Thursday, January 11, 2018

(America!) Nothing to see here. Move along.  (Smoking Gun Proof of Massive Collusion)  Republicans Agree to Hate Knowledge, Democracy and Hippies  (Kiss His Ring at Davos?)  CFPB Orwellian Rebranding  (Lee Camp Exposes)  Rose Is A Rose Is A Rose  (Being Protected by MSM with Fluff News)  Feinstein Dumps Fusion GPS  (Get Well Soon, Bob, We Miss You!)





Really?

Large Green Bird clarifies this American moment:

From the normally rational Digby:
"The released transcript of Simpson's testimony contains a good deal of interesting information, all of which will be gone over with a fine-toothed comb in the press."
Ha ha.  Whatever on the face of the earth could make you think that, Digby?  I mean, the long existence of your blog proves you weren't born yesterday.
In fact, it's only a day later, and this smoking gun proof of massive treason by the White House, and a concerted effort by Congressional Republicans to destroy the evidence, something that would have once rightly been regarded as the worst political crime in our nation's history, has almost vanished from press coverage. Instead, the press is devoting itself to hailing the President's one hour phony televised meeting yesterday, as a masterpiece of governing, and can't shut up about how great he is.
The mainstream media don't care any more about treason than the Republican commit, because at this point, the media and the Republican party are two facets of the same thing - a forty year long campaign by a few hundred rich sociopaths to turn our country from a very imperfect democracy into a fascist oligarchy. They're almost there, and even clear, unquestioned evidence of treason isn't enough to slow them down for more than a few hours at this point.

Dave Dubya hints at what's behind the treason:

Republicans are waging war on not only democracy and voting rights, they are openly attacking science, public education, and journalism. They wish to replace science, education, and a free press with their corporate friendly political propaganda. 
The hysterical shrill whines from the lunatic Right about “fake news”, “liberal media”, and “voter fraud” are as common as rats in a sewer in Trumpistan.
Denial of climate change science is their politically correct, oily dogma.
The Trump administration has banned the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from using the words “science-based” or “evidence-based.” Analysts were told they could use instead:  The “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes”.
In other words, they need to be “politically correct” instead of scientifically correct. Just ask the oily climate change deniers. 
Trumpists are not only actively censoring science, but suppressing the will of voters in many states. Most American now understand how harmless cannabis is.

They really hate democracy. And hippies.

Except more than “hippies” will be affected with their latest authoritarian move. People suffering from cancer, chronic pain, glaucoma and other medical issues will also be their victims. Some are even Trump voters.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said “good people don’t smoke marijuana,” and has called states’ legalization of marijuana “a mistake,” claiming cannabis is only “slightly less awful than” heroin. 

This is not good news.

 “Trump Just Wants His Ring Kissed:”  Why Trump R.S.V.P.’d to a Globalist Lovefest
In the immortal words of JPMorgan C.E.O. Jamie Dimon, the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, is “where billionaires tell millionaires what the middle class feels.” By day, chauffeured Audis whisk attendees between meetings where rank is denoted by the color of one’s badge, and by night parties feature priceless bottles of champagne, fresh flower leis, and models flown in for the occasion. In addition to heads of state and policymakers, regular attendees over the years have included Dimon, as well as fellow bank C.E.O.s Lloyd Blankfein, Tidjane Thiam, and Brian Moynihan; private-equity chiefs David Rubenstein and Stephen Schwarzman; and hedge-fund managers Ray Dalio, Dan Loeb, and George Soros. This year’s theme is “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World,” with speakers expected to “make a case for renewed commitment to international collaboration as a way of solving critical global challenges.” Notably, there is no KFC in town. So it came as something of a surprise to hear on Tuesday that Donald Trump will attend the event.
The choice is shock not just because sitting U.S. presidents rarely make appearances in the Swiss village, or because Trump closed out his campaign with an ad flashing Blankfein and Soros’s faces while a narrator warned of “a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have...stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities,” but because the former beauty-pageant owner spent the whole of the election and his first year in office railing against globalism and advocating “America First” policies. (Or as Joseph Stiglitz put it, calling “for American selfishness.”) Davos, Ian Bremmer, told me, is “not Trump’s constituency. Internationally, he’s very unpopular,” Bremmer added, noting that Trump, who has pulled out of the Paris climate accord and UNESCO and is reportedly mulling an imminent trade war with China, is “antithetical” to the usual Davos crowd of devoted globalists. So why is he going?
Felix Salmon theorizes that it’s because the event will have a little something for everyone: a chance for the administration’s so-called “globalist cucks” like Gary Cohn and Steve Mnuchin to meet with like-minded individuals, and an opportunity for people like Stephen Miller, who would happily deface the inscription on the Statue of Liberty if only he could get the night off, to see the president deliver a “robust unilateralist rebuke to everything Davos stands for.” (White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Tuesday that “the president looks forward to promoting his policies to strengthen American businesses, American industries and American workers.”) In addition, Trump will be able to meet with heads of state like Theresa May who at present would rather be caught dead than seen extending him an official invite.
Read the entire essay here.

“Disgraceful”:  Elizabeth Warren Enraged Over C.F.P.B.’s Orwellian Rebranding

Our man in Havana, er, D.C., Lee Camp, keeps us up-to-date on the shenanigans ongoing as well as past. Don't miss this vital reporting on 21st-century Americana:

_____________

Rose McGowan stopped being scared some time ago. She's speaking out now for the benefit of just about everyone.

Her memoir, BRAVE, out this month, isn’t just about gunning for Weinstein. It’s calling out “all of them,” she says, the whole eco-system of Hollywood — the purveyors, the consumers, the media, the fans. Her argument is told via her personal story, which by any measure is extraordinary. Born in Italy into a cult called Children of God, which practiced free love and forced women into public flirting to attract followers, McGowan eventually fled with her family to America. Here, her parents having split up, she bounced between the homes of her psychologically cruel father and her mother, who continued to attach herself to abusive men. She did a stint in rehab, became a homeless runaway at age 13, and by 15 was living in Los Angeles, where she was taken in by a wealthy Beverly Hills kid who became her boyfriend, the first in a line of wolves in sheep’s clothing. As she puts it, another cult awaited her:  Hollywood.
__________

And, as well, there’s NOTHING on the ever-tightening repression in Saudi Arabia, where the regime lately swept up over 337,000 people in a “crackdown on illegal foreigners” (as the Hindustan Times reported two days ago); and, moreover, NOTHING on Trump’s blithe boast that “We put our man on top” in Saudi Arabia — a boast reported (or alleged) in Michael Wolf’s new book, which the Times is very busily promoting. (This blackout extends throughout the Western press.)
And while the Times (along with Trump) keeps going on about the “political repression and public corruption” in Venezuela (to quote today’s paper), it says NOTHING on the mass uprising in Honduras, where a 19-year-old woman, searching for her brother at a protest, was shot dead by the military police (as reported by the Miami Herald). While this great nationwide assertion of democracy HAS been covered by outlets like TeleSur, America Magazine and the National Catholic Reporter, the Times (along with nearly all the other US “liberal media”) has simply blacked it out.
Thus those who read the New York Times, and think they’re getting “all the news that’s fit to print,” aren’t getting anything but fluff and (mainly) propaganda—and so it is with the Washington Post, CNN, NPR, CBS, MSNBC, and all the rest of them submerging us, day after day, in fluff and propaganda.

What’s in Today’s New York Times? “All the News That’s Really Not”


Here are the two TOP “international” stories in today’s NYTimes (1/6/18):
“Long Before Video, Japanese Fought Suicide in the ‘Sea of Trees'” (on the “bleak reputation” of Aokigahara Forest “as one of Japan’s top suicide destinations”).
“Would Bronte Mind if a Model Hosted Her Party?” (on the Bronte Society’s hiring “former model Lily Cole … as a creative partner for Emily Bronte’s 200th birthday party”). 
And here are the last three pieces in that section of the paper:
“Scottish Soda Is Shedding Some Sugar, Irking Fans”
“French President Opens Year With Scolding for Journalists”
“Britain Considers a ‘Latte Levy’ to Try to Cut the Use of Coffee Cops”
The paper’s other international news includes one piece on Israel’s drift toward a 1-state solution; one on the growing Turkish opposition to Erdogan; one on the two Koreas’ “Agree[ment] to Begin High-Level Talks Next Week”; one on Catalonia (whose “Leaders, Despite Jail and Exile, Make Claims on Power”); one noting that “Peru’s Voters Remain Split As Ex-Leader [Fujimori] Is Released”; two short anti-Venezuelan items; “A Voracious Starfish Is Destroying the Great Barrier Reef” (18 short paragraphs at the bottom of p. A9); and, from the vast theater of the US “war on terror,” two articles — ”U.S. Cuts Off Pakistan, Gambling in Afghan War” and (more obliquely) “American Held by U.S. Military in Iraq Tells A.C.L.U. He Wants to Sue.”
And finally, at the bottom of p. A7 (beside a larger ad for the New York Times Travel Show), there’s also “Russia and U.S. Joust at U.N. Over Iran Protests” — a headline that’s misleading, since what this piece reports is not a Cold-War-style “joust” between “Russia and U.S.,” but the US standing almost by itself in the Security Council, where a “mini-revolt” is “brewing” over the US line on Iran, with Russia, China, France and Sweden speaking out against the “‘instrumentalization’ of the protests ‘from the outside'” (quoting Francis Delattre, French ambassador to the UN).
Meanwhile, there is NOTHING in this paper on what’s happening IN Iran itself—and that’s just one of several weird lacunae in this day’s edition of “America’s Newspaper of Record.”
There’s also — and as usual — NOTHING on the genocidal war in Yemen: a horror that the Times itself has, several times (including a few days ago), described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. (This blackout extends throughout the Western press.)
And, as well, there’s NOTHING on the ever-tightening repression in Saudi Arabia, where the regime lately swept up over 337,000 people in a “crackdown on illegal foreigners” (as the Hindustan Times reported two days ago); and, moreover, NOTHING on Trump’s blithe boast that “We put our man on top” in Saudi Arabia — a boast reported (or alleged) in Michael Wolf’s new book, which the Times is very busily promoting. (This blackout extends throughout the Western press.)
And while the Times (along with Trump) keeps going on about the “political repression and public corruption” in Venezuela (to quote today’s paper), it says NOTHING on the mass uprising in Honduras, where a 19-year-old woman, searching for her brother at a protest, was shot dead by the military police (as reported by the Miami Herald). While this great nationwide assertion of democracy HAS been covered by outlets like TeleSur, America Magazine and the National Catholic Reporter, the Times (along with nearly all the other US “liberal media”) has simply blacked it out.
Thus those who read the New York Times, and think they’re getting “all the news that’s fit to print,” aren’t getting anything but fluff and (mainly) propaganda — and so it is with the Washington Post, CNN, NPR, CBS, MSNBC, and all the rest of them submerging us, day after day, in fluff and propaganda.
__________

Who said we don't get surprises anymore?

Feinstein Dumps Entire Fusion GPS Transcripts


By Tim Mak, NPR
09 January 18 
he former British intelligence officer who authored the infamous Russia dossier wanted to show it to the FBI because he was concerned that then-presidential candidate Donald Trump was being "blackmailed."
Christopher Steele told the political research firm that hired him, Fusion GPS, that what he uncovered from Russian sources was serious enough to bring to the attention of U.S. law enforcement authorities, according to a transcript released on Tuesday.
The transcript, of an interview that Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson did with the Senate Judiciary Committee, was released on Tuesday by the committee's top Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California.
Steele went to the FBI with the initial reports that would later form the dossier on alleged Trump-Russia ties as early as late June or early July of 2016, Simpson testified.

"Chris said he was very concerned about whether this represented a national security threat and said ... he thought we were obligated to tell someone in government," Simpson told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"He thought from his perspective there was ... a security issue about whether a presidential candidate was being blackmailed."
___________

Robert Parry disappeared for a while and it wasn't until over the weekend that I learned what had happened. Get well soon, Bob. We won't be feeling that well until you do.

From Editor Robert Parry For readers who have come to see "Consortiumnews" as a daily news source, I would like to extend my personal apology for our spotty production in recent days. On Christmas Eve, I suffered a stroke that has affected my eyesight (especially my reading and thus my writing) although apparently not much else. The doctors have also been working to figure out exactly what happened since I have never had high blood pressure, I never smoked, and my recent physical found nothing out of the ordinary. Perhaps my personal slogan that “every day’s a work day” had something to do with this.
Perhaps, too, the unrelenting ugliness that has become Official Washington and national journalism was a factor. It seems that since I arrived in Washington in 1977 as a correspondent for The Associated Press, the nastiness of American democracy and journalism has gone from bad to worse. In some ways, the Republicans escalated the vicious propaganda warfare following Watergate, refusing to accept that Richard Nixon was guilty of some extraordinary malfeasance (including the 1968 sabotage of President Johnson’s Vietnam peace talks to gain an edge in the election and then the later political dirty tricks and cover-ups that came to include Watergate). Rather than accept the reality of Nixon’s guilt, many Republicans simply built up their capability to wage information warfare, including the creation of ideological news organizations to protect the party and its leaders from “another Watergate.”
So, when Democrat Bill Clinton defeated President George H.W. Bush in the 1992 election, the Republicans used their news media and their control of the special prosecutor apparatus (through Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Appeals Court Judge David Sentelle) to unleash a wave of investigations to challenge Clinton’s legitimacy, eventually uncovering his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
The idea had developed that the way to defeat your political opponent was not just to make a better argument or rouse popular support but to dredge up some “crime” that could be pinned on him or her. The GOP success in damaging Bill Clinton made possible George W. Bush’s disputed “victory” in 2000 in which Bush took the presidency despite losing the popular vote and almost certainly losing the key state of Florida if all ballots legal under state law were counted. Increasingly, America – even at the apex of its uni-power status – was taking on the look of a banana republic except with much higher stakes for the world.
Though I don’t like the word “weaponized,” it began to apply to how “information” was used in America. The point of Consortiumnews, which I founded in 1995, was to use the new medium of the modern Internet to allow the old principles of journalism to have a new home, i.e., a place to pursue important facts and giving everyone a fair shake. But we were just a tiny pebble in the ocean. The trend of using journalism as just another front in no-holds-barred political warfare continued – with Democrats and liberals adapting to the successful techniques pioneered mostly by Republicans and by well-heeled conservatives.
Barack Obama’s election in 2008 was another turning point as Republicans again challenged his legitimacy with bogus claims about his “Kenyan birth,” a racist slur popularized by “reality” TV star Donald Trump. Facts and logic no longer mattered. It was a case of using whatever you had to diminish and destroy your opponent.
We saw similar patterns with the U.S. government’s propaganda agencies developing themes to demonize foreign adversaries and then to smear Americans who questioned the facts or challenged the exaggerations as “apologists.” This approach was embraced not only by Republicans (think of President George W. Bush distorting the reality in Iraq in 2003 to justify the invasion of that country under false pretenses) but also by Democrats who pushed dubious or downright false depictions of the conflict in Syria (including blaming the Syrian government for chemical weapons attacks despite strong evidence that the events were staged by Al Qaeda and other militants who had become the tip of the spear in the neocon/liberal interventionist goal of removing the Assad dynasty and installing a new regime more acceptable to the West and to Israel.
More and more I would encounter policymakers, activists and, yes, journalists who cared less about a careful evaluation of the facts and logic and more about achieving a pre-ordained geopolitical result – and this loss of objective standards reached deeply into the most prestigious halls of American media. This perversion of principles – twisting information to fit a desired conclusion – became the modus vivendi of American politics and journalism. And those of us who insisted on defending the journalistic principles of skepticism and evenhandedness were increasingly shunned by our colleagues, a hostility that first emerged on the Right and among neoconservatives but eventually sucked in the progressive world as well. Everything became “information warfare.”
The New Outcasts
That is why many of us who exposed major government wrongdoing in the past have ended up late in our careers as outcasts and pariahs. Legendary investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, who helped expose major crimes of state from the My Lai massacre to the CIA’s abuses against American citizens, including illegal spying and LSD testing on unsuspecting subjects, has literally had to take his investigative journalism abroad because he uncovered inconvenient evidence that implicated Western-backed jihadists in staging chemical weapons attacks in Syria so the atrocities would be blamed on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The anti-Assad group think is so intense in the West that even strong evidence of staged events, such as the first patients arriving at hospitals before government planes could have delivered the sarin, was brushed aside or ignored. The Western media and the bulk of international agencies and NGOs were committed to gin up another case for “regime change” and any skeptics were decried as “Assad apologists” or “conspiracy theorists,” the actual facts be damned.

Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh
So Hersh and weapons experts such as MIT’s Theodore Postol were shoved into the gutter in favor of hip new NATO-friendly groups like Bellingcat, whose conclusions always fit neatly with the propaganda needs of the Western powers.
The demonization of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia is just the most dangerous feature of this propaganda process – and this is where the neocons and the liberal interventionists most significantly come together. The U.S. media’s approach to Russia is now virtually 100 percent propaganda. Does any sentient human being read the New York Times’ or the Washington Post’s coverage of Russia and think that he or she is getting a neutral or unbiased treatment of the facts? For instance, the full story of the infamous Magnitsky case cannot be told in the West, nor can the objective reality of the Ukraine coup in 2014. The American people and the West in general are carefully shielded from hearing the “other side of the story.” Indeed to even suggest that there is another side to the story makes you a “Putin apologist” or “Kremlin stooge.”
Western journalists now apparently see it as their patriotic duty to hide key facts that otherwise would undermine the demonizing of Putin and Russia. Ironically, many “liberals” who cut their teeth on skepticism about the Cold War and the bogus justifications for the Vietnam War now insist that we must all accept whatever the U.S. intelligence community feeds us, even if we’re told to accept the assertions on faith.
The Trump Crisis
Which brings us to the crisis that is Donald Trump. Trump’s victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton has solidified the new paradigm of “liberals” embracing every negative claim about Russia just because elements of the CIA, FBI and the National Security Agency produced a report last Jan 6 that blamed Russia for “hacking” Democratic emails and releasing them via WikiLeaks. It didn’t seem to matter that these “hand-picked” analysts (as Director of National Intelligence James Clapper called them) evinced no evidence and even admitted that they weren’t asserting any of this as fact.
The hatred of Trump and Putin was so intense that old-fashioned rules of journalism and fairness were brushed aside. On a personal note, I faced harsh criticism even from friends of many years for refusing to enlist in the anti-Trump “Resistance.” The argument was that Trump was such a unique threat to America and the world that I should join in finding any justification for his ouster. Some people saw my insistence on the same journalistic standards that I had always employed somehow a betrayal.
Other people, including senior editors across the mainstream media, began to treat the unproven Russia-gate allegations as flat fact. No skepticism was tolerated and mentioning the obvious bias among the never-Trumpers inside the FBI, Justice Department and intelligence community was decried as an attack on the integrity of the U.S. government’s institutions. Anti-Trump “progressives” were posturing as the true patriots because of their now unquestioning acceptance of the evidence-free proclamations of the U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies.
Hatred of Trump had become like some invasion of the body snatchers – or perhaps many of my journalistic colleagues had never believed in the principles of journalism that I had embraced throughout my adult life. To me, journalism wasn’t just a cover for political activism; it was a commitment to the American people and the world to tell important news stories as fully and fairly as I could; not to slant the “facts” to “get” some “bad” political leader or “guide” the public in some desired direction.
I actually believed that the point of journalism in a democracy was to give the voters unbiased information and the necessary context so the voters could make up their own minds and use their ballot – as imperfect as that is – to direct the politicians to take actions on behalf of the nation. The unpleasant reality that the past year has brought home to me is that a shockingly small number of people in Official Washington and the mainstream news media actually believe in real democracy or the goal of an informed electorate.
Whether they would admit it or not, they believe in a “guided democracy” in which “approved” opinions are elevated – regardless of their absence of factual basis – and “unapproved” evidence is brushed aside or disparaged regardless of its quality. Everything becomes “information warfare” – whether on Fox News, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, MSNBC, the New York Times or the Washington Post. Instead of information provided evenhandedly to the public, it is rationed out in morsels designed to elicit the desired emotional reactions and achieve a political outcome.
As I said earlier, much of this approach was pioneered by Republicans in their misguided desire to protect Richard Nixon, but it has now become all pervasive and has deeply corrupted Democrats, progressives and mainstream journalism. Ironically, the ugly personal characteristics of Donald Trump – his own contempt for facts and his crass personal behavior – have stripped the mask off the broader face of Official America.
What is perhaps most alarming about the past year of Donald Trump is that the mask is now gone and, in many ways, all sides of Official Washington are revealed collectively as reflections of Donald Trump, disinterested in reality, exploiting “information” for tactical purposes, eager to manipulate or con the public. While I’m sure many anti-Trumpers will be deeply offended by my comparison of esteemed Establishment figures with the grotesque Trump, there is a deeply troubling commonality between Trump’s convenient use of “facts” and what has pervaded the Russia-gate investigation.
My Christmas Eve stroke now makes it a struggle for me to read and to write. Everything takes much longer than it once did – and I don’t think that I can continue with the hectic pace that I have pursued for many years. But – as the New Year dawns – if I could change one thing about America and Western journalism, it would be that we all repudiate “information warfare” in favor of an old-fashioned repect for facts and fairness — and do whatever we can to achieve a truly informed electorate.
Comments:
john wilson
January 1, 2018 
An honorable man indeed Gregory and he has just introduced a new telling and brilliant phrase for the new year, “APPROVED OPINION” I think this phrase succinctly sums up the MSM power brokers and the establishment beautifully. “one is entitled to one’s opinion as long as its bee approved.” !! I hope Mr Parry recovers but perhaps he should be mentoring a younger equally honorable young journalist to help with the important work he is doing.
irina
January 1, 2018  
“. . . in many ways, all sides of Official Washington are revealed collectively as reflections of Donald Trump, disinterested in reality, exploiting “information” for tactical purposes, eager to manipulate or con the public. . .”
This. The Potemkin Village on the Potomac has met the Trump Mirror.
Erik G
January 1, 2018 
We are all much indebted to Robert Parry for his lifelong efforts and success in providing essential counterpoint to the mass media. It is an inspiring effort, ranking with the best in journalism.
Those who would like to sign the petition to the NYT to make Robert Parry their senior editor may do so here:
While Mr. Parry may prefer independence, and we all know the NYT ownership makes it unlikely, and the NYT may try to ignore it, it is instructive to them that intelligent readers know better journalism when they see it. A petition demonstrates the concerns of a far larger number of potential or lost subscribers.
We have well over 700 signatures just from these notes in the comments section.
December 31, 2017  
Very sad to read of your recent health issues and wish you all the best for a speedy recovery, you are a diamond in a sea of garbage.
Simon
January 4, 2018  
Also wishing you a good and full recovery, and I too much appreciate your excellent work which is in sharp contrast to so much of what appears in the US MSM and other sources of BS like the so-called Center for American Progress.
(Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).)
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Saturday, December 16, 2017

(Special Ops Rules Over All?)  Bye Bye Reliable Internet & Monitor WSJ for Reporting by Comcast & Spectrum?  (WAR! What/Who Is It Good For?)  Analysis-Suppressing Mental Munchkin  (Flim-Flammery of Tax Cuts)  Leda & the Swan Redux?  (How It All Happened) Dubya Is Still Either the Dummy or the Smarty (The Enemy of One's Enemy Is . . .?)  


Donald Trump's First Year Sets Record for US Special Ops

Ambassadors of the traditional kind?  Who needs them?  Diplomats?  What a waste!  The State Department?  Why bother?  Its budget is to be slashed and its senior officials are leaving in droves ever since Donald Trump entered the Oval Office.  Under Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, hiring is frozen, which means those officials are generally not being replaced.  (Buyouts of $25,000 are being offered to get yet more of them to jump ship.)  Dozens of key positions have gone unfilled, while the secretary of state reportedly focuses not on global diplomacy or what, in another age, was called “foreign policy,” but on his reorganization (downsizing) of the department and evidently little else.  Across the planet, starting with the A’s (Australia), American embassies lack ambassadors, including South Korea, a country that has been a focus of the Trump administration.  Similarly, at the time of the president’s inflammatory Jerusalem announcement, the U.S. had no ambassadors yet in Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, or Saudi Arabia, among other Middle Eastern states.  It’s quite a tale and it’s being covered as the news story it certainly is.
All of this could be seen, however, not just as the foibles of one president surrounded by “his” generals, but as the culmination of a post-9/11 process in which American policymaking has increasingly been militarized. In this context, as the State Department shrinks, don’t think this country has no ambassadors across the planet. America’s Special Operations forces increasingly act as our “diplomats” globally, training and bolstering allies and attempting to undermine enemies more or less everywhere. We’ve never seen anything like it and yet, unlike the slashing of the diplomatic corps, it’s a story barely noted in the mainstream. Nick Turse has, however, been covering it for "TomDispatch" in a groundbreaking way since 2011. In these years, he’s focused on what should have been seen as one of the major developments of our era:  the phenomenal growth and historically unprecedented deployment of this country’s special operators in an atmosphere of permanent war in Washington
In the post-9/11 years, the once “elite” units of the U.S. military, perhaps a few thousand Green Berets and other personnel, have become a force of approximately 70,000. In other words, that secretive crew cocooned inside the U.S. military has grown as large as or larger than the militaries of countries such as Argentina, Canada, Chile, Croatia, South Africa, or Sweden. Now, imagine that those Special Operations forces, as Turse has again been reporting for years, are not only being dispatched to more countries annually than ever before, but to more countries than any nation has ever deployed its military personnel to. Period. 
Shouldn’t that be a humongous story? We’re talking, as Turse points out today, about the deployment of special ops teams or personnel to 149 of the 190 (or so) nations on this planet in 2017. You can, of course, find articles about our special operators in the media, but over the years they’ve generally tended to read like so many publicity releases for such forces.

That Net Neutrality Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal Was Written By a Comcast Attorney


In the face of widespread opposition, the Federal Communications Commission rolled back net neutrality protections that prevented internet service providers from charging websites for faster download speeds. The vote fell along party lines. But one Democrat, Barack Obama’s former Federal Trade Commission chief Jon Leibowitz, dismissed net neutrality repeal as no big deal in the pages of the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday. He celebrated that the FTC would get restored authority to aggressively police the internet for anti-competitive or unfair conduct.
The op-ed contained an unusual disclaimer:

Mr. Leibowitz was a Democratic commissioner at the FTC from 2004-13 and chairman beginning in 2009. As a partner at the law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell, he represents both technology companies and broadband providers.
The reference to both industries reads as an effort to be upfront about any potential conflict of interest, but also to suggest that Leibowitz has clients on both sides of the issue, so his argument is dispassionate. Tech companies, historically, support net neutrality, while broadband providers oppose it.
But it’s not entirely clear what “technology companies” Leibowitz himself represents. When asked, he directed "The Intercept" to the Davis Polk website, which lists a fair number of tech companies for which the corporate law firm has done business.
However, we do know Leibowitz’s primary broadband client:  Comcast, one of the biggest beneficiaries of the net neutrality repeal.

And for all the holiday excitement provided by women coming forward with their stories of decades-long sexual harassment (and many times outright rape) by bosses, colleagues, and potential employers, we learn why none of them involve the financial industry. At least not yet.

New data suggests that, along with Hollywood, the media, and the restaurant industry, finance might deserve a new turn under the hot lights. A new report from the Government Accountability Office finds that women have made no progress increasing their ranks in management in the financial industry since 2007, with women in New York, home to Wall Street’s power center, faring worst in the country.

Whoops!

Mouse Swallows Fox

And our beloved (/snark) departing Fed chair raises the rates once again by one-quarter point for a month or two before the markets rebel and it is lowered (quietly) again.

The outgoing Chair of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, held her last press conference yesterday following the Federal Open Market Committee’s decision to hike the Feds Fund rate by one-quarter percentage point, bringing its target range to 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 percent.
Given the growing reports from market watchers that the stock market has entered the bubble stage and could pose a serious threat to the health of the economy should the bubble burst, CNBC’s Steve Liesman asked Yellen during the press conference if there are “concerns at the Fed about current market valuations.”
“So let me start Steve with the stock market generally. Of course the stock market has gone up a great deal this year and we have in recent months characterized the general level of asset valuations as elevated. What that reflects is simply the assessment that looking at price-earnings ratios and comparable metrics for other assets other than equities we see ratios that are in the high end of historical ranges. And so that’s worth pointing out.
“But economists are not great at knowing what appropriate valuations are. We don’t have a terrific record. And the fact that those valuations are high doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily overvalued.
. . . Yellen makes at least one unassailable admission in this statement:  her economist predecessors at the Fed certainly “don’t have a terrific record” in calling out bubbles – Alan Greenspan being the worst offender.
After presiding over the worst subprime mortgage and derivatives bubble in history on the belief that Wall Street was fully capable of policing itself, former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan had this to say at a House Oversight Committee hearing on October 23, 2008 after his blunder had helped usher in the greatest financial collapse since the Great Depression:
“So the problem here is something which looked to be a very solid edifice. And, indeed, a critical pillar to market competition and free markets, did break down. And I think that, as I said, shocked me. I still do not fully understand why it happened and, obviously, to the extent that I figure out where it happened and why, I will change my views. If the facts change, I will change.”
In the same hearing, Henry Waxman, the Chair of the Committee, had no problem understanding “why it happened.” It was, plain and simple, regulatory capture. Waxman explained:
“In each case, corporate excess and greed enriched company executives at enormous cost to shareholders and our economy. In each case, these abuses could have been prevented if Federal regulators had paid more attention and intervened with responsible regulations…
“For too long, the prevailing attitude in Washington has been that the market always knows best. The Federal Reserve had the authority to stop the irresponsible lending practices that fueled the subprime mortgage market, but its long-time chairman, Alan Greenspan, rejected pleas that he intervene. The SEC had the authority to insist on tighter standards for credit rating agencies, but it did nothing, despite urging from Congress.
. . . “The Treasury Department could have led the charge for responsible oversight of financial derivatives. Instead, it joined the opposition. The list of regulatory mistakes and misjudgments is long, and the cost to taxpayers and our economy is staggering.
“The SEC relaxed leverage standards on Wall Street, the Offices of Thrift Supervision and the Comptroller of the Currency preempted State efforts to protect home buyers from predatory lending. The Justice Department slashed its efforts to prosecute white-collar fraud.
. . . How can it be that just a mere nine years since the second greatest financial collapse in U.S. history, the Federal Reserve, the Federal regulator that oversees the largest bank holding companies on Wall Street with a seat on the Financial Stability Oversight Council, has learned nothing about bubbles.

Read the entire essay here.

Huzzah:  Alabama’s black voters stood up for Doug Jones in a big way, and now the Democratic Party must remember what it owes them, Jamelle Bouie writes. The Republican Party, on the other hand, should see this as a reckoning, but Reihan Salam doubts it will. And Isaac Chotiner proposes — only half in jest — that Doug Jones, a candidate who won in a red state without compromising his blue positions, should consider a run for president.
That was quick:  Jim Newell predicted today that the GOP would push to pass the tax bill before Doug Jones is seated. And this afternoon, Jordan Weissmann reports, House and Senate Republicans reached a deal and announced they were ready to move forward.


Fifty years ago, Otis Redding died in a plane crash at 26. What a waste.

Still sitting and watching the tide roll away. Thanks for the memories, Big O.



And exactly who is receiving those tax cuts? Don't overthink this.

And don't look to the Treasury Secretary for any valid information.

On Monday the Treasury Department released a one-page report claiming that tax cuts would pay for themselves. The document was a shameless attempt to fool the public — carefully worded to imply that economic experts at Treasury (they’re still in there somewhere, maybe locked in a closet) had actually done an analysis to that effect, without explicitly saying so. In fact, there was no economic analysis; Trump officials just made up numbers that would give them the result they wanted.
Even reporters hardened to Trump administration lies seemed shocked by the brazenness of this bait-and-switch. What made Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, think he could get away with it?
Well, one answer is that similar scams on the part of congressional Republicans, Paul Ryan in particular, have generally received highly respectful treatment from the news media. Why shouldn’t Mnuchin imagine he can pull off the same trick?
Actually, he probably can’t. But the truth is that on economic policy, as in other areas, the Trump administration isn’t much of a departure from recent Republican norms. There’s a fundamental continuity in the con jobs:  Mnuchin is basically trying to do a Paul Ryan; he just lacks the acting skills to pull it off.
About that Treasury report:  The department has an Office of Tax Policy, or O.T.P., which provides “economic and legal policy analysis” for tax policy decisions. Normally we’d expect this office to carry out a full analysis of the effects of Republican tax bills, similar to those conducted by Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation and by independent, nonpartisan organizations like the Tax Policy Center.
But either O.T.P. didn’t do that, or it did an analysis that Mnuchin is suppressing. (The department’s inspector general is investigating what actually happened, because Mnuchin repeatedly claimed to have such an analysis in hand.) If the experts actually did do an analysis, they probably found what everyone else has found — namely, that tax cuts come nowhere near to paying for themselves.
. . . In other words, this “analysis” is a sick joke. Why would Mnuchin think he can pull off this scam?
As I said, he probably can’t. But he may be inspired by the example of Paul Ryan, who pulled off similar scams a few years back, fooling much of the news media and even receiving an award for fiscal responsibility from several deficit-scold organizations.
The details of Ryan’s scam were a bit different, but the basic principle was the same. First, tell budget experts to make obviously unrealistic assumptions and estimate what those assumptions would mean for future budget deficits. Then tout the resulting estimates as validation of your plan.  
. . . Oh, and the howling mess that is the current G.O.P. tax plan shows what happens when Ryanesque pretense meets reality.
Yet Ryan’s scam worked. He received years of media adulation; that adulation is the main reason he’s now speaker of the House. Even now, news analyses tend to depict the irresponsibility and incompetence of Republican tax plans as some kind of deviation from Ryan’s past behavior, not its natural continuation.
In fact, you almost have to feel sorry for Mnuchin:  Yes, he’s an obvious buffoon, but his scam isn’t really any worse than Ryan’s. Why can’t he pull it off?
The larger point is that the dishonesty and dysfunctionality of current Republican efforts at tax “reform,” the party’s evident inability to govern in a serious way, didn’t come out of nowhere. Republicans have been heading in this direction for years. Anyone who didn’t see this coming either wasn’t paying attention or was engaged in willful self-delusion, pretending that the G.O.P. was a normal party long after it should have been obvious that it had gone off the deep end.

Think there's even a small chance that the "tax cut" (NOT) bill being readied for President Trump's signature into law might give you a decent amount of money from that "tax cut" to help you get ahead of the present quicksand and expected future calamities?

Good luck!

When Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin claimed that more than 100 people in his department were “working around the clock” on forthcoming analysis regarding the G.O.P.’s tax plan, those he credited with “running scenarios” on the bills were surprised, given that such analysis did not, in fact exist. Their time had been spent, they told "The New York Times," running models on “individual provisions or policy ideas” — a far cry from the detailed, thorough analysis that Mnuchin had repeatedly promised was right around the corner, and would definitively prove that the cuts paid for themselves. With the clock running down and the Inspector General digging into the mysterious case of the missing Treasury analysis, the former Goldman partner turned foreclosure mogul pulled through on Monday with a report clocking in at a single page and fewer than 500 words that says the Senate plan will totally pay for itself — assuming a set of circumstances that are about as likely as Jared Kushner bringing peace to the Middle East.
For real-li(f)e economists and tax experts, Mnuchin’s “analysis” is an infuriating disgrace. “The Treasury’s one-page note is a pathetic joke,” Jason Furman, a professor of Practice at Harvard Kennedy School and former Chairman of Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, told me. “I feel awful for the dozens of talented Treasury economists who have worked for years developing sophisticated models for dynamic analysis and dynamic scoring only to be completely shut out of this process. Instead of doing an analysis, the Treasury Department assumed a can opener, using an assumption they made about growth in the budget they put together long before they even had a tax-reform plan. Then they mechanically calculated the consequences of that growth assumption for the budget finding that the tax cuts pay for themselves, a result that a consensus of top economists in the recent Booth survey rejected.”
As David Kamin, a professor at N.Y.U. law school, put it:  “This is not an analysis of the legislation. It tells us nothing about what this legislation would actually do.” To economist Ernie Tedeschi, the one-pager “reads like it was done over the weekend . . . this report should not be taken seriously. It is not a score. It is not an economic analysis.“ Furman and Tedeschi both echoed the idea that the meager one-pager shouldn’t be viewed as a black mark on Treasury staffers, but as an indication that they were pressured into putting something out that is not backed by economic evidence. “It’s a pathetic excuse for a study,” former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers told me. “I suspect the current staff are not happy that the relevant data has been suppressed in the administration’s attempts to obscure the truth.”
How did Mnuchin & Co. arrive at such a singular conclusion? First, they used the Trump administration’s projections of a 2.9 percent real G.D.P. growth rate over 10 years cited in its 2018 budget. As a reminder, no one, including the the Congressional Budget Office, actually believes that this sort of growth is at all in the realm of possible. As Summers tweeted on Monday, “Why would anyone think it relevant to project tax revenues from a forecast that is outside the range of professional consensus?

If I can assume I could serve at 150 mph, I could derive the conclusion that I could compete with Roger Federer.” Then there’s the even bigger asterisk, which relies on one line about “a combination of regulatory reform, infrastructure development, and welfare reform” and literally no further details. In other words, Mnuchin, et al., feel comfortable saying that the Senate tax plan would raise $1.8 trillion over 10 years through savings derived from plans that — wait for it — do not, and may never, exist. Remember “Infrastructure Week”? The Treasury might as well be saying, “This tax plan will 100 percent work if a million other things that are little more than ideas scribbled on a cocktail napkin happen first.”
Perhaps even more disturbing than Mnuchin‘s declaration that the tax plan will pay for itself presupposing X, Y, and Z, is that line about welfare reform. The administration may not have come up with much on the infrastructure front beyond some prop comedy involving Trump picking up a binder and dropping it on the floor, but it is currently laying the groundwork to hamstring the social safety net. Now, the Treasury is saying that lawmakers must make deep cuts to things like Medicare, Medicaid, and food stamps in order to lower taxes on corporate America without blowing out the deficit.
It’s not totally clear why, at the eleventh hour, when both the House and Senate tax plans have passed through the first ring of fire and are inching closer to Trump’s desk by the day, Mnuchin decided to release this report — probably to get the Inspector General off his back. It’s also not clear if he thinks people will actually believe it, or if he cares either way. As a former Treasury staffer told me, “Tim Geithner used to have a saying, ‘There are people who are here for the scene, there are people who are here for the cause, and there are people who are here for the craft.’ Mnuchin is clearly a scene guy.” In other words, he’s in it for the photo ops with money.

The whole schmear reminds one that this is what you get when you allow rich people to appoint (by allowing them to make almost unlimited campaign donations) the representatives of the citizenry.

They obviously remember how Bush's tax cuts blew a monster of a hole in the budget and got away with it by ensuring that someone else (Obama) would come along after him to repair the damage (out of the lower class' pocketbooks).

One only hopes that Bush's wars will not continue from Obama's clever stewardship to Trump's.

Although, perhaps, that next boom may be the end point of this ownership aversion.


Unlike many, I've always found quite a bit of comfort and enlightenment from the work of Julian Assange. He cuts to the quick, and then gives one the opportunity to bind the gaping wound with stitches of comprehension of how a different approach may bring much better results for all.



Max and Stacy explain the flim-flammery going on with the tax cuts and the FED's Fund Rates and Funny Money.



Our man on the front lines, Lee Camp (did you see him demonstrating against the killing of "Net Neutrality" in front of the FCC?), interviews Richard Wolff about the coming crash as well as exposing the 1% who are just waaiitting for you to die.


As the Trump years continue, we should remember that many of the "Deplorables," designated as such by Hillary Clinton during a presidential debate, believed that they had some good reasons to vote for Trump, who was largely unknown to them outside of his rhetoric (which has proved by now to be just about 180 degrees from truthful).


A classic story may be needed to set our current scene.

The same year that the Kellogg-Briand Pact was signed, William Butler Yeats published a collection of poems called "The Tower." It contains what many consider his masterpiece, the harrowing sonnet “Leda and the Swan.” In it, Yeats recreates the moment in Greek myth when Zeus, the ruling god of Olympus, having taken the form of a swan, rapes the helpless human woman Leda, leaving her pregnant with a daughter.  That daughter became Helen of Troy, whose abduction was the casus belli for the Trojan War.
The poet begins with the victim’s shock and awe:

“A sudden blow:  the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill, 
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.
In the final stanza, Yeats writes:
“A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower 
And Agamemnon dead.” 

In those brief words can be read an entire history of war and death, recounted more fully in the 15,693 lines of the "Iliad," all somehow encapsulated in that first act of violence.

I apologize for telling this twice, but don't doubt that those classic tales aren't full of future wonder and aren't classically important.

Tomgram:  Rebecca Gordon, The Annals of Rehabilitation

Posted by Rebecca Gordon, November 21, 2017
Who even remembers that, back in September 2002, Lawrence Lindsey, then President George W. Bush’s chief economic adviser, offered an upper limit estimate on the cost of a future war in Iraq at $100 billion to $200 billion?  He also suggested that the “successful prosecution” of such a war “would be good for the economy.” That December, Mitch Daniels, director of the Office of Management and Budget, contradicted Lindsey, indicating that the real costs of such a war might be only $50 billion to $60 billion. And the top officials of the Bush administration weren’t particularly worried about paying for the occupation that was slated to follow since, as Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz put it in May 2003 after Baghdad had been taken by the U.S. military, Iraq was floating “on a sea of oil.”
Of course, by that pre-invasion September, President Bush and his top officials had already decided to invade, take out Saddam Hussein, and turn Iraq into a bastion of American power in the oil heartlands of the Middle East.  It was just a matter of how and when to make the case to the American people.  (As White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card put it that month, “'From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August.”)
That was a decade and a half ago.  Just recently, the Costs of War project at Brown University’s Watson Institute offered a new estimate of what America’s wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Pakistan will cost the country through fiscal year 2018 and it’s a figure -- $5.6 trillion - that should make your head spin.

It certainly leaves Lindsey’s and Daniels’s estimates in a ditch somewhere on the road to Baghdad.  Put another way, we’re talking at a bare minimum about a cost per American taxpayer since September 12, 2001, of more than $23,000.  Good for the economy?  Hmmm.  And the Costs of War report's estimate doesn’t even include interest on the borrowing that’s taken place to pay for those wars, which, it suggests, is “projected to add more than $1 trillion dollars to the national debt by 2023.”


Worse yet, these days America’s 16-year-old set of wars only seems to be expanding and is now regularly referred to in the Pentagon and elsewhere as a “generational struggle.”  Translation:  we’re still going to be at it in 2027, maybe even in 2037, or 2047, pouring down the black hole of war trillions more in taxpayer dollars that might have gone into the American economy and our crumbling infrastructure.

Isn’t this, then, an appropriate moment to offer a small tip of the cap to George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and the rest of the crew for imagining a world in which such invasions and occupations would lead to the American domination of this planet until the end of time?  It’s in this context that TomDispatch regular Rebecca Gordon, author of American Nuremberg: The U.S. Officials Who Should Stand Trial for Post-9/11 War Crimes, considers the favor Donald Trump has done Bush and the rest of his former administration.  He’s made them look good at a moment when they should look truly terrible.  Ah, Donald, how thoroughly big league of you! Tom
Little League.

Bet that hurts.

On the Rehabilitation of George W. Bush

Say It Again:  The Enemy of Our Enemy Is Still a War Criminal
By Rebecca Gordon
He received a prestigious award from the West Point Association of Graduates. He published a “runaway” bestselling autobiography. Last February, a lavishly produced book celebrating his paintings of Americans who served in the military was, as "Time" put it, “burning up the Amazon charts.”

Still, the liberal media wasn’t ready to embrace George W. Bush - not at least until he made some oblique criticisms of the current tenant of his old position, suggesting that, in the present political climate, “bigotry seems emboldened.” Seems? Have you been to Charlottesville lately, Mr. Bush?


The former president was less tentative on the main subject of his address to a conference on “democracy” he’d organized in New York City:  the importance of free trade and the need for a large American footprint in the world. “We see a fading confidence in the value of free markets and international trade,” he said, “forgetting that conflict, instability, and poverty follow in the wake of protectionism.” More on that speech later.

Not the First Rehab Job

George W. Bush is hardly the first disgraced Republican president and war criminal to worm his way back into American esteem. Richard Nixon remains the leader in that department.  He spent his later years being celebrated as an elder statesman and a master of realpolitik in international relations. In the process, he managed to shake off the dust of Watergate.

In those years, few even remembered that his was the first administration in which both the president and vice president resigned. In 1973, that disgraced vice president, Spiro Agnew, pled guilty to a felony count of tax evasion, but not before he’d bequeathed the English language a few of its most mellifluous sobriquets, among them the “nattering nabobs of negativism” and the “effete corps of impudent snobs” (aimed at those who opposed the Vietnam War).

Nixon’s rehabilitation not only reduced the Watergate scandal in American memory, but also essentially obliterated his greater crimes, among which were these:

* while still a presidential candidate in 1968, he opened a secret back channel to the South Vietnamese government to keep it out of peace talks with the North that might have benefited his Democratic opponent;

* in the war itself, he oversaw the expansion of the CIA’s Phoenix Program of torture and assassination in which, as historian Alfred McCoy has described it, “the formalities of prosecution” of suspected Viet Cong were replaced “with pump and dump - pumping suspects of information by torture and then dumping the bodies, more than 20,000 of them between 1968 and 1971”;

* he also oversaw an expansive, illegal, and undeclared war in Cambodia (which, when it was about to come to light, he described as a brief “incursion” into that country);

* he oversaw the saturation or “carpet” bombing of the North Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, and that country’s major port, Haiphong;

* and he presided over the “first 9/11,” the 1973 military coup that murdered Chile’s elected president, Salvador Allende, ushering in years of terror and torture under General Augusto Pinochet.

And don’t think that Richard Nixon is the only other example of such a post-presidential rehabilitation. Ronald Reagan is now remembered by friend and foe alike as a kind, folksy president and a wily strategist who ended the Cold War by forcing a cash-strapped Soviet Union to keep up with U.S. defense spending and then negotiated directly with Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev. When he died in June 2004, the "New York Times" was typical in the largely fawning obituary it ran, describing him as “the man who restored popular faith in the presidency and the American government.”

That obituary did at least mention the Iran-Contra conspiracy in which President Reagan approved the (illegal) sale of arms to Iran to fund his (illegal) support of the Nicaraguan Contras, the murderous rebel force that sought to overthrow that country’s leftist Sandinista government. “The deception and disdain for the law,” commented the obituary, “invited comparisons to Watergate, undermined Mr. Reagan's credibility, and severely weakened his powers of persuasion with Congress.” An odd set of observations about a man being hailed for restoring faith in the presidency, but consistent with the contradictions inherent in any lionization of Reagan.

Lest we forget, he was also the president who began his first term by attacking unions, starting with the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization, a move which so many years later still results in regular flight delays, thanks to a 27-year low in the number of air controllers. Reagan also inaugurated the mania for deregulation that led to the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s and ultimately to the subprime mortgage crisis and financial meltdown of 2007-2008. His presidency reinforced what would become a never-ending slide in the value of real wages and his tax policies were the starting point for what has, in our own time, become not an inequality gap but an inequality chasm that has now left three men with the same amount of wealth as 160 million Americans. (Not surprisingly, depending on who’s calculating it, the United States either has the world’s highest or perhaps fourth-highest Gini score, a measurement of economic inequality.)

Nixon had to wait many years for his rehabilitation and Reagan’s was largely posthumous.  At a vigorous 71, however, Bush seems to be slipping effortlessly back onto the national stage only nine years after leaving office essentially in disgrace.  He will evidently have plenty of time to bask in history’s glow before the first of those nostalgic obituaries are written.  And for that, he can thank Donald Trump.

W. Redux?

During that October 17th speech in which he criticized Trump without mentioning his name, George W. Bush touted the “Spirit of Liberty:  At Home, in the World." There, he bemoaned the degradation of political discourse by “casual cruelty,” noting that “bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children.” Like the rest of his family, Bush does not share Trump’s aversion to immigrants, so he added that this country seems to be forgetting “the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America.”

Articles in the "New York Times," the "Washington Post," and even the "Guardian" eagerly reported Bush’s implicit criticisms of the president as a hopeful sign of resistance to Trumpism from the “responsible” Republican right. "Politico" simply labeled the event a “George W. Bush Speech on Trumpism,” although much of it was about the decline of democracy in Europe and the value of free trade.

It’s certainly true that his speech included oblique critiques of the man who repeatedly insulted his brother Jeb as “a very low-energy kind of guy” and knocked him out of the race to be the third Bush to sit in the Oval Office, but it’s worth reading the whole address. It’s vintage W. - that is, vintage W. - as a war criminal. He began, for instance, by reprising the lie that “since World War II, America has encouraged and benefited from the global advance of free markets, from the strength of democratic alliances, and from the advance of free societies.”

As Alfred McCoy demonstrates in his recent book, In the Shadows of the American Century, that is a particularly disingenuous description of a 70-year history in which Washington supported and, in a remarkable number of cases was directly involved in, the destruction of free societies. A list of examples would perhaps begin with the 1953 British and U.S.-backed coup against the democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh that would install the despotic Shah in power in that country.


It would certainly continue with the 1954 U.S. and United Fruit Company coup against Jacobo Arbenz, the democratically elected president of Guatemala (an early instance of Washington’s post-World War II “encouragement” of anything-but-free-trade); the 1960 CIA-backed coup against, and the murder of, Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba; and the 1973 military coup in Chile. An honest history would also include the active “encouragement” of societies that were anything but free, including those run by juntas, dictators, or military governments in Greece, Brazil, Argentina, the Philippines, Indonesia, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Uruguay, Iraq, and South Korea, to name just a few. Of course, George W. Bush is hardly the first president to lie about the post-World War II record of the United States.  Nor is he the first to suggest that “American security is directly threatened by the chaos and despair of distant places,” which he attributed in his speech to the lack of the democracy Washington put so much effort into destroying in more than 70 countries across the planet.

And don’t forget that it was precisely the pretext of a direct threat to American security that led to the most criminal lie of his career:  the insistence that Iraqi autocrat Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and that the U.S. invasion of his country was justified by a (legally questionable) case of preemptive self-defense. By initiating a war of aggression, by loosing “shock and awe” on the capital of a nation that had not attacked ours, President Bush committed a war crime. Indeed, it was the first in the list of crimes for which the leaders of Nazi Germany were indicted at Nuremberg after World War II:  the ultimate crime against peace.

Few Americans have ever heard of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, but in 1928 the United States signed it and the Senate ratified it by a vote of 85-1. The 50 signatories of that treaty renounced war as a means of settling international disputes and, as the authors of The Internationalists:  How a Radical Plan to Outlaw War Remade the World have argued, by implication made aggressive war a violation of international law. The U.S. Constitution states in Article 6 that “all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land.” By invading Iraq, Bush broke both international and U.S. law.

In addition to his crimes against peace, Bush and his administration were also the authors of such traditionally recognized war crimes as torture and the use of chemical weapons. One of the uglier aspects of the U.S. military’s battle for the Iraqi city of Fallujah was its use of white phosphorus, an incendiary munition. Phosphorus ignites spontaneously when exposed to air.  If bits of the chemical attach to human beings, skin and flesh burn away. The burning continues as long as there is oxygen available, sometimes right into the bone.

In short, isn’t it a little early to begin rehabilitating the man responsible for indefinite detention at Guantánamo, “enhanced interrogation techniques,” and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and at least 150,000 Afghans - not to mention the trillions of U.S. dollars shoved down the memory hole in pursuit of the futile wars that followed?

Leda and the Swan

The same year that the Kellogg-Briand Pact was signed, William Butler Yeats published a collection of poems called "The Tower." It contains what many consider his masterpiece, the harrowing sonnet “Leda and the Swan.” In it, Yeats recreates the moment in Greek myth when Zeus, the ruling god of Olympus, having taken the form of a swan, rapes the helpless human woman Leda, leaving her pregnant with a daughter.  That daughter became Helen of Troy, whose abduction was the casus belli for the Trojan War.

The poet begins with the victim’s shock and awe:

“A sudden blow:  the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

In the final stanza, Yeats writes:


“A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.”

In those brief words can be read an entire history of war and death, recounted more fully in the 15,693 lines of the "Iliad," all somehow encapsulated in that first act of violence.
In his poem, Yeats implies that Zeus knows full well the final outcome of his act. Similarly perhaps, the “swans” of Washington in 2003, which was at that time the planet's own imperial Olympus, had more than an inkling of the broken walls, the burning roofs and towers their invasion of Iraq might engender.

As early as 1996, future Vice President Dick Cheney’s fellow hawks Richard Perle and Douglas Feith - who would later join the Bush administration as adviser on the Defense Policy Board and under secretary of defense for policy - helped write a report for Benjamin Netanyahu, who was then running the Israeli government for the first time. Titled “A Clean Break:   A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” it urged the leaders of Israel’s right-wing Likud party to leave behind the nation’s previous geopolitical strategy by abandoning peace negotiations with the Palestinians and using military means to actively restructure the Middle East in their favor.


Israel,” the authors argued, “can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria.” Such a campaign would begin by “removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq - an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right - as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions.” The ultimate goal was a realignment of power in the region, with Syria destabilized, a monarchy in Iraq, and a new regional alliance among Turkey, Jordan, and Israel.

It would prove to be the geopolitical equivalent of a movie preview. In the wake of 9/11, the same cast of characters would take a similar path in Washington and, in the end, that “rolling back” operation would shake or destroy country after country from Afghanistan and Iraq to Libya and Yemen. Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Syria has certainly been destabilized in ways almost impossible to imagine, through the rise of ISIS (born in an American military prison) and a vicious, multi-sided civil war that, by early 2016, had left more than a tenth of its population killed or injured.  In the process, more than 10 million people, including untold numbers of children, were turned into internal or external refugees.
Netanyahu, in fact, would reject the “clean break” proposal (perhaps because it also suggested that Israel make a clean break with its dependence on U.S. aid), but the neocons were undeterred. In 1998, they resurrected the plan as part of a new pressure group they formed, the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), and presented it to Bill Clinton in a letter encouraging him to direct “a full complement of diplomatic, political, and military efforts” to “remove Saddam Hussein from power.”
Nor were they overly concerned about the legality of such a move, writing that “American policy cannot continue to be crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the U.N. Security Council.” In other words, the country should not be “crippled” by adherence to the U.N. Charter, whose Article 51 prohibits unilateral war making without Security Council approval, except in cases of immediate “individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations.”
Like Netanyahu, Clinton ignored their suggestion. However, the signatories of the letter included many figures who would become key players in the Bush administration, among them Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Undersecretaries of State John Bolton and Richard Armitage, Reagan hold-over Elliott Abrams, and Zalmay Khalilzad, who among other roles served as Bush’s special envoy and ambassador at large for free Iraqis. And it included, of course, Cheney adviser and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, who had prepared a draft of a 1992 Defense Planning Guidance document for President George H.W. Bush in which he argued for the importance of U.S. readiness to take unilateral military action, whether approved by the United Nations or not.

In other words, the top officials of the Bush administration took office already planning to attack Iraq. It only awaited 19 mostly Saudi terrorists hijacking four American commercial airliners on September 11, 2001. That would be the pretext to launch what has become a “generational struggle” that would eventually destroy Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen (and almost as a side dish, Afghanistan), and which now threatens to engulf the entire Greater Middle East, North Africa, and parts of Asia, from Afghanistan to the Philippines, in a set of never-ending wars and spreading terror movements.

All that suffering sprang from the actions of one feckless president and his crew. So what if - after 16 years of fruitless war, 16 years of disintegrating American infrastructure, 16 years of almost unprecedented inequality -- George W. Bush does find Trump’s rhetorical style distasteful? Is that really any reason to turn a presidential war criminal into a liberal hero?
(Rebecca Gordon, a TomDispatch regular, teaches in the philosophy department at the University of San Francisco. She is the author of American Nuremberg:  The U.S. Officials Who Should Stand Trial for Post-9/11 War Crimes. Her previous books include "Mainstreaming Torture:  Ethical Approaches in the Post-9/11 United States" and "Letters from Nicaragua.")



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