You Fight 16 Years and What Do You Get

Apologies to Tennessee Ernie Ford’s Lyrics to 16 Tons

You fight 16 years and what do you get,

Another day older and deeper in debt                         

St. Peter please help us ‘cause you want to know,

The generals plan to continue the show.

The President Trump says we are going to fight on to victory.

The Secretary of State Tillerson says we are not going to achieve victory but we’re going to fight on because we want the Taliban to know they will not achieve victory.

The generals say we’re going to . . . .

We really don’t know what the generals say. Why would we listen to them anyway They’ve had 16 years to figure out what to do and they haven’t. Right now it looks like they are losing. Why would one believe that they could do things better now than they have done before?

Anyone who lived through the Vietnam War remembers how the generals were always telling us the solution was right around the corner. Was it Westmoreland who saw the light at the end of the tunnel? Little did he know, or at least he didn’t say, the light he saw was the headlight on a North Vietnamese/Viet Cong freight train barreling down the track. As it roared along we’d have 58,000 plus American names to put on the Vietnam Wall in DC.

Has anyone a good explanation why we think a few more trillion dollars and the continuing American presence for a few more years is going to make a difference especially when we now seem to be conceding we cannot win? It’s widely reported 4,000 more troops are going there but the true figure may be 10,000 or more. Are we staying like we did in Vietnam because the president does not want to lose his reputation as a tough guy and would prefer American troops lose their lives?

An expert on Fox News explained that we want to stay In Afghanistan so we can park a trailer there to watch Pakistan. He said we have to do that to prevent Pakistan from getting nuclear weapons. Sadly, this expert had no idea it already has had them for many years. I suppose that lie is as good as any other that can be conjured up when we are asked why we are staying there. It is along the line of Trump seeing “gold in them there hills” in the minerals they contain or Tillerson seeing great profit for Exxon in a trans-Afghanistan pipeline.

Some Afghans now opposing us as members of the Taliban were not even born at the time we first invaded their country. Every year more and more babies are born who will grow up to hate the invaders. Yes, that is what we are no matter the goodness of our intentions. We’re foreigners to most of the people living there. We don’t speak their language; we don’t practice their religion; we have nothing in common.

Why don’t Americans wonder how we would feel if Afghan troops patrolled our country? if Afghan planes flew over our fields killing Americans.? If Afghan money was used to prop up our leaders?

We invaded Afghanistan if you remember because it was where Osama bin Laden and others associated with 9/11 had been given shelter. It was where the attack against us was planned. We demanded Obama and al Qaeda leaders be handed over. The Taliban, a brutal group if ever one  existed, refused and we went to war against them.

We’ve lost over 2,400 American troops in doing it. We did succeed in defeating the Taliban and freeing up the Afghan people from their barbarities. We had up to 100,000 troops there to do it. We poured money into it as if money was sand.  We won. In our naïve exceptionalism we thought the old adage that Afghanistan is the Graveyard of Empires did not apply to us. Now we know it does.

So where did it get us. No longer willing to keep sufficient forces there we decided we would withdraw after we trained up the Afghan Army to fight for its own country. Again those who recall Vietnam will remember how we trained the South Vietnam Army to fight for its country. As in South Vietnam we found those we trained in Afghanistan were incapable of doing what they were trained to do

Today  we learn the Russians have been arming the Taliban according to the American general in charge in Afghanistan. How long and how much aid I haven’t heard but why would it be surprising: didn’t Russia aid North Vietnam?  We also learned, if you read the article by Sarah Almukhtar in the NY Times about how much of Afghanistan is back under Taliban control: That area is much of the northern border and a huge swath of the center/south. “The Taliban are back in many parts of the country from which they had been purged . . . “

It would have taken a courageous president to say enough is enough. If the Afghan people want to be free they have to fight for it and earn it. We’ve spent 16 years training them to do so and what have we got: another day older and deeper in debt.

 

 

 

 

 

115 thoughts on “You Fight 16 Years and What Do You Get

  1. “We demanded Obama and al Qaeda leaders be handed over. ” Great typo. Not original though, has rolled off my keyboard before.

    1. Tadzio:

      In 2001/2002 we had Obama in our grasp. He was in the Illinois senate. No wonder the Taliban could not produce him.

  2. 1. Yes, Afghanistan is a quagmire. We should get out! We can’t solve the world’s problems. When McCain, Graham and the Generals agree, we should reflect on Vietnam.

    2. Yes, one General said and several reports say Russia is arming its mortal enemy the Taliban (successor of Mujahideen). I doubt it. Russia does not want more radical Islamists in Central Asia, and would prefer a peaceful resolution in Afghanistan. Russia has held international conferences to seek solutions. Russia has an ambassador in Kabul and admits contacting the Taliban but only to seek diplomatic solutions. “Barnett Rubin, a former State Department official in Afghanistan during the Obama administration who is now associate director of the Center on International Cooperation at New York University, said, “For whatever motive, [Russia] is doing what should be done, which is trying to bring the Taliban into a regional political solution to the conflict in Afghanistan.”

    3. HISTORICALLY, we know for sure the US helped Afghanis kill Russians: “The decision to send Stingers to Afghanistan was part of a multibillion-dollar U.S. program to arm the Mujahideen. . . . Congress approved the deal, and the CIA shipped a batch of 300 Stingers to the rebels in 1986 and 700 more the following year. “We were handing them out like lollipops,” an American intelligence official later told the Washington Post.” We know the CIA undermined the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul in 1979, some say triggering the larger war. 14,000 Russian soldiers died in Afghanistan.

    4. OPIUM: (In 2001 US heroin deaths were less than 1,800 annually. The Taliban outlawed opium in 2000. Afghan opium farmland decreased from 91,000 hectares (1999) to 7,600 hectares (2001).

    5. OPIUM: Under US occupation of Afghanistan, opium production surged: by 2014, 224,000 hectares of opium were grown; correspondingly U.S. heroin overdoses skyrocketed to 10,600 heroin overdose deaths in US in 2014; it’s still soaring.) Afghanistan supplies 90% of US heroin (opium); US protects Opium fields; many allege US-CIA protect/assist/carry-out transport of opium/heroin to US. http://www.globalresearch.ca/heroin-dealer-in-chief-afghanistan-source-of-90-of-the-worlds-heroin/5502813 (This lengthy article is hyperbolic, but is chock full of data and raises many compelling issues.)

    6. We’ve lost over 2,600 soldiers in Afghanistan; we lose over 10,000 civilians a year to Afghanistan’s opium/heroin. Are we going to perpetuate war until one million civilians are killed as they were from 1979-89 during the Soviet occupation? Perhaps, if we withdraw, opium production will be banned again and many more lives will be saved over there and at home.

      1. Matt: Tillerson relies on the CIA which is often wrong. Remember the Gulf of Tonkin and Weapons of Mass Destruction.

    1. Bill:

      3. Perhaps this is Russia’s attempt to gain revenge on us for arming the Mujihadeen against the Soviets. You seem to confuse Russia with the Soviet Union which in 1979 was enslaving a multitude of states and had just aided in our defeat in Vietnam. Or are they both the same then and now. Or is it, you would have preferred Afghanistan become a soviet state and not have armed the opposition to it. And I suppose historically the Soviets (or Russians) had no role in helping others kill Americans.

      4. You seem to suggest the Taliban is a force for the good because it outlawed opium production. It also outlawed any deviation from its radical Muslim beliefs. Women wer forbidden to go outside without approved dress, girls were not allowed to go to school, listening to music was punishable by death, ancient monuments destroyed, etc.

      5. Perhaps if the Taliban gain control US lives will be less endangered by heroin but the Afghan people will suffer immensely, That may be the case but after 16 years we can no longer justify being there unless as Eric Prince suggests we take over the country ourselves with enormous forces. Half measures will no longer suffice. We stop doing what we have done because anyone outside of general rank can see it just won’t work. If we leave we tell the Afghan people they have to decide their own future. That is how it must be.

      1. Matt: 14,000 Russian soldiers died in Afghanistan; not 14,000 Poles, Czechs, Bulgarians, and Hungarians. If the US didn’t arm the Mujahideen, one million lives may have been saved.
        2. We would have lost in Vietnam, whether or not Russia supplied arms. China supplied all arms at the beginning, both China and Russia towards end; China also sent 300,000 troops to North Vietnam, to free up NVA forces.
        3. Yes, I’m suggesting it’s better for the US if opium production is ended in Afghanistan. If the Taliban take over, that’s the Afghanis problem. How long do you want US to fight Taliban in Central Asia? Forever? The same arguments were made in Vietnam: We were told what scary things would happen if the Communist North took over. Yes, there were boat people and bloodshed, but most people resumed normal lives. Vietnam survived and prospered without us. So too will Afghanistan.
        4. No, I don’t “confuse” the Soviet Union with Russia, as you allege, but you seem to constantly confuse today’s Russia with Stalin’s Russia. Remember, even Ronald Reagan said the Soviet Union was no longer an evil empire. We live in modern times with a modern Russia and a modern China. The cold war is over. Let’s not re-ignite it.
        5. Russia is helping to end the Syrian Civil War. Tillerson and the US still wrongly criticize Russia, while the US supports Al-Qaeda, Al-Nustra and other radical Islamic groups inside Syria.
        6. Someday, it will dawn on my great and good country, the USA, that the world is not made in the image and likeness of America. Vietnam is prospering without us. Let it be!
        7. Stop incessant CIA interference in other countries’ affairs.
        8. The situation in the Ukraine will be resolved through negotiation, not through bullying, threats, sanctions, embargoes, CIA intermeddling, shipments of lethal weapons or other means.
        9. Purge the CIA and Pentagon of the old cold war warriors, neocons, and interventionists, and take a new fresh modern approach to world affairs.
        10. Pray for peace and stop throwing stones. That’s caveman stuff!

    2. Bill: The American Government should out bid the warlords, and, purchase the whole annual Afghan Opium harvest. Forget about alternative cash crops for Afghan farmers. Buy all the dope in Afghanistan by paying more than anyone else will, every season. It would be the most effective, and, cheapest way, to stop Afghan/Paki heroin from reaching the States. It’s also a war winning strategic move The Taliban would turn back into farmers over night.

      1. Khalid. Your idea is good. Rough numbers (U. Chicago Study): one million current heroin addicts; 3.8 million Americans have tried heroin (six-fold increase from 10 years ago);10,000-plus annual deaths from heroin alone; @25,000 from all opiods; @50,000 from all drug overdoses. (Heroin users go on to use other opiods; so heroin may be responsible for more than 10,000 deaths.)
        Annual US cost of heroin addiction = $50 Billion. (From all drug addiction estimates ranged from $250 billion to $600 billion (NIDA).

        Annual Afghan profit from producing opium = $3 billion (@30% of GDP) one in ten adults in Afghanistan work in opium production.

        If US purchased the whole opium crop, it’d save billions (90% of heroin in US comes from Afghanistan.)

        A farmer in Afghanistan can make $9,000 a year producing opium. Give him $9,000 and let him grow other crops so he can make $9000-plus.

        Farmers in South America make about $700 annually from coca plants. Give them $700 annually to grown something else. End cocaine trafficking.

        So, I agree: Outbid warlords; or directly pay the farmers!

  3. “PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] —The combined, cumulative death toll of war in Afghanistan and Pakistan since 2001 is 173,000, with 183,000 others seriously injured, according to a new study by the Costs of War project, based at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs.
    The study, “Update on the Human Costs of War for Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2001 to mid-2016,”.
    “There is no disputing the fact that the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan continue to be devastating for civilians,” Crawford wrote. “The first six months of 2016 indicate that there is as much or more war-related violence in Afghanistan as in 2015.”
    And the increased intensity of the fighting in Afghanistan, Crawford noted, could have a “spillover” effect in Pakistan.
    “These numbers, moreover, reflect just those killed directly. Many more have died as an indirect result of the wars and their destruction of infrastructure and community health.”

  4. Your position is essentially correct. A retired military officer said if we leave and the Taliban comes to power they will face opposition from their neighbors. Iran, Russia and Uzbeks. Let the bordering states deal with them. Who runs that country or any country in the Middle East is not America’s concern. Ron Paul and Pat Buchanan have been arguing for decades to end these pointless overseas adventures. Natives worldwide don’t want foreigners running their countries. We can’t remake the world or turn third world countries into Austria. Weinberger always said that every war needed an exit strategy. We need one it’s time to go. Let the CIA aid the anti Taliban forces. Get the military out. 2. Hope you will apply the same standard to the conflict in Syria. We don’t need two American divisions there. Assad is a better option than the Taliban. He protects religious minorities. The Taliban eliminates them. 3. Strict vetting of aliens will limit the terror Europe is facing. Keep out Jihadi cells of the Barcelona and Paris kind out of the U S .

  5. I have read the number seven hundred billion for the war in Afghanistan. I can remember reading about the last speech that President Eisenhower made to the American people , where he warned of the dangers of the Military Industrial complex. So many years, so much money, no end in sight.

  6. Here is what Patrisse Cullors, the co-founder of BLM, thinks (she echoes some sentiments posted here.)
    “We wouldn’t as a movement take a seat at the table with Trump because we wouldn’t have done that with Hitler. Trump is literally the epitome of evil, all the evils of this country, be it racism, capitalism, sexism, homophobia and he has set out the most dangerous policies not just that impacts this country but that impacts the globe.” She continued: “And so for us, the answer is not to sit with Trump but to resist him and to resist every single policy that he’s implemented that impacts our communities . . I want (my children) to know that I resisted a president at all costs because this president literally tried to kill our communities.”
    Translation: Trump = Hitler; Trump = evil; Trump is “literally” trying to “kill” communities. Trump’s policies are the “most dangerous” in the world.
    Diagnosis: Trump Derangement Syndrome

  7. Bill: Why are you opposed to BLM? They’re, generally, middle-class, well-educated, African American folks with the resources, and, free time, to protest protest police brutality against blacks. What’s so subversive about that? They aren’t saying that they are against all cops, all of the time. There are a lot of African American police. It’s not a racial thing. Its a question of excessive use of deadly force. If you want to be against a black radical organization, which BLM is not, I suggest the BGA for the focus of your ire.

    1. “BLM? They’re, generally, middle-class, well-educated, African American folks with the resources, and, free time, to protest…”
      You can’t make this stuff up. But, then again, you did.

  8. BLM was founded by three radical feminists Patrice Cullors, Opal Temeti, and, Alicia Garza. Ms. Cullors graduated from UCLA, and, is a Fulbright Scholar. She teaches at Otis College of Arts and Designs. Opal Temeti earned a BA (history) and MA in communications from U. of Arizona. Ms. Garza is a published social critic, and, political writer, who’s articles have appeared in “The Nation,” ” The Guardian,” and “Rolling Stone.” She’s also a Party girl (now, I really like her) .

    From their educational histories, and, the work they do, I’d say these BLM women were well-educated, and, working middle class jobs as teachers, and/or, social activists.If anyone has information to the contrary, please share it with me.

    What kind of academic credentials do Mr. Spencer, and, his band of costumed clowns possess? It’s well-known what a ridiculous fraud “Professor” Duke is. No need to list his phony degrees.

  9. (1) Judging Patrice Cullors by her written words, she is a demonstrable ignoramus. She and BLM espouse the same leftist propaganda that Maxine Waters sprouts: “Trump is Hitler; Trump is Evil; Trump supports the KKK.” Read Maxine Waters’ tweet today: “The white supremacists, KKK and David Duke support Trump, because he’s one of them.” Waters! Another dim-witted liberally biased scholar!
    (2) Maybe I mistakenly heard those BLM marchers shout, “What do we want? Dead cops! When do we want them? Now!”
    (3) BLM spread the lie that “hands up don’t shoot” had something to do with Ferguson.
    (4) BLM insists “black lives matter” and gets “offended” when someone says “all lives matter” or “blue lives matter”; BLM’s refrain is a black supremacist racist refrain.
    (5) And don’t forget the immortal words of another leftist genius Nancy Pelosi: When asked why the Peace Patriots should not be given a permit to assemble and speak, she said, “Because under the Constitution you can’t shout wolf in a crowded theater.” Even if she’d gotten the quote correct, she didn’t know what the hell she was talking about. She’s like the two-faced, back-stabbing McCain preaching that to give a pardon shows “disrespect for the rule of law.” The Presidential Power to Pardon is the rule of law, explicitly enshrined in our Constitution!
    (6) No one stokes the fires of bigotry more than liberals and leftists.
    (7) No one plays the treacherous role of Brutus (et tu Brutus) better than the two-faced (“first thing I’ll do when re-elected is repeal Obamacare (2016)”) war-mongering neocon McCain.
    (8) No one consistently betrays his president and party more than McCain.
    (9) None do more to eviscerate the First Amendment’s Freedom of Speech than liberal Democrats; behind the banner of “hate speech” they’ll silence all “offensive” speakers, especially conservatives espousing traditional Christian values. (Look how the SPLC has labelled Focus on the Family a “hate group”!)
    (10) Have you read the 10 “requests” of the BLM “leader” in Louisville, Kentucky? Chanelle Helm identifies herself as the co-founder of the Louisville Chapter of BLM. She wants white women to help get white “racists” fired. Her written expression: “Get they asses fired.” Where did she major in English? She requests “White people, give your house to a black or brown family.” She asks white developers to build homes “for free” for poor black/brown people. Where did she get her degree in economics?
    Look her up. Read her “requests”! Has BLM denounced her? She sounds like an illiterate communist!
    (11): Give me leaders like Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., Senator Ed Brooke, and intellectuals like Thomas Sowell, Ph.D., any time, any day. All of them would have disdained BLM, in my humble opinion.

  10. Police Chief of El Paso Texas, Greg Allen, has called BLM “a radical hate group.” And Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clark has called BLM “a hate group” and a “terrorist” organization. Both men are African-Americans.

  11. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) says Black Lives Matter is not a hate group, but White Lives Matter is a hate group. And Treva Lindsey, a professor of women’s studies at Ohio State, penned an article under the heading: “Why Blue Lives Matter is just as dangerous as White Lives Matter.”

    What’s dangerous is the way SPLC and others calculate “hate”. Leftists with PhD.s can be more blind and biased than some grammar school drop outs!

  12. ugh!
    http://www.occurrencesforeigndomestic.com/2017/08/27/abracadabra/

    in other ughs

    I Volunteer to Kidnap Oliver North
    by
    Michael Levine

    Undercover DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena was tortured to death slowly by professionals. Every known maximum-pain technique, from electric shocks to his testicles to white hot rods inserted in his rectum, was applied. A doctor stood by to keep him alive. The heart of the thirty-seven year old father of two boys refused to quit for more than twenty-four hours. His cries, along with the soft-spoken, calm voices of the men who were slowly and meticulously savaging his body, were tape-recorded.
    Kiki, one of only three hundred of us in the world (DEA agents on foreign assignment), had been kidnapped in broad daylight from in front of the U.S. Consular office in Guadalajara, Mexico by Mexican cops working for drug traffickers and, apparently, high level Mexican government people whose identities we would never know. They would be protected by people in our own government to whom Kiki’s life meant less than nothing.

    When teams of DEA agents were sent to Mexico, first, to find the missing Kiki, then to hunt for his murderers, they were met by a the stone wall of a corrupt Mexican government that refused to cooperate. To the horror and disgust of many of us, our government backed down from the Mexicans; other interests, like NAFTA, banking agreements and the covert support of Ollie North’s Contras, were more important than the life of an American undercover agent. DEA agents were ordered by the Justice Department, to keep our mouths shut about Mexico; an order that was backed up by threats from the office of Attorney General Edwin Meese himself. Instead of tightening restrictions on the Mexican debt, our Treasury Department moved to loosen them as if to reward them for their filthy deed. As an added insult Mexico was granted cooperating nation in the drug war status, giving them access to additional millions in American drug war funds and loans.

    Somehow a CIA—unaware that their own chief of Soviet counter intelligence, Aldrich Ames, was selling all America’s biggest secrets to the KGB for fourteen years with all the finesse of a Jersey City garage sale—was able to obtain the tape-recordings of Kiki’s torture death. No one in media or government had the courage to publicly ask them explain how they were able to obtain the tapes, yet know nothing of the murder as it was happening; no one had the courage to ask them to explain the testimony of a reliable government informant, (during a California trial related to Camarena’s murder), that Kiki’s murderers believed they were protected by the CIA. Nor did our elected leaders have the courage to investigate numerous other reports linking the CIA directly to the murderers.

    Our government’s sellout of Kiki Camarena, of all DEA agents, of the war on drugs, was such that United States Congressman, Larry Smith, stated, on the floor of Congress:

    “I personally am convinced that the Justice Department is against the best interests of the United States in terms of stopping drugs… What has a DEA agent who puts his life on the line got to look forward to? The U.S. Government is not going to back him up. I find that intolerable.”

    What does Oliver North have to do with this?

    A lot of us, Kiki’s fellow agents, believe that the Mexican government never would have dared take the action they did, had they not believed the US government to be as hypocritical and corrupt as they were and still are. And if there was ever a figure in our history that was the paradigm of that corruption it is the man President Reagan called “an American hero”; the same man Nancy Reagan later called a liar: Oliver North.

    No one person in our government’s history more embodied what Senator John Kerry referred to when he called the US protection of the drug smuggling Contras a “betrayal of the American people.”

    Few Americans, thanks to what one time CIA chief William Colby referred to as the news media’s “misplaced sense of patriotism,” are aware that the Nobel prize winning President of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias—as a result of an in-depth investigation by the Costa Rican Congressional Commission on Narcotics that found “virtually all [Ollie North supported] Contra factions were involved in drug trafficking”—banned Oliver North, U.S. Ambassador Lewis Tambs, National Security Advisor Admiral John Poindexter, Presidential Advisor Richard Secord and C.I.A. station chief José Fernandez, by Executive order, from ever entering Costa Rica— for their roles in utilizing Costa Rican territory for cocaine trafficking.

    In fact, when Costa Rica began its investigation into the drug trafficking allegations against North and naively thought that the U.S. would gladly lend a hand in efforts to fight drugs, they received a rude awakening about the realities of America’s war on drugs as opposed to its “this-scourge-will-end” rhetoric.

    After five witnesses testified before the U.S. Senate, confirming that John Hull—a C.I.A. operative and the lynch-pin of North’s contra re supply operation—had been actively running drugs from Costa Rica to the U.S. “under the direction of the C.I.A.,” Costa Rican authorities arrested him. Hull then quickly jumped bail and fled to the U.S.—according to my sources—with the help of DEA, putting the drug fighting agency in the schizoid business of both kidnapping accused drug dealers and helping them escape; although the Supreme Court has not legalized the latter . . . yet.

    The then-President of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias was stunned when he received letters from nineteen U.S. Congressman—including Lee Hamilton of Indiana, the Democrat who headed the Iran-contra committee—warning him “to avoid situations . . . that could adversely affect our relations.” Arias, who won the Nobel prize for ending the contra war, stated that he was shocked that “relations between [the United States] and my country could deteriorate because [the Costa Rican] legal system is fighting against drug trafficking.”

    In my twenty-five years experience with DEA which includes running some of their highest level international drug trafficking investigations, I have never seen an instance of comparable allegations where DEA did not set up a multi-agency task force size operation to conduct an in-depth conspiracy investigation. Yet in the case of Colonel North and the other American officials, no investigation whatsoever has been initiated by DEA or any other investigative agency.

    The total “public” investigation into the drug allegations by the Senate was falsely summed up in the statement of a staffer, on the House select committee, Robert A. Bermingham who notified Chairman Hamilton on July 23, 1987, that after interviewing “hundreds” of people his investigation had not developed any corroboration of “media-exploited allegations that the U.S. government condoned drug trafficking by contra leaders . . . or that Contra leaders or organizations did in fact take part in such activity.” Every government official accused of aiding and covering up for the contra drug connection, Colonel Ollie included, then hung his hat on this statement, claiming they had been “cleared.”

    The only trouble was that investigative journalists, Leslie and Andrew Cockburn—after interviewing many of the chief witnesses whose testimony implicated North and the contras in drug trafficking, including several whose testimony was later found credible enough to be used to convict Manuel Noriega—could find not one who had been interviewed by Bermingham or his staff. In fact, the two journalists seem to have caught Bermingham red-handed in what can only be described, at best, as a gross misrepresentation of fact, when he (Bermingham) quoted the chief counsel of a House Judiciary subcommittee, Hayden Gregory as dismissing the drug evidence and calling it “street talk.” Gregory told the Cockburns that the “street talk” comment was taken out of context; that he had not even met Bermingham until July 22 (two days before Bermingham wrote the report) and that he had in fact told Bermingham that there were “serious allegations against almost every contra leader.”

    When President Bush said, “All those who look the other way are as guilty as the drug dealers,” he was not only talking about a moral guilt, but a legal one as well. Thus, if any U.S. official knew of North and the contra’s drug activities and did not take proper action, or covered up for it, he is “guilty” of a whole series of crimes that you to go to jail for; crimes that carry a minimum jail term; crimes like Aiding and Abetting, Conspiracy, Misprision of a Felony, Perjury, and about a dozen other violations of law related to misuse and malfeasance of public office. I’m not talking about some sort of shadow conspiracy here. As a veteran, criminal investigator I don’t deal in speculation. I document facts and evidence and then work like hell to corroborate my claims so that I can send people to jail.

    What I am talking about is “Probable Cause”—a legal principle that every junior agent and cop is taught before he hits the street. It mandates that an arrest and/or criminal indictment must occur when there exists evidence that would give any “reasonable person” grounds to believe, that anyone— U.S. government officials included—had violated or conspired to violate federal narcotic laws. Any U.S. government law enforcement officer or elected official who fails to take appropriate action when such Probable Cause exists, is in violation of his oath as well as federal law; and under that law it takes surprisingly little evidence for a Conspiracy conviction.

    As an example, early in my career I arrested a man named John Clements, a twenty-two year old, baby-faced guitar player, who happened to be present at the transfer of three kilos of heroin—an amount that doesn’t measure up to a tiny percentage of the many tons of cocaine, (as much as one half the U.S. cocaine consumption), that North and his Contras have been accused of pouring onto our streets. Clements was a silent observer in a trailer parked in the middle of a Gainesville, Florida swamp, while a smuggler—whom I had arrested hours earlier in New York City and “flipped” (convinced to work as an informer for me)— turned the heroin over to the financier of the operation. Poor John Clements, a friend of both men, a “gofer” as he would later be described, was just unlucky enough to be there.

    The twenty-two year old guitar player couldn’t claim “national security,” when asked to explain his presence, nor could he implicate a President of the United States in his criminal activities as Colonel North did. John Clements wrote no self-incriminating computer notes that indicated his deep involvement in drug trafficking, as North did; he didn’t have hundreds of pages of diary notes in his own handwriting also reflecting narcotics trafficking. John Clements did not shred incriminating documents and lie to congress as North did; nor was he responsible for millions in unaccounted for U.S. government funds as North was. Clements did not have enough cash hidden in a closet slush fund to pay $14,000 cash for a car, as North did while earning the salary of a Lieutenant Colonel. John Clements only had about $3 and change in his pocket.

    Nor did John Clements campaign for the release from jail of a drug smuggling, murderer whose case was described by the Justice Department as the worst case of narco terrorism in our history, as North did. Poor young John wouldn’t have dreamed of making deals with drug dealer Manny Noriega to aid in the support of the drug smuggling Contras, as North did. No, John Clements was certainly not in Ollie North’s league, he couldn’t have done a millionth of the damage North and his protectors have been accused of doing to the American people, even if he wanted to.

    But John Clements did do something Ollie North never did and probably never will do—he went to jail. A jury of his peers in Gainseville Florida found more than enough evidence to convict him of Conspiracy to violate the federal drug laws. The judge sentenced him to thirty years in a Federal prison. Ollie North on the other hand was only charged with lying to a Congress so mistrusted and disrespected by the American people that he was virtually applauded for the crime.

    Criminality in drug trafficking cases is lot easier than proving whether or not someone lied to Congress and is certainly a lot less “heroic.” Statements like “I don’t remember,” “I didn’t know,” and “No one told me,” or “I sought approval from my superiors for every one of my actions,” are only accepted as valid defenses by Congressmen and Senators with difficulties balancing check books—not American jurors trying drug cases. And when you’re found guilty you got to jail—you don’t run for a seat on the Senate.

    And why would I volunteer to kidnap Ollie? For three reasons: first, kidnapping is now legal; second, I have experience kidnapping; and third, it is the only way those tens of millions of Americans who have suffered the betrayal of their own government will ever see even a glimmer of justice.

    Several years after Kiki’s last tape-recorded cries were shoved well under a government rug, a maverick group of DEA agents decided to take the law into their own hands. Working without the knowledge or approval of most of the top DEA bosses, whom they mistrusted, the agents arranged to have Dr. Humberto Alvarez Machain, a Mexican citizen alleged to have participated in Kiki’s murder, abducted at gun point in Guadalajara Mexico and brought to Los Angeles to stand trial.

    On June 16, 1992, the United States Supreme Court ruled in the landmark Machain Decision that the actions of those agents was “legal.” The ruling said in no uncertain terms that U.S. law enforcement authorities could literally and figuratively kidnap violators of American drug law in whatever country they found them and drag them physically and against their will to the U.S. to stand trial. Immediately thereafter the Ayatollahs declared that they too could rove the world and kidnap violators of Islamic law and drag them back to Iran to stand trial. Kidnapping, therefore, has now become an accepted tool of law enforcement throughout the world.

    Resorting to all sorts of wild extremes to bring drug traffickers to justice is nothing new for the U.S. government. At various times during my career as a DEA agent I was assigned to some pretty unorthodox operations—nothing quite as radical as invading Panama and killing a thousand innocents to capture long-time CIA asset Manny Noriega—but I was once, (long before the Machain Decision), assigned to a group of undercover agents on a kidnapping mission. Posing as a soccer team, we landed in Argentina in a chartered jet during the wee hours of the morning, where the Argentine Federal Police had three international drug dealers—two of whom had never in their lives set foot in the United States—waiting for us trussed up in straight-jackets with horse feed-bags over their heads, each beaten to a pulpy, toothless mess. In those years we used to call it a “controlled expulsion.” I think I like the honesty of kidnapping a little better.

    By now you’re probably saying, “Get real Levine you live in a nation whose politicians ripped their own people off for half a trillion dollars in a savings and loan scam, a nation whose Attorney General ordered the FBI to attack a house full of innocent babies, and this is the decade of Ruby Ridge, Waco and Whitewater-gate; your own people sent Kiki Camarena to Mexico to be murdered and then gave aid and comfort to those who murdered him—how can you expect justice?”

    If you aren’t saying these things you should be. And you’d be right. Under the current two-party, rip-off system of American politics with their complete control of main stream media, I expect Ollie North to have a bright future in politics, while hundreds of thousands of Americans like John rot in jail. Ollie North, after all, is the perfect candidate. But there is one faint glimmer of hope remaining, and it isn’t in America.

    Since the democratic and staunchly anti-drug Costa Rica is, thus far, the only nation with the courage to have publicly accused Oliver North, a US Ambassador and a CIA station chief of running drugs from their sovereignty to the United States, I find myself, duty-bound to make them, or any other nation that would have the courage to make similar charges, the following offer:

    I, Michael Levine, twenty-five year veteran undercover agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration, given the mandate of the Supreme Court’s Machain Decision and in fulfillment of my oath to the U.S. government and its taxpayers to arrest and seize all those individuals who would smuggle or cause illegal drugs to be smuggled into the United States or who would aid and abet drug smugglers, do hereby volunteer my services to any sovereign, democratic nation who files legal Drug Trafficking charges against Colonel Oliver North and any of his cohorts; to do everything in my power including kidnapping him, seizing his paper shredder, reading him his constitutional rights and dragging his butt to wherever that sovereignty might be, (with or without horse feed-bag); to once-and-for-all stand trial for the horrific damages caused to my country, my fellow law enforcement officers, and to my family!

    1. I didn’t know the story about Kiki but have had the opportunity to talk to survivors of Contra raids and have heard firsthand some horrific details about those encounters. A woman told me about her husband being tied to a tree outside their farmhouse while a dozen men raped her for hours. They then machine gunned his head off and drove away.

      Like the atrocities in El Salvador, the buck stopped in The Oval Office. That’s why several handsome presidential portraits have adorned my dartboards over the years. A small token of disgust. Suggested reading: Joe Moakley’s Journey by M. R. Schneider.

      1. The Contras were the Somoza family’s military, and, intelligence, thugs, re-packaged as “freedom fighters.” Under the Nicaraguan dictadura, the country’s National Guard raped, robbed, and, murdered, their own people throughout the civil war. They fled Nicaragua after their ignominious defeat by the Sandinista militias in a long bloody conflict. The National Guard war criminals found a happy home in Florida, just, as, the Cubans had done before them. They were the next generation of Latin mercenaries. When the CIA announced they were hiring, the out-of-work Nicaraguan thugs signed on with gusto.

        Lot’s of Anglo mercs worked in Central America at that time. Mike Echanis comes to mind. In a supporting role, Ed Harris played a film character based on Echanis. In the movies, the Ed Harris character , despite all his bloody deeds, survives the revolution. In real life, Echanis was blown away by Sandinista Intel operatives who put a bomb on board his aircraft. He went down with three other mercs. Some Americans chose to fight with the Sandinistas. Usually, guys from ASU who been radicalized during their time in VN.

  13. from todays guardian

    Harvard scientists took Exxon’s challenge; found it using the tobacco playbook
    A new study finds a stark contrast between Exxon’s research and what the company told the public

    Wednesday 23 August 2017 06.00 EDT Last modified on Wednesday 23 August 2017 06.02 EDT

    Read all of these documents and make up your own mind.

    That was the challenge ExxonMobil issued when investigative journalism by Inside Climate News revealed that while it was at the forefront of climate science research in the 1970s and 1980s, Exxon engaged in a campaign to misinform the public.

    Harvard scientists Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes decided to take up Exxon’s challenge, and have just published their results in the journal Environmental Research Letters. They used a method known as content analysis to analyze 187 public and internal Exxon documents. The results are striking:

    In Exxon’s peer-reviewed papers and internal communications, about 80% of the documents acknowledged that climate change is real and human-caused.
    In Exxon’s paid, editorial-style advertisements (“advertorials”) published in the New York Times, about 80% expressed doubt that climate change is real and human-caused.

    also see

    Tillerson brings Exxon’s denial to the State Department
    Climate change: Rex Tillerson tells US diplomats to dodge questions on Paris Agreement

    Secretary of State tells envoys told to be deliberately vague if asked about the international accord by foreign countries

    The Independent (U.K.), Aug. 10, 2017

    US diplomats should sidestep questions from foreign governments on what it would take for the Trump administration to re-engage in the global Paris climate agreement, according to a diplomatic cable seen by Reuters.

    The cable, sent by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to embassies, also said diplomats should make clear the United States wants to help other countries use fossil fuels.

    In the wake of President Donald Trump’s announcement in June that the United States would withdraw from the accord, the cable tells diplomats to expect foreign government representatives to ask questions like “Does the United States have a climate change policy?” and “Is the administration advocating the use of fossil fuels over renewable energy?”

    If asked, for example, “What is the process for consideration of re-engagement in the Paris Agreement?”, the answer should be vague. “We are considering a number of factors. I do not have any information to share on the nature or timing of the process,” the cable advises.

    A US State Department official declined to comment on the cable.

    Mr Trump, a Republican, had campaigned on a promise to “cancel” the Paris deal, saying he believed it would cost the US economy trillions of dollars while leaving developing nations such as China unfettered. In sharp contrast to the previous administration of President Barack Obama, a Democrat, Mr Trump has several times called climate change a hoax.

    In June, Mr Trump left the door open to re-engagement with the Paris Agreement if the terms improved. The United States will “start to negotiate, and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair,” he said.

    The State Department guidance clarifies that right now, “there are no plans to seek to re-negotiate or amend the text of the Paris Agreement”.

    But it adds: “The President is sincere in his commitment to look for a path to re-engage that takes into account his concerns for US economic growth and energy security.”

    The Paris accord, agreed by nearly 200 countries in 2015, seeks to limit planetary warming by curbing global emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases that scientists believe drive global warming. The United States, under the Obama administration, had promised to cut emissions as much as 28 per cent from 2005 levels by 2025.

    Separate from the diplomatic cable, the Trump administration is reviewing a draft report written by scientists across 13 federal government agencies that shows the effects of climate change pose dire, near-term threats to the United States.

    The Environmental Protection Agency declined to comment on the draft, which The New York Times published on Monday.
    The report puts the White House in the awkward position of either clearing the report’s findings or editing them.

    The diplomatic guidance makes clear that the United States intends to attend global climate summits during the prolonged process of withdrawing from the Paris deal to protect US interests. The next summit is in November.

    A US official said a major priority in these talks would be to beat back attempts to have separate standards in the guidance on emissions cuts for rich and poor nations – long a sticking point in negotiations.

    “There’s certainly nothing in the policies of this administration that would make us think that we should be acting differently,” the official said on condition of anonymity to discuss the internal memo.

    The cable also anticipates questions over why the United States has changed its policy to make it easier for global development banks such as the World Bank to finance coal-fired power projects. In 2013 the Obama administration said the United States would oppose most coal projects, guidance since altered by the Trump administration.

    “The new principles will allow the (United States) the flexibility to approve, as appropriate, a broad range of power projects, including the generation of power using clean and efficient fossil fuels and renewable energy,” the cable said.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change-paris-agreement-rex-tillerson-us-diplomats-dodge-questions-global-warming-us-a7884076.html

    1. Well, reading that was a complete waste of time. As is reading articles and interviews about the threat of global warming. Both side know just who to interview to make their side of the argument look flawless. And people eat it up.

  14. OBAMA’S vs REAGAN’S APPROACH TO DRUGS:

    Under Obama, heroin overdoses skyrocketed from 2,000 to 14,000 annual deaths, cocaine overdoses increased from 4,200 to 6,500 annual deaths, total opiod overdose deaths increased from 20,000 to 35,000; all drug overdose deaths increased from 35,000 to 50,000. (National Institute on Drug Abuse)

    Under Reagan and Oliver North, in the 1980s, there were about 6,000 drug overdose deaths per year. (Center for Disease Control)

    At one time in America, there was a War on Drugs. From 2,000 on we took our eye off the ball. With Obama, we gave up. Hopefully, President Trump will resume the war on heroin, opiates and cocaine.

    1. Guatemala figured big in the G’s 1980’s dope schemes. The DEA guy watching flights at Aurora wrote all about it. His name was Celestino, something, or, other. It’s an interesting read, somewhat in the vein of Levine’s expose. He watched multi-ton shipments of cocaine transferred between aircraft out on the field. To service light planes on the up leg from Columbia, lot of the big ranches had paved airfields, and, refrigerated buildings. Jorge Godoy ( He, also, played piano in the Antigua Ramada Hotel bar), a big-shot latifundado, claimed the CIA would call to tell him the date, and, time, of any upcoming visits from the DEA. That was in the eighties, it’s much worse down there, now. Back then, there were a lot of free agents cruising around looking for a piece of things. It was never a place for amateurs, but, for experienced scammers, the action was hot. That’s all done, now. Once, the maras, and, the Mexican narcos, took over, all the independents were frozen out, or, killed.

      Bill: Are you saying the US government wasn’t /isn’t completely responsible for what goes on in Central America? I can think more than one Indian slaughter where spooks were present. Reagan was assisting in the Guatemalan Army’s bloody pacification of Maya people in the highlands. A lot of advisers and weapons went south for that purpose. A lot of cocaine came back.

  15. Nicaragua’s Sandinista Regime also was accused of direct involvement in drug trafficking. See, for example:
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1984/07/20/dea-agent-avers-sandinista-officials-abet-cocaine-smuggling-into-us/82868f52-108b-4e5d-b5b4
    Fingers were pointed every which way.
    The fact was, Reagan opposed another pro-Soviet Cuban-like regime being established in Central America.
    Propaganda was pushed on all sides. Still is by leftists!

  16. Houston has a low-income black/brown area called the “Fifth Ward.” No TV people are reporting from there. Black, and, brown, faces seem scarce in the national media coverage. The neighborhoods, where coverage takes place appear, by the look of the structures, middle-class, and, the people walking around in the background shots, predominately white. There’s been reports of looting, armed robbery, and, running gunfights with the police (HC). Houston’s rising waters are drowning the law. Just, an early observation.

    1. Sorry, Khalid. There’s been lots of Black people on every channel. Maybe I’ve been watching more coverage than you. Hispanic, Black, White. They’re all on board both rescued and rescuing.

  17. From the Long War Journal (http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2017/08/sending-more-troops-to-afghanistan-is-a-good-start.php):

    Sending more troops to Afghanistan is a good start

    In a primetime speech Monday evening, President Trump is expected to announce the deployment of several thousand more American troops to Afghanistan. We doubt this will be enough to win the war, but it is better than the alternatives offered to the president. A complete withdrawal would have been disastrous.

    The premature withdrawal from Iraq in 2011 paved the way for the rise of the Islamic State, which evolved into an international menace after overrunning much of Iraq and Syria. A similar scenario could have unfolded in Central and South Asia. The Taliban-led insurgency currently contests or controls more territory today than in years. And a withdrawal would have cleared the jihadists’ path to take even more ground, possibly leading to dire ramifications throughout the region.

    Therefore, President Trump deserves credit for making a decision that went against his gut instinct, which told him to get out. In the process, America and its Afghan allies avoided the near-certain catastrophe that would have followed.

    But if America is really going to put the Afghan government on the path to victory, then the Trump administration will have to learn from the mistakes of its predecessors. In particular, the US government needs to drastically reassess America’s jihadist enemies and avoid the policy pitfalls of the past.

    With that in mind, the Trump administration has the opportunity to make the following course corrections.

    Stop underestimating al Qaeda

    President Trump can explain to the American people that al Qaeda is still a significant problem in South Asia—a potentially big one. President Barack Obama frequently claimed that al Qaeda was “decimated” and a “shadow of its former self” in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That wasn’t true. The Obama administration’s counterterrorism campaign dealt significant blows to al Qaeda’s leadership, disrupting the organization’s chain-of-command and interrupting its communications. But al Qaeda took measures to outlast America’s drones and other tactics. The group survived the death of Osama bin Laden and, in many ways, grew.

    Consider that from June 2010 until 2016—that is, most of the Obama administration—the US government repeatedly insisted that there were just 50 to 100 al Qaeda operatives in all of Afghanistan. This was clearly false at the time, and US officials were eventually forced to admit that this figure was far off.

    From October 2015 until the first week of December 2016, the US and its allies killed or captured 400 al Qaeda members in Afghanistan—four times the longstanding high-end estimate. In October 2015, American and Afghan forces raided two large training camps in the Shorabak district of Afghanistan’s southern Kandahar province. One of them was nearly 30 square miles in size. US officials described the camp as likely the largest al Qaeda training facility in the history of Afghanistan. Both of the Shorabak camps were supported by the Taliban.

    Think about that: In October 2015—more than 14 years after the 9/11 hijackings —the US led a raid on what was probably the largest al Qaeda training camp in history. So much for being “decimated.”

    Al Qaeda continues to fight under the Taliban’s banner as well. Its newest branch, al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, is deeply embedded in the Taliban-led insurgency. And just days before the 2016 presidential election, the US killed a veteran al Qaeda leader in eastern Afghanistan who was both planning attacks against the American homeland and supporting the Taliban’s insurgency. Incredibly, al Qaeda is still able to plot attacks against the US from inside Afghanistan.

    Some of the Americans newly deployed to Afghanistan will be called upon to perform counterterrorism missions. Similar efforts have disrupted anti-American plots in the past. But al Qaeda has used its broader role in the insurgency to regenerate its threats against the West. The American mission needs to root out al Qaeda, much more so than in the recent past. Are there other Shorabak-type training camps? How many fighters does al Qaeda really have in Afghanistan— taking into account its ethnically diverse membership? The Trump administration needs to focus on these types of questions. Otherwise, al Qaeda will keep coming back.

    Forget about a grand bargain with the Taliban’s senior leadership

    Many officials in the US government think the only way the Afghan war ends is by negotiating a peace deal with the Taliban. There’s just one problem: The Taliban has never shown any real interest in peace.

    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton oversaw negotiations with the Taliban during the Obama administration. The talks were a fiasco. The Taliban extracted various concessions and the US never got anything in return, other than Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, an accused deserter. The current Taliban honcho is Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, whose son carried out a suicide bombing in July. Akhundzada is a jihadist ideologue, not a prospective peace partner. Negotiating with him would be sheer folly. The Obama administration also pursued talks with the Taliban under the theory that the group could forswear al Qaeda. See the details above—that idea was always a dangerous fantasy.

    The US and the Afghan government can and should attempt to peel away mid- to low-level Taliban fighters and commanders. But the idea that a grand bargain can be had with the Taliban has never been rooted in reality.

    Stop treating the Haqqani Network as a separate group

    The US has long operated under the delusion that the powerful Haqqani family and its loyalists are somehow distinct from the Taliban. It was always a curious assumption given that Jalaluddin Haqqani, the network’s eponymous founder, formally joined the Taliban in the mid-1990s. His son, Sirajuddin (a key al Qaeda ally), has been the Taliban’s No. 2 leader since 2015 and oversees much of the Taliban’s military operations. Sirajuddin’s ascent within the Taliban’s ranks means that no one can pretend that the Haqqani Network and the Taliban are distinct entities any longer. The Haqqani Network has long been designated a terrorist organization by the US government. The Trump administration should extend the designation to cover the entire Taliban, thereby making it clear to anyone who does business with the Taliban that they are backing a terrorist group.

    The Islamic State is a threat in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but not nearly as much of a threat as the Taliban-al Qaeda axis

    The US has spent disproportionate resources fighting the Islamic State’s “province” in eastern Afghanistan. Earlier this year, for example, the US military dropped the “mother of all bombs” on the group’s stronghold in Nangarhar province. Several Americans have died during operations against Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s loyalists in country.

    There’s no question that the Islamic State remains a serious problem in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but it still doesn’t threaten the Afghan government to the same degree that the Taliban-al Qaeda axis does. The Islamic State controls parts of perhaps several Afghan districts. But the Taliban and its allies contest or control approximately 40 percent of the country. Therefore, the US has focused a lot of resources on a, relatively speaking, smaller threat. The Trump administration will need to devise a more offensive approach to dealing with the Taliban-al Qaeda alliance, an effort that has been hampered by restrictive rules of engagement in the past.

    Pakistan continues to be a big problem

    It is no secret that Pakistan harbors much of the Taliban’s senior leadership. But the US has only occasionally targeted these figures inside Pakistan proper. If Pakistan won’t turn on the Taliban—and it won’t—then the Trump administration should take more aggressive action against the group’s Pakistani safe havens.

    The drone campaign can be expanded to target known Taliban leaders operating inside Pakistan. For example, the organization’s leader, Mullah Mansour, was killed in a May 2016 airstrike in Pakistan after he returned from a visit to Iran. Mansour’s death was intended to open the door to possible peace talks, which didn’t materialize.

    If the Taliban is allowed to continue operating unencumbered, then the administration will be repeating the mistakes of the past. For too long, the Taliban’s leaders have been able to direct the insurgency in Afghanistan from their cozy confines in Pakistan. American aid to Pakistan can and should be withheld until the country’s military and intelligence establishment proves willing to make meaningful changes in its behavior. No one should hold their breath waiting for this happen, however, and the Trump administration can’t afford to wait.

    Iran remains a problem, too

    The Iranian government has supported the Taliban’s insurgency since 2001. Although this assistance is not as pronounced as Pakistan’s, it is meaningful. The US government has also repeatedly noted that Iran hosts al Qaeda’s “core facilitation pipeline,” which moves fighters, funds, and communications to and from South Asia. Any successful strategy for turning the Afghan war around will have to deal with the Iranian government’s nefarious role.

    The Russians are on the opposite side of the Afghan war. The Russians are, at a minimum, providing rhetorical support to the Taliban. There are reports that Russia has provided arms to Taliban insurgents as well. President Trump has made no secret of the fact that he seeks better relations with Vladimir Putin’s government. But Russia’s flirtations (and maybe more) with the Taliban are a stark reminder that this will be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. In the meantime, the US will have to take steps to disrupt Putin’s relationship with his favorite jihadis in the Taliban.

    The rural areas matter

    US military officials often downplay the importance of rural areas, arguing that they need only bolster the Afghan government’s defenses in the more heavily populated areas. But this is a mistake. The Taliban’s insurgents have been using their advances in Afghanistan’s more rural territory to orchestrate sieges on several provincial capitals. If the US and Afghan forces don’t go on the offensive in these areas, then the jihadists will continue to squeeze the more populated terrain.

    These are just some of the issues that confront the US on the road ahead.

    With his decision, President Trump has ensured that the worst-case scenario won’t unfold. But that is a long way from victory. And to win, the US is going to have to get real about our jihadist enemies in Afghanistan.

    Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal. Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.

    1. I agree with Bill. C’s comments on the article. Complicated, yes. If the facts in the article are true and the goal of peace in that country is what we are after, several divisions of US troops and many more from our allies are going to be needed. The terrain presents a huge problem. The numbers of Jihadist fighters in the country and others able to make their way to Afghanistan is in the tens if not hundreds of thousands. The rules of war may be about to change.

  18. Jon, thanks. Reading this, makes one realize how complex this situation is, and how little most of us know about it. We all ask: What’s the long term goal? We all wonder if it’ll ever end, or are we in an era of perpetual war? Another hundred-years war?

    1. Bill,

      I appreciate your intellectual honesty in carefully considering the post. As a quick aside, I always appreciate your fact-based, well-reasoned posts, though I must add I cannot fathom your faith in Trump, whom I consider to be, frankly, the dumbest, most intemperate, least qualified, and most morally-abominable president in America history. I say this as one who leans conservative, distrusts the mainstream media, was happy with the Gorsuch selection, and does not necessarily disagree with every policy put forward by the Trump administration.

      At any rate, I don’t have easy answers to your questions, and truthfully, I have not been following the issue closely as I’ve been committed to other ventures. But I know Tom and Bill, and in fact Tom is a close friend for whom I did some work on the Gitmo issue (see http://www.weeklystandard.com/clear-and-present-danger/article/16927; see also a piece I wrote at https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/what-i-learned-from-studying-the-men-detained-at-guantanamo-wcz/).

      What I can say is they track the terror network very closely. They testify before Congress regularly. I believe NATO itself sometimes asks for their assistance in tracking developments in Afghanistan. I once knew an Army intelligence officer who was very dismissive of MSM coverage in Afghanistan, except when I mentioned Bill Roggio, whom he respected. The Taliban sent the first direct confirmation to them in May 2010 that the TTP was behind the Times Square bombing attempt, which is to say, the Taliban and AQ follow THEM closely. They are meticulous students of the terror network, and I would recommend following LWJ regularly.

  19. Jon,
    I recognize Trump is a flawed president, but so were all of them (Obama, Bush, Clinton.) Obama and Clinton were smooth — too smooth sometimes; Bush sometimes too folksy. Trump sometimes intemperate, especially in some tweets. But these are minor quibbles. I agree with most of his policies. (Gorsuch, other judges, Dakota Access Pipeline, Economy in general, repeal Obamacare, cut taxes, smaller government, anti-nation building, anti-neocon); I like his cabinet; I like his decision making.
    (You know who else the Press repeatedly said was “ignorant”? Bush! Reagan! You know who else the Press repeatedly maligned as a fascist, Nazi? Reagan!)
    2. I thank God every day Hillary wasn’t elected.
    3. I’ve never seen a President (or any politician) so constantly maliciously maligned by the Main Stream Media. I’ve posted these statistics before. Harvard Study: 90% of CNN et al stories were negative on Trump; with Obama 40%.
    4. Multiple MSM stories (ABC, CNN, MSNBC) “reported” Trump lacked “empathy” for the people of Houston. The Press is despicable.
    It’s sickening.
    5. An average of polls: Trump’s favorable ratings 40%. The Press (MSM) 20%. Congress 20%.
    6. I’ve come to abhor the liberal press in America: the echo chamber; the blind leading the blind; parrots; ideologues; craven sycophants currying each others’ horseshit; wallowing in the muck and mire of vitriolic slanderous innuendo; merchants of mendacity.
    7. MSM = Merchants of Scurrilous Mendacities.

    1. Bill,

      As always, I appreciate that you argue with facts and that you make good points. I abhor the liberal press as much as any other rational skeptic of the social media echo chambers and the cable news cycle (though I would highly recommend Bloomberg News—Surveillance, Daybreak, etc.— and France 24 as excellent objective sources of news). I love former President Reagan, and yes, the media and the left were relentless with him too (of course, Reagan was far more charming, witty, and suave than boorish Trump ever has been or is capable of being). I am also grateful Hillary was not elected (though sad that Trump was the only alternative). I also agree with several Trump policies like tax reform and ACA repeal (though his trade policy and isolationism are nothing but demagoguery, and Trump obviously has little grasp of anything but the rhetoric).

      Bottom line is that, for all the flaws of the press, the Democrats, academia, and the left, Trump is an inexcusable, boorish disgrace (who happens to have the attention span of a fruit fly).

      But enough of my own churlish venting. Here’s the most thoughtful and poignant critique of Trump I’ve read so far. And it’s from Steve Hayes at the Weekly Standard, hardly representative of the liberal press:

      http://www.weeklystandard.com/supremely-overdone/article/2009490

      Best quote: ‘Members of Congress report to us that the president can’t hold a conversation at even a rudimentary level about issues supposedly high on the president’s agenda—tax reform, for instance, and health care. He lies about matters both large and small and is obsessed with perceived slights in the news media.’

      And now, the article:

      Playing Defense

      Two days after the 2016 election, we had this to say about Donald Trump’s stunning victory:

      “We opposed him early and often, and we didn’t think he’d win. We lamented his ignorance, criticized his crudity, and catalogued his untruthfulness. We were troubled by his foreign policy noninterventionism, his antitrade demagoguery, by his lack of discipline and judgment, and also by the likelihood that he would disappoint far too many of his enthusiastic followers, especially those whose policy views we shared.

      “We don’t regret having fully aired all of our many differences. Our concerns about his character and some of his policies don’t disappear because he won an election. But he did win an election. The Republican majority in Congress was sustained, arguably because of, rather than despite, his efforts. And more than all of that, he is the president-elect—he is America’s president-elect. We want him to succeed.”

      We went on to list the number of ways a Trump presidency would be better than four years of Hillary Clinton in the White House and ended by hoping that just as we had been wrong about Trump’s electoral prospects, we would turn out to be even more mistaken about the kind of president he would be.

      It is a little more than six months into the Trump administration, and there have been things to praise. The president has begun rolling back the aggressive regulatory state that grew up under Barack Obama; enforced his predecessor’s red line in Syria; abandoned the failed North Korea strategy of the last three administrations; and appointed strong conservatives to the lower courts along with, of course, Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

      These stand out because they are exceptions to the daily turmoil and dysfunction of the Trump White House. As president, Donald Trump has not risen to the occasion. There was no pivot to normalcy after his turbulent campaign. No hidden statesman has emerged from inside Trump, and he has not, as he recently suggested he might, become “more presidential” than anyone other than “the late, great Abraham Lincoln.”

      So far, the president is the picture of a failed leader. His administration is a disaster.

      In just the past two weeks, Trump only reluctantly signed a Russia sanctions bill that passed overwhelmingly in both houses of Congress (98-2 in the Senate, 419-3 in the House). He tweeted a policy reversal on transgender individuals serving in the U.S. military that neither the Joint Chiefs of Staff nor the secretary of defense knew was coming. He allowed his communications director falsely to accuse his chief of staff of committing a felony by supposedly leaking a document that was already officially public—and then, after the fallout consumed his administration, dismissed them both. He repeatedly attacked his attorney general for his necessary decision to recuse himself from the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. He gave a highly inappropriate speech to 40,000 boys participating in the Boy Scouts’ 20th National Jamboree—a speech for which the organization felt compelled to apologize. He followed that up with a speech to law enforcement officials in which he suggested it was okay to rough up accused criminals. Police departments across the country and the acting director of the Drug Enforcement Administration publicly rebuked the president.

      These sorts of fiascos and misadventures began the moment this presidency began, with the new president’s bizarre insistence that his inaugural crowds were larger than Barack Obama’s. Despite majorities in both houses of Congress, his policy agenda is at a standstill. Hundreds of high-level positions throughout the administration remain unfilled. Members of Congress report to us that the president can’t hold a conversation at even a rudimentary level about issues supposedly high on the president’s agenda—tax reform, for instance, and health care. He lies about matters both large and small and is obsessed with perceived slights in the news media.

      And then there is the unceasing stream of developments on Trump and Russia. The saga has grown too complex to easily recount, but some highlights include Trump’s disparaging of the U.S. intelligence community and its leaders in an Oval Office meeting with Russian diplomats; his abrupt dismissal of FBI director James Comey; the G20 summit in Hamburg where Trump proposed (and then quickly dropped) a joint cybersecurity task force with the very government U.S. intelligence officials believe tried to interfere in last year’s elections; Jared Kushner’s attempt to create a backchannel between the White House and Putin using the Russian embassy; and Donald Trump Jr.’s enthusiastic interest in opposition research seemingly offered by a hostile foreign power. This last has been characterized by Don Jr.’s shifting accounts of his meeting with purported representatives of the Russian government.

      Then, last week, the Washington Post reported that the president himself dictated on Air Force One the deceptive statement his son originally issued to explain away his inappropriate meeting. This came after repeated and emphatic denials of any presidential involvement. NPR also reported that senior White House officials, possibly including the president himself, worked with conspiracy theorists to push to Fox News a fake-news story about murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich with the goal of deflecting attention from the Trump-Russia scandal. It was also reported that special counsel Robert Mueller had impaneled a grand jury, a sure sign that his investigation into interference in the 2016 election and the possibility the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia was growing in scope and intensity.

      It’s tedious to summarize. And easy to overlook how dangerous it’s becoming.

      These are almost certainly the good old days, unfortunately. Trump’s problems so far have been of Trump’s own making. They will not remain so. While America’s enemies are testing and probing the new administration, we haven’t yet seen the kind of crisis that requires leadership at home and statesmanship abroad. Every president eventually faces such a crisis.

      Recent weeks saw aggressive provocations from the Chinese (their fighter jets buzzed a U.S. spy plane in the East China Sea), the Iranians (they threaten to retaliate for unnamed U.S. violations of the 2015 nuclear deal), and the North Koreans (they tested a missile that they claim can reach the West Coast). The Russians are in a hurry to reconstitute the old Soviet empire. Al Qaeda and ISIS continue to target Americans and American interests. Trump is escalating his attacks on federal law enforcement and once again publicly dismissing the findings of the U.S. intelligence community. He is also reported to be considering firing Robert Mueller.

      The Associated Press reported last week that two of Trump’s top advisers, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and then-Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, have long understood the risks of the Trump presidency. “Mattis and Kelly also agreed in the earliest weeks of Trump’s presidency that one of them should remain in the United States at all times to keep tabs on the orders rapidly emerging from the White House, according to a person familiar with the discussions.”

      This is a profound commentary on the man who serves as de facto leader of the free world. Kelly is now Trump’s chief of staff, which has some weary Republicans once again hoping for change. But Trump is still president. So the Mattis-Kelly plan strikes us as a good model for all Republicans. Play defense.

      Trump’s inability to lead means the likelihood of a conservative agenda’s emerging during this administration is low. And the likelihood of catastrophic decision-making seems higher every day. If there is a chance at comprehensive tax reform, seize it. But Republicans’ overriding concern ought to be limiting the long-term damage Trump can do. Day to day, this means speaking truthfully and forcefully about the administration and its decisions.

      Short-term political incentives have pushed many Republicans to a full and unqualified embrace of Trump. And as Trump’s failures become impossible even for diehard Trump supporters to explain away, Republican voters have mostly stuck with him.

      But Republican legislators have recently shown some inclination to put the interests of the country above political calculations. The House and Senate passed the Russia sanctions bill despite furious lobbying by the White House. There has been public criticism of Trump’s backpedaling on the Iran deal. Rep. Trey Gowdy unloaded on the Trump administration for its repeated misrepresentations on Russia, saying, “this drip, drip, drip is undermining the credibility of this administration.” Several GOP senators offered public warnings to Trump not to fire Mueller or Jeff Sessions. Judiciary Committee chairman Charles Grassley said that he wouldn’t even consider a replacement for Sessions if the attorney general were cashiered. And Senator Tim Scott said last week, “we don’t work for the president.”

      Short-lived White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci was an utterly forgettable political hack. But he said one thing before he was dismissed that’s worth reflecting on: “There are people inside the administration that think it is their job to save America from this president. Okay?” Scaramucci was right about that. We know these people, and we admire them. We wish them every success.

  20. “6. I’ve come to abhor the liberal press in America: the echo chamber; the blind leading the blind; parrots; ideologues; craven sycophants currying each others’ horseshit; wallowing in the muck and mire of vitriolic slanderous innuendo; merchants of mendacity.”

    This sums up conservative news as well. I do like the Merchants of Mendacity line. Is that a Spiro Agnew quote? I’m going to steal it.

    I think it was the one of the guys that created South Park whos remark I agree with. He said, “I don’t like conservatives but I fucking despise liberals.”

  21. And here’s an article I recently published on Trump and Charlottesville:

    https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/and-then-charlottesville-happened-wcz/

    And Then Charlottesville Happened

    For many people living in the twenty-first century in the most advanced nation the world has ever seen, the ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville, VA on August 11-12, 2017 was a shock to the conscience. In the hours and days after hundreds of protesters marched with Nazi and Confederate flags (some of them proudly and defiantly exhibiting Nazi salutes) and chanted anti-Semitic slogans in their ostensible and ultimately self-defeating attempt to express opposition to the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee, millions took to social media to express outrage, disseminate memes, and record their solidarity with the noble cause of condemning racism and white nationalism.

    I was not among those who leapt immediately into the fires of counter-protest in the hours afterward. I had seen headlines, but did not read the news stories because I generally pay little attention to protests. As a rule, I do not participate in protests (I have explained my reasons here). Moreover, protests have become so common in the polarized times in which we live that I have become jaded about headline-grabbing placards and mass demonstrations. I also have plenty of commitments and responsibilities in my personal life to distract me from the sound and fury of a maddening crowd, however just (or in this case, unjust) the cause for which crowds have amassed to show, as President Trump might say, their ‘fire and fury’.

    But as the story continued to gain traction, it became clear that something unusual was afoot. Among the reasons I do not participate in protests is I refuse to run the risk of being associated with ideas and people I do not support. In the din and confusion of a large crowd, it is inevitable there will be participants who express fringe, extremist ideas and sentiments that I have no interest in abetting with my participation. In the case of protests against the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, I can conceive of good reasons to admire General Lee, as I argued here in offering a partial defense of the complicated legacy of the great Civil War general. But in 2017, I would never participate in protests over Lee monuments in part because the odds are high that white nationalists like Richard Spencer would show up and, not simply commandeer, but tarnish my own personal cause of expressing measured support for Robert E. Lee. I have no interest in being associated with their kind.

    Well, I was right. Richard Spencer and his ilk showed up. What became clear about Charlottesville, however, was that the fanatical voices that show up at protests were, in this case, front and center, and they were the worst of the worst. Richard Spencer was one of the scheduled headline speakers, and several white supremacist groups were in attendance, including the neo-Confederate secessionist group League of the South, white nationalist group Identity Evropa, and neo-Nazi group The Daily Stormer. If one was initially inclined to give attendees the benefit of the doubt, not having closely examined the organizers of the event, and suggest that attendees were genuinely and primarily motivated by a concern about heritage, though misguided by the odd notion that white people are under siege, it was soon apparent that hatred and malice far outweighed any other motives for the rally. Nazi chants like ‘Jews will not replace us’ and ‘blood and soil’ were heard. One demonstrator remarked about Charlottesville: ‘This city is run by Jewish communists and criminal niggers’. In essence, this rally was well-attended by individuals espousing a worldview that many of us believed had been safely relegated to the past, one in which white supremacy ruled the roost morning, noon, and night. It was the kind of worldview which fed a Nazi regime which exterminated six million Jews, and a nineteenth-century culture of white supremacy which enslaved four million black Americans.

    As I eventually came to appreciate the import of these protests, I felt compelled to share a video I saw on my Facebook feed of a man tearing up a Nazi flag. I also remarked on my utter amazement that the President of the United States failed to immediately single out and condemn the offensive ideology and violent transgressions of white nationalism. I was reminded of last year when President Trump initially refused to disavow former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke during an interview (which I wrote about here). For a megalomaniac who runs to Twitter at the first hint of controversy, the Twitter-in-chief’s failure, in the hours after the protest, to issue a single tweet explicitly condemning neo-Nazis and white nationalists in

    Charlottesville was unconscionable and disgraceful.

    But given his curious agnosticism on David Duke last year, it was perhaps not surprising. Yet there are no excuses for a man who could have used the power of his office to condemn white nationalism and chose not to. And yes, he tweeted ‘we must all be united and condemn all that hate stands for’, but that was a conspicuously milquetoast remark for a man who insulted media personality and Trump critic Mika Brzezinski by saying she was ‘bleeding badly from a facelift’ during a visit to his Mar-a-Lago resort, or issues bellicose threats against the lunatic in North Korea. And yes, he eventually gave a statement condemning the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and other hate groups, but then double-downed the next day and churlishly insisted ‘both sides’ were to blame for the violence, even claiming that there were some ‘very fine people’ who participated in the ‘Unite the Right’ rally (but were apparently unwilling to disengage once Nazi flags were observed among the demonstrators).

    Trump seemingly was unable to recognize or acknowledge that, even if the militant Left is deserving of censure for its own provocative acts, this was not the time for that. There was nothing to be gained from drawing moral equivalence between neo-Nazis, Confederate sympathizers, and white nationalists who instigated the rally, and counter-protesters who showed up (even if armed) to oppose them; as Senator Marco Rubio tweeted, ‘The #WhiteSupremacy groups will see being assigned only 50% of blame as a win.’ Moreover, a woman named Heather Heyer had been murdered by a flagrant act of domestic terrorism and the president chose not to use the power of his office to immediately condemn violence unequivocally committed by an alleged Nazi sympathizer. Trump eventually praised Ms. Heyer and unambiguously stated the driver of the car that killed Ms. Heyer was a murderer. But any moral weight his statement might have carried fell by the wayside after he carelessly apportioned some of the blame to ‘alt-left’ counter-protesters for violence at a rally instigated by white nationalists.

    Trump’s failure of leadership did not go unnoticed. Not by millions of Americans, a majority of whom disapproved of how he handled the situation. Not by the news media. Not by the CEOs who resigned from his American Manufacturing Council. Not by Republican leaders like Bob Corker who questioned his temperament and competence. And most ominously, not by the white nationalists themselves, who went on to express their gratitude and thanks to the president for essentially providing cover to the ‘Unite the Right’ demonstrators in Charlottesville by insisting that ‘alt-left’ counter-protesters deserved a portion of the blame for the violence that occurred, and that there were ‘very fine people’ in a crowd of protesters carrying Tiki torches, waving Nazi flags, and sounding off anti-Semitic chants.

    In his unhinged press conference, President Trump effectively defended fringe activists like Richard Spencer and David Duke. Taking sides with white nationalism was no longer taboo. The voices of racism had the power of the Oval Office in their corner. It was as if Andrew Johnson, the spiteful seventeenth president of the United States who was more interested in having former plantation owners come crawling to him to beg for clemency so that he would agree to return their property than he was in promoting the cause of racial equality, had just taken over after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. It was as if all the blood shed over the last century and a half on behalf of the cause of racial equality had been shed in vain.

    Over the last year, I have read a lot of books and watched many documentaries on nineteenth-century America, both in the antebellum period and in the post-Civil War era. There are many topics and themes to explore in nineteenth-century America. Railroads. Industrialization. National Banks. Westward expansion and Manifest Destiny. The War of 1812 at the start of the century and the Spanish-American War at the end of the century. Bimetallism. Temperance. Suffrage. Populism. And so on. But what sometimes seems to supersede them all are the two original sins of American history: slavery and racism.

    Slavery was the ‘peculiar institution’ which dominated much of Southern life in the first half of the nineteenth century (to be replaced by Jim Crow laws in the latter half of the century), but throughout the entire century, racism was endemic, pervasive, ugly, violent, and menacing. The Democratic Party, for example, was the party of slavery, but while many Northern Democrats broke from Southern Democrats to support the Union during the Civil War, it was their standard-bearer, prominent Illinois Senator Stephen Douglas, who left no ambiguity about where things stood when he stated during the first of the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates: ‘I believe this government was made on the white basis. I believe it was made by white men, for the benefit of white men and their posterity forever, and I am in favor of confining citizenship to white men, men of European birth and descent, instead of conferring it upon negroes, Indians, and other inferior races.’

    While sentiments about race may have varied across region, with many in the north content to exclude blacks while people in the south were intent on commanding blacks, the underlying belief in white supremacy was fundamental to the norms and beliefs to which people adhered in their everyday life. It was rare to find, even among abolitionists, anyone who harbored even a semblance of belief in racial equality, though perhaps not impossible, considering that abolitionist Frederick Douglass once said about Abraham Lincoln, as noted by Doris Kearns Goodwin in her book Team of Rivals, that Lincoln was ‘the first great man that I talked with in the United States freely, who in no single instance reminded me of the difference between himself and myself, of the difference of color.’

    Racism was a problem that would long post-date the eradication of slavery. It would take another century after the Civil War for black Americans to obtain basic civil rights, but emancipation was the first great victory in the long war against racial injustice in American history. Like the fight against racism, the fight against slavery came at great expense. Many of the Founding Fathers went against their conscience in failing to outlaw slavery, recognizing that the Constitution could not have been ratified without compromise because slavery was a part of the world in which they lived. Many of them assuaged their conscience with the belief that slavery would die a natural death at the hands of Providence, and, in one of the first steps toward that end, the slave trade was outlawed in 1808. It was only the invention of the cotton gin and the rise of King Cotton that gave new impetus to slavery in the nineteenth century, ultimately creating a bitter political divide between the Southern plantation aristocracy and Northern abolitionism. Passions reached a peak in 1854 with the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which repealed the Compromise of 1820 and permitted the expansion of slavery into Kansas and Nebraska if new settlers, under the doctrine of ‘popular sovereignty’, voted in favor of it. The national conversation quickly became thoroughly engrossed in the great question of the age: whether or not to allow the expansion of slavery into the territories.

    Northern Democrats would eventually break from the Southern Democrats over the matter. Free Soilers broke from both the Whigs and Democrats. ‘Conscience’ Whigs opposed slavery while ‘Cotton’ Whigs were willing to compromise to protect commercial relations with the South. Meanwhile, enthusiasm for the American Party of the 1850s, a consummation of Know-Nothing xenophobia against the Roman Catholicism of Irish and German immigrants, quickly dissipated as slavery became front and center on everyone’s mind. The Republican Party arose in 1854 as the most progressive party and was joined by radicals like Charles Sumner and former Whigs like William Seward and Abraham Lincoln, all of whom opposed slavery but who had nonetheless been schooled within an inherently racist society and thus likely never fully believed the black man was his equal. But one of them, Abraham Lincoln, was able to successfully balance competing factions in the nation and in his own party as he led the nation to victory in the Civil War and set the stage with his Emancipation Proclamation for the long-term realization of ‘radical’ goals like racial equality in a time when even many abolitionists were infected with the virus of belief in white supremacy.

    Messy politics aside, the fight against slavery was not just a war of ideas. It was a war of blood and violence. The Civil War itself took the lives of hundreds of thousands of men in what was the deadliest war in American history (though death by disease was more likely for a soldier than death in battle). But before the Civil War there was chronic violence in Kansas. There was John Brown’s raid at Harper’s Ferry and his subsequent hanging for the crime of treason. There was the progressive Senator from Massachusetts, Charles Sumner who, two days after his ‘Crime Against Kansas’ speech in May 1856, suffered a crippling cane beating on the floor of the Senate at the hands of Preston Brooks of South Carolina (who was a relative of one of two Senators whom Sumner singled out for criticism in his speech). And then, once the war concluded and after the assassination of Lincoln, there were the soldiers of the defeated Confederacy who arrived back in the land of their devastated home states and violently resisted overthrow of the only society they knew.

    The defeated South mounted a campaign of violent intimidation against black freedmen and white Americans who advocated on the freedmen’s behalf. The failure of Reconstruction was the result of many factors. But fundamentally, it was the direct result of a racist society, one in which many were willing to employ violence and intimidation to maintain white control of laws and institutions. The terrorism against blacks and their white allies was pervasive. There was organized violence against ‘scalywags’ (a slur for white Southerners who supported Reconstruction, black emancipation, and the Republican Party) and ‘carpetbaggers’ (a slur for white Northerners who moved to the South after the Civil War and allegedly sought to exploit Southern lands and property while undermining Southern culture by promoting Republican ideas like black emancipation) who believed blacks had a place in America that transcended their former place as slaves in the cotton fields.

    There was a federal government that reneged on the promise of General William Sherman’s Field Order 15, an order to redistribute four hundred thousand acres of land to black freedmen (popularly known as ‘forty acres and a mule’ for black freedmen, it was overturned when President Andrew Johnson revoked it in the fall of 1865). There was outright murder of black Americans (according to this documentary on Reconstruction—see the 57:05 mark—in 1865, a reported 2,000 black men were reported murdered in Louisiana alone).

    There was systematic exclusion of blacks through Jim Crow laws in the South and a culture in the North that was categorically unwelcome to blacks. There was, in short, a campaign of terror, violence, intimidation, and exclusion against black Americans, who merely wished to assert their newfound freedom.

    Throughout all my studies, I could always take comfort knowing that the racism and violence of nineteenth-century America were in the past.

    And then Charlottesville happened.

    It was already clear to most sensible Americans that President Trump has been a moral abomination, if not when he announced his presidential campaign with a tirade against Mexican Americans, at least since he initially refused to disavow David Duke during the campaign last year. He has emboldened white nationalists, the KKK, and the worst elements of America’s racist past. But still, these groups were marginalized, and to a large extent, they still are. They are fringe elements, as witnessed by widespread condemnation of them throughout the country in the wake of Charlottesville.

    But Trump’s chronic equivocation on race controversies in America has effectively given cover to these fringe elements, and within days of Charlottesville, I saw a video of Afro-Latina Univision journalist Ilia Calderon’s interview of Chris Barker, the ‘grand wizard’ of the Loyal White Knights faction of the KKK, in which Mr. Barker bluntly and unflappably calls the Ms. Calderon the N word and a ‘mongrel’, threatens to ‘burn’ her off his North Carolina property, and, when asked how he was going to ‘burn out’ eleven million immigrants, replied: ‘We killed six million Jews the last time. Eleven million is nothing.’

    It is hard to believe that this voice of bigotry would find its way into the mainstream media had Trump never become president. As such, this moment was ominous and frightening. This was the sentiment of a man who lived in the South during the nineteenth-century (or in Germany under the Nazi regime). It was shocking to observe that, in 2017, there are still men who talk and think like racist ex-Confederates of the nineteenth-century (or Jew-hating Nazis). But in failing to do what any decent president would do in the aftermath of Charlottesville, President Trump emboldened this voice. Having petulantly and stubbornly insisted on apportioning blame for the violence in Charlottesville, he brought into the mainstream voices of evil and hate that I believed had long ago been relegated to the lunatic fringe.

    There are many flaws with the militant Left. But now was not the time to focus on that. As Chris Deaton writes in The Weekly Standard:

    Well, the “alt-left”—specifically individuals associated with antifa—aren’t necessarily swell. As Peter Beinart writes in the Atlantic, “for all of antifa’s supposed anti-authoritarianism, there’s something fundamentally authoritarian about its claim that its activists … can decide whose views are too odious to be publicly expressed.” There have been many occasions on which to condemn the movement—it “has time and again plunged volatile situations into violence,” observes Ben Shapiro, “from Sacramento to Berkeley.” Don’t forget Portland, either. But there’s no reason to mention antifa in the context of white supremacists marching on Charlottesville. White supremacists were the instigators there. Their most extreme members, neo-Nazis, are the worst subgroup on both sides by an inestimable degree. There is no reason to compare or equivocate these people and Marxist militants. It’s okay to censure the “alt-left,” especially when its activists turn violent, in a different and proper context. And it’s okay for critics of the president to just leave it at that.

    Trump may be too dumb or arrogant to know it, but in blaming ‘both sides’ for the violence in Charlottesville, and thus providing cover for the neo-Nazis and neo-Confederates and white nationalists who burst out into the open at Charlottesville, he has done more than anyone else to weaken the taboo on white supremacy in America.

  22. Jon,
    You fall for leftist, msm propaganda.
    (1) You say Trump drew a “moral equivalence”; this is leftist rhetoric. Nowhere did he say the KKK, neo-Nazis were “morally equivalent” to anyone. The press made this up.
    (2) Trump condemned violence on both sides. You did see protesters armed with sticks, bats, pepper spray, flame-throwers, etc., didn’t you? You did see Antifa attack, didn’t you? You did see both sides fighting?
    You did hear Trump condemn David Duke and the KKK a dozen times during the campaign? I saw a video of Trump in 2000 (17 years ago) explicitly condemning David Duke as “a bigot, racist” and condemning the KKK. As for him dodging a question about Duke, “I don’t know him”, he said he never met him. Also the question was a bit broader, Tapper asked Trump if he’d condemn Duke, the KKK and other “white supremacist” groups identified by the ADL. Trump said, “Give me a list of the groups.” In other words, he didn’t want to condemn groups just because the ADL condemned them. Don’t fall for leftist-MSM hyper-agitprop!
    (3) You lump in “Confederate sympathizers” with Nazis. (Although earlier you rightfully distinguished both.)
    (4) You write: “the rally instigated by white supremacists.” Rallies are not instigated. Rallies are free-speech exercises, like parades. As the Supreme Court said, even the neo-Nazis have a right to rally and parade in this country. If in Charlottesville, the protesters had simply booed, there’d be no violence. The marchers had a permit. Parades, rallies and speech are not “instigations” except to the perpetually offended crowd who aim to stifle opposing views under the false flag of “hate speech.”
    (5) One lunatic drove a car into a crowd. He’s universally condemned. Neo-Nazis and the KKK are universally condemned. White Supremacists and Black Supremacists (Black Panthers) should be universally condemned. There are racists and lunatics on all sides of the political spectrum.
    (6) The greatest threats to free speech, especially in the MSM, Academia, on college campuses and in public arenas, comes from the leftists, such as Anti-fa.
    (7) If you are an anti-globalist and pro-nationalist, and are white, does that make you a white nationalist, and therefore subject to derision? If you are white and an American-firster, what does that make you? Can you be in favor of brown power and black power but not white power?
    (8) Otherwise, a very informative post!

  23. Bill,

    As I acknowledged, Trump gave his lip service to condemning the white nationalists, Nazis, etc. The point ultimately is that it took him so long to do it. The hesitancy, even if unintended, is a nod and a wink to extremist voices (because they take it as such). Antifa, the militant left, etc are all deserving of their censure, but this was not the time for that. A good leader has good timing and recognizes what the real issue is at stake in any given situation. In this case, hundreds of protesters brought out Nazi flags, Confederate flags, etc. Incidentally, this is one of the reason I do not participate in protests, because the agenda of a protest inevitably gets hijacked and conflated by every weekend warrior and bandwagon jumper with a half-baked slogan to contribute. But anyway, free speech is free speech, but forgive me if I see no problem in universal condemnation by those also exercising the right of free speech to condemn extremist right-wing groups. Trump’s condemnations were half-assed, and if you want to give him a pass on it, that’s your prerogative.

    I don’t disagree with a lot of your points, but as is often the case when I encounter my fellow conservatives who somehow want to give Trump a pass, I just don’t get it. I abhor the lazy liberal media as much as anyone, and think they did the Bush administration a great disservice. Cheney, for example, has his flaws, but perhaps his main flaw was deciding not to fight the media’s narrative of him as a secretive, venal, nefarious insider trying to enrich Halliburton and instigate wars left and right.

    In Trump’s case, the man is simply a boorish, arrogant, shallow incompetent. In this case, the media is, quite simply, correct.

    But thanks for responding, and, unlike the media, trying to stay focused on facts and logic, while refusing to give the militant left a pass. In fact, the worst thing about Trump is he feeds right into the liberal narrative of the conservative movement as a bunch of boorish, right-wing hate mongerers. I was a Rubio fan. The media would have gone after him relentlessly as well, but it would have failed. Rubio could have brought the conservative movement into the 21st century. Trump has set it back. He won’t win in 2020, and we’re gonna get a huge backlash from the left.

    But shoulda, coulda. Oh well.

  24. Karl Marx:

    In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labor, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labor, has vanished; after labor has become not only a means of life but life’s prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-around development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly—only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners:

    From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs![1][3][4]

    Khalid:

    The first thing we do, even before deposing of the excess lawyers, is nationalize the stock market. The government would take on all the moral hazards of the market place , both, domestic, and, international, on behalf of it’s stock holders, the entire population of the United States. Compsci would match producer with user. Risk managers would serve all of us, instead of, just, some of us. Once there is Medicare for all, the government, on behalf of the proletariat, will exercise an monopsony over the health care market.

    Down with bourgeois capitalism and its’ running dogs!

    All praise to antifa. All power to the dialectic!

  25. Khalid,

    Marx is among the most destructively influential thinkers we have had in this history of human civilization.

    Here’s a related piece I published on Marx and the modern social justice movement (https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/the-specter-of-marxism-haunts-the-social-justice-movement-wcz/):

    The Spectre of Marxism Haunts the Social Justice Movement

    Justice is arguably the most serious concern of any society. As such, one might be inclined to think it should have been the first order of business when human civilization first began to arise about five millennia ago. But alas, the pursuit of the good society, which treats all members fairly and serves the cause of truth and ensures that everyone is as well off as he can possibly be, continues to this day, with much passion and controversy about what set of institutions will ensure that fairness, truth, and happiness harmoniously prevail among the disparate inhabitants of a human community.

    Justice, in fact, is an exceedingly hard thing to figure out. For centuries, its complexities have consumed the attention of philosophers, bedeviled idealists who chased the perfect at the expense of the good, frustrated ideologues who brook no disagreement, and humbled utopians who naively believed that abstractions conceived in the ivory tower could be smoothly reconciled with the situational intricacies of the real world. Unfortunately, it is no easy matter to discern the essential principles that will ensure a concomitance between governance and justice, or ensure consensus about what fairness, happiness, and truth mean. Plato’s race of philosopher-kings is not the same as the Hobbesian Leviathan or Locke’s social contract or Kant’s kingdom of ends or Rawls’s maxi-min. The utilitarian’s greatest good for the greatest number offends the conscience of those who renounce hedonism, or more poignantly, refuse to condone the killing of one person even though ten lives are saved. Zen Buddhism is not what comes to mind when rampant capitalism is the order of the day.

    This profound lack of consensus about justice comes to mind whenever I contemplate the sanctimonious moralism of the twenty-first century social justice movement. It is not simply that the good soldier of progressive causes believes wholeheartedly that he possesses a monopoly on virtue. That is as true of the alt-right, maverick academics, pundits and politicians, social media trolls, smug tycoons, and Curt Schilling-like celebrities as it is true of the progressive soldier of fortune. But social justice warriors are unique in their single-minded focus on historical constructs as a perennial source of injustice in the world. Whether discourse centers on political governance or economic distribution or fair treatment or the theory of value or the pursuit of knowledge and truth, all matters of conscience invariably come down to an analysis of the history of power, particularly the history of how those in power have marshaled the resources of privilege at the expense of all poor souls who have been excluded from power. It is not power per se, but wrongful use of power, that motivates the social justice movement—i.e. it is power used to exploit and oppress, enforced through socialized norms and attitudes and behaviors that are usually invisible to the legions of powerful and powerless people who have not ‘woken up’, that riles up the masses of social justice warriors.

    The notion that justice should be concerned with dismantling cultures of exploitation and oppression is not necessarily problematic per se. It has, however, become so influential a paradigm that the social justice crusade risks instituting its own version of intellectual imperialism, a perverse epistemic venture of adapting facts to its narrative rather letting its narrative be guided by the facts. That’s not to say that the social justice movement is incorrigibly blinded by its own ideology. Racism, sexism, xenophobia, discrimination, disenfranchisement, and all forms of systemic disempowerment are worthy concerns deserving the serious attention of anyone concerned with justice. Yet when every inkling of concern about injustice is filtered through the lens of an overarching paradigm of historicized oppression, I worry that the cause of social justice has been commandeered by a broad-based campaign of ideological rectitude which ignores the complexities of justice in favor of a postmodern focus on oppressive historical constructs as the sole legitimate concern for any social justice warrior worth his salt.

    No concept seems more pertinent to this concern than the current obsession with so-called ‘inter-sectionality’, a term coined by Kimberle Crenshaw referring to the idea that in spite of all their differences in identity and experience, oppressed groups share the status of being a victim, and that solidarity takes precedence over sectarian loyalties if systems of power and privilege which unconscionably exploit their victims (often or usually regardless of sect) are to be confronted and overturned. Moreover, there is a tendency to view the crucible of oppression endured by all victims of exploitation as rooted in grand historical developments. Whether the conversation turns on cultural appropriation, Western imperialism, institutional racism, heteronormative institutions, patriarchy, micro-aggressions, xenophobia, or other manifestations of oppression, the inter-sectional concerns of the social justice movement cultivate a culture of victimhood while advancing a worldview that subsumes all the complexities of justice under a superficial ideology of historicized oppression.
    One may raise a reasonable though obvious point that anyone who is suspicious of a fight against oppression is himself worthy of suspicion. But it is not the nominal fight against oppression that raises qualms about the social justice crusade. It is, rather, the implication that a commitment to justice is equivalent to a commitment to revolution rather than reform, and that there is little or no virtue in prevailing norms, ideas, and institutions if they are not in some way connected to a concerted effort to overturn the status quo.

    Justice is not so simple. Hope is not a strategy, and neither is change for change’s sake. For example, privilege per se is not a bad thing. The problem is not privilege, but that not everyone has it. Privilege is, in fact, a good thing. Everyone should have it. It is when privilege is accessible only to the few at the expense of the many that privilege becomes a problem (unless, as John Rawls might have argued, provision is made for the underprivileged that makes them happy and ensures they are equitably treated). One might object that it is the very definition of privilege for advantages to be unequally distributed, and that the acquisition of privilege by all is the same as the dissolution of all privilege. But then this only means that no one is excluded from the advantages that privilege confers. The goal, therefore, is not to take away the advantages of privilege, but to ensure their accessibility to everyone.

    This last point admittedly implies an understanding of what, in fact, privilege is. But even defining privilege is not so straightforward. In discussions of white privilege, for example, a distinction is made between privileges worth having, such as rights like free speech or to the freedom to move into any neighborhood without encountering local prejudice, and privileges not worth having, such as the right to discriminate or ignore another person’s perspective. Given this distinction, the issue arises of identifying and defining the nature of each privilege that is worth having. For example, is private property a privilege worth having? If so, does everyone have a fair shot at owning his own plot of land or his own home or his own reserve of capital to invest for retirement? Or is private property an instrument of oppression and exploitation? The question of private property is particularly illustrative. There are some (or many?) anti-capitalist social justice warriors who, like nineteenth-century political economist Karl Marx, believe that private property can be a bane, or obstacle, to the cause of justice. It is no coincidence, then, that many partisans of the social justice movement ultimately find their inspiration, whether they know it or not, in the intellectual legacy of Karl Marx.

    Never mind the discredited economic framework associated with Marx’s labor theory of value. Given how the rubric of progressive activism reduces the fight for justice to a fight against oppressive historical constructs, modern social justice warriors are as guilty as Marx in reducing the zeitgeist of every age to a historical struggle between oppressors and their victims. The complexities of justice yield to the simplicities of the true believer, and we are left with innumerable examples of the fight for justice going awry. For instance, as I pointed out in an article on why I choose not to participate in protests, during protests of the Inaugural Parade in January, news outlets reported on the eruption of a small-scale riot in downtown Washington, D.C. The riot saw private property vandalized when the windows of a Starbucks store were smashed and a limousine was torched and burned. Considering that the riot was sparked in part by President Trump’s divisive campaign rhetoric demonizing Muslim immigrants, it was ironic, to put it mildly, that the torched limousine turned out to be owned by a Muslim immigrant. The irony would be worthy of a comic skit if it were not so perverse, not only for the Muslim immigrant whose business was impacted, but for the cause of justice itself, which, honestly pursued, does not concern itself with the black and white dichotomies of the zealot (like, for example, the class struggle between the owners of the means of production, e.g. limousine owners, and the proletariat, e.g. limousine drivers), but with the shades of gray that intellectual honesty respects. Activism, in a word, is no guarantee that justice will prevail. Nor is revolution, especially if we consider that, while the American Revolution gave us the U.S. Constitution and the Haitian Revolution was a successful slave rebellion that led to the first free black republic, Robespierre’s French Revolution gave us the Reign of Terror; the Castro revolution bequeathed to Cuba a bankrupt economy; al Qaeda’s jihadi revolution led to 9-11; and the Bolshevik Revolution brought communism and the Soviet Union. As the great Bard might have said, there are more uncertainties in the heavens and earth of justice than the convictions that are dreamt of in the Marx-inspired activism of the social justice warrior.

    ***

    Although I didn’t know it at the time, I was once an earnest and dedicated social justice warrior. It began in college, when I veered to the left politically, in a gradual but ultimately radical shift from the conservative Weltanschauung I embraced as a high school student. It was in high school that I wrote articles for the student newspaper with the shrillness of an ideological firebrand who avidly listened to Rush Limbaugh (back when he was half-way sane) and espoused the ideas of conservative heroes like Ronald Reagan (smaller government), Jack Kemp (supply-side economics), and Dan Quayle (family values). In college, however, as I read up on social history and soaked up novels like Richard Wright’s Native Son, met students and professors who were smart and persuasive and fired up by progressive causes, and remained in touch with an intellectual mentor from back home who was decidedly progressive in his worldview, I began to explore New Left causes while peeling away from the conservative creed I had once espoused with sophomoric conceit.

    The clincher came in my junior year, when I took a philosophy course that surveyed the works of philosophers affiliated with the so-called Frankfurt School. I was introduced to works like the Dialectic of Enlightenment by Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, and Eros and Civilization by Herbert Marcuse. Reading the Dialectic, I was captivated by the thesis that the Enlightenment’s faith in reason and science as benign forces that would liberate mankind from superstition, myth, and subservience to the brute forces of nature was not unlike religious faith in how it turned into ‘false consciousness’, i.e. subliminal obedience to an oppressive social order. Their pessimism was reinforced by the regression of European societies into war, fascism, and totalitarianism despite all the discoveries of science that rushed forth from the Enlightenment’s pursuit of knowledge and truth.

    But the authors were concerned with far more than their dismay over the wars of the twentieth century. They argued that the Enlightenment had not only failed to prevent war and fascism. It had also left modern man in a state of profound unhappiness. It had put so much stock in technology, material progress, and scientific discovery as foundational institutions that virtue and vice became indelibly connected to the moral superstructure of capitalism. Like feudalism and other restrictive social orders, industrial capitalism imposes a uniformity on cultural life which severely cripples the autonomy of human imagination which the authors believed is essential to human happiness. The cultural machinery of industrial capitalism—mass entertainment, mass industrialization, mass media—homogenize the populace into votive agents of mass consumption and mass production. It molds them into social automatons rather than autonomous participants in an active, healthy culture of avant-garde dissonance. The business of a capitalist society is business, and this means that human autonomy is sacrificed on the altar of progress in the material conditions of life, which in the age of industrial capitalism means that ‘happiness’ stems from the freedom to buy mass-produced commodities. Aesthetic tensions in the human imagination, i.e. iconoclastic ideas and idiosyncratic behavior that veer from the web of norms that characterize a society, are too subversive to fit neatly into the skein of interests that motivate the guardians of the status quo. Creative destruction is not in the interest of the bottom line (although Joseph Schumpeter might have something creative to say about that).

    The Dialectic authors were writing in an era when film, television, and radio were first coming into their own as mediums for disseminating social and cultural memes. One might argue that the digital age has become too de-centralized for corporate interests to exact such control. But contemporary examples of rigid cultural conformity abound. Google search data and Amazon purchases can be converted into real-time ads on iPhones and laptops that exploit our propensity to buy the latest fads. Professional sports teams and leagues harness fan loyalties into millions of dollars of sales of team and league merchandise. Disney marketing campaigns seduce children into pleading with parents to buy them the next generation of Disney products. Earnings seasons roil the markets with investor anxieties about whether growth in sales of the next generation of iPhones, announced instantaneously on financial news sites or television stations like Bloomberg, will meet expectations. Twitter facilitates political demagoguery in its attempt to harness widespread distrust of the mainstream media among millions of disaffected voters into legions of Trump brigades who have been brainwashed to believe in ‘alternative facts’.

    One need only observe the success of American Idol to witness the cultural hegemony of industrial capitalism as described in the Dialectic’s chapter 4 essay on the ‘culture industry’, in which they write: ‘Any trace of spontaneity in the audience of the official radio is steered and absorbed into a selection of specializations by talent-spotters, performance competitions, and sponsored events of every kind. The talents belong to the operation long before they are put on show; otherwise they would not conform so eagerly.’ Susan Boyle may have been ‘a little tiger’ when sparring with Simon Cowell before unleashing her breakout performance, but she and her voice were always subservient to the well-managed tastes of a mass audience, of which Simon Cowell and his fellow titans in the industry of producing ‘stars’ are well aware, and for which they are well-prepared with the resources they channel into cultivating ‘stars’ to cater to such profitable tastes. Performers become as interested in learning the business of their arts as they are in mastering the art of their business.

    This idea of cultural hegemony through cultural homogenization was revolutionary to me when I first read the Dialectic, as was the explanation they provided for how millions of citizens can become as susceptible as sheep to subservience within an oppressive social order. Drawing a distinction between ‘instrumental’ and ‘objective’ reason, the authors define the former as the reasoning capacity used to determine the most effective means to achieve one’s ends, while defining the latter as the reasoning capacity used to assess and articulate the intrinsic value of the ends themselves. The aim of Enlightenment rationality was to explore, control, and dominate nature. Otherwise known as scientific inquiry, the burgeoning field of Enlightenment rationality had a profound cultural and philosophical impact, elevating our understanding of rationality as an instrument for controlling and manipulating the world as it is (e.g. conducting research that leads to a baldness cure or a cancer elixir), in contrast to rationality as an ‘objective’ guide for thinking about how the world should be (should we be more concerned about curing baldness or curing cancer?). Instrumental reason is concerned with the control of nature (figuring out a way to cure baldness or cure cancer). Objective reason is concerned with how and why we control it (should more resources be devoted to growing hair or curing cancer?). The former seeks to acquire its own vested interests. The latter seeks to understand whether those vested interests are, in fact, in our best interest.

    I was hooked on their view that, in the utilitarian world of capitalism, our rational faculties are focused primarily, if not exclusively, on figuring out the means to attain one’s ends, rather than evaluating the ends themselves. To make their point, the authors of the Dialectic present the Homeric hero Odysseus as an allegorical representation of the modern bourgeois individual. As explained concisely in this lecture on the Dialectic: ‘Like the bourgeoisie of the capitalist world, Odysseus employs instrumental reason to advance his self-interest. This enables him to survive the mythological terrors of the ancient world. He sacrifices all else that he might desire and value, even his crew, all of whom die on the way back to Ithaca. And so he escapes the mythological world of his voyage. Yet what does he return to? An enlightened world of freedom and autonomy? No, he returns to his kingdom, resuming his place as ruler of his people. His odyssey is thus a voyage in which — to express a complicated matter in a simple formula — Odysseus oppressed resumes his place as Odysseus the oppressor.’

    Not once does Odysseus ever wonder about the ethical underpinnings of the world in which he lives. He simply assumes the throne and rules again. This is no different than the modern bourgeois individual who employs his intelligence to secure a good job, take out a loan from a bank and start an enterprise or grow a business, or save up money for retirement. Both Odysseus and the modern bourgeois individual employ instrumental reason to succeed in a world by pursuing ends that they take for granted. There is never a pause to wonder if the ends they pursue are worth the effort to attain them.

    What’s the problem with this? Surely, one cannot object to a good job, entrepreneurial success, or a dignified retirement. But the Dialectic authors were convinced that instrumental reason was one of the primary instruments by which capitalism supports an overarching structure of exploitation in society. If everyone is concerned only with means and not with ends, they do not think too hard about how they pursue ends custom-made for them by a social order defined by exploitative relations between capital and labor. Enlightenment celebrates rationality as the way to free us from being dominated by nature and the outdated myths we once relied upon in our feeble attempt to control nature (e.g. subservience to the gods on Olympus). But if rationality is simply concerned with optimizing our status within a society defined by relations between capital and labor, the public interest becomes rigidly preoccupied with material living standards rather than the ‘emergence from self-imposed immaturity’ that philosopher Immanuel Kant defined as the essence of enlightenment.

    The culmination of all this is alienation, a condition in which the material conditions of life confront us as hostile powers. There is no visceral consciousness given to the inherent justice of the social order in which the material conditions of life are enjoyed. Science and technology create the mirage of improved living standards while doing nothing to dissolve the social tension resulting from a division of resources between those who rule and those who are ruled. In capitalism, the bourgeoisie focus only on the determination of means to preserve or enhance their standing within the existing social order. Thus, the basic institutions of private property, rule of law, and class identity endure without disruption. The victory over nature is a victory for oppressors at the expense of the oppressed. The owners of the means of production exploit workers by putting them to work while living off the profits derived from selling the goods workers produce. The worker is a slave to the unrelenting competition of the marketplace, and when he does find a job, he finds himself ‘alienated’ from his labor because the goods he produces with his own hands are lifted from his hands, sold on the market, and returned to him in the form of a wage that is insufficient in body and mind. The owner of the means of production is the heartless fat cat that amasses capital while paying a paltry wage to workers who are the foundational source of all value and profit. The division of labor reduces the worker to a cog in the industrial machine, giving him a wage, but stripping him of the dignity and self-possession one cultivates by laying claim to the goods he produces, not to mention giving him little or no protection against long hard hours in a hot dusty sweatshop or the stale confines of a cubicle.
    Exploitation, then, is a direct legacy of the Enlightenment. For Marx, exploitation meant the naked extraction of surplus value from the worker and the resulting alienation of the proletariat. For the authors of the Dialectic, exploitation was manifest in a system of social relations between, for example, Simon Cowell-like captains of entertainment and the fledgling artists they absorb into the institutions (what they call the ‘culture industry’, and what Marx would call the ‘superstructure’) which force-feed the commodification of technological and artistic ‘progress’ to the masses. Material progress is a shibboleth that upholds and preserves the control of the titans over the fates of the fledgling artists who internalize the shibboleths of stardom and its wealth and fame. This is not unlike restrictive social orders of old. Whether it is slavery in ancient societies or serfdom in medieval feudal orders or spiritual indoctrination in religious societies, the keepers of customs ensure that members of a tribe or society adhere to the traditions which ultimately enrich and sustain the power of those who keep the customs.

    Enlightenment was supposed to free mankind from myth, but instead it cultivated a form of rationality that accommodated the mind of man to the ideology of a capitalist order that promised enhancements in material well-being in exchange for obedience to the efficiencies of mass production. But those who own the means of production were the new keepers of a ‘culture industry’ which masterfully harvests the compliance of the oppressed: ‘The consumers are the workers and salaried employees, the farmers and petty bourgeois. Capitalist production hems them in so tightly, in body and soul, that they unresistingly succumb to whatever is proffered to them. However, just as the ruled have always taken the morality dispensed to them by the rules more seriously than the rulers themselves, the defrauded masses today cling to the myth of success still more ardently than the successful. They, too, have their aspirations. They insist unwaveringly on the ideology by which they are enslaved.’ Enlightenment, in short, had become just like the myths it was supposed to uproot.

    ***

    My introduction to so-called ‘Western Marxism’ arrived after spending a summer working as a research intern at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. While commuting to Boston every day, I was struck by the horrible monotony of the daily grind. Each day, I saw the same commuters boarding the same train to go to the same jobs in the same corporate buildings in downtown Boston. They had been doing this routine for years, and would continue to do it for years to come. As for me, the routine would thankfully last only for the summer. I couldn’t wait to get back to school. I didn’t want to work for a wage, but for the daemon of my soul.

    The contrast between the boring daily grind and grinding away at an inner passion of the soul (in my case, learning) much enamored me to the idea that capitalism was fundamentally flawed, not simply because capital accrues to a small coterie of clueless and privileged fat cats, but because man is invariably not free to pursue his true passions. Whatever the profession, most of us are chumps who punch the clock to work in jobs that do not excite or inspire us, merely to pay the bills and, we hope, have enough time left over to indulge our addictions to (in today’s world) iPhones, social media, Netflix binge-watching, podcasts, or perhaps the opioids that have become an epidemic in our country.

    Was this what awaited me after graduation? If my father’s fate was any indication, then the answer was yes. My father was a poet who drove a taxicab to earn his meager living, and it was because of him that I found a topic to research during my summer internship. A colleague at the Fed passed along a story to me about medallion taxicabs in Boston. I decided to follow up on it with the vague surmise that I might have special insight given that my father was in the business. In truth, I never found the business especially interesting. It was instead a mind-numbing grind that limited the time my father could devote to the avocation he loved, while the fatigue after a long shift led him to spend a good fraction of his leisure time recovering from the labor of work rather than devoting his energy to his labor of love. Embittered as my father may have been, however, he never complained about his station in life in a way that prompted him to question the inherent justice of a society that forced him to drive a taxi (or when he was younger, paint houses) instead of spending all his time writing poetry.

    But I took a different view of the matter as I began to study and write about the industry. In the late 90s, a major controversy in the industry involved the leasing of taxicabs. For generations, taxi fleets hired drivers as employees. Many in the industry considered the employer-employee relationship a better arrangement than the lessor-lessee relationship that was rapidly becoming the norm. Instead of being hired as employees, drivers were finding themselves forced to sign on as lessees. The driver was not an employee dependent upon his employer for income and benefits. Rather, he was an independent contractor who was wholly responsible for what he earned above the lease rate.

    Leasing instigated a divisive debate in an industry where a half-century of municipal regulations had restricted the supply of taxi licenses (called ‘medallions’ in many cities). In New York City, one medallion could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. High rents could also be observed in other cities as well. Since the lease rate was in part a reflection of the value of medallions, drivers seemed to be subsidizing owners who sat back and collected the fees from renting out their medallion cabs. For a budding Marxist, the portrait of an industry in which rich medallion owners leased out taxicabs to poor drivers who could not afford their own medallions was a stark example of exploitation. It was a blatant division of power between lessor owners of medallion cabs (i.e. the owners of the means of production) and lessee taxi drivers. Never mind that the owner might have incurred a lot of debt to buy a medallion, or that a fleet owner was not simply a rich fat cat sitting on a pile of gold, but had invested millions of dollars of risk capital in taxi fleet operations over the course of many years of learning and mastering the business. What mattered to me was that an owner leased out a taxicab to a driver and collected the daily or weekly lease rate. Drivers worked long hard hours to pay a high lease rate (because of the high medallion value, which was theoretically related to the discounted lifetime stream of lease payments) and went home with a surplus that was barely subsistence level. Suffice to say that activists in the industry were concerned about a division of resources between owners who were akin to absentee landlords and taxi drivers who were akin to ‘urban sharecroppers’.

    As the Marxist son of a taxi driver, I got hooked on this story of exploitation, which was not simply about subsistence-level earnings, but about the damage to body and soul from working long hours day after day instead of doing what one loves, which, in my father’s case, was writing poetry. By the time I was a senior in college, I was determined to examine this topic in much greater depth as the theme of my senior economics thesis. But alas, economists in the department were not buying it. In the economics department, among students and professors, Marx was not so much despised as he was ignored. He was irrelevant, a relic of the past whose labor theory of value had little to offer the modern science of economics. I was inclined to attribute the indifference of students to an ideological adherence to capitalism that one readily found on a Penn campus dominated by the Wharton business school in the Wall Street heyday of the late-1990s. But to encounter outright antipathy from academic professors was to experience a cognitive dissonance that seemed to signify something important.

    Indeed, I started to have misgivings which ultimately kindled my divorce from Marx. After encountering pushback from my thesis advisor when I broached a Marx-themed thesis, I went on to write a prize-winning thesis in economics that involved interviewing over two hundred taxicab drivers in Philadelphia, gathering data on revenues, costs, demographics, and other variables that I used to analyze the economic effects of leasing in the Philadelphia taxicab industry. I ultimately discovered that leasing was an efficiency-enhancing arrangement, in contrast to a widespread belief that owner-drivers were better drivers because they were more invested in the business. I found that lease drivers generated more revenue per day, were less likely to receive a ticket, and received fewer summonses per year than the owner-driver. Lease drivers seemed motivated to maximize revenue and minimize cost since every dollar above the lease rate was theirs to keep. They were efficient, motivated, and empowered. Having found support for my advisor’s initial hypothesis that leasing solved the moral hazard of traditional revenue-sharing schemes between fleet owners and drivers, Marx never meant the same to me.

    The labor theory of value or historical materialism could not account for the discovery that taxi drivers did not turn out to be impoverished and inefficient ‘urban sharecroppers’. They were more efficient and arguably better off as independent contractors. They could be their own boss, drive as much or as little as they wanted, and take home everything above a fixed lease rate. Their earnings potential might be determined by supply and demand, and may have reflected the rents associated with a fixed supply of medallions. But that was not because of exploitation. Supply and demand are simple facts of life in all economies (central planners might try to say otherwise, but in the long run, no society can escape the inconveniences of scarcity), and the lease fees and rents associated with high medallion values were the direct result of ill-conceived municipal regulations, not malevolent price-gouging by heartless capitalists.

    If my faith in Marx was not yet broken, it had suffered a wound that would ultimately prove to be mortal. I went to work for an economic consulting firm after graduation, and after a few years of private sector experience, Marx was dead to me. As an undergrad in the ivory tower, you could get away with late-night bullshit fests about capitalism, alienation, and exploitation. But in the real world of conference calls and client meetings, where there were real money and reputations at stake, Marx was as persona non-grata as a call center representative who answers every call by saying ‘I cannot help you’. There was no point bringing up Marx even in casual conversation lest you come across as a crackpot, not the kind of reputation you want to have when you’re trying to earn a living and stay respectable among colleagues who have PhDs in economics. In a few years, when I wrote my personal essays as part of applications to graduate programs in economics, I made no mention of my undergraduate fascination with Marx. Years after that, when I took up study to earn the CFA charter, a top designation in the finance industry, not once did I come across Marx in the curriculum.

    ***

    It has been several years since I gave Marx the time of day, or since I thought seriously about the influence Marx exerted on me in my undergraduate years. But in recent years, I am frequently reminded of my undergraduate excursions in Marxism whenever I consider the unhealthy obsession with exploitation as a central force in historical developments that has found a home in the echo chambers of social justice activism.

    According to Friedrich Engels, Marx’s co-author in The Communist Manifesto, Marx’s main proposition is ‘that in every historical epoch, the prevailing mode of economic production and exchange, and the social organization necessarily following from it, form the basis upon which is built up, and from which alone can be explained, the political and intellectual history of that epoch; that consequently the whole history of mankind (since the dissolution of primitive tribal society, holding land in common ownership) has been a history of class struggles, contests between exploiting and exploited, ruling and oppressed classes; that the history of these class struggles forms a series of evolutions in which, nowadays, a stage has been reached where the exploited and oppressed class—the proletariat—cannot attain its emancipation from the sway of the exploiting and ruling class—the bourgeoisie—without, at the same time, and once and for all, emancipating society at large from all exploitation, oppression, class distinctions, and class struggles.’

    This rhetoric of revolution comes straight out of a playbook of the social justice movement. While not necessarily focused explicitly or exclusively on proletarian revolution, the social justice movement shares a strong, almost fanatical, belief in systemic victimization as a virus that infects every cell of the social body. The mutations of history generate cultural norms and memes that collectively encode a social ideology connecting each cell to every other cell in the social body, ensuring that the body serves the interests of a ruling class. The DNA of the social body is thus the DNA of oppression, and it has wired our brains so thoroughly that we are complicit in our own ‘false consciousness’, like in the movie The Matrix, in which intelligent machines subdue humans by plugging them into a vast infrastructural grid, and they spend their lives sitting like embryos hooked up to a grid that sucks out their bioelectricity while tranquilizing their minds with a simulated reality.

    For the social justice warrior, the fundamental concern of justice is emancipation from the grid of oppression and exploitation, by way of personal liberation and vindication, or more ominously, by way of pro-active social engineering, which mobilizes all the resources of McCarthyite thought-police brigades and their zealot’s brand of political correctness to rewire the DNA of the social body, or by outright revolution to force change by way of social upheaval and, when the chaos clears, by way of kumbaya consensus if possible, by decree if necessary. The common interest in overcoming oppression, and the common identity of being a victim (i.e. the intersectionality of social justice solidarity and activism), forms a kind of class struggle that converts social justice dogma into a twenty-first century incarnation of the Marxist creed.

    But like Marx advocating revolution without ever clearly defining what the world of communism would look like, the cause of social justice seems to lie in nothing more profound than an insistence that victims are the true heroes in history, and that the dead are martyrs while the living are potential saviors and redeemers. Social justice becomes a crusade that turns impassioned activists into foot soldiers in a campaign for change and redemption, often without a clear vision of what a changed world will look like other than a vague notion that it will be a world without oppression and exploitation. A bona fide social justice warrior finds common cause with alleged victims and takes up the fight against ‘isms’ and phobias that jointly make up a historical construct which is fundamentally defective because vested interests and victims are not only allowed to co-exist, but form a symbiotic relationship between guardians of the status quo and the disempowered victims on whom they parasitically feed.

    To join the cause of social justice is to believe that social norms form the rudiments of social structures that perpetuate systemic injustices like toxic masculinity and patriarchy, misogyny and sexism, institutional racism, homophobia, xenophobia, and all other manifestations of discrimination, exclusion, and disempowerment. To join the social justice crusade is to commit oneself to reengineering the long process of socialization whereby children learn from their observations of parents, role models, teachers, politicians, athletes, celebrities, and other adult influences how to emulate the pieties of unjust norms and attitudes. It is to understand that what we believe is what we are indoctrinated with, and what we are indoctrinated with oppresses us. Internalization is at the root of everything, and it leads to exploitation everywhere we look. Justice may be hard, but it is not complex. It is simply a matter of ripping out from the roots the ideologies which lie beneath the veneer of false consciousness that ultimately makes all of us compliant in our own victimization.

    The upshot is a Hegelian conception of historical justice as a Manichaen struggle between oppressors and their victims that ends in the overthrow of oppressors and the vindication of the underdog. Social justice literature turns into agitprop that sacrifices nuance in favor of the same kind of sanctimonious moralism or vindictive indignation that taints the guardians of the status quo when they unleash a reactionary backlash of denial and vitriol. Like Marx overlooking that the owner of a mill is a more complex human being than a complacent steward of material interests unconsciously or deliberately upholding the injustices of an ossified ideological regime, the social justice warrior views people as little more than socialized beings who embody the ‘isms’ and phobias of the zeitgeist in which they live.

    This kind of self-consciousness breeds a culture of hyper-vigilance that we see when well-meaning concerns about insensitivities toward victims turn into a consciousness-raising campaign to police micro-aggressions, inciting students on university campuses to take offense at the slightest hint of inappropriate comments and gestures even though the notion of a micro-aggression is far from a clear or compelling concept. We see it when self-appointed gatekeepers of indigenous cultures feel an obligation to section off cultures into purist realms where only native inhabitants are permitted to interact with cultural artifacts, and even then only with the sanction of pious experts, thus (for example) appropriating from artistic enterprise the very essence of what art is supposed to do, which is place oneself in another’s shoes in the service of a story that, if it is well done, is a quintessential demonstration of empathy and understanding rather than an act of cultural appropriation. We see it when the human susceptibility to confirmation bias leaves the social justice warrior trying to explain almost every subjective perception of racial disparity as another instantiation of white privilege, giving short shrift to the often spurious link between correlation and causation while transforming a debate about what privileges are worth having and what privileges are not worth having into a hardline insistence that there is nothing left to do but teach people to ‘check’ their privilege. We see it when social science falls prey to widespread belief that the Implicit Association Test is a robust test of internalized racial bias, despite the surprising lack of evidence revealed by authoritative reporters and scientists.

    None of this is to suggest that overcoming oppression is an unworthy objective. I highly recommend that one read Charles Dickens’s novels about poverty in Victorian England, Tolstoy’s novels that display compassionate respect for the nobility of the serf, Mark Twain’s depictions of the evils of racism in nineteenth-century America, James Baldwin’s essays on the vacuity of American film when it comes to the topic of race, the autobiography of Frederick Douglass, and innumerable other books that offer penetrating insights into suffering and oppression. But these works do so with an eye to nuance and universal empathy rather than with the doctrinaire puritanism of social justice warriors who are inclined, like Marx, to reduce every aspect of society—every attitude, every institution, every conflict—to a grand Manichean historical drama that pits oppressors against oppressed, trying to do for social justice what Darwin did for biology, or Newton did for physics. But history and society and human nature are far too complex for myopic reductionism. When stern polemics replace intellectual honesty, there is little room for shades of gray, and a lessee taxi driver becomes another oppressed member of the proletariat rather than an independent contractor who is more efficient and motivated than complacent owner-drivers who may themselves be among the oppressed, too burdened by medallion debt to feel empowered by their livelihoods.

    In the modern social justice crusade, the cause of justice focuses on oppressive historical constructs. History is not about what happened, but about who won and who lost, and the winners and losers are synonymous with oppressors and victims. Marx may have lost the war of ideas, but he has not lost his influence. Not if the social justice warriors of the twenty-first century are any indication.

  26. The business of the bourgeoisie is business. The business of Marx is revolution. The Dictatorship of the Proletariat takes precedence to individual pecuniary interests

  27. Jon, there are a lot of excellent ideas here.

    Here are some countervailing thoughts:

    “Exploitive Capitalism” gave us the 40 hour work week and modern medicine and increased life expectancy from 35 years to 75 years. A 40-hrs work week meant plenty of time to play, read, jog, go fishing, take night courses, learn a new trade, and to think!
    The poorest American lives better than 80% of his fellow earthlings.

    Marx, et al, railed against a 19th Century capitalistic system and a world of serfs and 12-hour work days, six-days a week. Critics of mass culture’s conforming, robotic, hypnotic effects didn’t count on hundreds of cable channels and the Internet and books from Amazon: a Plurality of ideas across the political-philosophic spectrum, readily available to one and all.

    Academically, college grads once benefited from a firm grounding in Western Civilization. The Greeks gave us plays, poetry, philosophy; the Romans gave us more arts, architect and aqueducts, and built an empire, a civilization; Christianity spread. The Barbarian invaders tore it down. From the Dark Ages, the Renaissance rose; a new modern world sprung into existence: Exploration, Arts, industry, freedom, America. The Social Justice Warriors, like the Barbarians, are trying to tear down this new civilization. You are correct: They relish victimhood! “(Their) commitment to justice is equivalent to a commitment to revolution rather than reform; (they see) little or no virtue in prevailing norms, ideas, and institutions.” They are blindly committed to “a concerted effort to overturn the status quo.” The SJWs can’t count their blessings. They imagine institutionalized oppression where none exists! U.S. Law prohibits discrimination. Sixty-percent of billionaires were not born rich! We’re doing our level best to create a level playing field, but we can’t create equality of outcomes! We can encourage more women to enter STEM fields. But should we compel them? Should we require 50% of PhDs in Math be given to women? Why?

    Start with the US Constitution and the Republic it created. Read Eric Metaxas’s, “If You Can Keep It.” Don’t be too swift in discarding Milton Friedman’s views on capitalism and freedom. Remember the destruction of the American family wrought by LBJ’s Great Society; remember the endemic Drug Epidemic (as you do), an offspring of modern liberalism’s hedonism and licentiousness; remember the dumbing down of youth; remember Academic ill-liberalism; the Academy selling out to leftists (Berkelee, Evergreen, etc.)

    Perfect justice is a chimera, like perfect equality. Re-read Sowell’s “Cosmic Equality.”

    Odysseus was a moral and ethical man. (Homer lived @8th century B.C.) Odysseus was loyal and devoted to his wife, his family, his fellow-soldiers, his country, his God (gods). He had Courage and Perseverance. He was a virtuous man. He drove the usurpers (suitors) out of his “private property.” Private property is not a “privilege”; it is a right enshrined in our Constitution (See 4th Amendment). Our Founding Fathers, deep readers and thinkers all, familiar with Locke, Burke, and all the great philosophers from Ancient times up to the Enlightenment, created a nifty document, unrivaled historically or since.

    Remember: The Greek language is the foundation of much scientific language; and the Roman language, Latin, the foundation of French, Spanish, et al, and both suffuse English. Remember, too, that our SJWs want to eradicate the teaching of Western Civ, as if they’ve discovered a comparable civilization. Remember Stanford dropped Wester Civ as mandatory for freshmen . . . at the behest of Jesse Jackson in the 1980s, someone said.

    “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Dylan Thomas

    1. Bill,

      Excellent post. I agree with all of it. As far as I’m concerned, the 60s counterculture was one of the worst things that ever happened to America.

  28. Bill:

    Organized labor gave us the 40 hr work week. It cost a lot of blood to wrench it from the the big capitalists through often violent labor actions. Industry owners fought against the 40 hr week tooth and nail. Read some labor history. Homestead Steel comes to mind, so, do the Appalachian coal field wars, the Pullman strike, and, the Rogue River fight against Ford,. UAW, the Longshoremen, and The United Mine Workers fought for and won the 40hr week. To hell with the capitalists. The bourgeois owners never gave up anything to the workers without a fight. Get behind some books, man. The American worker has a proud history of resistance to capitalism.

    1. Khalid,

      I am not surprised that a Marxist talks in terms of classes rather than individuals. No doubt there was much resistance to organized labor and legitimate reforms. But not every mill owner was the same, and not every union was the same. There were kind owners as well as mean owners, and unions were often infiltrated by the mob. History does not boil down to Hegelian dialectics. History is much more variegated, bumpy, and unpredictable.

    2. “The bourgeois owners never gave up anything to the workers without a fight.”

      I’ve painted dozens of houses. I have to ask. Where do you find brushes that broad?

      1. Abe:
        That’s just the nature of class struggle.

        Who brought up the myth of the kindly owner? Jon? Bill? Despite recent court decisions to the contrary, corporations are not people. The hourly paid peons who slave for big corporations hate management. The “boss” is only thought of as a beneficent patriarch by the stooges who kiss corporate ass (management). Haven’t any of you guys ever worked shitty jobs? That’s mostly what’s out there.

        1. I understand your point.

          I’ve stripped roofs, climbed and cut down trees and worked in crawl spaces most of my life. All of my bosses have been great men that I admire and consider true friends. BUT….they all worked next to me. I was extremely lucky. There was never a struggle. That’s because I was treated as an equal.

          I feel sorry for my friends, no matter what their wealth, that had to kiss ass. They thought they were doing it for their benefit and their family. Few are happy and fewer are healthy. A good number are dead. The boats, the cars, the trips, the money, the families all seemed to be what they believed was their goals. Then came the Talking Head’s lyrics, “And you may ask yourself, well, How did I get here?” Quiet desperation.

          1. Let me modify that. Technically, corporations are legal entities. In effect, they are owned by shareholders and thus, in a very real sense, are people.

        2. Speaking of Uncle Tom, note that it was a former slave owner who first took in Eliza after she crossed the Ohio River and came into the care of a Senator’s family. It was the 19th century, of course, so racism was prevalent, but there was a moral crusade nonetheless to overturn the plantation aristocracy. Mill villages throughout New England often had owners who set up public schools, public housing, and other initiatives to provide decent living conditions for their workers. Conditions varied in different villages, of course, and sentiments about decent living conditions reflected 19th century norms (let us not fall prey to presentism), but the Marxist dialectic is a simplistic formulation that ignores the varieties of human experience. Indeed, failure is just as much a feature of the industrial economy for mill owners as it was for mill workers. The first commercially successful mill in America was built by Samuel Slater and the Brown family in Pawtucket, RI. The Brown family tried unsuccessfully for years to find the know-how to make it work. It was only when Slater came along with blueprints he illegally imported from Britain. Society is not simply a static division between haves and have-nots. For every hedge fund billionaire, there are many wannabe hedge fund managers that fail (survivorship bias is a major problem in indexes that measure hedge fund industry performance).

    3. I’ve previously posted the history of capitalists who endorsed shorter working days and weeks. In America, the proletariat did not overthrow the capitalists. The workers and owners co-operated, had their conflicts, and reached compromises. Congress passed laws. A free people improved the working and living conditions for all.

  29. for the uneducated and the uneducable

    an active barometer of the success or failure of capitalism
    is to take a stroll through southern Florida today
    September 12 2017

    stay tuned more to come

  30. 1. Watch Florida and Houston recover, rebound and revitalize: The American Way, within the framework of our republic, free enterprise and the American spirit of sharing and caring.

    2. On another note: The LA Times reports, according to two anonymous persons, that FACEBOOK received $100,000, “probably” or apparently from Russia (“appeared to come from Russia”) in “divisive” political ads, which mentioned neither candidates nor the election. Hillary’s campaign spent $1.2 Billion promoting her. Hillary is convinced, nevertheless, that the Russian spending swayed the election outcome against her. Donna Brazille sneaking her debate questions had nothing to do with it. Hillary’s delusional.

    L.A. Times: “Hundreds of fake Facebook accounts, probably run from Russia, spent about $100,000 on ads aimed at stirring up divisive issues such as gun control and race relations during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the social network said Wednesday. . . .The 470 accounts appeared to come from a notorious ‘troll farm,’ a St. Petersburg-based organization known for promoting pro-Russian government positions via fake accounts, according to two people familiar with the investigation. . . .
    In all, the accounts purchased about 3,000 ads between June 2015 and May 2017. Though the ads didn’t specifically reference the election, a candidate or voting, they nevertheless allowed “divisive messages” to be amplified via the social media platform, the company’s (FACEBOOK’s) chief security officer, Alex Stamos, said in a statement.”

    Democrats are investigating!

    You know, but for that $100,000 spread over two years (2017 is not an LA Times typo; CNNMoney and Business Insider repeated it), Hillary may have won. But let’s assume it is a typo and the money was spent over 12 months: For @ $8 thousand a month you can sway a national election?

    Compare that $100,000 with Facebook’s US ad revenue of roughly $8 billion dollars. (200 million-plus users; $20 revenue per user.)

    Any rational person can see that $100,000 carefully spent over a year or so could easily tip a national election. And since Facebook users are bombarded with $8 billion in ads annually, how could they ignore $100,000 in ads?

  31. “1. Watch Florida and Houston recover, rebound and revitalize: The American Way, within the framework of our republic, free enterprise and the American spirit of sharing and caring.”

    Well said, Bill! Lazlo Toth could not have phrased it any better.

  32. Khalid asked about work and Abe posted some experiences. So, let’s see: In high school, I started sweeping floors (Carl’s Drugstore) and packing groceries (Capital, Fields Corner), then worked in other super markets (Elm Farm, Neponset)—-all in Dorchester— then became a summertime janitor/painter (Housing projects), then through college worked as a union construction laborer during summers (DeStefano Construction, Salamando Construction), then post-graduate school, when laid off, drove cab, then after years of white collar work in D.C. when back in Boston, dropped out and for two years painted houses and chopped down trees full time for a living, with my lifelong friend Charlie W., and we sometimes employed three or four (Charlie was an accountant who dropped out of the white collar world, too); So yes, Khalid, some of us worked “tough” jobs, and we were very grateful to have them. Also very glad to get back to white collar jobs, and start law school nights. Had a full life! Appreciate workers from every field! Appreciate bosses, owners, corporations; many friends became small businessmen. Lifelong friends in every field, private sector, public sector, military…blue collar, white collar … appreciate them all.

    Met some Ph.D.s driving cab! Met brilliant men without degrees!

    Met many avid readers in Boston from all works of life.

    Remember: Remember the Longshoreman’s Philosopher. Remember Socrates, Plato and Aristotle did not attend an Ivy League school. Remember Albert Schweitzer, Ph.D., M.D., theologian, philosopher, was a pretty good classical pianist. Besides his medical bag, the only thing of value he took to equatorial Africa was an upright piano. Remember Art Tatum was self-taught, mostly. Remember, too, the myth of the self-made man. Who changed his diapers? Self-made after his mother nurtured him for many a year and his society safeguarded him. In America, schools taught him, doctors/nurses treated/innoculated him, farmers worked hard to feed him.

    And remember, most of all, the unconquerable human spirit, as expressed in Camus’ “The Myth of Sisyphus!” Rock on! Rachmaninoff!

    Sempre Libera! Live free: Frolic! Life is good! Work hard! Study hard! Party hardy! Enjoy. Up the Republic! Pray for peace!

    The ineffable: Frost’s “Whose woods these are I think I know . . .”; Kilmer’s “. . . but only God can make a tree!”

    Streams of consciousness . . . A song: “A small cafe, Mam’selle, our rendezvous, Mam’selle, the violins were warm and sweet and so were you Mam’selle . . . and yet I know, Mam’selle, someday you’ll go, Mam’selle, then violins will sigh and so will I, Mam’selle.” And that song begins (I’ve posted it before), so I’ll refrain from posting it again. Look up the lyrics to Mam’selle, which begins:” It was Montmarte, there was moonlight, come to think of it, it was Spring . . .”

    Which brings me to my point: writing is work, too. Picking up a pen or brush or pick-axe . . . you know! I remember on a construction job being told to dig a two foot ditch . . . everyone left the site; I was all alone and worked steady for 2 hours. When the crew came back, the ditch was mostly done, and the boss was pleased. I wasn’t fired. I was glad and proud of the ditch I dug.

    Here’s the point. There’s the story of the man who after years of meditation reached Nirvana. His whole life long he’d dug ditches and carried water. They asked him: “Now, that you’ve achieved Nirvana, what do you do?” He said, “I dig ditches and carry water.”

    1. You had me at Carl’s Drugstore. Throw in Albert Schweitzer and the rest is history.

      What a great group we have here. Thanks, Matt.

  33. In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life.

    It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.

      1. Creative and inspired individuals rise above their social existence and transform the consciousness of all: The Prophets, Jesus, the Founding Fathers, artists, explorers, pioneers, inventors, and yes entrepreneurs. See comment on capitalists, below.
        Bach broke through and gave us something new, as did Manet, and Einstein, and Jobs/Wazniak. (Top company in world founded by two American pioneers in the computer industry; one a Syrian-American, the other a Ukrainian-American.)

        1. It is an illusion to some. That’s what we have been discussing. It is not always as wonderful as people claim. When I lived up on Milton Hill for 9 years in the estate of E.O. Baker I was kind of shocked to see how many of the rich and famous were drunks, infidels, depressed, suicidal (many successful in that venture), drug addicts and just plain mean and nasty.

          But of course Marx was a theorist and had never experienced freedom. I believe the great flaw in his philosophy is that if it was implemented its citizens would still be living within a system that they could not stray from in any way. Total lack of individual freedom. If I am completely wrong it is only because I have never delved too deeply into his writing.

          When he says, “It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness” he is starting from a point where all people are in a kind of hell. He is saying that people have no choice. Which came first here? The chicken or the egg? The gulag or the holideck?

  34. CAPITALISTS:
    HENRY FORD: “The Ford Motor Company advanced the idea in 1914, when it scaled back from a 48-hour to a 40-hour workweek (actually implemented industry-wide by Ford in 1926; see below) after founder Henry Ford believed that too many hours were bad for workers’ productivity. The formation of unions helped to strengthen the idea of working five days a week as well.” NBC news.
    History Channel: “On this day in 1926, Ford Motor Company becomes one of the first companies in America to adopt a five-day, 40-hour week for workers in its automotive factories. The policy would be extended to Ford’s office workers the following August.
    “Henry Ford’s Detroit-based automobile company had broken ground in its labor policies before. In early 1914, against a backdrop of widespread unemployment and increasing labor unrest, Ford announced that it would pay its male factory workers a minimum wage of $5 per eight-hour day, upped from a previous rate of $2.34 for nine hours (the policy was adopted for female workers in 1916). The news shocked many in the industry–at the time, $5 per day was nearly double what the average auto worker made–but turned out to be a stroke of brilliance, immediately boosting productivity along the assembly line and building a sense of company loyalty and pride among Ford’s workers.
    “The decision to reduce the workweek from six to five days had originally been made in 1922. According to an article published in The New York Times that March, Edsel Ford, Henry’s son and the company’s president, explained that ‘Every man needs more than one day a week for rest and recreation….The Ford Company always has sought to promote [an] ideal home life for its employees. We believe that in order to live properly every man should have more time to spend with his family.’”

    CARNEGIE, FEENEY, BUFFET, GATES, etc.: Carnegie gave 90% of his wealth to charities, schools, libraries, etc. Modern day billionaire Chuck Feeney gave more than 99% of his wealth ($8 billion) to charity. Warren Buffet has pledged to give 99% of his wealth to Charity; Buffet and Bill Gates formed the Billionaire’s Club whose 165 members have pledged to give away at least 50% of their wealth to charity.

    Capitalists do a lot of good.

  35. Inmate Worker Organizing Committee

    IWOC’s Statement of Purpose – July 31, 2014

    1. To further the revolutionary goals of incarcerated people and the IWW through mutual organizing of a worldwide union for emancipation from the prison system.

    2. To build class solidarity amongst members of the working class by connecting the struggle of people in prison, jails, and immigrant and juvenile detention centers to workers struggles locally and worldwide.

    3. To strategically and tactically support prisoners locally and worldwide, incorporating an analysis of white supremacy, patriarchy, prison culture, and capitalism.

    4. To actively struggle to end the criminalization, exploitation, and enslavement of working class people, which disproportionately targets people of color, immigrants, people with low income, LGBTQ people, young people, dissidents, and those with mental illness.

    5. To amplify the voices of working class people in prison, especially those engaging in collective action or who put their own lives at risk to improve the conditions of all.

    Tear those prison walls down!

    All praise to the Wobblies. All power to the dialectic!

    1. Too bad Marx never got to live in a free society.

      By the way, Khalid, what will you do when the leaders of the Aryan Brotherhood get released? They’re going to be looking for you. And me.

      1. Abe:

        The AB are part of the program. Inside every prison gang member is a Jack Henry Abbott trying to get out. Above all other enemies is the enemy who keeps you inside. Politicizing the inmate population is the objective. First off, don’t call yourself an inmate. You are a prisoner. Someone is keeping you behind bars. You’re not there of your own will. Other prisoners, regardless of race, are your comrades in struggle. The hacks, and, the system they represent, are your true enemy. Oppressors come in all skin shades. Don’t worry about their complexions. Keep an eye on the badge, and, the gun.

        The ABs would ride in that car. All power to the Dialectic!

        1. The old AB hierarchy are banked. It’s unlikely they’ll ever see population again, let alone the street. New leaders means different ideas. The Revolution can be very seductive to those on the pointy end. Everything depends on the skill of the cadres organizing the prisons. The UNICOR strike is just the beginning. I wonder how they are handling all the SIS rats scurrying around? Forcefully, I hope.

          BLM has come up with a new tactic to employ against the fascists and their supporters. Instead of marching around the predominantly black/brown parts of St. Louis, they’ve brought their protest to upscale shopping centers in the bourgeois white neighborhoods of the city. Their battle-cry is, “No justice! No business!

          All praise to BLM. All power to the Dialectic!

          1. Today’s chant in St. Louis, “You kill our kids, we kill your economy!” The Revo is coming along, admirably. See what happens when you let motivated black women get graduate degrees. Keep up the good work comrade ladies.

            All praise to BLM. All power to the Dialectic!

        2. Jack Henry Abbott? Everyone has a story. Everyone has an excuse. As Mike Tyson said, “I didn’t rape no one, but I have committed enough serious crimes that I do deserve to be in prison.” There are innocent people in prison and there are guilty people walking in freedom. We all know that. Most of what you say is idealistic.

          Politicizing the inmate population is not the objective. Politicizing the civilian population is the objective.

          1. Abe,

            Marx is dead, because he was dead wrong about virtually everything he wrote. Don’t bother with posts that end in ‘all power to the dialectic’.

          2. Just look to Cuba as an example:

            https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/fidel-castro-and-augusto-pinochet-were-ruthless-autocrats-wcz/

            On November 26, 2016, the world learned that the former prime minister, president, and first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, Fidel Castro, is no more. Predictably, Cuban dissidents cheered, many leaders lamented the human rights abuses that occurred in his name, and, of course, a chorus of praise for the former dictator resounded from the far corner of gaga-eyed leaders of the Left like Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who expressed his “deep sorrow” for “the loss of this remarkable leader.”

            The chorus of praise from the Left stands in marked contrast to nearly unanimous vilification of another autocrat from Latin America, former president of Chile Augusto Pinochet. There is, of course, no excusing the gross human rights abuses committed by either Castro or Pinochet, both of whom jailed, tortured, and executed thousands of political opponents. But in the case of Castro, naïfs of the Left show a remarkable leniency in ignoring Castro’s political abuses and his profound failures in economic policy, seeming to believe they are mitigated or offset by his achievements in overthrowing a corrupt regime while providing education and healthcare to all Cuban citizens. Yet they do not extend this courtesy to Pinochet, whose regime ushered in a series of economic reforms that arguably laid the foundation for Chile to become the best-performing economy in Latin America.

            ***

            Cubans were able to live in an economy that, while broken, was at least sufficiently functional to allow them to lead a minimally comfortable daily existence.
            The statistics indicate that Cuba now has a 99 percent literacy rate. It also has a healthcare system available to all Cubans for free (well, it has to be paid for somehow, but more on that below). According to one report, 84 percent of Cubans own their own home. And for many years, as long as the Soviets were subsidizing the economy, Cubans were able to live in an economy that, while broken, was at least sufficiently functional to allow them to lead a minimally comfortable daily existence.

            By themselves, these are worthy accomplishments. Yet it is an old saying in economics that there is no free lunch, and in the case of Cuba, these accomplishments have been served as an extremely expensive lunch indeed.

            Though it has relaxed restrictions on private enterprise in recent years, Cuba is a state-directed planned economy. The government directs most economic activities in the service of state-sanctioned ends, such as universal healthcare and literacy. The result is an economy run on ideals, which inspires millions in the whirlwind of a revolution, but ultimately. must confront the enormous administrative burden of overseeing the allocation of resources across an entire island economy of 11 million people.

            Not surprisingly, the omniscience required for such an enterprise is often found to be wanting. Indeed, despite its accomplishments in the areas of education and healthcare, Cuba is an economy in which three-fourths of the people work in the public sector and earn an average of $20/month. Rations are common. Infrastructure is dated. Supplies at hospitals are lacking. Taxi drivers make more than doctors, and a nurse quits her job “to start a small business selling fried pork skin and other snacks from a cart,” earning ‘about 10 times more every month’ than she did as a nurse.

            Needless to say, inefficiencies abound.

            Some of the deprivations in the Cuban economy can be attributed to the U.S. embargo, yet it is difficult to argue that the embargo has an outsized effect on the economy in comparison to the fundamental inefficiencies of a planned economy. Cuba does not exist in isolation. China, Canada, the Netherlands, and other countries trade with Cuba. European tourists visit regularly. And one wonders if the removal of the U.S. embargo would benefit ordinary Cubans, or whether the benefits would merely accrue to foreign capital and cronies of the regime with whom the U.S. negotiates deals.

            The nurse who quit her job to start a business selling fried pork was motivated in part by soaring prices of staple items like onions and peppers and garlic, prompting her to say “[w]e have to be magicians” to prepare a decent meal for the family.
            Indeed, it is difficult to argue that ending the embargo comes close to being a panacea given the fundamental defects associated with a planned economy. A recent article in the New York Times details how an influx of tourists in recent years has exacerbated the problem of scarcity that one encounters in any economy, but especially in an economy run on rations and price controls. The nurse who quit her job to start a business selling fried pork was motivated in part by soaring prices of staple items like onions and peppers and garlic, prompting her to say “[w]e have to be magicians” to prepare a decent meal for the family.

            The prices are high because an influx of tourists has increased demand. Last year, for example, 3.5 million tourists visited an island with a population of 11 million Cubans, effectively increasing the population by 32 percent. Of course, 3.5 million visitors are spread out over the course of a year, so the population size is not 14.5 million throughout the year, but this is nonetheless a large demand shock in a country where, according to University of Havana economist Juan Alejandro Triana, “[t]he government has consistently failed to invest properly in the agriculture sector.’”Supply has failed to catch up to demand. The result is soaring prices for staples like onions, peppers, and garlic.

            The government has responded in the only way it knows how—by controlling prices, a policy destined to backfire, as the U.S. learned when the Nixon administration imposed wage and price freezes in the U.S. in the early 1970’s. The government imposed price controls on agricultural products in the public sector, i.e. state-run stores. But foreign tourists eat at private restaurants which can thus afford to pay the higher prices, so farmers and vendors sell to private restaurants, which empties the shelves in state-run stores. The government could, of course, restrict sales to private restaurants, but then fewer foreign tourists may visit, depriving the government and the economy of foreign currency and a much-needed jolt to the economy, which might then depress prices but also reduce employment opportunities in the private restaurant business (economies are complex networks of feedback loops, and unidimensional policies expose the risk of ignoring general equilibrium effects.)

            Thomas Carlyle once said “[t]each a parrot the terms ‘supply and demand’ and you’ve got an economist.” The Cuban regime apparently has few parrots running its economy, however much it parrots rhetoric about the virtues of socialism and the vices of capitalism. Ultimately, markets will not be ignored. Unfortunately for the Cuban people, the problem of scarcity (i.e., the problem of equating supply and demand), is one that a socialist government disregards when it ignores the signals conveyed by prices.

            …a time of severe economic deprivation that likely had many wondering about the virtues of living in a society in which everyone is literate and has access to healthcare but simultaneously must worry about going hungry.
            The Cuban Government was able to ignore the problem of scarcity so long as the Soviets subsidized the economy. But when the Soviet collapse unmasked fundamental inefficiencies inherent in the economy, Cuba entered the so-called “Special Period” of the 1990’s, a time of severe economic deprivation that likely had many wondering about the virtues of living in a society in which everyone is literate and has access to healthcare but simultaneously must worry about going hungry.

            In short, the ideals of a planned economy, such as literacy and healthcare, have come at the high cost of a planned economy. This is not to say that achievements in education and healthcare do not deserve a note of praise. But as those with little training in economics often fail to appreciate, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Ideals are not sufficient to make an economy work. One must tend to the tedious work of cost-benefit analysis. It is one thing to achieve 99 percent literacy and universal healthcare, but at what cost? For all its corruption and inequality, Cuba was a thriving middle-class economy in the 1950’s, with a literacy rate approaching 80 percent.

            In comparison, the Cuban economy is now a sclerotic, lethargic machine of inefficiency where taxi drivers earn more than doctors.

            As for healthcare, Cuban medicine has had its benefits. Its preventative approach to health care is cost-conscious and reasonably effective. The Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) in Havana is a reputable medical university. And perhaps many doctors are content with a salary of $67/month because they view public duty as more important than remuneration, but it is hard to find fault with one doctor who fled to (where else?) Chile in the 1990’s because he “could barely afford to buy a single egg to eat a day.”

            As this doctor explained, Cuba is a two-tiered system: “one for ordinary people, like my family, and another that is exclusive to the Cuban ruling class, who live better than any capitalist.” Elites like Castro can live till 90 because the best doctors and nurses and hospitals are available them. The rest of Cuba? Yes, they get healthcare, but hopes of living to 90 may diminish in a system where, according to one account, “[g]etting a pair of glasses to alleviate near-sightedness can take months through subsidized State channels, or twenty-four hours at Miramar Optical where you pay in convertible pesos. Nor do the bodies who staff the hospitals escape these contrasts: we can consult the most competent neurosurgeon in the entire Caribbean region, but he doesn’t have even an aspirin to give us.”

            So, while many point to Cuba’s lower infant mortality rate than the U.S. and its comparable life expectancy despite spending a lower share of its GDP on health care than the U.S. (though problems of metrics and comparative statics make these comparisons dubious), the Cuban economy chugs along at its sluggish, inefficient pace, and the Cuban people chug along to clinics to get their shots and have their blood pressure taken, perhaps inwardly ruing their inability to obtain a simple pill of aspirin.

            Fidel Castro’s fatal flaw as a revolutionary was his ideological rigidity.
            ***

            The wonder is that any of this should be a matter of dispute. Cuba under Castro has been an outright catastrophe, but it should not be surprising. Fidel Castro’s fatal flaw as a revolutionary was his ideological rigidity. Castro came to power as a 32-year old combative Cuban nationalist (or 33, by some accounts) six years after he led a band of revolutionaries on July 26, 1953 in an attack on the Moncada barracks in Santiago de Cuba. The attack resulted in the arrest, imprisonment, and execution of many of his comrades, and ultimately sent Castro to prison for 15 years after a trial in which he famously stated: “History will absolve me.” Two years later, President Fulgencio Batista, who had come to power in a 1952 coup, granted him amnesty and released him from prison. Castro made his way to Mexico where he immediately set about forming a band of revolutionaries who would return to Cuba to overthrow the regime. In Mexico, he famously met Ernesto “Che” Guevara, the Argentinian revolutionary who was on his own ideological quest to overthrow corrupt, corporatist Latin American regimes. But in those heady days before they set sail on the Granma in November 1956 and landed on the southeastern coast of Cuba under the banner of the “26th of July” movement (most dying a gruesome death at the hands of Batista forces), Castro was marshaling the beginnings of a movement to fight for the causes of anti-imperialism, anti-corruption, and Cuban nationalism.

            Castro and Guevara and a dozen others (out of 82) would survive the bloody shipwreck and survive for three years in the Sierra Maestra Mountains, drawing support from political contacts on the island and in the United States, campesinos in the countryside, and propaganda props like Herbert Matthews of the New York Times to advance their cause while incrementally waging a guerrilla war against the Batista regime.

            Castro was undoubtedly motivated by concerns about exploitation, disenfranchisement, and inequities that were wide and deep and which forced many countryside campesinos to live a threadbare existence with little access to healthcare, education, and economic opportunity. There is no denying the rigid and unjust social conditions prevalent under repressive oligarchic states in Latin American countries in the time of Castro’s contemporaries. But these were problems of history, incompetence, underdevelopment, autocratic indifference to the welfare of the populace, and a lack of viable, durable, indigenous institutions due to neglect by centuries of Spanish colonial administration.

            Castro assumed he could build on the back of revolutionary ideology a whole new society from the ashes of half-a-century of institution-building and half-hearted American paternalism, as well as centuries of Spanish rule and custom before that. His combative presumptiveness is perhaps not surprising given that he had spent the previous two decades enduring the “gangsterismo” culture of the 1940’s, the coup of 1952, prison, and the guerrilla war of the late 1950’s, but the approach was rigorously intolerant of any aspect of human nature that strayed from the rigid homogeneity of his thinking about social problems.

            Idealism and intolerance was at the root of the Castro regime and its incompetence. Anything that was wrong, or went wrong, was the result of Yankee imperialism, oligarchy, and exploitation. It was a singularity of thinking whereby anger at the sight of injustice was the sole foundation for a proper accounting of social ills and a proper assessment of the medicine to be applied. It brought a tone of inflexibility and intolerance just as corrosive as the corporatism and corruption that so enraged Castro, and a myopia to his diagnosis of social problems that precluded a more methodical and nuanced analysis of social ills and what their solutions should be. When everything is a result of exploitation, one is blind to all the many other reasons that things are as they are. Former Guantemalan President Jacobo Arbenz fell because the populace was not aware of its exploitation by Yankee imperialists, regardless of the nuances of Cold War geopolitics revealed in part by the shipment of Soviet arms to the Arbenz government. It’s all because Allen Dulles was on the board of the United Fruit Company; all other decision-makers in the foreign policy apparatus of the U.S. government are irrelevant.

            Such is the force that ideology exerts on the human mind that millions swooned as Fidel spoke to a massive crowd in a televised speech in Havana in January 1959 and allowed a white dove to land on his shoulder. But when you run a country on rhetoric and ideology, and everything bad is caused by the Yankee imperialists and everything good is because Fidel and his white dove saved the fatherland, you breed an atmosphere in which a competent and highly respected economist named Felipe Pazos, originally appointed to head the National Bank, expresses concern about the direction of the new regime, and he is sacked and replaced by the fanatic Che Guevara, a man with no training in economics and fixated on harebrained ideas like firing the managers and owners of a Coca-Cola plant (and then severely reprimanding the chemists because they could not replicate the secret Coca-Cola formula), importing snow plows from Czechoslovakia to cut sugar cane (which instead squashed and killed the cane), and his quixotic conception of the “new man,” according to which men would be motivated by ‘moral’ rather than material incentives (workers were penalized for shirking, while receiving a mere certificate if they outperformed; production collapsed.)

            But Castro ultimately proved himself far more interested in, and far more adept at, power than governance.
            The Cuban regime was built on the notion that revolutionary conviction was sufficient to build a new society that would thrive on the principles of socialism. But Castro ultimately proved himself far more interested in, and far more adept at, power than governance. Castro was politically savvy and enjoyed the exact combination of historical and social conditions necessary for revolution in Cuba, as well as the moxie to exploit them. But a half-century later, Cuba is a country that has been devastated by a regime that has proved itself no slouch when it comes to political oppression and economic mismanagement.

            ***

            The record of Castro’s economy stands in marked contrast to the economic legacy of Chilean autocrat Augusto Pinochet, who became president of Chile in 1973 after orchestrating a coup that overthrew the feckless but democratically-elected government of Salvadore Allende. Pinochet quickly moved to eliminate any political opposition. He dissolved Congress, got rid of the Constitution, and jailed and tortured opponents. In a news conference soon after coming to power, Pinochet made it clear that he planned to impose “an authoritarian government that has the capacity to act decisively.”

            One is hard-pressed to justify the ruthless suppression of political opponents that Pinochet exacted, and it is not the position of this author to argue that the human rights abuses which occurred under his name should be overlooked. After all, a Pinochet obituary notes that “more than 3,200 people were executed or disappeared, and scores of thousands more were detained and tortured or exiled.” Nevertheless, it is important in the view of this author to note that these abuses do not negate the legacy of economic reforms he initiated which helped Chile to become one of the top-performing economies in Latin America, not unlike how supporters of Castro argue that his human rights abuses do not negate his “achievements” in education and healthcare.

            Pinochet’s legacy in this regard is impressive indeed.

            Pinochet came to power in a time of economic turbulence characterized by hyperinflation, caused at least in part by price controls and protectionist trade policies, but primarily because the Central Bank printed money to fund budget deficits. With so much inflation, people didn’t save. Low savings led to low investment. As Hernan Buchi, who become Finance Minister under Pinochet in 1985, notes, “[t]his meant that in many industries, no new machines were installed, no new firms were started, and fewer and fewer new jobs were created. There were no capital markets, and the government-controlled interest rates did not reflect scarcity of funding. The balance of payment (BOP) deficit increased over a period of three years, and the socialist government increased its foreign debt by 23 percent.” Mr. Buchi explains that the “crisis was homemade,” wryly noting that “[w]hen some people complained about the excessive increase in the money supply that was causing high inflation in 1973, the Central Bank president at the time said that money supply was a ‘bourgeois variable,’” sounding the ideological rhetoric familiar to someone named Fidel Castro. Mr. Buchi also notes that Chile at the time was “a vanguard of controlled economy and big government.”

            In other words, Chile looked a lot like Cuba. But Chile then moved to liberalize trade, reducing tariffs and negotiating free trade agreements. It also privatized many state-owned enterprises (though it retained government control over its state copper enterprise). These and other reforms were implemented as part of a plan put together by a team of economists which included alumni of the University of Chicago, prompting the media to dub them the “Chicago Boys.” Reflecting controversial neoliberal policies advocated by the likes of Milton Friedman, these policies may have been debatable, but they reflected a fundamental respect for the power of markets to allocate resources.

            It was not always a smooth ride, including severe setbacks like the financial crisis of 1982…
            Chilean economic reform continued for two decades. It was not always a smooth ride, including severe setbacks like the financial crisis of 1982, which Friedman argued could be traced to the fixed exchange rate policies of Sergio de Castro, who served as Minister of Finance in the late 1970’s. Poverty and economic inequality remained significant problems. Nevertheless, over the long term, Chile experienced impressive entrepreneurial growth and transformed itself into the Switzerland of South America. It is an economy that ranks high in global competitiveness (first in Latin America), per capita income, and perception of corruption (also first in Latin America.) It saw reduced infant mortality rates and improved life expectancy, and is characterized by the World Bank as a high-income country. While economists like Amartya Sen argue that the successes of the Chilean economy are more directly attributable to policies of government intervention rather than neoliberal market reforms, it is nonetheless true that, as summarized by the CIA World Fact Book on Chile, “Chile has a market-oriented economy characterized by a high level of foreign trade and a reputation for strong financial institutions and sound policy that have given it the strongest sovereign bond rating in South America.”

            The basic difference between Castro and Pinochet is that the Pinochet regime respected the power of the market. Castro established a statist, planned, centralized economy, while Pinochet ushered in a liberalized market economy that reigned in inflation, promoted free trade, privatized enterprise, and created an independent central bank. Cuba’s economy was built on price controls, rationing, and failed Mao-like campaigns to build a super cow and produce ten million tons of sugar in a single year. Meanwhile, Chile went on to become the best-performing economy in Latin America.

            This is more than can be said for Castro, who stayed in power for life despite significant political opposition…
            In 1990, Pinochet voluntarily stepped down after a 1988 plebiscite voted for him to leave office. He continued to serve as Commander-in-Chief of the Army, but Patricio Aylwin took over as president after winning the 1990 election. This is more than can be said for Castro, who stayed in power for life despite significant political opposition, or at least until health concerns persuaded him to hand over direct power to his brother in 2008 (who himself rules despite significant opposition among the Cuban people.) Meanwhile, reforms continued under Patricio Aylwin and successive administrations, the nature of which has varied (including further attempts to mitigate poverty and inequality), but the result of which has left Chile as one of the best-performing economies in Latin America.

            It is perhaps a fool’s errand to trace the current state of economic prosperity in Chile to one man named Pinochet. The reforms instituted under the Pinochet regime were many, and questions about metrics and comparative statics can make it difficult to discern the exact causal relationships between policies and results. But there is no denying that, for all the vicissitudes of reform under the Pinochet regime and successive administrations, the basic direction of economic policy was to allow markets to work. One may question whether the successes associated with market-based reforms justify the brutal dictatorship of the Pinochet regime. One can also argue about the extent to which individual policies contributed to Chile’s success in economic development. But one cannot deny that while both Chile and Cuba suffered a dictator, only Chile came out as a world-class economy.

            Like Castro, Pinochet ruthlessly suppressed political opposition. But unlike Castro, Pinochet was willing to listen to the advice of people who understood how markets work. While the Left praises the ‘achievements’ of Castro’s Cuba in literacy and education, it ignores one of the most vibrant economies in Latin America, which is in many ways a legacy of the man they vilify, Augusto Pinochet.

          3. Lenin said there’s no revolutionary worth spit who hasn’t spent a few years in prison. He’s correct, the civilian population is too frightened of losing the little they have to buck the establishment. Prisoners have been stripped of everything. They have nothing to lose. All they possess is fire in the belly, and, that’s all the revolution requires. Prisoners are the point of the spear. Do you think the bourgeoisie will yield their privilege without a fight?

            Jack Henry Abbott wrote “Letters from the Belly of the Beast.” He was incarcerated in Utah. Norman Mailer saw great promise in his writing, and, helped to free him. Unfortunately, Abbott couldn’t control the fire in his gut. Such a pity, he would have made an excellent Chekist.

            All praise to Jack Henry Abbott. All power to the Dialectic!

          4. Reposting because some sections got cut off originally:

            https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/fidel-castro-and-augusto-pinochet-were-ruthless-autocrats-wcz/

            On November 26, 2016, the world learned that the former prime minister, president, and first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, Fidel Castro, is no more. Predictably, Cuban dissidents cheered, many leaders lamented the human rights abuses that occurred in his name, and, of course, a chorus of praise for the former dictator resounded from the far corner of gaga-eyed leaders of the Left like Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who expressed his “deep sorrow” for “the loss of this remarkable leader.”

            The chorus of praise from the Left stands in marked contrast to nearly unanimous vilification of another autocrat from Latin America, former president of Chile Augusto Pinochet. There is, of course, no excusing the gross human rights abuses committed by either Castro or Pinochet, both of whom jailed, tortured, and executed thousands of political opponents. But in the case of Castro, naïfs of the Left show a remarkable leniency in ignoring Castro’s political abuses and his profound failures in economic policy, seeming to believe they are mitigated or offset by his achievements in overthrowing a corrupt regime while providing education and healthcare to all Cuban citizens. Yet they do not extend this courtesy to Pinochet, whose regime ushered in a series of economic reforms that arguably laid the foundation for Chile to become the best-performing economy in Latin America.

            The statistics indicate that Cuba now has a 99 percent literacy rate. It also has a healthcare system available to all Cubans for free (well, it has to be paid for somehow, but more on that below). According to one report, 84 percent of Cubans own their own home. And for many years, as long as the Soviets were subsidizing the economy, Cubans were able to live in an economy that, while broken, was at least sufficiently functional to allow them to lead a minimally comfortable daily existence.

            By themselves, these are worthy accomplishments. Yet it is an old saying in economics that there is no free lunch, and in the case of Cuba, these accomplishments have been served as an extremely expensive lunch indeed.

            Though it has relaxed restrictions on private enterprise in recent years, Cuba is a state-directed planned economy. The government directs most economic activities in the service of state-sanctioned ends, such as universal healthcare and literacy. The result is an economy run on ideals, which inspires millions in the whirlwind of a revolution, but ultimately. must confront the enormous administrative burden of overseeing the allocation of resources across an entire island economy of 11 million people.

            Not surprisingly, the omniscience required for such an enterprise is often found to be wanting. Indeed, despite its accomplishments in the areas of education and healthcare, Cuba is an economy in which three-fourths of the people work in the public sector and earn an average of $20/month. Rations are common. Infrastructure is dated. Supplies at hospitals are lacking. Taxi drivers make more than doctors, and a nurse quits her job “to start a small business selling fried pork skin and other snacks from a cart,” earning ‘about 10 times more every month’ than she did as a nurse.

            Needless to say, inefficiencies abound.

            Some of the deprivations in the Cuban economy can be attributed to the U.S. embargo, yet it is difficult to argue that the embargo has an outsized effect on the economy in comparison to the fundamental inefficiencies of a planned economy. Cuba does not exist in isolation. China, Canada, the Netherlands, and other countries trade with Cuba. European tourists visit regularly. And one wonders if the removal of the U.S. embargo would benefit ordinary Cubans, or whether the benefits would merely accrue to foreign capital and cronies of the regime with whom the U.S. negotiates deals.

            Indeed, it is difficult to argue that ending the embargo comes close to being a panacea given the fundamental defects associated with a planned economy. A recent article in the New York Times details how an influx of tourists in recent years has exacerbated the problem of scarcity that one encounters in any economy, but especially in an economy run on rations and price controls. The nurse who quit her job to start a business selling fried pork was motivated in part by soaring prices of staple items like onions and peppers and garlic, prompting her to say “[w]e have to be magicians” to prepare a decent meal for the family.

            The prices are high because an influx of tourists has increased demand. Last year, for example, 3.5 million tourists visited an island with a population of 11 million Cubans, effectively increasing the population by 32 percent. Of course, 3.5 million visitors are spread out over the course of a year, so the population size is not 14.5 million throughout the year, but this is nonetheless a large demand shock in a country where, according to University of Havana economist Juan Alejandro Triana, “[t]he government has consistently failed to invest properly in the agriculture sector.’”Supply has failed to catch up to demand. The result is soaring prices for staples like onions, peppers, and garlic.

            The government has responded in the only way it knows how—by controlling prices, a policy destined to backfire, as the U.S. learned when the Nixon administration imposed wage and price freezes in the U.S. in the early 1970’s. The government imposed price controls on agricultural products in the public sector, i.e. state-run stores. But foreign tourists eat at private restaurants which can thus afford to pay the higher prices, so farmers and vendors sell to private restaurants, which empties the shelves in state-run stores. The government could, of course, restrict sales to private restaurants, but then fewer foreign tourists may visit, depriving the government and the economy of foreign currency and a much-needed jolt to the economy, which might then depress prices but also reduce employment opportunities in the private restaurant business (economies are complex networks of feedback loops, and unidimensional policies expose the risk of ignoring general equilibrium effects.)

            Thomas Carlyle once said “[t]each a parrot the terms ‘supply and demand’ and you’ve got an economist.” The Cuban regime apparently has few parrots running its economy, however much it parrots rhetoric about the virtues of socialism and the vices of capitalism. Ultimately, markets will not be ignored. Unfortunately for the Cuban people, the problem of scarcity (i.e., the problem of equating supply and demand), is one that a socialist government disregards when it ignores the signals conveyed by prices.

            The Cuban Government was able to ignore the problem of scarcity so long as the Soviets subsidized the economy. But when the Soviet collapse unmasked fundamental inefficiencies inherent in the economy, Cuba entered the so-called “Special Period” of the 1990’s, a time of severe economic deprivation that likely had many wondering about the virtues of living in a society in which everyone is literate and has access to healthcare but simultaneously must worry about going hungry.

            In short, the ideals of a planned economy, such as literacy and healthcare, have come at the high cost of a planned economy. This is not to say that achievements in education and healthcare do not deserve a note of praise. But as those with little training in economics often fail to appreciate, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Ideals are not sufficient to make an economy work. One must tend to the tedious work of cost-benefit analysis. It is one thing to achieve 99 percent literacy and universal healthcare, but at what cost? For all its corruption and inequality, Cuba was a thriving middle-class economy in the 1950’s, with a literacy rate approaching 80 percent.

            In comparison, the Cuban economy is now a sclerotic, lethargic machine of inefficiency where taxi drivers earn more than doctors.

            As for healthcare, Cuban medicine has had its benefits. Its preventative approach to health care is cost-conscious and reasonably effective. The Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) in Havana is a reputable medical university. And perhaps many doctors are content with a salary of $67/month because they view public duty as more important than remuneration, but it is hard to find fault with one doctor who fled to (where else?) Chile in the 1990’s because he “could barely afford to buy a single egg to eat a day.”

            As this doctor explained, Cuba is a two-tiered system: “one for ordinary people, like my family, and another that is exclusive to the Cuban ruling class, who live better than any capitalist.” Elites like Castro can live till 90 because the best doctors and nurses and hospitals are available them. The rest of Cuba? Yes, they get healthcare, but hopes of living to 90 may diminish in a system where, according to one account, “[g]etting a pair of glasses to alleviate near-sightedness can take months through subsidized State channels, or twenty-four hours at Miramar Optical where you pay in convertible pesos. Nor do the bodies who staff the hospitals escape these contrasts: we can consult the most competent neurosurgeon in the entire Caribbean region, but he doesn’t have even an aspirin to give us.”

            So, while many point to Cuba’s lower infant mortality rate than the U.S. and its comparable life expectancy despite spending a lower share of its GDP on health care than the U.S. (though problems of metrics and comparative statics make these comparisons dubious), the Cuban economy chugs along at its sluggish, inefficient pace, and the Cuban people chug along to clinics to get their shots and have their blood pressure taken, perhaps inwardly ruing their inability to obtain a simple pill of aspirin.

            The wonder is that any of this should be a matter of dispute. Cuba under Castro has been an outright catastrophe, but it should not be surprising. Fidel Castro’s fatal flaw as a revolutionary was his ideological rigidity. Castro came to power as a 32-year old combative Cuban nationalist (or 33, by some accounts) six years after he led a band of revolutionaries on July 26, 1953 in an attack on the Moncada barracks in Santiago de Cuba. The attack resulted in the arrest, imprisonment, and execution of many of his comrades, and ultimately sent Castro to prison for 15 years after a trial in which he famously stated: “History will absolve me.” Two years later, President Fulgencio Batista, who had come to power in a 1952 coup, granted him amnesty and released him from prison. Castro made his way to Mexico where he immediately set about forming a band of revolutionaries who would return to Cuba to overthrow the regime. In Mexico, he famously met Ernesto “Che” Guevara, the Argentinian revolutionary who was on his own ideological quest to overthrow corrupt, corporatist Latin American regimes. But in those heady days before they set sail on the Granma in November 1956 and landed on the southeastern coast of Cuba under the banner of the “26th of July” movement (most dying a gruesome death at the hands of Batista forces), Castro was marshaling the beginnings of a movement to fight for the causes of anti-imperialism, anti-corruption, and Cuban nationalism.

            Castro and Guevara and a dozen others (out of 82) would survive the bloody shipwreck and survive for three years in the Sierra Maestra Mountains, drawing support from political contacts on the island and in the United States, campesinos in the countryside, and propaganda props like Herbert Matthews of the New York Times to advance their cause while incrementally waging a guerrilla war against the Batista regime.

            Castro was undoubtedly motivated by concerns about exploitation, disenfranchisement, and inequities that were wide and deep and which forced many countryside campesinos to live a threadbare existence with little access to healthcare, education, and economic opportunity. There is no denying the rigid and unjust social conditions prevalent under repressive oligarchic states in Latin American countries in the time of Castro’s contemporaries. But these were problems of history, incompetence, underdevelopment, autocratic indifference to the welfare of the populace, and a lack of viable, durable, indigenous institutions due to neglect by centuries of Spanish colonial administration.

            Castro assumed he could build on the back of revolutionary ideology a whole new society from the ashes of half-a-century of institution-building and half-hearted American paternalism, as well as centuries of Spanish rule and custom before that. His combative presumptiveness is perhaps not surprising given that he had spent the previous two decades enduring the “gangsterismo” culture of the 1940’s, the coup of 1952, prison, and the guerrilla war of the late 1950’s, but the approach was rigorously intolerant of any aspect of human nature that strayed from the rigid homogeneity of his thinking about social problems.

            Idealism and intolerance was at the root of the Castro regime and its incompetence. Anything that was wrong, or went wrong, was the result of Yankee imperialism, oligarchy, and exploitation. It was a singularity of thinking whereby anger at the sight of injustice was the sole foundation for a proper accounting of social ills and a proper assessment of the medicine to be applied. It brought a tone of inflexibility and intolerance just as corrosive as the corporatism and corruption that so enraged Castro, and a myopia to his diagnosis of social problems that precluded a more methodical and nuanced analysis of social ills and what their solutions should be. When everything is a result of exploitation, one is blind to all the many other reasons that things are as they are. Former Guantemalan President Jacobo Arbenz fell because the populace was not aware of its exploitation by Yankee imperialists, regardless of the nuances of Cold War geopolitics revealed in part by the shipment of Soviet arms to the Arbenz government. It’s all because Allen Dulles was on the board of the United Fruit Company; all other decision-makers in the foreign policy apparatus of the U.S. government are irrelevant.

            Such is the force that ideology exerts on the human mind that millions swooned as Fidel spoke to a massive crowd in a televised speech in Havana in January 1959 and allowed a white dove to land on his shoulder. But when you run a country on rhetoric and ideology, and everything bad is caused by the Yankee imperialists and everything good is because Fidel and his white dove saved the fatherland, you breed an atmosphere in which a competent and highly respected economist named Felipe Pazos, originally appointed to head the National Bank, expresses concern about the direction of the new regime, and he is sacked and replaced by the fanatic Che Guevara, a man with no training in economics and fixated on harebrained ideas like firing the managers and owners of a Coca-Cola plant (and then severely reprimanding the chemists because they could not replicate the secret Coca-Cola formula), importing snow plows from Czechoslovakia to cut sugar cane (which instead squashed and killed the cane), and his quixotic conception of the “new man,” according to which men would be motivated by ‘moral’ rather than material incentives (workers were penalized for shirking, while receiving a mere certificate if they outperformed; production collapsed.)

            The Cuban regime was built on the notion that revolutionary conviction was sufficient to build a new society that would thrive on the principles of socialism. But Castro ultimately proved himself far more interested in, and far more adept at, power than governance. Castro was politically savvy and enjoyed the exact combination of historical and social conditions necessary for revolution in Cuba, as well as the moxie to exploit them. But a half-century later, Cuba is a country that has been devastated by a regime that has proved itself no slouch when it comes to political oppression and economic mismanagement.

            The record of Castro’s economy stands in marked contrast to the economic legacy of Chilean autocrat Augusto Pinochet, who became president of Chile in 1973 after orchestrating a coup that overthrew the feckless but democratically-elected government of Salvadore Allende. Pinochet quickly moved to eliminate any political opposition. He dissolved Congress, got rid of the Constitution, and jailed and tortured opponents. In a news conference soon after coming to power, Pinochet made it clear that he planned to impose “an authoritarian government that has the capacity to act decisively.”

            One is hard-pressed to justify the ruthless suppression of political opponents that Pinochet exacted, and it is not the position of this author to argue that the human rights abuses which occurred under his name should be overlooked. After all, a Pinochet obituary notes that “more than 3,200 people were executed or disappeared, and scores of thousands more were detained and tortured or exiled.” Nevertheless, it is important in the view of this author to note that these abuses do not negate the legacy of economic reforms he initiated which helped Chile to become one of the top-performing economies in Latin America, not unlike how supporters of Castro argue that his human rights abuses do not negate his “achievements” in education and healthcare.

            Pinochet’s legacy in this regard is impressive indeed.

            Pinochet came to power in a time of economic turbulence characterized by hyperinflation, caused at least in part by price controls and protectionist trade policies, but primarily because the Central Bank printed money to fund budget deficits. With so much inflation, people didn’t save. Low savings led to low investment. As Hernan Buchi, who become Finance Minister under Pinochet in 1985, notes, “[t]his meant that in many industries, no new machines were installed, no new firms were started, and fewer and fewer new jobs were created. There were no capital markets, and the government-controlled interest rates did not reflect scarcity of funding. The balance of payment (BOP) deficit increased over a period of three years, and the socialist government increased its foreign debt by 23 percent.” Mr. Buchi explains that the “crisis was homemade,” wryly noting that “[w]hen some people complained about the excessive increase in the money supply that was causing high inflation in 1973, the Central Bank president at the time said that money supply was a ‘bourgeois variable,’” sounding the ideological rhetoric familiar to someone named Fidel Castro. Mr. Buchi also notes that Chile at the time was “a vanguard of controlled economy and big government.”

            In other words, Chile looked a lot like Cuba. But Chile then moved to liberalize trade, reducing tariffs and negotiating free trade agreements. It also privatized many state-owned enterprises (though it retained government control over its state copper enterprise). These and other reforms were implemented as part of a plan put together by a team of economists which included alumni of the University of Chicago, prompting the media to dub them the “Chicago Boys.” Reflecting controversial neoliberal policies advocated by the likes of Milton Friedman, these policies may have been debatable, but they reflected a fundamental respect for the power of markets to allocate resources.

            Chilean economic reform continued for two decades. It was not always a smooth ride, including severe setbacks like the financial crisis of 1982, which Friedman argued could be traced to the fixed exchange rate policies of Sergio de Castro, who served as Minister of Finance in the late 1970’s. Poverty and economic inequality remained significant problems. Nevertheless, over the long term, Chile experienced impressive entrepreneurial growth and transformed itself into the Switzerland of South America. It is an economy that ranks high in global competitiveness (first in Latin America), per capita income, and perception of corruption (also first in Latin America.) It saw reduced infant mortality rates and improved life expectancy, and is characterized by the World Bank as a high-income country. While economists like Amartya Sen argue that the successes of the Chilean economy are more directly attributable to policies of government intervention rather than neoliberal market reforms, it is nonetheless true that, as summarized by the CIA World Fact Book on Chile, “Chile has a market-oriented economy characterized by a high level of foreign trade and a reputation for strong financial institutions and sound policy that have given it the strongest sovereign bond rating in South America.”

            The basic difference between Castro and Pinochet is that the Pinochet regime respected the power of the market. Castro established a statist, planned, centralized economy, while Pinochet ushered in a liberalized market economy that reigned in inflation, promoted free trade, privatized enterprise, and created an independent central bank. Cuba’s economy was built on price controls, rationing, and failed Mao-like campaigns to build a super cow and produce ten million tons of sugar in a single year. Meanwhile, Chile went on to become the best-performing economy in Latin America.

            In 1990, Pinochet voluntarily stepped down after a 1988 plebiscite voted for him to leave office. He continued to serve as Commander-in-Chief of the Army, but Patricio Aylwin took over as president after winning the 1990 election. This is more than can be said for Castro, who stayed in power for life despite significant political opposition, or at least until health concerns persuaded him to hand over direct power to his brother in 2008 (who himself rules despite significant opposition among the Cuban people.) Meanwhile, reforms continued under Patricio Aylwin and successive administrations, the nature of which has varied (including further attempts to mitigate poverty and inequality), but the result of which has left Chile as one of the best-performing economies in Latin America.

            It is perhaps a fool’s errand to trace the current state of economic prosperity in Chile to one man named Pinochet. The reforms instituted under the Pinochet regime were many, and questions about metrics and comparative statics can make it difficult to discern the exact causal relationships between policies and results. But there is no denying that, for all the vicissitudes of reform under the Pinochet regime and successive administrations, the basic direction of economic policy was to allow markets to work. One may question whether the successes associated with market-based reforms justify the brutal dictatorship of the Pinochet regime. One can also argue about the extent to which individual policies contributed to Chile’s success in economic development. But one cannot deny that while both Chile and Cuba suffered a dictator, only Chile came out as a world-class economy.

            Like Castro, Pinochet ruthlessly suppressed political opposition. But unlike Castro, Pinochet was willing to listen to the advice of people who understood how markets work. While the Left praises the ‘achievements’ of Castro’s Cuba in literacy and education, it ignores one of the most vibrant economies in Latin America, which is in many ways a legacy of the man they vilify, Augusto Pinochet.

  36. Dante always reserved a special place in Hell for Climate Change deniers eh Matt?

    Give my best to Maria in Florida and send us some photos of your home

    from a never meteorologist to ever deniers

    just in from Robert Scribbler’s website
    Major Hurricane Maria Could Hit 150 Mph+ Intensity as it Barrels Toward Puerto Rico
    As of early afternoon on September 18, Hurricane Maria had reached major hurricane intensity of 125 mph maximum sustained winds and a 956 mb minimum central pressure. Moving west-northwest at 10 mph, the storm is tracking through already the hurricane-weary eastern Caribbean islands on a path toward a Puerto Rico still recovering from its close brush with Category 5 Hurricane Irma.

    (National Hurricane Center’s [NHC] projected path and intensity for Maria shows a major hurricane threatening Puerto Rico over the next two days. Image source: NHC.)

    Maria is expected to track over very warm Caribbean waters in the range of 84 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit (29+ C) as it enters a favorable atmospheric environment. And forecasters now call for Maria to rapidly intensify. Hurricane watches have already been issued for the American territory of Puerto Rico. And the present official Hurricane Center track and forecast intensity for Maria (see above image) shows a severe blow by a powerful category 4 storm striking somewhere along southeastern Puerto Rico early Wednesday with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph.

    2017 Already a Season for the Record Books

    It’s worth noting that some models presently show Maria tracking north of Puerto Rico. So the island could still avoid a direct hit. But the current official consensus is a rather grim forecast.

    (IR satellite imagery of Maria shows an increasingly organized storm. Forecast points and sea surface temperatures included for reference. Image source: National Hurricane Center.)

    Maria is the fourth major hurricane to form in the Atlantic during 2017 — which has been an exceptional season in many respects. This year saw the early formation of Arlene in April — only the second named storm recorded to have formed during that month. It saw the strongest hurricane ever to form outside of the Carribbean or Gulf of Mexico — Irma — which was also tied as the strongest land falling hurricane in the Atlantic. Both Category 4 Harvey and Irma struck the continental U.S. — the first time two Cat 4 storms have struck the states in a single month. And Harvey produced the heaviest recorded rainfall total from a tropical system at 51.88 inches. Overall damage estimates from the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season presently stand at 132 billion dollars — which makes this season the second costliest so far (behind 2005).

    How Climate Change and Other Global Factors Contributed

    With damages from Harvey and Irma still uncounted, with Maria barreling in, and with a week and a half left to September and all of October remaining, it’s likely that 2017 will see more to come. Though Irma and Jose have churned up cooler waters in their wakes, large sections of the Gulf, Caribbean, and North Atlantic remain considerably warmer than normal.

    (Sea surface temperature anomaly map shows that much of the North Atlantic and Carribbean are between 0.5 and 2 C warmer than the already warmer than normal 30-year average. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

    Meanwhile, a very vigorous Inter-Tropical-Convergence-Zone (ITCZ) is still producing powerful thunderstorms over Africa. And cool water upwelling in the Pacific has generated La Nina-like conditions that tend to cut down on Atlantic wind shear — allowing more storms to fully develop and tap those warmer than normal waters to reach higher maximum intensities. Some of these factors — particularly the warmer than normal surface waters and possibly the increased intensity of ITCZ thunderstorms are climate change related. So yes, statements from those like Dr. Michael Mann claiming that this season’s hurricanes were made worse by climate change are absolutely valid.

    (UPDATES TO FOLLOW)

    RELATED STATEMENTS AND INFORMATION:

  37. https://gizmodo dot com/fbi-severely-underreported-how-many-times-it-authorized-1818517490

    FBI Severly Underreported the Number of Times It Allowed Informants To Engage in Criminal Activity

    This year, the FBI appears to for the first time have overlooked a reporting obligation established by the US Attorney General’s office, and in doing so, the bureau appears to have greatly lowballed the total number of times it authorized confidential informants to engage in criminal activity last year.

    As a consequence, the bureau did something else that’s new: It revealed the number of times it gave informants permission to engage in serious criminal activity. And lacking an official explanation so far, our running theory is that a clerical error could be to blame.

    Each year, the FBI Directorate of Intelligence compiles a report on what the US Justice Department calls “otherwise illegal activity” (OIA)—activity FBI informants are involved in that would otherwise be illegal, had the FBI not given them permission to do it.

    There are some crimes the FBI is forbidden from authorizing. Those include: acts of violence and obstruction of justice (i.e., witness tampering, entrapment, fabrication of evidence). Its informants are also prohibited from “initiating or instigating” a plan to commit a crime. Otherwise, authorized informants may engage in criminal activity to maintain cover and provide the bureau with intelligence on other, presumably worse criminals, so long as certain protocols are observed.

    These protocols are explained in a document known as The Attorney General’s Guidelines Regarding the Use of Confidential Informants. Since at least 2006, this document has included a number of record keeping requirements. One is that the FBI must submit an annual report to the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and National Security Division describing “the total number of times each FBI Field Office authorized a Confidential Human Source to engage in Otherwise Illegal Activity (OIA), and the overall nationwide totals.”

    These OIA reports are traditionally drafted between January and March each year. The yearly average of otherwise illegal activities reported between 2011 and 2015 is around 5,600. In 2012, the number peaked at 5,939. The lowest number was in 2015, when the FBI only reported only 5,261 authorizations for criminal activity, according to new records obtained by Gizmodo under the Freedom of Information Act.

    The authorizations for OIA must be renewed every three months, so technically it’s possible each individual authorization covers a multitude of criminal acts. In other words, the figures don’t actually represent crimes, but 90-day windows in which informants are allowed to break the law.

    The 2016 report, which was compiled by the assistant director of the FBI Intelligence Directorate, appears wildly inaccurate at first blush. The number of authorizations for criminal activity reported to the Justice Department this March was only 381.

    Here’s what that looks like compared to the previous five years:

    What?

    Either the FBI has dramatically curtailed how often it allows informants to break the law, or something’s not right here. Here’s a closer look at the actual numbers, side by side:

    2011: 5,658 (USA Today)
    2012: 5,939 (Huffington Post)
    2013: 5,649 (The Daily Dot)
    2014: 5,577 (The Daily Dot)
    2015: 5,261 (Gizmodo)
    2016: 381 (Gizmodo)
    If you picked “something’s not right here,” then you are correct. It turns out the FBI actually failed to report any entire tier’s worth of criminal activity, thereby significantly reducing the overall number of authorized crimes it reported. That’s about a 93 percent drop in the OIA total.

    Authorized crimes by informants are divided into what the FBI calls “tiers.” Tier 1 activities are more serious types of crimes, importing huge amounts of heroin for instance; whereas Tier 2 includes basically everything else, down to shoplifting.

    Here’s an incomplete list of what’s considered Tier 1 activity:

    The commission, or the significant risk of the commission, of any act of violence by a person or persons other than the Confidential Human Source;
    Corrupt conduct, or the significant risk of corrupt conduct, by an elected public official or a public official in a high-level decision-making or sensitive position in federal, state, or local government;
    Manufacturing, importing, exporting, possession, or trafficking of controlled substances in a quantity equal to or exceeding those quantities specified in United States Sentencing Guidelines § 2D1.1(c)(1) (90 kilos of heroin, 450 kilos of cocaine, 90,000 kilos of marijuana, etc.);
    Financial loss, or the significant risk of financial loss, in an amount equal to or exceeding those amounts specified in United States Sentencing Guidelines § 2B1.1(b)(1)(I) ($1.5 million.)
    Conversely, Tier 2 activity is simply defined as: “any other activity that would constitute a misdemeanor or felony under federal, state, or local law if engaged in by a person acting without authorization.”

    Most of the time, we can’t tell the difference between the two. For reporting purposes, Tier 1 and 2 criminal activity is usually bundled into a single total. And that means that in 2015 the FBI may have authorized its informants to commit 5,261 misdemeanors for all we know.

    But this year, something different happened. Tier 2 wasn’t included. And now we know that in 2016, at least 381 times, the FBI authorized its informants to engage in some really serious criminal activity. Whether that was commissioning an act of violence by another person or manufacturing a truckload of cocaine, we can’t be sure.

    So, how did this happen exactly? Was it a clerical error or did the FBI do this on purpose? Did the Attorney General’s office issue new guidelines? We’re not entirely sure. The Justice Department declined to comment, even though it sets the rules and, by all appearances, its National Security Division was robbed of an important statistic. The FBI told Gizmodo on Monday

  38. You mean General Augusto Pinochet the Chilean torturer, and, mass-murderer, indicted in the international courts of justice? Only fascists revere that ruthless killer. That you, Jon?

      1. Jon: You are praising Pinochet for his economic reforms. Those reforms, which hurt Chile’s working class, would not have been possible without the dictator’s bloody repression of the Chilean proletariat. The two cannot be separated. Only Chile’s bourgeoisie benefited from Pinochet’s actions. His coup against the Allende government was backed by Chile’s elites. They greatly feared proletarian control of the national economy. Do you think Pinochet is considered a hero by Chile’s working class?

  39. Quote from Jon’s article: ‘There is, of course, no excusing the gross human rights abuses committed by either Castro or Pinochet, both of whom jailed, tortured, and executed thousands of political opponents.’

    Khalid: Jon, are you a fascist who reveres Pinochet.

    Like I said, why do I bother?

  40. Pinochet’s coup benefited Chile’s elites. Castro’s revolution improved the lot of ordinary Cubans. The Cuban upper-class, and, upper-middle class, gusanos (worms), didn’t fare too well at Castro’s hands. Is that your complaint? There’s no comparison between Pinochet and Castro. They are as equivalent as the alt-right, and, antifa.

  41. Even a superficial examination of the demographics of who leaves Cuba confirms who the big winners were. Over 95 percent of Cubans who fled after the 1959 revolution were white. For the rich elite, and the prosperous, overwhelmingly white middle class, the revolution was the curtain on a life of privilege. For the overwhelming working-class Black population, the triumph of the Cuban Revolution signified an end of centuries of racism, discrimination, and repression.
    (Afro-Cuban Web)

    1. Khalid,

      Can you ever stop talking like a brainwashed Marxist and think for yourself?

      And can you actually read what I wrote?

      Some select quotes:

      “Cuba is an economy in which three-fourths of the people work in the public sector and earn an average of $20/month. Rations are common. Infrastructure is dated. Supplies at hospitals are lacking. Taxi drivers make more than doctors, and a nurse quits her job “to start a small business selling fried pork skin and other snacks from a cart,” earning ‘about 10 times more every month’ than she did as a nurse.”

      “The nurse who quit her job to start a business selling fried pork was motivated in part by soaring prices of staple items like onions and peppers and garlic, prompting her to say “[w]e have to be magicians” to prepare a decent meal for the family.”

      “Cuba is a two-tiered system: “one for ordinary people, like my family, and another that is exclusive to the Cuban ruling class, who live better than any capitalist.” Elites like Castro can live till 90 because the best doctors and nurses and hospitals are available them. The rest of Cuba? Yes, they get healthcare, but hopes of living to 90 may diminish in a system where, according to one account, “[g]etting a pair of glasses to alleviate near-sightedness can take months through subsidized State channels, or twenty-four hours at Miramar Optical where you pay in convertible pesos. Nor do the bodies who staff the hospitals escape these contrasts: we can consult the most competent neurosurgeon in the entire Caribbean region, but he doesn’t have even an aspirin to give us.”

      “It is perhaps a fool’s errand to trace the current state of economic prosperity in Chile to one man named Pinochet. The reforms instituted under the Pinochet regime were many, and questions about metrics and comparative statics can make it difficult to discern the exact causal relationships between policies and results. But there is no denying that, for all the vicissitudes of reform under the Pinochet regime and successive administrations, the basic direction of economic policy was to allow markets to work. One may question whether the successes associated with market-based reforms justify the brutal dictatorship of the Pinochet regime. One can also argue about the extent to which individual policies contributed to Chile’s success in economic development. But one cannot deny that while both Chile and Cuba suffered a dictator, only Chile came out as a world-class economy.”

      Cuba is a failed economy, mainly for the poor, not the rich. Chile is not a perfect economy (there is no such thing), but it is the model economy in Latin America.

    2. I believe that’s also referred to a the ‘brain drain,’ meaning, Castro got rid of all the competent people. One of my favorite stories is Che Guevara firing the managers of a Coca-Cola plant, and some time later, drinking cola made by the factory and expressing his severe frustration with how bad it tasted. Or his brilliant idea to import snowblowers to cut sugar cane, destroying sugar crops. But that’s what happens when you get rid of competent economists like Felipe Pazos and instill morons like Guevara as minister of industries and head of the National Bank.

  42. FEATURESCHILE10 SEPTEMBER 2017
    Chile: Forced to work for Pinochet
    A son’s journey into his father’s dark past to find out why he had to flee Chile during the military dictatorship.
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    byLoes Witschge
    @loeswitschge

    Loes Witschge is a journalist and producer at Al Jazeera English online.

    “I won’t tell in this letter what happened to me during the training sessions, what they did to me, or what they made me watch.

    What I can say is that the human being is a beast. The training led to the systematic removal of all human functions of an individual and the destruction of their personality.

    I witnessed terrible cruelties. I got to know hidden prisons, prisoners in a state of madness, including ex-military staff. My life became a hell.”

    Jorge Lubbert was only 22 years old when he wrote these words. He had fled from his native Chile to Germany months before in September 1978 and he was asking the German secretary of Amnesty International, Helmut Frenz, for help – the Chilean secret services had found him in Berlin and he was no longer safe.

    What happened in the months before Lubbert’s escape from Chile had traumatised him. Not long after reaching out to Frenz he found himself in the care of Jorge Barudy, a psychotherapist based in Leuven, Belgium. Barudy was part of a collective that helped refugees from Latin America who had been subjected to torture.

    WITNESS: Colour of the Chameleon (47:30)

    “Doctor Barudy believed that people who are traumatised have to vomit their trauma out in a way,” explains Andres Lubbert, 32, Jorge’s son. “They have to get it all out in order to move on.”

    Throughout his therapy sessions, Lubbert systematically told his story, which was recorded on audio tapes. Jorge’s brother, Orlando – also in exile – typed the testimony out on 40 pages.

    Jorge, who is now 61 years old, stuck around in Leuven. He married a Belgian woman and had two sons with her. Filmmaker Andres is the youngest.

    The relationship between him and his father was strained. Jorge became a cameraman who often travelled to conflict zones, leaving his family behind for extended periods of time. He suffered from insomnia and, at times, struggled with addiction.

    Andres never knew what had scarred his father. At age 19, he set out to investigate Jorge’s history, travelling to Chile at least 20 times and documenting his findings in a series of films over the course of more than 10 years. Initially, his father wouldn’t talk. Then, on a visit to Chile, Orlando gave a copy of Jorge’s testimony to Andres.

    “Up until then, I thought his experience was similar to that of other Chilean exiles, that he had been part of the resistance, a revolutionary, someone who was politically engaged and had to flee because of that,” Andres told Al Jazeera.

    “Reading [the testimony] was shocking, there are so many horrific things in there. It’s a miracle he survived. I don’t think many people would be able to live with a trauma like that.”

    The first page of Jorge Lubbert’s 40-page testimony to Jorge Barudy on his horrific last months in Chile [Image taken from film]
    Enlistment
    From the testimony of Jorge Lubbert: “He presented me to a Mr Cano, a tall, burly guy. This person took me directly to the boss, called Jaime Letelier … ‘We need you to work for us.’ ‘OK,’ I said. ‘Fine. As a draftsman, no problem.’ He threatened me, using my father, my brother, who was abroad.

    He told me that if I didn’t sign, there would be no way out. That if I left then, I would not be safe anymore. ‘Anything can happen to you.’ I said no. No, I insisted, and he carried on in an aggressive, abrupt tone, insulting me.

    He grabbed me by my jacket, shook me a bit and said, ‘Sign!’ They told me, ‘You have all the skills we need and we will have them.’ They told me not to resist, I had to sign. I had no way out and eventually, they made me give in, the pressure was too great. I signed the paper, the contents of which were covered up.”

    Augusto Pinochet came to power in Chile after he overthrew the incumbent Salvador Allende in a military coup on September 11, 1973. His 17-year rule was characterised by forceful repression of any opposition to his right-wing agenda. Around 3,200 people were executed or disappeared and about 28,000 people were tortured.

    Many of the human rights violations that were committed during the dictatorship were perpetrated by the secret police, the National Intelligence Directorate (DINA) which in 1977 was replaced by the National Information Centre (CNI).

    Jorge Lubbert had just started working at the Chilean Telephone Company when he was introduced to Jaime Letelier and made to sign a document that enlisted him in a CNI training designed to turn him into a state agent. It was the start of a four-month long horrific ordeal.

    Learn more about the torture methods used against political prisoners in Chile during the Pinochet regime.

    During his training, Jorge Lubbert learned skills including how to wiretap phones [Screengrab/Al Jazeera]
    Kidnapped
    From the testimony of Jorge Lubbert: “One Thursday, I arrived at my house, it was late. There was a vehicle, a new Chevy Nova, two guys quickly got out, grabbed me violently and tried to get me into the car. “F**k,” I thought. They were abducting me.

    I screamed, I kicked, I kicked furiously. They got me into the vehicle. I didn’t understand what was happening, then something unusual occurred. Behind the wheel was a person I knew, he was the brother of a friend of mine. He’s called Jose Pavez, and I knew him as a tank lieutenant stationed in Antofagasta.”

    “I have Jose Pavez’s military record here,” Andres tells his father. It’s December 2015 and the two are standing in the hallway of a building in Barrio Olimpico, Santiago de Chile, the neighbourhood where Jose Pavez lived back in the 1970s.

    “Where did you get it from?” Jorge responds. He reaches out to the blue folder and nervously pulls it from Andres’s hands. “If he finds out we’re investigating him and his accomplices from the secret service… I’m sure he still has contacts, he can find me in five minutes. Me, you, my brother Orlando – all of us,” Jorge says.

    Throughout his four months of training by the CNI, Jorge Lubbert would routinely get abducted, blindfolded and taken to secret locations. “He lived in constant paranoia that they could take him at any moment,” Andres tells Al Jazeera.

    Jorge’s fear persisted in Belgium, and even today. Andres remembers how his father would hide in the toilet when someone knocked on the door. He still doesn’t open letters.

    Like most of the people Jorge identifies in his testimony, Jose Pavez Ahumada was never charged with violating human rights during Chile’s military dictatorship. Only one of the men mentioned by Jorge, Rosauro Martinez Labbe, is currently under investigation for his alleged responsibility in the killing of a group of leftist activists in 1981.

    More than 27 years after Pinochet’s rule came to an end on March 11, 1990, the process of bringing human rights abusers to justice is still ongoing. Between 1998 and 2015, 344 former agents of the state were sentenced for human rights violations, with another 1,048 under investigation as of December 2015. On June 2, 2017, 106 former DINA agents received prison sentences in the biggest mass sentence to date for human rights abuses committed under Pinochet.

    Find out more about ex-Chile spy chief, Manuel Contreras, reviled for his role in kidnapping and killing thousands during General Pinochet’s rule, who died while serving 500-year sentence

    Jorge Lubbert in Barrio Olimpico, Santiago de Chile, holding a photo of Jose Pavez Ahumada [Screengrab/Al Jazeera]
    Tortured
    From the testimony of Jorge Lubbert: “A very tall guy came, a commando with a rubber apron and rubber gloves. He made us enter a large room with tiles and a rather unpleasant chemical odour.

    There were three corpses. Without warning, the guy with the scalpel took hold of the corpse’s testicles and cut them off. My stomach started churning, I went very pale. The guy approached me and gave me a piece. He put the jaw into my hands and I just fainted.

    When he woke me up he said I needed to get used to being around death. You have to know about these things. He furiously grabbed a piece of flesh and rubbed it in my face. He went wild, he was mad at me.”

    “What did this have to do with me?” Jorge Lubbert asks himself. He is standing in front of what is now an amphitheatre in the Legal Medical Institute of Santiago de Chile. Nowadays, medical students study corpses here. Back in the late 1970s, the venue was controlled by the CNI.

    “It was to dehumanise you, to rid you of all emotion regarding the human body. So you saw no difference between dead and alive,” Jorge continues. “When you get used to seeing a corpse, it’s like seeing an animal. This is actually very much like a slaughter house.”

    It is still unclear why the CNI singled Jorge out for their experiment to turn a 21-year-old youth into an instrument of the secret police – someone who could kill for them.

    “He had technical skills, was easy to like and had a leftist group of friends without being politically engaged himself,” says Andres. “But we’ll never know for sure why he was chosen – the people who participated are now part of silence pacts.” As far as Andres knows, his father’s case is the only one of its kind that has been recorded.

    Despite the unspeakable cruelties which have come to light since the end of the military dictatorship, like the ones inflicted on Jorge Lubbert, the Pinochet era is still a cause of division in Chilean society.

    A study conducted by CeRC-Mori in July 2015 found that 15 percent of Chileans still view Pinochet as “one of the best rulers Chile has had”, while slightly over a fifth of those polled said the military coup was justified.

    “There are two levels of support for Pinochet,” says Javier Rebolledo, a journalist who specialises in investigating human rights violations perpetrated by the military government. “The people who would jump up and shout for Pinochet, give thanks to their general – there are very few of them left, at least those who dare to show themselves that way,” he tells Al Jazeera.

    “But there’s another group of people who are still Pinochetistas, but in a hidden way. They know it’s politically incorrect to support Pinochet but they do, in silence. For them, there is almost a separation between what he did for the country economically and in terms of human rights violations.”

    Read this related article to find out more about how Pinochet-era crimes still haunt Chile

    Jorge Lubbert at the Legal Medical Institute in Santiago de Chile [Screengrab/Al Jazeera]
    Escape
    From the testimony of Jorge Lubbert: “I realised I was slowly being drawn deeper into it. Sometimes, I felt like one of them. I could not accept that. I couldn’t imagine working with someone who I’d see kill another person.

    I felt guilty. I felt like an accomplice for being there. What saved me is that I never lost touch with my family.”

    On September 2, 1978, Jorge Lubbert escaped to Germany with the help of his father, before the CNI’s training was completed.

    “What saved my father was his upbringing. He was raised with a lot of love. He was his mother’s favourite. He could never betray his family and be transformed in what the secret police wanted him to become,” says Andres.

    Throughout Andres’s investigation into his father’s past, talking about what had happened was difficult for Jorge – and he has now reverted to not broaching the topic at all. “He recently told me this is now over for him,” Andres says.

    Still, he hopes that his most recent film about his father’s story, The Colour of the Chameleon, will encourage a transgenerational debate in Chilean society.

    “What I’ve learned is that when traumas are ignored, they are passed on from generation to generation,” he says. “Parents try to protect their sons and daughters from trauma by not discussing it, but that only makes the problem bigger and deeper. The only way to heal a society is by starting a dialogue.”

    Source: Al Jazeera

  43. Khalid, this is a decent article. I wish, however, you could be more Bill. I don’t agree with him on everything, but I am always impressed with his analytical posts, culling information from various sources into logical, coherent arguments. He does not repeat talking points and instead comes across as someone with a fresh perspective.

  44. Sorry, that was a poorly-written reply. Try again:

    Khalid, this is a decent article. I wish, however, you could be more like Bill. I don’t agree with him on everything, but I am always impressed with his analytical posts. He culls information from various sources and formulates logical, coherent, punchy arguments. He does not repeat talking points and instead comes across as someone with a fresh perspective.

  45. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell condemn’s Trumps “divisive” speech and lack of “respect” for the NFL, but he won’t condemn his athletes’ divisive conduct and lack of respect for the national anthem.
    What’s worse? Disrespecting the NFL or disrespecting the national anthem, which represents our country, and those who fought and died to protect America.

  46. What a marvelous football Sunday. Revolutionary spirit reveals itself in the most unlikely places.

    All praise to the NFL protesters. Allahu Akbar, Shahid Khan! All praise to the righteous. All power to the Dialectic!

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