Chill Factor: Wikileaks Trial is a Trump Travesty Aimed at Killing Truth

Written by Chris Floyd 26 February 2020 415 Hits

It doesn’t matter what you think of Julian Assange personally; his personality is not on trial. He is facing charges for one thing only: publishing incontrovertible evidence of US war crimes in Iraq. If he is extradited to the US and convicted, then every single media outlet that publishes evidence of government wrongdoing will face the same threat. That is the point of his prosecution: to put a chill of fear into every journalist and editor who receives evidence of government crimes.

The extraordinarily brutal treatment Assange is getting even as his extradition hearing goes forward this week is part of the chilling process. Here’s what any journalist who exposes state crimes has to look forward to:

"Day 2 proceedings had started with a statement from Edward Fitzgerald, Assange’s QC, that shook us rudely into life. He stated that yesterday, on the first day of trial, Julian had twice been stripped naked and searched, eleven times been handcuffed, and five times been locked up in different holding cells. On top of this, all of his court documents had been taken from him by the prison authorities, including privileged communications between his lawyers and himself, and he had been left with no ability to prepare to participate in today’s proceedings."

Throughout the hearing, Assange is locked in a glass box, forbidden any human contact. Meanwhile, the judge openly derides the defense, interfering with their presentation. Even so, their case was devastating. Using actual evidence from the US government itself, they demolished, point by point, the accusations put forward by the Trump administration. 

The Trump lawyers claim that Assange told Chelsea Manning how to break into the classified computer files that she later released. Yet the US government’s own evidence in its trial of Manning clearly showed she already had access to the files — as did thousands of other personnel — before she ever contacted Wikileaks. Wikileaks played no part at all in procuring the files, which is the heart of the Trump team’s ostensible case.

The second element of the case involves Wikileaks’ release of unredacted documents from Manning. The Trump lawyers claim that Wikileaks knew the release would put agents at risk but did it anyway. Here too the actual facts, again backed up by the US government’s own evidence, are devastating. Wikileaks only published the unreacted files after writers from the Guardian had given away the secret encryption code in a published book – despite Wikileaks’ frantic pleas for them not to do this. After the Guardian writers had published the code, Wikileaks contacted the US government to warn them of the possible dangers. US officials did nothing, leaving agents exposed to any enemy who could now, thanks to the Guardian, obtain all the thousands of files. After the government failed to act, Wikileaks then published the already obtainable files so that any agent named in them could at least know what information was out there on them.

In any case, US government prosecutors themselves clearly confirmed in the Manning trial that, in the end, no US agents or personnel had come to harm from the release of the files. They also confirmed that Wikileaks informed the US government that the encryption code – which Wikileaks had given to the Guardian when working together to release carefully redacted excerpts from the documents — had been broken. It was the Guardian writers and their publishers who actually gave any potential enemy the keys to the classified files. By the US government’s own admissions in a court of law, Wikileaks tried to stop the release of unredacted materials, then frantically sought to work with the US government to mitigate any harm, and only published them after they were already widely obtainable — and again, only in order to mitigate any harm for agents who didn’t know they’d been exposed by the Guardian writers. 

In short, the Trump lawyers have absolutely no case for Assange’s extradition. Their charges are transparently false, and are refuted by the US government’s own evidence in previous trials. But in the end, this is not going to matter. The judge who is the sole decider in the case has clearly made up her mind. In one of several of her extraordinary interventions into the case, she declared yesterday that evidence of the United States government’s own trial against Chelsea Manning could not be used as facts in the extradition hearing. Yes, you read it right. The facts established and accepted by the US government in court proceedings cannot be used as facts in a court proceeding involving the US government. The Trump prosecutors have taken the same line: “Yes, we know the US government confirmed these facts before, but we’re saying that doesn’t matter. The new facts are now the false facts we’re presenting here.”

I don’t know how anyone can call themselves a journalist — or just an ordinary concerned citizen of what are supposed to be the democracies of the United States and Great Britain — and not feel a deep chill, and hot outrage, at these proceedings. American liberals turn a blind eye because Wikileaks published emails that embarrassed Hillary Clinton and they believe Assange is an unsavoury character. But again, none of this has anything to do with Assange’s personality or with Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump or Vladimir Putin or any of that. A publisher is being prosecuted for publishing incontrovertible evidence of government crimes. He is facing demonstrably false charges by a government that is openly dismissing its own previous admissions and evidence. He is being openly abused in the prison system. If this was happening to a publisher in Russia or China or Iran, there would be endless outrage across the Western media. But the extradition hearing is getting little or no coverage at all.

If Assange is extradited and convicted of these false charges, then we will have taken another giant leap down the road of authoritarianism. If this doesn’t bother you, then please don’t bother telling us what a “resister” you are. 

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Shades of 68: How Far Will Our Elites Go to Stop Sanders?

Written by Chris Floyd 22 February 2020 1119 Hits

Because I have teenage children who sometimes look to me to give them a sense of hope for the future, I try to be as optimistic as I can whenever we talk of US politics and the possibility of positive change in the nation’s dire situation. The success so far of Bernie Sanders’ campaign is one thing they cling to in hoping that the world they inherit will not be as unrelentingly bleak as it now appears it will be. But in my deepest heart, here is what I truly believe: the bipartisan US power structure will never allow Bernie Sanders to be president, and they will use any and all means necessary to prevent this from happening.

Having been raised in a politically active family, I've followed US politics for more than half a century, and I witnessed the decisive period from April 4 to June 5 in 1968, when clear markers were laid down on what happens to those who are perceived to pose a genuine threat to the power structure. I don't hero-worship Sanders and disagree with some of his stances, particularly on foreign policy. But I do think he poses the most serious, genuine threat to the US power structure that we have seen since that period.

Of course, over the years, more sophisticated, less visceral methods have been developed for removing credible threats to the system. For example, the so-called liberal media – NYT, WP, MSNBC – now act as uncritical pipelines for whatever gaslighting propaganda the intelligence services wish to inject into the political process. This was always true of the establishment press to some extent, but any vestiges of skepticism about the proven ratfucking propensities of the "intelligence community" have long been discarded by liberals. This servile credulity, along with social media & other factors, makes it easier to kneecap a threat to the power system without resorting to the cruder methods of the past.

But Sanders' growing popularity, even in the face of relentless sandbagging and ratfucking, represents an "unknown unknown" for the power structure. Thus, while it remains likely that some combination of their sleeker, modern take-down methods will do the trick, I think we should still bear in mind the lessons of history, and recognize just how far the power structure will be prepared to go to neutralize any substantial, credible threat to its dominance. If you think they’re not capable or willing to resort to the most ultimate measures in this regard, then you are simply, wilfully ignoring the historical evidence of our own lives and times – evidence that of course goes far beyond a single three-month span in 1968.

I should note that in this, as with almost everything I've written about US politics in this godforsaken century, I sincerely hope I'm wrong in my darker view of things. But that said, it's certainly proven true that even the darkest predictions of how things will play out in our wretched era have fallen short, time and again, of the even darker realities as we spiral down further into the abyss.

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Thanks, Founding Dads! How Trump Could Lose Popular & Electoral Vote and Still Win

Written by Chris Floyd 20 February 2020 826 Hits

Due to the American political system's in-built, fundamental, anti-democratic nature, it is entirely possibly that Donald Trump could be re-elected in 2020 even if he loses the popular vote by millions of votes AND also loses the Electoral College (the 18th-century system-rigging gimmick that gave the vote-loser his "victory" last time). And it would all be perfectly fair and square under our unfair, unsquare system, as the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics reports.

How is this possible? Simple. If neither candidate wins the required 270 Electoral College votes, then the House of Representatives must choose the president from the candidates who won electoral votes. But here's the trick: it wouldn't be a vote of all the elected representatives in the House. No; each state delegation gets only one vote. So even though the Democrats now have a strong majority in the House and (as in the Senate) actually represent many millions more people than the Republicans, the GOP controls a majority of the state delegation: 26 to 23. (The Pennsylvania delegation is evenly split between the parties.)

That balance, by state, is not expected to change in the 2020 election. Thus, the 26 GOP state delegations – which, again, are here reduced to a single vote, no matter how large or politically diverse the delegation actually is  – could vote for Trump. Therefore, even if Trump loses the popular vote by five million votes or more, and also loses in the Electoral College, he could still be the "legitimate" president of the United States.

Of course, this is still a very unlikely scenario – although it's happened once before, in 1828, when John Quincy Adams was chosen by the House despite losing the popular vote by 11% and finishing 15 votes behind in the Electoral College. But anyone who's seen the lockstep extremists of the modern GOP in action knows they would be perfectly capable of re-installing Trump even if he had (once again) been repudiated by the voters at the ballot box. (And who would pick the VP? The Senate – although in this case, all 100 individual senators could vote as they pleased.)

I defy anyone to look at such a system and declare it is the "greatest democracy on earth." It was expressly designed to put as many obstacles as possible in the way of ordinary citizens expressing their will through the electoral process. And of course, the Founding Fathers originally excluded the vast majority of the populace from voting altogether; they openly intended for wealthy elites (like George Washington, the richest man in America) to rule. A broader democracy was wrung from the elites – grudgingly, bit by bit – through generations of struggle. Now we are watching it be stripped away, bit by bit, as we sink back to the Founders' ideal of a nation controlled by white, wealthy elites.

So today, even as we fight to keep the last vestiges of that hard-won broader democracy, we should bear in mind the urgent necessity of making deep the kind of structural changes in our undemocratic electoral process that will ensure that this ludicrous and sinister situation never arises again.

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The Human Losers or the Husks in Power: Which Side Are You On?

Written by Chris Floyd 17 February 2020 1464 Hits

Dying behind bars: 33-year-old inmate’s stage 4 cancer going untreated in Alabama prison

My best friend from high school was in and out of the prison system the last two decades of his life. He was a drug addict. This was before the opioid epidemic; his poison was crack cocaine. His father had been a raging, violent alcoholic and his mother was a broken woman with chronic illnesses. My friend spent most of his adult life trying to take care of her.  

His addiction put in him in dire need of cash all the time, even as it made it impossible for him to hold a steady job. It drove him to do stupid things. He once stole my car and sold my son’s schoolbooks, which were in the back seat, to get some cash. He would bang on my door late at night, asking for some money to keep the dealers he owed from giving him a beat-down. He finally ended up stealing items from his mother’s house and pawning them. He went to jail for that, then for the next several years kept going back to jail for various probation violations: often for getting caught drinking in public somewhere. 

He eventually did a 13-month stretch in state prison, where he danced a fine line between the violent, racially polarized gangs that the prison authorities allowed to run amok. He refused to join the white racists but was regarded warily by the black gangs. He got beatings from people on both sides but was also able, sometimes, to act as a peacemaker between them.

When he got out of the pen, his life continued largely as before. He tried to set himself up as an independent contractor, doing house repairs, roofing, carpet laying, yard work. His mother died. He had long lost custody of his only son. He still struggled with crack, but dulled his psychic pain mostly with alcohol. He died at some point in his fifties, found in his cheap apartment two or three days after his death, corpse bloated in the sweltering heat of a Tennessee summer.

That’s it. That was his life. That’s all he had. He was a dope addict. He was a convicted criminal. He was a repeat offender. He was a desperate liar and a thief. He was a lost soul of no use to the society he lived in and then he died. That’s it. 

He was also — without exaggeration or nostalgic sentimentality — the kindest, most sweet-natured, open and gentle person you could ever meet. He loved music with a passion so deep it touched the core of the earth. His failings tormented him like hot coals. He couldn’t understand what had happened to him, why he couldn’t escape addiction, why his mind was so muddled, why it wouldn’t stop roaring long enough for him to ever gather himself and be real, be whole, be normal.

He was beaten and threatened all through his boyhood. Even in high school he was a nervous wreck. He used to sneak down to our house in the middle of the night after a row with his father and try to sleep in the hedgerow of our yard, or else on our back porch. Fortunately, the dogs would always alert us, and we’d find him and bring him in, make a bed for him on the couch. He loved my family with a searing love that never abated for the 50 years he knew us. 

I think of my friend whenever I hear some bullshit-bloated politician or commentator dismissing the humanity and dignity of criminals and prisoners. I thought of my friend today, when I read a story about Jonathan Faircloth, a 33-year-old prisoner in Alabama dying of colon and liver cancer that’s being left untreated by the authorities. He too was back in prison for probation violations — another drug addict who, while trying to make a normal life for his wife and children, got slam-banged by his addiction again.

I thought of my friend when I read the reply of Etowah County Sheriff Jonathon Horton after the Alabama media asked him about this human being left to die without treatment: 

"He's using his sickness as an excuse to get out of jail over and over again. In layman's terms, he just ran out of his chances. So the judge revoked [his probation] and says he has to serve his days," Horton said.

He using his sickness — his Stage 4 colon cancer which has now spread to his liver and will kill him, if left untreated, by next year if not before — as an “excuse.” An excuse. Stage 4 cancer as an excuse.

I read these words, and I think of the countless sons of bitches across the country howling for ever-more punitive degradations — the dimwitted bulls in their stupid, prissy knit uniforms like this Etowah goober, the tee-shirted assholes pounding out inhumane bullshit on Twitter, the sleek politicians in designer suits, and the millions and millions of people committing spiritual suicide by attending to the brutal, barbaric blather of these walking, rotting husks.

I think of them, and I think of my friend — a parole-violating drug-addicted repeat-offending criminal of no use to the society he lived in — and I know — by God, I know! — which side I’m on.

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Some initial notes on "The Long Dark"

Written by Chris Floyd 07 February 2020 2138 Hits

Scratched down in a notebook in a cafe during a lunch hour, in a grim week of bad news. More to come, perhaps:

We are in the Long Dark now. Both hope and despair are the enemies of our survival. We must live in the awareness that we might not see the light come back, without ceasing to work — with empathy, anger and knowledge — for its return.

We must be here, in the moment, experiencing its fullness (whatever its horrors or joys), yet be elsewhere, removed from the madness pouring in from every side, the avalanche of degradation. We must be here, now, but also in a future we can’t see or even imagine.

We must see that we are lost, with no clear way forward, no sureties or verities to cling to, no roots to anchor us, no structures within or without that will always keep their coalescence in the chaotic, surging flow.

We must live in discrete moments of illumination and connection, pearls hung on an almost invisible string winding through the darkness. Striving, always striving, but not expecting; striving without hope, without despair, without any certainty at all as to the outcome, good or bad.

These are the conditions of the Long Dark, this is what we have to work with, this is where we find ourselves in the brief time we have in this vast, indifferent, astounding universe. As I once wrote long ago, quoting the old hymn: “Work, for the night is coming.”

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Potomac Kabuki: Dems Deliberately Ignore Corruption for Doomed Impeachment Ploy

Written by Chris Floyd 05 February 2020 2688 Hits

Today the US Senate acquitted Donald Trump on impeachment charges that should have never been brought. Faced with a mountain of open corruption, the Democrats chose to bring the weakest charge imaginable, one that involved subjective interpretations of conversations (some second-hand), the temporary withholding of weapons that Barack Obama refused to give to Ukraine – and the political fortunes of a top Democrat, ensuring that the entire case would be super-charged with partisan wrangling. This was a recipe for failure from the very start — and it is very hard to believe that the House leaders didn’t know this.

There was an alternative. They could have easily impeached Trump for his rampant, daily criminal violations of the Emoluments clause of the Constitution. From the very first hour of his presidency, Trump — who brazenly refused to use even the fig leaf of a ‘blind trust’ but kept direct control of all of his financial interests — has been putting money directly into his own pocket from foreign countries, foreign companies and domestic enterprises who have business with the government. This happens at his many resorts, pleasure palaces and rental properties all over the world, but for efficiency’s sake, the case could have been focused on a single entity: the Trump International Hotel  in Washington, DC. 

To impeach Trump for the largest bribery and corruption scam in U.S. history, the only thing the House Democrats would have needed were the receipts from the DC hotel. These would have proved, irrefutably, in black and white, that Donald J. Trump had committed impeachable offences and should be removed from office. That’s it. No need for witnesses or subjective interpretations — or for trembly, ludicrous claims of fending off a Russian invasion of the United States. All the House needed to say to the Senate was this: “Here are the receipts. These bribes were paid to the president’s business interests and he accepted them. Now vote.”

Would the GOP senate — a gaggle of extremists, dimbulbs and corporate bagmen — have still voted to acquit Trump? Perhaps. But it would have been infinitely harder to muddy the waters  — and infinitely easier to raise public pressure — with a charge of straightforward, crystal clear, undeniable bribery. No “moderates” bleating on CNN: “Well, he probably shouldn’t have been so heavy handed, but hey, no harm done; Ukraine got the weapons and didn’t dig up dirt on Biden, so why be so draconian about it?” No, they would’ve had to stand up and say straight out: “Yes, this is bribery, but I’m not going to do anything about it.” Even thoroughly corrupt figures like Lamar Alexander might have blenched at having to be as blatant as that.

But the House leadership made a very deliberate, very considered decision NOT to impeach Trump for his open bribery. Indeed, they are not even investigating it: no special committees probing government corruption, no public hearings highlighting Trump’s monstrous depredations — nothing. No probes of Trump’s top advisors — his daughter and son-in-law — pocketing millions of dollars from foreign governments (such as China) with a direct interest in influencing American policy. The House leadership has made no sustained, systematic, high-profile effort to use all the powers at their command — or any of the powers at their command — to bring the unprecedented corruption of the Trump administration to justice … or even to the public’s attention. This has been one of the most monumental, tragic and destructive failures in American political history, an outrageous dereliction of duty that will have immense consequences for the nation and the world for decades to come. 

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The Hallucinated Nation: Living in a Fever Dream

Written by Chris Floyd 31 January 2020 3422 Hits

"Well, the train has pulled into the station:
It's putting out a poison steam.
The cloud is rolling across the platform;
It's like you're living in a fever dream..."


Don't Get on the Train, by the Holy Fools

One reason why it’s so hard to get a handle on American politics, to say anything sensible about it, is that it takes place almost entirely in a hallucination. The country that most Americans feel they are living in does not actually exist. 

In this, as in so many other ways, Trump’s reign has been a powerful – I would even say unprecedented – rending of the veils. Just as he has shown us the true face of the gangster capitalism that has long lurked behind the mask of law; just as he has revealed the howling, lashing race-hate and Other-fear at the root of American Exceptionalism; just as he has stripped bare our long-proclaimed, utterly hollow pieties about family, fidelity, personal morality, honesty, civility, knowledge and prudence; so has he revealed to us the genuine irreality and freakishness of American actuality. For where else but in a bizarre and brutal freak show could someone like Trump rise to the pinnacle of power — and what’s more, literally be worshipped by millions of people?

“Human kind cannot bear very much reality,” as that old Missouri tomcat, T.S. Eliot, once said. But Americans now seem unable to bear any reality at all. Witness the earnest liberals of today, those who tout their “complex” – even “dark” – view of American society. They “know” that the nation was built wholly on the hideous evils of slavery and genocide, sustained over centuries. They “know” that these foundational American systems of rapine and domination have been extended across the face of the earth. They “know” our military has committed (and enabled) sickening atrocities and mass murder throughout the whole of our history, right down to this very hour. They “know” our “intelligence community” (one of the more sick-making expressions in the American lexicon) engage in surveillance, subversion, coups, assassinations – skullduggeries of every imaginable stripe. (And no doubt some that we proles have not yet imagined.) 

They “know” our “law enforcement agencies” have become bristling, militarized occupation forces, gunning down minorities with literal impunity while demanding blind obedience and copious tribute in form of tax money. (As I write this, the Attorney General of the United States has just stated openly that police work in America is a protection racket, not a public service. If certain unspecified communities don’t start paying more respect to cops, says Bill Barr, then “they might find themselves without the police protection they need.” I’m also writing this on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Black Panther leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark at the hands of Chicago police and the FBI.) These good liberals even watch Martin Scorsese movies and “know” that the criminal “underworld” is so intimately and corruptly entwined with the “overworld” of politics and business that there is no discernible borderline between these realms.

But dip into the timeline of any number of these earnest folks and you will find a touching, childlike belief in the essential goodness and rightness of the “American experiment” — however much the noble character of this bold and progressive adventure has been tragically perverted by one’s political opponents at any given time. You will find that despite “knowing” all of the above, they don’t actually live in that grim reality but in a dream world, where the CIA and FBI — known purveyors of murder, lies and gargantuan corruption — have become “heroes of the resistance,” moral champions motivated solely by selfless public service and faithful adherence to our “true” ideals. They’ll even enthusiastically push CIA agents and imperial warriors for public office.

Elsewhere, you’ll see ghastly imperial time-servers like Robert Mueller – who fervently pushed the lies that led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people in Iraq – serenaded by “edgy” comedians on national television and beseeched by the millionaire “journalists” of MSNBC to save us. You’ll see Nancy Pelosi – the multimillionaire Speaker who, as I write, has just sneeringly dismissed her own party’s belated efforts to begin to address the climate catastrophe as “the green dream or whatever,” casually condemning generations of all those outside the cocoon of riches, power and privilege that she shares with Trump to a beastly future in a blighted landscape — treated with fandom gush as a “cool, badass woman,” fighting for the common people. 

Again, we’re speaking here of good liberals, highly educated people “in the know,” people who are “savvy,” who are proud of their complicated, critical, conflicted patriotism — so much more nuanced than the blind, cartoonish faith of the Right. Yet even they feel there exists some normative, essential goodness in the American character: in the nation’s history, society, politics – indeed, in its very teleology, which they believe actually exists and is, like the arc of the universe in the 19th-century quote made famous by Martin Luther King Jr., forever “bending toward justice.” And thus all the manifest evils that have beset the “American experiment” since the beginning – and are overwhelming it like a tsunami today – are seen as aberrations and terrible distortions of what the country really is.

How can there be a sensible way forward for a people trapped in such a fever dream?

(This is my latest column for the print version of CounterPunch.)

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Internal Exiles in a Hard-Hearted World

Written by Chris Floyd 13 December 2019 8375 Hits

The UK election is over. Now many Britons will have to learn what so many of us Americans learned long ago: you don’t live in the country you thought you lived in. The country you live in is a much colder, meaner, nastier, more bitter, unfeeling and hard-hearted place than you ever imagined. You will also have to learn what many Americans have learned, over many decades: to follow the example of the Soviet dissidents of yore, and become an “internal exile,” fighting to hold on to and, as best you can, to transmit the richer, deeper, more humane values of our common humanity, even as you live in alienation from the unfeeling power structures that surround you. It is a sad lesson to learn, a sad way to live — but in the corrupted currents of this world, it is the only honourable and decent way to conduct your life and preserve your sanity. It’s a hard road, yes, but let us bear the journey together, in solidarity, revelling in every drop of joy and meaning we can find, while we continue to fight the good fight and, in the words of the American bard, “strengthen the things that remain.”

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Manliness is a Warm Gun (Bang Bang Shoot Shoot): A colloquy with David French of the National Review

Written by Chris Floyd 06 August 2019 18087 Hits

In response to the mass slaughters this week, the "writer" and "political thinker" David French tweets: 

“Few things concentrate the mind more than the terrifying knowledge that a person might want to kill someone you love. It makes you aware of your acute vulnerability.  [Here’s] why a criminal who comes to our house will face the business end of an AR-15….

French then links to an article he wrote for National Review -- complete with a picture of AR-15s “on sale while supplies last" -- which speaks of death threats he's received. (You will forgive me if I don’t link to the story. It’s not my job to feed the gibbering, moaning shade of William Buckley with the clicks he craves to ease his suffering in the shivering precincts of Hades.)

Upon reading French's chest-pounding discharge, I then gave what I believe is a reasoned, dispassionate, yea philosophical reply (edited here to eliminate the tweet-breaks):

And what if they come IN blasting with the "business end" of an AR-15? The Dayton guy killed 9 people in 30 seconds, with cops there who had the "business end" of their guns primed to go. God, the sickening faux-toughness of you cringing, rightwing cowards.

And by the way, I grew up in the so-called "real" America -- the white rural South -- that all you wingers have wet dreams about. And we slept with our goddamned doors unlocked. Why? Because back then there weren't a million fake tough-guys running around substituting AR-15s for their manhood.

And I'll tell you something else for nothing. I've had death threats ever since I started criticizing YOUR dipshit leader Bush Jr. in print years ago. I get them now from your fellow rightwing fake tough guys. And I wouldn't have one of your penis-substitutes in my house. Why?

Because I'm not a cringing little coward who would put my own children at risk with deadly weapons in the house just so I can do John Wayne cosplay oiling the "business end" of my AR-15. The "business end" of your oiled metal dildo won't keep you or your family safe from the gun culture you rightwing dipshits have been pushing for decades. YOU and all your fellow rightwing travellers have flooded the country with guns, even as your extremism -- yes, even the "Never-Trumpers" -- have pushed violence and hatred at every turn.

You want to protect your family? Then fight against the gun culture, fight against rightwing hatred, fight against the disempowerment and despair you rightwing extremists have advanced for decades, fight against the militarization and brutalization of our whole society which both you and your fellow travellers, the "centrist," interventionist neoliberal Democrats, have imposed on our collapsing, corroded, corrupted land. 

"Business end of an AR-15." Jesus Christ, aren't you ashamed before your family to be so damned pathetic?

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Witness for the non-Prosecution: Mueller, Pelosi and Trump's Likely Triumph

Written by Chris Floyd 25 July 2019 18324 Hits

Robert Mueller’s testimony on Wednesday was the very definition of anti-climax. After months of frantic build-up by the ‘Resistance’ (“At last, Mueller is going to nail Trump to the wall!”) Mueller merely noted — mildly, haltingly but correctly — that his report laid out evidence of obstruction of justice, and that is up to the House of Representatives to decide whether to use this evidence to impeach the president or not. This is precisely what we knew months ago. The report he released had already said all he had to say. His testimony was never going to add anything to this. Democratic leaders knew this, and they used the months of legal machinations that it took to secure his testimony as a craven way to avoid their responsibility for this decision a little longer. So we are now where we were before: does the House want to bring articles of impeachment for obstruction of justice in the ‘Russiagate’ case, or not? Mueller cannot and never could do this for them.

Of course, as I have noted here and elsewhere ad nauseam, I believe there are many other, more clear-cut grounds for impeachment that the House could bring right now, without any reference to Mueller’s investigation at all. This includes violations of emoluments clause, as Trump personally and directly enriches himself every day with money from foreign states and their bagmen at his resorts and hotels: a clear violation of the constitution. The Democrats decided instead to put all their eggs in Mueller’s basket. OK, fine. He made his investigation into what was ultimately a very small corner of Trump’s vast heap of high crimes and misdemeanors; and from this, he produced evidence to impeach on grounds of obstruction of justice, as Trump and his minions clearly tried to impede the investigation into a conspiracy with the Russians. (A conspiracy for which, he again noted, he found no evidence. But obstruction of an official investigation is still a serious crime in itself, whatever the veracity of the underlying cause for the investigation.)

So: will the House take the single egg of obstruction in Mueller’s basket (from which they once hoped to procure a cornucopia of conspiracy charges) — or not? I think we already have our answer. They could have used his report to initiate impeachment on these grounds long ago. His testimony added nothing to what they already had. (And they knew it wouldn’t.) The only real effect of the hearings was to prove what we already knew: that the Democrats are not as good at inquisitorial theater as the Republicans (“Benghazi!!!”). 

Nancy Pelosi continues to insist that there can be no impeachment without charges so flagrant that even hardcore extremist Republicans will go along with them. And she knows — as we all do — that there will never be any charges, however flagrant or heinous, that will compel these extremists to support impeachment.** She has adopted a threshold for impeachment that she knows will not and cannot ever be reached. So there will be no impeachment of Trump by this House as long as Pelosi and her cohort are in charge. Not for obstruction; not for emoluments; not for anything. 

Yet anything less than impeachment benefits Trump. Anything less than the formal, legal, relentless, daily, national hearings on his malfeasance that impeachment would produce benefits Trump. Yes, he knows, as we all know, that the Republican-led Senate will not vote to convict him. But it is undeniable that an impeachment process that would compel constant media attention to the careful, documented laying out of his crimes and misdemeanors would inflict heavy political damage and force the Trumpists to expend enormous amounts of time, energy, money and attention to fighting the charges. It would also be the right and dutiful thing to do, if that matters.

It doesn’t take any special insight to see this. It’s as plain as the scorching sun beating down on our burning world at midday. I can see it. You can see it. And it is certain that Nancy Pelosi and her cohorts can see it. So we come back to the same question that’s vexed our politics since the Democrats wrested back control of the House: why doesn’t Nancy Pelosi and her cohorts do anything about it?

And, tragically, we can only keep coming back to the same answer: because THEY DO NOT WANT TO. And so until our ‘Resistance’ recognizes this incontrovertible fact, we will continue on a course that seems more and more likely to end in Trump’s re-election — and the unimaginable horrors that will follow.

(**Just as there would never have been any Democratic support for impeaching Barack Obama for, say, colluding with Saudi Arabia to impose mass death, famine and other war crimes on Yemen.)

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No Call for Muellers: Impeachment Made Easy

Written by Chris Floyd 17 July 2019 18842 Hits

This is one of my recent columns for the print version of CounterPunch. It was written several weeks ago. But the only thing that's really changed is that Nancy Pelosi's resistance to impeachment has grown even more adamant, even as the grounds for impeachment reach ever-more monstrous heights.

The impeachment conundrum is remarkably simple. As I’ve said before, every single day of his presidency, Donald Trump violates the emoluments clause in myriad ways, all of them eminently impeachable. We don't need to know how many angels can dance on the spine of the Mueller Report; we don't need to parse every utterance of that grim-jawed investigator as if it issued from the oracle at Delphi.

Again: Trump commits impeachable violations of the Constitution every day, and has done so since he was inaugurated. He could've easily avoided this by making different financial arrangements, but he chose not to. He chose to keep putting the profits of his businesses – with their innumerable foreign entanglements – directly into his own pocket. This is not lawful, not constitutional. And it happens in broad daylight, day in, day out. If you want to impeach Trump, you don't have to deal with Russian collusion or obstruction of justice or indeed any issue investigated by Robert Mueller.

I've said repeatedly that putting virtually the entire focus of opposition to Trump on a narrow probe into the murky world of espionage – where all is inference, indirection and plausible deniability – would end badly, and it has. The ‘Resistance’ struck the prince — but with a blunt, clumsy weapon. Trump is still standing, claiming victory and martyrdom, and he’s now using the power of the state to go after his political enemies.

As I’m writing this, Nancy Pelosi is still resisting impeachment with every bit of backroom guile and chop logic at her command. Of course, by the time this is published, she might well have succumbed to pressure and finally instigated the procedure in the House. (As always with our stalwart party of Demos, it will depend on what the donor class prefers.) But it’s certain that any impeachment process will be based on the Mueller investigation; it will stand or fall on that thin reed. Because the leaders of the ‘Resistance’ have decided that the only way to get to Trump is through Mueller.

The liberal lionization of Robert Mueller has always been a ring-tailed wonder to behold. Comedians fawn on him; columnists rhapsodize about him; why, his media avatar is no less than Robert DeNiro himself, who portrays him on Saturday Night Live. DeNiro even writes op-eds in the NY Times, urging Mueller to be more like his portrayal. (Of course when he’s not helping direct the affairs of the American Republic, DeNiro can currently be seen on British TV screens in a glitzy ad series for a bagel company.)

Many Resisters have expressed — more in sorrow than in anger — some disappointment in their champion for not producing a more forthright report, red-hot with smoking guns. But anyone whose knowledge of US political history began before November 8, 2016, might have suspected such an outcome. After all, Mueller, a longtime GOP apparatchik, played a key role in covering up government complicity in one of the biggest criminal conspiracies in history – the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, as I’ve noted in stories going back to 2006. In journalist Christopher Bryon’s apt description, BCCI “engaged in pandemic bribery of officials in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas. It laundered money on a global scale … engaged in extortion and blackmail. It supplied the financing for illegal arms trafficking and global terrorism. It financed and facilitated income tax evasion, smuggling and prostitution." And the Bush I boys, along with a goodly portion of the bipartisan political establishment, were neck-deep in BCCI sleaze.

When a scandal at a BCCI-connected bank in Atlanta forced the feds to act, GHW Bush moved quickly to suppress the probe. Lawyers for the companies involved were appointed to the investigation team, which was headed by a safe pair of hands: Bob Mueller. Again, as I've noted elsewhere, the investigation was mysteriously botched: evidence got lost, witnesses disappeared. There was some wrist-slapping of low-hanging fruit, but Team Bush escaped with its many ties to BCCI (including Bush’s surreptitious arming of Saddam Hussein) left hidden.

A few years later, the family factotum got his reward: Bush Junior made Mueller head of the FBI, where Bob used his safe hands to push the deceptions about Iraq's non-existent WMD that led to the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. A great progressive hero, you'll agree.

In any case, whatever Mueller did, said or meant in his Russiagate probe has no bearing at all on the other clear, undeniable, easily impeachable violations Trump perpetrates every day. There is no wiggle room for Trump on this score, no murk, no mystery: it's cut-and-dried, cash-in-hand, unconstitutional corruption.

If you really wanted to do something about Trump, to take concrete action to remove this dangerous, addled criminal from office, then why wouldn't you choose this easy, straightforward line of attack, from day one? And now that you have power in the House, why wouldn't you use it as the basis of an impeachment proceeding that needs no Delphic decipherment but can be laid out plainly and simply before the people? This to me is the great mystery of the 'Resistance.' When your enemy hands you a sword – every single day – why do you throw it aside?

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Bipolar Disorder: America Magnetized by Despair

Written by Chris Floyd 22 May 2019 30810 Hits

(This is my column from the latest print version of CounterPunch Magazine.)

Looking at America today, you swing back and forth between two poles, both of them magnetized by despair.

At one pole, you find yourself saying that things have never been as bad as this: we are in uncharted waters, in a foundering ship being swept toward the reefs. And when the crack-up comes, its horrors will outstrip our imaginations, making our cinematic dystopias look bucolic in comparison, as we devour each other in a dying world ruled by psychopaths, gangsters and warlords.

Yet at the other pole, you find yourself thinking that what we’re seeing today is just a continuation — and in some cases, even a diminution — of the horrors and hellishness you’ve seen all your life. Wars, liars, atrocities, hatred, coups, riots — whole cities burning! — injustice, terrorism, plunder and corruption: when have these not been the background of the six decades you’re spent on this earth? And if you have even a passing interest in history, much less a passion for it, then you can extend this malevolent roar all the way back to the beginning of recorded time.

Perhaps, you think, what we’re seeing today is not some violation of the norm in our national life (or human affairs in general); perhaps it’s just a particularly vivid expression of our essential nature — heightened and hyped and made more all-pervasive by technology, yes, but in no way a fundamental break from the past. Perhaps it’s true, as the Preacher saith: “There is nothing new under the sun.”

But then, you turn on your phone, tap into one of the hallucinatory networks of data-harvesting and ad-disgorging that you, like so many, have become addicted to (while telling yourself – disingenuously? – that a conscientious citizen must keep abreast of these for-profit platforms because that’s where our public life now occurs), and suddenly you see … a picture from a snuff film. It’s a man being raped with a bayonet until he dies. You can see his face — a bloodied mask of agony — and the exulting, murdering mob around him.

But you haven’t stumbled down some algorithmic path into the festering, belching pits of depravity that lurk mere inches below the glossy surface of the internet. No, you’re looking at a tweet sent out to the world by a member of one of the most respectable institutions in the land: the United States Senate. The senior senator from Florida, Marco Rubio, a man of intense public piety, who regularly adorns his Twitter feed with Bible verses, had posted — on a Sunday morning, the Lord’s day — a graphic of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. On one side was a smiling Gadaffi in his pomp; the other was the aforesaid shot from the snuff-film video of Gaddafi’s slaughter.

The tweet emerged in the midst of Rubio’s feverish push for regime change in Venezuela, and was an unmistakable message to that country’s president, Nicolas Maduro: This is what happens to leaders who don’t do what we say. A naked, brutal, open, terroristic threat, from the very top ranks of the American establishment.

The shock you feel is like a slap in the face. Even in the Age of Trump, this seems to overstep some boundary. Senators revelling in rape-murder, brandishing gangland-style threats? Surely this is a qualitative difference, taking us into those uncharted waters far from the shores of the past.

But suddenly you are pulled back to the other pole. For you remember another figure on the commanding heights of our society laughing, with deep, hearty glee, at this very same rape-murder. Sitting with a TV interviewer, eager to publicize her reaction, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton laughs and exclaims, “We came, we saw, he died!” Ha ha ha! It made your blood run cold.

Then you further recall the brutal threat she’d made years before, running for president, promising to “totally obliterate” 70 million human beings in Iran if that nation, which had and has no nuclear weapons, launched a nuclear attack on Israel, which had and has more than 200 nuclear weapons. The scenario was pure fantasy; but the imagination of this much-admired paragon of our society ran immediately to mass murder.

Your mind keeps reeling backward, remembering that the rape-murder that gave such sick, psychosexual titillation to Rubio and Clinton had been committed by extremists armed and backed by the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Barack Obama (along with many other worthies of Western civilization.) And that one of Clinton’s predecessors, the liberal Madeline Albright, had defended the death of half a million innocent children from the sanctions imposed by her boss, Bill Clinton.

From there you keep going back, through all the evils you’ve seen committed in your name, in just your lifetime, back to the one that first fully entered your childish awareness: My Lai. And you know that what we’re seeing today is not a break, but a continuation. Accelerated, yes; the rotten timbers of the foundering ship are now in an advanced state of decay. But the reefs coming up so swiftly are the same ones we’ve been hurtling toward for a long, long time.

But then you turn on your phone and …

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