AS MEMORIAL DAY APPROACHES, A HUMANITARIAN REMINDER…

In modern wars, 85-90% of deaths are civilians — per the United Nations and international aid organizations including the International Committee of the Red Cross.

From a 2014 policy statement issued by the nearly 150-year old, 25,000-member strong, physician-founded organization, the American Public Health Association (APHA):

“The proportion of civilian deaths and the methods for classifying deaths as civilian are debated, but civilian war deaths constitute 85% to 90% of casualties caused by war, with about 10 civilians dying for every combatant killed in battle.”

(Per the U.N.’s statistics, that 85-90% number represents a 70-75% uptick from just 15% civilian casualties in World War I, back when soldiers fought soldiers on battlefields, instead of butchering women and children from remote locations, launching “Hellfire” missiles into densely-populated areas.)

Also appearing in that 2014 policy statement from APHA:

“The United States launched 201 overseas military operations between the end of World War II and 2001, and since then, others, including Afghanistan and Iraq. During the 20th century, 190 million deaths could be directly and indirectly related to war — more than in the previous four centuries (combined).”

*        *        *

THIS HAS BEEN A HUMANITARIAN REMINDER… as our nation contemplates yet another war in the Middle East, this time against Iran… as hawkish members of Congress and our warmongering corporate media try to cajole and bait our unpredictable, dunce president into a war he has repeatedly stated he doesn’t want.

(Not to say Iran hasn’t been asking for it: In the early 1950′s, Iran had the nerve to democratically elect a leader, Mohammad Mossadegh, who had the radical idea of allowing Iranians to profit from their nation’s petroleum resources rather than letting British Petroleum and U.S. corporations suck their nation dry; in the 1970′s, the Iranian people rose up and deposed the torturing, secret police-employing Shah, Reza Pahlavi, the despotic puppet the U.S. had replaced Mossadegh with in 1953, following the CIA’s violent overthrow of his government; the Iranians also had the chutzpah to say mean things about us after we sicced Saddam Hussein on them — with the WMD we’d supplied him — resulting in one million Iranian deaths; and they said even more mean things about us after U.S.S. Vincennes shot down their civilian airliner in 1988, killing all 290 passengers and crew, including 66 children; in the early 2000′s, the Iranians were foolish enough to partner with the U.S. in Afghanistan and Iraq, only to be labeled members of a (fictional) “Axis of Evil” and targeted anew; and over the last decade, Iran has had the temerity to support liberation movements in Lebanon, Palestine, and Yemen, and lend military and other resources to the Syrian people’s fight against al Qaeda and ISIS, two of the CIA’s most important allies in Washington’s regime-change wars. All that, plus not having a nuclear weapons program — per U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and America’s 17 intelligence agencies — making our media and politicians look like jingoist propagandists pushing the genocidal neocon agenda… it’s like I said, Tehran is just plain asking for more economy-crushing sanctions, Washington/Tel Aviv-backed terrorist attacks, and the full Bolton treatment, “Shock and Awe”…)

**********************************************************************

ADDENDUM (5/24/19):

The story of Raqqa, Syria, a modern-day Guernica, undercuts the propaganda of the corporate media (“Assad bad, U.S. intervention good”).

From the article (detailing the effects of the U.S., U.K., and French airstrikes):

“…the U.S.-led bombing campaign on Raqqa, Syria in 2017—which one military commander at the time claimed was the ‘most precise air campaign in history’—killed an estimated 1,600 innocent civilians while leveling the city on a scale unparalleled in recent decades.

“The research collated almost two years of investigations into the assault on Raqqa, the groups said in a statement,  and ‘gives a brutally vivid account’ of the enormous number of civilian lives lost as ‘a direct result’ of thousands of coalition air strikes and tens of thousands of US artillery strikes in Raqqa from June to October 2017.”

“Donatella Rovera, a crisis investigator for Amnesty, shared some of what she found in Raqqa in a video the group released along with the report. ‘When I first came to Raqqa after the war, I knew that relentless American, British, and French bombardment killed civilians and destroyed much of the city,’ Rovera said. ‘What I came to discover was that little or no protection was afforded to the thousands of civilians who were trapped in the city,’ she added. ‘Raqqa is the most destroyed city in modern times in terms of percentage. There is no part of Raqqa which has been left untouched.’”

“The U.S. strikes represent the equivalent of one strike every six minutes for four months.”

“Civilians—who for four years had been essentially held captive in Raqqa by ISIS as the armed group set up checkpoints restricting movement, planted land mines in exit routes, and used residents as human shields—suffered fresh brutality from the U.S. and its allies as they claimed to be ‘liberating’ the city.”

[While President Obama and (U.K. prime minister) Theresa May spent years protecting ISIS -- after years of using radical Salafist militants, including ISIS and al Qaeda, to pressure the Assad regime into surrender (an effort that failed) -- Donald Trump, eager to end the mission and withdraw our troops, decided early on to simply raze the terrorists' last strongholds: in Mosul, Iraq, and in Raqqa, Syria. Trump loosened the rules of engagement, guaranteeing a massive loss in civilian lives as a direct result of U.S. airstrikes (and those of our British and French allies). But lest we apply a double-standard, those who readily excuse Israeli war crimes -- operations that routinely kill 50-66% civilians, as in Lebanon 2006 and 2008's Operation Cast Lead, in Gaza -- should be quick to forgive Donald Trump's egregious war crimes, on the same basis: The terrorists used "human shields."]

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EXCELLENT ANALYSIS FROM COL. LAWRENCE WILKERSON, INTERVIEWED BY SHARMINI PERES

Courtesy of The Real News Network, the following exchange, beginning with an excerpt of Donald Trump being interviewed on FoxNews:

DONALD TRUMP: “…don’t kid yourself. You do have a military-industrial-complex. They do like war. You know, in Syria with the caliphate—So I wipe out 100 percent of the caliphate. I say I want to bring our troops back home. The place went crazy, but if it was up to them, they’d bring thousands of soldiers in. They never want to leave. They always want to fight. No, I don’t want to fight.”

SHARMINI PERIES: All right, Larry. He says that he is being pressured by the military-industrial-complex here, being very frank. He says no, he doesn’t want to fight against Iran. Your thoughts on this?

COL. LAWRENCE WILKERSON: I think Donald Trump is showing, again, the nature of his mercurial character. I do not think this president wants war. I think he is personally and institutionally, if you will, in his position as president, opposed to great powers doing stupid wars. He said that. He’s opposed to catastrophic, stupid wars like the war in 2003 that we started with Iraq. He’s opposed to this kind of frittering away of American power. He’s got other people around him though, that in his inattention to detail, are doing things— people like John Bolton, people like Elliott Abrams with respect to Venezuela, and so forth. These people are doing things that Trump, I think, in his heart of hearts is opposed to. I don’t think this is a president who wants war. I can criticize him for all manner of other things, but I do not think he wants war.

*        *        *

[My comment: Reading William S. Douglass's JFK and the Unspeakable, it's hard not to see the present situation as somewhat analogous: Like JFK, who also communicated privately with his Russian counterpart, Trump is surrounded by a mob of warmongering lunatics with whom he regularly clashes. Maybe it's time to fire John Bolton, Mr. Trump, before he gets us into another catastrophic war.]

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Pareidolia 1: Fantastic Dreamscape Featuring “Good” and “Evil,” and Scenes from the Natural World







This painting represents another of my experiments in image-finding. The process begins with the creation of a purely abstract composition, with no specific objective in mind, save for the generation of an aesthetically pleasing surface with interesting color relationships, movement, depth of space, and the suggestion of form(s).

Once I’m satisfied that I’ve created a well-balanced abstract composition that succeeds on its own merits, I begin looking for images in the chaos. I orient the canvas first one way, then another, evaluating which orientation is the strongest from a design standpoint and determining which orientation yields the most potential in terms of image-finding and a coherent theme.

Having made such determinations, I begin teasing out the images. In the case of this painting and several others from this period, I did so with felt-tip ink pens and highlighters.

Like a Rorschach ink-blot test, the images that suggest themselves to me through this process are revealing of my subconscious/conscious fascinations: fantasy images, organic forms (especially animals), and dramatic contrasts incorporating natural settings (mountains, skies, lakes, greenery, and underwater currents from the perspective of the submerged).

Once I’ve sketched out the images that will populate my final composition, I return to my acrylic paints and render the final forms. Some images are merely suggested, apparitions, while others are more fully realized. My process is very meticulous and deliberative. I often set aside my paintings-in-progress for days, weeks, or months, evaluating whether I’ve brought the composition to a satisfying conclusion or simply halted because I was afraid to ruin the piece.

Pareidolia 1: Fantastic Dreamscape… represents one of the more successful experiments in this series, in my estimation. In any case, I don’t know what more I can do to take it any further. To me, it feels resolved.

Its images include: a towering indigo “mountain” embedded with an alien, cyclopean eye (possibly connected to massive, writhing, blue tentacles); a huge, luminous moon disappearing behind the mountain; a three-headed demon; a two-headed unicorn; red-rock mountains surrounding a cerulean blue lake (right out of the American Southwest); a medieval peasant at work; an impudent, grinning duck; a fearsome dragon with bloodshot eyes; an eyeless wretch from the bowels of Tartarus; a fading polar bear; a mellow, bearded academic, reclining; an astonished pig with a halo; a massive grey rock; a swooping, alien bat-creature; a gigantic, pig-snouted demon holding one of Bosch’s tormented souls under its tongue (and wearing a fuzzy, orange swine stole); a smiling, anthropomorphized pig; a skeleton-warrior wearing a fuzzy hat; a rifle-bearing hunter taking aim at the benevolent spirit of the north; and a “luck dragon.”

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Creating a monster — what Russiagate has wrought…

Noam Chomsky, Princeton University Prof. Emeritus Stephen F. Cohen, and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald have all noted the devastation that Russiagate has wrought on U.S.-Russia relations — noting that even if the worst of the neo-McCarthyite allegations were true, they would amount to a “molehill” that has been made into a “mountain” (a veritable Vesuvius, threatening to go Pompeii on all our asses, with the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ “Doomsday Clock” moved closer to “midnight” than ever… largely due to the rampant Russophobia that’s reclaimed American discourse, a la the 1950s — save for the sensible dread of global thermonuclear war that far-more rational and moral 1950s’ Americans had).

“Izzy” Award-winning journalist, Aaron Mate — awarded specifically for his Russiagate-skeptical coverage — and acclaimed journalist/author, Matt Taibbi, along with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist/author, Chris Hedges, have noted the incalculable damage that Russiagate has done to journalism itself.

Thanks to this latest media-wide debacle, fewer Americans than ever trust the media, and an irresponsible demagogue like Donald Trump can allege that the mainstream media is the “enemy of the people” and have that claim resonate with millions of perfectly reasonable Americans.

Already, on so many fronts, this Frankenstein’s monster has terrorized the land and caused irreparable harm, as the highly respected journalists I’ve mentioned — and a handful of others — have observed (David Swanson, Katie Halper, Katrina vanden Huevel, Jimmy Dore, Caitlin Johnstone, Kyle Kulinsky, and the late Robert Parry all deserve honorable mentions here, as well).

And now, Daniel Lazare’s latest piece in Consortium News, “Russia-gate’s Monstrous Offspring,” underlines how post-2016, Russiagating Democrats have done inestimable damage the left, while unraveling some of the best features of President Obama’s legacy.

Here are some key passages from Lazare’s insightful piece:

This was the takeaway from Mitch McConnell’s devastating “case closed” speech last week in which the Senate majority leader jeered at President Barack Obama for mocking Mitt Romney’s claim (seven years ago now) that Russia was America’s “number one geopolitical foe.”  As Obama famously replied during that presidential debate: “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.”

But that was so 2012. Now, says McConnell, it looks like Romney was right:

“We’d have been better off if the administration hadn’t swept [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s invasion and occupation of Georgia under the rug or looked away as Russia forced out western NGO’s and cracked down on civil society.  If President Obama hadn’t let Assad trample his red line in Syria or embraced Putin’s fake deal on chemical weapons, if the Obama administration had responded firmly to Putin’s invasion and occupation of Ukraine in 2014, to the assassination of Boris Nemtsov in 2015, and to Russia intervention in Syria — maybe stronger leadership would have left the Kremlin less emboldened, maybe tampering with our democracy wouldn’t have seemed so very tempting.”

…Like so much out of Congress these days, this was a farrago of lies and distortions.  It wasn’t Moscow that started the 2008 Russo-Georgian War, but Tbilisi.  While Russia has indeed cracked down on U.S.-backed NGO’s, Washington has done the same by forcing Russia’s highly successful news agency RT to register as a foreign agent and by sentencing Maria Butina, a Russian national studying at American University, to 18 months in prison for the crime of hobnobbing with members of the National Rifle Association. The charge that Syrian President Bashar al Assad “trampled” Obama’s red line by using chemical weapons is hardly as clear-cut as imperial propagandists like to believe – to say the least

Lazare continues, observing how today’s Democrats have backed themselves into a corner, shoring up the 2012 Mitt Romney position while effectively repudiating President Obama’s more moderate stance:

…what could Democrats say in response given that they’ve spent the last three years trying to out-hawk the GOP?  Answer: nothing.  All they could do was try to turn tables on McConnell by charging him with not being anti-Russian enough.

Then Lazare delivers a crushing blow to those who somehow think that Democrats and Republicans are at cross-purposes, noting the bipartisan nature of the new McCarthyism:

It’s an across-the-board agreement that the long-awaited Mueller report has only strengthened by regurgitating the intelligence-community line that “[t]he Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion” and then cherry-picking the facts to fit its preconceived thesis.

Thanks to the teapot tempest that is Russiagate, rank and file Democrats are now fully on board with the Bush-era neocons and hawkish Republicans, like Romney, who’ve been pushing for a confrontation with Russia for decades.

(Walked right into that one, didn’t you, center-lefties?)

Lazare supports what anti-war progressives have been saying since the start of this propaganda parade: that post-2016 Democrats have unwittingly become the far-right’s best allies, including the rabid neocons (routinely referred to as “the crazies” in government circles, prior to 9/11 — after which they were dramatically empowered and began bathing the world in blood, under Bush/Cheney and, subsequently, Obama/Sec. Clinton… whose husband had given the neocons enough sway under his administration to murder “well over a million” Iraqis, including over 500,000 Iraqi children, thanks to President Clinton’s draconian sanctions — sanctions that denied potable water to millions of citizens of that besieged, oil-rich nation run by the late-Saddam Hussein, a former client of the CIA).

Lazare:

Democrats claim to oppose National Security Advisor John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence, but the anti-Russian hysteria they promote strengthens the hand of such super-hawks.  It makes military conflict more likely, if not with Russia then with perceived Russian surrogates such as Venezuela or Iran.

And they do so at the expense of their party’s electoral chances in 2020, making it all the more likely that Trump will win a second term in office, something no informed, rational person wants to see.

Lazare:

…even though the Mueller report says “the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government,” somehow “significant evidence of collusion” still exists, as an increasingly unhinged Rep. Adam Schiff maintains.  In the Alice-in-Wonderland world of congressional Democrats, no evidence does not mean no evidence.  In fact, it means the opposite.

Voters are unmoved.  Ten times more Americans – 80 versus 8 percent – care about healthcare than about Russia according to a recent survey.  When CNN pollsters asked a thousand people in mid-March to name the issues that matter most, not one mentioned Russia or the Mueller probe

Besides Fox News – whose ratings have soared while Russia-obsessed CNN’s have plummeted – the chief beneficiary is Trump.

Well, duh. And who didn’t see this coming? Millions of corporate news-following, mainstream Democrats, that’s who. The same casual news followers who failed to recognize that Sec. Clinton, serial racist and ultra-corrupt warmonger, was running consistently, and hard, to Trump’s right in 2016, making him seem a reasonable alternative to millions of war-weary, neoliberalism-crushed voters.

(Could there be a greater unraveling of the few good things that President Obama did in office than a second term for Trump? It’s hard to imagine… outside of the inconceivable damage that a first term for Hillary Clinton might have managed.)

But with the Democratic Party’s adamantine refusal to budge their party to the left (to the actual center, that is) or reform their blatantly rigged primary process, we can bet that another far-right “centrist” with nothing to offer the public will be running against Trump in 2020.

And that’s another losing bet.

Take it from the folks on the left who predicted that Trump — contrary to what virtually all the pollsters and pundits were predicting — stood a very good chance of defeating Hillary Clinton in 2016.

(Did we predict that? Yes, we did.)

And didn’t we “purist” lefties constitute the bulk of the marginalized 10% of Americans who disapproved of George W. Bush’s response to 9/11, as he was laying the ground for his illegal invasion of Iraq — while 90% of the country approved, saying “USA, USA, USA!” and “Maybe it’s good that Gore ‘lost,’ after all?”

Yes, we did.

And weren’t we data-immersed wonks (aka “unicorn lovers”) also among that minuscule percentage of progressive-leaning folks who correctly predicted that Russiagate was going to blow up in liberals’ faces, strengthening Trump and the neocons, while leaving all of the left’s issues neglected and withering on the vine?

Again, we were.

And yet, despite decades of getting it right — including knowing that Bernie was our best bet against Trump in 2016 (and being brutally attacked, maligned, and cheated of our rightful victory) – we, not the reality-averse Clintonites, have been exiled to the wilderness and caricatured as basket cases.

Classic.

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TWO SELF-SERVING CAREERISTS IN THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION…

In his interview with Sharmini Peries (formerly of Democracy Now!), Lawrence Wilkerson has it exactly right: Whether we’re talking about torture overseer/proponent, Gina Haspel, or raging neocon, John Bolton, the key, defining attribute of both individuals is their astonishing INCOMPETENCE. Like most corporate “journalists” today, Haspel and Bolton are grasping careerists who simply do the bidding of the most rabid of our elites.

(AKA, “Yes Men.” Simpering toads.)

Haspel and Bolton are dead wrong about Venezuela, just as they were 100% wrong about torture’s alleged efficacy and the wisdom of invading Iraq.

I’ll admit that it’s good to see Trump finally squaring off, somewhat, with Bolton, and backing off — at long last — from the establishment’s long-term regime-change op in Venezuela. As much as our last few presidents have endeavored to overthrow the South American democracy that sits upon the world’s largest proven oil reserves, there’s no sane way forward.

(To hell with the plundering plans of Pompeo, Abrams, and Bolton — serial war criminals, all. And if an egomaniacal, narcissistic demagogue, like Trump, is what it takes to scuttle their despotic agenda, so be it… though it seems the neocons are still driving the buggy, where Iran is concerned.)

Before closing, I’ll also note that it’s positively bizarre to see Rachel Maddow urging her “liberal” audience toward sympathy with John Bolton, who — per Maddow — is “only a human being” in addition to being a “fearless truth-teller.” (Poor John Bolton has to deal with “Putin’s puppet” in the White House, aka, Donald Trump: the far-right jerkoff who wants to back away from WWIII.)

Unrecognizable Maddow offers her Bolton apologia in the name of Russiagate and xenophobia — still peddling the New Cold War, because that’s all she knows how to do anymore.

Apparently, this is what happens when the party of the “Left” and the party of the “Right” co-mingle and take turns playing the Hawk. In this Good Cop/Bad Cop waltz/Kabuki, it’s the Blue Team’s turn to warmonger and tout the unimpeachable integrity of various neocons and our noble intelligence agencies.

And what a tragedy that represents for so-called liberals (utterly lost, both to themselves and the actual left).

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DING DONG, THE VENEZUELA COUP IS DEAD!

From the article appearing in CommonDreams.org:

“National security adviser, John Bolton, echoed Rubio’s insistence that Guaido’s actions—supported by group of heavily armed soldiers—’is not a coup.’

“In response, Gerry Condon of Veterans for Peace wrote for Common Dreams, ‘And night is day… Pompeo and Bolton blame the Cubans and the Russians for supporting the democratically-elected president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro… They threaten the Russians with consequences, but they save their bitterest bile for the ‘Cuban thugs.’ Thugs? Who are the thugs? Who are the punks? Who are the bullies? Let me say their names again. Donald Trump. Mike Pence. John Bolton. Mike Pompeo. Elliott Abrams. Marco Rubio.’

“Following a day of chaos sparked by the Guaido-led ‘uprising’—which resulted in dozens of injuries and at least one death—Venezuela’s elected President Nicolas Maduro delivered a speech late Tuesday declaring victory over the ‘coup-mongering far right.’

“‘They failed in their plan. They failed in their call, because the people of Venezuela want peace,’ Maduro said.

“‘I truly believe… that the United States of America has never had a government as deranged as this one,’ Maduro added…”

*       *       *

Once again, Trump’s one value in the White House is that he handicaps the neo-fascist world order erected and normalized by the last several U.S. presidents: the ruthless, warmongering, genocidal, and omnicidal Corporatocracy: http://invitation2artivism.com/?p=2167

If the Democrats’ refusal to run an un-rigged primary means that we have only two choices for president — an incompetent, inept, overtly racist, neo-fascist Republican or a deftly competent, institutionally racist, neo-fascist Democrat who advances the far-right’s agenda beyond imagining — then we might as well have the incompetent twit.

(That said, my preference, by now, should be crystal clear: As novel a concept as it may be, I’d like a non-fascist president, like Bernie Sanders or Tulsi Gabbard promises to be. Like Dennis Kucinich promised to be… But our thoroughly corrupted system no longer allows for such leaders. The last such leaders we had were FDR and JFK — and how did that go? The deep state attempted to remove FDR in a military coup, which was unsuccessful, thank goodness. But they controlled his successors, Truman and Eisenhower, like obedient puppies. And when JFK came along and tried to restore democratic, humanistic, liberal values to the White House, he was summarily butchered. We haven’t had a democracy since, as anyone who’s been watching closely knows.)

I understand that it’s tough to wrap one’s mind around this perverse truth, but while neo-fascism has advanced most dramatically under smooth-talking, outwardly civilized Democrats, especially Clinton and Obama, the repugnant Mr. Trump has inadvertently helped the world resist fascism — because he takes the mask off what U.S. policy has been for decades.

And now Washington’s second coup against the Chavistas, sought by the last three presidents, has failed.

Good.

Will the blustering imbeciles in Trump’s administration make good on their threats to militarily invade Venezuela? I hope not. But if so, that military invasion will fail, just as Bush’s did in Iraq, just as President Obama’s (covert one) did in Syria. And the last smudges of lipstick on the PIG that is U.S. foreign policy will finally be off.

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I listen to Jimmy Dore because I identify with him…

“It was emotionally wrenching for me to see places like DemocracyNow!, The Intercept, The Young Turks (where I work) push RussiaGate. It… destroyed me, kind of, internally, right? It was way worse than the Iraq War for me, because at least during the Iraq War most of the people on the left were awake about it, right? But this was ubiquitous. It was just horrible…”

– Jimmy Dore from his segment “Mueller Report Drops! Aaron Maté Explains”

And here from that same segment is journalist Aaron Mate — just awarded the prestigious “Izzy” award (honoring the journalism of I.F. Stone) for his intrepid RussiaGate reporting — discussing the calamity that’s befallen journalism in America, even at supposedly independent/progressive media outlets:

“I can tell you that I tried to write this stuff at The Intercept. It wasn’t welcome there. I wrote one piece about Rachel Maddow… talking about how she covered Russia more than all other issues combined, and going through and debunking a lot of her conspiracy theories — basically arguing, very politely, that she was a propagandist. That piece did very well, but after that, I was never welcomed back at The Intercept again. And I tried.

“And I thought that… an outlet that calls itself fearless and adversarial would want to put resources to challenging the claims of intelligence officials like John Brennan (Obama’s “Kill List” managing, torture-defending DCI). And challenging this conspiracy theory that was so widespread across the corporate media… but they weren’t interested.”

“…to the Intercept’s credit, they publish Glenn Greenwald, who… pushed back on RussiaGate from the beginning (before I did). It was pretty much him and Bob Parry — the late, legendary Bob Parry (of Consortium News), a legend — so, Glenn and Bob Parry were among the first… Because Glenn has autonomy. He does whatever he wants. And they had nothing to do with what he did.”

(AUTONOMY! What a wonderful word!!!)

“Institutionally, there was a decision. This website that does such great work (they do! I love The Intercept, actually: I think it’s a great website) — but on this key issue, the one that was engulfing our politics… they made a concerted editorial decision to not be aggressive and adversarial, but to be careerist. And to go along with the prevailing narrative — and sort of burnish their adversarial bona fides through Glenn Greenwald, over whom (again) they had no editorial control.

”And that’s why, for example, they also published this really overhyped and overblown piece based on the Reality Winner leak about how Russia was trying to hack into U.S. voting systems. I mean, if you look at the actual document that they based their article on, the document itself doesn’t even show what they said it did…

“It also was basically a spearfishing attack that they were talking about, which they kind of minimized — spearfishing is not a sophisticated ‘hacking’ thing — as illustrated by the fact that whoever was carrying out this supposed ‘massive attack on our election system’ was using a Gmail address, impersonating a voting company with a Gmail address.

“And that’s why, when I had on James Risen… he couldn’t defend the substance of the article. And he hung up on me.”

“My former workplace, DemocracyNow!, which is my favorite news show, has the most noble, has such a noble legacy. And I’ve benefited a lot from it. But their top guest on RussiaGate was Marcy Wheeler, who is one of the most vocal conspiracy theorists out there…

“She also turned in her source to the FBI, who she said played a key role in what she called Russia’s attack on the election. Well, her source and her story are nowhere in the Mueller Report. And we haven’t heard her explain what happened there. And yet, she was treated (by many people) as a sort of a hero for turning in her source. When really, she was actually violating one of the core tenets of journalism: You don’t turn in your source to the government. And now we know, based on the fact that Mueller didn’t go anywhere with it, that it was totally baseless, as was her entire conspiracy theory…

“The fact that even our most noble outlets could drink the Kool-Aid and go along with it, I think really says something about how bad our media culture was.”

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Taking a moment to marvel…

“We come here battling like Bilgesnipe… In my youth, I courted war.” — Thor of Marvel Studios

As much as I respect Infinity War/Endgame — great rides, both — Avengers I remains my favorite in the series. The first time watching it, two-thirds of the way through the film, my cynicism crumbled, and I realized that I actually loved the film.

With its subtle anti-torture, empire-criticizing politics and its magnificent super-violence, it had won me over — even after I’d passed on a number of Marvel Studios’ previous entries and regarded the franchise skeptically.

When Thor of Asgard swooped down to the terrace of Stark Tower to confront his duplicitous brother, Loki (after Iron Man and Captain America had rescued the Shield “Helicarrier” in dramatic fashion, after the Incredible Hulk had kicked Thor’s arrogant, Mjolnir-dependent ass all over the place), I found myself saying, “(Self), this is something extra special. Star Warzy, even.”

By the time Hulky roared Tony Stark’s motionless form back to life, I was metaphorically in hog heaven. And the final, post-credits Shawarma scene, with Bruce nodding (finally at peace) is the ultimate post-movie Marvel moment, IMHO.

When I saw that, I knew I was witnessing cinema history.

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THE FIRST STEP ACT, BECAUSE “ONLY NIXON COULD GO TO CHINA!”

Few Americans know that with the signing of the First Step Act, the preeminent racist scumbag of our times, Donald Trump, has done more to roll back the New Jim Crow than either of his abysmal predecessors (Bush-Obama) came close to doing.

And there’s no point in bringing up Reagan through Clinton, who only advanced modern slavery, incarcerating (and putting to work) well over a million Americans — disproportionately people of color, especially African-Americans and Hispanics — disenfranchising them, confiscating their basic rights, and denying them services related to housing, higher education, and more… years after they’d “paid their debt” to society (and to Wal-Mart, Microsoft, Victoria’s Secret, Proctor & Gamble, McDonald’s Corporation, Fruit of the Loom, ExxonMobil, AT&T, Mary Kay Cosmetics, and other corporate benefactors of America’s captive workforce).

But the truth is that thousands upon thousands of incarcerated people, disproportionately people of color, are now going to be released “early” and have certain of their freedoms restored, thanks to the liberal-reformist crime bill that Donald Trump unequivocally supported and subsequently signed.

Some judicial discretion has been restored. Certain automatic penalties have been repealed. Thousands of prisoners are going to be granted their freedom.

And the president who can take credit for this minor rollback of the draconian “tough on crime” legislation of the 1980s-90s is a nakedly bigoted demagogue.

Talk about ironic!

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Calling out “progressives” peddling establishment B.S. — still trying to sideline Bernie (and Tulsi) with baloney…

Bernie Sanders has gotten too big for the establishment to simply ignore. Indeed, that had happened by the time the 2016 Democratic Primary was even half over — when the corporate media pivoted from ignoring Bernie entirely to slandering his name with calumnies authored and disseminated by Sec. Clinton’s very own “Karl Rove,” the notorious spreader of lies, Mr. David Brock.

Here is just one example of Brock’s handiwork:

“The dossier, prepared by opponents of Sanders and passed on to The Guardian by a source who would only agree to be identified as ‘a Democrat,’ alleges that Sanders ‘sympathized with the USSR during the Cold War’ because he went on a trip there to visit a twinned city while he was mayor of Burlington. Similar ‘associations with communism’ in Cuba are catalogued alongside a list of quotes about countries ranging from China to Nicaragua in a way that supporters regard as bordering on the McCarthyite rather than fairly reflecting his views.”

(Three years later, in 2019 — despite the formal end of the Cold War and the Soviet Union’s 1991 dissolution, despite Gorbachev and Reagan’s summit, despite Bush-Obama’s frequent cooperation with Vladimir Putin — it seems that the U.S. political-media establishment simply refuses to let McCarthyism die… or the Cold War, for that matter. Similar McCarthyite smears would be launched at Dr. Jill Stein, the Green Party’s candidate for president, and, of course, Donald Trump, helping the neocons launch the New Cold War following Sec. Clinton’s improbable loss to an obvious degenerate, fake-billionaire, and star of reality-TV.)

Returning to the source of such smears, that ratfucker par excellence, David Brock…

A confessed liar and a despicable one, Brock is the rightwing slander-merchant whose “a little bit nutty, a little bit slutty” character assassination of Anita Hill helped confirm serial sexual-harasser Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court — with a considerable assist from then-Senator Joe Biden (aka, Uncle Gropey). From his 1990s work for the rancorous Arkansas Project to his malicious takedown of Prof. Hill to his scruple-free service to the 2016 Clinton campaign, David Brock has demonstrated an unflinching willingness to manufacture grody fabrications on behalf of right-wing conservatives.

And since a media blackout of Bernie Sanders (of the late-2015/early-2016 variety) is simply not an option this time around, the establishment is doing what it can to recycle some of Brock’s 2016 smears: “Bernie is doddering,” “Bernie alienates people of color,” “Bernie only appeals to misogynist young white men,” “Bernie tolerates sexual harassment by his staff,” “Bernie is too extreme to appeal to the mainstream,” “Bernie is a whackadoodle socialist,” “Bernie is the progressive equivalent of Donald Trump, an angry, dangerous demagogue with bullying, lunatic followers…”

Yes, we’ve heard it all before, slime-peddlers. Years later, we’re hearing it all again: aimed at Bernie (more cautiously, this time around) and at Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, the only other progressive in the 2020 race (and the smears against Gabbard have been no-holds-barred, much like the 2016 smears against Sanders).

But what has been most disheartening — and tragic — has been the dogpiling of nominal progressives who have willfully joined in on the fusillade of lies aimed at genuine progressives.

In 2016, Sec. Clinton didn’t have to rely solely on the mainstream media: NBC, CNN, ABC, CBS, the Washington Post, New York Times, Politico, The Guardian, etc. While the corporate behemoths did plenty to spread Brock’s slander, their efforts were greatly magnified and augmented by a slew of once-progressive outlets and individuals: The Nation (especially Joan Walsh), Mother Jones, Slate, DailyKos, Gloria Steinem, Tom Hayden, Dolores Huerta, Rep. John Lewis, and others. Markos Moulitsas went so far as to declare his site a “pro-Clinton only” hub, purging all Hillary critics, no matter how popular their work or how long they’d been contributing.

And here we are again. In the 2020 cycle, we have seen The Nation’s Eric Alterman reviving the old attacks on Bernie Sanders. And we’ve seen The Young Turks, Jacobin Magazine, and The Nation, among others, repeatedly attacking Rep. Tulsi Gabbard with outright slander, including gross distortions of her record. The establishment’s entire 2016 progressive-smearing playbook is being thrown at Gabbard, who the oligarchs seem to fear even more than Sanders. But on the hopeful side, the backlash against these malicious attacks has been every bit as vehement as it was when progressives were forced to defend Sanders in 2016 (check out the comments responding to The Nation’s anti-Gabbard hit-piece — their readers are livid at the writer’s willingness to parrot ratfucking lies against the best anti-war presidential candidate since Rep. Dennis Kucinich).

The latest hit-piece comes from the editor of The Progressive, Ruth Conniff. Yesterday, on CommonDreams.org, a progressive hub for news, I took issue with Ms. Conniff’s latest offering, in which she subtly disparages progressives’ best hope for defeating Donald Trump in 2020 — while promoting, simultaneously, a host of “centrist” Democrats who will clearly not fight for single-payer healthcare or a Green New Deal… and will almost assuredly lose to Donald Trump.

(I single out this piece because it is illustrative of the way the establishment-left is coming at Bernie differently, this time around. In contrast to the vitriol they spewed at Bernie in 2016, they’re tiptoeing in 2019 because they know how popular Bernie has become. But the smears are basically the same, even if their approach is more subtle.)

My response to Conniff’s article is as follows:

You can always count on Ruth Conniff to toe the party line and peddle establishment talking points:

1. She makes sure to hit Bernie with some ageism (echoes of 2016);

2. She follows the establishment playbook precisely, talking up Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren’s “support” for Medicare-for-All (even Klubuchar’s!) when the truth is that both of those frauds have signaled their willingness to simply shore up the ACA and back off of single-payer (signaling surrender before the debate even begins, classic neoliberal “Democrats”);

3. Conniff fails to mention Harris’s “New Jim Crow” policies (including her initiative to incarcerate parents of truant students and her efforts to keep prisoners incarcerated longer than necessary in order to keep disproportionately black and Hispanic Americans slaving for corporate America and fighting fires for pennies an hour);

4. She glosses over the blatantly rigged 2016 primary and neoconservative Sen. Warren’s shameful betrayal of progressives, backing the most corrupt Wall Street toady in the history of Democratic presidential politics (also a member of the neocon vanguard, as extreme as Dick Cheney on foreign policy, and historically a greater enemy of people of color than even Trump, as Michelle Alexander and James Rucker noted in 2016 – one of the first to practice “Birther” politics against Obama in 2008, the welfare-slashing, “super-predator” hunting, prison population-doubling “co-president” who insinuated that Barack Obama might not be a Christian, and said flat-out that she is the candidate of “hardworking, you know, white, people”);

5. Conniff brings up the old “Bernie Bro” smear contrived by the Clinton folks, alleging his supporters were unusually bellicose, misogynistic, and bullying – when it was the Clinton people, a sea of belligerent bots, who constantly resorted to ageism, sexism, insults, and old school ratfucking slander, with David Brock following in Mark Penn’s footsteps (the senior Clinton campaign adviser and longtime confidante who tried to tarnish Obama with ghetto-izing drug references and worse in 2008); suddenly Bernie appealed only to “young, white males” and was never a part of the Civil Rights movement;

6. She regurgitates the vile slander that Sanders’ message of economic justice “helped elect” the vile Donald Trump (BS! Sec. Clinton elected Donald Trump all by herself, after spending 2016 cheating her party’s base, giving them the finger, “I’m winning!”, and running well to Trump’s right, with regard to regime-change wars, “No-Fly zones” risking WWIII, Russiaphobia, slavery normalizing/sovereignty-effacing/regulation-nullifying “trade” pacts, the restoration of Glass-Steagall, and more);

7. Conniff repeats – in her thesis – the establishment trope that Bernie will never be able to appeal to rural America, when the polls consistently show that he is one of only two left-of-center politicians who can draw independent and GOP voters away from Trump’s base (the other being Rep. Tulsi Gabbard); and yet,

8. Even though Conniff says Bernie’s problem is with rural Trump whites, she incoherently repeats the canard that Bernie has his work cut out for him if he’s ever to “shore up his support among black voters” – more repetition of the Clinton campaign’s baseless 2016 smears; Conniff fails to note that Bernie’s strongest demographics, respectively, are black Americans and Hispanic Americans, among which groups he polls far better than white males (white males being one of his worst demographics, despite being the most popular politician in the country; Bernie also is viewed more favorably by women than men, not that Conniff has noticed); and finally,

9. Conniff follows the establishment playbook to a “T,” talking up charlatans like Warren, Booker, Biden, and Klobuchar – who in her eyes have all “moved left” (not just posturing to draw votes from Bernie) – and fails to mention the most progressive, viable, Trump-defeating candidate in the 2020 race: REP. TULSI GABBARD.

Conniff is supporting Sen. Warren, that much is clear. She seems to prefer the longtime Republican who hung with Reagan and Bush Sr. through their entire monstrous 12 years in office. She likes the “progressive” Warren, who remained a Republican throughout most of Newt Gingrich’s career, back when he was partnered with Tom DeLay, dismantling the nation’s media ownership rules, Wall Street regulations, and other democratic institutions with that other “progressive,” Bill Clinton.

Conniff champions the supposed “anti-Wall Street” crusader (grandstanding fraud) who chose to back Wall Street’s favorite minion when the chips were down, a primary was being stolen, and America had the chance to elect the most progressive, FDR-like candidate in generations. That was when Warren exposed herself as an utter charlatan – ignoring the fact that she has long been a supporter of regime-change wars and neoconservative foreign policy, AWOL on NSA spying, GITMO, the persecution of whistleblowers and journalists, and more…

Establishment voices will always regurgitate establishment talking points. Why Ms. Conniff gets to do that here, on a progressive website, is a mystery to me.

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