Wise words from Jackson Lears, about the Hobson’s choice that “our free press”
has helped to force on all the rest of us:

Editor’s Note

Hobson’s Choice

Donald Trump embodies a rogues’ gallery of cartoonish figures: the confidence man, the master of misdirection, the buffoonish big shot, the demonic clown. But he is a clown with a semiautomatic assault weapon. In pursuing terrorists, his predecessors in the White House have provided this president with the tools to pursue executive tyranny. Trump is up to the job; his temperament is oligarchic rather than managerial. His explosive mix of appetite and impulse makes him an embodiment of license. He gives a green light to eruptions of anger that menace the least powerful groups in our society. There are innumerable reasons to challenge his reign, but what seems most menacing to me is Trump’s eagerness to strengthen and deploy the militarized police state that has been emerging alongside the “war on terror.”

While previous administrations have sought to conceal or legitimate their abuses of power, Trump boasts openly of his bullying intentions—down to and including his eagerness to torture suspected terrorists. The targets of Trump’s emerging police state include our most vulnerable populations—Muslims, undocumented immigrants, and African Americans. But its shadow falls on everyone. As surveillance spreads and acquires legality, we all fall under suspicion. This is the atmosphere of permanent emergency that allows demonic clowns to flourish.

The institutional sources of opposition to Trump are various, and some are more promising than others. Since the rise of Reagan, Congress has been a rubber stamp for the expansion of executive power, especially when proposed as a response to imagined foreign threats. While not much is liable to change on that front, it is possible that Trump’s flagrant violations of the emoluments clause in the Constitution will provoke a successful attempt to impeach him. The judiciary is a little more promising. As of this writing, several federal judges have shown admirable independence in striking down Trump’s travel ban. Yet on Fourth Amendment (search and seizure) issues, the prospects are problematic, especially given the likelihood that a Trump Supreme Court will prove even more zealous than its predecessors in validating expansion of police power.  State and local officials are also blocking Trump policies, including (to take a nearby example) Mayor Bill DeBlasio’s determination to continue prohibiting “stop and frisk” procedures by New York City police. Perhaps most important is the resistance of targeted populations themselves—indigenous people protecting their water rights, for example. The republican tradition of popular protest—“the people out of doors,” as they said in 1776—is more crucial than ever, especially given the failure of the Democratic Party and the press to pose any coherent alternative to Trump.

There was a historical moment, during the Vietnam War and the Watergate investigation, when the Democratic Party challenged the accumulation and abuse of concentrated executive power.  Among the consequences were Nixon’s resignation and Senator Frank Church’s investigation into the crimes of the Central Intelligence Agency. These included the overthrow of democratically elected foreign governments, the actual and attempted assassination of foreign leaders, and the spread of “disinformation” in media at home and abroad. Disinformation, the planting of false narratives by anonymous officials to promote particular policy aims, was an earlier form of “fake news.” It remains the most insidious and influential, as reputable news organizations continue to endow unidentified government sources (unlike rumors on social media) with enduring legitimacy. Yet for a moment, the Church Committee helped to create an informed citizenry: its revelations may have marked a high point in public skepticism toward the national security state.

How times have changed. The Democratic Party has recoiled from Trump by embracing the CIA. Rather than re-examining the neoliberal economic policies that contributed to their defeat in Rust Belt states, rather than ousting their corrupt and self-satisfied leadership, the Democrats have retreated to a single rallying cry:  the Russians, led by the villainous Vladimir Putin, hacked the election and stole it for Trump. The charge is based on a confused and largely fact-free “assessment,” produced by the CIA, the FBI, and the National Security Agency (the last with only “moderate” confidence) in early January. The major media have accepted the charge uncritically and repeated it gravely, in effect serving as mouthpieces for the Deep State—a familiar role, to be sure.  One need only recall the New York Times’s key part in legitimating CIA “assessments” of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction.

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On “Russia-gate”

The more they say it, building on the many times they’ve said it in the past, the more fanatically their audience believes it—even though there’s nothing to it.

That’s how propaganda works, whether that audience is mostly liberal Democrats (as in this case), or the good Germans under Hitler, or any other public that hears only that one story.
And they believe it fervently, not just because it’s all they hear (as under Hitler), or what they mostly hear (as is the case today), but because it tells them what they want to hear—i.e., because they like it.
That’s why it’s a waste of time to try to reason with them on the subject. Lay out all the counter-evidence (with a bibliography, or links), explain precisely how that story makes no sense or contradicts itself, and place it in historical perspective, to show how it is really not as sinister or consequential as they’ve been told it is.
Chances are, that very careful argument, made with all due civility, will only make them mad; and so they’ll often “answer” it with hoots of ridicule, crude insults, and heavy hints, or screams, that you’re a Russian stooge or useful idiot: because, when all is said and done—or, to be more accurate, despite whatever you or anybody else may say or do—they like that story, like the way it makes them feel, and don’t want you or anybody else to spoil it for them.
Better, then, to spend our time engaging those still capable of thinking for themselves, to help them grasp what’s really happening, and see the need to join with those resisting it.
MCM

The Politics Behind ‘Russia-gate’

Exclusive: The hysteria over “Russia-gate” continues to grow – as President Trump’s enemies circle – but at its core there may be no there there while it risks pushing the world toward nuclear annihilation, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

There may be a turn-about-is-fair-play element to Democrats parsing the words of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and other Trump administration officials to hang them on possible “perjury” charges. After all, the Republicans made “lock her up” a popular chant citing Hillary Clinton’s arguably illegal use of a private email server as Secretary of State and her allegedly false claim under oath that her lawyers had hand-checked each of her 30,000 or so emails that were deleted as personal.

President Donald Trump being sworn in on Jan. 20, 2017. (Screen shot from Whitehouse.gov)

But there is a grave danger in playing partisan “gotcha” over U.S. relations with the world’s other major nuclear superpower. If, for instance, President Trump finds himself having to demonstrate how tough he can be on Russia — to save his political skin — he could easily make a miscalculation that could push the two countries into a war that could truly be the war to end all wars – along with ending human civilization. But Democrats, liberals and the mainstream news media seem to hate Trump so much they will take that risk.

Official Washington’s Russia hysteria has reached such proportions that New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman has even compared the alleged Russian hacking of Democratic emails to Pearl Harbor and 9/11, two incidents that led the United States into violent warfare. On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show, Friedman demanded that the hacking allegations be taken with the utmost seriousness: “That was a 9/11 scale event. They attacked the core of our democracy. That was a Pearl Harbor scale event. … This goes to the very core of our democracy.”

But what really goes to “the very core of our democracy” is the failure to deal with this issue – or pretty much any recent issue – with the sobriety and the seriousness that should accompany a question of war or peace. Just as Friedman and other “star” journalists failed to ask the necessary questions about Iraq’s WMD or to show professional skepticism in the face of U.S. propaganda campaigns around the conflicts in Libya, Syria or Ukraine, they have not demanded any actual evidence from the Obama administration for its lurid claims about Russian “hacking.”

Before this madness goes any further, doesn’t anyone think that the U.S. intelligence community should lay its cards on the table regarding exactly what the evidence is that Russian intelligence purloined Democratic emails and then slipped them to WikiLeaks for publication? President Obama’s intelligence officials apparently went to great lengths to spread these allegations around – even passing the secrets around overseas – but they never told the American people what the evidence is. The two official reports dealing with the issue were laughably short on anything approaching evidence. They amounted to “trust us.”

Further, WikiLeaks representatives have indicated that the two batches of emails – one from the Democratic National Committee and the other from Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta – did not come from the Russians but rather from two different American insiders. That could be wrong – it is possible that Russian intelligence laundered the material through some American cutouts or used some other method to conceal Moscow’s hand – but Obama’s intelligence officials apparently don’t know how WikiLeaks obtained the emails. So, the entire “scandal” may rest upon a foundation of sand.

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The “anti-science” smear deployed to push more GMOs, unsafe vaccines, smart meters, toxic drugs and other lethal products is a brilliant stroke of propaganda—and it’s killing us.

Here Stacy Malkan tells us where it came from:

Science Propaganda wars
(The Ecologist)
Propaganda wars: ‘pro-science’ GMO, chemicals boosters funded by climate change deniers By Stacy Malkan

They promote GMOs, defend toxic chemicals, and attack people who raise concerns about those products as ‘anti-science’. But behind the slick ‘astroturf’ PR fronts lurk some very dubious funders: the same arch-conservative foundations that finance climate science denial. Stacy Malkan exposes the key players in the agribusiness and chemical industry propaganda wars.

British writer George Monbiot has a warning for those of us trying to grasp the new political realities in the US and the UK. “We have no hope of understanding what is coming until we understand how the dark money network operates”, he wrote in the Guardian.Corporate America may have been slow to warm up to Donald Trump, but once Trump secured the nomination, “the big money began to recognize an unprecedented opportunity”, Monbiot wrote.”His incoherence was not a liability, but an opening: his agenda could be shaped. And the dark money network already developed by some American corporations was perfectly positioned to shape it.”

This network, or dark money ATM as Mother Jones described it, refers to the vast amount of hard-to-trace money flowing from arch-conservative billionaires, such as Charles and David Koch and allies, and corporations into front groups that promote extreme free-market ideas – for example, fights against public schools, unions, environmental protection, climate change policies and science that threatens corporate profits.

Investigative writers Jane Mayer, Naomi Oreskes, Erik Conway and others have exposed how “the story of dark money and the story of climate change denial are the same story: two sides of the same coin”, as US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse described it last year in a speech. The strategies of the “Koch-led, influence-buying operation” – including propaganda operations that spin science with no regard for the truth – “are probably the major reason we don’t have a comprehensive climate bill in Congress”, Whitehouse said. While these strategies have been well-tracked in the climate sphere, less reported is the fact that the funders behind climate-science denial also bankroll a network of PR operatives who have built careers spinning science to deny the health risks of toxic chemicals in the food we eat and products we use every day.

The stakes are high for our nation’s health. Rates of childhood cancer are now 50% higher than when the ‘war on cancer’ began decades ago, and the best weapon is one we are hardly using: policies to limit exposure to cancer-causing chemicals.

“If we want to win the war on cancer, we need to start with the thousand physical and chemical agents evaluated as possible, probable or known human carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization”, wrote scientist and author Devra Lee Davis, PhD, MPH, in The Hill.

Reducing known agents of harm has had “less to do with science, and more to do with the power of highly profitable industries that rely on public relations to counteract scientific reports of risks”, Davis noted.

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Be careful what you wish for, New York Times:

If people seek the truth, as you insist you want them to, you’re likely to go out of business even sooner.


“Trump” is our Deodorant-in-Chief, sanctifying the Democrats, the Bush Republicans, the corporate press, and—not least—the CIA (which is no doubt managing this whole pro-wrestling-style theatricale).

MCM

A Nazi Skeleton in the Family Closet

Exclusive: Canada’s fiercely anti-Russian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland says her Ukrainian grandfather struggled “to return freedom and democracy to Ukraine,” but she leaves out that he was a Nazi propagandist justifying the slaughter of Jews, writes Arina Tsukanova.

By Arina Tsukanova

On Jan. 10, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau replaced Foreign Minister Stephane Dion with Chrystia Freeland, a former journalist proud of her Ukrainian roots and well-known for her hostility toward Russia. At the time, a big question in Ottawa was why. Some analysts believed that Trudeau’s decision may have started when it still seemed likely that Hillary Clinton would become the new U.S. president and a tough line against Moscow was expected in Washington.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland

However, by the time the switch was made, Donald Trump was on his way into the White House and Trudeau’s choice meant that Canada was allying itself more with the mounting hostility toward Russia inside the European Union than with President Trump’s hopes for a more cooperative relationship with the Kremlin. With Freeland running Canada’s Foreign Ministry, the chance for a shared view between Ottawa and Washington suddenly seemed remote.

People who have followed Freeland’s career were aware that her idée fixe for decades has been that Ukraine must be ripped out of the Russian sphere of influence. Her views fit with the intense Ukrainian nationalism of her maternal grandparents who immigrated to Canada after World War II and whom she has portrayed as victims of Josef Stalin and the Red Army.

So, Freeland celebrated the Soviet collapse in 1991, which enabled Ukraine to gain its independence. Freeland, then in her early 20s, was working in Kiev as a stringer for The Financial Times and The Washington Post, shining with delight over the emergence of a “New Ukraine.”

By the next decade, working as the U.S. managing editor of The Financial Times, she proudly interviewed then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, who had won control as a result of the 2004 “Orange Revolution.” In her approach to journalism, Freeland made clear her commitment to foment Ukrainian-Russian tensions in any possible way. Indeed, during her journalistic career, which ended in 2013 when she won a seat in Canada’s parliament, Freeland remained fiercely anti-Russian.

In 2014, Yushchenko’s rival Viktor Yanukovych was Ukraine’s elected president while Canadian MP Freeland urged on the “Euro-Maidan” protests against Yanukovych and his desire to maintain friendly relations with Moscow. On Jan. 27, 2014, as the protests grew more violent with ultra-nationalist street fighters moving to the forefront and firebombing police, Freeland visited Kiev and published an op-ed in The Globe and Mail blaming the violence on Yanukovych.

“Democratic values are rarely challenged as directly as they are being today in Ukraine,” Freeland wrote, arguing that the protesters, not the elected president, represented democracy and the rule of law. “Their victory will be a victory for us all; their defeat will weaken democracy far from the Euromaidan. We are all Ukrainians now. Let’s do what we can — which is a lot — to support them.”]

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Warren Buffett Pens a Dangerously Misleading Letter to Americans

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: February 27, 2017

Warren Buffett, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, authors an annual letter to shareholders that receives wide media coverage for the nuggets of wisdom dispersed to the masses. His latest letter, released on Saturday, trumpets American exceptionalism, the miraculous market system Americans have created, while it blithely dismisses the greatest wealth and income inequality in America since the 1920s. Buffett preposterously observes that “Babies born in America today are the luckiest crop in history.”

Let’s start with that last statement. According to our own Central Intelligence Agency, there are 55 countries that have a lower infant mortality rate than the United States. Even debt-strapped Greece beats the United States.

Much of what Buffett has to say in this letter sounds like unadulterated propaganda to reassure the 99 percent that his amassing of a net worth of $76.3 billion was a result of America’s great economic system which is percolating along just fine. Buffett writes:

“Americans have combined human ingenuity, a market system, a tide of talented and ambitious immigrants, and the rule of law to deliver abundance beyond any dreams of our forefathers…You need not be an economist to understand how well our system has worked. Just look around you. See the 75 million owner-occupied homes, the bountiful farmland, the 260 million vehicles, the hyper-productive factories, the great medical centers, the talent-filled universities, you name it – they all represent a net gain for Americans from the barren lands, primitive structures and meager output of 1776. Starting from scratch, America has amassed wealth totaling $90 trillion…”

Mentioning the rule of law in the same breath with our market system shows Buffett’s hypocrisy in the worst light. Millions of Americans are still seething over the fact that not one top executive on Wall Street has gone to jail for their role in issuing fraudulent securities with triple-A ratings that brought on the greatest financial collapse since the Great Depression. Millions of Americans are still waiting for the U.S. Justice Department or the Securities and Exchange Commission to address the well documented market rigging charges that Michael Lewis made in his book, Flash Boys and on 60 Minutes. Millions of Americans have lost trust in their Congress, now with an approval rating of just 19 percent, to impose legislation to stop the serial crimes that continue to spew from Wall Street. Tens of millions of Americans believe that Wall Street’s financing of political campaigns has so completely corrupted the U.S. market system that it has become an institutionalized wealth transfer system from the pockets of the 99 percent to the 1 percent. As the ever-expanding raps sheets of JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup make clear, there is strong evidentiary support for this view.

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The White Helmets gets an Academy Award—an absolute disgrace not just for Hollywood,
but for the US press, whose failure to expose that fraud is the real scandal here.
 
MCM


Syrian War Propaganda at the Oscars

The Western-backed war in Syria, like the invasion of Iraq, was so smothered by propaganda that truth was not only the first casualty but has been steadily suffocated for five years, now reaching the Oscars, says Rick Sterling.

By Rick Sterling

The Netflix movie “The White Helmets” may win an Oscar in the “short documentary” category at the Academy Awards on Sunday. It would not be a surprise despite the fact that the group is a fraud and the movie is a contrived infomercial.

The “White Helmets” symbol, expropriating the name of “Syria Civil Defense.”

Awarding “The White Helmets” an Oscar would fit with the desire of Hollywood to appear supportive of “human rights,” even if that means supporting a propaganda operation to justify another bloody “regime change” war in the Middle East.

Much of what people think they know about the White Helmets is untrue. The group is not primarily Syrian; it was initiated by British military contractor James LeMesurier and has been heavily funded (about $100 million) by the U.S., U.K. and other governments. The White Helmets are not volunteers; they are paid, which is confirmed in a Al Jazeera video that shows some White Helmet “volunteers” talking about going on strike if they don’t get paid soon.

Still, most of the group’s heavy funding goes to marketing, which is run by “The Syria Campaign” based in New York. The manager is an Irish-American, Anna Nolan, who has never been to Syria. As an example of its deception, “The Syria Campaign” website features video showing children dancing and playing soccer implying they are part of the opposition demand for a “free and peaceful” Syria. But the video images are taken from a 2010 BBC documentary about education in Syria under the Baath government.

There is also something almost dated about the Academy selecting this infomercial as an Oscar finalist, let alone the possibility of giving it the award. It’s as if the Syrian propaganda narrative of “good” rebels vs. “bad” government was still viable. In the case of the White Helmets, they were literally made into “white hats” bravely resisting the government’s “black hats.”

Yet, we now know that the propaganda around the “noble” rebels holding out in east Aleppo – with the help of the White Helmets – was largely a lie. The rebels mostly fought under the command structure of Al Qaeda’s Nusra affiliate and its fellow jihadists in Ahrar al-Sham. A video shows White Helmet workers picking up the corpse of a civilian after execution by Nusra/Al Qaeda and celebrating the extremists’ battle wins.

Western “human rights” groups touted not only the White Helmets but the “moderate rebels” who we now know were largely a P.R. cover for the terrorists and jihadists, as well as an excuse for the U.S. and its allies to funnel in weapons that were then turned over to the extremists.

When eastern Aleppo was finally freed from the armed militants, it was discovered that the White Helmets headquarters were alongside the headquarters of Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate. Civilians from east Aleppo reported that the White Helmets primarily rallied their “humanitarian” operations when the militants were attacked.

Soon after departing Aleppo in government-supplied buses, the White Helmets showed up in the mountains above Damascus where they allied with terrorist groups responsible for poisoning and then shutting off the water source for five million people in Damascus.

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They make it hard to tell the truth, which drives them into crackpot fits of “patriotic” rage, screaming that those truths are lies, “fake news,” you’re just like Trump, delusional, a Russian stooge, etc.

What they shout back at you with such ferocious confidence (thank God they don’t believe in guns) is just as groundless—some dare call it psychotic—as the Red-centric fantasies of Robert Welch and other pamphleteers of the post-war far-right; and yet, of course, these liberal Democrats absorb their information from the New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, Mother Jones, Atlantic and/or Daily Beast—in short, the CIA, which these Bizarro liberals actually believe is a defender of democracy and citadel of truth.

Try telling any of these trash-recycling wing-nuts that Russia mounted NO “invasion of Ukraine.” When I said so recently, with studied calm, on Facebook, one “friend” wittily responded, “Da, comrade.” And when I just as calmly pointed out that Russia is no longer communist, he jeered exultantly that I was circulating “alternative facts.”

If I had that surreal experience only once or twice, and just on Facebook, I would unfriend the zealot(s), and forget about it. But since I’m having that experience nearly every day, online and off—and I am not the only one—forgetting it is as impossible as it would be unwise: an ostrich-like response to what’s most dangerous about this nightmare moment under Trump.

While everybody knows that he’s unbalanced, if not clinically unhinged, “everybody” doesn’t know that there is also something very wrong with them, since what we call “the left” in the United States today is suffering from a sort of mass psychosis, fed by our (indirectly) state-controlled “free press,” and, whether Donald Trump goes down or not, likely to bring all of us to grief—unless the rest of us can somehow intervene, and cure it.

MCM


Trump Caves on Flynn’s Resignation

By Robert Parry

Exclusive: President Trump’s acceptance of National Security Advisor Flynn’s resignation marks Official Washington’s first big success in neutering Trump and killing hopes for a détente with Russia, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

The neocon-dominated U.S. foreign policy establishment won an important victory in forcing the resignation of President Trump’s National Security Advisor Michael Flynn over a flimsy complaint that he had talked to the Russian ambassador during the transition.

The Washington Post, the neoconservatives’ media flagship, led the assault on Flynn, an unorthodox thinker who shared the neocons’ hostility toward Iran but broke with them in seeing no strategic reason to transform Russia into an implacable enemy.

After Flynn’s resignation on Monday evening, the Post gloated over its success in achieving the first major crack in Trump’s resistance to Official Washington’s establishment. The Post cited Flynn’s “potentially illegal contacts” with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, a reference to the Logan Act, a 1799 never-enforced law that forbids private citizens from negotiating with a country in dispute with the U.S. government.

Though no one has ever been prosecuted under the Logan Act, it has been cited in recent decades as an excuse to attack American citizens who disagree with U.S. government policies while traveling abroad and having contacts with foreign leaders.

Often those accusations are aimed at Americans seeking to peacefully resolve disputes when a U.S. president is eager to escalate a conflict, such as President Ronald Reagan’s denunciations of civil rights leader Jesse Jackson for visiting Cuba and House Speaker Jim Wright for exploring ways to end the Contra war in Nicaragua.

In other words, the Logan Act is usually exploited in a McCarthyistic fashion to bait or discredit peace advocates, similarly to how it has now been used to destroy Flynn for daring to look for ways to reduce the dangerous tensions between Washington and Moscow.

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Leak on Intel Community, Warns of Another Cold War

By Julia Limitone

During an interview on the FOX Business Network’s Mornings with Maria, former Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich said the intelligence community was responsible for leaking information that Trump’s national security advisor, Mike Flynn, had secretly discussed sanctions with Russian officials before the inauguration and argued their goal was to spoil the relationship between the U.S. and Russia.

“What’s at the core of this is an effort by some in the intelligence community to upend any positive relationship between the U.S. and Russia,” Kucinich said.

And in his opinion, there is a big money motive behind it.

“And I tell you there’s a marching band and Chowder Society out there. There’s gold in them there hills,” he said. “There are people trying to separate the U.S. and Russia so that this military industrial intel axis can cash in.”

Kucinich added the intelligence community could start a war to succeed.

“There’s a game going on inside the intelligence community where there are those who want to separate the U.S. from Russia in a way that would reignite the Cold War,” he said.

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