Dissident Voice

By “Force and Fraud”: Is This the End of the US Democracy Doctrine?   

In an interview with the British newspaper, The Times, in 2015, former US Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, vehemently denied that exporting democracy to Iraq was the main motive behind the US invasion of that Arab country 12 years earlier.

Rumsfeld further alleged that "the idea that we could fashion a democracy in Iraq seemed to me unrealistic." But the US' top military chief was being dishonest. Writing in Mother Jones, Miles E. Johnson responded to Rumsfeld's claim by quoting some of his previous statements where he, repeatedly, cited democracy as the main reason behind the US invasion, a war that was one of the most destructive since Vietnam.

Certainly, it was not Rumsfeld alone who brazenly promoted the democracy pretense. Indeed, 'democracy' was the buzzword, parroted by thousands of Americans: in government, the military, mainstream media, and the numerous think-tanks that dotted the intellectual and political landscape of Washington.

One could not help but reflect on the subject when, on January 6, thousands of Americans stormed the Washington Plaza, climbing the walls of Capitol Hill and taking over the US Congress. A country that has assigned itself the role of the defender of democracy worldwide, now stands unable to defend its own democracy at home.

In the case of Iraq, as soon as US soldiers stormed into Baghdad, they hurriedly occupied all government buildings and every symbol of Iraqi sovereignty. Triumphant soldiers were filmed rampaging through the offices of former Iraqi ministers, smoking their cigars, while placing their dirty boots on top of their desks. Bizarrely, similar scenes were repeated in Washington 17 years later, this time in the offices of top US legislators, including the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi.

In Iraq, from March 2003, ministers were hunted down, as their photos and names were circulated through what the US military referred to as Iraq's 'most wanted deck of cards'. In the American scenario, US Congressmen and women were forced to cower under their desks or to run for their lives.

The violent events in Washington have been depicted by US mainstream media as if a temporary crisis, instigated by a president who refuses to concede power peacefully and democratically. The truth, however, is far more complex. There is nothing transitory about any of this and, while Donald Trump is largely to blame for the bloody events of this day, the man is a symptom of America's rooted democracy crisis, which is likely to worsen in the future.

Famed American linguist and historian, Noam Chomsky, has long argued that the US is not a democracy but a plutocracy, a country that is governed by the interests of the powerful few. He also argued that, while the US does operate based on formal democratic structures, these are largely dysfunctional. In an interview with Global Policy Journal in 2019, Chomsky further asserted that the "US Constitution was framed to thwart the democratic aspirations of most of the public."

This has been evident for many years. Long before Trump became President, the dichotomy of American democracy has expressed itself in the way that the American people interact with their supposedly democratic institutions. For example, merely 20% of US adults trust their government, according to a Pew Research Center poll published last September. This number has remained relatively unchanged under previous administrations.

With the US economy rapidly sinking due to various factors, including the government's mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the people's distrust in government is now manifesting itself in new ways, including mass violence. The fact that 77% of those who voted for Trump in the November elections believe that Joe Biden's win was due to fraud, suggests that a sizable percentage of Americans have little faith in their country's democracy. The consequences of this realization will surely be dire.

America's constitutional crisis, which is unlikely to be resolved in the current atmosphere of polarization, is compounded by an external political crisis. Historically, the US has defined and redefined its mission in the world based on lofty spiritual, moral and political maxims, starting with 'Manifest Destiny', to fighting communism, to eventually serving as the defender of human rights and democracy around the world. The latter was merely a pretense used to provide a moral cover that would allow the US to reorder the world for the sake of expanding its market and ensuring its economic dominance.

Thomas Paine, whose influence on US ideals of liberty and democracy is arguably unmatched, warned, in "Common Sense" in 1776, against the potential tyranny of those who "attempt to govern mankind by force and fraud, as if they were all knaves and fools."

Alas, Paine's warning went unheeded. Indeed, the democracy 'fraud' that Rumsfeld, George W. Bush, et al carried out in Iraq in 2003, was a mere repetition of numerous other fraudulent military campaigns carried out around the world. The 'protectors of democracy' became the very men responsible for its undoing.

Unquestionably, the storming of US Congress will have global repercussions, not least among them the weakening of US hegemonic and self-serving definition of what constitutes a democracy. Is it possible that the US democracy doctrine could soon cease to be relevant in the lexicon of US foreign policy conduct, one that is predicated, per Paine's logic, on "force and fraud"?

The post By "Force and Fraud": Is This the End of the US Democracy Doctrine?    first appeared on Dissident Voice.
translate | 19 Jan 2021 | 2:47 am

The Cause of Independence for Puerto Rico

From 1974 into the 1980's I worked actively with the US branch of the Puerto Rican Socialist Party (PSP) in support of the cause of independence for Puerto Rico. I have maintained connections to this should-be country ever since, primarily through a close friendship with a leading community activist in Vieques, a small island off the southeast coast of the main island.

Revolution Around the Corner is a special book. If you don't know much about Puerto Rico and its relationship to the USA, there's a lot to learn within this book. If you were active with the PSP back then this is definitely a book you should read. It's the same if you are a progressive North American but understand that PR is a colony suffering for over 120 years under United States domination and you have a responsibility to help free it.

But there's another reason why this is such a valuable book. It's one of the best books I've read that gives a sense of what it's like to be part of a Left organization that has big successes for a number of years but then loses steam, members, energy and its sense of direction and ultimately disappears as an organization. Revolution Around the Corner includes the personal stories of people who were deeply wounded by all of that and who, decades later, share their thinking about what went wrong.

That overall story is very relevant to all of us on the Left. It is particularly important for young people new to the movement to learn from and appreciate so that they will be able to minimize, if not prevent, destructive internal organizational/personal dynamics going forward.

For example, here's what Alfredo Lopez, one of the US branch's top leaders for years, said about his role: "Several of our leaders [including me] suffered from the same baseless arrogance, and this style managed to glue together coalitions that had no business existing. While I was in the party's leadership, I told myself that these means were justified by the end. Since that time, I have come to realize that when the means are sullied by undemocratic practice, the end is never a desirable one. The demise of the PSP in this country is as much my responsibility as anyone's."

Andres Torres writes of the PSP's serious problems with sexism: "From the party's beginnings the role of its women members was fraught with stereotype and tradition. Leadership was heavily male dominated. The companeras were typically assigned to supportive work areas—taking minutes at meetings, providing nourishment, and so forth. They were not expected to be spokespersons or ideological leaders. The sources of this discrepancy are found in the very structure of all societies; national liberation movements are not immune to the workings of patriarchy."

Despite these weaknesses, which ultimately led to the PSP's downfall, the book reports on the many successes of the PSP in the 1970's: building a mass-based and activist, socialist and independista organization in the Puerto Rican community throughout the United States; filling Madison Square Garden with 20,000 members and supporters in the fall of 1974; leading a broad July 4th Coalition in 1976 which brought out 40,000 people on that day in Philadelphia and 10,000 more on the west coast; and giving leadership to a Coalition for a People's Alternative in 1980 which organized a Peoples Convention of thousands on Charlotte Street in the South Bronx and a march of 15,000 people to the Democratic National Convention in Madison Square Garden.

The book is a collection of 15 histories and testimonies by a variety of authors. It was put together and edited by Jose E. Velazquez, Carmen V. Rivera and Andres Torres, all PSP leaders in the 70s. It is well done, an excellent read, lots of interesting stories, good writers, and comprehensive information from different perspectives. Revolution Around the Corner can help us turn the corner as we build towards a 21st century revolution which learns from past weaknesses and errors, a necessity if it's going to happen. Si, se puede!

The post The Cause of Independence for Puerto Rico first appeared on Dissident Voice.
translate | 19 Jan 2021 | 2:18 am

The Russian Revolution: Separating Truth from Myth

There is a deceitful and ahistorical myth that frequently resurfaces in right-wing circles seeking to discredit socialism with lies about the Russian Revolution. No matter how many times it has been invalidated as fabrication, the reactionary mythos endures. As might be expected, the author is referring to the preposterous claim that American capitalists — or "Wall Street bankers" — secretly financed one of the most epochal political revolutions in world history which overthrew the Romanov dynasty and ended the Russian Empire, leading to the establishment of the Soviet Union. One would be hard pressed to find anyone on the political left who has not encountered this mendacious propaganda which has a few variations depending on how far to the right its adherent lands on the political spectrum, but it usually shares the same core set of evidence-free claims.

Leaving aside whether or not the absurd premise makes any sense politically, what can be acknowledged is that at the heart of these false assertions are tiny elements of truth that have been distorted and overstated to the point of deception. Any research into this allegation inevitably leads one to its most popularly cited source, Wall Street and the Bolshevik Revolution by British-American conservative academic, Antony C. Sutton. The primary argument deduced by Sutton is that "Wall Street" indirectly funded the Bolsheviks via the Swedish financier Olof Aschberg, a prominent banker and communist sympathizer who supported a variety of left-wing causes throughout his life, including later the Popular Front in the Spanish Civil War. During WWI, Aschberg was a banker in neutral Sweden before expanding his business into Germany where he then transferred sums to aid the Bolsheviks in Russia. However, the links that Sutton makes between Aschberg and "Wall Street" are contradictory and tenuous at best.

While it is evident that Aschberg visited New York in 1916 to convince a group of private American businessmen that the wartime financial opportunities in Russia would continue to flourish after its conclusion, by Sutton's own admission he was in the United States on behalf of the Tsarist government to negotiate a $50 million loan for the imperial Russian Ministry of Finance. Sutton then debunks his own claim by alleging that Aschberg simultaneously siphoned money "from the German government" to the Russian revolutionaries just as he was acting as an agent in place of Nicholas II's finance minister, Pyotr Bark. If that is the case, then the socialist Aschberg likely defrauded a partnership of American private bankers into inadvertently lending financial support to the Bolsheviks, at the very time he was employed as a representative for the Russian monarchy. It should be noted that this deal occurred during America's neutrality in the war at the time, as the U.S. would not enter the conflict until the following year and Aschberg is known to have gotten into trouble with the Allies. Apparently, Sutton could not discern that these Yankee capitalists were being duped by the "Bolshevik Banker" and instead assigned conscious intent to their money passing through the Swede financier to the communist revolution.

Even if true, the conduit of funds from Aschberg's Nya Banken would have constituted a minuscule portion compared with the primary subsidies for the Bolsheviks which came via the fortunes they seized from wealthy merchants, landed nobility, and senior members of the Russian Orthodox Church, not to mention the ruling class of the Tsar and his family who amassed incalculable riches going back hundreds of years. After the Russian Civil War, Aschberg founded the USSR's first foreign trade bank, Roskombank, as one of the inaugural decrees of the Soviet government was the nationalization of the financial industry where the assets of private bankers were confiscated by the state. Thereafter, banking in the USSR functioned solely for the purpose of sponsoring foreign trade and the rapid industrialization of the agrarian country into a modern global superpower. If any American bankers were fooled by Aschberg into funding a Marxist revolution, they sealed their own fate.

Sutton's accusation that the German state sponsored the Bolsheviks first came from the Alexander Kerensky-led Provisional Government which took power following the abdication of Nicholas II in the February Revolution. The short-lived interim government based its claims on telegraphic cables which purportedly showed payments between Berlin and the revolutionaries which was then used as evidence to smear Vladimir Lenin as a "German agent." Historians have since debated the authenticity of the telegrams, but if Germany did divert funds toward the Bolsheviks, it was only because the revolutionary opposition to Russian participation in the imperialist war was an opening to undermine its enemy. For this reason in April 1917, German intelligence permitted Lenin's return to Russia from exile in Switzerland via train through Germany, Sweden and Finland in an arrangement made by the Social Democrat Alexander Parvus. However, this meddling was no different than similar interference by the British and French governments who also attempted to influence Russia's affairs. In fact, it was reportedly the French who intercepted the dispatches given to the Provisional Government showing the supposed transactions between Germany and the Bolsheviks.

If any Bolshevik was truly an agent of a foreign government, that distinction would belong to Leon Trotsky who was not admitted to the majority faction of the Russian socialist movement until September 1917 after previously siding with the Menshevik wing during the initial party split before straddling the fence for years as a self-described "non-factional social democrat." If the truth should be told, Trotsky was never a dedicated Bolshevik and his opportunism proved useful to the interests of Western imperialism, namely, the British who suspiciously ordered Canadian authorities to release him from internment in Nova Scotia that April. Why the British would free a revolutionary to return to Russia and presumably withdraw another Allied nation from the war might seem puzzling, except Trotsky's advocation of "neither war nor peace" was an opportunity to obstruct Lenin's efforts to make a separate cease-fire with Germany and accept the Central Powers terms. This would have consequences five months after the October Revolution during the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in 1918, where Trotsky led the negotiations as Foreign Minister and nearly sabotaged the peace talks by disrupting them with his unauthorized tactics.

Of the original incumbents in the first Soviet cabinet, Trotsky was the only minister of Jewish descent. However, this did not prevent the Tsarist White movement from spreading propaganda during the Russian Civil War about the predominance of "Jews" within the Bolsheviks. Apart from the racism of such conjecture, it also turns out to be factually incorrect as shown in statistics published by the Moscow-based Vedomosti newspaper:

If we discard the speculations of pseudoscientists who know how to find the Jewish origin of every revolutionary, it turns out that in the first composition of the Council of People's Commissars of Jews there were 8%: of its 16 members, only Leon Trotsky was a Jew. In the government of the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic of 1917–1922 Jews were 12% (six out of 50 people). Apart from the government, the Central Committee of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (Bolsheviks) on the eve of October 1917 had 20% Jews (6 out of 30), and in the first composition of the political bureau of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) — 40% (3 out of 7).

This sensationalist big lie of "Jewish Bolshevism" was really an extension of the infamous hoax The Protocols of the Elders of Zion which itself had been forged in 1903 by Okhrana, the secret police of the Russian Empire, who disseminated the fabricated text to deflect growing discontent under the Tsarist regime against a scapegoat. After the Romanovs were ousted in 1917, the White movement turned the propaganda against its opponents in the Russian Civil War while this sentiment was promoted by its backers in the West such as Winston Churchill and Henry Ford. At some point, the "Judeo-Bolshevism" hoax became "Jewish bankers" or "Wall Street" funding the Bolsheviks.

Sutton alleges the German-born Jewish-American banker, Jacob Schiff, was a clandestine financier of the Bolsheviks. This too is demonstrably false, as Schiff was a supporter of the Society of Friends of Russian Freedom, a transatlantic organization which was as vehemently anti-Bolshevik as it was anti-tsar. Today, reactionary historical revisionists would like us to forget that the treacherous Provisional Government, which was to some extent financed and backed by foreign bankers, ever existed in the months between the February and October Revolutions. Schiff had previously backed the failed 1905 Revolution because of the numerous anti-semitic pogroms that occurred under the Russian Empire but immediately withdrew his support from the 1917 Revolution once the Bolsheviks removed the pro-war Provisional Government, as explained by Kenneth Ackerman in Trotsky in New York, 1917: A Radical on the Eve of Revolution:

Schiff's gripe against Russia had been its anti-Semitism. At home Schiff had never shown any sympathy for socialism, not even the milder Morris Hillquit variety. Schiff had declared victory for his purposes in Russia after the tsar was toppled in March 1917 and Alexander Kerensky, representing the new provisional government, had declared Jews to be equal citizens. In addition to repeated public statements of support, he used both his personal wealth and the resources of Kuhn Loeb to float large loans to Kerensky's regime. When Lenin and Trotsky seized power for themselves in November 1917, Schiff immediately rejected them, cut off further loans, started funding anti-Bolshevist groups, and even demanded that the Bolsheviks pay back some of the money he'd loaned Kerensky. Schiff also joined a British-backed effort to appeal to fellow Jews in Russia to continue the fight against Germany.

Another member of the Society of Friends of Russian Freedom was the American explorer George Kennan, second cousin of future U.S. diplomat and influential strategist during the Cold War, George F. Kennan. Kennan is quoted in a March 1917 New York Times article explaining how Schiff and the Society of American Friends of Russian Freedom funded the February Revolution. However, the elder Kennan was also adamantly against the October Revolution and when U.S. President Woodrow Wilson approved American participation in the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War, it was after being persuaded by his report in 1918 criticizing the Bolsheviks. If Wall Street bankers funded the Bolsheviks, why did the Anglo-Americans send their army to join the Allied nations to invade Russia and fight the Reds? Kennan's final denunciation of the Soviets was written in 1923:

The Russian leopard has not changed its spots…. The new Bolshevik constitution… leaves all power just where it has been for the last five years — in the hands of a small group of self-appointed bureaucrats which the people can neither remove nor control.

Years later, part of the inspiration as an envoy for George F. Kennan to found anti-communist Soviet émigré groups like the American Committee for the Liberation of the Peoples of Russia (ACLPR, AMCOMLIB) stemmed from his knowledge of the Society of Friends of Russian Freedom begun by his great uncle during the Russian Empire. Also going by the name of the American Committee for Liberation from Bolshevism, AMCOMLIB was set up in 1950 as part of the Central Intelligence Agency's Project QKACTIVE in which U.S. intelligence also established Radio Liberation, later known as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, to broadcast behind the Iron Curtain. So not only was the Society of Friends of Russian Freedom anti-Bolshevik, its activities became the impetus for part of Kennan's influential Cold War containment strategy.

Oddly enough, it was George F. Kennan who later proved the infamous 'Sisson Documents' purporting that Lenin and his associates were "German agents" to be forgeries in a 1956 article for the Journal of Modern History. The 1918 documents published by Edgar Sisson of the U.S. government's Committee on Public Information ministry were part of a propaganda operation to discredit the Bolsheviks which reinforced the theory of a German-Bolshevik plot and gave further grounds for the Allied invasion of Russia. With eerie parallels to U.S. media coverage of the Iraq War, apart from war correspondent John Reed, most of the yellow press at the time accepted the Sisson Documents uncritically. While it is now generally acknowledged that the German Foreign Office funded the Bolsheviks to some degree, Kennan's scholarly work showed the danger of believing deceptive information when it affirms preconceived notions and provides justification for desired actions, especially war.

In recent years, such fiction about the Russian Revolution has not been relegated to the margins but even found its way into the pages of The New York Times when it allowed pseudo-historian Sean McMeekin to take out an op-ed on the 100th anniversary resurrecting the hoax that Lenin was a "German agent." The ratcheting up of tensions between the U.S. and Russia in the new Cold War and the bogus allegations of interference by Moscow in American elections has normalized disinformation and fake narratives made up of anecdotes and distortion. Now, it is not just the right-wing which is a gullible audience for such psychological warfare regarding Soviet history but credulous Western liberals. In his defense, at least paleolibertarians like Sutton are willing to question the 'official' narrative of the Russian Revolution but unfortunately, because of the Red Scare begun by Sisson's forgeries, like a matryoshka doll there is only more propaganda within the propaganda regarding communism which runs deeper than any right-wing canard. If those seeking the truth about history are sincere, they will keep searching even when it reveals truths that call their whole political views into question. Keep searching.

The post The Russian Revolution: Separating Truth from Myth first appeared on Dissident Voice.
translate | 17 Jan 2021 | 11:22 pm

Single Payer: Which Way Forward?

To say that there's a political disconnect in the fight for a national single payer health care delivery system is to state the obvious. The struggle for M4ALL has grown due to decades of grassroots organizing alongside the gradual worsening of Americans' health insurance coverage, with support now reaching 70% in the general public as reported by FOX News after the November elections.

Yet now in the middle of a pandemic, where the USA accounts for a quarter of the world's infections, and a third of the deaths, the USA's for-profit healthcare system has no national plan or coordinated response. Instead, since so few Americans are going to the doctor this year, there is resounding joy in the industry as profits mount simultaneously with the despair of millions. The NYT reported an "embarrassment of profits" for some of the largest health insurance companies, a doubling of profits in the second quarter of 2020 compared to 2019. These obscene profits are coupled with staggering increases in wealth for billionaires in the healthcare sector. Their wealth has increased by 36.3% from 402.3 billion to $548 billion between April 7 and July 31, 2020. All this stands in sharp contrast to failing rural and inner city hospitals, smaller medical practices and the hundreds of thousands of unnecessary COVID deaths.

For journalists and talking heads in the mainstream media, this dysfunctional monstrosity is just the acceptable reality of our healthcare system. Discussing any responsibility or alternatives are disregarded.

With millions losing their job-based health coverage, millions more stuck with high insurance costs and lower benefits, Medicare for All is once again deemed off-the-table by all major politicians, including even its biggest proponents.

This disconnect comes on top of a worsening economic crisis threatening to push millions out of their homes while half the population is living paycheck to paycheck, poverty rising and food insecurity is growing. On the other side of the class divide, trillions of dollars have been showered on the wealthy and corporations via the misnamed CARES ACT, and the world's billionaires have increased their wealth 10.2 trillion during the COVID pandemic. If there's ever a perfect storm of economic, social, and public health crises, it is now.

The Republican leadership has taken advantage of this crisis and assigned blame to the largely unpopular ACA and fixated on its destruction. It has spent its political energy focusing on the high costs and other weaknesses of the ACA while never offering anything as a credible replacement.

On the other end of the aisle, President Biden has clearly stated his opposition to M4ALL, promising to veto the bill if passed. Democrat House leader Nancy Pelosi is equally opposed, making the chances of a vote remote under the current leadership. The current Democrat platform focuses on "strengthening" the ACA, an easy attack vector for Republicans who are able to exploit the real failures of the ACA and continue to disorient the public.

With these pitiful responses, disillusionment with the system is prevalent, and Americans are looking for alternatives.

Controlled Opposition or Bottom Up Independent Movement?

Which brings us to the nub of the issue. The M4ALL movement has grown, support is high and the need greater than ever. Grassroots organizing, the COVID-19 death spiral, combined with the continued deterioration of coverages and rising insurance costs has moved public support to a higher level despite a blizzard of attacks by opponents ranging from the insurance industry, media talking heads, politicians of both parties, unions, and liberals.

As it currently stands, the public overwhelmingly favors M4ALL, and the main legislation, HR 1384, has over 100 cosponsors. Yet there's no clear strategy or energy emerging to push the bill forward in Congress or mobilize public support at this crucial time.

Despite an even deeper crisis than the 2008 recession, we are headed for a repeat of 2009, when the late John Conyers sponsored SP bill had more co-signers than any other healthcare legislation at the time, but was ditched by Democrats in favor of the ACA, a bill written by the insurance industry.

Once again, Democrats are poised to join with Republicans to scuttle the immensely popular bill in favor of the insurance industry again, all under the meek disguise of "getting something accomplished".

Clearly, the M4All movement needs to rise to the occasion — or else risk jeopardizing its own credibility. Not only has public opinion overwhelmingly shifted in favor of M4All, but large numbers of Americans are ready to fight for it as well. The Bernie Sanders 2020 campaign drew huge amounts of activists out week after week for canvassing racked up a record number of donations.

Now with the Sanders movement gone, and the pandemic exposing the injustices within the healthcare system, M4All supporters are looking for answers.

The recent proposal by Jimmy Dore, YouTube political comedian, to force a vote on M4ALL in the House galvanized supporters, drawing tens of thousands to virtual town halls, but was overwhelmingly refuted by the officaldom of the Medicare for All movement. This has brought light on all the weaknesses of the present approach — an insider strategy that gives Congressional Democrats and the organizations that align with them too much power to unilaterally determine the direction of the struggle, while stifling voices in the grassroots. At this crucial moment, the strengthening of a popular movement is pushed aside for the sake of maintaining favorability within subsets of the Democratic party. In reality, grassroots energy is the real source of power. Rather than hitch their horses to insiders, movement leaders must drive the car, act and work in a non-partisan fashion to actually build real power.

Where some critics of Dore agree with building a mass organizing force, they scoff at his proposal and instead say work must be confined within select electoral races tied to the Democratic party and insist congressional supporters like Jayapal and Ocasio Cortez are "allies" and should not be subject to criticism. Besides the "Squad", there are already over 100 co-signers of HB1384. What is their role in strengthening the grassroots movement? Will they hold town hall meetings and build public coalitions in their district?

Movement leaders must realize that the members of Congress must be dealt with from positions of principle and independence. Otherwise, the insider compromises progressive reps are subject to trickle down to the movement. If AOC says Medicare for All is off the table, the movement is weakened if there's not leadership elsewhere standing up and pushing it forward. Public support is strong but we are up against an industry that is prepared to spend whatever is necessary to fight us at every turn — leadership is crucial.

In the period ahead, the peoples expectations will grow and the need for M4ALL will become clearer but so will the power of corporate Democrats who now control all branches of government. They will muzzle any grassroots mass actions and push the insider strategy and demand obedience.

Movement leaders should be wise to exploit a house vote, which would help many to understand the huge disconnect between Congress and the public. Actions like this can aid in forming a diverse coalition of labor, racial justice, and public health organizations to push for large demonstrations, public hearings, and petition drives. This is what we need to build towards: a united bloc of grassroots organizations and unions to push legislators to act.

Labor Needs to Step Up and Fight

However, labor and other organizations that should rise to the occasion and provide resources and independent leadership at this critical juncture are simply not capable, largely due to their deep ties to the Democratic party.

Organized labor has been in a steady state of decline for the past few decades. Rather than use popular struggles such as M4A to try to gain back some ground, it has largely doubled down on the business union model of operation, which treats employers as "partners", abandons the role of membership education, mobilization, and community outreach to increase union strength and the labor movement at-large.

The lack of an organized independent current inside labor challenging the dead-end strategy of cooperation holds labor back. Witness labor's silence over the past months on demanding wages be paid and healthcare for all workers during the pandemic, something almost all other developed countries have done. Despite hundreds of resolutions over the past decade supporting M4ALL at all levels of labor, real support is weak and ultimately folds when the Democrats give the orders. It has no real life or energy outside of a small handful of unions, and much of labor officialdom is indifferent or simply hostile to M4A, seeing brokered insurance plans as one of their last few selling points of a union to many workers, despite the share of unionized workers dropping yearly. This puts most of the top labor leadership at odds with both the growing mass of unorganized workers without unions and public opinion who are sympathetic to M4ALL and need real healthcare.

In order to win M4A, other popular programs, and stave off its own decline, labor needs a mass upsurge against the corporate domination of society and its political allies. History shows that when labor engages its rank and file into popular action, it can sweep away major hurdles that seemed impossible to overcome. The passage of Social Security in the 1930's is one such example.

It needs an internal revitalization that advocates a fighting alternative program that mobilizes and puts people first instead of taking cues from "corporate partners" and Democratic politicians as to what is on and off the table. Building this necessary independent movement will ultimately clash with the party, and this is why Dore's proposal has struck such a nerve. The multiple unfolding crises have put the need for a fundamental change in plain sight and progressives need to rise to the occasion.

If our only hope for Medicare for All is phone banking for intermediate legislation deemed "on the table" by the progressive caucus and working to elect more progressive Democrats to Congress, the movement will never actually move forward. With an independent movement that doesn't take cues from "allies" in Congress, but instead uses them to help move the agenda forward, we can reach a stage where it isn't an isolated YouTube personality making such a suggestion but membership-led organizations, backed with the participation of ordinary people, who see themselves playing a real role in this fight.

The post Single Payer: Which Way Forward? first appeared on Dissident Voice.
translate | 17 Jan 2021 | 6:08 pm

International Support Continues for Protesting Farmers in India

On 5 January, British MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi wrote a letter to Boris Johnson urging him to convey to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi the "heartfelt anxieties" of MPs' constituents (many emanating from Punjab) regarding the treatment of protesting farmers in India. The letter was signed by more than 100 MPs and Lords and had cross-party support.

Dhesi stated that many constituents had been horrified to see footage of water cannon, tear gas and brute force being used against protesting farmers on the outskirts of Delhi. He made it clear to Johnson that farmers were protesting against major corporates moving into India's farming sector. Johnson was asked if he could clarify whether he understood the issue (a previous baffling statement by him indicated that he did not) and whether he agreed that everyone has a fundamental right to peaceful protest.

The letter was written against the backdrop of an Indian diaspora community in Britain that had taken to the streets in support of Indian farmers who are demanding the repeal of three farm laws that were forced through the Indian Parliament. These laws could pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price (MSP) system, leaving farmers at the mercy of powerful corporate players.

UK campaign

The Landworkers' Alliance (a UK cooperative) recently posted a link to a campaign page urging people in Britain to write to their MPs asking them to support farmers in India.

The campaign explains that the legislation will:

… loosen rules around sale, pricing and storage of farm produce, allowing a farm sector which has historically been protected by government regulation to be liberalised and opened to corporate investment.

It says that India will be taken down the route that the UK has already followed towards the consolidation and industrialisation of the agriculture sector:

… this is a path for agriculture that consolidates the control of corporations and supermarkets and negatively impacts the independent SME farming sector, destroying our food sovereignty.

India is still very much an agrarian-based society with over 60 per cent of the population still depending (directly or indirectly) on agriculture for a living. The campaign notes that India's states have strong powers to provide a guaranteed minimum price to farmers, which can provide a fair livelihood for them and the agricultural workers they may hire, alongside ensuring basic food security for India.

Removal of these protections will have a direct impact on the livelihoods of these millions of farmers and farm workers and may lead to poverty and loss of dignity on an unimaginable scale.

The campaign condemns the British government for being "implicit in promoting market reforms and providing expertise to the Indian government to allow private investment and increase corporate control of the agriculture sector in India." For instance, the Conceptual Farmework on Agriculture and the UK-India Infrastructure Technical Co-Operation Facility (ITCF) promotes contract farming (one of the issues the farmers are protesting about) and finances consultants to "alleviate bottlenecks to private sector investment in agriculture" in India.

Voice of the farmer

In a short video that appears on the empirediaries.com YouTube channel, an interview with a protesting farmer camped outside near Delhi is very revealing.

During lockdown and times of crisis, he says farmers are treated like "gods" but when they ask for their rights, they become labelled as "'terrorists".

He goes on to say that the contested legislation is a matter of "ego" for Modi:

Corporates invested in Modi before the election and brought him to power. He's sold out. He's an agent of Ambani and Adani. He's unable to repeal the bills because his owners will scold him. He's trapped. But we are not backing down either.

The farmer then asks:

Do ministers know how many seeds are needed to grow wheat on an acre of land? We farmers know. They made farm laws sitting in AC rooms. And they are teaching us the benefits!

While corporates will initially pay good money for crops, once state-run markets are gone, they will become the only buyers and will beat prices down:

Why can't farmers put minimum prices on the crops we produce? A law must be brought to guarantee MSP. Whoever buys below MSP must be punished by law.

In finishing, he asks why, in other sectors, do sellers get to put price tags on their products but not farmers.

Visit the UK campaign page at here.

The post International Support Continues for Protesting Farmers in India first appeared on Dissident Voice.
translate | 17 Jan 2021 | 8:04 am

Cyber Charter Schools: Neoliberals Determined to Commodify More Students

The parasitic seizure of social wealth by the rich has intensified in recent years and promises to increase in 2021. While the stock market soars to artificial new heights, the productive sector of the economy continues to steadily disintegrate, leaving the financial oligarchy with fewer options to maximize profit over time. This in turn is causing the rich to engage in more stock market gambling, private lending, bankruptcies, and restructuring of the state in order to funnel more public funds into private hands (e.g., through more "public-private-partnerships"). As the law of a falling rate of profit invariably intensifies, the nexus between the rich and the state will become more critical to analyze in the months and years ahead. Left unchallenged, state-organized corruption to pay the rich will be strengthened well beyond 2021, leaving society, the economy, and the environment worse off, and making it harder for the New to emerge.

In the sphere of education, given the increased obsession with technology and screen-based instruction, the rich are more aggressively striving to seize public funds, impose user fees, and maximize profits through a dramatic expansion of "virtual learning," especially through cyber charter schools, which have consistently low graduation rates and are regarded by many as a scam. The rich are extremely eager to commodify as many students as possible, at home and abroad. To be sure, the charter school phenomenon is reducing more and more students, parents, and teachers to fend-for-yourself consumers entangled in commodity logic, which in turn degrades the integrity of human relationships and lowers the level of education. It is bad news for education, society, the economy, and nation-building. Even the staunchest supporters of screen-based instruction admit that the in-person classroom experience is superior to buffered digital learning where one sits for endless hours behind a screen gradually developing a range of health problems. For nearly a year, students, educators, and parents have complained about how counterproductive, restrictive, and inferior screen-based learning is. Many say that it is isolating, alienating, and a far cry from the rich organic human connections that developed naturally and spontaneously before the "COVID Pandemic."

The rich are energetically using the "COVID Pandemic" as a pretext to maximize profit in many ways. To this end, they have maximized the "fear virus" to pressure and compel parents to send their children to cyber charter schools. The intimate connection between fear and thought paralysis is critical to appreciate here because intense fear can stop reason, logic, and coherence instantly, giving rise to major cognitive distortions, which is dangerous for everyone. Today, the critical thinking faculties of many are overwhelmed by fear and paranoia.1  Many parents naturally want what is safest for their children. That is normal. At the same time, one result will be a rude awakening for many parents who send their children to virtual charter schools. Many will experience firsthand the inferior educational experience provided by poor-performing virtual charter schools frequently mired in scandal.

Pointing to the massive profit potential in "virtual learning," on December 31, 2020, The Courier carried the following article with the revealing title, "Virtual Schools Market to Receive Overwhelming Hike in Revenues by 2025." The article highlights the "Global Virtual Schools Market" report and assures major owners of capital that the virtual learning sector "is anticipated to witness significant growth during the forecast period from 2020 to 2025" (emphasis added).

The expansion of "virtual learning" and cyber charter schools is certainly not driven by grass-roots forces or a desire to raise the level of education so as to serve the general interests of society. The report, which costs $3,500, is geared explicitly toward "stakeholders, investors, product managers, and marketing executives." It stresses that for-profit Education Management Organizations and non-profit Education Management Organizations (EMOs) are the two main types of virtual schools to profit from. EMOs are private organizations that include cyber charter schools and brick-and-mortar charter schools. Both types of charter schools are governed by unelected individuals, plagued by fraud and corruption, and have a long record of failure and closure. Both kinds of charter schools rest on the ideologies of consumerism, individualism and the "free market," which contradict the basic premises underlying a modern conception of human rights and social responsibility.

Commodity logic saturates every page of the "Global Virtual Schools Market" report which makes it clear that major owners of capital need to go global in their efforts to cash in on kids. A main purpose of the business-centric report is to strategically guide major owners of capital in ways that will allow them to best use kids to maximize profits. Owners of capital will learn how to "channelize their efforts and investments to maximize growth and profitability," says the report.

The "top players" in the global "virtual learning" market include:

Aurora College, Beijing Changping School, K12 Inc, Florida Virtual School (FLVS), Pansophic Learning, Illinois Virtual School (IVS), Connections Academy, Charter Schools USA, Mosaica Education, Acklam Grange, N High School, Alaska Virtual School, Lincoln Learning Solutions, Inspire Charter Schools, Basehor-Linwood Virtual School, Virtual High School(VHS), Abbotsford Virtual School & Wey Education Schools Trust.

The biggest market remains the U.S.

Many are wondering how the detrimental effects of the lowering of the level of education through "virtual learning" are going to affect the abilities, skills, competencies, and dispositions of future students, not to mention the future of society. Can a modern society based on mass industrial production be built and sustained on the basis of a privatized and commercialized virtual learning system designed to maximize profits as fast as possible for a tiny ruling elite? Can the healthy extended reproduction of society be guaranteed by a generation of screen-based "learners" with little real-life practical in-the-field experience? Major owners of capital are not only unconcerned about this, they are also striving to commercialize everything around and connected to "virtual learning" (e.g., auxiliary services and products). Everything is to be commodified. Everything is to be converted to an exchange-value. The logic of buying and selling is to overwhelm and eliminate a modern theory of human rights and social responsibility.

Many thought that 2020 was perhaps one of the worst years ever for humanity. In many ways it was. The chaos, anarchy, and violence of an outmoded economic and political system revealed itself extra sharply during the "COVID Pandemic." Unfortunately, 2021 and beyond is likely to make 2020 look like a trivial speed bump along the way to greater tragedies for people worldwide. More mayhem lies ahead and neoliberals and privatizers are not standing passively on the sidelines. They are moving forward rapidly with self-serving schemes in many spheres, including education, which will lead to further destruction in those spheres.

But it does not have to be this way. The human spirit is resilient and an alternative to the retrogressive status quo is both possible and necessary. Neoliberal wrecking does not have to be tolerated. People do not have to stand silently on the sidelines as the rich and their entourage destroy the social and natural environment. Much can be accomplished when the weight, organization, and numbers of people are put behind pro-social struggles. The rich are not invincible and do not have full control of life, history, and humanity. They do not always get their way. Many of their retrogressive agendas and policies have been restricted or blocked successfully by humanity in the past. Their pragmatism, megalomania, and convoluted machinations are actually weaknesses that can be exploited.

Technology can and should play an important role in education and other spheres but only when it is driven by a human-centered aim and outlook, only when it is wielded in the public interest, and only when privileged private interests are deprived of all control of that which concerns the common good. The common good and unlimited greed for private interests have nothing in common. How technology is used and for what end is something that people themselves must decide, without the interference of privileged private interests who seek only to maximize profit with impunity.

  1. According to WebMD, the overall Covid-19 recovery rate is between 97% and 99.75%.
The post Cyber Charter Schools: Neoliberals Determined to Commodify More Students first appeared on Dissident Voice.
translate | 17 Jan 2021 | 7:46 am

Stop Press: I’m Converted

Mass celebration after a year of coronation  (Ihoto credit:  Pedro K)

As those who have followed my published remarks in these pages might remember, I have always been sceptical about what one or more insistent author here and everywhere has told us about the immanent end of life as we know on the planet, Earth that is.

I realise that there are numerous writers who share what I was told in J-School (journalism school) is commonly called a "beat" (strangely perhaps the same term used for the area a police officer is assigned to patrol) and presumably become knowledgeable if not expert and remunerated if not rich for concentrating on such a "beat". As a patrolman can become jealous of his or her "beat", such urinary characteristics as are found among mammalian quadrapeds can also be found among bipeds without uniforms. Far be it from me to challenge the territorial instincts of higher or lower mammals. Yet I believe it is a mistake to suppose that merely instinctive or professional proprietary claims automatically endow the claimant with the comprehensive knowledge and understanding of the turf or terrain in question. So my scepticism should not be understood as an attack on those instinctual needs to constantly demonstrate boundaries or growl proficiently. It is merely a doubt as to whether biology is destiny.

That said, I have followed the development of journalism about issues categorised as environmental whether they were treated as economics, science, nature, law or simply human interest. Moreover I have followed it in English, German and to a lesser extent in French and Portuguese over the past 40 years. I mention this because there is a long-established tradition among people who write from the US to assume the position that like the UK they are not only the centre of the world but the centre of the universe — what they believe they know from their California or Carolina perches constitutes the wisdom of the civilised world.

As long as the San Andreas Fault has not led to the tsunami of all time, latifundia and "brazeros" supply verdura and fruta to gringos, and Hollywood stars have not been fired into homelessness, I will be forced to give due attention to the fears of global climate change at least in Tinseltown and vicinity.

But we do not have to wait for that climate change of which we are fiercely warned by those on the "beat". We do not have to wait for the Great Reset or the martyrdom of St Greta. The climate change is here. It is here. It came in that wonderful time of the year.

If we were all still using the Julian calendar, it would be on a "midnight clear"– depending on the weather where one happened to be at that time. In some places it came by daylight– but that does not make such a good carol. It was Christmas in Christendom and all through the House, or was it the Senate, a few creatures were stirring, maybe even a mouse. The deplorable and ugly shaking their heads, surrounded the Santas elected in their stead. In the land taken for free and worked by the slaves, they hoped for some honesty among the depraved.

However, since 1582 the Gregorian calendar has been in use and Roman Christmas celebrated twelve days earlier.

Ah. yes, "climate change". I was about to say that I now believe in "climate change" and its consequences for the habitability of the planet — Earth, that is. I have heard there is a faction of the ruling class which, unsatisfied with what they have done to this planet, hope to continue their ambitions on Mars or some other New World. Yes, I believe truly that humans — at least those whose indoctrination is based on the work of people in California and New York — not only can but already have changed the climate and done whatever they can to make this planet uninhabitable by ordinary human beings, many of whom live in the environment rather than whining about it. This anthropocentric climate change is epochal and apocryphal.

Above all it is political. Gore Vidal called the US, the United States of Amnesia. Neil Postman described it as "entertaining themselves to death". Don Martin, in a brilliant series for the original MAD magazine, called "When they say…", drew an elderly woman bedecked with jewels who weighted her poodle with luxurious collars and kicked the poor: the caption was "I love animals. But she means, "I hate people."

I believe that the Climate Change, the fear mantra developed to update the Club of Rome's overpopulation chants, has come.  St Greta, the Stockholm Alberich until she gets a real job, preached the crusade for the plenary indulgences to be marketed by the banking curia hiding behind the proclamations of the Kyoto, Paris, Davos and future ecumenical councils. I believe in one holy catholic bank instituted for the creation of debts and the punishment of sin. I believe in the virgin birth whether by males or females in the transhuman species.

I believe:

"in Capital, held by less than one percent, acting almighty, lords of the heavens and earth and that is seen and unseen.

in the lords, owners corporate, who today would murder any Jesus — Christ or not, pretenders to be god, eternally begotten, evil from evil, darkness from darkness, false from false, begotten, not made,

of one being with Capital. Through them all things are debauched, defiled and stolen.

For us and for our defilation they came from hell: by the power of deception, they became incarnate, from financial and military action and were made — mostly men — but women are not absent among them.

For their sake we are crucified under whomever they can muster;

It is we who suffer, die and are buried.

If, on the third (or any other) day we rise again — because we refuse to believe their lies, they will bomb us from the heavens, while they are seated to the Right (the Left being hacked away).

It will come again in glory to kill the living and defile the dead, and its kingdom will have no end.

I believe in the Spirit of Capital, the lords, the takers of life, who proceed from Capital and their progeny,

With Capital and their progeny are worshipped and glorified.

It has spoken through the mass media, corporate, state and ostensibly "alternative".

I believe in one wholly capitalist and catholic church.

I acknowledge that now masks, vaccines and all form of social distancing and denunciation will be needed for the forgiveness of sins, but that there will be no forgiveness for debt.

I look for the desecration of the dead and the strife of the world to come.


The post Stop Press: I'm Converted first appeared on Dissident Voice.
translate | 17 Jan 2021 | 4:53 am

Three Cheers for “Baseless”

Whether Donald Trump's behavior on January 6 actually meets the legal definition of "coup" or "insurrection," or merely represents the umpteenth "triggering" of Democrats eager to benefit from the latest whirlwind of Trumpian chaos, remains to be seen.

While this weighty matter is sorted out, perhaps we can take a moment to reflect on the bright side of having had Donald Trump as president. One thing we ought to appreciate is that his fast-flowing river of verbal bullshit has finally persuaded the media to call out a presidential assertion for being "baseless." This constitutes a long-overdue advance in our national political vocabulary, one that should be applied to previous occupants of the Oval Office in the following manner:

George W. Bush's baseless claim of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq led directly to killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people.

Barack Obama's baseless view that Wikileaks publishing accurate information constituted an attack on the United States means that journalism is actually treason in his mind.

Bill Clinton's baseless notion that blowjobs are not sex raises the possibility that Gore Vidal died a virgin.

George Herbert Walker Bush's baseless claim that Saddam Hussein's troops disconnected babies from incubators and left them on the cold floor to die was used to invade Iraq and kill 200,000 people (Pentagon estimate).

Ronald Reagan advanced the laughably baseless claim that tiny Nicaragua posed a national security threat to the United States.

Born Again Jimmy Carter promoted the baseless view that Bronze Age religious legends are an appropriate real estate guide to the contemporary Middle East.

Richard Nixon stuck to his baseless view that lowering U.S. troop deployments while carrying out technological extermination of hundreds of thousands of people throughout Indochina constituted a policy of peace and honor.

Gerald Ford claimed without evidence that pardoning Richard Nixon's criminal conduct and papering over wholesale extermination in Vietnam was a form of national healing.

Lyndon Johnson's baseless allegation of "open aggression on the high seas" by North Vietnam was a transparent attempt to justify his own far broader aggression in Indochina.

In order to invade the island, John F. Kennedy baselessly claimed that Cuba was a "dagger" pointed at the United States.

President Eisenhower baselessly accused Julius and Ethel Rosenberg of causing the Korean War.

Harry Truman claimed without evidence that sit-in protesters at lunch counters in Greensboro, North Carolina were Communist-controlled.

Franklin Roosevelt baselessly claimed that Benito Mussolini was an "admirable Italian gentleman" in a letter to a friend.

James Polk claimed without evidence that Mexico "shed American blood on the American soil" after U.S. soldiers invaded Mexico in 1846.

Teddy Roosevelt baselessly claimed that the Anglo Saxon annihilation of Indian nations was an act of world benefaction, in that it replaced a "savage" race by a "virile" race.

In 1783, George Washington said baselessly that wolves and Indians were both "beasts of prey," differing "in shape," but not substance.

Andrew Jackson baselessly asserted that "civilized" white settlers could not be bound by "treaties with the Indians," who he insisted were savages.

Abraham Lincoln baselessly claimed that "there is a physical difference between the white and black races" that prevents social and political equality.

Thomas Jefferson never overcame his baseless view that black people were intellectually inferior to whites.

Woodrow Wilson enthusiastically endorsed the baseless KKK view (depicted in D. W. Griffiths's "Birth of a Nation") that elected black legislators were glorified apes, black house servants doddering idiots, and all black men racially programmed to rape white women.

While replacing Spanish colonial rule with U.S. imperial rule, William McKinley baselessly claimed that "the spirit of all our acts" in Cuba "has been an earnest and unselfish desire for peace and prosperity."

The consistent adoption of this single word to take note of our presidents' endless parade of lies, distortions, and absurdities could transform American political life from top to bottom. Instead of regarding them as exceptionally meritorious "public servants" devoted to wise stewardship of the nation, which view cannot begin to account for our present circumstances, we might – by consistently calling out the empirical bankruptcy of their views – more accurately see them as pathological liars and conceited frauds whose dedication to profit, flag, and anthem directly undermines "the general welfare" the Constitution supposedly obligates them to promote. At that point the indignation currently targeting Donald Trump for trying to overturn a single election might more appropriately be directed at the entire political class and its lapdogs in the corporate media, whose accomplishments in successfully rigging electoral outcomes on behalf of rich moral imbeciles vastly exceed Donald Trump's most ambitious imaginings.

The post Three Cheers for "Baseless" first appeared on Dissident Voice.
translate | 17 Jan 2021 | 2:53 am

Trump May be on Trial, but the System that Produced Him Will be Acquitted

It is a fitting end to four years of Donald Trump in the White House.

On one side, Trump's endless stoking of political grievances – and claims that November's presidential election was "stolen" from him – spilled over last week into a mob storming the US Capitol. They did so in the forlorn hope of disrupting the certification process of the electoral college vote, which formally declared his opponent, Joe Biden, the winner.

On the other side, the Democratic Party instituted a second, unprecedented impeachment process this week, in the slightly less forlorn hope that Trump leaves office disgraced and humiliated, foreclosing any possibility he can run again in 2024.

Barely concealing its alliance with the incoming Biden administration, Silicon Valley has shut down Trump's social media megaphone. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has lobbied the joint chiefs of staff to cut an "unhinged" Trump out of the chain of command, in a move that was reportedly rejected out of hand by Pentagon officials because, they told the New York Times, it would amount to a "military coup".

And Biden, who boasts that he was the author the Patriot Act years before 9/11, has been touting a new "domestic terrorism" bill, as though the US did not already have a plethora of ways to crack down on dissent, of both the legitimate and the illegitimate varieties.

With this as the backdrop, Washington DC is designating the inauguration of Biden next week a "national special security event".

Authoritarian tribes

All this is not just the latest sign that the US political system has degenerated into tawdry theatre. It is growing evidence that US politics is devolving into a permanent confrontation between two authoritarian tribes. Both are convinced that the other side is un-American, perverting the true republic. Both are unwilling to compromise, believing they share no common ground. And ultimately both are fighting for a rotten cause.

This is not a divide between ethical and unethical politics. This clash is now a bitter grudge match. It is civil war by other means. Not only is the chasm between these rival camps widening, but the real criminals are making off – as they always do – with the loot.

Each tribe has been coalescing for a while now around a centre of gravity. On the Republican side that became clear with the emergence of the Tea Party and the birther movement during Barack Obama's tenure. But it took Trump's election as president in 2016 to create a proper oppositional centre of gravity on the other side.

Those in the Democrat tribe who now disdain Trump and his supporters for their desperate refusal to accept November's result overlook how they greeted Trump's victory in 2016. They struggled to accept the legitimacy of that outcome too, even if they did not resort to the overt violence of the mob at the Capitol.

It began with arguments that, while Trump might have won the electoral college vote, he lost the popular vote. Four years ago, the electoral college also faced self-serving accusations that it had disenfranchised the majority.

The Democrat tribe took to the streets as well, in protest marches in cities across the US under the banner of the Resistance, denying Trump was their president. That was understandable, given his personal behaviour and the policies he advocated. But it did not end there.

Russian conspiracies

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The disavowal of the Trump presidency quickly regressed into a dangerous narrative – one that has never properly gone away, despite the dearth of evidence to support it. The claim was not only that the Russians interfered in the 2016 election to help Trump win, but that Trump himself had actively colluded with Russia to steal the election from his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Anything that had damaged Clinton – including emails showing that the Democratic leadership rigged its own primaries to make sure she was the party's candidate rather than Bernie Sanders – got sucked into that vast conspiracy theory. That included the messenger of these bad tidings: Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange.

For years, the Democrat tribe has invested its considerable energies in fruitless efforts to prove its theory, including the first bid to remove Trump through an entirely self-defeating impeachment process.

None of this could be justified politically. It was a Democrat counterpoint to Trump's MAGA slogan: "Make America Great Again". Democrats promised the much less catchy SAPD: "Save America from President Deplorable".

Antagonistic tango

For this tribe, Trump was an illegitimate president from the outset, one whose election to the highest office in the land revealed something unwholesome about their country they preferred to avert their gaze from because it might implicate them too. Removing Trump largely eclipsed the struggle to improve the lives of ordinary Americans.

The obsession with Trump above everything else seemingly rationalised any means – fair or foul – to be rid of him. Few thought about how this would look to his supporters or to those not already safely ensconced in one or other tribe.

Had they wished to understand, they needed only look to the storming of the Capitol last week. How they felt watching the building being ransacked – a Deplorable putting his feet up contemptuously on Pelosi's desk – was how Trump's tribe felt watching their president being denounced as a Russian agent and dragged through impeachment proceedings.

This mood is not likely to dissipate. The two political tribes are locked in an antagonistic tango, mirroring each other's moves, each other's grudges, each other's sense of victimhood. Much more unites them than they would ever care to admit.

Festering culture war

This may be the pathology, but what of the cause.

What we see here is the culmination of a festering culture war stoked by an unhealthy investment by both sides in a simple-minded and highly divisive identity politics.

Much has correctly been made of the white supremacism of the most loyal sections of Trump's tribe, and that was on show again during the invasion of the Capitol. The confederate flag, the neo-Nazi slogans, the T-shirts extolling the Jewish supremacy of Israel are all indicators of a toxic politics of white grievance that may be less articulated but is still felt by a wider swath of Trump's supporting constituency.

This ugly identity politics is rightly rejected by the other tribe, but is nonetheless mirrored in its equally deep commitment to identity politics. The progressive coalition of identities at the core of the Democratic Party may be more reassuring to modern sensibilities, but has served in practice to accentuate to parts of the Trump tribe the supposed threat to their white identity.

This is not to equate the justified struggle of Black Lives Matter against endemic racism, including in the police, with the reactionary forces seeking to preserve some notion of white privilege. It is to simply observe that when the political field of battle exclusively revolves around identity, then one cannot be surprised if each side continues to frame its struggle in precisely those terms.

Those who live by the identity sword are likely to die by that same sword.

The Trump tribe want their president, and the Republican Party more generally, to guarantee a white supremacism they fear is being eroded as the Democratic Party flaunts its progressive, multicultural credentials. The Democrat tribe, meanwhile, wants to challenge the old order – and most especially reactionary institutions like local police forces – that have been an oppressive bulwark against change.

This dynamic can lead only to permanent confrontation, bitterness and alienation.

Class struggle

There is a way out of the dead-end culture war that pits one tribe against the other. It is to formulate an alternative, popular politics based on class struggle – the 99 percent against the 1 percent. But neither the Republican nor the Democratic leaderships, nor the respective medias that cheerlead them, has any interest in encouraging a political realignment of this sort.

The Democratic party is not a vehicle for class struggle, after all. Like the Republican party, it is designed to preserve the privileges of an elite. Its biggest donors, like the Republican's, are drawn from Wall Street, Silicon Valley, Big Pharma, the arms industries. The political battle in the United States is between two parties of capital united by far more than divides them.

The shadow play of US politics is the enervating, antagonistic confrontation of identities described above. While ordinary Americans get stoked into a mutual tribal loathing by a corporate media that profits from this theatre of hate, the elite enjoys a free hand to pillage the planet and the commons.

While we fixate on identities that have been crafted to divide us, while we remain immersed in the surface of politics, while we are distracted from the real battle lines, those elites prosper.

Political paralysis may not harm the establishment. But it is profoundly damaging to us, the 99 percent, when our communities are being ravaged by a pandemic, when our economies are in meltdown, when the planet is on the brink of ecological collapse.

We need a functioning political system that reflects popular priorities, like Medicare For All, a dignified minimum wage and free college; that understands the urgency of the challenges posed by multiple crises; and that can marshal and channel our energies into solutions, not into endless, irresolvable confrontations based on grievances that have been cultivated to weaken us.

Trump is not the enemy. That target is far too small and limited. The class he belongs to is our enemy, as is the system of privilege he has spent the past four years upholding and his successor will defend just as assiduously.

Whether Trump is ultimately convicted or not in the Senate, the system that produced him will be acquitted – by Congress, by the new president, by Wall Street, by the corporate media.

It is we who will pay the price.

The post Trump May be on Trial, but the System that Produced Him Will be Acquitted first appeared on Dissident Voice.
translate | 17 Jan 2021 | 2:34 am

Illogical Thinking Leading to Illogical Actions

Preventing the assault on America's capitol was not exclusively a policing failure; the twisted behavior culminated from inadequate response to Trump and his supporters' unsubstantiated attacks on the validity of the 2020 election.

A simple analysis could have uncovered the illogical thinking and convinced many that the charges of election fraud were fallacious. Media and public servants allowed deranged accusations to inflame the electorate and remained complacent to the obvious – Illogical thinking leading to illogical actions.

Illogical Thinking
Impossibility of a successful large conspiracy

Rudolph William Louis Giuliani, America's "mayordomo," in charge of the attack on the 2020 presidential vote, claimed that the voting indicated a huge and coordinated conspiracy that involved several swing states — Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Arizona showed similar erratic voting patterns — and each of these states exhibited late insertion of ballots that erased Donald Trump's huge leads over Joseph Biden.

"It's not a singular voter fraud in one state," Giuliani said, speaking at Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington. "This pattern repeats itself in a number of states, almost exactly the same pattern, which any experienced investigator prosecutor, which suggests that there was a plan — from a centralized place to execute these various acts of voter fraud, specifically focused on big cities, and specifically focused on, as you would imagine, big cities controlled by Democrats, and particularly if they focused on big cities that have a long history of corruption."1

Giuliani failed to detail the organization of the conspiracy or inform the FBI to investigate its illegal activities. Illogical thinking improvises a huge conspiracy; logical thinking shows the absurdity.

A conspiracy of this magnitude, with a centralized administration, involves tens, if not hundreds, of people from disparate geographical locations in several well-coordinated actions. Not difficult to gather a small group people, who know one another and are able to maintain secrecy, and plan a singular conspiratorial activity. Probably need to talk to hundreds in order to obtain tens of adherents for this caper, agree to a centralized authority, and operate without fear of disclosure. Then, the organization must have several meetings to arrange activities and assignments. Can these activities — printing hundreds of thousands of false ballots, posting and mailing these false ballots, forging signatures, researching obituaries and voter registration lists — be performed without exposure or remain hidden from extensive intelligent investigation? It will be shown later that the activities could not be successful and would have been a waste of time.

Implausibility of Democrats conspiring to steal the vote

Until voting time, polls indicated that Joseph Biden would win the election by a substantial margin. Devotees of the probable loser, Donald Trump, might conspire to readjust the votes, but why would Democrats, expecting victory, jeopardize themselves and the anticipated election result by engaging in nefarious activities and risk being caught? Illogical.

Illogical to assume many falsified ballots can be counted

A ballot, and no more than one, can only be obtained by a registered voter, either by email or snail mail. Obtaining a multitude of ballots requires counterfeiting, which is a difficult task, logistically and artistically. Finding someone to do the criminal task and be certain the counterfeiter will not squeal is not easy. Ballots feature particular design elements that are difficult to copy. Charlotte Hill and Jake Grumbach, UC Berkeley, Wednesday, September 30, 2020, stated, "They are printed on special card stock, with exact page size, color and thickness varying by state, or even county or town."

Let a genius manage to print the ballots with names of real people who would not be voting. How does the conspirator get the fraudulent ballots past the signature identification? Maybe, there was not 100 percent accurate signature identification, but how many falsifications could have been missed by well-trained signature analysts who had weeks to examine the signatures on ballots, which were delivered daily before vote counting time on election day?

Wait, signature identification was only one of two secure steps in the voter validation process, and only 31 states used signature identification. More meaningful was the scanner code on each envelope that needed a match to one stored with the original request made by the registered voter. Ballots that have no matching code to that in the stored ballot request are immediately discovered as fraudulent. Two obviously logical conclusions: (1) Because no announcements of discoveries of an unusual number of fraudulent ballots were made, it is logically assumed that there were no delivered fraudulent ballots; and, (2) knowing the ease of detecting false ballots and triggering a criminal investigation, it is illogical to think anyone who falsified ballots would attempt to deliver them by mail or by insertion in ballot boxes. The only way to get fraudulent ballots counted is by getting them into the canvassing centers, bypassing envelope inspection, and moving them directly to the vote tabulation machines,

Because special security personnel handle the ballot transfer process to centers, the conspirators would have had to improvise devious means to bring the fraudulent ballots into the secure center, navigate past security personnel, and hope the 360-degree cameras did not spot their illegal entries. Once inside, he/she would need co-conspirators to stow the ballots in a known location, and, at an opportune moment, have the co-conspirators retrieve and scan them.

An infamous video prepared by Giuliani associates for a Georgia Senate Judiciary subcommittee implied that counterfeit ballots were smuggled into the election center and surreptitiously counted.

Media all over the world ran headlines similar to this:
"Lawmakers hear bombshell allegations of Georgia election fraud."2

Thursday, a Georgia Senate Judiciary subcommittee heard new jaw-dropping allegations of alleged election fraud in the state from several people including President Donald Trump's attorney, Rudy Giuliani.

For the first time, the president's legal team, led by Giuliani, presented surveillance video from the state's largest voting center. The video allegedly shows people taking out at least four boxes of ballots from underneath a table, and then counting them after hours with no election supervisors present.

"The same person that stayed behind, the person that cleared the place out under the pretense that we are going to stop counting is the person who put the table there at 8:22 in the morning. I saw four suitcases come out from underneath the table," Attorney Jacki Pick said.

How did these four people know they would be together in the same facility and manage to convince others to leave them alone? Did they even know one another? Lots of people to gather and coordinate for this conspiracy.

What conspiracy! Earlier video shows workers bringing the table into the room at 8:22 a.m., and not placing any "suitcases" underneath the table. At 10 PM, in a room full of people, including official monitors and the media, the video shows employees, who had been advised the facility was closing for the night, placing uncounted ballots into boxes, sealing them up and storing them in a safe place under the table. "No magically-appearing ballots," Gabriel Sterling with the Secretary of State's office said. "These were ballots that were processed in front of the monitors, processed in front of the monitors and placed there in front of the monitors."

Illogic of implying abundance of illegal voters

The Trump contingent cited numbers of dead and other illegal voters. Although, by a variety of means, real names of dead and other people can be obtained, could knowledge that any of these "illegal voters" actually voted be obtained during the time that the illegal voting charges were made?

Those who prove they have a right to know can obtain voting lists from the County Electoral Commissions. For whom the voter cast the vote is not available, and it is illogical to assume the State Electoral Commission would approve any list for circulation before validating the election on November 20. Are requests for voter list answered immediately, especially during this epidemic and holiday time? Aren't there checks on credentials of the requesting party? Is it logical that those claiming illegal voters could have received official voting lists before January 2021?

Well, seems in cases they did not need voting lists; they just originated erroneous stories, which accused innocent people of election fraud. One example of uncovering prevarication is highlighted in testimony directed to Matt Braynard, a onetime Trump campaign operative, who produced analyses of the 2020 vote in swing states that claim massive amounts of illegal votes were cast.3

At a recent legislative hearing, Rep. Bee Nguyen, D-Atlanta, quizzed Braynard about his conclusions. Nguyen said she found constituents and people she knew on his list of out-of-state voters. She checked property records and, in some cases, visited the voters to confirm they lived in Georgia.

"Many of the names listed on your list are erroneous," she told Braynard. "You allege these voters have committed a felony. There have been no attempts to contact them to verify."

Braynard backpedaled and thanked Nguyen for pointing out the apparent errors.

Illogical Actions

Election fraud is possible, but not logical on a scale that could change the 2020 presidential election. Cited schemes to overturn the election were illogical. Inability to apply logic to rebut the schemes and convince entirety of the electorate of the validity of the election defied logic. Those who gained a sense of power with their idol, Donald Trump, as POTUS, could not accept a return to earlier conditions. Illogical thoughts escalated into irrational beliefs of criminal activity – the election had been stolen. What do those who feel a crime has been committed against them and that lawful authorities have conspired to permit the criminal activity? They did it; took the law in their own hands – their illogical thinking led to their illogical actions, which is the usual route of careless thinking. Nothing new or revelatory. Illogical thinking guides many domestic and foreign policy decisions – revelations for another discussion?

  1. Jane C. Timm, NBC News, Nov. 19, 2020
  2. Adam Murphy, CBS 46, Dec 3, 2020
  3. David Wickert, "Georgia rebuts Trump's voter fraud claims in court," Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Dec 18, 2020.
The post Illogical Thinking Leading to Illogical Actions first appeared on Dissident Voice.
translate | 17 Jan 2021 | 12:32 am
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