Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Sebastian Gorka’s Hungarian Ties and a Growing EU Split

As the White House trembles lest Sebastian Gorka, the second in a far-right trio to be booted — or having ‘resigned’ from the White House, again gain access, here’s his backstory.
Gorka was born in London to Hungarian parents who fled during the 1956 uprising against Soviet occupation. Unlike most of his peers, however, he came to Hungary as a college student, and subsequently worked there. He claims that the fascist medal he wears was given to his father for bravery against the Soviets https://www.nbcnews.com/https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/sebastian-gorka-made-nazi-linked-vitezi-rend-proud-wearing-its-n742851A. The above linked article, however, suggests that the medal is having a second -  or even a third life. (The caption on the photo showing Gorka sporting the medal at Donald Trump’s inauguration ball fails to point out that the suit to which the medal is pinned is a black, embroidered tunic typical of the outfit that had traditionally been worn by upper-class officers of the Hungarian military).  
Hungary is a small country in the heart of Europe that has managed to maintain a reputation for uniqueness, starting with the fact that the Huns, who arrived from somewhere beyond the Ural mountains in the eighth century, spoke a language seemingly unrelated to any other. Centuries later, Hungary was the junior partner in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy that succeeded centuries of wars and occupations by the Ottomans that left Eastern Europe under semi-feudal regimes. It was a Hungarian, rather than a German or an Italian, who first elaborated the doctrine that became known as fascism. 
In 1919, inspired by the Russian Revolution, Hungarian Communists set up a Government of Councils (or Soviets). It was rapidly put down by  Admiral Horthy, who then became the regent of Charles IV - a king destined to never sit on the throne. One of the first things Horthy did was to found the Vitezi Rend for heroism, and in line with the country’s long-standing tradition of anti-Semitism that brought thousands of Hungarians to the US, including my paternal grand-parents, he set up quotas for Jews in the professions long before Hitler condemned them to death. Toward the end of the war, the Hungarian government, in alliance with Hitler, killed or deported to concentration camps thousands of Jews, Roma and Serbs.  Under the Communist government that came to power with Soviet Liberation, fascist leaders were tried as war criminals, but anti-Semitism never completely died out. 
In the late sixties, as the country was undergoing rapid modernization, letters from listeners of English language short-wave programs suggested, as one of my colleagues put it, that most foreigners believed the Hungarians “still cooked meat under the saddle”. In 1968, the government took the daring step of loosening central control of the economy, and began to  dream of Hungary as a bridge between East and West. (1968 was also the year of the Paris Spring against De Gaulle and Czechoslovakia’s “socialism with a human face”, which was put down in a bloodless Soviet intervention.)
Hungary’s dream came true in 1989, after Gorbachev visited the embattled East German Communist leader Erich Honecker, and discretely let it be known that he would not oppose a peaceful reunification of Europe. In August, as thousands of East Germans were vacationing at Hungary's Lake Balaton, the government quietly opened its frontier with neutral Austria, through which thousands promptly fled. By November, the Berlin Wall was being dismantled. 
In 2004, Hungary joined the European Union, but instead of bolstering  the country’s liberal values, this association led, in 2010, to a victory of Viktor Orban’s right-wing Fidesz Party, bolstered by a parliamentary majority four years later. Fast forward to NBC’s reporters, who were able to interview members of the revived Vitezi Rend, proud of the organization’s heritage. 
Until now, the Western press has focused on Prime Minister Orban’s refusal to accept the country’s mandatory quota of refugees from the war-torn Middle East and Africa, building fences and corralling those who managed to slip through onto non-stop trains to Vienna. Few Americans are aware that the Hungarian Prime Minister also supports Vladimir Putin — and vice versa. This would seem to suggest that the Russian President is a fascist; but as with Marine Le Pen in France and other right-wing European parties, Putin’s support is about traditional values and thus purely tactical, the far-right’s politics of hate are anathema to him. From what I can glean from exchanges with my ex-husband, however, a US-style media campaign has resulted in anti-Orban Hungarians lumping the two together, which is unfortunate. 
One thing, however, is certain: the European Union failed to overcome the  psychological separation between East and West that began with four hundred years of Ottoman occupation and should have ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall.  During the Cold War the countries of Eastern Europe longed to become part of the West, but after the fall of their Communist regimes, Western Europe dragged its feet. At a EU conference in Brussels in February 1990, three months after the fall of the Berlin Wall, I was one of the few speaking up for rapid integration. The following year, Hungary, Poland, and the Czech and Slovak Republics, formed a political and cultural alliance known as the Visegrad Four (after a town on the Danube), to boost their chances. 
They did not succeed until 2004, and by 2015, when massive African and Middle Eastern immigration into Europe began, they had still not internalized the EU’s lofty principles. Viscerally incapable of welcoming Muslims, they defend their Christian faiths (whether Protestant or Catholic) with much greater determination than Western Europeans. In 2016, they formed the Three Seas Group, that includes all the countries from the Baltic to the Adriatic and the Black Sea, to boost economic cooperation — and oppose a common front against immigrants. Recently, faced with threats of fines by Brussels, they raised a counter demand, as  follows:
 The heavy reparations demanded from Germany after World War I having led to the rise of Hitler, after World War II, the Allies had taken a different approach, betting on the inculcation of democratic ideals to ensure that Germany would never threaten its neighbors again. The Germans became the wealthiest and most virtuous people in Europe, as illustrated during the Cold War by Chancellor Willy Brandt’s overtures to the east (known as the Ost-politik) and by the population’s consistent anti-war stance. Now, the beneficiaries of that Ost-politik are demanding German reparations for World War II! 

Aside from their questionable rationale, seventy years after the fact, with Sebastian Gorka gone, I wonder how President Trump will react to the demands against formerly fascist Germany from today’s fascist-leaning East European governments.


Saturday, August 26, 2017

When Democracy Backfires, reprinted from New Eastern Outlook

The US media focuses on the fact that President Trump failed to win the popular vote, although he did manage to rake up more delegates to the Democratic Convention than Hillary Clinton. Clinton believes a ‘Russian intervention’ in some unspecified way, skewed the results of the election. (That ‘intervention’ is the focus of an investigation by a Special Prosecutor. The last time such a person was employed in Washington was when Bill Clinton’s’ sex life was deemed an appropriate reason for impeachment. The Congress ultimately failed to gather enough votes to evict him from office.)
During the 2016 campaign, progressive journalists like myself warned that Trump would ultimately lead to fascism, but we didn’t realize he would do so with the help of his voters.
We imagined a police state, but what we have (so far) is a demonstration of how ‘democracy’ can be a God that fails. As with Hitler, enough poorly educated people voted for Trump to bring him to power ‘democratically’. That having been accomplished, it’s not so much that he is able to pursue policies that most educated Americans reject, it’s that he can work up huge crowds who dream of ‘taking back their country’ …. by any means.
Yesterday Trump spoke to one such crowd in Phoenix, Arizona, suggesting he might pardon a racist sheriff who forced his inmates to live in tents under 110 degree heat and was finally slapped with contempt of court charges. More importantly, but somewhat confusingly, the President threatened to shut down the government over the border wall, although it’s not clear what role the government would play in preventing it from being built, since he claims that Mexico would pay for it.  
President Trump goes from one non-sequitur to another, but what is most alarming is that his based doesn’t seem to hold against him his failure to deliver on key campaign promises, believing that the fault lies with Congress (which came up one vote short to pass so-called health care ‘reform’) or with the media, which ceaselessly criticizes him. Notwithstanding the media’s failure to report any story that is inconvenient to the government, America’s fractured left wing has been unable to bust its lock on the American people. Ironically, it is Trump who is accomplishing that feat in the name of a populism whose boundaries with fascism are uncertain. 
Just as the media literally ‘made’ Trump the candidate, while mainly backing Hillary, since he was elected, it has been relentlessly trying to ‘unmake’ him, succeeding only in looking worse than ever. Today, it alternates coverage of Trump’s events with coverage of Hillary Clinton’s book explaining why she lost the election, focusing on how her ‘skin crawled’ when Trump paced back and forth behind her during one of their televised debates. Clips of those moments suggest that Trump was being discreet, leaving her the spotlight.
Meanwhile, at a rally in Reno, Nevada, Trump focused on veterans, emphasizing a tribute to the American Legion, a right-leaning organization founded in 1919 to defend veteran’s interests, by signing a bill mandating shorter waiting times for veterans to get answers to appeals. That “psychological operation” illustrates the path that Trump is charting toward fascism: it involves an alliance between active duty and former military, and the minimally educated, pro-military civilians who constitute his base.
Added to this disquieting picture is the fact that thirty-one states allow citizens to openly carry a handgun, some without a license or permit. Different states have different restrictions, but all 50 states allow people to purchase guns.  Hitler’s voters didn’t have guns, but they had the SA, also known as the ’brown shirts’, not to be confused with the SS, which broke off from it to surveil and kill citizens at will in Germany and German-occupied Europe. In the US, that job is likely to be carried out by an amalgam of militias such as those seen in the protests in Charlottesville.  
When history repeats itself, it does so under many different disguises. The question at this point is whether the Neo-Cons and their Deep State will succeed in toppling Trump, using accusations of collusion with Russia, before he gives his voters free rein. Or whether fascism will be served to us as ‘law and order’ by a Vice-President who has moved up after Trump is impeached or forced to resign for ‘inability to govern’.

More worrying for the world at large is the fact that the man who insisted during the campaign that America should not be the world’s policeman, agreed to increase US troop levels in Afghanistan, hiding the country’s vast mineral potential behind the magic word ‘security’. The generals who convinced him to do this also regard Russia as an enemy, following the Neocon playbook. Although the American public is no more in favor of continuing war in Afghanistan than it would be in favor of war with Russia, it’s difficult to see how ‘one man, one vote’ will prevent that from happening.


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

"Free" Speech

Perhaps the most egregious example of the media bending over backwards this past weekend was Meet the Press’s  Chuck Todd, who behaved as though he had been anointed Moral Grand Master, excoriating the Anti-Fa for challenging Nazi’s ‘right to free speech’.

Free speech is codified in the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which all nations are expected to adhere:

Article 4. Liberty means being permitted to do anything that doesn’t harm others.  The exercise of man’s human rights is limited solely by those that guarantee to all other members of society the enjoyment of these same rights, and can only be determined by laws.

Article 5. The law is only authorized to forbid actions that are harmful to society.  Anything that is not proscribed by law cannot be prevented, and no one can be forced to do what the law does not command.

Article 19. Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Article 20
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
(2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

       So far, all well and good, however Article 29 states that:
1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.
Regarding the question of freedom of speech:
(2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others, and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
(3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

         It’s clear that while the rights of the Alt Right and Anti-Fa to free speech (and peaceful assembly!) are protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, according to the same document, both are prevented from using force to affirm these rights or deprive others of them, as this would upset the public order and general welfare of society. As for “the general principles and purposes of the United Nations”, these are not specifically enunciated on its official website other than in this sentence describing the Secretary General:

         The Secretary-General of the United Nations is a symbol of the Organization's ideals and a spokesman for the interests of the world's peoples, in particular the poor and vulnerable.

       As every school child knows, the primary purpose of the United Nations is to prevent war, which punishes mainly the poor and the vulnerable, by facilitating the resolution of international problems through negotiation, building a corpus of international law. The problem is that the US does not recognize the primacy of international law. In the case of free speech, American pundits tend to invoke the first amendment to the Constitution:

  Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting
  the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the
  right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a
  redress of grievances.

The same interpretation is at work currently as that of the Second Amendment, whose antique wording has, in modern times, been twisted beyond recognition, shielding people who think differences should be settled with a gun. In fact, the wording was chosen to justify the creation and maintenance of militias (whose primary task at the time was to catch runaway slaves). 

Similarly, the first amendment plainly refers to the right of ‘the people’ to assemble in order to petition the government for the redress of grievances.  It was not intended to protect the right of one group to gather in order to threaten another group. But as with guns, modern wordsmiths have given ancient words new meaning, resulting in Congress being barred from legislating against free speech. 

Guarding this edifice is a site called The Newseum Institute whose task is to “promote, explain and defend free expression and the five freedoms of the First Amendment: religion, speech, press, assembly and petition.” A look at the Board of Directors reveals a preponderance of right-wing journalists and lawyers, of which the most prominent is the head of Gannet, whose USA Today, whose local editions cover the entire country with local news and trivia.

In  2012, Gannet disciplined 25 employees in Wisconsin who had signed the petition to recall Governor Scott Walker, stating that this open public participation in a political process was a violation of the company's code of journalistic ethics and that their primary responsibility as journalists was to “maintain credibility and public trust in themselves and the organization.”  
      This statement alludes to the nineteen-thirties, when American newspaper publishers first forbid journalists to allow their personal opinions to color news stories, ‘opinion’ being confined to editorials.  Today’s opponents of this doctrine, represented mainly by the alternative press, believe that strict objectivity is impossible, because the individual journalist’s life experiences inevitably color his reporting and interpretation of events. Iin fact, “credibility” and “trust in the organization” have made the general public fall victim to the mass media.

      Commenting on the events in Charlottesville, Virginia earlier this month, Newseum’s Chief Operating Officer, Gene Policinski, whose previous job was managing editor of the Sports division (sic) of USA Today, wrote:

       “History tells us of the rise at various times in our nation of groups preaching hate and bigotry and violence, using their rights of speech, press and assembly to inflame rather than inform, incite rather than inspire, and indoctrinate rather than educate. Nativists, the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and others at various times have used fear, prejudice and ignorance to flourish and gain public accommodation or support — sometimes for decades — before crawling back under the social rocks from whence they came.

     “We need to understand them for what they are: betrayers of what President Lincoln called “our better angels,” of the principles of equality, justice and the rule of law — painfully worked out over time and sometimes imperfectly at the outset, through the self-correcting processes of speaking and writing freely, of assembling and petitioning peaceably for change.

       “We don’t want to hand our government, at any level, the authority to restrain free expression on the mere supposition (!) that it may provoke violence — or worse because many or even most in a locale oppose it. Over time, we have developed and been well-served by legal doctrines narrowly defining when officials can act to suppress speeches, rallies or marches; doctrines rooted in specific evidence of real, immediate threats to public safety. From schools to sidewalks, those laws focus on applying restrictions on conduct rather than suppressing the ideas behind those actions.

Policinski’s last sentence plainly contradicts his implicit condemnation of “groups preaching hate and bigotry and violence, using their rights of speech, press and assembly to inflame rather than inform, incite rather than inspire, and indoctrinate rather than educate.” 

This play on words is typical of the right’s sleight of hand in matters of freedom, and illustrates the fundamental ‘clash of civilizations’ between socialists and liberals. Socialism, which inspires the Anti-Fa’s positions, is the polar opposite of fascism, and when fascists — or ‘white supremacists’ — parade through public spaces shouting ‘You shall not replace us!’ and ‘Jews shall not replace us!’, anti-fascists protest, a stance that is legitimate under the Human Rights Declaration’s protection of ‘peaceful’ assembly.  This cornerstone document specifies, as stated above:

(2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.

While Newseum’s editorial claims  that “we have been well served by legal doctrines narrowly defining when officials can act to suppress speeches, rallies or marches; doctrines rooted in specific evidence of real, immediate threats to public safety,” he is in fact confirming that hate groups have operated freely in the southern United States. 

Unlike the laws in most European countries, which hew to the International Declaration, types of speech that are not protected in the United States include obscenity, fighting words, fraudulent misrepresenta-tion, advocacy of imminent lawless behavior, defamation, and threats or intimidation. Yet there is nothing moral about calling for the destruction of Jews, as does the Alt-Right in its publications and in its public manifesta-tions. Anti-fa’s reaction to these calls also threaten public order and the general welfare, theoretically putting both outside the law. However, the msm is at fault for not acknowledging the distinction made by International Human Rights Law: fascists are free to believe anything they want, including that Jews are evil and should be done away with, but they are not entitled to proclaim that belief because this imperils public order and the general welfare, as illustrated by the Anti-fa’s refusal to countenance it. 

        Journalists like Chuck Todd adopt the tone of a moral high-ground, first condemning Anti-Fa, and only afterwards admitting that fascist slogans such as “Blood and Soil”, that inspired Hitler’s demand for “Lebensraum” are “regrettable”..

        Does anyone imagine that a socialist -- or communist! -- rally would encounter the same indulgence?

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Fascism Now!

Dear Readers,

Today I want to share with you the best article I have ever read about what is going on in the world.


At the same time, I invite you to give me feedback on the last few weeks' posts, and if you haven't already done so, do sign up to receive notifications when I post new articles.

"This is How it Starts",


Thursday, August 17, 2017

2016 Fascism Roundup

As the Trump presidency speeds toward disintegration, here is a chronological series of 2016 posts on otherjones.com that warn of fascism:
Feb 28,2016 : Question: What do ISIS and Trump Have in Common? Answer: Both are Backed by US Power.  
The American media only mentioned in passing that ISIS had taken over oil fields until Russia started bombing the (white Toyota) trucks transporting oil to Turkey for sale.

Similarly, until today, the American media has indulged in all-day, wall to wall coverage of the Donald Trump phenomenon: a billionaire businessman known for shady deals who galvanizes working class American voters. Today, CNN - the only major channel on news duty Sunday afternoons - had to unequivocally criticize Trump for alleging that he “knows nothing” about white supremacist, David Duke, former head of the Ku Klux Klan, who endorsed him.

(From Wikipedia: The  "Know Nothings" were members of the semi-secret American Party party. When a member was asked about its activities, he was supposed to reply, "I know nothing." Outsiders called them "Know-Nothings", and the name stuck. In 1855, it was empowered by popular fears that the country was being overwhelmed by German and Irish Catholic immigrants, whom they saw as hostile to republican values, and as being controlled by the Pope in Rome. Mainly active from 1854 to 1856, the movement strove to curb immigration and naturalization, but met with little success. Membership was limited to Protestant men.)

Like everything else that Donald Trump has done in the campaign, this slip-up (curiously preceded by “I disavow”), will probably not dent his support, nor is it likely, in the long run (which, in the news cycle is a few hours, days at most ) to substantially alter the media’s fawning coverage. Trump is such a ‘good story’, it matters not one whit whether or not he is good for America.

At four-thirty, I tweeted that Trump may have seized upon the Duke endorsement as a convenient way to end his campaign, then I remembered that yesterday a poll revealed that 20% of his supporters believe it was a mistake to free the slaves. 
As for ISIS, like the Taliban whom we supported in order to spoil Russia’s party in Afghanistan (which consisted mainly of efforts to liberate women and try to get some modern industry going, efforts that were condemnable because lead by ‘communists’) we support the latest Islamic avatar in covert ways because it is located on the right end of the political spectrum, pretending to ‘know nothing’ about the fact that it is a dictatorship more brutal than anything to have hit the front pages in decades (Hitler, Mussolini, Pol Pot), having expeditiously replaced gas chambers with always ready-to-use head-choppers (as Donald calls them). 

Our case against ISIS is that it is a ‘terrorist organization’ that could in future take on the Homeland. We don’t mind at all when it inflicts pain on a present enemy such as Bashar al-Assad, whom we want to dislodge from power, or even against the Iran-friendly Iraqi government that we put in place. 

US power is a one-track system that seeks ever increasing control of greater parts of the world.  It is not interested in ‘doing good’, or even in ‘saving the planet’ since there are a myriad of other planets out there, virtually guaranteeing that one of them will turn out able to support life. Until that planet is found and made ready for human habitation, expediency dictates that the few dispense their backing for whatever and whoever is likely to keep the many at bay.

March 13, 2016:
The Second US Revolution is Starting

When the time comes to write the history of the second American revolution - or perhaps the second civil war - no one will be able to say that they didn’t see it coming. We have seen it build day after day on our television screens: A big, sexually active, square-jawed billionaire decides that a weekly tv show isn’t enough to feed his ego, so he runs for the presidency, getting 24 hour coverage.

Like every media star, he plays to his strengths, led by a stream of consciousness filled with the same dirty words we hear on television, encouraging his followers to attack those who disagree with his plan to ‘make America great again’.  It has only taken a few months for violence to appear, but Trump gets away with calling Bernie Sanders protesters ‘Communists’, blaming them for the incidents, when they are constitutionally against violence, whether at home or abroad.

The Sanders candidacy allowed the American left to come out in favor of social democracy.  Almost a century behind the rest of the Western World, it is finally possible for a socialist to appear on national television. Last August, I wrote that we could be faced with a Trump/Sanders election, and nobody believed me because Sanders is facing a presumptive front runner. Today it’s clear that his uphill battle for the nomination is helped not only by Hillary’s foibles, but by Trump’s embrace of violence.

Most Americans have long believed that our country would continue its middle-of-the-road course, avoiding both fascism and communism. But they allowed money - always an ally of the right - unprecedented freedom to create never-before-seen disparities of wealth. With our international quality of life scores embarrassingly low, reasoned condemnation of that policy sooner or later had to break through the pretense of exceptionalism.

Powerful economic interests want the country to continue its foreign wars, making it impossible to close the quality of life chasm. We may eventually discover that bankers and weapons manufacturers actually called on Trump.  As US workers began to discover that every other developed nation has better schools, free health care, free universities and a host of other benefits that flow from the conviction that the community must stand in solidarity with its individual members, just as do families, the 1% may have decided that it will not suffice to have brought the European welfare state to its knees to prevent them from demanding equal treatment. Even if the Islamist threat ensures continuing ‘patriotism’, they may need to feel certain that the thousands of militiamen and other Second Amendment fanatics at home will turn their guns on a resuscitated left rather than on them.

Trump may sincerely believe he can will the country back to  ‘greatness’, just as Hitler believed his ‘master race’ would rule Europe. But as the almost imperceptible drip drip of information about how the rest of the developed world lives reaches a critical mass of Americans, the many demanding equity will be met by the few defending power. 

America’s role in the world is also at play, as religious fanatics reject a ‘city upon a hill’ that has descended into a gutter of commercialism in which everything has a price, embodied by female forms. As shown by attacks on European women by Muslim immigrants, this doesn’t help Muslim men accept women as equals.

Most liberal Americans still believe that Sanders doesn’t stand a chance of getting the Democratic nomination, and those who support him see him as primarily a domestic reformer. But Bernie’s attitude is also what is needed to heal a rift with the Muslim world, for it was Christians who undertook the crusades that destroyed its rule over half a continent, (a rule that accepted Jews).

If Bernie can build on the stance he took the other day when he welcomed a hijab-clad student of political science to his microphone, telling her: “I am a Jew. Members of my family perished in the holocaust,” he could be seen as the right president for the United States, both domestically and internatio-nally.

Journalists are finally daring to play back to us Trump’s encouragement of violence when he denies it, but they are only slightly more inclined to condemn him outright than are his challengers for the Republican nomination. All should review 1930’s German history, when democratic socialists failed to meet a similar challenge, before it is too late.

The rule of physics called ‘the arrow of time’ tells us that once a process reaches a certain momentum, it can only continue in a forward direction: the arrow of time is irreversible.

June 9, 2016: It’ s Our Turn to Fall Apart

For decades, the carefully scripted Anglo-Saxon world has been gloating at the sight of lesser polities’ perpetual political turmoil: whether it be European — France’s successive ‘Republics’ - currently the Fifth — or the escapades of Italy’s media tycoon turned politician - or Latin America’s succession of what Fidel Castro called ‘politicheros’ - or Africa’s long-term dictators - the US has always been above such confusion, our two parties participating in regularly-scheduled two and four-year election cycles.

Hence surprise and incomprehension among both actors and commentators, as the Republican Party finds itself saddled with a candidate chosen by a rambunctious people rather than party hacks, while the Democrats are unable to see that Hillary’s coronation comes eight years too late: Democratic youth have finally discovered socialism, and are unlikely to vote for Hillary because she has not. 

2016 will go down in history as the year the US strayed beyond the boundaries of the Democrat/Republican duopoly, the elephant and the donkey, the blue and the red, into a free-for-all in which the media no longer has to soup up ‘stories’ to increase ratings (which have replaced rational analysis). Many have commented on the ‘bandwagon’ that accompanies American elections, few have considered that they are made to appear more meaningful in terms of policy than they are.

But never have we seen such grasping at straws! While third party candidates have always been tagged as “spoilers” (think Ralph Nader, who may have cost Al Gore the fateful 2000 presidency…), in this extraordinary situation, the Republicans are frantically seeking anyone who will run against their presumptive nominee, and Democratic voters are trying to convince Bernie Sanders to ditch the party and run as an independent. News shows reveal major Republican movers and shakers desperately try to pull out of a hat someone who has not already been defeated by Donald Trump in the primaries, and who would be willing to take on ‘the Donald’ as he is referred to, as a third party candidate whom they would back, even though they were previously pressured to promise they would back ‘the nominee’…) Such disarray has probably never been seen in Washington, and it signals that there is a real right and a real left in this country, both of which have left the two ‘ruling’ parties behind.

Speaking of France, Francois Hollande is the least popular president of the Fifth Republic. His socialist party kowtows to the global financial mafia, (demurely known in French as ‘the market’) following upon similar behavior in Iceland in 2011, Cyprus, 2012-13, Greece, on-going since 2009, Spain and Portugal, ditto. French workers responded to Hollande’s supine acceptance of the ‘market’s’ demand for looser labor laws by paralyzing the country and threatening to desert its 58 nuclear power plants. 

Seen in the context of America’s diverse machinations abroad, it’s no surprise that the major TV outlets announced that Hillary had clinched the nomination before California voters went to the polls, causing many Democrats to stay at home, depriving Bernie of that crucial state’s delegates - or that they voice confidence that although the Attorney General met with Bill Clinton “on the tarmac”, i.e., in her private plane, for a ‘chance encounter’ the FBI will not upset the apple cart. 

As fear rises like fumes from a swamp, in a country in which feminism has become more important than fascism or the threat of World War III, the City Upon a Hill has descended into the real world alongside the rest of humanity, and it hasn’t a clue what to do.

June 13, 2016: US Election: Ignorance in Charge

Republican despair over the fact that Donald Trump has managed to become, for all intents and purposes, the Republican nominee for President, shows one striking thing: for one man, one vote, to ensure enlightened governance, democracy has to be backed up by a very high quality compulsory education system.

Donald Trump won more primary votes than any other American candidate ever, forcing the Republican establishment to anoint him as their candidate, against their better judgement. But if you are going to limit voter education to TV reality shows and video games, you should not be surprised if anger over government failings leads a lot of ordinary people to vote for the candidate who encourages them to have a gun. Donald Trump didn’t become a billionaire by being a couch-potato or toting a gun, but his message is clearly designed to appeal to such voters.

That message is the equivalent of Hitler’s appeal to disenchanted 1920’s and thirties German voters, who longed for past glory, and it’s a stinging indictment of a century of compulsory eduction. Television is a wonderful means of mind control, and when its appeal began to fade, video games and smart-phones came along to pick up the slack. Technology opens up a world of unlimited information if one cares to look for it, but obsessive use of computers and its offshoots leaves little time for independent thinking, which requires a silent environment without too much visual stimulus.

In mid-nineteenth century America, education was seen as the key to democracy: voters needed to master the three r’s (reading, writing and arithmetic), to make meaningful decisions in the voting booth.  But at some point, the decision to invest in advertising in order to sell more stuff, rather than in schools, meant that more money was invested in ‘fun’ than in knowledge, filling the coffers of manufacturers while emptying minds. Most progressive analysis since the end of World War II has focused on the ever-growing role of publicity in consumer choices.  But advertising also plays a crucial role in deterring voters from paying attention to what goes on beyond their neighborhood or town - not to mention their ability to do so meaningfully.

The American population can be divided into two main groups: an overwhelming majority that hardly knows there is a world beyond our borders, and a very small minority - probably no more than 10% - that pays attention to international developments, but believes America should always be top dog.  

That is why a year-long presidential campaign - longer than those of any other country, by far - holds Americans spell-bound, to the exclusion of wars or natural disasters occurring elsewhere. And when someone like Donald Trump comes along bragging about his commercial - not academic, scientific, artistic or spiritual - accomplishments, large numbers of voters, especially men who have seen their dreams of success (those promised by TV ads) fade away, leaving as only recourse access to a gun with which potentially to alter reality, literally rise up, as we have seen at countless rallies, giving him the primary votes needed to become the candidate of a Republican Party whose 2012 candidate was the milk-toast Mitt Romney. 

June 18, 2016: This is How it Starts

Too bad they haven’t yet invented a time machine that could take us back to the nineteen thirties. We would probably recognize ourselves in the Germans of that time, as Hitler was taking over power by ‘electoral means’, his lusty rednecks soon to wear brown shirts.

We’re beyond the time when we could say with confidence ‘It Can’t Happen Here’.  Events that no one can control are carrying us forward: one thing leads to another, no one (or at least very few) are doing ‘this’ deliberately, but if our grandchildren survive, they will wonder how we (yes, we!) let the United States birth a fascist takeover, not of one continent, but virtually the entire world.

Europe was probably in a much more ‘normal’ state in 1930 than it is today, not to mention the US. When Americans were first introduced to the ‘Red Scare’, radio was a novelty, and so, comparatively were airplanes.  Ford T’s were still on the roads. Americans were clearly divided over entering the First World War: the battle was fought through the 1916 election: Woodrow Wilson won, and the following year took us to war in an early version of R2P.
Today, our abuse of R2P has upended a good part of the world, sent hundreds of thousands of innocents fleeing governmental or rebel violence, much of it indirectly caused by the industrial/financial complex seated on Wall Street.  Our rush to ‘protect’ is about bottom lines, not people.  As for the American people, they would be hard-pressed to point the finger at one guilty party, or one turning point.

Enthroned on our ‘hill’ we have watched with uninterrupted schadenfreude as those whom God did not choose saw their governments fumble and tumble, or grow into monsters, thinking to our superior selves “How unfortunate for these people that they have not the good fortune to live in the United States!”

It has taken a century for the shoe to move to the other foot, but Americans are as powerless today as the Germans were then.  The citizens of a country who’s Declaration of Independence proclaimed it was their duty to replace a government that failed to obey their will with another, were made to be mortally afraid of the Revolution that put an end to autocratic rule in a country that had scarcely outlawed serfdom.

The House un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) was created as early as 1938 “to investigate alleged disloyalty and subversive activities on the part of private citizens, public employees, and those organizations suspected of having Communist ties.”  It was not abolished until 1975. In other words, this committee, that summoned ordinary people to testify on friends, family or co-workers, operated for almost 40 years, roughly the same amount of time that, in the Soviet Union, ‘Stalinism’ held sway. (Stalin become the country’s undisputed leader in 1923 and died in 1953, thirty years later…).  

It took decades for Stalin’s legacy to be replaced by Mikhail Gorbachev’s Perestroika and Glasnost, and the Yeltsin years that followed his dissolution of the Soviet Union, saw the sacking of the country’s patrimony and the rise of the oligarchs and Russia’s billionaire class. Less noticed, in the US, HUAC was succeeded seamlessly by Neo-Conservatism, that carried forward under more sophisticated disguises the HUAC ideology.  

Literally as I write this, I notice a post on the same theme on opednews.com by no less an authority than Bill Moyers http://billmoyers.com/story/trump-virus-dark-age-unreason/, tracing Trump’s close political operative Roy Cohen back to McCarthy!

The most accurate label to describe the progressive media to which I belong is that is inhabited by hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of powerless voices that can only cry in the wilderness, today’s equivalent of the Victorian ‘wringing of hands’.  On the rare occasions when Bernie Sanders’ supporters become feisty, they are quickly condemned by the media. The many, many more occasions when Donald Trump’s supporters demonstrate their propensity to violence, draw only mild condemnations from news anchors, while Trump eggs them on.

Trump’s headline comments on the Orlando shooting by an ISIS admirer, far from joining very belated congressional calls for better gun control, were that lives would have been saved had even just one person among the revelers had a gun. Make no mistake: the Republican Party’s failure to forcefully back a credible alternative to Trump is a folly that has its reasons, however disputable.

And this is how events that history looks back upon with disbelief come into being.

July 8, 2016: More Than Ignorance 

The Public Broadcasting Channel (PBS) is running a series on the war in Ukraine that would make the inhabitants of Donetsk and Lugansk furious if they could see it. In the first episode we meet government soldiers who claim they are fighting for the country to stay unified. However, when one of the rebel soldiers (a woman, by the way) says forcefully that she would rather die than live under a fascist government, the narrator claims that she is evoking Russia’s role in World War II, (when it fought Nazi (or fascist) Germany). He failed to inform the viewer that the 2014 coup in Kiev deposed a democratically elected pro-Russian president for a pro EU-regime imposed via chains and truncheons wielded by descendants and followers of Ukrainian ultra-nationalists who fought alongside Hitler against Russians and Jews in World War II.

In the second episode, the narrator acknowledges approvingly that the new uniforms of Kiev’s police are copies of US police blue, complete with the vizor cap, instead of reporting that US military are training Kiev’s army.

The third episode dispenses with reports on Ukraine’s civil war to focus on scare-mongering in Estonia, one of the three tiny Baltic countries that were part of the Soviet Union for seventy years, becoming independent when that multi-national country collapsed. Pretexting that the presence of large Russian-speaking populations could tempt President Vladimir Putin to try to take over these counties, the way he supposedly did Crimea, the narrator sets up his shot on a desolate looking Russian border, then cuts to massive NATO forces standing ready to counter any Russian incursion.  

The new Cold War that has been playing out since US-backed pro-EU Ukrainians carried out their coup in 2014, is attributed to Russia’s reprehensible ‘behavior’ — a word US foreign policy wonks favor, as if Russia were a wayward child. But the Kiev coup didn’t materialize out of thin air, among a population rightly fed up with corruption. It was carefully orchestrated by Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary of State for Eastern Europe, who bragged at a talk to Washington journalists that the US had ‘invested’ five billion dollars in a campaign to ‘bring democracy’ to Ukraine.  This talk is available on-line, as is her conversation with the then US Ambassador to Kiev discussing which Ukrainian politician would make the best Prime Minister. Nuland referred to her pick as ‘Yats’ (for Yatsenyuk) and when warned he might not suit the EU, famously responded ‘Fuck the EU!’  Nuland had been repeatedly seen on news footage of the Maidan uprising handing out cookies to Ukrainians fighting for ‘democracy’.

Although two and a half years have passed since the February 2014 coup, even most college-educated Americans, who read the New York Times, the Washington Post or the Wall St Journal religiously, are unaware of these details.  Reporting on the Maidan was on the same level of accuracy as the current public television series on ‘Ukraine’.

Having made repeated efforts to enlighten friends and acquaintances about what they don’t know, I’ve come to the conclusion that the US public’s attitude toward Russia is not just due to lack of information. Older generations, especially (those over 45 make up the majority of voters for the first time, and tend to support either Hillary or Donald) don’t want to know what is going on. Confronted with evidence that crimes are being committed in their name, they cannot bring themselves to enlarge their news sources. The refusal of people who are normally open and eager to know about the world to take advantage of non-traditional or foreign news sites, can only be called pathological: they apparently believe that if they do not look at the evidence that everything they have believed about their country was a facade, that ‘inconvenient’ truth will eventually go away.

This attitude is strikingly similar to the fear Americans had of the word ‘communism’ during the Cold War. It was as though learning about communism would contaminate them, a subliminal fear of being brain-washed. This could be understood in that ‘Communism’ is a ‘doctrine, or worse, an ‘ideology’, in a country in which ideologies are rejected in favor of a straightforward ‘one man, one vote’ and may the best man win, as if all candidates were committed to the common good, i.e., the pursuit of happiness via equal opportunity, no strings attached.  (If you “play by the rules and work hard”, you will flourish.)

So the prevention against learning about communism - or even socialism - the two being interchangeable in the minds of most Westerners - is in a way understandable.  What is much less so is the refusal to consider the possibility that a country that has been tagged as an enemy, might in fact not be one at all in the minds of either its people or their leaders.

I’ve encountered this attitude time and time again - with surprisingly few exceptions - among professional seniors who believe they are abreast of world affairs. It suggests that after the presidential election, more Americans whose eyes are open will emigrate than during the Vietnam War.

September 1, 2016: Pick Your Fascism 

I was sure Donald Trump would get a bounce from his lightening trip to Mexico:  he would show that he can walk and chew gum at the same time, compared to a Hillary who would have planned the visit to a foreign president for months.

I was right about the bounce, but it’s clear that it has a whole other meaning: the meeting with the Mexican president forced Trump to show the dangerous side pundits have been warning of: vindictive, brutal, playing to supporters who worship these traits.

Little more than a month separates American voters from the chance to pick which form of fascism they will embrace: Hillary’s version that will whip so-called allies into line and if ‘necessary’, nuke recalcitrant nations like Russia, to advance the goals of Wall Street, or Trump’s cruder incarnation at the point of citizens’ guns.

Cuban famlies picknicking at Havana Book Fair, 2011