Lucy Halt, a forgotten friend of Bangladesh

January 17th, 2018

by ANISUR RAHMAN SWAPAN

Lucy Helen Francis Halt came to then East Pakistan in 1950, aged just 20, and stayed back due to her love for the people of this region PHOTO/Dhaka Tribune

Lucy Helen Francis Halt was honored along with 39 other freedom fighters at a ceremony marking the Victory Day by Barisal Metropolitan Police this year.

Soon after the birth of Bangladesh, people came to know about the heroic and sometimes risky stand taken by foreigners who defied threats from Pakistani forces.

These brave individuals wholeheartedly supported the people of Bangladesh and extended their help to the freedom fighters and people who needed medicine, food and shelter during the Liberation War of 1971.

But what about a British national who had no previous interaction with people from Bangladesh before? Would such an individual risk her own life to support the people of a country she hardly knew? Most of the time, the likely answer will be in the negative. But for Lucy Halt from the UK, this was not the case.

During the Liberation War, she worked in Jessore’s Fatema Hospital to treat injured freedom fighters and the common people. Through her letters which she sent to her mother and sister back home, she informed them about the atrocities carried out by the Pakistani army during the war and tried to gather public sympathy for the people of Bangladesh. She also resisted pressure from her family and friends to go back to the UK. In her letters, she also praised Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his wife.

She is still in possession of a letter signed by Sheikh Rehana dated August 20, 1973. Lucy did not show the letters which she had in her possession to anyone for 47 years.

Her contributions were not recorded officially anywhere. She did not get any award for her efforts either.

However, she is facing difficulties to spend Tk38,000 annually to renew her visa.

Dhaka Tribune for more

Improving ourselves to death

January 17th, 2018

by ALEXANDRA SCHWARTZ

Self-help advice reflects the beliefs and priorities of the era that spawned it. Illustration by Nishant Choksi

What the self-help gurus and their critics reveal about our times.

Happy New Year, you! Now that the champagne has gone flat and the Christmas tree is off to be mulched, it’s time to turn your thoughts to the months ahead. 2017 was a pustule of a year, politically and personally; the general anxiety around the degradation of American democracy made it hard to get much done. That’s O.K., though, because you’ve made new resolutions for 2018, and the first one is not to make resolutions. Instead, you’re going to “set goals,” in the terminology of the productivity guru Tim Ferriss—preferably ones that are measurable and have timelines, so you can keep track of your success. Apps like Lifetick or Joe’s Goals will help by keeping you organized and allowing you to share your progress on social media; a little gloating does wonders for self-motivation (unless, of course, one of your goals is to spend less time on social media). Once your goals are in place, it might be smart to design a methodology that will encourage you to accomplish them. Charles Duhigg, the author of “The Power of Habit,” recommends a three-step self-conditioning process. You want to get to the gym more? Pick a cue (sneakers by the door); choose a reward that will motivate you to act on it (a piece of chocolate); execute. Bravo! You are now Pavlov and his dog.

But soon enough February will come, mid-winter doldrums will set in, and you’ll start to slide. Not to worry. Jane McGonigal’s “SuperBetter” tells you how to gamify your way back from the edge with the help of video-game-inspired techniques like finding “allies” and collecting motivational “power-ups”; and Angela Duckworth’s “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance” reminds you that persistence makes all the difference when the going gets rough. Duckworth doesn’t think you need talent in order to become, as another of Duhigg’s books puts it, “Smarter Better Faster,” and neither do any of these other experts. According to their systems, anyone can learn to be more efficient, more focussed, more effective in the pursuit of happiness and, that most hallowed of modern traits, productivity. And if you can’t, well, that’s on you.

Self-help advice tends to reflect the beliefs and priorities of the era that spawns it. A decade ago, the reigning champion of the genre was “The Secret,” published in 2006 by an Australian, Rhonda Byrne. Like Norman Vincent Peale before her, Byrne combined a literal interpretation of select verses from the Christian Bible—notably Matthew 21:22, “Whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, ye shall receive”—with the acquisitive gospel of positive thinking. If you sent a wish out into the universe with enough faith, she told her readers, it could come to pass. Want to find a husband? Clean out a closet for the man of your dreams and imagine him hanging up his ties. Want to get rid of your glasses? Picture yourself acing your next vision exam and kiss those progressive lenses goodbye. In retrospect, “The Secret,” which sold more than twenty million copies worldwide, seems a testament to the predatory optimism that characterized the years leading up to the financial crisis. People dreamed big, and, in a day of easy money, found that their dreams could come true. Then the global economy crashed, and we were shaken violently awake—at least for a time.

In our current era of non-stop technological innovation, fuzzy wishful thinking has yielded to the hard doctrine of personal optimization. Self-help gurus need not be charlatans peddling snake oil. Many are psychologists with impressive academic pedigrees and a commitment to scientific methodologies, or tech entrepreneurs with enviable records of success in life and business. What they’re selling is metrics. It’s no longer enough to imagine our way to a better state of body or mind. We must now chart our progress, count our steps, log our sleep rhythms, tweak our diets, record our negative thoughts—then analyze the data, recalibrate, and repeat.

New Yorker for more

Why are people protesting in Iran?

January 17th, 2018

AL JAZEERA

People protest in Tehran, Iran December 30, 2017 in this picture obtained from social media PHOTO/Reuters

Tensions are high in Iran as hundreds of people protest in multiple cities against the government’s economic policies.

About 300 people protested in Kermanshah, a city in western Iran, on Friday, according to the semi-state news agency Fars. Police there used water cannon and tear gas to disperse demonstrators.

Protests also broke out in the capital, Tehran, according to social media.

The demonstrations are said to be the biggest display of public dissent since pro-reform rallies swept the country in 2009.

US President Donald Trump has warned Iran’s government to respect the people’s right to protest.

Relations between Washington and Tehran have been particularly tense since Trump decertified the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – agreed to by the US, China, Russia, Germany, France, and the UK – imposes restrictions on Iran’s stockpiles of uranium and the capacity to enrich it, in exchange for sanctions relief.

Al Jazeera spoke to Mohammad Marandi, professor at Tehran University, about the reasons behind the recent anti-government rallies.

Al Jazeera: Why have people been protesting over the past few days?

Mohammad Marandi:
There are economic difficulties in the country.

After the JCPOA, many of the Iranian people had expectations that the economic situation would improve, but, as we saw, both [former President Barack] Obama and Trump repeatedly violated the JCPOA by passing new laws, such as the Iran sanctions act and the visa restriction laws.

The treasury and other arms of the government, both under Obama and Trump, have basically weakened the JCPOA extensively, which has kept a lot of the sanctions regime intact.

Al Jazeera: There have been small protests over economic conditions in Iran. But what’s special about these ones is that they have spread to numerous cities and have been picked up on social media. Is some sort of movement emerging?

Marandi: It’s difficult to say, because, on the one hand, the economic situation is something that exists across the board.

Iranians, I think, while they are upset with mismanagement, they also recognise that the administration is being prevented from doing a lot of what it’s trying to do because of the United States and its allies, and the sanctions that I mentioned.

And, of course, social media makes things easier, so people have information.

But also, there is a fact that has to be kept in mind, that, while some people have been protesting economic problems, we do see a very distinct effort on behalf of foreign governments.

For example, BBC Persian, which belongs to the British government, VOA which is owned by the US government, and media outlets that are directly or indirectly funded by the West – they are showing an effort to expand the protests.

They are trying to intensify them in order to politicise them.


While Iranians are upset with mismanagement, they also recognise that the administration is being prevented from doing a lot of what it’s trying to do because of the US and its allies.

Mohammad Marandi, University of Tehran professor

Al Jazeera: The government recognises that these protests are about more than the economics of the country. We’re hearing anti-government slogans – “Death to Rouhani”, “Forget Palestine”, “No to Gaza”, “No to Lebanon” – deriding Iran’s foreign policies. How concerned is the government about this?

Al Jazeera for more

Diktats against Western-style toilets, secular wedding venues leave Bohra community baffled

January 16th, 2018

by AAREFA JOHARI

New ‘advisories’ have included strictures against secular wedding halls and the amount of mehndi brides can apply.

On Wednesday evening, Zoher’s aged mother received a call from a representative of her local mosque, who asked her an unexpected question. “He wanted to know what kind of toilet we use in our house, Western or Indian,” said Zoher, a businessman from Maharashtra’s Jalgaon city who wanted to reveal only his first name.

This was the second time in a week that his mother had received such a call from their Dawoodi Bohra community representatives, and Zoher was stumped. On both occasions, his mother informed the caller that the family had installed a Western-style toilet at home. “The first caller told her that the Bohra authorities were just collecting information. But the second caller asked my mother to talk to the aamil sahab,” said Zoher.

As a pious member of the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim sect, Zoher’s mother did as she was told and called up her aamil or priest. The aamil asked her to explain why they had chosen a Western toilet, to list the number of family members with knee or other health problems, and told her to meet him when she went to the mosque next.

“If they had called me, I would have told them that they have no right to ask personal questions about what I do in my house,” said Zoher, whose Bohra friends and neighbours have also received similar calls from their mosques. “They are deliberately calling only the ladies of the house.”

Zoher is not the only Bohra baffled by the community’s toilet inquiries. In the past few weeks, Bohras in several parts of India, particularly smaller towns and cities, claim to have received phone calls or home visits by mosque authorities who allegedly asked them to shift from Western toilets to Indian-style toilets.

This initiative, which a Bohra spokesperson described as part of a “wider ongoing upliftment and awareness drive”, follows close on the heels of a controversial set of rules for weddings that have created a storm in the community.

These rules forbid Bohras from hosting or attending wedding functions in secular, non-Bohra party halls, ban sangeets and other dance functions and also place restrictions on the amount of mehendi the bride can apply for her wedding. In the past two weeks, several Bohras in Mumbai have lost lakhs of rupees in the process of cancelling wedding parties at the last minute and shifting their functions to Bohra community halls.

The rules have disturbed a large section of the Dawoodi Bohras, a small but wealthy Gujarati Shia sect headed by spiritual leader Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin. The community has been in the news for the past few years for a heated legal dispute over the seat of the Syedna, alleged excommunication of dissenting members and for its defence of the practice of female genital cutting.

‘They are infringing on our privacy’

While some Bohras have described the new rules as “diktats” from the clergy, an official spokesperson for the Anjuman-e Shiate Ali, the administrative body that manages community affairs, specified that these norms are merely “advisories and instructions” for its people.

Scroll for more

Britain’s National Health Service is being deliberately brought to the brink of collapse

January 16th, 2018

by ROBERT STEVENS

Ambulances outside Manchester Royal Infirmary

The catastrophic situation facing the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) in only the first weeks of winter, is the devastating consequence of years of systematic underfunding, privatisation and profiteering.

Even as the NHS approaches its 70th anniversary in July, a question mark has been placed over its very survival.

In scenes that have made the world’s news bulletins, hospitals are being forced to turn away severely ill patients, with overcrowded Accident & Emergency (A&E) units unable to deal with any more patients.

Outside hospitals, ambulances queue up, unable to hand over their patients. Over 55,000 people have had scheduled “non-urgent operations” cancelled and put back until at least February.

Official figures covering the Christmas period, released by NHS England, show:

· 16,900 people were forced to wait for more than 30 minutes in ambulances to be seen by staff at A&E over the Christmas week.

· During the week ending New Year’s Eve, 4,734 ambulances had a wait of at least an hour before they could admit patients to hospital. This was double the 2,413 who waited this long the previous week and is in contravention to guidelines that ambulances should wait no longer than 15 minutes.

· Twelve of England’s NHS Trusts, managing 16 hospitals, reported they were operating at 100 percent bed occupancy levels—meaning no beds were free. Data collected from all 137 trusts revealed an average bed occupancy rate of 91.7 percent—well above the recommended safe level of 85 percent.

On Wednesday, 24 NHS Trusts issued “black alerts”—meaning that for at least a 24-hour period beds were at full occupancy or nearing capacity so that hospitals cannot offer comprehensive care and patient safety is at increased risk. By Thursday evening, 16 hospitals still remained on black alert according to a poll of 100 NHS Trusts with an A&E unit. One of the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust has been on black alert since December 28.

Twelve months ago—when figures showed that just two trusts were at a 100 percent bed occupancy level—the Red Cross issued a statement saying the NHS faced a “humanitarian crisis.”

This week, Bedford Hospital NHS Trust issued an “urgent” public notice, pleading with relatives to come to the facility and help, as its bed occupancy reached 100 percent. It advised relatives, “Many of our patients are elderly and require support after discharge, and we ask that relatives support us and their loved ones by helping us discharge patients that are medically well to leave hospital…”

Seriously ill patients are regularly being forced to wait 10 hours and even longer in A&E units.

NHS employees now often refer to the conditions they face at work as a “battlefield” or “war zone.” Richard Fawcett, a senior doctor in emergency medicine at the Royal Stoke Hospital in Staffordshire, tweeted Tuesday: “As an A&E consultant at University of North Midlands NHS Trust I personally apologise to the people of Stoke for the Third World conditions of the department due to overcrowding.”

Staff are resorting to desperate measures to treat people under intolerable conditions. On Friday, the Guardian reported the comments of a nurse in the southeast of England who said that during her shift on New Year’s Day she left the hospital and began treating people outside in queued up ambulances—some of whom had waited for up to six hours. She feared for the safety of people forced to wait for so long:

“During my shift I treated patients, including taking bloods and prescribing antibiotics while they were in the back of the ambulance as there was no space in the hospital. … One patient arrived early afternoon and was still in the ambulance when I handed over to the night shift. I did question whether this was safe.”

All of this is a deliberately created crisis.

World Socialist Web Site for more

Bakkhai by Euripides and Anne Carson

January 16th, 2018

by MELISSA BECK

Bakkhai by Euripides (tr. Anne Carson). New Directions. 96pp, $14.95.

Bakkhai continues to be one of Euripides’s (c. 484-406 b.c.e.) most popular plays to stage, translate, and interpret, even though it was never performed in its author’s lifetime. The ancient Greek playwright and Athenian wrote Bakkhai in the last few years of his life in Macedonia, where he had fled after becoming disillusioned with his native city-state. The play was found among his papers after his death and produced posthumously by either his nephew or his son at the Dionysia, the festival held annually for the eponymous god in Athens. The drama presents the god Dionysos arriving in Thebes disguised as a mortal to establish his cult in that city and exact a brutal punishment on his cousin, King Pentheus, who denies the existence of the god. Anne Carson’s unconventional new translation of Bakkhai is a fitting interpretation of what is arguably Euripides’s most enigmatic tragedy.

Dionysos is the first character to appear on stage in the play, and he tells us that he is harboring anger for his maternal family who have denied his immortality. Dionysos is the son of Zeus and a mortal woman, Semele, daughter of the king of Thebes. When Semele is pregnant with Dionysos, she is tricked by Hera into viewing Zeus, undisguised, in all his glory as the mighty god of sky and lightning. At the sight of him she is instantly incinerated and Zeus puts the fetus in his thigh to finish gestating, from which appendage of his father Dionysus is eventually born. In her typical precipitous, staccato phrases that are familiar from her previous translations and original poetry, Caron’s rendition of Bakkhai gives us a succinct version of the myth:

[PROLOGUE]

[enter Dionysos]

Dionysos:

Here I am.
Dionysos.
I am
son of Zeus, born by a lightning bolt out of Semele
—you know the story—
the night Zeus split her open with fire,
In order to come here I changed my form,
put on this suit of human presence.
I want to visit the springs of Dirke,
the river Ismenos.
Look there—I see
the tomb of my mother,
thunderstruck Semele,
and her ruined house still smoking
with the live flame of Zeus.

Richard Seaford’s more traditional rendering of the same lines (1996) is:

Dionysos

I am come, the son of Zeus, to this Theban land, Dionysos, to whom the daughter of Kadmos once gave birth, Semele, midwived by lightning-borne fire. And having changed my form from god to mortal, I am here at the streams of Dirke and the water of Ismenos. I see here by the house the home of my thunderbolt-struck mother and the ruins of the house smouldering with the still-living flame of Zeus, Hera’s immortal outrage against my mother.

Carson’s style and language seems more suited to sustaining the attention of a 21st-century audience—her version was staged at the Almeida Theatre in London in 2015 to great praise—trying to quickly grasp the background of this myth. Whereas Seaford’s version is typical of what we have to come expect from a translation of an ancient text into English, Carson’s rendition with her succinct, colloquial, flippant sentences are what readers have come to expect from her translations and poetry. Carson does not alter her style to reflect the very different texts of Aeschylus, Sophocles or Euripides. A sample from her translations of tragedian demonstrates how Carson makes their sentences conform to her own tendency towards candid, unambiguous and humorous language.

Quarterly Conversation for more

Corporate coercion and the drive to eliminate buying with cash

January 15th, 2018

by RALPH NADER

IMAGE/shutterstock.com/The Conversation

“Sorry we’re not taking cash or checks,” said the clerk at the Fed Ex counter over a decade ago to an intern. “Only credit cards.”

Since then, the relentless intensification of coercive commercialism has been moving toward a cashless economy, when all consumers are incarcerated within a prison of corporate payment systems from your credit/debit cards to your mobile phone and very soon facial recognition.

“Terrific!” say those consumers for whom convenience and velocity of transactions are irresistible.

“This is nuts!” say a shrinking number of free-thinking consumers who are unwilling to be dragooned down the road to corporate captivity and coercion. These people treasure their privacy. They understand that it’s none of any conglomerate’s business – whether VISA, Facebook, Amazon or Google – what, where, when and how consumers purchase goods and services. Or where and when they travel, receive healthcare, or the most intimate relationships they maintain. Not to mention consumers’ personal information can be sent to or hacked around the globe.

Cash-consumers are not alone in their opposition to a cashless economy. When they are in a cab and ask the driver how they prefer to be paid, the answer is near-unanimous. “Cash, cash, cash,” reply the cab drivers in cities around the country. They get paid immediately and without having to have a company deduct a commission.

Back some 25 years ago, Consumers Union considered backing consumer groups to sign up Main Street, USA merchants who agreed to discount their wares if people paid in cash. For the same reason – merchants get to keep all the money on sales made with cash or check. Unfortunately, the idea never materialized. It is, however, still a good idea. Today, payments systems are much more comprehensively coercive.

Once you’re in the credit card system, lack of privacy and access to your credit are just the tip of the iceberg. That is why companies can impose penalties, surcharges, overcharges and a myriad of other corporate raids on your private treasury. They get immediate payment. If you object, you could see a lowering of your credit score or your credit rating. Besides, you don’t even know you agreed to all of these dictates – banks have over 300 different special charges for their revered customers – in fine print agreements that you never saw, read or even possessed to sign or click on. What’s the likelihood that banks would continue to surcharge you if they had to bill you instead of debit you?

The sheer pace and brazenness of corporations when they have instant access to your credit is stunning. The recent crimes of banking giant Wells Fargo, including selling auto insurance and assigning new credit cards to millions of their customers who had no knowledge and gave no consent for these charges, which resulted in damage to these customers’ credit scores and ratings, can only be committed when consumers are turned into economic prisoners. There are still no criminal prosecutions of the bank or its bosses. Wells Fargo bank stock rose to a year high last month. To their credit, the CFPB imposed a $100 million dollar fine on Wells Fargo, which barred them from deducting the fine as a business expense.

Ralph Nader for more

In Pakistan, promoting peace with India can be bad for your health – and freedom

January 15th, 2018

by BEENA SARWAR

A woman protests the disappearance of activist Raza Mahmood Khan in Lahore, Pakistan, on December 11 PHOTO/Rahat Dar/European Pressphoto Agency/EFE/REX/Shutterstock

I first heard of Raza Mahmood Khan when he went missing on Dec. 2. He has not been heard from since.

His case has many similarities to that of Zeenat Shahzadi, who disappeared in August 2015. Her recovery in October this year was cause for jubilation – but not for long. She has yet to be brought before a judge or get her statement recorded. Authorities are tight-lipped about her whereabouts, and frightened family members will only say she is being treated at a medical facility.

Their apparent crimes? Working for improved relations with India. There is a political consensus in Pakistan for this goal that many political and social activists, writers, journalists, artists, and others openly support.

What makes Khan and Shahzadi vulnerable is that they do not operate from positions of privilege or as part of larger networks.

Both were picked up in bustling Lahore, capital of Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province. Khan was taken from his rented room, Shahzadi from a bus stop. Both from humble, rural backgrounds, they were the first in their families to attend college. Although active on social media, their posts were innocuous. But their views of India – which they saw not as an enemy but as a neighbor with fellow humans and similar problems – ran contrary to Pakistan’s dominant ideological-security narrative.

These young people with no social capital or strong support systems apparently pose a bigger security threat than the organizations that openly support militants, have a huge online presence and go door to door handing out periodicals advocating violent jihad against India.

Pakistan is fighting the Taliban on the western border militarily and conducting ideological warfare through slick music videos, feature films and armies of social media trolls.

Social media, providing a digital window to the outside world and a platform for wider viewership, is, in fact, a new battleground. In January, five social media activists went missing. Released after a few weeks, three fled abroad and have spoken of the torture they endured. Their accounts give rise to fears for Khan’s life. A fourth, still in Pakistan, has maintained silence, which is the pattern for other recovered missing persons. The fifth remains missing.

Pakistan’s security establishment says its military tactics are succeeding. But the gains are short-term. Along the line, casualties of war include due process and rule of law, with killings and enforced disappearances on the rise.

The state must charge, try and prosecute criminal actions, regardless of who is behind them or whom they target.

What religious militants, nationalists and peace activists have in common is that they challenge – although from different perspectives and through different means – Pakistan’s dominant ideological-security state narrative.

Shahzadi and Khan symbolize how peace has been mainstreamed beyond intellectual circles. One major factor behind this phenomenon is the 2010 launch of Aman Ki Asha (“Hope for Peace”), a platform for people-to-people dialogue started by Pakistan’s largest media group and its Indian counterpart. (I work editorially with Aman Ki Asha.)

Another factor is the rise of social media. Access to other perspectives and to different versions of history and politics builds bridges – even with “the enemy.” The number of new friendships formed daily on Facebook between India and Pakistan averages more than 2.5 million.

All this has a ripple effect. Social media users are more connected and visible. And this makes them more vulnerable.

When she went missing, Shahzadi had been working on the case of a young Indian, Hamid Ansari, who went missing in Pakistan in November 2012. Obtaining power of attorney from Ansari’s mother in Mumbai, she pursued the case with Pakistan’s judicial Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances. Her efforts led to the commission’s unprecedented inclusion of an Indian national, Ansari, on its roster.

Pakistan denied any knowledge of Ansari’s whereabouts until January 2016. Security agencies finally admitted he was in their custody, and they produced him before a military court that sentenced him to three years in prison for espionage.

SF Gate for more

Breitbart billionaire board bashes Bannon

January 15th, 2018

by JACK RASMUS

“Steve Bannon built Breitbart into a powerful media machine. Now, the two have parted ways, leaving an uncertain future for both.” PHOTO/Drew Angerer/Getty Images/Wired

Since the run-up to the election of 2016, the ruling elite in America who control the two wings of the single Corporate Party of America (CPA)—the Republican and Democratic Parties—have been battling it out with ‘right populist’ challengers over who will define US policy in the decade ahead. Thus far in 2017 the elite have been clearly winning.

The likely sacking this coming week of Breitbart News’s CEO, Steve Bannon—which follows his banishment from the White House earlier in 2017—is but the latest example of the elite’s post-election objective of bringing their right populist challengers to heel, and in the process herding Trump himself back under their policy umbrella.

The history of the traditional elite vs. right populist challengers goes back at least to the emergence of the so-called ‘Contract with America’ in 1994 followed soon thereafter by their effort to impeach then president, Bill Clinton. Clinton’s hard shift to the right after 1994 on economic, social and foreign policy deflated the challengers’ offensive, albeit temporarily. Then there was the so-called ‘Tea Party’ faction after 2001 that ran primary candidates and disrupted the elite’s Republican wing electoral strategy. With the assistance of the Business Council and US Chamber of Commerce, the Teaparty version of ‘right populist’ challengers were purged in 2014 from Republican primary races and candidacies.

The challengers were not defeated, however. With the financial and organizational aid of the power behind the so-called ‘populist right’—i.e. the Koch brothers, the Mercers, Adelsons, Paul Singers and other radical right big financial supporters backing them—they returned with a vengeance in the 2016 election backing Trump, who opportunistically welcomed their organizational, media and ideological support as the traditional elite consistently rejected him. They bet their Trump Card and gained the White House. The contest did not stop there, however.

In 2017 the contest with the Republican wing of the elite continued. The ‘right populist’ mouthpiece within Congress, the US House ‘Freedom Caucus’, was able to prevail over other Republican colleagues and launch a full frontal assault on repealing Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act. They recklessly rolled the dice on their first toss…and lost. Check one for the traditional elite right out of the box in early 2017.

Another subsequent 2017 ‘win’ by the Republican wing of the elite was to get Trump to go slow on reversing NAFTA and other free trade agreements. Another was the driving of Steve Bannon and his allies from their perch as White House advisers. Yet another elite 2017 success was to convince Trump to back off from campaign promises to reorganize NATO and reset relations with Russia, and instead to continue providing strategic weapons to east Europe and, most recently, the Ukraine. That policy shift is now in acceleration mode. Then there was the defeat of Moore for Senator in Alabama, who Trump and the right populists both endorsed. The Republican wing of the traditional elite—both in and out of Congress—abandoned Moore and joined with the Democrat wing to ensure Moore’s defeat. To have supported Moore would have signaled that the Republican elite’s strategy since 2014, a strategy denying right radicals from formal Republican (and Chamber of Commerce) support, was no longer in effect. A Moore victory would have brought even more radicals from the right demanding to run on Republican electoral tickets. The Chamber could not permit that again.

But the very latest event in the internal battle was last week’s public rift between former right populist Trump election strategist and White House adviser, Steve Bannon, and Trump himself. A rift that, this writer predicts, will almost certainly lead to Bannon’s sacking as CEO of the influential right populist media organ, Breitbart News, this coming week or soon thereafter.

Jack Rasmus for more

Weekend Edition

January 12th, 2018