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U.S. Humiliates South Korea, Threatens North Korea

By David William Pear. January 17, 2018

[Photo:  President of South Korea Moon Jae-in, Image by from Wikipedia]

[First published by The Greanville Post, revised January 17, 2018]

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.

Bush scrapped the Agreed Framework, and told then South Korean President Kim Dae-jung that future talks with North Korea were dead. Kim Dae-jung had come to visit Bush shortly after winning the Nobel Peace Prize for his Sunshine Policies of peace with North Korea. Instead of welcoming President Kim and his peace efforts, Bush humiliated him by shockingly calling North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-il a dwarf. North Korea predictably withdrew from the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2003 and resumed work on its nuclear program. A month later Bush called out North Korea to pay particular attention to Libya as an example of how a country is welcomed into the international community when it unilaterally gives up its nuclear defense program. North Korea paid attention and it was listening when Muammar Gaddafi said in a 2008 speech that "one of these days America may hang us like they did Saddam ". In 2011 Gaddafi met a brutal death at the hands of US proxies; he was anally raped with a bayonet and left to rot on public display in a meat locker. Before Gaddafi's corpse was even cold a hysterically glowing Hillary Clinton cackled "we came, we saw, he died", hahaha". Now fast forward to 2018 and the US is threatening war against North Korea again.

The US has been abusing Korea since 1871 when it first invaded it with an expeditionary force of Marines to forcibly open trade. Korea just wanted to be left alone, but the US forced Korea to sign an exclusive trade treaty in 1882 at the point of a gun. In exchange for that unequal trade agreement the US promised Korea protection. In 1910 the US proved that its promise was worthless. Instead of protection, President Theodore Roosevelt stabbed Korea in the back by conspiring with Japan. Roosevelt had enthusiastically supported Japan in the Russo-Japanese War. Japan pre-emptively attacked the Russian fleet at Port Arthur in a sneak attack. Teddy congratulated Japan for their brilliance...in 1941 his nephew Franklin would call a Japanese sneak attack "a day of infamy". After Japan and Russia ground down to a bloody stalemate, Japan secretly appealed to Teddy to open negotiations. Roosevelt acted as a (dis)honest broker in negotiating the Treaty of Portsmouth, for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize. Japan won the spoils of the war. Roosevelt had a secret deal that Japan could have Korea and the US would take the Philippines. In 1945 the US deceived Korea again. Instead of liberating Korea from the Japanese occupation, the US occupied Korea for 3 more years until 1948 and then blocked its independence. The US was largely responsible for the division of Korea and backing dictatorships in South Korea until 1993. Americans do not know the US treachery, but Koreans do. Why would they trust the USA now?

In order to understand North Korea, one must start with the "anticolonial and anti-imperial state growing out of a half-century of Japanese colonial rule and a half-century of continuous confrontation with a hegemonic United States", as Bruce Cumings writes in his book North Korea: Another Country. In order to understand South Korea one should take a similar approach. The Japanese colonization of Korea in 1910 was greeted with cheers from the USA. Teddy Roosevelt encouraged Japan to have its own Japanese Monroe Doctrine for Northeast Asia. The Japanese were harsh rulers, and Koreans remember colonial times as a national humiliation. Under the Japanese the Korean economy grew rapidly, but Koreans will rightly argue that little of it helped the average Korean. Like the Korean "comfort women" sex slaves during World War Two, Koreans were forced to obey their Japanese masters. Some Koreans complied reluctantly, some willingly and some enthusiastically. Many, but not all of the enthusiastic collaborators came from the landed aristocratic class of Koreans known as the yangban. Other collaborators were traitors that saw advancing their economic and social status by collaborating. After the division of Korea in 1945 many of the yangban class and collaborators fled to the South where they felt safe with the US occupation army, and for good reasons. The North was redistributing the yangban's vast landholdings. Many of the yangban and collaborators were safer in the US occupied south. Some went on to achieve leadership in business and government in South Korea. For instance, the future South Korean dictator Park Chung-hee (from 1963 until his assassination in 1979) had collaborated with the Japanese as a lieutenant in the Japanese army in Manchuria fighting against the Korean resistance fighters.

Korea has a long history of thousands of years. It united as one people in the 7th century and remained so until after World War Two. The US had started planning for the occupation of Korea six months after Pearl Harbor, according to Bruce Cumings. The day after Japan surrendered a future Secretary of State Dean Rusk drew a line at the 38th Parallel where the US proposed that Korea be divided, and the Russian allies agreed. Thousands of Koreans protested in the streets. They were told that a trusteeship was temporary until elections. Instead the US feared that the people would elect a communist government, and so they rigged a fraudulent election for a separate government in the South. The United Nations rubber stamped it. As in the South, the North then held separate elections for the Supreme People's Assembly which then elected Kim Il Sung, a famous anti-Japanese guerilla resistance leader since 1932. The US and South Korean propaganda portray that North Korea was a puppet and satellite project of the Soviet Union. This is probably the US projecting its own imperial intentions. Cummings says that no evidence exists that the Soviets had any long-term designs on Korea. They withdrew all of their military from North Korea in 1948.

North Korea has experience with US brutality. During the Korean War the US bombed Korea for 3 years, wiped out 20% of its population and destroyed every city, village and vital structure. President Truman threatened to bomb them with the atomic bomb, and General Douglas MacArthur planned to use 30 nuclear bombs which were shipped to a US base in Okinawa. Truman fired MacArthur not because MacArthur wanted to use nukes, but because Truman wanted someone more loyal he could trust with them. Truman preauthorized MacArthur's replacement General Matthew Ridgeway to use the nuclear bombs at his discretion. The US public is oblivious to US recklessness with nuclear bombs and is passive about what is done in their name. The Korean War (1950 to 1953) is called the Forgotten War because the US public has amnesia. Whatever propaganda they do remember is a flawed version of history put out by the US government. Oblivious, passive and amnesia are why all US wars of aggression are quickly forgotten as the US moves on to the next one.

After the US military occupation of South Korea from 1945 to 1948, South Korea was ruled by US backed repressive dictators until the first democratic election in 1993.  The first despot that the US installed was Syngman Rhee in 1948. Rhee was a practically unknown in Korea because he had lived in the USA from 1912 until 1945, when he was flown back to Korea by the US military. The US pumped billions of dollars into South Korea to make it a showplace of US-style capitalism during the Cold War, but South Korea did not develop under either democracy or a free market, according to Ha-Joon Chang, the author of Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism.

For many decades North Korea outpaced South Korea in economic development and in their standard of living until the 1970’s. With the 1991 demise of its most important trading partner the Soviet Union, North Korea fell on very hard economic times. Then it suffered two floods and a drought in the 1990's that resulted in famines. On top of that the US has imposed killer economic sanctions. So now US propaganda constantly reinforces the belief that North Korea is an economic failure that cannot even feed its own people. While the US touts that South Korea is an economic miracle of democracy, capitalism and free markets. Little is ever mentioned about the economic collapse of South Korea in 1997, which the US had to rescue with a financial bailout package that reached $90 Billion. The package included IMF loans that came with humiliating conditionalities of austerity. The minister of finance Lim Chang Yuel went on TV, humiliated and begging for the South Korean people's forgiveness.

Despite all the propaganda otherwise, North Korea is not only willing to sit down at the table with the US, but it has long been proposing negotiations to a deaf USA ear. What North Korea says it wants today are the same things that were negotiated with Clinton in the Agreed Framework: security, compensation, and economic relations with the US. There is nothing unreasonable that North Korea is asking for, and that is probably why the US refuses to negotiate. It does not want peace for its own insane naked imperialism reasons. Instead the US wants continued hostilities; otherwise if it wanted peace it would welcome diplomacy.

It is the US that is unpredictable. One day Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says that the US is willing to hold unconditional talks with North Korea. Then he says the US won't. Trump says that he will destroy North Korea with fire and fury, and then he says he would "absolutely talk to North Korea's Kim on the phone". It is the US that is paranoid and finding enemies everywhere: Cuba, Afghanistan, Syria, Venezuela, Iran, and Russia to name just a few. The US enemies list has nothing to do with democracy, freedom and human rights. If it did the US would not be friends, allies, and benefactors to brutal kingdoms, monarchies, dictators, fascists and human rights abusers such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel, Honduras, Haiti, and Ukraine, for example. US foreign policy is based on hegemony, empire, power, corporate interests, corruption and self-interests of the high and mighty, not democracy and human rights.

Who is paranoid?  Compare how much of a threat the US is compared to North Korea. Since World War Two North Korea has not invaded anybody. The Korean War (1950 to 1953) was a civil war and authoritative historians such as I. F. Stone, Bruce Cumings, and David Halberstam agree that the South was responsible for instigating it too. Korea itself has not invaded anybody since the 16th century. The US has attacked at least 32 countries just since WW2. North Korea has a defense budget of only $7.5 billion, compared to the US $1 Trillion. North Korea has developed nuclear weapons because the US has been threatening it with nuclear destruction since 1950, introduced nuclear weapons into South Korea in 1957 in violation of the armistice agreement and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The US keeps practicing regime change decapitation invasions and nuclear attacks against North Korea. North Korea has an estimated arsenal of 20 nuke bombs that are not a threat to the US's 15,000 nuclear arsenal. Instead the US is an asymmetrical and existential threat to North Korea and every other non-compliant small country. North Korea has nuclear weapons because it does not want to humiliate itself by being a US poodle.  When are the American people going to wise up to the US propaganda and false cries that the evil wolf is at the door again?

References:

"North Korea: Another Country", by Bruce Cumings.

"The China Mirage: The Hidden History of American Disaster in Asia," by James Bradley.

"Korean Mind: Understanding Contemporary Korean Culture", by Boye Lafayette De Mente

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David is a progressive columnist writing on economic, political and social issues. His articles have been published by OpEdNews, The Greanville Post, The Real News Network, Truth Out, Consortium News, Global Research, and many other publications.   David is active in social issues relating to peace, race and religious relations, homelessness and equal justice. David is a member of Veterans for Peace, Saint Pete for Peace, CodePink, and International Solidarity Movement.

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Remember, Democrats are Awful Too

By Andrew Levine / Counterpunch.

Photo by Don Relyea | CC BY 2.0

Like it or not, in the 2018 midterms, the only way to defeat Republicans – and defy Donald Trump (or Mike Pence) — will be to vote for Democrats.

I don’t like it, and I don’t think anybody else should either.  The Democratic Party is part of the problem.  It would have to change beyond recognition to become even a small part of the solution.

But, at least in the short run, voting for a Democrat is the only way to ward off a pernicious, clear, present, and extremely grave danger.

The problem is not that there aren’t many Americans willing and eager to change the world radically for the better; there are plenty.  It is that our debilitating duopoly party system holds sway over us.  The idea that whatever is not Republican must be Democratic might as well be imprinted in our minds.

Those two parties have worked hard over many years to make this the case, and they are at it still.  Corporate media do yeoman service in their behalf.

This is why a large segment of the anti-Trump “resistance,” perhaps the most anodyne political force ever to use that word, is, for all intents and purposes, a Democratic Party project, and why much of the rest either is or is about to be coopted into the Democratic fold.

Good or bad (or very bad), this is inevitable.  Democratic victories in 2018 are not quite as inevitable because Democrats have a knack for losing with winning hands.  But this time around, even more than in 2016, they would have to outdo themselves not to take control of both the Senate and the House.

Insofar as Democratic victories weaken the Republican Party, diminishing its hold over national and state institutions, then bring them on.  A pox on them, though, insofar as they help build the Democratic Party in anything like its present form.

On a scale of one to ten, where one is as bad as it has ever been in American politics since the “segregation forever” days and ten is as good as it ever got, Republicans today are somewhere in the minus three to five range.  Trump himself is incommensurable because he is too much all over the place; but all the places he goes are bad.

By that measure, Democrats get a two or three.  That would be Democrats of the Clinton, Schumer, Pelosi type.  Democrats of the Sanders, Warren variety are better than that, at least on domestic matters, and the jury is out on the new people who are reportedly preparing to run for office as Democrats in 2018.  Some of them may even have a radical bone or two in their bodies; or one can at least hope.

The worst thing about Democrats is their eagerness to prepare the way in public opinion for stumbling into World War III.  To be sure, their warmongering is only the most glaring reason to find them appalling.  Their newly found love for the pillars of the national security state – especially the FBI and CIA – is another.  And, of course, there are all the many ways that they and the GOP are of one mind in supporting a neoliberal world order with America calling the shots.

In short, they are bad news – in ways that drag down everyone in their fold.

But our duopoly party system has colonized American political culture so thoroughly that it has become almost unthinkable for opponents of Republicans not to be supporters of Democrats.  And even when they are not – when, for example, they vote for the Greens – the thought that a vote for anybody but a Democrat is a vote for a Republican is inevitably on the mind; pathetically, in many circumstances, this is at least arguably the case.

Because the stakes are so high in 2018, and the alternatives so weak, few and far between, the duopoly’s hold over oppositional politics this time around is likely to be more than usually difficult to exorcise.  There is no choice but to deal with it and, if need be, to acquiesce.

It should go without saying that the case against lesser evil voting is sound, and that it makes excellent sense, logically and (in most imaginable circumstances) politically, to oppose Republicans without supporting Democrats.  Lesser evil voting elects evils; worse still, it promotes a race to the bottom.

But with an adolescent boy in an old man’s body controlling the nuclear arsenal and locked into a sick co-dependent relationship with a Republic Party comprised of loathsome troglodytes dead set on undoing most of the advances of the past hundred years, otherwise sound positions must sometimes be overridden.  To fight back against Trump and all things Trumpian, one must do what one must do; the urgency could hardly be greater.

But then it is important to keep a clear head – by not disregarding the dangers inherent in using the only means available, in the short term, for holding the Trumpian menace at bay.

***

Despite all the brouhaha that corporate media present as gospel truth, it is still far from clear precisely what, if anything, “Russiagate” amounts to; only the hypocrisy inherent in the (always vague) charges is certain.

At least since the end of Word War II, the United States has been the most flagrant meddler in the affairs of other countries of all time.

When the Soviet Union was intact and strong, there wasn’t much American intelligence services could accomplish there, though not for lack of trying.  Then Soviet “satellites,” in Eastern Europe bore the brunt – along with Cuba, of course, and everywhere else there was a whiff of Soviet influence.

China and countries in Asia and Africa that were, even in minor ways, in its ambit received similar attention.  But, back in the day, American planners saw the Soviet Union as the greater threat.  That was therefore where America meddled more.

When the Soviet Union imploded and split apart, former Soviet Republics became Target Number One – largely because American planners made incorporating them into the empire a top priority.

The Russian federation itself was, at first, less of a priority because it didn’t have to be.  With its economy in tatters thanks to the brutal way that its regression to capitalism was engineered (partly with American help), and with a government headed by a drunkard, Boris Yeltsin, and run by and for oligarchs and kleptocrats, there wasn’t much for the CIA to do.

The Clintons loved it and so did the neocons.  They would like nothing more than to make America great again by knocking Russia back down to where it was in the Bill Clinton days.

But, of course, American meddling is and never has been confined just to parts of the world on the other side of “the Iron Curtain” and in what used to be called the Third World.   The United States is a serial meddler – in every country on earth that might not otherwise do what the empire’s stewards want.

And yet the political class and its media flunkies are shocked, shocked that Russia would be so uppity as to meddle too – in American elections, no less.  Again, the meddling they are supposed to have done is of an unspecified nature and without any apparent consequence. But so what!  This cannot stand!

Words fail to describe the extent of the hypocrisy, the sheer chutzpah of it all.

To be fair, though, culpability on this account is not confined to the Democratic Party.    Republicans are as bad or worse; or rather they were before Democrats found Russiagate a useful cudgel to use against Trump and therefore against them.

Self-righteous hypocrisy about the moral and political rectitude of “the city on the hill” is a bipartisan affliction — more American than apple pie.

***

However, zeal in reviving Cold War animosities – and therefore in making our world more dangerous than it need be – is not.  As a Cold War party, Democrats are worse.  Or, rather, they have been ever since the summer of 2016, when the Clinton campaign decided that it would be a good idea to go neocon.  Since then, the idea has taken on a life of its own, and spilled out into wider circles at home and abroad.

The idea at first was not exactly to lay the groundwork for not blaming themselves should Clinton lose to Trump; no one, including Trump and the people around him, thought that was more than a theoretical possibility.

But Team Hillary was concerned that only second wave feminists and Democratic Party hacks were enthusiastic about the prospect of a Hillary (or Hillary and Bill) Restoration.

The contrast with the enthusiasm Bernie Sanders had stirred up was palpable.  This, along with the fact that, even without leaked emails, everybody who cared knew that the game had been rigged against him, made Clinton and her people worry that Sanders enthusiasts and other potential Democratic voters would stay home on Election Day.

The more preposterous the alternative was, the greater the probability of that.  Nobody, not even the Republicans Trump defeated to become that party’s nominee, was more preposterous than the Donald.

Low enthusiasm for Clinton wouldn’t put Trump in the White House – that was unthinkable – but a little insurance couldn’t hurt.

And so they did, as best they could, what Democrats did back in the Harry Truman days and for many years thereafter.  They could hardly redbait the Russians outright; the Russian government, under Vladimir Putin, is no redder than they, which is about as un-red as can be (in the old, not the corporate media, sense.)

It turns out, though, that redbaiters no longer need reds to redbait; the original Cold Warriors had done their job well so well that, even now that anti-Communism is an historical anachronism, its spirit survives, as much a tenet of the American civil religion as ever.

This, like so much else, is part of the patrimony of both mainstream political parties.  But with the GOP under Trump’s thumb, and with Trump pushing a Russia-friendly line, it fell to the Democrats to get out in front.

Someday, perhaps quite soon, Trump’s reasons for being less bellicose than Clinton will become clearer.  Most likely, financial shenanigans of a criminal kind are involved.   For now, though, we can only be grateful that the positions he campaigned on and that his administration has so far taken are less extreme.

When Democrats took it upon themselves to play an up-dated version of the anti-Communist card, they caught a break.  Russia, under Putin, was acting in ways that they and their propagandist could easily, if not quite fairly, demonize.

Ever since the Soviet Union expired and Chinese Communism took off down “the capitalist road,” history has been repeating itself – not as tragedy or farce, as Marx (following Hegel) said great historical events often do, but as a bizarre combination of the two.

After the Bolshevik Revolution and during the course of the civil war that ensued, capitalist powers, including the United States, constructed a military equivalent of a quarantine barrier, the infamous cordon sanitaire, around revolutionary Russia.  Nearly a century later, the United States and its allies set about doing it again.

Ronald Regan promised Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not move an inch further east.  It did, of course – relentlessly.   By the time Hillary Clinton was about to move back into the White House, NATO had moved about as far to the east as it could.

Ukraine, however, was not yet in the US-EU fold  – to the dismay of the liberal imperialists whom Clinton had empowered when she was Barack Obama’s Secretary of State, and whom Obama continued to support during his second term.

Many Ukrainians, especially in the mainly Ukrainian (not Russian) speaking western parts of the country, didn’t much like it either.  Some of them were comparatively benign nationalists; many were fascists or quasi-fascists.

Their attempts at staging yet one more “color revolution,” aided and abetted by Western, especially American, meddling, set off a militant resistance movement in the eastern, Russian speaking parts of the country; in the Crimea, above all.  This finally forced Russia’s hand, giving Cold War revivalists in both parties an opportunity to let loose.

It was Democrats who made the most of the opportunity; with Trump in the White House, they had the most to gain.  Thus they and their media flunkies set about stirring up old animosities that had never quite faded away even during the Bill Clinton salad days in the nineties when they no longer served any purpose.

***

Civics lessons in American secondary schools have gone the way of the dinosaurs, but, back in the day, when they were commonplace, they conveyed a certain view of what democratic governance is supposed to be like.  What was taught in them aligned well with the expectations of America’s founders — and, more generally, with the thinking of the Enlightened political philosophers from whom those founders drew inspiration.

The general idea was that laws are, or ought to be, made and executed by public servants dedicated to doing what is best for the whole community, not just for themselves or for particular sub-communities, partial associations, or interest groups.  Sophisticated versions of this line of thought survive to this day in the work of leading twentieth and twenty-first century political philosophers.

The real world of liberal democracy, ours especially, deviates profoundly from the civics lesson ideal.  Electoral campaigns are not about figuring out what is best for the whole community; they are about selling candidates to voters in the mindless way that advertisers sell bars of soap.

This takes money, lots of it.  The love of which is said to be the root of all evil.  Perhaps it is.  It is certainly the root of all Republican and (big-D) Democratic efforts to undermine (small-d) democracy.

Everybody knows this; indeed, it has always been this way to some extent.  Neither Democrats nor Republicans object.

Therefore both parties court donors assiduously.  Indeed, it is the main thing they do.

This is one reason why our political life is so morally and intellectually degraded.  It is also a reason why economic inequalities spill over from the economic sphere into the real world of purportedly democratic institutions.

Even with formal equality of citizenship, gross inequalities of political influence make a mockery of the civics lesson story; and with increasing inequality, the deviation from the ideal is rapidly becoming even more extreme and salient.

Our profoundly irrational capitalist economic system in its current phase is largely to blame for this, along with the virulent “rent seeking” that economic and political inequalities encourage.  Rent-seekers derive income not by adding to real productive capacities, but by using political influence to manipulate the social and economic environments in which economic activities occur.

And so we have entered into a period of grave economic and political turbulence.  It is impossible to say how it will end.

The duopoly parties nevertheless toddle on unbothered.   They could care less, more generally, about deviations from (small-d) democratic ideals – except insofar as they advantage or disadvantage one or the other party.

Voter suppression disadvantages Democrats.  Therefore, they oppose it — in the milquetoast ways for which they are famous.  They could oppose it more, but taking their own side is not in their nature.

It hardly bothers either party that the system is run by and for the hyper-rich, and both parties like – indeed, thrive on — a media system that dumbs voters down and marginalizes political views that fall outside the ambit of one or the other duopoly party.

But foreign meddling, Democrats insist, is beyond the pale.  Democrats cannot abide foreigners, Russians no less, involving themselves in American elections.

Even if the Russians are guilty as charged and Vladimir Putin is as evil as Rachel Maddow thinks, the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson and practically every other American capitalist who wants something from the American government harms American “democracy” more.

Those “malefactors of great wealth,” as Teddy Roosevelt called their counterparts a century ago, generally get their way.  The contrast with the alleged Russian meddlers is extreme; they don’t seem to have accomplished much of anything all.

Nevertheless, Democrats insist: the very idea of Russian meddling offends all we hold sacred.  Therefore, praise the lord and pass the ammunition.

However, for them, as for their rivals in the other duopoly party, the meddling, direct or indirect, of countries that benefit the donor class is seldom even a problem.  Their meddling, when on the up and up, which it often may be, is called “lobbying.” But even when it is not, prudent Democrats and Republicans look the other way.

Some of the most noxious regimes in the world are past masters at bending the American government to its will, regardless of the wishes of the American people; Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf monarchies are among the most extreme examples.

And then there is Israel, which no one in either duopoly party ever dares fault.  Its meddling in American political affairs puts even American meddling in the affairs of other countries to shame.

Democrats and Republicans are fine with that.  No matter that the government of Israel effectively owns Congress, or even that, by both conviction and marriage, it has the Trump family is in its thrall.

“A foolish consistency,” Emerson wrote, “is the hobgoblin of little minds.”  Foolish inconsistencies are generally more insidious and damaging.   The less odious duopoly party thrives on them, just as it has thrived lately on reviving the Cold War.  Shame on it!

But unless circumstances change fundamentally in unforeseeable and extremely unlikely ways between now and November, there will be compelling reasons to vote for Democrats – or rather to vote against Republicans by voting for Democrats — in the coming midterm elections.

Even so, if anything of more lasting value than relief from some of the direst consequences of Trump’s election is to come from voting for Democrats in November, the time to start organizing against the party of the Clintons, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi and others like them will not be after the election is over, when the old regime is riding high as it surely will be if there is a Democratic “wave.”  The time for that is now.

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ANDREW LEVINE is the author most recently of THE AMERICAN IDEOLOGY (Routledge) and POLITICAL KEY WORDS (Blackwell) as well as of many other books and articles in political philosophy. His most recent book is In Bad Faith: What’s Wrong With the Opium of the People. He was a Professor (philosophy) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Research Professor (philosophy) at the University of Maryland-College Park.  He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

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Trump's war on immigrants

By Shikha Dalmia / The Week.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
January 2, 2018

The Trump administration's malice toward immigrants isn't only evident in harsh deportation and other enforcement policies. You can also see it in the White House's acts of gratuitous pettiness. Case in point: the recent declaration that it plans to revoke the work authorization of spouses of foreign techies on H-1B visas.

Unlike almost every other visa category, spouses of H-1Bs, 90 percent of whom are women, receive H-4 visas that allow them to live in the country but, until recently, not work or start a business. Spouses of diplomats, investors on E visas, and intra-company transfers on L visas have never faced such restrictions.

This didn't make any sense. But it didn't matter all that much when transitioning from H-1Bs to green cards took only a couple of years. But in the last decade, average wait times have ballooned to six years. And for tech workers from China and India, wait times are now approaching two decades. This means that Chinese and Indian H-1B spouses are effectively frozen out of the U.S. labor market during their most productive years. Currently, about 1.5 million H-1B families are stuck in green card limbo land.

Former President Barack Obama partially fixed this perverse situation in the waning hours of his tenure, and handed work authorization to about 125,000 of these spouses if their husbands had jumped through all the bureaucratic hoops (like obtaining a labor certification from the feds attesting that there were no qualified American to do what they do) and filed a completed green card application. This brought U.S. practice somewhat in line with other industrialized countries such as Canada and Australia, which hand instant work authorization to spouses in order to attract high-tech talent.

But a group called Save Jobs USA, represented by lawyers from the nativist Center for Immigration Studies, sued the Obama administration, claiming that its reprieve to these spouses meant that for every one H-1B visa, America would now "import" two foreign workers — as if "importing" unproductive people were somehow economically preferable. A federal judge threw out the lawsuit, noting that the plaintiffs had failed to offer any convincing evidence of "irreparable harm" — which is not surprising given that these spouses make up a mere 0.001 of the total American workforce. Indeed, even if one accepts the false zero-sum economic math of nativists, in which every job gain by a foreigner means a job loss by an American, automation "destroys" more jobs in two months than all the H-4 spouses who have ever received work authorization.

The nativist group appealed and, instead of defending the rule in court, the Trump administration requested one delay after another until the court put its foot down and gave the administration until Jan. 2 to file its brief. But a couple of weeks ago the administration declared that to advance this president's protectionist "Buy American, Hire American" policies, it plans to rescind the rule. It is unclear whether it will do so retroactively and take away the work authorization of spouses who already have it, let it lapse, or just stop handing new authorization to future H-4s.

Regardless, this is a tragedy for women for whom jobs mean not only income and independence, but also a ticket out of loneliness and social isolation. They often have few friends or family in their new country and jobs are a way to enter mainstream society and assimilate. Incidentally, it is curious that the very restrictionists who relentlessly attack immigrants for not assimilating are also the ones most aggressively fighting to take away the most effective tool immigrants have for assimilation: jobs.

Many H-4 wives try to overcome their boredom by having children, which is why in techie circles H-4 visas are darkly referred to as "involuntary housewife" visas. But raising a family on a single income, especially in high-cost IT hubs like Silicon Valley where foreign tech workers tend to cluster, isn't easy, especially when they have obligations back home.

But the economic downside to America is also tremendous. Highly qualified professionals tend to marry similarly qualified mates. Many of them abandon successful careers back home to come to this "land of opportunity." Confining them to a life of household drudgery means squandering the most precious resource: human talent. Indeed, what has made America great is its particular genius in ferreting out this resource even among the "huddled masses" that have washed up on our shores. Forcing highly talented and ambitious spouses to sit at home instead of making economic contributions, especially when high-tech sectors are facing an exceedingly tight labor market with jobs waiting months to fill, makes zero economic sense.

So why is President Trump dong this?

It's simple. Trump's attack on foreign spouses is part of a general strategy to score political points with his nativist base by making life as miserable as possible for as many immigrants as possible. Indeed, in addition to going after spouses of H-1Bs, Trump has launched a war on H-1Bs themselves, despite these visas enjoying near sacrosanct status in pre-Trump conservative circles. For example, renewing their visas used to be a routine matter. Now, the administration has declared it will subject workers to the same onerous scrutiny as when they first applied in a naked bid to raise the compliance costs for companies that hire H-1Bs. So much for regulatory relief!

Immigrants will pay a price for Trump's wrong-headed views. And so will the rest of the country.

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Catalonia: The Independence Movement Resists, But Without Clarifying Its Strategy

By Marti Caussa / Socialist Project.

The December 21 election (21-D) reconfirmed the absolute majority of pro-independence members in the Catalan Parlement. It marked the political defeat of article 155, although that article and its consequences are still in force. On the other hand, the “unionist” bloc, favouring the “union” under the Spanish state and defending the latter’s implementation of article 155, emerged stronger and more aggressive. Ciudadanos (C’s) obtained the largest number of votes and deputies, and furthered its hegemony within this bloc.

Breakdown of the number of seats (escaños) in the Parlement won by the respective parties under Catalonia’s proportional representation electoral system.

The pro-independence majority bloc, winning the most votes and seats, legitimates the struggle for the Catalan Republic and the result of the October 1 referendum. However, the lack of strategic clarity continues. The October 27 unilateral declaration of independence revealed that the strategy of the pro-independence majority was inapplicable. But no steps were taken in practice to re-examine its orientation. And some of the proposals advanced indicate a disquieting direction.

The independentist majority in the previous Parlament (JuntsxCat, led by Carles Puidgemont; ERC, led by Oriol Junqueras; and the Popular Unity Candidacy, or CUP) was re-elected, but with a loss of two seats (70 vs. 72). Its percentage total remained virtually the same (47.49% vs. 47.74% in 2015) albeit with a much higher participation by voters (close to 82% of the eligible electorate). And the number of votes on December 21 was a slight increase from the number registered in the October 1 referendum and in the previous “plebiscitary” election [called by then President Artur Mas] on September 27, 2014 (respectively 2,063,361 vs. 2,044,038 and 1,897,274), but in a context in which a further 245,000 valid votes were cast.

Shifting Forces

The relation of forces within the independentist bloc was appreciably altered, but not fundamentally. Puigdemont managed to retain his leadership thanks to a greater autonomy vis-à-vis the PDeCat (Catalan European Democratic Party). The ERC (Catalan Republican Left) almost equalled the results of JuntsxCat, but did not manage to exceed them, as most of the opinion polls had predicted, which would have meant that the moderate left would have won a majority within the bloc and with Oriol Junqueras as the new President.

But the major change was the setback to the anticapitalist pro-independence party, the CUP, which lost more than 140,000 votes and 6 of its previous 10 deputies. This means it will play a much less decisive role in the new Parlement than it did previously, when it was able to influence the policy of the independentist bloc and the election of its President.

Catalunya en Comú-Podem [a coalition of five formations: Catalunya en Comú, Podem, Barcelona en Comú, Iniciativa per Catalunya Verds and Esquerra Unida i Alternativa], which is to continue characterizing itself as a left-wing sovereigntist force [defending Catalonia’s right to self-determination but not independence] notwithstanding its electoral campaign, lost close to 43,000 votes and 3 deputies. It obtained 323,695 votes and 8 deputies, less than its predecessor coalition Catalunya Sí Que es Pot did in 2015 (366,494 votes and 11 deputies) and ICV/EUiA [Initiativa per Catalunya Verds – Esquerra Unida i Alternativa] did in 2012 (359,705 votes and 13 deputies).

The unionist and pro-article 155 parties were unable to prevent the victory of the independentist movement. However, they did come very close to their previous results in votes (174,000 less) and percentage (4% less) but with a greater difference in seats (13). This means that Catalonia is divided into two major blocs: an independentist one, with an influence shared between the neoliberal centre and the moderate left; and a “unionist” one, defender of the anti-democratic article 155 and hegemonized by the neoliberal right. The left that fights for a clean break is a tiny minority within the pro-independence bloc and the weakened Catalunya en Comú-Podem cannot be included in either of the two blocs.

C’s is the largely hegemonic force in the unionist bloc and a supporter of article 155: it increased its votes by 367,000 and won 12 more deputies than it had in 2015. Its results were particularly strong in Barcelonés [the administrative region in which Barcelona is the centre], Vallés [the region with Caldas de Montbui as the historic capital], and Tarragonés [the province of Terragon]. C’s now dominate in what was previously the red belt of the PSC [Partit dels Socialistes de Catalunya, the Catalan counterpart of Spain’s social-democratic PSOE] and the ICV.

A very large share of C’s increased vote comes from the collapse of the PP [Partido Popular, the party of Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy], which lost 164,000 votes and 8 deputies. But probably most important is the fact that C’s managed to mobilize many who traditionally abstained from voting.

The defeat of the PP, the party that obtained the least votes and the least seats, is certainly good news and Rajoy will probably pay the price, given that he was unable to defeat the independentist bloc and destroyed his party in Catalonia. Moreover, he reinforced the party that is contesting his hegemony throughout the Spanish state.

Miquel Iceta [first secretary of the Catalan Socialist party] placed in third position on the PSC list Ramón Espadaler [former secretary of the Unió Democràtica de Catalunya, a Christian party, and now with the Convergència i Unió-CiU, a centrist party] together with some people from the Societat Civil Catalana or the Tercera Via [Third Way]. He tried to present himself as the supporter of an acceptable article 155. Thus he said he would ask for amnesty for the political prisoners. But he drew back when the unionist bloc turned on him. The results of all these maneuvers were modest; he increased his score by 80,000 votes and one deputy.

Pro-Independence Government

In short, the December 21 results should allow the selection of a pro-independence government, with Puigdemont, who headed the independentist list with the most votes, as President. The ERC has already explained that this was their proposal. But it remains to be seen how the difficulties resulting from Puigdemont’s exile and the charges issued by the Supreme Court can be overcome. The court continues to expand the list of the people being prosecuted for rebellion, with the addition now of Artur Mas, Marta Pascal, Marta Rovira, Anna Gabriel and Neus Lloveras.

In fact, the most urgent task after the elections continues to be the effective withdrawal of article 155 and of all its consequences, in particular the freeing of the political prisoners, the return of the exiles and the staying of the trials. The yellow ties campaign must be boosted anew.

Secondly, we must specify how to advance toward the conquest of the independent Catalan Republic. The December 21 elections have once again highlighted the principal problem: how to go far beyond the two million votes, how to increase the social support for the republic, particularly among the towns and cities of the regions of Barcelona, the two Vallés, Tarragon, etc. The election campaign did not help to respond to this question and instead sowed some major doubts about the validity of the unilateral actions, as I explained in a previous article.

The discussion of what has failed and what must be rectified in the strategy of the majority separatist current is still pending. But it is more needed than ever if we are to avoid getting ahead of ourselves through improvisation or unjustified retreats. •

Translated from the Spanish edition of Viento Sur by Richard Fidler.

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Social Media Madness: The Russia Canard

By Norman Solomon

For several months we’ve been hearing a crescendo of outcries that Russia used social media to sway the 2016 presidential election. The claim has now been debunked by an unlikely source -- one of the most Russiagate-frenzied big media outlets in the United States, the Washington Post.


Far away from the media echo chamber, the Post news story is headlined: “There’s Still Little Evidence That Russia’s 2016 Social Media Efforts Did Much of Anything.”


The article focuses on “what we actually know about the Russian activity on Facebook and Twitter: It was often modest, heavily dissociated from the campaign itself and minute in the context of election social media efforts.”


In fact, the ballyhooed Facebook ads were notably not targeted to be seen in swing states, the piece by Post journalist Philip Bump reports. As for the much-hyped tweets, they were smaller than miniscule in quantity compared to overall election-related tweets.

But don’t expect the fervent canard about Russian manipulation of social media to fade away anytime soon. At this point, the Russiagate atmosphere has become so toxic -- with incessant propaganda, credulity, fear-laced conformity and partisan opportunism -- that basic logic often disintegrates.


One of the weirdest aspects of claims that Russia undermined the election with social media has involved explaining away the fact that few of the ads and posts in question actually referred to Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump or the election. Instead, we’re told, the wily Russians tried to help Trump by inflaming social divisions such as racial tensions. It’s a rampant storyline (rendered here by NBC News political director Chuck Todd) that’s reminiscent of the common claim during the civil rights movement that “outside agitators,” such as Russian-directed reds, were inflaming and exploiting racial tensions in the South.


From there, it’s just a hop skip and jump to smearing Americans who dissent from U.S. orthodoxies as useful idiots who serve the interests of plotters in the Kremlin.


Of course history is not exactly repeating itself, but it’s rhyming an awful lot. There are real parallels between the McCarthy Era and today’s anti-Russia fervor in the United States.


Despite all the information and analysis that have strengthened progressive understanding in this country during the last few decades, fixating on Russia as culpable for the election of Trump has been widely irresistible. Perhaps that fixation is less upsetting than deeper realization of just how rotten the U.S. corporate system of injustice has become -- and how the forces that brought us the horrors of the Trump presidency are distinctly homegrown.


Narratives scapegoating Russia now have an extremely powerful grip on the USA. The consequences include heightened U.S.-Russia tensions that absolutely mean heightened risks of nuclear war -- and worsening threats to democratic discourse at home.


The conditioned reflex to label as somehow “pro-Putin” any opinion that overlaps with a Kremlin outlook is becoming part of the muscle memory of much of the American body politic. Countless journalists, pundits, activists and politicians have fallen under the Russiagate spell. They include the liberal primetime lineup on MSNBC, where -- as the media watchdog group FAIR pointed out last month -- Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes routinely bypass stories of great importance in order “to lead with minutiae from the ongoing Russia investigation that has consumed MSNBC‘s coverage like no other news event since the beginning of the Trump presidency.”


Across most of the media landscape, the meme that Russians attacked American democracy with social-media posts has been treated as self-evident.


In a typical exercise of the conformity that afflicts the national press corps, the Washington bureau chief for Mother Jones magazine, David Corn, wrote this fall that the House intelligence committee needed more staff to investigate, in his words, “how” -- not whether -- “a foreign adversary attacked American democracy.” His piece breathlessly declared that “the Trump-Russia scandal” was “expanding -- it now includes new revelations regarding Moscow’s use of social media in the United States to influence the 2016 campaign.”


That kind of stenography for powerful spin may snag cable TV appearances and lucrative book contracts, but it’s a notable disservice to journalism and democracy.


Meanwhile, most Democrats on Capitol Hill are eager to engage in such rhetoric. So, it was just another routine appearance when Senator Richard Blumenthal went on CNN a week before Christmas and declared “there is increasing evidence that the Russians are continuing their attack on our democracy.” He said: “The Russian attack on our elections in 2016 was endlessly ingenious and inventive, using all kinds of social media, all kinds of intermediaries, sources of information for them.”


To put it mildly, that sort of bombast gains vastly more airtime than discussing the urgent need for détente between the world’s two nuclear superpowers.


On MSNBC, Rachel Maddow has climbed with her ratings to great mass-media acclaim, while advancing herself from the outset of the Trump presidency as one of the most prominent and irresponsible Russia baiters in U.S. media. At this rate, when Maddow retires -- if she and the rest of us are lucky enough to avoid a nuclear holocaust -- she can look back on a career that deteriorated into an obsessive crusade against Russia that increased the chances of World War III.


In the poisonous media environment that keeps boosting her fame and fortune, it’s grotesquely fitting that Maddow -- time after time after time -- has devoted so much of her program to the illusory Russian assault on democracy via social media.

That’s the way it goes in the propaganda-polluted land of Russiagate.

______________________

Norman Solomon is the coordinator of the online activist group RootsAction.org. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” He is the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

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