Pope Francis criticizes Trump; takes out Obama in process

Pope Francis criticized Trump & said he “is not Christian” for demanding the deportation of undocumented immigrants & for a militarized wall between the US & Mexico. Trump is a deranged ego-maniac & those who support his ideas are bottom-feeders in US politics.

But it shouldn’t be missed that the Pope’s indictment would include Obama since Trump is expressing the policies practiced by the Obama administration for seven years & it includes every single other candidate, including Sanders, who oppose immigration rights. If anyone buys Clinton’s born-again support for immigration rights let us know so we can offer that proverbial swamp land in Florida. Such credulity is not admirable.

It isn’t that none of them are Christian enough but that they’re all vicious asses.

Confederate flag displayed in South Texas

Driving the back-way home from the library, I saw a US flag, a Gadsden flag with “Don’t Tread on Me,” (associated with the Tea Party & rightwing libertarians), & a huge Confederate flag flying in someone’s front yard. (Must be a psycho neighborhood because a block away I recently saw a man pick up a puppy who’d escaped from his yard & leave another one who’d been run over in the middle of the road. I had to call animal control who wouldn’t cite the guy for anything. I wanted a policeman to stick it to him for animal cruelty.)

According to demographic tables, my town is almost 82% Latino, mostly Mexican ancestry. The Confederate flag represents white supremacy & it seems a provocation to wave the damn thing here. Latinos have a complex history in the US Civil War. It’s estimated (probably on faulty historical records) that between 10,000 & 20,000 served in both the Union & Confederate armies, their loyalties in large part dependent on their class–whether aristocrats or workers. There were heroes & scoundrels among them in the war to end slavery.

“Black Reconstruction” by W.E.B. Du Bois is a magisterial work detailing state by state the projects of emancipated Blacks in trying to rebuild the South on the corpse of slavery. Universal public education is one of the most momentous achievements before Reconstruction was decisively reversed by forces of reaction. Texas was a particularly contentious battleground. The local library has a remarkable collection regarding Native American history in Texas & of course Tejano (Texan of Mexican ancestry) history because it is a state where the conquest of the Americas was played out quite dramatically & violently; where Mexican settlers wrested Texas from Native Americans & white settlers wrested it from Mexico & Native Americans & made it part of the US.

That damn flag is part of the violent conquest of the Americans & history of the US & shows the Confederacy has yet to be decisively vanquished.

The pathetic character of journalism covering the US war in Afghanistan

Mary Scully's photo.


This is the pathetic character of journalism covering the US war in Afghanistan. The caption to this photo identified this as Kandahar, Afghanistan & said “Families receive winter aid from the Islamic charity Ummah Welfare Trust. The country relies on foreign aid for more than 90% of national income.” Once again, you’re not writing a book when you caption a photo but there ought to be some minimal coherence because nothing but questions get raised from this caption.

The first question is, what is the Ummah Welfare Trust? All one learns from their website is that they are a UK-based “international relief & development charity established in 2001.” Good to know; better to know who the principals are in the organization. Is it another front group like the International Rescue Committee, the “charity” of Kissinger, Madeline Albright, & Elie Wiesel that also operates in Afghanistan? Why the discretion about who runs the operation?

The second question about that 90% of national income is a whopper because when you investigate that territory you uncover a labyrinth of treachery toward the people of Afghanistan. What about Afghanistan’s opium economy which the US military is in up to its eyeballs? A conservative estimate of its value is US$2.5 billion a year. Is that what makes up the other 10% of national income? Who’s raking in the profits? What happened to that trickle-down theory so in vogue among capitalist economists? Because it’s crystal clear the working people of Afghanistan are deriving none of the financial benefits of drug trafficking & all of the problems in massive addiction.

Dozens of countries pledged millions in aid to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. Most of those pledges were never delivered & there was massive theft of what was delivered by the Clinton Foundation, International Red Cross, & other NGOs in Haiti. We saw a similar situation when nations pledged millions to rebuild Gaza in 2014 but put Israel in control of the process so that Gaza is now nearly uninhabitable. This is an old international aid scam that enriches a lot of people but not the victims of war & disaster.

In 2012, 70 nations held a donors conference in Tokyo to come up with development aid for Afghanistan. Then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton led the US delegation. The conference pledged US$16 billion (£10bn) over four years contingent on the Afghan government reducing corruption & increasing accountability for expenditures. Clinton refused to acknowledge how much the US would pledge but claims it’s the biggest donor. USAID is the agency most involved in dispensing US aid to Afghanistan but there are reports that CIA agents associated with USAID wheeled in suitcases packed full of that aid money to bribe Afghan officials. So that accountability condition for the funds becomes a giant problematic for any Afghan officials wanting to come clean.

Media, always playing chump to the US Pentagon, reports that foreign aid to Afghanistan has led to more girls in school, improved health facilities, lower child mortality. We would like to see some documentation for that claim. They make no accounting for the millions of Afghan refugees in Iran, Pakistan, & now Europe. They make no accounting for widespread child labor, massive homelessness, widespread drug addiction.

Let’s get the figures straight about money pouring into Afghanistan. It’s to maintain the prisons & torture centers run by the CIA; it’s to bribe Afghan officials; & it’s to facilitate drug trafficking likely operated by the CIA & local drug merchants.

Let’s get some more figures straight: Every hour, US taxpayers dish out $4 million for the war in Afghanistan–in 14 years of war that now totals nearly $730 trillion. That doesn’t include the $3.42 million per hour paid to the Pentagon Slush Fund which now totals $113 trillion for unspecified military purposes–like drug trafficking & torture prisons. The reason the US muscles other nations to pledge development to Afghanistan is because it wants them to shoulder the financial burden of US-NATO wars so the Pentagon can spend money on bombs.

There’s no way of knowing how much of the $16 billion was actually delivered but we can be quite certain it was a thimbleful. Or less. But there’s always enough money for bombs.

The historic imperative remains: rebuild the international antiwar movement.
US out of Afghanistan!

(Photo by Muhammad Sadiq/EPA)

Donald Trump & the degradation of satire into vaudeville

The NY Times had an article titled “Donald Trump is a conundrum for political comedy” which is a banal analysis of why TV comics like Colbert, Fallon, & Myers, or SNL have a hard time satirizing Trump. Perhaps the NYT writer hasn’t noticed that none of those shows have done satire about anything for a long time but are strictly vaudeville. They get Trump’s hair right but his politics go right over their heads.

Part of the problem, not just with Trump but with all their political guests, is that it’s impossible to satirize & skewer at the same time as you’re fawning & drooling all over them. All those shows long ago ceded the ground of social criticism to kissing ass & in the process they don’t even provide good laughs anymore.

They bring candidates on for interviews & exchange quips & pleasantries to indulge the more personal side of those who advocate war, torture, xenophobia, & social hatreds of every kind. The candidates would never agree to come on if for one moment they expected to be challenged for their policies.

It isn’t that Trump is a conundrum for sarcasm but that comedians have made an art form of ingratiating to power. If there’s one thing political satire cannot be, it is respectful to barbarism.

The case of teenager Ahmed Manasra in Israeli kangaroo court

Ahmed Manasra

Ahmed Manasra (REUTERS:Ammar Awad) Jan 20 2016

Israeli malfeasance around the case of Ahmed Manasra could keep a fleet of human rights lawyers busy for years. He was a 13-year-old kid when Israel escalated its provocations at al-Aqsa mosque in East Jerusalem last fall & turned occupied East Jerusalem into a martial law zone.

Israeli police shot him after they saw Israeli settlers from an illegal settlement in East Jerusalem chasing him for allegedly stabbing a settler (Oct. 12th). His case became famous because videos of his shooting by police circulated on social media. The videos showed him with legs splayed, profusely bleeding, reaching out for help, while Israeli settlers stood around shouting obscenities at him & urging police to do him in. An Israeli police officer actually kicked him back down when he tried to raise his body. When the ambulance arrived, Israeli medics reportedly dawdled & prolonged the process of getting him to a hospital.

He was treated in a Jerusalem hospital for a broken skull & moved from there to a detention center. A Jerusalem court indicted him on October 30th on two counts of attempted murder because the two settlers he & his cousin attacked survived their wounds. His 15-year-old cousin Hassan Manasra was shot dead by police at the scene before a car ran over his body.

The police interrogation of young Ahmed in November was videotaped & also circulated on social media. Israeli police are seen screaming at him, verbally abusing him, pressuring him to confess. He is seen crying, hitting his head, & repeating “I do not remember.” Did the interrogators inform him of his rights? Did he know that under international & Israeli law he had the right to an attorney? Or do those rights not apply to Palestinian kids in occupied East Jerusalem?

But Israeli authorities weren’t through with him yet. They repeatedly delayed his trial so that it would take place after he turned fourteen in late January & could be tried as an adult where he could receive the maximum sentence of 20 years.

Ahmed’s defense attorney is Lea Tsemel, a remarkable Israeli woman who has defended Palestinian youth for decades & is a supporter of Palestinian rights. She told Al Jazeera, “The allegation against him is not that he stabbed anybody, but that he had the intention to kill. We will have to prove he did not have that intention, but rather to cause pain & frighten.”

Khaled Manasra, Ahmed’s uncle & the father of Hassan who was shot dead, told Al Jazeera, “Young people see what happens at the al-Aqsa Mosque, how [Israeli forces] beat Palestinians, ladies; they see Palestinians being killed, like what happened to the Dawabsheh family. In their minds, they think they can stop it.”

Palestinian Intifada in concert with massive international solidarity is the only thing that can stop it & that is exactly why Israel targets Palestinian youth for intimidation, incarceration without due process, torture in the gulag, summary execution.

The most powerful way to stand with Ahmed Manasra is to honor the economic, cultural, & academic boycott of Israel (BDS). Buy nothing with barcode beginning 729. And consider attending the solidarity march in Washington DC on March 20th.

Please sign this petition to free Ahmed Manasra: https://secure.avaaz.org/…/amnesty_international_freedom_…/…

(Photo on top is Ahmed Manasra as he laid presumably dying & being taunted; bottom photo is him with his father & aunt before a court session in Jerusalem on January 19th. His trial was delayed so he could be tried as an adult. Photo by Ammar Awad/TPX/Reuters)

Art & the creeps that make it

One of life’s earliest disappointments is learning that many of the poets, writers, & musicians you admire for the art they create are complete washouts as human beings or deplorable politically. It seems an incongruence, something at odds with nature. It wasn’t easy in my youth facing that the avuncular-looking & sensitive poet of estrangement, Robert Frost, was mean as the devil. And of course, it’s all down hill with the rock stars.

Still, it don’t come easy. Lady Gaga’s performance at the Grammys was indisputably marvelous. But I just couldn’t be entertained knowing she’s an enthusiastic supporter of Israel who flouted the cultural boycott with disdain & also performed for the dictator of Azerbaijan.

Many women talk about how leading male actors, often the ones who play the romantic lead, creep them out off stage. But they creep many of us out on stage. When they do a love scene it sends shivers up our spine in revulsion. If they played psycho-killers it would seem more in character with their persona.

It would be better for all of us, especially the artists, if we knew a whole lot less about them. Or if they just all wore masks.

Palestine solidarity march in Washington DC on March 20th 2016

Those who live in the US have an opportunity to express solidarity with Palestinians on March 20th in Washington, DC. This march comes at a time when the Obama administration, the UK, & other regimes are attempting to make the economic & cultural boycott of Israel illegal. That means Palestinian solidarity has become a central civil liberties issue & makes this protest all the more important.

You can get info, donate, find out how to participate at this FB site.


The phony-assed drama around Scalia’s replacement

We’re supposed to really get into this drama between Republicans & Obama about his appointing a Supreme Court justice to replace Scalia. Republican senators warn Obama “in no uncertain terms’ against doing so & he talks tough back, saying “watch me, fools.” It’ll be played out on the news for weeks & exhaust itself long after it’s become a complete bore (which was yesterday).

There are those who will think me a shameless cynic, but what kind of political system, what kind of democracy allows nine politically appointed judicial hacks to decide their fate? It’s a misunderstanding of democracy to allow that even though that’s how the US system is rigged.

The Supreme Court is subject to political pressure & we can make them dance to our tune if we show up lobbying in Washington, DC with thousands of other activists instead of hanging on their every decision like it was the sword of Damocles.