanie Class-Ruhle just brought on an old friend, former Diamond Resorts CEO Stephen Cloobeck, a major Democratic Party funder, to speak from Las Vegas three days before Nevada’s presidential caucus.

Asked about one of Ruhle’s favorite topics, “the danger of socialist Bernie Sanders,” Cloobeck called Sanders “an anarchist” who “wants to burn down the country.”

You can’t make shit like that up.

When Ruhle asked Cloobeck if he would support Trump if Sanders is the Democrats’ nominee, Cloobeck took a long pause, stared into the camera and growled “Anybody but Bernie.” In other words: “Yes, I will support the demented fascist oligarch Trump if the Dems nominate the mildly progressive Sanders.”

Cloobeck is with Bloomberg, who is fulfilling a promise to enter the presidential fray if the “dangerous socialist” Sanders threatened to win the Democratic nomination.

I demand that Cloobeck defend his position against that of David Frum, who has called Sanders a “Marxist of the old school of dialectical materialism.”

Does Cloobeck mean “anarchist” ala Proudhon, Kropotkin, Bakunin, the Haymarket Martyrs, Rudolph Rocker, or other variants in the 20th and 21st centuries? More precision please, Mr. Cloobeck.

“Black Bloc Bernie?” (Maybe tonight Sanders will yell “Black Bloc” and dozens of black-clad anarchs will rush the debate stage.)

I’ve heard Sanders Red-baited on MSDNC again and again. This is the first time I’ve heard him Black- (the color of the flag of anarchism)-baited

“How to Act”

Check out this video of stone-cold racist, Michael Stop&Frisk Bloomberg denouncing young Black and Latino males who “don’t have jobs” and “don’t know how to act”?

The Bloomberg campaign is warning that the dastardly Judeo Bolshevik Sanders has a “path to the nomination” despite proportionality in Democratic Party primary delegate counts (different from the Republican primaries’ winner-take-all system that Trump exploited in 2016). It “could all over be soon,” the Bloomberg managers fret on MSDNC, calling for Biden, Buttigieg, and Klobuchar to collapse their centrist campaigns and coalesce around the multi-billionaire racist-sexist mega-billionaire from Deep Hell.

Free at Last

The “Trumpocrat” Blagojevich is calling himself a “freed political prisoner” who was “persecuted” by “the Swamp.” Do we need to go up to Ravenswood (his neighborhood up on the Northwest side of Chicago) and try to re-incarcerate this floppy-haired joker?

Class Hatred and False Equivalency

The venom being hurled at Sanders on MSDNC this afternoon is almost beyond belief. There is no class hatred quite as pure as that felt by ruling-class and know-it-all professional class Democrats for pro-working-class progressives in their own capitalist party — and it IS their capitalist party, make no mistake.

To equate Sanders and Trump and their respective campaigns and bases – as MSDNC talking heads and other “liberal” personalities and operatives do on a routine basis – is to engage in a disgusting act of classist cynicism. It is a sinister gas-lighting whereby “elite” neoliberal politicos and media owners, managers, and operatives paint progressive and democratic values with precisely their opposites.

An Informal Survey

At the X-Sport Fitness gym in the 800 block of South State Street tonight (Chicago, South Loop) tonight there were roughly 35 people on treadmills, stationary bikes, and ellipticals. The great majority of these people were Black, Latinx, or Asian. Roughly half were female. Almost everyone was watching television screens built into their machines while they worked out. A grand total of six of these people were watching the smug white-nationalist Tucker Carlson on FOX News. Each one of those six people was a white male. Identity politics!

The Nevada Fight Club Debate

One Nasty Little S.O.B.

The truly evil Buttigieg did exactly what I thought he would: (a) posit himself as the de-polarizing middle path between the evil plutocrat Bloomberg and the also terrible “socialist” Sanders even while Pete is a neoliberal plaything of the corporate oligarchy and (b) attack Sanders’ Medicare4All plan on the false grounds that it takes peoples’ health insurance away (nope) and is un-affordable (wrong: it’s a money-saver). Alfred E. Wine Cave is one nasty son of a bitch. He knows he doesn’t have a shot. He’s just there to needle and undermines Sanders and Warren from the corporate-neoliberal right. His highly personal assaults on Klobuchar are just plain disturbing.

Knife Job

Got to give Warren credit: she is butchering Bloomberg again and again. She is cutting this man up:

“So I’d like to talk about who we’re running against, a billionaire who calls women ‘fat broads’ and ‘horse-faced lesbians.’ And, no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump. I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg.”

“Democrats are not going to win if we have a nominee who has a history of hiding his tax returns, of harassing women, and of supporting racist polls like redlining and stop and frisk.”

“Look, I’ll support whoever the Democratic nominee is. But understand this: Democrats take a huge risk if we just substitute one arrogant billionaire for another.”

Well, goddamn.

(There are lots photos available online showing Trump and Bloomberg quite comfortable with each other. They’re buddies.)

The winner early on at least is Warren. She’s knocked down a couple of threes, gotten some good rebounds, and made some nice mid-range jumpers.

Bloomberg is wounded, thanks largely to Warren. Buttigieg is showing himself to be a very nasty young man, indeed. Amy is stuck in her all-about-me-and-what-I-did rut (I get it because women tend to be gravely unacknowledged for their accomplishments). Biden looked like a confused old man – well, like Joe “Corn Pop” Biden – on climate change.

Regarding Capitalism

Amy Klobuchar: “I believe in capitalism.” What, that it exists? I concur. It does. We need to overthrow it. It is generating soul-numbing and life-threatening inequalities and essentially ending life on Earth.

Chuck Todd to Bloomberg: “do you deserve all your money?” Bloomberg: “Yes, I worked very hard for it.”

Sanders just got his contact – a line drive into the gap: “maybe your workers had something to do with your wealth.”

Bernie got another extra-base hit — quoting MLK Jr. on how we have “socialism for the rich and rugged individualism for the poor.”

Here’s a little primer for Bloomberg to consult before he gets asked again about the source of his obscene fortune: Karl Marx, Theories of Surplus Value, available on Amazon in paperback “from $942.85” — chump change for Moneybags Mike, who is reportedly “spending ten million dollars for an entirely different personality.”

Burning Down the House

Buttigieg said that Sanders “wants to BURN THE HOUSE DOWN.” Yes, burn the house down. Sanders wants to establish universal health care as a human right, free public college, big green jobs programs, double the minimum wage, re-legalize union organizing and this little shithead from McKinsey, U.S Naval Intelligence, and racist South Bend calls that “want[ing] to burn down the house.”

Pete is honoring his late Gramsci scholar dad by running on bourgeois cultural and ideological hegemony.

Jennifer Matsui: “By ‘house’ he means ‘plantation’. He is signaling white voters to assure them he is one of theirs.”

For a Managerial Revolution and Good Railroad Administration

In his concluding statement, Bloomberg just called the US a “railroad”: “This is a management job and Donald Trump is not a manager…We cannot run the railroad this way.”

Does Bloomberg not know that fascism was praised for “making the trains run on time”?

Interesting footnote: As the great American business historian Alfred Chandler showed, the managerial revolution in American business started in the mid- and late 19th century railroad industry.

The Real Winners

FOX News, over the banner FIRING SQUAD: “The clear winner tonight was Donald Trump.” I suppose that’s right. Notably, the little problem of Trump “dismantling the rule of law” (just because Rachel Maddow says that doesn’t make it wrong, comrades) was totally absent from the debate.

Bloomberg should have come on to the debate stage dressed as Darth Vader. Will his bloodied humiliation matter? Perhaps not. As the left historian and journalist, Terry Thomas writes, “Warren gutted that guy just like one of those Trumpsters around here [rural northern Illinois] doing a deer. Wonder if it makes any difference, though. He will continue to flood all media with his informercials. Debate lasted two hours. His infomercials everywhere all the time.”

Thursday 2/20

“Why Not?”

Stephanie Class Ruhle this morning nodded along with a Bloomberg operative who repeated his campaign’s warning that Sanders is going to run away with the Dem nomination unless the other centrist candidates drop out and endorse Mike. Evil Bernie may be on a “glide path” to primary victory, the dour Bloomberg sales representative said.

Ruhle almost broke her cheekbones from how hard she smiled while a former Jeb Bush campaign manager asked why Bloomberg is flooding the airwaves with positive-sounding commercials when he should really be “spending $100 million” on negative ads warning of how Sanders’ disastrous “socialism” will re-elect the Donald and destroy America.

A Black male talking head from The Root had to tell Ruhle that the Democrats can’t openly kneecap Sanders, mafia-style, leading Steph to half-jokingly ask “why not?”

A fetching blond Republican told Ruhle and her viewers that the wicked socialist Sanders will re-elect Trump and collapse the Democratic Party for “thirty years.”

Follow the Money

There’s nothing surprising about all this, of course. Look who pays for CNN and MSDNC. Stay seated for their commercials with pen and paper in hand. Take notes on their sponsors: big health insurance and drug companies above all, along with automakers, investment firms, and a host of other large corporate interests catering to upper-middle-class and upper-class media consumers who are already well cared for, unlike most of the population in late-capitalist America.

Trump will not likely be removed via the electoral path. The Trumpenvolk are shockingly united behind their Great Tangerine God Who Can Do No Wrong. The Dems, by contrast, are badly class-divided. Their party’s “leadership” is more interested in serving corporate sponsors than in winning elections, much less in social justice and environmental sanity.

Political reality sucks in the U.S. and will continue to do so until a critical mass of Americans stop believing in the “normal” channels of supposed popular voice and decides to fight for real revolution – a social revolution. I tend to think of millions taking to the streets — and staying there — as an existential necessity, regardless of its likelihood. I’m doing what I can to overcome the “pessimism of my intellect” with the “optimism of my will” (Pete has me thinking of Gramsci) to help bring that about. At the same time, renewing my passport has moved to the top of my to-do list.

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Extensive Chemical Safety Fraud Uncovered at German Testing Laboratory

Monkey subject at LPT Hamburg. Photo: Cruelty Free International and SOKO Tierschutz.

The case of an animal rights activist who infiltrated an independent German chemical testing laboratory has triggered the discovery of an apparently extensive chemical testing fraud.

LPT Hamburg, with around 175 employees, is one of the largest contract laboratories in Germany. It is a family owned private company. It prepares regulatory studies on behalf of the pharmaceutical and pesticide industries and has three locations: Mienenbüttel in Lower Saxony, Neugraben in Hamburg and Wankendorf in Schleswig-Holstein.

An initial case of fraud was reported in 2019 by the German magazine FAKT, which worked with the animal rights organisations Cruelty Free Internationaland SOKO-Tierschutz to expose the findings of the undercover employee. The disturbing irregularities they discovered included the death and replacement of animals without this being reported to authorities.

This distressing video from FAKT summarises the findings and was filmed at LPT.

But since the initial investigation by FAKT five former employees of LPT Hamburg have come forward with new information.

In interviews broadcast by FAKT in November of 2019, one employee told the magazine of testing fraud:

“I not only experienced it, I did it myself. I forged documents; our studies. If the results did not meet expectations, I was asked to improve them. The data that did not fit in were marked so that I could enter it on the blank protocol the new values that were given to me. The new report was also marked with the old date and my signature…”

A second employee who came forward told FAKT:

“These animals, especially in the high-dose group, actually had completely open skin – so it was the raw meat that was visible, miserable really miserable. […] In fact, one animal died in the high-dose group and was replaced by another animal. Here, too, the tattoo number, which is in the chest area of the animal, was cut out of the dead animal and added to the organs of the replaced animal after the end of the study. So that it looks as if this animal had not died at all.“

A third told FAKT that they had observed repeated falsification of studies and that they later reported this to the German authorities:

“So, a few months after I left LPT, I contacted the responsible authorities here. And had an appointment. And in this appointment we discussed the LPT issue together. It was also about manipulation of data and of course about the fact that studies were so strongly influenced that it was not compatible with my conscience.”

However, the employee never heard from the authority again.

These revelations have major implications for public and environmental health. They undermine the idea that testing by commercial laboratories is independent of the chemical industry, thereby challenging the validity of the entire system of toxicological evaluation of chemicals like pesticides and pharmaceuticals. These allegations echo previous cases of chemical testing fraud, such as the IBT scandal of the late 1970s, including the more recent realisation that this fraud was covered up by the overseeing government agencies, such as the US EPA.

A further implication, according to a new report on the LPT case carried out by PAN Germany, Corporate Europe Observatory and Global 2000 of Austria, is that many of the studies supporting the EU’s reapproval of glyphosate came from LPT.

According to the EU’s reassessment of glyphosate, all industry-derived studies on genotoxicity concluded that glyphosate was safe, or nearly so. On the other hand, the majority of peer-reviewed studies concluded it was not. In its reauthorization process the EU agency which evaluated glyphosate concluded that the industry studies submitted were reliable and the peer-reviewed studies were “not reliable”. This designation cleared the way for reauthorization. At least 21 studies submitted by Monsanto supporting glyphosate’s reauthorization came from LPT.

The primary given reason why peer reviewed studies are deemed inadmissible by regulators is that they do not have the technical certification known as Good Laboratory Practice (GLP). GLP follows OECD guidelines which were adopted by the EU in 2004.

GLP has long been criticised as failing to guarantee high quality research (Elliott et al. 2016, Myers et al. 2009, Wagner and Michaels 2004). It has always been defended, however, on the basis that it prevented exactly this kind of fraud.


Elliott, Kevin C. Standardized study designs, value judgments, and financial conflicts of interest in research. Perspectives on Science 24.5 (2016): 529-551.

Myers, John Peterson, et al. Why public health agencies cannot depend on good laboratory practices as a criterion for selecting data: the case of bisphenol A. Environmental health perspectives 117.3 (2009): 309-315.

Wagner, Wendy, and David Michaels. Equal treatment for regulatory science: extending the controls governing the quality of public research  to private research. American journal of law & medicine 30.2-3 (2004): 119-154.

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‘The Donald Trump I know’: Abbas’ UN Speech and the Breakdown of Palestinian Politics

Photograph Source: The White House – Public Domain

A precious moment has been squandered, as Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, had the chance to right a historical wrong, by reinstating Palestinian national priorities at the United Nations Security Council on February 11, through a political discourse that is completely independent from Washington and its allies.

For a long time, Abbas has been a hostage to the very language that designated him and his Authority as ‘moderates’ in the eyes of Israel and the West. Despite the Palestinian leader’s outward rejection of the US ‘Deal of the Century’ – which practically renders Palestinian national aspirations null and void – Abbas is keen to maintain his ‘moderate’ credentials for as long as possible.

Certainly, Abbas has given many speeches at the UN in the past and, every single time, he has failed to impress Palestinians. This time, however, things were meant to be different. Not only did Washington disown Abbas and the PA, it also scrapped its own political discourse on peace and the two-state solution altogether. More, the Trump administration has now officially given its blessing to Israel to annex nearly a third of the West Bank, taking Jerusalem ‘off the table’ and discarding the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

Instead of directly meeting with leaders of the various Palestinian political parties and taking tangible steps to reactivate dormant but central political institutions such as the Palestinian National Council (PNC) and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Abbas preferred to meet with former Israeli right-wing Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, in New York, and to carry on regurgitating his commitment to a by-gone era.

In his UN speech, Abbas said nothing new which, in this instance, is worse than not saying anything at all.

“This is the outcome of the project that has been introduced to us,” Abbas said, while holding a map of what a Palestinian state would look like under Donald Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’. “And this is the state that they are giving to us,” Abbas added, referring to that future state as a ‘Swiss cheese’, meaning a state fragmented by Jewish settlements, bypass-roads and Israeli military zones.

Even the term ‘Swiss cheese’, which was reported in some media as if a new phrase in this ever-redundant discourse, is actually an old coinage that has been referenced repeatedly by the Palestinian leadership itself, starting with the onset of the so-called peace process, a quarter of a century ago.

Abbas labored to appear exceptionally resolute as he emphasized certain words, like when he equated the Israeli occupation with the system of apartheid. His delivery, however, appeared unconvincing, lacking and, at times, pointless.

Abbas spoke of his great ‘surprise’ when Washington declared Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital, subsequently relocating its embassy to the occupied city, as if the writing was not already on the wall and that, in fact, the embassy move was one of Trump’s main pledges to Israel even before his inauguration in January 2017.

“And then they cut off financial aid that was given to us,” Abbas said in a lamenting voice with reference to the US decision to withhold its aid to the PA in August 2018. “$840 million are held from us,” he said. “I don’t know who is giving Trump such horrid advice. Trump is not like this. Trump that I know is not like this,” Abbas exclaimed in a strange interjection as if to send a message to the Trump administration that the PA still has faith in the US President’s judgement.

“I would like to remind everyone that we have participated in the Madrid peace conference, and the Washington negotiations and the Oslo agreement and the Annapolis summit on the basis of international law,” Abbas recounted, signaling that he remains committed to the very political agenda that reaped the Palestinian people no political rewards whatsoever.

Abbas then went on to paint an imagined reality, where his Authority is supposedly building the “national institutions of a law-abiding, modern and democratic state that is constructed on the basis of international values; one that is predicated on transparency, accountability and fighting corruption.”

“Yes,” Abbas emphasized, as he looked at his audience with theatrical seriousness, “We are one of the most important countries (in the world) that is fighting corruption.” The PA leader, then, called on the Security Council to send a commission to investigate allegations of corruption within the PA, a bewildering and unnecessary invitation, considering that it is the Palestinian leadership that should be making demands on the international community to help enforce international law and end the Israeli occupation.

It went on like this, where Abbas vacillated between reading pre-written remarks that introduce no new ideas or strategies and unnecessary rants that reflect the PA’s political bankruptcy and Abbas’ own lack of imagination.

The PA President, of course, made sure to offer his habitual condemnation of Palestinian ‘terrorism’ by promising that Palestinians would not “resort to violence and terrorism regardless of the act of aggression against us.” He assured his audience that his Authority believes in “peace and fighting violence.” Without elaborating, Abbas declared his intention of continuing on the path of “popular and peaceful resistance,” which, in fact, does not exist in any shape or form.

This time around, Abbas’ speech at the UN was particularly inappropriate. Indeed, it was a failure in every possible way. The least, the Palestinian leader could have done is to articulate a powerful and collective Palestinian political discourse. Instead, his statement was merely a sad homage to his own legacy, one that is riddled with disappointments and ineptitude.

Expectedly, Abbas returned to Ramallah to greet his cheering supporters once more, who are always ready and waiting to raise posters of the ageing leader, as if his UN speech had succeeded in fundamentally shifting international political momentum in favor of Palestinians.

It has to be said that the real danger in the ‘Deal of the Century’ is not the actual stipulations of that sinister plan, but the fact that the Palestinian leadership is likely to find a way to co-exist with it, at the expense of the oppressed Palestinian people, as long as donors’ money continues to flow and as long as Abbas continues to call himself a president.

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A Trump Sentence Commutation Attorneys Generals Liked

Photograph Source: Barron Mickey – CC By-SA 4.0

The year was 2008. Hundreds of ICE officers swooped down on Agriprocessors, the nation’s largest kosher slaughterhouse located in Postville, Iowa, in the largest single-site raid to date in U.S. history. Half of the 800 person workforce was arrested.

In addition to kosher brands, Agriprocessors meat was sold as Iowa Best Beef Brand in Albertson’s, Kroger, Shop Rite, Wal-Mart, Trader Joe’s, Ralph’s, Pathmark and H.E. Butt.

Initial charges against Agriprocessors managers included harboring illegal aliens, use of child labor, document fraud, identity theft, physical and sexual abuse of workers, unsafe working conditions, wage and hour violations and shorting workers’ pay.

According to the search warrant, one thousand discrepancies between worker names and social security numbers occurred in three years. A methamphetamine production plant existed with the slaughterhouse, sanctioned by management. At the time of the raid, Barack Obama, then an Illinois senator said of Agriprocessors during a campaign stop in Davenport, Iowa, “They have kids in there wielding buzz saws and cleavers. It’s ridiculous.”

Child labor charges were initially filed against Sholom Rubashkin, son of Agriprocessors owner Aaron Rubashkin, but they were dropped as prosecutors unspooled elaborate financial wrongdoing perpetrated by Rubashkin which they pursued instead. (Other Agriprocessors managers pleaded guilty at the outset of the trial to multiple charges of abuse of under-age laborers.)

According to the New York Times

“Judge Reade noted that Mr.[Sholom] Rubashkin had misled the bank repeatedly about the finances of Agriprocessors, ordering employees to create fake invoices and moving cash secretly among different accounts, including some designated for religious purposes. The maneuvers caused a loss to the bank of $26 million, the judge found.

In one episode, Judge Reade wrote, Mr. Rubashkin lent $4,500 to illegal immigrants working in the plant so they could buy new fake identity documents, after immigration authorities had questioned the validity of their original hiring documents.”

Before the immigration raid and ensuing charges, Agriprocessors had received six OSHA violations. Supervisors extorted bribes from workers according to EEOC complaints. Employees were untrained and unprotected from dangerous equipment, reported the Forward. Two workers required amputations in one month, and one was still working at the plant with a hand missing when the Forward visited, “hoping to collect enough to pay off his debts back home.”

An animal welfare group videotaped Agriprocessors workers ripping tracheas out of conscious cattle and leaving them to thrash in their own blood on the floor in a macabre demonstration of kosher slaughter. (While ritual slaughter is supposed to reduce pain it often does the opposite says animal expert Temple Grandin.) The images moved rabbinical groups to condemn Agriprocessors and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to launch its own investigation which found “acts of inhumane slaughter.

Sholom Rubashkin was convicted of eighty-six counts of federal-bank fraud. Prosecutors asked for a life sentence for Sholom Rubashkin, citing his lawlessness and lack of remorse, but more than one dozen former U.S. attorneys cried to the judge: Unfair!

“We cannot fathom how truly sound and sensible sentencing rules could call for a life sentence—or anything close to it—for Mr. Rubashkin, a 51-year-old, first-time, nonviolent offender,” said a letter signed by former attorney generals Janet Reno, William Barr, Richard Thornburgh, Edwin Meese III, Ramsey Clark and Nicholas Katzenbach.

A few years later in 2017, President Trump commuted Rubashkin’s sentence. The commutation resulted from pressure from both sides of the aisle said the White House–both Nancy Pelosi and Orrin Hatch. It also came from high-ranking law enforcement officials said NBC, who argued “the sentence was far too harsh for a first-time, non-violent offender.”

Nonviolent unless you include the abuse of workers and animals.

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Bernie Should Own the Socialist Label

Photograph Source: Michael Vadon – CC BY 2.0

Bernie Sanders is currently the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination. He and everyone else knows exactly how the Republicans will attack him if and when he becomes the nominee: old-fashioned redbaiting.

China became communist in name only during the 1980s, the Soviet Union shut its doors in 1991, the Cold War is dead, and the 64% of Americans under age 50 have no memory of an actually-existing socialist regime. Yet Trump and the GOP have already broadcast their plans to hang the “democratic socialist” label around Bernie Sanders’ neck.

Whether such archaic fear-mongering—against long-dead adversaries—will be effective even with elderly voters is anyone’s guess. Considering the fact that 40% of Americans consistently tell pollsters they prefer socialism or communism to capitalism, branding Bernie Sanders as a nefarious democratic socialist might have the unintended effect of bringing out people who don’t normally vote to support an ideology they’ve never had the chance to get behind before.

On the other hand, only 76% of Democrats say they would vote for a socialist.

One thing is for sure: the socialism thing will be Sanders’ biggest challenge. And so what? Every candidate enters the game with a handicap of some sort.

Elizabeth Warren has acquired a reputation for deception and opportunism. Amy Klobuchar plays a mean girl and behind closed doors. Pete Buttigieg is gay; only 78% of voters say they’d consider a gay candidate. He’s also inexperienced. Joe Biden appears to have been suffering from dementia for years.

Political weaknesses are inevitable; what makes or breaks a candidacy is how his or her campaign chooses to address it. History’s answer is clear: take it on honestly, directly and credibly.

Own your crap. Americans voters hate sneakiness and avoidance.

Bernie has no one but himself to blame for this potential electoral albatross. As Paul Krugman of The New York Times points out, the independent senator from Vermont is not really a socialist: “He doesn’t want to nationalize our major industries and replace markets with central planning.” He is a New Deal Democrat indistinguishable from old liberal figures like Hubert Humphrey and George McGovern. The economic model Sanders wants to establish isn’t the USSR or even Yugoslavia, but the Scandinavian countries with their superior safety nets and enlightened penal systems. Capitalism as we know it would continue, albeit with reduced overall cruelty.

Bernie is a social democrat, not a democratic socialist. For some unknown reason, however, he chose to label himself as a democratic socialist. “It’s mainly about personal branding,” Krugman speculates, “with a dash of glee at shocking the bourgeoisie. And this self-indulgence did no harm as long as he was just a senator from a very liberal state.”

Now he’s going to have to explain himself and his beliefs to American voters who have been propagandized through education and the media to believe that socialism equals communism equals totalitarian dystopia.

If he’s smart – and there’s no reason to believe that he and his staff are anything but—he will own the phrase and address those concerns head on.

During the 1960 campaign John F. Kennedy responded to worries about his Roman Catholicism that he might take orders from the pope in a speech that allowed anti-Catholic voters to take a chance on him. “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act,” Kennedy said.

Aware that he was going to run for president in a few years, Barack Obama discussed his drug use as a young man, specifically the fact that he had tried cocaine, in his memoir and in an interview published ahead of the race. By the time he ran in 2008, the coke thing was old news baked into the politics of the time.

“Democratic socialism” is a pretty meaningless term. Which is not necessarily bad. Because it doesn’t define an existing party or ideology in the real world, Bernie can imprint his own definition upon his awkward tabula rasa.

Like every crisis, this is an opportunity. Voters want to know what Bernie stands for. Their confusion about democratic socialism (confusion caused by Sanders’ weird word choices) is his chance to explain himself and his policies.

The one thing he should not and cannot do is to shy away from the S word. No matter how much he protests, Republicans are going to call him a Marxist, a communist, a socialist and worse. So there’s no point in protesting. “Yes,“ he could say, “I am a socialist. A democratic socialist. A democratic socialist is a person who cares more about you as an ordinary American than about greedy billionaires and corporations who pollute your water and lay you off at the drop of a hat.”

Nothing neutralizes an attack more effectively than to cop to it.

If nothing else, even if he loses, Bernie can rehabilitate socialism as an acceptable economic alternative. In the long run, that would be a greater accomplishment than anything Sanders could accomplish in eight years as president.

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Encountering Malcolm X

Still from ‘Who Killed Malcolm X?” (Netflix).

Watching the six-part documentary “Who Killed Malcolm X?” on Netflix stirred up powerful memories of how important he was to my political evolution. While the documentary is focused on exploring the Nation of Islam’s (NOI) role in his murder, it also sheds light on Malcolm’s post-NOI political odyssey. By creating a rival movement to the pseudo-Islamist sect, he risked a fatal encounter with four assassins on this date fifty-five years ago at the Audubon Ballroom in New York.

Just six weeks before his death, I heard Malcolm X speak at the Palm Gardens in New York. I went with my girlfriend Dian, who was on midterm break from Bard College, just like me. I remember taking a seat about ten rows from the podium and being perplexed by the five or so leaflets on the chair that advertised rallies or meetings geared to radicals. Although I was much more of an existentialist liberal a la Camus in 1965, I was eager to hear Malcolm speak. Little did I know at the time that the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), a sect I would join two years later, organized the meeting. The Trotskyists placed leaflets on the chairs to draw people closer to the party, an approach that the Internet would supersede just as Facebook would supersede the mimeograph machine.

Malcolm’s speech was titled “Prospects for Freedom” in 1965. It started with a friendly nod to the sponsor:

It’s the third time that I’ve had the opportunity to be a guest of the Militant Labor Forum. I always feel that it is an honor and every time that they open the door for me to do so, I will be right here. The Militant newspaper is one of the best in New York City. In fact, it is one of the best anywhere you go today because everywhere I go I see it. I saw it even in Paris about a month ago; they were reading it over there. And I saw it in some parts of Africa where I was during the summer. I don’t know how it gets there. But if you put the right things in it, what you put in it will see that it gets around.

The speech was notable for its revolutionary internationalism. Malcolm was probably too smart to consider joining the SWP but reading the Militant must have been partly responsible for his evolution away from the narrow black nationalism of the NOI. His reference to Vietnam was particularly prophetic for my generation since within a year or two, I would be grappling with the problem of how to stay out of the army:

Also in 1964, the oppressed people of South Vietnam, and in that entire Southeast Asia area, were successful in fighting off the agents of imperialism. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men haven’t enabled them to put North and South Vietnam together again. Little rice farmers, peasants, with a rifle—up against all the highly-mechanized weapons of warfare—jets, napalm, battleships, everything else, and they can’t put those rice farmers back where they want them. Somebody’s waking up.

By early 1967, I had left Camus and existentialism far behind. I asked a fellow student at the New School, an SWP member hoping to recruit me, for some reading recommendations to help me understand what the hell was going on. He wisely recommended John Gerassi’s anti-imperialist masterpiece “The Great Fear in Latin America” and Malcolm’s autobiography instead of some turgid Marxist classic. The two books, especially Malcolm’s, were reverberating in my mind as I began working as a Welfare Department caseworker in Harlem.

One of my “clients” was a jazz drummer named Jonathan “Jo Jo” Jones Jr., who had just gotten out of drug rehabilitation. He was the son of legendary Count Basie drummer Jonathan Jones. In short order, I got welfare to pay for getting his drums out of hock and him back on his feet. We became good friends, and I made sure to go to all his gigs. Somewhere along the line, Malcolm X came up in our discussions. He looked me in the eye and told me that one of the two men serving time for the crime was innocent. He was referring to Norman 3X Butler, who was married to Jo Jo’s sister (or perhaps a cousin.) He said that when she visited him in prison, he always insisted on his innocence. Not only did he have a solid alibi, but he also was a member of the Harlem mosque that would have been instantly recognizable to Malcolm’s guards and blocked from entering the Audubon. The assassins had to be from another mosque to get past security. That mosque turned out to be in Newark, where a small group hatched the plot.

In the final moments of “Who Killed Malcolm X?”, we meet Abdur-Rahman Muhammad in conversation with Norman 3X Butler. Butler is still alive at the age of 81 and now known as Muhammad Abdul Aziz. Born in 1962, Abdur-Rahman Muhammad is a Howard University graduate who became a political activist, Muslim and a one-man crusade committed to preserving Malcolm’s legacy. Part of that crusade involved becoming an amateur detective devoted to identifying the actual killers.

While it has been common knowledge since 2010 that Norman 3X Butler and fellow Harlem mosque member Thomas 15X Johnson were innocent, it has taken Netflix’s brawny reach to generate the momentum that should clear their name (Johnson died in 2009). Abdur-Rahman Muhammad met with Muhammad Abdul Aziz to get his approval for a legal case that would reverse his conviction and bring charges against the man who used a sawed-off shotgun to kill Malcolm X. Like survivors on both sides of a bitter struggle from fifty-five years ago, Muhammad Abdul Aziz saw no value in opening up old wounds. Pressing him gently, Abdur-Rahman makes the case that it would allow his children and grandchildren to see him as a victim rather than a victimizer. In the Muslim milieu that the two men travel in, living “righteously” should be reason in and of itself to move ahead with a legal case. The scene and the film ends with the two men shaking hands after Muhammad Abdul Aziz signs a statement giving Abdur-Rahman the green light.

Most of the documentary takes place in Newark. We follow Abdur-Rahman as he meets with veterans of the NOI, now in their 70s and 80s. The discussion revolves around the painful division between Malcolm and Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Nation of Islam that would not tolerate Malcolm’s growing revolutionary consciousness and willingness to defend it uncompromisingly.

The cleavage deepened after Malcolm dared to state the obvious after JFK’s assassination: “The chickens were coming home to roost.” Elijah Muhammad had told his followers to avoid speaking about the assassination since the words might backfire. In 2011, I wrote about “Malcolm X and chickens coming home to roost” triggered by a predictably hostile review of Manning Marable’s new biography. Michiko Kakutani recoiled from Manning’s apt comparison of Malcolm’s comments about JFK to Barry Goldwater’s far more sinister “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice, and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” I offered my rebuttal to Kakutani:

With respect to the chickens coming home to roost, Malcolm X’s full statement on this has never appeared in print. He was responding on December 1, 1963 to an audience member who had attended a talk titled God’s Judgment of White America.

The next day the N.Y. Times reported on the exchange in an article titled “Malcolm X Scores U.S. and Kennedy”. Malcolm is quoted as saying that Kennedy twiddled his thumbs at the killing of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem and his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu, adding that JFK “never foresaw that the chickens would come to roost so soon.” Certainly JFK’s CIA did more than just twiddle its thumbs when it came to foreign leaders it found inconvenient. The White House had lined up mafia hit men to kill Fidel Castro, as well as taken part in the assassination of Patrice Lumumba. Malcolm´s rather uncontroversial statement simply pointed out that if you were going to kill people overseas in such a fashion you invited being killed in the same way.

To help refresh my memory of the period, I read the final three chapters of Manning Marable’s biography, titled “Malcolm X: a Life of Reinvention.” While the Netflix documentary pays close attention to the firebomb that would destroy Malcolm’s home in Queens just a week before his assassination, I was shocked to see how far the NOI would go to punish him and his followers. Malcolm had become persona non grata not just for his JFK comments but for speaking out against the corruption in the NOI that allowed Elijah Muhammad and his family to get rich, just like the Christian TV evangelists. He also blasted the septuagenarian for having affairs with teenaged assistants that led to numerous pregnancies. Perhaps the NOI would have spared him if he had not pressed these buttons, but that was not in Malcolm’s nature. Manning writes:

On the street, safety soon proved elusive for Malcolm’s people in the MMI [Muslim Mosques Inc., Malcolm’s alternative to the NOI temples]. In late October, Kenneth Morton, who had quit the mosque at the time of Malcolm’s departure, was ambushed by members of the Fruit [the Fruit of Islam, the NOI’s goon squads] in front of his Bronx home. He was so severely beaten in the head that he subsequently died from his wounds. Captain Joseph [the head of the Harlem Fruit of Islam] denied that Mosque No. 7 and its officers had had any involvement in Morton’s death, but no one in the MMI needed proof to convince them to keep a low profile. Benjamin 2X narrowly escaped a beating or worse at the hands of Malcolm’s former driver Thomas 15X Johnson and a group of Nation thugs who chased him for several blocks. Almost as much a target as Malcolm himself, James 67X avoided sleeping in the same place for more than a night, rotating between four apartments, including one kept by his former roommate Anas Luqman.

As I read Manning’s three chapters, I could not help but think of Leon Trotsky’s assassination. Like Stalin, Elijah Muhammad had built a cult that demanded total loyalty. To criticize the cult leader in the USSR would initially lead to the loss of a bureaucratic post, but as the tyrant’s paranoia deepened, it would lead to execution. Most men and women are content to remain silent in the face of such a powerful adversary. However, if you had a principled commitment to truth and justice, how can you remain silent? Like Trotsky and other martyrs such as Che Guevara and Malcolm X, their legacy will live long after them. We must commend Abdur-Rahman Muhammad for his 30-year devotion to uncovering the real killers of Malcolm X. (I generally don’t mind including spoilers in a film review but in this instance, it would subtract from the intrinsic drama of this detective tale.)

I should add that although Manning’s book had been sitting on my shelf since 2011, this was the first time I had opened it. Just as soon as I finish up reading some other books on my front burner, I will return to Malcolm X: a Life of Reinvention. This is an informed and gripping account by someone with the political acumen needed to properly assess Malcolm’s legacy.

Before his death in 2011, just before the book’s publication, I used to run into Manning from time to time on the Columbia campus, where I worked as a computer programmer. I always looked forward to hearing his take on current events. I regarded him as America’s outstanding African-American Marxist scholar and mourned his untimely passing.

Reading the acknowledgments, I learned how difficult it was for him to complete this essential study of one of America’s greatest revolutionaries of the past century:

A final, unanticipated roadblock in completing this work came in the form of a serious health challenge. For a quarter century I have had sarcoidosis, an illness that gradually destroyed my pulmonary functions. In the last year in researching this book, I could not travel and I carried oxygen tanks in order to breathe. In July 2010, I received a double lung transplant, and following two months’ hospitalization, managed a full recovery. Throughout this ordeal, the writing, editing, and research on the Malcolm X biography continued.

My highest recommendations for “Who Killed Malcolm X?” and Manning Marable’s “Malcolm X: a Life of Reinvention.” Today, in a period when it is so easy to dismiss the idea of a revolution in the U.S.A., both works are a reminder of how close we came to some fundamental change. There is a good likelihood that even if the NOI was guilty of assassinating Malcolm X, the FBI might have been part of the conspiracy. It had dozens of agents in the NOI and Malcolm’s Organization of African-American Unity. So did the N.Y.C’s Bureau of Special Services (BOSS). J. Edgard Hoover created CONTELPRO to divide the left through all sorts of dirty tricks. While there were legitimate issues that created a great deal of mutual hostility between Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X, it would have been very easy for agents to fan the flames to the point when a cabal decided to carry out an assassination.

Toward the very end of his life, Malcolm was working to overcome the rift between black nationalists and Martin Luther King Jr.’s movement. If the two leaders had combined forces, it might have led to a black freedom struggle more powerful than any that had preceded them. As such, both the CIA and the FBI had a vested interest in destroying such a threat.

For those who have not read these two essential texts, I strongly recommend “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” and “Malcolm X Speaks: Selected Speeches and Statements.” George Breitman, a long-time member of the SWP who the cult leader expelled in the early 1980s, edited the second book. George was the first in the party to see the revolutionary potential of Malcolm X’s black nationalism. Unlike other groups on the left, the Trotskyist SWP rejected the sort of class-reductionism that is so popular nowadays, especially in the reborn social democracy that flocks to Bernie Sanders’s campaign.

Originally conceived as the demand for a separate black state, Malcolm’s concept of black nationalism developed into something far more threatening to the established order. He defended black rights militantly, just as was the case with Black Lives Mattered, but hoped to connect the black struggle to the broader movement to transform the world. In an interview he gave to the Young Socialists magazine on January 18, 1965, the Trotskyist youth asked him to define black nationalism. He replied:

I used to define black nationalism as the idea that the black man should control the economy of his community, the politics of his community, and so forth.

But when I was in Africa in May, in Ghana, I was speaking with the Algerian ambassador who is extremely militant and is a revolutionary in the true sense of the word (and has his credentials as such for having carried on a successful revolution against oppression in his country). When I told him that my political, social and economic philosophy was black nationalism, he asked me very frankly, well, where did that leave him? Because he was white. He was an African, but he was Algerian, and to all appearances he was a white man. And he said if I define my objective as the victory of black nationalism, where does that leave him? Where does that leave revolutionaries in Morocco, Egypt, Iraq, Mauritania? So he showed me where I was alienating people who were true revolutionaries, dedicated to overthrowing the system of exploitation that exists on this earth by any means necessary.

Now, in 2020, those issues are still very much with us. Malcolm was struggling with a herculean task, how to connect the black nationalist movement not only to the broader liberation movement in the USA but to those beyond our borders. With the capitalist class threatening the planet through its genocidal wars and its wanton defiance of ecological imperatives, we must unite as internationalists to bring it to its knees and create a more just and egalitarian world.


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The Debate Question That Really Mattered

Democratic National Committee Secretary Alice Travis Germond opens the roll call of the states during the third day of the 2008 convention. Photograph Source: Qqqqqq – CC BY-SA 3.0

The last question asked during the recent Democratic debate was the one that laid reality bare. The question was basically “are you okay with the will of the voters being subverted in order for the DNC establishment to place their own selected candidate as their nominee?” The answers came without hesitation from all but candidate Bernie Sanders. They agreed to this polluted and toxic plan—that of going to a second round of voting at the convention, freeing up delegates to vote for another puppet of the oligarchy, even if that individual did not have the majority of the votes. This will undoubtedly be the beginning of the end of the DNC should this occur. This seems to be the wreckage we are hurtling toward.

We were constantly reminded that Hillary won the popular vote the last time around with the tragedy of the electoral college subverting her presidential aim. This is true along with the background noise of her husband suggesting that Trump run as an easy mark as well as her patrician and entitled avoidance of swing states. But these are underneath the truth of the electoral college defeat. The super-delegate situation is identical in purpose to the electoral college, and that is to serve as a safety valve against the will of the riff raff.

In the consistency challenged world of the DNC elite, it’s only about the success or failure of your chosen enabler of the status quo. The electoral college thwarted the success of the Hillary Clinton presidential bid, but the purely identical situation with the super-delegates is an insurance policy for them to keep the powerful in their place. Hypocrisy doesn’t even seem remotely powerful enough word for this dissonance. This is something of an” I enjoy murder unless I’m getting murdered” energy.

Another example of the sheer lack of consistency is the elevation of Mike Bloomberg. He is Trump’s fun house mirror image. The NDAs in place for– I’m sure, just misunderstood jokes, show this brazen equivalence. He is the one selected by the DNC elite so he is worthy and a desired candidate. They bend rules for him and salivate over his wealth. Trump is too carnival barker for their taste, so he is unworthy and not desired. The similarity stands as well as the lack of representation on both sides for the majority of the population. They both advance the needs of the mega-wealthy and a battle between the two is nothing short of bread and circuses. With the price of bread manipulated from a Mayor Pete type.

Bernie Sanders is such weak tea compared to what we need to maintain a habitable earth and a decent, egalitarian society, but even this is deemed too much by these establishment gatekeepers. The bare minimum we need is considered to be far too much to ask of them. Should you have healthcare for your family without strings, you might not be as compliant at your job. You might start discovering your worth and leave more readily when treated poorly. If you aren’t tied down by crippling loan debt, you might realize that you have an inherent worth beyond shuffling through life, maybe two jobs at once even. You might realize that you have the beauty and worth of all those who have come before you, and this commodification of your soul is sick. These are questions those propped up in power don’t want you to consider. They don’t want you to realize that this nonsensical hierarchy is as real and necessary as sacrificing people’s beating hearts to ensure the sun comes up. You aren’t to look behind the curtain at the wizard or any other mixed metaphors I can come up with. The entire construct demands that unexamined fealty.  Keeping you in a low-level panic state ensures that realization and questions won’t arise to harm this edifice. This is the broader implication of a Sanders presidency. It could let in a minute sliver of light when they want you in the darkness of despair at all times.

The fact that they are telegraphing the rigging planned should not keep you away from the polls. The very audacity of their theft needs to be clear beyond measure. Huge numbers need to show up so there is no more room for plausible deniability. And after that theft, this party needs to disappear. The working class no longer needs to support this deceit. The calls to support blue no matter who can be disregarded, and a new path needs to be built. They will lose with a plugged in candidate so the forced acceptance of their “centrist”  will be a moot point anyway. Many historians consider the New Deal to have been successful in staving off a revolution. This is an important point to consider. The elite seem to be intent on a different path this time –to them even the New Deal-esque solutions Sanders is prescribing are  more than their filthy avarice will allow.  It is more important to limit the aspirations of those with little hope already.  They tell the Americans that they don’t all deserve to have healthcare—that they don’t deserve to be educated without gold coins backing them. It is nothing short of medieval, but most can’t see this being so frenzied by the carefully crafted tightrope. Who thinks about the notion of artificial constructs when one misstep causes homelessness? We are all in a survival mode and even for those of us fortunate enough not to be in quite so dire a situation (we may be 2-3 disasters from homelessness as opposed to 1 disaster)—we need to realize this is the reality for a huge portion of the population.

The DNC needs to know that this will be the end of their power should they subvert the will of the voters again. It’s likely so many screwy candidates are staying in the race to simply spread out the first round of delegates, ensuring that second round of voting. This will allow them to present the choice they likely have already made. Perhaps it will be the Monopoly man or at the least someone with an ascot. I consider it to be almost a certainty they will utilize this nuclear option. We need to prepare for all the contingencies and plunge forward without fear and with a clear realization who the enemy is.

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UN List of Firms Aiding Israel’s Settlements was Dead on Arrival

Photograph Source: צילום על ידי מנחם ברודי – CC BY-SA 2.5


After lengthy delays, the United Nations finally published a database last week of businesses that have been profiting from Israel’s illegal settlement activity in the West Bank.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, announced that 112 major companies had been identified as operating in Israeli settlements in ways that violate human rights.

Aside from major Israeli banks, transport services, cafes, supermarkets, and energy, building and telecoms firms, prominent international businesses include Airbnb,, Motorola, Trip Advisor, JCB, Expedia and General Mills.

Human Rights Watch, a global watchdog, noted in response to the list’s publication that the settlements violate the Fourth Geneva Convention. It argued that the firms’ activities mean they have aided “in the commission of war crimes”.

The companies’ presence in the settlements has helped to blur the distinction between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. That in turn has normalised the erosion of international law and subverted a long-held international consensus on establishing a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Work on compiling the database began four years ago. But both Israel and the United States put strong pressure on the UN in the hope of preventing the list from ever seeing the light of day.

The UN body’s belated assertiveness looks suspiciously like a rebuke to the Trump administration for releasing this month its Middle East “peace” plan. It green-lights Israel’s annexation of the settlements and the most fertile and water-rich areas of the West Bank.

In response to the database, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened to intensify his country’s interference in US politics. He noted that his officials had already “promoted laws in most US states, which determine that strong action is to be taken against whoever tries to boycott Israel.”

He was backed by all Israel’s main Jewish parties. Amir Peretz, leader of the centre-left Labour party, vowed to “work in every forum to repeal this decision”. And Yair Lapid, a leader of Blue and White, the main rival to Netanyahu, called Bachelet the “commissioner for terrorists’ rights”.

Meanwhile, Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, accused the UN of “unrelenting anti-Israel bias” and of aiding the international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

In fact, the UN is not taking any meaningful action against the 112 companies, nor is it encouraging others to do so. The list is intended as a shaming tool – highlighting that these firms have condoned, through their commercial activities, Israel’s land and resource theft from Palestinians.

The UN has even taken an extremely narrow view of what constitutes involvement with the settlements. For example, it excluded organisations like FIFA, the international football association, whose Israeli subsidiary includes six settlement teams.

This week it also emerged that Amazon was aiding the settlements, though it is not named on the list. The online retail giant delivers for free to addresses in West Bank settlements, while imposing large shipping charges on Palestinians living nearby.

One of the identified companies, Airbnb, announced in late 2018 that it would remove from its accommodation bookings website all settlement properties – presumably to avoid being publicly embarrassed.

But a short time later Airbnb backed down. It is hard to imagine the decision was taken on strictly commercial grounds: the firm has only 200 settlement properties on its site.

A more realistic conclusion is that Airbnb feared the backlash from Washington and was intimated by a barrage of accusations from pro-Israel groups that its new policy was anti-semitic.

In fact, the UN’s timing could not be more tragic. The list looks more like the last gasp of those who – through their negligence over nearly three decades – have enabled the two-state solution to wither to nothing.

Trump’s so-called peace plan could afford to be so one-sided only because western powers had already allowed Israel to void any hope of Palestinian statehood through decades of unremitting settlement expansion. Today, nearly 700,000 Israeli Jews are housed on occupied Palestinian territory.

On Monday European Union foreign ministers met to respond to the plan, but predictably they agreed to postpone a decision until after Israel’s election on March 2. Tepid opposition is probably the best that can ultimately be expected.

The actions of several European states continue to speak much louder than any words.

Last Friday, Germany followed the Czech Republic in filing a petition to the International Criminal Court at The Hague siding with Israel as the court deliberates whether to prosecute Israeli officials for war crimes, including over the establishment of settlements.

Germany does not appear to deny that the settlements are war crimes. Instead, it hopes to block the case on dubious technical grounds: that despite Palestine signing up to the Rome Statute, which established the Hague court, it is not yet a fully fledged state.

So far Austria, Hungary, Australia and Brazil appear to be following suit.

But if Palestine lacks the proper attributes of statehood, it is because the US and Europe, including Germany, have consistently broken promises to the Palestinians.

They not only refused to intervene to save the two-state solution, but rewarded Israel with trade deals and diplomatic and financial incentives, even as Israel eroded the institutional and territorial integrity necessary for Palestinian self-rule.

Germany’s stance, like that of the rest of Europe, is hypocritical. They have claimed opposition to Israel’s endless settlement expansion, and now to Trump’s plan, but their actions have paved the way to the annexation of the West Bank the plan condones.

Back in November the European Court of Justice finally ruled that products made in West Bank settlements – using illegally seized Palestinian resources on illegally seized Palestinian land – should not be labelled deceptively as “Made in Israel”.

And yet European countries are still postponing implementation of the decision. Instead, some of them are legislating against their citizens’ right to express support for a settlement boycott.

Similarly, Europe and North America continue to afford the Jewish National Fund, an entity that finances settlement-building, “charitable status”, giving it tax breaks as it raises funds inside their jurisdictions.

The Israeli media is full of stories of how the JNF actively assists extremist settler groups in evicting Palestinians from homes in East Jerusalem. But Britain and other states are blocking legal efforts to challenge the JNF’s special status.

Soon, it seems, Europe will no longer have to worry about its hypocrisy being so visible. Once the settlements have been annexed, as the Trump administration intends, the EU can set aside its ineffectual agonising and treat the settlements as irrevocably Israeli – just as it has done in practice with the Israeli “neighbourhoods” of occupied East Jerusalem.

Then, the UN’s list of shame can join decades’ worth of condemnatory resolutions that have been quietly gathering dust.

A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.

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‘Extremists,’ Not Collaborators, Have Kept Wilderness Whole

Beartooth Wilderness. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Recently there have been commentaries published advocating collaboration to “settle” wilderness designation issues. Collaboration proponents often criticize those who are unwilling to compromise about wildlands protection as “extremists.”

One of the most ardent and extreme wilderness advocates in Montana was a guy named Robert Marshall — better known as “Bob.” In the 1930s, as chief of recreation for the U.S. Forest Service, Bob Marshall had a hand in the initial protection of the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness, Mission Mountain Wilderness, Anaconda Pintler Wilderness and his namesake, the Bob Marshall Wilderness, among other areas now officially protected as wilderness.

Marshall was such a wilderness extremist that in 1935 he organized, along with other well-known wilderness extremists like Aldo Leopold and Olaus Murie, The Wilderness Society (TWS). Upon founding TWS, Marshall quipped: “We want no (fence) straddlers for in the past they have surrendered too much good wilderness and primeval areas which should never have been lost.“

Marshall’s uncompromising advocacy for wild places inspired a generation of Montana wilderness extremists.

For instance, in the 1960s, the Forest Service proposed massive clearcutting of more than 177,000 acres of what is now the Lincoln Scapegoat Wilderness. Local “extremist” wilderness advocates like Cecil Garland opposed the logging. Garland, was offered a “compromise” proposal that would have protected 75,000 acres as wilderness while permitting the clearcutting of the rest of the area. Instead of “working together” with logging proponents and snowmobilers, as is the practice today, Garland and other wilderness supporters went to work to generate public support for a 240,000-acre Lincoln Scapegoat Wilderness which we can enjoy today.

Similarly, in the 1970s, Bob Anderson of Livingston, another wilderness “extremist,” had the audacity to advocate for a 900,000-acre-plus Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness. Opponents of this proposal supported a “compromise” that limited the wilderness to 400,000 acres of high-country rocks and ice while releasing the rest for logging, ORV use and other resource exploitation. Fortunately, the wilderness “extremists” went to work, generating grassroots support for the expanded wilderness. Today we have a 900,000 acre Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness, one of the most beautiful wildlands in the country.

Collaboration is always a one-way street. It is about reducing the areas protected as wilderness. It is a philosophy of “splitting the baby.” As King Solomon recognized, if you truly love a child (or a wild place), you cannot cut the baby in half and get anything that is alive.

I challenge any of the proponents of collaboration and compromise if they would prefer a 75,000-acre Lincoln Scapegoat Wilderness surrounded by clearcuts? Do they rue the day Bob Marshall refused to give up support for protecting the nearly million acres that now encompasses the Bob Marshall Wilderness? Do they think 400,000-acre rocks and ice Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness is better than the 900,000 acres we currently have, which includes much lower elevation timbered valleys?

Our wildlands are already compromised. Only 3.4% of Montana is designated wilderness. Splitting the baby by collaboration means killing wildlands.

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Apocalypse Now! Insects, Pesticide and a Public Health Crisis  

Photograph Source: jetsandzeppelins – CC BY 2.0

In 2017, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver, and UN Special Rapporteur on Toxics, Baskut Tuncak, produced a report that called for a comprehensive new global treaty to regulate and phase out the use of dangerous pesticides in farming and move towards sustainable agricultural practices.

In addition to the devastating impacts on human health, the two authors argued that the excessive use of pesticides contaminates soil and water sources, causing loss of biodiversity, the destruction of the natural enemies of pests and the reduction in the nutritional value of food.  They drew attention to denials by the agroindustry of the hazards of certain pesticides and expressed concern about aggressive, unethical marketing tactics that remain unchallenged and the huge sums spent by the powerful chemical industry to influence policymakers and contest scientific evidence.

At the time, Elver said that agroecological approaches, which replace harmful chemicals, are capable of delivering sufficient yields to feed and nourish the entire world population, without undermining the rights of future generations to adequate food and health. The two authors added that it was time to overturn the myth that pesticides are necessary to feed the world and create a global process to transition toward safer and healthier food and agricultural production.

The authors were adamant that access to healthy, uncontaminated food is a human rights issue.

And this is not lost on environmental campaigner Dr Rosemary Mason who has just sent a detailed open letter/report to Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers Union (NFU) in the UK – ‘Open Letter to the National Farmers Union About Fraud in Europe and the UK’. Mason’s report contains a good deal of information about pesticides, health and the environment.

Health impacts aside, Mason decided to write to Batters because it is increasingly clear that pesticides are responsible for declines in insects and wildlife, something which the NFU has consistently denied.

In 2017, the Soil Association obtained figures from FERA Science Ltd under a freedom of information request. Using data extracted for the first time from the records of FERA Science Ltd, which holds UK Government data on pesticide use in farming, it was found that pesticide active ingredients applied to three British crops have increased markedly. The data covered British staples wheat, potatoes and onions. Far from a 50% cut – which the NFU had claimed – the increase in active ingredients applied to these crops range from 480% to 1,700% over the last 40-odd years.

Health of the nation

Mason’s aim is to make Batters aware that chemical-dependent, industrial agriculture is a major cause of an ongoing public health crisis and is largely responsible for an unfolding, catastrophic ecological collapse in the UK and globally. Mason places agrochemicals at the centre of her argument, especially globally ubiquitous glyphosate-based herbicides, the use of which have spiralled over the last few decades.

Batters is given information about important studies that suggest glyphosate causes epigenetic changes in humans and animals (diseases skip a generation before appearing) and that it is a major cause of severe obesity in children in the UK, not least because of its impact on the gut microbiome. As a result, Mason says, we are facing a global metabolic health crisis that places glyphosate at the heart of the matter.

And yet glyphosate may be on the market because of fraud. Mason points out that a new study has revealed the Laboratory of Pharmacology and Toxicology (LPT) in Hamburg has committed fraud in a series of regulatory tests, several of which had been carried out as part of the glyphosate re-approval process in 2017. At least 14% of new regulatory studies submitted for the re-approval of glyphosate were conducted by LPT Hamburg. The number could be higher, as this information in the dossiers often remains undisclosed to the public.

In light of this, Angeliki Lyssimachou, environmental toxicologist at Pesticide Action Network Europe, says:

“The vast majority of studies leading to the approval of a pesticide are carried out by the pesticide industry itself, either directly or via contract laboratories such as LPT Hamburg… Our 140+ NGO coalition ‘Citizens for Science in Pesticide Regulation’ regularly calls on the (European) Commission to quit this scandalous process: tests must be carried out by independent laboratories under public scrutiny, while the financing of studies should be supported by industry.”

Mason then outlines the state of public health in the UK.  A report, ‘The Health of the Nation: A Strategy for Healthier Longer Lives’,  written by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Longevity found that women in the UK are living for 29 years in poor health and men for 23 years: an increase of 50% for women and 42% for men on previous estimates based on self-reported data.

In 2035, there will be around 16 million cases of dementia, arthritis, type 2 diabetes and cancers in people aged 65 and over in the UK – twice as many as in 2015. In 10 years, there will be 5.5 million people with type 2 diabetes while 70% of people aged 55+ will have at least one obesity-related disease.

The report found that the number of major illnesses suffered by older people will increase by 85% between 2015 and 2035.

Ecological collapse

Batters is also made aware that there is an insect apocalypse due to pesticides – numerous studies have indicated catastrophic declines. Mason mentions two scientific studies of the number of insects splattered by cars that have revealed a huge decline in abundance at European sites in two decades. The research adds to growing evidence of what some scientists have called an “insect apocalypse”, which is threatening a collapse in the natural world that sustains humans and all life on Earth. A third study which Mason mentions shows plummeting numbers of aquatic insects in streams.

The survey of insects hitting car windscreens in rural Denmark used data collected every summer from 1997 to 2017 and found an 80% decline in abundance. It also found a parallel decline in the number of swallows and martins, birds that live on insects.

Matt Shardlow, the chief executive of the charity Buglife, says:

“These new studies reinforce our understanding of the dangerously rapid disappearance of insect life in both the air and water… It is essential we create more joined up space for insects that is safe from pesticides, climate change and other harm.”

Of course, it is not just insects that have been affected. Mason provides disturbing evidence of the decline in British wildlife in general.

Conning the public

Mason argues that the public are being hoodwinked by officials who dance to the tune of the agrochemical conglomerates. For instance, she argues that Cancer Research UK (CRUK) has been hijacked by the agrochemical industry: David Cameron appointed Michael Pragnell, founder of Syngenta to the board of CRUK in 2010 and he became Chairman in 2011.

She asserts that CRUK invented causes of cancer and put the blame on the people for lifestyle choices:

“A red-herring fabricated by industry and ‘top’ doctors in Britain: alcohol was claimed to be linked to seven forms of cancer: this ‘alleged fact’ was endlessly reinforced by the UK media until people in the UK were brainwashed.”

By 2018, CRUK was also claiming that obesity caused 13 different cancers and that obesity was due to ‘lifestyle choice’.

Each year there are steady increases in the numbers of new cancers in the UK and increases in deaths from the same cancers. Mason says that treatments are having no impact on the numbers.

She argues that the Francis Crick Institute in London with its ‘world class resources’ is failing to improve people’s lives with its treatments and is merely strengthening the pesticides and pharmaceutical industries. The institute is analysing people’s genetic profile with what Mason says is an “empty promise” that one day they could tailor therapy to the individual patient. Mason adds that CRUK is a major funder of the Crick Institute.

The public is being conned, according to Mason, by contributing to ‘cancer research’ with the fraudulent promise of ‘cures’ based on highly profitable drugs manufactured by pharmaceutical companies whose links to the agrochemical sector are clear. CRUK’s research is funded entirely by the public, whose donations support over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses across the UK. Several hundred of these scientists worked at CRUK’s London Research Institute at Lincoln’s Inn Fields and Clare Hall (LRI), which became part of the Crick institute in 2015.

Mason notes that recent research involving the Crick Institute that has claimed ‘breakthroughs’ in discoveries about the genome and cancer genetics are misleading. The work was carried out as part of the Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes project, which claims to be the most comprehensive study of cancer genetics to date. The emphasis is on mapping genetic changes and early diagnosis

However, Mason says such research misses the point – most cancers are not inherited. She says:

“The genetic damage is caused by mutations secondary to a lifetimes’ exposure to thousands of synthetic chemicals that contaminate the blood and urine of nearly every person tested – a global mass poisoning.”

And she supports her claim by citing research by Lisa Gross and Linda Birnbaum which argues that in the US 60,000-plus chemicals already in use were grandfathered into the law on the assumption that they were safe. Moreover, the EPA faced numerous hurdles, including pushback from the chemical industry, that undermined its ability to implement the law. Today, hundreds of industrial chemicals contaminate the blood and urine of nearly every person tested – in the US and beyond.

Mason refers to another study by Maricel V Maffini, Thomas G Neltner and Sarah Vogel which notes that thousands of chemicals have entered the food system, but their long-term, chronic effects have been woefully understudied and their health risks inadequately assessed. As if to underline this, recent media reports have focused on Jeremy Bentham, a well-respected CEO of an asset management company, who argued that infertility caused by endocrine disrupting chemicals will wipe out humans.

Mason argues that glyphosate-based Roundup has caused a 50% decrease in sperm count in males: Roundup disrupts male reproductive functions by triggering calcium-mediated cell death in rat testis and Sertoli cells. She also notes that Roundup causes infertility – based on studies that were carried out in South America and which were ignored by regulators in Europe when relicensing glyphosate.

Neoliberal global landscape

Mason draws on a good deal of important (recent) research and media reports to produce a convincing narrative. But what she outlines is not specific to Britain. For instance, the human and environmental costs of pesticides in Argentina have been well documented and in India Punjab has become a ‘cancer capital’ due to pesticide contamination.

UN Special Rapporteurs Elver and Tuncak argue that while scientific research confirms the adverse effects of pesticides, proving a definitive link between exposure and human diseases or conditions or harm to the ecosystem presents a considerable challenge, especially given the systematic denial by the pesticide and agro-industry of the magnitude of the damage inflicted by these chemicals.

In the meantime, we are told that many diseases and illnesses are the result of personal choice or lifestyle behaviour. It has become highly convenient for public officials and industry mouthpieces to place the blame on ordinary people, while fraudulent science, regulatory delinquency and institutional corruption allows toxic food to enter the marketplace and the agrochemical industry to rake in massive profits.

Health outcomes are merely regarded as the result of individual choices, rather than the outcome of fraudulent activities which have become embedded in political structures and macro-economic ‘free’ market policies. In the brave new world of neoliberalism and ‘consumer choice’, it suits industry and its crony politicians and representatives to convince ordinary people to internalise notions of personal responsibility and self-blame.

Readers are urged to read Rosemary Mason’s new report which can be downloaded from the website.

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A Paradoxical Colonel: He Doesn’t Know What He is Talking About, Because He Knows What He is Talking About.

‘Woke … a political term of African-American origin refers to a perceived awareness of issues concerning social justice and racial justice’ (Wikipedia 2010).

‘Woke’ can be about matters other than social justice. This brief essay is a appraisal of David Kilcullen’s The Accidental Guerrilla, Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One [TAG].[1] The U.S. has been in continual warfare since 9/11 in the Middle East and beyond largely fighting anti-American insurgencies. American security elites are woke to the need to win these conflicts. Unsurprisingly, glitterati status is attached both to those good at fighting the wars, and to those good at telling the fighters how to fight. General David Petraeus exemplifies the first category; Lt. Colonel David Kilcullen the second. Contributing to the Colonel’s celebrity status is the fact that he is a prolific author. TAG is perhaps Kilcullen’s finest book. It offers understanding of the wars the Americans are fighting and more importantly, from the perspective of security elites, it tells them how to win them.

However, the book reveals a curious paradox about the Colonel. He is a person who does not know what he is talking about, because he knows what he is talking about; and because of this paradox, TAG turns out to be more than military shop-talk about killing bad guys. Rather, the Colonel’s paradox raises questions about the very nature of being in the current conjuncture. Explication of how this is so is the topic of this article. What follows is a biographic introduction to Kilcullen; some kvetching about his book’s organization and substance; analysis of what the Colonel knows well; revelation about what he has no clue; and finally explanation of why the colonel and his book turn out to be of importance.


David Kilcullen is an Australian, who earlier in his career participated in certain of Australia’s ‘peace keeping’ operations, rising to the rank of Lt. Colonel; while becoming a ‘small wars’ guru at a time when geopolitical heavy weights, especially Mary Kaldor (1998), announced that international wars were deja passé, and that new wars were ‘small wars’, hybrid affairs predominantly involving guerilla insurgencies. In 2003 the George W. Bush regime had just renewed the Iraq War that his daddy, George H. W. Bush, had started. It was a big, small war. Things weren’t going well. Washington woke to the realization it needed a small war guru big time. Kilcullen filled the bill. Paul Wolfowitz, then the Deputy Defense Secretary, hired him in 2004. The rest was history: In 2005-2006 the Colonel was Chief Strategist, Office of Coordination for Counter-Terrorism; in 2007-2008 he was Senior Counterinsurgency Advisor to General Petraeus in Iraq as well as Advisor for Counterinsurgency to Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice; and in 2010 he founded and became Chair of Caerus Associates, which sold war-making expertise to the U.S. government, and whoever else would buy. Washington practices a form of rentier capitalism because corporations and individuals rent their services to governmental agencies, particularly in the executive branch, and most especially the Defense Department, to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars each year. Because the Colonel has sold his expertise to different executive branches he is part and parcel of this rentier capitalism.

One further bit of information is pertinent to understanding where the Colonel gets his glitter. The man’s a combat vet; but he also claims to be an ethnologist, and ethnologists are useful idiots at dinner-parties. They titillate guests with exotic knowledge; about native ontologies and, in Kilcullun’s case, about how to beat the natives at their guerilla games. He ends TAG with hints about how to do ‘conflict ethnography’. So the Colonel is a warrior-ethnographer. How cool is that? I can see the Marvel Comic movie now.


Consider TAG’s organization. It has a Preface, a Prologue, five substantive chapters, and a conclusion. The Preface is largely an autobiography of le Colonel’s entire career, saying ‘I worked here, I worked there, see how high I got’. The Prologue adds yet more autobiography focusing on the warrior-ethnographer conducting fieldwork in Indonesia; trying to show readers how deft he is at prying information out of young, [possibly] insurgent informants.

The five substantive chapters get down to work. Chapter 1 provides a ‘conceptual framework’ for the ‘current pattern of conflict’ (xviii) in the contemporary world. This ‘framework’ (35-39) is based upon a medical metaphor that explicates contemporary wars as the result of the natives becoming infected with an ‘accidental guerilla syndrome’ (AGS). The syndrome progresses through four stages. The first is ‘infection’, and is the establishment of a safe haven amongst a native population by a transnational terrorist group (like Al Qa’ida or Da’esh). This leads to ‘contagion’ which involves the diffusion of the transnational terrorist’s ideology and violence throughout the native population. Contagion results in ‘intervention’ by ‘outside’ forces (the U.S. military) to combat the transnational terrorists and, in so doing, disrupt the region. Intervention produces ‘rejection’ whereby the natives ally with the terrorist group to reject the interventionists, sparking a full-scale insurgency. The AGS is a description of what happens. It is not an explanation. Nor it is clear that it describes what happens in all insurgency cases. Further, there is nothing ‘accidental’ about the guerrillas U.S. forces face, more of this later.

Chapter 2 starts with a bang-bang combat vignette during the Afghanistan War, presumably to whip up readers’ interest. Chapter 3 begins with another bang-bang incident, this time starring the warrior-ethnographer himself in Iraq, ‘When the bomb exploded, I was in the helicopters forward left passenger seat, behind the door gunner’ (115). Chapter 4 continues this theme and again stars the warrior anthropologist, ‘In the dim red glow of the crowded C130 transport aircraft, my soldiers’ faces were guarded and withdrawn’ (186). Most of the text in these three chapters offers evidence supportive of the Colonel’s AGS view. Chapter 2 discusses the war in Afghanistan. Chapter 3 argues about Bush II’s Iraq War, especially the Surge (2007); which the Colonel helped plan, and which he feels was a great success. Others (Reyna 2016) dispute Kilcullen’s interpretation of the Surge. Chapter 4 considers other small wars in East Timor, Thailand, Pakistan, and warns security elites that the ‘subversion and radicalization’ that produces ‘accidental guerillas’ and war in these far-away places could happen back home (262). Based upon the findings of the previous four chapter, the Colonel offers in Chapter 5 his recommendations of ‘best practices’ for winning the wars infected with AGS. Ten ‘best practices’ are recommended (265-269). Counterterrorism tactics are discouraged, along with a call for ‘National Discussion’ and a conference. In Chapter 6, the Colonel calls for ‘New Paradigms’, offers ‘Five Practical Steps’, and concludes by recommending it is important to find ‘new breakthough ideas’ (301) –all pretty redundant. There was no need for the chapter.

It is important to know whose side the Colonel is on. TAG presents guerillas as terrorists who perform ‘gruesome atrocities’ (xxi). The U.S. is part of ‘the civilized world’s confrontation’ (12) to them. This is crude: America, civilized! Opponents, savages! Unsurprisingly, the Colonel butters up U.S. security elites –General Petraeus has ‘extraordinary leadership’ (185). General H.R. Mc Master is ‘brilliant and iconoclastic’ (130). General Karl Eikenberry is an ‘insightful commander (6). Special shout-outs are given in the Acknowledgements to Condoleezza Rice and Jim Mattis. Shout outs are prudent because such elites purchase the Colonel’s services.

What are the services? They are to perform missions, usually with other U.S. military personnel to study different military situations. Mission reports are actually the warrior-ethnographers’ fieldwork. Such fieldwork is not participant-observation. It is full-fledged participation in American military operations; with not so many of the guerrillas around, because they are hiding, and those few that are captured are unlikely to volunteer much, even under torture. So the Colonel’s ethnographic corpus consists largely of observation of American armed service personnel at work. If you rent your services to the government, you write reports telling them what they want to hear.[2] The Colonel wrote a lot of reports and, frankly TAG is boring, consisting considerably of repurposed, rewritten old reports full of military jargon and acronyms. Consider next what these old reports reveal about what he knew a lot.


Actually, the U.S. government has been fighting insurgencies since its very beginning. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries it fought Native American rebellions; in the late 19th and early 20th centuries it warred against the Moros in the Philippines. A large number of insurrections arose against European colonial powers following World War II, with America often siding with the colonialists, everywhere from Indo-China to South Africa. Starting the 1960s, Washington found itself embroiled in big-time insurgencies in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. Then U.S. security elites woke yet anew to the task of winning insurgencies.

Specifically, they woke in debate during the Vietnam conflict squabbling over which of two doctrines was better for defeating insurgencies; one called counter-terrorism (CT), the other counter-insurgency (COIN). [3] The debate came to something of a head in 2009 as the Obama administration was preparing to manage the conflicts it had inherited from Bush II. In general, Vice-President Biden was for counter-terrorism; while Defense Secretary Robert Gates, U.S. Central Command Commander General Petraeus, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were for counterinsurgency. Of course, the Colonel had lived insurgencies, and thought a lot about insurgencies in everything he wrote. Counter-terrorism, he believed was more ‘kinetic’ –military jargon for violent. It ‘…focuses on the enemy; the individual terrorist and the network of terrorist operatives. It seeks to destroy this network, proceeding from the assumption that removing the network removes the problem’ (xv). Kilcullen was against counter-terrorism. He favored count-insurgency, noting it ‘…focuses on the population, seeking to protect it from harm…. Its basic assumption is that insurgency is a mass social phenomenon, that the enemy rides and manipulates a social wave consisting of genuine popular grievances, and that dealing with this broader social and political dynamic, while gaining time for targeted reforms to work by applying a series of tailored, full-spectrum security measures, is the most promising path to ultimately resolve the problem’ (xv). TAG was written to make this case by providing examples of how insurgencies were effectively combatted by implementing counter-insurgency doctrines. So the warrior-ethnographer knows insurgencies and knows that counter-insurgency strategy could be useful in opposing them. [4]

Interestingly this insurgency doctrine resembles that of Mao Tse-tung. Mao, while leading the communist struggle to liberate China from the invading Japanese, wrote ‘On Guerrilla War’ (1937); which insisted that, ‘A central feature of guerrilla operations is their dependence upon the people themselves’. This meant that ‘a unity of spirit …should exist between troops and local inhabitants; one where the local inhabits were like ‘the water’ and the guerrillas ‘the fish who inhabit it’. For Kilcullen, counter-insurgency relies upon ‘solid population security’ (60), involving ‘community engagement’, especially ‘with local community elders’ (69). It is ‘securing the people, separating them from the enemy’ (93). This part of the Colonel’s counter-insurgency doctrine is Maoism. He wants U.S. soldiers to be fish swimming in the water in the water of the native population. There are indications in TAG that Kilcullen had read his Mao (52, 86), suggesting he knew his counter-insurgency views were a reactionary Maoism; something he did not tell the security elites paying for his services. Let’s move on to what the Colonel didn’t know what he was talking about.

There is a sly notion in economics called opportunity cost, which is realization that if you use economic resources to achieve a particular out-come, then those resources are unavailable to attain other out-comes. A cognitive variant of this concept is recognition that use of intellectual resources to think about something, restricts thinking about something else. Otherwise put: thinking about best practices to perform bladder operations, inhibits thinking about best practices to find algebraic invariants that classify topological spaces up to homeomorphism. The Colonel has observed insurgency. He has been fixated upon thinking how to win them, because that was what the security elites to whom he was selling his services wanted him to do. The opportunity cost here is that because he is engrossed in talking insurgency, he doesn’t know what he is talking about.


‘I cut their throats like lambs. I cut out their precious lives (as one cuts) a string. Like the many waters of a storm, I made (the contents of) their gullets and entrails run down upon the whole earth. … (Their) testicles I cut off, and tore out their privates like the seeds of cucumbers’ (Assyrian Emperor Sennacherib [704-681 BC] reflecting on his imperial exploits. In Belibtreu 1991: 11).

The severed hand on the metal door, the swamp of blood and mud across the road, the human brains inside a garage, the incinerated, skeletal remains of an Iraqi mother and her three small children in their still-smoldering car. … Two missiles from an American jet killed them all—by my estimate, more than 20 Iraqi civilians, torn to pieces … (Civilian deaths following the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 [Fisk 2003]).

Grim tidings in everyday life in war zones -we will get to them momentarily; but first let’s explore what the Colonel isn’t woke about even though he directly sees it. At one point in TAG Kilcullen explains the guerrillas fight ‘us’ because ‘we are in his space’ (xiv). ‘Us’ is U.S. armed forces. Who are they? En passant, based upon observations recorded in his field notes, he answers this question, ‘We are aliens –imperial stormtroopers, with our Darth Vader sunglasses and grotesque and cowardly body armor’ (136). Killcullen, warrior-ethnographer has observed it, but hasn’t woke to his observations. The guerrillas are no accident. They are fighting ‘imperial stormtroopers’, who have invaded their ‘space’.

Let’s be clear, the U.S. is an empire. This is acknowledged on the left (Reyna 2016 and David Harvey 2003); center (Arthur Schlesinger 1986 and John Gaddis 1997); and right Niall Ferguson (2004). The current American empire was inaugurated in 1950 when the U.S. National Security Council issued a policy document, NSC 68, which sought to establish American post-war, foreign policy ‘objectives’ (NSC 1950: 3). NSC 68 was written in the context of competition with the USSR, whose ‘fundamental design’ was believed to be ‘world domination’ (Ibid.: 17). Given this rivalry, NSC 68 set America’s ‘fundamental purpose’ to be acquiring ‘world leadership’ (Ibid.: 9), which involved bringing ‘about order and justice’ (ibid.: 9) by ‘developing moral and material strength’ (Ibid.: 10), for which a ‘strong military posture’ was ‘essential’(Ibid.: 21). ‘World leadership’ is another term for imperial domination, and an imperial structure was created to acquire such domination; first in competition the empire of the Soviet Union, and since the end of the Cold War with the empires of Russia and China. There are debates over how to conceptualize the particularities of current empires. I have called the U.S. empire (2016) an autopoetic, complex system -informal, three tiered, on occasion paying strategic rent to its clients, relying heavily on military force to create or maintain domination.

Kilcullen can’t see the forest for the trees. He sees the everyday life of insurgencies, but never once does he indicate in TAG he knows that the insurgencies are one of the things that empires do. The opportunity cost for the Colonel of knowing all about fighting insurgencies, is not knowing that these insurgencies are part-and-parcel of empires. This brings us back to Sennacherib. Empires –everywhere, from ancient to contemporary times- spawn violence.

Why? Imperial centers (Nineveh in Sennacherib’s times, and in Washington now) impose domination on different areas, creating enemies who object to domination and resist, very often violently, normally with insurgencies, that can mutate into complex wars. Consequently, empires are woke to warring –ripping out throats, genitalia, entrails. Is this the case for the American Empire? Data about U.S. warring elicits debate. Nevertheless, there is a consistency to it. Istvan Kende (1971), who analyzed existing data from 1945 through the late 1960s, reported the US warred more frequently than any other country in the world. Forty years latter Richard Lebow corroborated Kende, finding that the US was the ‘world’s most aggressive state’ measured in terms of war initiation (2011). Kevin Drum reports the US launched a significant overseas assault every 40 months over the last fifty years (2013). Drum’s is a conservative estimate, because it excludes covert operations. John Tures (2003) used a ‘United States Military Operations’ (USMO) data set to estimate post-1945 frequency of U.S. military activities, and found that the U.S. has engaged in 263 interstate military operations between 1945 and 2002, on the order of 4.6 operations per year. However, 176 of these operations occurred in the 11 years between 1991 and 2002, i.e., about 16 operations per year. Just as Sennacherib’s imperial storm troopers rip people to pieces, so some twenty-seven centuries later do the American storm troopers, decked out in their dark glasses and body armor blast them to smithereens. What are the more general implications of the Colonel’s ignorance?


Forget the Colonel, what he knows hides the reality of what he doesn’t know. This reality is something old and something new. The old is that the world remains a place of competing empires. These empires, should they increase their warring, and that’s what empires do, have the ability to eliminate human, and a lot of other, being. The new is that these empires are competing in a time of climate change. Climate change, should the warming continue, and that is what is happening, has the ability to eliminate human, and a lot of other, being. Get woke. Increasing warring and warming will terminate the experiment that is life on earth. ‘To be or not to be’, is literally the question posed by this reality.

Stephen Reyna is co-editor of ANTHROPOLOGICAL THEORY and anAssociate at the Max Planck Institute of Social Anthropology. He is the author of Deadly Contradictions: The New American Empire and Global Warring (Oxford).


Belibtreu, Erika. 1991. “Grisly Assyrian Record of Torture and Death.” Biblical Archaeology Society.  CP6.0AssyrianTorture.pdf. Retrieved 28 April 2014.

Drum, Kevin. 2013 “How the Rest of the World Views the American Military.” Mother Jones. Retrieved 4 May 2014.

Ferguson, Niall. 2004. Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire. New York: Penguin Books.

Fisk, Robert. 2003. “It Was An Outrage, an Obscenity.” Information Clearing House.

Gaddis, John. 1997. We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Galula, David. 1964. Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice. Wesport, CT: Praeger International Security.

Harvey, David. 2003. The New Imperialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kaldor, Mary. 1998. New and Old Wars: Organised Violence in a Global Era. Cambridge: Polity.

Kende, Istvan. 1971. “Twenty-Five Years of Local Wars.” Journal of Peace Research 8: 5–22.

Lebow, Richard. 2011. “Aggressive Democracies.” St Antony’s International Review 6 (2): 120–133.

Mao Tse Tung. 1937. “On Guerrilla War.” Marxist Internet Archive. . Retrieved 4 May 2014.

NSC 68. 1950. “United States Objectives and Programs for National Security.” President’s Secretary’s File, Truman Papers.

Reyna, Stephen. 2016. Deadly Contradictions: The New American Empire and Global Warring. Oxford: Berghahn.

Schlesinger, Arthur; 1986. The Cycles of American History. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Tures, John. 2003. “United States Military Operations in the New World Order: An Examination of the Evidence.American Diplomacy.  4 May 2014.


1. Allow transparency about the author. He, as have many other anthropologists, has spent time in war zones, unarmed as opposed to Kilcullen who went around armed with a bunch of armed and armored colleagues. He wrote Deadly Contradictions (2016) which offers a radically different understanding of post-1945 U.S. warfare.

2. How do I know about writing reports to government agencies? I consulted largely with the USAID in the 1970s and 1980s and wrote report after report. The military is even more report-o-philiac. You are permitted alternative views to current policies in your reports but, in the end, your narrative must travel in a hermeneutic circle that tells them what they want to hear.

3. CT strategies are as old as armed opposition to the state, and have varied according to the means of terminating opposition. The Romans had a soft spot for crucifixion. Obama and Trump favor drones. The father of COIN doctrine was a French officer David Galula (1964), whose views were influence by his fighting in the Algerian struggle for independence.

4. The U.S. has implemented both counter-terrorist and counter-insurgency doctrines in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq. They have lost all three conflicts, suggesting that neither doctrine is especially effective. Kilcullen is appears aware of this stating of both CT and COIN, ‘neither approach quite works’ (xv).


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A New Solar Power Deal From California

Photograph Source: minoru karamatsu – CC BY 2.0

I met Devon Hartman a few years ago in Claremont, California, where I have been living since 2008. He is tall and lean, wearing glasses and a pointed small beard. He grew up in Kansas. And for thirty-five years, he presided over a successful architectural firm, building and renovating expensive houses with little awareness of the carbon footprint of those houses.

The reasons I came to know this energetic member of my community had nothing to do with architecture or construction. Rather, I kept seeing him at City Council meetings and activities of Sustainable Claremont, a small local environmental organization. He used to encourage homeowners to insulate their homes. His company had a flourishing market in exactly that useful house improvement. However, I used to tell him, better yet, put solar panels on the roof of your house. I did that the moment I bought my house in Claremont in 2009. He would smile, saying I was on the right track.

China and ecological civilization

Hartman was also a friend of a friend of mine: John Cobb, a Claremont theologian with intense interest in China and ecological civilization. That – the ecological idea — caught my attention immediately. I met Cobb and realized he shared my concerns about industrialized farming and climate change. Both of us also have a healthy distrust for things large: corporations,   agribusiness companies, militaries, polluters. He and I hit it off, agreeing that China could probably move to the promised land of ecological civilization through its ancient traditions and peasantry.

Meanwhile, I kept asking myself, is ecological civilization feasible? Was it ever practiced anywhere? Why are the Chinese so interested in ecological civilization? And why is there no discussion of ecological civilization in Europe and the United States?

The Chinese love Cobb. In fact, they treat him like a head of a state. His idea of process philosophy (that everything in this world is connected to everything else) is winning academic followers at Chinese universities. In addition, Cobb is openly critical of American power. He brought Hartman and I together, greasing the wheels of Chinese institutions that invited us to China.

I went to China in 20142017, and 2019. In each case, I spent some of my time in rural China, talking to peasants and listening to them describe their agrarian practices and hopes. That unforgettable experience was partly magical and partly real. Looking at the peasants was like looking at my Greek father who worked his strips of land for so long and with so much passion. I returned to America from China feeling as if I was coming back from a secret rural society on the other side of the world. Nobody paid any attention to the work being done there.

Hartman and I found ourselves in conferences in Claremont discussing the nuts and bolts of ecological civilization — and China. He nodded his head in my often critiques of industrialized agriculture infesting America and moving rapidly in China. He probably remembered his family farm in Kansas and, more than that, the takeover of rural America by ecocidal and anthropocidal agribusiness.

In all likelihood, he was struggling with the contradictions of the United States: claiming global supremacy in nearly everything but ignoring that nearly half of the adult population of the country lives in dire poverty: some 53 million workers ages 18 to 64 earning on the average about $ 18,000 per year. In addition, official America (federal government, politicians, large media, colleges and universities, scientists and medical doctors, and state governments) ignore the plunder of 450 million acres of public land in the American West by oilmen, loggers, cowboys, and miners. This preposterous reality is mind-boggling. How can citizens of the United States allow this medieval practice of turning their own land to feudal estates? Moreover, official and unofficial America have written off the tragedy of rural America, and the systematic destruction and poisoning of the natural world here at home.

Hartman and the Chinese professors listening to me probably puzzle over the facts I have been citing for a long time: the enormous contributions of greenhouse gases from agribusiness going hand in hand with the large concentration of power in rural America: a few large farmers and giant agribusiness companies producing most of the food; and neurotoxic chemical pesticides being sprayed often over the food we eat. No doubt, the Chinese probably sympathize as their country is rapidly becoming like America.

Embracing solar power

Then something happened in 2010. Hartman sold his lucrative architectural business and started a new company with the telling name: Community Home Energy Retrofit Project (CHERP).

Hartman said to me:

“As I became more aware of the climate crisis and began to research it, I realized that buildings were the number one contributor to greenhouse gas emissions on the planet. Further, I realized that most homes are built like cardboard boxes and, therefore, they are energy inefficient. Style trumps substance. I wanted to devote my time to addressing this problem by educating the public about energy efficiency and completing energy retrofits on homes. So selling the business came down to a shift in where I wanted to devote my time. My partner in the business, Bill Baldwin, still runs it.”

In 2019, Hartman hosted an open-air solar power public meeting at Pomona College in which he broke the news of his change of heart in moving full speed towards harvesting the boundless energy of the Sun. He’d it with all the dismal news on climate change. He would fight it alone, if necessary. But he was not alone. He convinced the State of California to give CHERP Locally Grown Power a $2.1 million budget allocation to back up his fantastic proposal to reenergize and electrify California from the free energy of the Sun.

He spoke about his director of manufacturing: Jason Flejter. This is a man with extensive manufacturing experience. “His job,” Hartman said,  “will be to set up all systems and procedures in our prototype factory in Pomona, right next door to Claremont, and then help us replicate these procedures in factories all over California.” On January 1, 2020, Hartman hired Flejter.

But the technical genius behind Hartman’s solar power is Kent Kernahan, a prolific inventor with seventy-four solar panel patents under his belt. Kernahan made a very intentional decision to license his solar panel technology  only to nonprofits within the United States after watching all of his previous patents be monetized overseas. He felt partially responsible for the last recession and vowed never to let another one of his inventions outside the United States. He is confident his solar panels are the most advanced in the world.

Non-profit micro-factories for a solar age

Hartman is advocating no less than the reindustrialization of communities in California by manufacturing advanced solar panels in micro-factories at the center of towns.

This is fighting a climate war for Hartman. He started thinking of WWII and how America armed itself for that epic struggle.

In a small conference at Claremont, February 7, 2020, he let us read his mind. He said:

“We have 10 years to limit climate change catastrophe. Now we are in a similar race. We are capable to solve the problem of climate change if we start acting today: in 1939, we built 3,000 planes each year. But in 1944, we built 3,000 planes each 11 days! What a focused community can do: all the wood behind one arrowhead.”

Hartman left no doubt that renewable energy was the war planes of today. Solar power would do more than giving us non-polluting electricity. It would help us redress the balance of power between our democracy and the oligarchy of fossil fuels magnates and their political supporters in Congress and the White House. “There are powers,” he said, “that are dead set on us not solving the [inequality and climate change] problems. Solar power allows me to withdraw my support from systems that support proliferation of greenhouse gases. A very, very big deal.”

I asked Hartman to reflect on his dream of giving solar panels to all. He said to me:

“The dream of solar panels for all is a big dream. But we know we will never achieve our sustainability goals if we leave out 60 percent or more of the population. There is no separation between our environmental crisis and our social / humanitarian / justice crisis. The solar panel industry as it stands currently — like many other industries — is an unjust system because only a small percentage of people can actually afford them. We are trying to turn this on its head. Our vision for the factory in Pomona (and every subsequent one) is that it will not only be a place where panels are made — and people are paid a living wage to do it) — but also a workforce development factory that trains people in both technical and soft skills (such as finance, interview, interpersonal etc.).

“Our focus is on those who’ve been hurt most by the America’s economic system, including the homeless. In California, 250,000 homeless people are living under bridges. In addition, we will help  veterans, at-risk youth, jobless, and those coming out of prison. This means we will have social workers and counselors to help these people get back on their feet and into jobs. We have a team of people ready to help us design and implement such a program.

“In regards to solar itself, we’re not focused solely on putting panels on top of houses because one, many low-income people rent, and two, for those who do own homes, sometimes their roofs are not structurally sound enough to hold panels and would require retrofitting before panels could even be placed. We’re developing ways to send energy saved through solar on one house or building directly to low-income meters as well as ways to develop community solar projects.

“The dream of solar panels for all is also a dream of environmental justice, a dream of bringing vibrancy back to our local communities, a dream of reestablishing connections and relationships in a time where this seems to be lacking.”

I was amazed Hartman never spoke about the green new deal, the dream of Senator Bernie Sanders of reviving the government policies of the Great Depression to restore a balance between the oligarchs of the early twentieth century and the impoverishment of the vast majority of Americans. Nevertheless, the result is the same: train poor people to the techniques of advanced technology and pay them a decent wage to fight both poverty and climate change. He is right that “the misdirection of economics and culture” in the last fifty years triggered climate change. So, like a warrior, he starts from the center of the storm, the towns devastated by the oligarchic grab of power. He explains:

“The factory we are planning for Pomona is the first non-profit solar panel assembly factory in the world. Venture capitalists think ‘non-profit’ is not possible. We gave up the belief that we in the US can create a solar panel. All have to be manufactured in billion dollar plants. US has no solar panel industry, but a solar installation industry. We simply install what the Chinese, Philippinos, and others are creating.”

Hartman cited the following footprint statistics of the prototype micro-factory scheduled to open in Pomona in August 2020: supply solar panels for 6,000 lowest income homes. This would mean that 26,700 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year would no longer reach the atmosphere: the carbon equivalent of 2,600 trips around the Earth every year. Second, the micro-factory would create 763 direct and indirect jobs paying living wages.

Hartman insists that each town hosting a solar panel mini-factory would do its own hiring of local people. “A city,” he says, “must think like a system and act like an entrepreneur. We can no longer solve problems in little silos on parallel paths. We need to think together.”


There’s little doubt climate change is defining the twenty-first century. We spent the twentieth century in doubt largely manufactured by oilmen and their scientists and politicians. Now credible studies are driving the message home: that this anthropogenic crisis is indeed an existential environmental and political threat. Do nothing, keep filling your brain with the propaganda of the fossil fuels industry and their White House spokesman, Trump, and the effect is likely to be catastrophic.

It’s for this reason that Hartman’s non-profit new solar power deal is and could become so vital in waking Americans up and preparing them to defend themselves, both against poverty and the calamity of a petroleum and coal civilization.

Hartman is convinced his mini-factory of solar power will become viral. I hope it does.

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One Winning Way to Build the Peace Movement and One Losing Way

Q. What cloaks the empire and turns a mighty movement into a mirage?

A. Narrow partisan politics.

When anti-war activism plays second-fiddle to “follow the leader” the chosen champion and the opposing villian loom so large that they become the main focus of attention obscuring the empire and dumbing the movement down.

But, build independent peace organizations — of any kind for any project — and we will put the movement on a firm foundation. If history is a guide, the most effective and committed voices for peace will come from an independent position largely outside of electoral activity. Applying stronger “outside” pressure on “inside” politicians and parties is the best recipe.

As Ajamu Baraka details in Black Agenda Report, anti-war activism driven by partisan loyalty is weak and limited. Partisan activism substitutes loyalty to a party for loyalty to our class interests and our political or environmental values — all of which demand peace and dismantling of empire. This is as true for the anti-interventionist conservatives that followed Trump to war as it is for the Democrats that only oppose Republican-led aggression.

Here is the essential history. The 2003 global demonstrations before the Gulf War were the largest peace demonstrations ever. But the size of the movement masked weakness: millions of those protesters lacked a truly political or anti-imperial opposition to war. The moderate tone of the protests failed to deliver either sustained disruption or systemic analysis. Going from weakness to weakness, the inability of even gigantic demonstrations to stop war further discouraged many. And, far too many protested only the outrages of Bush — a Republican President.

Obama, on the other hand, extended Bush’s wars and relied on drones, mercenaries and  “moderate rebels” to lower US casualties and hide the war from the public. Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize and made everything seem cool again –including war. As the partisan protesters dropped out — comfortable with a Democrat in the White House — the real anti-war movement struggled just to survive.

Once again hopes ride high that politicians will save us but an anti-war movement with eyes on the prize must avoid a narrow partisan approach.

To state the obvious: the empire in its current form is not a mere policy choice of particular politicians or parties. Rather, it is a system of alliances and military bases that enforce a global order. The current US empire is an interlocking structure that merges the corporation and the state  —  the Military-Industrial-Complex being the prototype of that merger. Since WWII both Democrats and Republicans have supported the empire with few exceptions.

Even still, it’s kind of amazing that the leading Democrats — in the middle of impeachment proceedings — supported the 2020 NDAA giving Trump a green light for war. Huge war budgets, a new Space Force, the elimination of all restrictions on the power of presidential wars and the use of force against Iran and Venezuela handed Trump the keys.

The hawks in control of the Democratic Party must be taken to task. Look here to see who voted for the NDAA in the Senate, who voted against it and who did not vote at all.

A shallow partisan stance will not lead us to anti-imperialism but we can counter with messages that emphasize the cultural and systematic nature of war and empire. The deep culture of war is hate and fear of the “other” contrasted to our own exceptional innocent white morality. Whether you go around stirring up the hate and fear of immigrants, or women, or Blacks — or Iranians, Muslims, Russians, or Chinese — you are stirring the imperial pot.

If we are only against hate and fear when the Republicans do it we are not against war.

May the Sanders and Gabbard campaigns turn us toward love and compassion. But, this empire has deep roots far beyond the reach of electoral activity. Show me a single example in world history of an empire dismantled in an orderly fashion by an election.

What Are Our “Units of Power?”

Let’s help people make the transition beyond the pro-war, pro-corporate consensus that dominates US politics. That transition will be primarily based on personal experience in a poly-centered movement large enough, diverse enough and audacious enough to disrupt the existing order.

If there is a clear formula for scaling up from the hopeful but small movements of today to more massive movements  — I do not know what it is. But for starters, it cannot hurt to connect empire abroad with empire at home,  anti-austerity efforts with opposition to the poverty draft, and the peace movement with the environmental movement. That’s big synergy for sure.

But synergy needs structure. Pick any project you like, of course, but build organizations to seed a larger movement and to tide us over between dramatic moments of protest.

“Recognizing that no army can mobilize and demobilize and remain a fighting unit, we will have to build far-flung workmanlike and experienced organizations.”

“Our most powerful nonviolent weapon is, as would be expected, also our most demanding, that is organization. To produce change people must be organized to work together in units of power” — Martin Luther King

There is widespread anti-war sentiment but without “units of power,” these attitudes will not become a mass movement.

The empire is a giant machine cranking out racism, misogyny, poverty and climate chaos. War is coming for your children and your planet. Make the connection between war and your community.

Units of power are best built along the paths to anti-imperialism. The Embassy Protectors;  Women’s March on the Pentagon; the Black Alliance for Peace;  National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth; GI Rights Hotline;  US Labor Against the War; Code Pink and the Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign are a few prime examples of how to connect communities to the peace movement.

Digital warriors can get in the loop with Americans for Peace and Human Rights, Berners Against Militarism, Tulsi Gabbard Peace Movement and Stop the War Machine.

Or maybe best of all go totally local. Local chapters of Veterans for Peace are working hard as are community-based groups like St. Pete for Peace, Chelsea Uniting Against the War or No F-35 Fighter Jets in Madison.

Sporadic waves of protest, party politics, and appeals to morality will not be enough to reach millions of people. It’s our job — if we truly oppose wars — to build units of power and prove that war and empire are against the economic and political interests of the vast majority of the American people.

Our narrative: the empire is the weapon of the 1%; the engine of austerity; the enforcer of hate and hierarchy; the cause of climate change and the enemy of freedom. Our countermove: organize the unorganized.

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Trump’s Wall is Destroying the Environment We Worked to Protect

Imagine dedicating your entire life to protecting a place. Then imagine watching everything you’ve worked to protect be bulldozed by a desperate, self-serving president.

That’s what’s happening right now to career scientists and conservationists at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument on Arizona’s border with Mexico.

I used to work there too. It breaks my heart.

Organ Pipe, a sprawling 500-square-mile wilderness area home to the best preserved Sonoran Desert ecosystem on the planet, is being butchered by President Trump’s border wall.

Despite outcry from indigenous activists, numerous protests and formal warnings from federal wildlife agencies, the bulldozers keep rolling. Trump’s wall is going up.

Wall construction at Organ Pipe. To date, about 6 miles of the monument’s 30-mile boundary have been walled off. Photo: Laiken Jordahl.

Four years ago, fresh out of college, I landed my dream job with the National Park Service at Organ Pipe. My work there was to study threats to this and help craft wilderness policies to protect this internationally recognized biosphere reserve for generations to come.

I awoke early each morning to the sounds of curved-billed thrashers pecking at cactus fruit outside my window. I spent weeks in the field exploring the volcanic mountains and sweeping bajadas speckled with alien plant life.

I’d never seen such fiery sunsets. I’d never seen the Milky Way shine so bright.

A week into my term at Organ Pipe I was smitten with the place. A month in, awestruck by such curious critters thriving in one of the world’s harshest environments, I had fallen completely in love with the Sonoran Desert.

Ajo Mountains at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Photo: National Park Service.

I spent Trump’s inauguration day wandering through a cactus forest near the border. It was difficult to imagine a wall slicing across this landscape I had grown to love.

The wall was just a xenophobic campaign promise. I couldn’t imagine it as a reality.

Now, four years later, there’s no need to imagine. Trump’s signature symbol has taken a physical form. A massive metal scar is slicing through the desert I and so many others worked so hard to protect.

Southwest Valley Constructors, a subsidiary of Kiewitt, is the contractor building the wall. Photo: Laiken Jordahl

Each week I drive 150 miles from my home in Tucson to Organ Pipe to film pristine desert being bulldozed. I watch saguaro and organ pipe cactus be plowed over by Caterpillar earth-movers, sawed into chunks like firewood and tossed into trash heaps. I bear witness as contractors suck up millions of gallons of precious groundwater and turn it into concrete for the footings of 30-foot steel bollard walls.

I bring journalists to see the damage. I share these heart-wrenching images on my Twitter page.

I feel like a disaster tour guide, like an ambassador to the pain inflicted on these stunning, sacred lands. As someone who worked for years to protect this place, I feel like it’s my duty to share these images with the world. I want everyone to know the true cost of Trump’s wall.

Dead bird caught in the border wall at Organ Pipe. Photo: Laiken Jordahl

The wall is destroying the fragile ecosystem park service scientists have dedicated their lives to protect. It will stop migrating wildlife in their tracks, preventing animals like desert bighorn sheep, Sonoran pronghorn and even cactus ferruginous pygmy owls — which rarely fly higher than 12 feet — from finding water, food and mates.

It will cause flooding and soil erosion, sully Organ Pipe’s spectacular dark night skies with blinding floodlights and destroy a huge swath of habitat to create a 60-foot dead-zone that Border Patrol will pave with a patrol road and stake with sensors.

It will destroy indigenous sacred sites and burial grounds. At least 20 archeological sites will be destroyed. Construction crews have already unearthed human remains.

As climate change intensifies and animals migrate north in search of cooler habitats, they’ll find a hulking metal barrier in their path. Trapped on the hotter, drier side of the wall, wildlife will die.

Nowhere is this more apparent than at Quitobaquito Springs, a sweet, reed-ringed desert oasis just a stone’s throw from the planned course of Trump’s wall. This week, construction crews bladed and bulldozed a huge swath of desert just south of the springs. The wall will go up there any day.

Quitobaquito is the only reliable source of surface water for 50 miles in any direction. Thirsty wildlife south of the wall will soon find themselves close enough to smell the sweet relief of water, but unable to get there. Animals will die of thirst in plain sight of salvation through the rusted steel slats of Trump’s wall.

Quitobaquito Springs. Photo: Laiken Jordahl

The wall will kill people, too.

In the last 20 years at least 8,000 migrants have perished crossing the border, and the highest concentration of deaths have occurred in or near Organ Pipe.

Just last week I watched Border Patrol detain a group of migrants, mostly women and children, who had crossed between sections of the newly built wall. They were waiting on the side of the road to turn themselves in and request asylum.

Trump’s horrific “metering” policies are closing off official ports of entry, forcing families like these to cross in more remote, dangerous areas or wait for months on the streets.

The “Save Organ Pipe” protest drew 350 people from across the region. Photo: Julius Schlosberg

But it’s important to remember that for Trump, cruelty is the point. From parents being separated from their children to the horrors of the “remain in Mexico” policy, this administration is doing everything in its power to inflict the maximum amount of pain on the world’s most vulnerable people. As more miles of wall rise up and as and climate change turns our borderlands hotter and drier, thousands more will die.

And if even more endangered species are wiped off the map and wilderness lands are destroyed along the way, so be it. This administration will sacrifice anything to further militarize the border and turn our public lands into killing fields.

Those of us on the ground must continue documenting this tragedy, organizing resistance and fighting this horrific wall.

And when Trump is gone, we’ll tear it all down.

Laiken Jordahl is a borderlands campaigner with the Center for Biological Diversity, working along the US-Mexico border to protect wildlife, ecosystems, and communities, and to raise awareness of the impact the border wall is having on the local ecology. Follow Laiken on Twitter: LaikenJordahl

This article first appeared on Medium’s On Spec.

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Duterte Does the Right Thing for a Change

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s termination of a key military pact with the United States, the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which governed the deployment of US troops in the country, has evoked varied responses. In some liberal and progressive circles, the move provoked trepidation owing to Duterte’s perceived closeness to Chinese President Xi Jinping. Others were disoriented by the fact that the agent of a change they had long wanted had also been responsible for thousands of extrajudicial executions in his “war on drugs.” Adding to the confusion was President Donald Trump’s facetious reaction to Duterte’s move, saying “it’ll save us money.”

It cannot be denied, however, that the termination of VFA was a positive, historic step from the point of view of the national interest of the Philippines. In recent years, much local attention has focused on China’s incursions and outright grabbing of maritime formations claimed by the Philippines in the South China Sea, officially renamed by the Philippine government as the West Philippine Sea. Like many U.S. dependencies, the Philippines has had a Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with Washington that dates back to the Cold War era and serves as the legal touchstone of the VFA. Not surprisingly, as frictions with China increased, Philippine presidents from Ferdinand Marcos in the 1970s to Benigno Aquino III in more recent years invoked the MDT to get the United States to back up the Philippines’ territorial and resource claims in the Spratly Islands group. In response, Washington has consistently said that the MDT does not obligate the United States to support the Philippines’ territorial claims because it “does not interfere in sovereignty issues.” Essentially, Washington was saying, “you’re on your own” as far as the Spratly Islands were concerned.

At the same time that it was refusing to be drawn into what it saw as a matter of marginal relevance to U.S. interests, however, Washington was busy drawing the Philippines more tightly into a de factomilitary alliance to project power onto the Chinese heartland. This revealed to many Filipinos how one-sided the relationship was and led some traditional politicians like Duterte to begin to appreciate what the Left had been saying all along: that the MDT and the VFA were vestiges of a colonial past that subordinated the country’s national interest to the strategic designs of the United States in the Asia Pacific.

Why Washington Wanted the VFA

Coming into force almost a decade after the Americans gave up Subic Naval Base and Clark Air Force Base in 1991, the VFA reflected the U.S. move from a position of regarding China as a “strategic partner” under the Clinton administration in late 1990s to its defining Beijing  a “strategic rival” under George W. Bush in the early 2000s. Under the guise of training Filipino troops, the VFA was a step toward reestablishing a permanent military presence in the Philippines and making it a forward base in its strategy to “contain” China.

What motivated Washington was China’s major push to improve its missile defense emplacements on its long southeastern and eastern coastline and on maritime formations in the East and South China Seas. This followed Beijing’s realization of how vulnerable to U.S. attack its coastal urban industrial infrastructure was when Bill Clinton sent two carrier task forces to the region to intimidate China during the Taiwan Straits Crisis in 1996.

In the succeeding years, the Pentagon carried out an aggressive upgrading of its capabilities to penetrate China’s improving anti-ship and anti-missile defensive shield (A2/AD) in the area. The result was the institutionalization of an offensively oriented warfighting doctrine focused on China: the AirSea Battle Strategy. According to the most authoritative elaboration of AirSea Battle—recently given the new name of Joint Concept for Access and Maneuver in the Global Commons (JAM-GC)—the strategy is designed to carry out “’kinetic and non-kinetic’ (in other words, both explosive and electronic) strikes against inland command centers, radar systems and intelligence gathering facilities, raids against missile production and storage facilities and ‘blinding’ operations against Chinese satellites.” It also says that China’s “seaborne trade flows would be cut off, with an eye toward exerting major stress on the Chinese economy and, eventually , internal stress.” The account explicitly admits that the aim of AirSea Battle is “to overcome China’s A2/AD defenses” because failure to so would result in the “United States [finding] itself effective locked out of a region that has been declared a vital security interest by every administration in the last sixty years.”

Not surprisingly, revelation of the strategy rattled Beijing and pushed it to fortify and increase its defensive perimeter in the South China Sea. This also led it to some rash and unjustifiable moves such as seizing and erecting military structures on maritime formations claimed by the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries and declaring some 90 percent of the sea as belonging to China.

EDCA and AirSea Battle

Key to AirSea Doctrine was obtaining bases in the Philippines to provide fire and logistical support to American air and naval efforts to swamp or maneuver around China’s coastal and island defenses.

Concluded by the Aquino administration and the Obama administration in 2014, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), the VFA’s sister agreement, can be described as nothing less than a gift to Washington. It allowed the United States to set up military bases for troops and store war materiel in nominally Philippine bases. And Washington could have these bases without paying rent—the sticking point in the failed 1990-91 base renegotiations that had led to the closure of Subic and Clark.

Not surprisingly, Filipinos became increasingly alarmed that they had not only been maneuvered into making a major cession of their sovereignty, but geopolitically and geographically, they were being placed between a rock and a hard place. Joint military training under VFA and hand-me-down military aid plus “defense of freedom” rhetoric were cheap change for placing the country in harm’s way. The bases were being primed to serve as springboards for an offensive strategy to overcome China’s A2/AD defenses on its coasts and the West Philippine Sea. At the same time, these bases and the surrounding Philippine cities and countryside would be within range of intermediate-range Chinese missiles in the event of a conflict. With heightened tensions in the South China Sea, where a runaway arms and strategic race had created a situation where a mere ship collision could escalate into something much bigger, the bitter realization took hold that Washington had enlisted Duterte’s strategically naïve predecessor, Aquino, in a dangerous military alliance against China without even the decency of a formal alliance. This was, in strategic terms, the worst of all worlds, and it rankled not just progressives but Duterte as well.

The Trump Factor

Under the Trump administration, the position of the Philippines has gotten even more precarious. The interests of allied states have perhaps counted less with Trump than with any other U.S. president in recent times. More important, Trump has taken the United States out of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), and his Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has made it clear that Washington will now set up intermediate-range nuclear missile emplacements directed at China in the Western Pacific, with the possibility that these could be lodged in the U.S. bases in the Philippines.

Trump’s anti-China rampage cannot be assumed to be confined only to the trade front, especially since key advisers like Peter Navarro see trade and military strategy as part of the same stick. This makes the Pentagon quite happy since it has corralled Washington’s civilian leadership into viewing China with the same lens: not just a strategic competitor but a strategic enemy.

The National Interest and History’s Tricks

The logic of national interest dictates that, like the proverbial David, the Philippines must not be dragged into this conflict between two Goliaths. Indeed, the Philippines is ditching the VFA just in time. And Duterte should not just end the VFA but go all the way and scrap the Mutual Defense Treaty and EDCA as well.

There are progressives in the Philippines that are bothered by the fact that it is a mass murderer like Duterte (the victims in the war on drugs are now said to be about 27,000) that is ending the military alliance with the United States. Or they’re concerned that the fellow’s motivations may not be the purest (he is reportedly miffed by one of his top allies being refused a visa by Washington).

But hey, history loves to play tricks on people. The man may be the devil incarnate, but if he serves as history’s agent to begin to put an end to over 120 years of colonial subjugation and post-colonial subordination to a supremely self-interested, callous, and imperious master, I’m on his side…on this issue, that is, even as on matters of human rights and democratic rights, I and other progressives continue to condemn his policies.

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On JFK, Tulsi Gabbard Keeps Very Respectable Company

On Monday night in Fairfax, Virginia, Donald Jeffries, author and talk radio host, asked Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard about a book she was seen carrying, “JFK and the Unspeakable.” Published in 2008, the book is a Catholic philosopher’s meditation about the assassination of liberal president John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, one of the great historical crimes of American politics.

Gabbard replied she had not finished the book, but “from what I have read, it… speaks to what happened [on November 22] in a way that I haven’t seen anywhere else.”

It was a pretty cautious statement, but the custodians of the conventional wisdom pounced, nonetheless. Before Jeffries had posted the video on Facebook, Olivia Nuzzi, Washington correspondent for New York magazine, tweeted about Gabbard’s comment, and director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics Larry Sabato responded dismissively: “It explains everything only if you possess a conspiratorial mind and choose to discount available evidence to the contrary,” he wrote.

This lazy take is not only unfair to Gabbard, but it also scants “JFK and the Unspeakable,” among the best books on JFK’s assassination published in the last 20 years. Author James Douglass summarized the latest research on the national security power struggles that wracked Kennedy’s administration up to the day of his death. He also grapples with why we, as a society, have such a difficult time talking about the meaning of JFK’s murder. To confront JFK’s death, he concludes, is to confront an act of evil that we find unspeakable.

Sabato’s sniping also overlooks the fact that Gabbard’s doubts are hardly unknown in the American political elite. If the former Hawaii congresswoman has a “conspiratorial mind,” then so do former Democratic presidential nominees John Kerry and Al Gore, and maybe even Bill Clinton.

In 2013, Kerry said he thought Kennedy had been killed by a conspiracy, possibly emanating from Cuba, but declined to elaborate. At a joint appearance in a July 1992 campaign in West Virginia, Clinton and Gore were asked if they thought JFK had been killed by his enemies. At the time, Oliver Stone’s film “JFK” had just been a box office sensation with its all-too-believable depiction of the assassination as a coup by the CIA and Pentagon. The ever-slippery Clinton deflected the question to Gore, who said yes, he thought there was a conspiracy. Clinton then agreed with Gore.

Once in office, Clinton changed his mind and said there was no conspiracy. He also appointed a civilian panel in 1994, the Assassination Records Review Board, that began declassifying millions of pages of long-secret JFK files, a process that is still not yet complete 26 years later.

‘Felled by Domestic Opponents’

Now, you could counter that candidates on the stump will say anything to please a crowd or attract attention. In 2016, Donald Trump smeared rival Ted Cruz with the bogus claim that his father was somehow involved in JFK’s assassination. But Trump’s mendacity should not obscure the record.

Numerous power players of the 1960s had conspiratorial minds. JFK’s successor, Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ); his brother Robert Kennedy (RFK); and his widow Jackie Kennedy all privately spurned the Warren Commission’s conclusion that JFK had been killed by a man with no discernible motive. None of them actually shared Sabato’s blithe belief that the Warren Commission’s account of Kennedy’s assassination is irrefutable.

According to historians Timothy Naftali and Aleksandr Fursenko, Robert and Jackie Kennedy told their painter friend William Walton just a week after the ambush in Dallas that they suspected JFK had been “felled by domestic opponents.” As recounted in David Talbot’s book “Brothers,” RFK discreetly investigated the possible involvement of CIA-funded Cubans and organized crime bosses in his brother’s death for the rest of his life.

Jackie Kennedy, in her conversations with author William Manchester, demurred on the controversial theory that a single bullet had wounded both her husband and Texas governor John Connally. (The so-called “single-bullet theory” is the forensic keystone on which the lone assassin theory depends.) Biographer Barbara Leaming wrote, “That certainly was not how Jackie remembered it.”

Publicly, Lyndon Johnson endorsed the Warren Commission report. Off the record, he scoffed at it, first to a CBS camera crew and then to Leo Janos, a writer for the Atlantic.

Other senior U.S. officials had the same reaction. Winston Scott, the chief of the CIA’s Mexico City station, suspected a conspiracy and wrote as much in an unpublished memoir. Former Cabinet Secretary Joseph Califano wrote in his memoir that he thought JFK was the victim of a Cuba-related plot. Col. L. Fletcher Prouty, chief of Pentagon Special Operations in 1963 and adviser to Oliver Stone for the film “JFK,” was sure there was a plot. “The reason for the assassination,” he wrote, “was to control the power of the presidency.”

‘Law of Silence’

Foreign leaders too, concluded JFK was killed by his enemies.

French president Charles de Gaulle, canny conservative and survivor of a right-wing assassination attempt in 1962, said Kennedy’s enemies had gotten away with the crime. He predicted a “law of silence” would prevail in Washington and the U.S. government would not seriously investigate.

Fidel Castro, canny communist and survivor dozens of CIA assassination conspiracies, concluded Kennedy had been killed by reactionary foes at home. “There were people in the American government who thought Kennedy was a traitor because he didn’t invade Cuba when he had the chance, when they were asking him,” the Cuban leader told Atlantic editor Jeffrey Goldberg in 2013. “He was never forgiven for that.”

“So that’s what you think might have happened?” Goldberg asked.

“No doubt about it,” Castro answered.

On the question of who killed JFK, some of us find LBJ, RFK, Jackie, and Castro more credible than J. Edgar Hoover, Gerald Ford, Richard Helms, and Chris Matthews. Given the lies and the cover-ups of Hoover, Ford, and Helms, ours is not an irrational choice.

Last of the JFK Files

So not only is Tulsi Gabbard in good company when she expresses doubt about the official JFK story, but she is also talking about an issue that will confront the next president.

In October 2017, Trump broke a promise to release all the JFK files. Instead, he quietly issued a White House order saying he had “no choice” but to permit the CIA and FBI to keep secret thousands of JFK documents until at least 2021. According to the latest figures from the National Archives, 15,834 JFK files remain wholly or partially classified. In other words, it would be a crime to disclose their contents or talk about these JFK files on the presidential campaign trail in 2020 for reasons of “national security.”

And why, you might ask, are the government’s JFK assassination secrets still unspeakable today? That’s a very good question. Tulsi Gabbard has offended conventional wisdom by seeking the answer.

This article was produced by the Deep State, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

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Standing Up for Left Literature: In India, It Can Cost You Your Life

On February 16, 2015, Govind and Uma Pansare went for a morning walk near their home in Pune (Maharashtra, India). Two men on a motorcycle stopped near them and asked for directions, but the Pansares could not help them; one of the men laughed, removed a gun, and shot the two. Uma Pansare was hit but survived the attack. Govind Pansare, age 82, died in a hospital on February 20, 2015.

Raised in poverty, Govind Pansare was fortunate to go to school, where he encountered Marxist ideas. At the age of 19, in 1952, Pansare joined the Communist Party of India. While in college in the town of Kolhapur, Pansare would often be found at the Republic Book Stall, where he devoured Marxist classics and Soviet novels that came to India from the People’s Publishing House. When he became a lawyer, Pansare worked with trade unions and slum dweller organizations. He read avidly, researching the history of Maharashtra in order to better understand how to get rid of wretched customs, such as the caste system and religious fundamentalism.

Out of this world of books emerged Pansare’s commitment to culture and to intellectual liberation. Along with his comrades, he set up the Shramik Pratishthan (Workers’ Trust), which not only published books but also held seminars and lectures; one of the most popular programs by the Trust was the annual literary festival in honor of the Marathi revolutionary writer Annabhau Sathe. Rooted in class struggle, Pansare drew not only from Marxism but also the thought of Jyotirao Phule, Vitthal Ramji Shinde, and Dr. B. R. Ambedkar—Maharashtrian radicals of different forms whose understanding of the peasant struggles deepened Pansare’s ability to develop a theory and a practice for liberation.

In 1987, Pansare wrote a book called Shivaji Kon Hota? or—in the LeftWord Books English edition—Who Was Shivaji?. He freed Shivaji, a 17th-century warrior, from the manipulations of the far-right in India, who had wrongly portrayed him in their books as a Hindu warrior who battled Muslims. In fact, Shivaji was reported to have been benevolent to Muslims, which is why Pansare rescued him from their clutches.

Pansare’s death on February 20, 2015, hit us all very hard. He was a warm man, devoted to making the world a better place. Knowing Pansare, I think he would have been aware that he died the day before a significant anniversary. On February 21, 1848, Marx and Engels published their first edition of The Communist Manifesto. The book, now available in almost all languages, is one of the most read books in our time. In 2013, the UN’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) adopted this book, and Marx’s Capital volume 1, in its Memory of the World Program. This initiative is intended to preserve humanity’s heritage against the “ravages of time” and “collective amnesia.”

Red Books

Govind Pansare’s assassination is one among many of left-wing writers, and of course left-wing activists. For example, in Colombia, over the past month, one left-wing activist was killed each day. Bookstores have been attacked; publishers have been threatened. No country is immune. We have seen this in the United States and in the United Kingdom, and then in India and Brazil. There is not only a growth of far-right thuggery, which conducts this violence, but also of obscurantist and irrational thinking. The rise of neo-fascistic politicians and parties gives respectability to the scum who take up the gun and the rod to attack and kill people like Pansare.

That is the reason why we—at LeftWord Books in India—came up with the idea for Red Books Day. Govind Pansare is our author. His death is gut-wrenching for us. We have seen the neo-fascists threaten writers, publishers, and booksellers. We want to walk out into the streets and say, enough!

Talking to our friends in the publishing world, we realized that we are not alone with our frustration and our eagerness to stand firm. Since the anniversary of the Manifesto is on February 21, we decided to ask people to go out into public places on that day and read the Manifesto in their own languages. That is the essence of Red Books Day: to hold an event where the text will be read. Rapidly we heard from friends as distant as East Asia and South America that they would like to hold events during that day, not just in 2020 but also in the years to come. Our friends at the publishing house Bharathi Puthakalayam in Tamil Nadu, India, have organized events where 10,000 people will read M. Sivalingam’s new translation of the Manifesto into Tamil; our friends in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana—publisher Prajasakti and publisher Nava Telangana—will release a new translation into Telugu by A. Gandhi. There will be readings of the Gaelic translation of the text at Connolly Books, a bookshop in Dublin, Ireland; there will be readings in Moscow, Russia, and in Meghalaya, India; in Lahore, Pakistan, and in Lithuania. In Johannesburg, South Africa, at The Commune, the Manifesto will be read in both Zulu and Sotho.

Justice for Pansare is elusive. It is just as elusive as justice for the Honduran radical Berta Cáceres, for the South African communist Chris Hani, for the Tunisian communist Chokri Belaïd, for the Brazilian socialist Marielle Franco… the list is too long and too painful. These were all sensitive people who took the dangerous step to say they wanted to fight for something other than the present world. On February 21, when I pull my copy of the Manifesto off the shelf, I’ll be thinking of all these people, and many others—Hassan Nasir, Safdar Hashmi, Mahdi Amel, Víctor Jara, Ruth First, and countless others. But I won’t just be thinking about them. I’ll also think of the world we have to build.

I imagine a world without hunger and illiteracy, a world where medical care and elder care are routinely available, a world where leisure is important and collective solidarity is fundamental. These are lonely ideas now, since they have been made to appear naïve and utopian. What a world to live in where the hope that hunger can be anachronistic is dismissed, while the desire by Jeff Bezos to be the world’s first trillionaire is taken seriously. Twenty-two men have more wealth than all the women in Africa. That’s the world we live in. It is an intolerable world. You’d have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by our reality, and a mind of mud not to want to be inspired by the possibility of change. That’s the hope of the Manifesto, and the example of Pansare. I hope to see you on Red Books Day.

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Bloomberg Versus Bernie: The Upcoming Battle?

Between January 11 and April 14, 2019, Tulsi Gabbard, Kamala Harris, Marianne Williamson, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg had all announced their presidential bids. Sanders after entering the race formally on Feb. 19 was the immediate front runner. Biden entered the race on April 25, immediately replacing Bernie as the new front runner. This was automatic; Biden represented the Democratic establishment, had been Obama’s loyal lackey, had the DNC behind him, and was guaranteed positive coverage on CNN and MSNBC.

The talking points discussed among DNC and news directors would include: Biden is moderate, and the party needs unity; he’s beloved by the African-American community vital to a Democratic victory; he’s the ONLY candidate who can defeat Trump; he is the most experienced candidate. It would be okay to mention his “gaffes” (especially if in an endearing way), and even to note that he’s slowing down. But the anchors and contributors would put the best spin on his debate performances, proclaiming each one better than the last—even if he looked like a deer caught in the headlights half the time. Like Hillary Clinton, Biden could expect a coronation at the convention.

But he started disappointing early on, prompting the media to briefly fawn on Beto O’Rourke as back-up after he entered the race on May 14. But Beto soon lost steam, and along with Harris, Williamson, and Andrew Yang has dropped out. For the last ten months, it’s basically been Biden versus Sanders, with Sanders consistently in second place. It had become the polite convention for news anchors—while posting in the viewer’s face day after day charts clearly showing Sanders in the number two position—to observe “Biden remains the [clear] front runner” adding helpfully, “but Warren [or Buttigieg, or Klobachar] continues to climb” while absolutely ignoring the consistency of Sanders’ strength. The inconvenient truth is that Sanders’ support has outlived Biden’s support and Bernie is now the front runner.

One day we woke up to hear that indeed, Sanders is leading. Finally the news media was honestly seeing things as they really were and are.

But no! Not so fast, responds the Democratic establishment! Its views are conveyed via Donny Deutsch on MSNBC and Sam Donaldson (interviewed by Anderson Cooper) on CNN. Mike Bloomberg—who announced his candidacy late in the game Nov. 21, after Biden’s weak performance, had produced doubts—is just the sort of moderate we need!

The former New York City mayor has done so much for that crucial African-American demographic that the Democratic Party needs to win this year! (That’s the party he joined in 2018 after being Republican mayor 2001-2013 and enforcing the “Stop and Frisk” policy.) Deutsch announcing his support reiterates the need to oppose socialism. Donaldson having declared his support awkwardly read through a list of Bloomberg’s benevolent gestures to African-Americans and became visibly annoyed when Cooper tried to hurry him up.

There’s a script being prepared, to promote Bloomberg over Sanders—as the moderate, rational choice “to defeat Trump” as the sole and ultimate goal. It’s a goal made all the more elusive due to the miserable failure of the impeachment trial to either remove Trump or damage his popularity—indeed its unintended result of boosting Trump’s poll numbers. This script’s talking points include: Bloomberg was a popular mayor, an experienced leader; a billionaire due to his brilliant entrepreneurship, he has been a generous philanthropist; he has expressed regret about “Stop and Frisk” and worked with the African-American community in X Y and Z ways; is strong on environmental issues; can work with Republicans, etc.

It’s impossible for Bloomberg to ignore attention to “Stop and Frisk;” indeed he has repeatedly apologized (since announcing his election bid) for causing so much pain. We can expect that issue to linger in the air so long as he runs. But some will also embarrass him by noting his support for the war on Iraq based on lies, his endorsement of George W. Bush, his boasts about “doing” women in many cities. And then there’s that thing about him being a racist billionaire. So is this Bloomberg candidacy, this last-ditch effort to sabotage the democratic process–whereby normal rules Sanders would after Super Tuesday victories sweep to the nomination in Milwaukee—and produce a brokered convention, leading to someone who personifies all the Sanders supporters detest taking the prize, going to succeed?

Watching MSNBC right now, I think there’s a distinct possibility that it might come down to a billionaire (barking at a self-pronounced socialist for being unelectable for being what he is), and a self-pronounced socialist (barking back at the billionaire that there should be no billionaires). A Bloomberg victory might satisfy the DNC and mainstream, as the second choice to Wall Street’s Joe Biden. But it would infuriate much of the “progressive wing,” and totally alienate the Bernie activists (who will not celebrate their humiliation at the hands of the enemy by graciously “uniting” around him, but stay at home on election day meditating on the profound truth that there’s little difference between one billionaire capitalist racist oppressor and another, no reason to vote for one over the other and pretend to be happy to be “free” to vote in this oh-so-democratic country, the beacon of the world.) Many preferring Bloomberg to Bernie might worry about Bloomberg’s electability. But for them the risk will be worth it: four more Trump years, to stop Bernie.

Isn’t it special that Bloomberg has promised to spend a billion dollars to elect the next Democratic president, even if the nominee isn’t him? He pairs that commitment with a promise to back whatever candidate is selected at the party convention. It is an implicit demand that the other candidates (who do not have a billion dollars) to similarly promise to back him should he successfully buy the election. Fair? Bloomberg will back Bernie if he gets the nomination through mass mobilization; Bernie will back Bloomberg if he gets enough votes from saturating the media with misleading ads targeting the African-American community. That at least is the proposed deal, the gentlemanly norm in bourgeois parliamentary politics.

Now I hear now on MSNBC is that Bloomberg has suggested Hillary Clinton could be his vice president. Why not? Oh, I see. A sympathetic African-American politician explains that both Bloomberg and Clinton are New Yorkers so they couldn’t be on the same ticket.

It’s like the system is playing with our brains, pitting Bloomberg and Sanders against one another in a game that pits rational rejection of the status quo against abject deference to the Wall Street Democrats demanding the masses choose the latter to defeat Donald Trump.

Idiot-anchors have been trained to ask rhetorically: What’s more important? Voting for someone who agrees with you, or defeating Trump? The unstated assumption is that the former are selfish, the latter big-hearted. The talking heads will now ask, angrily: Are you so narrow-mindedly fixated on revolution that you can’t let your Sanders campaign be sunk by a billionaire racist sexist WHO CAN REALLY DEFEAT TRUMP? What’s more important? Getting your man in power? Or defeating Trump and going back to the George W. Bush and Barack Obama eras of responsible normality?

The very posing of such questions insults one’s intelligence. But that’s what the Democratic Party leadership is asking us to consider: an open buy-out of the nomination, to defeat both Trump and Sanders. If they succeed in sabotaging Bernie (again!) they will, I think, finally prove to our youth that U.S. “democracy” is a cruel myth.


Every hour more dirt on Bloomberg is unleashed—most of it already known but crying out for repeated exposure. This is accompanied by commentary demanding that Bloomberg further explains (but offers a road to forgiveness). Just listen to Rev. Al on MSNBC. Anchors note increased attention to Bloomberg’s record but also state matter-of-factly that his poll numbers will rise. Have their producers told them “Expect Bloomberg’s numbers to rise, and keep saying that to your audience—but also keep noting what’s obvious, which is that he’s no friend of minorities”?

It looks to me like Iowa and New Hampshire have caused the DNC to bet for the time being on the billionaire. Yes, there’s the racism issue. But hey, look at Trump.

Backing Bloomberg is a daunting task. He’s is not only anti-socialist; he is the very epitome of capitalist decadence, patriarchy, and racism. One cannot imagine a figure more repugnant to the progressives. For him to invite the latter’s support—after stabbing them in the face in a brokered convention—would be more than insulting. It is impossible.

How can Sanders at this point to adhere to his pledge to support any candidate chosen in Milwaukee? He should declare that if Bloomberg buys his way to the Democratic Party’s nomination, he (Sanders) will be morally obliged to his supporters to deny him support. Because Bloomberg is no better than Trump. Indeed, as a supporter of George W. Bush and his war on Iraq based on lies he’s in some respects worse.

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