Roaming Charges: Welcome to the malarky factory

March 1st, 2021

by JEFFREY ST. CLAIR

Farm, Clatskanie, Oregon. PHOTO/Jeffrey St. Clair.

+ Joe Biden is by no means a smooth politician, but over the course of five decades in office he has mastered the art of the political bait-and-switch, a sleight of hand which has come to define the operating profile of so many Democratic bosses in the age of neoliberalism.

+ This week Biden proclaimed that, as a president who wants to “avoid inflaming a closely divided Congress,” he plans to “tread lightly when it comes to using his executive power.” Biden seems very confident that his passivity won’t “inflame” any of the remaining progressives in a “closely divided Congress.” Biden’s been on or around Capitol Hill for 45 years and he hasn’t witnessed any uprising from the Congressional left yet. He must feel he’s on pretty safe ground.

+ Starting on his first day, Trump tried to implement as many of his campaign pledges as possible, starting with the craziest stuff (like the Muslim ban) first. He lies constantly, but was true to his politics, aberrant as it is. It’s why his base believes “he tells it like it is.” Biden also remains true to his politics but lies to his base about what his real politics is. It’s why he is already retreating from almost every campaign pledge, except having a racially & sexually diverse cabinet, which he hides behind as he defaults to his core neoliberalism.

+ One of the biggest failures of the #MeToo Movement is that the misogynistic Larry Summers, the Biden Whisperer, still has a national platform to spread his austerity propaganda with a smug grin, even as millions face having their heat shut off or being evicted from their homes…

“$2,000 checks would be a pretty serious mistake.”

Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers says larger stimulus checks to Americans could risk overheating the economy https://t.co/Ui1v0zd7Hz pic.twitter.com/ITF6slQwKf

— Bloomberg TV (@BloombergTV) December 24, 2020

+ It appears Biden, following Summers’ advice, played a key backroom role in convincing the Democrats to settle for the $600 stimulus checks.

+ Can there be any question that the implementation of his brutish economic Summers has damaged the lives of many thousands more women than Epstein, Weinstein and the rest of the A-list sexual predators made to walk a perp line in the last four years?

+ $70 billion: the estimated amount of overdue rent in the USA.

+ Conrad’s Nostromo is one of those encyclopedic novels where you can pluck a quote for nearly every political situation. Here’s today’s: “They are paying you with words.”

+ Speaking of AOC, I’ve never been one of her most ardent admirers, but I’m somewhat mystified by the rabidity of the attacks on her from the Jimmy Dore (née Sputnik) Left, which seem nearly as hysterical (not to mention sexist) as those launched from the Alex Jones Right. AOC is what she is, a reformer trapped in a party impervious to reform. The only real power AOC and her cohorts have is to primary old-guard Democrats and they’ve notched an impressive number of wins. Evicting Elliot Engel from Congress was the most satisfying moment of the campaign year from my seat in the leftfield bleachers.  Dore never subjected his heroine Tulsi Gabbard’s record to this kind of excoriating critique, even as she fronted for Biden’s heinous foreign policy record.

Counterpunch for more

Corporate media’s leaked Chinese documents confirm China didn’t hide Covid-19

March 1st, 2021

by JOSHUA CHO

Several reports on China’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic came out late last year, based on what US outlets like CNN, the New York Times and ProPublica claimed to be leaked Chinese documents. Although these reports implied that China was responsible for how bad the pandemic has been because of its downplaying of numbers and censoring of critical information, these narratives are themselves misleading in several ways.

CNN (11/30/20) released “The Wuhan Files” in late November, announcing “a string of revelations contained within 117 pages of leaked documents from the Hubei Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention.” According to CNN:

Taken together, the documents amount to the most significant leak from inside China since the beginning of the pandemic and provide the first clear window into what local authorities knew internally and when.

However, though the documents provide no evidence of a deliberate attempt to obfuscate findings, they do reveal numerous inconsistencies in what authorities believed to be happening and what was revealed to the public.

This is not the first time Chinese information has been leaked. Earlier in 2020, Foreign Policy (5/12/20) reported on a leaked dataset of coronavirus cases and deaths from the Chinese military’s National University of Defense Technology, which indicated that the Chinese government’s internal information matched the Covid-19 numbers the government publicly posted online, corroborating multiple professional judgments that China’s reported numbers were reliable. Dr. Bruce Aylward—a Canadian medical expert with 30 years of experience combating polio, Ebola and other global health emergencies—concluded that he “didn’t see anything that suggested manipulation of numbers,” after leading a team of experts visiting China for the World Health Organization (New York Times, 3/4/20).

Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting for more

Shades of fascism

March 1st, 2021

by I.A. REHMAN

Italy’s fascist ruler Benito Mussolini (1883-1945) PHOTO/NDTV

One of the latest charges against Donald Trump is that as president of the United States he has been inclined towards fascism. The evidence presented to justify this qualification includes the outgoing US president’s attempts to undermine the sanctity of the American electoral system, contempt for some movements such as Black Lives Matter, and his decision to pardon some notorious criminals, including the murderer of a nine-year-old child, and rumours about his desire to grant pardon to himself as well. This shows that one doesn’t have to formally proclaim adherence to fascism and unfurl a swastika banner or something like that; the title could be acquired by simply behaving as a fascist.

The essential features of fascism as revealed in Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany were revanchism, that is, celebration of a glorious past (Aryan origins in the case of Hitler’s Germany and ancient Roman glory in the case of Mussolini’s Italy) after greatly magnifying it, denunciation of socialism or projection of the self as genuine socialism blended with nationalism, promotion of a cult figure to lead the community and the need for total obedience to him, invention of enemy figures who had to be liquidated, and frenzied playing up of a persecution theory. The most important objective, namely, creation of barriers against a community’s progress towards democracy and an egalitarian order, and preservation of an exploitative system inspired by a supposedly benign capitalism, was rarely allowed to enter the public debate.

In countries gaining nominal freedom from colonialism, techniques resembling fascism have been adopted to suppress popular stirrings for democracy and social justice. In South Africa, the entire edifice of the apartheid system was dressed up as a holy crusade against communism. Similar justifications were employed to bring many countries including Pakistan into military blocs to achieve purposes far removed from their national interest. The techniques adopted to force the pill of subjugation down the throats of unwilling peoples were often copied from fascist textbooks. In quite a few countries, religion and traditional culture have been used to establish and sustain regimes that fit the definition of fascism except for the employment of a different nomenclature.

Twentieth-century authors of fascist theories presented their prescriptions as effective antidotes to spurious democracy just as the high priests of Hindutva claim that they are fighting sham secularism and that the potion they are selling is secularism in its purest form.

The Muslim faith too has not escaped exploitation by more than one militant organisation engaged in war to capture an existing state or to use the debris of a failed state to establish a new state-like entity. Muslim states have made themselves particularly vulnerable to fascistic influences by virtually discarding the fourth source of Islamic law, namely ijma (consensus). The Hasba bill of the theocratic government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (then NWFP) some years ago, which was mercifully struck down by the Supreme Court, was an unfortunate and crude attempt to enforce religious injunctions by state power, which is quite contrary to the spirit of Islam as the latter firmly rejects compulsion in matters of faith.

Dawn for more

Weekend Edition

February 26th, 2021

What is the use?

February 26th, 2021

by B. R. GOWANI (translation of Sahir Ludhianvi’s Urdu/Hindi poem)

Guru Dutt in Pyaasa PHOTO/Youtube/Google

the palaces, thrones, and crowns of our world

the societal enemies of people of our world

the wealth-starved traditions of our world

even if I were to attain this world, what is the use?

every body is wounded and every soul is thirsting

the eyes are confused; the hearts are sad,

is this the world or an existence of senselessness

even if I were to attain this world, what is the use?

here the human existence is a play thing,

this place is the home of dead worshiping

here death is cheaper than life

even if I were to attain this world, what is the use?

youth keeps wandering in a licentious life

young bodies are exhibited to be marketable

here love is realized for business

even if I were to attain this world, what is the use?

in this world, human beings have no worth

neither do fidelity or friendship carry any worth

here no one values love at all

even if I were to attain this world, what is the use?

burn down this world; leave no trace of it

remove the world from my sight,

it’s your world, you take care of it

even if I were to attain this world, what is the use?

ye mahloN ye takhtoN ye tAjoN ki duniyA

ye mahloN ye takhtoN ye tAjoN ki duniyA

ye insAN ke dushman samAjoN ki duniyA

ye daulat ke bhooke rivAjoN ki duniyA

ye duniyA agar mil bhi jAE to kyA hai

har ik jism ghAyal har ik rooh pyAsi

nigAhoñ meiN uljhan diloN meiN udAsi

ye duniyA hai yA Alam-e-bad-havAsi

ye duniyA agar mil bhi jAE to kyA hai

yahAN ik khilaunA hai insAñ ki hasti

ye basti hai murdA-parastoN ki basti

yahAñ par to jivan se hai maut sasti

ye duniyA agar mil bhi jAE to kyA hai

javAni bhaTakti hai badkAr ban kar

javAN jism sajte haiN bAzAr ban kar

yahAN pyAr hotA hai beopAr ban kar

ye duniyA agar mil bhi jAE to kyA ha

ye duniyA jahAN Admi kuchh nahiN hai

vafA kuchh nahiN dosti kuchh nahiN hai

jahAN pyAr ki qadr hi kuchh nahiN hai

ye duniyA agar mil bhi jAE to kyA hai

jalA do ise phooNk DAlo ye duniyA

mere sAmne se haTA lo ye duniyA

tumhAri hai tum hi sambhAlo ye duniyA

ye duniyA agar mil bhi jAE to kyA hai

(The above is the original Sahir poem in Roman script.)

B. R. Gowani can be reached at brgowani@hotmail.com

BLM chapters demand “accountability” from trio that cashed in on the movement

February 26th, 2021

by GLEN FORD

BLM Chapters Demand “Accountability” from Trio that Cashed in on the Movement
Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi

Ten chapters of the national Black Lives Matter organization are in open revolt against the individuals that have treated the mass movement as their personal vehicle for upward political, professional and financial advancement.

“The BLMGNF became the principal beneficiary of millions of dollars in individual and corporate philanthropy.”

In 2013 three Black women social activist friends working in non-profit organizations in California invented the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter which, along with #Ferguson, became most identified  with the mass movement that converged on Ferguson, Missouri, following the police killing of Mike Brown, in August of 2014. Soon the friends created a non-profit pocket to gather funds for favored projects, dubbed the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation. The BLMGNF became the principal beneficiary of millions of dollars in individual and corporate philanthropy, as the social movement broadly described as “Black Lives Matter” mounted the greatest challenge to the racist criminal justice system in the United States since the 1960s. Yet, the disposition of these funds has remained solely at the discretion of the three hashtag and foundation founders — Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi – and their designated operatives. 

Ten chapters of the national Black Lives Matter organization are now in open revolt against the hashtag founders and their tightly controlled formations, demanding that the BLMGNF and the recently created Black Lives Matter Political Action Committee and BLM Grassroots be made financially and political “accountable.”

Over the past six years Black Agenda Report has often been critical of the “troika” that treats the mass movement as their personal vehicle for upward political, professional and financial advancement. We hope that the revolt of Black Lives Matter chapters will spark a deep and wide examination of the direction of the U.S.-based Black liberation movement and its relationship to the global struggle against racial capitalism and Euro-American imperialism. This crucial debate now begins in earnest with the “Statement from the Frontlines of the BLM ,” issued earlier this week by chapters in Philadelphia; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; Hudson Valley, New York; Oklahoma City; Indianapolis; Denver; Vancouver, Washington; San Diego, California; and New Jersey. The statement appears below in its entirety:

It is Time for Accountability

It was recently declared that Patrisse Cullors was appointed the Executive Director to the Black Lives Matter Global Network (BLMGN) Foundation. Since then, two new Black Lives Matter formations have been announced to the public: a Black Lives Matter Political Action Committee, and BLM Grassroots. BLM Grassroots was allegedly created to support the organizational needs of chapters, separate from the financial functions of BLMGN. We, the undersigned chapters, believe that all of these events occurred without democracy, and assert that it was without the knowledge of the majority of Black Lives Matters chapters across the country and world.

Black Agenda Report for more

Dreams of Dali

February 26th, 2021
Dreams of Dalí – The Surrealist’s Art in 360 video VIDEO/BBC/Youtube

Strictly technical (books review)

February 25th, 2021

by AIJAZ AHMAD

VIDEO/NDTV/Youtube

The RSS: A Menace to India by A.G. Noorani. LeftWord, 2019

Messengers of Hindu Nationalism: How the RSS Reshaped India 
by
Walter Andersen and Shridhar Damle. Hurst, 2019

Rashtriya? Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), India’s National Volunteer Organisation, is the oldest, largest and most successful far-right group in the world today. It is also the effective ruling power in India. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is merely a political front – one of numerous fronts – for the RSS. Narendra Modi, the prime minister, has been a functionary of the RSS all his life and it was the RSS that decided to field him first as chief minister of Gujarat (2001-14) and then as India’s prime minister (from 2014). Few cabinet ministers in BJP governments, past or present, have not been loyal members of the organisation, which has never given a transparent account of its finances or its members. It claims exemption as a self-styled ‘cultural organisation’ – or, on occasion, ‘charity’ – even though it isn’t at all clear whether it has ever registered itself as such.

The RSS has also normalised Hindu nationalist violence. In 2014, around the time of the election, a number of intellectuals and journalists known for their promotion of rationality and secularism were murdered, most of them shot at point-blank range: Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, M.M. Kalburgi, Gauri Lankesh. None of them was Muslim, but their opposition to the Hindutva project meant they were classed as what the RSS likes to call ‘anti-national’. The assassinations were apparently carried out by members of a group that doesn’t profess to be an affiliate of the RSS but is undeniably its imitator. Clones are now proliferating across the country. Lynchings of Muslims have become commonplace, with more than a hundred incidents reported since 2015. Parliament was told last month that 97 Muslims were killed in the course of 751 attacks in 2016, and 111 killed and almost 2500 injured in 822 attacks in 2017.

Modi was re-elected in May last year. On 5 August, the government stripped Jammu and Kashmir of statehood, dividing it into two separate territories, thus violating not only the state constitution but the Indian constitution as well. Jammu and Kashmir was the only Muslim majority state in India and enjoyed special constitutional safeguards. Abolishing these has effectively turned it into an Indian colony. A few weeks earlier, on 19 July, parliament had introduced the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and the home minister, Amit Shah, announced the introduction of a National Register of Citizens to determine which of the country’s residents are citizens and which illegal immigrants (‘infiltrators’, as the newspapers put it; ‘termites’ according to Shah). The Act stipulates that illegal immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal who came to India before 2014 as a result of religious persecution and subscribe to religions other than Islam will be given an expedited route to citizenship. This means that Muslims who faced religious persecution in those countries – Ahmadis in Pakistan or Hazaras in Afghanistan – do not qualify. Myanmar isn’t one of the countries covered by the Act because the Rohingyas are Muslim and the Indian state is already busy deporting them. Michelle Bachelet Jeria, the UN high commissioner for human rights, wrote to the Indian Supreme Court pointing out that the Act contravenes any number of international statutes to which India is a signatory.

The proposed register of citizens would require every Indian to produce documents to prove their citizenship; it is estimated that around 70 per cent of the population have no such documents. This is especially true of the low castes, the rural and urban poor, forest dwellers and religious minorities. The register was immediately identified as an attempt to deny citizenship to large numbers of Muslims. Students at Jamia Millia in Delhi and at Aligarh, the two major universities historically associated with Muslims, responded with non-violent protests. Police stormed both campuses in December, invading libraries and dorms to attack students (they also destroyed CCTV cameras).

After these atrocities a far larger protest movement emerged. Large numbers of ordinary Muslim women, most of them poor and socially conservative, neither young nor well educated, staged sit-down protests near the universities in defence of their right to citizenship. Many more such groups gathered all over the country, inspiring an extraordinary movement involving hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of people and crossing all boundaries of class, caste and religion.

The atmosphere among the protesters was largely peaceful and festive. The government provided the menace. Anurag Thakur, the finance minister, addressed huge rallies of RSS supporters with the chant ‘Desh ke ghaddaron ko, goli maro saalon ko,’ which translates (in polite language) as ‘These anti-national traitors, shoot them all.’ Leela Ram Gurjar, the BJP MP from Haryana, told a crowd: ‘Today’s India is not the India of Nehru; this is not Gandhi’s India. Today it is Modi’s India and if we get a sign from him we will wipe them out in an hour.’ ‘Them’ clearly meant ‘Muslims’. Parvesh Verma, another BJP MP, warned the women staging a sit-down protest at Shaheen Bagh, some of them holding copies of the preamble to the Indian constitution, that ‘hundreds of thousands are gathering there. They will enter your houses, rape your sisters and daughters, kill them. There is time today, Modi and Amit Shah will not come to save you tomorrow.’

London Review of Books for more

Here’s the truth: The oligarchy loves this democratic decay and politics of lies

February 25th, 2021

by CHRIS HEDGES

A Georgia State Trooper separates Biden supporters from Trump supporters at a “Stop the Steal” rally against the results of the U.S. Presidential election outside the Georgia State Capitol on November 18, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. PHOTO/Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

American political leaders display a widening disconnect from reality intended to mask their complicity in the seizure of power by global corporations and billionaires.

Joe Biden’s victory instantly obliterated the Democratic Party’s longstanding charge that Russia was hijacking and compromising US elections. The Biden victory, the Democratic Party leaders and their courtiers in the media now insist, is evidence that the democratic process is strong and untainted, that the system works. The elections ratified the will of the people.

But imagine if Donald Trump had been reelected. Would the Democrats and pundits at The New York Times, CNN and MSNBC pay homage to a fair electoral process? Or, having spent four years trying to impugn the integrity of the 2016 presidential race, would they once again haul out the blunt instrument of Russian interference to paint Trump as Vladimir Putin’s Manchurian candidate?

Trump and Giuliani are vulgar and buffoonish, but they play the same slimy game as their Democratic opponents. The Republicans scapegoat the deep state, communists and now, bizarrely, Venezuela; the Democrats scapegoat Russia. The widening disconnect from reality by the ruling elite is intended to mask their complicity in the seizure of power by predatory global corporations and billionaires.

“This is a disgraceful thing that was done in this country,” Giuliani said at his recent bad-hair-day press conference. “Probably not much more disgraceful than the things these people did in office, which you didn’t and don’t bother to cover and you conceal from the American people, but we let this happen, we use largely a Venezuelan voting machine in essence to count our vote. We let this happen. We’re going to become Venezuela. We cannot let this happen to us. We cannot allow these crooks, because that’s what they are, to steal an election from the American people. They elected Donald Trump. They didn’t elect Joe Biden. Joe Biden is in the lead because of the fraudulent ballots, the illegal ballots, that were produced and that were allowed to be used, after the election was over.”  

Common Dreams for more

Self-portraits in couture That challenge the male gaze

February 25th, 2021

by PIA PETERSON

Michaela Stark in her body sculpting denim set PHOTO/Domino/@lavidabebida

“I want to challenge your perception of your own body and allow you to see your perceived flaws as beautiful. I want you to see your body, flaws and all, as just as intricate, fragile, and delicate as the garments that I create.”

Michaela Stark, an Australian couturier and artist who moved to London during the pandemic, has accomplished career goals that some of us might only dream of — she worked as a tailor for Beyoncé, for example. A self-trained couturier who spent years studying fashion, she creates clothes that are meant to emphasize the parts of the body that we are made to be ashamed of. The fat rolls, the round stomachs, cellulite, body hair, uneven breasts — these are the parts of the body that, as women, we are often told are shameful or even ugly.

“I work very closely with the body to make clothes that accentuate and enhance these, using techniques that couturiers have used in the past. I use the same tools that were used to hide, to accentuate,” Stark said.

Her work can shock people — and that is part of the point. Her work intends to challenge beauty standards in Western culture, and to create beautiful work that takes part of the body that women might not love about themselves and make that sexy.

Buzz Feed News for more