Oct 252017
 

By William Blum, 99GetSmart

donald-trump-e

Capturing the wisdom and the beauty of Donald J. Trump in just one statement escaping from his charming mouth:

“Our military has never been stronger. Each day, new equipment is delivered; new and beautiful equipment, the best in the world – the best anywhere in the world, by far.”1

Here the man thinks that everyone will be impressed that the American military has never been stronger.

And that those who, for some unimaginable reason, are not impressed with that will at least be impressed that military equipment is being added EACH DAY. Ah yes, it’s long been a sore point with most Americans that new military equipment was being added only once a week.

And if that isn’t impressive enough, then surely the fact that the equipment is NEW will win people over. Indeed, the newness is important enough to mention twice. After all, no one likes USED military equipment.

And if newness doesn’t win everyone’s heart, then BEAUTIFUL will definitely do it. Who likes UGLY military equipment? Even the people we slaughter all over the world insist upon good-looking guns and bombs.

And the best in the world. Of course. That’s what makes us all proud to be Americans. And what makes the rest of humanity just aching with jealousy.

And in case you don’t fully appreciate that, notice that he adds that it’s the best ANYWHERE in the world.

And in case you still don’t fully appreciate that, notice that he specifies that our equipment is the best in the world BY FAR! That means that no other country is even close! Just imagine! Makes me choke up.

Lucky for the man … his seeming incapacity for moral or intellectual embarrassment.

He’s twice blessed. His fans like the idea that their president is no smarter than they are. This may well serve to get the man re-elected, as it did with George W. Bush.

The strange world of Russian trolls

Webster’s dictionary: troll – verb: To fish by running a baited line behind a moving boat; noun: A supernatural creature of Scandinavian folklore.

Russian Internet trolls are trying to stir up even more controversy over National Football League players crouching on one knee (“taking a “knee”) during the national anthem, said Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), warning that the United States should expect such divisive efforts to escalate in the next election.

“We watched even this weekend,” Lankford said, “the Russians and their troll farms, and their Internet folks, start hash-tagging out ‘take a knee’ and also hash-tagging out ‘Boycott NFL’.” The Russians’ goal, he said, was “to try to raise the noise level in America to try to make a big issue, an even bigger issue as they’re trying to just push divisiveness in the country. We’ve continued to be able to see that. We will see that again in our election time.”2

Russia “causing divisiveness” is a common theme of American politicians and media. Never explained is WHY? What does Russia have to gain by Americans being divided? Do they think the Russians are so juvenile? Or are the Americans the childish ones?

CNN on October 12 claimed that Russia uses YouTube, Tumblr and the Pokemon Go mobile game “to exploit racial tensions and sow discord among Americans,” while the Washington Post (October 12) reported that “content generated by Russian operatives was not aimed only at influencing the election. Many of the posts and ads intended to divide Americans over hot-button issues such as immigration or race.”

Imagine … the American public being divided over immigration and race … How could that be possible without Russian trolls?

The Post (October 9) reported that the Russian trolling operation resides “in a large gray building north of the St. Petersburg city center … There, young people work 12-hour shifts and make between $800 and $1,000 a month, “an attractive wage for former students and young people. It is impossible to get inside the building, and there are multiple entrances, making it hard to tell who is a troll and who is not.”

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest are amongst the many Internet sites that we are told have been overrun by Russian trolls. The last named is a site that specializes in home decor, fashion and recipes. Have the Russians gone mad? Or are the American accusations the kind of stuff that is usually called – dare I say it? – “propaganda”?

“How much the trolls affected the outcome of the U.S. election is unclear,” the Post had to admit. “But their omnipresence is evident on Twitter and in the comments section of publications like the Washington Post, where trolls can be found criticizing news stories, lambasting other posters and accusing one another of being trolls.”

Are you starting to chuckle?

At one point the Post reported that Facebook “identified more than 3000 advertisements purchased in a Russian-orchestrated campaign to influence the American public’s views and exploit divisions around contentious issues.” And Congressional investigators said that some of the Facebook ad purchases had “obvious Russian fingerprints, including Russian addresses and payments made in rubles”, and that “accounts traced to a shadowy Russian Internet company had purchased at least $100,000 in ads during the 2016 election season.”

However, at other times the Post told us that Facebook had pointed out that “most of the ads made no explicit reference in favor of Trump or Clinton,” and that some ads were purchased after the election. We’ve been told, moreover, that Facebook Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos’s team “had searched extensively for evidence of foreign purchases of political advertising but had come up short.”3

In any event, we have to wonder: What political savvy concerning American elections and voters do the Russians have that the Democratic and Republican parties don’t have?

I have read numerous references to these ads but have yet to come across a single one that quotes the exact wording of even one advertisement. Is that not odd?

To add to the oddness, in yet another Washington Post article (September 28) we are informed that “some of the ads promoted African American rights groups, including Black Lives Matter, while others suggested those same groups posed a growing political threat, according to people familiar with the material.”

Politico, a Democratic-Party-leaning journal, reports that Russian-funded Facebook ads backed Green Party candidate Jill Stein, Democrat Bernie Sanders, and Republican Donald Trump.

Who and what is behind these peculiar goings-on?

More fun and games: the Department of Homeland Security in September notified Virginia and 20 other states about Russian efforts to hack their election systems in 2016.

Earlier this year, UK Foreign Minister Boris Johnson declared, apparently without embarrassment: “We have no evidence the Russians are actually involved in trying to undermine our democratic processes at the moment. We don’t actually have that evidence. But what we do have is plenty of evidence that the Russians are capable of doing that.”4 At a September 27 Congressional hearing, FBI Director Christopher Wray joined this proud chorus, testifying: “One of the things we know is that the Russians and Russian state actors are trying to influence other elections in other countries.” Mr. Wray forgot to name any of the other countries and the assembled Congressmembers forgot to ask him for any names.

Perhaps the main reason for questioning charges of Russian interference in the 2016 US election is that Russian President Putin would have been risking that the expected winner, Hillary Clinton, would have been handed a personal reason to take revenge on him and his country. But that’s just being logical and rational, two qualities Cold War II has no more use for than Cold War I did.

Know thine enemy

The Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency issued a report in June entitled “Russia: Military Power: Building a military to support great power aspirations”. Here’s an excerpt:

Moscow seeks to promote a multi-polar world predicated on the principles of respect for state sovereignty and non-interference in other states’ internal affairs, the primacy of the United Nations, and a careful balance of power preventing one state or group of states from dominating the international order. To support these great power ambitions, Moscow has sought to build a robust military able to project power, add credibility to Russian diplomacy, and ensure that Russian interests can no longer be summarily dismissed without consequence. … Russia also has a deep and abiding distrust of U.S. efforts to promote democracy around the world and what it perceives as a U.S. campaign to impose a single set of global values.5

Great power aspirations, indeed. How dare those Russkis promote a multi-polar world, respect for state sovereignty, non-interference, the United Nations, and balance of power? It’s all straight out of Lenin’s playbook, 100th anniversary edition.

As to the US promoting democracy around the world … Oh right, that’s what the Pentagon calls Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, the Philippines, Honduras, Turkey, et al.

Like the southern gentlemen who agreed that it was right to free the slaves, but did so only in their wills

“Hypocrisy is anything whatever may deceive the cleverest and most penetrating man, but the least wide-awake of children recognizes it, and is revolted by it, however ingeniously it may be disguised.” – Leo Tolstoy, Russian writer (1828-1910)

An anti-abortion congressman asked a woman with whom he was having an extramarital affair to get an abortion when he thought she might be pregnant. A Pittsburgh newspaper said it had obtained text messages between Republican Rep. Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania and Ms. Shannon Edwards, a divorcée. A message from Edwards said the congressman had “zero issue posting your pro-life stance all over the place when you had no issue asking me to abort our unborn child just last week when we thought that was one of the options.” It turned out that she wasn’t pregnant.

The revelation came as the House approved Republican legislation that would make it a crime to perform an abortion after 20 weeks of fetal development. Murphy, a member of the House Pro-Life Caucus, and popular among anti-abortion groups, is among the bill’s co-sponsors. He subsequently announced that he will not seek re-election next year.6

Our beloved president at one time clearly supported a woman’s right to abortion. In recent times he has once again exhibited his high (double) standards by speaking, just as clearly, against abortion.

Anti-abortion activists like to speak of saving the lives of “unborn children”, of how the fetus is fully a human being deserving of as much love and respect and legal protection as any other human being. But does anyone know cases of parents grieving over an aborted fetus the way we have often read or heard of parents, as well as their friends, grieving over the death of a three-year-old child or a teenager? Of course not. If for no other reason than the parents choose to have an abortion.

Does anyone know of a case of the parents of an aborted fetus tearfully remembering the fetus’s first words, or high school graduation or wedding or the camping trip they all took together? Or the fetus’s smile or the way it laughed? Of course not. Because the fetus is not a human being in a sufficiently meaningful physical, social, intellectual, and emotional sense. But the anti-abortion activists – often for reasons of sexual prudishness, anti-feminism, religion (the Catholic members of the Supreme Court have been very consistent in their anti-abortion votes), or other personal or political prejudices – throw a halo around the fetus, treat the needs and desires of the parents as nothingness, and damn all those who differ with them as child murderers. Unfortunately, with many of these activists, their perfect love for human beings does not extend to the human beings of Iraq or Afghanistan or any other victims of their government’s warfare.

Notes

  1. Washington Post, September 8, 2017
  2. Washington Post, September 28, 2017
  3. Ibid. September 18, 19, 24, and October 13, 2017
  4. The Guardian (London), March 14, 2017
  5. Russia Military Power,” Defense Intelligence Agency, pages 14-15
  6. Associated Press, October 4, 2017
Dec 022016
 

By William Blum, 99GetSmart

1019309274

What can go wrong?

That he may not be “qualified” is unimportant.

That he’s never held a government or elected position is unimportant.

That on a personal level he may be a shmuck is unimportant.

What counts to me mainly at this early stage is that he – as opposed to dear Hillary – is unlikely to start a war against Russia. His questioning of the absolute sacredness of NATO, calling it “obsolete”, and his meeting with Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, an outspoken critic of US regime-change policy, specifically Syria, are encouraging signs.

Even more so is his appointment of General Michael Flynn as National Security Adviser. Flynn dined last year in Moscow with Vladimir Putin at a gala celebrating RT (Russia Today), the Russian state’s English-language, leftist-leaning TV channel. Flynn now carries the stigma in the American media as an individual who does not see Russia or Putin as the devil. It is truly remarkable how nonchalantly American journalists can look upon the possibility of a war with Russia, even a nuclear war.

(I can now expect a barrage of emails from my excessively politically-correct readers about Flynn’s alleged anti-Islam side. But that, even if true, is irrelevant to this discussion of avoiding a war with Russia.)

I think American influence under Trump could also inspire a solution to the bloody Russia-Ukraine crisis, which is the result of the US overthrow of the democratically-elected Ukrainian government in 2014 to further advance the US/NATO surrounding of Russia; after which he could end the US-imposed sanctions against Russia, which hardly anyone in Europe benefits from or wants; and then – finally! – an end to the embargo against Cuba. What a day for celebration that will be! Too bad that Fidel won’t be around to enjoy it.

We may have other days of celebration if Trump pardons or in some other manner frees Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, and/or Edward Snowden. Neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton would do this, but I think there’s at least a chance with the Donald. And those three heroes may now enjoy feeling at least a modicum of hope. Picture a meeting of them all together on some future marvelous day with you watching it on a video.

Trump will also probably not hold back on military actions against radical Islam because of any fear of being called anti-Islam. He’s repulsed enough by ISIS to want to destroy them, something that can’t always be said about Mr. Obama.

International trade deals, written by corporate lawyers for the benefit of their bosses, with little concern about the rest of us, may have rougher sailing in the Trump White House than is usually the case with such deals.

The mainstream critics of Trump foreign policy should be embarrassed, even humbled, by what they supported in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. Instead, what bothers them about the president-elect is his lack of desire to make the rest of the world in America’s image. He appears rather to be more concerned with the world not making America in its image.

In the latest chapter of Alice in Trumpland he now says that he does not plan to prosecute Hillary Clinton, that he has an “open mind” about a climate-change accord from which he had vowed to withdraw the United States, and that he’s no longer certain that torturing terrorism suspects is a good idea. So whatever fears you may have about certain of his expressed weird policies … just wait … they may fall by the wayside just as easily; although I still think that on a personal level he’s a [two-syllable word: first syllable is a synonym for a donkey; second syllable means “an opening”]

Trump’s apparently deep-seated need for approval may continue to succumb poorly to widespread criticism and protests. Poor little Donald … so powerful … yet so vulnerable.

The Trump dilemma, as well as the whole Hillary Clinton mess, could have probably been avoided if Bernie Sanders had been nominated. That large historical “if” is almost on a par with the Democrats choosing Harry Truman to replace Henry Wallace in 1944 as the ailing Roosevelt’s vice-president. Truman brought us a charming little thing called the Cold War, which in turn gave us McCarthyism. But Wallace, like Sanders, was just a little too damn leftist for the refined Democratic Party bosses.

State-owned media: The good, the bad, and the ugly

On November 16, at a State Department press briefing, department spokesperson John Kirby was having one of his frequent adversarial dialogues with Gayane Chichakyan, a reporter for RT (Russia Today); this time concerning US charges of Russia bombing hospitals in Syria and blocking the UN from delivering aid to the trapped population. When Chichakyan asked for some detail about these charges, Kirby replied: “Why don’t you ask your defense ministry?”

GK: Do you – can you give any specific information on when Russia or the Syrian Government blocked the UN from delivering aid? Just any specific information.

KIRBY: There hasn’t been any aid delivered in the last month.

GK: And you believe it was blocked exclusively by Russia and the Syrian Government?

KIRBY: There’s no question in our mind that the obstruction is coming from the regime and from Russia. No question at all.

MATTHEW LEE (Associated Press): Let me –- hold on, just let me say: Please be careful about saying “your defense minister” and things like that. I mean, she’s a journalist just like the rest of us are, so it’s -– she’s asking pointed questions, but they’re not –

KIRBY: From a state-owned -– from a state-owned –

LEE: But they’re not –

KIRBY: From a state-owned outlet, Matt.

LEE: But they’re not –

KIRBY: From a state-owned outlet that’s not independent.

LEE: The questions that she’s asking are not out of line.

KIRBY: I didn’t say the questions were out of line.

……

KIRBY: I’m sorry, but I’m not going to put Russia Today on the same level with the rest of you who are representing independent media outlets.

One has to wonder if State Department spokesperson Kirby knows that in 2011 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking about RT, declared: “The Russians have opened an English-language network. I’ve seen it in a few countries, and it is quite instructive.”

I also wonder how Mr. Kirby deals with reporters from the BBC, a STATE-OWNED television and radio entity in the UK, broadcasting in the US and all around the world.

Or the state-owned Australian Broadcasting Corporation, described by Wikipedia as follows: “The corporation provides television, radio, online and mobile services throughout metropolitan and regional Australia, as well as overseas … and is well regarded for quality and reliability as well as for offering educational and cultural programming that the commercial sector would be unlikely to supply on its own.”

There’s also Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia, Radio Liberty (Central/Eastern Europe), and Radio Marti (Cuba); all (US) state-owned, none “independent”, but all deemed worthy enough by the United States to feed to the world.

And let’s not forget what Americans have at home: PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) and NPR (National Public Radio), which would have a near-impossible time surviving without large federal government grants. How independent does this leave them? Has either broadcaster ever unequivocally opposed a modern American war? There’s good reason NPR has long been known as National Pentagon Radio. But it’s part of American media’s ideology to pretend that it doesn’t have any ideology.

As to the non-state American media … There are about 1400 daily newspapers in the United States. Can you name a single paper, or a single TV network, that was unequivocally opposed to the American wars carried out against Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Panama, Grenada, and Vietnam while they were happening, or shortly thereafter? Or even opposed to any two of these seven wars? How about one? In 1968, six years into the Vietnam war, the Boston Globe (February 18, 1968) surveyed the editorial positions of 39 leading US papers concerning the war and found that “none advocated a pull-out”. Has the phrase “invasion of Vietnam” ever appeared in the US mainstream media?

In 2003, leading cable station MSNBC took the much-admired Phil Donahue off the air because of his opposition to the calls for war in Iraq. Mr. Kirby would undoubtedly call MSNBC “independent”.

If the American mainstream media were officially state-controlled, would they look or sound significantly different when it comes to US foreign policy?

Soviet observation: “The only difference between your propaganda and our propaganda is that you believe yours.”

On November 25, the Washington Post ran an article entitled: “Research ties ‘fake news’ to Russia.” It’s all about how sources in Russia are flooding American media and the Internet with phoney stories designed as “part of a broadly effective strategy of sowing distrust in U.S. democracy and its leaders”.

“The sophistication of the Russian tactics,” the article says, “may complicate efforts by Facebook and Google to crack down on ‘fake news’.”

The Post states that the Russian tactics included “penetrating the computers of election officials in several states and releasing troves of hacked emails that embarrassed Clinton in the final months of her campaign.” (Heretofore this had been credited to Wikileaks.)

The story is simply bursting with anti-Russian references:

  • An online magazine header – “Trolling for Trump: How Russia Is Trying to Destroy Our Democracy.”
  • “the startling reach and effectiveness of Russian propaganda campaigns.”
  • “more than 200 websites as routine peddlers of Russian propaganda during the election season.”
  • “stories planted or promoted by the disinformation campaign were viewed more than 213 million times.”
  • “The Russian campaign during this election season … worked by harnessing the online world’s fascination with ‘buzzy’ content that is surprising and emotionally potent, and tracks with popular conspiracy theories about how secret forces dictate world events.”
  • “Russian-backed phony news to outcompete traditional news organizations for audience”
  • “They use our technologies and values against us to sow doubt. It’s starting to undermine our democratic system.”
  • “Russian propaganda operations also worked to promote the ‘Brexit’ departure of Britain from the European Union.”
  • “Some of these stories originated with RT and Sputnik, state-funded Russian information services that mimic the style and tone of independent news organizations yet sometimes include false and misleading stories in their reports.”
  • “a variety of other false stories — fake reports of a coup launched at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey and stories about how the United States was going to conduct a military attack and blame it on Russia”

A former US ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, is quoted saying he was “struck by the overt support that Sputnik expressed for Trump during the campaign, even using the #CrookedHillary hashtag pushed by the candidate.” McFaul said Russian propaganda typically is aimed at weakening opponents and critics. “They don’t try to win the argument. It’s to make everything seem relative. It’s kind of an appeal to cynicism.” [Cynicism? Heavens! What will those Moscow fascists/communists think of next?]

The Post did, however, include the following: “RT disputed the findings of the researchers in an e-mail on Friday, saying it played no role in producing or amplifying any fake news stories related to the U.S. election.” RT was quoted: “It is the height of irony that an article about ‘fake news’ is built on false, unsubstantiated claims. RT adamantly rejects any and all claims and insinuations that the network has originated even a single ‘fake story’ related to the US election.”

It must be noted that the Washington Post article fails to provide a single example showing how the actual facts of a specific news event were rewritten or distorted by a Russian agency to produce a news event with a contrary political message. What then lies behind such blatant anti-Russian propaganda? In the new Cold War such a question requires no answer. The new Cold War by definition exists to discredit Russia simply because it stands in the way of American world domination. In the new Cold War the political spectrum in the mainstream media runs the gamut from A to B.

Cuba, Fidel, Socialism … Hasta la victoria siempre!

The most frequent comment I’ve read in the mainstream media concerning Fidel Castro’s death is that he was a “dictator”; almost every heading bore that word. Since the 1959 revolution, the American mainstream media has routinely referred to Cuba as a dictatorship. But just what does Cuba do or lack that makes it a dictatorship?

No “free press”? Apart from the question of how free Western media is (see the preceding essays), if that’s to be the standard, what would happen if Cuba announced that from now on anyone in the country could own any kind of media? How long would it be before CIA money – secret and unlimited CIA money financing all kinds of fronts in Cuba – would own or control almost all the media worth owning or controlling?

Is it “free elections” that Cuba lacks? They regularly have elections at municipal, regional and national levels. They do not have direct election of the president, but neither do Germany or the United Kingdom and many other countries. The Cuban president is chosen by the parliament, The National Assembly of People’s Power. Money plays virtually no role in these elections; neither does party politics, including the Communist Party, since all candidates run as individuals. Again, what is the standard by which Cuban elections are to be judged? Is it that they don’t have private corporations to pour in a billion dollars? Most Americans, if they gave it any thought, might find it difficult to even imagine what a free and democratic election, without great concentrations of corporate money, would look like, or how it would operate. Would Ralph Nader finally be able to get on all 50 state ballots, take part in national television debates, and be able to match the two monopoly parties in media advertising? If that were the case, I think he’d probably win; which is why it’s not the case.

Or perhaps what Cuba lacks is our marvelous “electoral college” system, where the presidential candidate with the most votes is not necessarily the winner. Did we need the latest example of this travesty of democracy to convince us to finally get rid of it? If we really think this system is a good example of democracy why don’t we use it for local and state elections as well?

Is Cuba a dictatorship because it arrests dissidents? Many thousands of anti-war and other protesters have been arrested in the United States in recent years, as in every period in American history. During the Occupy Movement of five years ago more than 7,000 people were arrested, many beaten by police and mistreated while in custody. And remember: The United States is to the Cuban government like al Qaeda is to Washington, only much more powerful and much closer; virtually without exception, Cuban dissidents have been financed by and aided in other ways by the United States.

Would Washington ignore a group of Americans receiving funds from al Qaeda and engaging in repeated meetings with known members of that organization? In recent years the United States has arrested a great many people in the US and abroad solely on the basis of alleged ties to al Qaeda, with a lot less evidence to go by than Cuba has had with its dissidents’ ties to the United States. Virtually all of Cuba’s “political prisoners” are such dissidents. While others may call Cuba’s security policies dictatorship, I call it self-defense.