Publish, punish, and pardon

December 8th, 2016

by PRATAP CHATTERJEE

US President Barack Obama PHOTO/Cool Spotters

Nine Things Obama Could Do Before Leaving Office to Reveal the Nature of the National Security State

In less than seven weeks, President Barack Obama will hand over the government to Donald Trump, including access to the White House, Air Force One, and Camp David. Trump will also, of course, inherit the infamous nuclear codes, as well as the latest in warfare technology, including the Central Intelligence Agency’s fleet of killer drones, the National Security Agency’s vast surveillance and data collection apparatus, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s enormous system of undercover informants.

Before the recent election, Obama repeatedly warned that a Trump victory could spell disaster. “If somebody starts tweeting at three in the morning because SNL [Saturday Night Live] made fun of you, you can’t handle the nuclear codes,” Obama typically told a pro-Clinton rally in November. “Everything that we’ve done over the last eight years,” he added in an interview with MSNBC, “will be reversed with a Trump presidency.”

Yet, just days after Obama made those comments and Trump triumphed, the Guardian reported that his administration was deeply involved in planning to give Trump access not just to those nuclear codes, but also to the massive new spying and killing system that Obama personally helped shape and lead. “Obama’s failure to rein in George Bush’s national security policies hands Donald Trump a fully loaded weapon,” Anthony Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, observed recently. “The president’s failure to understand that these powers could not be entrusted in the hands of any president, not even his, have now put us in a position where they are in the hands of Donald Trump.”

Surveillance

4. Disclose Mass Surveillance Programs: Even though Senator Obama opposed the collection of data from U.S. citizens, President Obama has vigorously defended the staggering expansion of the national security state during his two terms in office. “You can’t have 100% security and also then have 100% privacy and zero inconvenience,” he said in 2013, days after Edward Snowden leaked a trove of National Security Agency data that transformed our view of what our government has collected about all of us. “You know, we’re going to have to make some choices as a society.”

Thanks to Snowden, we also now know that the U.S. government secretly received permission from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to collect all U.S. telephone metadata via programs like Stellarwind; created a program called Prism to tunnel directly into the servers of nine major Internet companies; tapped the global fiber optic cables that lie on the ocean beds; collected text messages via a program called Dishfire; set up a vast database called X-Keyscore to track all the data from any given individual; and even built a program, Optic Nerve, to turn on users’ webcams, allowing for the collection of substantial quantities of sexually explicit communications. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. (For a searchable index of all such revelations so far, click here.)

Tom Dispatch for more

What would Leibniz say about the schisms in Europe today?

December 8th, 2016

by MARIA ROSA ANTOGNAZZA

Leibniz’s ‘unity in multiplicity’; Europe in 1648 MAP/Wikipedia

A nation is either strong or weak. A country is either bravely independent or cravenly beholden. You are either a follower of this school of thought or that one.

Unlike many philosophers and politicians, the German polymath Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz resisted framing problems as stark oppositions. At the deepest level of reality, he claimed, the world is governed by a ‘universal harmony’ that connects everything to everything. This metaphysical unity does not result from the suppression or removal of difference. Rather, it consists ‘in the proportion of identity to diversity’, Leibniz wrote in 1672. That is, the greater the variety of beings that exist together in a unified way, the greater the harmony among them. So difference is not to be feared or denied, but celebrated. ‘Harmony is, in fact, unity in multiplicity,’ Leibniz thought.

This overarching outlook informed Leibniz’s vision for Europe, as fraught a question in Leibniz’s time as it is in ours. The outbreak of the Protestant Reformation in the early 16th century, more than 100 years before Leibniz’s time, had shattered the consensus that held Christendom together for more than a millennium. The wars of religion that followed were partially resolved in 1648, when a series of treaties known as the Peace of Westphalia reshaped the contours of Central Europe.

Meanwhile, in France, the concept of ‘sovereignty’ was emerging. This was the idea that the state should have supreme political and religious authority over a particular territory, backed up by the sole legitimate exercise of coercive force. State sovereignty superseded the feudal system, in which political control, religious dominion, judicial process and military power were exercised by different actors in respect of multiple, overlapping swaths of territory.

But the rise of the nation-state brought with it a kind of expansionist absolutism, which Leibniz opposed. In France, the ‘Sun King’ Louis XIV had centralised power around his dazzling court in Versailles. He expelled the entire Calvinist community in the name of religious uniformity, and sent his armies to conquer neighbouring territories in order to enlarge the nation’s footprint.

Other European powers took note. To hesitate in emulating this new concentration of power, it appeared, was to condemn one’s country to defeat or annexation. To the West, the Bourbon dynasty strengthened its grip on Europe by claiming the Spanish crown and consolidating its sprawling possessions in Italy, the Low Countries and the Americas. Britain emerged from the anarchy of the civil wars as a single United Kingdom, through the union of the crowns of England and Scotland under Queen Anne in 1707. To the north, Sweden claimed its place as an imperial power in the Baltic world, while to the east and south, the Ottoman Empire pushed its armies as far as Vienna. So the creation of states, and their sweeping assertions of national sovereignty, rapidly became the norm across most of western Europe.

In the shadow of these struggles, Leibniz pondered how it might be possible to maintain harmony within a Europe made up of diverse and semi-independent cities and principalities, with overlapping allegiances to various Christian denominations. He took the contrarian decision to support a much older and more unwieldy structure at the heart of Europe: the Holy Roman Empire.

In an age in which the nation-state was in the ascendant, it was easy to regard the Empire as a hopeless anachronism. A century later, Voltaire scoffed that this once great institution was neither Holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire. It had its roots in the early Middle Ages, when the Frankish king Charlemagne was crowned Emperor by the Pope, bringing together large parts of Western and Central Europe under one banner.

By 1648, the Empire was loosely ruled by the Habsburgs from Vienna, and had lost significant portions of its former territory. Yet it remained the only major political entity in Europe in which all three main Christian confessions – Catholic, Lutheran and Calvinist – were not merely tolerated as minorities, but legally guaranteed the right to practise their religion with the full protection of the law.

Aeon for more

First, let’s understand the meaning of our National Anthem: Richa Chadha

December 8th, 2016

by MONICA RAWAL

Indian actress Richa Chadha (second from left) and Pakistani actor Fawad Khan addressing a press conference held at the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne PHOTO/The Indian Express

Supreme Court’s recent order to make National Anthem mandatory before film screenings in theatres had Bollywood fraternity divided. While some supported and lauded the move, others called it ridiculous. Actor Richa Chadha , however, has a rather strong point to make. The 29-year-old actor feels it’s imperative that people first understand the meaning of the country’s anthem.

“I think the Supreme Court should also pass a ruling that makes it compulsory for people to learn the meaning of the National Anthem. It is an anthem praising the beauty and people of India, all regions and people included. It doesn’t point any threat from an enemy, doesn’t say we will defend the country till we die, or that we must have a war. It’s a positive anthem that lets people be. That should be the aim — to live and let live,” says Richa who has been a part of critically acclaimed films.

Hindustan Times for more

Nicaraguan women push for access to land, not just on paper

December 7th, 2016

by LOSE ADAN SILVA

Members of a cooperative of women farmers in Nicaragua build a greenhouse for thousands of seedlings of fruit and lumber trees aimed at helping to fight the effects of climate change in a village in the department of Madriz. PHOTO/Femuprocan

A group of women farmers who organised to fight a centuries-old monopoly over land ownership by men are seeking plots of land to farm in order to contribute to the food security of their families and of the population at large.

Matilde Rocha, vice president of the Federation of Nicaraguan Women Farmers Cooperatives (Femuprocan), told IPS that since the late 1980s, when women trained in the Sandinista revolution organised to form cooperatives, access to land has been one of the movement’s main demands.

According to Rocha, as of 1997, the organisation has worked in a coordinated manner to fight for recognition of the rights of women farmers not only with regard to agriculture, but also to economic, political and social rights.

Femuprocan, together with 14 other associations, successfully pushed for the 2010 approval of the Fund for the Purchase of Land with Gender Equity for Rural Women Law, known as Law 717.

They also contributed to the incorporation of a gender equity focus in the General Law on Cooperatives and to the participation of women in the Municipal Commissions on Food Security and Sovereignty.

For Rocha, this advocacy has allowed rural women to update the mapping of actors in the main productive areas in the country, strengthen the skills of women farmers and train them in social communication and as promoters of women’s human rights, to tap into resources and take decisions without the pressure of their male partners.

“For rural women, land is life, it is vital for the family; land ownership and inputs to make it productive are closely linked to women’s economic empowerment, to decision-making about food production, to the preservation of our environment, and to ensuring food security and protecting our native seeds to avoid dependence on genetically modified seeds,” said Rocha.

Inter Press Service for more

Every six days, a Guarani Indian in Brazil kills himself. This has to stop

December 7th, 2016

by ELLIE MAY

Guarani-Kaiowá Indians protest in Brasília -José Cruz/ABr

We need to talk about the mental health of the Guarani-Kaiowá people in Brazil. World Mental Health day should be a time to look forward and seek improvements for people suffering from mental illness.

And taking action becomes even more urgent once you learn that every six days, a Guarani person commits suicide.

The Guarani peoples are one of Brazil’s most ancient tribes who were there when the first Europeans arrived. It’s estimated they once numbered half a million but today they number around 51,000.

Last week I met Elizeu Lopes, a Guarani-Kaiowá leader from the state of Mato Grosso do Sul. What he shared with us shocked me: over the last ten years, suicide has been one of the Guarani’s biggest killers, with children as young as nine taking their own life. This makes the Guarani’s suicide rate the highest in the world.

“We live under systematic constant massacres,” Elizeu Lopes

Very often, the reasons for someone tragically taking their own life are opaque and loved ones struggle to understand. I can’t help but think that with the Guarani, the reasons are far clearer.

Elizeu told us how every twelve days, one of their community is killed – by paramilitaries, security personnel working for large agricultural business or even by one of their own community. Members of their community have been beaten to death, shot and poisoned.

Brutal action is taken against them seemingly as punishment – three days after the UN Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples visited Elizeu’s village to look into their situation, their houses were burnt to the ground.

“We Have No Space”

Brazzil for more

Mad Dog Mattis and Trump’s “Seven Days in May”

December 7th, 2016

by MEL GOODMAN

President-elect Donald Trump with retired United States Marine Corps general James Mattis (L to R) after their meeting at Trump International Golf Club on Nov. 19, 2016. Trump is considering to appoint Mattis as his secretary of defense. PHOTO/Drew Angerer/Getty Images/KTLA

President-elect Donald Trump probably never read Fletcher Knebel and Charles Bailey’s “Seven Days in May” in 1962 and never saw John Frankenheimer’s film version in 1964, which dealt with the threat of a military coup due to opposition to a nuclear disarmament treaty with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. President John F. Kennedy read the book after the Cuban missile crisis and found the scenario credible, probably because of the opposition and bizarre antics of Air Force Chief of Staff, General Curtis LeMay, during the crisis. Perhaps Donald Trump should become familiar with the book or the movie before he names one more retired general to his national security team.

In a very few weeks, Trump has surrounded himself with a group of erratic advisers and has appointed several pugnacious and partisan figures to key national security positions. As a result, the appointment of retired Marine General James Mattis has been welcomed by the mainstream media, including the staid New York Times. The media’s consensus appears to be that, since Mattis, a four-star general, once outranked the controversial national security advisor, General Michael Flynn, a three-star, and, unlike the president-elect, actually reads and collects books that he will bring a voice of reason to the policymaking circle in the White House. Not so fast!

What Trump has done since his election one month ago is to threaten the balance that is needed between the civilian and military communities in national security decision making and to threaten civilian control over the military that has been in place since the Founding Fathers made it so. Over the past forty years, we have watched the military lose wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, while the Pentagon has accumulated greater influence over foreign policy. Since the creation of the all-volunteer military in the 1970s, the military has drifted too far away from the norms of American society, has become inordinately right-wing politically, and has become much more religious (and fundamentalist) than the country as a whole. Over the past several decades, the officer corps has actively opposed the service of African-Americans, women, and gays in their ranks. Anyone familiar with the military can testify to the “Republicanization” of the officer corps.

The often ignored Goldwater-Nichols Act in 1986 enhanced the political and military role of regional commanders-in-chief (CINCs) and marginalized the Department of State and the civilian leadership of the Department of Defense. The CINCs have become more influential than U.S. ambassadors, who actually represent the interests of the President, and various assistant secretaries of state responsible for sensitive Third World areas. The act created a more powerful Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) and made the chairman of the JCS the key military advisor to the president. During Desert Storm in 1991, the chairman often ignored the secretary of defense and personally briefed the president on war plans. It is noteworthy that the act passed the Senate without genuine debate and not even one vote of opposition.

Counterpunch for more

A perishable commodity

December 6th, 2016

by LEWIS L. LAPHAM

Mankind before the Flood (1615). Cornelis Cornelisz (Dutch,1562-1638) IMAGE/Saatchi Gallery

Considerations of body and mind.

Jefferson was a philosopher, politician, and gentleman farmer who answered his uplifting question with the drafting of the Declaration of Independence, the founding of the University of Virginia, and the begetting of his image on those among his slaves he deemed worthy of attention. Live births to black women in his possession increased the extent and value of his property, and the master of Monticello was not alone among the founding fathers in viewing human flesh as a consumer good and service. The point bears mentioning in the context of this year’s presidential election. On the campaign roads to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump juggle the weights and measures of the flesh—its color, cost, gender, sell-by date, and stereotype—that ground the election on the divisions of race and class.

The divisions were present at the American creation. The planting of colonies in seventeenth-century America conformed to the design of Europe’s medieval socioeconomic structures, feudal arrangements of privilege and subordination, not to an originalist democracy. The aristocratic promoters of the project received land as a gift from the English king; the improvement of the property required immigrants (God-fearing or fortune-seeking) skilled as fishermen, farmers, salt makers, and mechanics. Their numbers were unequal to the tasks at hand, and in both the plantation South and merchant North the developers imported African slaves as well as “waste people” dredged from the slums of Jacobean England—vagrants, convicts, thieves, bankrupts, strumpets, vagabonds, lunatics, and bawds obliged to pay their passage across the Atlantic with terms of indentured labor on its western shore.

The prosperous gentry already settled on that shore regarded the shipments of “human filth” as night soil drained from Old World sewers to fertilize New World fields and forests. By the time the colonies declared their independence from the British crown, the newborn American body politic had been sectioned, like the carcass of a butchered cow, into the pounds and pence of prime and subprime flesh.

Few signatories to the declaration were of the opinion that all men are created equal. Maybe in the eye of God, but not in the bestowing of pews in Boston’s Old North Church, in the streets of Benjamin Franklin’s Philadelphia, on George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate. The Calvinist doctrine of predestination divided the Massachusetts flock of Christian sheep into damned and saved, Cotton Mather in 1696 reminding the servants in his midst, “You are the animate, separate, active instruments of other men…your tongues, your hands, your feet, are your masters, and they should move according to the will of your masters.”

Franklin, enlightened businessman and founder of libraries, looked upon the Philadelphia rabble as coarse material that maybe could be brushed and combed into an acceptable grade of bourgeois broadcloth. His Poor Richard’s Almanack offered a program for turning sow’s ears if not yet into silk purses then into useful tradesmen furnished with a “happy mediocrity.” For poor white children in Virginia, Jefferson proposed a scheme of public education he described as “raking from the rubbish” the scraps of intellect and talent worth the trouble of further cultivation. The majority were released into a wilderness of ignorance and poverty, their declining fortunes recalled this past summer in Nancy Isenberg’s timely book White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America. A professor of American history at Louisiana State University, she follows the trail of the unwholesome poor on the Atlantic Seaboard (in Virginia and the Carolinas, Massachusetts and New York) dispersed into the westward-moving breeds of an American underclass (“hillbilly,” “cracker,” “Okie,” “redneck”) now said to be voting for Donald Trump.

Isenberg’s story is not untold, but in our schools and opinion-making media it is seldom remembered and preferably forgotten. Black lives have always mattered less than white lives, and so have rich lives mattered more than poor lives. Jefferson had been clear on the point in a letter to John Langdon in 1810: “Money, and not morality, is the principle of commerce and commercial nations.”

At no moment in its history has America declared a lasting peace between the haves and the have-nots. Temporary cessation of hostilities but no permanent bridging of the social divide between debtor and creditor, and never has an equal value been assigned to the flesh decorating high-end capital and degrading low-end labor. Throughout most of the eighteenth century, the academic ranking of students at Yale College aligned with the social standing of their fathers; the nineteenth century’s Industrial Revolution brought with it a steady state of class warfare in New Jerusalem’s satanic mills, factories, and mines.

Lapham’s Quarterly for more

If GOP gets climate ‘science’ from Breitbart, God help the planet

December 6th, 2016

by ROHIT CHANDAN & JIM NAURECKAS

Breitbart belongs to the “I have to wear a hat, how can there be global warming?” school of climate science

The US House Committee on Science, Space and Technology recently tweeted an article by Breitbart, stating “@BreitbartNews: Global Temperatures Plunge. Icy Silence From Climate Alarmists.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders’ responded to the committee’s tweet: “Where’d you get your PhD? Trump University?”

Where’d you get your PhD? Trump University? https://t.co/P5Ez5fVEwD

— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) December 1, 2016

Sadly, Sanders’ quip isn’t too far from the truth. Breitbart is an outlet notorious for publishing false and hateful articles, and its CEO, Steve O’Bannon, is now the chief strategist for President-elect Donald Trump—meaning that even if Trump doesn’t read a Breitbart article, there’s a good chance that it will influence his worldview.

The article—by Breitbart’s James Delingpole (11/30/16)—centers on the fact that global temperatures, which reached an all-time peak in March 2016, have declined since then—news “that has been greeted with an eerie silence by the world’s alarmist community,” Breitbart reports. In fact, no one should be surprised that record-high temperatures are followed by lower temperatures—any more than one should be surprised that next to the world’s tallest tree is another tree that, though also a redwood, is not the world’s tallest.

Breitbart makes much of the fact that El Niño, a cyclic Pacific Ocean weather phenomenon, has contributed to record temperatures this year and last year—as though the observation that El Niño years are warmer than usual were not a reality understood and acknowledged by every climate scientist.

As the Columbia University’s Earth Institute (State of the Planet, 2/2/16) reported early this year:

Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting for more

Does India’s right wing have any ideas?

December 6th, 2016

by AATISH TASEER

Matt Chase

The three places to which I am connected by birth, origin and marriage — Britain, India and the United States — have now experienced revolutions at the ballot box. In each, an election has revealed that liberal, globalized coastal elites stand at a tremendous remove from heartlands in open revolt. The revolt does not look to the left for inspiration but to the right. Make no mistake: “Liberal” and “left” are now said in the same breath as “corrupt establishment,” and those with torches and pitchforks are nativists, populists and nationalists of every stripe.

In India, the left lost the battle. But this month, at what was described as “a conclave of ideas” organized by the Hindu right, I was reminded of a simple truth: Winning is not everything.

The right wing won an electoral mandate in 2014, but it still has a tremendous sense of intellectual inadequacy. The conclave here in Goa was about building what is regularly described on Indian social media as a “right-wing ecosystem” to counter the left’s alleged control of the news media and academia.

We came to this sleepy seaside state — more familiar to me, a louche liberal, as a backdrop for raves than for heated discussion about Hindu civilization — to address what the historian Ramachandra Guha has described as the “paradox” at the heart of Indian public life: “While the country has a right-wing party in power, right-wing intellectuals run thin on the ground.”

The conclave was organized by the India Foundation, a think tank that “seeks to articulate Indian nationalistic perspective on issues.” It is openly supported by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, and I was invited to the conclave by the party’s general secretary.

It was a ragtag coalition that collected at a sprawling resort, with a golf course and a swimming pool overlooking the Arabian Sea. In addition to the senior leaders of the B.J.P., there were right-wing Twitter personalities who had taken to social media because of what they described as the “inherent bias” of the traditional news media; there were American Vedic experts who railed against a secular state that rejected its Hindu past; there were Muslim baiters; there were pseudo-historians who have rewritten Indian history to fit the political needs of the present.

What all these people had in common was an immense sense of grievance against an establishment they had vanquished electorally, but whose ideas still defined them. As the journalist Ashok Malik said while pointing out the right’s many victories, “Rather than confidently advance tomorrow’s agenda, the intellectual warriors of the right are still comfortable fighting the battles of yesterday.”

The targets of their rage are internationally familiar: the liberal elite, the news media, academia. But in India there is an added twist, a double sense of affront. It was not merely elitism that the New Right is reacting against, but an elitism that had the secret backing of the West, through its various newspapers, nongovernmental organizations and think tanks.

“So if you are an embattled Hindu, or even an atheist Indian,” Rajeev Srinivasan wrote in the right-wing magazine Swarajya, “you feel there is an entire constellation of powers with a negative intent arrayed against you, and that they have created a galaxy of sepoys, especially in media and academia.”

Historically, a “sepoy” was an Indian soldier serving in the British Army. It has become a favorite jibe on the right for an Anglicized liberal elite that was seen to be working against its own country.

The New York Times for more

(Thanks to Razi Azmi)

The Anti-Empire Report #147

December 5th, 2016

by WILLIAM BLUM

State Department spokesperson John Kirby at a press briefing on November 16, 2016 PHOTO/Strategic Culture

What can go wrong?

That he may not be “qualified” is unimportant.

That he’s never held a government or elected position is unimportant.

That on a personal level he may be a shmuck is unimportant.

What counts to me mainly at this early stage is that he – as opposed to dear Hillary – is unlikely to start a war against Russia. His questioning of the absolute sacredness of NATO, calling it “obsolete”, and his meeting with Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, an outspoken critic of US regime-change policy, specifically Syria, are encouraging signs.

Even more so is his appointment of General Michael Flynn as National Security Adviser. Flynn dined last year in Moscow with Vladimir Putin at a gala celebrating RT (Russia Today), the Russian state’s English-language, leftist-leaning TV channel. Flynn now carries the stigma in the American media as an individual who does not see Russia or Putin as the devil. It is truly remarkable how nonchalantly American journalists can look upon the possibility of a war with Russia, even a nuclear war.

(I can now expect a barrage of emails from my excessively politically-correct readers about Flynn’s alleged anti-Islam side. But that, even if true, is irrelevant to this discussion of avoiding a war with Russia.)

I think American influence under Trump could also inspire a solution to the bloody Russia-Ukraine crisis, which is the result of the US overthrow of the democratically-elected Ukrainian government in 2014 to further advance the US/NATO surrounding of Russia; after which he could end the US-imposed sanctions against Russia, which hardly anyone in Europe benefits from or wants; and then – finally! – an end to the embargo against Cuba. What a day for celebration that will be! Too bad that Fidel won’t be around to enjoy it.

We may have other days of celebration if Trump pardons or in some other manner frees Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, and/or Edward Snowden. Neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton would do this, but I think there’s at least a chance with the Donald. And those three heroes may now enjoy feeling at least a modicum of hope. Picture a meeting of them all together on some future marvelous day with you watching it on a video.

Trump will also probably not hold back on military actions against radical Islam because of any fear of being called anti-Islam. He’s repulsed enough by ISIS to want to destroy them, something that can’t always be said about Mr. Obama.

International trade deals, written by corporate lawyers for the benefit of their bosses, with little concern about the rest of us, may have rougher sailing in the Trump White House than is usually the case with such deals.

The mainstream critics of Trump foreign policy should be embarrassed, even humbled, by what they supported in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. Instead, what bothers them about the president-elect is his lack of desire to make the rest of the world in America’s image. He appears rather to be more concerned with the world not making America in its image.

In the latest chapter of Alice in Trumpland he now says that he does not plan to prosecute Hillary Clinton, that he has an “open mind” about a climate-change accord from which he had vowed to withdraw the United States, and that he’s no longer certain that torturing terrorism suspects is a good idea. So whatever fears you may have about certain of his expressed weird policies … just wait … they may fall by the wayside just as easily; although I still think that on a personal level he’s a [two-syllable word: first syllable is a synonym for a donkey; second syllable means “an opening”]

Trump’s apparently deep-seated need for approval may continue to succumb poorly to widespread criticism and protests. Poor little Donald … so powerful … yet so vulnerable.

The Trump dilemma, as well as the whole Hillary Clinton mess, could have probably been avoided if Bernie Sanders had been nominated. That large historical “if” is almost on a par with the Democrats choosing Harry Truman to replace Henry Wallace in 1944 as the ailing Roosevelt’s vice-president. Truman brought us a charming little thing called the Cold War, which in turn gave us McCarthyism. But Wallace, like Sanders, was just a little too damn leftist for the refined Democratic Party bosses.

State-owned media: The good, the bad, and the ugly

On November 16, at a State Department press briefing, department spokesperson John Kirby was having one of his frequent adversarial dialogues with Gayane Chichakyan, a reporter for RT (Russia Today); this time concerning US charges of Russia bombing hospitals in Syria and blocking the UN from delivering aid to the trapped population. When Chichakyan asked for some detail about these charges, Kirby replied: “Why don’t you ask your defense ministry?”

GK: Do you – can you give any specific information on when Russia or the Syrian Government blocked the UN from delivering aid? Just any specific information.

KIRBY: There hasn’t been any aid delivered in the last month.

GK: And you believe it was blocked exclusively by Russia and the Syrian Government?

KIRBY: There’s no question in our mind that the obstruction is coming from the regime and from Russia. No question at all.

MATTHEW LEE (Associated Press): Let me –- hold on, just let me say: Please be careful about saying “your defense minister” and things like that. I mean, she’s a journalist just like the rest of us are, so it’s -– she’s asking pointed questions, but they’re not –

KIRBY: From a state-owned -– from a state-owned –

LEE: But they’re not –

KIRBY: From a state-owned outlet, Matt.

LEE: But they’re not –

KIRBY: From a state-owned outlet that’s not independent.

LEE: The questions that she’s asking are not out of line.

KIRBY: I didn’t say the questions were out of line.

……

KIRBY: I’m sorry, but I’m not going to put Russia Today on the same level with the rest of you who are representing independent media outlets.

One has to wonder if State Department spokesperson Kirby knows that in 2011 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking about RT, declared: “The Russians have opened an English-language network. I’ve seen it in a few countries, and it is quite instructive.”

I also wonder how Mr. Kirby deals with reporters from the BBC, a STATE-OWNED television and radio entity in the UK, broadcasting in the US and all around the world.
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