The Beast of Endless War

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The Eve of Destruction–Coming Soon?

By Arlen Grossman

Published at OpEdNews.com July 19, 2020

“And you tell me over and over and over again my friend,
Ah, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction.”

—Eve of Destruction, Barry McGuire song

 

Is the end of life on Earth closer than we think? The Doomsday Clock of the Bulletin of the Atomic Sciences is precariously lodged at two minutes until midnight (with a new announcement set for Tuesday), symbolizing the ominous likelihood of a man-made global catastrophe. How can the world we live in survive the existential threats looming over us?

The survival of life on our planet is in question, and it could be sooner than we are willing to acknowledge. It feels as if humankind doesn’t take seriously the peril the Earth faces. The biggest existential threats to life on this planet can be boiled down to two: weapons of mass destructive and world climate change. Either one can destroy life on Earth.

  1. WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION:

Nine countries have nuclear weapons: The United States., Russia, France, the United Kingdom, Israel, North Korea, China, India and Pakistan. Think about that. North Korea is unstable, India and Pakistan are arch-enemies, and Israel is hated by its neighbors. Russia and the U.S. each have more than 1,000 strategic nuclear warheads. Terrorist groups could get ahold of these weapons, and nuclear disarmament talks are frozen. What could go wrong?

It shouldn’t be hard to see how humanity faces a shaky and tenuous chance of surviving the perils we face. If a nuclear weapon is used, the likelihood of other countries doing the same is increased. The environmental damage just one nuclear bomb can unleash is staggering to think about. The radiation could adversely affect nearly all humans and most  living creatures on Earth.

An atomic bomb, of course, has been used before. The United States used two on Japan at the end of World War II. The result was catastrophic for Hiroshima and Nagasaki and surrounding areas in Japan. Fortunately, back then there were no other countries able to retaliate and escalate the conflict. But now there is. And the size of some of today’s nuclear weapons are more than 3,000 times that of those that were used in 1945, according to a Popular Mechanics article in 2016.

Do we fully understand the danger our planet faces from a nuclear war today? It should be clear to all  the existential threat from these horrible weapons. Yet there is no urgency to eliminate or reduce nuclear disaster. Nuclear bombs threaten life on Earth and could be used at any time by an angry leader, a terrorist group, or a nuclear power feeling threatened by another. Where is the motivation to take on this existential threat?

2. CLIMATE CHANGE

Despite the denials of the American president and his political party, scientists have made a solid case that climate change is real, and in large part caused by human activity. “’Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal,” reports the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Indeed, ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities,.

What does that mean for life on this planet? The evidence shows that global temperatures are rising, oceans are warming, sea levels are rising, glaciers are retreating, snow cover is decreasing, extreme weather events are much more common, and other life-threatening conditions. After more than a century and a half of industrialization, deforestation, and large-scale agriculture, quantities of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have risen to record levels not seen in three million years.

Six top climate scientists, wrote in the November, 2010 issue of the journal Nature that climate change “is an existential threat to civilization. No amount of economic cost–benefit analysis is going to help us. We need to change our approach to the climate problem.”

Despite all this evidence, the world is not acting as if climate change is an existential threat. Powerful people, among them billionaires, big corporations, and the fossil fuel industry, all with short-term economic interests, lobby furiously against tackling the risk we face.

 17-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, speaking before the U.N. Climate Action Summit last September, warned world leaders: “People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”

CONCLUSION

Yes, how dare we. Two different life-ending catastrophic possibilities, one that can happen at any time, and one steadily unfolding. Whether life on Earth will survive these threats is in serious question, and the longer we wait for magic solutions, our long-term prospects of life on Earth are in question.

What can we do? Only when masses of people take to the streets and halls of government and demand action on serious arms control and climate solutions will world leaders start to look at meaningful and permanent solutions. Based on recent history and our ability to deny reality, that’s not likely anytime soon.

A nuclear strike affecting the whole world might wake us up to the severity of these instruments of wholesale death. Likewise, a massive environmental tragedy in Europe or America might lead to meaningful worldwide action. Sadly, that is what it might take to change minds and find solutions.

Humankind needs to wake up and begin critical and urgent action to take on nuclear proliferation and global climate change. If life on our planet matters, maybe people will find answers to these existential threats. So far, it doesn’t look good.

 

nuclear

 

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19 Years of War–Why?

The War in Afghanistan Is a Fraud (and Now We Have Proof)

By Lee Camp/ Truthdig/ January 9, 2020

 

Afgha

Bombs have numbers. Humans have names. Our American military boasts a skill and passion for using numbers to turn names into yet more numbers. But these numbers have grown so gargantuan and out of control that one struggles to comprehend them.

In just 10 months in 2018—the latest numbers made available—our military dropped 5,982 munitions on Afghanistan, turning many thinking, living and loving names into cold, lifeless numbers. Over the span of the war, 43,000 Afghan civilians have been numberized. We, as Americans, essentially never even notice when it happens. Statistically speaking, it will happen again many times today, and no one in America will really care. (At least not while the game is on.)

64,000 Afghan security forces have been numberized since 2001.

Our government has known for years that the war in Afghanistan is a jaw-dropping disaster on the level of “Cats”: the movie. How do we know they knew? The Washington Post actually just published some impressive reporting, taking a step back from its lust for pro-war propaganda. (The last time it achieved such a feat was during the O.J. Simpson trial. The first one. The one with the glove.) The Post unearthed a trove of thousands of internal government documents that expose the catastrophic war. And it turns out there are Tinder dates between a young neo-Nazi and an old Jewish lady that have gone better than this war.

[The document trove] reveals that senior US officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable,” the paper reported.

Let me translate The Washington Post’s fancy-pants language: U.S. officials didn’t “fail to tell the truth”; they fucking lied. The phrase “failed to tell the truth” oozes around the brain’s neural pathways, strategically dodging the anger receptors. “Failed to tell the truth” sounds like veracity is a slippery fish U.S. officials just couldn’t catch.

424 humanitarian aid workers have been numberized.

Let’s take a moment to consider the motivations and goals of the war in Afghanistan. The U.S. ostensibly invaded the country to stop al-Qaida from attacking us in any way, namely by flying large planes into our buildings. We achieved this goal within the first couple months. With al-Qaida essentially decimated, it seems logical that we should have left the country, reserving the right to return if any other big passenger airplanes came after us.

But we didn’t leave. We never leave. Rule No. 1 of the American empire is “Never Truly Leave a Country After Invading.” In order to explain our continued presence, we had to move the goal post. To what? We weren’t sure. We’re still not sure. Nearly 20 years later, if you ask a U.S. general or president (any of them) what the goal is in Afghanistan, they’ll feed you a word salad so large it’ll keep you regular for months. In fact, we now know that even during some of the earliest years of the war, the Pentagon and the Bush administration didn’t know who the bad guys were. (Right now you’re thinking it’s rather juvenile and uninformed of me to refer to enemy forces as “bad guys,” but, as you’ll see in a moment, our government literally spoke about them in those terms. Side note: This is because murderous rampages by war criminals are always juvenile. Murder, by definition, is unevolved.)

According to the Post’s Afghanistan Papers, an unnamed former adviser to an Army Special Forces team said, “They thought I was going to come to them with a map to show them where the good guys and bad guys live. It took several conversations—[a]t first, they just kept asking: ‘But who are the bad guys, where are they?’ 

Yet we Americans were instructed in the early years that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had everything under control. To imply otherwise was to make a mockery of tens of millions of yellow ribbons. But in reality, Rumsfeld, too, had a sizable bad-guy problem.

I have no visibility into who the bad guys are,” he said behind closed, locked, soundproof doors. Meanwhile, Rumsfeld publicly and boldly led the nation in a well-defined and decisive victory in the land of the Afghans.

In 2003, he said, during a press conference alongside Afghan President Hamid Karzai, “General Franks and I … have concluded that we’re at a point where we clearly have moved from major combat activity to a period of stability and stabilization and reconstruction and activities.”

Yep, no more major combat—just 17 years of reconstruction (and activities). Apparently, most U.S.-backed “reconstruction” is done from the air, via bombs. Let that be a lesson to you, rest of the world: You better not screw with us or we’ll reconstruct you and your whole family!

67 journalists have been reconstructed during the war in Afghanistan.

Is two decades too long for an utter, unmitigated disaster? Maybe we can stretch it to three? We’ve been funding warlords and extremist jihadis and hoping they will play nice. Yet American presidents have continually told us we’re making progress. “Douglas Lute, a three-star Army general who served as Afghanistan war czar during the Bush and Obama administrations, told government interviewers in 2015, ‘What are we trying to do here? We didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking.’

I imagine that quote particularly upsets many Americans, because if there’s one thing we’re good at, it’s having a foggy idea of what we’re doing.

Vietnam: foggy idea.

Iraq: very strong foggy idea.

Libya: one hell of a foggy idea.

Unfettered capitalism: the foggiest idea.

To put it simply, we are the best at bad ideas. But these Afghanistan Papers unveil a pretty terrible picture. One we need to confront as a nation and not just sweep under the rug (and not just because the rug would have to be the size of the Pacific Rim).

Upon hearing these revelations, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer did his best impersonation of someone who gives a shit. He said:

A bombshell series of investigative reports from The Washington Post exposing heartbreaking truths about the U.S. war in Afghanistan, which has claimed some 2,400 U.S. lives and cost nearly a trillion dollars. The Post says … officials routinely lied to the American people about the war. … This is truly a bombshell.

Yes, it’s a bombshell—despite the fact that much of the information in the Afghanistan Papers has been known for a decade or more. Back in 2012, I myself was doing poorly written standup comedy bits about how our government funded both sides of the war in Afghanistan. This goes to show that the mainstream media has two priorities—one is to spout the U.S. government’s talking points, and the other is to distract us all from the whitewashing of history.

They help Americans believe that we just found out about the failures in Afghanistan; that we just started McCarthyism, and it didn’t happen before in the 1950s to horrific consequences; that we just now discovered the breathtaking environmental consequences of factory farming. (I’m kidding—corporate media will never report on that. You could have a CNN anchor tied up in a sack in Gitmo, and he would still refuse to admit factory animal farming is killing the planet at an aggressive pace.)

But Blitzer wasn’t content pretending to be shocked that the Afghanistan War isn’t going well, so he put his acting chops to the test by further postulating that there also might be flaws with the war in Iraq. He said, “I can only imagine and brace for a similar report about the long U.S. war in Iraq as well. I suspect that could be some horrifying news as far as that is concerned also.”

That’s right: As of last month, Blitzer thinks there might be some problems with the war(s) in Iraq. (Blitzer strikes me as the type of guy who wouldn’t notice if you stole his pants off him in negative-10-degree weather.) Yes, Wolf, not only has there been similar mismanagement and mass war crimes committed in our invasion of Iraq, but you, in fact, helped manufacture consent for that war as well. You are complicit in the deaths of millions of people who will never come back from numberization.

Throughout the past 20 years, the mainstream media reiterated the lies told by our various presidents. They beat those lies into our heads with impressive frequency. Lies like those told by President Obama, when, in 2012, he said on national television: “Over the last three years, the tide has turned. We broke the Taliban’s momentum. We’ve built strong Afghan security forces. … Our troops will be coming home. … As our coalition agreed, by the end of 2014 the Afghans will be fully responsible for the security of their country.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty thrilled for the war to be over in 2014—whenever 2014 may come.

3,800 contractors have died in Afghanistan for these lies.

The Afghanistan Papers show that not only has the 20-year war been wasteful of human life, it’s also been wasteful of money. Of course, this is the point when you think, “The military— wasteful?! Well, paint my nipples and call me Phyllis Diller; that’s the damnedest thing I ever did hear!”

Afghanist

Yes, this is hardly shocking, since $21 trillion has gone unaccounted for at the Pentagon over the past 20 years. That’s two-thirds of the amount of money wrapped up in the entire stock market. Money has been flowing into Afghanistan so fast that officials aren’t even able to waste it quick enough! (I wish that were a joke.)

From the Post’s report, again: “One executive at USAID guessed that 90 percent of what they spent was overkill: ‘We lost objectivity. We were given money, told to spend it and we did, without reason.’ … One contractor said he was expected to dole out $3 million daily for projects in a single Afghan district roughly the size of a US county.”

The contractor said he couldn’t conceive of how to spend $3 million a day for people literally living in mud huts. Well, I guess USAID should start handing out furniture built out of blocks of shrink-wrapped hundred-dollar notes. Maybe fill bean bag chairs with small bills. (If you aren’t yet outraged enough, please keep in mind that, according to The New York Times, adjusting for today’s dollars, it would take less than eight days of the Pentagon’s stated budget to give the entire world clean water for a year, thereby saving millions of lives and turning the U.S. into the most beloved nation on earth.)

But rather than accept our own corruption and war profiteering, our military placed the blame squarely on the Afghan people. Per The Washington Post, “The U.S. military also accused Afghan commanders of pocketing salaries—paid by U.S. taxpayers—for tens of thousands of ‘ghost soldiers.’ 

Although ghost soldiers sound like an incredible and tough-to-defeat resource, I think they meant the Afghan commanders claimed they had a certain number of soldiers, but most weren’t real. So America can’t fund the health care of our own goddamn real soldiers who get home and wait in line for months to secure any semblance of care, but we can fund ghost soldiers half a world away?!

Donald Trump just cut food stamps to 700,000 people, impacting more than a million children, but we’re funding fucking ghosts? Maybe we could start a campaign asking the ghost soldiers to donate some of their supper to the starving kids of America.

Ghosts seem to be an ongoing difficulty for the U.S. In the same issue of The Washington Post containing the Afghanistan Papers, there was an unrelated article titled, “The U.S. Wasted Millions on Charter Schools” that said, “A report found that [during the Obama Administration] 537 ‘ghost schools’ in America never opened but received more than $45.5 million in federal start-up funding.”

Apparently we’re funding ghost schools and ghost soldiers, and almost nobody in our government seems to give a shit! I guess you could say they give a ghost shit—it’s not really there.

Yet the problems in our forever war don’t stop at the walking dead. The Post says, “The US has spent $9 billion to fight the problem [of opium] over the past 18 years, but Afghan farmers are cultivating more opium poppies than ever. Last year, Afghanistan was responsible for 82 percent of global opium production.”

But what The Washington Post doesn’t tell you is that a lot of that opium was for use inside the U.S., to fuel our opioid epidemic.

An American becomes a number every 11 minutes from an opioid overdose.

So how does our government respond when revelations like the Afghanistan Papers come out? A few senators pause in the middle of their T-bone steaks and red wine to say, “This needs to be looked into, I daresay.” But then a few days pass and they just give the Pentagon more money to sink into a black hole.

The spending bill just passed by Congress sends $738 billion to the Pentagon. And, as RootsAction stated, it contains “almost nothing to constrain the Trump administration’s erratic and reckless foreign policy. It is a blank check for endless wars, fuel for the further militarization of U.S. foreign policy, and a gift to Donald Trump.”

To put it mildly, asking the Democrats to stand up against endless war is like asking Anne Hathaway to bench-press a Chevy Tahoe. It’s not going to happen, and she has no interest in even trying.

42,000 Taliban and insurgents have been numberized.

That may sound like a successful war to some, but keep in mind that the U.S. military likes to categorize anyone it kills “an insurgent.” The Pentagon goes by the theory that if it kills you, then you’re an insurgent—because if you weren’t an insurgent, then why did it kill you? A great many of the 42,000 were truly innocent civilians.

If there’s one thing we should learn from the Afghanistan Papers, which the mainstream corporate media have already ceased talking about, it’s that ending these immoral, illegal, repulsive wars cannot be left to our breathtakingly incompetent and corrupt ruling elite, who have provably been lying to us about them for decades. So it’s up to you and me to stop them.

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Senate Majority Leader

Mitch

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Incomplete Impeachment

Where Are the Impeachment Articles for Trump’s Corruption?

By Bill Blum/ Truthdig/ December 31, 2019

Donald Trump has been impeached, but House Democrats have given him a pass on arguably his most egregious high crime and misdemeanor—his unrelenting use of the presidency as an instrument of personal financial gain in violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clauses, which outlaw the receipt of payments and gifts from unauthorized sources.

The House made history in citing Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in connection with his attempt to pressure the government of Ukraine to dig up political dirt on Joe Biden in exchange for U.S. military aid.

Taken together, the two articles of impeachment set forth a narrative of profound lawlessness. The former reality-TV show host has now joined Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton in the three-man rogues’ gallery of impeached American presidents. (Richard Nixon, who would have been the fourth, resigned from office in 1974 before the full House could vote on three articles of impeachment passed by that body’s judiciary committee.)

But as significant as they are, the Trump articles of impeachment only scratch the surface of our 45th commander in chief’s corruption. While mainstream pundits debate the wisdom of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to delay delivering the articles to the Senate until the upper chamber agrees to conduct a meaningful impeachment trial, progressives should take the opportunity to highlight the inadequacy of the current articles, and urge the Democrats to expand them while there is still time.

Even with regard to Ukraine, the articles fall short of what could and should have been alleged, as they fail to charge Trump with committing the federal crimes of bribery and extortion. This is lamentable, not only because Trump appears to have satisfied the elements of both crimes, but because bribery is explicitly set forth in Article II of the Constitution as an impeachable offense.

The articles also fail to hold Trump accountable for obstruction of justice(another federal felony) regarding the investigation conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Mueller and his team compiled a 448-page report, which was released to the public in April. Although heavily redacted, the report details numerous instances of obstruction, ranging from the firing of former FBI Director James Comey to Trump’s demand that former White House counsel Don McGahn fire Mueller, an order McGahn refused to obey. But of all the deficiencies in the current impeachment articles, none is quite as glaring as the absence of any allegation that Trump has violated the Constitution’s emoluments clauses, the document’s basic anti-corruption prohibitions.

There are actually two emoluments provisions in the Constitution—one foreign and the other domestic.

The foreign clause, set forth in Article I, applies to all federal officials—not only to Trump, but to his daughter Ivanka, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who hold high-level advisory positions in the administration. The clause instructs that: “[N]o Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States], shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”

The domestic emoluments clause, which applies only to the president, is found in Article II. It provides: “The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.”

Combined, the emoluments clauses prohibit the president and other federal office holders from receiving financial compensation beyond their official salaries. The framers of the Constitution included the clauses in the national charter they crafted as a check against both foreign influence and personal greed. Writing about the domestic clause in Federalist (Paper) No. 73, Alexander Hamilton reasoned that with the emoluments prohibition in place, the president would “have no pecuniary inducement to renounce or desert the independence intended for him by the Constitution.”

Trump has blatantly violated both clauses since his first days in office, refusing to place his private business interests in a blind trust in defiance of long-established presidential norms and traditions.

As the nonprofit group Common Cause explains in a lengthy impeachment analysis entitled “Patterns of Deception”:

emolu

“The Trump Organization LLC is a collection of more than 500 business entities that engage in global real estate development, sales and marketing, property management, golf course development, entertainment and product licensing, brand development, restaurants and event planning businesses. Although President Trump claimed to have relinquished control over the Trump Organization, his adult children continue to operate the organization in his stead, and he has maintained ownership of the Trump Organization while serving as president.”

Through his ownership of the Trump Organization, the president has raked in millions from foreign states, the federal government and various domestic state agencies for stays at the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C., and Trump-branded golf courses in the U.S. and abroad. In addition, as Common Cause notes, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Cultural Society continue to rent space in Trump Tower in Manhattan, paying as much as $95 per square foot for their tenancies.

The president’s emoluments transgressions also include the payment of royalties from the international distribution of “The Apprentice” and its spinoffs, a $6 million tax break given by Mississippi to a Trump-branded hotel project in the state, and 65 foreign trademarks that have been awarded to Trump businesses. Both China and Japan also have granted trademarks to Ivanka Trump and her fashion-design businesses since the 2016 election. According to Fortune magazine, Ivanka and Jared made at least $82 million in 2017 from “multiple streams of outside income while they were senior White House advisers.”

It would be easy to add an emoluments allegation to the articles of impeachment lodged against Trump. Both Common Cause and other progressive groups have drafted model articles that House Democrats could edit and adopt.

A public airing of Trump’s economic corruption would nicely complement the political focus of the Ukraine impeachment articles, and could do so without complicating the case House managers will need to present in Trump’s upcoming Senate impeachment trial. Prosecuting an emoluments count also would likely drive up popular support for Trump’s impeachment and removal from office, which currently rests at roughly 48%. Many Americans may care little about Ukraine, but most strongly disapprove of economic privilege and inherited wealth.

In declining to adopt an emoluments article, House Democratic leaders may have acted pragmatically in the belief that they’ve gotten the most they could from their legislative caucus. Or they may have less salutary motives. Since many of them are deeply indebted to corporate donors, they may also have been deterred by their own susceptibility to charges of economic elitism. Whatever the reason, there’s no good excuse for their failure of nerve.

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A Gangster in the White House

trumpBy David Frum/ The Atlantic/ December 28, 2019

Amid a two-day binge of post-Christmas rage-tweeting, President Donald Trump retweeted the name of the CIA employee widely presumed to be the whistle-blower in the Ukraine scandal. On Thursday night, December 26, Trump retweeted his campaign account, which had tweeted a link to a Washington Examiner article that printed the name in the headline. Then, in the early hours of Friday morning, December 27, Trump retweeted a supporter who named the presumed whistle-blower in the text of the tweetThis is a step the president has been building toward for some time. The name of the presumed whistle-blower has been circulating among Trump supporters for months. Trump surrogates—including the president’s eldest son—have posted the name on social media and discussed it on television. Yet actually crossing the line to post the name on the president’s own account? Until this week, Trump hesitated. That red line has now been crossed.

Lawyers debate whether the naming of the federal whistle-blower is in itself illegal. Federal law forbids inspectors general to disclose the names of whistle-blowers, but the law isn’t explicit about disclosure by anybody else in government.

What the law does forbid is retaliation against a whistle-blower. And a coordinated campaign of vilification by the president’s allies—and the president himself—surely amounts to “retaliation” in any reasonable understanding of the term.

While the presumed whistle-blower reportedly remains employed by the government, he is also reportedly subject to regular death threats, including at least implicit threat by Trump himself. Trump was recorded in September telling U.S. diplomats in New York: “Basically, that person never saw the report, never saw the call, he never saw the call—heard something and decided that he or she, or whoever the hell they saw—they’re almost a spy. I want to know who’s the person, who’s the person who gave the whistle-blower the information? Because that’s close to a spy. You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? The spies and treason, we used to handle it a little differently than we do now.”

Trump’s tweeting in the past two days was so frenzied and the sources quoted were so bizarre—including at least four accounts devoted to the Pizzagate-adjacent conspiracy theory QAnon, as well as one that describes former President Barack Obama as “Satan’s Muslim scum”—as to renew doubts about the president’s mental stability. But Trump’s long reticence about outright naming the presumed whistle-blower suggests that he remained sufficiently tethered to reality to hear and heed a lawyer’s advice. He disregarded that advice in full awareness that he was disregarding it. The usual excuse for Trump’s online abusiveness—he’s counterpunching—amounts in this case not to a defense but to an indictment: Counterpunching literally means retaliating, and retaliation is what is forbidden by federal law.

The presumed whistle-blower’s personal remedy for the president’s misconduct is a private lawsuit for monetary damages against the federal government. It’s hard to see how such a lawsuit would do anybody any good. The presumed whistle-blower still draws a salary, and may not have suffered any material costs at all. The presumed whistle-blower’s ultimate compensation for this ordeal should be a future place of honor in the service of the country.

In the meantime, though, the country is left once again with the problem of a president who refuses to obey the law. Trump is organizing from the White House a conspiracy to revenge himself on the person who first alerted the country that Trump was extorting Ukraine to help his reelection: more lawbreaking to punish the revelation of past lawbreaking. Impeaching a president whose party holds a majority in the Senate obviously presents many grave practical difficulties. But Trump’s post-Christmas mania confirms House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s prediction that Trump would impeach himself.

Donald Trump will not be bound by any rule, even after he has been caught. He is unrepentant and determined to break the rules again—in part by punishing those who try to enforce them. He is a president with the mind of a gangster, and as long as he is in office, he will head a gangster White House.

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Adventures of Peter Potty

Just in case Anybody (are you out there, Anybody) is interested……

 

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The Impeachment’s Moral Hypocrisy

By Chris Hedges/ Truthdig/ December 23, 2019

 

The impeachment process was a nauseating display of moral hypocrisy. The sound bites by Republicans and Democrats swiftly became predictable. The Democrats, despite applauding the announcement of the voting results before being quickly silenced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, sought to cloak themselves in gravitas and solemnity. Pelosi’s calculated decision to open the impeachment proceedings with the 1954 “under God” version of the Pledge of Allegiance was an appropriate signal given the party’s New McCarthyism. The Democrats posited themselves as saviors, the last line of defense between a constitutional democracy and tyranny. The Republicans, as cloyingly sanctimonious as the Democrats, offered up ludicrous analogies to attack what they condemned as a show trial, including Rep. Barry Loudermilk’s statement that “Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than the Democrats have afforded to this president.” The Republicans shamelessly prostrated themselves throughout the 10-hour process at the feet of their cult leader Donald Trump, offering abject and eternal fealty. They angrily accused the Democrats of seeking to overturn the 2016 election in a legislative coup.

It was a mind-numbing spectacle, devoid of morality and ethics, the kind of political theater that characterizes despotic regimes. No one in the House chamber was protecting the Constitution. No one was seeking to hold accountable those who had violated it. No one was fighting to restore the rule of law. The two parties, which have shredded constitutional protections and rights and sold the political process to the highest bidders, have engaged in egregious constitutional violations for years and ignored them when they were made public. Moral stances have a cost, but almost no one in Congress seems willing to pay. Trying to tar Trump as a Russian agent failed. Now the Democrats hope to discredit him with charges of abuse of power and contempt of Congress.

The politicization of the impeachment process has only exacerbated the antagonisms and polarization in the country. It has, ironically, increased support for Trump, who in this toxic environment may well be reelected. His approval rating has jumped to 45 percent, up from 39 percent when the impeachment inquiry was launched, according to the latest Gallup survey, conducted from Dec. 2 to Dec. 15. This is the third consecutive increase in Trump’s approval rating. Among Republicans, Trump has a job approval rating of 89%, almost nine in 10 in the GOP. Fifty-one percent of Americans oppose impeachment and removal, up five percentage points since the House inquiry began, Gallup reports.

Yes, Trump’s contempt of Congress and attempt to get Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, to open an investigation of Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, in exchange for almost $400 million in U.S. military aid and allowing Zelensky to visit the White House are impeachable offenses, but trivial and minor ones compared with the constitutional violations that the two parties have institutionalized and, I fear, made permanent. These sustained, bipartisan constitutional violations—not Trump—resulted in the failure of our democracy. Trump is the pus coming out of the wound.

 

Hedges

If the Democrats and the Republicans were committed to defending the Constitution why didn’t they impeach George W. Bush when he launched two illegal wars that were never declared by Congress as demanded by the Constitution? Why didn’t they impeach Bush when he authorized placing the entire U.S. public under government surveillance in direct violation of the Fourth Amendment? Why didn’t they impeach Bush when he authorized torture along with kidnapping terrorist suspects around the world and holding them for years in our black sites and offshore penal colonies? Why didn’t they impeach Barack Obama when he expanded these illegal wars to 11, if we count Yemen? Why didn’t they impeach Obama when Edward Snowden revealed that our intelligence agencies are monitoring and spying on almost every citizen and downloading our data and metrics into government computers where they will be stored for perpetuity? Why didn’t they impeach Obama when he misused the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force to erase due process and give the executive branch of government the right to act as judge, jury and executioner in assassinating U.S. citizens, starting with the radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and, two weeks later, his 16-year-old son? Why didn’t they impeach Obama when he signed into law Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act, in effect overturning the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act, which prohibits the use of the military as a domestic police force?

There are other bipartisan constitutional violations, including violating treaty clauses that are supposed to be ratified by the Senate, violating the Constitution by making appointments without seeking Senate confirmation, and the routine abusive use of executive orders. But the two major political parties, salivating at the thought of wielding the king-like power that now comes with the presidency, have no desire to curb these far more dangerous violations.

The selective use of the two violations to impeach Trump is a weaponization of the impeachment process. Should the Democrats take control of the White House and the Republicans control of the Congress, impeachment, with or without merit, will become another form of political pressure exerted within our dysfunctional and divided political system. The rule of law will be a pretense, as in the current process of impeachment and Senate trial.

The impeachment circus, which will culminate in a preordained, choreographed and televised show in the Senate, coincided with The Washington Post’s release of what is being called the Afghanistan Papers. The Post, through a three-year legal battle, obtained more than 2,000 pages of internal government documents about the war. The papers detail bipartisan lies, fraud, deceit, corruption, waste and gross mismanagement during the 18-year conflict, the longest in U.S. history. It is a blistering indictment of the ruling class, which, as the papers note, since 2001 has seen the Defense Department, State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development spend or win appropriation of between $934 billion and $978 billion, according to an inflation-adjusted estimate calculated by Neta Crawford, a political science professor and co-director of the Costs of War Project at Brown University. “These figures,” the Post adds, “do not include money spent by other agencies such as the CIA and the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is responsible for medical care for wounded veterans.” [See Chris Hedges discuss the Afghanistan Papers with Spenser Rapone, a West Point graduate who served as an Army Ranger in Afghanistan.]

This window into the inner workings of our bankrupt ruling elite, responsible for widespread destruction and the loss of tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of lives in Afghanistan, was largely ignored by the media during the impeachment proceedings. Neither political party, and none of their courtiers on the cable news shows, is interested in exposing the bipartisan failure, lying and grotesque incompetence on the part of the United States in the years it has occupied Afghanistan. Afghan and U.S. officials concede that the Taliban is stronger now than at any other time since the 2001 invasion.

In a functioning democracy, the publication of the Afghanistan Papers would see generals and politicians who knowingly deceived the public hauled before congressional committees. The Fulbright hearings, during the Vietnam War, although they did not lead to prosecutions, at least aggressively held U.S. officials to account and made public their duplicity and failure. But in the wake of the new disclosures, no one in either political party or the military will be held accountable for the debacle in Afghanistan, a conflict that saw a vast waste of resources, including nearly a trillion dollars that could have been used to address our pronounced social inequality, rebuild our decaying infrastructure and help end our reliance on fossil fuels.

The Afghanistan Papers lay bare a truth the hyperventilating Republican and Democratic mandarins in Congress prefer to mask. On all the major structural issues—war, the economy, the use of militarized police and the world’s largest prison system for social control, the infusion of corporate money to deform the electoral and legislative processes, slashing taxes for the wealthy and corporations, exploitative trade deals, austerity, the climate emergency and the rapidly accelerating government debt—there is little or no difference between the Republicans and the Democrats.

The political clashes are not substantive, despite what we heard in the impeachment hearings. They are rhetorical and largely inconsequential. The Republicans and the Democrats recently passed a $738 billion defense bill for fiscal year 2020, a $21 billion increase over what was enacted for fiscal year 2019. The vote was a lopsided 377 to 48. The U.S. spends more on its military than the next 10 countries combined. Also, a day after the impeachment of President Trump, the Republicans and Democrats in the House passed a thinly veiled rewrite of the Clinton administration’s North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the 25-year-old free trade agreement that hollowed out our manufacturing centers and sent U.S. jobs and production to Mexico. Again, the vote was lopsided, 385 to 41. When the wealthy and our corporate masters want something done, it gets done. Our elected officials serve them, not us. We are to be controlled.

The Republican and Democratic politicians, like the generals, government bureaucrats and intelligence chiefs, once they leave their government posts will be generously rewarded by being given jobs as lobbyists and consultants or being appointed to corporate boards. These politicians are the mutant products of our system of legalized bribery, shameless kleptocrats. The only interests they serve are their own. This truth binds half the country to Trump, who although a con artist and himself flagrantly corrupt, at least belittles and mocks the ruling elites who have betrayed us.

Trump and his supporters are not wrong in condemning the deep state—the generals, bankers, corporatists, lobbyists, intelligence chiefs, government bureaucrats and technocrats who oversee domestic and international policy no matter who is in power. The Afghanistan Papers, while detailing the quagmire in Afghanistan—where more than 775,000 Americans were deployed over the 18 years, more than 2,300 soldiers and Marines killed and more than 20,000 wounded—also illustrate how seamlessly the two ruling parties and the deep state work together.

“What did we get for this $1 trillion effort? Was it worth $1 trillion?” Jeffrey Eggers, a retired Navy SEAL and White House staffer for Bush and Obama, is quoted as saying by The Washington Post. “After the killing of Osama bin Laden, I said that Osama was probably laughing in his watery grave considering how much we have spent on Afghanistan.”

The Post writes, “The documents also contradict a long chorus of public statements from U.S. presidents, military commanders and diplomats who assured Americans year after year that they were making progress in Afghanistan and the war was worth fighting. Several of those interviewed described explicit and sustained efforts by the U.S. government to deliberately mislead the public. They said it was common at military headquarters in Kabul—and at the White House—to distort statistics to make it appear the United States was winning the war when that was not the case.”

“As commanders in chief, Bush, Obama and Trump all promised the public the same thing,” the Post notes. “They would avoid falling into the trap of ‘nation-building’ in Afghanistan. On that score, the presidents failed miserably. The United States has allocated more than $133 billion to build up Afghanistan—more than it spent, adjusted for inflation, to revive the whole of Western Europe with the Marshall Plan after World War II.”

There is no difference, the Afghanistan Papers make clear, in the mendacity and incompetence of the policymaking apparatus no matter who controls Congress or the White House. No party or elected official dares defy the military-industrial complex or other titans of the deep state. The Democrats through impeachment have no intention of restoring constitutional rights that would curb the power of the deep state and protect democracy. The deep state funds them. It sustains them in office. The Democrats are seeking to replace the inept and vulgar face of empire that is Trump with the benign and decorous face of empire that is Joe Biden. What the Democrats, and the deep state that has allied itself with the Democratic Party, object to is the mask, not what is behind it. If you doubt me, read the six-part series on Afghanistan in the Post.

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The Democrat vs. The Republic Party

By Arlen Grossman                                                                                                                                                      

Published in OpEdNews.com December 25, 2019

Another thing I don’t understand–besides the weak, narrow scope of the impeachment inquiry–is why the Democrats allow themselves to be so callously dissed by Republicans. I’m referring to the GOP’s (“Grand Old Party”–does that even fit today’s Republican Party?) habit of referring to the Dems as the “Democrat Party” instead of the “Democratic Party.”

It is clearly a term of disparagement, a purposeful slur put forth by Republicans and intended to show disrespect for the Democratic Party. The proper historical name for the party is “Democratic Party.” Republicans must feel some glee using “Democrat” as an adjective, and getting no reaction from Democratic members

The term has been around for a long time, as early as the late Nineteenth Century, but it has never been used as much as Republicans do today. Rush Limbaugh loves to say “Democrat Party.” Fox News commentators use it, as does President Trump.

The Democratic Party should not allow Republicans to get away with this obvious insult. To sit idly by while being dissed by the opposition party is a sign of weakness and cowardice. How can the American people think of the Democratic Party as a strong, powerful political party when they allow Republicans to metaphorically spit on them all the time?

So how can Democrats fight back? Simply by turning the tables on the Republicans and referring to them as the “Republic Party.” They will moan and groan at this obvious epithet, charging that the Democrats are disrespectful. But it is no different than what Republicans do now when they say “Democrat Party.” If Republicans don’t like it, they should use the proper term “Democratic Party” when they refer to the Democratic Party. They probably won’t, but by repeatedly using the “Republic” adjective, the Democrats will show they are not the passive doormats the Republicans think they are.

Get that, Republicans. You are now the “Republic Party.” Deal with it.

Dems
Arlen Grossman, of course, is TheBigPictureReport editor
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Charges Too Narrow–Why?

Ralph Nader is right. Why did the Democrats charge Trump with such a narrow offense. Why didn’t they go after his emoluments violations, for example. Or improperly using funds destined by Congress for Ukraine and using it instead on his border wall? The Democrats’ case was weak and hard to understand for many low-information voters, and the Democrats could not even get one Republican vote. There was so much there that they could have used. Why didn’t they? It’s a mystery to me. –tbpr editor

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