Category Archives: Authoritarianism

Latin America, the “Democratic” Party and Never-Trumpsters

elliott

There are three important stories in the news within the past week relating to Latin America.

First, the Trump administration has appointed Elliott Abrams U.S. Special Representative for Iran.  For those of us who have been interested in Latin America for decades, Elliott Abrams is a criminal who is widely despised.  He should be in jail.  If there was anything like a justice system for high level corporate, political and white collar criminals, he would be.

As Common Dreams (8/6/20 ) has noted, “Abrams is one of the architects of right-wing “regime change.”  He “has made a career of lying and committing criminal acts that have led to the death and suffering of innocent people from Guatemala to Iraq.”  “He embraces militarism, covers up for gross human rights abuses, and has a history of supporting authoritarian regimes.”

As if this wasn’t enough, Abrams pleaded guilty to lying to Congress in 1991 as part of the Iran-Contra affair.  He was later pardoned by George H.W. Bush.  Abrams admitted that he had willfully withheld information from congress in 1986 when he testified about the “secret Contra supply network and his role in soliciting a $10 million contribution for anti-Sandinista rebels in Nicaragua” (the Contras).

See “CODEPINK Denounces Elliott Abrams’…”  common Dreams.  August 6, 2020

The second story is about the release of a report detailing a State Department plan for regime change in Nicaragua intended to oust popularly elected members of the Sandinistas.

Ben Norton reports in The Grayzone that:

  • This newly released document outlines plans for USAID to oversee a regime-change plan to oust Nicaragua’s elected leftist government.
  • USAID (also widely despised in Latin America), is planning to establish a “market economy” in Nicaragua and purge the Sandinistas.
  • The socialist government in Nicaragua is democratically elected.
  • USAID, as always, functions here as a “regime-change” vehicle that “uses the pretense of humanitarian aid to advance Washington’s aggressive foreign-policy interests.”
  • The document presents this as a plan for “Nicaragua’s transition to democracy.” This is a euphemism for removing the leftist Sandinistas.
  • The report doesn’t even pretend to be anything but a hardline neoconservative document. It refers to the “Ortega regime”  and makes it clear that the intent is to install a “neoliberal administration that will privatize the economy and…purge all institutions of any trace of the leftist Sandinista movement.”

The third, and related story, is that Joe Biden has recruited Anna Navarro to help him mobilize the Hispanic vote.  The Democrats are opening positions of power within the party to a variety of never-Trump Republicans who have no goals or interests in common with publicly stated Democratic positions.

As Ban Norton (3/1/20) points out in his article published on The Gray Zone, Navarro has become “something of a celebrity among the anti-Trump republicans…”  She has also become a welcome anti-Trump Republican voice among the corporate media.  She is, for example, a frequent commentator on CNN and “The View.”

As Norton points out, “corporate media networks give Navarro a massive platform to attack progressives like Bernie Sanders and rebrand her neoconservative politics before impressionable liberal viewers who despise Trump, Navarro’s professional background has faced little scrutiny.”

Navarro, however, “lobbied for El Salvador’s corruption-drenched right-wing government.”   “Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) documents reviewed by The Grayzone reveal that Ana Navarro and her Republican lobbyist husband, Al Cárdenas, have worked with some of the most corrupt right-wing governments in recent Latin American history, including leaders who have overseen egregious human rights abuses and been convicted for serious criminal offenses.”

“Navarro hails from a wealthy family in Nicaragua, and still today she remains a staunch supporter of the Contras, far-right death squads that the CIA armed and trained in the 1980s in a regime-change war targeting the country’s socialist Sandinista government. The Contras waged a relentless terrorist campaign, massacring and torturing civilians in hopes of destabilizing the country. And Navarro has celebrated them as freedom fighters.

Navarro, now calls herself a “strategist” has branded herself a “moderate.”

None of this bodes well for Nicaragua or Latin America.  And, it only reinforces the argument that Joe Biden, the corporate Democrats and the corporate media are turning the Democratic Party into Republican-light.  It gives us even less reason to stay with the party.

Saturday Morning Articles

anna navarro 1

SATURDAY MORNING ARTICLE RUN DOWN

 

USAID plans for coup in Nicaragua

https://thegrayzone.com/2020/08/04/usaid-document-nicaragua-coup/

 

Biden is putting us in bed with the likes of Anna Navarro

https://thegrayzone.com/2020/03/01/contras-cnn-ana-navarro-lobbying-corruption/

 

Trump puts Criminal Elliott Abrams Representative in Iran

https://news.yahoo.com/u-iran-envoy-brian-hook-173327817.html

 

Victims in Epstein Case Get Second Attempt

https://news.yahoo.com/epstein-victims-second-chance-justice-181228243.html

 

Don MaGahn

https://www.newsweek.com/other-donald-behind-donald-trump-457514

The Barr Hearings: That’s Why my Stomach hurts

barr

     Bill Barr, after being threatened with a subpoena by Jerry Nadler’s Judiciary Committee, appeared before the House on July 28, 2020.  There was no reason for anybody who has watched Barr with increasing outrage and fury, as he has politicized the administration of justice in this country, to hold out much hope that these hearings would reveal much. 

Democrats are hopeless at taking on people with even moderate intelligence in a hearing setting.  They refuse to adopt an aggressive approach to Republican authoritarians.  They are so concerned with being “nice” or “polite” or “well mannered,” they never anticipate the depths of obfuscation and bad behavior to which the Republicans are willing to sink.

     When I switched channels over to MSNBC from TCM where I had been contemplating hiding in escapism for the duration, there was nothing but noise, loud, irritating, obnoxious noise.  Then, the camera switched to a screen inside the committee hearing.  On this screen was a video, displaying images of protesters, tear gas, confrontation, people pounding at fences.  What?  Isn’t this the Barr hearing?

     It was the Barr hearing.  What was going on was that bad-boy Jim Jordan, the crazed ex-wrestler who refused to report his colleague for sexual abuse, had introduced as an “opening statement” a long, selectively edited campaign video purporting to give an accurate representation of the protests occurring in various cities in the United States.  The video employed one of the right’s main strategies, fear, creating fear and therefore anger in their base.  That’s what Fox News does 24/7. 

If you watched the video divorced from any other news, you would think the country was descending into total chaos and violent anarchy.  That is exactly what the Republicans wanted to portray.  They spent the rest of the hearing, pounding home the point and punching the key words over and over – protest, chaos, anarchists, violence, crime, hate…”my constituents are afraid.” As usual, the Republicans had all been briefed on the key words to use during the hearing to drive home the point.  Like faithful soldiers, they complied.  

     This is a strategy they have used for decades.  Even years ago, ten or fifteen Republicans would be interviewed independently on television.  All of them would use the same words and phrases to describe a situation, to get their point across, to insert their frame on the news.  They are good little soldiers, obedient and loyal and willing to do and say anything.  That’s one of the many reasons we need to fear them and fight them.

     But, even though, Jerry Nadler scolded Jordan for violating Committee rules by not notifying committee of the intent to show the video, the damage was done.   

Why are Democrats always like Charlie Brown with the football?  Every time, they stand around and watch Lucy put the ball on the ground, suspecting nothing.  Then, they watch Lucy yank the ball out from under them.  Then, they issue a scolding after the fact, or ignore the behavior with dignified silence.

Why didn’t Jerry Nadler know the Republicans were going to play this video?  Why didn’t he review it?  There had to be people in the hearing room, setting this up.  If I had been burned as many times as the Democrats in hearings, I would have informants everywhere and somebody watching that room from the minute the doors were unlocked.

And, if you want to argue that Nadler couldn’t have known about the video, why didn’t he stop it?  If showing the video violated the rules, why didn’t Nadler stop the video?  Why didn’t he demand it be stopped when he saw that it was – a propaganda campaign ad that grossly misrepresented the situation?  Nadler can’t walk but somebody could have been told to go and stop that video if it violated Committee rules.  But, Jerry Nadler (and other corporate Democrats) refuse to enforce the rules?   

     I watch a lot of politics.  I have spent most of my adult life reading about, watching, writing about, studying politics, specifically politics and crime.  But, now, when one of these big hearings is scheduled, I start feeling queasy in the morning.  I feel obligated to watch, to witness this descent into authoritarianism.  But I don’t want to watch.  As someone said yesterday on Twitter, how can these hearings always end up being a loss for both sides?

I know corporate Democrats are largely cowards, feckless cowards who will not fight, or enforce the rules even when enforcing the rules would be to their advantage.  But, how did we end up with such a sorry lot?  And, what are they afraid of?

I think part of the answer lies in the fact that Democrats are living in a culture in Washington that no longer exists.  They can’t seem to accept, acknowledge, understand, that they are facing ruthless authoritarians who will resort to anything, anything to win. They act like if they just stand erect, stare directly ahead of them and behave in a dignified manner (watch Adam Schiff), this ruthless, gutter fight for power on the part of the Republicans will disappear.

In fact, Joe Biden has said just that.  He has stated that when we get rid of Trump, all his Republican friends are just going to go back to “normal” and we can return to a bipartisan Kumbaya that hasn’t existed for decades.  Republicans haven’t been “normal,” haven’t participated in this gentleman’s club of bipartisanship for decades.  And, they aren’t going to do so now.  People keep saying we need somebody who can “unite us.”  No, that’s not what we need.  We need somebody who can marginalize and neuter these rabid authoritarians, see them for what they are, and push them as far away from power as we can get them. 

     An interesting “tell” here is the ability of the “squad” and some of the other recently elected Democrats to run circles around these career corporate Democrats in hearings.  They are not still living in a culture that doesn’t exist.       

  First, they aren’t afraid.  They aren’t afraid to use their common sense and ask questions that make Republicans squirm.  They ask the sort of questions that these career corporate Democrats would rather die than ask.   Secondly, these women come prepared.  They generally don’t just read a prepared statement like they’ve never seen it before, stumbling over what are supposed to be their own words.  Third, they usually actually show up and listen to the hearings.  They don’t just appear and read a series of questions like bad third-grade actors.  They know what has gone on in the hearing and are capable of adapting to the situation.  Fourth, these women were by-and-large elected in an upset.  They have not been groomed by the DNC.  They were elected with a skill set that was larger than just being able to raise money and kiss butt.  When I watch people who have been on capitol hill for decades perform at a committee hearing, stumbling through the text of canned questions written by their staff, I always think: They are there because they can raise money, lots of money.  That’s the only reason they are there.  The DNC supports these types of candidates over other candidates that are more qualified because they can raise money and will behave. 

The DNC has worked tirelessly to keep new candidates from emerging in the Democratic party and has created a blacklist for consulting businesses who work for candidates challenging incumbents.  The Congressional Black Caucus actually supported an incumbent, Elliott Engels, over a progressive black challenger.  This tells you how institutionalized these Democrats have become.  The DNC is actively working to keep people in Congress who will play ball, who will not enforce the rules, who will not fight, and who will not ask the tough questions.

Recently, I read an interview of somebody in the music industry.  She said: “Oh, they don’t look for talent anymore.  They look for somebody with the right look and a compliant personality.”  That’s what the DNC looks for and they are selling us down the drain by doing so.  That’s why an important hearing makes my stomach hurt.

Flailing States: Reaction to the Pandemic: Pankaj Mishra

pankajmishra

Pankaj Mishra · Flailing States: Anglo-America Loses its Grip · London Review of Books, 16 July 2020

‘The abyss of history​ is deep enough to hold us all,’ Paul Valéry wrote in 1919, as Europe lay in ruins. The words resonate today as the coronavirus blows the roof off the world, most brutally exposing Britain and the United States, these prime movers of modern civilisation, which proudly claimed victory in two world wars, and in the Cold War, and which until recently held themselves up as exemplars of enlightened progress, economic and cultural models to be imitated across the globe.

‘The true test of a good government,’ Alexander Hamilton wrote, ‘is its aptitude and tendency to produce a good administration.’ It is a test the United States and Britain have failed ruinously during the current crisis. Both countries had weeks of warnings about the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan; strategies deployed by nations that responded early, such as South Korea and Taiwan, could have been adapted and implemented. But Donald Trump and Boris Johnson chose instead to claim immunity. ‘I think it’s going to work out fine,’ Trump announced on 19 February. On 3 March, the day the UK’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies warned against shaking hands, Johnson boasted after a visit to a hospital treating coronavirus patients: ‘I shook hands with everybody, you will be pleased to know, and I continue to shake hands.’

Republican Government Working for You: Government is Just Something else to Sell

trump pointing finger

Forbes Article

https://www.forbes.com/sites/michelatindera/2020/07/21/how-donald-trump-moved-millions-from-his-campaign-donors-to-his-private-business/#699ed38735cc

“Donald Trump has not given a dime to his reelection campaign, opting instead to fund the entire effort with his donors’ money. His business, meanwhile, has continued to charge the campaign for things like food, lodging and rent. The result is that $2.2 million of contributions from other people has turned into $2.2 million of revenue for Trump.”

“And that’s just counting the money flowing directly through the president’s campaign. His reelection apparatus also includes two joint fundraising committees, which work with the Republican Party to raise money for Trump. Since he took office, those entities—named Trump Victory and the Trump Make America Great Again Committee—have funneled another $2.3 million into the president’s private business, according to a review of Federal Election Commission records. Then there’s the Republican National Committee, which has spent an additional $2.4 million at Trump properties. Add it all up, and the president, working in concert with the party he leads, has helped push $6.9 million into his businesses since taking office.”

 

Authoritarianism: Anonymous Police and the Elimination of Expertise

CNN blurred photo

The Slouch Toward Authoritarianism

Armed federal agents, dressed in combat gear, have been sent into the streets of Portland, Oregon against the wishes of local authorities.  These agents display no identifying information and are taking citizens off the streets in unmarked cars to undisclosed locations.  The agents are reporting to the Department of Homeland Security.

In a strong stand against such unbridled intervention, the House Appropriations Committee just approved a new Homeland Security Funding Bill.

The Oregon Attorney General has sued over the deployment of the federal agents and asked for a restraining order.  The Trump administration is expressing disdain over the objections of local officials and publicity threatened to send more anonymous police into other Demcratic-led cities.

According to an interview on MSNBC (7/20/20) with Ryan Haas, Oregon Public Broadcasting:

  • Protestors are sometimes not even near federal property.
  • People are being taken in for questioning inside the federal courthouse.
  • Charges range from pointing something at federal officers, assault of federal officer, and defacing property.

The administration dismissed warnings of local officials that the actions of the federal agents is making the situation worse.  In fact, that is likely exactly what they want.  They are being sent into Democratic-run cities, generating conflict and confrontation with protestors, in order to scare the suburbs into thinking that violence is widespread and escalating.

DHS, therefore, has been transformed into a political arm for the Republican candidate.

The use of secret police is common in authoritarian governments, but again, as with all the moves toward authoritarian control in this country, the corporate media fails to sound the alarm and normalizes the activities.  While they spend hours and hours talking about Trump’s psychology and dysfunctional family history, they have no commentators talking about the implications of using the federal government as instruments of political power.  In addition, CNN, is blurring out the faces of the federal agents so that they can’t be recognized.

In another move common, indeed essential, to authoritarian leaders, Trump is installing loyalists to senior roles at the Pentagon.  These toadies are being put in place as “acting” officials, thus skirting a Senate confirmation process.  The administration just announced that they are assigning a 33-year-old White House chief technology officer to be the head of the research and engineering for the entire Department of Defense.

The man has a bachelor’s degree in political science and is replacing a man with a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering.

The Trump administration is discussing installing a “Fox News regular” to be the Pentagon’s top policy official.

The assurance of loyalty and the elimination of expertise is essential to establishing authoritarian rule.  We have seen this play out during the Trump administration in the State Department, the CDC, and now the Pentagon.

Podcast: Broken Jeffrey Epstein

Podcast: Broken Jeffrey Epstein

This is a fascinating and heartbreaking podcast about two of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell’s victims.  The choice of these two victims in particular illustrates the class nature of the exploitation.

The stories also illustrate another crucial point about the media coverage of the Epstein case.  Journalists are presenting the Epstein/Maxwell story as if it exists outside of the context of the international political blackmail scheme of which it was a part.  The host of the podcast even talks about Epstein’s “pathology” as if this is a story about mental illness.

The Epstein/Maxwell story is not only about sexual exploitation, it is about political power.  It seems to me to be perfectly obvious that Bill Barr’s father, himself with a history of clandestine activity, saw early on the potential Epstein had to advance the goals of compromising political enemies.

What Epstein and Maxwell ran was a ruthless systematic, methodical  recruiting, grooming, and utilizing business.  They recruited, groomed, educated and placed the right young women in strategic places to compromise and secure the complicity of important people for political purposes.

To discuss this operation as the raging mental illness of one man, or a man and a woman is to completely distort the nature and purpose of this operation.

The stories of two victims are talked about in this podcast – Melissa, a talented cellist and Michelle, a high school student in Palm Beach.  Michelle fits the profile of the hundreds of girls the pair lured into Epstein’s property, abused and then discarded.  Melissa is an example of a young woman who was recruited, groomed over a period of years and then discarded partly due to her own lack of willingness to comply.  Even though a substantial amount of time and money was spent on the long-term grooming of Melissa, she was never sexually assaulted.

The host of the podcast explains the long-term investment in Melissa as an example of Epstein’s “pathology” of power.  She argues that Melissa illustrates Epstein’s obsession, indeed “addiction” to power games.

The host, however, completely ignores what is the more obvious explanation for Melissa’s experience.  Epstein and Maxwell were not just sexually exploiting young women for their own sexual gratification.  They were methodically grooming young women and placing them in strategic positions to compromise political targets.  You don’t just send a lower class little girl into a high society environment and expect her to seduce Prince Andrew.  You groom, make beholden, and place a Julliard cellist in the room with Prince Andrew and then use that young woman to compromise the target.

That is exactly what they tried to do with Melissa.  They spent years supporting her financially, working her into a pseudo-family situation with them and then even demanding that she attend the higher status school, Julliard, to make her a more attractive lure.  Epstein’s “pathology” didn’t prevent him from spending years cultivating this girl.  But, the journalist here, doesn’t even discuss this.  Instead she launches off on a discussion of Epstein’s supposed power mad psychology.

The issue here is not psychology.  That’s not even what’s interesting or significant about the case.  But, the corporate media will turn the story into a lurid tabloid narrative to avoid talking about this massive, international kompromat ring.  That is not only a shame.  It is yet another example of the corporate media distorting reality, maintaining a delusion which protects powerful people who are aggressively pursuing an authoritarian agenda.

 

 

 

Glynn County, Georgia: Site of the Aubery Killings

browning Michael Browning, Glynn County Commission

 

It was in Glynn County, Georgia that three men stalked and killed Ahmaud Arbery.  One of the men documented the killing on video.  But, when police from the Glynn County Police Department arrived at the scene of the murder, they made no arrests.  One of the three men, Gregory McMichaels, is a former police officer and investigator for the Glynn County DA’s office.  Gregory McMichaels, his son Travis, and a neighbor who filmed the murder were allowed to go home after pretty much dictating the police report.

Later, another officer from the Glynnn County Police Department phoned the mother of jogger, Ahmaud Arbery, and told her that her son had been killed in a burglary.  This was untrue.

The DA in the county promptly recused herself from the case giving as the reason that Gregory McMichael had worked as a police officer in the 1980s and in the district attorney’s office until 2019.  She passed the case on to another DA who maintained that the two men were acting in self defense and should not be charged.

The case was later shifted to another DA.

Meanwhile, the Aubery family’s lawyer released the videotape of the killing and there was a public outcry as citizens watched these three men shoot and kill another man in broad daylight.

After bringing in investigators from the state, the three men were eventually charged, but only after a public outcry and national coverage of the murder.

Much of the attention in the case has been on the District Attorneys involved and their unwillingness to bring charges against the three men.  What should also have been brought out was the history of the Glynn County Police Department which not only failed to make an arrest in the case, but for whom one of the assailants (Gregory McMichael) used to work as a police officer and investigator.

The Glynn County Police Department has a history and it is not a proud one.  As Page Page, a criminal defense attorney in Glynn County stated in an interview, “There is not just one prior case.  There are many prior cases.  And each one is a separate Netflix episode.”

In 2018, Glynn County Police Lt. Robert Sasser killed his estranged wife and a man she had been seeing.  He then took his own life.  This final act followed a history of problematic behavior, much of it witnessed by members of the very police department he worked for.  But, that police department failed to act.

The family of Sasser’s wife is now suing the police department arguing that the department’s failure to act led to their daughter’s death.

In 2010, Sasser and another officer were involved in a brutal police shooting of a woman who led them on a low-speed chase.  The officers opened fire on her.  Nevertheless, Sasser avoided any punishment for the act and remained on the force.  The family of this woman is also taking legal action.

In 2018, the police department saw its certification with the state taken away because it did not meet basic police standards.  Part of the report that led to the de-certification noted that even though African Americans make up 26% of the population in the county, they make up only %12 of the police force.

In 2019, the county’s drug task force was disbanded after a state-led investigation.  This investigation found misconduct by Glynn County police officers, one of whom was having sex with an informant.

Then, Glynn County Police Chief John Powell, was indicted for perjury and witness tampering.  This was four days after the Arbery shooting.  This police chief remains on administrative leave.

County Commissioners have defended the police department handling of the Arbery case.  They blamed the DA for the decision not to arrest the three.  Commissioner Peter Murphy said that the police were told by the DA’s office not to make an arrest.

The DA, Jackie Johnson, says her office didn’t tell the police whether to make an arrest.  Johnson maintained that the police and the county commission wanted to smear her.

“I think it’s retaliation for me being the whistleblower on their police department multiple times over the last year.”

We have no idea what this means.

In June of 2020, the Glynn County Commissioners (some of whom are lame ducks leaving office) met to approve creating a new job for the Police Chief, John Powell.  Approximately $150,000 of county “reserve” funds were to be used to make a job for the indicted Police Chief.

But, the local newspaper, the Brunswick News, reported that the vote was to occur.  When the County Commissioners met at a scheduled meeting all had agreed to, two of the members were missing.   One of the Commissioners gave a statement to the local newspaper that it would be “unfair” for the Commission to go ahead without the missing two members.

I suspect that what he meant was that they didn’t want to go ahead unless all the Commissioners were implicated in the decision.

The members present voted to “defer” the decision about using county funds during a pandemic to create a job for the indicted police chief.  The Commissioners failed to reveal when they planned on meeting again.

The outrage about the history of the Glynn County Police Department had led to a bill passed by the Georgia legislature allowing the citizens of Glynn County to vote on whether they wanted to dissolve the Police Department entirely.

The Glynn County Commissioners announced through one Michael Browning (one of the lame ducks) that the County Commission would hire lawyers and pay them with county funds to sue the state of Georgia if they went ahead with plans to allow the citizens of Glynn County to vote on dissolving the police department.