Who Should the Democrats Nominate?

By Arlen Grossman

As of this moment*, and after seeing the latest debate in New Hampshire:

The candidate who I’d most like to be president: Bernie Sanders.

The candidate with the best chance to beat Donald Trump: Amy Klobuchar

(*subject to how I feel any particular day)

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Unprecedented Election Cheating

The Billion-Dollar Disinformation Campaign to Reelect the President

How new technologies and techniques pioneered by dictators will shape the 2020 election

By MacKay Coppins/ The Atlantic/ February 10, 2020

 

One day last fall, I sat down to create a new Facebook account. I picked a forgettable name, snapped a profile pic with my face obscured, and clicked “Like” on the official pages of Donald Trump and his reelection campaign. Facebook’s algorithm prodded me to follow Ann Coulter, Fox Business, and a variety of fan pages with names like “In Trump We Trust.” I complied. I also gave my cellphone number to the Trump campaign, and joined a handful of private Facebook groups for MAGA diehards, one of which required an application that seemed designed to screen out interlopers.

The president’s reelection campaign was then in the midst of a multimillion-dollar ad blitz aimed at shaping Americans’ understanding of the recently launched impeachment proceedings. Thousands of micro-targeted ads had flooded the internet, portraying Trump as a heroic reformer cracking down on foreign corruption while Democrats plotted a coup. That this narrative bore little resemblance to reality seemed only to accelerate its spread. Right-wing websites amplified every claim. Pro-Trump forums teemed with conspiracy theories. An alternate information ecosystem was taking shape around the biggest news story in the country, and I wanted to see it from the inside.

The story that unfurled in my Facebook feed over the next several weeks was, at times, disorienting. There were days when I would watch, live on TV, an impeachment hearing filled with damning testimony about the president’s conduct, only to look at my phone later and find a slickly edited video—served up by the Trump campaign—that used out-of-context clips to recast the same testimony as an exoneration. Wait, I caught myself wondering more than once, is that what happened today?As I swiped at my phone, a stream of pro-Trump propaganda filled the screen: “That’s right, the whistleblower’s own lawyer said, ‘The coup has started …’ ” Swipe. “Democrats are doing Putin’s bidding …” Swipe. “The only message these radical socialists and extremists will understand is a crushing …” Swipe. “Only one man can stop this chaos …” Swipe, swipe, swipe.I was surprised by the effect it had on me. I’d assumed that my skepticism and media literacy would inoculate me against such distortions. But I soon found myself reflexively questioning every headline. It wasn’t that I believed Trump and his boosters were telling the truth. It was that, in this state of heightened suspicion, truth itself—about Ukraine, impeachment, or anything else—felt more and more difficult to locate. With each swipe, the notion of observable reality drifted further out of reach.

What I was seeing was a strategy that has been deployed by illiberal political leaders around the world. Rather than shutting down dissenting voices, these leaders have learned to harness the democratizing power of social media for their own purposes—jamming the signals, sowing confusion. They no longer need to silence the dissident shouting in the streets; they can use a megaphone to drown him out. Scholars have a name for this: censorship through noise.

After the 2016 election, much was made of the threats posed to American democracy by foreign disinformation. Stories of Russian troll farms and Macedonian fake-news mills loomed in the national imagination. But while these shadowy outside forces preoccupied politicians and journalists, Trump and his domestic allies were beginning to adopt the same tactics of information warfare that have kept the world’s demagogues and strongmen in power.

Every presidential campaign sees its share of spin and misdirection, but this year’s contest promises to be different. In conversations with political strategists and other experts, a dystopian picture of the general election comes into view—one shaped by coordinated bot attacks, Potemkin local-news sites, micro-targeted fearmongering, and anonymous mass texting. Both parties will have these tools at their disposal. But in the hands of a president who lies constantly, who traffics in conspiracy theories, and who readily manipulates the levers of government for his own gain, their potential to wreak havoc is enormous.

The Trump campaign is planning to spend more than $1 billion, and it will be aided by a vast coalition of partisan media, outside political groups, and enterprising freelance operatives. These pro-Trump forces are poised to wage what could be the most extensive disinformation campaign in U.S. history. Whether or not it succeeds in reelecting the president, the wreckage it leaves behind could be irreparable.

THE DEATH STAR

The campaign is run from the 14th floor of a gleaming, modern office tower in Rosslyn, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C. Glass-walled conference rooms look out on the Potomac River. Rows of sleek monitors line the main office space. Unlike the bootstrap operation that first got Trump elected—with its motley band of B-teamers toiling in an unfinished space in Trump Tower—his 2020 enterprise is heavily funded, technologically sophisticated, and staffed with dozens of experienced operatives. One Republican strategist referred to it, admiringly, as “the Death Star.”

Presiding over this effort is Brad Parscale, a 6-foot-8 Viking of a man with a shaved head and a triangular beard. As the digital director of Trump’s 2016 campaign, Parscale didn’t become a household name like Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway. But he played a crucial role in delivering Trump to the Oval Office—and his efforts will shape this year’s election.In speeches and interviews, Parscale likes to tell his life story as a tidy rags-to-riches tale, embroidered with Trumpian embellishments. He grew up a simple “farm boy from Kansas” (read: son of an affluent lawyer from suburban Topeka) who managed to graduate from an “Ivy League” school (Trinity University, in San Antonio). After college, he went to work for a software company in California, only to watch the business collapse in the economic aftermath of 9/11 (not to mention allegations in a lawsuit that he and his parents, who owned the business, had illegally transferred company funds—claims that they disputed). Broke and desperate, Parscale took his “last $500” (not counting the value of three rental properties he owned) and used it to start a one-man web-design business in Texas.Parscale Media was, by most accounts, a scrappy endeavor at the outset. Hustling to drum up clients, Parscale cold-pitched shoppers in the tech aisle of a Borders bookstore. Over time, he built enough websites for plumbers and gun shops that bigger clients took notice—including the Trump Organization. In 2011, Parscale was invited to bid on designing a website for Trump International Realty. An ardent fan of The Apprentice, he offered to do the job for $10,000, a fraction of the actual cost. “I just made up a price,” he later told The Washington Post. “I recognized that I was a nobody in San Antonio, but working for the Trumps would be everything.” The contract was his, and a lucrative relationship was born.

Over the next four years, he was hired to design websites for a range of Trump ventures—a winery, a skin-care line, and then a presidential campaign. By late 2015, Parscale—a man with no discernible politics, let alone campaign experience—was running the Republican front-runner’s digital operation from his personal laptop.Parscale slid comfortably into Trump’s orbit. Not only was he cheap and unpretentious—with no hint of the savvier-than-thou smugness that characterized other political operatives—but he seemed to carry a chip on his shoulder that matched the candidate’s. “Brad was one of those people who wanted to prove the establishment wrong and show the world what he was made of,” says a former colleague from the campaign.Perhaps most important, he seemed to have no reservations about the kind of campaign Trump wanted to run. The race-baiting, the immigrant-bashing, the truth-bending—none of it seemed to bother Parscale. While some Republicans wrung their hands over Trump’s inflammatory messages, Parscale came up with ideas to more effectively disseminate them.

The campaign had little interest at first in cutting-edge ad technology, and for a while, Parscale’s most valued contribution was the merchandise page he built to sell MAGA hats. But that changed in the general election. Outgunned on the airwaves and lagging badly in fundraising, campaign officials turned to Google and Facebook, where ads were inexpensive and shock value was rewarded. As the campaign poured tens of millions into online advertising—amplifying themes such as Hillary Clinton’s criminality and the threat of radical Islamic terrorism—Parscale’s team, which was christened Project Alamo, grew to 100.

Brad
As Trump’s 2016 digital director, Brad Parscale flooded the internet with the campaign’s messages. (Illustration: Mishko; Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post / Getty)
Parscale was generally well liked by his colleagues, who recall him as competent and intensely focused. “He was a get-shit-done type of person,” says A. J. Delgado, who worked with him. Perhaps just as important, he had a talent for ingratiating himself with the Trump family. “He was probably better at managing up,” Kurt Luidhardt, a consultant for the campaign, told me. He made sure to share credit for his work with the candidate’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and he excelled at using Trump’s digital ignorance to flatter him. “Parscale would come in and tell Trump he didn’t need to listen to the polls, because he’d crunched his data and they were going to win by six points,” one former campaign staffer told me. “I was like, ‘Come on, man, don’t bullshit a bullshitter.’ ” But Trump seemed to buy it. (Parscale declined to be interviewed for this story.)

James Barnes, a Facebook employee who was dispatched to work closely with the campaign, told me Parscale’s political inexperience made him open to experimenting with the platform’s new tools. “Whereas some grizzled campaign strategist who’d been around the block a few times might say, ‘Oh, that will never work,’ Brad’s predisposition was to say, ‘Yeah, let’s try it.’ ” From June to November, Trump’s campaign ran 5.9 million ads on Facebook, while Clinton’s ran just 66,000. A Facebook executive would later write in a leaked memo that Trump “got elected because he ran the single best digital ad campaign I’ve ever seen from any advertiser.”

Though some strategists questioned how much these ads actually mattered, Parscale was hailed for Trump’s surprise victory. Stories appeared in the press calling him a “genius” and the campaign’s “secret weapon,” and in 2018 he was tapped to lead the entire reelection effort. The promotion was widely viewed as a sign that the president’s 2020 strategy would hinge on the digital tactics that Parscale had mastered.

Through it all, the strategist has continued to show a preference for narrative over truth. Last May, Parscale regaled a crowd of donors and activists in Miami with the story of his ascent. When a ProPublica reporter confronted him about the many misleading details in his account, he shrugged off the fact-check. “When I give a speech, I tell it like a story,” he said. “My story is my story.”

DISINFORMATION ARCHITECTURE

In his book This Is Not Propaganda, Peter Pomerantsev, a researcher at the London School of Economics, writes about a young Filipino political consultant he calls “P.” In college, P had studied the “Little Albert experiment,” in which scientists conditioned a young child to fear furry animals by exposing him to loud noises every time he encountered a white lab rat. The experiment gave P an idea. He created a series of Facebook groups for Filipinos to discuss what was going on in their communities. Once the groups got big enough—about 100,000 members—he began posting local crime stories, and instructed his employees to leave comments falsely tying the grisly headlines to drug cartels. The pages lit up with frightened chatter. Rumors swirled; conspiracy theories metastasized. To many, all crimes became drug crimes.

Unbeknownst to their members, the Facebook groups were designed to boost Rodrigo Duterte, then a long-shot presidential candidate running on a pledge to brutally crack down on drug criminals. (Duterte once boasted that, as mayor of Davao City, he rode through the streets on his motorcycle and personally executed drug dealers.) P’s experiment was one plank in a larger “disinformation architecture”—which also included social-media influencers paid to mock opposing candidates, and mercenary trolls working out of former call centers—that experts say aided Duterte’s rise to power. Since assuming office in 2016, Duterte has reportedly ramped up these efforts while presiding over thousands of extrajudicial killings.The campaign in the Philippines was emblematic of an emerging propaganda playbook, one that uses new tools for the age-old ends of autocracy. The Kremlin has long been an innovator in this area. (A 2011 manual for Russian civil servants favorably compared their methods of disinformation to “an invisible radiation” that takes effect while “the population doesn’t even feel it is being acted upon.”) But with the technological advances of the past decade, and the global proliferation of smartphones, governments around the world have found success deploying Kremlin-honed techniques against their own people.

In the United States, we tend to view such tools of oppression as the faraway problems of more fragile democracies. But the people working to reelect Trump understand the power of these tactics. They may use gentler terminology—muddy the waters; alternative facts—but they’re building a machine designed to exploit their own sprawling disinformation architecture.

TO READ ENTIRE ARTICLE CLICK HERE

 

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Is the Stork the Bird of War?

 

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Global Capitalism Is Theft

Government Debts as Class Swindles

By Richard Wolff/ Common Dreams/ January 31, 2020

free stuff

In modern capitalism, governments routinely borrow money. They do this to finance budget deficits that occur when governments raise less in taxes than they spend. Governments also borrow to invest in long-term projects of economic development. The swindling occurs when the lenders and borrowers—usually private financiers and career politicians—negotiate loans that serve their own particular interests at the expense of the taxpayers who eventually cover the costs of repaying the government’s loans plus interest on them.

If governments raised enough taxes to cover their desired levels of spending, they would not need to borrow. Taxes imposed on the wealthiest corporations and individuals would be the most equitable strategy. The corporate wealthy protest, of course, threatening that if taxed, they might reduce their contributions to the economy (investing less, etc.). Most government politicians sympathize with those protests. Many come from the ranks of the wealthiest corporations and individuals (or aspire to join them). They share similar ideologies and depend on campaign donations from them. Compliant politicians typically exaggerate the negative aspects of taxing corporations and the rich. They rarely compare them to the negative effects of the alternatives: taxing middle and lower income people more or cutting government spending.

Government borrowing to cover budget deficits has its own negative effects on the economy. Many variables influence the impacts of taxes and deficit borrowing. Because those variables’ effects cannot be known or measured for years into the future, no one can know which is better or worse for the economy in the long run. When the corporate rich and their political allies stress the negative effects of taxes on the rich they usually carefully neglect the other side of the story as when advertisers mention only the positive side of whatever they are paid to promote. Their goals are simply more profits and less taxes.

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How the Fix Was In

Amazing interview by Rachel Maddow (and Claire McCaskill) of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.} on how the fix was in on the Impeachment trial and future legislation. This explains how big money controls Washington….

This is a must-see. …..Needs to be shared!

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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.

 

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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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