Saturday, April 01, 2017

Strange Bedfellows: Trans-Atlanticists, MI5, and the Guardian on Trump's Rump

Ratf*ck A Go Go! Atlanticists and MI5 Go After Trump!

by Peter Lee - China Matters

April 1, 2017

I try to keep a certain distance from the anti-Trump circus. But I do want to put some thoughts on record, given the obsession with Trump’s Russia connection and what I see is a determined effort to minimize the British/NATO angle in the attack on Trump.

My personal feeling is that there are significant swaths of the European establishment that derive their mission and meaning from serving as allies to the United States in an anti-Trump effort: the British government and intelligence services, NATO, various right-leaning European governments, their think tanks, in other words, the Atlanticists.

They didn’t like Trump because he was more interested in dealing directly and positively with Russia on matters of US strategic concern in the Middle East and Asia and much less interested in perfecting the Atlanticist Euro-centric anti-Russian containment/deterrence apparatus and backing crazy EU/NATO expansion stunts like the Ukraine operation.

Perhaps similar to Trump’s interest in dealing with China instead of doing pivot. Difference is, Atlanticist lobby is much more entrenched in Washington, the NATO alliance is miles ahead of the “box of sand” Asian containment network, and Great Britain is America’s primary intelligence partner.

So I think people over the pond, particularly in Europe, were interested in feeding documentation on Trump’s murky Russia connections to his opponents, and especially on behalf of Hillary Clinton, who is very much an Atlanticist fave. Effort was pretty low key at first because nobody expected Trump to get anywhere, but things picked up when he got the nomination, and then shifted into apesh*t crazytime when he got the presidency.

The British link is there for all to see in the notorious Steele dossier. What people don’t want to see is the inference that Steele was either getting dirt from MI5/GCHQ or is simply a cut-out for a British effort.

I should say the possibility that the UK intelligence service may have been deeply involved in preparing the brief against Trump does not elicit an urge from me to spontaneously genuflect concerning the accuracy of the evidence. I daresay psyops—packaging and releasing selective intel and innuendo at opportune times through deniable channels for maximum effect--is a core mission of British spookdom, as is making up utter crap, like the notorious “dodgy dossier” on Saddam Hussein.

An interesting datapoint is the Guardian leg-humping a story about Michael Flynn having conversations with a Russian-English historian causing “concern” to “US and UK officials”. The only useful conclusion from this farrago, as far as I can tell, is that a) investigating Things Flynn was an official US-UK joint and not just Christopher Steele lunching Russian emigres in Grosvenor Square and b) the UK press is doing a similar tag teaming with US media to sell Trump/Russia like it pitched in with the US to sell Saddam/Iraq.

And the Guardian is doing it this time! You’ve come a long way, baby!

The mega-uproar over the “GCHQ tapped Trump” story was, to me, quite interesting, for the massive full-court pushback it elicited and the grudging backdown from the Trump administration.

If the story proved out true, it would be a disaster for the UK.

On the institutional level, confirmation that US investigatory and intel outfits resorted to GCHQ to, shall we say, supplement collection related to US citizens and *ahem* circumvent US laws would lead to demands for that bane of all spook prerogatives, oversight and perhaps a committee to review requests for intel exchange between the US and GCHQ before they happened (I recall reading that currently the NSA can reach into Five Eyes servers and pull out whatever it wants whenever it wants; it would be fun to find out in open testimony if that actually happens!).

On the political level, it would be hard to escape the imputation that Great Britain was conducting politically-motivated collection/querying/handover of intel concerning disfavored US politicians and officials, and that the English bulldog was INTERFERING IN AMERICA’S SACRED ELECTIONS, you know, like a certain country, name begins with R ends with A led by a guy name begins with P ends with N is allegedly doing.

It would be interesting to see how the public relations fracas on terms of “Putin trolls pushed fake news on Facebook” vs. “GCHQ pushed fake news into the FBI” would play.

GCHQ/MI5’s powerful capabilities and their slavish eagerness to put them at the service of the US are the glittering jewels in the tattered collar of the British poodle. If GCHQ becomes a “normal” intelligence interlocutor of the US—with the added stigma of having engaged in politicized active measures on behalf of US factions—then the UK risks dropping to parity with *gasp* Germany as another arm’s length partner.

Fox’s alacrity in yanking some guy called “Judge Nap” for publicizing the GCHQ surveillance allegations was interesting. You might expect Fox would be keen to push this rather provocative and open-ended talking point to provide some aid and comfort to Trump and ride a ratings-boosting angle. But Fox shut Nap down!

Wonder if Rupert Murdoch got the call from the UK government that any encouragement of this kind of tittle-tattle would call down the wrath of the British government on Rupert’s extensive media holdings in Britain.

Well, with Judge Nap in the cooler, I doubt any other Fox commentators will be too interested in pursuing that allegation.

And maybe the US intel community told Trump he’d be gone in a heartbeat if he threatened to compromise the US-GB special spook relationship to save his skin. So he backed off.

If Trump falls on his ass I expect that will provide the political cover for some discrete “now it can be told” bragging about how the Atlanticist band of brothers joined hands to defeat the Russian menace. If Trump hangs on, it just goes into the secret museum of US-UK ratf*cking operations.

Friday, March 31, 2017

AIPAC, Trump, and Another Land Day Under Occupation

AIPAC and More

by Mazin Qumsiyeh

March 31, 2017

We just had the Palestine marathon in Bethlehem (6000 attending). We also had two field teams today: one near Yatta and one near Salfit. Rest of us continued volunteering at the museum and greeted some marathon runners and other visitors.

Yesterday was a science and environment festival at Hebron University. I have some students there doing research with us (including on Yatta area biodiversity). Thursday was also Land Day where we Palestinians work to defend our land from thieves who from the beginning of their Zionist project wanted to get the land without the native people (colonialism).

The Zionists are acting in ways that will come back to haunt them. Big ways like waging war on Islam and smaller ways like arresting Omar Barghouthi and passing laws to punish other supporters of Boycotts, Divestment, Sanctions ( Thus we continue acting positively locally to resist the oppression while thinking globally.

Thinking globally, there is as usual some developments of interest (see below) including a pathetic meeting of "Arab leaders" in Jordan who had little to do other than delivering speeches about Palestine while bombing Yemeni civilians and others. The rare one or two decent ones seem lost in the US orchestrated line-up (against Iran!).

Human rights, democracy etc. seem alien to most of those in power. So it is not surprising that Israel felt emboldened enough this week to start a new colony on Palestinian land. Nikki Haley and the rest of the Trump team as you know is now openly in collusion with ethnic cleansing and land theft.

Anyway, here is this week’s compilation.

On the resignation of a UN official after UN Chief Gutieres falls on first hurdle by buckling to Israel-US

[This is not the first report that gets scuttled based on imperial-zionist policy, a report on the devastation of Yemen by the bombings of Saudi Arabia and its allies faced a similar fate]

Nikki Haley speaks at AIPAC (Israel’s lobby)

Recorded important Conference in Washington about the Israel lobby (minute
20 and beyond are fascinating)

WATCH: Jewish Defense League activists beat Palestinian-American at AIPAC

The Truth Behind The Headlines

Good TEDx report on efficacy of non-violent resistance

Conference: ‘Promoting Peace and Upholding the Transcendent Dignity of the Human Person in the Asia-Pacific Region’

Civil March to Aleppo

Stay Human

Mazin Qumsiyeh
A bedouin in cyberspace, a villager at home
Professor and (volunteer) Director
Palestine Museum of Natural History
Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability
Bethlehem University
Occupied Palestine
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Labour Presuming to Axe Mr. Livingstone

Labour’s witch-hunt against Ken Livingstone

by Jonathan Cook

31 March 2017

The ongoing Ken Livingstone (“Get Corbyn!”) saga grows yet more preposterous. After outrage that the former London mayor had said Hitler was a Zionist (when he clearly hadn’t, as I pointed out at the time here and here), Labour suspended Livingstone amid accusations that he had made anti-semitic, offensive and false historical claims.

Now as Livingstone fights to avoid expulsion before a closed hearing of the party’s national constitutional committee, it emerges Labour’s general secretary, Iain McNicol, has written to Livingstone saying the hearing is not interested in the historical accuracy of his statements or whether what he said was anti-semitic. Rather, it is about whether his conduct has been “grossly detrimental” to the party.

Labour General Secretary, Iain McNicol
Livingstone “grossly detrimental”?

In other words, this is a kangaroo court. Because, of course Livingstone’s comments have been detrimental to the party. Not least, they have angered the UK’s powerful Israel lobby. That is the same lobby – directed by the Israeli embassy and working through groups like the Jewish Labour Movement – that was recently exposed by an undercover Al Jazeera investigation as plotting to bring down a British government minister. Crossing people like that is undoubtedly detrimental to the party, because they are prepared to destroy Labour before they allow it, or its leader, to campaign on behalf of Palestinian rights.

That is why, as long as Livingstone or Corbyn are around, the JLM and its allies in the liberal media, like the Guardian’s Owen Jones and Jonathan Freedland, will keep helping to confect an “anti-semitism crisis” in Labour, acerbating the very problems they blame Corbyn for creating.

In this context, one can understand why McNicol is denying Livingstone the chance to air the historical facts in an open hearing. Because the better the case Livingstone makes for collaboration between the Nazis and Zionists, the more detriment the JLM and others will do to the Labour party. Certainly, JLM leader Jeremy Newmark, who testified against Livingstone on Thursday, will benefit from the lack of public scrutiny of his statements.

McNicol’s logic here is entirely circular, of course. As long as Labour indulges the JLM leadership, and continues to draw a veil over Israeli oppression of Palestinians, the party will have a quiet life. If Labour tries to do the right thing – promoting justice for the Palestinians, upholding international law and soothing a long-festering wound of British malfeasance in the Middle East – it will face a perfect storm from the JLM.

Remember as you watch this farce play out that Owen Jones is due to give a memorial lecture this Sunday (April 2) to the JLM, whose leaders barely bother to conceal the fact that they are more loyal to the Israeli government than the democratically elected leader of their own party. If Jones cares about Labour as much as he claims, he shouldn’t touch the JLM with a barge-pole. Instead it has him in a bear hug.

Walking Miracles

On The Practice of Mindfulness

by Thich Nhat Hanh 

September 30, 2016

“Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in.” 


Our true home is not in the past. Our true home is not in the future. Our true home is in the here and the now. Life is available only in the here and the now, and it is our true home.

Mindfulness is the energy that helps us recognize the conditions of happiness that are already present in our lives. You don’t have to wait ten years to experience this happiness. It is present in every moment of your daily life. There are those of us who are alive but don’t know it. But when you breathe in, and you are aware of your in-breath, you touch the miracle of being alive. That is why mindfulness is a source of happiness and joy.

You don’t have to wait ten years to experience this happiness. It is present in every moment of your daily life.

Most people are forgetful; they are not really there a lot of the time. Their mind is caught in their worries, their fears, their anger, and their regrets, and they are not mindful of being there. That state of being is called forgetfulness—you are there but you are not there. You are caught in the past or in the future. You are not there in the present moment, living your life deeply. That is forgetfulness.

The opposite of forgetfulness is mindfulness. Mindfulness is when you are truly there, mind and body together. You breathe in and out mindfully, you bring your mind back to your body, and you are there. When your mind is there with your body, you are established in the present moment. Then you can recognize the many conditions of happiness that are in you and around you, and happiness just comes naturally.

Mindfulness practice should be enjoyable, not work or effort. Do you have to make an effort to breathe in? You don’t need to make an effort. To breathe in, you just breathe in. Suppose you are with a group of people contemplating a beautiful sunset. Do you have to make an effort to enjoy the beautiful sunset? No, you don’t have to make any effort. You just enjoy it.

The same thing is true with your breath. Allow your breath to take place. Become aware of it and enjoy it. Effortlessness. Enjoyment. The same thing is true with walking mindfully. Every step you take is enjoyable. Every step helps you to touch the wonders of life, in yourself and around you. Every step is peace. Every step is joy. That is possible.

During the time you are practicing mindfulness, you stop talking—not only the talking outside, but the talking inside. The talking inside is the thinking, the mental discourse that goes on and on and on inside. Real silence is the cessation of talking—of both the mouth and of the mind. This is not the kind of silence that oppresses us. It is a very elegant kind of silence, a very powerful kind of silence. It is the silence that heals and nourishes us.

Mindfulness gives birth to joy and happiness. Another source of happiness is concentration. The energy of mindfulness carries within it the energy of concentration. When you are aware of something, such as a flower, and can maintain that awareness, we say that you are concentrated on the flower. When your mindfulness becomes powerful, your concentration becomes powerful, and when you are fully concentrated, you have a chance to make a breakthrough, to achieve insight. If you meditate on a cloud, you can get insight into the nature of the cloud. Or you can meditate on a pebble, and if you have enough mindfulness and concentration, you can see into the nature of the pebble. You can meditate on a person, and if you have enough mindfulness and concentration, you can make a breakthrough and understand the nature of that person. You can meditate on yourself, or your anger, or your fear, or your joy, or your peace.

Anything can be the object of your meditation, and with the powerful energy of concentration, you can make a breakthrough and develop insight. It’s like a magnifying glass concentrating the light of the sun. If you put the point of concentrated light on a piece of paper, it will burn. Similarly, when your mindfulness and concentration are powerful, your insight will liberate you from fear, anger, and despair, and bring you true joy, true peace, and true happiness.

When your mindfulness becomes powerful, your concentration becomes powerful, and when you are fully concentrated, you have a chance to make a breakthrough, to achieve insight.

When you contemplate the big, full sunrise, the more mindful and concentrated you are, the more the beauty of the sunrise is revealed to you. 

Suppose you are offered a cup of tea, very fragrant, very good tea. If your mind is distracted, you cannot really enjoy the tea. You have to be mindful of the tea, you have to be concentrated on it, so the tea can reveal its fragrance and wonder to you. That is why mindfulness and concentration are such sources of happiness. That’s why a good practitioner knows how to create a moment of joy, a feeling of happiness, at any time of the day.

First Mindfulness Exercise: Mindful Breathing

The first exercise is very simple, but the power, the result, can be very great. The exercise is simply to identify the in-breath as in-breath and the out-breath as the out-breath. When you breathe in, you know that this is your in-breath. When you breathe out, you are mindful that this is your out-breath.

Just recognize: this is an in-breath, this is an out-breath. Very simple, very easy. In order to recognize your in-breath as in-breath, you have to bring your mind home to yourself. What is recognizing your in-breath is your mind, and the object of your mind—the object of your mindfulness—is the in-breath. Mindfulness is always mindful of something. When you drink your tea mindfully, it’s called mindfulness of drinking. When you walk mindfully, it’s called mindfulness of walking. And when you breathe mindfully, that is mindfulness of breathing.

So the object of your mindfulness is your breath, and you just focus your attention on it. Breathing in, this is my in-breath. Breathing out, this is my out-breath. When you do that, the mental discourse will stop. You don’t think anymore. You don’t have to make an effort to stop your thinking; you bring your attention to your in-breath and the mental discourse just stops. That is the miracle of the practice. You don’t think of the past anymore. You don’t think of the future. You don’t think of your projects, because you are focusing your attention, your mindfulness, on your breath.

The in-breath can be a celebration of the fact that you are alive, so it can be very joyful.

It gets even better. You can enjoy your in-breath. The practice can be pleasant, joyful. Someone who is dead cannot take any more in-breaths. But you are alive. You are breathing in, and while breathing in, you know that you are alive. The in-breath can be a celebration of the fact that you are alive, so it can be very joyful. When you are joyful and happy, you don’t feel that you have to make any effort at all. I am alive; I am breathing in. To be still alive is a miracle. The greatest of all miracles is to be alive, and when you breathe in, you touch that miracle. Therefore, your breathing can be a celebration of life.

An in-breath may take three, four, five seconds, it depends. That’s time to be alive, time to enjoy your breath. You don’t have to interfere with your breathing. If your in-breath is short, allow it to be short. If your out-breath is long, let it to be long. Don’t try to force it. The practice is simple recognition of the in-breath and the out-breath. That is good enough. It will have a powerful effect.

Second Mindfulness Exercise: Concentration

The second exercise is that while you breathe in, you follow your in-breath from the beginning to the end. If your in-breath lasts three or four seconds, then your mindfulness also lasts three or four seconds. Breathing in, I follow my in-breath all the way through. Breathing out, I follow my out-breath all the way through. From the beginning of my out-breath to the end of my out-breath, my mind is always with it. Therefore, mindfulness becomes uninterrupted, and the quality of your concentration is improved.

So the second exercise is to follow your in-breath and your out-breath all the way through. Whether they are short or long, it doesn’t matter. What is important is that you follow your in-breath from the beginning to the end. Your awareness is sustained. There is no interruption. Suppose you are breathing in, and then you think, “Oh, I forgot to turn off the light in my room.” There is an interruption. Just stick to your in-breath all the way through. Then you cultivate your mindfulness and your concentration. You become your in-breath. You become your out-breath. If you continue like that, your breathing will naturally become deeper and slower, more harmonious and peaceful. You don’t have to make any effort—it happens naturally.

Third Mindfulness Exercise: Awareness of Your Body

The third exercise is to become aware of your body as you are breathing. “Breathing in, I am aware of my whole body.” This takes it one step further.

In the first exercise, you became aware of your in-breath and your out-breath. Because you have now generated the energy of mindfulness through mindful breathing, you can use that energy to recognize your body.

“Breathing in, I am aware of my body. Breathing out, I am aware of my body.” I know my body is there. This brings the mind wholly back to the body. Mind and body become one reality. When your mind is with your body, you are well-established in the here and the now. You are fully alive. You can be in touch with the wonders of life that are available in yourself and around you.

This exercise is simple, but the effect of the oneness of body and mind is very great. In our daily lives, we are seldom in that situation. Our body is there but our mind is elsewhere. Our mind may be caught in the past or in the future, in regrets, sorrow, fear, or uncertainty, and so our mind is not there. Someone may be present in the house, but he’s not really there, his mind is not there. His mind is with the future, with his projects, and he’s not there for his children or his spouse. Maybe you could say to him, “Anybody home?” and help him bring his mind back to his body.

So the third exercise is to become aware of your body. “Breathing in, I’m aware of my body.” When you practice mindful breathing, the quality of your in-breath and out-breath will be improved. There is more peace and harmony in your breathing, and if you continue to practice like that, the peace and the harmony will penetrate into the body, and the body will profit.

Fourth Mindfulness Exercise: Releasing Tension

The next exercise is to release the tension in the body. When you are truly aware of your body, you notice there is some tension and pain in your body, some stress. The tension and pain have been accumulating for a long time and our bodies suffer, but our mind is not there to help release it. Therefore, it is very important to learn how to release the tension in the body.

It is always possible to practice releasing the tension in yourself.

In a sitting, lying, or standing position, it’s always possible to release the tension. You can practice total relaxation, deep relaxation, in a sitting or lying position. While you are driving your car, you might notice the tension in your body. You are eager to arrive and you don’t enjoy the time you spend driving. When you come to a red light, you are eager for the red light to become a green light so that you can continue. But the red light can be a signal. It can be a reminder that there is tension in you, the stress of wanting to arrive as quickly as possible. If you recognize that, you can make use of the red light. You can sit back and relax—take the ten seconds the light is red to practice mindful breathing and release the tension in the body.

So next time you’re stopped at a red light, you might like to sit back and practice the fourth exercise: “Breathing in, I’m aware of my body. Breathing out, I release the tension in my body.” Peace is possible at that moment, and it can be practiced many times a day—in the workplace, while you are driving, while you are cooking, while you are doing the dishes, while you are watering the vegetable garden. It is always possible to practice releasing the tension in yourself.

Walking Meditation

When you practice mindful breathing you simply allow your in breath to take place. You become aware of it and enjoy it. Effortlessness. The same thing is true with mindful walking. Every step is enjoyable. Every step helps you touch the wonders of life. Every step is joy. That is possible.

You don’t have to make any effort during walking meditation, because it is enjoyable. You are there, body and mind together. You are fully alive, fully present in the here and the now. With every step, you touch the wonders of life that are in you and around you. When you walk like that, every step brings healing. Every step brings peace and joy, because every step is a miracle.

The real miracle is not to fly or walk on fire. The real miracle is to walk on the Earth, and you can perform that miracle at any time. Just bring your mind home to your body, become alive, and perform the miracle of walking on Earth.

Firing on All Cylinders: What "Trump" Means for World Insecurity

National (In)security: What a Trump Presidency Really Means for Americans at the Edge

by Rajan Menon - TomDispatch

March 30, 2017  

Donald Trump’s supporters believe that his election will end business as usual in Washington. The self-glorifying Trump agrees and indeed his has, so far, been the most unorthodox presidency of our era, if not any era. 

It’s a chaotic and tweet-driven administration that makes headlines daily thanks to scandals, acts of stunning incompetence, rants, accusations, wild claims, and conspiracy theories. On one crucial issue, however, Trump has been a complete conformist. 

Despite the headline-grabbing uproar over Muslim bans and the like, his stance on national security couldn’t be more recognizable.

His list of major threats -- terrorism, Iran, North Korea, and China -- features the usual suspects that Republicans, Democrats, and the foreign policy establishment have long deemed dangerous.

Tomgram: Rajan Menon, Making America Insecure Again
Terror attacks like the recent one in London send a shudder through Americans. Since 9/11, they have been the definition of what TomDispatch regular Rajan Menon calls “national (in)security.” They've also been the lifeblood of a media machine that loves to focus 24/7 on immediate and obvious horrors (especially against folks like “us”). In the age of Donald Trump, preventing such attacks has, if anything, become even more the essence of what American security is all about.

And yet, in the context of the insecurity to come in this world, they are essentially nothing. It is, of course, a terrible thing when some disturbed fanatic or set of fanatics gun down or run down innocent civilians in London, Berlin, Paris, or San Bernardino (as it should be, but in our American world isn’t, when a U.S. plane or drone kills innocent civilians in distant lands). But if, for a moment, you stop to think in either nuclear terms (as in the pairing of North Korea’s unnerving leader Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump) or in climate change terms, then those attacks are the smallest of potatoes when it comes to national insecurity. If you really want to think about acts of “terror,” consider what Donald Trump and his climate-denying crew at the Environmental Protection Agency and elsewhere in his administration would like to do to the environmental policies of the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

Trump's urge is clearly to negate every positive act of the Obama administration when it comes to reining in the use of fossil fuels -- from the Paris climate agreement to the Clean Power Plan aimed at shutting down coal-fired power plants. In the end, if a Trump presidency takes this country out of the climate change sweepstakes entirely, if it opens the flood (and fracking) gates yet wider on the development of fossil fuels of every sort while tamping down the development of alternative energy sources, you’re talking about an act of terror on a scale that would once have been inconceivable. What the Trump administration is already trying to do should lead to constant headlines of a sort that would put the recent London ones to shame. However, because the full impact of Trump’s climate terror won’t strike home until the era of our grandchildren or even great-grandchildren, because his version of terror will be enacted on a time scale that plays havoc with our usual sense of history and of our own lives, he’ll undoubtedly get only the most modest of attention for it -- while Khalid Masood, the London killer, and his successors will remain the eternal headliners du jour.

Still, make no mistake about it, in his rented vehicle of choice President Trump will run over future generations. Even on a less drastic time scale, as Rajan Menon makes vividly clear today, he will certainly prove to be a heavyweight in the national (in)security business. Tom

National (In)security: What a Trump Presidency Really Means for Americans at the Edge

by Rajan Menon 

Trump’s conception of security not only doesn’t break the mold of recent administrations, it’s a remarkably fine fit for it. That’s because his focus is on protecting Americans from foreign groups or governments that could threaten us or destroy physical objects (buildings, bridges, and the like) in the homeland. In doing so, he, like his predecessors, steers clear of a definition of “security” that would include the workaday difficulties that actually make Americans insecure.

These include poverty, joblessness or underemployment, wages too meager to enable even full-time workers to make ends meet, and a wealth-based public school system that hampers the economic and professional prospects, as well as futures, of startling numbers of American children. To this list must be added the radical dangers climate change poses to the health and safety of future citizens.

Trump may present himself as a maverick, but on security he never wavers from an all-too-familiar externally focused and militarized narrative.


Barack Obama wrote a bestselling book titled The Audacity of Hope. Perhaps Donald Trump should write one titled The Audacity of Wealth. During the presidential campaign of 2016 he morphed unashamedly from plutocrat to populist, assuring millions of people struggling with unemployment, debt, and inadequate incomes that he would solve their problems. The shtick worked. Many Americans believed him. Fifty-two percent of voters who did not have a college degree chose him. Among whites with that same educational profile, he did even better, winning 67% of their votes.

Unemployment, underemployment, stagnant wages, and the outsourcing of production (and so jobs) have hit those who lack a college degree especially hard. Yet many of them were convinced by Trump’s populist message. It made no difference that he belonged to the wealthiest 0.00004% of Americans, if his net worth is the widely reported $3.5 billion, and the top 0.00002% if, as he claims, it’s actually $10 billion.

Former Louisiana Governor Huey Long, perhaps the country’s best-known populist historically speaking, was born and raised in Winn Parish, a poor part of Louisiana. In the 1930s, his origins and his far-reaching ideas for redistributing wealth gave him credibility. By contrast, Trump wasn't cut from humble cloth; nor in his present reincarnation has he even claimed to stand for the reallocation of wealth (except possibly to his wealthy compatriots). His father, Fred Trump, was a multimillionaire who, at the time of his death in 1999, had a net worth of $250 million, which was divided among his four surviving children.
The proportional allocations are not publicly known, though it’s safe to assume that Donald did well. He also got his start in business -- and it wasn’t even an impressive one -- thanks to lavish help from Fred to the tune of millions of dollars. When he subsequently hit rough patches, Dad’s connections and loan guarantees helped set things right.

A man who himself benefited handsomely from globalization, outsourcing, and a designed-for-the-wealthy tax code nonetheless managed to convince coal miners in West Virginia and workers in Ohio that all of these were terrible things that enriched a "financial elite" that had made itself wealthy at the expense of American workers and that electing him would end the swindle.

He also persuaded millions of voters that foreign enemies were the biggest threat to their security and that he’d crush them by “rebuilding” America’s military machine. Worried about ISIS? Don’t be. Trump would “bomb the shit out of them.” Concerned about the nuclear arms race? Not to worry.

“We’ll outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”

Yet few if any Americans lie awake at night fearing invasion by another country or the outbreak of nuclear war. Fifteen years after 9/11, terrorism still ranks high on the American list of concerns (especially, the polls tell us, among Republicans). But that danger is not nearly as dire as Trump and the U.S. national security state insist it is. A litany of statistics shows that deaths from car crashes leave death-by-terrorist in the dust, while since 2002 even bee, hornet, and wasp stings have killed more Americans annually in the United States than “Islamic terrorists.”

Since 9/11, only 95 Americans -- 95 too many, let it be said -- have been killed in terrorist attacks in the U.S. Not one of the perpetrators was a tourist or someone on another type of temporary visa, and several were non-Muslims. Nor were any of them refugees, or connected to any of the countries in Trump's two Muslim bans. Indeed, as the journalist Nick Gillespie notes, since the adoption of the 1980 Refugee Act no refugee has been involved in a terrorist attack that killed Americans.

Still, Trump’s hyperbole has persuaded many in this country that terrorism poses a major, imminent threat to them and that measures like a 90-day ban on travel to the United States by the citizens of certain Muslim countries will protect them. (A recent poll shows that 54% of the public supports this policy.) As for terrorist plots, successful or not, by white far-right extremists, the president simply hasn’t felt the urge to say much about them.

In other words, President Trump, like candidate Trump, embraces the standard take on national security. He, too, is focused on war and terrorism. Here, on the other hand, are some threats -- a suggestive, not inclusive, list -- that genuinely make, or threaten to make, millions of Americans insecure and vulnerable.

Poverty: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2015, 43 million Americans, 13.5% of the population, lived below the poverty line ($11,700 for an individual and $20,090 for a three-person household) -- an increase of 1% since 2007, the year before the Great Recession.

For children under 18, the 2015 poverty rate was 19.7%. While that was an improvement on the 21.1% of 2014, it still meant that nearly a fifth of American children were poor.

The working poor: Yes, you can have a job and still be poor if your wages are low or stagnant or have fallen. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) uses a conservative definition for these individuals: “People who spent at least 27 weeks in the labor force during the year -- either working or looking for work -- but whose incomes were below the poverty level.” Though some studies use a more expansive definition, even by the BLS’s criteria, there were 9.5 million working poor in 2014.

Even if you work and bring in wages above the poverty line, you may still barely be getting by. Oxfam reports that 58 million American workers make less than $15 an hour and 44 million make less than $12 an hour. Congress last raised the minimum hourly wage to $7.25 in 2007 (and even then included exceptions that applied to several types of workers). That sum has since lost nearly 10% of its purchasing power thanks to inflation.

Wage stagnation and economic inequality: These two conditions explain a large part of the working-but-barely-making-it phenomenon. Let’s start with those stagnant wages. According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), for about three decades after World War II, hourly wage increases for workers in non-supervisory roles kept pace with productivity increases: at 91.3% and 96.7%, respectively. Then things changed dramatically. Between 1973 and 2013, productivity increased by 74.4% and wages by only 9.2%. In other words, with wages adjusted for inflation, the average American worker made no more in 2013 than in 1973.

As for economic inequality, the EPI reports that from 1980 to 2013 the income of the top 1% of wage earners increased by 138% compared to 15% for the bottom 90%. For those at the lowest end of the wage scale it was even worse. In those years, their hourly pay actually dropped by 5%.

When was the last time you heard Donald Trump talk about stagnant wages or growing economic inequality, both of which make his most fervent supporters insecure? In reality, the defunding of federal programs that provide energy subsidies, employment assistance, and legal services to people with low incomes will only hurt many Trump voters who are already struggling economically.

Climate change: There is a scientific consensus on this problem, which already contributes to droughts and floods that reduce food production, damages property, and threatens lives, not to speak of increasing the range of forest fires and lengthening the global fire season, as well as helping spread diseases like cholera, malaria, and dengue fever. Trump once infamously described climate change as a Chinese-fabricated “hoax” meant to reduce the competitiveness of American companies. No matter that, in recent years, the Chinese government has taken serious steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Now, President Trump is gearing up to take the U.S. out of the climate change sweepstakes entirely. For instance, he remains determined to withdraw the country from the 2015 Paris Agreement (signed by 197 countries and so far ratified by 134 of them) aimed at limiting the increase in global temperature to a maximum of two degrees Celsius during this century. Scott Pruitt, his appointee to run the Environmental Protection Agency, denies that climate change is significantly connected to “human activity” and is stocking his agency with climate change deniers of like mind. Needless to say Pruitt didn’t balk at Trump’s decision to cut the EPA’s budget by 31%.

Nor do Trump and his team favor promoting alternative sources of energy or reducing carbon emissions, even though the United States is second only to China in total emissions and among the globe’s largest emitters on a per-capita basis. Trump seems poised to scale back President Obama’s plan to increase the Corporate Annual Fuel Efficiency Standard -- created by the government to reduce average automobile gas consumption -- from the present 35.5 miles per gallon to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, end the 2015 freeze on leases for coal mining on federal land, and ease power plant emission limits. Worse yet, Trump’s America First Energy Plan calls for producing more oil and gas but contains nary a word about climate change or a green energy strategy. If you want a failsafe formula for future environment-related insecurity, this, of course, is it.

Bogus Remedies

Candidate Trump certainly did tap into a deepening sense of insecurity about wage stagnation, the disappearance of good working-class jobs, and increasing economic inequality. But in the classic national security mode, he has artfully framed these problems, too, as examples of the economic hardship that foreign countries have inflicted on America. And the four remedies he offers, all rooted in a nationalistic economic outlook, won’t actually help American workers, could hurt them, or are at best cosmetic.

First, he favors renegotiating multilateral trade deals like NAFTA and wasted no time withdrawing the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, accords which he believes hurt American workers. Second, he wants to impose tariffs of 35% to 45% on imports from countries such as Mexico and China that he accuses of unfair trade practices. Third, at least on the campaign trail he pledged to punish countries like China, Japan, and Germany for supposedly devaluing their currencies in order to boost their exports unfairly at America’s expense. Fourth, he’s high on slapping a border tax on companies that import from their branches or subcontractors abroad the components needed to make products to be sold in the United States, as well as on firms that simply import finished products and sell them locally.

Some of these punitive moves, if actually pursued, will only provoke retaliation from other countries, harming American exporters and consequently the workers they employ. Tariffs will, of course, also increase the cost of imported goods, hurting consumers with low incomes the most, just as taxing U.S. corporations for importing from their subsidiaries abroad will increase the prices of locally made goods, possibly reducing demand and so jobs.

Even the nullification of trade pacts, whatever positives might be involved, won’t bring industries like steel, textiles, and basic machine-making that once provided good jobs for the working class back to the United States. Trump blames China for the decline in manufacturing employment, as does one of his top economists, Peter Navarro. (Despite holding a Harvard Ph.D. in economics, Navarro evidently doesn’t grasp that trade deficits don’t have a major effect on employment and that protectionism doesn’t cut trade deficits.)

What’s really required are policies that help displaced manufacturing workers to get decent jobs now, while addressing wage stagnancy, which has been significantly aided and abetted by a sharp decline in union membership in recent decades. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 1983 and 2015 membership in public-sector unions held reasonably steady. Not so for private-sector union membership, which plunged from 12 million in 1983 to 7.6 million in 2015. As a result, workers have been increasingly incapable of combatting wage stagnation through collective bargaining. Tellingly enough, however, as of 2015, the median weekly paycheck of unionized workers was still 21% larger than that of workers who did not belong to a union.

Consider Trump’s business history when it comes to labor (including the hiring and stiffing of undocumented workers), as well as the make up of his immensely wealthy, Goldman Sachs-ified economic team, and the Republican Party’s attitude toward unions. Then ask yourself: How likely is it that this administration will be well disposed toward unionization or collective bargaining?

And don’t forget automation, a subject Donald Trump has essentially been mum about. It has contributed decisively to job loss and wage stagnancy by reducing or even eliminating the need for labor in certain economic sectors. As economists Michael Hicks and Srikant Devraj have demonstrated, increased productivity through automation has been far more crucial in reducing the need for human labor in U.S. manufacturing than outsourced jobs and imports. Thanks to labor-displacing technologies, U.S. manufacturing output actually increased in value by 17.6% between 2006 and 2013 while the workforce continued to shrink.

Another source of wage stagnancy is rising economic inequality, which stems partly from the fierce corporate focus since the 1980s on boosting quarterly earnings and paying dividends that will keep shareholders happy, even if that requires incurring debt, rather than increasing workers’ wages.

Alternative Policies

Trump claims that he will create more jobs by lowering the corporate tax rate. At 35% -- 38.9% including the average state tax -- the American corporate tax rate is significantly higher than the global average (29.5%). Nonetheless, the familiar high-corporate-taxes-kill-jobs narrative that Trump trumpets is simplistic. More than 60% of American companies are so-called S corporations. They pay no corporate tax: they pass their profits on to stockholders who then report the gains when filing income tax returns. And even the corporations that do pay taxes manage to reduce the burden significantly through such steps as claiming accelerated depreciation on equipment and establishing offshore companies whose books reflect their profits. As a result, their true tax rate isn’t anything like 38.9%. High corporate taxes aren’t what stops companies from creating jobs or paying workers more, which means that changing that rate won’t fix any problems, not for American workers anyway.

There are other solutions to low wages and unemployment, even if President Trump will never favor them.

Investing more in public education, for example. Local property taxes and state monies still count heavily in funding public schools. (Federal support is less than 15%.) So the quality of a school can depend greatly on the zip code in which it’s located, especially because parents in wealthy neighborhoods normally raise more money to help their schools than their non-affluent counterparts can. School quality can also depend on how wealthy your state is.

Though other factors doubtless play a role, in general, the better the quality of the school, the greater the likelihood that a child will go to college and the stronger his or her income and prospects will be. Increasing federal funding to schools that lack adequate resources could improve matters. But if you expect President Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to consider such a proposition, think again.

Raising the minimum wage significantly could also help reduce income inequality and the number of working poor. Democrats have favored raising the minimum wage to $10.10, which, it is believed, would reduce the number of people living in poverty by an estimated 4.6 million. That’s hardly an outlandish proposal. Some experts, like former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, have called for a minimum wage of $15 an hour, though they are in the minority. But even certain mainstream economists, like Princeton’s Alan Krueger, support a $12 rate and reject the right-wing claim that it would kill jobs.

Don’t expect the Trump administration (or the GOP) to push for any form of such a policy. Take a look at the members of the president’s Strategic and Policy Forum (SPF), whose duties include providing advice on job creation, and you'll realize that such a relatively modest goal will be off the table for at least the next four years. You’ll find representatives from the Blackstone Group, Walmart, IBM, General Motors, Boeing, and General Electric in the SPF, but not one labor advocate. Case closed.

Prepare for Business as Usual

The net worth of Trump’s cabinet (the president excluded) is $5 billion, and that’s a conservative estimate (no pun intended). By some calculations, it may be $13 billion. According to Politifact’s Tom Kertscher, that “modest” $5 billion figure exceeds the net worth of the bottom one-third of all American families. Now, what likelihood do you think there is that Trump would ever implement policies that threatened to transform the distribution of wealth and power in America to the detriment of the economic class from which he and his cabinet hail? (In that spirit, remember that candidate Trump proposed a tax plan that would focus on the wealthiest Americans by cutting the top tax rate from 39.6% to 25% and eliminating the estate tax, 90% of which is paid by the country’s wealthiest 10%.)

It’s much easier to scapegoat outsiders, whether China, Japan, Mexico, and Germany (whose government Trump trade adviser Navarro has also accused of currency manipulation), or undocumented workers who generally hold jobs in the U.S. that require lower skills, pay less, and that most American citizens avoid. It’s also easier to stick with the standard militarized conception of national security and, for good measure, hype the perils posed by Islam, which for Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief political strategist, and Stephen Miller, his senior adviser on policy, amounts to a synonym for extremism and violence, even if Islamic terrorists pose the most miniscule of threats to most Americans.

Not surprisingly, Trump proposes to increase the country’s already staggering defense spending for next year by another $54 billion. To put that increment in perspective, consider that Russia’s total defense spending in 2015 was $66 billion and Britain’s $56 billion, while the United States already spends more on defense than at least the next seven countries combined. (In fairness to Trump, Senators John McCain and Mac Thornberry, respectively the chairmen of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the House Armed Services Committee, want to bulk up the defense budget even more.)

Trump also seems determined to stay the course on America’s forever wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Neither he nor his generals show any sign of abandoning the Obama-era strategy of whack-a-mole drone strikes and raids by Special Operations forces against terrorist redoubts around the world (as witness a recent failed special ops raid in Yemen and 24 drone strikes -- half of the maximum number that the United States launched against that country in any preceding year). Trump has already deployed 400 Marines as well as Army Rangers to fight ISIS in Raqqa, Syria, and another thousand troops may soon be heading that way. And General John Nicholson, commander of the US-led military coalition in Afghanistan, has called for “a few thousand” additional troops for that country.

So expect President Trump to dwell obsessively on threats that have a low probability of harming Americans, while offering no effective solutions for the quotidian hardships that actually do make so many citizens feel insecure. Expect, as well, that the more he proves unable to deliver on his economic promises to the working class, the more he’ll harp on the standard threats and engage in saber rattling, hoping that a continual atmosphere of emergency and vulnerability will disarm critics and divert attention from his failures.

In the end, count on one thing: voters who were drawn to Trump because they believed he would rein in interventionism abroad and deal with festering problems at home are in for a disappointment.

Rajan Menon, a TomDispatch regular, is the Anne and Bernard Spitzer Professor of International Relations at the Powell School, City College of New York, and Senior Research Fellow at Columbia University’s Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies. He is the author, most recently, of The Conceit of Humanitarian Intervention.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, John Feffer's dystopian novel Splinterlands, as well as Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt's latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2017 Rajan Menon

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Canadian Slaver: Remembering the Other Railway Terminus

Canada’s Little Known but Once Flourishing Slave Trade

by Yves Engler - Dissident Voice

March 29th, 2017 

We love our tales about how “Canada” offered sanctuary to US slaves for decades, but the unabridged version is it sustained African bondage for much longer.

In a recent story titled “Canada’s earliest immigration policies made it a safe haven for escaped slaves”, Penney Kome ignores the fact that Africans were held in bondage here for 200 years and that the Atlantic provinces had important ties to the Caribbean plantation economies.

According to Kome, Canada’s relationship to slavery consisted of the oft-discussed Underground Railway that brought Africans in bondage north to freedom.

But, she ignores the southbound “underground railroad” during the late 1700s that took many Canadian slaves to Vermont and other Northern US states that had abolished slavery. Even more slaves journeyed to freedom in Michigan and New England after the war of 1812.

For over 200 years, New France and the British North America colonies held Africans in bondage. The first recorded slave sale in New France took place in 1628. There were at least 3,000 African slaves in present-day Québec, Ontario and the Maritimes. Leading historical figures such as René Bourassa, James McGill, Colin McNabb, Joseph Papineau and Peter Russell all owned slaves and some were strident advocates of the practice.

After conquering Quebec, Britain strengthened the laws that enabled slavery. In The Blacks in Canada, Robin Winks explains:

On three occasions explicit guarantees were given to slave owners that their property would be respected, and between 1763 and 1790 the British government added to the legal structures so that a once vaguely defined system of slavery took on clearer outlines.

It wasn’t until 1833 that slavery was abolished in today’s Canada and across the rest of the British Empire.

“Canadians” propped up slavery in a number of other ways. Canada helped the British quell Caribbean slave rebellions, particularly during the 1791-1804 Haitian Revolution, which disrupted the region’s slave economy. Much of Britain’s Halifax-based squadron arrived on the shores of the West Indies in 1793, and many of the ships that set sail to the Caribbean at this time were assembled in the town’s naval yard. Additionally, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick provided “sticks for the furnishing of a variety of naval stores, especially masts and spars, to the West Indies squadron at Jamaica, Antigua, and Barbados.”

A number of prominent Canadian-born (or based) individuals fought to capture and re-establish slavery in the French colonies. Dubbed the “Father of the Canadian Crown”, Prince Edward Duke of Kent departed for the West Indies aboard a Halifax gunboat in 1793. As a Major General, he led forces that captured Guadalupe, St. Lucia and Martinique. Today, many streets and monuments across the country honour a man understood to have first applied the term “Canadian” to both the English and French inhabitants of Upper and Lower Canada.

In what may be “Canada’s” most significant contribution to the British war effort in the Caribbean, a dozen Nova Scotia privateers captured at least 57 enemy vessels in the West Indies between 1793 and 1805. Licensed by the state to seize enemy boats during wartime, “privateers were essential tools of war until the rise of large steam navies in the mid-nineteenth century.” But Nova Scotia privateers weren’t solely motivated by reasons of state. They sought to protect a market decimated by French privateers. In A Private War in the Caribbean: Nova Scotia Privateering, 1793-1805, Dan Conlin writes that “in a broader sense privateering was an armed defence of the [Maritimes’] West Indies market.”

Outside of its role in suppressing Caribbean slave rebellions, the Maritimes literally fed the slave system for decades. In Emancipation Day, Natasha Henry explains:

Very few Canadians are aware that at one time their nation’s economy was firmly linked to African slavery through the building and sale of slave ships, the sale and purchase of slaves to and from the Caribbean, and the exchange of timber, cod, and other food items from the Maritimes for West-Indian slave-produced goods.

A central component of the economy revolved around providing the resources that enabled slavery. Nova Scotia and Newfoundland generated great wealth selling cheap, high-protein food to keep millions of “enslaved people working 16 hours a day.” In Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World, Mark Kurlansky explains:

In the 17th century, the strategy for sugar production, a labor-intensive agro-industry, was to keep the manpower cost down through slavery. At harvest time, a sugar plantation was a factory with slaves working 16 hours or more a day — chopping cane by hand as close to the soil as possible, burning fields, hauling cane to a mill, crushing, boiling. To keep working under the tropical sun the slaves needed salt and protein. But plantation owners did not want to waste any valuable sugar planting space on growing food for the hundreds of thousands of Africans who were being brought to each small Caribbean island. The Caribbean produced almost no food. At first slaves were fed salted beef from England, but New England colonies [as well as Newfoundland and Nova Scotia] soon saw the opportunity for salt cod as cheap, salted nutrition.

In Capitalism and Slavery, post-independence Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Eric Williams highlights the role of cod in the Caribbean plantations:

The Newfoundland fishery depended to a considerable extent on the annual export of dried fish to the West Indies, the refuse or ‘poor John’ fish, ‘fit for no other consumption’.

High quality cod from today’s Atlantic Canada was sent to the Mediterranean while the reject fish was sold to Caribbean slave-owners.

From 1770-1773 Newfoundland and Nova Scotia sent 60,620 quintals (one quintal equals 100 pounds) and 6,280 barrels of cod to the West Indies, which comprised 40% of all imports. These numbers increased significantly after the American Revolution resulted in a ban on US trade to the British Caribbean colonies. In 1789 alone 58 vessels carried 61,862 quintals of fish from Newfoundland to the Caribbean Islands.

When it comes to our histories, we choose where and how to focus our lens. A bird’s eye view of the historical landscape quickly reveals that “Canada” did a great deal more to support African enslavement than undermine it.

Yves Engler is the author of A Propaganda System: How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Canada in Africa: 300 years of aid and exploitation. Read other articles by Yves.

Court Orders Pennsylvania Prison Provide Appropriate Medical Treatment for Mumia

Challenging a ‘Nazi Prison Camp Standard of Care:’ Appellate Court Panel Rejects PA Prison Effort to Further Delay Hep-C Treatment for Ailing Mumia Abu-Jamal

by Dave Lindorff  - This Can't Be Happening

March 29, 2017

It has been almost five years since doctors working for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, taking a routine blood test on long-time prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal (who was in the process of being transferred from 29 years on the state’s death-row to a general population prison following a lengthy appeals process that ultimately overturned his death penalty on constitutional grounds), and discovered he had contracted a Hepatitis C infection.

Mumia wins one at 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal 
in years' long struggle to get treatment for his 
prison-contracted Hep-C infection

There was no follow-up of that test to see if his Hep-C had become an active and thus life-threatening infection until July of 2015 -- a period of three years -- and then that “follow-up” came only after he had collapsed in prison on May 30 of that year and been rushed out of the prison to a hospital, where he was diagnosed with serious case of diabetes.

That’s when he was finally tested to see if he had a Hepatic C viral load in his blood (he did).

As Bret Grote, legal director of the Abolitionist Law Center in Pennsylvania, and Abu-Jamal’s attorney in a case seeking to force the DOC to provide the current Center for Disease Control-recommended medicine that has a 90% cure rate for the disease, says, “In all that time, right down to the present, the DOC has not provided any treatment for Mumia.

Whether his active infection is doing further damage -- fibrosis or even cirrhosis of the liver or other damage to him -- we don’t know. But he clearly is at greater and greater risk of serious health damage the longer this non-treatment goes on. (During a hearing last year before Judge Mariani, a DOC doctor testified under cross examination that there was a “63% chance” that Abu-Jamal already had cirrhosis, meaning that his liver is already being irreversibly damaged by the progressive disease.)

The good news is that the latest stalling effort by the DOC -- an appeal to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia of an injunction by a federal district judge in Scranton ordering the state to start treating Abu-Jamal with the latest approved Hep-C medication, and a request for a stay of that federal district judge’s treatment order until the appellate court panel has a chance to hear the arguments in the case -- was rejected by the three-judge panel.

As Grote says,

“That’s a good sign because it means that the judges, who will be considering the appeal of District Judge (Robert) Mariani’s injunction, are saying they do not believe that the DOC is likely to win its case. But their ruling doesn’t mean Mumia is getting treated. He’s not.”

He says that next move for Abu-Jamal’s legal team will be to file a petition for the Judge Mariani to hold the DOC in contempt, ordering immediate treatment to begin, in compliance with his preliminary injunction issued Jan. 3, 2017.

If Judge Mariani takes that step, Abu-Jamal’s long-delayed treatment should finally begin, Grote says.

Grote has had harsh words for the State of Pennsylvania Department of Corrections’ non-treatment not just of his client, Abu-Jamal, who is serving a life-sentence without chance of parole for the murder of white police officer Daniel Faulkner in Philadelphia back on Dec. 9, 1981, saying that the DOC’s “protocol for treatment” of Hep-C, which states that state-of-the-art medicines are only to be provided if prisoners show evidence of progression of the disease to a point that it has become imminently life threatening (the presence of advanced cirrhosis and esophageal varices), resembles a “Nazi death camp standard of care.”

The state, like many states across the country, does not want to have to provide the new medications, despite their remarkable proven success rate at clearing the disease from the body, because of the cost, currently estimated at about $80,000 per person treated.

The DOC admits that as many as 5400 of its prison inmates have active Hep-C cases like Abu-Jamal’s, with only perhaps as many as 1% of them receiving the medications. (Critics argue the state, by bargaining as a bulk buyer, could surely obtain the medication much more cheaply than that quoted retail price, just as insurance companies reach deals to obtain costly patented medications for other diseases at sharp discounts from retail price.)

Abu-Jamal’s supporters around the world fear that Pennsylvania, under pressure from the powerful police union, the Fraternal Order of Police, which was long calling for the state to “fry Mumia!”, may be trying to “execute” him by medical neglect now that the courts have ruled that it no longer can execute him for a conviction at a trial that, fraught with examples of judicial, prosecutorial and police misconduct and perjured evidence by prosecution witnesses, remains highly controversial.

There is a chance that Abu-Jamal’s case could end up becoming very costly not just for the State of Pennsylvania, but for other states in the Third Circuit district too, including New Jersey and Delaware.

If Grote is right and the Third Circuit judges, in ruling to deny the DOC’s request for a stay of Mariani’s treatment order pending their hearing of their the department’s appeal is an indication that they don’t think the DOC has a strong case, and if they later rule in favor of Judge Mariani’s decision of last August that denial of the new medications constitutes an unconstitutional form of “cruel and unusual punishment,” it could result in an order to treat all infected prisoners in these states prisons.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Why Arrest Barghouti Now?

The Next Phase in the War on BDS: Why Israel Detained Omar Barghouti

by Ramzy Baroud

March 29, 2017

The Israeli state has violated international law more than any other country, yet has rarely, if ever, been held accountable for crimes and misconduct.

Israel’s successful public relation campaigns, through ever-willing western media partners coupled with the relentless pressure carried out by powerful backers in Washington DC, London, Paris and elsewhere, has borne stupendous results.

For a while it seemed Israel was capable of maintaining its occupation and denying Palestinians their rights indefinitely, while promoting itself as 'the only democracy in the Middle East'.

Those who dared challenge that skewed paradigm through resistance in Palestine were eliminated or imprisoned; those who challenged Israel in public arenas anywhere in the world were smeared as ‘anti-Semitic’ or ‘self-hating Jews’.

Things seemed to move forward nicely for Israel. With American-western financial and military aid, the size, population and economy of illegal settlements grew at a fast rate. Israel's trade partners seemed oblivious to the fact that settlement products were manufactured or grown on illegally occupied Palestinian land.

Indeed, for a long time the occupation was very profitable with very little censure or pressure.

All that Israeli leaders needed to do was to adhere to the script: Palestinians are terrorists, we have no peace partner, Israel is a democracy, our wars are all carried out in self-defense and so on. The media repeated such misleading notions in unison. Palestinians, oppressed, occupied and disowned were duly demonized. Those who knew the truth about the situation either faced the risk of speaking out - and suffered the consequences - or remained silent.

But as the saying goes, "You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time."

Justice for Palestinians, which once appeared as if a 'lost cause' received a massive resurgence during the Second Palestinian Intifada (Uprising) in 2000.

Growing awareness resulting from the dedicated work of many intellectuals, journalists and students saw the arrival of thousands of international activists to Palestine as part of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM).

Academicians, artists, students, religious officials and ordinary people came to Palestine and then fanned out to many parts of the globe, utilizing whatever medium available to spread a unified message to their numerous communities.

It was that groundwork that facilitated the success of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS).

Established in 2005, BDS was a call made by Palestinian civil society organizations to people around the world to take part in exposing Israeli crimes and to hold accountable the Israeli government, army and companies that benefit from the subjugation of Palestinians.

With large and growing networks already in place, BDS spread quickly and took the Israeli government by surprise.

In the last decade, BDS proved resilient and resourceful, opening many new channels and platforms for discussions on Israel, its occupation, Palestinian rights and the moral accountability for those who either support or ignore Israel's violations of human rights.

What worries Israel most about BDS is what it calls the movement’s attempt to 'delegitimize’ Israel.

Since its inception, Israel has fought for legitimacy. But it is difficult to achieve legitimacy without respecting the rules required for a country to be legitimate. Israel wants to have it both ways: sustain its profitable occupation, test its latest weapon technology, detain and torture, besiege and assassinate while receiving international nods of approval.

Using threats, intimidation, cutting off of funds, the US and Israel have labored to silence criticism of Israel, the US main ally in the Middle East, to no avail.

As recently as days ago, a United Nations report said that Israel has established an ‘apartheid regime’; although the author of the report, Rima Khalaf resigned under pressure, the genie cannot go back to the bottle.

Progressively, BDS has grown to become the incubator of much of the international censure of Israel. Its early impact included artists who refuse to entertain in Israel, then companies started to shut down their Israel operations, followed by churches and universities divesting from Israeli economy. With time, Israel has found itself facing a unique, great challenge.

So, what is Israel to do?

Ignoring BDS has proved dangerous and costly. Fighting BDS is like launching a war on civil society. Worse, the more Israel tries to disrupt the work of BDS, the more it legitimizes the movement, offering it new platforms for debate, media coverage and public discussions.

In March 2016, a large conference brought together Israeli government officials, leaders from the opposition, media pundits, scholars and even entertainers from Israel, the US and elsewhere.

The conference was organized by one of Israel's largest media companies, Yediot Achronot.

It was a rare display of unity in Israeli politics; hundreds of influential Israelis and their backers trying to forge a strategy aimed at defeating BDS.

Many ideas were put on the table.

Israeli Interior Minister, Aryeh Dery, threatened to revoke the residence of Omar Barghouti, BDS co-founder and one of its most effective voices.

Intelligence and Atomic Energy Minister, Israel Katz, called for the 'targeted civil elimination" of BDS leaders, signaling Barghouti, in particular.

Public Security Minister, Gilad Erdan, wanted BDS activists to 'pay the price'.

The war on BDS had officially started, although the groundwork for that battle was already in motion.

The UK government announced earlier in the year that it was illegal to "refuse to buy goods and services from companies involved in arms trade, fossil fuels, tobacco products, or Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank."

That same month, Canada passed a motion that criminalizes BDS.

A couple of months earlier, the US Senate passed the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, conflating the definition of anti-Semitism to include criticism of Israel on US campuses, many of which have responded positively to the call made by BDS.

Eventually, the UK adopted a similar definition equating between legitimate anti-Jewish hate crimes and criticism of Israel.

More recently, Israel passed a law that bans individuals accused of supporting the BDS movement from entry to Israel. Considering that entering Israel is the only way of gaining access to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the Israeli ban aimed at severing the strong rapport that has been connecting Palestinians to the global solidarity movement.

The anti-BDS campaign finally culminated in the detaining and interrogation of Omar Barghouti himself.

On March 19, Israeli tax authorities detained Barghouti and accused him of tax evasion.

By doing so, Israel has revealed the nature of the next stage of its fight, using smear tactics and faulting leading activists based on charges that are seemingly apolitical in order to distract from the urgent political discussion at hand.

Along with other steps, Israel feels that defeating BDS is possible through censorship, travel bans and intimidation tactics.

However, Israel's war on BDS is destined to fail, and as a direct result of that failure, BDS will continue to flourish.

Israel has kept global civil society in the dark for decades: selling it a misleading version of reality. But in the age of digital media and globalized activism, the old strategy will no longer deliver.

Regardless of what transpires in the case of Barghouti, BDS will not weaken. It is a decentralized movement with local, regional, national and global networks spanning hundreds of cities across the world.

Smearing one individual, or a hundred, will not alter the upward movement of BDS.

Israel will soon realize that its war on BDS, freedom of speech and expression is unwinnable. It is a futile attempt to muzzle a global community that now works in unison from Cape Town, South Africa to Uppsala, Sweden.

Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of His books include “Searching Jenin”, “The Second Palestinian Intifada” and his latest “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story”. His website is

Running Back Russia-gate's Sleazy Beginnings

The Sleazy Origins of Russia-gate 

by Robert Parry - Consortium News

March 29, 2017

An irony of the escalating hysteria about the Trump camp’s contacts with Russians is that one presidential campaign in 2016 did exploit political dirt that supposedly came from the Kremlin and other Russian sources.

Friends of that political campaign paid for this anonymous hearsay material, shared it with American journalists and urged them to publish it to gain an electoral advantage.

But this campaign was not Donald Trump’s; it was Hillary Clinton’s.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

And, awareness of this activity doesn’t require you to spin conspiracy theories about what may or may not have been said during some seemingly innocuous conversation. In this case, you have open admissions about how these Russian/Kremlin claims were used.

Indeed, you have the words of Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, in his opening statement at last week’s public hearing on so-called “Russia-gate.” Schiff’s seamless 15-minute narrative of the Trump campaign’s alleged collaboration with Russia followed the script prepared by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele who was hired as an opposition researcher last June to dig up derogatory information on Donald Trump.

Steele, who had worked for Britain’s MI-6 in Russia, said he tapped into ex-colleagues and unnamed sources inside Russia, including leadership figures in the Kremlin, to piece together a series of sensational reports that became the basis of the current congressional and FBI investigations into Trump’s alleged ties to Moscow.

Since he was not able to go to Russia himself, Steele based his reports mostly on multiple hearsay from anonymous Russians who claim to have heard some information from their government contacts before passing it on to Steele’s associates who then gave it to Steele who compiled this mix of rumors and alleged inside dope into “raw” intelligence reports.

Lewd Allegations

Besides the anonymous sourcing and the sources’ financial incentives to dig up dirt, Steele’s reports had numerous other problems, including the inability of a variety of investigators to confirm key elements, such as the salacious claim that several years ago Russian intelligence operatives secretly videotaped Trump having prostitutes urinate on him while he lay in the same bed in Moscow’s Ritz-Carlton used by President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

That tantalizing tidbit was included in Steele’s opening report to his new clients, dated June 20, 2016. Apparently, it proved irresistible in whetting the appetite of Clinton’s mysterious benefactors who were financing Steele’s dirt digging and who have kept their identities (and the amounts paid) hidden. Also in that first report were the basic outlines of what has become the scandal that is now threatening the survival of Trump’s embattled presidency.

But Steele’s June report also reflected the telephone-tag aspects of these allegations:

“Speaking to a trusted compatriot in June 2016 sources A and B, a senior Russian Foreign Ministry figure and a former top level Russian intelligence officer still active inside the Kremlin respectively, the Russian authorities had been cultivating and supporting US Republican presidential candidate, Donald TRUMP for a least 5 years.
“Source B asserted that the TRUMP operation was both supported and directed by Russian President Vladimir PUTIN. Its aim was to sow discord and disunity both within the US itself, but more especially within the Transatlantic alliance which was viewed as inimical to Russia’s interests. … In terms of specifics, Source A confided that the Kremlin had been feeding TRUMP and his team valuable intelligence on his opponents, including Democratic presidential candidate Hillary CLINTON, for several years. …
“The Kremlin’s cultivation operation on TRUMP also had comprised offering him various lucrative real estate development business deals in Russia, especially in relation to the ongoing 2018 World Cup soccer tournament. However, so far, for reasons unknown, TRUMP had not taken up any of these.”

Besides the anonymous and hearsay quality of the allegations, there are obvious logical problems, especially the point that five years ago, you could have gotten astronomical odds about Trump’s chances to win the U.S. presidency, although perhaps there is more an astrological explanation. Maybe the seemingly logical Putin went to some stargazing soothsayer to see the future.

There also may have been a more mundane reason why Trump’s hotel deal fell through. A source familiar with those negotiations told me that Trump had hoped to get a half interest in the $2 billion project but that Russian-Israeli investor Mikhail Fridman, a founder of Russia’s Alfa Bank, balked because Trump was unwilling to commit a significant investment beyond the branding value of the Trump name.

Yet, one would assume that if the supposedly all-powerful Putin wanted to give a $1 billion or so payoff to his golden boy, Donald Trump, whom Putin just knew would become President in five years, the deal would have happened.

Whetting the Appetite

Despite the dubious quality of Steele’s second- and third-hand information, the June report appears to have won the breathless attention of Team Clinton. And once the bait was taken, Steele continued to produce his conspiracy-laden reports, totaling at least 17 through Dec. 13, 2016.

The reports not only captivated the Clinton political operatives but influenced the assessments of Obama’s appointees in the U.S. intelligence community. In the last weeks of the Obama administration, I was told that the outgoing intelligence chiefs had found no evidence to verify Steele’s claims but nevertheless believed them to be true.

Still, a careful analysis of Steele’s reports would have discovered not only apparent factual inaccuracies, such as putting Trump lawyer Michael Cohen at a meeting with a Russian official in Prague (when Cohen says he’s never been to Prague), but also the sort of broad conspiracy-mongering that the mainstream U.S. news media usually loves to ridicule.

For instance, Steele’s reports pin a range of U.S. political attitudes on Russian manipulation rather than the notion that Americans can reach reasonable conclusions on their own. In one report dated Sept. 14, 2016, Steele claimed that an unnamed senior official in President Vladimir Putin’s Presidential Administration (or PA) explained how Putin used the alleged Russian influence operation to generate opposition to Obama’s Pacific trade deals.

Steele wrote that Putin’s intention was “pushing candidate CLINTON away from President OBAMA’s policies. The best example of this was that both candidates [Clinton and Trump] now openly opposed the draft trade agreements, TPP and TTIP, which were assessed by Moscow as detrimental to Russian interests.”

In other words, the Russians supposedly intervened in the U.S. presidential campaign to turn the leading candidates against Obama’s trade deals. But how credible is that? Are we to believe that American politicians – running the gamut from Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren through former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to President Donald Trump – have all been tricked by the Kremlin to oppose those controversial trade deals, which are also broadly unpopular with the American people who are sick and tired of trade agreements that cost them jobs?

Steele’s investigative dossier suggests that we can’t really think for ourselves. We are all Putin’s puppets.

Greater Skepticism?

Normally, such a ludicrous claim – along with the haziness of the sourcing – would demand greater skepticism about the rest of Steele’s feverish charges, but a curious aspect of the investigations into Russia’s alleged “meddling” in Election 2016 is that neither Steele nor the “oppo research” company, Fusion GPS, that hired him – reportedly with funding from Clinton allies – has been summoned to testify.

Usually, official investigations begin with testimony from the people who are making the allegations, so their credibility and motives can be tested in an adversarial setting. Plus, some baseline information should be established: Who, for instance, paid for the contract? How much was the total and how much went to Steele? How much did Steele then pay his Russian contacts and did they, in turn, pay the alleged Russian insiders for information? Or are we supposed to believe that these “insiders” risked being identified as spies out of a commitment to the truth?

None of these answers would necessarily discredit the information, but they could provide important context as to whether this “oppo” team had a financial motive to sex-up the reports to keep Clinton’s friends coming back for more. Arguably the funders of this “oppo” research should be called to testify as well regarding whether they would have kept ponying up more money if Steele’s reports had concluded that there were no meaningful contacts between Trump’s people and the Russians. Were they seeking the truth or just dirt to help Hillary Clinton win?

Since last November’s election, Steele has ducked public inquiries and Glenn Simpson, the former Wall Street Journal journalist who heads Fusion GPS, has refused to divulge who hired his firm or answer other relevant questions. That means we still don’t know which Clinton friends paid for the dirt and how much money was given to subcontractors like Steele and his Russian associates. (One source told me it may have totaled around $1 million.)

According to various press reports, Fusion GPS first worked for a Republican opponent of Trump’s, but then switched over to the Clinton side after Trump won the Republican race. With Steele generating his reports every few days or every few weeks, people close to Clinton’s campaign saw the Russia allegations as a potential game-changer. They reached out to reporters to persuade them to publish Steele’s allegations even if they could not be verified.

Before the election, a longtime Clinton operative briefed me on aspects of Steele’s investigation, including the “golden shower” allegations, and urged me to at least publish the accusations as a rumor citing the fact that some major news organizations were looking into the charges, an offer that I declined.

In a different setting – when Gov. Bill Clinton was seeking the presidency and Republican “oppo” researchers were pushing various wild and salacious allegations about him – the Clinton team dismissed such claims and the motivations of the people behind them as “cash for trash.”

Following the Storyline 


Yet, Schiff’s opening statement at the hearing on March 20 relied heavily on Steele’s narrative and the supposed credibility of the ex-British spy and his anonymous Russian sources, even to the point of naming Americans who presumably joined in a scheme to collaborate with the Russians to help rig the U.S. election, an act that some commenters have compared to treason.

The California Democrat said, 

“Russian sources tell [Steele] that [Carter] Page [a Trump foreign policy adviser who made a public trip to Russia in early July 2016] also had a secret meeting with Igor Sechin, CEO of Russian gas giant Rosneft. … According to Steele’s Russian sources, Page is offered brokerage fees by Sechin on a deal involving a 19 percent share of the company.”

These “Russian sources” also tell Steele, according to Schiff, that “the Trump campaign is offered documents damaging to Hillary Clinton, which the Russians would publish through an outlet that gives them deniability, like Wikileaks. The hacked documents would be in exchange for a Trump Administration policy that de-emphasizes Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and instead focuses on criticizing NATO countries for not paying their fare share.”

Schiff continued:

“Is it a coincidence that the Russian gas company Rosneft sold a 19 percent share after former British Intelligence Officer Steele was told by Russian sources that Carter Page was offered fees on a deal of just that size? Is it a coincidence that Steele’s Russian sources also affirmed that Russia had stolen documents hurtful to Secretary Clinton that it would utilize in exchange for pro-Russian policies that would later come to pass?”

However, is it also not possible that Steele and his profit-making colleagues made their reports conform to details that already were known or that they had reason to believe would occur, in other words, to match up their claims with independently known facts to give them greater credibility? That is a classic way for conmen to establish “credibility” with marks who are either gullible or simply want to believe.

Also, clever prosecutors in presenting a “circumstantial case” – as Schiff was doing on March 20 – can make innocent coincidences look suspicious. For instance, though Trump’s resistance to escalating tensions with Russia were well known through the primary campaign, Schiff made a big deal out of the fact that Trump’s people opposed a plank in the Republican platform that called for shipping lethal military supplies to Ukraine for the government’s war against ethnic Russian rebels in the east. Schiff presents that as the quo for the quid of the Russians supplying purloined emails from the Democratic National Committee to WikiLeaks (although WikiLeaks denies getting the emails from the Russians).

In his opening statement, Schiff said:

“In the middle of July, Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign manager and someone who was long on the payroll of pro-Russian Ukrainian interests, attends the Republican Party convention. Carter Page, back from [a business meeting in] Moscow, also attends the convention.
“According to Steele, it was Manafort who chose Page to serve as a go-between for the Trump campaign and Russian interests. [Russian] Ambassador [Sergey] Kislyak, who presides over a Russian embassy in which diplomatic personnel would later be expelled as likely spies, also attends the Republican Party convention and meets with Carter Page and additional Trump Advisors J.D. Gordon and Walid Phares. It was J.D. Gordon who approved Page’s trip to Moscow.
“Ambassador Kislyak also meets with Trump campaign national security chair and now Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sessions would later deny meeting with Russian officials during his Senate confirmation hearing. Just prior to the convention, the Republican Party platform is changed, removing a section that supports the provision of ‘lethal defensive weapons’ to Ukraine, an action that would be contrary to Russian interests.
“Manafort categorically denies involvement by the Trump campaign in altering the platform. But the Republican Party delegate who offered the language in support of providing defensive weapons to Ukraine states that it was removed at the insistence of the Trump campaign. Later, J.D. Gordon admits opposing the inclusion of the provision at the time it was being debated and prior to its being removed.”

Problems with the Conspiracy

So, not only is Schiff relying on Steele to provide key links in the conspiracy chain but Schiff ignores the surrounding reality that Trump had long opposed the idea of escalating the confrontation with Russia in Ukraine – as, by the way, did President Obama who resisted pressure to send lethal military hardware to Ukraine.

Plus, Schiff ignores other logical points, including that party platforms are essentially meaningless and that the savvy Putin would not likely take the huge risk of offending the odds-on winner of the presidential race, Hillary Clinton, for something as pointless as a word change in the GOP platform.

There is also the point that if Trump were a true “Manchurian candidate,” he would have taken the more politically popular position of bashing Russia during the campaign and only reverse course after he got into the White House. That’s how the scheme is supposed to work. (And, of course, all embassies including American ones have spies assigned to them, so there is nothing unusual about Ambassador Kislyak presiding at an embassy with spies.)

Other independent-minded journalists have noted various chronological problems with Steele’s narrative, such as Marcy Wheeler at her Web site.

In other words, there are huge holes in both the evidence and the logic of Schiff’s conspiracy theory. But you wouldn’t know that from watching and reading the fawning commentary about Schiff’s presentation in the mainstream U.S. news media, which has been almost universally hostile to Trump (which is not to say that there aren’t sound reasons to consider the narcissistic, poorly prepared Trump to be unfit to serve as President of the United States).

The journalistic problem is that everyone deserves to get a fair shot from reporters who are supposed to be objective and fair regardless of a person’s popularity or notoriety or what the reporter may personally feel. That standard should apply to everyone, whether you’re a foreign leader despised by the U.S. government or a politician detested for your obnoxious behavior.

There is no professional justification for journalists joining in a TV-and-print lynch mob. We also have seen too often where such wrongheaded attitudes lead, such as to the groupthink that Iraq’s hated dictator Saddam Hussein was hiding WMDs, or in an earlier time to the McCarthyism that destroyed the lives of Americans who were smeared as unpatriotic because of their dissident political views.

So, yes, even Donald Trump deserves not to be railroaded by a mainstream media that wants desperately – along with other powerful forces in Official Washington – to see him run out of town on a rail and will use any pretext to do so, even if it means escalating the risks of a nuclear war with Russia.

And, if mainstream media commentators truly want a thorough and independent investigation, they should be demanding that it start by summoning the people who first made the allegations.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and