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After Latest Bombshells, Only Michel Temer’s Removal and New Elections Can Save Brazil’s Democracy May 19, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Brazil, Capitalism, Democracy, Latin America, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: I consider that to refer to any country as a “democracy” is grossly misleading.  In our world there are capitalist democracies and state-capitalist democracies; and these show greatly varying degrees of actual democratic characteristics, where democracy is defined as the actual implementation of the will of the population.  No country is a pure democracy (that would require economic democracy), and no country comes even close.  Some countries, including the Middle Easts theocracies, China, Russia, the United States (!!!) and, cf the article below, Brazil, are fast devolving into near dictatorships, where the level of democracy approaches zero.

The deposing of Dilma Rousseff in Brazil can be characterized as a “soft” coup.  A Latin American country that was advancing towards more democracy, Honduras, was stopped in its tracks by a military coup in 2009.  The elected president, Manuel Zelaya, was arrested and exiled (later to be permitted to return), and a military dictatorship followed, which in turn was followed by a sham election which put into place today’s “democracy,” one of the most violent and corrupt in the world.

So, notwithstanding the title of this article, “democracies” do not get “saved.”  That would suggest that in our capitalist world there could exist a country that came close to expressing popular will.  They go up and down, and until genuine revolutionary change from below, victories will always be enormously incomplete (and that, my friends, includes the future disposal of the current neo-Fascist idiot-president in the United States of America).

So what occurred in Brazil was less than a blow to democracy but rather a right-wing corporatist coup aimed at enriching Brazil’s one percent at the expense of the further impoverishment of its 99%.  

AP_16311829408-1495120647-article-headerMichel Temer greets Sen. Aécio Neves following Temer’s swearing-in ceremony as president of Brazil in Brasilia on Aug. 31, 2016.

WHEN MICHEL TEMER was permanently installed as president less than one year ago after the impeachment of elected President Dilma Rousseff, the primary justification offered by Brazilian media figures was that he would bring stability and unity to a country beset by political and economic crisis. From the start, the opposite has been true: Temer and his closest allies were a vessel for far more corruption, controversy, instability, and shame than anything that preceded them. His approval ratings have literally collapsed to single digits.

But yesterday’s emergence of proof showing just how dirty and corrupt Temer is makes the situation utterly unsustainable. Leaks from the ongoing corruption investigation reveal that Temer was caught on tape in March endorsing an executive’s ongoing payment of bribes to maintain the silence of Eduardo Cunha, the formerly omnipotent, now-imprisoned house speaker who presided over Dilma’s impeachment and belongs to Temer’s party. Temer had already faced allegations of deep involvement in bribes and illegal contributions, but that could be overlooked because — unlike now — no smoking gun existed.

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Meanwhile, Dilma’s 2014 opponent in the presidential campaign — conservative Senator Aécio Neves (shown above with Temer at the latter’s inauguration), whose party led Dilma’s impeachment and now dominates Temer’s government — was caught on tape requesting 2 million reals from a businessman. He was removed this morning from his seat by a Supreme Court ruling, had his office raided, and now faces immediate imprisonment. Aécio’s sister was imprisoned this morning as part of the corruption investigation.

In sum, the two key figures driving Dilma’s impeachment were just revealed to be hardened criminals, with documentary evidence — audio recordings, videos, and online chats — which all Brazilians will soon see, hear, and read. The exact type of smoking gun evidence that Brazil’s notoriously biased corporate media searched for with futility for years against Dilma was just discovered against the two key figures that drove her impeachment, one of whom they installed as president.

To say that this situation — Temer’s ongoing presidency — is unsustainable is an understatement. How can a major country possibly be governed by someone who everyone knows just months ago encouraged the payment of bribes to keep key witnesses silenced in a corruption investigation? The sole rationale for Temer’s presidency — that he would bring stability and signal to markets that Brazil was again open for business — has just collapsed in a heap of humiliation and destruction.

 

At this point, Temer’s removal — one way or the other — seems inevitable. Although he is momentarily refusing to resign, his key allies are starting to abandon him. The media stars who installed him are now trashing him. There is open discussion everywhere about the mechanisms that will be used to remove and replace him.

Even for the sleazy power brokers of Brasília, getting caught on tape directly participating in blatant criminality is disqualifying: not to stay in the House or Senate, but to serve as the symbolic face of the country to the world and, more importantly, to capital markets. What’s new is not that Temer is corrupt: Everyone knew that, including those who installed him. What’s new is that the evidence is now too embarrassing — too sabotaging of their project — to allow him to stay.

THIS ALWAYS WAS the towering irony at the heart of Dilma’s impeachment. As those of us who argued against impeachment repeatedly pointed out, removing the democratically elected president in the name of battling criminality was such a farce precisely because her removal would elevate and empower the most corrupt factions, the darkest criminals and bandits, and enable them to rule the country without having won an election.

Indeed, the empowerment of the country’s most corrupt factions was a key goal of Dilma’s impeachment. As shown by yet another secret recording — one revealed last year that captured the plotting of Temer’s key ally, Romero Jucá — the real goal of impeachment (aside from austerity and privatization) was to enable those politicians most endangered by criminal proceedings to use their new, unearned political power to kill the ongoing investigation (“stop the bleeding”) and thus protect themselves from accountability and punishment. The empowerment of the nation’s most corrupt politicians was a key feature, not a bug, of Dilma’s impeachment.

The key question now — as it was then — is what comes next? Those of us who argued against impeachment repeatedly urged that if Dilma were really going to be impeached, only new elections — whereby the citizenry, rather than the band of criminals in the halls of power, chose their new president — could protect Brazilian democracy. The absolute worst option was to allow the corrupt line of succession in Brasília to elevate itself and then choose its own successors. That would ensure that political criminality became further entrenched. As David Miranda and I wrote in a Folha op-ed in April of last year:

If, despite all this, the country is truly determined to remove Dilma, the worst alternative is to permit the corrupt line of succession to ascend to power.

The principles of democracy demand that Dilma Rousseff complete her term in office. If that is not an option, and if she is going to be impeached, the best alternative is new elections. That way, the population would assume its proper place as provided by the Constitution: All power emanates from the people.

Yet that’s exactly what took place. What Brazilian elites fear and hate most is democracy. The last thing they wanted was to allow Brazil’s population to once again choose its own leaders. So they foisted on them a corrupt, hated mediocrity — who could never have been elected on his own, who indeed is now banned from running for any office due to election law violations — and he was tasked with imposing an agenda the country hated.

Brazil’s elite media and political class are now openly plotting the same scam. Many are suggesting that Temer’s replacement should be chosen not by the Brazilian people but by its Congress: one-third of whom are the targets of formal criminal investigations, most of whose major parties are rife with corruption. As we saw with Temer’s installation, allowing corrupt institutions to choose a country’s leaders is the antithesis of democracy and anti-corruption crusades. It ensures that criminality and corruption reign. The only debate should be whether direct elections should include not only Temer’s successor but also a new Congress.

Brazil’s democracy, along with its political stability, has already been crippled by the traumatic removal of the person who was actually elected to lead the country. That her successor has been exposed as a criminal exacerbates the tragedy. But it is not an overstatement to say that allowing the same corrupt factions to choose one of their own to replace Temer — once again denying the right of the people to pick their president and instead imposing on them a leader who emerges from the sleaziest precincts of Brasília’s sewer — would be its death blow.

Glenn Greenwald is one of three co-founding editors of The Intercept. He is a journalist, constitutional lawyer, and author of four New York Times best-selling books on politics and law. His most recent book, No Place to Hide, is about the U.S. surveillance state and his experiences reporting on the Snowden documents around the world. Prior to co-founding The Intercept, Glenn’s column was featured at The Guardian and Salon. He was the debut winner, along with Amy Goodman, of the Park Center I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism in 2008, and also received the 2010 Online Journalism Award for his investigative work on the abusive detention conditions of Chelsea Manning. For his 2013 NSA reporting, he received the George Polk award for National Security Reporting; the Gannett Foundation award for investigative journalism and the Gannett Foundation watchdog journalism award; the Esso Premio for Excellence in Investigative Reporting in Brazil (he was the first non-Brazilian to win), and the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Pioneer Award. Along with Laura Poitras, Foreign Policy magazine named him one of the top 100 Global Thinkers for 2013. The NSA reporting he led for The Guardian was awarded the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for public service.

Glenn Greenwald

Obama Gets Paid May 15, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama.
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Roger’s note: the multi-million dollar yacht pictured below belongs to billionaire David Geffen.  It is where the Obamas spent their post presidential vacation in the company of luminaries like Oprah Winfrey, Leonard DiCaprio and Tom Hanks.  In order to recover from this hardship, Barack and Michelle spent a month chilling out in a luxury hotel in Tahiti.  During Obama’s eight years in office, millions of Americans lost their homes and jobs and millions, and millions of immigrants were deported.  No wonder he needed a vacation after all that hard work (and that is not to mention ongoing torture at Bagram, Guantanamo, drone missile massacres, extrajudicial killings,  and illegal wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and Yemen).  Phew.  It’s exhausting just to think about it.  I wonder if they can find a spot on that yacht for me.

Alas, no time for yachting.  One thing Obama just did for me that I guess I should be grateful for: made me stop thinking about Trump for a half hour.  Now back to the maniacal narcissistic neo-Fascist whose ascendency was paved by Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Carter. Reagan, Ford, Nixon … Christopher Columbus.

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by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley

Obama opposed reparations for Black slavery, but gladly pockets payback for his work in ensuring that banks are “too big to jail.” Obama has been on the Lord’s of Capital’s payroll, coming and going, having won the presidency with the largest contributions from Wall Street in history. “The fact that his defenders so casually shrug their shoulders and defend kleptocracy ought to be debated.”

“Obama was and is the latest errand boy for big money but he was hyped as a change agent working for our benefit.”

Barack Obama will be paid $400,000 to speak to a group of finance capitalists. The only thing shocking about the announcement was the reaction from his horrified worshippers. The Obama campaign marketing team should be proud that their salesmanship is so long lived. There were millions of people under the illusion that Obama would represent their interests. He didn’t, of course, and for one very simple reason. He wasn’t hired to work for them. The ruling classes, the 1%, the lords of capital, call them what you will, make the hiring decisions and keep giving out bonuses to the men who do their dirty work.

Of course Obama is getting paid. Wall Street and the banks got their bail outs and then some. They weren’t prosecuted for their crimes which led to loss of jobs and homes. He kept giving and they kept taking and now it is payback time. Obama is just the latest president to get his unjust reward.

The speech at a Cantor Fitzgerald event typifies what former presidents do. So do former prime ministers and presidents of other countries. The capitalists move their capital around the world driving cities into bankruptcy (Detroit) or even nations (Greece) without fear of any hindrance. In return the compliant politicians are well cared for.

“He kept giving and they kept taking and now it is payback time.”

Cantor Fitzgerald describes itself as a “capital markets investment bank.” Its chairman and chief executive supported Jeb Bush in the 2016 Republican campaign and John McCain in 2008. The payout to Obama proves that the big money people ultimately can live with Republicans or Democrats. Why shouldn’t they? They get what they want no matter who is in power.

Barack and Michelle Obama recently signed a $65 million book deal and some are asking why that isn’t enough. That is a good and legitimate question but as is always the case with Obama, the naysayers are shouted down as haters or racists.

White presidents get paid, the first black president should get paid, too. So goes the shallow and pathetic defense. Grow up. Be realistic. Don’t be naïve. If those words were a call for true understanding of how the world works, they might be worthwhile. Instead they are used to defend the indefensible, the fact that the people have no say in their sham political system.

“The payout to Obama proves that the big money people ultimately can live with Republicans or Democrats.”

Of course the critics who clutch their pearls need to wake up. Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign was a thing of marketing beauty, that is to say it was full of lies. All talk of movement politics was a joke. Obama was and is the latest errand boy for big money but he was hyped as a change agent working for our benefit.

The paychecks from book deals and speeches aren’t the only ways that ex-presidents make a fast buck. Bill Clinton’s “foundation” was an influence peddling slush fund which made him very wealthy. Obama is more subtle and probably won’t do anything so obvious. He’ll get big money for his presidential libraries and anything else he desires. But he’ll also be very serious about helping out the lords of capital.

That is why he has returned to public life as propagandist in chief, lecturing us about the evils of fake news. He has to keep rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic that is capitalism and tell us to believe him and not our lying eyes. This pattern exists all over the world. Former UK prime minister Tony Blair has also enriched himself after leaving office. His current task is trying to undo Brexit and the inconvenience it is causing the 1%.

“Bill Clinton’s ‘foundation’ was an influence peddling slush fund which made him very wealthy.”

It is good thing that Obama was so obvious in genuflecting to the people who make everyone else’s life miserable. He may have provided an opportunity to change the level of discourse. The fact that his defenders so casually shrug their shoulders and defend kleptocracy ought to be debated. The notion that elected leaders of a supposed democracy should so openly be on the take must be strongly disputed.

The question should not be whether Obama ought to take money from his bosses. The question is why they are his bosses at all. Obama will not be the last commodified candidate used to get popular support for a rotten system. There are more Obamas in our future. They will help the rich get richer while sleight of hand gives the appearance of working for the needs of the people. Of course that wouldn’t happen if those claiming to be in a state of resistance really meant it. But bringing down the house of finance capital is not a task for the faint of heart or for those confused about how their country and the world really work.

Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.

Trump’s Support and Praise of Despots Is Central to the U.S. Tradition, Not a Deviation From It May 4, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Argentina, Barack Obama, Capitalism, Chile, Foreign Policy, Hillary Clinton, Honduras, Human Rights, Imperialism, Iran, Latin America, Nicaragua, Racism, Saudi Arabia, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: United States foreign policy has never been interested in freedom, democracy or human rights.  Never. Going back, if you will, to Christopher Columbus.  The phrase “American interests” is often used to characterize U.S. foreign policy, and it seems more than obvious that that is what foreign policy should advance.  Now, of course, such things as freedom, democracy and human rights could be considered in America’s interest.  That would be nice, wouldn’t it.  

American interests in reality is a code word for advancing the interests of the military industrial complex.  It has little to do with the interests of American people, above all, American workers; unless you still believe in the trickle down theory.  It has everything to do with: oil and minerals, all other resources and products, and, of course, cheap labor.

So when a new president takes office, his advisers will, if need be, brief/him on what those interests are.  US friendly nations, unfriendly nations, inbetweeners.  So it is not in any way surprising that Trump would be eulogizing American friendly tyrants like Egypt’s Sisi, the Philippines’ Duterte, or Turkey’s Erdogan.  What would really be surprising and bring on fits of cognitive dissonance if Trump were cozying up say to Venezuela’s Maduro or Iran’s Khamanei.

But perhaps where Trump is crossing a line is in his friendly overtures towards France’s our and out neo-Nazi presidential candidate, Marine LePen (shades of his refusal to repudiate support domestically from the KKK).  I didn’t like the term that Baby Bush used: Axis of Evil.  But Trump, LePen and ???  It fits.  And it’s scary.

Read on below, another chapter in Your Tax Dollars at Work (to support violence, repression and human rights violations).

 

May 2 2017, 12:13 p.m.

SINCE AT LEAST the end of World War II, supporting the world’s worst despots has been a central plank of U.S. foreign policy, arguably its defining attribute. The list of U.S.-supported tyrants is too long to count, but the strategic rationale has been consistent: In a world where anti-American sentiment is prevalent, democracy often produces leaders who impede rather than serve U.S. interests.

Imposing or propping up dictators subservient to the U.S. has long been, and continues to be, the preferred means for U.S. policymakers to ensure that those inconvenient popular beliefs are suppressed. None of this is remotely controversial or even debatable. U.S. support for tyrants has largely been conducted out in the open, and has been expressly defended and affirmed for decades by the most mainstream and influential U.S. policy experts and media outlets.

The foreign policy guru most beloved and respected in Washington, Henry Kissinger, built his career on embracing and propping up the most savage tyrants because of their obeisance to U.S. objectives. Among the statesman’s highlights, as Greg Grandin documented, he “pumped up Pakistan’s ISI, and encouraged it to use political Islam to destabilize Afghanistan”; “began the U.S.’s arms-for-petrodollars dependency with Saudi Arabia and pre-revolutionary Iran”; and “supported coups and death squads throughout Latin America.” Kissinger congratulated Argentina’s military junta for its mass killings and aggressively enabled the genocide carried out by one of the 20th century’s worst monsters, the Indonesian dictator and close U.S. ally Suharto.

Jeane Kirkpatrick, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. under President Reagan, was regarded as a top-flight conservative intellectual because of her explicit defense of pro-Western, right-wing dictators, heaping praise on U.S.-supported savage oppressors such as the Shah of Iran and Nicaragua’s military dictator Anastasio Somoza on the ground that “they were positively friendly to the U.S., sending their sons and others to be educated in our universities, voting with us in the United Nations, and regularly supporting American interests and positions even when these entailed personal and political cost.” Unsurprisingly, U.S. foreign policy in the Reagan years, like the decades that preceded and followed them, was defined by economic, military, and diplomatic support for pro-U.S. dictators, death squads, and even terrorists.

Leading U.S. media outlets have long openly celebrated this pro-dictator stance. Upon the 2006 death of Augusto Pinochet — the military dictator imposed on Chile by the U.S. after it overthrew that country’s democratically elected left-wing president — the Washington Post editorial page heaped praise on both Kirkpatrick and Pinochet. While conceding that the Chilean tyrant was “brutal: more than 3,000 people were killed by his government and tens of thousands tortured,” the Post hailed “the free-market policies that produced the Chilean economic miracle,” concluding that like Pinochet, “Kirkpatrick, too, was vilified by the left. Yet by now it should be obvious: She was right.”When a right-wing coup in 2002 temporarily succeeded in removing Venezuela’s elected left-wing President Hugo Chávez, the New York Times editorial page cast it as a victory for democracy: “With yesterday’s resignation of President Hugo Chávez, Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator. Mr. Chávez, a ruinous demagogue, stepped down after the military intervened and handed power to a respected business leader.”

[As I documented several years ago: In the same editorial, the Times announced that Chávez’s “removal was a purely Venezuelan affair,” even though it was quickly and predictably thereafter revealed that neocon officials in the Bush administration played a vital role. Eleven years later, upon Chávez’s death, the Times editors admitted that “the Bush administration badly damaged Washington’s reputation throughout Latin America when it unwisely blessed a failed 2002 military coup attempt against Mr. Chávez,” though the paper failed to note that it had not only denied that this happened but had itself celebrated that coup.]

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In 1977, Jimmy Carter attended a state dinner in Tehran for the Shah of Iran, the savage U.S.-supported despot who ruled that country for decades after the CIA overthrew its democratically elected leader. It took place shortly after Carter hosted the Shah at the White House. The U.S. president hailed the Iranian tyrant with a long toast, which began this way:

Your Majesties and distinguished leaders of Iran from all walks of life:

I would like to say just a few words tonight in appreciation for your hospitality and the delightful evening that we’ve already experienced with you. Some have asked why we came to Iran so close behind the delightful visit that we received from the Shah and Empress Farah just a month or so ago. After they left our country, I asked my wife, “With whom would you like to spend New Year’s Eve?” And she said, “Above all others, I think, with the Shah and Empress Farah.” So we arranged the trip accordingly and came to be with you.

As Carter spoke, his praise for the homicidal Iranian despot became more flowery and obsequious: “Iran, because of the great leadership of the Shah, is an island of stability in one of the more troubled areas of the world. This is a great tribute to you, Your Majesty, and to your leadership and to the respect and the admiration and love which your people give to you.” Two years later, those same people whom Carter claimed revered the Shah overthrew him and, to this day, loathe the U.S. because of the decades of support and praise it heaped on their dictator.

U.S. devotion to the world’s worst dictators did not end, or even recede, upon the end of the Cold War. Both the Bush and Obama administrations continually armed, funded, supported, and praised the world’s worst dictators.

In 2009, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton actually said of the murderous Egyptian dictator supported by the U.S.: “I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family.” When Egypt’s defense minister, Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, overthrew that country’s first elected government, Clinton’s successor, John Kerry, hailed him for “restoring democracy,” and as Sisi became more brutal and repressive, the Obama administration lavished him with more weapons and money. The U.S. government did the same for the human-rights abusing dictators in Bahrain.

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The U.S. gave at least tacit approval, if not outright encouragement, to the 2009 military coup against Honduras’s elected left-wing government. The Clinton-led State Department then repeatedly denied abundant evidence that the coup government it was supporting was engaging in an assassination program of critics and anti-government activists. Last year, the Washington Post’s Karen Attiah examined “how [the Clinton] State Department’s role in undemocratic regime changes has contributed to violence and political instability in Honduras and Haiti today,” particularly documenting the various steps Secretary Clinton took to protect the military leaders who engineered the Honduran coup.

And then there is Saudi Arabia, long one of the most repressive regimes on the planet and one of the U.S.’s most cherished allies. U.S. devotion to the Saudi tyrants by itself negates virtually every plank of U.S. propaganda about spreading freedom and democracy, given that one administration after the next has worked tirelessly to maintain and strengthen that regime.

Obama, like Bush before him, repeatedly hosted Saudi despots at the White House. When the monstrous Saudi King died in 2015, Obama terminated his state visit to India in order to fly to Riyadh to pay homage to the close U.S. partner, where he was joined by a bipartisan cast of U.S. political stars. As The Guardian put it: “Obama has been forced to defend his unwillingness to challenge Saudi Arabia’s autocratic rulers as he led a U.S. delegation to shore up relations with its new king, just hours after lecturing India on religious tolerance and women’s rights.”

Upon the Saudi King’s death, Obama said of a despot who killed and imprisoned dissidents: “At home, King Abdullah’s vision was dedicated to the education of his people and to greater engagement with the world.” Obama’s gestures of admiration were mild when compared to those of the U.K. government, which ordered all flags be flown at half-mast to honor the deceased monarch, but Obama was not remotely shy about publicly lavishing the Saudi regime with praise.

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In sum, the post-World War II foreign policy of the U.S. — independent of its massive human rights violations committed over and over around the world — has been predicated on overthrowing democratically elected governments and, even more so, supporting, aligning with, and propping up brutal dictators. This policy has been applied all over the world, on multiple continents and by every administration. It is impossible to understand even the most basic aspects of the U.S. role in the world without knowing that.

ALL OF THIS history is now being erased and whitewashed, replaced with jingoistic fairy tales by the U.S. media and leading political officials. Despite these decades of flagrant pro-dictatorship policies, the U.S. media and leading political officials have spent months manufacturing and disseminating a propagandistic fairy tale that casts Donald Trump’s embrace of dictators as some sort of new, aberrational departure from the noble American tradition.

They have repeatedly claimed that the pre-Trump U.S. was devoted to supporting and spreading democracy around the world, while condemning and opposing tyranny. This is rank revisionism of the worst kind: jingoistic propaganda that should shame anyone endorsing it.

Like U.S. support for dictators, these recent bouts of propaganda are too numerous to comprehensively chronicle. Some of the more influential instances will have to suffice.

In February, the New York Times editorial page — writing under the phrase used by Jeane Kirkpatrick to demonize 1984 Democrats as unpatriotic: “Blame America First” — attacked Trump with this propagandistic garbage: “Since taking office, Mr. Trump has shown little support for America’s traditional roles as a champion of universal values like freedom of the press and tolerance.” Imagine what a shock it would be to the people of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Chile, Bahrain, Iran, Argentina, Brazil, and the countless other countries that lived under a U.S.-supported dictator to hear about “America’s traditional roles as a champion of universal values like freedom of the press and tolerance.”

Perhaps the worst example yet came yesterday in a Washington Post article by its White House bureau chief Philip Rucker, who made this claim: “Every American president since at least the 1970s has used his office to champion human rights and democratic values around the world.” He added: “In an undeniable shift in American foreign policy, Trump is cultivating authoritarian leaders.”

Cultivating authoritarian leaders is everything except a “shift in American foreign policy.” Nonetheless, this propagandistic lie has now become commonplace among über-patriotic journalists eager to tell the world that the U.S. before Trump had been devoted to liberating the oppressed peoples of the world from tyranny. Here’s the New York Times political reporter Maggie Haberman — in a widely shared tweet — endorsing these jingoistic falsehoods from Rucker:

Trump, fundamentally uninterested in spreading small-d democracy in dramatic break w predecessors. @PhilipRuckerhttps://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-keeps-praising-international-strongmen-alarming-human-rights-advocates/2017/05/01/6848d018-2e81-11e7-9dec-764dc781686f_story.html?tid=ss_tw&utm_term=.aec73ffae856 

Photo published for Trump keeps praising international strongmen, alarming human rights advocates

Trump keeps praising international strongmen, alarming human rights advocates

Trump’s affection for autocrats beyond Putin marks a major shift in U.S. foreign policy.

washingtonpost.com

How can someone possibly be a journalist and believe that Trump’s being “uninterested in spreading small-d democracy” is a “dramatic break” from his predecessors? Yet this is now standard fare for the U.S. media, as evidenced by this segment from CNN this morning pronouncing Trump’s praise of rogue leaders to be “a sharp U.S. policy shift.”

CNN took a policy that has been standard U.S. posture for decades and told its viewers that it represented “a sharp U.S. policy shift.”

One would be remiss to omit this blatantly false propaganda from one of the Democrats’ most beloved members of Congress, Rep. Adam Schiff, who — in a predictably viral tweet — yesterday chided Trump for inviting to the White House the mass-murdering ruler of the Philippines and thus defacing noble U.S. traditions:

There was a time when the U.S. condemned extrajudicial killings, not rewarded them with WH visit. That time was 103 days ago. https://twitter.com/politico/status/858673343670751232 

Aside from the fact that the U.S. has spent decades supporting tyrants and despots whose calling card is “extrajudicial killings” — including many who were feted at the White House — the central war on terror approach of the Obama presidency was exactly that. For years, Obama bombed multiple Muslim countries in order to kill people — including his own citizens — who his administration suspected, but never proved, had connections to terrorism. In other words, he killed thousands of people extrajudicially. It takes a special kind of propagandist to claim that this is a new Trumpian innovation.

WHAT’S REALLY GOING on here is self-evident. Nobody remotely rational, nobody with even a fleeting understanding of U.S. history, believes that the U.S. only began supporting and heaping praise on dictators upon Trump’s inauguration. Responding to criticisms, the Post yesterday edited Rucker’s patriotic tribute to the U.S. by adding the italicized words: “Every American president since at least the 1970s has used his office at least occasionally to champion human rights and democratic values around the world.”

But that claim is still false. Can anyone possibly believe that — even when U.S. leaders paid lip service to human rights improvements — there was anything remotely genuine about it? Condemning human rights abuses is an instrument that the U.S. cynically uses to punish adversaries. And officials admit this when being candid, as this extraordinary passage from a 2013 Washington Post article revealed:

Human-rights groups have also accused the U.S. government of holding its tongue about political repression in Ethiopia, another key security partner in East Africa.

“The countries that cooperate with us get at least a free pass,” acknowledged a senior U.S. official who specializes in Africa but spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid retribution. “Whereas other countries that don’t cooperate, we ream them as best we can.”

The Post article went on to note that the Bush administration “took the same approach,” and that while “many U.S. diplomats and human-rights groups had hoped Obama would shift his emphasis in Africa from security to democracy … that has not happened.” In fact, “‘There’s pretty much been no change at all,’ the official said. ‘In the end, it was an almost seamless transition from Bush to Obama.’”

That’s how the U.S. uses human rights advocacy: as a weapon to “ream” uncooperative countries to punish them for their disobedience. For regimes that “cooperate” with U.S. dictates, they get “at least a free pass” to abuse human rights as extensively as they want, if not outright support and funding for doing so.

What’s really infuriating those attacking Trump for doing what the U.S. government has been doing for decades — supporting and praising heinous tyrants — is that he’s denying them the ability to maintain the myths they desperately tell themselves about their own country. Being able to claim that the U.S. is devoted to spreading freedom and democracy in the world is central to their internal monologue. From the Washington Post newsroom to the corridors of the State Department, this is the fairy tale that they tell themselves every day in order to justify their position as global arbiters of the behavior of other countries.

Once that veneer is removed, once that fairy tale is dispensed with, then the harsh reality stands nakedly exposed: What they are defending is nothing more than the illegitimate and arbitrary exercise of imperial power. The loss of this fiction imperils their entire moral framework. They aren’t angry that Trump is hugging dictators, obviously. All the other presidents whom they revere did the same. It goes without saying that a political culture that admires Henry Kissinger has no objection whatsoever to embracing tyrants.

They are furious that Trump isn’t as effective or as willing to pretend that he’s not doing this. That means they can no longer pretend that the violence, the wars, the coercion, the interference, the dictator support that they routinely condone has a moral purpose to it.

The reality is that even the fiction, the pretense, of the U.S. as some sort of defender of human rights and democracy is being wildly overstated. As the above examples (and so many others) demonstrate, U.S. officials, including U.S. presidents, have openly feted and praised despots at least as monstrous as Duterte.

Just as it’s comforting to believe that Trump is the byproduct of a foreign villain rather than an American phenomenon, it’s also comforting to believe that his embrace of despots is some sort of novelty. But, especially for journalists, the fact that it feels good to believe a myth does not justify disseminating it.

Watching the U.S. media tell everyone that Trump’s predecessors were devoted to spreading democracy, and that supporting tyrants is a “dramatic break” from the U.S. tradition, is such an obvious break from reality that it is staggering to see, even for those who already view the U.S. media as principally devoted to spreading patriotic state propaganda about the U.S. government.

 

Inside The Immigrant-Prosecuting Machine That Transformed America’s Deportation Policy April 28, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Grenada, Immigration, Latin America, Mexico, Racism, Refugees, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: Democrats.  Republicans.  A pox on both their houses.  When it comes to the inhumane treatment of those who cross our borders in flight from conditions in their countries that US policy has helped to create, both parties are equally corrupt.  The spike in prosecutions and deportations began under Clinton and made a dramatic upturn under Obama.  The nations’s first Black president turned out to be a master oppressor of Latinos seeking refuge in the United States.

Democratic and Republican presidents spent two decades building Donald Trump’s most powerful tool against undocumented immigrants.

 

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TUCSON, Ariz. ― One morning last October, Irlando sat hunched over a table in the back of a federal courthouse, looking to a court-appointed lawyer for help. Border Patrol agents had found him the day before, wandering through the desert 150 miles away outside Lukeville, Arizona, and he still hadn’t showered. His hands were black with grime and he smelled of dried sweat after spending almost a week trekking in the hot sun.

 

Irlando had worked as a commercial truck driver in a town north of Guatemala City and fled his homeland after a local gang started extorting his company. First, they killed drivers when the company didn’t pay up. Then gang members killed his boss, and Irlando decided he had to escape.

 

A friend suggested he try to make it through Mexico and into the United States, where he could earn enough money to help support his wife and four children he was leaving behind. His youngest daughter was just two months old. When Border Patrol picked him up crossing into Arizona, he’d been thankful just to have a sip of water. But now the reality was sinking in: He was going to be deported back to Guatemala.

 

Irlando’s lawyer, Eréndira Castillo, said she was sorry, but none of his backstory would matter to the judge. He wasn’t in immigration court. He was facing a criminal prosecution for crossing the border illegally, and this judge had no authority to decide whether he should stay in the country. All the judge would see is that he was arrested while trying to jump the border and that he had a prior conviction for attempting to do the same thing in Texas in 2013.

 

(Castillo talked to Irlando privately about his right to confidentiality and he decided to waive that right so his story could be told, on the condition that only his first name be used.)

 

Irlando could accept the plea agreement in front of him, which came with a 75-day jail sentence, or he could take his case to trial, where virtually all defendants lose, and then face two years in prison. Either way, he’d almost certainly be deported after his release.

It was about 9:30 a.m., and Irlando needed to make up his mind before the proceedings started that afternoon. After a few minutes of discussion, he took the plea deal, which was typed in English. Castillo verbally translated the document for him before he signed it.

 

“There’s no one to tell that I’m here trying to save my life?” Irlando asked his lawyer. “My baby girl needs three bottles of milk every week. Who’s going to give them to her?”

“It’s very sad, but that’s the way it is,” Castillo replied, patting him on the knee. “The law doesn’t have a heart.”

Improvising An Immigrant-Prosecuting Machine

58ffac711400002000a9bce2CHIP SOMODEVILLA/GETTY IMAGES President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Jan. 25, 2017, to crack down on so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions that take steps to shield immigrants from deportation. The order contained a provision calling for more prosecutions for immigration violations. 

When President Donald Trump took control of the immigration enforcement system, he inherited a well-oiled machine for prosecuting immigration violations that has continued to grow even as illegal border crossings decline. When Trump talks about imposing a “deportation force,” most observers interpret that as a  to Immigration and Customs Enforcement or Border Patrol. But the most powerful tool he wields against unauthorized immigrants may well be the criminal courts.

 

While residing in the U.S. without authorization is a civil offense, the act of crossing the border illegally is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail. Those who get caught again face the felony charge of “illegal re-entry,” with a prison sentence of up to two years that can expand to two decades if the offender has a criminal record.

 

Today, roughly one-quarter of immigrants expelled from the U.S. face criminal prosecution for crossing the border illegally and serve jail time before they are deported. Immigration prosecutions topped 91,000 in 2013 ― 28 times the number of prosecutions in 1993.

 

This marks a fundamental transformation of both deportation policy and the federal courts. While less than 5 percent of federal prosecutions involved immigration in 1993, the first year of Bill Clinton’s presidency, illegal entry and re-entry prosecutions now account for roughly half the federal criminal docket, sapping limited resources to prosecute violent or white-collar crimes.

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Immigration authorities have had the power to refer migrants caught making illegal crossings to the criminal courts since the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act in 1952. But the Justice Department’s priorities didn’t begin their steady shift until the Clinton era.

 

Entering office during one of the largest mass migrations from Mexico in U.S. history and nearly a decade after President Ronald Reagan extended a pathway to U.S. citizenship for some 3 million people, Clinton faced major public backlash against illegal immigration and bipartisan hostility toward incoming migrants. Prior benevolence, Democrats and Republicans largely agreed, had only encouraged more illegal crossings.

 

Clinton signed immigration reform laws that fast-tracked deportations and helped lay the foundation for the sprawling immigrant detention system that now reserves space to lock up 34,000 immigrants at a time. In a less-publicized development of his presidency, the number of immigration prosecutions ― particularly felony cases ― also steadily crept up, although the process was haphazard and no formal policies governed whether the migrants arrested should face criminal or civil penalties.

 

That changed dramatically during George W. Bush’s presidency. Seeking a way to deter unauthorized immigrants more effectively, Customs and Border Protection began formalizing a whole host of previously informal policies.

 

In one of the most sweeping changes, CBP teamed up with the Justice Department to funnel more people who jump the border into criminal court. The model program, called Operation Streamline, was implemented in southern Texas in 2005, when a sudden influx of Central American migrants left immigration authorities with a shortage of bed space in immigrant detention facilities.

 

“We were taking a look at what consequences were available to us within existing law,” David Aguilar, a top Border Patrol official in the 1990s and CBP commissioner from 2011 to 2013, told HuffPost. “Prosecution was in fact one of those consequences.”

 

Because the laws were already on the books, neither CBP nor the Justice Department needed to ask Congress for approval. The new system spread over the next decade, immigration violations swallowed up an ever-larger chunk of the federal criminal docket. The number of criminal immigration prosecutions doubled over Barack Obama’s two terms in office, despite the fact that illegal crossings plummeted by roughly half between 2009 and 2016.

 

The continued criminal prosecution of illegal border crossings meant America’s first black president jailed more people of color on federal charges than any president in modern U.S. history. But because the Justice Department classifies almost all Hispanics as “white” in official statistics, that fact has largely been obscured.

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The immigrant-prosecuting machine improvised under Clinton, formalized under Bush and institutionalized by Obama barely merited a mention during last year’s immigration-obsessed presidential election. But Trump noticed.

 

On the campaign trail, he pledged to raise the mandatory minimum sentence for illegal re-entry to five years. Within a week of taking office, he issued an executive order cracking down on sanctuary cities that contained a provision calling for more immigration prosecutions.

 

On April 11, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced plans to consider criminal charges for any person caught in the U.S. who has been deported before, regardless of where they’re arrested ― a massive expansion of a constitutionally questionable process that routinely sucks in asylum-seekers and people with long histories in the United States.

 

“It’s going to break the bank in terms of paying for the jail and prison beds that these people are going to occupy if they are prosecuted,” said Judy Greene, the author of the book Indefensible: A Decade of Mass Incarceration of Migrants Prosecuted for Crossing the Border.

 

But that’s only one way to look at the cost,” she added. “The other way to look at it is to realize there is a huge cost in human misery for the people who are prosecuted ― their families, their neighbors ― if this happens the way Trump and Sessions have envisioned.”

Two Decades Defending Immigrants 

58ffa5082600004500c47ad6ROQUE PLANAS/HUFFPOST  Eréndira Castillo, who has defended immigrants facing criminal deportation charges for the last two decades, stands in front of the federal courthouse in Tucson, Arizona. 

After meeting with Irlando that morning last fall, his lawyer, Castillo, walked to a nearby restaurant where she half-heartedly picked at a pair of tacos. A first-generation Mexican immigrant who speaks Spanish with native fluency, Castillo wears her black hair in a ponytail and an indigenous embroidered shirt called a huipil beneath her dark blue blazer. She loves practicing law, but hates cases like Irlando’s.

 

“It’s so upsetting, because I feel complicit,” she told HuffPost.

 

Castillo has worked these cases since 1998, when she joined the Federal Public Defender’s Office in Tucson to help expand its immigration unit. The job initially excited her: She’d already begun to specialize in immigration before going to law school, processing legalization applications for undocumented immigrants who became eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship under Reagan’s 1986 reform law.

 

But Castillo’s enthusiasm faded as she faced uncomfortable situations that seemed to flout basic protections for criminal defendants, like the right to due process or the right to keep communications with your attorney confidential. The process from initial hearing to conviction and sentencing ― which routinely takes months, even years, in felony criminal cases ― was collapsed into a few hours for dozens of people at a time. She only got a few minutes to speak with each client, and they spoke in an open room where others could hear their conversations.

 

“I was a brand-new lawyer,” Castillo said. “[Our bosses] never said, ‘This is the right way, this is the wrong way, this is what we expect from you.’ We just did what they said. I think, in retrospect, I would say, ‘No, the federal public defenders office shouldn’t be doing it this way. This is unconstitutional.’”

 

Many legal experts agree. But their objections haven’t kept the system from growing. Within five years of joining the public defender’s office, the immigration unit Castillo helped pioneer had grown larger than the office’s entire criminal defense unit ― a reflection of the Justice Department’s shifting priorities.

 

Castillo left the public defender’s office for private practice three years ago, but still defends immigrants accused of illegal crossings once a week. She takes pride in making small gestures to make the process less painful: offering her clients a glass of water, or calling their family members so she can tell them what’s happening. (The clients aren’t allowed to use the phone in court, so she calls on speakerphone while they listen in silence.)

 

“I have to explain it’s not my fault,” Castillo said. “I’m a lawyer, I was appointed by the court.”

‘This Process Does Get Somewhat Repetitive’ 

Illegal migrants from Guatemala, deported from Phoenix, Arizona in the U.S., arrive at an air force base in Guatemala CityJORGE LOPEZ/REUTERS  Immigrants deported from Arizona arrive at an air force base in Guatemala City on July 22, 2014.

Irlando’s hearing started at 1:30 p.m. A row of five microphones stood in front of Judge Bruce Macdonald. Each of the 41 defendants, lined up on benches before the judge, was a brown-skinned national of Mexico or Central America. They’d already signed plea agreements like Irlando’s, differing only in the length of their sentences.

 

Macdonald took the bench and explained the process. Everyone would acknowledge their guilt in groups of five. He asked the 14 defense attorneys if their clients were competent to go forward with their hearings. They affirmed in unison. “You’ll quickly notice that I’m asking the same series of questions,” Macdonald told the defendants. “This process does get somewhat repetitive.”

 

When Irlando’s turn came to plead guilty, Castillo mentioned his fear of returning to Guatemala. The judge said Irlando would be able to raise the issue once he was transferred to immigration court for deportation proceedings after his jail sentence.

At least three other defendants said they feared for their safety if deported. Border Patrol policy dictates that they should have been channeled to an asylum officer or a civil immigration court to hear those claims, but the judge gave them the same reply he gave Irlando.

 

Several people seemed only hazily aware they faced criminal prosecution at all. One woman, asked how she pleaded, said “yes.”

 

Three defendants, all of them Guatemalan and all represented by the same attorney, said they didn’t speak Spanish as a first language. (A foreign government official, who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak with the media, later told HuffPost there were seven indigenous defendants that day who didn’t speak fluent Spanish.) Macdonald quickly moved on after the lawyer insisted the indigenous language speakers understood the agreement.

 

The lawyer representing the three indigenous Guatemalans declined to comment about their cases, but acknowledged he wasn’t well qualified to handle their claims. “I don’t really know about immigration,” he said. “I usually call up a friend if there’s an asylum issue to get advice.”

The Consequence Delivery System

A U.S. border patrol agent patrols the U.S. border with Mexico in NogalesLUCY NICHOLSON/REUTERS A view of the U.S.-Mexico border from Nogales, Arizona, on Jan. 31, 2017.

About the same time Castillo first went to work defending immigrants facing prosecution in Tucson, John Lawson arrived in the Arizona town of Douglas as a newly minted Border Patrol agent. The town is roughly 260 miles east of where Irlando was picked up crossing.

 

In 1997, Lawson found only about 100 yards of fencing separating the United States from Mexico. That was a year authorities caught 1.4 million people crossing the border illegally ― almost four times the rate of apprehension in 2016. At that time, Border Patrol had half as many agents trying to stop those migrants, and the barrier between the U.S. and Mexico in that area was an opaque wall, so agents couldn’t see people throwing rocks and or lobbing cinder blocks at passing patrol cars.

 

“It was kind of Wild West out here,” Lawson said as he led a tour of the border at Nogales in October. “It was insanity, everyone trying to catch who they could.”

 

In the 1990s, Border Patrol agents usually escorted people they apprehended back to the other side ― a procedure known as “voluntary return.” Unlike a formal deportation, a voluntary return has no legal consequences and returnees can apply for a U.S. immigration visa a minute after returning to Mexico. It wasn’t uncommon for Lawson to catch the same person crossing illegally three times in a single day.

 

Border Patrol agents struggled to deter people from simply crossing again. Mexico was limping through an economic crisis in the mid-1990s, just as the country’s 1970s baby boom generation reached working age. The 1994 North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement made matters worse, compelling some 2 million Mexicans to flee the country’s farms when they couldn’t compete with subsidized agricultural imports from the United States. Foreign-owned assembly plants sprouted in border towns to take advantage of the cheap labor and lower import taxes NAFTA offered, which pulled out-of-work Mexicans to cities within walking distance of the United States like magnets.

 

Border Patrol couldn’t control the underlying reasons for the immigration explosion, so the agency worked to make deterrents more effective. Rather than returning the migrants they arrested to the same cities where they crossed, agents might bus them hours away, making the crossing more expensive and breaking the link between migrants and their smugglers. Instead of voluntary removals, Border Patrol increasingly sent unauthorized immigrants to get fingerprinted and face formal deportation proceedings.

 

“Now everyone gets an alien registration number,” Lawson said. “That’s as permanent as it gets. It stays with you for the rest of your life.”

 

By the mid-2000s, CBP had institutionalized these policies into a list of penalties the agency calls the “consequence delivery system.” The harshest of those consequences is criminal prosecution.

 

Lawson is proud of CBP’s work. The sporadic links of opaque fencing have stretched into hundreds of miles of steel beams, which are reinforced with cameras and underground sensors. People scale the barrier so often that the rust has scraped off some of the beams, but Lawson is confident that agents catch most of the people who make it over.

 

When they do, the migrants’ fingerprints tell them everything they need to know. If a person has tried to cross illegally within the last two decades, a record of the deportation appears. If he or she has ever committed a crime in the United States, that’s there too. Though there are some exceptions ― children, asylum-seekers or people who appear sick ― agents are supposed to deal out a consequence to every unauthorized migrant they apprehend.

 

There’s only enough slots at the federal courthouse in Tucson to prosecute 70 border-crossers per day. If agents find more unauthorized migrants near that jurisdiction, they’ll face deportation instead. But these days, there are far fewer illegal crossings, so the courthouse rarely fills to capacity for its daily three hours of illegal entry and re-entry cases.

 

“There’s a bunch of reasons why that could be happening,” Lawson said. “But we’re fairly certain that a lot of it has to do with these consequences.”

Prosecuted Far From The Border

The Sandra Day O'Connor United States Courthouse is seen in Phoenix, ArizonaERIC THAYER/REUTERS The Sandra Day O’Connor U.S. Courthouse in Phoenix routinely tries illegal re-entry cases against immigrants apprehended far from the border.

These prosecutions aren’t just happening to migrants picked up along the border. Felony illegal re-entry charges were filed in all but four of the 94 U.S. district courts last year.

Around the time Irlando was convicted, a gray-haired woman stood before a judge in a federal courtroom in Phoenix in a red jumpsuit, shackled at the wrists and ankles. Two of her daughters, both born in the United States, watched from the benches.

 

The woman, whom HuffPost is not identifying because her family fears she’ll be deported, was born in the Mexican state of Michoacán but came to the U.S. when she was 9 years old. In 2003, she spent two months in jail for heroin possession and distribution charges, and was then deported. She returned illegally soon after, as unauthorized immigrants with U.S.-born children often do.

 

She found work cleaning houses and avoided trouble with the law, but ICE arrested her last year. Her daughters are unsure why their mother was targeted, but suspect someone may have reported her.

 

Given her 13-year-old drug charges, the woman had little choice but to take a plea agreement. To secure a conviction, the only evidence prosecutors needed was a prior order of deportation. Each conviction on a person’s record can enhance their jail sentence. She faced the possibility of 10 years in prison, but was released on time served ― seven months ― in February after taking the deal.

 

It’s very sad, but that’s the way it is. The law doesn’t have a heart.Attorney Eréndira Castillo

It’s unclear whether she was deported. The woman’s attorney, Kaitlin Verdura, declined to discuss the specifics of her client’s case, but said her situation is not uncommon. “There are people in the United States that have been here for a very long time, who have assimilated into the country, and get prosecuted for the crime of illegal re-entry,” she said.

 

When Sessions announced on April 11 the Justice Department’s plans to consider prosecution for anyone who enters the country illegally, he likely wasn’t directing his attention at border-crossers like Irlando. People like the woman in Phoenix will probably bear the brunt of the Trump administration’s changes. The Justice Department did not reply to HuffPost’s request for comment.

 

It’s unclear how many of the 11 million undocumented immigrants who live in the United States have deportations on their records. But the number is likely high, given Border Patrol’s efforts to make sure most people the agency apprehends pass through formal deportation proceedings.

 

Since prosecutors can easily secure convictions for illegal re-entry, Sessions’ order could fundamentally transform the federal justice system in a way CBP never imagined when it recommended systematically hauling border-crossers into criminal court with Operation Streamline in 2005. People nowhere near the border who would’ve previously been deported could further swell the court system and federal prisons.

‘Legalized Racism’

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at the Ethics and Compliance InitiativeYURI GRIPAS/REUTERS Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered U.S. attorneys across the country to consider prosecuting undocumented immigrants with deportations on their records for felony illegal re-entry, regardless of where they’re arrested.

Castillo sees the direction the Justice Department is moving under Trump and it unsettles her. Even after two decades of serving agreements to people pleading guilty of immigration violations, she rarely thinks of her clients as criminals. She sees parents trying to return to their children, jobless people looking for work, and people like Irlando who are scared for their lives.

 

She’s fought losing battles to convince judges that the weight of the law falls too heavily on her clients. She’s represented people who grew up in Phoenix and wound up with criminal records at a time when former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio famously targeted Hispanics for traffic stops to identify undocumented immigrants.

 

A federal court ruled in 2013 that those tactics amounted to racial profiling and ordered him to stop. But some of the people who got profiled and wound up with convictions and deportations showed up later in federal court for illegal re-entry charges. They face enhanced penalties that can boost their sentences up to 20 years.

 

“It’s legalized racism,” Castillo said. “That’s the whole problem with the criminal justice system ― we’re not allowed to talk about racism as a factor of a person’s story. But their criminal records are overrepresented … I’ve brought this up in court and the judges just sort of look at me with this blank stare.”

 

Like most of Castillo’s clients with immigration convictions, Irlando served his 75 days in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service, then faced a swift deportation back to Guatemala. Despite Judge Macdonald’s assurances, the immigration court never heard his appeals about how he feared for his safety back home. “They didn’t listen to anything I had to say,” Irlando said on a phone call from Guatemala last month.

 

Unable to return to his old job, he now works planting corn. He said he feels safe for the moment, but is unsure about his future in Guatemala. “Who knows,” he said. “I might try to cross again.”

Marine Le Pen Is What Happens When You Try to Meet Racism in the Middle April 25, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Europe, France, Nazi / Fascist, Racism, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: It’s curious.  The notion of “appeasement” is widely misused to justify all kinds of illegal military invasions.  Chamberlain “appeased” Hitler, so now for all time forward it is legitimate to attack anyone we don’t like.  They must not be “appeased.”  Saddam must not be appeased, Gaddafi must not be appeased, Iran must not be appeased, North Korea must not be appeased, Assad must not be appeased, etc. etc. etc.

(This doctrine, curiously, was not applied to South African Apartheid, to Chile’s Pinochet, Cuba’s Batista, Haiti’s Duvalier and a host of other tyrannical rulers.  Nor is it applied today to Egypt’s Sisi or Turkey’s Erdogan or the Saudis, etc. etc. etc.  Not to mention Israel’s Netanyahu.  Curious.)

But where do we appease when we shouldn’t?  We do we lack the courage or the moral fibre to confront such cancerous social phenomenon as racism?  Read on.

marine-le-pen-france-election-1493045458-article-header Photo: Aurore Marechal/Sipa/AP

SHAME ON THEM all. French leaders from across the political spectrum could not prevent a far-right candidate who has denied the role played by her country’s wartime Vichy government in the Nazi Holocaust from reaching the second and final round of the presidential election.

On Sunday, Marine Le Pen became only the second National Front candidate in French history to make it through to the second round — the first was her Holocaust-denying father, FN founder Jean Marie Le Pen, in 2002 — where she will face independent centrist Emmanuel Macron on May 7. Never before in the history of the French Fifth Republic have both the Socialist and the Republican candidates failed to reach the presidential run-off. This is nothing less than a political cataclysm.

So who is to blame for the rise and rise of Le Pen and the FN? The conventional wisdom says that mainstream French politicians allowed the far right to win votes by letting them monopolize the issue of immigration. The reverse is, in fact, the case: Over the past four decades, both the center-right Republicans and center-left Socialists went out of their way to try and co-opt the xenophobic rhetoric and policies of the Le Pens, which only emboldened — and normalized — both father and daughter.

Go back to September 1984, when the Socialist prime minister, Laurent Fabius, told a TV interviewer that the elder Le Pen, a card-carrying racist and neo-fascist, was posing the right questions but giving the wrong answers. A few years later, the Socialist president, Francois Mitterrand, declared that France had reached a “threshold of tolerance” in terms of the impact of immigrants.

In 1991, after clashes broke out between French police and youths of Arab and North African descent, politicians from the left, right, and center fell over one another to denounce immigration and bash French Muslims. In June of that year, for example, it wasn’t the elder Le Pen who decried an “overdose” of immigrants who brought to France “three or four wives, some 20 children,” plus “noise” and “smell.” It was former center-right prime minister (and later president) Jacques Chirac. A month later, it wasn’t Le Pen who announced that the French government would charter planes to forcibly deport undocumented immigrants. It was then-Prime Minister Edith Cresson, a Socialist. Just a few months later, in September 1991, it wasn’t Le Pen who warned of an “invasion” of immigrants and called for French citizenship to be based on “the right by blood.” It was former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing.

Every time the established politicians and parties hardened their stance on immigration, or on Islam, the FN became less fringe, more mainstream. Perhaps the biggest boost to the LePenization of French politics came from Nicolas Sarkozy. As president of France between 2007 and 2012, he actively courted FN voters and helped dismantle the “Republican pact,” under which the two main parties had pledged to work together to defeat the FN at a national and local level. Remember: It was Sarkozy who launched the “Great Debate on National Identity” in 2009; who ordered the ban on the face veil, worn by only 2,000 out of the roughly 2 million adult Muslim women in France, in 2010; who absurdly declared halal meat to be the “issue which most preoccupies the French” in 2012. And it was Sarkozy who called the FN “a democratic party” and deemed its values “compatible with the Republic.”

The French left, however, also has a lot to answer for. Manuel Valls, Socialist prime minister between 2014 and 2016, defended a ban on the burkini and said the “most important thing” is not unemployment but “the identity battle, the cultural battle.” Marine Le Pen herself could not have said it better. Valls’ Socialist colleague Laurence Rossignol, France’s minister for women’s rights, compared Muslim women who choose to wear the headscarf to “American negroes who were in favor of slavery.” And the far left presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who came fourth on Sunday, condemned the candidacy of a headscarf-wearing female Muslim candidate in the local elections of 2010.

These are the moral depths to which French socialism has fallen.

With enemies like these, who needs friends? Should we be surprised then that Marine Le Pen has pulled off an unashamedly cynical policy of dédiabolisation (or de-demonization) in recent years, based on playing down the FN’s (unpopular) anti-Semitism while playing up its (more popular) Islamophobia? Without much resistance, she has framed the party’s hard-line stance on immigration as a liberal defense of French laicité, or secularism, against fanatical and illiberal Muslims at home and abroad.

Islamophobia long ago united French public figures from across the spectrum. “That anti-Muslim rhetoric can be used from the far left to the far right … illustrates the convergence of points of views about Muslims,” Yasser Louati, a French human rights activist, tells me. “They can disagree on everything but not Islamophobia.”

To fight the FN, he says, there has to be a recognition of the role that endemic racism and religious discrimination still plays in French society, from the boardrooms to the banlieues. A former colonial power like France, argues Louati, has “racism enshrined in its DNA.” The official statistics on rising hate crimes, like Sunday’s election result, seem to back him up.

Nevertheless, to also be fair to the French, the latest polling suggests around two out of three of them will vote against Le Pen and in favor of Macron in the run-off next month. Macron is on course to win a resounding victory — but Le Pen has made clear she is here to stay. Le Pen and her fascist friends will be back in 2022 to fight again, enthused and energized, not to mention legitimized, by achieving such success in 2017 — and by forcing both left and right to dance to their bigoted tunes.

So it’s time for a reckoning. The French elites’ strategy of trying to defeat the Le Pens by aping their rhetoric, stealing their policies, and pandering to their voters has been a political and moral failure. As Gary Younge wrote in The Guardian after Jean-Marie Le Pen’s shock victory in the first round in 2002, “Every step you make in the direction of a racist agenda does not ‘neutralize’ racists but emboldens them.”

Fifteen years on, nothing has changed. You cannot appease fascism by meeting it in the middle; you cannot beat racism by indulging or excusing it. Perhaps French politicians should re-read their national motto. Fighting for égalité and fraternité, regardless of race or religion, is the only way forward.

Top photo: Far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen addresses activists at the Espace Francois Mitterrand in Henin-Beaumont, north of France, on April 23, 2017.

Mehdi Hasan

Mehdi Hasan is an award-winning British columnist, broadcaster, and author based in Washington, D.C. He hosts UpFront on Al Jazeera English and has interviewed, among others, Edward Snowden, Hamid Karzai, Ehud Olmert, and Gen. Michael Flynn. He is also the author of two books — a biography of former U.K. Labor Party leader Ed Miliband and an e-book on the financial crisis and austerity economics. Mehdi has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Guardian, and the Times of London, among others, and is the former political director of the Huffington Post U.K. and a contributing editor to the New Statesman. He has been included in the annual list of the 500 most influential Muslims in the world and named as one of the 100 most influential Britons on Twitter.

Obama and Clinton Brought Slavery to Libya April 23, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Libya, slavery, Syria, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: I am not sure I agree that the evidence of Assad atrocities is “dubious,” but it is clear that the US interventions in Iraq, Syria and Libya were violations of international law (i.e. war crimes) and have resulted in monumental humanitarian disasters.  Be it a Democratic or Republican, US interventions justified at humanitarian are always suspect and almost always result in the opposite.  When trying to understand motives for the MIC in the middle east, remember the code name that Baby Bush was going to use for his invasion of Iraq before someone noticed there might be a problem with it: Operation Iraq Liberation (O.I.L.).

“The dismemberment of Libya is one of many crimes that are conveniently shoved down the memory hole.”

by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley

According to international observers, “African migrants are being openly bought and sold in Libya” – yet another consequence of “R2P,” the pernicious doctrine of “Responsibility to Protect.” No one is protecting Black Africans from the bestial forces let loose by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in Libya in 2011. “America’s first black president is responsible for slavery taking place in a once prosperous African country.”

Nearly every day there is a new report of desperate migrants rescued at sea in the Mediterranean. Some are less fortunate and are among the estimated 12,000 who have died there in the last three years alone. Their point of embarkation is Libya, a nation now a haven for human traffickers because of President Barack Obama and his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.

Their deliberate destruction of Libya was a war crime by all standards of international law. That country was just one victim of the American plan to eliminate secular governments in the Middle East. Under the guise of a phony “responsibility to protect” and with cover from organizations such as Human Rights Watch, American propaganda gave an atrocity the appearance of a humanitarian act. Now come reports from media and the International Organization for Migration that African migrants are being openly bought and sold in Libya. This practice would not be taking place if Muammar Gaddafi not been murdered by American backed jihadists in 2011.

Obama’s evil success in Libya set off an endless trail of disasters. Libya is a hot bed of ISIS activity along with Iraq and Syria. It is not a coincidence that all three countries were targets of American regime change. Even the American ambassador in Libya fell victim to his government’s machinations in Benghazi.

“Under the guise of a phony ‘responsibility to protect’ and with cover from organizations such as Human Rights Watch, American propaganda gave an atrocity the appearance of a humanitarian act.”

Obama and Clinton hoped to continue their victory in Syria, but president Assad was stronger than they anticipated. When the Russians proved to be fickle allies who were willing to push Assad under the proverbial bus, Obama and Clinton wouldn’t take yes for an answer. They insisted that Assad had to go and they didn’t care how many Syrians they killed or turned into refugees in the process. Now the bloodshed continues under a new administration.

European countries struggle to contend with the flow of people from Syria and Libya who would be in their homelands were it not for America’s designs on that part of the world. Yet the corporate media say nothing. They may report on the refugee crisis and the migrant crisis without ever stating what is easily provable, that the United States is entirely responsible for the suffering.

There can be no plan for reviving the peace movement that doesn’t include a reckoning of responsibility for the disasters that Obama and Clinton brought to the world. “We came, we saw, he died,” is one of the more memorable Hillary Clinton statements, memorable for all the wrong reasons. Obama knew better than to be so crass, but he privately called Libya a “shit show” as if he were a bystander and not the perpetrator.

While the corporate media make hay out of very dubious evidence of atrocities allegedly committed by the Syrian government, the atrocities caused directly by the American government go unmentioned. Or rather they are reported absent of any context of American responsibility.

“There can be no plan for reviving the peace movement that doesn’t include a reckoning of responsibility for the disasters that Obama and Clinton brought to the world.”

Even press reports of slave trading in Libya follow the same proscribed language. They will say that Gaddafi was an autocrat and a dictator, but omit that the humanitarian ,disaster was carried out by the United States, NATO, and Gulf monarchs. The dismemberment of Libya is one of many crimes that are conveniently shoved down the memory hole.

Now we see the supreme and awful irony. America’s first black president is responsible for slavery taking place in a once prosperous African country and his role is covered up by people who once would have condemned his actions.

Black people defended Muammar Gaddafi if no one else did. American presidents made a show of castigating Gaddafi, calling him crazed, fanatical, dictatorial and mentally ill. Black Americans were unanimous in their support whenever he was attacked, whether militarily or even rhetorically. But that support ended when he fell under Obama’s cross hairs. Barack Obama’s ascendancy to the presidency was a curse on black America’s political heritage.

That curse is unlikely to be lifted anytime soon. There was never a great willingness to point out his wrong doing, and now that the despised Trump is president the selective amnesia grows worse.

The corporate media do not fulfill their most basic obligations. They repeat lies if they are told by people they decide to protect. They hide the truth if it is told by the people they decide to disappear from discourse and from history. But that dissembling should not silence people who put themselves in the anti-war camp. When they read or hear about refugees and migrants dying or being sold as slaves they must state loudly and clearly that Obama and Clinton are the villains in the story.

Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.

WHY THEY MARCH: “SCIENCE AND SCIENTISTS ARE NOW UNDER ATTACK” April 22, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Energy, Environment, Science and Technology, Trump.
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Roger’s note: the massive destruction of our biosphere did not begin with Donald Trump.  The essential nature of a capitalist economy demands that the individual need for profit will always override social needs.  As world capital runs out of natural resources to appropriate and cheap labor to exploit, it can afford less and less to give in to society’s pressure to preserve the planet.

One of the scientists interviewed below has worked for many years in Cuba, a country that I have visited many times and studied for years.  Cuba is by no means a genuine socialist state, but because it had its roots in a socialist-like revolution (much like the U.S.S.R.) it has maintained some of the socialist idealism that was the driving force behind its revolution.  Perhaps because of universal free education up to and including the post secondary level, there is a degree of culture and sophistication that I consider to be unique to Cuba.

I fear that with the detente that began with Obama and Raúl Castro, many of what remains of Cuba’s revolutionary gains with respect to environmental conservation may be lost. This is what I mean:

For the past 17 years, Guggenheim has been working in Cuba, which has some of the healthiest coral reefs left in the Caribbean. The Cuban reefs have thrived because the country has protected its coastal waters — and also hasn’t suffered the effects of large-scale tourism or agriculture. Also, said Guggenheim, “they actually listen to their scientists. There’s no climate debate there like we have here.”

 

April 22 2017, the intercept 

The March for Science is a response to the Trump administration’s distaste for science — or at least the kind that gets in the way of profit — but it is also a celebration of those among us who have devoted their lives to understanding how the world works. The thousands descending on the National Mall, on the first Earth Day under a regime that has taken a sharp knife to government science budgets, study stars and butterflies, barrier reefs and hedgehog reproduction, viruses and bird flight patterns.

Most days, they make and test their hypotheses in laboratories or perhaps in the Arctic Circle or the Australian Outback, in an anti-gravity chamber or a deciduous forest. But on this warm April Saturday, they have come together in Washington, D.C, to make a point that feels more urgent than ever: Science matters, and we ignore its findings at our peril.

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Photo: Matt Roth for The Intercept

Michael Mann (shown above), a climatologist and geophysicist, has pioneered computational models based on patterns of the past 600 years of climate changes. Mann is perhaps best known for the “Hockey Stick graph,” which shows a sharp uptick in global temperatures starting around 1900. And he was one of the lead authors of the 2001 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which helped establish the scientific consensus about the global phenomenon. But Mann may be proudest of his most recent work documenting the sometimes subtle impacts the climate is having on hurricane activity, extreme weather events, and phenomena like El Niño. “This is an area of the science where there is still legitimate debate and a lot of interesting work left to be done,” he said, “much of it steeped in basic physics where I got my start.”

Mann is marching because “Science and scientists are now under attack in this country.” He should know. Mann is one of the favorite targets of climate deniers, as evidenced most recently by a hearing of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology at which he was the only witness representing the mainstream view that climate change is the result of human activity.

“When congressional Republicans are denying basic science,” Mann said, “and the Trump administration — run largely by polluting interests — is trying to revoke policies to protect our health and our environment, more than ever we need to hear the voices of scientists, loudly and clearly.”

Faces of Science: March for Science

Mary Droser at Lincoln Park in Washington, D.C., on Friday April 21, 2017.Photo: Matt Roth for The Intercept

“Not all species are equal,” said Mary Droser, a paleontologist who uses fossils to study how ecosystems develop and change over time. “You take out a particular species, a keystone species, and the whole thing crashes. That’s why so many people are now worried about the Great Barrier Reef.”

Having studied the rise and fall of past species can make our current crisis particularly scary. “When people say save the earth, I think the earth will be fine. It’s humanity that I’m worried about. We know from the past that, in terms of extinctions, and in terms of environmental change, the tipping points come sooner than we think.”

Droser finds it absurd that the current administration “wants to pick and choose what science to believe.” Still, she considers herself an optimist. “You can’t just go into despair,” she said. “What am I going to do, tell my 16-year-old that I’m just going to sit this one out?”

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David Guggenheim in Washington, D.C., on Friday, April 21, 2017.Photo: Matt Roth for The Intercept

“We’re starting to realize how seriously our oceans are in trouble,” saidDavid Guggenheim, a marine biologist who studies coral reefs. Since 1970, the Caribbean has lost about 50 percent of its reefs.

For the past 17 years, Guggenheim has been working in Cuba, which has some of the healthiest coral reefs left in the Caribbean. The Cuban reefs have thrived because the country has protected its coastal waters — and also hasn’t suffered the effects of large-scale tourism or agriculture. Also, said Guggenheim, “they actually listen to their scientists. There’s no climate debate there like we have here.”

Protecting fish is essential for protecting reefs, said Guggenheim. “We think of fish as something to eat, as crops that grow in the ocean. But they have jobs to do and one of them is keeping coral reefs healthy.”

Guggenheim is marching because he’s alarmed by the anti-science bent of the new administration. “I’m used to getting around the table with the opposition. I’m used to compromising. But this is different,” said Guggenheim. “It’s a throw-back to the dark ages. The problem is the voice of science is not being heard. The voice of Trump is being heard.”

Faces of Science: March for Science

Melanie Killen at her home in Bethesda, Md., on Friday, April 21, 2017.Photo: Matt Roth for The Intercept

Melanie Killen is a developmental scientist who looks at the emergence of moral concepts from early childhood to adulthood. Theorists used to speculate that morality emerged in adolescence. But Killen and her team showed that a sense of right and wrong begins to form in children who are as young as 3, 4, and 5.

By age 5, Killen’s team showed, children can also understand and account for relative advantage. Asked to divide supplies between two schools that have unequal resources, for instance, children will often choose to give a larger share to that the one with less. “They start saying things like, ‘well you have to give them more because then it’ll all be fair,” she said.

Killen is marching to stand up for continued support for basic science. “The U.S. has been a leader in the world in terms of basic research funding for everything from child health to space exploration and cures for cancer,” she said. “The idea that we are reducing that funding is a terrible blow to progress.”

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Jessica Ware at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Friday April 21, 2017.Photo: Matt Roth for The Intercept

Jessica Ware is an evolutionary entomologist. Her work focuses on dragonflies, which were the first creatures to fly on earth and are also among the fastest of the animals responding to climate change. Ware has traced the evolution of the insects’ genes through fossils, which date as far back as 250 million years ago, and follows current dragonfly populations in the Yukon and the northern-most points of the world.

“Trying to understand how, when and why they evolved helps us understand where the planet is now and where it’ll be in the future,” said Ware. She is marching, in part, to highlight the importance of evolution. “The U.S. is lagging behind almost every single country in terms of the general public’s belief in evolution. But it’s not something to be believed. It’s a process that creates life and causes things to go extinct. It exists.”

Ware also wants all young people to know that they could be scientists, something she didn’t realize as a child. “I am an African American woman with LGBT family,” said Ware. “When people think of science, they don’t think of someone who looks like me.”

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John Vadermeer and Ivette Perfecto, ecologists at the University of Michigan, at Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., on Friday, April 21, 2017.Photo: Matt Roth for The Intercept

“Most science gets done for the benefit of the powerful,” said John Vandermeer. “We feel it should be done for the benefit of everyone.” Vandermeer and his wife, Ivette Perfecto, have worked together for 37 years, using ecological principles to improve agriculture. For much of that time, they have focused on coffee production in Puerto Rico. They have also established a coffee plantation in Chiapas, Mexico, where they research interactions among pests and their natural enemies.

Agriculture is a major cause of both climate change and species extinctions. But Vandermeer and Perfecto have been studying more sustainable ways of growing, focusing on natural systems that control pests without pesticides. They’ve recently developed games that help farmers understand the complexity of ecosystems.

For Perfecto, the march is about more than science. “I feel like we’re losing democracy,” she said. “Science is just one of the casualties.”

Faces of Science: March for Science

Robin Wall Kimmerer, outside her hotel in Rockville, Md., on Friday April 21, 2017.Photo: Matt Roth for The Intercept

Robin Kimmerer’s work as a botanist and professor of environmental and forest biology has largely focused on the ecology of mosses, the tiniest and most ancient plants. “They’ve been on the planet for 350 million years and have endured every climate change, every movement of continents,” said Kimmerer. “And they’re still flourishing!”

A member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Kimmerer has also worked to integrate indigenous knowledge with Western science. She combined the two in an effort to restore the sweetgrass plant, which had been disappearing from its native habitats throughout the Northeast several years ago. “We found, in order to restore it, it wasn’t enough to restore the plant and leave it alone. Sweetgrass flourished only when it was used.”

In Kimmerer’s view, it’s not just the land that’s broken, it’s the relationship to land that’s broken. She is marching in part to bring such indigenous views into the mainstream of science. “It’s not a matter of just marching for science. I’m marching for sciences. There are multiple ways of doing science.”

The Problem is Washington, Not North Korea April 17, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in History, North/South Korea, Nuclear weapons/power, Trump, Uncategorized, War.
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Roger’s note: I am old enough to remember that the Korean War is not officially a war, but rather a “police action.”  And that the police action that was really a war is still not over, there is only a cease-fire that has been in place since 1953, with the United States not interested in a permanent peace treaty with North Korea.

The article below is written by an American but from the North Korean point of view, not an easy task and one that most Americans are unwilling to even consider.  We have been brainwashed (and I mean that literally) to believe that the United States is a world power only for the purpose of maintaining peace (that’s a joke), democracy (joke two) and stability (I’m running out of jokes).

Even many of those who are serious critics of U.S. foreign policy are of the opinion that the U.S. government “makes mistakes” as opposed to committing crimes.  One needs to step back, as a citizen of the world and as a human being, to see that the United States of America is a criminal empire bent on world domination for the sake of its military establishment and its giant corporations.

In the last few days, as Trump has escalated the bellicose rhetoric towards North Korea, which some are beginning to compare to the Cuban Missile Crisis, and in light of the launching of 59 missiles into Syria, and not to mention that Trump is a certifiable sociopath; I cannot help but thinking that petitions, and traditional marches, and electing Democrats to Congress may not be enough to save ourselves from actual annihilation.

I picture tens of millions of American taking direct action in Washington and all other American cities, surrounding the White House, the Capital, the Pentagon, government offices, the offices of Congress members, etc.

By whatever means necessary.  SNL aside, Trump is no joke.

By   

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Photo by Stefan Krasowski

Washington has never made any effort to conceal its contempt for North Korea. In the 64 years since the war ended, the US has done everything in its power to punish, humiliate and inflict pain on the Communist country. Washington has subjected the DPRK to starvation,  prevented its government from accessing foreign capital and markets, strangled its economy with crippling economic sanctions, and installed lethal missile systems and military bases on their doorstep.

Negotiations aren’t possible because Washington refuses to sit down with a country which it sees as its inferior.  Instead, the US has strong-armed China to do its bidding by using their diplomats as interlocutors who are expected to convey Washington’s ultimatums as threateningly as possible.  The hope, of course, is that Pyongyang will cave in to Uncle Sam’s bullying and do what they are told.

But the North has never succumbed to US intimidation and there’s no sign that it will. Instead, they have developed a small arsenal of nuclear weapons to defend themselves in the event that the US tries to assert its dominance by launching another war.
There’s no country in the world that needs nuclear weapons more than North Korea. Brainwashed Americans, who get their news from FOX or CNN, may differ on this point, but if a hostile nation deployed carrier strike-groups off the coast of California while conducting massive war games on the Mexican border (with the express intention of scaring the shit out of people) then they might see things differently. They might see the value of having a few nuclear weapons to deter that hostile nation from doing something really stupid.

And let’s be honest, the only reason Kim Jong Un hasn’t joined Saddam and Gadhafi in the great hereafter, is because (a)– The North does not sit on an ocean of oil, and (b)– The North has the capacity to reduce Seoul, Okinawa and Tokyo into smoldering debris-fields.  Absent Kim’s WMDs,  Pyongyang would have faced a preemptive attack long ago and Kim would have faced a fate similar to Gadhafi’s.  Nuclear weapons are the only known antidote to US adventurism.

The American people –whose grasp of history does not extend beyond the events of 9-11 — have no idea of the way the US fights its wars or the horrific carnage and destruction it unleashed on the North.  Here’s a short  refresher that helps clarify why the North is still wary of the US more than 60 years after the armistice was signed.  The excerpt is from an article titled “Americans have forgotten what we did to North Korea”, at Vox World:

“In the early 1950s, during the Korean War, the US dropped more bombs on North Korea than it had dropped in the entire Pacific theater during World War II. This carpet bombing, which included 32,000 tons of napalm, often deliberately targeted civilian as well as military targets, devastating the country far beyond what was necessary to fight the war. Whole cities were destroyed, with many thousands of innocent civilians killed and many more left homeless and hungry….

According to US journalist Blaine Harden:  “Over a period of three years or so, we killed off — what — 20 percent of the population,” Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay, head of the Strategic Air Command during the Korean War, told the Office of Air Force History in 1984. Dean Rusk, a supporter of the war and later secretary of state, said the United States bombed “everything that moved in North Korea, every brick standing on top of another.” After running low on urban targets, U.S. bombers destroyed hydroelectric and irrigation dams in the later stages of the war, flooding farmland and destroying crops……

“On January 3 at 10:30 AM an armada of 82 flying fortresses loosed their death-dealing load on the city of Pyongyang …Hundreds of tons of bombs and incendiary compound were simultaneously dropped throughout the city, causing annihilating fires, the transatlantic barbarians bombed the city with delayed-action high-explosive bombs which exploded at intervals for a whole day making it impossible for the people to come out onto the streets. The entire city has now been burning, enveloped in flames, for two days. By the second day, 7,812 civilians houses had been burnt down. The Americans were well aware that there were no military targets left in Pyongyang…

The number of inhabitants of Pyongyang killed by bomb splinters, burnt alive and suffocated by smoke is incalculable…Some 50,000 inhabitants remain in the city which before the war had a population of 500,000.” (“Americans have forgotten what we did to North Korea“,  Vox World)

The United States killed over 2 million people in a country that posed no threat to US national security. Like Vietnam, the Korean War was just another  muscle-flexing exercise the US periodically engages in whenever it gets bored or needs some far-flung location to try out its new weapons systems. The US had nothing to gain in its aggression on the Korean peninsula, it was mix of imperial overreach and pure unalloyed viciousness the likes of which we’ve seen many times in the past. According to the Asia-Pacific Journal:

“By the fall of 1952, there were no effective targets left for US planes to hit. Every significant town, city and industrial area in North Korea had already been bombed. In the spring of 1953, the Air Force targeted irrigation dams on the Yalu River, both to destroy the North Korean rice crop and to pressure the Chinese, who would have to supply more food aid to the North. Five reservoirs were hit, flooding thousands of acres of farmland, inundating whole towns and laying waste to the essential food source for millions of North Koreans.10 Only emergency assistance from China, the USSR, and other socialist countries prevented widespread famine.” (“The Destruction and Reconstruction of North Korea, 1950 – 1960”, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Japan Focus)

Repeat: “Reservoirs, irrigation dams, rice crops,  hydroelectric dams, population centers” all napalmed, all carpet bombed,  all razed to the ground. Nothing was spared. If it moved it was shot, if it didn’t move, it was bombed. The US couldn’t win, so they turned the country into an uninhabitable wastelands.   “Let them starve. Let them freeze.. Let them eat weeds and roots and rodents to survive. Let them sleep in the ditches and find shelter in the rubble. What do we care? We’re the greatest country on earth. God bless America.”

This is how Washington does business, and it hasn’t changed since the Seventh Cavalry wiped out 150 men, women and children at Wounded Knee more than century ago. The Lakota Sioux at Pine Ridge got the same basic treatment as the North Koreans, or the Vietnamese, or the Nicaraguans, or the Iraqis and on and on and on and on. Anyone else who gets in Uncle Sam’s way, winds up in a world of hurt. End of story.

The savagery of America’s war against the North left an indelible mark on the psyche of the people.  Whatever the cost, the North cannot allow a similar scenario to take place in the future. Whatever the cost, they must be prepared to defend themselves. If that means nukes, then so be it. Self preservation is the top priority.

Is there a way to end this pointless standoff between Pyongyang and Washington, a way to mend fences and build trust?

Of course there is. The US just needs to start treating the DPRK with respect and follow through on their promises. What promises?

The promise to build the North two light-water reactors to provide heat and light to their people in exchange for an end to its nuclear weapons program. You won’t read about this deal in the media because the media is just the propaganda wing of the Pentagon. They have no interest in promoting peaceful solutions. Their stock-in-trade is war, war and more war.

The North wants the US to honor its obligations under the 1994 Agreed Framework. That’s it. Just keep up your end of the goddamn deal. How hard can that be?   Here’s how Jimmy Carter summed it up in a Washington Post op-ed (November 24, 2010):

“…in September 2005, an agreement … reaffirmed the basic premises of the 1994 accord. (The Agreed Framework) Its text included denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, a pledge of non-aggression by the United States and steps to evolve a permanent peace agreement to replace the U.S.-North Korean-Chinese cease-fire that has been in effect since July 1953. Unfortunately, no substantive progress has been made since 2005…

“This past July I was invited to return to Pyongyang to secure the release of an American, Aijalon Gomes, with the proviso that my visit would last long enough for substantive talks with top North Korean officials. They spelled out in detail their desire to develop a denuclearized Korean Peninsula and a permanent cease-fire, based on the 1994 agreements and the terms adopted by the six powers in September 2005….

“North Korean officials have given the same message to other recent American visitors and have permitted access by nuclear experts to an advanced facility for purifying uranium. The same officials had made it clear to me that this array of centrifuges would be ‘on the table’ for discussions with the United States, although uranium purification – a very slow process – was not covered in the 1994 agreements.

Pyongyang has sent a consistent message that during direct talks with the United States, it is ready to conclude an agreement to end its nuclear programs, put them all under IAEA inspection and conclude a permanent peace treaty to replace the ‘temporary’ cease-fire of 1953. We should consider responding to this offer. The unfortunate alternative is for North Koreans to take whatever actions they consider necessary to defend themselves from what they claim to fear most: a military attack supported by the United States, along with efforts to change the political regime.”

(“North Korea’s consistent message to the U.S.”, President Jimmy Carter, Washington Post)

Most people think the problem lies with North Korea, but it doesn’t. The problem lies with the United States; it’s unwillingness to negotiate an end to the war, its unwillingness to provide basic security guarantees to the North, its unwillingness to even sit down with the people who –through Washington’s own stubborn ignorance– are now developing long-range ballistic missiles that will be capable of hitting American cities.

How dumb is that?

The Trump team is sticking with a policy that has failed for 63 years and which clearly undermines US national security by putting American citizens directly at risk. AND FOR WHAT?

To preserve the image of “tough guy”,  to convince people that the US doesn’t negotiate with weaker countries,  to prove to the world that “whatever the US says, goes”?   Is that it?  Is image more important than a potential nuclear disaster?

Relations with the North can be normalized,  economic ties can be strengthened, trust can be restored, and the nuclear threat can be defused. The situation with the North does not have to be a crisis, it can be fixed. It just takes a change in policy, a bit of give-and-take, and leaders that genuinely want peace more than war.

 

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

 

 

Happy Easter (Dr. Schrodinger) April 16, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Humor, Religion, Science and Technology, Uncategorized.
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Anti-Choice Activists Flank Trump as He Delivers Final Blow to Family Planning Safeguards April 15, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Poverty, Race, Right Wing, Sexuality, Trump, Uncategorized, Women.
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Roger’s note: in addition to its radically increasing war making and killing abroad, and its dismantling of environmental protections, the Trump presidency is creating untold harm domestically, and, naturally, to those most vulnerable: immigrants, refugees, poor people, racial minorities, women, children, seniors, etc.  This is an unmitigated disaster.

Withdrawing the rule hinders the ability of four million Title X patients, including 1.5 million Planned Parenthood patients, to access quality, affordable health care.

Apr 13, 2017, Christine Grimaldi, rewire.news

President Trump on Thursday signed off on congressional Republicans’ push to shred family planning safeguards enacted under the Obama administration.

With the stroke of his pen, Trump officially withdrew an Obama-era rule intended to stop state-level interference in federal funding for family planning clinics, including Planned Parenthood affiliates—the real target of the GOP’s ire over the fact that the health-care organization provides abortion care with its own funds. Withdrawing the rule, however, hinders the ability of four million Title X patients, including 1.5 million Planned Parenthood patients, to access quality, affordable health care.

Doing so disproportionately impacts people of color. Of the four million Title X patients in 2015, 30 percent self-identified as Black or African American, Asian, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, or American Indian or Alaska Native; 32 percent self-identified as Hispanic or Latino; and 13 percent had limited English proficiency.

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate wielded an arcane procedural tool known as the Congressional Review Act to undo the Title X rule and other key regulations enacted in the last six months of Obama’s presidency. Vice President Mike Pence cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate to send the resolution of disapproval (HJ Res. 43) targeting the rule to the president’s desk over the objections of Democrats in the chamber.

Trump signed the bill with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma and Rep. Diane Black (R-TN), the sponsor of the resolution of disapproval, by his side, according to a White House pool report and an Instagram post from Concerned Women for America President Penny Young Nance. Anti-choice Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser was pictured in another photo with Black and Nance at the White House and also witnessed the signing, per the pool report. The press was not allowed to watch Trump sign the bill.

Rewire‘s Ally Boguhn reported this week on how White House counselor Kellyanne Conway’s connections have given anti-choice groups “ready access” to Trump.

Eliminating Title X protections represents the GOP’s latest strike to women’s health-care services that transgender and gender nonconforming people rely on too.

Trump expanded the global gag rule prohibiting foreign nongovernmental organizations, or NGOs, that receive U.S. family planning aid from providing abortion care or information about the medical procedure using their own funds. And Trump picked up on congressional Republicans’ failed quest to repeal Obamacare, preparing a regulatory war against women’s health-care benefits and a thousand cuts to benefits for vulnerable populations, specifically transgender people, pregnant people, and those with low incomes.

“We should build on the tremendous progress made in this country with expanded access to birth control, instead of enacting policies that take us backward,” Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement. “Too many women still face barriers to health care, especially young women, women of color, those who live in rural areas, and women with low incomes.”