Archive for January, 2018

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Politicians Who Complain About Trump’s Authoritarian Tendencies Just Gave Him 6 Years To Warrantlessly Spy On Americans

Over on the Senate side, things were even more ridiculous. Senator Jeff Flake voted for cloture, helping to end (the already non-existing) debate on such surveillance, and blocking any amendments. And then, the very next morning, went on the Senate floor to slam the President, compare him to Stalin, and warn that our democracy may not survive. Again, this was mere hours after Senator Flake voted to give more surveillance powers to the President he was about to compare to Stalin.

Or how about Dianne Feinstein? It may be no surprise that Feinstein voted to continue and expand surveillance — she has a long history of doing exactly that. But just about an hour before voting for cloture, Feinstein herself introduced an amendment that would have required a warrant to search the corpus of data collected under 702. And then she voted to block that amendment from even being voted on.

…Trump has been loudly denouncing McCaskill for months as she’s facing a tough reelection campaign. And her response was to deny any further debate or amendments and to vote to give Trump more surveillance powers.

…These are not the only ones.

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By David William Pear

Fearing that peace might break out with the two Koreas talking to each other, Washington instructed South Korean President Moon Jae-in to keep the message about anything but peace. It is not just Trump. A former top official for the Obama administration warned Moon that South Korea was not going to get anywhere with the North Koreans unless they have the “US behind them”. Humiliating, that is like saying that Moon’s “button” is not as big as Kim’s. The metaphor is exactly how the Washington elite see South Korea: as Washington’s obedient eunuch. The official went on to say, “If South Koreans are viewed as running off the leash, it will exacerbate tension within the alliance”. Running off the leash! Now more humiliation, is South Korea a US poodle? Instead President Moon Jae-in is showing that he has teeth, and that South Koreans want their country back from US humiliating domination.

During the talks it was agreed for North Korea to participate in the Winter Olympics in February. The two countries will even march together under a common flag, and future talks between the two are planned to reduce tension. Trump continues to bluster, while the two Koreas have “engaged in the most substantive direct talks in years”. Neocons such as John Bolton are outraged that North Korea has proven once again that it is willing to come to the negotiation table. Bolton says it is a dirty trick and that North Korea is “taking advantage of a weak South Korean government”, adding more insulting humiliation. To Washington, South Korea talking peace is weak, running off the leash and going it alone without its US master. The North using the peace option is seen as a provocation and propaganda that Washington will not tolerate. In retaliation the US sent more nukes to Guam, and put the state of Hawaii on a full alert that a “ballistic missile was inbound“. The nukes outbound to Guam are real; the ones inbound to Hawaii were fake, just like the ability of the billion dollar THAADS to shoot them down. Too conveniently the Hawaii false alarm comes just as the US and its vassals are readying for what the US plots to be a show of solidarity and unity on killer sanctions against North Korea. The US wants its chorus to perform the tragedy of telling North Korea to obey or watch 500,000 of their children die. As Madeleine Albright said about Iraq’s 500,000 dead children from US sanctions, “the price is worth it“. The US does not think the price of diplomacy is worth it though.

The US continues to block efforts at diplomacy, and express its contempt for South Korea’s elected President Moon Jae-in. He was elected on a peace platform by the South Korean people. Moon’s predecessor Park Geun-hye sang from the US hymnbook until she got caught with her hand in the cookie jar. In 2017 the South Korean people went to the street and demanded the granddaughter of former dictator Park Chung Hee be impeached, and now she is in prison. Peace is not anything that Washington’s plutocrats want to hear, although the South Korean people like the sound of it, and elected Moon their president by a wide margin. The self-interests in Washington preferred the corrupt warmonger Park. She carried the US’s tune with perfect pitch, even (allegedly) conspired to assassinate the North’s Kim Jong-Un. The message of the humiliation from US apparatchiks is that if Moon does not change his tune the US will try to undermine South Korea’s democracy with a regime change project might be in his future. The US habitually meddles in other’s elections, and wants to keep tensions high on the Korean peninsula, keep the South Koreans in line, make North Korea a boogeyman, frighten the American people, station 30,000 US troops in South Korea with wartime operational control, buy more multi-billion dollar THAADS from Lockheed Martin, and divide the Korean people. Even at the risks of a nuclear war, which the US proposes making easier.

The establishment nearly went to war with North Korea in 1994 until Bill Clinton negotiated peace. The neocons in Washington and the mainstream media keep saying that North Korea refused to come to the negotiating table. Clinton’s decision to use diplomacy instead of threats proved the warmongers wrong again. It was the US all along that refused to talk, preferring belligerence and threats just as it does now. Once Clinton showed a willingness to bargain, then a nuclear deal was struck. The deal was called the Agreed Framework. What North Korea wanted then for it to suspend its nuclear program was for the US to halt the massive military exercises on North Korea’s border, a non-aggression guarantee, compensation for abandoning its needed electric producing nuclear reactors, and relations with the US. Now the situation with North Korea is back to where it was in 1994. George W. Bush reversed the path of peace when he came into the White House. In 2001 he tore up the Agreed Framework, put North Korea on the Axis of Evil list in 2002, invaded Iraq in 2003, and hanged Saddam Hussein in 2006. Very predictably North Korea resumed its nuclear program for self-defense against a paranoid and unpredictable USA that sees enemies to attack under every bed.

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Better Watch Out – My Review

Posted: January 18, 2018 in Joe Giambrone

J. Giambrone

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It’s been a while without a review, but this one has complications. The non-spoiled version is: this is a fucked-up movie.

betterwatchout3-1600x900-c-default.jpgSpoilers May Follow

A twist near the beginning sort of renders the film unable to be discussed. Who’s the bad guy? Well, I’ll save that for a little further down the page.

The movie is well-shot technically, and it plays on the nostalgia of upper-middle-class white America. It’s a Christmas movie, but when these kids are left Home Alone some twisted shit transpires.

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Fresh faces from Australia, all the main characters are Aussies, with the newcomer Olivia DeJonge (obviously) standing out as a breathtaking stunner. Levi Miller has also got potential, and for his age delivers some bone-chilling psychopathy.

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The film has plausibility going for it. It ditches the veneer for hard core violent realism. That is enough to give it a watch, but there’s more. It may be…

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Margaret Atwood faces feminist backlash on social media over #MeToo

She raised the possibility that the answer could leave women divided. “In times of extremes, extremists win. Their ideology becomes a religion, anyone who doesn’t puppet their views is seen as an apostate, a heretic or a traitor, and moderates in the middle are annihilated.”

…She likened the affair to the Salem witch trials, in that guilt was assumed of those who were accused. This idea of guilt by accusation had at times been used to usher in a better world or justify new forms of oppression, she wrote. “But understandable and temporary vigilante justice can morph into a culturally solidified lynch-mob habit, in which the available mode of justice is thrown out the window, and extralegal power structures are put into place and maintained.”

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From flickr.com: It can't happen here by Sinclair Lewis-- first edition, 1936 {MID-225266}
It can’t happen here by Sinclair Lewis– first edition, 1936
(Image by robkall)
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by Steven Jonas

 

In the first column in this series, fascism was defined as:

“A politico-economic system in which there is: total executive branch control of both the legislative and administrative powers of government; no independent judiciary; no Constitution that embodies the Rule of Law standing above the people who control the government; no inherent personal rights or liberties; a single national ideology that first demonizes and then criminalizes all political, religious, and ideological opposition to it; the massive and regular use of hate, fear, racial and religious prejudice, the Big Lie technique, mob psychology, mob actions and ultimately individual and collective violence, to achieve political and economic ends; a capitalist/corporate economy, with the economic ruling class’ control of State power and thus, economic, fiscal, political, and regulatory policy and policies.”

It was pointed out that this definition, and similar ones used by other authorities, is based primarily on what fascism looked like in the 20thcentury, in particular in Nazi German fascist Italy, Spain and Japan. The analysis then went on to the use of the concept of functional fascism, for the 21stcentury, for the United States. That is, there are certain features of classical fascism that do not exist, at least not yet, in the U.S. The Executive Branch does not have full control of all governmental functions. There is an independent judiciary. There is still a Constitution. There are still inherent personal rights and liberties. There is still not a single national ideology that criminalizes all opposition to it.

BUT, the political party currently in power, and in particular its representative occupying the Office of the Presidency, certainly has made it clear that the reality concerning these features is in a state of flux. Trump has made it clear that he would like to have much more control of various governmental functions, particularly those of the Department of Justice, than he presently does have. He is forever issuing scathing, personal, attacks on judges and courts that make decisions that he doesn’t like, e.g., a recent one on the status of DACA. The judges that he is appointing to the Federal Courts are selected and confirmed for their long-time adherence to the right-wing ideology of the private association which plays a major role in nominating them, the Federalist Society. This practice will play a major role down the road in limiting the Federal and state functions in the economic and environmental arenas, as well as in civil liberties and in such matters as the freedom of choice in the outcome of pregnancy. This President has shown that he is very much in favor of imposing upon large areas of civil society an ideology based on Christian Fundamentalism. And this particular President clearly reveals on a regular basis his predilection for authoritarian government.

As the Federal judiciary changes in nature, going evermore rightward in its politics (and oh yes, the judiciary is always a political animal), it will less and less function as it currently does, as a limit on the fascist aggrandizement of power by this President and the party he leads. The other major limiting factor on the progression towards outright fascism is the free press. One need look no further than this fact to understand the constant attacks on the “fake media” and “fake news” by the President, his allies in the Congress, Fox”News” (otherwise known as “Trump TV” or the Republican Propaganda Channel), right-wing talk radio, and right-wing on-line/social media (like Breitbart and The Daily Stormer). If the Republican/Trumpites are able to destroy or severely limit the activities of the anti-Trumpite media, the road to absolute power for them, that is the classical fascist state, will be much easier for them.

As to the use of the Big Lie technique, the Trumpites don’t use it so much as they do what might be called the “Little Lie Technique.” There are not just a few Big, totally not-connected-to-reality lies that they tell over and over again, like the Nazis’ “the Jews are the cause of all of Germany’s problems” that appear in major speeches by the leadership. There are rather the little lies, told over-and-over again on a daily basis, constantly rolling off the lips of Kelly Ann Conway, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin and so on and so forth about everything from what is really in the tax “reform” legislation to what the “Russia” investigation is really about. As for the President, as is well known, he is the kingof the liars, Big and little.

From flickr.com: Believe me!  (Larry O'Donnell: that's the clue he's lying.) NO collusion (times ten). {MID-225273}
Believe me! (Larry O’Donnell: that’s the clue he’s lying.) .NO collusion. (times ten).
(Image by IoSonoUnaFotoCamera)
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As to the features of fascism that already exist, this president regularly uses the appeals that got him to the White House in the first place: those to hate, fear, racial and religious prejudice, xenophobia, and misogyny. But most importantly for this fascism-in-process/functional-fascism is that with the Congressional Republican Party, Trump is absolutely serving the interests of the economically dominant sector of the U.S. ruling class (manufacturing; fossil fuels; agriculture/food; pharma/health services; retail; communications/entertainment; transportation; banking/investment/financial services) in the realms of economic, fiscal, political, and regulatory policy and policies.”

Thus, the Elements of Republican/Trumpite 21st century Functional Fascism in the United States, either already achieved or set forth as goals to be achieved are:

1. The use of the law to promote racism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, and misogyny.

2. The criminalization of certain religious/non-religious beliefs, as in, for example, LGBT rights and the freedom of choice in the outcome of pregnancy. This is facilitated by the use of “God’s Word” to justify oppression, hatred, and, ultimately, Dominionism. Indeed, for the United States, Dominionism is the hand-maiden of fascism, as were Catholicism in Spain and Italy and Shintoism in Japan.

3. The repression, then criminalization, of dissent.

4. The tolerance for, and in certain quarters the promotion of the Doctrine of White Supremacy.

5. The gradual suppression of the free vote, especially among minorities, the young, and the poor, by the use of gerrymandering, voter-suppression, vote/hacking.

6. The assault on and the distortion of the use of data, of all kinds.

7. The evermore widespread use of the Roy Cohn/Lee Atwater doctrine: “Always attack; never defend.” A variant of it is the old maxim for defense lawyers: “If you don’t have the law, argue the facts; if you don’t have the facts, argue the law; if you have neither the facts nor the law, argue ad hominem. (Of course, you don’t have to be a lawyer to use this one. The Right-Wing propagandists from Hannity and Conway on down (or up, depending upon your point of view) use it all the time.8. The solidification of the control of the State apparatus.

This Doctrine of Functional Fascism finds a very happy home in the modern the Republican Party. It is of course the outcome to date of the Republican Rightward Imperative which has controlled the direction of the Party since the time of Goldwater.

In the next and final Part of this series (3), some thoughts on the very difficult question of how to combat, indeed Resist, the Republican/fascist onslaught shall be presented.

 


Steven Jonas, MD, MPH, MS is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at StonyBrookMedicine (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 35 books.