Holocaust Memorial Day and Yellow Snowflakes

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day and just as surely as we need to remember the Nazi holocaust, we have to understand how it has been manipulated. Saddam is Hitler, Nasser is Hitler, etc. At times it's been manipulated to silence those who want peace and to demonize those opposed to Israel's crimes.

But that insight of course shouldn't blind us to the reality of the massive suffering brought on in the Nazi Holocaust toward the many victims of the Nazi regime, including socialists, gypsies, Slavs, gays, dissidents, "asocials" and of course Jews. 

During the blizzard this weekend, I painted snow. I've been painting all kinds of natural and other intricate objects lately, and since it snowed, I painted snowflakes.

Perhaps my most moving moment during the storm was when it hit me that if I let snow land on cold metal instead of paper, as I'd been doing till then, and immediately sprayed it with cold paint, the individual snowflakes could be preserved. So I got a window screen I'd just recently purchased at Community Forklift, a local reuse nonprofit, and started spray painting the snowflakes as they fell in. Consciously or not, the can of paint I grabbed was yellow. The second I started spraying and saw the individual flakes, it hit me that I was making a Nazi Holocaust Memorial -- since of course the Nazis made Jews wear yellow Stars of David in the buildup to their plans of extermination and the most extensive of the snowflakes were six sided.

On the street outside my home with one hand I held up the screen as the snow fell. I tried to focus and gently gather and "save" each snowflake as I sprayed with the other hand and the snow began to taper off.

Some of the results are below, photographed with a phone camera barely up to the task. Unfortunately, I got to this idea late in the snowstorm, after quite a bit of experimentation throughout the weekend, so wasn't able to make it as extensive as I'd have liked. So I, perhaps nearly alone among adults in D.C., eagerly await the next snowstorm.

In Defense of the Rise of Trump

The establishment so wants everyone else to unfriend Trump supporters on Facebook. There's even an app to block them. That'll teach them!

Yes, Trump plays a bully boy and is appealing to populist (good), nativist, xenophobic, racist sentiments (bad). 

Those things need to be meaningfully addressed and engaged rather than dismissed by self-styled sophisticates, noses raised.

Focusing on the negative aspects of his campaign has blinded people to the good -- and I don't mean good like, oh, the Democrat can beat this guy. I mean good like it's good that some of these issues are getting aired.

Trump is appealing to nativist sentiments, but those same sentiments are skeptical of the militarized role of the U.S. in the world -- as was the case of Pat Buchanan's 1992 campaign. 

The New York Times recently purported to grade the veracity of presidential candidates. Of course by their accounting, Trump was off the scales lying. But he recently said the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State "killed hundreds of thousands of people with her stupidity....The Middle East is a total disaster under her." Now, I think that's pretty accurate, though U.S. policy in my view may be more Machiavellian than stupid, but the remark is a breath of fresh air on the national stage. 

But I've not seen anyone fact check that, because that's not an argument much of establishment media wants to have. Of course, a few sentences later Trump talks about the attack on the CIA station in Benghazi, causing Salon to dismiss him as embracing "conspiracies," which is likely all many people hear. 

Shouldn't someone who at times articulates truly inconvenient truths be noted as breaking politically correct taboos? Trump says such truths -- like at the Las Vegas debate about U.S. wars:

We've spent $4 trillion trying to topple various people that frankly, if they were there and if we could've spent that $4 trillion in the United States to fix our roads, our bridges, and all of the other problems; our airports and all of the other problems we've had, we would've been a lot better off. I can tell you that right now.

Which I think is a stronger critique of military spending than we've heard from Bernie Sanders of late.

But Trump -- or Rand Paul's -- remarks about U.S. policies of regime change and bombings are often unexamined. It's more convenient to focus on our kindness in letting a few thousand refugees in than to examine how millions of displaced people from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somali might have gotten that way because of U.S. government policies. 

People say Trump's proposal to temporarily ban Muslim immigrants is unconstitutional. News flash: the sitting Democratic president has bombed seven countries without a declaration of war. We've effectively flushed our constitution down the toilet. Does that justify violating it more? No. But the pretend moral outrage on this score is hollow. 

And there's a logic to the nativist Muslim bashing. It's obviously wrong, but it's rational given the skewed information the public is given. Since virtually no one on the national stage is seriously and systematically criting U.S. policy -- it's invasions, alliances with Saudi Arabia and Israel -- then it makes sense to say we've got to change something and that something is separating from Muslims. 

Some sophisticates slam Trump for acting in the Las Vegas debate like he didn't know what the nuclear triad is. Well, I have no idea if he knows what the nuclear triad is or if he was just acting that way. But I'm rather glad he didn't adopt the administration position of saying it's a good idea to spend a trillion dollars to "modernize" our nuclear weapons so we can efficiently threaten the planet for another generation. People may recall that for all the rhetoric from Obama on ending nuclear weapons, it was Reagan who apparently almost rose to the occasion when Gorbachev proposed getting rid of nuclear weapons. But Reagan is totally evil, so "progressives" have to hate him and so we're not supposed to remember that. 

So much of our political culture just lives off of hate. People hated Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Ladin, so they backed anything GW Bush wanted. People hated GW Bush, so they backed Kerry or Obama or whoever without condition, no matter where it lead. People hated Assad, so they helped the rise of ISIS. People now hate ISIS -- some apparently want to nuke 'em -- that will almost certainly lead to worse. John Kasich -- the great reasonable Republican moderate -- says "it's time that we punched the Russians in the nose" -- who cares if that brings us closer to nuclear war. Many demonize Trump -- at last, someone from the U.S. who some in the mainstream label a Hitler. Hate, hate, hate, hate. Can we just view people for who they are with clear eyes, assessing the good and bad in them? 

Trump calls for a cutoff of immigration of Muslims "until we can figure out what the hell is going on" -- which, given our political culture's seeming propensity to never figure out much of anything, might be forever. Then again, he's raising a real question. Says Trump: "There's tremendous hatred. Where it comes from, I don't know." Trump -- unlike virtually anyone else with a megaphone -- is actually raising the issue about why there's resentment against the U.S. in the Mideast. 

Virtually the only other person on the national stage stating such things is Rand Paul, though his articulations have also been uneven and have been a pale copy of what his father has said.  

Of course, what should be said is: If we don't know "what the hell is going on!" -- then maybe we should stop bombing. But that doesn't get processed because the general public lives under the illusion that Obama is a pacifistic patsy. The reality is that Obama has been bombing more countries than any president since World War II -- Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya and Somalia. 

At the Las Vegas debate, Trump said: "When you had the World Trade Center go, people were put into planes that were friends, family, girlfriends, and they were put into planes and they were sent back, for the most part, to Saudi Arabia." Which is totally mangled, but raises the question of Saudi Arabia with relation to 9/11. 

Half of what Trump says is boarderline deranged and false. But he also says true things -- and critically, important things that no one else with any media or political access is saying. 

Yes, Trump says he'll bomb the hell out of Syria, as does virtually every other Republican candidate. But Obama's already bombing the hell out of Syria and Iraq -- but it's quiet, so people think it's not happening. So they reasonably think passivity is the problem. 

What people are right in sensing is that Obama, Bush and the rest of the establishment is playing endless geopolitical games and they're right to be sick of it. The stated goals -- democracy in the Mideast, getting rid of WMDs, stability in the right and protecting the U.S. public are obviously not going to be achieved by the policies of the establishment. They in all likelihood pretexts and the planers have other, unstated, objectives that they are perusing.  

Trump touts his alleged opposition to the Iraq war. Some of us launched major campaigns to try to stop the 2003 invasion. I don't remember seeing Trump at any of the anti war rallies in 2002, but he apparently made a few remarks in 2003 and 2004. Certainly nothing great or courageous. But it's good that someone with the biggest megaphone is saying the Iraq war was bad. People who are getting behind him are thus reachable on the U.S. government's proclivity toward endless war. 

And perhaps think for a minute about what a Trump-Clinton race would be like, given that she voted for the invasion of Iraq. 

Now, Trump may well be no different if he were to get into office. But he conveys the impression that he will act like a normal nationalist and not a conniving globalist. And much of the U.S. public seems to want that. And that's a good thing. He's indicating that there's a solution to constant war and that he's different from everyone else who has signed on to perpetual war. It's good that that's energizing people who had given up on politics. 

Trump -- apparently alone among Republican presidential candidates -- is saying that he will talk to Russian President Putin. Having some sense that the job of a president is to attempt to have reasonable relations with the other major nuclear powered state is a serious plus in my book. He conveys the image of being a die-hard nationalist, but -- unlike most of our recent leaders -- not hell-bent on global domination. People who want a better world should use that. 

No prominent Democrat has taken on the position that we should really seriously examine the root causes of anger at the U.S. government. The public is never presented with a world view that does that. The only one on the national stage in recent memory to have done so in recent history was Ron Paul -- and he was demonized in ways similar to Trump by much of the liberal establishment in 2008. 

Bernie Sanders has of course rightly touted his vote against the Iraq invasion in 2002 and has very correctly linked that invasion to the rise of ISIS. But Sanders had a historic opportunity to address these issues in a debate just after the Paris attack on Nov. 13, and actually didn't seem to want to talk foreign policy. Now he's complaining about a lack of media coverage. Yes, the media are unfair against progressive candidates, but you don't do any good by refusing to engage in what is arguably the great, defining debate of our time. 

Even more troubling has been that Sanders has adopted the refrain that we need to have the Saudis "get their hands dirty." That's exactly the wrong approach and one shared with most of the Republican field. Even at the liberal extreme, Barbara Lee has declined to take issue with the U.S. arming with Saudi Arabia as it kills away in Yemen. 

In terms of economics, Trump is alone in the Republican field in defending in a progressive tax. Tom Ferguson has noted: "lower income voters seem to like him about twice as much as the upper income voters who like him in the Republican poll." Trump has "even dumped on some issues that are virtually sacred to the Republicans, notably the carried interest tax deduction for the super rich." Writes Lee Fang: "Donald Trump Says He Can Buy Politicians, None of His Rivals Disagree." 

Can progressives pause for a moment and note that it's a good thing that someone who a lot of people who have checked out of the political process are backing someone saying these things?

It's important to stress: I have no idea what Trump actually believes. Backing him as person is probably akin to picking a the box on The Price is Right. He could of course be even more authoritarian than what we've seen so far. The point I'm making is what he's appealing to has serious elements that are a welcome break from the establishment as well as some that are reactionary. 

I have no personal love lost for Trump. Truth is, I lived in one of his buildings when I was growing up in Queens. His flamboyance as my dad and I were scraping by in a one bedroom apartment rather sickened me. I remember seeing the recently completed Trump Tower in Manhattan for the first time as a teen with my father and my dad bemused himself with the notion that he'd own one square inch of the place for the monthly rent checks he wrote to Trump for years.  

And Trump for all I know is a total tool of the establishment designed to implode, as some of critics of Bernie Sanders have accused him of Sheepdogging for Hillary Clinton, so too Trump might be doing for the Republican anti establishment base. Or he might pursue the same old establishment policies if he were ever to get into office -- that's largely what Obama has done, especially on foreign policy. Trump says "I was a member of the establishment seven months ago." 

The point is that the natives are restless. And they should be. It's an important time to engage them so they stay restless and funnel that energy to constructive use, not demonize or tune them out. 

Sam Husseini is communications director for the Institute for Public Accuracy and founder of votepact.org -- which urges left-right cooperation. Follow him on twitter: @samhusseini.


From news release from accuracy.org: "Dow – DuPont Merger: Perpetuating GMOs, Squeezing Farmers and Consumers?" -- 

Wenonah Hauter is the founder and executive director of Food & Water Watch and the author of Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America. She said today: “Just a handful of large chemical companies including Dow and DuPont already control most of the seed supply used to grow crops like corn and soybeans, as well as the herbicides that genetically engineered seeds are designed to be grown with. Any merger that consolidates this market into fewer hands will give farmers fewer choices and put them at even more economic disadvantage. And it will make it harder for agriculture to get off the GMO-chemical treadmill that just keeps increasing in speed. The Department of Justice needs to block this merger to prevent the further corporate control of the basic building blocks of the food supply.”

Diana Moss is president of the American Antitrust Institute. She said today: “Any merger on the agricultural inputs side of DuPont and Dow will get antitrust scrutiny. Some of the markets for biotech and seeds are highly concentrated, which has been driven by Monsanto having made so many acquisitions in the past. If you put a new merger in the this mix, it’s going to raise concerns about leaving only two or maybe three firms. That’s a market landscape that doesn’t promote competition, entry, and innovation. Farmers could be squeezed even more and consumers could pay higher prices.”


Notes Rick Hind of Greenpeace: 

In 2014 Dow began selling off their chlorine units. This may be an attempt to mitigate their liability but may also leave workers and communities facing the same hazards run by different corporate entities.

Immediate Reaction to San Bernardino Attack

Below is a statement I wrote for an accuracy.org release on Dec. 3, the day after the San Bernardino attack that killed 14 a week ago. Unfortunately, much of it continues to apply. -- Sam Husseini 

Ritualistic denouncements of ‘violence’ are ubiquitous after the murderous shooting Wednesday afternoon in San Bernardino, Calif. They come from many — including U.S. officials in an administration conducting bombing campaigns as well as from grassroots Muslim activists affiliated with groups backing bombing campaigns.

It’s remarkable that Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman’s notion, which goes back at least to the 1980s, that the U.S. government participates in ‘wholesale terrorism’ is so rarely invoked in progressive, to say nothing of mainstream, discussions of ‘terrorism,’ even as many note hypocrisies like Christian and Muslim suspects being treated quite differently. See: 'Noam Chomsky: Obama’s Drone Assassination Program Is "The Most Extensive Global Terrorism Campaign The World Has Yet Seen,"' and The Real Terror Network, by Edward S. Herman; see below for excepts.

This massive oversight obscures all discussions of terrorism, as the elephant in the room of U.S. government violence is not meaningfully discussed. Under those conditions, discussions are not going to lead to solutions.

As I write, there’s endless media discussion along the lines of ‘Police have not identified a motive for the shooting. They have not ruled out terrorism.’ (NPR) But terrorism is not a motive. It’s a tactic to peruse a political motive or goal, like to dominate the Mideast (an apparent U.S. government motive) or violently coerce the people of the U.S. to stop their government from dominating the Mideast (an apparent al-Qaeda motive).

Nor should the word ‘radicalized’ be demonized. Radicalized can and should mean to gain a greater political understanding, to see root causes of problems; it’s antithetical to someone who decides meaningful solutions lay in slaughtering 14 civilians.

Restrictions on information often seem designed to make officialdom appear prescient, or at least have that effect. For example, a name of one of the suspects, Syed Farook (or, rather, a mangled form of it) was mentioned on Twitter at 2:00 p.m. Wednesday — some seven hours before it was made public by officialdom and major media, but well before President Obama suggested — apparently for the first time — that people on the quite problematic no-fly list should be particularly restricted from buying guns.

Is Sec. of Air Force Falsifying About Weaponization of Space?

While the current box office hit "The Martian" by director Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon depicts coordination between the U.S. and Chinese space programs, that's not the way it's playing out in the real world. 

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James on Wednesday at the National Press Club responded to a question about the U.S. blocking efforts at by Russia and China and over 100 other countries to ensure the disarmament of outer space by alleging that China and Russia are engaging in activities in space that are are "worrisome." 

Sec. James stated "we don't have weapons in space in the United States." She then added: "Now what has been very worrisome in recent years is that some other countries around the world, notably China and Russia, are investing and they're testing in different types of capabilities which could shoot satellites out of orbit, and do other things to our capabilities and the capabilities of allies in space, which is worrisome." [Question at 54:00, video of event.]

Sec. James' comments were in response to a question this reporter submitted citing a UN vote last month which was 122 in favor to 4 against disarmament outer space. The U.S. was one of the nations voting against the resolution. [full question and response below.] 

John Hughes, the president of the National Press Club and moderator of the event, in his introduction of James, noted that she was recently made "the principle space adviser with expanded responsibilities of all Pentagon space activities." 

Still, Sec. James stated today "I'm not familiar with that vote." 

Alice Slater, who is with Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and the Abolition 2000 coordinating committee and is a leading activist on disarmament said today: "It’s hard to believe that the U.S. Secretary of the Air Force is unaware of the U.S. military program to 'dominate and control the military use of space' as set forth in Pentagon documents such as Vision 2020 [PDF] or that the U.S. also has tested anti-satellite weapons in space." 

A summary of the votes in question on Nov. 3 on the UN's website states: "The text, entitled 'No first placement of weapons in outer space,' reaffirmed the importance and urgency of the objective to prevent an outer space arms race and the willingness of States to contribute to that common goal." The UN summery references a "draft treaty, introduced by China and the Russian Federation. ... The draft was approved by a recorded vote of 122 in favour to 4 against (Israel, Ukraine, United States, Georgia), with 47 abstentions." Yet, James, in her remarks painted Russia and China as the aggressors. 

But consider Sec. James' exact words. While she indicates the U.S.: "we don't have weapons in space" -- she has a different standard when talking about Russia and China: They "are investing and they're testing in different types of capabilities which could shoot satellites out of orbit" -- which the U.S. obviously is doing as well. There is a race to weaponize space though it would seem Russia, China and most other nations are making moves through the UN to stop it and the U.S. government appears to be hindering that. 

In addition to Vision 2020, the Project for a New American Century also called for U.S. control of space as one of its goals: "CONTROL THE NEW 'INTERNATIONAL COMMONS' OF SPACE AND 'CYBERSPACE,' and pave the way for the creation of a new military service -- U.S. Space Forces -- with the mission of space control." [archived PDF

From Planned Parenthood to Madrid: What Can Paris, London and Washington Learn?

President Barack Obama's remarks about Russian President Vladimir Putin in Paris on Tuesday were remarkably ironic: "The Russians now have been there [Syria] for several weeks, over a month, and I think fair-minded reporters who have looked at the situation would say that the situation hasn't changed significantly.

"In the interim, Russia has lost a commercial passenger jet. You've seen another jet shot down. There have been losses in terms of Russian personnel. And I think Mr. Putin understands that with Afghanistan fresh in the memory, for him to simply get bogged down in an inconclusive and paralyzing civil conflict is not the outcome that he's looking for."

Obama seems capable of scrutinizing the hard effects of Russian foreign policy, but not his own. "With Afghanistan fresh in the memory" said the U.S. president, presumably about the Russian intervention there that ended decades ago -- and not the U.S. intervention which is prolonged and ongoing. He can see the speck in Putin's eye, but not the log in his own. To say nothing of the fact that the U.S. started the Mujahideen in Afghanistan to make the Russians bleed there

Gore Vidal called the USA the "United States of Amnesia" -- but it's more like the USSA: The United States of Selective Amnesia. 

The U.S. has been bombing the Mideast for literally decades now -- not a month -- and has yet to make a serious accounting. A few hours after Obama made those remarks, Pentagon head Ash Carter announced the U.S. was expanding its military actions in Iraq

While it rarely occurs to anyone to question that the stated goals of the U.S. government might not be the actual goals, it's rarely thought to examine the stated goals of the 9/11 or Paris attackers. Many have noted rightly noted that the "terrorism" label is applied selectively, most recently, regarding the shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado. But even beyond the use of the word "terrorism" -- the very notion of explicitly articulating a motive is selective. When talking about things like the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, the notion of "motive" doesn't enter into it; indeed, talk of "terrorism" or "war" is partly a substitute for thinking through motives. In the case of the Planned Parenthood attack, it's seemingly taken for granted that someone can be opposed to abortion rights and be opposed to violent attacks on abortion clinics. But it's not a point taken to heart when examining U.S. -- or French, or British -- foreign policy. 

But one nation seems to have come to grips with this, at least to an extent: On March 11, 2004, a series of nearly simultaneous bombs exploded on four commuter trains in Madrid. The blasts killed 191 people and wounded nearly 2,000. 

That same day, the august UN Security Council passed resolution 1530 that condemned in "the strongest terms the bomb attacks in Madrid, Spain, perpetrated by the terrorist group ETA." Of course, it quickly became evident ETA -- a Basque separatist group -- had nothing to do with it. 

This was a rare instance of officialdom didn't seek to "blame the Muslims" after a bombing. And for good reason. The ruling party in Spain, the inaptly named People's Party, had dragged the country into the Iraq war a year before and they feared with good cause that if the attack was shown to be Mideast related, the public would be furious -- and an election was scheduled three days later. In fact, the day of the election, al-Qaeda claimed responsibility

Before the Madrid bombing, the People's Party led the polls by 5 percent, but the Socialist Party ended up winning by 5 percent. The victorious Socialist Party had called for the removal of Spanish troops from Iraq during the campaign. 

Part of what was pivotal and crucial was that there were substantial protests in the immediate aftermath of the bombings. This included protests under the banner banner "No to Terrorism -- No to War." [See pic.] 

The Socialist Party had promised to remove Spanish troops by June 30th, and, after winning the election, the troops were withdrawn a month earlier than expected. I can't find a record of any Mideast-related attacks in Spain since. 

In contrast: On July 7, 2005, there were a series of bombings of the public transit system in London, killing 52 people and injuring hundreds more. Perhaps notably, There was a G8 meeting in the UK at the time, somewhat similar to there being a major climate conference in Paris now. Following those bombings, Britain has not meaningfully altered its stance in the Mideast. 

There's been much made in some circles about the French, who were derided in the U.S. during the buildup of the 2003 Iraq invasion, now leading the fight in Syria and François Hollande's pro war rhetoric. 

But the apparent change in positions actually makes perfect sense when you consider the imperial histories: Iraq was a British colony, and so -- as one would expect -- Britain helped the U.S. establishment in occupying Iraq in 2003. Similarly, Syria is a former French colony, so France took the lead in intervening there. 

The fact that the interventionist dynamics line up with the imperial histories in itself is damning to the Western powers. 

The imperial mindset toward the Mideast is evident throughout. It's brazen in the case of Israel's active settler colonial project against the Palestinians. It's clear in the alliance between the U.S. establishment and the Western-installed monarchies of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other regimes. And the mindset is even evident in the case of Iran, as former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated at the conclusion of the nuclear agreement with Iran earlier this year at the Brookings Institution: "I don't see Iran as the partner in this agreement, I see Iran as the subject of this agreement." 

The imperial legacy is shown in restrictions to domestic freedoms as well. There's the rhetoric of "Liberté" in France, but the state of emergency in France and prohibition of protest has its roots in laws enacted from Frances colonial war with Algeria. Unfortunately, many in France seem to be acting like "surrender monkeys" when it comes to abrogating their freedoms. 

You can be an emissary of empire or a decent democracy. Choose. 

The motives proclaimed by those claiming responsibility for attacks like 9/11 were never meaningfully discussed. They should be now, especially given the widespread sense that ISIS is now adopting tactics from al-Qaeda

Osama bin Ladin addressed the U.S. public just before the 2004 election thus: "Contrary to Bush's claim that we hate freedom -- if so, then let him explain to us why we don't strike for example -- Sweden? ... But I am amazed at you. Even though we are in the fourth year after the events of September 11th, Bush is still engaged in distortion, deception and hiding from you the real causes. And thus, the reasons are still there for a repeat of what occurred." 

Around the same time, said Bin Ladin: "When I saw those destroyed towers in Lebanon it sparked in my mind that the oppressors should be punished in the same way and that we should destroy towers in America so that they can taste what we tasted and so they will stop killing our women and children." See my piece "U.S. Policy: 'Putting out the fire with gasoline'?" based on interviews with Lee Hamilton and Thomas Kean, 

This passage is almost never cited, and its context outright falsified by Donald Rumsfeld in his book, where he claims Bin Ladin was "referring to the destruction of the Marine barracks and the bombing of the U.S. embassy in Beirut." Robin Wright correctly notes in her book the context was that bin Ladin was referring to "Israeli's 1982 invasion of Lebanon with American arms."

Paris and London should be looking toward Madrid in taking steps toward shedding their imperial mindsets in stopping their war-obsessed elites. Hollande is clearly escalating the bombing that France has been conducting in Syria for over a year -- calling for "merciless" bombing. British Prime Minister David Cameron is now pushing for Britain to join the bombing in Syria -- in effect adopting a U.S. style of ecumenical imperialism -- and not just in their traditional domains like Iraq. 

It doesn't have to be this way. History can change. And the fact is that there is a great legacy of anti imperialism in the U.S. that's continually overlooked. The name Mark Twain is revered now -- the comedian Eddie Murphy just received the Mark Twain Award at the Kennedy Center with great fanfare. But what's typically ignored is Twain's opposition to the U.S. becoming a global imperial power. In 1898, he helped found the Anti Imperialist League and wrote in 1900: “I have read carefully the Treaty of Paris [between the United States and Spain], and I have seen that we do not intend to free, but to subjugate the people of the Philippines. We have gone there to conquer, not to redeem.... And so I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.” Of course, U.S. colonialism actually goes backs to its own roots as a settler colonial state against the natives peoples of North America. 

So, Spain -- though it's of course still a NATO member that gave NATO support during its bombing of Libya, which has led to massive disaster there -- at least took a step away from the abyss with positive results. This is in contrast to "leaders" in Paris, London, Washington and elsewhere who are plunging headlong into it. They would seem bent on some combination of deluded death wish for disaster and Machiavellian colonial goals. Or perhaps just the self-importance involved in waging violence and playing the deadly game of brinkmanship as millions look on. 

In 2013, a British soldier was killed in the English town of Woolwich, in London. Michael Adebolajo, one of the killers, explained his aim in vivid terms -- literally with blood and knives in hand: "Remove your governments, they don’t care about you. You think David Cameron is going to get caught in the street when we start busting our guns? You think politicians are going to die? No, it’s going to be the average guy, like you and your children. So get rid of them. Tell them to bring our troops back so can all live in peace. So leave our lands and we can all live in peace. That’s all I have to say." [transcript and video

As in the case of attacks on abortion clinics, people should listen closely for motive to better understand the choices before us. 

And the options may well be: Western empire or a meaningful democracy. Choose. 


Research assistance: Michael Getzler. 

A Thanksgiving Day Prayer

Dear Lord Jesus Christ, 

We thank You for allowing the settlers to obliterate the native inhabitants of this continent that we might more selfishly enjoy it -- especially the obscenely wealthy among us. 

We thank You for the slave labor we brought over from Africa to build it up and ask that You ensure those black folks stick with the program now. 

We pray that You will impose restrictions on any other immigrants coming to this land now, however -- if it be Your will. If not, we will take is as a sign or our great morality and bigheartedness, for which we thank You. 

We thank You for the Crusades of the past and the Crusade upon us now and that we might smite our enemies like they did in the times of old. 

We thank You for plausible deniability and selectively short memories that allow those in power to evade responsibility for crimes great and small -- from the full blown invasion of Iraq, obliteration of Syria and Libya to the smallest hospital we blow up in Afghanistan. 

We thank You for our Saudi allies who we sell many weapons to that they -- when they are not beheading people for apostasy -- might share the blessings of our democracy with the more dimwitted among the Arab and Muslim peoples. 

We pray for our nuclear armed Israeli allies that they might perpetually oppress the knife armed Palestinians, especially the Christians among them. And we pray that the Jews may all be converted to Christianity that You might return to earth so this whole farce of humanity is ended soon. 

We thank you for our two party system, that keeps us simultaneously bickering and yet locked into the same course of morally repugnant policies for all eternity. 

We thank you for the capacity to only see victims who are deemed appropriate to see, like those despicable frogs in Paris. 

We thank you for our opposable thumbs and other enhancements to our being that ensure our capacity to eat -- as in this carcass before us -- and not so much to be eaten. 

We thank You for sending Your son, Jesus, who is actually You Yourself, to selflessly die for our sins that we may be cleansed of our inequities and never again beat ourselves up for our dark deprivations, especially the really kinky, twisted ones. 

Most of all, we thank You for our glorious media that we might better know Your will and what we should buy at all times, on cable -- and on the web. 

In Jesus name we pray, 

[After I wrote this, I realized how similar it is to Mark Twain's "The War Prayer" -- which ends: "For our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimmage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen." 

[Via Wikipedia: "The piece was left unpublished by Mark Twain at his death in April 1910, largely due to pressure from his family, who feared that the story would be considered sacrilegious. Twain's publisher and other friends also discouraged him from publishing it. ... According to one account, his illustrator Dan Beard asked him if he would publish it anyway, and Twain replied, "No, I have told the whole truth in that, and only dead men can tell the truth in this world. It can be published after I am dead."]

The Phony Torture Debate: Why Trump is Wrong about Waterboarding -- It's Probably Not What You Think

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump -- to the outrage of liberals everywhere -- says he wants more waterboarding. Reports the Washington Post: "'Would I approve waterboarding? You bet your ass I would -- in a heartbeat,' Trump said to loud cheers during a rally at a convention center [in Columbus, Ohio] Monday night that attracted thousands. 'And I would approve more than that. Don't kid yourself, folks. It works, okay? It works. Only a stupid person would say it doesn't work.'

"Trump said such techniques are needed to confront terrorists who 'chop off our young people's heads' and 'build these iron cages, and they'll put 20 people in them and they drop them in the ocean for 15 minutes and pull them up 15 minutes later.'

"'It works,' Trump said over and over again. 'Believe me, it works. And you know what? If it doesn't work, they deserve it anyway, for what they're doing. It works.'"

There's no shortage of people denouncing or pretending to correct Trump's remarks. Virtually all miss the point. The fact is torture produces bad but useful intelligence. That is, it gives you "intel" that some bigwig with a conniving agenda wants to push. Like that Iraq had WMDs and we needed to invade. 

Nothing solidifies the establishment more than a seemingly raging debate between two wings of it in which they are both wrong. Not only wrong, but in their wrongness, helping to cover their joint iniquities, all the while engaging in simultaneous embrace and fingerpointing to convey the illusion of seriousness and choice.

The truth is that torture did work, but not the way its defenders claim. It "worked" to produce justifications for policies the establishment wanted, like the Iraq war. This is actually tacitly acknowledged in the [Senate Intelligence Committee report on torture, partly declassified last year] -- or one should say, it's buried in it. Footnote 857 of the report is about Ibn Shaykh al-Libi, who was captured in Afghanistan shortly after the U.S. invasion and was interrogated by the FBI. He told them all he knew, but then the CIA rendered him to the brutal Mubarak regime in Egypt, in effect outsourcing their torture. From the footnote:
"Ibn Shaykh al-Libi reported while in [censored: 'Egyptian'] custody that Iraq was supporting al-Qa'ida and providing assistance with chemical and biological weapons. Some of this information was cited by Secretary Powell in his speech at the United Nations, and was used as a justification for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Ibn Shaykh al-Libi recanted the claim after he was rendered to CIA custody on February [censored], 2003, claiming that he had been tortured by the [censored, likely 'Egyptians'], and only told them what he assessed they wanted to hear. For more more details, see Volume III." Of course, Volume III -- like most of the Senate report -- has not been made public....

So, contrary to the claim that torture helped save lives, torture helped build the case of lies for war that took thousands of U.S. lives and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, helping to plunge the region into astounding violence, bringing al-Qaeda into Iraq, leading to the rise of ISIS and further bloody wars.

But rather than face how torture actually works -- and indeed how the establishment acknowledges it works -- it's more fun for so-called conservatives like Trump to talk about how we shouldn't care that a bunch of presumably bad guys getting tortured and for liberals to pontificate about how we're better than that and we need to live up to our values. Or for some to say that "torture doesn't work" without examining what "works" means in a manipulative political context. Everyone can then pretend to feel good about themselves: Trump cares about your safety; Liberals uphold our great values that show how superior we are to the savages, and how superior they are to Trump. 

It's all phony. I'm not even sure if Trump knows it's phony. I do know that many reporters and presumed opponents of torture are aware of this, but have chosen to stay mum about it. Again, as I wrote in my piece last year

Exploiting false information has been well understood within the government. Here's a 2002 memo from the military's Joint Personnel Recovery Agency to the Pentagon's top lawyer -- it debunks the "ticking time bomb" scenario and acknowledged how false information derived from torture can be useful:

"The requirement to obtain information from an uncooperative source as quickly as possible -- in time to prevent, for example, an impending terrorist attack that could result in loss of life -- has been forwarded as a compelling argument for the use of torture. ... The error inherent in this line of thinking is the assumption that, through torture, the interrogator can extract reliable and accurate intelligence. History and a consideration of human behavior would appear to refute this assumption." The document concludes: "The application of extreme physical and/or psychological duress (torture) has some serious operational deficits, most notably, the potential to result in unreliable information. This is not to say that the manipulation of the subject's environment in an effort to dislocate their expectations and induce emotional responses is not effective. On the contrary, systematic manipulation of the subject's environment is likely to result in a subject that can be exploited for intelligence information and other national strategic concerns." [PDF]

So torture can result in the subject being "exploited" for various propaganda and strategic concerns. This memo should be well known but isn't, largely because the two reporters for the Washington Post, Peter Finn and Joby Warrick, who wrote about in 2009 it managed to avoid the most crucial part of it in their story, as Jeff Kaye, a psychologist active in the anti-torture movement, has noted. One reporter who has highlighted critical issues along these lines is Marcy Wheeler -- noting as the recent report was being released: "The Debate about Torture We’re Not Having: Exploitation."

An additional irony is that Trump is putting himself out there as the guy opposed to the Iraq war. 

Colin Powell's former chief of staff Col. Lawrence B. Wilkerson has acknowledge the torture-evidence link, and I questioned Powell about this. Noted Wilkerson: "What I have learned is that as the administration authorized harsh interrogation in April and May of 2002 -- well before the Justice Department had rendered any legal opinion -- its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qaeda."

Trump can pose as standing up to political correctness. The actual political correctness is how torture is used by war makers to get the tortured "evidence" they want to have a pretext for war and other hideous policies. The actual political correctness is to pretend that "torture doesn't work" when it works for evil ends all too well. It's way past time to get off the liberal-conservative phony debate not-so-merry-go-round. 

Nasrallah's Speech Right After the Paris Attacks: Condemns ISIS, Embraces Syrian Refugees

While many are calling for further restrictions on refugees or demonizing them in some way, it's notable that one political figure often depicted as intolerant and violent by U.S. media is doing the opposite.

Below is Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah's speech of Nov. 14, the day after the Paris attacks and two days after the Beirut attacks. It's translated by Rania Masri @rania_masri and posted on her facebook page.] I didn't see any report of it in the U.S. media and only learned about it through As'ad AbuKhalil's "Angry Arab" blog

ISIS of course claimed credit for bombing a Beirut neighborhood on Nov. 12 -- the neighborhood was depicted in much of the U.S. media as a "Hezbollah stronghold," seemingly implying that it was somehow a legitimate political/military target. Lebanon has taken in over 1.3 million Syrian refugees. The U.S. government -- after giving rise to ISIS by invading Iraq and fostering the Syrian civil war -- is proposing taking 10,000

A few passages bear particular note: "First: We condemn the attacks by ISIS in France. The people in this region that have suffered under the earthquake of ISIS -- including Lebanon -- are the most empathetic to the suffering that has befallen the French people yesterday. We express our empathy and our solidarity with all who have suffered under ISIS. ...

"All that I have said about our Palestinian brothers also applies to our Syrian brothers in Lebanon. If one of the bombers is Syrian, that gives no one any excuse to attack Syrian refugees. We have been responsible in this regard as well, but it bodes repeating. many of the refugees support us politically, and others are opposed to the regime and are opposed to ISIS also. Yes, of course, there are some among the refugees who may support ISIS. We cannot generalize against all the Syrian refugees -- such is an ethical and religious responsibility...

"And let me return to speaking to the Lebanese — if it has appeared that among this network of terrorism that are some Lebanese who belong to particular sects, such as the Sunni sect, such as the ones apprehended by this network, that does not mean, in any way, that any one can then hold the Sunni sect responsible for this terrorist attack. One of the objectives of the takfiris is to create a civil war between Shi’a and Sunni. All of us -- united throughout Lebanon, all of us who have been targeted or who could be targeted, need to be aware of sectarian discourse that fulfills the objectives of the enemy and weakens and threatens our country."

Here's the speech with some very brief comments from Rania: 

First: We condemn the attacks by ISIS in France. The people in this region that have suffered under the earthquake of ISIS - including Lebanon - are the most empathetic to the suffering that has befallen the French people yesterday. We express our empathy and our solidarity with all who have suffered under ISIS