You are hereMedia
A lesson here for Sanders?: 72-Year-Old Fringe Left Candidate Wins Presidency in Austrian Run-Off Election
By Dave Lindorff
A 72-year-old college professor named Alexander van der Bellen, running for president as the candidate of the leftist Austrian Green Party, a fringe party that had never been considered a serious contender in post-war Austrian politics, just won a narrow victory over Norbert Hofer, a right-wing candidate of the neo-fascist Freedom Party who had been favored to win.
Virus blinds public to health issues that really matter: Zika Hysteria Spreads Faster than Zika Itself
By Jess Guh, MD
Zika has been described as extraordinary in so many ways. But the only thing that’s really extraordinary about the whole thing is how incredibly dispassionate I am about it.
Ever since the foundation of the American Republic, there has been both praise for and suspicion of the role the press plays in U.S. political life. Thomas Jefferson famously remarked that, if it were left to him “to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I would not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” And yet, Jefferson was also profoundly disturbed by the politically biased and inaccurate articles that he saw published in the press. As he told James Monroe: “My skepticism as to everything I see in a newspaper makes me indifferent whether I ever see one.”
Jefferson’s ambivalence about the press becomes understandable when one considers the distorted reporting that has characterized the current campaign for the U.S. Presidency.
Takin’ it to the Street, and Pushing Bernie to Not Endorse Hillary and Instead Run as an Independent
By Dave Lindorff
The desire to punish for the joy of punishing, for revenge, or for racist or sadistic domination has always had certain difficulties hiding behind the pretense of punishing for protection from danger. Creating fear of (young, black, male) "super predators" was a propaganda tactic for politicians like Hillary Clinton that bore some similarity to the efforts by politicians like Hillary Clinton to create fear of Iraqi weapons that didn't exist. The latter was meant to hide U.S. aggression toward Iraq. The former was meant to hide mad, raging punitive vindictiveness that sought to put lots of people in cages for lots of time regardless of the damage done.
One of the difficulties that pretending to punish people for public safety has in hiding real motives for mass incarceration is that the people whom the punishers most want to lock up for the longest time (or execute) are generally the least likely people to commit another crime (even if guilty of the first one). A 2009 study cited in the remarkable new book, Boy With a Knife, found that those who had been incarcerated for homicide were the very least likely to commit any kind of crime. In California in 2011 almost 49% of prisoners released later returned to prison for new criminal convictions, but that figure was less than 1% for those released who had been convicted of murder.
Part of the explanation for this may be that those convicted of murder were kept longer in prison and that older people are less likely to murder than younger people. But many studies have also found that prison has the opposite effect of rehabilitation, that people who learn to survive in prison are learning how not to survive when released, and that being released with the label of "felon" and little to no assistance in finding employment or income makes rehabilitation less likely. But even the theory that age is a factor or a theory that prison actually rehabilitates people cuts against the theory of the "super predator," of the subhuman monster incapable of reform.
There's also overwhelming evidence that locking up children makes them more likely to commit crimes as adults. This is true in general, and most children who are locked up are locked up for minor, non-violent crimes, the sorts of crimes that tend to be repeated a lot more than murder does. Yet, the United States, now the only nation on earth that has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which would put an end to such practices, locks up children in adult prisons and tells itself this outrage is justified by the need to protect the public from what Hillary Clinton used to call "super predators." The U.S. tries about 250,000 children in adult courts each year, not because this serves the children or adults or society, but because of a general sense of hatred of and fear of those children. Wildly out of proportion to actual levels of crime, 62% of the children tried in adult courts are African American.
Boy With a Knife provides this context but principally tells the true account of a crime and its punishment. In 1993 in Massachusetts a white boy named Karter Reed fatally stabbed another boy. Nothing excuses that action anymore than anything excuses flying an airplane into the World Trade Center. But learning the events that led up to it explains it, just as learning what U.S. foreign policy was during the 1990s explains 9/11. Reed was denied a father by incarceration. Reed grew up in a culture of violence and danger. Reed believed, just like the Pentagon, that being armed with deadly weaponry would keep him safe. Reed panicked and lashed out, not bombing Libya but sticking a knife into another boy's stomach. He did so not imagining the boy would die. Nobody dies from such things on television, after all. He did so in a crowded school classroom full of adults there to break up a fight, adults who were guaranteed to witness his action and to apprehend him.
Karter was tried in adult court and sent away to adult prison following a trial in which he was falsely presented as a monster who had killed joyfully. Beyond the actual crime, which was indeed monstrous, Karter was prosecuted for supposedly being rebellious, anti-social, cool and calculating, enjoying murder and reveling in it -- all of which happened not to be true, but none of which had anything to do with the suffering of the victim, the victim's loved-ones, the witnesses, or the community. How many decades should be added to a child's sentence in hell for having smiled or for having broken trivial prison rules since being locked up pre-trial? How is restitution made or justice restored by locking a child in a cage until he's old?
The answer, it seems, is: with great difficulty and struggle and rarity. Karter Reed's story is one of redemption, of beating the odds, of rehabilitating himself despite prison, not because of it. It's one of the better stories from among the thousands of stories that we know so little of and that should not have to exist.
By David Swanson
Remarks prepared for April 14 eventin Bellingham, Wash.
I believe that people in the United States often tend to have a particular hatred for taxes for three reasons above all others, but that many are not entirely clear in their thinking about these reasons. They are:
1) Unlike in many other countries, in the United States you don't really get very much for your taxes, so they seem like theft rather than a fair exchange.
2) To a greater extent than in many countries, U.S. taxes are not fairly applied. Working people often end up paying more than some very wealthy non-working people, as well as more than some very wealthy non-working non-people, otherwise known as corporations.
3) U.S. taxes originated as means to pay for wars, which were meant to be temporary, but our government has created a system of permanent war and permanent taxes (the majority of which go every year to wars and preparations for wars). Even those who cheer for wars can be upset when they find out the price tag. And those who recognize wars as immoral, counter-productive, one-sided slaughters of human beings see the resources wasted on wars as adding to the disaster of militarism in a major way because of what could have been done with those resources instead.
A bit more on these three points:
Michael Moore's Where to Invade Next and Steven Hill's Europe's Promise provide glimpses of what it must be like to pay taxes and receive something substantive in return. There are countries where, in exchange for your taxes, you receive guaranteed top-quality education from preschool through college, guaranteed comprehensive healthcare, up-to-date and relatively sustainable systems of parks, transportation, energy, and infrastructure, as well as laws guaranteeing paid parental leave and sick leave and vacation and retirement. These countries have better health, greater life-expectancy, smaller carbon footprints, higher happiness, and the freedoms and choices that come with not having to struggle for security all your life.
A governor of New York not long ago proposed spending a relatively paltry sum on college education for prisoners, to reduce recidivism, crime, and the greater expense of additional incarceration (and perhaps also to improve people's lives and those of their families and communities). The public threw such a fit that he withdrew the proposal. That would sound crazy in Europe, but in a country where most people have no easy way to go to college, a situation could have been created in which the simplest way to get to college would have been to commit a crime. Perhaps it was right to oppose that, but only if we instead create free college for all who want it.
The money now dodging taxes in Delaware, Nevada, and Wyoming likely dwarfs that found in Panama. The wealthy do not pay payroll taxes on most of their income. They don't pay taxes, or pay outrageously low taxes, on wealth, on financial transactions, on estates, on what's hidden in shell companies, on what rolls in from work done by others. Corporate owners' rank and file employees sometimes pay higher tax rates than they do. This sort of injustice breeds deep resentment, and as we've all been trained to admire the skills of the wealthy (or the so-called "successful") no matter how they cheat, the resentment becomes focused primarily on the IRS.
If you hate taxes but dutifully cheer for wars, it's lucky you also oppose school funding sufficient to produce historical literacy. Taxes are a byproduct of wars. Were it not for wars and war propaganda, this country would have never begun paying taxes. If we were to end wars, and only if we were to end wars, we could consider ending taxes too.
Between 1789 and 1815, tariffs produced 90 percent of government revenue. But taxes were needed for wars, including wars against protesters of the taxes -- such as President Washington's quashing of the Whiskey Rebellion.
A property tax was put in place in 1789 in order to build up a Navy. More taxes were needed in 1798 because of the troublesome French. But taxation really got going with the War of 1812 and took many forms, sales taxes, land taxes, etc.
The income tax was brought to you courtesy of the Civil War. The North began an income tax in 1862, and the Confederacy in 1863, both of them progressive and graduated. The income tax and the inheritance tax were dropped by 1872, and big taxation did not come back until World War I and its accompanying propaganda campaign. The Great War included an income tax, an estate tax, a munitions tax, an excess profits tax, and other big taxes on corporations and luxuries. Some of these taxes vanished after the war, but the income tax didn't. However, most ordinary people were still not seriously touched by taxation, which drew heavily from the wealthy.
World War II, which has in this and many other ways never ended, changed all that. The income tax became mainstream. By the end of World War II over 90% of U.S. workers were filing tax returns and the income tax had become the single biggest source of government funding. It was called "the Victory Tax." In a Disney cartoon, the narrator warned Donald Duck that "It takes taxes to beat the Axis!" An Irving Berlin song was titled "I Paid My Income Tax Today." Among the lyrics: "You see those bombers in the sky? Rockefeller helped to build them, So did I!"
Lucky me! We've never stopped building the bombers or paying the taxes. But the U.S. government has slashed taxes on corporations and on the wealthy and borrowed heavily. Increasingly the burden to pay is on working people, and what's paid for is largely the ongoing permanent preparations for war. Currently about 54% of discretionary spending goes into militarism. Imagine if, during tax week debates and interviews, the media were to ask presidential candidates whether they think 54% is low, high, or just right. We'd learn what they think about basic spending priorities, and many TV viewers might learn for the first time what our government's current spending priorities are.
The typical U.S. debate between spending more money on the one hand, and spending less money while building a bigger military on the other, is at odds with the reality in which the military takes a majority of the money, and in which additional big chunks go toward making the United States #1 in prisons and highways and fracking, etc. We need a debate not just on how much money the government gets, but on where it gets it from and what it spends it on. There's a movement called the Global Day of Action on Military Spending that cites UN reports to the effect that the world each year is spending about $25 billion on life-saving assistance to those harmed by wars and natural disasters, but $1,776 billion on creating more wars.
We could radically transform for the better the lives of people in the United States and abroad, with money to spare, if we moved a fraction of the U.S. military budget to productive peaceful spending.
Hysterical Cold-War Style US Reporting as 2 Unarmed Russian Jets Buzz US Destroyer Sailing Near Russian Port
By Dave Lindorff
US news reports on an incident Tuesday in which two Russian jet fighters buzzed very close to a US destroyer, the USS Donald Cook, in the Baltic Sea, make it sound like a serious threat in which the US might have been justified in defending itself against a simulated attack on the high seas.
Nowhere in the reports in the US was it mentioned that the Cook was itself engaging in provocative behavior.
I'm going to start with a few brief opening remarks about what I think is the habit of thought that has made the United States #1 in the world in prisons and wars. And then I'll be glad to try to answer as many questions as you think of. These remarks will be published online at American Herald Tribune.
No matter how long I debunk and refute and mock and condemn arguments for wars, I continue over and over again to conclude that I'm still giving advocates for war too much credit. How ever little I take seriously as rational ideas the notions that U.S. wars can be defensive or humanitarian or peace-keeping, it's always too much. Wars' supporters, in large part, do not themselves actually hold such beliefs. Rather they have a lust for war that must be examined outside of any question of utilitarian impact.
I'm referring here to the mental processes of both top officials deciding to wage war, and ordinary members of the U.S. public expressing their approval. Of course, the two are not identical. Motives of profit are hushed up, while phony motives such as waging wars in order to "support the troops" are manufactured for public consumption but never ever mentioned in the private emails of war makers. Nonetheless, there is great overlap in the thinking of all members of a culture, including the thinking of cynical politicians in a corrupt regime, and there are points on which virtually all politicians, from best to worst, agree without giving the matter any thought.
One part of the common lust for war is the desire to punish wrongdoers. This motivation overlaps with revenge when depicted as a response to some wrong done to "us." It overlaps with defensiveness when depicted as punishing some person, force, or group that constitutes a dangerous threat. It overlaps with the drives for power and domination when presented as punishing a challenger to the authority of the U.S. government, or of the U.S. government and the handful of oligarchs who constitute "the international community." But this drive to punish can be distinguished as an important motivation that often seems to underpin more superficial rationalizations.
Look at a typical "humanitarian" war, such as the war to rescue Libyan civilians from imminent slaughter in 2011 or the war to rescue mountaintop dwellers from ISIS in 2013 which is ongoing and escalating. In both cases, the humanitarian rationale was essentially false. Gadaffi did not threaten to massacre civilians. The U.S. did not try to rescue civilians from ISIS; some were rescued by Kurds, some had no interest in being rescued. In both the case of Libya and that of ISIS, war supporters piled all sorts of other rationales on top of the humanitarian one, many of these related to punishment, including punishment of ISIS for beheading U.S. citizens with knives. Old grievances, some of them based on dubious claims themselves, were dredged up against Qadaffi. TV host Ed Schultz, for example, suddenly developed a passion for punishing Qadaffi for crimes that as far as I know hadn't disturbed Schultz's sleep for years prior if ever. Americans who could have all fit on a single and readily available airplane supposedly needed to be saved from the ISIS menace by a bombing campaign that focused on an oil-rich area, not on the threatened mountaintop.
In both cases, also, the humanitarian excuse was quickly abandoned. The rescues were quickly forgotten as the U.S. entered into a war to quickly overthrow the Libyan government and a war to slowly "destroy ISIS." In both cases, few questions were raised about this switch, and to many it was not perceived as a switch. Once you rescue helpless innocents from an evil menace, punishing the evil menace is just a normal follow through like completing a golf swing over your shoulder. In this way of thinking, the humanitarian argument isn't seen as a deceitful way to get a war started but as a justification for continuing the war until the wrongdoers are properly punished.
Look at a typical "defensive" war by the United States, like the vicious aggression against Iraq in 2003. Mixed in with all the lies about the supposed threat from Iraq was plenty of talk about punishing Iraq for violating UN resolutions and for that common reason given for bombing the people of a foreign nation: the tyrant of Iraq had "killed his own people" -- using, as is common, U.S. weapons. Similarly, the Gulf War had been punishment for the invasion of Kuwait, and the war on Afghanistan has been 15 years and counting of punishment for 9/11 of people who for the most part had never heard of 9/11.
What makes me turn from factually correcting a rational belief that these wars are somehow defensive to lamenting an irrational desire to punish somebody regardless of the consequences is the fact that when the wars are exposed as counterproductive, many of their supporters go right on supporting them and talking about the need to punish those who do evil -- even if the punishment itself constitutes a greater evil. Numerous top officials in the U.S. military and so-called intelligence so-called community admit the day after they retire that the drone wars and occupations are counterproductive, that they are generating more enemies than they are killing. This fact is casually referred to as self-evident in editorials by the biggest U.S. newspapers and in reports by U.N. rapporteurs, but never ever as an argument for ending these policies.
The global war on terrorism is predictably and admittedly generating more terrorism, and its supporters just don't care. The world's most expensive military, with troops in the most places and engagement in the most wars, creates for itself the most resentment and blowback, and the solution of the true believers is even more militarism.
What is the purpose of a war that brings more war? One answer can be found in listening to ordinary war supporters who ask whether war opponents want to just "let them get away with it," and in the remarks of President Obama who claims to be murdering with drones only individuals who could not possibly be apprehended and prosecuted. But, in fact, none of his victims has even been indicted, many if not most of them could easily have been apprehended, and most have not even been identified by name. The point of throwing around the word "prosecution" in discussing the new kill policy, as in discussing the old imprison-without-trial-and-torture policy is to convey the idea that what is being done is punishment.
We find, in fact, the drive to punish in arguments for wars going back for centuries. The Mexicans had to be punished for invading the United States, whether they did so or not. The Spanish had to be punished for blowing up the Maine, whether they did so or not. King George had to be punished for his crimes, the South had to be punished for seceding, the Vietnamese had to be punished for Tonkin whether it happened or not, etc. An especially curious thing about the drive to punish, as we see in foreign and domestic policy alike, is that it seems to be largely satisfied entirely regardless of whether the correct person is punished. And if the right person is punished, that person's background is of little concern.
Was ISIS created by the invasion of Iraq and the arming of fighters in Syria? Who cares? Does the bombing of ISIS kill innocents and boost ISIS recruiting? Who cares? Was a murderer and rapist brutally abused as a child? Who cares? Does DNA prove that he didn't do it at all? As long as that evidence can be kept from the judge or jury, who really cares? The important thing is to punish somebody.
There are probably more innocent men and women in prison in the United States now than there were people in prison here total -- innocent and guilty -- 30 years ago, or than there are total people in prison (proportionately or as an absolute number) in most nations on earth.
I don't mean that people are locked up for actions that shouldn't be considered crimes, although they are. I don't mean that people are policed and indicted and prosecuted by a racist system that makes some people far more likely to end up in prison than other people guilty of the same actions, although that is true, just as it's also true that the justice system works better for the wealthy than for the poor. I am referring rather to men and women who have been wrongly convicted of crimes they simply did not commit. I'm not even counting Guantanamo or Bagram or immigrants' prisons. I'm talking about the prisons just up the road, full of people from just down the road.
I don't know whether wrongful convictions have increased as a percentage of convictions. What has indisputably increased is the number of convictions and the lengths of sentences. The prison population has skyrocketed. It's multiplied several fold. And it's done so during a political climate that has rewarded legislators, judges, prosecutors, and police for locking people up -- and not for preventing the conviction of innocents. This growth does not correlate in any way with an underlying growth in crime. Nor have U.S. wars multiplied as the result of greater lawlessness among dictators who've fallen out of favor in Washington.
At the same time, evidence has emerged of a pattern of wrongful convictions. This emerging evidence is largely the result of prosecutions during the 1980s, primarily for rape but also for murder, before DNA testing had come into its own, but when evidence (including semen and blood) was sometimes preserved. Other factors have contributed: messy murderers, rapists who didn't use condoms, advances in DNA science that helps to convict the guilty as well as to free the innocent, avenues for appeal that were in some ways wider before the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, and the heroic work of a relative handful of people.
An examination of the plea bargains and trials that put people behind bars ought to make clear to anyone that many of those convicted are innocent. But DNA exonerations have opened a lot of eyes to that fact. The trouble is that most convicts do not have anything that can be tested for DNA to prove their guilt or innocence. There are very likely hundreds of thousands of innocent people in the U.S. prison system. Are they innocent of everything? Are they saints? Of course not. They are innocent of the crimes for which they were punished. In the minds of many that doesn't matter. After all, they are poor, they are black, they have bad friends, they were in bad places. This is the thinking that supports bombing foreign nations. Did everyone in that foreign nation supposedly blow up an airplane decades ago? Of course not, but they are Muslim, they have dark skin, they hate us for our freedoms. If we're punishing them for the wrong crime, it all evens out because we're punishing them for some other crime or for their general criminal evilness.
Peter Enns has just published a book called Incarceration Nation that makes the case that punitiveness in U.S. public attitudes has played a huge role in the growth of mass incarceration. It may also have played a huge role in the growth of the permanent state of war. In absolute numbers and per-capita the United States dwarfs the rest of the world in war making and incarceration, and has seen huge growth in both in recent years. Enns cites studies finding that U.S. mass incarceration may actually increase rather than reduce crime. That finding has impacted U.S. debates on criminal punishment like a massive oak falling in a deserted forest. Nobody cares. What does it matter if mass incarceration increases crime? That's not the point. The point is to punish. And many are willing to be treated as criminals in airports, in banks, in schools, in their own neighborhoods, if it means that criminals are being severely punished. Many are willing to give the police the benefit of every doubt if racial and religious groups demonized by war propaganda are alleged to be a threat nearby.
Ending the U.S. system of counterproductive criminal punishment is as unthinkable in U.S. politics as ending the counterproductive "destroying of ISIS."
These ideas have to be unthinkable, because thinking about them could lead to radical change. Militarism and incarceration drain incredible resources from actually beneficial projects, they do horrendous damage to their victims and those victims' families, but also to prison guards, police, and members of the U.S. military. They increase racism, sexism, homophobia, and violence. They erode civil liberties. They destroy communities. They spread hatred and violence. They ruin lives. Their damage spreads for generations. Why is the United States tops in both of these evils? Are they connected?
Public opinion matters in any society. The United States is very far from democratic, but a cheap and easy way to gain electoral support while simultaneously pleasing ones funders has been to press policies labeled tough on crime and tough on terrorism. That these policies may increase crime and terrorism in comparison with other available and unconsidered options doesn't change this fact as long as people cry out for punishment at all costs. Careers in Washington, D.C., are not typically advanced by opposing wars. Prosecutors are not typically celebrated or rewarded for refraining from prosecuting the innocent. This problem is so universal as to go almost unnoticed.
I recently noticed a study by U.S. academics in the Journal of Peace Research, a study of whether the loss of lives or dollars increased or decreased U.S. public support for wars. The study only considered the loss of U.S. lives, even though the single biggest result of U.S. wars is the killing of foreigners. The possibility that the loss of non-U.S. lives could have any impact on U.S. support for wars was not deemed worthy even of consideration. The same could be said in many contexts for the prosecution of innocents in U.S. courts.
Scientists at Yale University who run experiments observing babies and toddlers claim that very, very young U.S. citizens exhibit a desire to see wrongdoers punished, even at a cost to themselves or others. These are, however, very young people who have been rapidly inhaling U.S. culture for months or years. And if we accept the unproven and perhaps unprovable claim that babies are somehow born with such desires, we still have to accept that 96% of humanity seems to set them aside in ways that people in the United States, when they grow older, do not.
Still, the author of the book Just Babies is onto something. He cites the phenomenon of internet lynch mobs. A video of a woman putting a cat in a dumpster can result in death threats. The exoneration of a man who witnessed a vicious crime and did not prevent it has led to widespread efforts to ruin his life. People not involved in these incidents in any way, hear about them and organize ways to cause punishment. That inclination to punish, to lynch, to "bring to justice," is also an inclination that has helped kill millions of people in the Middle East in recent decades and helped ruin millions of lives at the hands of the U.S. police and prison system.
If I'm right about this, then we could help reduce and end wars and reduce and eliminate incarceration by eliminating or radically reducing and reforming the desire to punish wrongdoers for the sake of that punishment, for the Schadenfreude, the punishment for punishment's sake. And we might be able to advance that cause by developing restorative justice at home and abroad.
I recommend Rebecca Gordon's new book, American Nuremberg: The U.S. Officials Who Should Stand Trial for Post-9/11 War Crimes. But I don't want to see Bush or Obama or Rumsfeld or Hillary Clinton suffer. I want to see understanding of their crimes developed, repetition of their crimes deterred, restitution for their crimes attempted, remorse and reconciliation advanced. In urging yet another people's tribunal without the power to punish, Gordon urges the importance of making reparations and accomplishing public acknowledgment. The first such tribunal I testified at regarding Bush-Cheney war crimes was in January 2006, over a decade ago. The trick will clearly be to do one and simultaneously purchase a television network. The important point here, however, is that the desire for truth and reconciliation without punishment is not uncommon. Even in the United States there are many cases of murder victims' families opposing excessive punishment of those convicted of the murder. And there are families of 9/11 victims who have opposed from the start using 9/11 as an excuse for wars.
One year ago today Baltimore police murdered Freddie Gray, and many believed that because the police had done it, it was punishment -- for something. When people protested, police were brought in from all over the area, including police who had been trained in occupying enemy territory in Israel, police with weapons given them by the U.S. military, police trained by the federal government to think of themselves as at war with the public rather than serving the public.
The people of the city of Baltimore gave the federal government in taxes last year $606 million just for the Department of so-called Defense, not counting wars, not counting so-called Homeland Security, not counting nukes in the Department of Energy or Mercenaries in the Department of State or veterans care or debt on past spending. The people of Baltimore handed over further millions to pay for those things, possibly $1 billion in all. And another billion this year, and another the next. It's not clear what the people of Baltimore get for that beyond chaos, disaster and hatred of the United States in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia, a militarized police force, the damage to U.S. troops from Baltimore, the erosion of our civil rights, the destruction of our natural environment, and the lack of funding for human needs.
Activist groups seem to be making these connections with events titled things like "From Ferguson to Palestine." A group in Los Angeles called Fight for the Soul of Our Cities is planning a march and rally on April 22nd against the militarization of police. There's a huge opportunity available if opponents of war and incarceration recognize that they are up against the same forces, the same mental habits, the same propaganda, the same corruption. If we can build a bigger movement, we can achieve bigger goals. But if we build that movement around the desire to punish the latest warmonger or police chief we may be shooting ourselves in the foot. We may get farther in the long run if we build a movement around a vision of a world without wars, prisons, or poverty -- and without the desire to punish people.
At a post-screening discussion where I questioned the director of Eye in the Sky about the disconnect between his drone-kill movie and reality, he launched into a bunch of thought-experiment stuff of the sort I've tried to avoid since finishing my master's in philosophy. Mostly I've avoided hanging out with torture supporters.
If this were a philosophy paper I would now tell you that I am going to show that consequentialism is the most useful ethical framework. Then I would show you that. Then I would tell you I'd just shown you that. And the annoyingness would be only beginning. Luckily, I'm out of school and have told you my central concern in the headline.
Consequentialism, the idea that we should base our actions on the good or bad of the expected consequences, has always been very troubling to philosophy professors, possibly because of some of these reasons:
> It leaves ethics up to humans without any sort of pseudo-divine guidance.
> It means otherwise brilliant people like Immanuel Kant were quite wrong.
> Concluding that consequentialism is the way to go would eliminate the entire academic discipline of debating what is the way to go.
Clinton has a delegate lead thanks to 6 Deep South states: The Democratic Convention Pledged Delegates Story Nobody Talks About
By Dave Lindorff
Bernie Sanders is behind Hillary Clinton in the number of pledged delegates he has amassed over the course of just under two and a half weeks of primaries and caucuses. Her advantage in pledged delegates has fallen over the last month and a half from a high point of just over 300 to a current 213.
The problem’s that Clinton IS qualified for president: Is Bernie’s ‘Political Revolution’ the Real Thing or a Pathetic Joke?
By Dave Lindorff
Bernie Sanders had a shining moment last week at a massive rally in Philadelphia at the Temple University Liacouras Sports Center. The high point came when he mentioned that his opponent, Hillary Clinton, had implied that he was “not qualified” to be president -- a charge that she has continued to make in a tense campaign for the April 19 Democratic primary in New York state.
Something’s happening in the presidential race: Clinton’s Crumbling, Bernie’s Surging ‘Political Revolution’ is in the Air
By Dave Lindorff
Philadelphia -- Something “YUGE” is happening in the Democratic presidential campaign, and perhaps in the broader American body politic. It’s hard to put your finger on it, but like that feeling of your neck hairs rising off your skin as a big thunderstorm approaches, you know it’s big and it’s coming.
By David Swanson, American Herald Tribune
Last week Donald Trump suggested something Bernie Sanders would never dare: getting rid of NATO. I took some time to read people's comments and tweets online about it, and a huge number seemed to believe that NATO and the U.S. military have been performing a service for Europe, and that it's time for Europe to pay its own bills. But will someone explain to me what the service is?
The United States dragged NATO into a -- thus far -- over-14-year-long war on the people of Afghanistan that has turned a country in poor shape into hell on earth, compounding the damage inflicted by U.S. (and Soviet) policies since the 1970s.
The United States dragged European nations into a disastrous war in Iraq in 2003, without NATO. But when Belgium allowed a prosecution of U.S. commander in Iraq Tommy Franks to move forward, Donald Rumsfeld threatened to move NATO headquarters out of Brussels. Franks' apparent crimes suddenly became part of a noble and legal humanitarian effort.
The United States and France used NATO to destroy Libya in 2011 and proliferate weapons across the region. The United States and Turkey have been compounding the chaos by generating reasons for NATO to exist in Syria. And perhaps NATO headquarters views the wars that created ISIS, and the U.S. support for Al Qaeda in Syria in just those terms. But to an ordinary observer, a war on terrorism that continues to increase terrorism has a fundamental flaw.
Former CIA Bin Laden Unit Chief Michael Scheuer says the more the U.S. fights terrorism the more it creates terrorism. U.S. Lt. General Michael Flynn, who quit as head of the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014, says blowing people up with missiles is generating more blowback, not less. The CIA's own report says drone killing is counterproductive. Admiral Dennis Blair, the former director of National Intelligence, says the same. Gen. James E. Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says drone strikes could be undermining long-term efforts: "We're seeing that blowback. If you're trying to kill your way to a solution, no matter how precise you are, you're going to upset people even if they're not targeted." Dozens of just retired top officials agree.
So, it seems, does much of the public in Europe, which turns out protests of NATO meetings, as well as wars, of a size rarely seen in the United States. When the U.S. military builds new bases in Italy, the protests are so huge they've toppled local and national governments. It was a vote of the House of Commons in London not to bomb Syria in 2013 that helped reverse President Obama's decision to do so. To tell the people of Europe that they must start taking responsibility to pay a greater share of the bill for killing Afghans, Iraqis, Libyans, and Syrians, and for generating the blowback that sets off bombs in their train stations and airports, and for creating the refugee crises they face might prove just a step too far into the realm of delusion.
Thinking this way requires blowback denial, the Trumpian belief that Muslims do evil things because they are Muslims. The U.S. government knows better. George W. Bush's own Pentagon concluded that nobody hated us "for our freedoms" but rather they hated bombs and occupying armies, and free weapons and support for Israel's wars. One wishes it were needless to say that such motivations don't excuse acts of murder, but knowledge of such motivations puts additional blood on the hands of those continuing to generate them while engaging in blowback denial.
Climate denial is not so very different. Just as every anti-western terrorist says they're outraged by the bombs and bases and armies and buzzing drones, every scientific study says unnecessary and wasteful human activities (first among them: war making) are pushing the earth's ecosystem toward collapse. Yet billions of people fail to shut every thing down until basic policies are altered. And many fail to do anything at all to resist environmental devastation, by means of denying to themselves that it is real.
Clearly, the human species evolved to favor relatively short-term localized thinking. While more Americans are killed by dumb accidents, pollution, or toddlers with guns than by foreign terrorists with knives, the latter danger dominates all public policy thinking. While the earth is at severe risk of environmental or nuclear holocaust, the weather looks nice outside today and all the bears and leopards seem to have long since been killed off, so what's your worry?
When humans killed off those animals millennia ago, they replaced them with gods. Now humans pray to those gods rather than thinking. Now they wish for what they'd like and call it a prediction. Now they vote for hope and change and call it progress. And this habit of wishful thinking may be at the root of the greatest threats to end us all.
Hot time in the old town of Philly in July?: Washington, Alaska and Hawaii Blowout Wins Boost Sanders Nomination Odds
By Dave Lindorff
Stolen primary in Arizona?: Questioning Hillary’s Tuesday Primary Win Amid Widespread Evidence of Voter Suppression in Phoenix
By Dave Lindorff
It sure looks like there was some voter fraud committed in the Democratic primary in Arizona on Tuesday.
By John Grant
Since the coup, Honduras has become one of the most dangerous places in the world.
Why I won’t be voting for Hillary in November: A Neolib Posing as a Progressive vs. a Reality TV Star Posing as a Fascist
By Dave Lindorff
I won’t be voting for Hillary Clinton if she wins the Democratic Party nomination for president, and I won’t heed Bernie Sanders if, as he has vowed to do, he calls on his supporters to “come together” after the convention, should he lose, to support Clinton and prevent Donald Trump or another Republican from becoming president.
Sanders to keep campaigning: Decrying Clinton’s Wall Street and Oil Industry Bribes, Bernie Soldiers On
Profile in lack of courage: Sen. Warren has Betrayed the Cause the Put Her in the Senate and Once Made Her a Hero to Millions
By Dave Lindorff
Sen. Elizabeth Warren just had a chance to turn the tide in this rigged Democratic primary season last Tuesday, and she ran away from it.
DNC defection: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s Surprise Endorsement Gives Sanders a Chance to Change the Whole Primary Game
By Dave Lindorff
Just as the media, in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s landslide win in South Carolina’s Democratic primary Saturday, are predictably writing the obituary for Bernie Sanders’ upstart and uphill campaign for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) has handed him an opportunity to jolt the American people awake.
I’m just sayin’... Who Cares About Democratic Primary Results in South Carolina -- a State Democrats Will Lose in November?
By Dave Lindorff
I'll be the first to admit I'm no pollster or even political scientist, but when I read that Bernie Sanders is going to be crushed by Hillary Clinton in Saturday's primary in South Carolina, the state that fired the opening shots in the Civil War and that only last year took down a Confederate battle flag in front of the capitol building, I have to shake my head at the absurdity of it.
By Linn Washington, Jr.
Hollywood honchos told a big lie 74-years ago.
That lie told in 1942 is a link in the sordid chain of perceptions and practices that have produced the present brouhaha surrounding the 2016 Oscar awards featuring an all-white bevy of acting category nominations.
Whatever its motive, Apple’s on the right side...so far: Apple Champions Privacy; Government Seeks to Trash It
By Alfredo Lopez
Truth can be stranger than fiction...or at least more surprising. Apple Computer is the current champion of privacy against U.S. government attempts to expand its spying on us. The company, a frequent NSA and FBI collaborator in the past, finds itself in the strange position of confronting a federal court order to dislodge its iPhone security system, an action Apple insists will cripple encryption as a privacy-protection measure.
Striking out at the NY Times: Hit Piece on Sanders Proposals Relies on Pro-Clinton Economists Mislabeled as ‘Leftists’
By Dave Lindorff
As Bernie Sanders’ insurgent campaign for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination continues to strengthen, so do the attacks on him by the establishment corporate media, which are reflexively backing the status quo corporatocracy.
Your new movie, Where to Invade Next, is very powerful, your best so far for certain.
We need you.
You've packed a great many issues into this film, with visuals, with personalities, with entertainment. If people will watch this, they'll learn what many of us have struggled to tell them and more, as there was plenty that I learned as well.
I must assume that when U.S. audiences watch scenes that dramatically clash with their world yet seem humane and reasonable they'll be brought to the point of thinking.
You show us political candidates, not screeching for more prisons, but holding a televised election debate in a prison in an effort to win the votes of the prisoners, who are permitted to vote. What are we to make of that? You also show us scenes from U.S. prisons of grotesque brutality. Then you show us the effective rehabilitation achieved by Norwegian prisons (25% of U.S. recidivism rate). That doesn't just clash with what's familiar in the United States, but it also clashes with what the United States teaches about "human nature," namely that criminals cannot be rehabilitated. And you expose the driving force of vengeance that lies behind that pseudo-belief by showing the collective response of forgiveness and sanity with which Norway responded to a major terrorist incident. We all know how the U.S. has responded to those.
If we've read Steven Hills' book Europe's Promise or others like it, or lived in Europe and visited Europe or other parts of the world, we have some notion of much of what you show us: Italians and others with many weeks of paid vacation and parental leave plus 2-hour lunch breaks, Germans with paid weeks at a spa if they feel stress, Finland with soaring educational achievement reached by shunning standardized tests and homework while shrinking the school day, France with nutritious gourmet school lunches, Slovenia and dozens of other countries with free college, workers making up 50% of corporate boards in Germany, Portugal legalizing drugs (best line of the movie: "So does Facebook."). By bringing all of this together in a concise and intelligent and entertaining way, you've done us all a favor.
I was worried, I will confess. I apologize. I've been watching Bernie Sanders propose these sorts of changes without a real vision behind them and without daring to mention that the money is all being dumped into the U.S. military. And I've watched you, Michael, make some oddly supportive comments about Hillary Clinton who has spent decades working against everything this movie is about. So, I was worried, but I was wrong. Not only were you willing to point out that the United States pays nearly as much as these other countries in taxes, and much more when adding in the additional things paid for outside of taxes (college, healthcare, etc.), but you also included the elephant in the room, the 59% (in the figure you used) of U.S. income tax that goes to militarism. This movie, because you included that fundamental difference between the United States and other nations, is a terrific boost for the cause of ending war. That you point out the contrast between what Germans know and feel about the holocaust and what U.S. Americans know and feel about past U.S. wars, genocides, and slavery only adds to the value.
You included in a single 2-hour movie, in a clear and unrushed manner, not only all of the above, but also explanation of the popular resistance needed to create it, plus a critique of the racist U.S. drug war, mass incarceration, prison labor, and the death penalty. You showed us Muslim leaders in a largely Muslim nation more advanced on women's rights than is the United States. You showed us the openness of numerous nations to women sharing in power. I do, by the way, recognize the good intentions that may lie behind your interest in electing a female president, but I ask you if Margaret Thatcher advanced or impeded the cause. Does electing women create humane societies, or is it at least as much the case that humane societies elect women?
The other story you bring us from Iceland, in addition to women in power, is bankers prosecuted for their crimes. Odd, isn't it? Americans thirst for such revenge that they imprison small-time criminals for decades and brutalize them, but big-time criminals are rewarded. A shift to a more civilized system of justice would reduce the nastiness in one case but impose penalties that have been lacking in the other.
You allowed some powerful voices to speak in this movie. One of them suggested that Americans try taking an interest in the rest of the world. I've noticed, living abroad, that not only do other people want to know about the United States (and everywhere else), but they also want to know what Americans think of them. And I always have to reply with shame that Americans don't, in fact, think anything of them at all. Not only should we start to be curious about others, but we should start to be curious about what others think of us.
P.S. -- I'm old enough to remember your film about Bush's Iraq lies, Michael. The leading Republican presidential candidate now says Bush lied. The trailing Democratic candidate doesn't, and told the same lies at the time herself. You helped make U.S. culture, not yet good enough to end homelessness, but good enough to get that question right. Thank you.
by Bryan Doerries
A Book Review by Hugh O’Neill
“The Play’s the thing in which to catch the conscience of the king”- Hamlet, Act II, scene ii.
Theatre has long engaged our innermost concerns and is a way of exploring the darkest realms of our Humanity. Bryan Doerries, interviewed recently on Radio NZ (www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/ninetonoon/20151209) was described thus:
“Brooklyn-based theatre director, Bryan Doerries, is the founder of the 'Theatre of War' project, and the 'Outside the Wire' company which presents ancient Greek plays to returned soldiers, addicts, prison communities, and victims of natural disasters. He argues that the great tragedies of the Greeks can help a contemporary audience grapple with everything from the trauma of being in a conflict zone to end-of-life care. To date, over 60,000 service members, veterans, and their families have attended and participated in Theatre of War performances worldwide. Bryan Doerries’ book, is 'The Theatre of War”.
In his book, Doerries’ relates how his own suffering and loss found resonance in 5th century BC Greek tragedies. He contends that Human reaction to trauma is indeed timeless: the horrors of war, violence, pestilence and disaster still affect us now as they did 2,500 years ago. His special insight – from a deep reading of Aristotle’s Poetics - is that tragic plays were written for a specific purpose which was to create catharsis or healing by revisiting these most painful private experiences and understand that one’s reaction is not unique, but is a normal (indeed healthy) Human response to inhuman suffering. The audiences of the time would have consisted mainly of veterans since the Peloponnesian Wars lasted some 80 years.
Doerries was not the first to note the parallels between certain characters in the Classical oeuvre and soldiers suffering what - post-Vietnam War - is labeled “PTSD” (hitherto known since WWI as “shell shock”): Dr. Jonathan Shay wrote “Achilles in Vietnam” on the parallels between veterans of both Vietnam and the Homeric epics. Shay has also noted Shakespeare’s accurate observations of PTSD by Lady Percy (Henry IV, Act II, scene ii). Thus Shakespeare has an intrinsic understanding of the effects of war on the mind, and how nightmares continued the disturbance long after the events occurred.
Labeling the condition a disorder – as Doerries and Shay seem to suggest – is wrong, since it adds further blame upon its victims and somehow makes them the problem, rather than the experience which caused it. Shay prefers the term ‘moral injury’ a condition most apparent when the individual’s moral compass is suppressed by authority (as in the infamous Milgram Experiment). Few of us can measure up to the presumptive verdict of Nuremburg i.e. it is no defence to say one was only following orders. Such few are pilloried as traitors and cowards and suffer the most extreme forms of persecution (Archibald Baxter’s Field Punishment No.1)
There is patently a serious problem for American society with some reports attesting that suicides post-Vietnam are almost double the 58,000 ‘killed in action’ (a.k.a. KIA). One figure cited for the current conflicts in the Middle East suggest a rate of 22 suicides each day. The problem is perhaps compounded by the success of battlefield medical care i.e. more survive horrific injuries which hitherto would have proved fatal. Furthermore, the true savagery of war is a political inconvenience, to be concealed from the general public: the real tragedy happens offstage. Men and women suffer physical and mental torment whilst society looks the other way. There are no winners in war - except the bankers and arms manufacturers.
Doerries has a scholarly, non-military background – despite the numerous bases which surrounded his home in Virginia. He was moved to ‘do something’ after reading of the plight of veterans in the rat-infested Walter Reed hospital. His efforts were galvanized by an article in the NY Times (Jan 13th 2008) by Sontag & Alvarez quoting Captain P. Nash describing PTSD in the Sophocles’ play about the Homeric Ajax. Depressed after the Trojan War, Ajax unwittingly slaughtered a herd of animals and then had fallen on his own sword. Doerries contacted Nash and eventually the scene was set for the first theatrical event: 4 actors reading aloud extracts from Sophocles’ works on Ajax and Philoctetes both of which plays addressed powerful feelings of injustice and abandonment (N.B. Sophocles was also a military general). The sparse acting focused more emphasis on words and emotions. One hour of theatre was followed by several hours of very democratic audience discussion led by Doerries: the play had provoked deep feelings and gave license to air private concerns in a public forum - not all of which made for comfortable listening - especially to those in command.
However, word spread and the “Theatre of War” performed for diverse audiences using a play specific to that audience. For the prison staff at Guantanamo, a performance based on Aeschylus’ “Prometheus Bound” evoked the unexpected response that some identified with the tortured character of Prometheus whilst others saw themselves in his reluctant jailer Hephaestus, or his enthusiastic jailers Kratos (Power) and Bia (Force). The audience discussion was uninhibited despite the presence of a 4 star general; Doerries’ final question on the justice of Prometheus’ fate provoked one very senior lawyer to catharsis by his bitter denouncement of the US having lost all moral authority by refusing their prisoners a fair trial. It was this moral conflict given utterance which explained why so many identified with the fate of Prometheus, ‘chained to a rock at the end of the Earth’.
It is laudable that Doerries strives to re-Humanise those de-Humanised by war, military service, penal institutions etc. The masters of war and genocide must first dehumanize the perceived enemy, and then de-humanize their own people to fear, hate and kill the ‘enemy’. We saw this in Nazi Germany, Rwanda, and in the increasing belligerence of the US Military Industrial Complex - as warned by President Eisenhower in his valedictory of 17th January 1961. The Peloponnesian wars were fought for existential reasons whereas US wars are fought for profit - irrespective of the consequences. The un-asked question in this story: who will provide catharsis for the countless millions of victims of war - the dead, maimed, orphaned and homeless? It may be unfair to expect this question from Doerries, but it must be asked nonetheless. Doerries has begun to speak truth to power which ability was the essence of Democracy –in the Greek sense of the word (Demos Kratos = people–power). Democracy flowered in Athens when a small hierarchical society, under existential threat, had masters and slaves literally pulling on the same oars. Today, the whole of Creation faces existential threat from Climate Change. “In the final analysis, we all live on the same small planet. We breathe the same air. We cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.” (JFK 10/6/63)
By Gar Smith
Some people (OK, some older, white Republican men) have been complaining that Beyonce "injected politics into a sports event." (Actually the message seemed to be less about politics and more about social repression, government indifference and in-your-face racial pride. Consider the lyrics: "I like my baby hair, with baby hair and Afros. I like my negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils.")
On Monday's Fox & Friends, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani criticized Beyonce's black activism as inappropriate for a halftime show because, as the former mayor explained, half-time shows are a time when performers are supposed to be "talking to Middle America." (Read: "White.") The former mayor confessed that he would have preferred "decent wholesome entertainment."
"I thought it was really outrageous that she used [the half-time show] as a platform to attack police officers who are the people who protect her and protect us, and keep us alive," said Giuliani.
Of course, neither the song's lyrics nor the singer's energetic twerking addressed the specific and abiding problem of police brutality and killings.
And yet, amidst all the hoopla about Beyonce's performance, I haven't heard anyone complaining about Lady Gaga's powerhouse rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. The lyrics of this tune clearly constitute a major example of injecting "politics into a sporting event" – in this case a full-out celebration of war. (The US is the only country on Earth with a national anthem that contains the words "rockets" and "bombs.")
To underscore the political message of this Half-Time kick-off event, Gaga's stint began with a close-up of a line of soldiers holding wall of military flags as the announcer intoned: "And now, to honor America – and perform our national anthem – please welcome … Lady Gaga." (Note: Placing "honor" before "performance" was a way of signaling that the musical event was intended as a stand-in for a collective "pledge of allegiance.")
Lady Gaga went on to perform the song in front of a massive American flag that covered more than 30 yards of the midfield and required at least 56 people to hold it in place.
From the start of the video clip to Gaga's last note consumes about 2:48 minutes. Nearly one-quarter of the clip was saturated with pro-military imagery, including: military standard bearers, a close-up of a saluting marine, a live scene of US troops standing at attention and saluting inside a building in some unnamed foreign country currently occupied by US troops, a close-up of a military drum pounding as Gaga reached her crescendo and, finally, a smoke-trailing fly-over by a half-dozen F/A-18 fighter jets in Blue Angel formation.
At this point, the announcer could have offered a the following public service message: "The US Department of Health and Human Services has asked us to advise you that the Blue Angels jets are powered by JP-5 propellant, a refined kerosene product that contains known carcinogens that can damage the kidney, liver and immune system."
The announcer might also have informed the crowd that: "Each Blue Angels jet burns 1,200 gallons of jet fuel per hour. At a cost of $10.32 per gallon, flying a team of six jets for an hour of preparation and a few brief seconds of intense fly-over entertainment costs taxpayers more than $74,300."
Instead, the announcer offered the following (arguably politicized) salutation:
"Thanks to those sailors and marines and our troops serving around the globe."
So if spectators watching from inside the Bowl—or at home over a bowl of nachos—thought Beyonce's brigades of beret-wearing, clenched-fist-and-booty shaking backup dancers were too "political," let's just agree to call it "equal time."
There were two teams vying for the crowd's loyalty on the midfield on Sunday. On one side, the entire military-industrial-sports-
Postscript:At the time of this writing, the Formation video was not publically available. Here is a link to the video. Discuss.
Postscrpt #2: I've tracked down what appears to be the lyrics to Beyonce's Superbowl anthem—and there is little here that can be described as "political." There also is very little about racial pride. The lyrics are mostly boastful, arrogant and vulgar. When, for example, Beyonce sings "I go hard, Get what's mine, take what's mine, I'm a star, I'm a star, Cause I slay," it sounds like she's channeling Trump, Kissinger ,or the Koch Brothers.
Postscrpt #2: I've tracked down what appears to be the lyrics to Beyonce's Superbowl anthem—and there is little here that can be described as "political." There also is very little about racial pride. The lyrics are mostly boastful, arrogant and vulgar.
When, for example, Beyonce sings "I go hard, Get what's mine, take what's mine, I'm a star, I'm a star, Cause I slay," it sounds like she's channeling Trump, Kissinger ,or the Koch Brothers.