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Dissident Voice

Dissident Voice
23 Jul 2024 | 8:49 am

1. Tempting Armageddon as a national strategic policy


If you want to get ahead in Washington, devise the most dangerous, reckless, merciless and destructive plan for US world domination. If it kills millions of people (especially if they are mostly women and children), you will be called a bold strategist. If tens of millions more become refugees, it will be even more impressive. If you find a way to use nuclear weapons that would otherwise be gathering dust, you will be hailed as brilliant. Such is the nature of proposals for dealing with Russia, China and Iran, not to mention smaller nations like Cuba, Syria, Yemen, Venezuela, North Korea, etc. Can a plan to decimate humanity and scorch the earth be far behind?

How did we get here? This is not the world that was envisioned in the years following the greatest war in history.

If you consider yourself a hammer, you seek nails, and this seems to be the nature of US foreign policy today. Nevertheless, when WWII ended in 1945, the US had no need to prove that it was by far the most powerful nation on the planet. Its undamaged industrial capacity accounted for nearly half the economy of an otherwise war-torn and devastated world, and its military was largely beyond challenge, having demonstrated the most powerful weapons the world had ever known, for better or worse.

That was bound to change as the world recovered, but even as the rebuilding progressed, it did so with loans from the US and US-dominated institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which added international finance as another pillar of US supremacy. The loans built markets for US production, while creating allies for its policies in the postwar period.

It wasn't all rosy, of course. But the war and its immediate aftermath introduced greater distribution of wealth, both in the US and much of the world, than had hitherto been the case. Highly graduated income taxes – with rates greater than 90% on the highest incomes – not only funded the war effort, but also assured relative social security and prosperity for much of the working class in the postwar period. In addition, the GI Bill provided funds for college education, unemployment insurance and housing for millions of returning war veterans. Although a main purpose of the legislation may have been to avoid the scenes of armed repression against unemployed and homeless war veterans, as occurred with a much smaller number of veterans after WWI, it had the effect of ushering many of them into middle class status. Another factor was the introduction of employee childcare and health insurance benefits during the war, in order to entice women into the work force and make it possible for them to devote more of their time to war production. These benefits (especially health insurance) remained widespread and even increased after the war, contributing to higher living standards compared to the prewar era.

Internationally, wider distribution of wealth was seen as a means of deterring the spread of Soviet-style socialism by incorporating some of the social safety net features of the socialist system into a market economy that nevertheless preserved most of the power base in capitalist and oligarchical hands.

Unfortunately, many of the wealthy and powerful may have seen these developments as temporary measures to avoid potential social disorder, and a means of fattening the cattle before milking, shearing and/or butchering. One of the earliest rollbacks was the income tax structure, which saw a decades-long decline in taxation of corporations and the wealthy, as well as features in the tax code that allowed many of the wealthy to dodge income taxes altogether.

Similarly, savings and loan institutions, designed to serve the financial needs of the middle class, became a means to exploit them, thanks to changes in chartering rules engineered by the lobbyists of the wealthy to profit from speculative trade in mortgage securities. The most egregious consequence of this was the crash of 2008, resulting in the greatest transfer of wealth in US history to the top 1% (or even 0.1%) in such a short time. By then the neighborhood savings and loan was a memory, having been devoured by investment bankers to satisfy (unsuccessfully) their insatiable appetites.

In the international dimension, another important development was the uncoupling of the US dollar from the gold standard in 1971. This ended the Bretton Woods agreement of 1944, and made the untethered dollar the standard, rendering its value equivalent to whatever purchasing power it might possess at any given time, and placing the United States in unprecedented control of international exchange.

A further instrument of postwar power was NATO, an ostensibly voluntary defensive alliance of nonsocialist western European and North American nations, to which the socialist countries reacted with their own Warsaw Pact. Both were voluntary to roughly the same imaginary degree, and justified each other's existence. But both were also a means for the great powers of the US and the USSR to dominate the other members of their respective alliances. The defensive function of these alliances became obsolete with the dissolution of both the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact in 1991. NATO then became an offensive alliance, functioning to preserve, enhance and expand US hegemony and domination in the face of its descent into internal dysfunction and external predation.

These transfers of wealth and power, both domestically and internationally took place even as US industrial and manufacturing power waned. This was due not only to competition from the expected postwar recovery of powers destroyed during the war (as well as newly rising ones), but also to the unmanaged voracious appetites of US speculators and venture capitalists, who replaced vaunted US industrial capacity with cheap foreign ("offshore") sources. This eventually converted the US from a major production economy to a largely consumer one. It also helped to transfer middle and lower class wealth from the American masses to its upper echelons, as well-paying union and other full-time jobs were replaced by menial minimum wage and part-time ones, or by unemployment, welfare and homelessness. The service industries, construction, entertainment, finance, military, government and agriculture usually remained relatively stronger than industry and export, but less so than during the 1950s, and were increasingly funded by expansion of the national debt, rather than a strong economic base.

Of course, concentration of wealth is commensurate with concentration of power, and although the wealthy always have greater political power than the less wealthy, the transition to an increasingly oligarchical US society got a major boost in 2010 with the Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which granted corporations and other associations unprecedented power to use their vast financial resources to control the outcome of elections. It was a bellwether: despite the fact that Supreme Court justices are unelected officials, it is hard to imagine such a decision taking place a half century earlier (during the Warren Court, for example), when popular power in the US (though never as great as proclaimed) was perhaps at its peak, and which was reflected in the composition of the court and its decisions in that era. Citizens United gave corporations and well financed interest groups virtually unlimited control over US domestic and international policy.

The coalescing of these trends has resulted in a power structure and decision-making procedure (or lack thereof) that accounts for the astonishing headlong rush toward Armageddon described in the introductory paragraph of this article. The US is currently considered the only remaining superpower, but what is the basis of that power? It is not industrial or economic power, which the US abandoned for the sake of short-term profits in "offshore" manufacturing, as previously stated.

It is not even military power, much of which has been invested in extremely expensive air and sea forces that are now becoming obsolete, as second and third tier powers like Russia and Iran develop cheaper mass drone architecture, untouchable hypersonic missiles and electronic systems that make traditional weaponry less relevant. An extreme example of such irrelevance can be seen in the strategies of Hamas and its Palestinian allies, armed largely with low-tech self-developed weapons designed to exploit the vulnerabilities of massively armed Israeli forces laying waste to the Palestinian population and infrastructure above ground, while the resistance forces remain relatively invulnerable below ground, and able to attack effectively and indefinitely from their hundreds of miles of deep reinforced tunnels.

Similarly, the irrelevance and obsolescence of US arms became evident in the Ukraine war, as the US, and indeed all of NATO, proved themselves incapable of manufacturing more than a fraction of the artillery, shells and armored vehicles that Russia produces, with a military budget hardly more than a tenth that of the US, much less the combined NATO budget.

The US aim in the Ukraine war was and is ostensibly to defeat Russia. But it will consider the war a success even if (as seems certain) this objective fails. This is because the more immediate US goal is to assure and reinforce the subjugation of the western NATO countries, as well to expand to the rest of Europe. In effect, the Ukraine war solves the problem perceived by US policymakers that the dissolution of the USSR removed much of the justification for a defensive alliance which was no longer facing a threat of the sort against which it was created to defend.

But that question was apparently raised mainly if at all by academics at the time, not diplomats. Perhaps a partial explanation was inertia: why change what seemed to be keeping both peace and prosperity (for its members)? The US also found missions for NATO from the Balkans to 9/11 response to West Asia to Afghanistan and North Africa. But all of these paled in comparison to its previous function of deterring the Soviet Union. In order to justify the continued existence of NATO, a new, similar threat was needed, not merely "police actions". This was manufactured by the US, starting with expansion of NATO to eastern Europe, in violation of its promises in 1991 to the leadership of the dissolving Soviet Politburo not to expand "an inch beyond the eastern border of [East] Germany." Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic joined in 1999. Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia in 2004. In 2009, Albania and Croatia also joined, followed by Montenegro in 2017 and North Macedonia in 2020. Finland joined in 2023 followed by Sweden in 2024.

The purpose of the expansion, while giving the appearance of relevance, was not so much to respond to a perceived threat as to manufacture one, and Russia was selected to be the threat, despite the fact that it had posed no apparent strategic threat to NATO for more than two decades after the end of the Soviet Union. It even discussed the possibility of joining the Alliance. But the US had other intentions. Without a credible common threat, NATO might cease to be a defensive military alliance, with the eventual possibility of defections by members that no longer saw a significant benefit to their otherwise exorbitant and oppressive membership. Furthermore, many western European nations were finding common interests with Russia, most notably the Nordstream pipelines providing cheap, plentiful and reliable Russian natural gas to the European economies.

Obviously, this was intolerable for the US and its plan to dominate all of western and eastern Europe combined. Russia soon understood that the expansion of NATO was intended as a strategic threat to Russia's security. As successor of, and inheritor to, the Soviet nuclear arsenal and its delivery systems, Russia could not afford to have NATO nuclear strike systems sitting on its doorstep any more than the US could accept nuclear missiles in Cuba in 1962. The US therefore chose to threaten Russia's existence through Ukraine.

Ukraine was the perfect weapon to prod the Bear. It was poor and corrupt, and it had a substantial racist and ultranationalist anti-Russian Nazi and Fascist minority, with origins dating to collaboration with Nazi Germany. These elements hated Ukraine's large ethnically and linguistically Russian population, who had a strong traditional link with Russia and its history, including Ukrainian cities founded by Russia. With well-placed undercover money, arms and expert CIA covert manipulation, a small but violent uprising, a coup d'état and civil war might turn Ukraine into a security threat to Russia that could be used to seal NATO under US control.

Under the stewardship of Hillary Clinton's handmaiden, Victoria Nuland, laden with $5 billion (actually, with unlimited funds), this is exactly what happened in 2013-14. The newly installed Ukrainian coup government promptly began the repression of its ethnically Russian population, which mounted a resistance movement to defend itself, as intended by the US/NATO covert operators. Over the next eight years, the US funded, armed and trained its Ukrainian puppet, all the while amplifying the repression against the ethnic Russians, whose resistance groups Russia supported with arms and training. Negotiated agreements in 2014 and 2015 (the Minsk accords) to end the fighting were only partially and temporarily effective, and as German Chancellor Angela Merkel admitted in an interview with Die Zeit in 2022, they were only an attempt to gain time [to strengthen the Ukrainian military until they were ready to take on Russia].

That time was February, 2022, when – on cue from its US puppeteers – Ukraine escalated its attacks on its Russian minority in Lugansk and Donetsk oblasts (provinces), instantly raising the daily casualty toll from dozens to hundreds. As intended, this prompted Russia to intervene directly with a "Special Military Operation", ostensibly limited mainly to ending the massacres and defending the population that was under attack, but also to driving Ukraine to the negotiating table.

It worked. At the end of March, the two countries reached a ceasefire agreement at negotiations in Istanbul, under the auspices of the Turkish government. But this was not what the US had in mind, so British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was promptly dispatched to Istanbul, to remind the Ukrainians that puppets are controlled by the hands of their masters. From then on, the war escalated until it engaged more than a million armed combatants and resulted in more than a half million casualties. And in case some NATO member might be tempted to explore reconciliation with Russia, the US destroyed the Nordstream pipelines, breaking a major foundation of Russia's peaceful economic bonds with the rest of Europe, and with them much of Europe's heretofore economic success, on the assumption that weaker partners are more dependable than strong ones (and constitute weaker economic competition, as well).

The US thus became the undisputed hegemon of Europe by means of a conventional proxy war with Russia. But their original plan included the defeat of Russia, as well, both militarily and economically, the latter by means of sanctions that would deny markets and world trade to the Russian economy. This part of the plan was a miserable failure, as Russia found prosperity in new markets, and invested in an astonishingly productive, innovative and efficient strategic defense industry, mainly at its robust defense complex in the Ural mountains. No matter. War, destruction and wanton slaughter had nevertheless proven to be effective strategies for European domination, even without defeating Russia. In addition, the US had shown that, despite its industrial limitations, it could impose its will through proxies bought, trained and supplied with its most powerful weapon, which it had in unlimited supply: the mighty US dollar.

I therefore return to the question of the basis of US power. What enables a country with a declining industrial base and stagnating military production, a shrinking working and middle class and an expanding homeless population to expend vast sums of money to hire and arm proxy fighting forces, purchase and develop foreign political parties, overthrow governments, maintain a military budget that is the equal of the next nine countries combined, and an intelligence budget that is larger than the entire defense budget of every other country except China and Russia?

Part of the answer is that the US increases its national debt by whatever amount it wishes, usually paying low but reliable rates of interest, depending on the market for US Treasury notes. Currently, the debt is roughly $35 trillion, more than the annual US GDP. The only other time in history that debt has exceeded GDP was in WWII, which hints at profligate borrowing. But the US is not worried about the size of the debt or about finding takers for its IOUs. As mentioned earlier, the dollar was uncoupled from the value of gold in 1971. The untethered dollar is therefore the basis for most currencies in the world. As a result, the  entire world is heavily invested in the dollar and in maintaining its value, and will buy US Treasury notes as needed to assure that it remains stable and valuable. This enables the US to outspend all other countries to maintain and augment its power throughout the globe. Some have accused the US of treating this system of funding as "the goose that lays the golden egg".

Others have accused it of coercing or "shaking down" other countries to participate in this financing scheme or face unpleasant consequences. The same accusation has sometimes been leveled with respect to the purchase of US "protection services" and expensive military hardware as part of the NATO member "contributions" that bring US installations and personnel to those countries, and to other US satellite countries around the globe.

The other major basis of US power is the use of unlimited dollar resources to visit extreme violence, death, war and destruction upon countries and societies that do not accept subordinate status, or even those who do, but whose destruction may be seen as a necessary object lesson to those who might otherwise step out of line. This is a commitment to use totally disproportionate force with little or no effort at diplomatic efforts to reach strategic goals. The Israelis call this the "Dahiyeh Doctrine", in reference to turning entire suburbs ("dahiyeh" in Arabic) or cities and their populations into smoldering ruins for the sake of intimidation. In the case of Ukraine, the US/NATO, has raised the stakes in the destructiveness of the weapons being used against Russia, as well as the choice of increasingly deeper targets inside Russia, while refusing negotiated diplomatic solutions. Threats to use low yield nuclear weapons have also been suggested.

This is, in effect, the insanity ploy, "We are unreasonable and capable of anything. Do what we say or accept terrible consequences." It is the Armageddon strategy, "We are willing to go to any lengths." It is the strategy of those who think they are invincible, and who demand complete obedience from, and dominance of, potential rivals. It is the strategy of those who think that they can do whatever they want without serious consequence to themselves. The direct origin of this strategy is the Wolfowitz Doctrine, first issued by Under Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz in 1992, and submitted to his superior, Defense Secretary Dick Cheney. The basis of the doctrine is that any potential rival to US power must be destroyed or reduced to size.

Cheney and Wolfowitz are part of the neoconservative political movement that began during the Vietnam war. It is a movement of warmongers and autocrats who believe that the control of US foreign policy must be kept in the hands of "experts" (themselves) and out of the hands of elected officials who don't support them. The dissolution of the Soviet Union was in their eyes a vindication of their influence in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, and their "success" led to the founding of the short-lived Project for a New American Century think tank during the latter part of the Clinton presidency.

The Project for a New American Century in turn became a springboard for neocon saturation of the George W. Bush administration in the major foreign policy arms of the government – the cabinet, the National Security Agency, the State Department, the intelligence services, and eventually the military. Since then, neoconservative control has only broadened and deepened in the U.S. To a large extent they are the unelected cabal that run US foreign policy and related agencies, with support from the interests that profit from war and exploitation, including weapons manufacturers, petroleum and mineral companies, and, of course, the similarly-minded Israel Lobby.

It is in these circles that arrogance knows no bounds, that no risk is too great, and that no amount of death and destruction is inconceivable, because you are not invited to participate unless you consider yourself too intelligent and powerful to make a mistake, and because Armageddon can only happen if you will it so.

The post Tempting Armageddon as a national strategic policy first appeared on Dissident Voice.
Dissident Voice
23 Jul 2024 | 3:24 am

2. Engineering a Crisis: How Political Theater Helps the Deep State Stay in Power


A failed assassination attempt on a presidential candidate. An incumbent president withdrawing his re-election bid at the 11th hour. A politicized judiciary that fails to hold the powers-that-be accountable to the rule of law. A world at war. A nation in turmoil.

This is what controlled chaos looks like.

This year's election-year referendum on which corporate puppet should occupy the White House has quickly become a lesson in how the Deep State engineers a crisis to keep itself in power.

Don't get so caught up in the performance that you lose sight of what's real.

This endless series of diversions, distractions and political drama is the oldest con game in the books, the magician's sleight of hand that keeps you focused on the shell game in front of you while your wallet is being picked clean by ruffians in your midst.

It works the same in every age.

This is how the police state will win, no matter which candidate gets elected to the White House.

You know who will lose? Every last one of us.

Politics today is about one thing and one thing only: maintaining the status quo between the Controllers (the politicians, the bureaucrats, and the corporate elite) and the Controlled (the taxpayers).

In other words, no matter who wins this next presidential election, you can rest assured that the new boss will be the same as the old boss, and we—the permanent underclass in America—will continue to be forced to march in lockstep with the police state in all matters, public and private.

Consider the following a much-needed reality check, an antidote if you will, against an overdose of overhyped campaign announcements, lofty electoral promises and meaningless patriotic sentiments that land us right back in the same prison cell.

FACT: According to a scientific study by Princeton researchers, the United States of America is not the democracy that it purports to be, but rather an oligarchy, in which "economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy."

FACT: Despite the fact that the number of violent crimes in the country is down substantially, the lowest rate in sixty years, the number of Americans being jailed for nonviolent crimes such as driving with a suspended license continues to skyrocket.

FACT: Thanks to an overabundance of 4,500-plus federal crimes and 400,000-plus rules and regulations, it is estimated that the average American actually commits three felonies a day without knowing it. In fact, according to law professor John Baker, "There is no one in the United States over the age of 18 who cannot be indicted for some federal crime. That is not an exaggeration."

FACT: Despite the fact that we have 38 million Americans living at or below the poverty line, 13 million children living in households without adequate access to food, and 1.2 million veterans relying on food stamps, enormous sums of taxpayer money continue to be doled out on wasteful programs that do little to improve the plight of those in need.

FACT: Since 2001 Americans have spent $93 million every hour for the total cost of the nation's so-called war on terror.

FACT: It is estimated that 5 million children in the United States have had at least one parent in prison, whether it be a local jail or a state or federal penitentiary, due to a wide range of factors ranging from overcriminalization and surprise raids at family homes to roadside traffic stops.

FACT: At least 400 to 500 innocent people are killed by police officers every year. Indeed, Americans are now eight times more likely to die in a police confrontation than they are to be killed by a terrorist. Americans are 110 times more likely to die of foodborne illness than in a terrorist attack. Police officers are more likely to be struck by lightning than be made financially liable for their wrongdoing.

FACT: On an average day in America, over 100 Americans have their homes raided by SWAT teams. Most of those SWAT team raids are for a mere warrant service. There has been a notable buildup in recent years of heavily armed SWAT teams within non-security-related federal agencies such as the Department of Agriculture, the Railroad Retirement Board, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Office of Personnel Management, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Education Department.

FACT: For all intents and purposes, we now have a fourth branch of government: the surveillance state. This fourth branch came into being without any electoral mandate or constitutional referendum, and yet it possesses superpowers, above and beyond those of any other government agency save the military. It is all-knowing, all-seeing and all-powerful. It operates beyond the reach of the president, Congress and the courts, and it marches in lockstep with the corporate elite who really call the shots in Washington, DC.

FACT: Everything we do will eventually be connected to the Internet. By 2030 it is estimated there will be 100 trillion sensor devices connecting human electronic devices (cell phones, laptops, etc.) to the Internet. Much, if not all, of our electronic devices will be connected to Google, which openly works with government intelligence agencies. Virtually everything we do now—no matter how innocent—is being collected by the spying American police state.

FACT: Americans know virtually nothing about their history or how their government works. In fact, according to a study by the National Constitution Center, 41 percent of Americans "are not aware that there are three branches of government, and 62 percent couldn't name them; 33 percent couldn't even name one."

FACT: Only six out of every one hundred Americans know that they actually have a constitutional right to hold the government accountable for wrongdoing, as guaranteed by the right to petition clause of the First Amendment.

Perhaps the most troubling fact of all is this: we have handed over control of our government and our lives to faceless bureaucrats who view us as little more than cattle to be bred, branded, butchered and sold for profit.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, if there is to be any hope of restoring our freedoms and reclaiming control over our government, it will rest not with the politicians but with the people themselves.

One thing is for sure: the reassurance ritual of voting is not going to advance freedom one iota.

The post Engineering a Crisis: How Political Theater Helps the Deep State Stay in Power first appeared on Dissident Voice.
Dissident Voice
23 Jul 2024 | 2:38 am

3. Amazon Gets Fresh, Bayer Loves Basmati: Toxic Influences in Indian Agriculture


The citizens of India have a problem. In what the media like to call 'the world's biggest democracy', there is a serious, proven conflict of interest among officials in the areas of science, agriculture and agricultural research that results in privileging the needs of powerful private interests ahead of farmers and ordinary people.

This has been a longstanding concern. In 2013, for instance, prominent campaigner and environmentalist Aruna Rodrigues said:

The Ministry of Agriculture has handed Monsanto and the industry access to our agri-research public institutions, placing them in a position to seriously influence agri-policy in India. You cannot have a conflict of interest larger or more alarming than this one.

In 2020, Kavitha Kuruganti (Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture) stated that the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee had acted more like a servant for Monsanto — there is an ongoing revolving door between crop developers (even patent holders) and regulators, with developers-cum-lobbyists sitting on regulatory bodies.

However, the capture of public policymaking space by the private sector is set to accelerate due to a recent spate of memorandums of understanding between state institutions and influential private corporations involved in agriculture and agricultural services, including Bayer and Amazon.

Corporate capture

As part of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and Amazon (June 2023), farmers will produce for Amazon Fresh stores in India as part of a 'farm to fork' supply chain. It will see "critical inputs" in agriculture and "season-based crop plans" in collaboration with Amazon based on "technologies, capacity building and transfer of new knowledge."

This corporate jargon ties in with the much-publicised notion of 'data-driven agriculture' centred on cloud-based data information services (which Amazon also offers). In this model, data is to be accessed and controlled by corporates and the farmer will be told how much production is expected, how much rain is anticipated, what type of soil quality there is, what must be produced and what type of genetically engineered seeds and inputs they must purchase and from whom.

This has been described as the recolonisation of Indian agriculture, which will eventually involve a handful of data owners (Microsoft, Amazon, Alphabet etc.), input suppliers (Bayer, Corteva, Syngenta, Cargill etc.) and retail concerns (Amazon and Walmart-Flipkart — both firms already control 60% of India's e-commerce market) at the commanding heights of the agrifood economy, determining the nature of agriculture and peddling industrial food. Farmers who remain in this AI-driven system (a stated aim is farmerless farms) will be reduced to exploitable labour at the mercy of global conglomerates.

This is part of a broader strategy to shift hundreds of millions out of agriculture, ensure India's food dependence on global finance and foreign corporations and eradicate any semblance of food democracy (or national sovereignty). [1]

In addition to the MoU with Amazon, an MoU was signed between the ICAR and Bayer in September 2023. Bayer (it bought Monsanto in 2018), which profits from various environmentally harmful and disease-causing chemicals like glyphosate, signed the MoU to help "develop resource-efficient, climate-resilient solutions for crops, varieties, crop protection, weed and mechanization", according to the ICAR website.

The ICAR is responsible for co-ordinating agricultural education and research in India, and Bayer seems likely to exploit the ICAR's vast infrastructure and networks to pursue its own commercial plans, including boosting sales of toxic proprietary products.

But that's not all. According to the non-profit GRAIN in its article 'The corporate agenda behind carbon farming', Bayer is gaining increasing control over farmers in various countries, dictating exactly how they farm and what inputs they use through its 'Carbon Program'.

GRAIN says:

You can see in the evolution of Bayer's programmes that, for corporations, carbon farming is all about increasing their control within the food system. It's certainly not about sequestering carbon.

Given the seriousness of what is laid out by GRAIN in its article, India's citizens and farmers should take heed, especially as the ICAR website states that a focus of the MoU with Bayer will be on developing carbon credit markets.

In a letter (14 July 2024) to Rabindra Padaria, principal scientist at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), and Himanshu Pathak, director-general of the ICAR, Aruna Rodrigues says: [2]

Inking in ICAR's formal partnership with Bayer (Monsanto) quite simply confirms straightforwardly that the ICAR protects its interest, which is the same as those of Bayer-Monsanto, large chemical/herbicide corporates… the ICAR has ditched its mandate to Indian farmers and farming, which is to promote farmer interests as a priority in an unbiased and objective assessment of what is right and good for Indian farming and food…

A separate 'citizen letter' (20 July 2024) has also been sent to Pathak on the various MoUs that the Indian government has signed with influential private corporations. [3]  Hundreds of scientists, farmer leaders, farmers and ordinary citizens have signed the letter.

It states:

Bayer is a company notorious for its anti-people, anti-nature business products and operations in itself and, furthermore, after its takeover of Monsanto. Its deadly poisons have violated basic human rights of peoples across the world, and it is a company that has always prioritised profits over people and planet.

It goes on to say that it is not clear what the ICAR will learn from Bayer that the well-paid public sector scientists of the institution cannot develop themselves. The letter says entities that have been responsible for causing an economic and environmental crisis in Indian agriculture are being partnered by ICAR for so-called solutions when these entities are only interested in their profits and not sustainability (or any other nomenclature they use).

The letter poses some key questions such as: Where was the democratic debate on carbon credit markets? How is the ICAR ensuring that the farmers get the best rather than biased advice that boosts the further rollout of proprietary products? Is there a system in place for the ICAR to develop research and education agendas from the farmers it is supposed to serve as opposed to being led by the whims and business ideas of corporations?

These are fundamental questions given that agriculture is a state subject as per India's constitution. It is all the more concerning given that the authors of the citizen letter note that copies of the MoUs are not being shared proactively in the public domain by the ICAR.

The letter asks that the ICAR suspends the signed MoUs, shares all details in the public domain and desists from signing any more such MoUs without necessary public debate.

However, on 19 July, there were reports that the ICAR had signed another MoU, this time with Syngenta for promoting climate resilient agriculture and training programmes. In response, the authors of the letter state that the ICAR has (again) partnered with a corporation that has a track record of anti-nature and anti-people activities, selling toxic products like paraquat, class action suits against its corn seeds and anti-competitive behaviour.

Mutagenic HT rice

It is becoming clear who the ICAR actually serves. Let us return to Aruna Rodrigues and her letter to Rabindra Padaria (IARI) and Himanshu Pathak (ICAR) for additional insight.

Rodrigues' letter focuses on the commercial cultivation of basmati rice varieties tolerant to imazethapyr-based, non-selective herbicides. These chemicals can be liberally sprayed on herbicide tolerant (HT) crops because the crops have been manipulated to withstand the toxic impacts of spraying.

The HT varieties of rice have undergone some form of mutagenesis rather than genetic engineering. Mutagenesis has traditionally involved subjecting plant cells to chemical or physical agents (e.g. radiation) that cause mutations to the DNA in the hope that a resulting mutation may produce a desirable effect in the plant. This kind of mutation breeding has been used for decades but only affects a minority of the plants on the market. Industry watchdog GMWatch says this risky technology (mutagenesis breeding) in the past managed to escape regulation.

So, this HT crop by the mutagenesis route is not defined as 'genetic engineering' (the method usually used to create HT crops) and therefore falls outside the purview of current GM regulations.

Although the Supreme Court-appointed Technical Expert Committee (TEC) bars HT crops (a) for being a HT crop and (b) on account of contamination of crops in a centre of genetic diversity, it has been a long-standing aim of biotech companies like Bayer (Monsanto) to get HT crops cultivated in India.

Rodrigues asks:

Is it a deliberate decision of the ICAR to use the mutagenesis route to produce HT rice varieties (tolerant to imazethapyr) with the explicit objective to bypass the formal regulation of GE crops/GMOs?

Rodrigues accuses the ICAR of effectively ditching its mandate to Indian farmers, many of whom regard organic farming as their competitive advantage. This step is also a potential threat to India's export markets, which are based on organic standards, along with the necessary co-surety that India's foods and farms are not contaminated by herbicides, a consequence of using HT crops.

By adding a trait for herbicide tolerance, the ICAR is informed:

ICAR's action directly impacts this vital issue of contaminating our germ plasm in rice and contravenes a Supreme Court Order of "No Contamination". Furthermore, our export markets for basmati are in excess of US $5 billion in 2023-24. Your action will also directly impact India's exports and thereby, impact farmer export potential, incomes and income opportunities that premium prices provide.

Moreover, Rodrigues asserts that the entire mutagenesis process for HT rice must be elaborated, especially when the mutant variety is for the purpose of human consumption. The ICAR is duty-bound to provide, for example, whether a physical or a chemical mutagen was used, the range of doses used and the toxicity for the said material, the herbicide(s) used to test the HT of the basmati rice being used, the concentrations of the herbicides used and the genetic mechanism by which HT rice through mutagenesis has a resistant gene to imazethapyr.

While the issue of intellectual property rights for the HT rice varieties using mutagenesis is unclear, the ICAR and IARI have executed a technology transfer agreement of the HT trait for commercial cultivation.

A failed technology

In her letter, Rodrigues states that, based on empirical evidence of 35 years of HT crops in the US and Argentina, HT crops are a failed technology: it spawns super weeds, increased herbicide use and no added performance yield. Moreover, for India, HT crops are a perverse use of technology, whether genetic engineering or through mutagenesis, that risks small and marginal farmers' crops and herbs and plants used in many Ayurvedic medicines because of herbicide drift.  It will also uniquely impact the employment of women in weeding.

She goes on to state that in the US overall herbicide use has increased more than tenfold since the introduction of HT Crops (1992-2012 figure). In addition, HT crops are designed for monocultures and completely unsuited to Indian small-holder, multi-crop farming: anything not HT will be destroyed, the resistant crop stands, but everything else dies, including non-target organisms.

The herbicides used with HT crops are also a major human health issue. There is a strong link between glyphosate and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. In relation to this, there are more than 100,000 lawsuits winding their way through US Courts. Glyphosate (used in Bayer's Roundup herbicide) is also an endocrine disruptor and is linked to birth defects. Rodrigues notes that Monsanto and the US Environmental Protection Agency had both known for over 40 years that glyphosate and its formulations cause cancer.

Other herbicides used by Bayer include glufosinate (used in its Liberty herbicide), which is acknowledged as more toxic than glyphosate and, like it, is a systemic, broad spectrum, non-selective herbicide. It is a neurotoxin that can cause nerve damage and birth defects and is damaging to most plants that come into contact with it.

Glufinosate is banned in Europe and not permitted in India. It has been implicated in brain developmental abnormalities in animal studies and is very persistent in the environment, so it will certainly contaminate water supplies in addition to food where it will be absorbed.

Imazethapyr (contained in Bayer's Adue herbicide) is also a systemic broad-spectrum herbicide and is banned in some countries and not approved for use in the EU.

Prof. Jack Heinemann (University of Canterbury in New Zealand) adds that the likes of imazethapyr must be tested for their ability to cause bacterial antibiotic resistance. An important concern given that India's population has some of the highest levels of antibiotic resistance in the world. Any spread of HT crops would put people at severe risk of resistance and disease.

Despite these environmental and health concerns, the herbicide market in India is projected to grow by around 54% in the next five years, from USD 361.85 million in 2024 to USD 558.17 million by 2029.

In her letter, Rodrigues concludes:

In view of the above evidence of serious irreversible harm to health, food and agriculture across several dimensions and contravention of the PP (Precautionary Principle), it is a required scientific response for the ICAR to immediately withdraw HT rice varieties and desist from introducing any HT crop through mutagenesis.

Notes

1. For further insight into this, see Food, Dependency and Dispossession: Resisting the New World Order by C Todhunter on Globalresearch.ca or Academia.edu.

2. ICAR Introduces HT Rice Varieties by the Mutagenesis Process Tolerant to Imazethapyr, letter to the Indian Council for Agricultural Research and the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, A Rodrigues, 14 July 2024.

3. Citizens' letter (incl. farmer leaders and agri scientists) to ICAR against multiple recent MoUs with agri-corporations – ASHA Kisan Swaraj, 20 July 2024.

The post Amazon Gets Fresh, Bayer Loves Basmati: Toxic Influences in Indian Agriculture first appeared on Dissident Voice.
Dissident Voice
23 Jul 2024 | 12:36 am

4. Recapturing White Rhetoric for Socialist Agitating


Orientation

Leninist and anarchist shortcomings in relation to rhetoric

A little over three years ago I wrote an article about how bad Mordor Leninists and anarchists are about knowing about, let alone using rhetorical rhetoric. The article is titled Socialist Rhetorical and Dialectical Communication: Overcoming Brainwashing, Propaganda and Entertainment

These areas of bumbling included:

  • Initiation engagement
  • Holding attention
  • Time and timing
  • Setting the right atmosphere
  • The use of the five canons of rhetoric
  • Importance of charisma
  • Adjusting to neutral and hostile audiences
  • Defining key terms
  • Use of Aristotle's rhetorical triangle
  • Appealing to short-term self-interest in the audience
  • Making predictions
  • Having transition plans
  • Distinguishing competitive as opposed to cooperative argumentation

Purpose of this article

The aim of this article is six-fold:

  • First, to challenge the negative associations about what rhetoric is so that its techniques can freely be used by all socialists. To do this I contrast "Light" with "Dark" rhetoric across thirteen categories.
  • Second, to point out that light rhetoric has been undermined by the use of electronic media beginning in the second half of the 19th century.  I will be referring to Kathleen Jameson's great book Eloquence in the Electronic Age as I pointed out from a previous article.
  • Third, I will point out that at least since the Middle Ages the ruling circles of Europe (whether it be Church, State or capitalists) have used propaganda to influence people. This propaganda has used dark rhetoric for its purposes.
  • Fourth, I emphasize the value of light rhetoric further by contrasting it to propaganda.
  • Lastly, I show how white rhetoric can be criticized using the "ideological" school of criticism developed by Marxists like Terry Eagleton any Raymond Williams.

Defining rhetoric

Let me begin with a controversial definition of rhetoric. Rhetoric is the systematic and overt study of the process of how speakers influence public to either convince or persuade an audience on a controversial issue. This is done through the use of Aristotle's rhetorical triangle which consists of logos (facts, reasons), ethos (credible sources) and pathos (use of emotions and imagination). Typically, it is practiced in law courts, political debates (city council meetings, unions, workers co-ops), or scientific conferences.

Conditions of rhetoric

First, the issue in contention must be controversial. If the issue is trite, there won't be any reason for using rhetoric because the answer is more or less decided. On the other hand, if the issue is outlandish not enough of the audience will be interested in being engaged or curious enough about the outcome. Second, the issues must have an urgency. Both the speaker and the audience are interdependent and no one can walk away. Parties also must have a great deal of commonality so the issue can be resolved, even though they might not admit the commonality at first. The third condition of rhetoric is that risks are accepted. The parties in a rhetorical situation know they can be publicly proven wrong and they may have to alter their claim. The fourth characteristic of rhetoric is that the best solution we come up with is probable.Unlike in formal logic, no certainty is possible. The fifth and last condition of rhetoric is that the power bases used cannot be force, economics, politics or sexual seduction. Only competency, legitimacy or dialectic may be used.

Why is my definition of rhetoric controversial?

Where does rhetoric take place? Usually, rhetoric is dated back to classical Greek civilization. But George Kennedy has shown that cross-culturally rhetoric is much older. I know from my study of social evolution that rhetoric was practiced all the way back to hunting and gathering societies. Recently some feminists have tried to argue that conversations in the interpersonal world or family life should be included. At the other extreme, thanks to mass communication, some rhetoricians have attempted to do rhetorical analysis based on radio, film and television. For purposes of this article, I am avoiding both the micro and macro attempts to apply rhetoric. The reason is because the places that I hope it is used is in public situations. These include city council meetings, union discussions or in workers co-op's general assemblies

As we know, most of human communication is analogical, not digital and many analogical messages occur below the level of consciousness. When a person convinces or persuades someone unconsciously through body language or utterances not intended, does that count as rhetoric? My definition says it should not. Unconscious body language would fit in the field of influence. Influence is a larger category than rhetoric or persuasion. Rhetoric is a specific type of influence.

What is the range of mediums that should be permissible? I am drawing the line at oral and written. To be sure, the use of the alphabet and the printing press certainly changed oral rhetoric in certain ways, but it is with the medium of mass communication that propaganda overwhelms too many of the original features of rhetoric to be included. It is at this point in history that the field of propaganda begins to merge with or marginalize rhetoric.

Up until now in all categories I have tried to define rhetoric narrowly as opposed to broadly. But in this last case I would like to define rhetoric more broadly. In all pre-state societies (hunter-gatherers, simple complex horticulture societies and herding societies) rhetoric was used to come to decisions cooperatively.With the rise of agricultural states and social classes cooperative rhetoric was marginalized. At this stage the ruling elites made decisions that were no longer subject to communal debate. The invention of propaganda arose out of the need of the ruling classes to justify why so many people should accept being ruled by so few. But in the time of classical Greece and Rome there were still rulers who propagandized their population. However, rhetoric returned in the form of competitive debates in law courts and in democratic councils. Unfortunately, most of the history of rhetoric has only been presented in the form of competitive debates. It is mostly thanks to feminists that the ancient tradition of cooperative argumentation has returned. So I will argue that rhetoric should be used for both competitive and cooperative goals.

Light Vs Dark Rhetoric

Arousing the audience

"Step right up the Big Top, where seeing is believing. Right over here to the freak show". This is an example of dark rhetoric in operation. These attention grabbers of dark rhetoric are in the business of creating awe, making thunderstruck or frightening the audience by horror. There is no suspense but plenty of special effects. Whatever their claim, it is hidden and the audience is manipulated to do things without the speaker's intentions ever being consciously stated

In light rhetoric, attention is drawn in gradually through questions that are within the range of the audience's curiosity. A light rhetorical speaker has made a study of his audience's demographics before the speech itself. In dark rhetoric, audiences are considered as all the same – stupid. In light rhetoric audiences are drawn in and suspense is created so the audience does not quite know what the speaker will conclude. The claim is always made explicit to the audience, but the speaker will determine whether it is best to make the claim in the beginning, middle or end of the argument

Quality of reasoning

Dark rhetoricians do not think much of reason or providing evidence. They are notorious for committing reasoning fallacies such as ad hominin (attacking the person), guilt by association, confusing wholes with parts either-or thinking and many faulty appeals to emotions. In white rhetoric speakers are very aware of human fallacies all the way back to Aristotle and do their best to make their arguments be fallacy-free. However, they may still make mistakes but it is not with the intention of tricking the audience

Use of imagination vs fantasy

In light rhetoric, the imagination is used to create reasonable alternative futures that are based on science. The method can be though stories, analogies or vivid imagery. In dark rhetoric, fantasies that are impossible in real life are concocted. Their belief about their audience is that what freedom entails is making impossible things possible. It is an appeal to the unnatural.

Speaker ethos: charisma vs character

In dark rhetoric a speaker with charisma is essential. Dark rhetoric needs a charmer who has the spirit to inspire people. The speaker appeals to what I call the Darwinian unconscious. In other words, speakers who are tall, have a shape that indicates they have good genes (see Evolutionary Psychology by David Buss), facial symmetry, hair sheen, a sense of theatrics and are articulate and funny. Dark rhetoricians want the audience to be swept away. In light rhetoric, the speaker has to have character. This means the speaker has legitimate authority, has a good reputation, is trustworthy and competent. S/he has to exude good will and be articulate. Humor always helps, but the speaker wants the audience to be grounded, not swept away.

The relationship between the speaker and the message

In dark rhetoric, speakers will be engaged in character assassination. The speaker is enmeshed with the message. A good speaker will be claimed to have a good message and a bad speaker a bad message. In light rhetoric, the speaker and the message will be differentiated. It will be acknowledged that a bad speaker might have a good message and a good speaker might have a weak message.

Competition vs cooperation

In many of the textbooks on argumentation they show people in competitive debates. One book even showed arguers on the verge of a fist fights. But as I pointed about above, rhetoric can be used cooperatively among union members deciding whether or not to strike or participate in a city council meeting while attempting to persuade the city council to oppose a national war. Cooperative argumentation can also be used in a worker's co-op on deciding what the ratio in salary should be between managers and workers.

Short-term vs long-term self-interest

Dark rhetoric practitioners use demagoguery. They appeal to the worst in people. They are not above spreading gossip, name dropping and meanness at the expense of the weak. They play to people's pettiness, prejudices, and myopia. They appeal to people wanting to keep up with the Joneses, as well wishing to be superior to others. They appeal to the audience's infantile wishes like losing weight while eating whatever they want. Dark rhetoric speakers appeal to the audience's crude superstitions as well as the desire to take the path of least resistance. Their appeal is to short-term self-interest – pleasure, comfort or acquiring wealth without working for it. On the other hand, in the glow of light rhetoric, speakers appeal to depthful emotions, loving the stranger (agape). Emotional appeals include kindness, generosity, foresight, altruism, heroism and hope. They speak of what is good for humanity in the long-run even when it is less than popular.

Range of audience

Dark rhetors do not go where the audiences are either neutral or hostile because their cheap tricks will not work there. Trump would not do well against an audience who is neutral or hostile because he is not trained as a politician and knows nothing about how to move an audience who is not already a member of the club. Even as smooth a person as Obama, fully trained in rhetoric as a Harvard lawyer, would not do well against an angry working class crowd because his rhetorical tricks such as telling individual stories of Horatio Alger won't fly. A practitioner of light rhetoric relishes dealing with a hostile audience and knows what it takes to change a hostile audience. Their success is not to move an audience from a hostile to a sympathetic audience, for that is too much to expect. However, they will modestly hope to influence a cynical audience to became skeptical. That is realistic.

How is the audience treated?

Dark rhetoricians treat their audiences as dupes. They will water down a speech to appeal to the lowest common denominator. They will flatter the audience. In light rhetoric, audiences are treated as active participants. The speaker creates a dialectic with the audience giving them some of what they want but also giving them more than they bargained for. In light rhetoric, the very way the audience responds changes the speaker and makes the speaker improvise what they had originally prepared.

Truth as a means to an end or an end in itself?

The standard of truth as an end in itself, regardless of time, place and circumstance is an overly idealist aspiration of Plato. Both Aristotle and the Sophists agreed that striving for the truth was admirable but most of the time it has to be parceled out because audiences are often not mature enough for the whole truth. For the Sophists, what matters in an argument is being effective. Winning them over to taking an action matters more than telling them the truth while getting no cooperation. For the Sophists truth was a means to an end, but most of the time the truth was also effective. Dark rhetoric is much more extreme than anything the Sophists did. Dark rhetoric does not care for the truth. They peddle lies, but the lies may work because there are some lies that people want to hear.

What is the relationship between form and content?

One of the stereotypical criticisms of rhetoric is that it is all fluff, all smoke and mirrors, all bombast. In other words, form without content. The opposite extreme of this is what Plato aspires to. If the content of a subject is true, the form is irrelevant. Light rhetoricians say form and content are dialectically related. When something is true, it should produce good form and good form is grounded in the truth. For example, evolutionary Darwinists have pointed out that what the human species finds beautiful is connected to outdoor scenes where there is water and landscapes of prospect (being able to see while not being seen). This also serves to increase the chances of survival.

What are the most important parts of a speech?

As many of you know, in classical rhetoric there are five cannons of rhetoric: invention, arrangement, style, delivery and memory. In dark rhetoric, all that matters in moving an audience is arrangement of the parts of the argument and style which consists of eloquence, body language and voice tone. In dark rhetoric, the invention part of the argument is irrelevant.  If you have style you can sell anything. In light rhetoric the invention of the argument and the arrangement of the argument is most important. As Aristotle pointed out the invention of a good argument has logos (facts, statistics, reasons) ethos (creditable sources) and pathos (emotion and imagination). Light rhetoricians do care how these reasons are arranged depending on the audience. The other parts of the canon matter, but not as much.

What is the relationship between the reasoning process and taking action or behaving?

In dark rhetoric, rhetors don't care about changing minds (convincing audiences) because it is too difficult and unnecessary. Dark rhetoric is interested in getting people to do things (persuasion) – buy a product or vote. They don't care if this happens consciously or unconsciously. In dark rhetoric rhetors think the audiences must be entertained to get them to do anything. In light rhetoric, the speaker is committed to engaging and changing the mind. The rhetor wants to persuade his audience but only after the mind is changed. Entertaining may be a byproduct but is not essential. In my teaching I was often complimented, not just being convincing but being entertaining. I never had this as a goal but it was gravy.

Sophists are our guide for white rhetoric, not Plato

Going back to the Greeks, Plato was mostly the enemy of rhetoric and thought for the most part the only kind of rhetoric was dark. Aristotle, as usual, occupied a middle position. On one hand he was a very serious formal logician but on the other hand he appreciated rhetoric and even categorized the most common mistakes using rhetoric. Contrary to Plato the rhetoric of the Sophists was middle tone or sometimes even white rhetoric. Plato, with his insistence on Truth regardless of time, place and circumstance gave rhetoric a bad name while  throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Please see my table for a summary of light and dark rhetoric.

Table 1 Light vs Dark Rhetoric

Light Rhetoric Category of Comparison Dark Rhetoric
Moved gradually, with questions w/in the range of curiosity Arousing the audience Aweing, making people feel thunderstruck or in horror
Creative suspense, avoidance of special effects   No suspense, special effects freak shows
Always explicit Claims Never stated
Awareness of history of fallacies
Makea mistakes but not in the service of tricking the audience
Quality of reasoning Doesn't provide evidence
Commit fallacies of a hominin, guilt by association, confusing wholes and parts; either/or thinking; pathos fallacies
Imagination in the service of reasonable futures based on science Use of imagination vs fantasy Fantasies that are impossible in real life

Appeals to the audiences idea of freedom as the impossible becoming possible

Character – legitimate authority, has a good reputation, trustworthy, competent and appears to have good will Speaking ethos Charisma

Charm people by appealing to "the Darwinian unconscious"

Speaker and message are differentiated
Good speakers can have weak messages
Weak speakers can have truthful messages
Relationship of speaker to message Character assassination
Fuses speaker with message
Good speakers have good messages; bad speakers have bad messages
Cooperation or competition
Win-win is possible. We all learn together
Process of arguing Competition
Zero-sum game
Long term self-interest
Appeal to depthful emotion, Altruism and humanity at its best
Range of self-interest Demagogy
Short-term self-interest
Gossip, name dropping, pettiness, prejudices, keeping up with the Joneses, desire to feel superior, infantile wishes, superstitions, path of least resistance
Can move neutral or even hostile audiences Range of audiences Limited to a sympathetic audience
Active participants – giving audiences partly what they want but giving them more than they bargained for
Audience has the power to change the speaker's message
How audiences are treated Dupes

Stupid people

Truth is important but effectiveness may require time, space and circumstance considerations to be effective Truth as means to an end
or irrelevant
Truth is irrelevant
What matters is getting audiences to act
Form and content are dialectically related

When something is true, it should have good form
When something has good form it must be at least partly true

What is the relationship between form and content Form is what matters – content is not relevant
Invention, arrangement What are the most important of the five canons of rhetoric Style delivery, arrangement
Convincing first, then persuading to act What is the relationship between changing the mind and action Persuading them to behave through entertaining and amusement
Convincing the mind is a waste of time
A scrupulous lawyer Examples An unscrupulous lawyer
A union meeting of rank-and- file workers deciding whether or not to strike A barker at a carnival or a side show
Worker co-op meetings to decide on the ratio of salaries between workers and management A used car dealer
    Radio, magazine, television
advertisements


The Decline of Rhetoric in the Electronic Age

At the end of my article, Fame vs Celebrity: Movies, Music Sports and Politics, I discussed the impact electronic media has on the formation of celebrities as it applied to politics. It was in this age that we can see the decline of rhetoric as applied to politics.

Oration in Yankeedom before the electronic age

In politics before the electronic age, Yankee politicians boarded trains and gave speeches in the hot sun for 90 minutes to two hours. The public walked for miles to hear these speeches. These orators wrote their own speeches and went through all five of the canons of rhetoric. They defined their terms and they were loaded with evidence which they arranged carefully in an order that might be conductive to the audience. They laid out all possible positions in an argument to the audience the way a lawyer builds a case before his speech.  The speaker was well-rounded and had command of the great speeches of the past, using poetry at times to make his point. His entire speech was committed to memory. These orators did not have to account to the public for problems in their personal lives. After all, this was politics. Their use of pathos was episodic and used to strike fear at times. They were well trained to create images from words. Lastly, for these politicians their party and their program came first. There was no cult of personality.

Oration in Yankeedom during the electronic age of television

For the most part, the use of electronic media, especially television, had a debilitating impact on political rhetoric. The number of outdoor speeches declined as the politician was followed by television cameras inside the studios. The public now had to make much less effort to hear a speech as they could now watch it on television. For various reasons, over the years the attention span of the public got shorter and shorter in part because there was a lot to see on television and also because the pace of life quickened. The owners of television networks were not willing to give a presidential speech 90-minutes to two hours of air time. The speeches of candidates got shorter, often less than thirty minutes.  Gone were the parts of the argument such as defining key terms and presenting 3-5 views on a subject. Argument sides was flattened to two sides. Providing massive evidence to support a claim cost too much time and committing the speech to memory were no longer necessary. Their speech could be read off cue cards.

The political candidates no longer wrote their own speeches and the content of the speech changed as well. Since it was the nuclear family that gravitated towards television, the speeches themselves were more conversational and homier as the expectation that politicians had to appeal to women in a way they did not have to do in pre-electronic age politics. This is because woman had household responsibilities that would make travelling for hours to hear speeches less likely. The speakers continued to speak about their party but they allowed their personal opinion or personal stories to creep in. Gone was the poetry and the memorization of historical events.

Summing up the last two sections, we suspect that socialists are critical of rhetoric because they think all rhetoric is dark rhetoric and all political rhetoric is what was on TV. These are good reasons to be skeptical or even cynical.

Dark Rhetoric in the Service of Propaganda

Defining propaganda

Let me begin this section with a qualification. The fact that rhetoric became weaker in the electronic age does not mean it turned into dark rhetoric. What I want to ask and answer now is what is the relationship between rhetoric and propaganda? From my article Socialist Rhetorical and Dialectical Communications: Overcoming Brainwashing, Propaganda and Entertainment "Paraphrasing Jowett and O'Donnell's book Propaganda and Persuasion, propaganda is the deliberate, systematic and often covert attempt by institutional elites to control perceptions, emotions and behavior cognitions. Who are they controlling? Millions of people through mass media while censoring, hiding, restricting, distorting or exaggerating the claims and evidence of their opposition. Propaganda can be white, gray, or black. Propaganda can be easily found during political election campaigns, inaugural speeches, religious recruiting, news reporting, film and, some say, sports".

What was the relationship between rhetoric and propaganda before mass communication?

As a reminder, there was propaganda in Yankeedom all the way back to the plantation owners since all ruling classes need to justify their dominant existence some way. But before mass communication propaganda and rhetoric existed side by side. Surely the ruling classes of the 17th-19th centuries knew about rhetoric but the lack of access to mass communication made their power limited to the use of monumental architecture and warmed-over religious symbology. More importantly, it was still possible for lawyers and writers to use rhetoric not directly connected to ruling class propaganda. After the electronic age this changed.

The impact of Black Rhetoric on mass propaganda

Before beginning this section, I want to clarify the difference between White and Black propaganda. White propaganda presents facts, but it twists the interpretation of facts in its favor. White propaganda works well because it doesn't draw attention to itself. Black Rhetoric is used when elites are in trouble. It makes up facts because its impact on the subject population is failing. Black Rhetoric of aweing and making people thunderstruck or feeling horrible, using special effects while never stating its claim works beautifully with black propaganda. Black propaganda has the same bad quality of reasoning as Black Rhetoric and is guilty of the same kind of fallacies. While the Black Rhetoric technique of creating fantasies that may be impossible in real life may not be used in black political propaganda, it could be used in entertaining black propaganda such as Walt Disney productions. Both white and black propaganda benefit from having speakers who have charisma. Black political propaganda is right at home with the Black Rhetoric technique of character assassination.

In Dark Rhetoric there are only winners and losers, determined by competition. This fits very well with the part of capitalist propaganda that promotes competition between capitalists as the only way an economy can be run. The entertainment division of propaganda such as reality television programs works very well with the worst superficial and petty side of the population and their short-term and infantile hopes. The limitations Black Rhetoric has to a sympathetic audience does not apply to propaganda because propaganda has to attempt to reach the entire population even those who are cynical because it has to control them. While advertising propaganda is used to treat people as dupes just as propagandists do, advertising that comes off the internet treats people as having specialized needs.

The impact of mass propaganda on Black Rhetoric

Mass propaganda explodes black rhetoric on the scale at which Black Rhetoric can be produced, the times it can be made available to people as well as the number of people it can reach. Black rhetoricians can hide their identity because its sources are elite institutions in which they will be well-protected. Black rhetoricians are much better able to time when their message gets out because it has mass media coordination. While Black Rhetoric is not usually linked to a mythology or ideology under the wing of propaganda it could be harnessed to make it even more powerful. Propaganda has power bases that are linked to political parties, economic systems well beyond the solitary reach of a typical black rhetorician, whether it be a side show barker or used car dealer. The control of some of information flow is less with propaganda than in Black Rhetoric because the Black Rhetoric loses the feedback from performing for a public audience. In Table 2, all the categories beginning with the place of controversy, propaganda doesn't amplify Black Rhetoric. It just supports it.

                    Table 2 Light Rhetoric vs Propaganda

Light Rhetoric Category compared Propaganda
Interpersonal arguments
(persuading your romantic partner to go to a particular movie)
Public debate, public talks Face to face
Scale  of appeal Appeal to larger masses of people who are spatially dispersed
Usually not backed by power institutions
Single individual
Presence of power institutions Backed by large social institutions controlled by elites
Alternative sources available
though not always presented fairly
No censorship
Are alternative sources of information available Alternative sources of information discouraged
Either demonized, marginalized or censored
Usually visible – overt Visibility of source Usually concealed—covert
No mass media.
Media is five
senses or print
Place of Mass media Use of newspapers, film radio, movies, television
Open-ended information flow Production and distribution of information Withheld, releasing information at predetermined time
Manufacturing information, communicating information to selective audiences, distorting information
New information may contrast message with an audience's existing body of knowledge Relationship between existing knowledge and new information New information is attempted to be smuggled into the audiences' existing body of knowledge
Usually not linked to an ideology or mythology Presence of an ideology or a mythology Linked to a clear institutional ideology or political mythology capitalism/communism
Charisma, legitimacy,
Competency, manipulation
Leading power bases Politics, economics
charisma, seduction
legitimacy
Stated up front Place of controversy Controversy hidden
Dominated by the speaker but built in opportunity for audience to respond Direction of information flow Lopsided from propagandist to a passive audience
Attempts to control information flow
Monitors public opinion with polls, focus groups
Either friends, acquaintances some strangers Strength of social bonds Large, anonymous masses
of strangers
Sought voluntarily Does the audience seek to be influenced Not sought voluntarily—maybe discovered later
Deliberate Is the communication unintentional or intentional Deliberate
Monologue, q and a

Turn taking – dialogue

Process of communicating One-sided
Monologue, bombardment
Slower, time to think, reason, write Speed of interaction Fast, little time to reflect Bypasses opportunity to reason: rapid images;
arresting symbols
Sensory bombardment
Slogans, architecture
Longer – 30-90 minutes Length of messages Short –30 seconds to 5 minutes
Convincing (changing minds) and persuading
(actions)
Outcomes
What is each trying to achieve
Persuasion, control
Ideally satisfy both speaker and audience needs Whose needs are satisfied? Satisfy needs of propagandist and not necessarily in the interest of the audience
Typically liberal values Political ideological values Conservatives, fascists
Socialists

Left-wing Ideological Criticism of White Rhetoric

What is Marxian ideological criticism of rhetoric?

The field of White Rhetoric makes a separation between communication theory on one hand and politics and economics on the other. Marxians do not accept this separation. Marxian ideological criticism analyzes rhetorical communication messages for their obvious and subtle moves to control relationships in political and economic ways. It examines rhetorical situations and acts for the way in which they can be linked to material conditions of society, like technology, economics or politics. Marxian ideological criticism is bold. For some it is too bold. It claims that all other approaches: liberal, conservative or fascist can be explained by it. It claims that other schools of rhetorical approaches themselves are ideological.

White Rhetoric takes place in a hegemonic capitalist society

Liberal rhetoric operates in a system of capitalist hegemony. Hegemony is the process by which the ruling class gained the willing consent of subordinate groups without the use of force, coercion or bribery. Furthermore, once hegemony is attained it must be reproduced. It is here that White Rhetoric is either part of the problem or a small part of a socialist solution. The goal of the Marxist rhetoric critic is to identify rhetorical acts that legitimate the hegemonic views of the ruling or upper classes. Most Marxist rhetoric has focused on studying mass media – film and TV because of their mass impact on working class life. Our criticism is ideological as it evaluates rhetorical activity in order to discover how the powerful vested interests in a society benefit from policies

The class basis of White Rhetoric 

Just a reminder that the purpose of this article is to capture white rhetoric for socialists. So it is the traditions of white rhetoric that I attempt to win over though it also must be criticized. Marxist Ideology criticism claims that mainstream rhetoric appeals to middle class and upper middle-class audiences and they generally exclude working class people. This is due to the liberal origins of debating in politics and law. Without necessarily hoping to white rhetoric can create false consciousness in the working class. On top of this we have to face that working class people are complicit in their own subjugation (class-in-itself).

Questions to use in the analysis of white rhetorical situations

  • Consider all four variables of criticism in the analysis: source-message-environment-critic
  • What is the historical, social, political and economic context in which the rhetorical situation or act exists?
  • How might the rhetorical situation or act reflect the ideology of the dominant class?
  • Does it articulate the ideology directly? In what ways does it legitimize support or sustain it in some way?
  • What evidence of the subjugation or exploitation of the working class does the rhetorical situation or act not show?
  • In what ways, consciously or unconsciously, does the rhetorical situation or act divide the working class in order to fragment it?
  • How might the rhetorical situation or act attempt to create an imaginary unity into the hegemonic ideology?
  • Are there any rhetorical acts which demonstrate class conflict favorable to the working class?
  • Where is the ideology in the criticism of the other rhetorical approaches to the text?

These questions involve a "critique" that is more than interpretation or evaluation. It is judgment relative to the liberation from the grips of false consciousness of the working class and empowerment, changes in social action and personal identity.

The shortcomings of Marxian ideological rhetorical criticism

Ideological criticism is not unique to Marxists. Ideological criticism can come from conservatives as well. The weaknesses of ideological criticism is that we assume we already know how the world really works. For example, time and again capitalists have survived economic crises that Marxists swore would be the last one. Secondly, doing ideological criticism also creates a danger of becoming paranoid and believing rhetorical forces have intended harm when many of the results of circumstances are unintentional. Third, Marxist critics have known to be reductionist, thinking that every single White Rhetoric artifact can be reduced to an ideological criticism. Fourth, the socialist commitment can lead to a lack of objectivity in evaluating White Rhetoric produced by various liberal rhetoricians. Fifth, it fails to consider the ruling classes are not always conscious, cynical manipulators. They may be themselves imprisoned by the same false consciousness. The constant image of hooded puppeteers twisting and turning the masses at will does not do justice to the subtleties of power and control. Finally, the will of the individual tends to get lost in the shuffle of economics and politics structures. The counter to the individualism in a capitalist society is not to ignore the individual but to identify their social identity not just as a product, but as a co-producer. Fortunately, the work of Terry Eagleton, Raymond Williams and Stuart Hall in cultural studies has addressed some of these criticisms.

Conclusion

My article began experientially with a list of thirteen ways in which anarchists and Leninists fail to use basic rhetorical skills. In part 2 I've explained the left's lack of interest in rhetoric as originating from the bad reputation the field of rhetoric has. To counter this I compared Light to Dark Rhetoric across fifteen categories and claimed that Light Rhetoric can be successfully implemented by socialists. Then I discussed the weakening of White Rhetoric which came about with the electronic age, especially television.

All rhetoric traditions black or white have not been very sensitive to the existence of propaganda and how it interacts with rhetoric. In the service of clarifying this, I differentiate the interaction between rhetoric and propaganda before and after mass communication. I show how black rhetoric techniques are amplified when they have propaganda to support it. Further, I show how propaganda can  benefit from the knowledge of Black Rhetoric techniques.

I close my article by defending the use of White Rhetoric by socialists provided it can withstand Marxian ideological criticism. This includes an awareness that all rhetoric takes place in a capitalist society riddled by class struggles. Nine questions are provided for Marxians to use in criticizing White Rhetoric. I suggest the work of Terry Eagleton and Raymond Williams in carrying out Marxian rhetorical criticism and I close with six criticisms of the Marxian ideological school of rhetorical criticism.

The post Recapturing White Rhetoric for Socialist Agitating first appeared on Dissident Voice.
Dissident Voice
22 Jul 2024 | 3:33 pm

5. Oklahoma Supreme Court Repeats Disinformation That Charter Schools Are Public Schools


In a much-awaited case brought forth by Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond (Drummond v. Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board), the Oklahoma State Supreme Court ruled 6-2 on June 25, 2024, that St. Isidore of Seville Catholic K-12 Virtual Charter School is unconstitutional and cannot open and enroll students in Fall 2024.

The online religious charter school is sectarian and not permitted to receive any public funding, said the court. Writing for the majority, Justice James Winchester said that, "the contract between the state board and St. Isidore violates the Oklahoma Constitution, the Oklahoma Charter Schools Act and the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution." He added that, "Under Oklahoma law, a charter school is a public school. As such, a charter school must be nonsectarian. However, St. Isidore will evangelize the Catholic faith as part of its school curriculum while sponsored by the State." Winchester also stated that, "What St. Isidore requests from this court is beyond the fair treatment of a private religious institution in receiving a generally available benefit, implicating the free exercise clause. It is about the state's creation and funding of a new religious institution violating the establishment clause."

The Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause make up the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Justice Dustin P. Rowe dissented from much of the majority opinion while Justice Dana Kuehn dissented entirely with the majority.

Reuters stated that the religious online charter school would have siphoned about $26 million from public coffers in the first five years of operation. The real amount is likely higher. Charter schools across the country siphon billions of dollars a year from public schools, increase segregation, and fail and close regularly.

This unprecedented ruling blocks what would have been the first publicly funded religious charter school in the U.S. It invalidates the approval in October 2023 of St. Isidore by the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board, an entity comprised mostly of unelected private persons. Charter school authorizers around the country typically consist of many unelected individuals from the business sector. Such entities usually embrace capital-centered ideas and policies.

The sponsors of the deregulated virtual charter school, the Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and Diocese of Tulsa, have openly stated that the religious virtual charter school would be open to students statewide, rely directly on Catholic teachings, and use public funds to operate. Catholic leaders have never concealed their mission to evangelize students at the online religious charter school. In fact, St. Isidore students would not only "be taught Catholic doctrine," they would also be "required to attend mass," reported Oklahoma Voice.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court ordered the termination of St. Isidore's contract with the Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board, which became the new Statewide Charter School Board on July 1, 2024. "The [nine-person] board will succeed the [five-person] Statewide Virtual Charter School Board, which oversaw only online charter schools in Oklahoma," says The Oklahoman. The new entity will oversee all charter schools in the state and will be comprised mainly of unelected business people with greater responsibilities and powers.

For their part, the Catholic sponsors of the virtual charter school have pledged to appeal the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, and they plan to open the online religious charter school in the 2025-2026 school year. On July 5, attorneys for the online religious charter school asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court for a stay of its order to have its contract rescinded by the new Statewide Charter School Board until the U.S. Supreme Court considers the case. The new Statewide Charter School Board, which met for the first time on July 8, held off on terminating the virtual school's contract. The new unelected board claims that it is waiting to see how legal proceedings play out in the coming weeks and months. On July 17, Drummond scolded the new board for not rescinding the contract for the Catholic virtual charter school. He told the new board, "You must know and accept that no state agency, board, or commission may willfully ignore an order from Oklahoma's highest court." Private religious forces are hoping that recent decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court that further abolish the distinction between public and private will work in their favor.

Such developments and contradictions arise in the context of neoliberal forces working for the last few decades to restructure the state in ways that change governance and administrative arrangements to expand privatization. Blurring the public-private distinction is central to neoliberal efforts to further privilege private interests while marginalizing the public interest. This is why today there is little distinction between the state and Wall Street. We live in a system of direct rule by the rich. Private monopoly interests, not the public, control the economy and the state. In the years ahead, major owners of capital will strive to further dominate the state so as to privatize more institutions, programs, enterprises, services, and governance itself.

"Public" and "private," it should be stressed, are legal, political, philosophical, and sociological categories that mean the exact opposite of each other; they are antonyms. Confounding them is problematic, both conceptually and practically. It is self-serving, not just intellectually lazy, to mix up two sharply distinct categories like "public" and "private." It is like saying hot and cold mean the same thing. In its essence, private property is the right to exclude others from use of said property; it is the power of exclusion; [1] It is not concerned with transparency, inclusion, the common good, or benefitting everyone.

State constitutions typically prohibit states from using public money to support or benefit religious institutions and entities. As a general rule, states cannot use public money to fund religious schools. Historically, there has been a powerful trend in U.S. society to keep religion and state separate (the so-called "wall of separation between church and state"). Modern conditions and requirements dictate that states must avoid sponsoring, promoting, funding, or privileging any religion. There can be no "religious liberty" when a state sponsors, funds, privileges, or entangles itself with any religion or sect. The state is supposed to represent the interests of all members of the polity, regardless of religion.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court argued that had St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual Charter School opened as a regular nonsectarian "public" charter school instead of a religious charter school, it could have received public funds and operated normally.

In reasoning in this manner, the court correctly negated publicly-funded sectarian education arrangements but erroneously sanctioned the continued funneling of public funds from public schools to deregulated charter schools that are public only on paper. In other words, the highest court in Oklahoma saw no problem with charter schools siphoning public funds from public schools. The court overlooked the fact that charter schools in Oklahoma, like the rest of the country, are privately-operated and differ legally, philosophically, pedagogically, and organizationally from public schools.

The court thus blundered when it repeatedly referred to charter schools as public schools in its ruling. It uncritically repeated flawed and banal assertions about the "publicness" of charter schools. It incorrectly characterized charter schools as state actors even though private entities are typically the only entities that hold charter school contracts in the U.S.

It is generally recognized that how an entity is described on paper can often differ greatly from how it operates in reality. There can be a large chasm between the two. People understand that words and deeds are not always aligned. Indeed, there has always been a big gap between rhetoric and reality in the charter school sector. Charter school owners and promoters have long confused words on paper with empirical realities. They want people to believe that just because something is on paper, it is automatically true, valid, and unassailable. They have taken abstraction of certain ideas to incoherent and detached levels, while also merging legalese and lawfare to advance their agenda. For 32 years charter school owners and promoters have strived to create a legislative veneer of respectability, but lack of legitimacy remains a nagging problem in the charter school sector.

To be clear, all charter schools in the U.S. are privately-operated and governed by unelected private persons. Unlike public schools, charter schools are not run by publicly elected people. In fact, many charter schools are directly owned-operated by for-profit corporations that openly cash in on kids as their education model. For example, most charter schools in Michigan and a few other states are openly for-profit charter schools. But even so-called "non-profit" charter schools regularly engage in profiteering.

Legally, private operators of charter schools exist outside the public sphere, which makes them private actors, not state (public) actors. Charter school operators are not government entities or political subdivisions of the state. This is why most constitutional provisions apply to public schools, which are state actors, but do not apply to the operators of charter schools or the students, teachers, and parents involved with them. Charter schools teachers, for example, are legally considered "at-will" employees, the opposite of public school teachers. The rights of teachers, students, and parents in public schools are not the same as the rights of teachers, students, and parents in charter schools.

For these and other reasons, charter schools are deregulated independent schools. As private actors, they are not subject to the same requirements as traditional public schools. They do not operate in the same way as public schools. They are not "entangled" with the state in the same way that public schools are. Charter schools do not have the same relationship with the state as public schools. The state, put simply, does not coerce, compel, influence, or direct charter schools to act in the same way as public schools. The state does not play a significant role in charter school policies and actions, certainly not in the way that it does with traditional public schools. This means that the state cannot be held responsible for the actions and policies of private actors.

In the U.S., state laws explicitly permit charter schools to avoid most laws, rules, statutes, regulations, and policies governing public schools. Charter schools can essentially "do as they please" in the name of "autonomy," "competition," "accountability," "choice," "parental empowerment," and "results." It is no accident that charter school advocates boast every day that charter schools are "free market" schools, which means that they are based on the law of the jungle. President Bill Clinton, a long-time supporter of charter schools, once correctly called charter schools "schools with no rules." Charter schools have long embraced social Darwinism and a fend-for-yourself ethos.

The "free market" ideologies of competition, individualism, and consumerism are therefore central to the creation, operation, and expansion of charter schools. Fending-for-yourself in the pursuit of education is seen as natural, normal, and healthy by charter school owners and promoters. There can supposedly be no better way to organize education and life according to charter school owners and promoters. Thus, when a charter school fails and closes, one is supposed to quickly and effortlessly find a new school, complain about nothing, move on, and nonchalantly accept that "this is just how life is." In this outdated, disruptive, and unstable set-up, one is expected to be a "rugged individual" who embraces inequality and competition. Winning and losing is supposedly inevitable. Put simply, neoliberals and privatizers do not view education as a basic human right that must be guaranteed in practice. Commodity logic—the logic of buying and selling—guides their outlook and agenda.

Further, the notion, promoted by some, that charter schools are "public-private partnerships" is also flawed and dangerous because it implies that there is a public component to charter schools and that a fair, balanced, equal, meaningful, and mutually-beneficial relationship can exist between the public sector and the private sector. This neoliberal notion covers up the fact and principle that public funds belong only to the public and must not be wielded or controlled by the private sector at any time. If the private sector wants income and revenue, then it should generate income and revenue through its own activities and operations, without using the state to seize public funds that do not belong to it. Public funds must serve the public and not be claimed by private interests through new governance arrangements that harm the public. So-called public-private "partnerships" further concentrate accumulated social wealth in private hands and restrict democracy.

It is disinformation to claim that the public sector needs the private sector for government, society, institutions, infrastructure, and programs to exist and function at a high level. The public sector would be far healthier and more human-centered if a public authority worthy of the name kept all public funds in public hands at all times and used public funds only to advance the general interests of society. It should also be recalled that the private sector has been rife with fraud, failure, scandal, and corruption for generations. We see this in the news every day. Privatization does not guarantee efficiency, success, or excellence. Privatization invariably increases corruption and negates human rights.

Other differences between charter schools and public schools include the fact that, as privatized education arrangements, charter schools cannot levy taxes like public schools and do not accept or keep all students. Unlike public schools that accept all students at all times, charter schools, which are said to be "welcoming," "free," and "open to all," routinely cherry-pick students. In addition, many charter schools are legally permitted to hire uncertified teachers.

Charter schools also frequently fail to uphold even the few public standards enshrined in state charter school laws (e.g., open-meeting laws, reporting laws, enrollment requirements, and audit laws). These are laws and requirements they are supposed to embrace but often violate. It has often been said that the charter school sector is not transparent or accountable, even though it seizes billions of dollars every year from the public, leaving the public worse off—and all under the veneer of high ideals. Dozens of other differences between public schools and charter schools can be found here.

Charter, by definition, means contract. Charter schools are contract schools. Contract law is part of private law in the U.S., not public law. Private law deals with relations between private citizens, whereas public law deals with relations between the state and individuals. Thus, the legal basis and profile of charter schools differs from the legal basis and profile of public schools, which is why, as noted earlier, charter school students, parents, and workers have different rights and protections than public school students, parents, and workers.

Charter schools in the U.S. are private entities that enter into contract with the state or entities approved by the state. The state does not actually create the charter school, it mainly delegates (not authorizes) a function to the private contractor of the school; it is outsourcing education; it is commodifying a social responsibility. This outsourcing of constitutional obligations to private interests does not automatically make said interests state actors.

A private actor does not automatically and magically become a public agency with public power just because it is delegated a duty by the state through a contract. Generally speaking, not a single charter school in the U.S. is owned-operated by a public entity or government unit. Unlike public schools, charter schools are usually created by private citizens, often business people, and often with extensive support from philanthrocapitalists. These private forces or entities do not suddenly become public entities just because they contract with the state or an entity approved by the state. Partnering with the government is not the same as being part of the government. And simply receiving public funds to carry out a function does not spontaneously transform a private entity into a public entity. It is well-known that thousands of private entities in the country receive some sort of public funding but they do not suddenly stop being private entities.

Nor can charter schools be deemed public just because they are called "public" 50 times a day. Repeating something endlessly does not instantly make something true. There would actually be no need to call charter schools "charter" schools if they were public schools proper. The word "charter" before the word "school" instantly sets charter schools apart from public schools. The word "charter" creates a demarcation. Similarly, there would be no need to call charter schools "schools of choice" if they were traditional public schools. "Free market" phrases such as this one also communicate a difference between charter schools and public schools. Today, ninety percent of the nation's roughly 50 million students attend a public school in their zip code. Neoliberals have successfully starved many of these schools of public funds over the past 45 years.

It is also worth noting that the academic performance of cyber charter schools in the U.S. is notoriously abysmal (see here, here, and here). Equally ironic in this situation is that Epic Charter Schools in Oklahoma, a massive online charter school, has been charged by various government authorities with different crimes in recent years. The owners-operators of Epic Charter Schools have been charged with embezzlement, money laundering, computer crimes, and conspiracy to defraud the state. Such crimes have been widespread in the entire charter school sector for three decades. Equally noteworthy is the fact that under Oklahoma law charter school teachers do not have be certified to teach.

Currently, there are more than 60 privately-operated charter schools in Oklahoma. About 3.8 million students (7.4% of U.S. children) are currently enrolled in nearly 8,000 charter schools across the country.

The inescapable law of the falling rate of profit under capitalism, especially since the mid-1970s, continues to coerce capital-centered forces to privatize as much of the public sector and social programs as they can in order to maximize profits and avoid extinction. Capitalist economies everywhere are in deep trouble and are becoming more reckless in their narrow quest to maximize profits as fast as possible. Greed is at an all-time high.

Capital-centered forces will continue to restructure the state apparatus to advance their retrogressive agenda under the banner of high ideals. This includes raiding the public education sector and privatizing it in the name of "serving the kids," "empowering parents," "promoting competition," and "increasing choice." So far, "school-choice" schemes have made some individuals very rich while lowering the level of education and harming the public interest.

Charter schools represent the commodification of education, the privatization and marketization of a modern human responsibility in order to enrich a handful of private interests. The typical consequences of privatization in every sector include higher costs, less transparency, reduced quality of service, greater instability, more inefficiency, and loss of public voice. Whether it is vouchers, so-called "Education Savings Accounts," or privately-operated charter schools, education privatization ("school-choice") has not solved any problems, it has only multiplied them. [2]

Charter schools are not public schools. If privately-operated charter schools wish to exist and operate they must do so without public money. Public funds belong only to the public and must be used solely for public purposes. This means guaranteeing a range of services, programs, and institutions that continually raise living and working standards. It means serving the common good at the highest level and blocking any schemes that undermine this direction.

FOOTNOTES

[1] The right to exclude is "one of the most treasured" rights of property ownership.

[2] See The Privatization of Everything: How the Plunder of Public Goods Transformed America and How We Can Fight Back (2023).

 

The post Oklahoma Supreme Court Repeats Disinformation That Charter Schools Are Public Schools first appeared on Dissident Voice.
Dissident Voice
22 Jul 2024 | 2:40 pm

6. “Aligned With Israel’s Propaganda Strategy”: BBC Correspondent Challenges the BBC Director General


Last November, we reported on an incisive and courageous email that had been sent on 24 October 2023 to Tim Davie, the BBC's Director General, by Rami Ruhayem, a Beirut-based BBC correspondent. Basing his arguments on considerable evidence and rational analysis, Ruhayem was highly critical of the BBC's pro-Israel coverage of Gaza since the Hamas attacks on 7 October 2023.

A former journalist for the Associated Press, Ruhayem has worked as a journalist and producer for BBC Arabic and the BBC World Service since 2005. He wrote:

'Words like "massacre", "slaughter", and "atrocities" are being used—prominently—in reference to actions by Hamas, but hardly, if at all, in reference to actions by Israel.

'When the BBC uses such language selectively, with the standard of selection being the identity of the perpetrators/victims, the BBC is making a statement—albeit implicit. It implies that the lives of one group of people are more valuable than the lives of another.' (Our emphasis)

As we pointed out at the time, this is extremely serious. The state-mandated BBC News organisation is essentially channelling Israeli propaganda that excuses its war crimes while demonising Israel's victims, the Palestinian people.

Similar points were made in a 2,300-word letter sent in November 2023 to Al Jazeera by eight BBC journalists who, fearing reprisals, requested anonymity. They accused the BBC of:

'failing to tell the story of the Israel-Palestine conflict accurately, investing greater effort in humanising Israeli victims compared with Palestinians, and omitting key historical context in coverage.'

They said that the BBC is guilty of a 'double standard in how civilians are seen', given that it is 'unflinching' in its reporting of alleged Russian war crimes in Ukraine.

They noted that the BBC's interviewers regularly asked Palestinians whether they 'condemn Hamas', while interviewees putting the Israeli perspective were not asked the same about Israel's actions, 'however high the civilian death toll in Gaza.'

A notorious example was a BBC Newsnight interview on 9 October 2023 with Husam Zomlot, the head of the Palestinian Mission to the United Kingdom, who had lost several members of his family during the early days of Israel's bombing campaign.

He told presenter Kirsty Wark of his emotional pain. He listed the relatives who had been killed, describing them as 'sitting ducks for the Israeli war machine'.

Wark replied:

'I am sorry for your own personal loss. I mean, can I just be clear though, you cannot condone the killing of civilians in Israel, can you? Nor the killing of families?'

No doubt taken aback, Zomlot, who is not a Hamas representative, said:

'No we don't condone, no we don't.'

Wark recently bid farewell to Newsnight after thirty years and was predictably garlanded with praise from across the state-friendly establishment of 'mainstream' politics and news.

Currently, the reported death toll in Gaza is approaching 39,000. But this may be a considerable underestimate, with over 10,000 estimated to be buried under the debris caused by Israeli bombing. A recent study in the prestigious Lancet medical journal points out that there will be many additional indirect deaths caused by destroyed health-care infrastructure; severe shortages of food, water, and shelter; the population's inability to flee to safe places; and the loss of funding to Unrwa, the UN's relief agency for Palestinians. The Lancet authors estimate that the total death toll in Gaza may even exceed 186,000. As a result, reports TRT World, Gaza 'is turning into an open air cemetery'.

Israel's attempt to eradicate Unrwa, and the withdrawal of many Western countries' financial support for the agency on the basis of non-evidenced Israeli claims that Unrwa staff took part in the 7 October attacks, is a major but under-reported scandal. Israel has hit nearly 70 per cent of Unrwa schools in Gaza since 7 October. Over 95 per cent of these schools were being used as shelters when bombed. 539 people sheltering in Unrwa facilities have been killed. The agency said:

'Nowhere is safe. The blatant disregard for UN premises and humanitarian law must stop.'

On 1 May 2024, Ruhayem sent a follow-up email to the BBC Director General, which was also sent to several departments of BBC News. This email was leaked to the right-wing UK press and reported the following day (see below). It has now been published in full on the Jadaliyya website, hosted by the Arab Studies Institute, a non-profit organisation.

The essential conclusion about BBC News coverage of Gaza, wrote Ruhayem, is that of:

'a collapse in the application of basic standards and norms of journalism that seems aligned with Israel's propaganda strategy.' [Our emphasis]

Moreover, Ruhayem has revealed that BBC management has failed to respond to 'a mass of evidence-based critique of coverage' from members of staff. The implication is that there may well be considerable disquiet among many BBC journalists that the broadcaster has been a largely uncritical conduit for Israeli propaganda.

Although undoubtedly made more stark over the past nine months, this basic feature of BBC News is nothing new. Over many years, we have pointed out the propaganda function of the BBC in books and media alerts, incorporating valuable work by numerous analysts including the Glasgow Media Group. A major figure here was Greg Philo who died recently and whose books with Mike Berry ('Bad News From Israel' and 'More Bad News From Israel') are vital reading.

'A Dizzying Pace'

In his 1 May email to the Director General of the BBC, Ruhayem begins by saying that, since his previous email of 24 October 2023, he has examined more thoroughly the 'editorial failings' that have characterized the BBC's coverage of Gaza, and questions whether management is serious about addressing those failings. The evidence of a collapse in BBC journalism standards, in line with Israel's propaganda strategy, 'has been pouring in for months at a dizzying pace'.

Ruhayem collated some of this evidence of pro-Israel bias in two papers (see below) which he sent to management's feedback email in February. Other BBC colleagues have documented similar problems and presented them in various ways to senior levels within the BBC. What has been the response?

Ruhayem wrote:

'Management has recognized that many of us have deep misgivings about coverage, and that these should be heard. That seems to be the implicit logic behind the "Listening Sessions" and the feedback emails. But irrespective of what the intention(s) behind this process may have been, it has amounted to little more than a short-lived venting exercise.'

He added:

'I have participated keenly in every avenue proposed by management that I managed to involve myself in, and more. Silence has been a common response to a mass of evidence-based critique of coverage. Nothing I sent to "feedback emails" has received a response, except once to say that maybe someone will respond, maybe not. Others have had similar experiences.'

The BBC correspondent then noted that:

'The exceptions to such silence have usually been worse. In one email chain, a senior figure did not answer a simple question: do BBC presenters not have a duty to interject when serious, unverified claims are made on air? Another, when asked about the reasoning behind editorial decisions, saw fit to inform a group of staff that "editors edit", seemingly in the belief that this should be enough to brush off everything we'd said.'

Anyone who has ever submitted a complaint to the BBC about its coverage, whatever the topic, will not be surprised by such dismissive treatment. We have lauded all those brave people who enter the labyrinthine den of the BBC 'complaints system'. This is a soul-crushing experience that even the former BBC chairman Lord Grade once described as 'grisly' due to a system that is 'absolutely hopeless'. So, what hope for us mere mortals? Anyone who makes the attempt is surely forever disabused of the notion that BBC News engages with, or indeed serves, the public in any meaningful way. Long-time readers may recall that Helen Boaden, then head of BBC News, once joked that she evaded public complaints that were sent to her on email:

'Oh, I just changed my email address.'

It is noteworthy that the Beirut-based BBC correspondent and his colleagues expressing serious concerns about BBC coverage have also been rebuffed. It is perhaps perversely refreshing to hear that BBC management treats its own journalists with similar disdain as it does viewers and listeners.

Ruhayem told Davie that senior BBC managers would occasionally offer one or two links as counterexamples to serious bias in its coverage:

'The implicit logic would appear to be that a collapse in standards is ok if there are exceptions. Faced with specific examples, senior managers might say it's inappropriate to comment on individual stories. Faced with analysis that goes back in time to examine content, they might ask for "specific" examples. One of them once referred a group of us back to the unresponsive "News board" feedback email. Another told me they wouldn't address issues that had already been raised to the News board.'

Again, we note the Kafka-esque contortions performed by BBC management to avoid proper accountability even to their own journalists.

One senior manager replied to a group of staff that all the examples of serious pro-Israel bias provided by Ruhayem and colleagues are the result of 'decisions taken by editors'. This risible response was seemingly intended to preclude further argument.

Of course, as Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky observed in Manufacturing Consent, senior editors and managers in 'mainstream' news outlets – which, as we have repeatedly demonstrated, very much includes BBC News – have been selected for conformity to state-corporate ideology. Chomsky made the point succinctly to a young, befuddled, pre-BBC Andrew Marr in a now-famous clip:

'I'm not saying you're self-censoring. I'm sure you believe everything you say. But what I'm saying is if you believed something different you wouldn't be sitting where you're sitting.'

In his email to Davie, Ruhayem asked whether BBC editors:

'gave instructions to drop requirements for applying scrutiny regarding the most serious, unverified claims that were being repeated by propagandists for Israel? Would they be able to explain why, and offer a defence of such decisions based on BBC values and standards? If that is not the case, would the editors be able to explain why – upon observing these standards being repeatedly cast aside – they did not intervene? In any case, would upper management clarify what it thinks its own duties are in such a situation?'

Media Lens analysis of BBC News since we began in 2001 reveals that 'BBC values and standards' is a doctrinal phrase that has little basis in reality. 'Impartiality', 'objectivity', 'balance' and 'accuracy' are largely jettisoned when it comes to the brutal truths behind state and corporate power. The myth that 'we' are 'the good guys' in world affairs must be maintained at all times.

Ruhayem goes on to say that the latest trend among BBC editors being challenged by their own journalists about biased Gaza coverage is to ask for 'recent' examples.

'This is usually in response to questions about the first weeks/months of coverage, during which Israeli claims about the events of October 7 were given an open, uncritical platform by the BBC. This ignores the fact that – in many cases – examples of this kind of thing were flagged as they were happening but not addressed at the time, or at any time. It also ignores the lasting harm such content is likely to have contributed to causing. In any case, many of us have offered – and continue to offer – feedback that covers all these categories; individual examples, systemic issues, recent examples, not-so-recent examples, without receiving a meaningful response in any instance, at any time, whatever the channel we use, and usually without receiving any response at all.' [Our emphasis]

These considered revelations are damning. Senior BBC editors and management are simply not willing and/or capable of engaging with serious scrutiny of the broadcaster's coverage, even when challenged by their own journalists. At this point, we have to recognise the courage and moral integrity of Rami Ruhayem in being prepared to challenge senior BBC figures; no doubt, with considerable animosity from his line management and some colleagues, resulting in personal discomfort and, indeed, significant risk to his continued BBC employment.

When his 1 May email was leaked to the right-wing press, the reports downplayed the seriousness and extent of his collated evidence and emphasised the 'outrage' of 'Jewish staff' with the inevitable and insidious deployment of the 'antisemitism' card: The Times ('BBC correspondent questions "facts" of October 7 attacks on Israel'), The Telegraph ('BBC may be "complicit in Israeli war propaganda" claims Beirut correspondent'), and The Daily Mail ('BBC correspondent says the broadcaster has a pro-Israel bias and should be questioning the "facts" of October 7 – sparking fury among Jewish colleagues'). No other newspapers reported the leak, including the Guardian and the Independent.

In short, Ruhayem is adamant that the problems of BBC coverage of Gaza are 'evident, unmistakable, and ongoing.'

'Israel's War on Context'

So, what are the specifics of Ruhayem's charges against BBC coverage? The first of two papers that he presented in February 2024 to Davie and senior BBC News staff concerned what the Beirut-based correspondent termed, 'Israel's war on context'.

This was elucidated by Ruhayem's analysis of 22 interviews with Israeli guests – mostly current officials, a few former officials, army officers, politicians, and a 'human rights activist'. All the interviews were conducted between October 10 and October 25, 2023 on the BBC News channel. They do not necessarily cover every interview with Israeli guests on the channel during that period.

His main findings were:

  1. There was no challenge about different manifestations of what appears to be the Israeli government's drive to destroy any chance of Palestinian self-determination, about Israeli officials in positions of power who had incited extreme violence against Palestinians prior to October 7, or what all of that might suggest about the motivations driving Israel's conduct of the war.
  2. Ruhayem found one single reference by a BBC presenter to one of the statements mentioned above [i.e. the statements summarised in point 1]. It was the only such mention in 22 interviews that took place over a period of 15 days. In that exception to the rule, the issue was framed in terms of the potential legal and reputational harm to Israel.  In other interviews, Israeli guests repeated claims that are at odds with such statements from top Israeli leaders, without the statements being mentioned by presenters.
  3. The Dahiya Doctrine is not mentioned in any of these interviews.

The so-called Dahiya Doctrine is essentially an Israeli military doctrine that overrides any sense of 'proportionality' in Israel's attacks on Palestinians. It was articulated in the wake of the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, and put into practice later in Gaza. Gadi Eisenkot, at the time head of the Israeli Northern Command and currently a member of the Israeli war cabinet, explained:

'What happened in the Dahiya quarter of Beirut in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired on. […] We will apply disproportionate force on it and cause great damage and destruction there. From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases […]. This is not a recommendation. This is a plan. And it has been approved.'

Recall that, after the attack by Hamas on 7 October, Israeli leaders, officials and army personnel made boastful statements about how brutally Israel intended to conduct its attacks on Gaza. Defence minister Yoav Gallant said that 'we are fighting human animals and we act accordingly' and that he 'removed every restriction' on the army. An Israeli army spokesman said that the 'emphasis is on damage and not on accuracy'.

The above three findings are, Ruhayem wrote, part of:

'a growing body of evidence indicating that the BBC may have been withholding vital information from the public, contributing to incitement against Palestinians, and spreading and reinforcing Israeli war propaganda.'

He added:

'There appears to be a ceiling on questioning Israeli officials and propagandists, expressed in the consistent failure of presenters to use crucial evidence to challenge Israel's west-facing propaganda. Lines of challenge which are obvious to pursue and which would cast doubt on Israel's west-facing messaging are conspicuously and consistently not pursued by BBC presenters.'

Ruhayem continued:

'Unfettered by proper challenge, propagandists for Israel can then paint a picture of a peaceful state that has the misfortune of existing alongside pure evil, and present it as the backdrop to the unfolding horror in Gaza.' [Our emphasis]

BBC coverage is thus fundamentally compromised, noted Ruhayem:

'The main assumption is that Israel is trying to avoid harming Palestinian civilians as it conducts a war of self-defence. Thus, discussions between BBC presenters and Israeli propagandists are centred on the question of whether Israel is trying hard enough, or acting intelligently enough, to achieve its goal of "crushing" and "dismantling" Hamas without harming civilians – or its reputation. This framework is cemented because evidence to the contrary is erased.'

Moreover, BBC management have made:

'little meaningful effort to examine our coverage with urgency and transparency in pursuit of evidence-based conclusions.'

Ruhayem's second paper sent to senior BBC News staff on 25 February 2024 examined BBC content relating to the events of 7 October. Considerable BBC coverage was devoted to claims of alleged horrific acts carried out by Hamas attackers. These claims included the alleged beheading of babies and the blood-curdling story of a pregnant woman who had her belly cut open, the baby removed from her stomach and beheaded in front of her before she herself was beheaded.

Ruhayem noted that:

'Claims and testimony that encourage the most extreme portrayals of Israel's enemies are allowed to be repeated without challenge – regardless of whether or not they're backed by evidence. Claims and testimony that raise the possibility of Israeli disinformation around the events of October 7 are ignored – despite the evidence.'

The purpose of Israeli's repetition of horrific stories, platformed by the BBC and other news media, was clear: to drill into the public 'the idea that any action Israel sees fit to take is justified'.

Ruhayem continued:

'By seeking to place Hamas on the most extreme end of the spectrum of evil, propagandists for Israel seemed to believe they'd be able to defend whatever Israel chose to do – and set the stage for more. The seeming suspension of basic standards of scrutiny on the BBC most likely encouraged that strategy.'

He added:

'Such coverage is likely to have aided Israel's efforts to ensure political support in the West for its actions, and to intimidate those opposed to them and portray them as supporters of the most hideous atrocities.'

In summary, the evidence in both papers presented to senior BBC managers and editors by Ruhayem:

'indicates a collapse in editorial standards and values […] which complements, reinforces, and otherwise serves Israel's messaging. BBC output appears to have aided two pillars of Israeli propaganda: the obliteration of vital context, and incitement against Palestinians.'

It has, of course, been clear to careful observers since 7 October that BBC News has been, and remains, complicit in Israel's attempted genocide of the Palestinian people. The particularly noteworthy aspects of the BBC correspondent's leaked emails is that there is likely significant concern, even dissent, among BBC News staff, and that BBC management refuses to engage in any meaningful way with staff expressing such views.

Since the full publication of the leaked emails last week by the Jadaliyya website (Part 1 and Part 2), there has been zero coverage in the UK national press, according to our media database searches. The silence sums up the insidious censorship by omission that characterises 'mainstream' media when it comes to uncomfortable truths.

As a closing example of the BBC's 'impartiality', consider the headline of a BBC News online story last week:

'The lonely death of Gaza man with Down's syndrome'

The article, by BBC journalist Fergal Keane, only revealed in the 16th paragraph that Israeli soldiers had set a combat dog on 24-year-old Muhammad Bhar, leaving him to bleed to death. His decomposed body was found a week later by his family who had been ordered to leave their home while Muhammad was locked in a room inside with Israeli soldiers. Muhammad's brother Jibril said the soldiers likely tried to stop the bleeding, but then left him 'without stitches or care'.

After a tsunami of online outrage, the BBC updated its headline to:

'Gaza man with Down's syndrome attacked by IDF dog and left to die, mother tells BBC'

Even this headline blunted the horrible truth. Historian and author Assal Rad, who regularly provides more accurate headlines to 'mainstream' news stories on Gaza, observed of the updated headline:

'This was one of the worst stories I've heard, and this is how the BBC covers it'

She suggested a more accurate version:

'Israeli soldiers killed a Palestinian man with Down's syndrome after setting a dog on him and leaving him to die'

This is yet another example of how the BBC routinely sanitises Israeli crimes and helps to 'normalise the unthinkable', to use the phrase deployed by the late Edward Herman.

The post "Aligned With Israel's Propaganda Strategy": BBC Correspondent Challenges the BBC Director General first appeared on Dissident Voice.
Dissident Voice
22 Jul 2024 | 6:10 am

7. Conventional Wisdom: The ICJ Ruling on Israeli Settlements


The International Court of Justice has again deliberated over the thorn-bloodied subject of Israeli-Palestinian relations.  Its latest advisory opinion, sought by the UN General Assembly early last year, was unremarkably conventional though nonetheless affirming: a finding that Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, along with "the regime associated with them, have been established and are being maintained in violation of international law."

Given the avalanche of international opinions, deliberation and understanding on the status of the settlements that arose after 1967, the ICJ was merely revising homework and reiterating home truths of international law.  As Eitay Mack, an Israeli attorney working for Palestinian rights in the West Bank told The Intercept, "The court just said the obvious."

Various acts and practices are accordingly examined, amounting to what the Court considered annexation of territory Israel had no sovereignty over.  Israel, for instance, treated the Palestinians in East Jerusalem as "foreigners" requiring a valid residence permit and had imposed a strict building permit scheme, violation of which could result in structural demolition and steep fines.  In the West Bank, the Basic Law of 2018 had explicitly stated that Israel "views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value, and shall act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation".  Various areas prohibited Palestinian construction, while the expansion of Israeli settlements had burgeoned.

Israeli control of the occupied territory had been accordingly maintained by such things as the extension of its domestic law to the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the maintenance and expansion of the settlements, the construction of relevant infrastructure connected with that aim, the ongoing exploitation of natural resources, and proclaiming Jerusalem capital of Israel.  Such practices were "designed to remain in place indefinitely and to create irreversible effects on the ground."

The Court also found that Israeli authorities had failed to "prevent or to punish" the violence of settlers directed against Palestinians, thereby contributing "to the creation and maintenance of a coercive environment".

The opinion further notes that Israeli policies and practices in the West Bank and East Jerusalem impose a separation between the Palestinian populace and Israeli settlers "transferred" into the territories.  Such a separation was physical and juridical, thereby breaching Article 3 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination (CERD).  As State parties to the CERD expressly condemn both racial segregation and apartheid, undertaking to prevent, prohibit and eradicate such practices in territories under their control, the finding is particularly damning.

Gaza's imperilled status also drew the Court's attention.  While Israel officially withdrew its forces from the strip in 2005 pursuant to its "Disengagement Plan" announced the previous year, Israel maintained effective control over the territory.  "Where a State has placed territory under its effective control, it might be in a position to maintain that control and to continue exercising its authority despite the absence of a physical military presence on the ground."  In this case, Israel continued to exercise authority over land, sea and air borders, restricted movement of people and goods, controlled the collection of import and export taxes, and exerted military control over the buffer zone.

It also followed that international bodies such as the UN Security Council, the General Assembly and the international community were under an obligation not to recognise the status of such an occupation, nor supply aid or support in maintaining them.  Israel was also "under an obligation to end its unlawful presence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory as rapidly as possible."  All further settlement activities were to cease, and all current settlers in the OPT areas evacuated.

As a result of its policies regarding the occupied territories, Israel had also incurred obligations "to make reparation for the damage caused to all the natural or legal persons concerned in the Occupied Palestinian Territory."

For countries professing to follow the "rules-based order", the opinion should have made perfect sense.  But in power politics, rules bend.  Take, for instance, these words from the US State Department to Reuters:  "We are concerned that the breadth of the court's opinion will complicate efforts to resolve the conflict and bring about an urgently needed just and lasting peace with two states living side by side in peace and security."

As for observing international law, the Israeli government continued to prove not only selective but historically parochial.  "The Jewish people are not occupiers in their own land – not in our eternal capital Jerusalem, nor in our ancestral heritage of Judea and Samaria," claimed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a statement.  This was, the PM went on to say, a "historical truth" that could not be contested.

Some Israeli politicians did acknowledge certain merit in the Court's decision.  Labor MK Gilad Kariv warned that the policy of "de facto annexation" being pursued in the West Bank, the broader "theft of land" and the refusal to negotiate with the Palestinians threatened "Israel's status as an accepted democratic country."

What the decision amounts to is an excoriation of the occupation, those consequential to it (the settlements), and the bolstering system of segregation that has drawn accusations of apartheid from activists to tribunals. As an advisory opinion, it is non-binding though freighted with persuasive reasoning.  In doing so, the decision further pushes arguments for Palestinian self-determination and eventual statehood.  For Israel, the judgment will be a hard one to ignore.

The post Conventional Wisdom: The ICJ Ruling on Israeli Settlements first appeared on Dissident Voice.
Dissident Voice
21 Jul 2024 | 10:46 pm

8. Biden Drops Out, Endorses Harris



Kamala's negatives are even worse than Biden's. That said, now that he has endorsed her – the party will have to accept her as their nominee.

It is going to be a landslide for Trump.

He will easily hit and surpass the 270 electoral votes needed to become the next President of the United States of America.

Only 58% of Democrats think Harris would make a good president.

Only 30% of the general public think she would make a good president

12% of Republicans think she would make a good president.

Polling, which was conducted by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, determined that a majority of Democrats believe the country would be in good hands if Harris took over.

Approximately 58 percent of Democrats think Harris would make a good president – while 22 percent think she would not and 20 percent 'do not know enough to say'.

This is compared to the 30 percent of the general public that think Harris would make a good President and a staggering 87 percent of Republicans who said she would NOT make a good president.

She can't recover from these numbers this late in the race!

Kamala's nomination could bolster Kennedy's influence, a crucial development as his voice is essential on the national stage. His continued presence in the race, and potential engagement by President Trump, could significantly impact the future political landscape.

The post Biden Drops Out, Endorses Harris first appeared on Dissident Voice.
Dissident Voice
21 Jul 2024 | 10:26 pm

9. Unless You Have Something to “Sell” …


Let us first dispense with a misleading (and superannuated) word: "society."  You and I, mere human beings scrambling to survive, inhabit a marketplace.  From the moment we step outside our door, figuratively speaking, contractual and civil laws circumscribe each and every interaction we have with our fellow citizens/consumers.  (I'm mindful that, with the absolute governance of private property, this "door" is likely to belong to the mortgage bank rather than us.)

Having left this sanctuary, what should we do?  Aside from public areas set aside for recreation, we are to–buy or to sell.  But what can we sell?  Our mere physical labor, aside from low-wage grunt work in warehouses and such, has little or no marketvalue.  Granted, one can become an apprentice to a carpenter or plumber or roofer, and, with minimal formal training, perhaps eventually make an adequate income.  Or perhaps, by walking dogs, mowing lawns, babysitting, working a cash-register–all low-wage jobs which rarely generate a living wage.  Meanwhile, the clock is ticking: mortgage payments, taxes and insurance premiums, stomachs unrelenting in their daily demands, children who will need that roof and food and "education."

We need marketable skills; i.e., technical expertise which, given the ever-accelerating changes in computer and related technologies, will require up-to-date training.  Young people, aware of this elemental fact, embark on degree programs (borrowing, say, $100K with accrued interest to pay for it), and may end up with business training in finance, marketing, information technology, accounting, and so forth.  They have bought such expensive training in the expectation that, finally, they will be able to sell their skill-set (if not themselves) to some anonymous corporation.

Such corporations, tens of thousands of them, are the true inhabitants of the milieux: legal entities which shield the major share-holders from civil (and often criminal) liability for harm, not only to the hapless human beings who sell them their skilled labor, but even more to those millions who buy their thousands of products.  Such products, only a small percentage of which are necessary and/or beneficial to "consumers," are relentlessly marketed through algorithmic calculations 24 hours a day–so that the human person, already habituated to selling her labor (rather than living freely), has also become habituated to the constant stream of subtle "prompts" to buy, buy, buy (rather than enjoying free sensibility and creative thought).

Each and every day, the beleaguered individual, no matter how consciously in denial of her status as both pre-obsolescent technician and disposable commodity, marches on.  Her primary motivation?  Vague hopes about a financially secure future–to continue this treadmill of children's college costs, retirement, medical bills, and so forth.  In fact, after 20 or more years of such steadfast effort, she may attain the ultimate: ownership of her dwelling, on a 40' x 60' plot of land (in what is still anachronistically called a "neighborhood").  Of course, such "neighbors," informing the newcomer for her own good, insist upon certain standards of appearance and upkeep of this box-with-a-roof, in order to ensure increasing property-values of their adjacent properties.  Finally, In "retirement," the old person can withdraw into her castle, no longer forced to work alongside persons she detests or face the daily stress of the traffic-choked commute.

Each corporation, designed to increase share-value for its primary owners, externalizes as many costs as possible: exorbitant student loans for attainment of mandated skill-sets required for initial and continued "employability," transport, office attire, and so on.  To survive (especially with low-cost housing rapidly disappearing), the individual is drilled to be ambitious for upward "success" in this aptly named "rat race."

One option remains: although each person may be compelled to accept outrageously one-sided, demoralizing conditions for employment (i.e., the purchase of her labor-skills), she is not forced to buy.  What if one chooses to remain…a philosopher, composer, or radical intellectual?  One will find very few "buyers" indeed for what one has to offer.  Unfortunately, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, today's media-addled populace seems to know "the price of everything, and the value of nothing."

And so, the creative outsider chooses to remain outside, or on the fringes, of this all-encompassing marketplace.  If she offers real truth, beauty and wisdom, but finds exceedingly few "buyers," she nonetheless attains the perspicacious insight that her inner freedom is, in fact, realized through non-participation in a commercialized, dehumanizing milieu which trains, conditions, and degrades the countless millions of persons who are pushed onto the "work/spend treadmill" from which there is no escape-switch.

The post Unless You Have Something to "Sell" … first appeared on Dissident Voice.
Dissident Voice
21 Jul 2024 | 4:04 pm

10. Donald Trump’s Reckless Infatuation with Nuclear Weapons


Over the past decade and more, nuclear war has grown increasingly likely. Most nuclear arms control and disarmament agreements of the past have been discarded by the nuclear powers or will expire soon. Moreover, there are no nuclear arms control negotiations underway. Instead, all nine nuclear nations (Russia, the United States, China, Britain, France, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea) have begun a new nuclear arms race, qualitatively improving the 12,121 nuclear weapons in existence or building new, much faster, and deadlier ones. Furthermore, the cautious, diplomatic statements about international relations that characterized an earlier era have given way to public threats of nuclear war, issued by top officials in Russia, the United States, and North Korea.

This June, UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned that, given the heightened risk of nuclear annihilation, "humanity is on a knife's edge."

This menacing situation owes a great deal to Donald Trump.

As President of the United States, Trump sabotaged key nuclear arms control agreements of the past and the future. He single-handedly destroyed the INF Treaty, the Iran nuclear agreement, and the Open Skies Treaty by withdrawing the United States from them. In addition, as the expiration date for the New START Treaty approached in February 2021, he refused to accept a simple extension of the agreement—action quickly countermanded by the incoming Biden administration. Not surprisingly, Trump was horrified by the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons―a UN-negotiated agreement that banned nuclear weapons, thereby providing the framework for a nuclear-free world. In 2017, when this vanguard nuclear disarmament treaty was passed by an overwhelming majority of the world's nations, the Trump administration proclaimed that the United States would never sign it.

In fact, Trump was far less interested in arms control and disarmament than in entering―and winning―a new nuclear arms race with other nations. "Let it be an arms race," he declared in December 2016, shortly after his election victory. "We will outmatch them at every pass." In February 2018, he boasted that his administration was "creating a brand-new nuclear force. We're gonna be so far ahead of everybody else in nuclear like you've never seen before." And, indeed, Trump's U.S. nuclear "modernization" program―involving the replacement of every Cold War era submarine, bomber, missile, and warhead with an entirely new generation of the deadliest weapons ever invented―acquired enormous momentum during his presidency, with cost estimates running as high as $2 trillion.

Eager to facilitate this nuclear buildup, the Trump administration began to explore a return to U.S. nuclear weapons testing. Consequently, it announced in 2018 that, although the U.S. government had ended its nuclear tests in 1992 and President Bill Clinton had negotiated and signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1996, Trump would oppose U.S. Senate ratification of the treaty. The administration also dramatically reduced the time necessary to prepare for nuclear weapons test explosions. In 2020, senior Trump administration officials reportedly conducted a serious discussion of U.S. government resumption of nuclear testing, leading the House of Representatives, then under Democratic control, to block funding for it.

Though many Americans assumed that a powerful U.S. nuclear arsenal would prevent an outbreak of nuclear war, Trump undermined this wishful thinking by revealing himself perfectly ready to launch a nuclear attack. During his 2016 presidential campaign, the Republican nominee reportedly asked a foreign policy advisor three times why, if the U.S. government possessed nuclear weapons, it should be reluctant to use them. The following year, Trump told the governor of Puerto Rico that, "if nuclear war happens, we won't be second in line pressing the button."

Indeed, Trump came remarkably close to lunching a nuclear war against North Korea. In August 2017, responding to provocative comments by Kim Jong Un, Trump warned that further North Korean threats would "be met with fire, fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before."

Trump's threat of a nuclear attack triggered a rapid escalation of tensions between the two nations. In a speech before the UN General Assembly that September, Trump vowed to "totally destroy North Korea" if Kim, whom he derisively labeled "Rocket Man," continued his provocative rhetoric. Meanwhile, the White House chief of staff, General John Kelly, was appalled by indications that Trump really wanted war and, especially, by the president's suggestion of using a nuclear weapon against North Korea and, then, blaming the action on someone else. According to Kelly, the military's objection that the war would―in the words of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis "incinerate a couple million people"―had no impact on Trump. In early 2018, the U.S. president merely upped the ante by publicly boasting that he had a "Nuclear Button" that was "much bigger & more powerful" than Kim's.

What finally headed off a nuclear war, Kelly recalled, was his appeal to Trump's "narcissism." If Trump could forge a friendly diplomatic relationship with North Korea, the general suggested, the U.S. president would emerge as the "greatest salesman in the world." And, indeed, Trump did reverse course and embark on a flamboyant campaign to pacify and denuclearize North Korea, remarking that May that "everyone" thought he deserved the Nobel Peace Prize. Eventually, however, the U.S.-North Korean negotiations, including a much-heralded "summit" between Trump and Kim, resulted in little more than handshakes, North Korea's continued development of nuclear weapons, and Trump's return to public threats of nuclear war―this time against Iran.

Given this record, as well as Trump's all-too-evident mental instability, we have been fortunate that, in a world bristling with nuclear weapons, the world survived his four years in office.

But our good fortune might not last much longer, for Trump's return to power in 2025 or the recklessness of some other leader of a nuclear-armed nation could unleash unprecedented catastrophe upon the world.

Ultimately, the only long-term security for humanity lies in the global abolition of nuclear weapons and the development of a united world community.

  • This article was originally published by The Hill.
  • The post Donald Trump's Reckless Infatuation with Nuclear Weapons first appeared on Dissident Voice.
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