DEATH THROES OF DEMOCRACY

How our republic could die in the age of Trump — in a stunning parallel to the fall of Rome

By Thom Hartmann/ Alternet/ May 20, 2019

Cartoonist Gary Varvel: The Donald Trump version of the Bible

The American republic could die, just like Rome.

Wavering for some time on the verge of becoming a complete oligarchy, America is on the verge of flipping from a democratic republic to a strongman or autocratic form of government, something that’s happened to dozens of democracies in the past few decades, but never before here. It’s possible we won’t recover from it.

The death of a republic is different from the death of a nation; Rome was a nation for nearly 2,000 years, but its period of being a republic was only around 300 years long. For the rest, it was a brutal empire with a small but wealthy and corrupt ruling class and a thin patina of democracy-for-show.

Trump is openly defying the norms and laws of our republic, while calling for the imprisonment of both his political enemies and members of the very law enforcement agencies that might hold him to account. And he’s only able to do it because billionaires like Rupert Murdoch, with Fox News, and the billionaires Republicans depend on to fund their re-elections are providing him with cover.

And they’re largely able to do that because five “conservatives” on the Supreme Court empowered billionaires to own the political system with the 1976 Buckley and 2010 Citizens United decisions.

Already, it is evident there are similarities between the end of the Roman Republic and America today when it comes to political theater. In the Roman Republic, the question of what was “real” or “fake” was decided by the people and common sense until the republic began to splinter in the first century BCE. Once the political/power cracks appeared, truth and lies became a constant matter of debate. Today we have a reality-show president who has told over 10,000 lies, many uncritically repeated daily by the media and others aggressively defended by politicians owned by the same billionaires who support Trump. Trump is constantly at war with the truth and “fake news.”

Republics die when the price of losing political struggles becomes higher than individual politicians are willing to pay, so they just roll over in favor of the interests of whoever is most powerful. Republics die when compromise is seen as betrayal, and a single principled vote, position or statement is enough to cause donors and party to turn their back and end a political career, or even end a person’s ability to earn a living.

In Rome, after the republican phase ended in the first century BCE with the assassination of Julius Caesar, it often meant physical death; in America today it means political and economic death, but the dagger at the heart of what the founding fathers called our “republican form of government” is no less sharp.

A republic falters because it ceases to be functional and democratic—meeting the needs of the people and being governed by the people—when behind-the-scenes plutocrats, warlords, or corporations achieve near total—and nearly invisible—political/financial dominance over the visible political process.

This failure of governance and plutocratic takeover is followed by threats of overwhelming political destruction, and, in the final stages, violence often takes over.

That was when, in 1933, the Weimar Republic became the Nazi tyranny; in 1938 when Mussolini dissolved parliament and replaced it with the Chamber of Fascist Corporations; in 1980 when Augusto Pinochet replaced Chile’s constitution with one that banned opposition political groups; in 2016 when President Erdogan of Turkey brutally responded to a coup attempt. Recently we’ve also seen it in Russia, the Philippines, Brazil, Hungary, and Poland.

The forces driving the death of our republic include Trump trying to prosecute those who investigated him for his campaign’s Russia ties and his disavowal of the rights and powers of the first branch of American government, the Congress. Fueling the process for nearly two generations are the right-wing billionaires funding politicians who tolerate the promotion of deadly white supremacist violence, all in the pursuit of lower taxes, higher profits, and a dog-eat-dog political ideology that doesn’t let average people get their needs met through the political process.

The disintegration of the Roman Republic began, writes Edward J. Watts, the author of Mortal Republic: How Rome Fell Into Tyranny, in the years around 100 BCE when politicians became rigidly bound to their patrons and thus refused to compromise, raising the cost of normal political activity to a level where egalitarian governance became a sham. Instead of disagreeing with each other, Roman politicians began to prosecute each other and fund reactionary “populist” forces.

Watts told me that the consequence, over the next century, was political violence and the end of the republic; by the time of Augustus, Rome had become an autocratic, plutocratic empire and democracy was dead, even though the iron-fisted empire would last another 1,400 years, finally petering out (no pun intended) as the modern Catholic Church.

A republic is dying when the price of political activism becomes so high that the only people willing to engage in it are also willing to kill or die for their positions. But before the physical killing and dying happens, first comes financial and political killing and dying.

When politicians are terrified that the wrong statement or vote will lose them their political and financial patrons—or could even get them thrown in jail or killed—they cease to be players in a republican democratic drama, and instead become sycophants to and enablers of the plutocrats who have the actual political power, even though they don’t hold office.

This is the position elected members of the Republican Party find themselves in today relative to the billionaires and industries that own them, and the white supremacists and religious zealots they’ve invited in as allies; the future of our democratic republican form of government will depend on whether they continue to encourage this poison, or reject it.

The modern Republican Party has, since the Reagan era, stood exclusively for making the very rich much richer, privatizing Social Security, ending Medicare and Medicaid, gutting food stamps and other programs to help those in poverty and the working poor, increasing levels of poison and pollution in our air and water, and turning our entire school system over to for-profit vultures.

These are all pretty unpopular positions, so to get elected the GOP has pulled together a coalition of white supremacists, gun fanatics, and religious zealots who want total control over women and their bodies.

That’s nearly enough people to win the occasional election, but the real force behind the modern GOP are the plutocrats, the billionaires who fund everything from “conservative” think tanks, to super PACs (and their social media troll farms), to billion-dollar media buys.

Republican politicians now live in such fear of these billionaires and the corporations who made them rich that they’re unwilling to acknowledge simple science like climate change or the impact of industrial pollution on children.

These are the signs of a dying republic.

Into this moment in history comes Donald Trump, going after the walls and floors of our political house with a sledgehammer. Institutions that were treated with respect and even reverence are ridiculed as “weak” or “useless” by Trump; the hard-right billionaires cheer him on and keep writing checks to the GOP.

These are the symptoms of a republic in crisis.

  • Calling the press “the enemy of the people.”
  • Refusing to interact with Congress as the Constitution dictates.
  • Packing the courts with demonstrably unqualified ideologues.
  • Lying to the people on a daily basis.
  • Embracing autocrats while trashing traditional allies.
  • Breaking the law and flaunting a Nixon-era “guideline” from the DOJ saying that the president can’t be prosecuted, while he runs out the clock on the statute of limitations.
  • Bragging that he’s making money on the presidency and daring anybody to stop him.
  • Putting lobbyists in charge of public lands, our banking system, and our environment.
  • Embracing violent and hateful people and movements, both at home and abroad.

There’s a lot of hand-wringing going on in the press and in D.C. about Trump’s political and legal excesses. What everybody seems to be missing is the permanent damage he’s doing to our republic by finding the loose floorboards under our republic, the loopholes and norms of political behavior that have been enforced for centuries out of good will and respect, rather than fear of the law.

Like a petulant child or a juvenile delinquent, he delights in breaking them right in front of us.

Marian Kamensky / Austria

Nixon didn’t want to turn over the tapes, but when the courts told him to, he complied. Hillary Clinton didn’t want to testify for more than eight hours about Benghazi, but when Congress demanded it, she showed up. These have been American norms since the presidency of George Washington.

It’s entirely possible that Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr are right that Congress now has no real means to enforce their subpoenas and requests for testimony and documents; if so, it’s been that way since the founding of the republic.

Our government has functioned from one administration to another since its founding not because presidents and members of Congress were afraid of going to jail; things have held together because our politicians have, almost without exception, honored the institutions of our nation, even when they didn’t need to fear them.

Our Constitution, in many very real ways, is rather weak when faced with parties or persons who flaunt its norms, or won’t use the tools it provides to ensure accountability.

There was, for example, no jail cell waiting for Mitch McConnell when he refused to allow President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland to even have a single hearing. Nobody had ever done such a thing because there’d never in our history been a Senate majority leader with so little respect for our nation and our Constitution, or so much loyalty to a small group of billionaires.

But now there’s a man in the White House so craven in his lust for personal wealth and power, and so owned by fossil-fuel interests, bigots, and religious fanatics that he’s willing to exploit that weakness in our Constitution to take an ax to the roots of our tree of liberty.

He is our nation’s Augustus Caesar, the killer of a republic and the herald of a corrupt and collapsing empire.

He’s willing to break laws in public and dare Congress to hold him responsible, while starting an “investigation” into those concerned about a foreign power breaking our election laws to make him president. He openly praises thugs and killers, both foreign and domestic, and delights in pardoning war criminals.

America will not “bounce back” from the Trump presidency when it ends, and may lose all ability to recover at all if that presidency lasts six rather than two more years.

If Republicans in the Senate are too cowardly to repudiate the petro-billionaires who threaten to fund their primary opponents, we will continue on the rapid downward slide Rome experienced in the first century BCE.

And if Democrats don’t take strong, immediate, and decisive action to curb GOP excesses, we may well never again have a chance to return to our democratic-republican roots.

Democrats “getting a spine” isn’t just good politics; it may be the last hope to salvage our republic and preserve our constitutional form of government.

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and author of more than 25 books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute.

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False Flag Coming?

Iran

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What’s Next? Impeachment!

Thom’s blog
What Does America Do With the Grifter President Who is Actually Broke?
Thom plus logo  It’s looking increasingly like Donald Trump has had zero or negative net worth ever since the 1980s or 90s, according to the tax reports released by the New York Times yesterday. He’s been a grifter all along, running a huge con on America. He was broke when he wrote Art of the Deal, and he was broke when he was on The Apprentice. He’s almost certainly broke now.

So, what do Americans do as we realize that the guy in the White House is a world-class grifter and compulsive liar Who is so broke that he is willing to sell out his country in exchange for cash flow from his businesses in Turkey, the Philippines, and the $1 billion opportunity in Moscow that he was negotiating and lying about throughout the campaign?

-Thom

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Is This How Fascism Begins

Editor’s note: This is a revised and expanded version of an article posted here April 12 (now deleted). This one was also published at OpEd News April 24-25, 2019

By Arlen Grossman

Mussolini

“If you aren’t outraged, then you just aren’t paying attention.”
– Lisa Borden

I regularly check on President Trump’s approval rating, waiting to see it go down, but I’m wasting my time–it never does. The country is burdened with an incompetent, angry, narcissistic leader, and no matter what crazy or cruel thing he says or does, there are many Americans who think he is doing just fine. His approval ratings never seem to fall below the low-40s. In other words, a single-digit bounce and the majority of the voters might be inclined to re-elect our current president!

To understand this phenomenon, it helps to examine some historical perspective. Many of us have wondered how a modern, civilized European country like Germany could fall under the spell of a hateful, murderous leader like Adolf Hitler, who launched World War II and the Holocaust, resulting in the torture and death of tens of millions. And how could Italy tolerate their fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini? I have often wondered how it was possible, but now I’m starting to understand.

German fascism developed for a number of reasons, among them economic turmoil, political instability, profound social change, and of course, a charismatic, evil, strong-willed leader. Toss in the tolerance and promotion of hate, and a large dose of patriotic, militaristic nationalism, and the result was the Nazi Party.

The story was only slightly different in Italy, the first fascist country, led by the strong-armed despot Mussolini, with his jutting-out jaw (does that sound familiar?). Their rigid ideas appealed to the political right, and like their German allies, Italy’s fascists were anti-abortion, anti-socialist, strongly corporatist, and believed in the rule of elites. They also valued strong nationalism and a powerful authoritarian leader.

Do the same ideas and conditions once found in Italy and Germany exist in America today? Let’s start with our economy. Everyone can see that the wealthiest Americans have benefited the most, while the Federal Reserve reports that four in 10 American adults say they don’t have enough savings to cover a $400 emergency expense, and nearly 80 percent of workers say they’re living paycheck to paycheck. In addition, the aforementioned political instability and profound social change here is palpable. So is intolerance. And yes, there is our evil, strong-willed leader, Donald Trump.

Compare pre-WWII Italy and Germany with modern-day America and note today’s volatile conditions. Ask yourself: do we have a society in which fascism (I won’t go as far as Nazism) could develop and grow? Does the George Santayana quote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” apply here?

It may be that today’s United States of America is quite a bit different than the emerging fascist nations of the early 1930s. But I am haunted by the similarities. And if you are paying attention, you should be, too.

 

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Why Is America Always At War?

Jimmy Carter: US ‘Most Warlike Nation in History of the World’

By Brett Wilkins/ Counterpunch/ April 19, 2019

The only US president to complete his term without war, military attack or occupation has called the United States “the most warlike nation in the history of the world.”

During his regular Sunday school lesson at Maranatha Baptist Church in his hometown of Plains, Georgia, Jimmy Carter revealed that he had recently spoken with President Donald Trump about China. Carter, 94, said Trump was worried about China’s growing economy and expressed concern that “China is getting ahead of us.”

Carter, who normalized diplomatic relations between Washington and Beijing in 1979, said he told Trump that much of China’s success was due to its peaceful foreign policy.

“Since 1979, do you know how many times China has been at war with anybody?” Carter asked.
“None, and we have stayed at war.” While it is true that China’s last major war — an invasion of Vietnam — occurred in 1979, its People’s Liberation Army pounded border regions of Vietnam with artillery and its navy battled its Vietnamese counterpart in the 1980s. Since then, however, China has been at peace with its neighbors and the world.

Carter then said the US has been at peace for only 16 of its 242 years as a nation. Counting wars, military attacks and military occupations, there have actually only been five years of peace in US history — 1976, the last year of the Gerald Ford administration and 1977-80, the entirety of Carter’s presidency. Carter then referred to the US as “the most warlike nation in the history of the world,” a result, he said, of the US forcing other countries to “adopt our American principles.”

China’s peace dividend has allowed and enhanced its economic growth, Carter said. “How many miles of high-speed railroad do we have in this country?” he asked. China has around 18,000 miles (29,000 km) of high speed rail lines while the US has “wasted, I think, $3 trillion” on military spending. According to a November 2018 study by Brown University’s Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs, the US has spent $5.9 trillion waging war in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other nations since 2001.

“It’s more than you can imagine,” Carter said of US war spending. “China has not wasted a single penny on war, and that’s why they’re ahead of us. In almost every way.”

“And I think the difference is if you take $3 trillion and put it in American infrastructure you’d probably have $2 trillion leftover,” Carter told his congregation. “We’d have high-speed railroad. We’d have bridges that aren’t collapsing, we’d have roads that are maintained properly. Our education system would be as good as that of say South Korea or Hong Kong.”

While there is a prevalent belief in the United States that the country almost always wages war for noble purposes and in defense of freedom, global public opinion and facts paint a very different picture. Most countries surveyed in a 2013 WIN/Gallup poll identified the United States as the greatest threat to world peace, and a 2017 Pew Research poll found that a record number of people in 30 surveyed nations viewed US power and influence as a “major threat.”

The US has also invaded or bombed dozens of countries and supported nearly every single right wing dictatorship in the world since the end of World War II. It has overthrown or attempted to overthrow dozens of foreign governments since 1949 and has actively sought to crush nearly every single people’s liberation movement over that same period. It has also meddled in scores of elections, in countries that are allies and adversaries alike.

Focus on the Good Apples
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Soft on Trump?

By Arlen Grossman

Is there anyone else troubled by the fact that Robert Mueller is a good friend of William Barr, and was known as a conservative Republican prior to being chosen as FBI director by President George W. Bush in 2001? Could that be a factor in his unwillingness to indict President Trump for either conspiring with Russia or obstructing justice? Something to think about…..

indicted

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The Crime of Journalism

Assange’s ‘Conspiracy’ to Expose War Crimes Has Already Been Punished

 

By Joe Emersberger/ FAIR/ April 12, 2019

 

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should never have been punished for working with a whistleblower to expose war crimes. Chelsea Manning, the whistleblower, has done more time in prison, under harsher conditions, than William Calley, a key perpetrator of the My Lai massacre. Remarkably, Manning is in jail again, failed by organizations that should unreservedly defend her, as the US tries to coerce her into helping inflict more punishment on Assange.

As for Assange, he has already been arbitrarily detained for several years, according to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. Its 2016 press release on the matter stated:

The expert panel called on the Swedish and British authorities to end Mr. Assange’s deprivation of liberty, respect his physical integrity and freedom of movement, and afford him the right to compensation.

Now Assange could be punished even more brutally if the UK extradites him to the US, where he is charged with a “conspiracy” to help Manning crack a password that “would have” allowed her to cover her tracks more effectively. In other words, the alleged help with password-cracking didn’t work, and is not what resulted in the information being disclosed. It has also not been shown that it was Assange who offered the help, according to Kevin Gosztola (Shadowproof, 4/11/19). The government’s lack of proof of its charges might explain why Manning is in jail again.

The indictment goes even further, criminalizing the use of an electronic “drop box” and other tactics that investigate journalists routinely use in the computer age to work with a confidential source “for the purpose of publicly disclosing” information.

Assange Indictment: Purpose and Object of the Conspiracy

In 2010, the Guardian, like the New York Times and a few other corporate newspapers, briefly partnered with WikiLeaks to publish the contents of thousands of confidential US diplomatic cables, known as Cablegate. That year, WikiLeaks released other confidential US government information as well: the Afghanistan War Logs, the Iraq War Logs, the infamous “Collateral Murder” video.

The material exposed atrocities perpetrated by the US military, as well as other disgraceful acts—like US diplomats strategizing on how to undermine elected governments out of favor with Washington, spying on official US allies and bullying poor countries into paying wildly exorbitant prices for life-saving drugs.

Collateral Murder van aftermath

One US soldier involved in the “collateral murder” airstrike that Manning and Assange exposed, Ethan McCord, was threatened and reprimanded by a superior officer for requesting psychiatric help after the  atrocity. (“Get the sand out of your vagina,” he was reportedly told.) McCord had tended to wounded children during the massacre. He was soon expelled from the military, apparently now “unsuited” for it.

The point of journalism is to expose horrific crimes like this so that the powerful people who order them pay legal consequences, not the ones who expose them. Presumably that is why “press freedom” is considered important, and why it’s guaranteed by the First Amendment. The law should have protected Manning from punishment, the same way it protects somebody who uses violence in justifiable self-defense or in defense of others.

In Manning’s case, that was especially true, because she exposed grave crimes while stationed in Iraq, as the US perpetrated an even higher-level crime—a war of aggression based on a fraudulent pretext.  If the law should have protected Manning, who was at the very heart of the “conspiracy” to expose gruesome crimes, then it obviously should protect Assange, and any of the outlets that worked with him.

Last year, James Goodale, former general counsel to the New York Times, commented on the (now confirmed) idea that a “conspiracy” charge would be brought against Assange by the US government:

As a matter of fact, a charge against Assange for “conspiring” with a source is the most dangerous charge that I can think of with respect to the First Amendment in almost all my years representing media organizations.

The reason is that one who is gathering/writing/distributing the news, as the law stands now, is free and clear under the First Amendment. If the government is able to say a person who is exempt under the First Amendment then loses that exemption because that person has “conspired” with a source who is subject to the Espionage Act or other law, then the government has succeeded in applying the standard to all news-gathering.

Twitter: Manning went to all big US newspapers with Collateral Murder video and all refused to publish becoz it exposed the empire they exist to protect.

One way to avoid being accused of a conspiracy is to simply not publish information that powerful people don’t want published, as independent journalist Matt Kennard, author of The Racket, noted on Twitter.

Another way to protect against prosecution would be to help the government unofficially designate a class of acceptable “journalists,” and join the government in vilifying anyone outside this club as a “spy,” “hacker”—anything but a journalist. 60 Minutes (1/26/11) suggested he was “not really a journalist at all” because “he is an anti-establishment ideologue with conspiratorial views.” An example of such paranoia? “He believes large government institutions use secrecy to suppress the truth and he distrusts the mainstream media for playing along.”

British journalists, too, have taken to this task with glee for many years. Unsurprisingly, Assange’s arrest prompted vicious comments about his appearance from prominent members of the club.

The Guardian editors dropped any pretense of having journalistic standards when it comes to Assange when it published an outlandish claim that Assange met repeatedly with Paul Manafort in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Glenn Greenwald has done tremendous work exposing that journalistic outrage. It has become a “scoop” (heavily tweaked and qualified after publication) that the Guardian doesn’t retract, but doesn’t mention either—even in a very recent editorial (4/11/19) about Assange’s case.

In that editorial, the Guardian, disregarding the UN experts who said Assange had been arbitrarily detained for years, still calls for Assange to be “held to account” for “skipping bail” (though not extradited to the US). Journalism like that, at the “liberal” end of the spectrum, explains why Assange and Manning are in jail, while George W. Bush and Tony Blair walk free.

Featured image: Julian Assange being arrested by British police at the London Ecuadoran embassy. (Image: Ruptly)

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A Better Solution?

rock

“I thought it would be easier than a drawn-out political campaign.”

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Capitalism’s War on Socialism


TBPR Editor’s Note: I am unclear as to why Egnatz doesn’t consider the Scandinavian countries as successful socialist countries.

By Nick Egnatz/ OpEdNews/ April 2,2019

socialism

Successful socialist countries do not exist for the simple reason that capitalism has waged war on socialism from day one. Capitalism is an economic system based on alleged competition, yet it will use any measure necessary to destroy a competing economic system such as socialism.

On the home-front, US capitalists have deployed the US Army, National Guard Units, police, and private security such as Pinkerton National Detective Agency against striking workers since the 1870s. A few of the more famous actions in which strikers were killed are the 1892 Homestead Steel Strike, near Pittsburg; 1894 Pullman Railway Strike; 1903 Colorado Labor War strikes against Colorado mines. The International Workers of the World Union (Wobblies) founded in Chicago, 1905, was attacked by the First Red Scare and the Palmer Raids in which leftist, socialist, communist union members were attacked, jailed and deported.

Child labor laws, the 40 hour work week, minimum wage laws, overtime pay, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid were all opposed by the capitalist class as socialism when proposed. Yet most Americans would agree that now they are all good programs that offer vital protections for all the American people.

“Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.” President Donald Trump”, 2019 State of the Union speech was received with a standing ovation, even some progressive Democrats stood and applauded. Heaven forbid that we would be able to participate in a democratic discussion of the pros and cons of socialism and capitalism. If we could just turn the calendar back, we can imagine Trump and the cheering Congress opposing as socialism: child labor laws, 40 hour work week, minimum wage laws, overtime pay, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

The US has used military force, military coups, propaganda, repressive economic sanctions and blockades on each and every socialist and socialist leaning country. Beginning in 1918 President Woodrow Wilson sent troops into Russia to undo the Russian people’s revolution. They soon found Russia vast, cold and unwelcoming to the snake oil the US was selling. After WWII, it was only the threat of Russian nuclear retaliation that kept the West from attacking and allowed the flawed autocratic socialist USSR government to peacefully coexist with the capitalist states during the Cold War.

I’m not here to defend the brutal murderous excesses of Lenin and Stalin. The U.S. sought to overthrow the USSR not because it was undemocratic, but because it was socialist. I don’t see us railing against Saudi Arabia’s repressive monarchy because of its dismal record on human rights. No, our Presidents visit, don their dress and dance with their leaders. Our government is now surreptitiously giving them nuclear power technology. Whether or not they are democratic or not is of no concern to US policy makers. The important thing is that Saudi Arabia is not a socialist country.

When Mikhail Gorbachev attempted to bring the USSR in from the Cold War as a proposed Scandinavian style democracy that guaranteed the people a strong social safety net, he was replaced by Russian President Boris Yeltsin who declared Russia independent of the USSR. Yeltsin was directed by the US economic team to privatize all the state’s assets (industry, mines, resources, etc.) for pennies on the dollar before any economic assistance would be available. Russia had already achieved a level of democracy, perhaps better than ours: free press, elected Parliament, elected local councils, elected president, vice president and a constitutional court. At the West’s urging Yeltsin was given dictatorial powers for one year by Parliament to enact the draconian economic programs demanded by the West that soon made beggars of the Russian people. Russia went from a 1.3% poverty rate (less than $4/day) in 1989 under Gorbachev to a 49% poverty rate in 1996 under Yeltsin and the capitalist financial reforms demanded by the US.

Eventually Parliament refused to continue to go along with the capitalist reforms which had their citizens selling their belongings on street corners. Yeltsin surrounded the Parliament building with tanks and a standoff occurred. Clinton was US President and both he and the European Union supported Yeltsin, who on October 4, 1993 shelled the Russian people’s parliament building called the White House with the entire Parliament inside and burned it to the ground killing an estimated 500 people and wounding 1,000. So much for Gorbachev and the Russian people’s incipient democracy and dream for a semi socialist state. The result of this massacre is the present autocratic capitalist Russia with billionaire oligarchs and a poverty stricken people. (Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine)

Currently in Venezuela our government and media give a constant refrain that we want democracy. Nothing could be further from the truth, the US demands capitalism. Russia had to sacrifice their new democracy to make way for capitalism, Venezuela is no different.

This article is not meant to defend or attack Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution under Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro. That should be up to the Venezuelan people, free of US propaganda, blockades, economic sanctions and threats of military attack. The sole purpose of this article is to explain why Venezuela and all other countries that have searched for socialist answers have failed.

The following governments had achieved a level of democracy. They had democratically elected leaders and were attempting to match democracy with socialism or a semi-socialist safety net. The US CIA conspired to engineer and or support military coups that installed repressive right wing governments that to varying degrees then jailed, tortured and killed socialists and communists:

  • Iran 1953
  • Guatemala 1954
  • Congo 1961-65
  • Dominican Republic 1963
  • Indonesia 1965
  • Greece 1967
  • Laos 1958-73
  • Ecuador 1961, 1963, 2010 unsuccessful
  • Chile 1973
  • Nicaragua 1979-90
  • Haiti 1991, 2004
  • Venezuela 2002 unsuccessful, 2015-present unsuccessful
  • Honduras 2009.

I am sure that all of the governments that we have attacked and overthrown were not perfect. On the other hand, the governments that replaced them with our blessing were all much worse.

Libya didn’t make the above list because it was not a democratically elected government. Yet under Moammar Gaddafi’s 42 years of leadership, it certainly had many socialist benefits that President Obama failed to mention when he declared it was necessary to militarily intervene: free healthcare; free education, including university & graduate school; $50,000 housing grant to all newlywed couples and complete equality for women, unheard of in the Muslim world. Gaddafi built what has been referred to as the 8th Wonder of the World, the Great Manmade River Project the largest system of underground pipes and aqueducts in the world that every day supplied 6.5 million cubic meters of fresh water to the coastal cities of Libya. In addition Gaddafi had proposed to unite the entire African continent under a common currency. Under Gaddafi, Libya had gone from being the poorest country on earth to having the highest standard of living on the African continent. Now after the US/NATO war, much of Libya is a failed state largely ruled by roving bands of armed gunmen and no one is safe.

An informed debate needs to be held on whether or not we should have a capitalist, socialist or some sort of hybrid economic system. But please don’t bring to the debate the argument that socialism has never been successful. Perhaps, the debate should start with the question, Why are the capitalists afraid of competition from socialism?

Communism/Capitalism

Nick is a Vietnam vet and was named Northwest Indiana Citizen of the Year 2006 for his anti war activism. For the last several years he has focused on monetary reform, changing our present system of bank created debt money to a public system of sovereign just money. https://www.monetaryalliance.org/

 

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Mueller and Barr: Dual Cover-Up?

By Michael Payne/ OpEd News/ March 29, 2019

We won’t know what really went on in the Mueller Russian investigation until Congress receives an unedited copy of Robert Mueller’s final report. But that doesn’t stop us from speculating as to what may be in the report and how it compares to the 4 page summary issued by Attorney General Barr; and if Barr and Mueller may be trying to pull off some kind of clever cover-up.

another cover-up?

We won’t know what really went on in the Mueller Russian investigation until Congress receives an unedited copy of Robert Mueller’s final report. But that doesn’t stop us from speculating as to what may be in the report and how it compares to the 4 page summary issued by Attorney General Barr; and if Barr and Mueller may be trying to pull off some kind of clever cover-up.

There are many ways to try to pull off a cover-up and sometimes it can be done by making it look like it’s not that at all. If there are any canny politicians who could do it, it is these two who have done just that in the past.

As we await that report, that Barr is already trying to suppress, let’s speculate as to what may be going on here. Based on Barr’s convoluted 4 page summary it would seem that Mueller has given Trump more or less of a free pass on collusion with Russia and has punted the issue of obstruction of justice down the field for House Democrats to address. If that’s the case, and it seems to be, then this looks like it could, in fact, be some kind of cover-up.

Could it be that Mueller, for various reasons, caved in to some kind of immense pressure and was, in some way, compromised to present a report that largely vindicates Trump of any wrongdoing?

What bothers a lot of Americans, and certainly myself, is the fact that over the past two years we have seen Mueller spend the lion’s share of his time going after a group of Trump associates, charging them with various white collar crimes such as tax evasion and money laundering. Some were charged with one or more crimes and some face prison time.

While there were no revealing leaks that came out of Mueller’s team of investigators there is this feeling that Mueller was concentrating almost all his efforts on Trump’s associates and little on Trump himself. I know that this is pure speculation but that’s the impression that many Americans get from this investigation. The longer this investigation went on the more Americans doubted that it was valid.

Didn’t Mueller see or hear of the interview that Trump had with Lester Holt of NBC in which this president clearly stated that he fired James Comey because of the Russian investigation that he didn’t want initiated? Is that not clear obstruction? Didn’t he happen to see any of the tweets or hear Trump’s ongoing public proclamations saying that this investigation was a hoax, a witch hunt, a fake, and must be ended?

Now as we look back at all these Trump tirades, when he should have just kept quiet, it seems that he might have known exactly what Mueller was doing; and his never ending attacks on Mueller were just an act.

When the fully unedited Mueller report is sent to Congress we may find out a lot more or, maybe not. We may find out that Mueller simply did a terrible job and should have charged the president with obstruction or that it looks like he was in some way compromised to look the other way.

One more thing about Mueller that most Americans probably don’t know a thing about. This is the same Robert Mueller who, in the aftermath of the 911 tragedy was, as head of the FBI, highly criticized for releasing deceptive documents that were a part of a cover-up of a prominent Saudi family’s connections to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

This Saudi family that lived in Florida was reported to have direct ties to the 911 attackers. But, apparently, our government and Mueller, as head of the FBI, had reasons to try to protect this family from any involvement in the attack. So statements which served to do just that were issued by the FBI in Miami and Tampa, indicating that agents had found no connection between that family and the attackers.

This apparent cover-up by Mueller and FBI agents was, in the end, successful and this entire investigation just went away as Congress had been misinformed, believed the FBI conclusions, and did nothing further. While Mueller came under blistering criticism from the press nothing more came of the affair.

Now, let’s turn to Attorney General William Bar who, back in 1992 during the Iran-Contra investigations, was referred to as “Cover up-General Barr” by William Safire of the New York Times. He was called by this derogatory name because of his role in burying evidence of George H.W. Bush’s involvement in that investigation.”

Right now Attorney General Barr has attempted to use his 4 page summary to try to reduce expectations of what the Mueller report will reveal. He doesn’t seem intent on making this investigation one that is of critical importance to this country. Based on his cover-up reputation it’s very likely he will try to limit the content and conclusion of this report so that it is never presented in its entirety so that Congress and the American people are not fully informed.

So we know that Barr has a questionable past and is is known for having to do various things to try to cover up Republican presidents’ highly questionable acts and behavior. Check out Thom Hartmann’s article which goes much deeper into Barr’s cover-ups.

Hartman is reminding us that Barr has a history of being a lackey and a fixer for Republican presidents who were about to get into deep trouble. In this article he says.” back in 1992, the last time Bill Barr was U.S. attorney general, iconic New York Times writer William Safire referred to him as “Cover-up-General Barr” because of his role in burying evidence of then VP President and later President George H.W. Bush’s involvement in “Iraqgate” and “Iran-Contra.”

In the matter of Iran-Contra a special investigation was being conducted by Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh into the roles of President Ronald Reagan and VP George H.W. Bush, as well as the defense secretary Casper Weinberger. William Barr was, at the time, Bush’s attorney general. Walsh was zeroing in on Weinberger and Bush as things were heating up and some serious charges were being prepared against the two and a few others.

At that point Barr, who had already been covering up for Bush, Weinberger and others in the previous Reagan administration, told Bush that he should pardon Weinberger and several others, which Bush did. And that was the abrupt end of the investigation. Independent Counsel Walsh’s main subjects for being responsible for the Iran-Contra affair could not be brought to justice.

Next let’s talk about Barr’s involvement in the Iraqgate investigation in which Bush had sold WMD’s to Saddam Hussein. AG Barr took charge of the situation and rejected the House Judiciary Committee’s request to name an independent counsel to investigate potential crimes by the Bush administration.

Barr, the master of cover-ups had, once again, been quite successful and any possibility of an extensive Iraqgate investigation simply disappeared.Just how will this current Mueller investigations work out? Are we seeing Barr, the master of cover-ups at work again in order to somehow thwart Democrat’s attempts to delve deeply into the Mueller report and find out exactly what did or did not happen? If he is trying for another cover-up it may end up as his undoing.

Trump is really riding high after the Barr report, reveling in his supposed victory and ready to make the Democrats pay dearly for trying to take him down. But what we are seeing is only chapter one in this important matter and soon we may see him stop laughing and start crying as all the facts come out.

And what of Mueller whose report is now becoming more and more suspect and that could be an indication that he is involved with some kind of cover-up. We don’t know all the facts, that’s for sure; but what we do know tells us that he concentrated heavily on tax evasion and money laundering and not much at all on Trump’s collusion and obstruction.

We are hearing that he is packing up his things and is ready to head out the door of the Justice Dept., wasting no time. So the jury is out on him and his investigation. But he should know that he will be at the center of this Congressional investigation, along with AG Barr for some time to come.

And let’s say this about both Barr and Mueller. Something about each of their behavior and actions relative to this investigation just doesn’t pass the smell test. If they are, in fact, engaging in some kind of dual cover-up relating to this investigation to keep the truth away from the House Democrats and the American people they will find that they will also go down together.

In any event we will just have to wait and see what really happens. And I sincerely hope that in my speculation about this matter I am entirely wrong about Robert Mueller.

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