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How Republicans Closed the Deal on Tax Cuts

RealClearPolitics - Sat, 12/16/2017 - 08:20
Russell Berman, The Atlantic
Ultimately, that also helps to explain how Republicans came to be on the precipice of this first major legislative victory. What the debate over taxes has revealed is not just that the party is desperate to show they can have something to show for their majority, it’s that tax cuts remain a singular unifying force for the modern GOP. That was enough to overcome the many differences over the particulars of tax policy, as well as the polls warning Republican lawmakers that this legislation is not something the public seems to want. And it’s why, despite those many obstacles, Trump...

Why Saudi Arabia cannot go to war with Iran

MiddleEasteye - Sat, 12/16/2017 - 07:13

Despite all the political hype and media fanfare about the growing Iranian threat in the region, Saudi Arabia has virtually been left on its own to deal with Tehran

Deadly Wildfires Prompt Longest Red Flag Warning In History

Who What Why - Sat, 12/16/2017 - 06:36

It is hard to imagine the impact the California wildfires have had on those in their path. All demographics are touched — from millionaire landowners to immigrant day laborers. And they are unrelenting — not even two months ago WhoWhatWhy wrote about the presumed cause of fires in October.

This time around firefighters are facing a seemingly insurmountable battle — the “Thomas” fire in Santa Barbara, Summerland and Montecito has burned more than 395 square miles, and is currently only 35% contained. It has claimed the lives of at least two people, one a firefighter, and has destroyed more than 900 buildings. This fire has contributed to an unprecedented 13-day long string of red-flag warnings from the National Weather Service.

No one knows for sure how the latest fires started, and the internet is buzzing with unlikely causes. Aside from the colorful ideas touted in the comments section of YouTube, actual investigations are pointing towards snapped and sparking power lines as the cause of at least one of these fires, and the loss of 12 multi-million homes is being blamed on a cooking fire gone wrong at a homeless people’s encampment in a nearby ravine.

There is little doubt that climate change has contributed to the ferocity of the fires. Powerful seasonal winds have whipped the fires along, eating up the mass of new growth which sprung up when rains broke a 5-year drought earlier in the year. California is still waiting for the start of its usual winter rains — the state normally gets half its annual precipitation between December and February.

Sudden wind direction changes add to the danger to homes and firefighters — and more raging Santa Ana winds are forecast for this weekend.

The first video, courtesy of the Santa Clarita Valley Signal, shows what evacuations are like — the West Ridge community was threatened by the “Rye” fire earlier this week and had to leave quickly. By Thursday the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection had the Rye fire 96% contained and the area had been repopulated.

The second video is from the Netflix docu-series Fire Chasers and captures the moment when firefighters were trapped by the unpredictable “Blue Cut” fire of August 2016. It gives a good indication of what firefighters are facing day after day, and may continue facing until the wind dies down and the winter rains start.

Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from fire (NOAA).

The post Deadly Wildfires Prompt Longest Red Flag Warning In History appeared first on WhoWhatWhy.

California wildfire close to becoming third largest ever in state

Top Reuters News - Sat, 12/16/2017 - 06:11
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A California wildfire was close on Saturday to becoming the state's third largest blaze on record, with more devastation possible from a resurgence of the harsh winds that have fueled the deadly fire's growth.

Myanmar journalists' group to don black T-shirts over arrest of Reuters' reporters

Top Reuters News - Sat, 12/16/2017 - 05:48
YANGON (Reuters) - A group of Myanmar journalists said they would begin wearing black T-shirts on Saturday in protest at the detention of two Reuters reporters accused of violating the country's Official Secrets Act, as pressure builds on Myanmar to release the pair.

P&G appoints Peltz to board despite losing proxy battle

Top Reuters News - Sat, 12/16/2017 - 05:38
(Reuters) - Procter & Gamble Co said it appointed Nelson Peltz to its board despite the activist investor narrowly losing a months-long proxy fight, the biggest ever involving a U.S. company.

Israel's Jerusalem victory looks increasingly hollow

MiddleEasteye - Sat, 12/16/2017 - 05:16

Netanyahu prepared Israel for a historic event with Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as its capital. The result was much less triumphant

Peru's Congress prepares to oust President Kuczynski

Top Reuters News - Sat, 12/16/2017 - 04:20
LIMA (Reuters) - President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski's chances of surviving the political crisis gripping Peru faded on Friday after Congress passed a motion to start "presidential vacancy" procedures with enough votes to unseat him within a week.

Ramaphosa, Dlamini-Zuma in tight race to lead South Africa's ruling ANC

Top Reuters News - Sat, 12/16/2017 - 04:18
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) holds an election this weekend - seen as too close to call - to replace Jacob Zuma as party leader, with the winner also likely to become the next president.

Wounded North Korean defector transferred to South Korean military hospital

Top Reuters News - Sat, 12/16/2017 - 00:15
SEOUL (Reuters) - A North Korean soldier who suffered critical gunshot wounds during a defection dash across the border to South Korea has been transferred to a military hospital, a South Korean intelligence official said on Saturday.

Nearly 20 State Attorneys General to Sue FCC for Putting Corporate Profits Over Consumers

Truth-Out - Sat, 12/16/2017 - 00:00

A view of the commission's hearing room before a hearing at the Federal Communications Commission on December 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / AFP / Getty Images)

Adding to the growing backlash among the public and members of Congress against the FCC's party-line vote on Thursday to repeal net neutrality protections, nearly 20 state attorneys general have lined up to sue the FCC, calling the Republican-controlled agency's move a violation of the law and a serious "threat to the free exchange of ideas."

"The FCC's vote to rip apart net neutrality is a blow to New York consumers, and to everyone who cares about a free and open internet," New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman -- who is also investigating the flood of fake comments that "corrupted" the agency's policymaking process -- said in a statement announcing his intent to sue. "The FCC just gave Big Telecom an early Christmas present, by giving internet service providers yet another way to put corporate profits over consumers."

Soon after Schneiderman's announcement on Thursday, more than a dozen other state AGs followed suit, with both red and blue states joining the public repudiation of FCC chair Ajit Pai's plan. The list of states planning to taking legal action against the FCC -- which includes Mississippi, Hawaii, Maine, Vermont, and Illinois -- continued to grow almost by the hour late Thursday and into Friday.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, one of the first to join Schneiderman's planned multi-state suit, said in a statement that "Americans will pay more for the internet and will have fewer options" as a result of the FCC's move.

"The agency has completely failed to justify this decision and we will be suing to stand up for the free exchange of ideas and to keep the American people in control of internet access," Healey concluded.

In addition to legal challenges, states indicated they also plan to move quickly by enacting policy changes to override the FCC's attack on the open internet.

State lawmakers focused particularly on the FCC's attempt to not only kill net neutrality at the federal level, but also to prevent individual states and localities from enacting their own protections to preserve the open internet. Ahead of Thursday's vote, Republican FCC commissioner Michael O'Rielly vowed to be "vigilant in identifying and pursuing" states that attempt to uphold net neutrality.

California and Washington lawmakers have vowed to move ahead with legislation anyway. And, as Wired reports, "legal experts think there's a good chance that the FCC's rules barring states from making their own rules won't hold up in court."

"We don't think that the FCC has the power to stop states from enacting our own rules. In fact, the FCC has lost that argument in court before, so we're going to move forward," concluded California state Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat, in an interview on Thursday. "I think we're going to have a lot of momentum."

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Rebranding Hate: What Poland's Independence Day Protests Tell Us About Europe's Rightward Shift

Truth-Out - Sat, 12/16/2017 - 00:00
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Last month, Poland once again made international headlines when its Independence Day demonstrations -- normally a moment dedicated to celebrating the return of the country's sovereignty --  were overwhelmed by 60,000 far-right protestors. Holding up placards with signs like "Europe will be white or uninhabited" and screaming "Pure Poland, white Poland!" as they proudly waved White Power flags, the Polish far-right were also joined by foreign representatives of other extremist groups.

According to Adrian Bartos, spokesman for the All Poland Youth, more than 500 representatives of other nationalist parties from Spain, Germany and Hungary attended the demonstration. In his interview with Business Insider, Bartos said of the foreign far-right contingent:

"They are overjoyed by it, and they don't see the kind of mobilization we see in Poland in other European countries. I think this is happening in Poland because there is strong national identity among the inhabitants, the citizens of our country, and basically the majority see what is happening in the West."

The events "happening in the West," according to Bartos, include a steep rise in crime and sexual assault in Sweden and Germany, along with other countries that have accepted an influx of refugees in recent years. While the numbers of incidents continue to be inflated, they remain a rallying cry for the new European isolationist movements.

The hijacking of Independence Day by the far right even seemed to be lauded by the Polish government, with Polish Minister of the Interior Mariusz Blaszczak stating, "It was a beautiful sight... [We] are proud that so many Poles have decided to take part in a celebration connected to the Independence Day holiday."

One of the more curious slogans uttered, along with White Power chants, was "We Want God!", part of the chorus of an old religious song that was referenced by U.S. President Donald Trump during his visit last month to Poland. According to Rafal Pankowski, a sociologist and member of the anti-extremist association Never Again:

"We know that Donald Trump is not the most religious man, and I think that most of the organisers are not very religious, either...[but] they use Christianity as a kind of identity marker, which is mostly about being anti-Islam now."

When asked to elaborate his views, Blaszczack, the Interior Minister, glossed over the overtly nationalist insignia and extremists visible at the rally. The sentiment seemed to be shared even by protest participants who shrugged off the alarming nationalist presence.

"I'd say some people here do have extreme views, maybe even 30 percent of those marching, but 70 percent are simply walking peacefully, without shouting any fascist slogans," participant Kamil Staszalek told the BBC.

The November demonstration was met by a peaceful counter-protest led by anarchist groups, anti-fascist organizations and LGBT rights advocates, who mustered some 2,000 participants. Lidia Domańska, a member of the Warsaw Antifascist Collective, later stated why the groups were unable to more actively intervene in the far-right demonstration. "The Independence March Association, which has huge sums of money from businessmen and right-wing politicians, has the resources to invite fascists and neo-Nazis from all over Europe," she said.

During the course of the demonstration, police arrested 45 counter-protesters. No arrests were made among the extremist protesters, even after reports were filed about a group of nationalists who assaulted a group of women waving a "Stop Fascism" banner.

The events in Poland, however, only reflect a small part of the much larger picture that is manifesting currently in Europe. Motivated by the common enemy that is the E.U. with its openly international and pro-immigration policies, the new isolationist groups have fashioned themselves as an international political force bent on defending the ethnic identities of people on the Old Continent against an Islamic incursion.

This rebranding has gone a long way toward bolstering the popularity of far-right parties in Central Europe, giving organizations like the PVV a boost in recent polls in the Netherlands, allowing the Austrian FPOe to nearly snatch the presidency and catapulting parties like the Hungarian Jobbik and the Bulgrain United Patriots into top contender spots in coming elections. Even in Germany, where an Alternative for Deutschland (AfD) victory had been considered impossible, extreme nationalists are starting to gain traction.

At the movement's core, the far-right is speaking to a European population that is feeling confused by the blink-and-you'll-miss-it pace of international politics, let down by the disastrous and impersonal economic policies of the European Union, and in desperate need to preserve a cultural identity they feel is under attack.

Many speculate that the resurgence of the far-right could provoke Europe's left to finally abandon its liberal approach in regard to extremism and reassure voters that more than their identity is at stake if they side with the growing fascist movements. As for the European Union, perhaps this marks the clearest moment yet for politicians to stop what they're doing and pay real attention to the direction the continent is taking. For if the technocratic policies of Brussels are allowed to continue as they are, perhaps the Union's days are truly numbered.

Fascism's Return and Trump's War on Youth

Truth-Out - Sat, 12/16/2017 - 00:00

Students from numerous area high schools come together in Mariachi Plaza before continuing their march to City Hall to protest the upset election of Republican Donald Trump on November 14, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo: David McNew / Getty Images)

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Fascism is all too often relegated to the history books.

The word conjures up a period in which civilized societies treated democracy with contempt, engaged in acts of systemic violence, practised extermination and elimination, supported an "apocalyptic populism," suppressed dissent, promoted a hyper-nationalism, displayed contempt for women, embraced militarism as an absolute ideal and insisted on obedience to a self-proclaimed prophet.

But the seeds that produced such fascist horrors have once again sprung to life, returning in new social and political forms.

Today, a culture of fear dominates American society, one marked by massive inequities in wealth and power that not only uphold structures of domination, but also view differences as threats, compassion as weakness and shared responsibilities -- if not the common good itself -- as pathology.

Fascist thought is on the rise all over the world, but its most blatant and dangerous manifestation has emerged in the Trump administration.

Fear and the ethos of mass consumerism -- coupled with widespread insecurity and ignorance -- now drive people into a malignant notion of security, self-inflicted cynicism and into the arms of demagogues like Trump. For too many Americans, critical thinking and hope have given way to emotional bonding and the revival of the discourse of ultra-nationalism and bigotry.

Trump: Not Hitler, but Dangerous Nonetheless

Trump is not Hitler in that he has not created concentration camps, shut down the critical media or rounded up dissidents; moreover, the United States at the current historical moment is not the Weimar Republic.

But in the Trump era, remnants of fascism exist in different shapes and forms and include a celebration of the cult of the leader, systemic racism, the embrace of a toxic macho-populism and state support for ultra-nationalism, racism and the threat of violence against critics.

To read more articles by Henry A. Giroux and other authors in the Public Intellectual Project, click here.

All of these elements are evident in Trump's rhetoric and policy initiatives.

Trump's corporate brand of neoliberal fascism is highly visible in right-wing policies that favour deregulation, corporate power and the interests of the ultra-rich.

Instead of draining the corporate swamp, Trump has embraced the merging of corporate and political power, and in doing so has turned the state into a battering ram designed to serve the most powerful and wealthiest members of society.

Trump's mode of fascism is a unique product of our times, our commercial culture, and a corporate controlled media, all of which saps the foundations of a viable democracy.

American culture is advertising-saturated and celebrity-based, and has permitted a rich self-promoter to abandon any pretense of civility, accountability or integrity in order to hype, scam and market his way to power.

Call it Fascism, American-Style. It's returned in the shadow of neoliberalism, with its celebration of the market as the template for governing all of society and its concentration of economic and political power in relatively few hands.

Friendly With dictators

How else to explain Trump's unapologetic support and friendly attitude toward right-wing dictators such as the self-confessed killer, Rodrigo Duterte, president of the Philippines, Russia's Vladimir Putin and China's Xi Jinping, all of whom have a fawning attraction to Trump given he exhibits little interest in their massive human rights violations.

Trump's fascism is also on full display in his ramping up of the police state, his relentless racist rhetoric, taunts and policies that cast Blacks, immigrants and Muslims as people unworthy of respect, compassion and dignity, and in his support for a war culture.

The latter is marked by his expansion of the US military budget, his provocations aimed at North Korea and reckless policies such as recognizing Jerusalem the capital of Israel --  widely condemned by almost all world leaders  -- that destabilize the Middle East, Asia and other parts of the world.

But there are more subtle, if not under-examined, indicators that point to resurgence of fascist principles in the United States.

One of the most powerful is Trump's war on youth.

Finance capitalism now drives politics, governance and policy in unprecedented ways. And it's more than willing to sacrifice the future of young people for short-term political and economic gains, if not democracy itself.

In an apparent war on children, the Trump administration provides a disturbing index of a society in the midst of a deep moral and political crisis -- not the least of which was the president's support and defence of an accused serial pedophile, Roy Moore, in his unsuccessful attempt to win an Alabama Senate seat.

"Foreclosed Hope"

Too many young people today live in an era of foreclosed hope, an era in which it is difficult either to imagine a life beyond the tenets of a savage form of casino capitalism or to transcend the fear that any attempt to do so can only result in a more dreadful nightmare.

Youth today are not only plagued by the fragility and uncertainty of the present, they are, as the late Polish philosopher Zygmunt Bauman has argued, "the first post-war generation facing the prospect of downward mobility [in which the] plight of the outcast stretches to embrace a generation as a whole."

American youth, especially those marginalized by race and class, are subject to the dictates of the punishing state. Not only is their behaviour being criminalized in schools and on the streets, they are also subject to repressive forms of legislation.

Several states are sponsoring legislation that would make perfectly legal forms of protest a crime that carries a huge fine, or subjects young people to possible felony charges? Increasingly, young people are viewed as a public disorder, a dream now turned into a nightmare.

The most recent example is evident in budget and tax reform bills that shift millions of dollars away from social programs vital to the health of poor youth to the pockets of the ultra-rich, who hardly need tax deductions.

As US children's rights activist Marian Wright Adelman points out, such actions are particularly alarming and cruel at a time when "millions of America's children today are suffering from hunger, homelessness and hopelessness."

She adds: "Nearly 13.2 million children are poor -- almost one in five. About 70 per cent of them are children of colour, who will be a majority of our children by 2020. More than 1.2 million are homeless. About 14.8 million children struggle against hunger in food insecure households."

Cruel Mindset

The Trump administration is more than willing to pass massive tax cuts for the rich while at the same time refusing to fund the Children's Health Insurance Program, which supports over nine million children.

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, meantime, has argued that tax cuts shouldn't benefit the poor because they will just waste the money on booze and women.

So if you're not rich, it's because you're lazy. Really? Tell that to the 10,000 people, some of them children, who may die each year as a result of losing their health insurance due to the proposed Senate tax bill.

Such a mindset, and statements like Grassley's, are more than cruel, they represent a political and economic system that has abandoned any sense of moral and social responsibility.

In this view, children are undeserving of aid because offering such government support flies in the face of a ruthless neoliberal ideology that insists that the only responsibility of government is to aid the rich and powerful corporations.

If the poor are suffering and subject to harsh conditions, according to Grassley's logic, it is because of a lack of character.

Another under-analyzed example of Trump's war on youth can be seen his cancellation of the DACA program (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), instituted in 2012 by former president Barack Obama.

Under the program, over 800,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children or teens before 2007 were allowed to live, study and work in the United States without fear of deportation.

In revoking the program, Trump enacted a policy that is both cruel and racist, given that 78 per cent of DACA residents are from Mexico. These are the same immigrants Trump once labelled rapists, drug addicts and criminals.

Trump's contempt for the lives of young people, his support for a culture of cruelty and his appetite for destruction and civic catastrophe are more than a symptom of a society ruled almost exclusively by a market-driven survival of the fittest ethos.

"Systemic Derangement"

It is about the systemic derangement of democracy and emergence of fascist politics that celebrates the toxic pleasures of the authoritarian state with no regard for its children.

Trump is the apostle of moral blindness and unchecked corruption, and he revels in a mode of governance that merges his never-ending theatrics of self-promotion with deeply authoritarian politics.

One of the most disturbing features of Trump's fascism is his disregard for the truth and his embrace of an infantilism that demonstrates, for young people, a lack of any viable sense of critical thought, agency and commitment to social and economic justice.

What's more, Trump has unleashed a rancid populism and racist-fuelled ultra-nationalism that mimics older forms of fascism and creates a culture of cruelty that both disparages its children and cancels out a future that makes democracy possible for them -- and therefore all of us.

At the same time, Trump has embraced a merging of corporate power and politics that is characteristic of all fascist regimes, and in doing so, he has shifted wealth and resources away from vital social programs for young people into the hands of the financial elite.

There is more at work here than regressive tax policies, there is also an attempt to disable the welfare state by eliminating its funding.

Domestic Terrorism

One result is what might be called the unleashing of a form of domestic terrorism -- terrorism practised in one's own country against one's own people -- in which young people are subject to state violence and relegated to forms of terminal exclusion, spheres of social abandonment and set adrift in a state of disorientation and despair.

Under this new resurgence of fascism, thinking is dangerous, public spheres that promote critical thought are considered pathological and youth are viewed as a threatening disoriented class, especially those marginalized by race, sexual orientation and class.

And so under Trump, the winds of fascism have accelerated into a hurricane and pose a haunting crisis for youth, the future and democracy itself.

That crisis of youth under the Trump regime is a political disaster of the first order and threatens every vital cultural and political ideal, principle, social formation and public sphere that makes a democracy possible. It's best illustrated by Trump's support for Moore, a homophobe, unabashed racist and an accused child predator, sexual harasser and sexual abuser.

Yes, fascism us making a comeback and is with us once again -- yet Moore's defeat in the deep-red state of Alabama to his Democratic challenger gives us reason to hope. Black voters, particularly black women, and young voters stood up to say "no more."

Fascism requires those among us who value equity, fairness, justice and morality to defeat it. To stop fascism, it is crucial that we show that democracy is the only alternative, and that the grotesque elements of fascism will be challenged. Here's hoping Alabama is just the beginning of such a struggle.

Dig in: This Must Be the Winter of Our Discontent

Truth-Out - Sat, 12/16/2017 - 00:00

Activists stage an anti-Trump protest in front of the US Supreme Court January 23, 2017, in Washington, DC. The group, Refuse Fascism, called for a "must stop business as usual this week" to "stop the Trump/Pence regime." (Photo: Alex Wong / Getty Images)

I am afraid of spiders, sharks, cancer and clowns, but nothing terrifies me more than the sneaking suspicion I have that this administration and its poisonous politics are becoming normalized. This must be the winter of our discontent. So much good work is being done to resist, but it will all come to nothing if any of this mayhem is allowed to become routine.

Activists stage an anti-Trump protest in front of the US Supreme Court January 23, 2017, in Washington, DC. The group, Refuse Fascism, called for a "must stop business as usual this week" to "stop the Trump/Pence regime." (Photo: Alex Wong / Getty Images)

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Pretend I'm reading this right now in my very best Boris Karloff voice, because I have to play the Grinch for a bit. Yes, I know, everyone is still justifiably thrilled after all the hard work that brought about the Doug Jones victory in Alabama, and I am no exception; my first act on Tuesday was to wager any takers I could find that Roy Moore would win by eight points, but tellingly, no one wanted the bet.

I think I've never been so happy to be wrong in my life, and not just because I would have gotten cleaned out like the lint screen on the dryer. But why? Why was I and so many others so thoroughly convinced that a decent man like Doug Jones was doomed to defeat at the hands of an Old Testament carny huckster pedophile like Roy Moore? Lack of knowledge regarding Alabama politics doesn't explain it, not even by half.

With only a precious few notable exceptions, this past year has been seamless in its belligerent horror.

Why? Because scars are instructive. With only a precious few notable exceptions, this past year has been seamless in its belligerent horror, so of course Moore was going to win. Par for the course, right? This is what we've come to expect since that undercrowded DC day last January, so being wrong about losing in defiance of all well-earned expectations is the psychological version of having Handel's Messiah suddenly come blaring out of your fillings. Hallelujah.

The only way Roy Moore could have been a worse candidate was if he had actually been on fire during the entire campaign. Doing his stump speeches, having a quick burger, riding that silly horse, all of it while swaddled in flames with little charred bits of himself falling off every time he shook someone's hand.

Even so, even with his barge of inexcusable baggage in tow, Moore only lost by two points. Had the sexual misconduct charges not been aired before the election, and had Black organizers not exerted a massive effort to turn out the vote, like as not he would have won in a walk, and Mitch McConnell would be presently seeking the largest Ten Commandments monument on Earth so he can throw himself off it.

It was a huge win that went a long way toward saving Social Security and Medicare from the Paul Ryans of the world. However, it does not signal any significant sea change in US politics or government. Everything is not going to be OK now because Doug Jones won Jeff Sessions' old seat. Everything, in fact, is incredibly terrible and getting worse. In the short span of days since Jones was declared the winner, the blustering orange fascism currently tinting the national windshield got a whole hell of a lot darker.

I am afraid of spiders, sharks, cancer and clowns. Nothing terrifies me more, however, than the sneaking suspicion I have that all this is getting normalized.

Benito Mussolini invented fascism in a barn about 100 years ago, defining it as the union of state and corporate power. On Thursday, three people on the Federal Communications Commission went a long way toward cementing that union when they voted to strip the internet -- a public utility created with taxpayer money and available to all -- of all regulations designed to protect the very taxpayers who paid for it.

In short, they nationalized the sum of human knowledge, making it a great deal easier for corporations to block the flow of information, disrupt political discourse and make more money. The most extraordinary expression of free speech ever seen on the planet is now a wholly owned subsidiary of massive multinationals like Comcast and Verizon.

The last time an attack of this size against free speech and the flow of information took place was when the Fairness Doctrine -- which limited the number of media outlets a single entity could own in order to guarantee a diversity of perspectives -- was disposed of by the FCC in 1987. Soon after, the content available on virtually every TV channel, specifically the news content, was controlled by a small handful of corporate owners. How's that been working out for democracy so far? Oh, P.S., the FCC also just made it easier for those corporations to own even more TV stations and print publications.

Speaking of state and corporate power, the US Congress is about to deliver a trillion dollars of your money to a cadre of corporations and wealthy benefactors, a move that is guaranteed to shatter the federal government's ability to help tens of millions of people because … well, because screw you, that's why. The delivery of this vast fortune to its paymasters has been the core mission of the Republican Party since long before Reagan and his minions coughed up those first rhetorical hairballs about "trickle-down economics." With this tax bill, their mission is all but accomplished.

They laughed at Mussolini, too, until it became a crime to do so.

Public hesitation from Republican Senators Marco Rubio and Bob Corker made the math on the bill's passage theoretically interesting until just before sundown Friday evening, when both of them fell in line. No surprise there; Mitch McConnell didn't drag this stinking boar's carcass of a tax bill so far to see it fall to offal at the finish line. Rubio and Corker will wake up Christmas morning with a new Xbox under the tree and all the secret donor dark money they can count. With their votes secured and no other defections on the horizon, the bill will sail to final passage very soon. Thank you, Supply-Side Jesus. God bless us every one.

I am afraid of spiders, sharks, cancer and clowns, not necessarily in that order. Nothing terrifies me more, however, than the sneaking suspicion I have that all this is getting normalized. It is an unavoidable fact of human nature: the urge to cope. Wretched leaders for millennia have taken great advantage of the fact that many people will put up with an incredible amount of terrible crap for way longer than they should. They do this because they have to. Gotta work, gotta eat, gotta feed the family if you can, and if the roof caves in, at least the view will be different.

That's when the dangerous music starts. We are well beyond "It can't happen here." It has happened here, is happening, and will happen even more tomorrow. The militarization of police forces, the resurgence of white nationalism and the racist right, the hoarding of control over information, the labeling and culling of "undesirables," a state-inflicted climate of fear and, of course, the looting of the Treasury … take a high school world history textbook and throw it against the wall. When it lands, odds are it will open on a page describing a regime that did these very things on its journey down a highway littered with corpses.

This is what fascism looks, smells and sounds like before it breaks out of its egg and spreads its wings. This, right down to the clownish strongman screaming from the podium. They laughed at Mussolini, too, until it became a crime to do so. After that, the joke was on the world.

This must be the winter of our discontent.

I know you are dispirited, spent, offended, exasperated and mortally tired. This is the point when normalization of the intolerable takes root, the moment when the coping skills come out just to get through the day, and you find yourself doing the trigonometry of the damned just to make sense of it: A is worse than B but not as bad as C. Trump just ordered the deportation of millions of innocent people? Oh well, at least we didn't die in a pillar of nuclear fire today.

This, right here, is where we have to dig in. It is so bad and promises to get worse and we have to dig in. We cannot allow any of this to become even the tiniest bit normal, no matter how much it may cost us in body, mind and spirit. This must be the winter of our discontent. So much good work is being done to resist, so much more can be done and must be done, but it will all come to nothing if any of this mayhem is allowed to seem routine.

Stout hearts. Dig in. Embrace the winter. The alternative can be found in that history book you threw. It does not have a happy ending.

Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill'd with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew'd,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring -- What good amid these, O me, O life?

That you are here -- that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

-- Walt Whitman

Trump's Naming of Jerusalem Capital Brings Anger and Despair: An Interview With Richard Falk

Truth-Out - Sat, 12/16/2017 - 00:00

Trump's naming of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is not only a step backwards for the greatly flawed Israel/Palestine "peace process," it is another assault on multilateralism and the international cooperation that has underpinned world order since 1945, says Richard Falk.

Palestinians shout slogans during a demonstration against President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, in Gaza City, Gaza, on December 15, 2017. (Photo: Ali Jadallah / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images)

President Trump made history in naming Jerusalem the capital of Israel, as much of the world watched on with anger and despair. The moment comes as a crucial step backwards for the region's "peace process." In the background seemingly, Trump needs to sustain his base of support among Evangelicals and rich Jewish donors, but as for the effects, it seems that as usual, he couldn't care less.

Liberal US Jews, such as the advocacy group J-Street, are condemning the decision and they're right, of course, to condemn it. Theirs is a major task to bring about some respect for human rights in the US, at least at the leadership level. The move poses other challenges and questions. Will Trump move the Embassy? Does Trump have any thinking on the matter beyond his own ego? Or is this a further step toward organizing the reactionary bloc of Arab dictatorships as well as hyper-nationalist Israel? Is an alliance against Iran part of the strategy?

In this exclusive Truthout interview, former UN Special Rapporteur for Palestinian Human Rights Richard Falk helps to elaborate on these points and more. Falk argues that "what is already evident on the basis of the decision itself is the severe damage done to the global and regional leadership reputation of the United States. As well, the authority of the United Nations has been shown to be no match for geopolitical resolve, and international law and world public opinion have been pushed aside." Falk goes on to state that, "prospects for a diplomacy based on the equality of rights of Palestinians and Israelis have been reduced to zero, and thus no just end of the Palestinian ordeal can be foreseen."

This interview is dedicated to the late Edward S. Herman, the author of Manufacturing Consent.

Daniel Falcone: Can you comment on how the world is reacting to President Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital?

Richard Falk: As foolish as the world is about many issues of public policy, there seems to be not a shred of support for Trump's abrupt move, among foreign leaders or international public opinion, not among European liberal democracies that normally line up with the United States on policies associated with Israel/Palestine, and not even among Arab monarchs currently eager to induce Trump's further support for an escalating confrontation with Iran.

East Jerusalem is Palestinian territory subject to international humanitarian law, and was unlawfully incorporated by legal decree into Israel's sovereign territory.

Only in Israel, especially those supportive of the Netanyahu iron-fist approach to Palestinian issues, and among [American Israel Public Affairs Committee] enthusiasts and Christian Zionists does the provocative decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel as a prelude to moving the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem win mindless approval. Usually, Trump apologists contend that ... everybody knows that Jerusalem is Israel's capital, and thus, what Trump has done is nothing more than conform American policy to reality. Or some add the equally weightless argument that Israel has every right, as do all sovereign states, to locate its capital in whatever city it chooses. These arguments fall flat because East Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in 1967, is Palestinian territory subject to international humanitarian law, and was unlawfully incorporated by legal decree into Israel's sovereign territory.

At this point, the unified city of Jerusalem was declared by Israel to be the eternal capital of the Jewish people. Back in 1980, such Israeli unilateral efforts to incorporate and regulate Jerusalem as part of Israel, disregarding the international consensus on these issues, was strongly and unconditionally condemned by the [UN] Security Council in Resolution 478, which was unanimously adopted with the United States refraining from casting a veto, yet still preventing complete unanimity by abstaining.

ABC News and The Washington Post called the move "historic" and a "crucial step in the peace process." Given that this is largely false and mere rhetoric, what is really transpiring in the background?

Trump, without acknowledgement, is supporting Netanyahu's approach, [which] is centered upon repudiating the two-state consensus and avoids diplomatic approaches seeking any political compromise between Israel and Palestine that recognizes and implements the rights of both peoples on the basis of equality. In effect, Trump is aligning the US government with a repudiation of the Oslo framework, which depended to some degree on the United States playing the role, or at least pretending to do so, of honest broker. What Netanyahu's behavior implies is a unilaterally imposed "solution" that denies the Palestinian quest for statehood and any fulfillment of its related right of self-determination.

If unilateralism is blocked or rendered too costly politically, then Netanyahu is prepared to live indefinitely with the present circumstances that enable indefinite territorial expansion by Israel via the settlements, while simultaneously subjugating the Palestinian people by reliance upon a variety of apartheid structures of ethnic control. Territorial expansion has relied on incremental annexation as its principal instrument, exhibiting the Israeli belief that it is winning the end game in its long struggle to frustrate legitimate Palestinian national aspirations in the homeland of the Palestinian people.

It is an extraordinary paradox that Israel seems on the verge of establishing a de facto settler colony in an historical epoch that featured the collapse of colonialism, although any conclusion about Palestinian destiny is premature, especially as the flow of history has a way of reaching its goals, however unlikely such an outcome may presently seem.

Liberal US Jews, such as the advocacy group J-Street, are condemning the decision. What are your thoughts on their position and resistance?

In my view, liberal Zionism is particularly unhappy with the Trump recognition move because it strips away the illusionary commitment to implementing the two-state formula that was the core of liberal Zionist belief that a political compromise could be diplomatically achieved. Trump's acknowledgement of "reality" seems to accept the extremist views of Daniel Pipes and others that Israel has prevailed, that this is the time to celebrate the Israeli victory, and for the Palestinians to acknowledge defeat. Earlier American presidents have all supported a negotiated solution in which the United States serves as intermediary. With the settlement movement passing the point of no return some years ago and Israel feeling minimal recent pressure to compromise, the continued assertion of the two-state solution as the agreed goal of global policy was a classic example of a "zombie solution" in which public positions are connected with a mission that continues to be proclaimed although understood to be impossible. Such a zombie posture, however misleading, continues to be preferred by many actors, including the Palestinian Authority on one side and J-Street on the other.

The alternatives seemed more unpalatable, either acknowledging Palestinian defeat and admitting the triumph of "illiberal Zionism," or joining with those who say that since diplomacy has failed, the Palestinians have no choice but to resume armed struggle as their last best hope for securing their fundamental rights. At least by affirming a moribund two-state solution, liberal Zionists can sustain their commitment to Israel without giving up their belief in a political compromise that allows the Jewish state of Israel to coexist with a Palestinian state. 

Discuss how this shift makes it more difficult for the Palestinians to attain peace and security.

To some extent, my prior response answers part of this question. I am not sure that the Trump move makes it more difficult for Palestinians to achieve a sustainable peace on the basis of the equality of the two peoples. It is more difficult, undoubtedly, for the Palestinian Authority (PA), whose existence depends upon the repudiation of armed struggle combined with the viability of diplomacy within the Oslo framework. Their future is now more uncertain than ever.

Perhaps by reacting negatively to the Trump initiative, the PA will mobilize greater support for the nonviolent struggles on behalf of the Palestinians now being waged by Palestinian civil society and the global solidarity movement, especially in the [Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions] campaign, which becomes the only game in town for credible advocates of a nonviolent resolution of the conflict. What becomes more difficult is to pretend that the United States can any longer be a credible intermediary between the parties, or that Israel has any interest whatsoever in a diplomatic solution, other than possibly one that is geopolitically forced fed by some nefarious coalition, perhaps joining Saudi regional muscle to an American insistence.

Previously I've discussed with you the notion of the Israeli Embassy moving from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Will this serve as a first step to the potential moving of the embassy?

Yes, without a doubt, barring an apocalyptic backlash, the US government will begin the process of moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem. The extent of backlash may be directly affected by whether Washington makes the move incrementally and in a low-profile style, or proceeds in a Trumpian flamboyant manner. It is notable, of course, that no country in the world supports recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, except as the outcome of a negotiating process in which Jerusalem also is recognized as the capital of the Palestinian people.

In effect, what Trump has done is to make one more assault upon multilateralism and the benefits of international cooperation that has underpinned world order since 1945... By rejecting the UN consensus with respect to Jerusalem, the US is not only repudiating an internationalist approach, it is also exhibiting disdain for relevant rules of international law and the authority of the UN.

Note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

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Judge Napolitano Says the Bill of Rights Protections Are for Terrorists Too

Antiwarblog - Fri, 12/15/2017 - 22:40

Soon after word came out Monday that someone had detonated a bomb in a pedestrian tunnel of the New York City subway system, people were saying the alleged bomber should not be afforded respect for his constitutional rights and should be shipped off to the United States military’s Guantanamo prison in Cuba. Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Andrew Napolitano, however, argues in a new video commentary that it is important that the US government respect alleged bomber Akayed Ullah’s rights guaranteed under the US Constitution – including rights to be represented by a lawyer and to have a jury trial.

“We have hired a government to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution,” says Napolitano. “If it begins cutting corners for people it hates and fears,” he asks, “what will stop it from cutting corners for the rest of us?”

Watch Napolitano’s video commentary here:

Napolitano, who is a member of the Ron Paul Institute Advisory Board, wrote in more detail about the matter in a Wednesday editorial.

Reprinted from The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity.

Venezuela talks to resume in January after government, opposition fail to reach deal

Top Reuters News - Fri, 12/15/2017 - 22:06
CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's government and opposition leaders will hold a new round of talks in January after failing on Friday to reach an agreement to ease a deep political and economic crisis in the troubled OPEC country.

'Worst of the worst': Trump vilifies lottery visa immigrants

MiddleEasteye - Fri, 12/15/2017 - 21:25
Language Undefined

US president criticises 'chain immigration' in speech to law enforcement graduates

12/15/17 Will Porter on the undercounted civilian deaths in Yemen

LibertarianInstitute - Fri, 12/15/2017 - 20:59

Will Porter makes his debut on the Scott Horton Show to discuss his article for the Libertarian Institute, “Yemen’s Silent Numbers: Official Death Count Masks War’s Toll on Civilians.” Porter explains the numerous problems with the OHCHR’s civilian death count and why the estimates likely don’t reflect near the total number of civilians whose lives have been lost as a result of the war.

Will Porter writes for The Market Radical and NotBeingGoverned. Follow him on Twitter @WKPAnCap.

Discussed on the show:

Today’s show is sponsored by: The War State, by Mike Swanson; WallStreetWindow.comRoberts and Roberts Brokerage Inc.LibertyStickers.comTheBumperSticker.com; and ExpandDesigns.com/Scott.

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12/15/17 Will Porter on the undercounted civilian deaths in Yemen was first posted on December 15, 2017 at 7:59 pm.