The Border Patrol obviously has a fascist problem. As is usually the case, this rot spreads from the top, by cynical politicians who know how to mine the treasure trove of grievance, resentment, and scapegoating which is the source of the power of this malign movement. Americans who look upon the horrible mistreatment of the immigrants from Central America as nothing which should concern them, ought to realize that there are many other groups who would be targets of attack and persecution by a fascist government. Socialists, liberals, Democrats, “bleeding heart do-gooders,” ‘Never Trump’ Republicans, intellectuals, experts-in short, anyone or any group which runs afoul the new “truth,” or shows insufficient enthusiasm for the great leader, may find themselves a despised minority, defined by the leaders of the government as enemies of the people. I hope I’m wrong, but the signs are dire. And in any event, the mess Trump has made cannot be cleaned-up by the next congress or Democratic president. Trump has energized fascists who were already in government, and has brought a lot of new fascists into government.
Donald Trump is more friendly and warm with Kim than any other world leader at the G20. He doesn’t know what American freedom is. He doesn’t respect the history of the Korean war. He doesn’t respect our allies. It is time for our allies to recall their ambassadors and cut all diplomatic ties with the US. There need to be serious consequences for this betrayal. Today, Donald Trump betrayed every free person on earth. Fuck this. Fuck him. And fuck us.
Trump’s supporters love it when he breaks things, is contrarian, or causes retired generals and pundits to condemn his actions. If he bombed New York, they would praise him. They will love what he did today, but it was an attack on our freedom and an insult to every US citizen. Full stop. And frankly, fuck what they think or like.
There's a revolution happening in Ireland, one of the last progressive nations left on earth. Ireland is coming together, while the UK is being torn apart.
After a century of relative stability following a Civil War, the Republic of Ireland is asking some big questions and making some big decisions. Same sex marriage is now legal. Divorce has now been legal for 23 years. And the Republic has taken the first step to legalize abortion for any reason a woman chooses.
This is a nation that has been closely aligned with the Vatican for centuries. A nation that served as a Catholic foil to England's Anglican patriarchy. A nation that, if the legend is to be believed, preserved Western European civilization during the Dark Ages.
But a new generation of Irish citizens do not fear the Vatican. They learned from their parents that upholding human rights is a cornerstone of Irish society. This nation of just 6 million people advocates for human rights from Yemen to Gaza to Syria to Burma and even the USA. And a disproportionate number of Irish people are members of Amnesty International. It was celebrity Irish Amnesty International members like Bono and Sinéad O'Connor who got me into human rights advocacy in high school. Watch sessions of the Irish parliament (Oireachtas Éireann) on YouTube or RTÉ and there's a good chance the term "human rights" will be spoken.
A fascinating awakening has occurred. Sometime between the late 1980s and today, the Irish people realized that they don't have to follow the Vatican in order to set a high standard for human rights. They are doing it themselves, in the secular sphere of diplomacy and trade. The latest generation of Irish adults are less religious than their parents. And slightly more of them speak the Irish language than the generation before them. We are witnessing an Irish awakening.
Which brings us to the elephant in the room - reunification. That process began with the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. A lot of Irish Republicans feared that it would chill calls for reunification, and for a time it did. But just one generation later, the issue is in the spotlight again. The agreement allows citizens of Northern Ireland to easily apply for Irish dual citizenship. No one thought there would be a wave of Northern Irish applicants. Northern Ireland has better roads and infrastructure, some said, somewhat jokingly. Northern Ireland is just fine and stable, others said. But then in 2016, people began applying for Republic of Ireland passports in record numbers. This year, there have been 100,000 Republic of Ireland passports issued to citizens in the northern six counties. That's higher than the number of people who speak the Irish language daily in the Republic. It's a huge number, and it was set off by the 2016 UK European Union exit referendum ("Brexit").
And so the process to reunify has begun again. We didn't know it in 1998. We didn't know it in 2016. But it is happening now. It seems unavoidable. Even those who were once supporters of partition or the Ulster side.
Meanwhile, a hard UK exit from the EU appears likely. The Tories, in their downright bizarre quest to honor the misguided will of the people, have done nothing but destabilize themselves. Theresa May's government has been on the verge of collapse since June, and a hard Northern Ireland border with checkpoints appears likely, which would violate the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and accelerate the movement to unify Ireland. And on the UK side, an exit from the EU without terms in place would subject the nation to tariffs for just about everything, and would probably put an end to automobile manufacturing in the UK. Nissan, Land Rover, Toyota and others would move their manufacturing to the EU or China. Presumably, only Aston Martin would remain in the UK.
What the hell kept the Tories in power this long, two years after the disastrous EU exit referendum? There's no reason for a Tory government at Whitehall. Meanwhile, the Corbyn-led Labourites are in their predictable disarray. The whole British project, from the 1707 Act of Union, the installation of the House of Hanover in 1715, the creation of the United Kingdom and the mostly mythical Commonwealth, all look increasingly irrelevant, theatrical, even farcical. Let Scotland secede, the northern 6 counties finally reunite, and England and Wales do whatever the hell they think might work.
The The Saudi-Yemeni War (2015-) is well in its fourth year. The US suports Saudi Arabia in its bombardment of Yemen. The US helped start this war, and now more children have been killed.
My head is still spinning from the news this past weekend. I consider myself someone who can keep up with all the big stories surrounding the corruption of the Trump administration and the criminal conspiracies of the Trump 2016 campaign. But I can no longer keep up. A conspiracy wall the size of a soccer field couldn't hold it all. My brain hurts.
So what happened this weekend? Trump and his legal team got angrier, sillier and more bold in their use of limited hangouts. At this stage, it appears that Trump is on the verge of torpedoing the Mueller investigation and claiming that anything less than shooting someone is a not a crime.
But this latest development is unfolding in a most terrifying way. First, let's accept the fact that most Americans don't care. That's terrifying in itself. Bush v. Gore shattered the republic. The endless war on "terror," the permanent state of fear, and the Patriot Act shattered it some more. The Republican-led Senate preventing a sitting president from filling a Supreme Court vacancy set fire to the house. Now, while the fire spreads to all the rooms under president Trump, most Americans are either too broken or simply not engaged to care. The disengaged post-Watergate future scholars warned us about is here. That sets the stage for even more, permanent oppression.
This weekend, we reached the stage where the president declared himself to be above the law. It took nearly two years for Richard Nixon to reach that stage. It took Donald Trump less than 15 months (since the Mueller investigation began). And just in case it wasn't clear, the president himself tweeted it on Monday morning as a kind of limited hangout that maybe he did commit a crime, but take it from him, he didn't! And as if that wasn't enough, he tweeted 90 minutes later that the Mueller probe is unconstitutional.
In 2017, tweets like this were met with some eye rolling and some gasps from Mika Brzezinski. It seems to me that this past weekend a large portion of the news media finally woke up and realized that these tweets are official presidential statements, and need to be taken seriously. Despite typos, misspellings and occasional humor, Trump has followed through on most topics he has tweeted about. From his "travel ban," to exiting the Iran deal, to starting trade wars, Trump eventually remembers what he's angry about and acts on it. And so, we have to assume that he is going to try to end the Special Counsel's investigation again soon. His staff might talk him away from the ledge, or he might take the dive, but as Trump always says before he does something big, "we'll see what happens."
We've reached the totalitarian stage of the Trump presidency. It was always there, beginning with the lie about the inauguration crowd size, but now it is fully out, 500 days into his first term.
In 2017, Trump reserved his angriest tweets for Saturday mornings. Now his manic, angry, desperate tweets are sent almost every morning - usually before 07:00 DC time.
Trump's tweets are bad enough. But Trump has found the recipe for motivating his base of 60 Million white supremacist supporters. His blistering, endless condemnation of NFL players who do not stand for the Star Spangled Banner before games is white nationalism wrapped in public patriotism, and it stirs his base into a frenzy. It is Trump's most successful tactic as president. No president has ever succeeded in doing this. Reagan came close, launching his 1980 campaign at the Neshoba County Fair in Mississippi, the same county where three civil rights activists were murdered in 1964. Ronald Reagan gave his base white nationalism packaged as an argument for "states rights." He demonized the poor and anyone who collected public benefits of any kind, claiming that they were a burden on working people, and that government, by aiding the poor, was too big and too intrusive. That was terrible at the time, coming on the heels of a dark but progressive era that brought bipartisan support for legal abortion, some equal rights, and even some environmental protection polices and causes (think Superfund sites and No Nukes). Reagan represented a right wing backlash to all that.
Trump represents an even stronger backlash to that, as well as all the social and economic changes that have come since the early 1990s. The USA is more Hispanic. The USA has many more people living in poverty. Our local law enforcement agencies are more militarized and use even more force against young black men and women. And the US has a furious white population, fueled by 22 years of Fox News, ready to go out as loudly and with as much violence and destruction as they can muster. If there ever is a serious attempt to remove Trump from office, there will be civil unrest.
Last September, Trump found this winning formula, and today, he deployed more furious tweets about black athletes, rallying his base. Trump's big ego has always been ridiculed. But now, with his more identifiable totalitarian posture, his inflated ego is finally being recognized as part of his 'strong man' style of leadership. It needs to be taken seriously.
It's a shame and embarrassing that one of the only public officials to condemn Trump's tweets today is the mayor of Philadelphia, Jim Kenny. Kenny was correct to speak out, of course. And his words were very apt:
2018 is beginning to look a lot like 1968. You don't need this little blog to tell you that. Look outside.
I was going to post this in February. Then three months went by. Then I said, screw it, I'm gonna post it.
An unusual thing happened during NBC's coverage of the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. A commentator mentioned that South Korea's rapid growth as a technology leader was inspired by the success of their next door neighbor, Japan. I listened carefully to that description as it was broadcast. I found it to be somewhat accurate. It made no mention that the Korean-Japanese rivalry had anything to do with Japan's brutal occupation of Korea. It was an occupation that got worse each decade up to and including WWII. While that struck me as a historical whitewash, I thought that perhaps the comment relates to South Korea since 1987, when South Korea democratized. In that respect, the commentary was accurate.
In order for its economy to boom, Korea's military dictatorship had to end (much like Brazil's had to end before its economy could briefly grow). When the junta folded in 1988, Korea's gadget and appliance companies were Goldstar and Samsung. Within 30 years Samsung would become bigger than Sony and Goldstar would become LG, a giant in its own right. Even as little as 21 years ago, the Korean government retained some of its policies from its totalitarian past and censored all materials flowing in and out of the nation to protect its growing auto and technology sectors. I knew graduate students from Seoul who, like me, were studying news media and journalism. They would request VHS tapes of news broadcasts from home, and Korean customs would watch those tapes, looking out for any news about auto worker union strikes - or any negative news about Korean business or economy.
So I heard the comment. I raised an eyebrow. I moved on. But apparently South Korea couldn't let that one pass. So they demanded and received an apology from NBC for the network's historical oversimplification and disregard for atrocities.
Now I agree, that commentary could have been written far better. It seemed scripted. NBC had time -weeks probably- to write blurbs on each nation as its athletes paraded into the Pyeongchang stadium. But if NBC had to apologize for that misstep, I thought, what are we to do with decades of misreporting history by television networks?
A really good example is one of the first I was taught by Professor Justin Lewis. When the Sandinistas held elections in Nicaragua in 1990, news networks described them as their "first" free elections. That wasn't true. While the Sandanistas were not keen on elections, they did participate in a monitored, free national election in 1984. But in the US, the 1984 elections didn't happen. I believe ABC World News Tonight had a piece showing Daniel Ortega dancing, kissing babies, and campaigning while a narrator described it as the first time Ortega ever had to campaign. He and the Sandanistas lost, by the way. The US interfered with that election, by the way.
US news media seldom goes into the history of the Israeli-occupied territories. Furthermore, mainstream US media would ever interview a Palestinian. What's a Palestinian?
Same with American Indians and their townships. Townships? I mean reservations. L.B.J. called American Indians our forgotten people in 1964, and The Guardian reported it again in 2017. Isn't the United States sitting back and letting its native populations wither and die out? Reservations are sovereign, we say. Sure, sovereign and set up to fail. I've been to Navajo Nation. I've seen poverty and squalor that makes West Virginia seem downright prosperous. Sometimes I feel like I've been to the moon. Considering how few Americans have seen a real reservation -even the ones who live in Arizona or Utah- I think that's an apt comparison.
And to a lesser extent, the US news media wouldn't need to go into the dark history of the CIA, our nation's involvement with at least five major acts of genocide (Indonesia, Chile, Argentina, East Timor, El Salvador), or the times we stripped the constitutional rights of our own citizens (during times of national crises, "panics," "scares," wartime, or just routine denial of voting rights).
But yes, South Korea called out a US network for its tiptoeing around the Japanese occupation and legacy of rape and murder, and the network quickly apologized. If only we could get historical accuracy from our media so quickly and so easily every week.
When an ignorant, volatile and incompetent President tries to run the executive branch with a small staff, and who thinks of himself as a "disruptor," he will, from time to time, throw a lit match into a lake of gasoline.
Update, May 15: This is not sustainable.
The Republic is doomed. A morally bankrupt Republic cannot stand. And yesterday, we saw confirmation of that.
Gina Haspel is a perfect CIA chief. She doesn't care what Congress thinks. She gives zero fucks about accountability, transparency, or human rights.
The argument goes that the US, as an empire, has to do this in order to survive. We have tortured. We do torture. And we will torture again. But for now, just take the word of our millionaire senators from both sides of the aisle that the USA is good, and stands fro truth and justice. Don't worry, and go back to sleep.
Gina Haspel will almost surely become the next CIA chief on May 9. She managed a torture site in at least one nation. The torture employed at her black site had the usual - dark isolation, sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation, physical torture, psychological torture, and water boarding.
Contrary to what Barack Oabma said, the USA never stopped its rendition and torture program. It's still with us. If we were serious about stopping it, there would have been a truth commission, investigations, reports and accountability. Of course that didn't happen, aside from one Senate report. Americans had more apps to play with one their phones and the CIA continued to orchestrate the torture of people all over the world. And now one of their torture managers will be head of the agency.
And what did the DC elite say when she was nominated to head the agency? They said that she was just being loyal and was following orders when she ran a black site in Thailand. It's the Nuremberg Defense.
I call this the good German defense, which was used by Adolph Eichmann when he was on trial in Jerusalem for his part in organizing the Holocaust. It was dismissed then, and should be dismissed now, and for the same reason. To argue that one may commit crimes against humanity because you were only following the orders of the legal authority in your country fails as a matter of law and a matter of morality. Such an order is illegal, always, and its immorality is self evident.
There are five big, bleak elections happening in the world this spring, and the all look bad.
As Churchill said, democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms. The problem, to put it succinctly, is that it requires an informed and engaged electorate. Americans are politically lazy, ill-informed, resentful, fearful, and often bigoted. Now obviously that isn't true for millions of our fellow citizens, but it pretty well describes the folks who've put Trump in the White House, and gave that collection of clowns and rascals known collectively as the contemporary Republican Party full control over the Congress and most state governments. It's extraordinarily hard to feel bad for people who insist on giving power to a party that despises it's own supporters. And the problems are not confined to the U.S. The idea the Italians are seriously contemplating reinstalling Silvio Berlusconi as head of their government should make civilized people weep. Basta!
Splendidly, I see. When a minority party member delivers that much burn, you see just how outdated and terrible the DUP is. If anyone believes that Northern Ireland, in 2017, is "Britain," then he's really living in the past.
When the Conservative Party won the flash general election this past June, it was obvious that it will be difficult to form a stable government. The Tories, desperate to remain in power, had no choice but to let the Unionist tail wag the UK's dog. This deal with the backward Irish Orangemen promised to produce a hideous government in Westminster.
But as you might have seen today, the chances of that government holding together became more difficult. How a party looks can be just as important as how a party performs. That rule used to be true in the US, but it holds in the UK.
As you probably recall, back in the 1990's, peace was impossible in Northern Ireland because the British Tories were absolutely dependent on Ian Paisley's Unionist Party for their parliamentary majority. It was only when Labour won in 1997 that the Good Friday agreement became possible. Because Blair's government was not in need of Unionist votes, he could use Clinton's good offices to broker a deal in Belfast.
There's a pattern here. Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi were inspiring when they were trying to free their people. But when they took power, they didn't just disappoint. They failed. Now to be fair, 'The Lady' did not fully take power. Her nation is in turmoil and under military rule. But still, she has failed. This is sad. The lesson here is don't have heroes. Especially people who win Nobel Peace Prizes. They will break your heart.
In 2014, President Obama announced that the US war in Afghanistan would wind down in 2015. But announcing it did not make it so. It is nearly 2017, and historians still consider the war to be ongoing. And just over a year ago, the US committed one of its biggest atrocities, the deliberate, 60 minute airstrike on the Kunduz hospital in northern Afghanistan.
The story has disappeared from the news, but history will not forget. And it will be a major mark on Obama's record. President Obama issued a very rare apology to Doctor's Without Borders (MSF) for killing its providers and patients. But a war crime is a war crime. Hospitals cannot be attacked for treating wounded enemies. Demands for an independent investigation were ignored.
There was no advance warning of the airstrike. When it was time to report on the incident, as the Pentagon does, there was simply a whitewashing of all responsibility and accountability. Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept correctly called out major US news outlets in avoiding acknowledging which military attacked the hospital for the first 48 hours of coverage.
The US is still in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. The US is a country that can't fix the problems in Detroit, or Cleveland, or guarantee the descendants of slaves their right to vote, but it has the temerity to imagine we can reshape the Middle East to our liking.
More to the point, our political class, led by Trump, and soon Mike Pence and Donald Trump, is a pack of craven cowards, and their policies have made virtually everything they touch worse.
It's really as simple as this. Black people are to be POLICED, while the rest of us (white people) are to be "protected". Furthermore, the justice system that we have built and maintain is designed to put blacks into prisons and go easier on whites. It's just a fact.
For black men, the risks of living in this country are simply appalling. One wonders how, with an apparently straight face, politicians and pundits can continue to insist that, not only is the United States a democracy, but quite simply the greatest country on earth. The major news stories we have seen over the last two years are not aberrations, and speak volumes about the hypocrisy of our system. The disconnection between our stated constitutional rights, and the actual practice in hell holes like the New York City "correctional system" would be jaw dropping if not for the fact that there's nothing new about this story. Poor people, especially poor people of color, are, and always have been, treated as disposable problems, not equal citizens with unquestionable rights.
And the long history of our justice system treating black Americans differently has huge consequences. Some have taken decades to acknowledge, such as the phenomenon of missing black men. These are men who are off the streets of their last resident town because of imprisonment, or because they relocated to avoid arrest (for anything from traffic tickets, to unpaid child support, to more serious charges).
New York City has 118,000 missing black men.
Philadelphia has over 30,000 missing black men.
And then there's the lost sleep, depression, and the suicides. Kalief Browder was a teenager kept mainly n solitary confinement in Rikers for 3 years, over a petty robbery charge that was ultimately dismissed. After two previous suicide attempts, and a downward spiral into paranoia and post-traumatic stress, he took his own live last year.
No doubt this kid's years in solitary confinement was the cause of his extreme distress. I find it hard to even think of what must have been pure hell on earth. I cannot imagine the pain of his parents. What must it be like to be beaten up, over and over again? How can we Americans continue to bear what is being done to our children?
And another topic for another day: what about extrajudicial sites like Homan Square in Chicago? Do other US cities have black sites? It's like something out of the Dirty War in Argentina, except it is not reported, and designed to make black Americans disappear.
The United States has an ongoing human rights crisis. It has been going on for decades, especially since the 1970s. Almost no one talks about it. Almost no one even questions it. It is the nation's largest jail. It is Rikers Island.
I wish Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch would draw more attention to Rikers. To it's credit, Amnesty has published reports about Rikers before. In 2000, they called out Rikers for the abuse of female prisoners at the hands of male guards. And in this latest round of reports about Rikers, Amnesty has shed light on the torture of teenagers and the high rate of solitary confinement of teen prisoners.
The most recent revelations about Rikers are shocking even for those familiar with how bad it has been over the last 40 years. There have been inmate deaths. Then there were the families who were not told that their relatives had been allowed to die on the city's watch. And then there was the incredible case of Kalief Browder, a high school student who was arrested for allegedly stealing a backpack, and was held at Rikers in a cycle of torture, court appearances, and trial delays for three years.
The mayor has called for a task force. But either he is not serious, or is unable to change RIkers. Very few politicians care, and neither do many New Yorkers. They should. This is a true human rights catastrophe. Rikers is the not only the largest jail in the US, but in terms of human rights abuses, it is easily the worst. The abuse there is done in the names of New York's citizens, and fully funded by the citizens and tourists of this city. And when there is accountability - when prisoners are able to get legal representation and fight for their rights - the city pays in punitive damages, over and over.
The major roadblocks to reform are Albany (as always) and the Department of Corrections, which is a city agency, and touts itself as "New York's Boldest." Their tough guy union leader Norman Seabrook, has been unapologetic, has tried to block investigations of the facility, and has even demanded that his guards and officers receive a new contract with pay raises if they are to cooperate with implementing any reforms.
UPDATE, June 8, 2015: Kalief Browder, the boy who was held for 3 years without charges, committed suicide on June 6, 2015.