You know where lesser evil politics really frays at the seams is on who Drumpf & Clinton will drag them with into the White House. Vapid & pompous Bill & Chelsea versus vapid & pompous Melania & those idiot kids. Either way it’s gonna be hell on earth.

Who cares what Neil Young does or says after his defiance of justice for Palestinians?

Neil Young (EFE)

On Neil Young’s 70th birthday last November, teleSUR paid tribute to the musician who they claimed “has long-fought for social justice & environmental causes.” TeleSUR must have missed his unspeakable flouting of BDS in 2014 when Palestinians & their supporters appealed to him for months to honor the boycott. He steadfastly refused until after the beginning of Israel’s carpet bombing siege in Gaza when the Israeli concert organizers canceled the gig “due to rocket fire on Tel Aviv.” He missed his chance to croak for apartheid.

Now our man–who lives in the US but is Canadian & cannot vote–endorsed Sanders but made news because he allowed Drumpf to use “Rocking in the Free World” in his campaign. Such largesse. But who gives a damn what he does?

(Photo of Young croaking from EFE)

Global Slavery Index not reliable metric of human bondage

Russell Crowe (Reuters)

The actor Russell Crowe, known better for assault & battery charges than social consciousness, just released the third Global Slavery Index on behalf of the Walk Free Foundation owned & operated by Andrew Forrest. Forrest is an Australian billionaire whose fortune is based on mining.

Forrest, especially as a mining magnate, is not the kind of guy who usually cares about human exploitation. The Index appears to be a vanity project for his daughter who was distressed by witnessing orphaned children trafficked to the sex trade in Nepal.

It is important to know the character & scale of slavery throughout the world & there are several indexes that attempt to do the metrics. The Global Slavery Index estimates people born into bondage, trafficked for sex, trapped in debt bondage or forced labor, & those forced into child marriage. The Index estimated all of those at 35.8 million in 2014 & at 45.8 million in 167 countries in 2016. The UN International Labour Organization estimates there are 21 million people in forced labor but does not include child marriage & uses a different methodology.

According to the 2016 Global Slavery Index, India has the largest number of slaves (18,354,700 people & 1.400 percent) but North Korea has the largest percentage (4.373 percent & 1,100,000 people). The problem with the Index is its methodology which has been faulted as obviously flawed if not also based too much on speculation. One glaring contradiction is that in 2014 the Index ranked North Korea as #63 with 0.4348 percent & 108,200 enslaved citizens.

How do they determine the number of slaves in North Korea when by all media accounts it is a closed society that does not allow tourists, reporters, or human rights investigators free travel? Last year, a South Korean rights group claimed 100,000 North Koreans were sent abroad to work as “state-sponsored slaves” ‘whose wages were then confiscated & used to buy luxury goods for the regime.’ How do they know that? Isn’t that carrying speculation a little too far!?

This isn’t a defense of the Stalinist regime in North Korea nor a suggestion that they don’t exploit labor but the metrics used for the country in the Global Slavery Index call into question all the rest of its findings & suggest there might be political motivations for the rankings. That would make the Index useless when we do need to understand the scale of slavery in the world under neoliberalism, the barbaric phase of capitalism.

(Photo of Crowe at press conference from Reuters)

This week, on its 60 Minutes program, CBS interviewed John Brennan, the director of the CIA. This follows the recent CBS special about the CIA which outright glorified the criminal agency of psychos & torturers.

Brennan claimed the CIA no longer uses waterboarding. But of course he’s lying through his ass. The hapless interviewer trying to pose as a hard-hitting reporter never asked him what torture techniques the CIA will admit to or about the secret rendition prisons where they do the torture.

We already knew the CIA has its own fleet of drone aircraft but Brennan admitted that the CIA now has its own ground troops. That of course is an organizational & political maneuver of the US government to elude oversight or exposure of war crimes. It allows Obama to claim the US has withdrawn troops whilst mercenaries & CIA operatives & troops run roughshod in a country.

One last thing: Brennan got teary-eyed speaking of the CIA agents who’ve died in the line of service. Before we tear up we need ask, what were they doing when they died & who were they doing it to? And why weren’t they prosecuted for human rights crimes when they were alive?

The so-called heroes of US history

Thomas Jefferson

Abraham Lincoln

Social psychologists who are also social critics need to examine the roots of hero worship because it plays a reactionary role in politics. Debunking heroes isn’t just cynical iconoclasm bred in contempt for the sacred. It’s a method to understand, to learn from political figures as they actually were in history rather than idolize them. As Spinoza said, ‘we study the past neither to weep nor to laugh but to understand.’

So let’s start with Thomas Jefferson, heralded in US history as a renaissance man–an inventor, mathematician, architect, multilingual, effective politician & US president, a theoretician of democracy–but a slaveholder who owned several plantations. An ongoing debate about Jefferson is his sexual relationship with Sally Hemings which began when she was 14 & he was 44. Hemings was a slave in Jefferson’s house until he died. Apologists can parse that any way they like but the ugly facts speak for themselves.

Then there’s Abraham Lincoln, heralded as the president who ended slavery but who also deployed the US army against Native Americans in many massacres & campaigns of extermination, most notoriously in the campaigns west of the Mississippi. Most of the leading generals in those wars were Yankee generals in the Civil War. To Native Americans, Lincoln was a colonizer, not an emancipator.

One can go through the entire roster of US presidents & find no better than these because the very foundations of this country are rooted in colonialism & slavery. We need to confront that legacy because while we cannot change the past, we are obligated to uproot that heritage based on social hatred, inequality, & war & make this country suitable for all to live in–especially those who it was stolen from & those who built it with their blood & toil.

(Neither Clinton nor Sanders is capable of altering the racist heritage one iota since they are invested in it.)

(Photos are Jefferson on top; Lincoln on bottom)

To Sanders supporters who think Clinton’s email account is damning ammunition against her candidacy: are you really concerned that she didn’t properly protect US government secrets kept from us so we aren’t horrified by what it does in our name? Are you that protective of US intrigues against other countries?

Do you really think an insecure email account is worth a rat’s ass compared to the role Clinton played in installing sweatshops in Haiti; defending Israel’s carpet bombing of Gaza & occupation of Palestine; promoting the military junta & Suu Kyi in Myanmar as democratic despite the genocide of Rohingya Muslims; & arming repressive regimes against the Arab uprisings in Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen?