Monday, January 30, 2017

It's deja vu all over again, except that Trump isn't being impeached ... yet

Wow, it sure brings back memories ...


All the news that's fit to fake: Polling on Trump's Muslim immigration ban

I was shocked when I saw the headline on Google News from
So I clicked to see more stories:
Quinnipiac University poll: Almost half of American voters support Trump’s immigration order
And there were lots more.

I smelled a rat, because polling on Trump's order could not possibly have started until Saturday and responsible pollsters try to avoid weekend-days-only polling because it is not a random sample and even trying to adjust by weighing doesn't work: for example, the 18-29 year olds you reach on a weekend are not representative of their age group.

And then I looked at the articles. The Quinnipiac poll was done January 5-9, when people could not possibly have supported "Trumps immigration order" because he wasn't even president yet.
And the question did not mention Trump's then-nonexistent order It asked about "suspending immigration from terror prone regions, even if it means turning away refugees."

The Rasmussen folks have been showing for a while that they've become a right-wing propaganda outfit, so I would have discounted them anyways, but their poll was done Jan 25-26, and Trump signed the order late on the 27th.

But curiously, Rasmussen asked specifically about the seven countries in Trump's order:
Do you favor or oppose a temporary ban on refugees from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen until the federal government improves its ability to screen out potential terrorists from coming here?
Do you favor or oppose a temporary block on visas prohibiting residents of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen from entering the United States until the federal government improves its ability to screen out potential terrorists from coming here? 
This shows that while Trump's folks did not consult with lawyers from the Justice Department, Homeland Security or the National Security Council, supposedly so the list wouldn't leak, they did give it to Rasmussen.

But it is a bullshit question. Implicit in the question is that there is a big problem screening out potential terrorists but there is simply no evidence of this.

And If it had been instead a ban on folks from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Aquinoestan, the same exact number would have said yes, despite all of them being U.S. allies. Well, except Aquinoestan, which doesn't exist.

And if you're going to use Trump's logic, those are the countries that should be banned, starting with Saudi Arabia. It is the most savagely barbaric country on the face of the planet, where the majority of the 9/11 attackers came from, the country where the most Americans have died in terrorist attacks, a hyper militarized absolute monarchy with only 20 million citizens and the third largest military budget in the world, and the purveyor of the ultra fundamentalist Wahabi ideology that is the inspiration for the ideologies of Al Qaeda, the Islamic State and so on.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The U.S. hasn't won a war in 70 years and Trump's buildup can't fix that

President Trump's plan to greatly increase the size of the U.S. military is likely to have substantial popular support.

According to a Gallup Poll from a year ago, only 49% of Americans think the United States is the strongest military power in the world. To anyone who knows the first thing about the military capabilities of various countries, the statement is beyond absurd. It is like saying an Abrams tank is outclassed by a kid armed with a smurf ball.

The United States has conventional military capabilities much greater than any other country. The United States has conventional military capabilities much greater  than all other countries combined. Qualitatively so, by several orders of magnitude.

Saigon, 1975. The last 10 marines evacuate from the U.S.
embassy as heliport ladder full of Vietnamese is kicked away
So why do so many Americans think that we have inferior armed forces?

Because we can't seem to win a war, and we've been in plenty.

The United States has not won a decisive victory in any military conflict it has been directly involved in since we nuked Japan in 1945.

Starting with China in 1945-1949, through Vietnam to Afghanistan and Iraq, we've either been stalemated or downright defeated. The fiasco in Syria is just the latest installment.

Of course, there was the successful 1983 invasion of Grenada. But sending 7,500 troops to occupy a country of 90,000 people is not a war but a crime.

Nor can the first Gulf War (1990-1991) be considered a decisive victory. It was really one campaign is a war that is still going on, and that campaign was for a limited objective. Active U.S. military operations continued against Iraq afterwards, first in the air and then finally with Bush's 2003 invasion. And they continue to this day.

In fact, the United States has been continuously at war in the Middle East with active military operations for 35 years, since 1982. And there is no end in sight.

Why has the United States failed? Because war is the continuation of politics by other means. That includes political objectives like backing the State of Israel or making sure Persian Gulf oil keeps flowing to market, but that is not the main thing.

It also means that war is an intervention in the internal politics of the region. In this sense politics is about  the different layers of the population, ideological currents, social classes, etc., their evolution, the alliances and enmities both within a given state and how these extend beyond its borders and also affect relations between states and the entire system of states in the region and the world.

The problem is that the United States does not realize that when it goes into a country like Iraq or destabilizes Syria, it is creating or qualitatively escalating internal conflicts within those countries and in the region that soon manifest as civil wars (Libya) or as a combination of a civil war and a war against foreign occupation (Vietnam, Iraq).

The United States recognizes the kind of problem it faces with its sporadic campaigns to "win the hearts and minds" of the population.

Sometimes the United States takes under its wing people from some minority nationality, this tribe or that religious group.

Initially, as the much larger intervention is being planned, this typically takes the form of support to exile circles that claim to have a lot of support inside the country but very rarely do (the CIA's 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba being a prime example). Then as the U.S. looks for some way to stabilize the country it will try to lean on some domestic leadership that has ideas and objectives that are different from and often contradict what the U.S. is seeking, or are just a bunch of  corrupt opportunists looting American aid and the country's resources.

This kind of imposition from above of rule by some group or faction doesn't work because it produces a puppet regime that will quickly alienate whatever base of support it might have had.

At any rate, the United States does not start by looking at the actual politics of these places and its dynamics, but does so only after the invasion or intervention has gone into a crisis from rising opposition.

No amount of firepower, no increase in the number of planes, tanks or warships, nor tens of thousands of additional troops can provide a solution because the problem is political: the U.S. intervention is floating in mid air; it has no roots in the given society, and by the time the Americans get a clue, it is too late.

Friday, January 27, 2017

From the archives: How Nicaragua's Sandinista Revolution was defeated

What is below the asterisks was written in the year 2000.

It was one of many posts that for several years beginning in 1999, I wrote on the Marxism email list moderated by Louis Proyect, based on what had by then been three decades as an activist and a journalist. These were not the short, quick notes of the on-line world, but longer, considered essays, relying on my own experiences or extensive research or both.

I had cause to re-read some recently, and it seemed to me they still had some value, so I will be reposting them here.

Yet these were newsgroup-type posts, written as part of ongoing discussions and usually in response to what someone else had written. That is different from simply writing an article about a subject. In keeping with Marxism list rules, at the beginning of my posts I quote only the briefest snippet from the previous post that prompted my own. That material will be between angle brackets.

Subscribers to that list had a common background and sometimes known each other for many years. So there are terms and references that might be obscure to other readers today. I've edited the posts to try to make clear some references as well as clear up typos and unclear syntax. But I've not tried to rewrite to provide more background and context. I'll be happy to amplify what is written here in response to specific queries.

On this particular post, be aware that this is largely a recounting of my own experiences or generalizations drawn from them. I visited Nicaragua repeatedly after the 1979 victory of the revolution until I moved there for several years as a journalist around 1984.

*  *  *

The Nicaraguan contras (was Re: Chavez and Fighting Back History)

From: Jose G. Perez

Subject: The Nicaraguan contras (was Re: Chavez and Fighting Back History)

Date: Tue, 01 Aug 2000 02:44:08 -0700

>>The contras were soundly defeated as it was. They had no physical or
popular base inside the country and were routed whenever they took on
the army which was rare. Most Nicaraguan veterans told me that the
contra regulars would just thrown down their guns and surrender when
ever confronted by the army.<<

    If only it had been so!

    The contras were never "soundly defeated." That is why in 1987 the
FSLN decided it had no alternative, after years of refusing, but to
enter into direct negotiations with them and did sign a peace accord
at Sapoá with their commanders. This accord reflected the military
realities in the field. The FSLN was much stronger but unable to
defeat its opponent decisively. The National Resistance was allowed to
concentrate its forces in certain areas and remained armed pending the
holding of elections, which were moved up from the end of 1990 to the
beginning of the year. Press censorship and other similar measures
were lifted; and it was stipulated that after the elections, the
former members of the National Resistance would receive individual
plots of land to farm if they wanted them.

    The reason the contras could not be defeated is precisely because
they did have a social base. Initially that social base was especially
concentrated among the Miskitu Indians, and it must be recognized that
this was mostly the result of the FSLN's mistakes. Through the
autonomy formula, they were able to break up the contra-Miskitu
alliance, but as it turned out the FSLN did not have the time nor
resources necessary to win the trust of the Miskitu population.

    Beginning in 1984 or so, as the war deepened, throwing the country
into a deep economic and social crisis, the contra's social base grew
to encompass a big fraction of the peasantry of the "agricultural
frontier." They also had significant support in the mayor cities and
towns of agricultural zones, as was evident from their attack on
Ocotal in mid-1984, which they overran and occupied briefly, something
they were able to do even though there was a big military base on the
opposite side of the highway from the town, because some of the
contras slipped into town the night before and were hidden by some
fifth columnists.

    The resentment of the peasants towards the revolution came from a
couple of sources. One was that the FSLN took apart the traditional
commercial and financial networks in the countryside after taking
power, but was unable to effectively replace them. The state
established a monopoly in basic grains, buying from the peasants at
fixed prices, but at the same time it made a decision to finance the
war by printing money, which made inflation unstoppable. This meant,
in effect, that the countryside was subsidizing the FSLN's social
program in the cities, and getting ruined economically, making it
dependent on state credits and handouts, which, frankly, many hated.

    Nor were the peasants getting as much back in terms of social
change as you might imagine. The agrarian reform prioritized
collectivization, state farms and cooperatives in which people worked
the land together. This was something which peasants in this
agricultural frontier zone were slow to warm to, to say the least.
Even many who joined cooperatives would have preferred to work
individually. Yet in the four years I lived in Nicaragua, I did not
meet a single peasant who had ever received an individual plot of land
and title to it to work it on his own from the revolution.

    As the war deepened the issue became more important, for to join
an FSLN cooperative was equivalent to signing up for military duty:
you had to assume the cooperative would be attacked. And, of course,
the military organization of co-op members meant the contras would
view them as a military target. Generally, the further away you got
from the major towns towards the "agricultural frontier", the stronger
the contra sympathies. I remember going on a trip in 1984 to the San
José de Bocay and El Cuá zone (near where Linder was later killed),
and asking one peasant at a tiny settlement where we had stopped for
water and to ask about the road ahead whether there were any contra in
the zone.

    "You're pulling my leg," one said. "This is the seed-bed of the
contras. I have three sons with them right now." And that was early
on, near Honduras. Later the whole agricultural frontier strip all the
way down to Costa Rica would become, to a lesser or greater degree,
like that.

    As the contra rebellion spread into regions like Boaco and
Chontales, its social character also tended to evolve, and it stopped
being solely or largely a mercenary aggression, and also became a
peasant movement which, under the circumstances, could only have a
politically reactionary character despite its plebeian base.

    This peasant wing eventually became disenchanted with the contra
leadership, as the Miskitus had before them, and wound up finally
pushing to one side the civilian contra directorate and the general
staff of the "strategic command" headed by former GN colonel Bermúdez.
The contra leadership that signed the peace agreement with the FSLN at
Sapoá was not at all the same one which has started the war, one of
the reasons why a peace agreement was possible. [GN= Guardia Nacional,
the National Guard, the Somoza dictatorship's army.]

    By 1988, it was my estimation, that the revolution was finished,
and that the real turning point, when the revolutionary tide began to
ebb, had come early on, by 1982 or 1983, shortly after the beginning
of the war. This ebbing was reflected politically by a series of
decisions the FSLN adopted in 1983, especially after the Grenada
invasion, like institution of the draft, asking the Cuban teachers to
leave (which meant closing down hundreds of schools in the
countryside), the holding of bourgeois-democratic style elections, the
adoption by the FSLN of a social democratic coloration, the nomination
of Sergio Ramírez for vice-president instead of the person most
popular with rank-and-file FSLNers and who spoke most openly about the
social and class character of the revolution, Tomás Borge.

    In 1988, with perhaps isolated pockets in places like Estelí, I
don't believe the FSLN had majority support in the major cities nor in
the countryside. The war and the economic and social crisis it
provoked had atomized and demoralized the population. The FSLN's
intransigent opposition to negotiating with the contra led many
Nicaraguans to blame the Sandinistas for the continuation of the war,
and to turn against the frente. The fact that the FSLN leadership
finally decided it had no choice but to negotiate with the contras
deepened the political damage, because they had been so intransigent
in opposing such negotiations for years.

    The social advances that the revolution had initially brought were
largely or completely reversed by 1986 or 1987, or had been dwarfed by
the crisis. Most of the rural schools had closed because they did not
have teachers. The hospitals were in terrible shape, medical posts had
been closed or abandoned, the rationing system had broken down and
Sandinista Defense Committees and other mass organizations had largely
ceased to function, or soon would. The big majority of the population
was pushed into a grinding, demoralizing day-to-day struggle for

    Of all the people I know who were concerned about Nicaragua or
following it for one reason or another, I think I was the only one not
in the slightest bit surprised by Mrs. Chamorro's election victory.
What surprised me, frankly, was that her electoral victory was not
more overwhelming.

    People weren't voting for Mrs. Chamorro's social or political
program, nor for her imperialist backers, but for peace and an end to
the terrible, maddening economic dislocation the war had brought, the
galloping inflation, the overnight doubling of prices, the extreme
shortages and so on.

    They voted above all for her image as the head of a family who had
maintained at least a minimum level of civil contact between her four
children, one the editor of Barricada, one a contra director, one the
editorial editor of La Prensa and one the FSLN ambassador to Costa
Rica, throughout the war. They voted for her not so much to be
president but national grandmother, someone who, when the naughty
children started shouting and fighting with each other, would bring
them up short with a stern look and a reprimand: I will not have
fighting between brothers in this house. [Baricada was the Sandinista
newspaper; La Prensa belonged to Mrs Chamorro after her hiusband,
its founder and editor, was murdered by the Somoza dictatorship, a
key event that ignited the revolutionary explosion of 1979.]

    Rightly or wrongly, they did not trust the FSLN to maintain the
tenuous peace that had been achieved with the contras or to fix the
economy. In the year and a half or two between the cease fire and the
voting, the economic crisis did not abate. In early 1988, the FSLN
carried out a currency exchange where "new" Cordobas replaced the old
ones, I forget if it was 100,000 to one, or a million to one. Between
then and when Mrs. Chamorro took office, inflation took the new
currency from 10 or 20 to the dollar, where it started, to something
like two million to one, a ten million percent inflation in two years.
It must be admitted that the FSLN proved unable to control the
economic crisis, but then again, the only thing anyone could have
done is change the forms in which the crisis manifested itself.

    Decisive in stoking the distrust wasn't just economic issues but
also the FSLN's decision to maintain the draft, which was hated by
many Nicaraguans, including the poorest Nicaraguans. In 1988, I saw
with my own eyes a small anti-draft riot in the Monimbó neighborhood,
the poor Indian neighborhood of Masaya, and quite by accident, as I
happened to be there on a personal errand. That neighborhood, which
had been called the "cradle of the revolution" because it was where
the first anti-Somoza urban rising had taken place, is the LAST place
where I would have imagined the FSLN would lose support, but it had.
The disturbance was set off when a former FSLN combatiente refused to
let army recruiters take his younger brother. Unfortunately the army
recruiters lost their cool and started insulting this young man, the
crowd that gathered as the shouting and insults escalated turned
against the recruiters, who had to run away as the people overturned
their jeep and set it on fire. It took several hours for ministry of
the interior forces, acting very cautiously under orders from Tomás
Borge on the spot, managed to quell the disturbance. It was a
heartbreaking sight.

    Tied into all of this was a process of bureaucratization of the
revolution, both the use of administrative methods instead of
political methods and the granting or taking of privileges that while,
in many cases small, rubbed salt in the wounds of a population being
suffocated by an incredible economic crisis. The symbol of this in my
own mind was the dollar store in Managua. Originally it started as a
small boutique with duty-free-store-type luxuries, liquor and wine and
electronics, some clothes, things like that, and it was open only to
"official" foreigners, i.e., diplomats, accredited journalists of
international news organizations, functionaries of international
organizations and NGO's. It eventually expanded into a huge
superstore, with basically an American supermarket, all sorts of auto
parts, American magazines and so on. In this store, high-ranking
Sandinista functionaries and opposition deputies to the national
assembly would elbow each other for a place at the checkout line.

    It is not surprising that as the economic crisis grew, the small
but glaring privileges of some among the Sandinista elite, as well as
among a layer of opportunists and hangers-on who had latched on to one
or another government ministry or state enterprise although they had
nothing to do with the FSLN itself, led many of Nicaragua's poorest to
say, "son los mismos,"  "they are the same," meaning the same as the
old regime. At first it was a murmur barely whispered under their
breath, later they shouted it in defiance. People called the FSLN
troops "guardias" meaning Somocista National Guardsmen and Piricuacos,
which is Miskitu for rabid dog and is what the frente called the
national guard during the insurrection. And they would refer to the
contra as "los muchachos," the boys, the same term they had used for
the FSLN insurgents six or eight years before.

    I don't want to exaggerate and create the impression this was all
the population or most of it. The FSLN still had the adherence of a
big sector of people, maybe a quarter or a third of the population,
something like that. There was maybe a roughly similar-sized
contingent of anti-Sandinistas, and from all layers of society. Time
and again, I had the experience of meeting people who I had met two or
three years earlier as FSLN supporters and they were now opponents.
This encompassed all social layers, from high-ranking economists or
other functionaries to the lady who would sell me Coca-Cola by the
case. These included former members of the Sandinista militias, people
who had volunteered to go into the mountains and fight the contra when
the war first started. They represented the third contingent of the
population, who initially sided with the revolution but turned
decisively against it in growing numbers in the 1985-1987 period.

    That's why I wasn't surprised by Mrs. Chamorro's victory. What did
surprise me was the  "piñata" that took place in most government
ministries and departments afterwards, as FSLNers transferred all
kinds of goods and properties that had generally been considered to be
state properties into private hands, their own. The disintegration of
the FSLN central leadership following the electoral defeat also
surprised me. Humberto Ortega is now a well-to-do businessman in Costa
Rica. Luis Carrión went back to complete his university studies in the
states, I heard, and Victor Tirado returned to Mexico. Jaime Wheelock
and Henry Ruiz I've had no news of. Nuñez died, of cancer, I think,
shortly after the FSLN lost the elections. A few of the second-line
leaders have tried to form a new Sandinista movement in opposition to
the official FSLN, and former Vice-President Sergio Ramírez has gone
back to writing. Daniel Ortega, Bayardo Arce and Tomás Borge remain
with the FSLN, which still has the electoral support of about a third
of the population, and functions as an opposition party within the
framework of the Nicaraguan elections and legal institutions.

    It may sound from the way I've written this that mostly I blame
the FSLN for the defeat of the revolution, but it is late and I have
no time to rewrite. The main cause of the defeat of the revolution was
the pressure of imperialism, the revolution was beat to a bloody pulp
by the contra war. The things I've pointed to above are largely how
the damage done by imperialism to the revolutionary process then
reflected itself *within* the revolution and its leading contingent. I
did that to show why big layers of the  popular masses turned against
the FSLN, which they had hailed as saviors only a few years before,
and to explain how it could be possible that the RN developed a
genuine social base inside the country.

    One final point. The contra by and large did not throw down its
guns and surrender when they clashed with Sandinista units. The
Miskitus in particular had a reputation as wily and tenacious
fighters, which won them the respect of the Sandinista commanders.

    By and large, the contras, like any guerrilla force not yet ready
to make a final push for power, avoided pitched battles with large
army units. When they came across the army, they did turn and run. The
main Sandinista units in the field were the socalled BLIs, irregular
warfare batallions, and they were trained by recognized experts in
irregular warfare, the Cubans. These were some 600 men strong, and
could overwhelm any contra column, which typically were 100 or 150
men. In addition, the Sandinistas could count with limited air support
from a half dozen or so helicopter gunships (Soviet Mi-24s), and some
air provisioning from about a dozen MI-8 choppers (which were also
outfitted with weaponry, although not really as well suited to play
the role of a gunship). They also had some artillery, including the
BM-24 (if I remember the designation right) multiple tube rocket
launchers, descendants of the justly famous Soviet "Stalin organs" of
world war II that were fairly effective against the motorized units of
the Nazis. The Katyushas, if I remember the Soviet name right, are
very impressive to look at and intimidating, but need roads to operate
and troop concentrations to be fairly effective.

    The problem for the FSLN was that they could never really force a
big fight with the contra units. They lacked sufficient air transport
to throw a couple of hundred guys behind the enemy position and cut
off their retreat, and pursuing a retreating guerrilla force that is
basically intact after a light skirmish with regular army units is an
extremely dangerous proposition for the pursuer, as the chances of
getting ambushed or falling victim to a mine are very high.

    If the Soviets had given the Nicas adequate military equipment
early on, in 1983 or even 1984, the FSLN might have succeeded in
defeating the contra then, before the rebellion had become deeply
rooted anywhere except for the northern border strip with Honduras,
and a few fighters and a couple of radars would have prevented contra
air resupply from abroad, which is basically how the contras were able
to get to places like Boaco and Chontales and develop a base there.
This would have given the revolution time to catch its breath, it
would have been a huge morale booster to the majority which still
sided with the FSLN at that point, and would have allowed the
Sandinista leadership to confront some of the issues around the policy
towards the peasants as political questions. That the FSLN had the
political capacity to learn from mistakes and shortcomings is
unquestionable; the change in policy towards the Miskitus proves it.
The imperialists took advantage of every line of cleavage in
Nicaraguan society, manipulating religion, the peasantry's desire for
land, the Miskitu's awakening national consciousness, and never gave
the revolution a chance to catch its balance.

    The Nicaraguan revolution is rich in lessons, about the
worker-peasant alliance, about policy towards native peoples, about
the need for revolutionary militants to not take privileges, about the
need for internal democracy and accountability within the revolution's
vanguard organization(s), and many others. I hope someday one of its
leading participants will produce such a balance sheet.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Sam Pawlett" <>
To: <>
Sent: Monday, July 31, 2000 10:25 PM
Subject: Re: Chavez and Fighting Back History

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Phil Ochs: music for the Trump era

Have spent much of the past week listening obsessively to political songs from a half century ago, when I was a teenager. Especially Phil Ochs.
If you've never heard of him, but have this image of Bob Dylan as the righteous artist-activist who backed every just cause and went to every rally, the person that was really like that was Phil Ochs.
Which is part of the reason you probably haven't heard of him. The other reason is that he's been dead for four decades. Committed suicide in April 1976, the year following his last public performance at the "War is Over" concert that he organized in Central park following the victory of the Vietnamese over the American government and its South Vietnamese client regime.
If you listen to his last albums, starting with "Pleasures of the Harbor" you will follow his descent into melancholy and eventually madness. Around 1970 he released "Rehearsals for Retirement."
The cover was a tombstone listing his birth in El Paso in 1940 and his death in Chicago in 1968, referring to the Democratic Party convention and the savage police riot against antiwar protesters as the party bosses imposed vice president Hubert Humphrey, who was totally identified with President Johnson's Vietnam War, as the presidential candidate. This choice so thoroughly alienated liberals and progressives that Republican retread Richard Nixon won the presidency.
But 1968 was also the year of the Vietnamese Tet Offensive, which showed the claims about how the United States was winning in Vietnam were a lie; of the assassination of Martin Luther King in April and Bobby Kennedy who was the leading Democratic presidential candidate two months later; the false dawn of the French May-June student rebellion and its East European counterpart, the "Czech Spring" with its hopes for a "socialism with a human face" crushed under the treads of invading Soviet tanks; and then, on the eve of the first anniversary of the death of Che Guevara, the crushing of the Mexican student movement in a bloodbath, the Tlatelolco massacre of October 2 and finally the election of Nixon.
But even before then his music was becoming darker, whereas his earlier albums had been full of an an almost naive optimistic, can-do American spirit even when most outraged at what the government was doing.
Anyways, I hadn't really focused on how much I'd been listening to Phil Ochs since Friday until I saw this blog post on the Washington Post, of all places. The writer refers to the earlier, more political work, whereas I think for some people may also relate to his later work, which I've always called in my own mind "music to commit suicide by."

Portrait of the president as the bullshitter in chief

Everyone involved with these issues who can do so should read Obama's  Trump's immigration orders. They are 99% blah blah blah.

Basically they say apply this law and that law, as if it weren't already happening. On the "wall," one order makes clear "wall" doesn't necessarily mean "wall" but any sort of physical barrier judged most effective, as specified in that scumbag Bill Clinton's 1996 immigration law and the 2006 secure fence law that Hillary Clinton (along with many other Democrats) supported. [BTW, now you know why so many Latinos think it is no accident that the word "Democrat" ends in "rat."]

The reports in the Mainstream Media about how Trump just ordered the beginning of the building of the wall and so on are all the result of reporters having orgasms from press secretary's Sean Spicer blowing smoke up their ass when they should have been reading what Trump actually signed instead.

Also, the supposed attack on "sanctuary" cities is smoke and mirrors. The statute it cites for triggering sanctions is about exchanging *information*. Trump says the Homeland Security secretary should withhold all aid to those cities that violate the requirements as permitted by law except for law enforcement and security aid. But the secretary of homeland security only handles law enforcement and security matters, and there is no law cited that allows the withholding of any federal resources whatsoever on this basis.

The main thing about these mis-named "sanctuary" jurisdiction is not that they don't comply with reporting requirements that are in the laws, but that they refuse to honor "detainers," a little form signed by an immigration cop saying to hold someone in jail without charges.

These "detainers" violate the very explicit, plain language of the Fourth Amendment saying you have to have a warrant to arrest people, and warrants can only be issued "upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation" with the specific reasons why the person is being arrested.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals as well as District Courts on the West Coast have found local governments liable for tens of thousands of dollars in damages because obeying a "detainer," is false arrest and illegal imprisonment because a "detainer" is not a "warrant."

So all this stuff about Trump cracking down with these memos is bunk.

He may crack down anyways, with or without "executive orders," but these are clearly hot air.
The biggest problem is that they will whip up even more the racists inside and outside the government.

But they are not a legal escalation. The problem Trump has is that, in fact, he has taken office after the most viciously racist, anti-immigrant administration ever in U.S. history, the Obama regime.
It had a lot of pretty words and then said, "bend over, I have this hot poker I'm going to stick up your ass."

Trump on the other hand has a lot of nasty words and then says, "bend over, I have this hot poker I'm going to stick up your ass," the very same one Obama was using.

Immigrant rights and Latino activists should get used to going to the blog or press room at to read the actual measures that Trump has signed, and not simply join in the psychological warfare campaign the mainstream media is carrying out for Trump against the immigrant communities.

President Peña Nieto should be shot for helping Trump humiliate México

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto recently appointed Luis Videgaray as his new foreign minister. Videgaray is a long-time and very trusted Peña collaborator who last August arranged the infamous and disastrous (for Peña Nieto) Trump visit and had to leave his cabinet post as a result.
Back then Peña Nieto did not have the balls to publicly insist in front of Trump that México would not pay for Trump's wall.

Worse, Trump used the publicity around the visit to focus attention on a viciously anti-immigrant speech he gave right after he returned.

Trump with his Mexican punching bag
You'd think Peña and Videgaray would have learned, but they repeated the exercise. Videgaray arranged to meet with White House aides on Wednesday.

Tuesday evening, the White House leaked that Trump would sign executive orders on the border wall and immigration enforcement the next day.

What Peña and Videgaray should have done is to tell Washington that the Mexican government would have to analyze the content of the two orders before coming to visit.

The visit in and of itself was a Trump dissing of Mexico. Videgaray is foreign minister but he was going to meet with Trump advisers in the White House, not any cabinet-level official, and he did not even get a courtesy hand-shake photo op with Trump to compensate for the snub.

Of course the insult was self-inflicted. Videgaray was in such a hurry to kiss Trump's rump that he could not wait until the new Secretary of State was ratified by the Senate before coming.

On Wednesday, when Trump signed his orders, Videgaray and Peña didn't do the minimally dignified thing and say that obviously the Mexican government would need to study these documents and their repercussions before continuing.

Even after the meeting Videgaray told the media there had been "extremely positive" and "encouraging" exchanges and that Peña Nieto's Jan. 31 visit to Washington was still on, instead of giving at least a non-committal response, never mind a righteous one.

Nevertheless, outrage was so high in México that last night Peña Nieto went on TV for a couple of minutes to say that Mexican consulates would help immigrants in the United States and that Mexico loved the United States and so on but no, it would not pay for the wall.

Yet still he did not cancel his upcoming visit.

So this morning Trump had to take a piss on Peña Nieto's face, saying if Mexico wasn't going to accept paying for the wall then the meeting might as well be canceled.

With that wording basically Trump *ordered* Peña Nieto to be the one to officially call off the session which Peña did in a tweet a couple of hours later, but followed by another tweet about how much Mexico looked forward to continuing a great relationship with the United States and so on.

This is the typical response of a spouse that is in an abusive marriage and has so internalized the victimization that even after being slapped around, they are begging the abuser to take them back.
People in that situation or who have survived it need all the love and respect and support that can be mustered to help them escape and heal.

But what a president who acts this way on behalf of their country deserves is to be shot for treason.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Kissing Trump's rump: Mexican gov't response to the inauguration

First there was the extradition of Joaquín "Chapo" Guzmán, reputed head of the Sinaloa drug cartel, carefully timed for the eve of Trump's inauguration so it would not simply be overlooked if done on Friday.

Then there was the announcement, also on Thursday, that newly-minted foreign minister Luis Videgaray would be heading to Washington next week and would meet with the triumvirate just below Trump in the new administration's pecking order: Jared Kushner, son-in-law and senior adviser, Stephen Bannon, alt-right media provocateur and senior advisor, and Reince Priebus, Republican establishment stalwart and chief of staff.

Videgaray was the "genius" who arranged last August's visit by Trump, going around the foreign ministry, and got thrown out of the cabinet as a sop to Mexicans outraged by the country's humiliation. Admitting he knew nothing about diplomacy and international relations, he became foreign minister a couple of weeks ago, having been praised by Trump last August and having been for years Peña Nieto's most trusted aide.

Finally, after the inauguration, Mexican President Peña Nieto twitted his congratulations to Trump and said his government would have a "respectful dialogue" with Trump's regime. That might sound like normal diplomatic blather except that Trump has been completely undiplomatic in his hostility towards México.

So the real message is one of complete submission, presumably with the hope that Trump will spare Peña Nieto further humiliation. But quite likely it will have the opposite effect, only further encouraging Trump to use Mexico as a punching bag to promote his xenophobic, chauvinist "America First" message.

Chapo's extradition: México admits that it has lost the war on drugs

Mexican drug lord Joaquín "Chapo" Guzmán has been extradited from Mexico to the United States even though he is Mexican and there are countless pending charges against him there. The extradition is a telling admission by the Mexican state that it has no confidence in its ability to keep him jailed or put him on trial.

He had escaped from prison twice already, and would undoubtedly have done so a third time because the Mexican state is not able to guarantee that its own agents follow its orders. I say "state" because it is the *apparatus*, not just the politicians (supposedly) in charge right now.

A decade ago, at the behest of the United States, the Mexican government (the politicians) launched an all-out war on drugs. To make a short story even shorter, drugs won.
This is what losing a war on drugs looks like.
They won because thanks to U.S. guns and U.S. money, the criminal gangs had sufficient resources and firepower to implement a policy known as "plata o plomo," the bribe or the bullet. As a cop, soldier or public official, if you do NOT accept the bribe, you get a bullet. The other reason drugs won is the Mexican government has followed a strategy of capturing the heads of the cartels. The results have been those of the Greek myth of Hydra. Every time you cut off a head, three more grow back.

So after the leaders are captured the organizations are shattered and now you have several fragments of those formerly large cartels fighting each other all over the country for control of territories and markets. And instead of being focused just on drug trafficking, the criminal gangs have expanded to extortion, kidnapping, human trafficking and more.

Extraditing Chapo Guzmán does nothing except re-enforce this dynamic, making things worse for the population, as more and more of the country becomes, in essence, a failed state, where the government no longer exercises a monopoly on coercive violence.

As for the people of the United States, this is another nail in the coffin of due process of law and judicial fairness. First, the actions Chapo Guzmán will be tried for took place outside the United States. But U.S. courts have no compulsory powers outside the U.S. borders. Meaning that even if at the very moment he was being accused of impaling babies on bayonets, he was, in fact, in a cathedral with a chorus of angels singing hosannas, Guzmán has no way, no right to compel testimony about this in his defense. He can demand the angels be ordered to testify all he wants, but the judge can't make it stick.

Second, the evidence against him will undoubtedly be based on subornation of perjury. His alleged sidekicks and subordinates will offer testimony against Guzmán in exchange for more lenient treatment. Further, they will perjure themselves by denying the exchange under oath and denying they have any expectation of lenient treatment, should the question ever be asked.

Third, should he ask for a jury trial, he will be denied one in any meaningful sense. The evidence and testimony that will be offered will be about another country, with traditions and conditions totally outside the experience of the jurors. And then he will be punished for exercising his right to as jury trial with a much more severe sentence than he would have received had he pleaded guilty.

And because he is a despicable, murderous drug lord and Mexican to boot, nobody, not even the ACLU, will say anything in defense of due process or just plain decency and fairness, further dooming the rights of us all.

Oh happy day.

Mexican meltdown: president's approval plummets to 12%

I know it is not being covered by the U.S. mainstream media because, well, that would be telling, and anyways, Trump, Trump, Trump.
But it looks to me like Mexico might crater.
Image may contain: 1 person, textPresident Enrique Peña Nieto cut his popularity in half in just one month, to levels that in the United States are reserved for Congress and cockroaches.
Right after Christmas he announced a 20% increase in the price of gasoline for the New Year and then went on vacation.
Peña Nieto said it was needed because the world price of gasoline is so high and the government can't afford to subsidize gasoline imports when the price of the crude oil that Mexico exports is so low. He was not very convincing.
Demonstrators have long been demanding Peña Nieto go, and in high circles people have been whispering for a while about how he really should. But now the subject is being broached in the mainstream political arena with Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) saying two more years of this (until the next president takes over) is not possible and Mexico needs a mechanism to remove a president (which it does not have).
In the background are more factors. First, The decomposition and collapse of the Mexican state keeps spreading.
This week there was an attack on a music festival at Playa del Carmen, an hour south of Cancún, said to have been the last safe Mexican tourist resort. Not no more.
Second, Donald Trump becomes president in a few hours. And Peña Nieto just appointed as foreign minister the genius who came up with the idea of humiliating Mexico with a Trump visit last August.
Third, capitalist confidence in Mexico is in decline. That's the REAL reason outfits like Carrier and Ford are pulling back. Both Moody and Standard and Poor's have cut Mexico's credit rating over the past year and say the outlook is negative.
Perhaps the biggest problem of all is that there is no alternative to Peña Nieto.
This is a crisis not of a president, nor of a party but of an entire political class. And those who think AMLO is the savior, check out his campaign pictures with his party's winning candidate for Mayor of Iguala, who was at the center of the disappearance of the 43 students from the Ayotzinapa teacher's college in September, 2014.
Sure, he now has a new party which is less discredited than his old party and much less discredited than his original party, which is the PRI, the discredited president's discredited party. He is Hillary without the heels hiding behind a Bernie T-shirt.
The interesting thing is that if it happens, the Mexican political implosion and with it an explosive refugee crisis would be President Trump's to deal with.
And as far as I can tell Trump views the world as an industry like real estate, and the United States as one of many firms. And if one of our competitors suffers losses or fails altogether, so much the better for us.
I don't think he realizes the world isn't really like that.

Is Russia threatening Poland or do NATO deployments threaten Russia?

The deployment by the United States of an armored brigade in Poland on Russia's border is quite reasonably seen by Russia as a threat and a provocation. One need only look at historical maps of the invasions of Russia from Napoleon to Hitler to understand why.
Image result for Hitler invasion of Russia map
Moreover, an armored brigade is essentially an offensive formation. Spearheaded by tanks, its purpose is to bring "mass" to a battlefield, as military geeks call concentrated firepower. It is designed for attacking, even if it is just a counter-attack that takes place in the framework of a retreat.
An armored brigade's punch comes from tanks, backed up by a large number of armored fighting vehicles and personnel carriers.

There is a very large infrastructure you need for this kind of force, in logistics (supplies), communications and other armored vehicles that are not primarily for fighting, but, for example, for evacuating the wounded, hauling a 70 ton Abrams tank to where it can be repaired, fording rivers, clearing obstacles and so on.

This sort of infrastructure can be easily expanded to service 2-3 brigades, an armored division), but, in the case of Poland, it is said explicitly that facilities will be developed to host much larger forces in a "crisis." Russia has to assume what is being developed is the staging area at least for an armored corps, as the United States and Germany have more than enough resources in the neighborhood to quickly put one together.

In (very schematic) military language, a "corps" nominally consists of three divisions, each composed of three brigades. You're talking about 30,000-50,000 troops with hundreds of tanks and attack helicopters, thousands of armored vehicles of, a huge supply chain, in short, a very credible component of an invasion force.

Moreover, U.S. brigades are very heavy compared to those of other countries. They are almost as large and fully as capable as what military doctrine in other countries designate as a "division." These designations are not arbitrary but describe a set of capabilities, especially the ability of a unit to fight as a coherent unit bringing together a variety of resources, like armor, artillery, tactical air support, logistics, command and control, etc. A U.S. brigade (especially if re-enforced with a few other specialized units as part of what the Pentagon now calls a task force or combat team) will look to the Russian side like a division, therefore a U.S. division will likely be seen as an armored corps, and an armored corps like a full army.

Russia cannot ignore that sort of NATO capability on the other side of their frontier, because if fast-moving enemy forces break out into your rear, you're fucked. That happened to the Soviet Union in 1941, and it came  within a hair's breadth of losing the war, but was saved by the onset of winter (just as Russia had been when invaded by Napoleon).

What is the justification for this Western provocation? That everyone is in a panic after Russia's takeover of the Crimean peninsula three years ago, and therefore need to be reassured.

What people are not being told is that historically, Crimea had never been part of the Ukraine. The big majority of the population is Russian. The biggest city in the Peninsula, Sevastopol, was and is the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea fleet and to all intents and purposes, was in the Soviet Union and remained after Ukraine independence under the control of Russian armed forces, while under Ukrainian civilian administration and nominal sovereignty.

Crimea became associated with the Ukraine when Nikita Khruschev transfered it from Russian to Ukrainian administrative jurisdiction in the mid-1950s. The idea was to promote the Russification of the Ukraine and undermine Ukrainian nationalism. It made little difference otherwise, as Crimea, along with the Ukraine as a whole, had been and continued to be part of the Soviet Union.

When the Soviet Union fell apart in the early 1990s,the status of Crimea remained up in the air. At one point the local government there declared independence but could not make it stick. Sevastopol remained under Russian economic and military control because of the Black Sea Fleet. Eventually it was settled by an agreement that left Russia in direct, exclusive control of most of the harbor and parts of the city; authorized the presence of many thousands of Russian troops on the peninsula, and recognized Crimea as a an autonomous Republic within the Ukraine, a status no other part of that country enjoyed.

In 2014 the very corrupt president of the Ukraine was driven from power, with right-wing nationalists taking advantage of popular seize control through a parliamentary coup. The very first law that the new authorities adopted in effect banned Russian as a recognized, official language, which was seen as a declaration of intent to drive out Russian interests in the country.

It was very satisfying, especially to ultrarightists, but handed Crimea on a platter to Russia. The local governments of Crimea and Sevastopol started organizing a referendum. Putin made clear that should the peninsula decide to "return" to Russia, of course their status and rights as Russian citizens would be automatically recognized and instantly in effect. (Which would triple pensions and raise the wages of government employees, among other things). And at the same time, armed detachments without insignias quickly took over government offices, posted guards at banks and post offices, and basically taken control without a shot being fired, or even a shouting match.

These were described in the U.S. as units of Russian soldiers and local militias, which was tremendously confusing, because, when did the Russians invade? And where did these militias come from? It had only been a few days since the coup in Kiev.

The truth is that the Russian troops had been there all along, some 15,000-20,000, all perfectly legal, open and above-board in keeping with the agreements between Moscow and Kiev. The Crimean militias were the local cops and military folks.

Obviously Putin had been extremely helpful and encouraging in Crimea's "return" to Russia, and would have brooked no opposition But the Russian population of the Ukraine was happy to accept it. And for Moscow, it was essentially a defensive move in reaction to the central Ukrainian government in Kiev having fallen into ultra-rightist anti-Russian hands.

For the Russians, it should be obvious to anyone that it acted to defend strategic geographic interests in a distinct territory that was already its military protectorate. And NATO claims about countering possible Russian "aggression" elsewhere are bunk.

But the NATO build-up does give rise to Russian strategic military considerations. Russia is going to build up its own infrastructure and forces on the other side: from a conventional military point of view, it has no choice. This will "confirm" Russia's expansionist intentions, when in reality they will be defensive.

How can anyone tell that it is NATO and the Americans that are driving this? Because the American deployment is sold as a move to "reassure" and calm the nerves of Russia's neighbors, in other words, Russia has done absolutely nothing in that area that can be presented as aggressive or threatening.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Russian White House Coup ... and what Karl Marx has to do with it

So an anonymous dude formerly with the British MI-6 hears that Trump is a Siberian candidate, and --since the operative is being paid by an opposition research firm to trash Trump-- promptly discovers that, Oh My God, it's true!!!

Because you see, our spook has contacts in the Kremlin -- about a half dozen intimate with Putin's inner circle -- who go ahead and spill their guts to an intelligence mercenary, and they don't even seem to mind being described in some detail in memos detailing their treasonous disclosures.

CNN reported breathlessly Tuesday night that the Brit was so spooked he spilled his guts to an FBI agent in Italy last August, handing him a bunch of memos with a fair number of details about the clandestine Trump-Putin long-distance bromance.

This stuff has been floating around the D,C. journalistic, political and diplomatic cocktail circuit since the fall --and that's mostly what oppo research is good for, gossip fodder-- but nobody would touch it for publication. You get crap like this every four years. Sometimes it's about Candidate X's Black baby, other times about his being a communist agent.

Not that people didn't try to get at least some verification to get it published. This story has Pulitzer written all over it. And that's the least of it. You also get to be put in the Pantheon of the Gods of Journalism alongside Woodward and Bernstein of Watergate fame.

If it didn't come out then in the fall, when everyone had already got wind of it, why did it come out now? Because a 2-page summary of the allegations against Trump were appended to a written intelligence report prepared for a briefing to Obama and Trump by the heads of the FBI, the CIA, the NSA and the top guy, the Director of National Intelligence.

See, U.S. libel law says if you simply report that there are these accusations without anything more, it is the same as if you had made the accusations to begin with. But if instead you are reporting about some official government action, like the inclusion of the summary in the briefing materials, then it is fairly safe.

CNN says this fact was leaked to them by multiple government sources.  So get the picture: the top four spies talk to the President-elect on Friday, January 6, and by Tuesday afternoon CNN has succumbed to the entreaties of the intelligence agencies and is reporting that the spooks told Trump they know he is a Russian agent -- well, allegedly.

Of course, it is all worded very politely. The CNN on-screen summary said, "Intelligence chiefs presented Trump with claims of Russian efforts to compromise him."

And no --absolutely not!!!-- the public is not allowed to have any specific details on account of neither CNN nor anyone else being able to verify any of them.

So why is it worth telling the president and president elect now?  Because the U.S. intelligence services have just determined that the author of the memos, a Brit they've known since the 1990s when he was in her majesty's employ, is actually a pretty good guy, a fact that apparently had escaped them last summer and fall.

Except that the spooks did not actually do any "telling." NBC is reporting that, a "senior intelligence official" explained "that the briefing was oral and no actual documents were left with the Trump team in New York." And multiple outlets have confirmed this matter wasn't mentioned in the oral briefing.

Now remember, the reason the 2-page summary of the anti-Trump memos was prepared was to make sure that the President-elect knew about these rumors. But at the oral briefing, the country's top spooks "forgot" to mention it and unfortunately it also appears that they didn't leave behind a copy of the report where Trump or his aides could have read this if they bothered to read the appendix..

Thus we see why CNN constantly used deceptive weasel-wording in its report: "Intelligence chiefs presented Trump with claims of Russian effort to compromise him."

Think about it: "presented Trump." Not told Trump or gave to Trump, or even "presented to Trump," which implies that the presenters actively engaged with Trump. The difference is this: suppose the President is at some dinner and it is time for the desert cart to go around. The president is very animatedly engaged in a conversation with the person next to him while the waiter brings the desert cart to the president. Of course the waiter does not interrupt, but after a few seconds, moves on.

Now you're thinking, wow, that is way too much freight to load onto one on-screen legend. But look at what the main reporter on the story said when CNN first aired the story.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Want to be very precise here. Multiple U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the briefings tell CNN that classified documents on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, presented last week to President Obama and to President-elect Trump, included allegations that Russian operatives claimed to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump. 
Notice again use of the word "presented."  The second I heard that while seeing it on screen I smelled a rat. Not because I'm a genius but because I spent more than two decades at CNN as a writer and producer and know how this stuff works. For that specific word to occur both in the on-screen banner AND the lead if the story which the reporter started with, "want to be very precise here" could only be the result of mandates from legal or "upstairs."

What CNN did not manage to stumble upon despite its concern for precision was that it was baby simple to destroy a central claim in the reports --that Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen had played a key role, going to Prague last August and September as a go-between.

But it didn't happen. His passport confirms he did not leave the country. And there is no way the government agents could not have discovered this. Because under our post-9/11 police state laws, the government knows every time anyone boards a plane in the United States. The government also knows every time a U.S. citizen re-enters the United States.

So what CNN claims it was told by its sources --that the reports about Trump had not been verified-- was disingenuous. It's not that they hadn't been checked out yet, it's that they had been checked out and shown to be partly fabrication and otherwise impossible to verify.

It was German philosopher Hegel who is reputed to have said that history repeats itself twice. The maxim is remembered mostly for Marx's acerbic footnote: "He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce."

If the Cold War with its McCarthyism was a tragedy that even threatened the very future of humanity, this farce confirms the insight of the famous German founder of the movement that bears his name.

At first blush, this appears to be a farce, and a rather poor one at that.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Bernie and Cuba

I was on Facebook for the first time in a week or more and a post by a friend caught my eye. It had a number of Sanders's main talking points about billionaires, inequality and so on, and one comment asked:

"Will he do anything about it? I think he wants to, but when all is said and done, he can't. The President is not an elected king or dictator, and the reason we call the big businessmen and financiers the 'ruling class' is because, well, they RULE. The fundamental problem with Sanders isn't Sanders the person, but the job to which he's applying, and the power structure in which that job is a part. The problem isn't the occupant of the White House, but the whole bloody economic system."

This is, of course, the classical anarchist position. If voting could change anything, these friends say, they would never allow it. Thus, anyone who runs for office (especially for president) or even votes is either a traitor to the working people or a useful idiot playing into the hands of the ruling class. I pretty much 200% agree with the first statement, but not with the second, as it has to do with how to convince people who still have the idea that voting really matters that in truth it doesn't.

Because if they want you to vote for Mussolini, they just run Hitler against him,. And if they want you to vote for the Republican candidate, the Frankenstein monster, then the Democrats pick as their standard bearer the creature from the "Alien" movies.

Don't believe me? Just go spend a few days studying closely Hillary Clinton's political history and current positions.

But the Russian Revolutionary who used the pen-name Lenin, and that's how history remembers him, had a different approach to the "all or nothing" position in relation to elections (and many other issues). He suggested instead identifying with what people are trying to do when they support a Bernie Sanders, in other words, with their intentions, which we all agree on, and over time having a dialogue that in essence amounts to, I'll go along with the way you're trying to do things although I'm not sure that it will work (or even, I'm sure it won't work, but I want you to see that the reason it didn't work wasn't that I and my friends worked against it, so we stepped aside).

But if your approach doesn't work, here are some alternatives to consider.

It is disappointing to see people criticizing Bernie Sanders by making the same point he is making --that one person, even the president, can't change things-- but doing so in such a way as to try to undermine his effort to bring working people together precisely to fight against ruling class domination.

I say it is disappointing because a revolution is not a moment but a movement. And such a movement does not emerge suddenly but is the result of complicated processes.

People who are effective in bringing about social and political change are those who immerse themselves in such movements and help them mature both by understanding where the movement is at today and --at least roughly-- where it will need to be in the future, and can thus propose some of the next steps in getting from here to there.

Even if you predict this specific effort around Bernie  Sanders  is bound to fall short, all experience shows that the least useful approach is to be sideline critics.

Look at the example of revolutionary change in our lifetimes (at least my lifetime) closest to the United States: Cuba.

Before heading the fight that overthrew the Batista dictatorship, there had been a very substantial pre-history to the current that by the late 1950s was led by Fidel Castro and his friends.

It is well know that Fidel had led the disastrous July 26, 1953, attack on the Moncada barracks.

But before that he had helped organize the peaceful Jan. 27, 1953, March of the Torches commemorating the centennial of the birth of José Martí, Cuba's greatest national hero. Which was followed by savage police repression against the movement that was then known as "Youth of the Centennial" and whose followers carried out the Moncada attack.

Before that, Fidel Castro brought a lawsuit demanding Batista's March 10, 1952, coup be declared illegal and Batista removed as president. I'm sure tons of radicals were thinking, "What an idiot! He thinks some judge is going to say a military coup is illegal!"

And before that, Fidel Castro was a candidate for Congress for the anti-corruption Orthodox Party in the 1952 elections that Batista's coup prevented. "What a fool! Changing from the inside Cuba's ultra-corrupt political institutions? Sure."

And even if you say, well, Bernie Sanders is no Fidel Castro, it just so happens that Fidel Castro started out as a follower of radical clean-government reformer Eduardo Chibás, whose dramatic on-air suicide during a radio broadcast in 1951 galvanized a new generation of Cuban youth into action.

"Right. A national radio broadcast (before TV came to the country) with the top opposition leader saying, 'People of Cuba, wake up! This is my last warning!'  Followed by a gunshot.

"That works?"

And Chibás's Ortodoxos, in turn, had been inspired by and descended from the 1933 Revolution against the Machado dictatorship. From that uprising came the "Government of 100 Days" and its leading figure, Antonio Guiteras Holmes, born in Philadelphia in 1906 who grew up with stories of his uncle, a Cuban patriot who fell in the wars for independence, and his great uncle, an Irish patriot of the Young Ireland generation.

With this 26-year-old at its center, the 1933 100 days' government was a  revolutionary-nationalist government that was the first one to enact a minimum wage, the 8-hour day and and many other progressive measures in Cuba. Which is why it only lasted 100 days.

Guiteras's organization, Joven Cuba, fell apart after his assassination in 1935, but was a central inspiration in the founding of the anti-imperialist and anti-corruption Orthodox party 12 years later.

And, of course, the "generation of 1933" in Cuba was directly descended from and inspired by José Martí's Cuban Revolutionary Party and the fighters in the 1895-1898 war for independence that was cut short by the American intervention that turned Cuba into an American  colony in all but name until 1959.

The José Martí generation overlapped with that of the Ten Years' War, which began in 1868 for both independence and the abolition of slavery.

And Cuba's 1868 rebellion was in turn inspired by the crushing of the slave owner's rebellion in the United States (so-called "Civil War") and by anti-Monarchist movements in Spain.

But it is precisely because Cuba's struggle for nationhood arose not just as a political revolution (independence) but a socio-economic one (against slavery) that when the Cuban Revolution finally triumphed in 1959 it wasn't just about changing office-holders or political structures, but a profound social transformation.

*  *  *

A lot of history for a very short conclusion: social change is a process and it takes time; but how sweepingly social it is (as opposed to just narrowly electoral or political) depends a great deal on how it arises and develops along the way.

No one can know today how significant the social motion finding expression around Bernie Sanders will be in the long run. But with his attracting many thousands of people to his campaign rallies, without doubt it is one of the two or three most significant expressions of the interests of working and oppressed peoples in the United States today, alongside Not One More Deportation and Black Lives Matter.

Whether he is the right person to lead or at least symbolize the effort beyond these primaries, what role should the "Black lives matter" or "not one more deportation" movements play, whether the focus should be electoral or in the streets, pushing in an immediate way national changes, local changes or both, are among countless pending questions.

But the least productive way to address them is from the sidelines.

Why I will never, ever, ever vote for Hillary Clinton

So Hillary Clinton has put out a "plan" for infrastructure reform with absolutely zero (0) content. Just vague promises like that when she's president, everyone's going to have "world class" broadband Internet Service.

There is nothing to address the duopoly on Internet services that exists in major markets, to put internet providers under the same rules as the telephone and electric utilities last century: you either build out for EVERYONE or you lose your license to operate in that territory and have to sell all your infrastructure for pennies on the dollar or just write it off.

She doesn't even mention the most outrageous corporate abuses, like entering into exclusive contracts with the OWNERS of apartment buildings that make it impossible for apartment dwellers to use a competitor, or state laws that prohibit municipal internet.

It's all bullshit happytalk, with a magic asterisk from which will materialize $250 billion to finance the plan from closing corporate loopholes. Yeah, sure.

When someone like bernie Sanders, who voted against the Clinton deregulation of the banks and refuses to take Corporate money says he's going to close loopholes, I don't just laugh at the promise.

But when a Wall Street stooge like Hillary awash in corporate PAC money says she's going to bite the hand that feeds her, trusting her is like Charlie Brown trusting Lucy not to pull the football away at the last minute.

This is how the Republicans can win the White House in 2016.

The Democrats nominate Clinton because she is more "electable." And Blacks, Latinos, and young people stay away in droves, because nobody trusts or believes or wants Hillary.

There hasn't been a presidential election decided  by "who people vote for" since Nixon's squeaker in 1968. Since then it's been which people vote, not who people vote for, and nominating a New Democrat retread like Hillary will mean a low turnout election which the Republicans might well sweep (just as they swept the midterms for the same reason).

The Democrat apparatus is counting on the "lesser evil" vote. People have had it with the lesser evil scam, you know, please elect nice Mr. Hitler here because the alternative is Count Dracula.

If that's what the Democrat establishment is counting on to win, get used to saying President Trump.

The new Sanders campaign ad

The 1-minute video aimed at the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primaries is a stunning collage that  begins with images from small-town rural America, followed by the "Feel the Bern" humongous Sanders campaign rallies interspersed with mosaics of hundreds of pictures sent by supporters who uploaded them when they made campaign contributions.

There is no "voice of God" narration but only a 1968 Simon and Garfunkel song in the background. Over the mosaic of contributor faces and massive campaign meetings, part of the lyric is perfectly synchronized with the singing.


And then "All come to look for America" is repeated, in the song as well as the ad. With these images, the message is that masses of people are rising up to insist the country live up to the promise of its ideals.

In a way, that is exactly the opposite of the meaning Simon and Garfunkel's "America" had for me when the song was released in 1968. That was the year of the assassination of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King; of urban rebellions in Black ghettos and the police riot against antiwar demonstrators at the Chicago Democratic Party  Convention; of the savage repression that routed the French and Mexican student movements; and of Soviet Tanks crushing the Prague Spring promise of socialism with a human face.

I have often thought that the words of  Wadsworth about the French Revolution express how I feel about having come of age in the 1960's.

          Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
          But to be young was very heaven!

But I try not to think about that it was also a hell of disappointments, defeats, desertions and most disheartening of all, betrayals.

In its 1968 context, the song captured confusion, alienation and despair. We finally realized that the righteous, peaceful, and just country of our civics textbooks, Sunday sermons and July 4th speeches was more than imperfect, it was a chimera. That America did not exist at all. That was the America of the song.

On its face, it is a song about a couple --perhaps one that's just come together-- traveling a long way by bus. But by the last verse, it has become despair.

That is not captured or reflected in the Sanders campaign video. It skips from the first verse to the last four lines, which are presented as heralding a movement to find or create the real America of legend. Here's hoping we can make it so.

"I'm with her" or how the Democrats can elect Donald Trump

Take a life-long, self-entitled, arrogant, self-serving and money-grubbing politician, who chases votes by changing positions, and with as much grace and charisma as a vulture feeding on carrion --- and make being "with her" the main focus of the campaign.

And it's not about decades of Republican attacks. Look at the chart below showing her favorability rating over 18 months.

The chart is from Real Clear Politics, and its shows an average of recent polls that asked a question like "what is your impression of Hillary Clinton?" Usually you're given five options: very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable, very unfavorable, and neither favorable nor unfavorable.

Before announcing her campaign she wasn't hugely popular, but not underwater. That's Jan 1, 2015. By March, her numbers start to decline as coverage of her coming campaign in creases, finally going negative at the beginning of June, when her campaign is fully launched, and trending steadily downward over the months, to reach a 20-point gap in May.

After Trump becomes the presumptive Republican nominee that her number improve, but only a tiny bit: she remains hugely unpopular.

Obamacare's death spiral in Georgia

The numbers are eye-popping:

67% -- Humana
51% -- Harken Health 
21% -- Blue Cross and Blue Shield
21% -- Alliant
18% -- Kaiser Permanente
14% -- Ambetter

Those were the rate increases approved by the state of Georgia for the 2017 Obamacare insurance plans from the remaining major insurers now that Aetna has pulled out to try to blackmail the government into approving its merger with Humana.
Of special note, Humana and Blue Cross. 
Humana's increase is, in part, the counterpart of Aetna's withdrawal but also, in my area, Humana offers the best insurance plans, with the most comprehensive coverage and highest-quality, least-restrictive networks of providers. And that is clearly proving to not be a viable business model.
Blue Cross is the largest and "default" provider as it has offers insurance across the entire state.
Why the huge increases? Undoubtedly, there is no small amount of price-gouging and profiteering going on, but mostly, the people getting insurance are sicker than anticipated.
Healthier people without insurance are rolling the dice, not buying insurance at all or dropping it once they've had their yearly exam and discovered there's nothing wrong with them. Similarly, couples planning to have children plan their insurance purchases accordingly.
You could, of course, find yourself without insurance and with a catastrophic illness mid-year, but even then there are ways to game the system, for example by moving to another county or another state (at least insofar as your mailing address goes), which will trigger a special enrollment period.
Why would people do this? Well, look at my case. I was 64 at the beginning of the year, and could have bought the absolutely worse individual Obamacare plan for about $525/month, or $6,300 a year, with a $6,700 deductible.
In other words, over a year's time I'd have to spend $13,000 BEFORE the very rock-bottom p-o-s Obamacare plan paid one penny.
If you're sick, of course, you don't buy the $6,300/year plan but the most comprehensive, most expensive plan on offer, in my area, probably one from Humana.
But that means terribly sick people tend to migrate towards Humana, raising its costs (and therefore its request for a huge jump in premiums).
Ambetter (aka Peach State) is asking for the lower increase because they're the ones that offer junk insurance, but even so, they're raising rates an order of magnitude above the overall rate of inflation.
The Republican critique of Obamacare is essentially correct: healthy people will figure out how to avoid the huge insurance premiums or simply choose to pay the (much lower) tax penalty (2% of income) for not having insurance. 
Sick people will sign up for insurance, driving rates ever higher. The higher the rates, the fewer people that are not as sick sign up the next year. That is the "death spiral" and even after only a couple of years, it is clearly evident.
This effect is especially noticeable in a Republican-dominated state like Georgia where there was no broadening of the layer of people covered by insurance through Medicaid.
A "public option" is no solution. It may well prove to be a political trap. To the degree it would be cheaper than private insurance, this choice would drive other insurers out of the market. But even then, the same logic that undermines private insurance would apply to the public option insurance offering. Especially as you get older, and the premiums get much more expensive, you try to figure out how to game the system so as not to buy insurance until you *really* need it. But when you do, you tend to get the "luxury" plan with the best and broadest network of providers and most comprehensive coverage.
The biggest problem in the United States is not the cost of medical insurance but the cost of medical care. We are spending one-sixth or more of GDP on medical care, about half again as much as the next closest country and almost twice as much as the average of the so-called "Western" democracies (Western Europe, USA, Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand). One obvious place to cut costs is in administration. For example, according to a good friend who is in a supervisory position in nursing in a hospital, they spend several dollars' worth of effort tracking who should be billed for each and every aspirin, each of which is worth less than one cent. The billing and payments system in health care includes not just the 20% overhead & profits included in insurance premiums, but the costs to doctors, hospitals, labs and so on of complying with the billing practices of each payer. The small (half dozen) group of doctors that my primary care physician belongs to has six people in administrative roles, three of them almost exclusively dedicated to billing and insurance. In addition to which, the nurses and doctors themselves spend a great deal of their time complying with insurance requirements.
A second place to cut costs is pharmaceuticals. First, all advertising and promotion of prescription drugs to the public at large should be banned, just like it is in all other industrialized countries (except New Zealand). 
Second, either there is marketplace price regulation through the existence of at least four or five providers of the same drug, OR there is government price regulation. And international pricing should be used as a yardstick. If the rule becomes, you cannot go over an additional 10% or 20% more than in Canada or Britain or the Western European average price, the costs of our prescription drugs would plummet.