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Thursday, December 28, 2017

Kremlin troll gets pay docked over Counterpunch snafu

There is this great movie about hobos and their struggle for survival against the murderous intentions of a train conductor in the 1930's titled Emperor of the North Pole. It was directed by Robert Aldrich and stars Lee Marvin and Keith Carradine as two hobos and Ernest Borgnine as the freight train conductor. I strongly recommend it to you.

In one wordless scene, A-#1, Marvin's character, is teaching Cigarette, Carradine's character, to catch a fast train by greasing the rails. They have already brought buckets of grease up from the dump, and leading by example, A-#1 starts greasing one of the rails. Cigarette, sits there for a while until be finally gets the idea, but he starts greasing the same rail behind A-#1! A-#1 stops, whistles to get his attention, and then nods to the other rail. Cigarette takes the hint and jumps over and starts greasing the other rail while A-#1, with a most memorable look on his face, nods to himself and goes back to greasing his rail.

Recounting this tale is my roundabout way of explaining why I expect that soon there will be leaked emails that will justify the headline of this spoof. Sooner or later the Kremlin paymasters will realize that paying good money to Kremlin trolls to write pro-Putin trash for Counterpunch is like paying them to add more slim to a rail that is already being thoroughly greased to their advantage, then heads will roll.

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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Friday, December 22, 2017

How @DemocracyNow's attempt to normalize Trump on Israel backfired

Today on Democracy Now, Amy Goodman interviewed Rashid Kahalidi, the Edward Said professor of Arab studies at Columbia University and author of “Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East,” about US President Donald Trump's announcement that the US was moving its embassy to Jerusalem and recognizing that city as the capital of Israel. During the 2016 election year, Democracy Now focused most of its fire on the Democratic contender, and even promoted Donald Trump as "the Peace candidate" and even the lesser of two evils if warmongering is considered. Even now she attempts to downplay the right radical changes that Trump is instituting and continues to try to portray him as really no more dangerous than past presidents. Today she asked Khalidi to agree with her that Trump was really no different than Obama, and she further biased the question in Trump's favor by asking him to exclude the very different policy statements and just compare Trump's first year to Obama's eight. With all that. I don't think she got the answer she was looking for:
AMY GOODMAN: How different is what Trump did from what President Obama did? I didn’t say “said.” His rhetoric is very different. But even when he made this announcement, and then, with a flourish, showed this document he was signing to the cameras in front of him at the White House, people didn’t realize at the time he was signing the very waiver that Trump and—that Obama and Clinton had signed before a waiver that said they wouldn’t build the embassy in Jerusalem for at least another six months.

RASHID KHALIDI: You’re absolutely right. The difference is the action. The difference is—the embassy is not going to be moved for a while. But declaring that the United States supports the Israeli position on Jerusalem is of enormous material importance. It means that the United States has taken a stand on the most important issue. Jerusalem relates to sovereignty. Jerusalem relates to settlements. Jerusalem relates obviously to the holy places. And Jerusalem relates to borders. Even if you say this doesn’t prejudge borders, the Israelis have a definition of Jerusalem. You’ve just recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The Israelis are going to take this and run with it. So, it is of enormous importance. Other presidents have said—in fact, going back to Clinton, presidents have said, “We want to move the embassy,” or “We will move the embassy,” but they haven’t done it, and they haven’t accepted the Israeli position, as President Trump has just done.
So he is saying "you're absolutely right" if you think the difference between Trump and past US presidents  "is of enormous material importance," which she doesn't. Her argument is there is no material difference, so don't worry about Trump. This is how Amy Goodman and Democracy Now fought the Trump white supremacist power grab when it still could have been beaten at the polls without bloodshed.

The next DN segment showed this sign "How did we let hate win?" among the J20 protesters at Trump's Inauguration.

The hate that the sign is most likely referring to is the hatred of women and people of color that afflicts so many of Trump's followers. This was the right-wing racist and sexist hatred that Trump worked so hard to cultivate. But there was another hatred, a hatred on the Left that would prove to be indispensable to Trump's victory.That was the hatred felt by many white progressives for Trump's opponent, the Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton.

Many Jill Stein supporters hated Clinton more than they hated Trump, and wouldn't vote for Clinton even to keep a narcissist, mentally unstable dotard away from the nuclear button. That point has been well made, but that's not Left leadership, that's Left self-service.

To advance their view that the voters should refuse to vote for the lesser of two evils, those same forces downplayed the virulent white supremacy that had made a home in the Trump camp, while they prattled on and on about "THE EMAILS!!!"  As a result, Clinton lost not only those who voted for Stein but also the large number of people convinced not to vote at all by the Left meme that there was no real difference between the two contenders, and Trump really wasn't that bad after all, plus at least he's not a warmonger, plus he has no chance of winning, so feel free to vote your conscience even if you don't buy the first arguments.

The "don't choose the lesser of two evils" logic is a false one. Working people regularly choose the lesser of two evils - when they are lucky enough to have a choice. Say an unemployed worker is looking at two job offers. Then she considers herself lucky. Both are offers to exploit her labor for a profit, so both are inherently evil. so what does the worker do? Does she refuse to choose between two evil jobs and go hungry? No, she doesn't have that privilege.

Many progressives had the privilege of sitting out this election, either by not voting or voting for someone who couldn't possibly win, and allowing less progressive voters to decide who the next president is. I don't argue that they hadn't that right. I just think it represented bad political judgement, and treacherous political leadership. I hope they will forgive the vast majority of African Americans for not following it. We didn't have the privilege of ignoring the fact that one of the two contenders for the most powerful position on Earth hates black people. The Donald Trump presidency, and all it brings to power, represents an existential threat to us.

Beside, Jill Stein was far from the perfect candidate, and she was only capable of diverting enough progressive support to put Trump in the White House. The more exposure the got, the more votes she lost. Her poll numbers actually went down after she was on CNN! Electing what Greens consider the perfect politician won't fix a broken system. It will take a revolution to do that. Until then, strategic voting is the only kind of voting that makes sense. The idea that if we can just elect enough "good" candidates to the current system, everything will be hunky-dory is bankrupt. It will take a socialist revolution to set things right. Until then all voting in bourgois elections should be strategic.

Many Greens will argue Trump didn't win because they voted for Stein instead of Clinton, he won because ____fill in the blank. The reason this is a false argument is because it's like arguing which straw broke the camel's back. If the camel's back would have held with even one less straw, then the answer is that every straw was necessary to break the camel's back.

This data is from Politico [updated 22 Nov. 2016 - PA updated 2 Dec from http://www.electionreturns.pa.gov/ ] :

Candidate Count % Michigan [16] Wisconsin [10] Pennsylvania [20]
Donald Trump 61,201,031 47% 2,279,805 1,409,467 2,955,671
Hillary Clinton 62,523,126 48% 2,268,193 1,382,210 2,906,128
Difference 11,612 27,257 49,543
Jill Stein 802,119 0.7% 50,700 30,980 49,678

Trump lost the popular vote by millions and won the electoral college by less that 89K strategic votes. With a margin that thin, he couldn't afford to lose a single advantage and win. If Bernie had won the nomination, it would have been a different ball game. If Clinton had been a little better candidate, Trump would have lost. If the Democrats had run a more populist campaign, Trump would have lost. If Wikileaks hadn't released the Clinton emails, if Wikileaks had also released Trump emails. if Comey hadn't caused an 11th hour revitalization of the FBI Clinton probe, if Comey had also made public the FBI's Trump investigation, an so on. With Trump winning by margins thinner than the votes for Jill Stein in three states, it is clear that if you took away even one of the "straws" supporting Trump's victory, the world would be looking a bit brighter right now.

Anyway you slice it, it comes down to the same thing, in the US presidential election of 2016, an election of world historic importance, the margin of victory by the Trump cabal was so thin that the US Left, as small and weak as it is, actually held the balance of power in its hands, and it threw its weight behind a fascist victory. If the battle cry of the Left had been "all out to defeat the racist Trump cabal" instead of "Jill not Hill", we would have had plenty of time to develop our critique of the Clintons, and I'll wager there would be a mite less suffering along the way, especially for people of color. They will suffer the most with an open white supremacist in charge. Too bad the Left didn't say more about that before the election. Trump would not be president today without the aid of the so-called Left. People will know that for a long time. It is a big set back.

I fear we have only seen the bare beginning of Donald Trump's efforts to be the most racist US president ever, and to show us just how much greater an evil he really is. Just yesterday The Washington Post reported:
Sessions rescinds Justice Dept. letter asking courts to be wary of stiff fines and fees for poor defendants

By Matt Zapotosky
21 December 2017
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is rescinding an Obama-era Justice Department letter that asked local courts across the country to be wary of slapping poor defendants with fines and fees to fill their jurisdictions’ coffers, part of a broad rollback of guidance that Sessions believes overreached.

It’s the latest move in Sessions’s effort to dramatically reshape the Justice Department by undoing many of the reforms imposed by his predecessors and giving the institution a harder edge. Sessions is revoking 25 previous guidance documents dating back decades and covering topics as diverse as ATF procedures and the Americans With Disabilities Act. More...
So now we'll see how this "refuse to vote for the lesser of two evils" thing works out for us in 2018. Time for us to get busy. Got to clean house first though.

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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Monday, December 18, 2017

Jill Stein was a frequent guest on RT [Russia Today]

Excerpt from Did Dr Jill Stein collude with Putin to elect Trump? Published 12 June 2017

A case study: RT support for the Jill Stein campaign on YouTube

A search on YouTube for "rt america jill stein" turns up "About 5,570 results," 2,750 in the past year, and RT/America averages more than 5,700,000 views a month on YouTube alone! RT/America is just 1 of the 88 members of RussiaToday [note the parent YouTube organization has not changed its name], which in total get an average of more than 133 million monthly views on YouTube. RT is another member of this family with mostly English content, and favorable to Jill Stein, that has an average monthly viewership of more than 28 million, Ruptly TV is a third Jill Stein fan brand with more than 14 million monthly viewers.

These are all professionally produced videos, and they aren't cheap to produce, so even though YouTube pays Russia Today as much as $274,000 a year for those views on RT/America alone, sustaining the channel has to be costing the Kremlin millions, but since RT has an annual budget of over $300 million, it is still small potatoes to them.

There have been over 190,000 views in the top 10 of those 2,750 RT/America videos supporting Jill Stein's candidacy. The view totals for all those videos is likely to range into the tens of millions. Taking just this one example of RT videos for Jill Stein and extrapolating that across all RT platforms, which in the US include cable, satellite, and broadcast TV, radio and all social media, not just YouTube, but facebook, Instagram, and Twitter as well, it's easy to conclude that since the Jill Stein campaign only raised $3,713,170, Putin probably spent more on the Jill Stein campaign than the campaign spent on itself. If this is true, it means that votes for a US presidential candidate supported largely by Russian resources put Donald Trump in the White House.

Jill Stein admitted:
"We look to RT for access to the American public."
The website RT.com also played a big role in promoting the Jill Stein campaign. The eight images below represent just a tiny sample of the "About 416 results" Google finds for a search for "Jill Stein" on RT.com:

See also:
Meet Green Party's Jill Stein, Putin sock-puppet & Assad apologist, August 10, 2016
Why Green Party's Jill Stein should drop her presidential bid, August 30, 2016
Green Party Jill Stein's campaign in context, September 7, 2016
Donald Trump can only win if Jill Stein stays in, September 27, 2016
Dr Jill Stein now officially 'the Ralph Nader of 2016', December 2, 2016

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Too bad Democracy Now didn't have time for this part

Tuesday, 5 December 2017 Amy Goodman on Democracy Now reported very briefly about Trump's growing Russia troubles:
Meanwhile, The New York Times is reporting that a high-ranking member of Trump’s transition team falsely told lawmakers that she was unaware of contacts between Michael Flynn and Russia’s ambassador. The Times cited newly discovered emails that show the adviser, K. T. McFarland, discussed a December 29 phone call between Flynn and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that was intercepted by U.S. intelligence.
Too bad she didn't have time to mention what the email said. According to the New York Times McFarland wrote that they opposed sanctions on Russia because:
The sanctions could also make it much harder for Mr. Trump to ease tensions with Russia, “which has just thrown the U.S.A. election to him,” she wrote in the emails obtained by The Times.
I suspect that is was no accident that this very frank admission that Russia threw the election to Donald Trump didn't make the cut when it came to composing the headline news for  last Tuesday; Democracy Now played a major supporting role in Russia's efforts to throw the election to Donald Trump and the white supremacists that Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to see in power in the United States.

Amy Goodman and Democracy Now backed Dr. Jill Stein and the Green Party in the 2016 presidential contest. She was a guest on the show many times before the election, not so much since. DN strongly promoted the "Refuse to Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils" attitude among progressives that resulted in the greater of the two evils installing his white supremacist cabal in the White House. DN also focused almost all its fire on the Clinton campaign and rarely report on the Trump campaign's white supremacist ties. 

See these blog posts for more details:
@DrJillStein now officially 'the Ralph Nader of 2016'
Did @DemocracyNow help elect President Trump?
Did the Green Party's @DrJillStein help Trump win?
Donald Trump can only win if Jill Stein stays in

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Some thoughts on Pearl Harbor & December 7th, a day that still lives in Infamy

Whoever is first in the field and awaits the coming of the enemy, will be fresh for the fight; whoever is second in the field and has to hasten to battle will arrive exhausted.
                                                         - The Art of War by Sun Tzu
I recently heard an Asian martial arts trainer explain the importance of striking the first blow, in fact, the absolute necessity of striking the first blow if one is to have any hope of persevering against an attacker that, by all appearances, is stronger than you. He said that should a bully approach you on the street, with the clear intent of doing you harm, the bully will not expect you to strike the first blow in the back and forth preceding the attack, but that is precisely when you must act, landing your most powerful blow before he has a chance to hurt you, and while he isn't expecting it.

This struck me as sound advice from The Art of War. Many Westerners would be uncomfortable with this advice because it involves prejudging the intentions of the other guy in the negative. We have been taught that it is wrong to strike the first blow, although that clearly is a winning strategy, so everyone may not share our cultural bias against it. It should also be added that this sound military advice has little to do with on which side justice stands, or even if justice has a dog in the fight at all.

Sir Thomas Dale
This is also the "moral" stand of one who has already obtained an empire and no longer finds such desperate measures expedient. The invaders who first conquered America for England had no qualms about landing the first blow. In The Barbarous Years, Knopf 2012, Bernard Bailyn described how Sir Thomas Dale,
a participant to the ruthless slaughter of noncombatants in Ireland on the ground that "terrour...made short Warrs," launched a program of deliberate military provocation and savage harassment. [ around Jamestown, Virginia] His campaign to reduce the natives to the status of subject people and drive them off the most valuable lands was part of what has been called England's "First Anglo-Powhatan War (August 1609 to April 1614)."   That series of bloody clashes, Frederick Fausz, the war's most careful analyst, writes "translated England's ad terrorem tactics from the Irish wars of the late sixteenth century-specifically the use of deception, ambush, and surprise, the random slaughter of both sexes and all ages; the calculated murder of innocent captives, and the destruction of entire villages...."
These infamous tactics and worst were considered acceptable when the West was on the make. This is probably the line of reasoning the Imperial Japanese took 76 years ago on December 7, 1941 when they bombed the United States naval fleet at Pearl Harbor. They had been aggressively building "their" empire in Asia for a decade, and friction had been growing with the US. Japan was under heavy sanctions from the US, and faced having it sources of oil and raw materials cut off. WWII was already on and the war clouds between the US and Japan were growing darker every day. Everyone knew war could break out any day, so the Japanese, being the weaker party, and following the philosophy of that martial arts trainer, struck first. They thought their slim chance for victory rested upon knocking out the US Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor and forcing the US to sue for peace to avoid an attack on the mainland, but Slim had left the harbor and taken the American aircraft carriers with him. As they say, the rest is history.

It didn't work out that well for the Japanese, at least in terms of the five year plan. Our moral prohibition against striking first would seem to have been vindicated, although they never had any real chance of prevailing in a sustained conflict with the United States then. It was a costly miscalculation on all sides, and it matters not to those who lost sons and daughters on the anti-fascist side that the Japanese lost more.

I think it could be very important to draw some lessons from the Pearl Harbor attack as Donald Trump heats up the atmosphere between the United States and another Asian adversary. In comparison to Japan at the height of its empire, North Korea is much weaker, but it has what Japan was on the receiving end of at the conclusion of that war. After having lost more than three million of it citizens in its last war with the United States, the North Korean government has expended tremendous effort and expense to create what it thinks it needs to deter that from happening again. This apparently is the ability to strike the United States mainland with a nuclear tipped missile. By most accounts they are there already. Earlier this year they apparently successfully tested a thermonuclear device, and more recently their test of a missile that could carry such a warhead to any part of the US was successful. It is said that they haven't a proven warhead reentry capability as of yet. Even if this is true, it is cold comfort, given that that is the easiest part of the puzzle to solve, and even without it they could detonate over America for the EMP effect and atmospheric destruction.

So while President Trump threatens the complete destruction of this country of 25 million and calls its leader names, as he talks in more and more bellicose terms and sends US warplanes and warships ever closer to North Korea; we would do well to consider the real possibility that Trump will convince the North Koreans that they really do face imminent destruction, and therefore their best option is to land the first blow and use the few nukes they have while they still have them.

Dotard Trump may think it's all fun and games on twitter, but he is playing with the end of the world.

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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Thursday, November 30, 2017

What is Trump reading in the wee hours of the morning?

A lot of attention has been focused on Donald Trump's re-tweeting of three anti-Muslim tweets from the UK white supremacist Britain First group. Much has already been written about the racist character of these tweets and their false content. Looking at the timestamps on these tweets tells its own story. @realDonaldTrump re-tweeted those tweets around 6:40 in the morning, only 2 hours after the last of the three Jayda Fransen (@JaydaBF) racist attacks were put on the Internet by a Britain First twitter bot.

Assuming @realDonaldTrump is not a bot, he would have had to see these tweets before he could retweet them. Personally, I think I spend far too much time on twitter, and I focus on these political issues, and I never even heard of the @JaydaBF twitter handle, let alone seen these tweets before @realDonaldTrump retweeted them to his followers, which includes me. So how is it that he happened to see these tweets between 4:40AM ET and 6:40AM ET? It's not like they were trending on twitter, at least not before the president made his support for the British fascist site public.

Here are some other fun facts about @JaydaBF from twitonomy: The account has sent out 3,197 tweets between 28 June 2017 and 30 November 2017. In this period it has been retweeted 97.7% of the time for a total of 349,368 retweets, its tweets have been favorited  97.7% of the time for a total of 390,857, and it has replied to a tweet only 1 time, and that was to @realDonaldTrump.

While the twitter account @realDonaldTrump officially only follows 45 [45 get it!] others, mostly family members, and @JaydaBF isn't one of them, it seems likely that Trump is following some accounts surreptitiously that it wouldn't be prudent to list as officially being followed by the president, because when someone retweets a tweet that isn't trending within hours, it's likely they are keeping a close eye on the output of that twitter feed.

I reported earlier how some of the white supremacists that tried to bust up the meetings of the Santa Monica Committee for Racial Justice were convinced that Donald Trump was watching their livestreams. It has also been reported that the bodyguard of Baked Alaska, a leader both of the Santa Monica disrupters and the Charlottesville torch carriers, was visited in the hospital by an unidentified representative of the Trump campaign.

It has been widely reported that in addition to Fox and Friends, the president likes such questionable websites as Breitbart News and Alex Jones. It now appears likely that in the wee hours of the morning he is engaging with white supremacist and fascist elements more extreme than we know. These retweets are a warning. The question isn't merely: Why did he retweet them? The first question is: How did he ever happen to see them?

Here are some timestamps to consider. All times below are EST unless otherwise noted. The three Jay Fransen tweets:

VIDEO: Islamist mob pushes teenage boy off roof and beats him to death!    2:40 AM 29 November 
VIDEO: Muslim Destroys a Statue of Virgin Mary!                                           4:40 AM 29 November
VIDEO: Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!                               3:40 AM 29 November

We don't know the exact time @realDonaldTrump re-tweeted them, but by looking at his timeline we can tell that he retweeted them between 6:32 AM - 6:49 AM 29 November 2017 because they are bracketed by his tweets.

There is another things I noticed about these tweets and this twitter account. Each of the three tweets @realDonaldTrump re-tweeted had been initially tweeted 40 minutes into the hour exactly, in three consecutive hours between 7:40 AM and 9:40 AM BST, and looking into the history of this account it is clear that it had been regularly broadcasting tweets like clockwork 40 minutes into the hour for as far back into its history as I cared to go, about 20 a day. This was true, with relatively rare exceptions right up until 7:05 AM when it thanked @realDonaldTrump for the retweets less than 30 minutes after he sent them to his 44 million followers. Since then, it has been a whole different story. @JaydaBF has now become very active with a lot of randomly timed tweets like you'd expect from a normal account, and refreshing my browser, it appears they've added 1300 new followers overnight. It appears the @realDonaldTrump has breathe new life into a twitter account that seemed largely robotic before, but the fact remains that the President of the United States was up at 6:30 in the morning re-tweeting anti-Muslim garbage put on the Internet by automation.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders broke new ground in Alt-Reality when defending the president's promotion of fake anti-Muslim videos:
“Whether it’s a real video, the threat is real. His goal is to promote strong border security and strong national security.”
But the British didn't take too kindly to our president promoting their domestic terrorists:

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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Sunday, November 26, 2017

After decades of voter suppression Trump & Moore say "Let Alabamians Decide!"

When asked if President Donald Trump believed the women that are accusing Alabama Senatorial candidate Roy Moore dating them when he was in his 30s and they were teenagers as young as 14, charges he denies, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, 16 November 2017:
"Look, the president believes these allegations are very troubling and should be taken seriously, and he thinks the people of Alabama should make the decision on who their senator should be."
That quickly became the response of Moore supporters around the country when asked to weigh in on the moral character of Roy Moore in the face of charges of sexually inappropriate behaviour with at least nine women. Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said it's "up to the people of Alabama." Conservative commentator Ed Martin repeated "And my point is, as the president has said, let the people of Alabama decide." The letters section of the Orange County Register echoed the headline "Let Alabama decide on Roy Moore’s fate."

They say this about a state in which racism and voter
suppression has distorted every election it has ever had.

Alabama instituted its first measures to limit the African-American vote only two years after the Civil War ended with its first felony disenfranchisement law in 1867. At the same time African-Americans were criminalized. Jeff Manza wrote about this period in Ballot Manipulation and the “Menace of Negro Domination”: Racial Threat and Felon Disenfranchisement in the United States, 1850–2002:
The sharp increase in African-American imprisonment goes hand-in-hand with changes in voting laws. In many Southern states, the percentage of nonwhite prison inmates nearly doubled between 1850 and 1870. Whereas 2% of the Alabama prison population was nonwhite in 1850, 74% was nonwhite in 1870, though the total nonwhite population increased by only 3% (U.S. Department of Commerce 1853, 1872). Felon disenfranchisement provisions offered a tangible response to the threat of new African-American voters that would help preserve existing racial hierarchies.
It was written into the state constitution by the Jim Crow era 1901 Alabama Constitutional Convention. As note by Manza:
[W]hich altered that state’s felon disenfranchisement law to include all crimes of “moral turpitude,” applying to misdemeanors and even to acts not punishable by law (Pippin v. State, 197 Ala. 613 [1916])...John Field Bunting, who introduced the new disenfranchisement law, clearly envisioned it as a mechanism to reduce African-American political power, estimating that “the crime of wife-beating alone would disqualify sixty percent of the Negroes” (Shapiro 1993, p. 541).
In his opening address, John B. Knox, president of the all-white convention, openly justified the law on the basis of white supremacy:
“[In 1861], as now [1901], the negro was the prominent factor in the issue. . . . And what is it that we want to do? Why it is within the limits imposed by the Federal Constitution, to establish white supremacy in this State. . . . The justification for whatever manipulation of the ballot that has occurred in this State has been the menace of negro domination. . . . These provisions are justified in law and in morals, because it is said that the negro is not discriminated against on account of his race, but on account of his intellectual and moral condition.”
With time they learned the disadvantages of such frank expression, but the motivations and justifications have never changed. This law was intentionally vague as to what constituted "moral turpitude,” which allowed un-elected county registrars to interpret it as they saw fit. The effect was as intended. The power of the black vote was greatly diminished.

In 1985, US Attorney Jeff Sessions indicted a number of Alabama civil rights workers on false charges of election fraud for assisting elderly black citizens with absentee voting ballots. That same year the Supreme Court found the "moral turpitude” provision of the Alabama state constitution to be in violation of the Equal Protection Clause and unanimously invalidated it, but 11 years later Alabama passed a new felony disenfranchisement law, which did pretty much the same thing.

That statute led to the disenfranchisement of a quarter-million Alabamians, most of them black. 15% of Alabama's African-American voters lost their right to a ballot because of this law. Finally last May, after a long struggle led by community and civil rights organizations, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed a law that defined the legal phrase "moral turpitude" and limited the number of crimes to which it could be applied to about 50. The was heralded as a great victory for voting rights and was suppose to restore as many as 250,000 voters to the rolls. But there was a big BUT: In spite of the new law, anyone who had lost their franchise as a result of a criminal conviction still could not regain the right to vote until they pay off any outstanding court fines, legal fees and victim restitution. As a practical matter, that means that most ex-felons still can not exercise the right to vote in Alabama. In effect they have imposed a new poll tax, a voter discrimination measure the 24th Amendment abolished in 1964. These policies will likely be found unconstitutional one day, but not before the help Roy Moore.

A year after a 2013 Supreme Court decision gutted parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Alabama passed a law requiring citizens to have a photo identification in order to vote. Then it closed 31 DMV offices, most in African American communities. John Archibald wrote in AL.com: “Every single county in which blacks make up more than 75 percent of registered voters will see their driver license office closed. Every one.” Mass protests and public exposure, and a DOT investigation that concluded:
"African Americans residing in the Black Belt region of Alabama [were] disproportionately underserved by ALEA's driver licensing services, causing a disparate and adverse impact on the basis of race," 
forced the state to reopen the shuttered offices, but the voter suppression effects of the new law otherwise remain in effect.
At the 52nd anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” march over Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge that remains to this day the iconic example of Alabama's opposition to black voting rights, Rev. William Barber said about Alabama’s voter ID law "We can’t be polite about this. We can’t be casual or cavalier. We have more voter suppression in recent years than we’ve seen since Jim Crow.”

In 2016 Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill (R) opposed automatic voter registration saying "if you’re too sorry or lazy to get up off of your rear and to go register to vote, or to register electronically, and then to go vote, then you don’t deserve that privilege.” The year before he insisted: “The closure of 31 DMV offices will not leave citizens without a place to receive the required I.D. card to vote...All 67 counties in Alabama have a Board of Registrars that issue photo voter I.D. cards." To the ex-cons that the new law is intended to allow to vote, Merrill reminds "In order for you to have your voting rights restored, you have to make sure all your fines and restitution have been paid," Merrill is a Roy Moore supporter and plans to vote for him, of Moore's accusers he said "I don't know whether they're making it up or not, because I don't know their intention."

So, after more than a century of rigging the Alabama vote to insure that bigots like Roy Moore can keep getting elected, they can all sound so fair and democratic by saying "Let the people of Alabama decide," when really, that is their worst nightmare.

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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Saturday, November 25, 2017

Why the Moore-Trump approach to sexual assault is so toxic

It is beginning to look like the Harvey Weinstein revelations have initiated a deep and far ranging sea-change in women's acceptance of sexual abuse and misconduct. What may have been awakened by the sexually abusive bragging of criminal misconduct by a candidate for the presidency and the United States, and then proven by more than a dozen women who bore witness against him, has turned into a tsunami with the charges against Roy Moore, Kevin Spacey, Al Franken, John Conyers, and so many others, most not nearly so famous.

This social transformation is likely to require an extended period of social introspection and change to right the many historic wrongs. Donald Trump and Roy Moore have exampled one way of dealing with these allegations - deny, deny, deny. Al Franken has exampled another - admit past wrongdoing while asking for further investigation and forgiveness.

Moore, Trump, Fox News et al, have taken the tack of demanding harsh punishment for Franken, based on his admission of guilt, while opposing any for Trump or Moore based on a presumption of innocence flowing from their denials no matter how strong the evidence against them is. For example, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said
"I think in one case specifically Sen. Franken has admitted wrongdoing and the president hasn't. I think that's a very clear distinction."
We have all heard Trump admit to a practise that most would call sexual assault, but we are suppose to give him a pass because he doesn't see it as wrong.

This is a very dangerous tact to take at this historic juncture.

The message to men who may have been guilty of sexual misconduct in the past is: Whatever you do, don't admit it. If you do you may be summarily and severely punished. It's much safer to hide behind the presumption of innocence and force your accusers to prove their case in a court of law. It will likely never come to trial, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is statute of limitations.

While recent headlines have highlighted the news about the "rich & famous," the problem of male sexual misconduct is one that is rampant throughout society and is one that affects people of all strata. Most cases will never come to trial or even a legal conclusion. Only the worst or most famous cases will. If society is to get through this sea change so that humanity can rise to a higher plane with a minimum of bloodshed and a maximum of healing, the process must look a lot more like the "Truth and Reconciliation" process which South Africa went through than the Nuremberg Trials.

That being the case, Al Franken has shown us the way forward and is to be commended for his honesty. This is the example all men who know they are guilty of sexual misconduct should be encouraged to follow. A spirit of forgiveness should also be encouraged. If the abused woman isn't demanding punishment, who rightly should?

Moore, Trump, Fox News et al, claim they are demanding punishment for Franken's admitted past deeds. As a practical matter they are demanding punishment for Franken breaking the code of silence and admitting to his bad past acts. They also example how to avoid that. Given the scope of the social wrongs that must be corrected, this position is a very dangerous one. Their example encourages men to fight these changes by denying past bad acts for fear that any willful admission is the surest path to punishment.

Moore, Trump, Fox News et al, are taking their approach for self-defensive and partisan political advantage, but they are also advocating social policy at this world historic juncture of the relations between the sexes, and it is very toxic social policy.

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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Friday, November 24, 2017

#ThemToo: America's sexual violence blindspot

Sexual violence by some men against other men is endemic in America's prison system and that fact is well known. We can deduct that by the way it is casually referenced in our culture. Everyone knows that a young man, or boy, that is not well connected or well protected, is subject to being repeatedly raped in prison. Here's an example:
Option A, Brandon takes the deal.

Option B, Brandon goes up to the penitentiary and gets his rectum resized about yay big.
Considered as a revelation, this is certainly one of the least shocking revelations in Breaking Bad, because Saul Goodman is just telling us what most already know.

Nobody knows how widespread this type of sexual violence is within our prison systems because few care, and nobody is keeping count.

Generally speaking, it isn't even considered. For example, following Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo movement, this is the way Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, described the problem of sexual assault on Democracy Now today:
My thoughts about this are that—exactly what Tarana said earlier, that this kind of violence is as American as apple pie. I am both heartbroken by all of the stories that I have seen being shared—there’s more stories being shared every day. And lots of people that I know, that I’m in community with, and people that I don’t know, are asking themselves, “What do we do about this epidemic of violence—violence against women, violence against women of color, violence against black women, queer people, trans people? And even, what do we do about violence against men?” Right? Cis men, trans men.
Sexual assault that is regularly visited upon mostly heterosexual men in the form of violent homosexual anal rape in our prison system gets mentioned by no one.

This is a type of sexual violence which is entirely within the state's ability to control. It does not because it is used by the state, as also exemplified by the above Breaking Bad quote. The "criminal justice" system quite deliberately uses this threat of sexual violence to enhance the deterrent value of incarceration. The fictional scene above is replayed many times a day in real world lockups. In weighing his options, that image of having his rectum resized, more than just about anything else, is likely to persuade the young defendant to take the deal even though it has nothing to do with his guilt or innocence. Externally, they use sexual violence as a deterrent. Internally they used it as a lever of control over the prison population. They welcome it as a beneficial parasite that is useful to the prison host, and so they feed it what it needs.

We must consider these victims too. Anyone who thinks we can end sexual violence and sexual abuse, while leaving this state sponsored incubator intact, is on a engaged in "a task that has little to no chance of being successful or beneficial."

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The liberal soul of "neoliberalism"

Today Portside carried a link to an article by Kean Birch published earlier in The Conversation titled "What Exactly is Neoliberalism?" and since I must admit to my own share of confusion about what people are talking about when they use this very popular term, that title was "click bait."

Kean Birch aims to set us straight as to the true meaning of the term neoliberalism and in the first sentence he calls it "a problematic economic system we might want to change." Gee, I always called that something else, but when he says "I struggle with neoliberalism" he means the definition of the term not class struggle:
As a result of its growing popularity in academia, media and popular discussions, it’s crucial to understand neoliberalism as a concept. We need to know its origins and its definition in order to understand our current political and economic mess, including the rise of nativism that played a part in Brexit and Donald Trump’s election a year ago.

Neoliberalism is regularly used in popular debate around the world to define the last 40 years. It’s used to refer to an economic system in which the “free” market is extended to every part of our public and personal worlds. The transformation of the state from a provider of public welfare to a promoter of markets and competition helps to enable this shift.
When was the capitalist state "a provider of public welfare?" Is that when America was great before? Neoliberalism as a concept, as a reference to an economic system, and as a term that has been popularized over the last 40 years, is an intentionally vague term used by those who don't see our current problems as a result of overripe capitalism, which must be overthrown. They see it as something else, a deviation from acceptable capitalism to something they call neoliberalism which, presumably can be gotten rid of without revolution.

Sometimes the distribution of words can reveal a lot about a piece. For example, since Birch sets out to define "neoliberalism," it's not surprising that the term is used 34 times in his article, with "neoliberal" used another 9. What is surprising is that the term "capitalism" shows up only once, and even then it is "neoliberal capitalism." All the world's troubles flow from "neoliberalism," whatever that is, so we can pay capitalism, with its distinct property and class relationships, history and course of development, no nevermind.

He traces the origins of the word all the way back to a Monthly Review article in 1884. This means there were "neoliberals" even before there were Nazis, let alone neo-Nazis. How old can something be before "neo" no longer applies? This definition of "neoliberalism" covers the entire span of the imperialist development of capitalism. It's pretty clear that "neoliberalism" is alt-speak for capitalism.

Nativism is another alternative word that is often matched with "neoliberalism." Birch speaks of "the rise of nativism that played a part in Brexit and Donald Trump’s election a year ago." Terms like "racism", "white nationalism", and "white supremacy" are foreign to his narrative. They are being replaced by more opaque language, alternative words like "nativism" and "tribalism," except "separate but equal" was never the true goal of white supremacy. "Nativism" and "tribalism" are cover stories. They are terms the white supremacists are comfortable with.

This a real shame because the fight against white supremacy is the defining struggle of our time. Just look at Dotard Trump's morning Twitter feed. All this was before 5AM. This hateful obsession bodes very bad things for black people, and "neoliberals" trying to rebrand it as "nativism" are most unhelpful.

The confusion around the term "neoliberalism" is so profound that it rightly belongs in the dustbin of alternative terms along with "nativism" and "tribalism." [as they are being popularized by white supremacists.] We have a president that hates black people and so-called leftists who think neoliberalism is a plague on capitalism and prettify white supremacy as "nativism." Let's hope 2018 brings in a better crop.

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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Monday, November 13, 2017

Why no one should stand for the national anthem #TakeAKnee

Colin Kaepernick started taking the knee during the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" to protest the police treatment of black people in the United States. When other players, both black and white, joined him, President Donald Trump, who has previously encouraged police violence, took the tactic of objecting to the football players taking a knee to protest police violence against African Americans by claiming they were disrespecting the national anthem, and by extension, the flag, the country, the military, and the American way.

I take a very different view, in fact, I'm here to argue that no one should stand for the “The Star-Spangled Banner.” 

Jason Johnson called it "one of the most racist, pro-slavery, anti-black songs in the American lexicon," for good reason. This is why the California NAACP is calling for it to be removed as our national anthem. Furthermore, its author, Francis Scott Key, was much more than a slave owning victim of his times, as the District Attorney for the City of Washington from 1833 to 1840, he became one of the pioneering architects of the racist police and criminal justice system the #TakeAKnee movement is protesting. That makes the time when we are all forced to hear the words of this racist poet, a most appropriate one for protest.

First about the song, then about the man.

about the song

Most Americans are familiar with "thy rocket's red glare" and "thy bombs bursting in air" of the first stanza of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Less often sung is its racist third stanza:
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave'
From the terror of flight and the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
In Key's poem [it only became a song and nation anthem later], the hirelings were colonists who remained loyal to the crown or mercenaries fighting for a paycheck. The British were also offering freedom to any slave who would fight for them, and the Americans were unwilling to match this offer, so many slaves ran away to fight for their freedom. Since Britain was to end slavery throughout its empire three decades ahead of the Emancipation Proclamation, it can be fairly argued that the slaves would have been better off had the American Revolution failed. In anycase, that is the 20/20 vision of hindsight, in 1814, the slaves were responding to the offer on the table then and for this Key wished them "the terror of flight and the gloom of the grave."

The fact that they could run away and pick up a gun showed the complete bankruptcy of the slave system Key was defending, beyond that he had very personal reasons for wanting to see these runaway slaves turned soldiers dead.  Three weeks before the battle at Fort McHenry in Baltimore on 13 September 1815, for which Key was to pen his famous poem, was the Battle of Bladensburg on 24 August 1815. Key was a lieutenant at the time and his unit was "taken to the woodshed" by a battalion of Colonial Marines. Colonial Marines were black soldiers, runaway slaves who joined with the British Royal Army in exchange for their freedom. Key hated them for it. That is what those lines reflect. The question is: Why are we still singing his praises and standing for his song?

Black lives didn't matter to Francis Scott Key.

about the man

Modern police practises and departments developed with the growing urban environments they were tasked with regulating. This task became both more urgent and more complicated in the fast growing cities of the slaveholding South. In Southern cities like Richmond, VA, Atlanta, GA and Washington, DC they not only had to deal with the ordinary contradictions of developing urban life, they were increasingly given the special task of suppressing a growing urban population of free and slave African Americans. One of the main reasons why racist police violence has proven to be so intractable is that from its earliest days, the developing police culture had forced upon it the extraordinary task of maintaining social control over a racially oppressed people. This has created a racism corruption in modern American policing that has been programmed into its very DNA from those earliest days.

1835 DC Anti-Slavery Broadside
As the district attorney of Washington, DC in the 1830s, Francis Scott Key was privileged to become one of the pioneering architects of precisely the type of racist criminal justice system Kaepernick is protesting today.

In 1833, Washington's free black population had overtaken its slaves in population, and many blacks ran businesses and were well established in the nation's capital. Those blacks, both free and slave, were increasingly demanding liberty. Britain was ending slavery throughout its empire that year, and the abolitionists were stepping up their agitation to end it in the United States as well. That was the general situation when President Andrew Jackson appointed Francis Scott Key DA of DC.

Key could have used his position to advance the progressive struggle. Instead he chose to use his power to fight it. There was still time to avoid a costly civil war, as General John Kelly, Trump's Chief of Staff, has suggested, and end slavery through civil discourse instead, but men in positions of power and trust like Key chose to violate the constitution, suppress free speech, use police powers corruptly, suppress the black community, and jail freedom fighters in a vain effort to preserve a system in which he could profit from the ownership of other people.

As DC DA, Key's most celebrated cases came out of events in August of 1836 that became known as "the Snow Riot." The riot took its name one of its first targets: Beverly Snow, a mixed race man whose popular restaurant on the corner of 6th & Penn, the Epicurean Eating House, was destroyed.  It was the first race riot in our nation's capital. Whites ransacked and burned black homes and businesses.  There were as many as 400 white rioters.  A citizen's militia of some 50 to 60 people armed with muskets and fixed bayonets had to be hastily organized to support the city constable force of 10 in restoring order. Beverly Snow left town "for a country where a man might live freely: Canada," but his name remained with the riot.

DC DA Key made two big cases out of the Snow Riot:  a black slave he sought to have hung, and a white abolitionist he tried to have sent to prison. He failed to achieve satisfaction on either count, but it was not for lack of trying.

The slave was an educated and well known slave named Arthur Bowen, then 19. A series of drunken mishaps that you can read about in some detail here found him entering the bedroom of Anna Thornton on the night of 10 August 1836 with an axe in his hand. Anna was so convinced of his innocence that she testified for his defense at trial, and after his conviction, appealed to President Jackson for a pardon. This was only a few years after Nat Turner had led a band of slaves in murdering 50 whites with axes, so when a witness reported the vision of Arthur standing in Anna's door with an ax, a white riot ensured. A group of mainly Irish workers that called themselves "the Mechanics" went on a rampage in the black community. This is how the Snow Riot began.

Cops lying about a jailhouse confession? Not for the last time.
DA Key had already been using his office to suppress the black community and violate the first amendment rights of abolitionists. He decided the best way to placate this white supremacist unrest was to accuse Bowen not just of yielding an axe, but also of attempting to start an insurrection, so he could try him for a capital offense. Since a black man couldn't be credited with coming up with insurrection on his own, he also arrested Reuben Crandall, a local white abolitionist. As abolitionists go, Crandall wasn't that much. Known as a teetotaler, he was more interested in alcohol prohibition than ending slavery, but his sister was a nationally known abolitionist. Prudence Crandall was the Connecticut schoolteacher who had welcomed a free Negro girl into her classroom, and Reuben had been found with copies of the Anti-Slavery Reporter and the Liberator in his office.

Bowen's trial for attempted murder and burglary began in late November of 1835 and lasted until the jury brought in its verdict on 10 December. Anna Thornton testified that she did not believe he had intended to kill her, nevertheless it took an all white jury all of 15 minutes to bring in the verdict that Arthur Bowen be "hanged by the neck until he be dead." Bowen's execution was scheduled for 26 February 1836. From his jail cell, he composed a poem, later published in the Globe. He blamed alcohol for his problems:
Farewell, farewell, my young friends dear;
Oh! View my dreadful state,
Each flying moment brings me near
Unto my awful fate.

Brought up I was by parents nice,
Whose commands I would not obey,
But plunged ahead foremost into vice,
And into temptation's dreadful way.

Good bye, good bye, my friends so dear,
May God Almighty please you all,
Do, if you please, but shed a tear
At Arthur Bowen's unhappy fall.
Francis Scott Key wasn't the only one who could pen a poem in those days. TV and Twitter have robbed us of some beautiful skills.

For Key, the really big case was U.S. v. Reuben Crandall. Key considered him the real culprit behind the Snow Riot. That trial began in April 1836, took ten days, and was the O.J. Simpson trial of its day. The City Hall courtroom was crowded, congressmen sitting in the front row, and two of Washington's most famous attorneys, Richard Coxe and Joseph Bradley, counsel for the defense

DC DA Key argued that Crandall was guilty of sedation because his efforts to incite slaves, free Negroes and others to "stir up against slave owners" were "base and demonical." In his closing argument, the author of the national anthem called U.S. v. Reuben Crandall "one of the most important cases ever tried" in the nation's capital, and then went on to appeal to the all white jury on the basis of white supremacy:
"Are you willing, gentlemen, to abandon your country; to permit it to be taken from you, and occupied by the Abolitionist, according to whose taste it is to associate and amalgamate with the Negro? Or, gentlemen, on the other hand, are there laws in this community to defend you from the immediate Abolitionist, who would open upon you the floodgates of such extensive wickedness and mischief?"
In spite of District Attorney Francis Scott Key's best efforts, it took the jury only three hours to acquit Reuben Crandall.

Anna Thornton portrait by Gilbert Stuart 
Meanwhile Anna Thornton had been carrying out a legal defense campaign in support of Arthur Bowen that included a 17 page letter to President Andrew Jackson. Those efforts initially won a stay of execution and eventually, a pardon, to take effect, according to the presidential order "on the 4th of July" 1836. On that same day that Arthur was released, Ann Brodeau, Anna's long sick mother, passed. Rumor has it that the light-skinned slave Arthur was her husband's issue, and Anna's half-brother. This is a true American story.

Although he was unable to achieve his ends by legal means. Francis Scott Key may have derived some satisfaction from Crandall's ultimate fate. While he was locked up in the germ infested city jail, Reuben Crandall contracted tuberculosis, and although he ran to Kingston, Jamaica to escape it, he never recovered and it killed him in January 1838.

There are many actors in this saga that all Americans can be proud of; first and foremost, Arthur Bowen, who suffered death row with dignity; Anna Thornton, who never stopped fighting for justice; Reuben Crandall, who paid the ultimate price in the fight for freedom; even the jury in the second trial; and President Andrew Jackson who pardoned Bowen; but Francis Scott Key is not one of them.

So, with all due respect, I say: No one should stand for the national anthem. We should demand it be changed.

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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