A “corrective measure”?: Zimbabwe, Black power, and Western imperialism

From an article in The Herald titled “No Military Takeover in Zimbabwe” The article adds the following caption about this photo: “free movement of people in the Capital city as the Army calls for peace and calmness.”

Recently the bourgeois media has been up in arms over Zimbabwe. But what is it all about? What is going on? After one user asked what was going on, writing that “there is a decided lack of information, but things don’t look very good. Robert Mugabe has made significant efforts to keep Zimbabwe free of domination by Western imperialism and Western capitalism. Further information would be appreciated,” some comrades on /r/communism (obviously tarred as a “rush to defend Mugabe” by anti-communist subreddits like /r/enoughcommiespam and /r/Zimbabwe) responded by saying that “Mugabe, in this particular gistorical moment…should be defended it possible and the coup opposed at costs,” while others said that this is an “AFRICOM coup basically” and one said that “doesn’t matter who comes next. If he does not accept wall street to buy up the country pretty much, there will be a coup.”  [1] As I publish this, I read that the Zimbabwe Communist Party welcomed the military takeover by saying that it is “the result of the chaotic state of Zimbabwe as a whole and the ruling party, Zanu (PF), in particular. The extravagant lifestyles of the ruling elite contrast sharply with the extreme poverty of the majority of the Zimbabwean people.” Without knowing the full context of these statement or anything else about the Zimbabwe Communist Party (I only just heard of it), I cannot respond to this statement with any more than what I just said. I will look into the Zimbabwe Communist Party for a future update on this post, as noted at the end of this article I was going to put together anyway.

What the bourgeois media has “reported”

Let’s first give a brief overview of what the bourgeois media is claiming is happening. Al Jazeera, a Qatari pro-terroristic outlet, declared that “there is growing uncertainty in Zimbabwe…the army says this is not a military takeover…But as yet, there is no official word from the government or the Mugabe family as to their whereabouts” with South Africa’s Jacob Zuma apparently talking to Mugabe who “told him he is safe but confined to his home” and with an “apparent bid to expand the Mugabe dynasty” as they put since “President Mugabe sacked Emmerson Mnangagwa, an ally of the army, on November 8” with his wife Grace “eyeing” the position. [2] The article goes on to say that the pro-Western #ThisFlag “called for calm and the protection of all Zimbabweans following the army’s takeover of power” while Temba Mliswa, an independent member of parliament, supported the military’s moves, the African Union (AU) chief “said the political crisis in Zimbabwe “seems like a coup”,” humanitarian imperialist Amnesty International seemed to take a non-stand but would definitely cheer when Mugabe was gone, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) said it hopes the situation “will not lead to unconstitutional changes of government,” and Lovemore Chinoputsa of the MDC supported the move as did the Victor Matemadanda, the leader of war veterans (Zimbabwe’s War Veterans Association) urged that “Robert Gabriel Mugabe…be recalled from his role as the president and first secretary of ZANU-PF.” Additionally, several Zanu-PF individuals were reportedly detained , the Zimbabwe reportedly “seized state TV and blocked off access to government offices,” with war veterans claiming that “Mugabe has betrayed the revolution.” Another article they published added that “Major General SB Moyo…denied that the army was carrying out a coup…[as] tanks surrounded parliamentary and presidential buildings” while claiming that “for many the first priority was to head to the banks” and noting that “critics of Mugabe” (who are Western-backed) don’t like the military because it favors Mugabe and the Zanu-PF. [3]

Other bourgeois media have described what they say is happenning. BBC held a similar line to Al Jazeera, claiming that the army’s move may “be a bid to replace Mr Mugabe with his sacked deputy,” noting that China “says it is closely watching the situation” closely, claiming that that”So this military action is the old guard reasserting its authority,” and saying that Gen Chiwenga was a friend of Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was recently “sacked” by Mugabe. [4] Anti-imperialism.org partially reviews other media outlets, noting that Mugabe and his wife are apparently “secured under house arrest,” The Guardian continues to support “the coup overwhelmingly [with] hands begin[ning] to point to british/south african collusion” while the Zimbabwean bourgeoisie complained “of political uncertainty just before coup” as claimed by the Zimbabwe Independent (opposition rag), the New York Times penning an “article in explicit support of the coup leaders…while endorsing the ascension of a 75 year old man, older than the oldest amerikan president-elect.” They added that

…the politics of peripheral states are rarely their own, and the likelihood of imperial machinations at work in the current powerplay are high. The pro-monopoly capital leanings of Mnangagwa suggest he could be supported by either the u.$. or uk…As is often said in military coups, the commander in charge has expressed vague platitudes of democracy and constitutionalism as the justification for the move, stating that civil order will be restored shortly…It is unclear what role the UN and AU is to play in this transition, but given recent threats by the UN sanction-regime which has been harassing regional governments suspected of undermining the blockade imposed over the DPRK, it is clear nothing good will come of it…The confusion caused by misinformation promoted by coup leaders, along with the imperialists in their premature victory-lap, has created a difficult scenario for getting reliable information from the country.

The Washington Post held a similar line. They bellowed that Mugabe led “the country from the triumph of its independence struggle to economic collapse,” with now, the “world’s oldest head of state becam[ing] a prisoner of the military he once commanded” and basically endorsing the coup my saying the military’s move “appears to end one of Africa’s most controversial political dynasties while raising questions about what might come next.” [5] They go on to gush that “this appears to be a watershed moment for Zimbabwe and southern Africa, which have suffered from the tumult of Mugabe’s reign…the events bore all the signs of a coup…the commander of Zimbabwe’s military forces, Gen. Constantino Chiwenga, made the move as a struggle over who will succeed the country’s elderly leader came to a head. Mugabe…in recent years, as Mugabe’s presidency was marred by allegations of corruption, nepotism and repression…In recent weeks, there have been signs of an increased sensitivity to criticism of the government.” One article linked to is by the Associated Press quotes the US State Department as saying that the murderous empire is “concerned by recent actions undertaken by Zimbabwe’s military forces,” calling for restraint but has been in contact with “Zimbabwe’s military [coup plotters] and foreign affairs ministry.” [6]

With Reuters saying that the military swept “into power,” CBS News declaring that “who will rule Zimbabwe should become clearer in the coming days,” and the Washington Post editorial board declaring that “his removal could “pull a once-prospering country from the ditch into which Mr. Mugabe drove it” as they endorsed the coup by saying “some reports suggest that Mr. Mnangagwa, if put in power, could reverse some of the regime’s worst mistakes…the end of Mr. Mugabe’s rule offers a fragile opportunity to rescue an African country — but only if it does not lead to the installation of another strongman.” [7] Then there’s other media, like USA Today, NPR, saying that Mugabe’s tenure recently has “been marked by human rights abuses and economic collapse” or ” international alienation and economic collapse,” others calling him a tyrant and “authoritarian.” Some in the Bloomberg News said that the coup would extend Zimbabwe’s “reign of terror” with  generals “paved the way for the dictator to be replaced by one of his henchmen” in the mind of bourgeois scholar Eli Lake, and othersclaiming that Mugabe transformed from “his transformation from a national liberation icon to an autocrat.” [8] Other media said that the coup would be opening a “door to freedom” and end “economic collapse.”

What does Zimbabwe’s state media say?

They quote a statement by the Zanu-PF’s Youth Executive League saying that “we will not sit idly and fold our hands whilst cheap potshots and threats are made against the legitimate and popularly elected leader…Robert Gabriel Mugabe.” They add that “we are, however, totally against the bulk of the press statement issued by General Chiwenga yesterday” and believe that this is not a view held by the whole military. They end by saying that “it is our country and future at stake and we will not let any individual military man interfere with the leader of the party and legitimately voted President of this country Cde Robert Gabriel Mugabe…We, therefore, call upon all the youth of Zimbabwe regardless of their political affiliation, race, gender or creed to stand up and be counted when the time comes.” A report seemingly indicate that there is “business as usual” in Haare, Zimbabwe’s capital. Other articles showed that the electoral act in the country will soon be amended, that some support (like the war vets) the military’s position while opposing the views of the Zanu-PF’s Youth Executive League. Then they  reprint a speech by the Zimbabwean military on national tv, the one often quoted by bourgeois media. It should be quoted in full here (bolding is my emphasis with two links added in the beginning):

Fellow Zimbabweans, following the address we made on 13 November 2017 which we believe our main broadcaster, ZBC and The Herald were directed not to publicise, the situation in our country has moved to another level. Firstly, we wish to assure the nation that His Excellency, The President, of the Republic of Zimbabwe, and Commander in Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Cde R.G. Mugabe and his family are safe and sound and their security is guaranteed. We are only targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice. As soon as we have accomplished our mission we expect that the situation will return to normalcy. To the civil servants, as you are aware, there is a plan by the same individuals to influence the current purging which is place in the political sphere to the civil service. We are against that act of injustice and we intend to protect every one of you against that. To the judiciary, the measures underway are intended to ensure that, as an independent arm of the State, you are able to exercise your independent authority without fear of being obstructed as has been the case with this group of individuals. To our Members of Parliament, your legislative role is of paramount importance for peace and stability in this country and it is our desire that a dispensation is created that allows you to serve your respective political constituencies according to democratic tenets. To the generality of the people of Zimbabwe, we urge you to remain calm and limit unnecessary movement. However, we encourage those who are employed and those with essential business in the city to continue their normal activities as usual. Our wish is that you enjoy your rights and freedoms and that we return our country to a dispensation that allows for investment, development and prosperity that we all fought for and for which many of our citizens paid the supreme sacrifice. To political parties, we urge you to discourage your members from engaging in violent behaviour. To the youths, we call upon you to realise that the future of this country is yours. Do not be enticed with dirty coins of silver, be disciplined and remain committed to the ethos and values of this great nation. To all Churches and religious organisations in Zimbabwe, we call upon you and your congregations to pray for our country and preach the gospel of love, peace, unity and development. To both our people and the world beyond our borders, we wish to make it abundantly clear that this is not a military takeover of Government. What the Zimbabwe Defence Forces is doing is to pacify a degenerating political, social and economic situation in our country which if not addressed may result in violent conflict. We call upon all the war veterans to play a positive role in ensuring peace, stability and unity in the country. To members of the Defence Forces, all leave is cancelled and you are all to return to your barracks with immediate effect. To our respected traditional leaders, you are the custodians of our culture, customs, traditions and heritage and we request you to provide leadership and direction to your communities for the sake of unity and development in our country. To the other Security Services, we urge you to cooperate for the good of our country. Let it be clear that we intend to address the human security threats in our country. Therefore any provocation will be met with an appropriate response. To the media, we urge you to report fairly and responsibly. Thank you.

So other than not calling this a military coup, they seem to be calling for allies across Zimbabwean society, including those in the defense forces, and trying to “restore order” by removing the “bad people” from the government, then threatening anyone that challenges their attempt for order. This should make anyone wary, but it seems to sound like an inter-party struggle which is why the “opposition” is not happy.

Then there’s a reprinted speech by General Chiwenga. It is as follows with bolding as needed on certain aspects:

Let us begin by quoting the Constitution of this Country particularly the preamble which speaks of “Exalting and extolling the brave men and women who sacrificed their lives during the Chimurenga/Umvukela and national liberation struggles and honouring our forebears and compatriots who toiled for the progress of our country”. It is with humility and a heavy heart that we come before you to pronounce the indisputable reality that there is instability in Zanu-PF today and as a result anxiety in the country at large. Zimbabwe’s history is hinged on the ideals of the revolution dating back to the First Chimurenga where thousands of people perished. Zanu-PF is the political Party that waged the Second Chimurenga for our independence; the struggle that caused the loss of over 50 thousand lives of our people; the struggle in which many Zimbabweans, in one way or the other, sacrificed and contributed immensely for our liberation. Many of these gallant fighters still live-on with the spirited hope of seeing a prosperous Zimbabwe but also the hope of leaving behind inheritance and legacy for posterity. It is pertinent to restate that the Zimbabwe Defence Forces remain the major stockholder in respect to the gains of the liberation struggle and when these are threatened we are obliged to take corrective measures. Clearly, Zanu-PF having mainly been the only Party that has ruled this country since Independence, it had become a household name to most Zimbabweans across political divide. Therefore, it is common cause that any instability within the Party naturally impacts on their social, political and economic lives, accordingly, there is distress, trepidation and despondence within the nation. Our peace-loving people who have stood by their Government and endured some of the most trying social and economic conditions ever experienced are extremely disturbed by what is happening within the ranks of the national revolutionary Party. What is obtaining in the revolutionary Party is a direct result of the machinations of counter revolutionaries who have infiltrated the Party and whose agenda is to destroy it from within. It is saddening to see our revolution being hijacked by agents of our erstwhile enemies who are now at the brink of returning our country to foreign domination against which so many of our people perished. The famous slogan espoused by His Excellency, The President of the Republic of Zimbabwe Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Cde R. G. Mugabe: “Zimbabwe will never be a colony again” is being seriously challenged by counter revolutionary infiltrators who are now effectively influencing the direction of the Party. It is our strong and deeply considered position that if drastic action is not taken immediately, our beloved country Zimbabwe is definitely headed to becoming a neo-colony again. The current purging and cleansing process in Zanu-PF which so far is targeting mostly members associated with our liberation history is a serious cause for concern to us in the Defence Forces. As a result of squabbling within the ranks of Zanu-PF, there has been no meaningful development in the country for the past 5 years. The resultant economic impasse has ushered-in more challenges to the Zimbabwean populace such as cash shortages and rising commodities prices. Our revolutionary path is replete with conduct and rebellion by people who have attempted to destroy the revolution from within. The formation of FROLIZI, the attempt to remove the late Cde Chitepo from his position of Chairman at the Mumbwa bogus Congress in 1973, the Nhari-Badza rebellion, Ndabaningi Sithole rebellion soon after the death of Cde Chitepo, the Vashandi 1 and 2 as well as the rebellion that led to the death of the late ZIPRA Commander, Cde Alfred Nikita Mangena, among others are cases in point. Therefore, the current shenanigans by people who do not share the same liberation history of Zanu-PF Party are not a surprise to us. But, what is significant to us and the generality of Zimbabweans is to remember that all these rebellions were defused by the military, but at no point did the military usurp power. We must remind those behind the current treacherous shenanigans that when it comes to matters of protecting out revolution, the military will not hesitate to step in. ZANU PF’s standing political virtues are a product of faithful adherence to the founding values, decorum, discipline and revolutionary protocol in the ruling Party. Party orders were strictly adhered to and whatever differences existed, they were resolved amicably and in the ruling Party’s closet. Unfortunately since the turn of 2015, Zanu-PF’s traditional protocol and procedures have been changed with a lot of gossiping, backbiting and public chastisement being the order of the day. Indeed the Party is undoing its legacy built over the years. While our people may be persuaded to take what is going on in Zanu-PF as internal political matters in that Party, the truth remains that Zanu-PF’s conduct and behaviour as a ruling Party has a direct impact on the lives of every citizen; hence all of us regardless of political affiliation are affected by the Party’s manner of doing business. From a security point of view we cannot ignore the experiences of countries such as Somalia, DRC, Central Africa Republic and many others in our region where minor political differences degenerated into serious conflict that had decimated the social, political and economic security of ordinary people. Section 212 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe mandates the Zimbabwe Defence Forces to protect Zimbabwe, its people, its national security and interests and its territorial integrity and to uphold this Constitution. Among other security threats that are coming out of what is obtaining in Zanu-PF are there reckless utterances by politicians denigrating the military which are causing despondency within the rank and file. Further, we not with concern the attempts by some politicians to drive a wedge between the security services for their own selfish interests. This is unacceptable. We take great exception to this behaviour. There is only one Commander-in-Chief, His Excellency The President, Head of State and Government and Commander in Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Cde R. G. Mugabe. The military in an institution whose roles cut across the wider spectrum of Government support functions in the form of Military Aid to Civil Power and Military Aid to Civil Ministries, which are roles derived from Defence Instruments. Therefore we want to state here and now that the history of our revolution cannot be rewritten by those who have not been part of it. Having said that we strongly urge the Party: To stop reckless utterances by politicians from the ruling Party denigrating the military which is causing alarm and despondency within the rank and file. The current purging of which is clearly targeting members of the party with a liberation background must stop forthwith. The known counter revolutionary elements who have fermented the current instability in the Party must be exposed and fished out. As the Party goes for the Extra-Ordinary Congress, must go with equal opportunity to exercise their democratic rights. Comrades and friends, ladies and gentlemen, we remain committed to protecting our legacy and those bent on high-jacking the revolution will not be allowed to do so. Further, we must understand that the freedoms that we enjoy today were as a result of supreme sacrifice by some of our country men and women and this must not be taken for granted. Let us remove this air of uncertainty and allow Zimbabweans to enjoy their freedoms and rights as enshrined in the national Constitution.

Along with the attacks on Zanu-PF policies for the past few years, what he is saying again seems to indicate this is an inter-party struggle, specifically to rid “traitorous” elements from the Zanu-PF. Does that mean they oppose Mugabe sacking Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa? Even Liberation News of the Party of Socialism and Liberation is scratching their heads about what is happening (although their article on this is a great read). After all, he has, along with other political players “positioning themselves for the day Mugabe either steps down or dies,” with the former reportedly envisioning

“cooperating with Tsvangirai to lead a transitional government for five years with the tacit backing of some of Zimbabwe’s military and Britain. This unity government would pursue a new relationship with thousands of white farmers who were chased off in violent seizures of land approved by Mugabe in the early 2000s. The farmers would be compensated and reintegrated…Tsvangirai, a 65-year-old former union leader who enjoys broad popular support, told Reuters in an interview in June he would not rule out a coalition with political opponents, such as Mnangagwa…According to the intelligence reports, Mugabe got wind of Mnangagwa’s ideas about white farmers earlier this year…The intelligence reports say that some of Mugabe’s army generals are starting to swallow their disdain for Tsvangirai, who, as a former union leader rather than liberation veteran, has never commanded the respect of the military…The tipping point came in 2000 when Mugabe approved radical land reforms that encouraged veterans from the fight for liberation to occupy some 4,000 white-owned commercial farms…The tipping point came in 2000 when Mugabe approved radical land reforms that encouraged veterans from the fight for liberation to occupy some 4,000 white-owned commercial farms…According to the intelligence files, Mnangagwa’s overtures to Tsvangirai and white farmers became apparent in early 2015 amid bitter strife within the ZANU-PF party…According to the intelligence reports, Mutsvangwa is a middleman between various parties involved in a possible coalition government…Senior figures in Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF…have acknowledged…that white farmers should be compensated for their losses two decades ago, although talks with farmers have yet to produce any major breakthrough” [9]

How all this matters to

I’ve written before on this blog about how Zimbabwe is under attack, meaning that it is a duty of comrades to engage in international solidarity with these states and any others that stand “against the existing social and political order of things.” I also wrote about how “Black nationalist Robert Mugabe led the liberation struggle of the then-Maoist Zanu-PF in Zimbabwe, alongside the more moderate Joshua Nkomo’s Zapu-PF,” and in the process he did not go to “the US asking for help to fight the white colonists.” I also noted how The Herald honored the “DPRK’s efforts at self-defense on its islands, with its power stations, and continuing to build their form of socialism based on the masses,” that Zimbabwe was one of the countries at the conference on Palestine in Tehran with Jacob Francis Mudenda, the current Speaker of Zimbabwe’s National Assembly, condemning “Zionist Israel for construction of illegal settlements, [and] praised the role of Iran in the region, and reaffirmed Zimbabwe’s support for Palestine until it turned “into a full-fledged and established country.”” With Trump’s administration, he acts as a “bully for Western capitalists to gain new markets,” with Zimbabwe remaining “under imperialist assault,” continuing what happened under Obama’s administration. This isn’t a surprise since “enemies” of empire with a leader who described Fidel Castro’s death as the lose of a “farewell revolutionary [saying]…We shall always remember you as our own in the same way as Cubans will do so and that is the spirit that brings me and my delegation here” and allowing Mengistu to flee into exile there. Finally, in my imagined scenario for Cuba, I noted how NED described Zimbabwe (along with Burma, DPRK, and Cuba) as a “harsh dictatorship” which is laughable.

But there is more to this story. Already we know that every day the bourgeois media in the West “concocts another story” about the “faults” of Mugabe with human rights imperialist orgs joining in, with the “revolutionary state of Zimbabwe is rocked by political turmoil because the neoliberal opposition leads to polarization, not due to the policies of Mugabe and the ruling Zanu-PF party.” Back in February I further noted that Zimbabwe’s history dates back to years before “the first White imperialist would be out of their womb” and that various societies “constituted a developed (and advanced) Zimbabwean culture lasted a total of a thousand years” while by 1889,

the British South African Company came to Zimbabwe, later naming it “Rhodesia” after British imperialist Cecil Rhodes. Not only did this name override the indigenous name of Zimbabwe…but it showed that the age of imperialist exploitation was at hand…This exploitation went beyond the erasure of culture. In the economy of Southern Africa and Rhodesia under British colonialism, Africans were treated as cheap labor…In the years that followed, the British South African Company continued to control the British colony of Rhodesia…[by 1923] with the settlers with official power, the British monarch in the colony itself [was]…represented by the governor and there were “British errand boys” who lived as White settlers…the “rich and fertile land” was occupied by White settlers and the “sandy, semi-dry land” given to Black Africans…[by] 1957, a chapter of African National Congress (ANC) organized in the country, led by Joshua Nkomo, with the chapter joining the ANC in South Africa…In the 1960s, the anti-colonial struggle in Zimbabwe heated up…[a] conflict between Zapu and Zanu erupted. At times it became violent. While some may be included to do so, it is wrong to discount the Zanu group wholesale…Mozambique, Botswana, Tanzania, Zambia, and Angola, supported the guerillas with training areas and pitched camps…As a result of Chinese support, Zanu was transformed from a splinter organization into a full-fledged participant of the liberation struggle…With financial interests in White-ruled Africa, Africans continued to be oppressed by about two hundred British firms in companies led by a small “White group of capitalists””

In the next article of the series I noted how during the revolutionary struggle in Zimbabwe, “Zapu and the ANC were close to the Soviet Union, Zanu was supported by Beijing, allowing the revolutionary group to prosecute a war of liberation, with Chinese aid as a contributing factor to victory.” By 1974, Sithole was pushed out of the leadership, “with Mugabe put in his place, and fully taking control of Zanu after the death of Herbert Chitepo in 1975.” The rest is history:

…Mugabe, unlike Nkomo, was a radical nationalist and he opposed settlement with the White settler government and that he remained suspicious of numerous commanders of the armed military wing, ZANLA…In 1979, the liberation war, militarily at least, seemed to be coming to an end…Mugabe was very open to the changes to come in the future….In 1979, when military victory seemed in view, two new African leaders betrayed the Zimbabwean liberation struggle. Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and Samora Machel of Mozambique…demanded that Mugabe’s Zanu’s guerrillas forces…could not use their countries as bases to launch attacks on the UDI government. This forced Mugabe to the negotiating table. If these liberation forces had been allowed to win militarily, there is no doubt that Zimbabwe would have been a different country…the Lancaster Agreement…signed on December 17, 1979…include[d a] phased British withdrawal, but the nation was reverted to colonial status before it was declared independent in April 1980…In April 1980, in elections allowed under the Lancaster Agreement, Mugabe became the Prime Minister of the free nation, the Republic of Zimbabwe…Surviving two assassination attempts by White Zimbabweans during the campaign, since he seemed “terrifying” due to his comments during the war and Marxist outlook, he took more a conciliatory approach once in office…In Zimbabwe, such neocolonialism was put in place in a manner which hurt the well-being of the populace. During Mugabe’s time as prime minister of Zimbabwe, he lived in highly fortified residences, and Zimbabwe received Western aid in hopes of pacifying it…Mugabe and the Zanu-PF did not do this willingly. For one, as 100,000 White settlers remained in the country, they commanded the “commerce, finance, industry, mining, and large-scale agriculture” industries, Mugabe tried to create a socially democratic state, rather than a socialist one, helping the Chinese gain markets for their companies…there was a “real threat of a right-wing military coup by the White minority still in Zimbabwe”…This cozying up to the West…led to military material from Europeans going to the new independent government…by the 1990s, the situation in Zimbabwe was changing…As a government that was short on cash, the Zanu-PF government began an IMF Economic Structural Adjustment Program (ESAP)…leading to a program of austerity which hurt the populace for years to come, while also weakening the government…This IMF prescribed program, lasting from 1991 to 1995, resulted in scarce foreign exchange, destruction of domestic industry, many consumer goods became unobtainable, and thousands of civil servants fired, but Mugabe was arguably forced into this position

In the next article in my series on Zimbabwe, I commented on how starting in 1966 the “neo-colonial chains, of the post-independence period, began to be broken” wth the Zanu-PF government moving away from ESAP. By 1997 the

chains holding Zimbabwe to Britain were completely snapped. The government began to seize land owned by a “handful of white farmers”…After failing to undertake the IMF’s “reforms” as quickly as they wanted, the assurances the British government made in 1979…were rejected by the New Labour government controlled by Tony Blair…In 1998, Zimbabwe snubbed the Western capitalists yet again. With his land program, resistance to IMF programs by adopting Black nationalist economic measures hostile to the West, and support for the new government of Laurent Kabila in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)…the West was steaming…By 1999, opposition formed from angry White farmers whose land was expropriated and redistributed justly to Black families. This included the formation of the Movement for Democratic Change or MDC…The boldness of the Zimbabwean government led to anger from Western capitalist governments and the capitalist class for years to come…While Mugabe is clearly an African nationalist not a doctrinaire Marxist and the policies of Zanu-PF are socially democratic, the Western capitalists would not relent in their assault…The redistribution of White farms to the Zimbabwean populace, even as every White farmer was allowed to control individual, single farms…was begun in a way that shocked Western capitalists…The White farmers who used their money and wealth to try and stop the Zanu-PF in the ownership of natural resources by the Zimbabwean populace, and reclaiming White land for indigenous Black farmers, were not alone…[in the mid-2000s] the Zimbabwean parliament passed a law to move the fast-track land redistribution effort forward. The law, which nationalized land that had been redistributed…was a victory for Black nationalism…[in 2009 with power-sharing with the MDC,] Mugabe still refused Western demands he “step aside,” knowing that it would let neo-colonialism back into the country…six years later [in 2016], Zimbabwe got past this hurdle and the government nationalized the mines…even a Chinese company challenged [this], showing that the country is not a “colony” of China

In my final article in my series on Zimbabwe I noted how in 2013 there was an election where the “chains of neo-colonialism were broken” with Black nationalism again victorious with proposals including one that “prevented legal challenges to the land redistribution program” approved by a wide margin, along with a new Constitution for the Republic of Zimbabwe which is not only

socially democratic, but it calls for good governance, national unity, fostering (and respecting) fundamental rights, fair and “Pan-African” foreign policy. Additionally, it calls for rapid and equitable development, empowerment, food security, “gender balance,” and fair regional representation…It declares the country will help children, youth, elderly, and people with disabilities, favoring vets of the liberation struggle, and have reasonable work and labor policies. The Constitution also says there will be promotion of free and gender equal education, provision of social welfare, legal aid, and so on. It…says that every person has a right to life, meaning that there are limits on the death penalty, and right of personal liberty. The document also outlines rights of arrested persons, the right to dignity, the right to personal security, the right to privacy, the right to freedom of association, and freedom of conscience. Additionally, it talks about the expanse of labor rights, certain property rights, environmental rights, right to pension benefits, and a right to education. Importantly, to protect it from imperialist subversion, it says that there will limits on rights, especially during a public emergency. One can say Zimbabwe is a “dictatorship” all they want, but this Constitution shows that such claims are baloney since this document is many times more progressive than the guarantees of [the US Constitution]

I also wrote about a Zanu-PF manifesto that argued in favor of “land reform programme and other empowerment policies,” along with “party promises to deepen unity, security, independence, and respect for liberation,”  saying they will not be “stopped by foreign imperialists,” that the state should be used as a “”revolutionary instrument” to reclaim land from White settlers and redistribute it to the Black populace,” and that the “Zanu-PF, representing the interests of the country’s national bourgeoisie, including Black farmers and wealthy Black investors, continued to look to China.” I added that

Mugabe said that he wanted to expand his “indigenization” policy, while China remained a major international supporter of the country…there was even a specific effort to warn South Africa to not emulate Zimbabwe’s form of land reform…Grace [Mugabe, Robert Mugabe’s wife] has a prominent place in the ZanuPF, which is good to fight off such pathetic assertions by the Western media and shows that she is not sitting on the sidelines…Ewan Mawaire’s “ThisFlag” movement…is clearly Western-backed and another form of imperial destablization…the two countries [China and Zimbabwe] still have very friendly relations…2017, has already been eventful for Zimbabwe. For one, the IMF declared that more reforms were needed and Tsvangirai…claimed to look “beyond Mugabe,” whatever that means…there was a push for a more united Zanu-PF…Zanu-PF is focusing on the 2018 elections…it should concern people little if Mugabe has a person to continue strong black nationalism and anti-imperialism after he passes from this world, or not…Let us look…to see the road ahead to the 2018 elections as what lies in store for Zimbabwe under the Trump Administration not known

Now it has been nine months since I wrote that article. I won’t venture to summarize what has happened in the nine months since I wrote my last piece. However, I will say that it seems that a power struggle is going on in Zimbabwe without a doubt. It does not seem to be a coup at this time. I don’t say that because I believe in the coup plotters and I definitely do not believe the narrative pushed by the bourgeois media. I stand by what I wrote in the past on this subject and what I wrote on reddit last month, with links removed:

“I know that Zimbabwe has a black bourgeoisie and that the Zanu-PF is not a communist party. However, Mugabe (and the Zanu-PF) has served as a powerful force to resist Western imperialism, especially with his land redistribution program which assisted the black masses in Zimbabwe. Lest us not forget that the Chinese strongly support Zimbabwe due to their history of supporting the Zanu-PF (as did the Cubans) during the revolt against the British colonial oppressors, while the Zapu-PF were supported by the Soviets. By the later 1990s, the neo-colonial chains in Zimbabwe were finally broken which the government had felt forced to keep, and/or went along with, in the aftermath of independence. At this current time, I think supporting the Zanu-PF is the best course of action even as the country is only socially democratic and not socialist.”

Adding to that, I do not think that the black bourgeoisie are souring on Mugabe as some seem to indicate. I think Mugabe even with his age is wise and a master politician to put it lightly. He is not a socialist or a Marxist anymore. However, without him or the Zanu-PF then Western capitalists would be smiling with glee. We can be critical of Zimbabwe as it is socially democratic but we should not abandon our solidarity with the Zimbabwean people or in this case the Zimbabwean government which is standing against Western imperialism and is duly elected by the populace. In coming days, I plan to, at some point, write an update of this article after it is clear if a coup took place or if it is an inter-party struggle within the Zanu-PF which seems more likely than not.

 

Notes

[1] Others wrote that “the main opposition within the country…isnt super involved in this…this seems to be more an internal power struggle within the ZANU-PF. The army has said before that they wouldn’t allow anyone who didn’t take part in the revolution war itself to lead the country next…I am more curious about if the accusations against the VP hold water…Whatever disagreements exist, its clear that the overwhelming majority of the people in Zimbabwe love their revolution.”

[2] Al Jazeera, “Zimbabwe: What’s happening?,” accessed Nov 15, 2017.

[3] Al Jazeera, “Zimbabwe army takes control but denies coup,” Nov 15, 2017.

[4] BBC News, “Zimbabwe crisis: Army takes over, says Mugabe is safe,” Nov 15, 2017.

[5] In Zimbabwe, an anxious wait to see if Mugabe will return after military takeover,” Washington Post, Nov. 15, 2017.

The Latest: Zimbabwe youth leader apologizes to army leaders,” Nov 15, 2017.

[7] Ed Cropley and Cris Chinaka, “Eyes on the ‘Crocodile’ as Zimbabwe Military Sweeps to Power,” Reuters (reprinted in US News & World Report), Nov 15, 2017; CBS News/AP, “U.S. monitoring “fluid” situation in Zimbabwe,” Nov 15, 2017; Washington Post Editorial Board, “What happens in Zimbabwe without Mugabe in power?,” Washington Post, Nov 15, 2017; Godwin Mangudya, “Zimbabwe grapples with new reality after military sidelines longtime President Robert Mugabe,” USA Today, Nov 15, 2017; Edyer Peralta,”Robert Mugabe: A Legacy Of Tyrannical Rule, Economic Ruin And International Isolation,” NPR, Nov 15, 2017; Robyn Dixon, “Zimbabwe military warns it will act against those who do not cooperate,” LA Times, Nov 15, 2017.

[8] Eli Lake, “A Half-Hearted Coup, Extending Zimbabwe’s Reign of Terror,” Bloomberg View, Nov 15, 2017; Leonid Bershidsky, “Zimbabwe’s Coup Is Nothing to Celebrate,” Bloomberg View, Nov 15, 2017; Mxolisi Ncube and Ryan Lenora Brown, “Amid apparent coup, Zimbabwe ponders a future without Mugabe,” Christian Science Monitor, Nov 15, 2017; Geoffrey York, “The Globe in Zimbabwe: End of Mugabe’s 37-year rule opens door to freedom,” The Globe and Mail, Nov 15, 2017; “Zimbabwe: Here’s what’s going on between President Robert Mugabe and the military,” ABC News, Nov 15, 2017; Todd Moss and Jeffrey Smith, “Robert Mugabe’s Inner Circle Implodes,” The Atlantic, Nov 15, 2017; Alastair Jamieson, “Zimbabwe army has Robert Mugabe in custody and seizes state TV,” NBC News, Nov 15, 2017; Jason Burke, “Zimbabwe army has Robert Mugabe in custody and seizes state TV,” The Guardian, Nov 15, 2017; Explosions, military tanks and soldiers on streets of Zimbabwe put Mugabe’s rule in doubt,” Washington Times, Nov 14, 2017; Tara John, “Rumors of a Coup Are Circling Around Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe. Here’s What We Know,” Time, Nov 14, 2017. The CBS/AP report quoted the US State Department as saying that “the United States does not take sides in matters of internal Zimbabwean politics and does not condone military intervention in political processes,” which is utter BS as anyone knows.

[9] Joe Brock and Ed Cropley, “Behind the scenes, Zimbabwe politicians plot post-Mugabe reforms,” Reuters, Sept 5, 2017.

 

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The orange menace, bigotry, and the murderous empire

Quotes from Trump’s recent speeches spewing racism and/or jingoism time and time again.

While much of Texas (and now Louisiana) reels from a “capitalist crime scene” which was made clear nationwide across the US with the “unprecedented” flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey, another storm is brewing: racism in the White House, the “President’s House” was built on the backs of enslaved and wage laborers.

Trump is undoubtedly a racist and bigot as proven during his campaign. Most recently this was manifested in his pardon of Sheriff Joseph Michael Arpaio or “Sheriff Joe” of Maricopa County, Arizona. Defending the action, he claimed that Arpaio did “great” for the Arizonan people and was “loved” there. He further spewed out that his pardon was justified by previous pardons of Marc Rich, Susan Rosenberg, and Carlos Vignali by Bill Clinton, and famed whistleblower Chelsea Manning and noble Puerto Rican independence fighter Oscar Lopez Rivera. He hates them all. Manning, who sadly fell in line with supporting Apple’s fake “privacy” battle with the US government, played a major part in interrupting “imperial scheming,” often called diplomacy, of the murderous empire, revealed, for example, that there were “the Kingdom [of Saudi Arabia] proposed energy ties with China if Beijing backed sanctions against Iran, and [showed] that the country is a major source of financing of Islamic reactionary groups.” The same is the case for Rivera, who is also a brave, and arguably heroic figure. As I wrote back in January, which I still stand by

In the days before Trump’s inauguration…Obama made some “last minute” actions, some of which were symbolic. Due to public pressure and likely to give himself a “good” legacy…he pardoned transgender whistleblower Chelsea Manning  and Puerto Rican independence fighter Oscar Lopez Rivera, along with a number of nonviolent drug offenders…many political prisoners are still locked behind bars and his action was symbolic…It worth saying however that if Manning’s sentence had not been reduced, Trump likely would have extended the sentence and left her in prison for life

Yet, he thinks that Arpaio “is a patriot [who]…loves our country…protected our borders” and the Obama administration “unfairly” treated him. Lest us forget that Arpaio is well-established believer in the theory that Obama’s birth certificate was faked (which Trump ran on in an unsuccessful campaign for the 2012 Presidential election) and Maricopa County had to pay millions for his racial profiling to Chican@ people who were profiled as he continued his illegal immigration patrols. Only more recently he was cited as “guilty of criminal contempt of court” since he did not follow a “federal judge’s order that halted his signature immigration round-ups,” which Trump could not stand, so he pardoned the bigot. To summarize what Arpaio did, he enforced hardline racist anti-immigration policies which were dictated on the federal level, with sweeps that zeroed in on immigrant neighborhoods, with many of “those taken into custody were not accused of violating a state crime but only of living in the country illegally.” [1]

Trump brought his racism to another level, beyond the pardon. He threatened to shut down the federal government over border wall funding (which he did not pull back even he had the opportunity to do so). In his jingoism, he declared that “Mexico is going to pay for the wall….one way or the other,” slammed NAFTA as “one of the worst trade deals ever signed at any time, anywhere in the world” (which isn’t wrong, but what he would replace it with is a bunch of bilateral-NAFTA-like agreements), and said that the US needs “the wall very badly” since it will “stop a lot of things” including “drugs” which he bellows is “pouring in at levels like nobody has ever seen,” which sounds like clear and simple fearmongering. There is no doubt about this since he wants to be “very, very tough on the southern border,” in his own words, to protect the supposed “prosperity” he will bring White people in the US, which isn’t going to materialize. Recently, he praised the mobilization of the Homeland Security Search Capacity Force, in response to Hurricane Harvey, declaring that with law enforcement we have to “make sure that we’re overcoming and anticipating any security needs that we have.” This is consistent with his moves to give the police even more weaponry, which was partially limited by the Obama administration because of public pressure, so they can further terrorize communities of color.

Before putting the orange menace in his appropriate context, it is worth discussing his comments on the anti-racist protests in Charlottesville. On August 12 he declared that “we” (by which he meant the US government) condemn “in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides” and said that “it’s been going on for a long time in our country,” nothing new. In his mind, what was needed was “swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives,” and coming together as a nation to “heal the wounds of our country.” While this may seem more measured than chasing people down who are of a certain color of the skin, it still has a white supremacist tone to it, especially when he talks about the “healing procedure” which, when coming from him, sounds like David Duke. Considering that the police and capitalist state in the US are of a white supremacist character, calling for “restoration” of “order” means that his “moderation” is nothing of the sort, when he does not categorically condemn bigotry, saying that it happened on “many sides” but not the side of the white supremacists. As Sam Marcy of the Workers World Party wrote in 1982, which is still relevant today,

“…in the eyes of the liberal bourgeoisie a militant struggle against the Klan…violates the sacred norms of imperialist democracy…Unless one sees the Klan and other fascist organizations in the general context of the developing struggle of the workers and oppressed, one runs the danger of completely abdicating…using the free speech amendment as a cover for…the use of violence and mass repression is a congenital tendency of the capitalist state. Even in the so-called best of times the capitalist government not only tolerates terrorist organizations like the Klan…It is the ever-expanding growth of the police and military forces at home which makes repression and violent outbursts an inevitable outgrowth of the deepening class antagonisms…This is how consistent liberalism can be in a crisis – they go over to the other side…it is most important to discard the liberal straitjacket that only leads to defeat and frustration and arm the mass movement of the working class and oppressed with a revolutionary perspective.”

Two days later, on August 14, after controversy and anger over his “many sides” comment, he read from a teleprompter, declaring that the “egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence” in Charlottesville has “no place in America,” going onto say that “racism is evil…those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups.” He went onto say that their beliefs are “repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans” and adding that “those who spread violence in the name of bigotry strike at the very core of America.” His solution was the idea of “bonds of love and loyalty that bring us together as Americans” which has echoes of the bygone era when the murderous empire was “fighting” those it called “subversives” and “communists,” a fight against those who stand for justice and a better world which continues to this day. While he condemned hatred, he did not condemn those who engage in bigotry in ways that are not outwardly violent like police killing Black men (and women) on the streets of the US, the symbols of the Confederacy that still stand in thousands of locations across the country, mostly in the US South but some in the North as well. This was to be expected. After all, from his definition, HE should be “repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans” and his words of hate strike at “the very core of America.”

Trump’s definitions are contorted, since bigots of any type manifest basic US values of White America from redlining, de facto re-segregation in urban areas, and dirty environmental projects placed in poor Black and Brown communities (called environmental racism for short) that cannot readily fight off the challenge as much as affluent White communities. These values, the conception of a safe White neighborhood with white picket fences, barking dogs, and areas removed from the perceived (and sometimes real) “problems” of the city, which does not, in general, include people of color. There are some exceptions, but there areas are broadly created for White people. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said in 1968, there is “no more dangerous development in our nation than the constant building up of predominantly negro central cities ringed by white suburbs” saying this will “invite social disaster.” Yet, nothing was done.

To give more historical context, the US Constitution, which is still used as a “blueprint” by the Supreme Court and is a “highly regarded” document, was formed by 55 men who were well-off white property owners, slaveowners, speculators, and other elements of the “new” capitalist class of the burgeoning nation. Anti-Black provisions were written into state laws, proven by the Supreme Court in decision after decision (i.e. Dred Scott v. Sandford, Civil Rights Cases, and Plessy v. Ferguson), and became part of the legal code of the United States at large. Racism is NOT “repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans” because it is part of the DNA of the murderous empire itself from transatlantic slavery to indigenous genocide and immigrant expulsion. Sure, it should have “no place in America,” but Trump himself stoked the flames of the “egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence,” in places such as Charlottesville, Boston, and San Francisco, to name a few, which was becoming “re-energized” by the united hatred of the US’s first “Black president” (he was actually mixed race, half White, half Black) Barack Obama, who, as noted before, put a happy face on the murderous empire. If racism” is “evil” as he says, and those who cause “violence in its name are criminals and thugs,” which strikes “the very core of America” (either indicating his dwindling core of supporters or the Midwest of the US), then Trump himself is “evil” and so is the murderous empire, since HE and the empire cause violence in the name of racism,  in terms of inherently racist imperialism.

One day after he, in scripted remarks, condemned in a PR statement, the hatred spewed in Charlottesville, he doubled back on his August 12th comments. This showed that inherently he still believed that both the anti-racists and bigots committed acts of violence. Apart from defending a racist, hate-filled man named Steve Bannon who was, not many days later, fired as his chief strategist (after which he returned as editor of the conspiratorial bigoted site called Breitbart) as a “friend of mine…he’s a good man…not a racist…a good person” who gets “very unfair press in that regard,” he charged that the “alt-left” (which doesn’t exist) was guilty of violence, “charging with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs” at the bigots. Basically he defended the bigots as those with a protest permit and the anti-racists as those without a permit (whether that is true or not), declaring that not all of the people protesting “the taking down of a statue of Robert E. Lee” (which he claimed was “very, very important”) were white supremacists. Furthermore he portrayed the bigots (“bad people”) as “violently” attacked by anti-racists, claiming that there were “very fine people, on both sides.” In his shouting match with reporters of the bourgeois press he said, in his white supremacist language, that those who want Confederate monuments to come down, since they honor a failed nation which explicitly defended and promoted Black slavery, are “changing history…[and] culture” (why is this bad?). [2] He further said that those who are neo-confederate were “treated them absolutely unfairly” by the same press and saying that there were “troublemakers…with the black outfits and with the helmets, and with the baseball bats.” Those people are what is commonly called the Black Bloc. While further comment on the would require more analysis of their tactics and history over time, there should be no debate that those who are facing bigots should be able to use any tools at their disposal to defend themselves.

It was then that Trump said that the taking down of the Confederate monuments was only the beginning, like a first domino of a series of dominos falling:

…this week it’s Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down…is it George Washington next week?…Thomas Jefferson the week after?…you…have to ask yourself, where does it stop?…George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So will George Washington now lose his statues?….are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson?…Are we going to take down the statue? Because he [Thomas Jefferson] was a major slave owner. Now, are we going to take down his statue?

When Trump feels under attack he predictably spews garbage like this. This just gives pure ammunition to the forces of bigotry within the United States, at least, giving them an easy counter-argument. The fact is that such forces are, as it stands now, on the losing side, on the defensive. The fact that governments (and universities) across the country are taking down Confederate statues shows the power of the anti-racist forces, forces for justice, forces for a better world. To think that people would support taking down the statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson within the murderous empire is a joke. Founding myths, as progressive historian Ray Raphael calls them, about such Founding Patriarchs are inherent to the national consciousness. They are drilled in inhabitants of the United States from an early age, through schooling, and used by politicians, whether Democratic or Republican to make “patriotic” arguments. Reading the writings of progressive historians like Howard Zinn, Ray Raphael, William Hogeland, and Christina Synder, who are not always radical in their writing, can help to counter this worship of the Founding Patriarchs.

In the same press conference, Trump boasted that he owned “a house in Charlottesville…one of the largest wineries in the United States,” flaunting his capitalistic wealth once again. On the ground, people are resisting at the Charlottesville City Council against the pathetic white moderates who let the calamity unfold, even as it is a “watershed” in the anti-fascist struggle, and people worked together to topple a Confederate statue in Durham, North Carolina, an effort rightly applauded by the local chapter of the socialist (and Marxist) Workers World Party.

MLK, mentioned earlier, a self-defined democratic socialist who seemed to incorporate Black nationalism more into his beliefs between 1965 and his death in 1968, once said that “the bombs in Vietnam explode at home. They destroy the hopes and possibilities for a decent America.” [3] The same is the case today, with the violence in the streets of Charlottesville, on the streets of decaying urban metropolis after metropolis by the hands of cops, connecting to the imperial war in Afghanistan. Trump already thinks that everyone who puts on a uniform “makes our nation proud” with a shared purpose, wanting the US to be like the military with “love and loyalty to one another – and to our nation – as we seek to heal divisions from within,” speaking out against “the voices that try to sow hatred and division” (which includes Trump himself), treating fellow citizens “with love and affection” while honoring “our heroes” with supposed “sacred bonds of loyalty that unite us together as one.” This talk of loyalty not only harkens back to Cold War era loyalty oaths but it inherently fascist as he doesn’t want any sort of dissent, a nation of “yes men” and “yes women.” Furthermore, he doesn’t like transgender people in the US military, allowing those who currently are within the ranks to stay, but not allowing others to join, an uneasy compromise for the bigot-in-chief. This could provide an opportunity to organize against military recruitment in the transgender community instead of joining the jingoistic forces that want a bigger recruiting pool for imperialist footsoldiers. That topic is for another article, but should be written about and discussed.

In short, Trump wants to escalate the war in Afghanistan which was begun by George W. Bush, continued by Obama (who had a “withdrawal” plan that wasn’t about withdrawing) and revved up by the Trumpster. The latter likely believes it is part of some Christian crusade as he is almost evangelical in his religious beliefs, asking “God for his wisdom and strength,” declaring that “we will be bigger, better, stronger than ever before.” In his much hyped speech, by the bourgeois media in the US, he declared that there is a “special class of heroes” in the US, of “American patriots from every generation” (undoubtedly including, in his mind, the Confederate States of America), saying that the county is at “war with itself at home” and falsely claiming that the US is a “force for peace in the world,” with imperialism only possible in his conception if everyone falls in line and doesn’t question him. His “policy” is not really a declarations that there must be “an honorable and enduring outcome” in Afghanistan (reminiscent of Nixon’s idea of an “honorable end to the war in Vietnam” or “Peace with Honor” which was actually ramped up imperialism), no “rapid exit…[or] hasty withdrawal” from Afghanistan, “immense” threats to US security apparently from the region, and facing the “reality of the world as it exists right now.” In his simplistic conception, terrorists who “slaughter innocent people” (like him with his drone killings or the US military killing innocent civilians) are “losers” while those in the US are apparently “winners.” He further showed that the military really controls the policy on Afghanistan by firstly saying that “conditions on the ground…will guide our strategy from now on” with secret plans to attack without public notice, ” integration of all instruments of American power…toward a successful outcome,” not engaging in nation-building or constructing “democracies in faraway lands,” but allowing the military to do what they please without restrictions with expansion of authority “for American armed forces to target the terrorist and criminal networks that sow violence and chaos throughout Afghanistan.” He basically wants to give more power to the military that lied about its number of troops in the country (admitting that 2,600 more troops were there than they said publicly), killed 15 Afghanis in an airstrike, “accidentally” killed Yemeni families, killing 10 Somalis (with the help of the US-backed Somali army)

He seemed to eerily echo Obama’s 2016 State of the Union Speech:

Again, toward the end of the speech, he called for those in the US to “unite” to defend the country “from its enemies abroad” by restoring “the bonds of loyalty among our citizens at home” and achieving an “honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the enormous price that so many have paid.” The latter is not possible at this point and the former just reflects his obsession with loyalty and no dissent, his inherent mindset. Anyone who challenges him, even liberals and progressives of a bourgeois character are disloyal, especially those who point out the contours of his brand, working to poke holes in this super-brand as Naomi Klein, a progressive of the bourgeois variety who is part of what some call the “Celebrity Left,” writes who is clearly a brand herself, just like many other “exalted” figures on the “Left” like Noam Chomsky.

Trump racism and outright bigotry is only one manifestation of the foulness of the murderous empire. He has embodied the empire as its head, so to speak, with a changing strategy in Syria, threats against the DPRK (and more recently Venezuela), along with horrendous sanctions, reinforcing the imperial interrelationship with Saudi Arabia, bombing Syria in what seems to be a one-time event to send a message to Moscow and Damascus to name a few aspects. While Bannon is gone, the bigotry continues. He will remain, an informal adviser to Trump, in his position at the head of a hateful propaganda network. After all, the Muslim ban was greenlighted by the Supreme Court as only a partial ban, showing their role in reinforcing racist legalism once again. Trump’s advisers, like H.R. McMaster, have more pull with Bannon gone, but perhaps that was part of the plan. It is hard to discern. To put it simply, in the grand scheme of things, Trump is only one cog of the machine. Bigotry of all types, runs rampant in the murderous empire from gentrification in the “fixed up” urban areas to more dirty energy pipelines forced through the land of indigenous nations. The capitalist monster can only be stopped in its tracks with determination, solidarity, knowledge of past history, and a well-developed analysis, to name a few elements.

 

Notes

[1] He also boasted that “Nobody is higher than me. I am the elected sheriff by the people. I don’t serve any governor or the president.”

[2] Bringing down Confederate monuments should be applauded but it only the start and should not be done to replace necessary racial justice not of the kind proposed by Ta-Nehisi Coates but that which is written about by Cornel West or those over at the always well-spoken Black Agenda Report.

[3] While his belief in non-violence and “loving your enemy” doesn’t really have a place in today’s society, he did truly care about the Black people of America, and the disenfranchised of all races.

The hilarious and deluded criticisms of my post on Syria, Trump, and certain Kurds

My response to the comments on my post. Well, not really. But, this is one of my favorite Simpsons’ scenes (its from S7e9, “Sideshow Bob’s Last Gleaning“)

In response to my post, people were as angered as “mad-hatters.” It was a bit hilarious to watch it all unfold. I noted the comments in a post on /r/communism, but will address each “criticism,” if some could be called that, here:

“Can we just do away with the idea that Assad’s Syria is a socialist democratic state? It is false and the author does not try to prove any of his affirmations about Syria. This piece is garbage as a result, does nothing but cloud our judgement of the situation”- some person on /r/fulldiscourse

This person clearly did NOT read my post. I specifically called the “Assad’s Syria” a “secular, socially democratic state” and criticized Gowans for calling it socialist (certain parts are bolded for emphasis):

Stephen Gowans can say that Syria is a socialist state, saying that they follow the confines of “Arab socialism.” While you could argue, like Gowans[,] that that this is correct, more realistically, the state is socially democratic and secular. Hence, they have a national bourgeoisie. But, they are dedicated to progressive principles (anti-Zionist and anti-imperialist for example) and independence from Western influence. As a result, the Syrian leadership courts the Russian capitalists, along with those of other friendly countries like socialist Cuba, so that they can build their economy since they are under attack from reactionary religious terrorists backed by Gulf and Western states.

Hence, their “criticism” was disingenuous.

The next person claimed that….

“So ridiculous that the war for a de facto monarchy (the Al-Assads) that is fought for by one of the most aggressive imperialist regimes doesn’t get any meaningful criticism on a website called ‘anti-imperialism.org””- person on /r/syriancivilwar/

This is an Orientalist diatribe. To call the Bashar Al-Assad or the Assad family in general royal is laughable (its as bad as calling the DPRK a “monarchy”). They were duly elected by the people of Syria and not even the intelligence and military establishments of the murderous empire (US) have EVER called them monarchial. They have scowled at Syria since the 1960s. Russia, which is implied here, is NOT “one of the most aggressive imperialist regimes.” Such aggressiveness comes from the murderous empire (US) and European capitalists, not from those who were supposedly imperialist.

“Imagine a prose written by a late 19th, early 20th century industrialist writing for a pro-industrialist website, promoting the virtues of child labor and educating the poor through hard labor. Sorry, but that’s how ridiculous it is to be a revolutionary anti-imperialist in 2017. Or should be.”- person on /r/syriancivilwar/

I don’t even have any comment to this other than to laugh. I would consider myself to be a “revolutionary anti-imperialist” though.

“It is very obvious that these people writing this have an agenda. You couldn’t have chosen the perfect image either – the US standing in front of Turkey’s aggressive military to prevent them from annihilating the Kurds… The evil US Imperialism! Who stands to gain for all the points this article has mentioned? Which groups, which governments.. Then you can see how far toxic these kind of articles are. The no-war signs, the civilians being bombed to stop the US from bombing ISIS.. The thing that gets on my nerves is the actual nerve to use these kind of low tactics to get the US to weaken its position so other powers can take control or do what they want without anybody stopping them. If this is the “left” angle, They are but a tool, being used now to be anti-america to benefit others, as usual.”- person on /r/syriancivilwar/

This person is almost frothing at the mouth in outrage. To cast the US as saviors of the Kurds is silly at best. My article does not, in any shape or form, defend Turkey’s attacks on the Kurds. I stand with all nations under imperialist attack and Turkey is NOT one of those. It is happily working with the global capitalist class while there is some tension. The questions about who will “benefit” from this article is like a person claiming that there are commies under beds, making the comment also a joke. I would not call my article “anti-america” but I would call it pro-Syria, anti-imperialist, and anti-capitalist, at minimum, to name a few descriptors. That should be obvious. Also, obviously the site as an agenda. Its called anti-imperialism.org. Its not called magical swill’s site of extraordinary wonders or something like that.

“Because, unlike the lunatic writing this garbage, sane people recognize that the definition of a revolutionary is not avoiding everything connected to the US military when your shared enemy is Islamic State.”- person on /r/syriancivilwar/

Apart from the ableistic slur (“lunatic”), to think that working with the US military is “revolutionary” shows this person does NOT recognize how revolution works. Also, they clearly have no knowledge of the destruction the murderous empire has foisted on indigenous people, enslaved Black peoples, Mexican peoples, and all those  around the world who have been killed by bombs and missiles sent (or dropped) by the bloody planes and warships of empire. Also, calling it the Islamic state is confusing as it confuses one with an ACTUAL state based on Islam like Iran, so its better to call them Daesh. That’s all I have to say about that.

“Tight cooperation with multiple powers that have differing agendas has been a cornerstone of successful movements in history. Earlier this year, the Manbij Military Council met with US 4-star General Votel one week and signed an agreement with Russia the next week for regime forces to assume positions along its border. Raw and unadulterated ignorance of local reality is the main problem for lunatic fringies like the writer of this article who cites Roy Gutman once, cites Marx a half-dozen times, never quotes anyone who lives in North Syria, and nevertheless pretends that they know how a revolution in that region should and should not appear.”- person on /r/syriancivilwar/

It may be the case that tight cooperation with multiple powers leads to victory, but those powers don’t have to be blood-sucking imperialists! If they wanted to, they could be working with Russia or China. If what they say about the agreement between a US general and Russia is true (which is possible) then that is positive that “regime forces” (the Syrian government) can have positions on the border. I wouldn’t see that as bad. To call myself part of the “lunatic fringies” brings up two questions: what is a “fringie”? and how is writing about something in a radical flair make me a “lunatic.” Wouldn’t those who are apologists of empire more readily fall into this category. I didn’t know defending Syria and carefully explaining what is happening in the region from my point of view was “raw and unadulterated ignorance of local reality.” I also didn’t know that Roy Gutman was such an expert apparently, as they imply. Yes, I did cite “Marx a half-dozen times,” but so what? Sure, I didn’t “quote anyone who lives in North Syria,” but I don’t need to know the broader trends of what is happening in the region. I also do NOT pretend I “know how a revolution in that region should and should not appear” as they claim. Instead, I am just analyzing the reality. If people don’t like what I’m saying about what is happening, that’s just too bad.

Comments like these are deluded but also fun to read through. Thanks, magical critics for making me laugh at your silliness.

Naomi Klein “resists” Trump by embracing bourgeois progressive politics

Sampled from her Twitter on August 4, 2017.

Recently, I read Naomi Klein’s No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need. It is a relatively quick read, only 273 pages long, much shorter than her This Changes Everything book a few years back. Even so, it has thirteen chapters, a conclusion, a postscript, and an introduction.

In the introduction to the book sets the theme: that Trump is applying “shock politics” to the US, trying to pull off a “domestic shock doctrine” against public institutions and “public interest.” She goes on to describe Trump’s reactionary advisers like Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner while claiming there is a “corporate takeover” in DC (there is actually a long trend of corporate control in America, so it’s not something new), with Trump forming a brand in and of himself. She, of course, stops short of calling Trump fascist, only describing him as anti-“democratic” (relying on the idea of bourgeois democracy) and drawing parallels to policies in Greece, after Hurricane Katrina, in Baghdad after 2003, and in Britain, which resemble “Trumpism.” As she states clearly, her book’s argument is that Trump is a culmination of the “worst trends” of the 20th century that have “used race as a weapon to advance brutal economic policies,” pioneered by Milton Friedman, and other “market fundamentalists.” She also seems optimistic, calling for “change so fundamental that today’s corporate takeover will be relegated to a historical footnote,” although the “change” she later explicates is not even close to being “fundamental,” challenging the Trump superbrand, as she puts it.

After a lackluster introduction with broad vagueness, Klein has a chapter that focuses on Trump the brand, noting that Trump won because of the electoral college, not the popular vote, with his victory as a “shock.” She adds that there is a “surge of authoritarian, xenophobic, far-right politics” in France, India, the Philippines, UK, and Turkey, implying that the morally corrupt socially democratic politics in the West is a “solution.” Also her usage of useless words like “authoritarian” which is often used to shame countries deemed as “communist” or “socialist,” regardless of whether they are or not, means that she is legitimizing this word as speech that’s fine, showing her lack of comprehension in this realm, to say the least. She goes on to talk about Trump’s “cabinet of billionaires and multibillionaires” like it something new (it’s not), and acts like Bernie Sanders was a savior who made Wall Street shake, celebrates “concessions” to Black Lives Matter and the “climate movement” by political elites. She further adds that Trump’s election is part of a backlash against social movements, with a supposed “takeover” benefiting capitalists and removing environmental protections, for example. Apart from this claptrap which shows that she does not have understanding for how the capitalist state functions, and had changed over time, is a part about branding. She writes that starting in the 1980s companies like Nike and Apple, among many others, believes their fortunes were in branding with the concept that an idea or brand surrounding a company can connect with consumers, tying to a “profound human desire to be part of…a circle of belonging.” As a result, the product became (and was part of) the brand, meaning that this brand could be projected into “seemingly unconnected physical commodities.” Hence, products were produced at low price by subcontractors and contractors, with horrid work conditions in sweatshops. As a result, capitalist combines everywhere engaged in a brutal “race to the bottom” with complex supply chains involving contractors. As for Trump, after he had been a real estate developer for years he branded “high-end real estate” which could be a “single global luxury brand,” which was boosted by his show, The Apprentice, gaining revenue from “Trump-branded properties” with leasing his name, pulling in the dollars. When anyone noted horrible conditions his products were created in, the Trump Organization shrugged them off, defending a brand that “stands for wealth” itself, making this part of the reason scandals don’t stick to him: he plays by the “rules of branding” as Klein writes.

Based off a Mr. Robot quote by Angela Moss, but also applying to horrid Trump of course.

The second chapter promises to find ways to pierce “Trump’s brand bubble.” After noting how Trump’s presidency made the Trump “family of brands more valuable,” including those of Ivanka and Melania, she notes that cities and companies pay millions to “lease the Trump brand.” It is at this point she says that Bill and Killary spent decades blurring ethical lines” at the Clinton Foundation even as she basically says that Trump is worse. It is not beyond belief to think this about Bill & Killary Clinton, and Trump have destructive and exploitative brands. But Klein will not consider this possibility, shrugging it off by omission. The chapter is ended by her saying that Trump embodies Reagan (a former actor), briefly says that “the system is corrupt,” noting the rules of Democrats such as Bill Clinton and Obama, and then moving onto Trump’s “personal brand,” claiming that making Trump look “like a puppet” “jams” “The Trump Show.” So using the fake, deceptive, and worthless “Russia connection,” first concocted during the campaign by Killary Clinton’s camp, to call Trump “Putin’s Puppet” weakens his brand? This doesn’t even make sense in the slightest. Additionally, she is sidelining the reality: that Obama set the foundation for Trump. With over 2 million deported, continuing mass incarceration, and drone strikes, among other horrid elements of his “legacy,” the fascism of Trump had a comfortable breeding ground when he was inaugurated on January 21, 2017.

The following chapter is similarly about Trump’s branding. It talks about the structure of a show like The Apprentice, how it applies to “income inequality,” connects to his books, and notes that he brought “reality TV expertise to electoral politics,” which means that the “Trump show is now broadcasting live from the Oval Office.” With that, Trump made promises on the campaign trail (like every politician these days) which he won’t fulfill and edits “reality to fit his narrative.” Klein briefly talks about “progressive messaging” by Justin Trudeau in Canada which dazzled people, and “carefully crafted symbols” by the Obama administration to move the conversation away from discussion about the destruction he caused. Once again, she engages in another oversight. As the Wrong Kind of Green folks have notes, Obama is/was a brand, and so is Trudeau. She seems to forget what she wrote in 2009: that a “superfan culture…brought Obama to power” saying that we are “all going to have to stop hoping and start demanding.” Add to this that as even Noam Chomsky pointed out, Obama is a brand, who won the “highest advertising campaign accolade and attracted unprecedented sums of money” as also noted by John Pilger.

“Barack Obama is a brand. And the Obama brand is designed to make us feel good about our government while corporate overlords loot the Treasury, our elected officials continue to have their palms greased by armies of corporate lobbyists, our corporate media diverts us with gossip and trivia and our imperial wars expand in the Middle East. Brand Obama is about being happy consumers. We are entertained. We feel hopeful. We like our president. We believe he is like us. But like all branded products…we are being duped”- Chris Hedges in a May 2009 article

To close out the chapter, she notes that Trump is pushing for more war (which is continuing the warmongering that Obama engages in, expanding upon the foundation left by Bush, Clinton, and predecessors going back years), making it a “spectacle,” just like the Gulf War in 1990 and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. As Deirdre Griswold remarked recently in Worker’s World, “imperialist diplomacy has the same objective as imperialist war. If negotiations are to take place, either openly or secretly, the DPRK will have to weigh every word very carefully before agreeing to anything with the treacherous and arrogant bunch of marauders who run the U.S. government.”  She ends by saying that Trump’s rise to victory in the election last year was fueled by a “decline of communal institutions and the expansion of corporate brands” in US culture as a whole.

“From its origins in the nineteenth century Industrial Revolution, fossil capital has developed into a monstrous complex generating multiple biospheric crises, including climate change. To head off a catastrophic warming of the atmosphere, it will be necessary to de-fossilize the global economy over the next several decades. The growth of fossil fuel use must stop now, followed by absolute reductions of carbon emissions to near zero levels by sometime later in the twenty-first century. Nothing less is acceptable if we want a livable planet for the majority of humanity and other species. Such a transition has been shown to be, physically speaking, quite feasible…Unfortunately, under mature capitalism things are not done according to human needs, environmental sustainability, or common sense. Both economically and politically, this system is dominated by monopoly-finance capital (MFC) and its state functionaries. Two basic facts must be noted here. First, MFC’s ideology and policy program are both constituted by neoliberalism (deregulation, privatization, and anti-union policies—in short, market fundamentalism—combined with militarism and imperialism). Second, MFC is inextricably tied to the fossil-capital complex. It follows from these two facts that at this point in history, de-fossilizing the economy means overthrowing MFC power and moving toward a worker-community controlled economy, socialism.”- Paul Burkett

The fourth chapter changes focus to the climate. After giving a personal story about her child and the Great Barrier Reef, along with her work for The Guardian, she notes how Rex Tillerson led ExxonMobil through increased drilling as CEO. She, however, also notes that one crisis is not more important than the other but that climate change is a current emergency, with Killary having a “web of corporate entanglements” that needs to be questioned while Trump seems to deny climate change as he supports more fossil fuel extraction. In framing Trump, she makes Trump out as the destructor rather than recognizing he is not doing this from scratch but on a basis formed by Obama’s faux environmentalism with a “Clean Power Plan” and supposedly “stopping” Keystone XL and a pipeline going through Standing Rock, when he was actually just appeasing social movements, engaging in “good-natured” deception. This was able have so much influence that if Obama approved the Keystone XL pipeline, the “letdown from the high expectation levels built on the many protests would be devastating to the morale and energy of the movement.” Additionally, he was able to strongarm Gang Green to be silent on climate change, the same groups that framed his issuing of “production permits were issued to oil and gas corporations for drilling in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, both onshore and offshore” as responsible, especially the Sierra Club, and NRDC, meaning that they were cheering “Obama…eagerly bringing the total destruction of our planet’s climate and ecosystems.” Avoiding this discussion, Klein notes that many across the world are demanding “real action on climate change” (whatever that means), that Trump is pushing through varied cuts to the EPA which she says serves people of color (she seems to forget the arguments by Robert Ballard and others that the EPA has engaged in environmental racism), that prices determine which areas are drilled for fossil fuels, and that people don’t understand what neoliberalism [1] is. She then gives a tepid endorsement of “socialism” (which doesn’t mean anything radical to her), and calls for public sector investments on a large scale, which she says is more than just “tweak[ing] the existing system.” She says this despite the fact that her approaches are clearly just another “tweak” of the capitalist system.

Her next chapter notes how she is a “Berniecrat,” saying that Bernie was “the only candidate…serious about battling income inequality and taking on the banks.” [2] She also says that many establishment Democrats haven’t learned their lesson (only worried about Russian hacking now), that Trump spoke to the “economic panic” some whites faced with the idea that the election was a backlash pushed by some sexism toward Killary, with sexual abuse by “the men who surround Trump.” She says that the many voted for Trump were not among the Black and Latino populations most effected by “neoliberal policies” but were white men are losing their economic security and privilege. This doesn’t explain, however, why white women voted more for Trump than Clinton, but it cold be explains due to male dominated households, and/or that they also felt their privilege as white people was slipping. Klein continues her chapter by purposely framing social services as “entitlements” (why concede this to the right-wing?) in order to argue in favor of them, saying that “the stupid economics of neoliberalism” lost Clinton the election, again ignoring Clinton’s brand by only pointing out “Clinton’s brand of identity politics,” and talking about the “tweak[ing of] the system” to lead people of color, other genders, and sexual orientations to “the top,” with justice “to trickle down to everyone else,” which doesn’t work. G. William Domhoff noted this some time ago, but she seems to not even note his work, yet another oversight on her part. Even so, she remarks that it was “important that a generation of kids grew up seeing Obama in the most powerful office of the world.” I do not understand why, realistically this is important, with Black entertainers and politicians already, as his Black face seems just be an invitation to internalize neoliberal values with a happy face. [3] She also adds that we have to recognize how “forms of oppression intersect” (the idea of intersectionality that no progressives actually follow) as manifested in “racial capitalism” as noted by Cedric Robinson, citing another bourgeois progressive scholar named Michelle Alexander, a prison reformer, and talking about Reagan’s role in stirring up White resentment against people of color, with Trump having a role of this by calling for the return of the death penalty to execute the Central Park Five. The chapter ends by saying that white supremacy and fascism has a good breeding ground because of economic stresses, that Trump’s election should not be watered down to one or two causes since Trump (and associated forces) attack on many fronts.

The chapter after that focuses on varying topics. The first aspect is union leaders who embraced Trump who planned for more energy extraction and his bluff he will negotiate “better” deals, which will actually be “better” for him and “his corporate empire,” the capitalist class, with a “race to the bottom” for such trade deals. Even, reportedly, in a renegotiation of NAFTA will be the incorporation of horrible elements of the TPP. She did note that some union members stood up to Trump in an area he spoke, and that much of the “political battleground has been ceded by liberals to the Right.” After giving her personal experience as involved in social movements, she noted that while the movement was standing to win, the September 2001 attacks led to “shock” with the movement’s participants under attack, with those who remained active engaging in “thin and tactical” demands rather than more expansive ones. Adding to this are the facts that these demands may remove the necessary focus on the right-wing, fueling the “growth of far-right parties around the world,” with a supposed “progressive anti-free trade coalition” which is, as she won’t admit, bourgeois in character and “populist,” including those like socially democratic imperialist Bernie Sanders. In the last part of the chapter, she notes how the “super rich” like Oprah, Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk, can’t save us (despite what Ralph Nader argued), with “elite liberals” looking to a sector of the capitalist class, which she calls the “billionaire class” or the “Davos class.” It is this class which is “horrified by the Trump presidency” even though those in this group share many ideas with Trump as she places hope in “progressives” to speak about the “grotesque levels of inequality,” and that we have to “save ourselves.”

In a recent statement against torture, Sanders accepted imperial precepts, basically saying that the US is “great” and worrying about helping our “enemies.” Hence, his argument against torture is not progressive but is actually an imperialist one.

In the next chapter she again professes her support (or “love”?) of Bernie Sanders. While she says she doesn’t like candidate endorsements, she thought that Bernie “had a shot at beating Hillary Clinton” (no he didn’t), calling him a person with “genuine warmth and without personal malice,” what she claims is a “transformative option on the ballot,” although Bernie is farm from it. To be frank, she is being a cheerleader of Bernie, supporting HIS brand, now channeled through “Our Revolution” groups and his persona as inflated in bourgeois progressive media. Of course she doesn’t say she is supporting the brand, only praising him by saying that he showed that “populist” leftist positions were popular, “understanding” why people of color, women, and other marginalized people didn’t support him, citing Ta-Nehisi Coates and Michelle Alexander as “evidence.” She ends the chapter by saying that Trump won because of the “absence of a progressive alternative” (was Bernie this at all?) and that there needs to be a “radical political and economic change” whatever she means by that. It is interesting that Klein keeps changing the stated reasons why Trump won, as noted in previous paragraphs, making one wonder if she believes all of them are causes or only some of them.

Chapter 8 returns the focus to Trump. After talking about Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath of the Iraq invasion (Paul Bremmer, Dick Cheney, the Green Zone, and all), she notes that “shock tactics” follow a pattern in which a crisis is fomented (or waited or) with a moment when “extraordinary measures” are declared, some “democratic norms” are suspended, and a “corporate wishlist” is rammed through very quickly. She notes that this happened in Chile, Russia, Detroit, Flint, and many other places since the early 1970s. She notes that most neoliberal policies are unpopular apart from cutting “red tape” in theory and tax cuts (for the “middle class” or lower), which is done fast, with cover for “neoliberal political transformations” because of “radical political transitions” (which really aren’t radical), with crises exploited. Trump, as Klein puts it, embraces “shock doctrine logic” (referring to her 2007 book, The Shock Doctrine), with his philosophy of being a winner, extracting from those who suffer like a vampire. The idea of what she calls “disaster capitalism” is embodied in his cabinet in every possibly way, with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as a blueprint, the idea of what “we” can expect from Trump apparently. It is in this context she calls Muammar Gaddafi a “despised dictator,” without elaborating. While criticism of Gaddafi is warranted, especially when it comes to his relations with the West, calling him a dictator shows she doesn’t understand international solidarity and has internalized imperialistic logic. As Commie Dad writes,

“Qaddafi was ousted after a set of imperialist-backed rebels launched a racist campaign to topple a revolutionary government in North Africa, which succeeded precisely because of NATO’s assistance. He died beaten, broken, sodomized, tortured, and executed in a muddy sewage pipe without trial…The DPRK did not suffer the same fate as Libya precisely because it did not disarm [which some say opened up to invasion]”

Her next chapter follows a similar format. It starts by focusing on those who profited off Hurricane Katrina, cites Omidyar’s plaything, The Intercept, uncritically, says that having a “state of emergency” after a disaster, like Trump would want, is not unprecedented: the Conservative government of the UK did this after attacks in March 2017 and the French government of social democratic Francois Hollande did this in 2015. She goes on to note Trump’s closeness to Eric Prince of Blackwater and its mercenaries, how Trump’s policies help ISIS (is that purposeful?), and that countries like Syria and the DPRK are targets. Again she doesn’t even try to reject imperialistic propaganda about the two countries, implying that Syria committed chemical attacks (inadvertently playing into propaganda of the White Helmets) and that the DPRK, which she calls “North Korea,” is somehow menacing. She shows this in the rest of the chapter, talking about Exxon, citing a person she even defines as a “right-wing, Ukrainian-born British [oil] businessman,” Alexander Temerko uncritically, calling Vladimir Putin a “strongman” and basically an imperialist. She also doesn’t even try to defend Venezuela, which she only briefly describes as an oil-dependent country. It is much more than that, it is a place that exercises popular democracy, a beacon for those who want a better world as Commie Dad argued, just like Cuban socialism. Even so, Klein does not that antiwar action should be paired with “averting climate chaos,” notes how removing Obama’s tepid economic reforms, specifically Dodd-Frank, will lead to disaster, with varied descriptions of “shocks” and Trump’s reactions, with people in luxury building shelters to protect themselves or “Green Zones” while the rest of the world are unprotected and vulnerable or “Red Zones.” In the last part of the chapter she treats the “Syrian uprising” in 2011 as legitimate (although it wasn’t), talks about where drone strikes have occurred, along with a “dramatic rise in right-wing nationalism anti-Black racism, Islamophobia, and straight-up white supremacy,” adding that we have it “in our power to change ourselves,” engage in “shock resistance.”

Her next chapter focuses on the failure of the “shock doctrine” as she calls it. She talks about the Trump administration strategy to “overwhelm their adversaries” with a multipronged attack, how Argentina said no to neoliberalism even though political changes were “far from utopian,” how Spain did the same during the Iraq war, and the fact that “past traumatic events” in US history were broadly misunderstood. From here, she focuses on resistance to Trump from groups across various movements and lauds the Women’s March not critiquing its neoliberal elements as Feminist Current did at the time, especially its pro-prostitution position, with a lot of hype. She further says there is a “spirit of unity” among anti-Trump forces, specifically against his Muslim ban (and in favor of “sanctuary cities” which are not all they claim to be), supporting science (and new activists among students of all types), donors to Planned Parenthood, and other protests across the world against neoliberalism. She floats the thought that many activist relationships made now will be strong enough during a state of emergency (we’ll see about that). It is clear that she seems to laud the “Indivisible Guide” despite the fact it is defensive in nature and basically copies Tea Party tactics, and praises the March for Science despite the fact it was mostly dominated by bourgeois science. Again, her argument clearly lacking in Marxist theory and analysis, showing she is not thinking critically in a holistic manner and is totally embracing bourgeois progressivism.

The chapter following this focuses on resistance to “shock” tactics and how Obama supposedly did good (really?) but abandoned many opportunities as a time for change. She admits that in 2009, “too many of us were waiting for change to be delivered on high” with the “us” undoubtedly including herself. In 2008 she called for Obama to denounce Islamophobia, but also took Obama at his word that he would “purge Washington of the scourge of Friedmanism,” although she said he had “ideological housecleaning of his own to do,” and seemed to support Obama’s idea of a “promise of change” warily. She quickly summarizes US history of destruction, exploitation, and genocide, lauding progressive “public policy,” not remembering that Social Security was crafted by corporate moderates. She seems to recognize that radicals and social movements in the past and that the New Deal was used by Roosevelt to “save capitalism” in order to “prevent full-scale revolution,” with the saving of capitalism almost seeming as a necessity to her. Revolution of the type they had in mind seems foreign to her, even as she recognizes that many programs were used to blunt popular movements. The chapter is ended by talking about the struggle against neoliberalism and how social movements should be about “yes” instead of just “no” (why so reductionist?).

Another screenshot from the Soviet animated film “Mr. Wolf.”

Her next to last chapter focuses on Standing Rock. While she completely describes the struggle against the Dakota Access pipeline, a perspective that fully understands indigenous history, connecting with genocidal policies against them is lacking, only briefly mentioned. The chapter is instead just a recounting of the resistance at Standing Rock, relating it to other struggles as she uses racist words like “tribe” instead of group or nation. She ends the chapter by almost casting Obama’s administration as heroes for rejecting the pipeline through Standing Rock, although his administration just declared that “things are on hold at Lake Oahe until the powers that be think it through some more” giving people the “illusion of victory” as Kelly Hayes argued. In contrast she casts Trump as a villain for allowing the pipeline to go through Standing Rock. This is inaccurate as the reality is that Trump AND Obama were villains, each in their own way.

Her last chapter declares that a major “transformative change” needs to happen (which is just empty rhetoric). She cites a story of political discussions in Canada, how Black and Brown people being killed is connected to climate change, how those who “use and abuse” women’s bodies” is connected with the notion that humans can “do the same thing to the earth,” what she calls a “dominance-based logic.” She could have taken this to the next step, calling for an end to speciesism, endorsement of some level of animal rights or such, but she didn’t do so, of course. Klein adds that there needs to be more than modesty, a “people’s shock,” with a “grand economic and political transition” with the description of what went into creating their magical Leap Manifesto. This is the same document that is part of the “marketed and branded opposition to capitalism” with opposition limited to certain forms of capitalism like “Crony capitalism” , “corporate capitalism” and “the excesses of capitalism” which were used by “Avi Lewis for Klein’s NGO campaign, “The Leap Manifesto”” with anti-capitalist expression become “hallowed” out, to say the least. She also says that an “economy built on destruction” should be replaced “with an economy built on love.” So, we should have “loving” capitalism then? How will that be any better? After going on about how the manifesto was made, specifics not worth noting here, she says that people can “save themselves” and remains optimistic about social movements, mainly to county Trump and his policies. She even notes that the “center-left” New Democratic Party in Canada passed a resolution to “endorse the spirit of the Leap Manifesto,” making it clear it is bourgeois and milquetoast, regardless of what Klein says about it.

Screenshot from the Soviet animated film “Mr. Wolf”

Finally there is her conclusion. She says that Trump should be a shock at all, with more horror at Trump than shock, seeing his presidency as a “dystopian fiction come to life,” implying that she still doesn’t fully grasp the reality, and saying that Trump is the “logical culmination of the current neoliberal system.” Her solution? Say no and fiercely protect “some space to dream and plan for a better world.” That sounds pretty worthless to me, especially the dreaming part. She also says we should kill out “inner Trump” with which we see “ourselves as brands in the marketplace…as rival products competing for market share,” joining those who “shame and attack those who disagreement with us. She ends by saying that centrist parties aren’t the solution but apparently bourgeois progressives are (they aren’t), that the “spell of neoliberalism has been broken,” pushing for a “plank in a true people’s platform,” and resisting what she claims is a “corporate coup.”

Ending her book is a postscript titled “The Leap Manifesto.” The document calls for respecting inherent rights of indigenous communities, “fully implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” the idea that there should be “energy democracy,” and that indigenous peoples should receive “public support for clean energy projects” as should communities dealing with health impacts from “polluting industrial activity.” This manifesto also calls for building of energy-efficient homes, retrofitting existing housing (starting with the poor), training for workers in carbon-intensive jobs for a “clean energy economy,” renewable-powered high-speed rail, “affordable public transit,” investing in decaying public infrastructure, and moving to a “more localized and ecologically based agricultural system.” Other demands include ending corporate-friendly trade deals, ensuring immigration status, and protection for workers, expanding low-carbon sectors of the economy, having a national childcare program, and universal basic income. The last parts of the manifesto reject austerity as a concept, push for end to fossil fuel subsidies, vow support for any policy based on the “polluter pays” principle, calling for town hall meetings across the country, and moving to a system where all votes county while “corporate money is removed from political campaigns.” While this may be more than those on Canada’s political scene are offering (I hope there is something more radical), it is very constrained. It could be said to be “bold” but it is definitely NOT revolutionary as it is abstracted from social movements, revolutionary struggle or international solidarity.

There are a few words I have to say before closing out this article, Klein makes a good point about Trump as a brand but misses many other points because of her bourgeois progressivism. The major point she misses is obvious: she IS a brand. She is among the “heat vampire” including celebrated bourgeois progressives, like Rebecca Solnit and Chris Hayes, that Tarzie wrote about. As Luke Orsbourne wrote in December 2015, she had an “enormous following…best selling books, and perhaps most glaringly, the megaphone and media attention the Guardian had just given her to write her own piece of acquiescence,” condemning climate change marchers outside COP 21 that year, just like 350.org and others. Others added that her book slogan, for This Changes Everything, was “used to advance capital” which was pushed by the Ford Foundation and The Rockefeller Brothers Fund and that she is part of a brand called 350.org/1Sky, which used the Obama brand in their anti-KXL campaign logo, allowing there to be a “pro-Obama, pro-Democrat veneer” to their logo, with their campaign reinforcing the illusion that “change” is still in front of us, reinforcing the thirst in society for “lies that enable the populace to continue to ignore reality…[and] disregard our collective role in it.”

The book itself, with the title “No Is Not Enough” on an orange background, with the letters in white except the word Not (in red) with praises from Arundhai Roy, Noam Chomsky, Junot Diaz, Michelle Alexander, Cornel West, Bill McKibben, Yanis Varovfakis, Michael Stripe, Keeanga Yamatitta Taylor, Danny Glover, and Eve Ensler. Could there not be a bigger panoply of (mostly) bourgeois progressives, some of whom have their own brands consisting of themselves? [4] Hence, Klein herself is a brand “in the marketplace” as was alluded to earlier in this article, and is part of a bigger brand: Haymarket Books. Sure, they sell book of “radical” and progressive authors, but they engaging in branding, just like Verso Books. As was noted in a recent article,

“Today, brands, ideologies, and even invasions of sovereign states, achieve authenticity through association. Thus, celebrity has become as vital a tool for empire as the NGO itself. Together they are akin to nuclear fusion…Today’s 21st century powerhouse NGOs have proven successfully that hate can be neutralized, and even be turned into adoration, as demonstrated by Avaaz co-founder, MoveOn.org. In a world of make-believe where lies are preferred over truth, charismatic warmongers of the past (Barack Obama) are embraced while vulgar warmongers in the present (Donald Trump) are crucified among the allegedly “unbiased left”. Branding supersedes reality straight across the board”

Furthermore, the organization she is part of, 350.org, is branding to the max, which is interesting considering it is not mentioned AT ALL in this book, apart from the dust jacket. The book itself is a product, a commodity to put in more evident terms. How can Klein not recognize she is a brand? The same goes for Matt Taibbi, Edward Snowden, Michelle Alexander, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill, and Chris Hedges, to name a few. These members of the “celebrity left,” as some have called it, are not the only brands. Bourgeois progressive media like Truthdig, Democracy Now!, Mother Jones, and the Nation, foundations like the Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and non-profits like Public Citizen are all brands. This lack of understanding shows that while Klein is knowledgeable, she is lacking radicalism, and is, for all her rhetoric, fine with regulated capitalism, while she does not engage in international solidarity. Hence, she falls into the category of those who “brand ourselves as moral citizens standing in unity with Indigenous nations” while maintaining capitalism, the same people who are willfully blind “to the Bakken frack oil,” and are not aware of how “Obama’s move into WWF headquarters…could be an acceleration of the implementation of payments for ecosystems services…by the world’s most powerful institutions and states.” This is a book she in which she only mentions Marx in passing and never uses any of his idea or that of Marxists to form her understanding of ANYTHING. In the end, we can read Klein’s claptrap if we want to (I don’t recommend it) but we should always remember she is a brand, a commodity, and a “heat vampire.”

 

Notes

[1] She defines neoliberalism as an “extreme form of capitalism…shorthand for an economic project that vilifies the public sphere and anything that’s not…the workings of the market or the decisions of individual consumers…the primary tools of this project are…privatization…deregulation…cuts to public services…[and] corporate-friendly trade deals.”

[2] She claims that “if the Right specializes in turning backward, the Left specializes in turning inward and firing at each other in a circular hail of blame.” So there aren’t internal conflicts on the Right? This is a very pessimistic view to say the least, even if she is right ultimately.

[3] As Ajamu Baraka wrote in 2015, “…the lack of moral outrage and opposition to the reactionary policies of Barack Obama is changing and will change even more rapidly as the new generation of black activists shift the center of oppositional politics back to the radical black tradition.”

[4] The Michelle Alexander Brand, the Bill McKibben Brand, the Eve Ensler Brand, and the Noam Chomsky Brand for example.

The hideous nature of Matt Taibbi: bourgeois trash of the highest order

A photograph of Matt Taibbi. And yes, he did say that as I note later in this article.

I could have written about many topics today such as US special ops troops in the Philippines, the victory of social democrat Jeremy Corbyn in Britain (which some have discussed at length), or the kerfuffle between Qatar and other Gulf autocracies, among a litany of other topics. Instead, I write here today a criticism of Matthew “Matt” C. Taibbi, a bourgeois writer who claims to care about “income inequality” or the effects of capitalism, while ignoring the system itself.

Tarzie’s criticism

Tarzie has written about Taibbi before, who some call a “fake leftist.” While back in 2011 Taibbi was quoted in a supportive manner, when it came to criticizing neoliberal columnist Thomas Friedman, three years later, in 2014, that had changed. He described Taibbi as a Rolling Stone reporter who was “the latest trophy taken in Pierre Omidyar’s conquest of the fashionably leftish” and admitted that Taibbi’s work on Wall Street teaches him “things I don’t already know, in a style that frequently makes me laugh out loud” while the same is not the case for Glenn Greenwald (of course). He added that Taibbi has “crossed picket lines during a Writer’s Guild strike in 2008” to appear on late night TV, thinks Roe v. Wade should be overturned, feels that there shouldn’t be a  “Federal ban on anti-LGBQT discrimination” and considers himself a libertarian. Furthermore, Tarzie quotes from Walter Glass, and notes that Taibbi glosses over the effect of the corporate sector on places like Camden, New Jersey, and says that Taibbi is a “rich dude telling tales on the worst-behaved members of his class, while pleading the case for their reformability” and is a perfect “fit for an oligarch, just as he is.” Later that year, Tarzie criticized Taibbi again, saying he would hold a “no-holds-barred discussion” for Greenwald’s book tour.

There are only two other articles, to my knowledge, in which Tarzie criticizes Taibbi. One of them says that Taibbi left First Look by writing a piece earlier that year that “looks unmistakably like a warning and a cry for help” and that “we” missed the signs of this. The final one is written the following year, in February 2015, notes how former First Look writer, Ken Silverstein complained about the latter’s handling of “Racket” which was planned to a “satirical newsmagazine” headed by Taibbi which folded shortly after he left, wasting millions of dollars, which he called “the greatest squandering of money and example of criminal ineptitude in the history of modern journalism.” He goes on to quote Silverstein as saying that Taibbi “is definitely more likable than Glenn” who he says has a troubling role in First Look.

It is there that his criticism of Taibbi ends. From this point, this article will expand and augment what Tarzie had to say with principled criticism.

Taibbi shills for empire

Three days ago, Joe Emersberger wrote an article for Telesur English slamming Taibbi for taking the side of U.S. imperialists by calling duly-elected (but embattled due to internal and external pressures caused by the murderous empire) President of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, a “dictator.” The article, reprinted on a pro-Chavista and respected news outlet, Venezuela Analysis. Emersberger notes how Taibbi attacked the Venezuelan government as a “dictatorship” by citing US-funded opposition figures like Julio Borges, president of the National Assembly, and Henrique Capriles, the opposition governor of the state of Miranda, who had run against Maduro in the election. Clearly, Taibbi forgets that these individuals are working for the empire, even as he alludes that Borges “has been using his position as head to the National Assembly to try to get economic sanctions implemented against Maduro’s government.” That’s not all.

Emersberger goes on to criticize Taibbi even more harshly. He notes how bourgeois media “has almost unanimously reported from the U.S.-backed opposition’s point of view” evidenced when a “prominent U.S. progressive like Taibbi chimes in from that perspective” (I think he is over-inflating Taibbi’s importance here). Then, he goes into an example about what he would think about direct Russian interference in the US political process. He adds that the government of Venezuela “has been very tolerant of U.S.-backed subversion” and that “protests dominated the coverage and that denunciations of the government…were given ample attention.” Hence, he notes that even Reuters admits that private broadcasters give “equal weight to opposition and government leaders and supporters in broadcasts.” He argues that this does “happen in a dictatorship” even though “serious criticisms can be made about Venezuela’s democracy” which I think it too much of a concession to bourgeois media. He ends by saying that “Taibbi should know better than to trust the establishment media within this imperial club to define who should be labelled a dictator.”

Taibbi’s article is even worse (do not read this unless you really want to) than Emersberger makes it out to be. It is titled “Two Vile Names, One Sweetheart Deal: Goldman Bails Out Maduro” with the subtitle “The Vampire Squid rescues an infamous autocrat.” For a magazine like Rolling Stone which has basically lost most if not all of its credibility from the fake rape story to other problematic stories, it is not a surprise that he wrote this op-ed. His short piece makes it seem that Goldman Sachs AND Venezuela’s government are “amoral and corrupt institutions.” This is utterly false. While he makes a valid point that Goldman Sachs is the “symbol of international predatory capitalism,” he seems to miss the point that Venezuela is bad straits because of the murderous empire. He does call Maduro an “infamous left-wing dictator” but he also calls the government of Venezuela “authoritarian,” citing sources such as the New York Times, Forbes (which Taibbi admitted years earlier was “very bank-friendly“), The Telegraph, New York Post, Miami Herald, Times of London, and so on.

That’s not all. He seems to mock the idea that Venezuela’s problems are part of a US “economic war” and calls the government of that country “Maduro’s regime,” even though he is only one figure in the government. He then goes on to mock Goldman Sachs as well,and almost “legitimize” the protests against Venezuela’s government by saying “More than 50 people have died in protests over the past two months, with many more injured and arrested.” He also claims that Maduro’s action represents the “ultimate in cynicism, and one likely to have dire consequences for a country already on the brink.” He then snarls at this attempt by the Venezuelan government to save itself…

It’s a good thing Karl Marx is dead, because otherwise this metaphysical mind-loop of a news story would make his head explode. Is this a corruption of capitalism, a corruption of socialism, both, or neither? Maduro himself would probably say this transaction is a perfect example of the “savage capitalism” he says he despises.

Again, this should be no surprise coming from a man such as Taibbi who cannot seem to think beyond capitalism in any way, shape, or form. Saying he is glad Marx is dead is anti-communist in the fullest extent, there is no doubt. As a result, he probably has NOT read the Communist Manifesto and hence does not know this part of the manifesto:

…the Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things. In each of these moves they bring to the front, as the leading question in each case, the property question, no matter what its degree of development at the time…they labor everywhere for the union and agreement of democratic parties of all countries.

In my interpretation, countries such as Syria, Venezuela, Bolivia, the DPRK, Zimbabwe, and Cuba would fall into a “revolutionary movement” which can be expanded to cover revolutionary governments. Hence, it would be a duty of comrades to engage in international solidarity with these states and any others that stand “against the existing social and political order of things” which does NOT include the snivelly “good” Kurds.

Of course, as Marx and Engels said in the Communist Manifesto, the bourgeoisie, represented by Goldman Sachs in this case, as the need of gaining an expanding market for its products and hence must “nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere.” Hence, countries like Venezuela, that resist US and Western imperialism, are not unaffected by global capitalism, so they end up making agreements like this one with Goldman Sachs for their survival. While some may cringe, rightly so, as the saying goes, desperate times call for desperate measures.

The Taibbi who you (should) love to hate

A skimming of his Rolling Stone contributor’s profile shows him as “pro-Democrat,” favoring the milquetoast “resistance” of Trump in more ways than one, especially by embracing the whole “Russiagate” cloud of nothingness which is a distraction from the other horrible events instigated by the Orange Menace. Furthermore, he seems to think Vladimir Putin is a horrible, nasty person, again, embracing the Russia hysteria, along with giving social democratic imperialist Bernie Sanders accepting him as “genuine.”

But there is more to Taibbi than that. Tarzie referenced this interview of Taibbi by the libertarian Reason back in 2007. Within this, Taibbi shows that he is a horrid libertarian and supportive of the capitalist system, along with not understanding socialism:

…I think Roe v. Wade should be overturned because I believe in the federalist model; I believe that states should be able to make their own drug laws. The more democracy you have, the more people can make decisions for their own communities, the more freedom people have…There’s more on-the-ground energy for Ron Paul than there is for the rest of the candidates combined…It’s [the war machine] not capitalism at all. It’s more like an authoritarian socialism. It’s forcibly extracting money from the customers and distributing the profits to companies that aren’t selected by market choice but government fiat. Critics call it the free market, but it’s not that at all…America is about getting the government off your back, a reprieve from having your life interfered with, and we keep forgetting that.

With this, not only he endorsing the capitalist ideology but he is also embracing the idea of American exceptionalism as some call it. Basically he is not OK with progressive efforts to stand against fast food industries or even moves that increase government control in a way to help people’s lives. Of course such governments are usually not socialist and these measures are reformist, but they are not inherently “evil” or “bad.”

There are further viewpoints of Taibbi which are repugnant. For one, he admires Andrew Breitbart to an extent, apart from accepting the story of Trump-Russia collusion he thinks that the Attorney General would be “better” if there is a “career investigator, career law enforcement official in that job” which denies the fact that such individuals are just part of the capitalist system, moving it forward. This so-called “award-winning journalist” buys into the Sanders deception, describing him as a politician who is “completely honest….really interested in…standing up for regular working people” even though he has not done this just like other bourgeois progressives, praising the DOJ as having “political” and “talented and aggressive lawyers”and called Molly Crabapple Klein Crapple a “great artist” even though she doxxed someone [1] for supporting Russian intervention in Syria (which was done with the approval of the Syrian government unlike US-led coalition efforts). Crapple also supported white nationalist Weev/Andrew Auernheimer as OLAASM has pointed out on varied occasions (see here and here). Hence, this endorsement by Taibbi is disgusting to say the least.

This is only scratching the surface of his beliefs. He also grumbles about the “government interfering in a market process” (why is this bad?). Even more than that, he whitewashes slavery as the driving force of US capitalism:

You know, America used to be—especially the American economy was built upon this brick-and-mortar industrial economy, where we had factories, we built stuff, and we sold it here in America, and we exported it all over the world. That manufacturing economy was the foundation for our wealth and power for a couple of centuries…whereas the old manufacturing economy had the sort of negative effect of spreading around to the entire population

As Edward Baptist writes in The Half Has Not Been Told (scholarship which was started by Eric Williams in his book Capitalism and Slavery), slavery was tied to every aspect of the US economy, with almost a million enslaved laborers moved from the “Upper South” (like Maryland) to “Deep South” (Georgia and Louisiana) in coffles. Furthermore, the industrial workers in the North were making products out of cotton, the same cotton that enslaved laborers had worked all day to pick from fields under the whip of the White slavemaster who whipped them if they disobeyed. Hence, Taibbi is acting like slavery was not part of this, or even mentioning indigenous genocide as a further foundation for settler colonialism in the United States as the “enlightened” empire grew with its tentacles reaching across the continent.

There are other aspects of Taibbi that make one cringe. He seems to accept the “goodness” of corporations in and of themselves, endorses some austerity (“if someone has to tighten a belt or two, let’s start there”), and strangely called Mitt Romney “a revolutionary, a backward-world version of Che or Trotsky,” bemoaning the “roots of the radical economic changes” despite the fact that he is using the word radical incorrectly while portraying Romney in a weird way. He is also a person who has said that “private equity firms aren’t necessarily evil by definition” and seems to have a soft spot for “businesses that were America’s original industrial cornerstones” whatever that refers to.  Apart from endorsing the Occupy movement despite its bourgeois nature (as we all know by now), he calls the high-ranking people at Bank of America “not bankers or capitalists, but a class of person that was never supposed to exist in America: royalty.” Again, his lack of class analysis and any semblance of radicalism means that he makes bizarre and worthless statements like that which are of no use to anyone. The same goes for his declaration that “we’ve just got to get the right people in the right jobs” if that will really change anything at all.

Taibbi and the past

To close out this article I’d like to look at a few articles looking at Taibbi’s past. The first is a 2010 Vanity Fair article titled “Lost Exile” focusing on the death of a Russian newspaper of the same name co-edited by Taibbi and Mark Ames (who now works for PandoDaily). The article notes that both of them would “prove the hardest-partying Moscow media celebrities of their time” and end up embodying post-Soviet Russia’s “hedonism.” It also claims that Taibbi was a “born journalist” but a person who speculated about a possible “connection” between “apartment-building bombings and Putin’s ratcheting up of the Chechen War” which is used by anti-Putin individuals to this day. The article goes onto say that Taibbi has earned a “reputation as the premier bullshit detector and absurdist on the campaign trail” among many, with some saying like Hunter Thompson he also hated politicians. Later, in response to the writer of the story asking Taibbi questions, he grew increasing agitated after they called his book crap, throwing his coffee over their face, which is actually a bit hilarious.

Farther back are a set of articles in 2005. One claims he has a “fairly sophisticated knowledge of the inner workings of Congress” while others criticize his article for the New York Press titled “The 52 Funniest Things About the Upcoming Death of the Pope” panned by organizations and politicians as “hate speech,” “ugly,” and “disgusting.” Maybe this isn’t a surprise for a person who is an “expatriate-journalist-turned-New-York-writer” who “identified with Russia and its writers Nikolai Gogol, M. Saltikov and Leo Tolstoy” growing up, while “Taibbis popularity” rose that year.

Taking all of this into account, Taibbi no doubt has a developed ego which supports his self-promotion on places like Democracy Now! and other places. In those secluded areas, no one dare questions him. He is part of, as some have put it, the “Celebrity Left” or the professional left, individuals who are in a sense “above” others, in terms of criticism and status. Some, like Charles Davis (“Chuckles”) only aspire to this level, while others like Ta-Nahesi Coates and Snowden are already at this level.

Concluding thoughts

There really isn’t much else I’ll say about Taibbi at this time. Some may say that an article like this is unnecessary. I disagree. I think it is important to criticize public personalities like this. Too often, these people are barely criticized and given a free pass. That is not OK under any circumstances. Everyone, including this writer should and can be criticized, but fairly and justly. Self-criticism is important for radical and revolutionary politics as the Black Panthers realized, as did Mao and students of Maoist thought. Perhaps I’ll write another criticism of Glenn Greenwald next (or even “The Intercept”), or about some international issue. But for now, I think this article will stand. As always, I look forward to your comments.

Notes

[1] The person who this seems to refer to is a woman named Taryn Fivek, a deserving comrade. Tarzie seems to have a beef with her. He first accused her of “smearing for Soros” calling her a “Twitter nuisance, shameless liar and justifiably failed citizen journo” (along with “outright troll”) and wanting to shut down debate on this topic of Soros’s influence on “the Left” in his view. He seems to have forgotten these later tweets (standing by his flawed analysis in another post), showing that Tarzie is having problems of his own with analysis without much of a basis:

Later, on Tarzie’s blog, one user describes Fivek is a “self professed red who I’ve not really known but from time to time posted at the same places…she wrote a book under a pseudonym (Emma Quangel) which was essentially a direct attack on Molly Crabapple. Crabapple responded by doxxing Fivek” and that in the fallout of this, someone said that she should “monetize it, leading to whatever this nebulous cesspits” and told Tarzie, “knock this stupid transparent bullshit off because we really don’t need this right now. You can, you know, actually work a job instead of hustling mentally ill people on the internet. And if you actually can’t see through the bullshit start reading everything here to start.” Tarzie responded by saying that “Fivek doesn’t need Hopkins because she knows better” and what she is doing looks “like a paid performance.” Hence, he is still stuck in the mud of Fivek. For a person who defended Fivek and then turns on her for saying the “wrong” things about Soros is cruel and pathetic. This is where Tarzie is wrong. He may have good analysis in other realms, but on Fivek he is completely and utterly wrong. Hence, I’d rather stand with Fivek than with Tarzie, with some saying she supports white nationalism (or something) although I have seen no evidence to support that claim whatsoever.

“Until imperialism is defeated in the region”: The Kurds and the Syrian Arab Republic

Overlay of oil/gas pipelines with Rojava territory. I created this for one of the articles on Rojava I wrote, posting it on Imgur. I am sharing here since I feel it is relevant to this topic. As I said in my article, this map overlay “shows that oil and natural gas pipelines snake through it [Rojava], including one north from Aleppo, and others going through the heart of the territory in Northeast Syria where there is also a concentration of oil and gas fields.”
Recently, I read an article in Worker’s World by an author called Damien or “D. Angelpoulos,” a man who may be a student at a Michigan University. For reasons not yet known, it was deleted (also see here). Regardless, I feel it is only a fair to address his article after writing a two-part series on Dissident Voice about Rojava. The first part, titled “”A Liberated Area in the Middle East”?: Western Imperialism in Rojava” focused on the broad contours of the supposed “state” while the second one, titled the “The Illegal Entity of Rojava and Imperial “Divide and Rule” Tactics” focused on how this entity is illegal and had illegitimate sovereignty under existing law. Each of those pieces will be quoted and summarized below.

Responding to Mr. Angelpoulos’s article

Mr. Angelpoulos has a very different, while informed, perspective than yours truly. He writes that..

For the past six years, the United States, Israel, NATO and the Gulf Cooperation Council have waged an unrelenting proxy war against the sovereign, secular state of Syria. The U.S.-funded Free Syrian Army, called “moderate rebels” in the corporate-owned media, fights openly alongside forces backed by U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and Turkey. These forces, really mercenaries or contras, which include the Islamic State, Jabhat Al-Nusra (al-Qaida in Syria), Jaysh al-Islam and others, are largely constituted of foreign fighters.

While this is undoubtedly true, it is more than just the Free Syrian Army or FSA. As I noted in “The Illegal Entity of Rojava and Imperial “Divide and Rule” Tactics,” herein called “The Illegal Entity of Rojava” there is a new “rebel” group in town: the Free Idlib Army or the FIA, a part of the FSA:

…the Free Idlib Army (FIA), [is] a division of the FSA which would theoretically fight “jihadist groups and pro-government forces in [the] northwestern Idlib province” even as it faces likely targeting from such “al-Qaida-linked factions,” even though it has coordinated with them before. The FIA entity, consisting of 30,000 to 35,000 people, is undoubtedly, as one analyst put it, “100 percent an American project,” with weaponry, financial aid, and more, funneled through Müşterek Operasyon Merkezi (MOM), an operations center based in Turkey, operated by the CIA with the supervision of the Turks.

I do not know why Mr. Angelpoulos did not mention this in his article. He almost seems to play the clickbait tab, saying that the “anti-imperialist left” of which he does not define is missing out on “one front in this proxy war” omitting it from their analyses of the situation:

Since last August [2016], the U.S. has been engaged in Operation Euphrates Shield in northern Syria, claiming this is an attempt to “liberate” Raqqa, the proclaimed capital of the Islamic State…The U.S. has aided the Turkish-led operation in an alliance with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

For one, this is confusing way of wording it, since Operation Euphrates Shield is actually a name for the Turkish military invasion of the sovereign Syrian state, not a US-led operation. However, articles from the “Turkish military intervention in Syria” Wikipedia page, only a good starting point on this subject, not a good source in general, indicate that the US has provided air support for Turkish military operations (and in general), but seemed to halt such support in November of last year. Furthermore, there are reports that the operation has “ended” which he also doesn’t say.

The SDF’s largest fighting force is the YPG…The YPG is allied with the Democratic Union Party (PYD), and both are allied with the Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK). The PKK has been engaged in a decades-long fight for self-determination of the Kurdish region inside Turkish boundaries against the brutally oppressive Turkish state.

This is partially deceptive. Although I admit that I do not know everything about this conflict, I think it is worth pointing out that while the PKK has been involved in a decades-long fight within Turkish in which they have been brutally attacked by the Turkish state, they dropped their demand for an independent Kurdistan when Abdullah Öcalan, the “Wizard-of-Oz” of Rojava, was arrested. Furthermore, lest us forget, as I noted in “”A Liberated Area in the Middle East”?: Western Imperialism in Rojava,” called “A Liberated Area in the Middle East” in the rest of this article, the YPG and SDF were helped by US airpower in their efforts to seize control of about 26,000 sq km of Syria, including a 250 mile “stretch of territory along the Turkish border,” which basically constitutes Rojava.

In a sign of the contradictions inherent in U.S. imperialist policy toward Syria, on April 25 Turkish planes attacked units of the YPG in northern Syria, killing as many as 70 fighters. While U.S. diplomats said they raised concerns with NATO-ally Turkey regarding this strike, nothing concrete was done to stop future Turkish attacks against Kurdish fighters. (Reuters, April 25) This is one example in Washington’s long history of apparently backing one oppressed people and then turning on them.

You could call this an imperialist contradiction. However, but I would also say it fits with the imperial divide-and-rule tactics to break up the Syrian Arab Republic and nearby “hostile” states so they can ruled effectively to benefit Western capitalists. So, in many senses it isn’t as much as a contradiction as you might think, since the Turks AND and these Kurdish fighters are assisting Western imperialist objectives.

Many progressive people see the YPG, which is mostly made up of Kurdish fighters but includes other ethnic minorities as well as Western “foreign volunteers,” as representing the just struggle for Kurdish national liberation. Organized along democratic principles without a vertical chain of command, the forces of the YPG and their movement in northern Syria claim to model their “non-state” on anarchist, eco-socialist principles. The YPJ, the Women’s Protection Units, provide an active leadership role for women in their struggle.

I think that “progressive people” who see the YPG as representing a “just struggle for Kurdish liberation” and as organized “along democratic principles” is typical of the Western and some across the international left. However, as I noted in “The Illegal Entity of Rojava” the “state” itself is ILLEGAL. Not only does its creation clearly violate the Syrian Constitution, tearing at the national fabric of unity, but it violates the UN Charter. Hence, it is an illegal entity with illegitimate sovereignty. As I said throughout my series on this topic, Rojava would not exist if it was not for intervention of Western capitalist powers.

The Kurds are a historically oppressed nation of 30 million to 35 million people. They are the world’s largest nation without a state. Most live in the contiguous, underdeveloped, mountainous region spanning four countries and speak their own language. About 14.5 million to 16 million Kurds live in Turkey, 6 million in Iran and 5 million to 6 million in Iraq. The 1.5 million to 2 million Kurds in Syria are the smallest grouping of this nation.

The estimates of how many Kurds there are worldwide vary. The Kurdish Project, a rabidly pro-Kurd website, claims there are 30 million within the ethnic community whereas the Encyclopedia Britannica says it could be as low as 25 million and Cultural Survival says it is 18 million. So, for him to say that they are the world’s largest group of people who is stateless seems questionable if best. This puts his other claims of population figures into question. As I noted in “A Liberated Area in the Middle East,” some have said that there are 4.6 million people within the illegal entity of Rojava. I am aware that the UN Charter talks about self-determination and that the principle, as stated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is that all peoples “have the right of self-determination” and the ability to “freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.” Some would say that Rojava falls under their requirements, which could be interpreted in an anti-imperialist manner. However, I would argue that just because people have that right, which the good “Kurds” have shown they have exercised, does NOT mean they have to use that right. In this case, the right should be waived and not enforced as that would mean, ultimately, victory for the sneering imperialists. Furthermore, it is worth noting that “self-determination is limited by conditions on territorial integrity” as an anti-Soviet bourgeois scholar even admitted (also see here).

Mr. Angelpoulos goes on to say that

During the Kurdish people’s fight for liberation from Turkey, Washington has supplied arms, logistical and satellite assistance, and political support for the Turkish ruling classes against the PKK, which the U.S. labels as “terrorist.” Yet in Syria, Washington has a cynical, opportunistic alliance with the YPG, using those forces to accomplish its aims of destroying the Syrian state. At times, the Syrian Democratic Forces/YPG have coordinated with the Syrian Arab Army in the fight against IS and other mercenary armies. However, SDF/YPG now operate in coordination with the U.S. military. Despite the SDF/YPG’s progressive principles and organizational structure, the Pentagon’s aim is to have it function as an effective proxy for the U.S. geopolitical goal of dismantling the Syrian state.

There is no doubt that the US has allied with the Turks to suppress the Kurds in the past. I think he is right that the YPG, along with other “good” (by Western standards) Kurds, unlike the “bad” (by Western standards) pro-Syrian government Kurds, as I note in “The Illegal Entity of Rojava” is serving as an US proxy force. However, I think he is giving the SDF and YPG too much credit.

It is not obvious what aggression the U.S. plans next for Syria after its deadly April 6 strike on the Sharyat airfield and the May 18 bombing of a Syrian government convoy. If Washington significantly steps up direct U.S. intervention, it will expect cooperation from the SDF in providing ground forces. The Pentagon has already been able to build two air bases in northeastern Syria in the past few months.

It is a good point that U.S. plans for Syria after the April 6 act of aggression and imperial show of force, are not clear. However, as I see it, that attack was a turning point. It meant that US foreign policy was basically being handed over to the Pentagon carte blanche, without restriction. Instead of colluding with the imperialists like Obama, Trump seems to be willing to let them do whatever they want.

Since last year, the U.S. has been sending special forces troops to northern Syria. As Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has stated since the U.S. sent several hundred more ground troops to Syria in the beginning of March, “All foreign troops coming to Syria without our invitation … are invaders.” Assad, who is constantly demonized in the U.S. corporate media, is the democratically elected leader of the people of Syria.

On this count, Mr. Angelpoulos is right. As I said in the opening of “A Liberated Area in the Middle East” currently over 17.1 million living in the socially democratic and secular  Syrian Arab Republic which is “ravaged by overt and covert imperialist machinations” the government led by the duly elected National Progressive Front (NPF) with its majority in the Syrian’s People’s Council, the Syria’s parliament, reaffirmed in April 2016 elections by the Syrian people. It is recently that Trump dealt such Syrians “a blow” by directly supporting the “good” Kurds.

The YPG has been bolstered not only by U.S. special forces but also by foreign volunteers including people from the U.S., Canada, Britain and other countries. Among them is Brace Belden, who had a Rolling Stone magazine centerfold feature on his role and inspired an upcoming Hollywood film starring Jake Gyllenhaal as the “punk florist-turned-revolutionary.” Another volunteer is Gill Rosenberg, a Canadian-Israeli woman and former soldier in the Israeli Defense Forces, and the first foreign volunteer in the Women’s Protection Units. These individuals violate Syrian sovereignty and package the  U.S. invasion of Syria as a progressive, “socialist” struggle against Islamic state fascism.

This is undoubtedly true. In “A Liberated Area of the Middle East” I noted how that fact that the YPG were US proxy forces dismayed “two deluded Marxists who thought they were fighting for an “egalitarian utopia”.” If you were going to fight at all in Syria, why not fight on behalf of the Syrian state. To fight on behalf of the YPG and the “good” Kurds is a violent act aimed at the Syrian proletariat and makes those that engage in such acts clear and blatant class traitors. There is no question about this. Such people undoubtedly violate Syrian sovereignty as well, there is no question.

The Rand Corporation think tank has drawn up various “peace plans” throughout the war, detailing the U.S. and its allies’ latest plans for the partition of Syria. The most recent, dated this year, projects large swathes of Kurdish-administered territory extending about halfway to Raqqa in the south and almost to Manbij in the west, as well as a corner encompassing Azaz in northwestern Syria. Buffering these zones are “proposed international administration” zones, code words for NATO occupation and Turkish-controlled areas. Notably, these “Kurdish zones” in northeastern Syria encompass much of the country’s greatest natural wealth, including its largest oil reserves.

I would not be surprised by the fact that Rand would engage in such politicking and call for the break-up of the country. After some searching, I found the report (I think) referenced here, and is one of RAND’s “scenarios” on what could happen:

In Syria, a peace process has resulted in recognized “zones of control” divided among the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the regime, and the opposition…After the zones are announced, a wave of internal displacement further consolidates Kurdish populations in the PYD zone of control; minorities including ‘Alawis, Christians, and Druze in the regime zone of control; and Sunni Arabs in the opposition zone of control. Mixed towns and border areas where the zones abut are the sites of particular ethnosectarian bloodletting. Even in microstates too small to partition, Sunni and Shi‘a self-segregate by neighborhood, with Manama and Kuwait City, particularly, divided between heavily Sunni and heavily Shi‘a neighborhoods…On the one hand, less interaction between sects decreases the daily incidence of conflict. On the other hand, the segregation of communities deepens prejudices, foreshadowing a brewing conflict

Hence, this does not seem to be what they are advocating, but it is a proposal they have under advisement to say the least. Another report actually seems to advocate intervention in the region, showing that the “good” Kurds can (and should stay) allies for the murderous empire:

…Located almost entirely in the north of the country, Syrian Kurds have a longstanding history of opposition to the Assad regime…Syrian Kurds are pressing forward against IS with U.S. military support, and their surging confidence led them to claim an independent state in the northwest…the most effective Kurdish forces engaged with IS…[are more] effective at offensive operations and, ostensibly, more useful for postconflict stability…the extreme violence of the Syrian war has made reconciliation with al-Assad all but impossible…this option seeks to protect Sunni, Kurdish, and other non-Alawi Syrians; create safe spaces for the return of refugees; and establish alternative governance in non-Alawi areas. Military force, including ground forces, may be used to expel GoS military forces from southern Syria and to expel IS from urban area. All military activities will focus on the reduction of the IS threat and the creation of safe zones for Syrian civilians. In the medium term, the United States and the coalition will invest in repatriation and reconstruction activities within these safe zones, focusing on the eventual development of legitimate local and regional governance. These efforts will be leverage to press Russia to negotiate and help remove Bashar al-Assad from power, while retaining Russian and many Iranian equities in Syria…To defeat IS and prevent its return, the United States will have to help mitigate or resolve all the major issues currently destabilizing Iraq. This means that the United States will have to remain heavily engaged in Iraq for many years, perhaps decades, just as it has remained engaged in Korea after the mid-20th century Korean War and in Kosovo more than two decades after U.S.-led coalition intervention there…this plan would…[include] a national program to recognize the bravery of Shi’a, Sunni, and Kurdish militia fighters… the incorporation of Kurdish paramilitary units into the ISF [Iraqi Security Force]…As Iraq stabilizes, it will become far more attractive to regional states as a safe investment for both private and capital wealth funds…the United States could ignore the civil war and focus on the tactical defeat of IS, leveraging Kurdish; Arab; and, if necessary, American and coalition military forces to expel the group from Raqqa and render it incapable of international terror attacks…All efforts should be made to keep the Kurds within a legitimate Syrian state, at least until Syria is fully stabilized…Ideally, Turkey will be a signatory to the Syria agreement and will accept the incorporation of YPG and other groups into the Syrian armed services in exchange for reduced Kurdish independence in the north

Not only does this raise the idea of creating zones for certain ethnicities so they can be easily controlled by the West within Syria, but it would mean, if implemented, a stronger military presence in Iraq (and in Syria undoubtedly), accompanying the overthrow of the duly elected Syrian government with the installation of a “friendly” government. Then after all of that, the US would use the Kurds as imperialist enforcers! Additionally, as a result, the US could easily accept the creation of a Kurdish state by this logic, as the above quote makes clear. This is a terrifying prospect because such a state and these machinations would lead to more chaos and destruction in the Mideast.

If the U.S. aids the SDF to annex northeastern Syria, this will not lead to any meaningful form of Kurdish independence. Rather, it will mean the Kurdish forces will be subordinate to and will collaborate with the U.S., much as the Kurdish regime does inside Iraq. Meanwhile, the U.S. will destroy what remains of Syria and purge any progressive forces in the Kurdish movement.

While I could see this as a possibility, based on the RAND report quoted above, a Kurdish state could be created, but it would be subservient to US imperialism. If what he says occurred, there is no doubt that Syria would be destroyed and any progressives in the Kurdish movement could be purged, although the latter may not matter as long as such progressives are willing to bow to their new masters in Washington. More worrying is the fact that Trump seems to be taking DIRECTLY out of the RAND playbook by sending arms and equipment to the “good” Syrians:

Washington has found an effective partner in the mixed Kurdish and Sunni Arab Syrian Defence Forces (SDF), which is dominated by a Syrian Kurdish faction closely linked to a violent separatist movement in Turkey in conflict with the Turkish state. This force has isolated Raqqa and is poised for an assault on the city, but lacks the weaponry that may be necessary for success. Turkey is strongly opposed to any further extension of Kurdish control within Syria and equally opposed to any American effort to arm the SDF. Washington must therefore choose whether to ignore Turkish objections and arm the SDF, seek direct Turkish army participation in the assault as a substitute, or add some American units to the assault force. Waiting for the Turkish army and its Syrian allies to arrive will require postponing the operation several months, with an uncertain end result. Arming the Kurdish‑dominated SDF and introducing additional American forces into Syria,beyond the special operations troops already there, may be the fastest and surest way of retaking Raqqa and other Islamic State territory…Employing Kurdish led forces to liberate Raqqa requires the United States to convincingly assure Turkey that Kurds will not occupy this region once it has been cleared of the Islamic State. This will in turn require some clear understanding between Washington and the Syrian Kurdish authorities. It also requires the availability of some alternative hold force. Once Raqqa and the surrounding region have been cleared, the United States will need to help that hold force resist attacks from residual Islamic State fighters, other violent extremist groups, and the regime…We suggest Washington should offer to place Raqqa, once liberated, under some form of international administration

Once again, these Kurds would be serving Western imperialism, and Raqqa would be in the hand of gleeful imperialists. There is no doubt about that.

At this point, Washington sees the claims to a separate Kurdish region based out of northern Syria as fitting its goal of dividing Syria. With the Syrian state under siege, the attempt to create a Kurdish “autonomous” zone under U.S. guidance is in direct contradiction to the preservation of Syrian sovereignty in defense against imperialism. The U.S. has made this abundantly clear, saying that it plans to station its forces in Syria even once IS has been eliminated.

He is right about that. Creating a Kurdish region that is “autonomous” would clearly violate Syrian sovereignty. But it also would serve the interests of imperialist destruction. Hence, it could be a precursor to further US presence in the county.

Moreover, all of these events obscure the fact that the Syrian government and Kurdish groups have negotiated greater autonomy for the latter on their own terms before. If there is to be any change in the relationship between the Syrian state and its Kurdish inhabitants, it is clear that this change cannot be imposed by the imperialist powers. The U.S., NATO and their allies should have no say in this history.

In this case, I think he is exaggerating the relations between the “good” Kurds and Syrian government. Such relations seem to include possibly partial recognition, but also have been in question since the Syrian government may see such groups as imperial proxies. They likely prefer the “bad” Kurds better, those groups that want to work with the Syrian government, not against it. I definitely agree with the sentiment that there should be non-interference in Syria, which means no meddling by the US imperialists.

The imperialists in the U.S. and elsewhere have planned a grim end for Syria: the destruction of the sovereign secular state in favor of Balkanized ethnic enclaves in the manner of Iraq, Libya, Yugoslavia and any other state that has defied destruction and imperialist plundering since the fall of the Soviet Union. This includes the current aggression against Syria, Venezuela and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

I understand his viewpoint here, but I would not say that Iraq, Libya, and Yugoslavia are Balkanized ethnic enclaves. In fact, the US imperialists failed in that endeavor in Iraq, and likely in Libya which is in the midst of the bloody civil war, from what I can tell. However, it is true that this measure did happen in Yugoslavia, a place where the most of the inhabitants of this former system of federalism “seem willing to share their societies with ethnic and religious groups different from their own” with a few exceptions. Hence, in that case, US imperialism did not succeed either. But, undoubtedly this idea is carried over to Venezuela (which Trump wants to “fix,” whatever that means) and the DPRK as well, which is troubling and should be stopped at all costs.

There can be no genuine liberation for any peoples — Arab, Kurdish or otherwise — until imperialism is defeated in the region and the right of self-determination is fully realized and respected. Anti-war and other activists in the U.S. and NATO states must stand in full solidarity with the right of all nations to develop their collective livelihood, culture and economy without interference from imperialists. Hands off Syria! All mercenaries out of Syria! Uphold self-determination!

Again, he is correct. Defeating imperialism in the Middle East is needed for genuine liberation of any people to occur. As I noted in a footnote of “The Illegal Entity of Rojava,” if circumstances were different, with the “good” Kurds asking “for direct support from Russia, China, and the Syrian government, instead going directly to grinning Western imperialists, then I would be inclined to engage in international solidarity with them.” I still stand by that claim. I would add Cuba, Iran, Belarus and Zimbabwe (which is facing its threats of violence against the elected government coming from the US-backed opposition) to the list of nations under attack as well, along with others that could easily be added to the list.

Further comments on the “notion of American empire” (a.k.a. the murderous empire)

“The action of U.S. warplanes bombing a Syrian government military convoy near the town of al-Tanf on May 18 marks a sharp escalation of the U.S. campaign to overthrow the elected Syrian government and to dismember the country. It must be protested by all who oppose U.S. imperialism’s aggression. With bloody irony, the Pentagon claimed it attacked the Syrian government convoy because the Syrian trucks had entered “an established ‘de-confliction zone’.”The convoy had moved within 18 miles of a U.S. military base…The Pentagon set up this base without permission by the Syrian government…The Russian government called the U.S. attack a breach of Syrian sovereignty. The air attack took place as President Donald Trump left the U.S. to visit Saudi Arabia…The U.S. bombing also comes just after an agreement creating “de-escalation” zones in Syria was signed by Russia, Iran, Turkey, Syria and non-al-Qaida groups that operate in Syria…The U.S. bombing was clearly designed to torpedo this agreement. Its goal is to re-enforce U.S.-defined “safe zones”…partition Syria and overturn the Bashar al-Assad government.”- Workers World Party, May 22.

While some telling the Kurds what they should focus on, Lieutenant General Vincent Stewart, head of the DIA, is declaring that “Kurdish independence is on a trajectory where it is probably not if but when. And it will complicate the situation unless there’s an agreement in Baghdad,” showing that the imperialists are accepting the “inevitable.” Furthermore, are the stories about how the US-Turkey relationship could be permanently damaged if the “good” Kurds stay in Raqqa while the US gives the “good” Kurds armored vehicles, arms, “machinery, equipment, supplies” along with, as NPR even admitting, in their pro-military manner: “more American troops to head into Syria – maybe a couple of hundred” who are trainers along with “maintenance people to help with these armored vehicles” which would be there along with “some American troops close to the front lines in Syria, special operations forces like Green Berets and Navy SEALs, helping these local forces.”

Hence, the destruction of Syria will continue full force. I stand by what I said at the end “The illegal entity” about possible next steps for everyone reading the article:

…the next steps forward are up to everyone out there reading this and…the international “left[,]” which needs to get its act together with a strong message of international solidarity with governments (and peoples, but not the “good” Kurds) under attack, not division on countries such as Syria.

Hence, there needs to be a united front. After all, Trump is unpredictable in many ways, which some may say is positive but actually bodes badly in trying to counter US imperialism as it is hard to predict what will happen next. This reality of Trump was noted in a fawning Time magazine cover story. This piece said that Trump is not only tuning out “bad news about himself” but he “comes to office with no well-formed ideology,” which sounds a bit like Obama and the “blank screen.” The article further claims that he has “an evolving understanding of history and government” which is clear from his comments about Andrew Jackson ending the Civil War, and uses “his business acumen to help is more fervent supporters” while he is “extremely confident in his own judgment.” The article also notes that Trump has a social media director, Dan Scavino, formerly the general manager of Trump’s Golf Club in Briarcliff Manor, New York, and that his “willingness to fight is unabated and unfiltered.”

Beyond that, the recent visit to Saudi Arabia seems to indicate that the US has its sights set on the Islamic Republic of Iran. As the Parliament Speaker of Iran, Ali Larijani, argued “it was both interesting and unbelievable to hear that the US President clearly announced the volume of cash he had received in order to make the visit” which seems to be true since he was not only there for US imperialism but to benefit his cronies (also see here) a sort of “foreign triumph” as he faces the never-ending “Russia conspiracy” the Democrats are using to push him out of office, to unseat him, to overthrow him. I say this even as I dislike Trump very much and feel he is an utter monster. Still, I don’t believe the claims of a such a conspiracy in the slightest. It is all a smokescreen to me even if questions about his stability in the future. Focusing on such a conspiracy distracts from the damage Trump and his loyal minions are doing to public lands, education, public assistance, and worldwide imperial aggression of course, while supporting increased police brutality at home. As for the journey to Saudi Arabia, it is part of a plan to create an “Arab NATO” which is an idea that threatens the region, which would cause increased instability since the Saudis sponsor many of the Islamic reactionary groups within the region. Clearly, this an anti-Iran move, anger at their measures to mitigate US imperialism.

The looming threat of war against Iran seems to be occurring at the same time the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) seems to be winning on the battlefield, implying that Washington wants to stop such successes. As Al-Jaafari put it, their goal is to combat terrorism, but “state terrorism is being practiced against Syria” with violations of international humanitarian law. I could go on, but the reality is that the Russian and Syrian government forces are the only ones earnestly fighting terrorists. The US and their international coalition which killed 255 civilians last month as the worthless piece of junk, the Syrian Observatory for “Human Rights” (SOHR) which is an imperialist, anti-Syrian government outlet, claimed. The Syrian government is even moving its planes back to the airfield the US bombed in April, showing that the US show of force was worthless and pathetic. At the same time, the Russians seem to be willing to weaken the Syrian state and benefit the “good” Kurds possibly because they have a capitalist class as well and see something positive in the “good” Kurds. This is happening at the same time that the US slaps more sanctions on the Syrian government and by extension the Syrian people as a whole.

The Syrian government (and people) will continue to be in a precarious situation until the end of the conflict and withdrawal of Western imperialism from the region. The best we can do is pledge solidarity with those fighting the mercenaries of imperial conquest, not only Daesh but the “rebel” forces and “good” Kurds, and all of those standing against global capitalism, even with our respective critiques.

A bunch of baloney: The Trump-Russia “connection”

A scene from “Two Bad Neighbors” (S7E13), a Simpsons episode where Homer fights with George H.W. Bush after Bart accidentally destroys his novel and Bush spanks him

Two nights ago, 60 Minutes came on at 7:00. They claimed they had an “exclusive” interview with James Comey, the FBI Director and long-time bureaucrat. It cast Comey as a nice, well-spoken person, not a showboater as Trump has called him. Hence, it was, like pieces they have done on Apple, drones, and many other subjects, a puff piece. Since May 9, bourgeois liberals and progressives have been waiving their hands, which has even been joined by “progressive” media like The Real News, putting out three stories trying to attest that Mr. Comey was fired because of (1) Trump’s “collusion” with Russia, (2) considering the hypothetical of such interference while claiming there is financial ties between Trump and Russia, (3) and acting the Trump-Russia connection is real. Of all the media, not Democracy Now or any of the other left-leaning media was of note, but rather Liberation News, a publication of the Party of Socialism and Liberation (PSL) had the best perspective on the topic. Brian Becker, the coordinator of ANSWER, noted how the Democratic Party and liberal organizations closed ranks in their call for a “special prosecutor to “protect our democracy” from the Russian menace” and held up Mr. Comey as “the martyred champion” just like 60 Minutes. He goes on to say, rightly, that it is ridiculous to think that Mr. Comey was “the one person who had the goods on Russia” with his firing ending the investigation, that Clinton blamed Comey and the Russians for her defeat, not the arcane Electoral College, that “the Watergate investigation was based on an actual criminal act” unlike this “connection,” and that none of the allegations have been proven. Mr. Becker interestingly noted that not only did the FBI tell the DNC that its “email servers had been compromised by “Russian hackers”” but Crowdstrike, was allowed by the FBI, even though it was “a privately owned Democratic Party-aligned cybersecurity firm,” to provide supposed evidence Russians did it, which is suspect since “CrowdStrike is owned by Dmitri Alperovitch, who is Russian and a virulent opponent of Putin.”

Previously I’ve written about the supposed “connection” between Trump and Russia. I’ve argued that the Trump Administration was making Russophobic moves, continuing the same policies of the Obama “era,” while also hoping that a pro-Russia approach by such an administration could reduce conflict, and saying that there should be solidarity with those countries under attack by US imperialism and against Trumpian fascism instead of getting “caught up in the supposed Trump-Russia “connection.”” Before that, I said that Trump was considering Russia as a partner against terrorism even as he proposed more imperialism to “solve” the problems in the world but warned that tensions with Russia will continue while pointing out Obama’s hawkishness when it came to Russia (and to the rest of the world) with Clinton undoubtedly doing the same, since she likely would have “started WWIII with bombing Russian troops in Syria.” Four months ago, I summed up the whole hullabaloo around this issue, writing (links have been removed for easier reading):

…the anti-Russian campaign [is being] pushed by the Democratic Party, certain Republicans, like John McCain and Lindsey Graham, along with internal (FBI) and external (CIA) police of the empire, and “left” journalists of The Intercept like Glenn Greenwald, and other “respected”  publications like Mother Jones…a possible conflict within the administration is brewing about the threat of Russia as some want to take more of a defiant stance and others want to be more cordial…there doesn’t need to be a protest against rapprochement with Russia, but instead against a reactionary Russophobic position by Obama, Clinton, McCain, and the like…[we must] organize to stop the “orange menace” not because of his supposed “friendly” nature with Russia, but for the fascism he will bring to the homefront, imperialist destruction that will rein down on the peoples of Korea, Syria, China, and Iran, and unwavering support for the murderous Zionist state of Israel.

I still stand by this same viewpoint, but I went through a Wikipedia article titled “Russian interference in the 2016 United States election” so you don’t have to, and what I found confirmed by perceptions. As a disclaimer, this article is NOT pro-Trump in any way, shape or form, but only shows the Trump-Russia “connection” as fraudulent based on analysis of existing articles written on the subject and that such bourgeois media that wrote these articles should generally not be trusted.

Muddying through Wikipedia

There is no doubt that like Google, Wikipedia is fundamentally bourgeois, even with the “non-profit” status of the Wikimedia Foundation will controls the site. I say this even as a person who has edited numerous Wikipedia articles myself in hopes to countering bourgeois distortions. The following is a list of sources, with articles in the footnotes, that have been cited as “proof” that there is a Russia connection:

  • Unnamed “U.S. officials,” current and former, always ranging in number, sometimes “senior” and have “access to information,” sometimes in the White House. [1]
  • Unnamed “Western intelligence” officials, either in U.S. or foreign intelligence. [2]
  • Information or reports “obtained by a Western intelligence service” that only the media can see, like a secret CIA assessment. [3]
  • Obama administration officials (prior to November 8 election), including Ben Rhodes, Josh Earnest, and President Obama himself [4]
  • Christopher Steele dossier on Trump-Russia “connections,” with documents that haven’t been verified but may have been used as a “roadmap” for investigation by the FBI, who was open to paying him for the information, among other aspects [5]
  • Crowdstrike, the pro-Dem firm run by an anti-Putin individual contracted by the DNC to investigate the hack, blamed the Russians [6]
  • “Guccifer 2.0,” the Romanian hacker who claims he gave docs to Wikileaks even though this has not been confirmed, to whom Roger Stone claims he talked to and has a “backchannel” to Assange, both of which can’t be proven. [7]
  • “suspicious” supposedly “pro-Russia” actions by DCLeaks and Wikileaks or weak supposition [8]
  • DHS, DNI, and private security companies “conclusions,” with specific reference to a  14-page document by CIA, DNI, and FBI, had “high confidence” in Russian involvement, a report commissioned by Obama, even though the Intelligence Community Assessment or ICA was drafted by the CIA, FBI, and NSA, relies on “reporting” of varied sources and “multiple corroborating sources,” their “assessment” based on how they see Russian behavior, claims that Putin and Russian government had preference for Trump over Clinton, claim Moscow used disclosed documents, accessing DNC databases, because RT, other Russia state outlets, was critical of Clinton (that means they swung the election for Trump?), criticizing US shortcomings in civil liberties and democracy using an open source report published in 2012, criticizing US (means that RT is somehow pro-Trump?), RT hosts criticize fracking (so they serve Russian interests?), they even admit near the end of the report that even as RT has more YouTube views and subscribers, CNN has the most Twitter followers, Facebook likes, and Facebook likes of the bourgeois news organizations they list (Al Jazeera English, BBC News World, along with RT), admit at the end that even an assessment of “high confidence” could “be wrong” with the assessment not necessarily a “fact or certainty” [9] Later, these same agencies, CIA, FBI, and NSA stood by their previous assessment, of course.
  • Claims of Russian business ties with Newsweek even admitting that they can’t find any illegal action, and noting there are business ties across the world [10]
  • Claims Putin “praised” Trump, even though he didn’t. [11] Further articles showed that Putin just called Trump a colorful figure or flamboyant, but did NOT call him a genius or any of the other “praise” he supposedly gave.
  • Pending investigations by FBI, NSA, CIA, DOJ, FINCEN (Treasury Dept), and ODNI reps; also some individual agencies are sometimes cited. [12]
  • Max Boot, Clinton campaign, a lawsuit by Bayrock, Toronto Life magazine, news media itself (WashPO and Bloomberg), claimed “Russian trolls,” FBI insiders, and magical “experts” [13]
  • Joint ODNI-DHS statement even admitting that they are only “confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails” and they only “believe” top Russian officials involved; also Clapper, the DNI, but not “17 agencies” agreeing as some claimed. [14]
  • Private security companies ThreatConnect (likely US military/intelligence contractor), Symantec which received a license from the US military in 2005, FireEye run by a former Pentagon officer, and Dell-owned Secureworks which maintains “close ties to various public and private organizations involved in information security” such as the federal government, intelligence and military sectors [15]
  • Unnamed US, European, and Arab officials [16]

Apart from these piss-poor “sources” of collusion, there are confirmed meetings between Trump Administration officials and the Russians, but every administration, even through the Cold War has met with the Russians, and as some US diplomats admitted, including Clinton ally Michael Morrell, this is not a crime as even James Clapper said at one point. [17] Then there’s Michael Flynn. There is no doubt he was paid by RT for three talks, but so has Ron Paul and other US political personalities they’ve had on their show, so how does this show that the Russians “rigged” the election? [18] The truth is it doesn’t do this at all. Perhaps its better to focus on the fact that he was a registered foreign agent for Turkey, that he was the board member of the pro-drone group (Drone Aviation Holding Corp) for which he gained $24,000, consultant for the hawkish Center for a New American Security, among much more that would make him chummy with the capitalist class. All of this has led to some thinking that the Pentagon is right but that Russian media “lies,” claims that the Russians hacked the Trump campaign too but didn’t release information (disproving the whole collusion), as the Russians note that they also spoke with Clinton advisers, and Putin said that the Democrats should get over their loss in November (they should). [19] As a result of the determination that Russia was “behind” the hacking, a number of events went into motion. The FBI spied on Carter Page for at least 90 days, and Trump conceded Russia role sort of but also didn’t, later decrying a “witch hunt” by the Democrats. [20]

Of course, the FBI and intelligence establishment, along with the lackey bourgeois media are wrong. Still, Clinton strongly believes in Russia role as do some former Intel chiefs and Evan McMillian (former CIA) but RNC doesn’t and neither does David Nunes. The media are so caught up in this, they were angry about publication of official photos, with the Russian Foreign Ministry saying that if they hadn’t published pictures from the meeting, the photos would have leaked, which is probably correct.

With such a predictable propaganda assault by the bourgeois media and Russophobes within the military and intelligence establishments, US public opinion reflects this reality. 51-56% of the public, depending on the poll, believes in such interference, with at minimum, 39% opposing this viewpoint. [21] Furthermore, over 60% of those living in the US have said that they are “concerned” about ties to Russia. Some may say these viewpoints are residual effects of the Cold War, with strongly rooted in anti-communism of that time. However, it is more likely that even with waning popularity of bourgeois media in the United States many still rely on it for news and viewpoints that are critical of US empire are marginalized. It may also have to do with uber-nationalism of Americans, many of whom may not trust Trump and see him as a shyster. The real explanation here is not known.

Trump’s tweets and other commentary

Some may say cite Trump’s tweets as “evidence” of the collusion. A search through his tweets for the word “Russia” shows that this is faulty. Looking through tweets from 2011 to 2016 shows that he is more uber-nationalist, jingoist to use the right word, than having any sort of favoritism toward Russia. [22]

The tweets this year, after his election, which are displayed in the search, are worth focusing on here. They range from Trump declaring that Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi met with the Russians, basically saying that meeting with the Russians is normal, calling these Dems “hypocrites,” while again blaming Obama, even claiming he colluded with Russia (no proof of that). He goes on to say that the “so-called Russia story” is (1) “fake news,” (2) claims that there is a magical deal the Clintons made with Russia over uranium which is somehow connected to John Podesta somehow, (3) that the “Trump Russia story is a hoax,” and (4) calls the Russia-Trump connection “phony.” He then said that “things will work out fine between the U.S.A. and Russia” with everyone eventually coming to their “senses,” that the story about Trump’s connection to Russia is an excuse used by Democrats, that Democrat “dealings with Russia” are not investigated by the media, that Clapper noted that there is no collusion between Trump and Russia, asks if Obama was too “soft” on Russia (implying he would be more hardline), and says that the Russians might be laughing at the whole story. Most strikingly is a tweet on May 8, in which he declares “the Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax, when will this taxpayer funded charade end?”

Then there are two tweets the bourgeois media claims are “evidence” that Trump gave classified information to the Russians. In them, Trump says that it is “absolute right” to share facts with them which pertain to “terrorism and airline flight safety” which he says he is doing not only for “humanitarian reasons” but because he wants “Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.” I don’t see how this “proves” that classified information was shared. Just because Trump says he shared information, who is to say this is classified information? Also, who is to say that these tweets aren’t just part of Trump’s bravado and he’s making the whole thing up?

Five days before this, Trump, in an interview with NBC News, declared the following:

“This Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.”

Predictably, PolitiFact showed its Russophobia in response. They said that the FBI and intelligence community have “credible evidence” and that Democrats weren’t behind it, cites magical “evidence” in assessments, shows even Federation of American Scientists believes in collision, and also cites Comey and Clapper. As noted earlier in this article, this is utter baloney. While I think there is validity to his statement that the “Russia thing with Trump” is made-up, it is more than just the Democrats. The military and intelligence establishments of the United States, the Democrats, numerous Republicans, other Western intelligence services, and capitalist governments across the “West” have a coordinated Russophobic propaganda offensive. This goes back to 2014 at least, when the “crisis” in Ukraine begun with a coup in the country by Nazi and reactionary forces, seemingly assisted by the CIA and US intelligence in general. In fact, such Russophobia goes back further, perhaps all the way to 1917 when the Soviet Union was founded, but it was a different strain back then, with a lapse in that strain after the demise of the USSR in 1991, and picking up again in 2000 with Vladimir Putin coming to the helm of the independent capitalist Russian state.

The staff of the PSL’s Liberation News put it best, even better than Mike Whitney, as they centered it in an anti-capitalist context.It is worth quoting what they said in part:

“Clinton’s leaked emails have never been conclusively linked to Russia, or to the Russian government. Nor was the leak that novel — the whole game of modern electoral politics is to dig up dirt which compromises one’s opponent…It is likely that Gen. Mike Flynn, then the incoming national security chief, came to some understanding in December with the Russian ambassador about the easing of sanctions. Again, the people who think that this is exceptional — as if presidential campaigns and incoming administrations do not start striking deals before they formally take over — have serious delusions about the workings of politics. What was exceptional was that Flynn lied about it to his own superiors…Most of the Trump team’s purported “collusion” with Russia amounts to rather standard contacts with a foreign government. Trump was open throughout the campaign that he wanted to reorient U.S. policy towards Russia — which would indeed have signified a seismic shift in geopolitics, and would have had dramatic ramifications on crisis flashpoints such as Syria and Ukraine. In this context is it really surprising that his subordinates and team would have developed Russian contacts and back-channels? Why is every conversation with a Russian suddenly proof of foreign control?…the Russia realignment died almost as soon as Trump came into office — CIA-CNN-DNC pressure campaign after the election made sure of that. The administration changed its tone and then doubled down on the new Cold War when it bombed Syria in March [he means April]…But as a political card, the Russia connection remains particularly convenient to the DNC and its associated liberal organizations such as MoveOn. It taps into a long-held and well-indoctrinated prejudice — fear of Russians — while directing the struggle against Trump into channels they can more easily control: investigative committees, special prosecutors, and made-for-tv intrigue…The Russia card gives the Democratic leadership a strategy to weaken or potentially bring down Trump — as their base wants — without actually meeting the demands from below to move the party in a more left-wing, progressive direction.”

A conclusion

It’s hard to know the reason for Trump’s firing of Mr. Comey on May 9, one week ago. Perhaps it was because Marylander Rod J. Rosenstein, who only became Deputy Attorney General on April 26 after near unanimous approval of the US Senate, had convinced Attorney General Jeff Sessions that through revealing the investigation of Killary before the election, he had weakened the “public confidence in the FBI.” [23] Mr. Rosenstein said such in his letter recommending the firing of Mr. Comey, writing in part:

“Over the past year, however, the FBI’s reputation and credibility have suffered substantial damage…I cannot defend the Director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken….The director was wrong to usurp the Attorney General’s authority on July 5, 2016, and announce his conclusion that the case should be closed without prosecution…When federal agents and prosecutors quietly open a criminal investigation, we are not concealing anything; we are simply following the longstanding policy that we refrain from publicizing non-public information….former Attorneys General and Deputy Attorneys General from different eras and both political parties…concluded that the Director violated his obligation to “preserve, protect and defend” the traditions of the Department and the FBI…Although the President has the power to remove an FBI director, the decision should not be taken lightly…The way the Director handled the conclusion of the email investigation was wrong…the FBI is unlikely to regain public and congressional trust until it has a Director who understands the gravity of the mistakes and pledges never to repeat them. Having refused to admit his errors, the Director cannot be expected to implement the necessary corrective actions.” [24]

Taking this letter into account, one could almost say that the removal of Mr. Comey was in a sense, a PR move to improve the “reputation” of the FBI, which would appeal to the law-and-order approach of Mr. “expand the drug war” Sessions and Trump himself. This would also explain the timing of the letter. While Trump has supposedly said that the “Russia investigation” was on his mind when he fired Mr. Comey, the decision to fire was likely about improving the FBI’s “image” among the populace as a “nonpartisan” agency although it has never been non-political in any way. I could see how firing Mr. Comey damages Mr. Rosenstein’s “independence,” but I would be wary of calling him a “lackey” of Trump just yet.

With pending investigations in the House and Senate, the “Trump-Russia connection” seems destined to continue as a “legitimate” topic for the rest of this year, maybe for his whole first term. In the meantime, Trump’s EPA has greenlighted a gold mine in Alaska despite the environmental effects, the Trump State Department cited the discredited Amnesty report to smear Syrian government for its “brutality” (which has been rightly dismissed by the Syrian government), the Trump Pentagon continues to kill Syrian civilians every day, and most startlingly, and Trump’s plan to review protections on 27 national monuments could very well open up “more than 2.7 million acres of iconic US landscape” through extraction of oil, coal, and natural gas.

But, instead, say the hard-nosed bourgeois liberals and progressives, let’s all dance around with glee, allying with the US intelligence and military establishments, and impeach Trump for his “traitorous” action of talking with the Russians, who they think, based on the propaganda from the bourgeois media, rigged the election for Trump. Nothing could be more ridiculous. There is no doubt that the Electoral College is an institution which supported slavery, racism, bigotry, and exploitation, while muting popular movements. However, as it stands now, this means that by the existing laws, based in the “supreme” law of the land, the US Constitution, Trump was elected legally. This was not only because Killary didn’t care about the white section of the working class but due to her crass elitism like calling all of Trump’s supporters “the basket of deplorables…[they are] racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it,” a faux pas as bad as Mitt Romney’s remarks in which he said that 47% of the populace will vote for the populace and are entitled, people who “pay no income tax,” whom Romney doesn’t care about at all.

The talk of Trump-Russia “collusion” will go on, but as reasonable people we must be above this, rejecting such narratives and work with those affected by Trumpian fascism Lest us not be dupes of the bourgeois media as many bourgeois liberals and progressives already are, trapping many publications in self-made deception, while the capitalist class laughs in glee as they continue to destroy the work, crushing resistance wherever it can be found, and by whatever means at their disposal.

Notes

[1] Greg Miller and Adam Entous, “Declassified report says Putin ‘ordered’ effort to undermine faith in U.S. election and help Trump,” Washington Post, Jan. 6, 2017; AP, “Trump transition raised flags about Flynn Russia contacts,” May 5, 2017; Greg Miller and Greg Jaffe, “Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian foreign minister and ambassador,” Washington Post, May 15, 2017; William M. Arkin, Ken Dilanian, and Cynthia McFadden, “U.S. Officials: Putin Personally Involved in U.S. Election Hack,” NBC News, Dec. 15, 2016; Yara Bayoumy, “Putin turned Russia election hacks in Trump’s favor: U.S. officials,” Reuters, Dec. 16, 2016; Barbara Starr, Pamela Brown, Evan Perez, Jim Sciutto, and Elise Labbott, “Intel analysis shows Putin approved election hacking,” CNN, Dec. 16, 2016; , “Putin-linked think tank drew up plan to sway 2016 US election – documents,” Reuters, Apr. 21, 2017; Jack Stubbs and Denis Pinchuk, “Russia denies Reuters report think tank drew up plan to sway U.S. election,” Reuters, Apr. 21, 2017; Ken Dilanian and William M. Arkin, “Blackwater Founder Repped Trump at Secret Meeting Overseas: Sources,” NBC News, Apr. 3, 2017; Evan Perez, Jim Sciutto, Jake Tapper, and Carl Bernstein, “Intel chiefs presented Trump with claims of Russian efforts to compromise him,” CNN, Jan. 12, 2017; Washington Newsroom of Reuters, “U.S. intel report identifies Russians who gave emails to WikiLeaks -officials,” Reuters, Jan. 6, 2017; Michael S. Schmidt, Mark Mazzetti, and Matt Apuzzo, “Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence,” New York Times, Feb. 14, 2017; Matthew Rosenberg, Adam Goldman, and Michael S. Schmidt, “Obama Administration Rushed to Preserve Intelligence of Russian Election Hacking,” New York Times, Mar. 1, 2017.

[2] Kurt Eichenwald, “Trump, Putin and the Hidden History of How Russia Interfered in the U.S. Presidential Election,” Newsweek, Jan. 10, 2017; CBS News, “More details on U.S. probe of Russian hacking of DNC,” YouTube, Dec. 14, 2016; Brian Ross, Rhonda Schwartz, and James Gordon Meek, “Officials: Master Spy Vladimir Putin Now Directly Linked to US Hacking,” ABC News, Dec. 15, 2016; Ali Watkins, “Intel Officials Believe Russia Spreads Fake News,” BuzzFeed, Nov. 30, 2016; Ken Dilanian, “Official: Flynn Discussed Sanctions With Russians Before Taking Office,” NBC News, Feb. 10, 2017; Spencer Ackerman, “Intelligence figures fear Trump reprisals over assessment of Russia election role,” The Guardian, Dec. 11, 2016; Shane Harris, “Donald Trump Fuels Rift With CIA Over Russian Hack,” Wall Street Journal, Dec. 11, 2016; Luke Harding, Stephanie Kirchgaessner, and Nick Hopkins, “British spies were first to spot Trump team’s links with Russia,” The Guardian, Apr. 13, 2017.

[3] Kurt Eichenwald, “Trump, Putin and the Hidden History of How Russia Interfered in the U.S. Presidential Election,” Newsweek, Jan. 10, 2017; Secret CIA assessment says Russia was trying to help Trump win White House,” Washington Post, Dec. 9, 2016.

[4] Euan McKirdy, “WikiLeaks’ Assange: Russia didn’t give us emails,” CNN, Jan. 4, 2017; Fox News, “Obama says US needs to respond to Russian cyberattacks — ‘and we will’,” Dec. 15, 2016; Yara Bayoumy, “Putin turned Russia election hacks in Trump’s favor: U.S. officials,” Reuters, Dec. 16, 2016.

[5] Adam Goldman, “Russian Spies Tried to Recruit Carter Page Before He Advised Trump,” New York Times, Apr. 4, 2017; Scott Shane, “What We Know and Don’t Know About the Trump-Russia Dossier,” New York Times, Jan. 11, 2017; Julie Pace, “Trump campaign adviser Carter Page met with Russian spy in 2013,” Chicago Tribune, Apr. 3, 2017; Ali Watkins, “A Former Trump Adviser Met With A Russian Spy,” BuzzFeed, Apr. 3, 2017; David Corn, “A Veteran Spy Has Given the FBI Information Alleging a Russian Operation to Cultivate Donald Trump,” Mother Jones, Oct. 31, 2016; Tom Hamburger and Rosalind D. Helderman, “FBI once planned to pay former British spy who authored controversial Trump dossier,” Washington Post, Feb. 28, 2017; BBC News, “Meeting the man behind the Trump memos,” Jan. 14, 2017; Rosie Gray, “‘It Is Fake News Meant to Malign Mr. Trump’,” The Atlantic, Jan. 10, 2017; Natasha Bertrand, “The FBI is reportedly using the explosive Trump-Russia dossier as a ‘roadmap’ for its investigation,” Business Insider, Mar. 30, 2017; Evan Perez, Shimon Prokupecz, and Manu Raju, “FBI used dossier allegations to bolster Trump-Russia investigation,” CNN, Apr. 18, 2017.

[6] Thomas Rid, “How Russia Pulled Off the Biggest Election Hack in U.S. History,” Esquire magazine, Oct. 20, 2016; Clint Watts, “Why Russia Wants the U.S. to Believe the Election Was Hacked,” PBS NOVA Next, Oct. 26, 2016; Dmitri Alpervitch, “Bears in the Midst: Intrusion into the Democratic National Committee,” Crowdstrike, Jun. 15, 2016.

[7] Thomas Rid, “How Russia Pulled Off the Biggest Election Hack in U.S. History,” Esquire magazine, Oct. 20, 2016; Trump adviser Roger Stone repeatedly claimed to know of forthcoming WikiLeaks dumps,” CNN, Mar. 20, 2017; Chas Danner, “Trump Adviser Roger Stone Admits Messaging With Alleged DNC Hacker,” New York magazine, Mar. 11, 2017; Martin Matishak, “Roger Stone takes center stage as Congress lines up Russia probe witnesses,” Politico, Mar. 20, 2017; Maggie Haberman, “Roger Stone, the ‘Trickster’ on Trump’s Side, Is Under F.B.I. Scrutiny,” New York Times, Mar. 21, 2017; Matthew Rosenberg and Maggie Haberman, “Trump Adviser Had Twitter Contact With Figure Tied to Russians,” New York Times, Mar. 11, 2017.

[8] Thomas Rid, “How Russia Pulled Off the Biggest Election Hack in U.S. History,” Esquire magazine, Oct. 20, 2016.

[9] Greg Miller and Adam Entous, “Declassified report says Putin ‘ordered’ effort to undermine faith in U.S. election and help Trump,” Washington Post, Jan. 6, 2017; Clint Watts, “Why Russia Wants the U.S. to Believe the Election Was Hacked,” PBS NOVA Next, Oct. 26, 2016; Office of the Director of National Intelligence, “ODNI Statement on Declassified Intelligence Community Assessment of Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections,” IC On the Record (tumblr), Jan. 6, 2017; Bryon Tau, “Trump’s top intelligence officials accept conclusion that Russia hacked election,” Wall Street Journal, May 11, 2017; New York Times, “Intelligence Report on Russian Hacking,” Jan. 6, 2017.

[10] Kurt Eichenwald, “How the Trump Organization’s Foreign Business Ties Could Upend U.S. National Security,” Newsweek, Sept. 14, 2016; Inside Trump’s financial ties to Russia and his unusual flattery of Vladimir Putin,” Washington Post, Jun. 17, 2016.

[11] Inside Trump’s financial ties to Russia and his unusual flattery of Vladimir Putin,” Washington Post, Jun. 17, 2016; Jeremy Diamond and Greg Botelho, “Putin praises ‘bright and talented’ Trump,” CNN, Dec. 17, 2015.

[12] Ken Dilanian, Robert Windrem, William M. Arkin, and Tom Winter, “FBI Making Inquiry Into Ex-Trump Campaign Manager’s Foreign Ties,” NBC News, Nov. 1, 2016; Peter Stone and Greg Gordon, “FBI, 5 other agencies probe possible covert Kremlin aid to Trump,” McClatchy, Jan. 18, 2017; Zeeshan Aleem, “6 different agencies have come together to investigate Trump’s possible Russia ties,” Vox, Jan. 21, 2017; Stephen Collinson, “FBI: Trump campaign, Russia ties investigated, no wiretap evidence found,” CNN, Mar. 20, 2017.

[13] Jeff Nesbit, “Donald Trump’s Many, Many, Many, Many Ties to Russia,” Time, Aug. 15, 2016; Rachel Roberts, “Donald Trump fired James Comey because ‘he refused to end Russia investigation’, say multiple FBI insiders,” Independent, May 11, 2017; Leo Benedictus, “Invasion of the troll armies: from Russian Trump supporters to Turkish state stooges,” The Guardian, Nov. 6, 2016; Andrew Weisburd, Clint Watts, and JM Berger, “Trolling for Trump: How Russia Is Trying to Destroy Our Democracy,” War on the Rocks, Nov. 6, 2016; Jill Dougherty, “The reality behind Russia’s fake news,” CNN, Dec. 2, 2016; Craig Timberg, “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say,” Washington Post, Nov. 24, 2016 (the infamous story in which they promoted PropOrNot, which STILL hasn’t been deleted).

[14] DHS and Director of National Intelligence, “Joint DHS and ODNI Election Security Statement,” Oct. 7, 2016; Spencer Ackerman and Sam Thielman, “US officially accuses Russia of hacking DNC and interfering with election,” The Guardian, Oct. 8, 2016; Ellen Nakashima, Karoun Demirjan, and Philip Rucker, “Top U.S. intelligence official: Russia meddled in election by hacking, spreading of propaganda,” Washington Post, Jan. 5, 2017; Fred Flitz, “Was Friday’s declassified report claiming Russian hacking of the 2016 election rigged?,” Fox News opinion, Jan. 7, 2017; Tessa Stuart, “A Who’s Who of the Trump Campaign’s Russia Connections,” Rolling Stone, Mar. 2, 2017.

[15] ThreatConnect, “Does a BEAR Leak in the Woods?,” Aug. 12, 2016; Kevin Poulsen, “How the U.S. Hobbled Its Hacking Case Against Russia and Enabled Truthers,” The Daily Beast, Jan. 6, 2017; SecureWorks, “Threat Group-4127 Targets Hillary Clinton Presidential Campaign,” Jun. 16, 2016.

[16] Blackwater founder held secret Seychelles meeting to establish Trump-Putin back channel,” Washington Post, Apr. 3, 2017.

[17]Michael S. Schmidt, Matthew Rosenberg, and Matt Apuzzo, “Kushner and Flynn Met With Russian Envoy in December, White House Says,” New York Times, Mar. 2, 2017; Mark Landler and Eric Lichtblau, “Jeff Sessions Recuses Himself From Russia Inquiry,” Mar. 2, 2017; Jo Becker and Matthew Rosenberg, “Kushner Omitted Meeting With Russians on Security Clearance Forms,” New York Times, Apr. 6, 2017; Jonathan Easley, “Diplomats warn of Russia hysteria,” The Hill, Mar. 11, 2017; Ken Dilanian, “Clinton Ally Says Smoke, But No Fire: No Russia-Trump Collusion,” NBC News, Mar. 16, 2017; NBC Meet the Press, “Full Clapper: ‘No Evidence’ of Collusion Between Trump and Russia,” 2016?; Todd Shepard, “James Clapper: Still no evidence of any Russian collusion with Trump campaign,” Washington Times, May 8, 2017; Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima, and Greg Miller, “Sessions met with Russian envoy twice last year, encounters he later did not disclose,” Washington Post, Mar. 1, 2017; Julie Pace, “Senate committee calls on former Trump adviser Carter Page in Russia investigation,” Associated Press, Mar. 6, 2017; Blackwater founder held secret Seychelles meeting to establish Trump-Putin back channel,” Washington Post, Apr. 3, 2017; David Ignatius, “Why did Obama dawdle on Russia’s hacking?,” Washington Post opinion, Jan. 12, 2017; Marshall Cohen and Eli Watkins, “Who is Carter Page?,” CNN, Mar. 4, 2017.

[18] Michael Isikoff, “Moscow paid $45,000 for Flynn’s 2015 talk, documents show,” Yahoo News, Mar. 16, 2017; Lachlan Markay, “Michael Flynn Failed to Disclose Payments From Russian Propaganda Network,” The Daily Beast, Apr. 1, 2017.

[19] Clint Watts and Andrew Weisburd, “How Russia Dominates Your Twitter Feed to Promote Lies (And, Trump, Too),” The Daily Beast, Aug. 6, 2016; Carl Schreck, “FBI Director: No Evidence Russia Successfully Hacked Trump Campaign,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Free Liberty (US government propaganda outlet), Jan. 10, 2017; David Filipov, “Putin to Democratic Party: You lost, get over it,” Washington Post, Dec. 23, 2016; Olivia Beavers, “Kremlin spokesman: Russian ambassador met with advisers to Clinton campaign too,” The Hill, Mar. 12, 2017.

[20] Julie Hirschfield Davis and Maggie Haberman, “Donald Trump Concedes Russia’s Interference in Election,” Jan. 11, 2017; Ellen Nakashima, Devlin Barrett, and Adam Entous, “FBI obtained FISA warrant to monitor Trump adviser Carter Page,” Washington Post, Apr. 11, 2017; Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Carrie Dann, “Trump Cries ‘Witch Hunt’ as Russia Questions Pile Up,” NBC News, Mar. 3, 2017.

[21] Gregory Holyk, “Republicans and Democrats split over Russia probes: Poll,” ABC News, Apr. 26, 2017; Steven Shepard, “Russia investigations a ‘witch hunt’? Not according to polls,” Politico, Mar. 3, 2017; Reid J. Epstein, “About Half of Americans Think Russia Interfered With Election Through Hacking, Poll Finds,” Wall Street Journal, Jan. 17, 2017; Quinnipac University Poll, “American Voters Back Sanctions For Russian Hacking, Quinnipiac University National Poll Finds; Israel, Palestinians Not Sincere About Peace, Voters Say,” Jan. 13, 2017.

[22] In 2011 and 2012, Trump was still a real estate developer and ravenous capitalist. He displayed his unbridled nationalism by declaring Obama weak for not getting the Chinese and Russians to agree on sanctions, while also saying that Obama’s plan to get Russia to “stand up” to Iran has failed, making America a “laughingstock.” He later called Obama weak (again) and showed his affinity with Mitt Romney. The following year, he took a hardline stand in support of an US nuclear deterrent (against Russia), slammed Snowden first as a “traitor” and then as a pawn of the Russians, saying that Russians are “embarrassing” the US, among much more. Trump also said that the Russians are “laughing” at the US, that Snowden is a traitor (and another time), that Russia doesn’t “respect” the US, that Putin is “laughing at Obama,” and that Snowden is a Russian agent (again here). He also claims he spoke with the LGBT community in Russia, that it doesn’t make sense to go in Syria with military force, that the Russians are “better prepared” for war than the US, and that OPEC, China, and Russia are “laughing” at the US (variant of this here). That’s not all. He also said that Obama’s Syria conflict could become a “worldwide conflict,” promoted the Miss Universe pageant in Russia (also see here), that US looks “worse” to Russia than before, that Russian and Chinese leaders are “smarter” than those in the US, that the war in Iraq is “stupid,” that Russia may have driven the US into a “deeper mess,” and that the US looks “weak.” He goes on to say later that the US must be “smart and strategic” when it comes to Russia, mocks Obamacare (also see here),  Russia beat the US in Olympics, which is another “embarrassment,” Russia laughing at the US yet again, that Putin is much more popular than Obama, that Russia should be watched, Putin and Russia have more leadership than Obama, and calls Snowden a piece of “human garbage” who should be brought back to stand trial. He later tweets about Russian moves in Ukraine, a China-Russia oil deal, the country seeming “weaker” in comparison to Russia, joking about Obama’s “trade” with Russia, China and Russia not helping fighting ISIS which angers him (also see here), and slamming Jeb Bush (also see here). Later years, in 2014 and 2015 he says that the US needs “great leadership,” that Russia isn’t a regional power, that China and Russia are “smart” unlike US leaders, Russia and the world “respecting” the US because of Trump (oh really), slamming the Iran deal as helping Russia. There are the tweets that some would say are “pro-Russia.” With his bravedo, Trump claimed, before he was elected/selected via the Electoral College in November 2016, that (1) “Putin likes me,” (2) he has “ZERO investments in Russia,” (3) says that Putin called him a genius (he didn’t), and (4) said that if any country had the deleted emails of Killary, including the Russians, they should leak them. Yet, this is countered by the fact that he criticized Russia for its occupation of Crimea (which was done by referendum, which he doesn’t believe), blaming Obama, and condemning Russia’s nuclear capabilities, to give a few examples.

[23] Charlie Savage, “Deputy Attorney General’s Memo Breaks Down Case Against Comey,” New York Times, May 9, 2017; David Leonhardt, “Rod Rosenstein Fails His Ethics Test,” New York Times, May 10, 2017; Doyle McManus, “All eyes in Washington are on Rod Rosenstein. Does he have what it takes to investigate Trump?,” LA Times, May 10, 2017; Pamela Brown and Eric Lichtblau, “Rod Rosenstein: Trump’s unlikely hatchet man,” CNN, May 10, 2017; Steve Reilly, “Rosenstein: ‘Prosecutor’s prosecutor’ at center of Comey firestorm,” USA Today, May 10, 2017; Benjamin Wittes, “Et Tu Rod? Why The Deputy Attorney General Must Resign,” LawFare, May 12, 2017; Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker, Sari Horwitz, and Robert Costa, “Inside Trump’s anger and impatience — and his sudden decision to fire Comey,” Washington Post, May 10, 2017 (claims to tell the “story” of the behind-the-scenes of the Comey firing).

[24] BBC News, “Rod Rosenstein’s letter recommending Comey be fired,” May 10, 2017.

“The most heinous act against humanity”: new imperial sanctions on the DPRK

Five ports in China and Russia which would be monitored/”inspected” by the US as part of the recently-passed sanctions. Map was created in Google Earth.

On the heels of Trump’s aggressive posture toward the DPRK, threatening them with military action (and with diplomatic isolation) if they don’t remove their nuclear weapons, which are their main form of self-defense against the imperial beast, the US House of Representatives in a 419-1 vote passed new round of new sanctions against the DPRK, with only GOP Representative Thomas Massie voting against it, and 10 others not voting. As to date, Mr. Massie has not explained his reasons for voting against this legislation, which is currently being considered by the Senate’s Committee of Foreign Relations. Regardless, this legislation is a direct attack upon the DPRK, trying to coax it to surrender to US imperialists. This article aims to show how that is the case.

DPRK and Russia respond to the law with strong criticism

Yesterday, the Supreme People’s Assembly, the duly-elected unicameral parliament of the DPRK, sent a letter of protest to the US House, condemning the new sanctions. As PressTV describes it, showing that the Iranians undoubtedly feel similar about the legislation, the law targets the DPRK’s “exports and shipping industry” with the new sanctions banning “ships owned or hired by North Korea from operating in US waters or docking at US ports,” prohibiting “products originating from North Korea…from entering the United States,” and requiring Trump to report to the Congress within 90 of the legislation on whether the DPRK “has retreated on its activities or should be reinstated on the government’s list of “state sponsors of terror”” which, if put in place, would “trigger even more sanctions.” The KCNA, in an article titled “DPRK SPA Foreign Affairs Committee’s Letter of Protest to U.S. House of Representatives” reprinted the message of the SPA’s Foreign Affairs Committee on the subject:

The SPA Foreign Affairs Committee of the DPRK avails itself of this opportunity to strongly condemn and resolutely reject the “North Korea Interdiction & Modernization of Sanctions Act” (H.R. 1644) that the U.S. House of Representatives passed on May 4, 2017, and extends this letter of protest. The passage of the above legislation amounts to the most heinous act against humanity that not only infringes upon the sacred sovereignty of the DPRK as well as its people’s rights to existence but also arbitrarily violates universal principles of sovereign equality and non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries which run through the United Nations Charter and international laws. That the U.S. House of Representatives passed the above legislation speaks volumes about the ignorance of U.S. politicians who know nothing about the root cause of the long-standing hostile relations between the DPRK and the U.S. and the essence of the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula; it is yet another product of hostile policy towards the DPRK. The hostile policy and acts of the United States of America targeting the DPRK – including but not limited to the abovementioned legislation – run counter to the efforts aimed at ensuring peace and security on the Korean peninsula; it will only further handicap the USA in its attempt to resolve the nuclear issue. If what the U.S. House of Representatives really wants is peace and security on the Korean peninsula and resolution of the nuclear issue, it would do well to delve into more relevant issues such as the establishment of lasting peace regime on the Korean peninsula, enactment of laws aimed at putting an end to the hostile relations between the DPRK and the USA, etc. There’s no denying that the DPRK is fully capable of safeguarding its sovereignty along with its rights to existence and development. The consequences will be dire if the U.S. House of Representatives, obsessed with inherent sense of disapproval towards the DPRK, misjudges the DPRK’s determination and capabilities and continues to meddle in other’s internal affairs and bring pressure to bear on another country by invoking its domestic laws. The U.S. House of Representatives should think twice. As the U.S. House of Representatives enacts more and more of these reckless hostile laws, the DPRK’s efforts to strengthen nuclear deterrents will gather greater pace, beyond anyone’s imagination. The DPRK will keep a watchful eye on the next moves of the USA and continue to take legitimate actions for self-defense to counter the hostile policy of the USA towards the DPRK. The SPA Foreign Affairs Committee of the DPRK takes this opportunity to reiterate its position that the U.S. House of Representatives must have [a] correct understanding of the essence of the current situation and make rational moves as regards the issue of the Korean peninsula.

The arguments that the law infringes on DPRK sovereignty, violates “principles of sovereign equality and non-interference” and tries to deny “the DPRK is fully capable of safeguarding its sovereignty along with its rights to existence and development,” among others in the above quote are completely valid. Similarly, within Russia, the reactions to the law have been broadly negative and rightfully so. Konstantin Kosachev, head of the upper house Committee for International Relations within the Russian Duma, argues that realization of this bill “includes a proposed force scenario in which the US Navy would conduct compulsory inspections of all ships. Such a scenario is simply unthinkable because it means a declaration of war.” In another translation of the same quote, Mr. Kosachev is more reserved, hoping that the bill is not implemented because it if it is, it “envisions a scenario of power with forced inspections of all vessels by US warships” which he argues is “beyond comprehension, because it means a declaration of war.” Other high-ranking Russian officials felt the same way. Frants Klintsevich, the deputy chairman of the State Duma Committee for Defense and Security, was more specific, saying what was important was “the list of nations where US congressmen want to have special control over sea ports” which he notes includes ports within  Russia, China, Iran and Syria, showing that “the United States is again trying to expand its jurisdiction all over the globe.” He added that doing this is almost telling “Russia, China, Iran and Syria that these nations are suspects in crime, which is nonsense, according to international law.” Finally there was Andrey Krasov, the other deputy chairman of the State Duma Committee for Defense and Security, saying that “the US administration will receive a symmetrical adequate response to any unfriendly steps toward Russia and our allies. In any case, no US ship will enter our waters.”

The law itself

Looking at the text of the law, it is clear that concerns of the DPRK and Russian governments are well founded. The section 104 of the law that talks about imperialist monitoring shows this to be the case:

(a) REPORT REQUIRED.—

‘‘(1) IN GENERAL.—Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this section, and annually thereafter for 5 years, the President shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report—

A) identifying the operators of foreign sea ports and airports that have knowingly—

‘‘(i) failed to implement or enforce regulations to inspect ships, aircraft, cargo, or conveyances in transit to or from North Korea, as required by applicable United Nations Security Council resolutions;

‘‘(ii) facilitated the transfer, trans-shipment, or conveyance of significant types or quantities of cargo, vessels, or aircraft owned or controlled by persons designated under applicable United Nations Security Council resolutions; or

‘‘(iii) facilitated any of the activities described in section 104(a)

“(b) SPECIFIC FINDINGS.—

Each report required under subsection (a) shall include specific findings with respect to the following ports and airports:

‘‘(1) The ports of Dandong, Dalian, and any other port in the People’s Republic of China that the President deems appropriate.

‘‘(2) The ports of Abadan, Bandar-e-Abbas, Chabahar, Bandar-e-Khomeini, Bushehr Port, Asaluyeh Port, Kish, Kharg Island, Bandar-e-Lenge, and Khorramshahr, and Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport, in the Islamic Republic of Iran

‘‘(3) The ports of Nakhodka, Vanino, and Vladivostok, in the Russian Federation.

‘‘(4) The ports of Latakia, Banias, and Tartous, and Damascus International Airport, in the Syrian Arab Republic.

‘‘(c) ENHANCED SECURITY TARGETING REQUIREMENTS.—

“(1) IN GENERAL.—Except as provided in paragraph (2), the Secretary of Homeland Security may, using the Automated Targeting System operated by the National Targeting Center of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, require enhanced screening procedures to determine whether physical inspections are warranted of any cargo bound for or landed in the United States that—

‘‘(A) has been transported through a sea port or airport the operator of which has been identified by the President in accordance with subsection (a)(1) as having repeatedly failed to comply with applicable United Nations Security Council resolutions;

‘(2) EXCEPTION FOR FOOD, MEDICINE, AND HUMANITARIAN SHIPMENTS

—Paragraph (1) shall not apply to any vessel, aircraft, or conveyance that has entered the territory, waters, or airspace of North Korea, or landed in any of the sea ports or airports of North Korea, exclusively for the purposes described in section 208(b)(3)(B), or to import food, medicine, or supplies into North Korea to meet the humanitarian needs of the North Korean people.

‘(d) SEIZURE AND FORFEITURE

—A vessel, aircraft, or conveyance used to facilitate any of the activities described in section 104(a) under the jurisdiction of the United States may be seized and forfeited under [certain laws]

While these sanctions show that the imperial monitoring of “the territory, waters, or airspace of North Korea” shall not apply to those vessels or planes which “import food, medicine, or supplies into North Korea,” the fact that there would be monitoring by the US Navy (and Air Force?) is undoubtedly an act of war.

Ports within Iran and Syria that will be subject to imperial monitoring and inspection. Map was created with Google Earth, with titles of countries added in a photo editing software.

Section 104(a), part of an anti-DPRK sanctions law which went into effect last year,  mentioned in the above quote as part of the imperial monitoring, shows these efforts are aimed at the DPRK’s socialist, centrally-planned economy. An excerpt from this section shows this is the case, saying that President shall designate, except under certain circumstances [1], any person who he determines “knowingly, directly or indirectly”  imported, exported, or re-exported the following to the DPRK:

  • “any goods, services, or technology” which could be used for “weapons of mass destruction [WMD] or delivery systems”
  • luxury goods
  • “a significant amount of precious metal, graphite, raw or semi-finished metals or aluminum, steel, coal, or software” which can be used in “industrial processes directly related to weapons of mass destruction” or for the Workers Party of Korea (WPK), the Korean armed forces, “internal security, or intelligence activities, or the operation and maintenance of political prison camps”
  • “any arms or related materiel”

This isn’t all. Also, any person engages in the following can be sanctioned as well:

  • provides training or other services for such “WMDs”
  • engages in “significant financial transactions” relating to the creation or use of such “WMDs”
  • facilitates or engages in DPRK “censorship”
  • responsible for purported “serious human rights abuses” by the government
  • money laundering to support the government
  • “the counterfeiting of goods or currency” by the government
  • “bulk cash smuggling” by the government
  • narcotics trafficking that supports the government
  • “significant activities undermining cybersecurity through the use of computer networks or systems against foreign persons, governments, or other entities” on behalf of the government

Considering that the country’s industries focus on military products, building of machines, mining of coal, iron ore, and numerous other “precious metals,” along with food processing and tourism, while importing “metallurgical products, manufactures (including armaments)…and fishery products” if the CIA World Factbook is to be given any credibility on this matter [2], these sanctions are not “targeted” but are rather meant to strike a dagger in the DPRK’s economy. Furthermore, these sanctions strike at the “socialist motherland” as a whole by attempting to stop any measures of self-defense (restricting arms transfers, cyber-defense, necessary censorship), or further development (stopping importation of purported “luxury goods”). This is followed by with the common slurs against the DPRK, including its purported “serious human rights abuses,” and other “new” ones including money laundering, counterfeit “goods or currency,” “cash smuggling” and narcotics trafficking by (or supporting) the DPRK’s duly elected government.

The use of narcotics as a slur against governments declared “communist” by imperial elites is nothing new. In his book, Strength of the Wolf, Douglas Valentine writes that while there were Chinese gangs in Shanghai in the 1920s and 1930s, with the profits from opium allowing Chiang Kai-Shek’s Nationalist government/KMT (Kuomintang of China) to survive, working directly with the drug traffickers, the New York Times alleged that Arnold Rothenstein used some of his drug money to finance “communist-sponsored strikes” in New York City’s garment district, the first time in US history that “politicians and policemen were linked with Bolsheviks and drug traffickers.” [3] That’s not all. He added that Chiang’s government, which came to power violently in 1927, which depended on drug smuggling profits, had created an “opium monopoly”/syndicate and paid for individuals to serve as part of their Communist suppression unit, such as Du Yue-sheng. [4] Adding to this, Henry J. Anslinger, Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics from 1930 to 1962, was unwilling to acknowledge this reality. As it was evident that the Chinese Communists were engaged in “anti-narcotics activities,” not the Nationalists, Mr. Anslinger dismissed this, continuing to seek evidence that “would link the Communist Chinese to drug rings in Japan, Korea, and China” although no such evidence existed, with later anti-China propaganda asserting that all of the “illicit dope” that reached Japan came from Communist China or People’s Republic of China (PRC) while the US backed the Nationalists. [5] Anslinger made these claims even though he knew they weren’t true as part of a smear campaign against the PRC as the CIA and other entities worked with the KMT in their drug smuggling operations.

Getting back to the law, other provisions show the sanctions are even more extensive section 105, prohibits DPRK vessels (or vessels of any of the DPRK’s allies, like Russia, China, Syria, or any country not complying with sanctions on the DRPK) from entering or operating in “the navigable waters of the United States” and section 106 requires a report on the “coordination” between Iran and the DPRK. Adding to this, section 107 puts in place a report delineating if UN Security Council Resolutions are being followed by other countries, section 108 denies financial messaging services to the DPRK, and sections 201 and 202 put sanctions on the DPRK for “human rights violations.” If that isn’t enough, section 203 rewards informants who allow them to implement murderous sanctions, section 204 declares the DPRK as a “state sponsor of terrorism,” and section 103 broadens an arms embargo on the country. Finally, section 102 limits financial interactions with the DPRK, section 101 modifies and expands sanctions on the Korean populace of the DPRK. [6]

The illegality of anti-Korean sanctions

Recently, in a post criticizing Trump’s imperialist act of aggression against Syria, Stephen Gowans wrote that some say that military strike was illegal because it did not have UN Security Council approval and it “represented an unauthorized act of war,” only unilaterally ordered by the White House. However, he says that such discussion of illegality is “academic” because the United States has “amassed a sizable record of crimes in Syria…[including the] intrusion of US military personnel on Syrian soil” which is an act of war. Hence, he concludes that since the US is “at liberty to violate international law with impunity” as an imperial monster, with “no higher authority capable of enforcing international law through the threat of a force” greater than the Pentagon, and that, as a result, expecting the US to “yield to international law is naïve and therefore any discussion of whether this or that act of the United States violates international law is a discussion of no consequence.” While I agree that holding the US accountable for violating international law is near impossible, I do think it is important to highlight if acts are illegal or not, as it shows the corrupted nature of the murderous empire. So, that’s where I disagree with Gowans.

This horrible law violates many international agreements, showing that the law, in and of itself, is illegal. While the legal status of blockades is murky, there is no doubt that this law violates the Kellogg-Briand Pact which basically bans war “as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another,” the UN Charter which requires all member states to refrain from the threat or use of force against other member states while preserving state sovereignty, even as it has not acceded to the 1952 International Convention for the unification of certain rules relating to Arrest of Sea-going Ships or the 1999 replacement, both of which Syria is a party to. Even more, the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the DPRK has seemingly withdrawn, prohibits “any propaganda for war” which this law has engaged in, even if you take into account the typical imperial reservations by the US Congress. Inspection and monitoring required by this act would undoubtedly violate the 1988 Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against Safety of Maritime Navigation which prohibits individuals from unlawfully and intentionally seizing and taking control of “a ship by force or threat thereof or any other form of intimidation; or…[destroying] a ship or [causing] damage to a ship or to its cargo which is likely to endanger the safe navigation of that ship.” Since the DPRK, Iran, Russia, Syria, and China, all of which acceded to the previous convention, just like the United States, are serious about defending themselves from outside threats, there is no doubt they will defend themselves, meaning that US actions to take commercial vessels will become an act of war since those ships cannot, by any means, be considered warships.

There are many more treaties I could consider here in this section, but I do not wish to do that at this time. [7] There is no doubt that the use of force against a state would be illegal as any act of war or forceful action has to be approved by the UN Security Council but also violates the US Constitution which requires that war can only be declared by Congress, with this law basically giving that power to the President, once again. I know that citing the US Constitution may seem like a bourgeois approach, but it is only used here to show that the law is illegal in many forms. Hence, it isn’t worth going through every single international law since the US will likely never be held to account for it.

A conclusion

With all of these approaches, it is evident that the DPRK was right to say the law is “the most heinous act against humanity” and the Russians to call it “simply unthinkable” as it will lead to a declaration of war with further ban on US ships entering sovereign Russian waters. After all, as the murderous empire, the US has not ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which has been ratified by the Russians and Chinese while the DRPK and Iran have signed the agreement, with the Syrians neither signing or ratifying it. Hence, the US may feel it has the “right” to enter the sovereign waters of Russia, China, Syria, and Iran so they can suffocate the DPRK’s socialist government, making in “bow” in submission.

The DPRK is stuck in a difficult situation. Recently, the DPRK has foiled an attempted joint CIA-South Korean IS (Intelligence Service) attempt to assassinate Kim Jong Un. The Ministry of State Security of the DPRK said on May 5 that both forces “hatched a vicious plot to hurt the supreme leadership of the DPRK…[using] biochemical substances including radioactive substance and nano poisonous substance,” handing the perpetrator, part of a terrorist group that was within the country, $20,000 to commit the act. [8] This shows that the DPRK’s efforts at self-defense on its islands, with its power stations, and continuing to build their form of socialism based on the masses, connected with the idea of Juche while standing up to the US imperialists with “deterrence for self-defence.” These ideals are, in a sense, echoed by the 25% of Russians who believe that nuclear weapons can be a “deterrent for the most aggressive forces in the world” with the “fear of mutually assured destruction encourages peaceful conflict resolution” and honored even by the Zimbabwean state paper, The Herald. If this isn’t enough, just like Syria, to an extent, the DPRK, is surrounded by enemies (Japan, South Korea, and the ever-present United States). However, they are buoyed by the anti-THAAD protests in South Korea even as the South Korean government (not the one that was recently elected) has liked the US missile “shield” program in the past, even as there are daily protests against it “by villagers in Seongju and Gimcheon.” But the DPRK should rest assured even though the US and S. Korean forces still need to properly understand the will of DPRK that Cuba and Syria have pledged their solidarity with them. Even though this solidarity will not, by itself, stop the Pentagon from leading 300,000 troops in a rehearsal for military invasion and “decapitation” of the regime, assisted by, of course, the South Korean government, but it is an important part of an anti-imperialist alliance against US (and Western) imperialist actions which aim to undermine “unfriendly” governments, even if they differ in ideology.

Recently, Trump, the purveyor of “gunboat diplomacy,” says he is willing to talk with Kim Jong Un. However, this requires that the DPRK has to surrender to US imperialism, a sentiment reinforced by a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, Anthony Ruggiero, who declared that Trump should only meet with Kim Jong Un if the DPRK surrenders its nuclear weapons, close its supposed “prison camps,” and not “threatening” the US, saying it should bow before US, which is equally unacceptable. It is worth pointing out that many of those living in the US have internalized anti-communist and imperial values. For one, 68% of the US feels it “is important that the U.S. be No. 1 in the world militarily,” 86% of the populace has unfavorable views of the DPRK, with “Iran, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq” also in the same category. With this chauvinism of US populace, it should come as no surprise that 65% of the US are concerned about the DPRK with nuclear weapons, with 78%, in Pew’s results, having an “unfavorable view” of the country.

Despite the recent spat between the state media of the DPRK and Chinese media over the justified nuclear and missile program of the DPRK, it seems evident that the “strong bond between the two countries” will stay in place. [9] Hence, this “expected” victory for the US imperialists will not happen as the imperial threats continue from the “World’s Worst Human Rights Abuser.” After all, the US hopes they will remove the DPRK’s “nuclear deterrence for self-defence” is not going to happen. With the socialist power of the DPRK pushed along by the WPK, even under current conditions, this can resist the hardline positions of the US State Department, with Mark Toner showing that he is one of the many faces of imperialism by saying that “our conviction that we need to apply greater pressure on North Korea to get it to comply to international concerns. There are a number of options…isolation, diplomatic isolation being another one.”

Adding to this, it is troubling that China agreed to “suspend all coal imports from North Korea until the end of this year” in order to curry favor of the US, to appease it. After all, as some recently pointed out, if China brought the DPRK economy to its knees, US imperialism would win. With the WPK having the determination to not “yield to the war threats being hurled right now by the criminal agents of U.S. imperialism” with every right to self-defense, including against the “biggest nuclear weapons state in the world,” the United States, will China hold its ground? Brian Becker, ANSWER Coalition National Coordinator, addressed this in an April 18 post in Liberation News, a PSL publication, writing that China has the message from Trump that it must either break from the DPRK or “apply immense pressure on it to suspend its nuclear and ballistic missile tests” or else Trump will engage in an “another round of unilateral military action on China’s border.” Mr. Becker goes on to say that Trump has borrowed “a page from the Ronald Reagan playbook” with his military action against muting “his ruling class critics,” with the Chinese leadership stunned, thinking that “unless the DPRK backs down from further expected weapons tests” there will be war. He adds that in the past the DPRK has offered to suspend its nuclear tests if the US cancels it “massive, annual military exercises that simulate the destruction of the North” but the Obama and Trump Administrations have rejected this, even as the DPRK mainly seeks a “peace treaty with the United States to formally end the Korean War that began nearly 70 years ago.” He further writes that if there is military action and the DPRK responds, this could “lead to another and possibly greater catastrophe” with the Chinese media insisting that “the DPRK not proceed with its expected missile tests,” sharply demanding that it cancel its upcoming weapons tests, and a Global Times editorial announcing that “China is ready to cut off oil exports to North Korea whose economy has stabilized in recent years.” The end of the article is worth repeating and relevant, even now, almost a month after the piece was written:

Today, the danger of igniting regional and global confrontation is real. China and Russia are backpedaling, hoping that their prudence, or possible appeasement, will deter or deflect the danger. Their position is understandable given the level of risk. But appeasement, as we know from history, poses its own risks in the face of bullying and aggression. Appeasing the bully, the aggressor, invites more not less aggression.

 

Mr. Becker makes a valid point. Any concessions to the US imperialists should be strongly criticized and not accepted, even if those concessions are by Russia and China, both of which are capitalist in their own ways, perhaps Russia more than China. As the CIA creates the Korea Mission Center to “purposefully integrate and direct CIA efforts against the serious threats to the United States and its allies emanating from North Korea,” and watch the country like a persistent hawk, complains about the DPRK going to the Belt and Road Forum, the “existential threat” of the DPRK (in the strange mind of CIA chief Mike Pompeo) is being closely scrutinized, like always, by the imperialists. [10] With accusations abound by the DPRK throughout the bourgeois media, the socialist nation can only use its own wit and existing alliances in case of an imperial attack. If war under unpredictable Trump occurs, we should stand beside the DPRK in solidarity even if the war is popular within the United States, any Western country, and especially within those countries in the global periphery.

Notes

[1] If he grants a humanitarian waiver, there are activities relating to “identifying or recovering the remains” of past POWs taken during the Great Fatherland Liberation War (“Korean War”) from 1950-1953, complying with the agreement on the UN headquarters or Convention on Consular Relations, or allowing “financial services” by a non-DPRK foreign financial entity as part of a waiver.

[2] The CIA World Factbook lists the following as the country’s industries: “military products; machine building, electric power, chemicals; mining (coal, iron ore, limestone, magnesite, graphite, copper, zinc, lead, and precious metals), metallurgy; textiles, food processing; tourism.” It also says the country exports “minerals, metallurgical products, manufactures (including armaments), textiles, agricultural and fishery products” while importing “petroleum, coking coal, machinery and equipment, textiles, grain” with their biggest trade partner (76.4% from China, 5.5% from the Republic of the Congo).

[3] Douglas Valentine, The Strength of the Wolf: The Secret History of America’s War on Drugs (New York: Verso Books, 2004), 8, 10-11.

[4] Ibid, 12-14, 17, 37-38, 47.

[5] Ibid, 68-70, 72, 77-78, 102, 133, 195, 235, 273, 309, 392.

[6] There are numerous other miscellaneous provisions manifested in sections 1-3, 301-304.

[7] See Wikipedia pages “list of treaties,” “list of international declarations,” “law of war” and the ICRC’s “Treaties, States Parties and Commentaries” page along with the Wikipedia category “Treaties adopted by United Nations General Assembly resolutions.” While Wikipedia is never source that should be cited in general, these links are a good starting point, which is why they are included here.

[8] KCNA, “DPRK Warns U.S., S. Korean Intelligence Agencies of Merciless Punishment: Ministry of State Security,” May 5, 2017; KCNA, “Statement of DPRK Central Public Prosecutors Office,” May 12, 2017; KCNA, “DPRK Foreign Ministry Gives Briefing on Situation,” May 11, 2017; North Korea wants South’s spy chief extradited over alleged Kim plot,” CNN, May 12, 2017.

[9] A DPRK (North Korean) view on the current situation as noted in a BBC interview. On May 3, 2017, KCNA released an article titled “Commentary on DPRK-China Relations” which was reprinted in Rodong Sinmun under the title “Reckless Remarks Undermining DPRK-China Relations Should Be Stopped,” by Kim Chol, a Vice Minister in the Korean Army, the same person who the bourgeois media claimed falsely was executed by mortal bombardment even though Foreign Policy said it was pure speculation. His article says the following:

The People’s Daily and the Global Times, widely known as media speaking for the official stand of the Chinese party and government, have recently carried commentaries asserting that the DPRK’s access to nukes poses a threat to the national interests of China. They shifted the blame for the deteriorated relations between the DPRK and China onto the DPRK and raised lame excuses for the base acts of dancing to the tune of the U.S. Those commentaries claimed that the DPRK poses a threat to “the security in the northeastern region of China” by conducting nuclear tests less than 100 km away from its border with China. They even talked rubbish that the DPRK strains the situation in Northeast Asia and “offers the U.S. excuses for deploying more strategic assets” in the region. Not content with such paradox, the commentaries asserted that to remain averse to the DPRK’s access to nukes is to preserve interests common to the U.S. and China, calling for slapping harsher sanctions against the DPRK in order to avert a war which would bring danger to China. The newspapers, even claiming China holds the initiative in handling the DPRK-China relations, made no scruple of letting out a string of provocative remarks urging the DPRK to choose one among such options if it doesn’t want military confrontation with China–“whether to face protracted isolation or to preserve national security by making a U-turn” and whether to break Sino-DPRK friendship or to dismantle its nukes. This is just a wanton violation of the independent and legitimate rights, dignity and supreme interests of the DPRK and, furthermore, constitutes an undisguised threat to an honest-minded neighboring country which has a long history and tradition of friendship. China is hyping up “damage caused by the DPRK’s nuclear tests” in its three northeastern provinces. This only reveals the ulterior purpose sought by it, being displeased with the DPRK’s rapid development of nukes. As far as “violation of national interests” oft-repeated by politicians and media persons of China is concerned, it is just the issue that the DPRK should rather talk much about. It is just the DPRK whose strategic interests have been repeatedly violated due to insincerity and betrayal on the part of its partner, not China at all. Some theorists of China are spouting a load of nonsense that the DPRK’s access to nukes strains the situation in Northeast Asia and offers the U.S. an excuse for beefing up its strategic assets in the region. But the U.S. had activated its strategy for dominating Asia-Pacific long before the DPRK had access to nukes, and its primary target is just China. China should acknowledge in an honest manner that the DPRK has just contributed to protecting peace and security of China, foiling the U.S. scheme for aggression by waging a hard fight in the frontline of the showdown with the U.S. for more than seven decades, and thank the DPRK for it. Some ignorant politicians and media persons of China daringly assert that the traditional relations of the DPRK-China friendship were in line with the interests of each county in the past. They are advised to clearly understand the essence of history before opening their mouth. Their call for not only slapping stricter sanctions but also not ruling out a military intervention if the DPRK refuses to abandon its nuclear program is no more than an extremely ego-driven theory based on big-power chauvinism that not only the strategic interests but also the dignity and vital rights of the DPRK should be sacrificed for the interests of China. One must clearly understand that the DPRK’s line of access to nukes for the existence and development of the country can neither be changed nor shaken and that the DPRK will never beg for the maintenance of friendship with China, risking its nuclear program which is as precious as its own life, no matter how valuable the friendship is. The DPRK, which has already become one of the most powerful nuclear weapons state, does not feel the need to think over how many options it has now. China should no longer try to test the limits of the DPRK’s patience but make proper strategic option, facing up to the situation. China had better ponder over the grave consequences to be entailed by its reckless act of chopping down the pillar of the DPRK-China relations.

A Global Times piece DIRECTLY responds, saying that the above piece is just a “stronger disgruntling” but not mentioning China’s support for UN sanctions “against North Korea” or Pyongyang’s next step, with the editorial board claiming that the editorial is “nothing more than a hyper-aggressive piece completely filled with nationalistic passion” and claims that the DPRK does not understand “Beijing’s deep concern for the potential risks posed by Pyongyang’s nuclear tests to people living in northeastern China.” Adding to this is evidence that the Mr. Chol was onto something when he said that “the People’s Daily and the Global Times…have recently carried commentaries asserting that the DPRK’s access to nukes poses a threat to the national interests of China.” The Global Times carried many commentaries to this effect in recent days: “Is China-North Korea friendship treaty outdated?” (May 3), “China, US share goal of halting North Korean nuclear tests” (May 2), “Is breakthrough likely on NK nuke issue?” (May 1), and “Pyongyang’s failed missile test adds to Korean Peninsula tensions” (April 29). The People’s Daily has done the same thing, running similar pieces: “Responsible actions needed to ensure peace of Korean Peninsula: People’s Daily” (May 2), “Commentary: the Korean Peninsula is not the Middle East” (April 28), “US, DPRK must hold talks before it’s too late” (April 18), and “Can Korean Peninsula go from geopolitical flashpoint to stable place of peace?” (Feb. 17). Also see this article in Sina English: “China calls for end to provocations on NK issue.”

[10] Joseph Hincks, “CIA Sets Up a Mission Center to Address North Korea Threat,” The CIA has just set up a unit to deal with North Korea,” CNN,  May 11, 2017; Ben Blanchard and John Ruwitch, “Exclusive: U.S. complains to China about North Korea’s attendance at Silk Road summit,” Reuters, May 12, 2017; Matthew Pennington, “North Korea poses ‘existential’ threat, U.S. intel chief warns,” Associated Press, May 11, 2017.

The Role of Science in Capitalist Society and Social Change two-part series

A scene from “Lisa the Skeptic” (S9e8), barely within the Simpson’s “Silver Era.” This is uttered by Moe after the mob breaks into the Springfield Natural History Museum and a tusk of a wholly mammoth falls on his back.

Recently, I wrote a two-part series for Dissident Voice on science within capitalist society. I am not as pessimistic about it as Mr. Edward Curtin, who published an article the same day as the last part of my series, quoting Orwell (a bad sign), the Beatles, declared that the recent climate and science marches “were perhaps well-intentioned, but they were delusional and conducted without any sense of irony. They served power and its propaganda,” going on to say that science has become “untethered from any sense of moral limits in its embrace of instrumental rationality,” leading to “a spiritual alienation that goes to the roots of the world crisis.” [1]

The first article focuses on “The Role of Science in Capitalist Society and Social Change” as the title of this post makes clear. Rather than summarizing it fully and completely, a quote and excerpt is as follows:

…The [science] march and rally beforehand, like many of the other marches for environmentalism through the Obama years, likely will have no effect on policy or direction of the reactionary Trump Administration…the demonstration…was predictably anti-Trump…it was partially inspiring to see tens of thousands of people in the rain advocating for science…science is more important than ever…climate change/global warming…[the] climate catastrophe, is happening….there is a more direct threat. It’s…the reactionary backlash against science, with the bourgeois media portraying it as a “debate” between climate scientists and deniers. We are facing, in advanced capitalist society, at least, a dilemma…Clifford D. Conner…claims to write a history of proletarian science in his tome, A People’s History of Science…[later] Mr. Conner’s book starts going into anti-Soviet and anti-communist diatribes, claiming that Trofim Denisovich Lysenko’s science was “wrong,” claiming that Stalin opposed “proletarian science” even as he criticizes the Green Revolution…All in all, while Mr. Conner’s book is a competent history, it is still replete with bourgeois ideas, especially falling in line with the criticisms of the Soviet Union by Trotskyists and other deluded anti-revolutionary individuals.

While this first article was largely a critical book overview/review, the second article combines more elements, arguing how we can science can bounce “Back Against the Corruption of Science in Capitalist Society.” A quote and excerpt from that article is below, like the last piece:

…science has often failed the proletariat, used in their oppression, and as a form of destruction…In August 1945, the United States committed a grave war crime on the world stage. On August 6 and 9th, two cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, were obliterated off the face of the Earth by two hideous weapons of war, atomic bombs…In what was a very masculine endeavor, the [atomic] scientists thought that building the bomb showed that mankind could do anything…Geoffrey C. Ward even admits…that…from 1944 to 1945, US aircraft bombed with napalm and burned over 60 “Japanese cities, killing at least 300,000 Japanese civilians, injuring 1.3 million, and leaving 8 million more without homes”…In Medical Apartheid, Harriet A. Washington, a Black female author, writes about the years of medical abuse the Black masses in the United States have suffered [over the years]…For his part, foreign policy critic William Blum writes in a similar vein, with multiple chapters on his book, Rogue State, focusing on use of chemical and biological weapons by the murderous US empire…The Black Panther Party (BPP), a revolutionary socialist group distorted by Deray McKesson for his own personal gain as a black bourgeois figure serving White power, among others, recognized that science could be destructive…The BPP not only recognized the diseases facing the Black community…but they had people’s community survival programs…With science helping capitalist class bend to horrible ends, it can still be used for positive human development…Karl Marx himself was deeply interested in science, using it to argue that there is a rift between capitalist society and nature…While reading Marx can sometimes be fraught with difficulty, there is no doubt that scientific discipline informed and influenced his works…Any sort of corporate-funded or military-funded science should be rejected as fraudulent and worthless. Science that accumulates knowledge, and engages in related practices to benefit the masses, should be encouraged…It is clear that science is important but we must reject bourgeois science in all its manifestations, the forms of which oppressed people of the world know all too well”

As always, I open to criticism on this subject, but felt it necessary to write about science after the science march and everything else.

Notes

[1] He goes on to quote Dostoevsky, Goethe, John Saul Ralston, Paul Virilio, Jacques Ellul, and say rightly that climate change and nuclear destruction are the “result of the marriage of science and technique that has given birth to the technological “babies”” and saying that the “the Save-the-Earth-Science marchers failed” because logical thinking has become inverted as “the search for truth, celebrated as a goal of science, is slyly eliminated,” saying that marching for science is “marching for a means to a means” since science, in his view “serves no ultimate end but its own existence.” He adds that in his view “American society is nihilistic and the ruling political and intellectual elites are, of course, the leading nihilists” echoing unconsciously what Cornel West wrote in Democracy Matters back in 2004. He ends by saying he will write in a sequal to the article about “a path out of the seeming impossibility of escaping the cul-de-sac of our spiritually disinherited current condition.” While I share his skepticism, I don’t share his pessimistic viewpoint.

Is “The Simpsons” dead or zombiefied?

Lisa talking to the producer of the Itchy and Scratchy Show (S8e14).

As reader may know, I’m an avid fan of animated sitcom, the Simpsons. I’ve cited it on this blog when mentioning that strange “human rights watcher” guy and how the show has mocked Apple (and addiction to online games) by calling it “Mapple,” the character of “Steve Mobbs” (Steve Jobs) declaring to Homer that he must “submit” to Apple’s control, and Bart dispelling the idea that Mobbs is a “genius,” saying he is self-absorbed while stirring up people’s homophobic urges. I’ve also cited the Simpsons as an example of better politics than Star Wars, Simpsons episodes about Cuba, the episode called “Simpsons Tide” as a comparison for recent Russophobic attacks on the Trump Administration, and mentioned it at the end of an article about the immigrant proletariat in the United States. This is only scratching the surface as my twitter account shows. By the time this is published, there will soon be another episode in the works, which isn’t worth watching. As it stands now, The Simpsons is going into the latter half of its 28th season, with plans of it continuing until Season 30, as announced last fall. I’m not trying to advocate on behalf of the Simpsons here, but look into this topic with a clear mind, since this show can be relevant culturally and politically, so this analysis is justified. This post aims to answer the question, is show dead and/or does it constitute the “Zombie Simpsons” as those over at Dead Homer Society argue?

Definitions and establishing terms

Before proceeding it is best to set forward a number of definitions. For the word dead, the Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines it as “no longer living; having died…naturally without life; inanimate…lacking positive qualities…without feeling…barren…time of greatest darkness, most intense cold…was alive but is no loner so.” As for zombie, the same dictionary defines it as “…a corpse…brought to a state of tracelike animation and made to obey the commands of the person exercising the power…a person considered to like a zombie in listlessness, mechanical behavior…a weird, eccentric, or unattractive person.”

The general agreement is that there was a “Golden Age” of the Simpsons. [1] Some say it lasted from Seasons 1 to 8, others say Seasons 3 to 8, some say Seasons 4 to 10, and then there are those that say it lasted from Seasons 1 to 10, or maybe 11. [1] So, the term is very loose. This is why some media critics say it is a “fool’s errand to pinpoint when and how modern-day Simpsons diverged from its golden age,” while others say that the term is misleading because while it was “an extraordinary, even masterful thing,” over those years, it could be an overstatement even if the show would be, arguably, by seasons 10 and 11,in a “gaping valley [and]…never get anywhere near those heights again.” Then there are those who say that the show has not “overstayed its relevance” and that the show still holds up, with a “New Renaissance…and then a Postmodern period where they got self-reflexive about their own legacy.” While you could argue this has a bit of validity, it almost implies that the show was never off, its character didn’t change, whether it because of episodes like “The Principal and the Pauper,” or otherwise. [2]

You know the show has changed when it has averaged at approximately 5.53 million viewers per show since Season 21, until Season 28 (as of Feb. 25), but before then, during the “Golden Age” (Seasons 1 to 7 for this computation) the show averaged at 19.88 million viewers per show, much more. [3] This below chart shows the decline in viewership over the years, of the show. Despite the slight increase in viewership from seasons Seasons 12 to Season 14, it dropped again by the end of Season 15.

simpsons-chart
For the first star, Season 8 on Wikipedia has incomplete data on viewership, but it is used in this analysis anyway. For the second star, data on viewership in the 27th and 28th seasons stops at the episode titled The Cad and the Hat.

The Simpsons has been written about critically in The Psychology of the Simpsons, The Simpsons and Philosophy: The D’oh! of Homer, and Planet Simpson: How a Cartoon Masterpiece Documented an Era and Defined a Generation, to name a few. I may look at those books more in the future, but for now, I’ll propose my own analysis. There may be spoilers ahead, just as a word of precaution.

The Simpsons is a show that shows that cartoons aren’t just “a bunch of hilarious stuff” without messages, as Bart quipped in one episode. The information available at The Simpsons Archives shows, that there can be many interpretation of the episodes. Some say that fat, incompetent Homer is seen by some as a “homophobic hero” while others point to the show’s criticisms of consumerism (also see here) environmental destruction, and religious belief (also see here and here). Beyond this, some talk about allusions in the animated sitcom, masculinity, mocking the advertising of beer companies with “Duff Beer,” poking at the “ideal” nuclear family which the Simpsons family stereotypically represents, its satirical qualities, and ethics, among other subjects.

For the purpose of my analysis, the show is divided into three eras: the Golden Age (Seasons 1-8), the Silver Age (Seasons 9 to 12), and the Bronze Age (Seasons 13 to 28, possibly 30). For the Golden Age, there were varying showrunners, or head writers, ranging from season to season:

  • Matt Groening, James L. Brooks, & Sam Simon (Seasons 1 and 2)
  • Al Jean & Mike Reiss (Seasons 3 and 4)
  • David Mirkin (Seasons 5 and 6)
  • Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein (Seasons 7 and 8)
  • Mike Scully (Seasons 9 to 12)
  • Al Jean (Seasons 13 to present)

Hence, you could call the “Silver Age” the Mike  Scully era and the “Bronze Age” the Al Jean era.

Originally, when I thought of writing up this analysis, I was going to go through each Season and pick some of my favorite episodes, apart from its politics, however that is not sufficient for the task at hand. Instead, it is best to highlight the changing nature of the show from each era to the next. Let me make clear that I’m not trying or attempting to be nostalgic here either, it is just that the show has changed over time.

The Golden Age of the Simpsons

In Season 1, the show began with a bang, after 49 animated shorts on The Tracy Ulman Show. The pilot episode, Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire, introduced the Simpsons family to American audiences, showing Homer, his wife Marge, and their child Maggie. Without going into a summary, the episode not only pokes at uptight Americans through the developing anti-authority nature of their son, Bart, but illustrates the class dynamics in society. Homer wants to “keep up the Joneses” and prove his worthiness “as a man” by getting a job as a mall Santa, as his ruthless boss, Mr. C. Montgomery Burns of the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, refuses to give his workers a Christmas bonus. The latter shows that workers, the proletariat, are under the thumb of the big capitalists, that want to cut costs so they can profit off the back of wealth created by laborers. Finally, the losing dog, Santa’s Little Helper, for which he bets $13 dollars, Marge and Lisa, Homer and Marge’s daughter, say is the  “best gift of all,” and brings the family together, reasserting his role as “man of the house.”

While it worth recounting the first episode, it is best to categorize the episodes into categories to show the social, personal and political themes among the seasons. Even though the first season was still the show in development, it began touching on many  themes, along with being insightful and often funny.

Bart celebrates his victory over Nelson Muntz (“Bart the General”)

The first of these themes is Bart opposing the constraints of the schoolyard while also trying to maintain his “rebellious” social standing:

  • In Bart the Genius, he sprays graffiti mocking Principal Seymour Skinner of Springfield Elementary, utters the phrase “eat my shorts” which will later become his catchphrase, cheats on a test giving him a ticket into “higher” schooling and learning in which he cannot thrive since he isn’t really a genius at all and was “faking it.” By the end of the episode, everything is “back to normal” in the Simpson home.
  • In one episode, Bart leads kids to fighting back against those who bully him (Bart the General), with the episode even touching on the seriousness of war
  • Bart’s attempts to assert his “rebellious” social standing, the beginning of criticism of TV comedians/showbusiness with the introduction of Krusty the Clown, and the town defending its own insular identity after Bart decapitates the Jebeddiah Springfield statue in the center of town are manifested in The Telltale Head.
  • The next three episodes focus on Bart’s rebellious nature (The Crepes of Wrath), the Cold War tensions between Albania and the United States which results in this argument between Lisa and Adil
  • Bart shows that he wants to succeed enough to get a passing grade by working with the stereotypical nerd Martin Prince (Bart Gets an “F”)
  • Bart’s cruel nature toward his sister which he eventually apologizes for (Bart vs. Thanksgiving)
  • Bart trying to be a daredevil with the infamous (and hilarious) scene by Homer trying (and failing) to jump the Springfield gorge (Bart the Daredevil)
  • Bart’s mischievous antics and Homer trying to relieve himself of the pressure of Marge’s “hideous” sisters Patty and Selma (Principal Charming)
  • Bart recognizing emotional pain he can cause people (Bart the Lover)
  • In Radio Bart, he manipulates the town with his microphone, but the worthlessness of a funding campaign by celebrities which mimics “We are the World,” and that you should be careful what you wish for, with Bart saved after a massive digging effort with the wishing well as dangerous as ever.
  • Bart having a taste of authority with Lisa becoming rebellious but coming back to her usual self with the help of Bart (Separate Vocation)
  • Bart learns the ins and outs of love as he ruins Milhouse’s budding relationship with Samantha Stankey (Bart’s Friend Falls in Love)
  • Bart recognizing the importance of love with his admiration of Laura Powers which doesn’t go as he planned (New Kid on the Block)
  • another about Bart becoming famous for catchphrase (“I Didn’t Do It”) which shows the roughness of show business (Bart Gets Famous)
  • one about Bart becoming Burns’ heir until he refuses to fire his father from his job
  • Bart helps his nemesis, Skinner, get his job back (Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Baadasssss Song)
  • Bart “acting bad” attracts the daughter of Rev. Lovejoy, Allison, but it doesn’t go as he planned (Bart’s Girlfriend)
  • Bart pranks an Australian boy, sparking an international controversy (Bart vs. Australia)
  • Bart sells his soul to Milhouse for five dollars which he comes to regret and tries to get it back
  • Bart fails in his shoplifting, leading to his punishment by Marge for his behavior (Marge Be Not Proud), which the Dead Homer Society did not like
  • Bart travels the open road with Milhouse, Nelson, and Martin, with them stranded out there (Bart on the Road)
Mr Burns looks down, watching over the crowd gathering in front of the nuclear plant in protest. They are listening to then-“safety” advocate Homer, with his role as obviously an ironic one since he is often a buffoon (Homer’s Odyssey)

The next category focuses mocks corporate propaganda, control, and/or focuses on struggles of those working in the nuclear plant, especially Homer:

  • In Homer’s Odyssey, shows that Bart continues to be disobedient, pokes at propaganda for nuclear power, and establishes Homer’s story, as he goes from being an incompetent buffoon to becoming safety inspector at the Nuclear Plant after his wide-ranging campaign for safety across the town of Springfield, cementing his job for the rest of the show. You could say that Mr. Burns made a concession to the protesters campaigning for safety by hiring Homer, which not gave Homer a job and saved Mr. Burns from scrutiny of the plant’s safety.
  • In There’s No Disgrace Like Home, which focus on family problems, introduce the Itchy and Scratchy show which mocks “Tom and Jerry,” the corrupt (and incompetent) police force in the town.
  • Homer rising up the executive ladder in the nuclear power plant by deceit and deception with hair growth product which he falsely paid for on the company health plan (Simpson and the Deliliah), showing that what Frank Grimes says many episodes later rings true while also showing that Marge will stand by him even as Homer is demoted to old job by the end of the episode, and that people discriminate against those who are bald, not taking them seriously.
  • The first episode of the season, Stark Raving Dad, shows the regimented, corporate control of the workplace for which Homer is targeted for wearing a pink shirt and put in a mental institution where he meets a man who claims to be Michael Jackson (this character is the guest appearance of Michael Jackson), who cheers up Lisa.
  • Krusty the Clown’s Jewish roots, perhaps poking at the number of Jewish comedians within Hollywood (Like Father, Like Clown)
  • corporate consolidation and the unforgettable daydream of Homer about the “Land of Chocolate,” with the power dynamics returning to “normal” when Mr. Burns buys his plant back from the Germans by the end (Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk)
  • Kamp Krusty is one of the best episodes to date, not only highlighting Krusty the Clown’s cost-cutting measures to “save” money and his fraudulence in that regard, but the naivety of Marge and Homer about the camp, along with the infotainment aspect of the news media represented by Kent Brockman’s report about the situation
  • Homer starting his own snowplowing business, Mr. Plow, moving up to the status as part of the petty bourgeoisie which doesn’t last very long at all.
  • the sleaziness of corporate spokespeople (Marge vs. the Monorail),
  • shifty lawyers like buffoon Lionel Hutz and the power of the capitalist class in the courtroom (Bart Gets Hit by a Car)
  • a strike of the workers at the Springfield nuclear plant with Homer elected as head of the union (Last Exit to Springfield)
  • the sometimes redeeming aspects of showbusiness, at least for Krusty (Krusty Gets Kancelled)
  • While Homer’s Barbershop Quartet basically parodies the Beatles
  • wonderful episode that makes fun of “feel good” therapists (Bart’s Inner Child)
  • the allure of gambling for Mr. Burns and the town as a whole, with the title parodying the full title of Dr. Strangelove ($pringfield (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling)
  • Bart realizes he needs to testify, showing that Quimby didn’t beat up a waiter, going against everyone’s conceptions about the Quimby family, and that it was the waiter’s fault (The Boy Who Knew Too Much)
  • Springfield hosts a film festival with Hans Moleman’s funny short, “Man Hit By Football,” an insightful movie by Barney, and a propaganda film by Mr. Burns which everyone hates (A Star is Burns)
  • The Radioactive Man movie is filmed in Springfield, and the project quickly goes into disarray
  • In Scenes from Class Struggle in Springfield, Marge and Lisa try to enter the high life of Springfield but it is shortilived
  • Bart gets Krusty the Clown fined by the IRS and tries to make it up to him (Bart the Fink)
  • Bart unwittingly bankrupts the studio that produces Itchy and Scratchy (The Day the Violence Died)
The best visual and non-spoken line of Lisa’s Substitute. A powerful image when put in context.

Another major theme in the show is Lisa’s intelligence being undermined often while she also tries to impress people:

  • the importance of jazz as an art to express one’s emotions is manifested in Lisa’s saxophone playing (Moaning Lisa)
  • One of my favorite episodes, other than Bart the Daredevil, Itchy & Scratchy & Marge, Bart Gets Hit By a Car, Three Men and a Comic Book, and Blood Feud, to name a few, is Lisa’s Substitute, which I just rewatched. This episode shows Lisa’s fragile nature but also how she wants to be valued for her intelligence, admonishing her father for his aloofness and seeming “uncaring” nature, while she makes up with him by the end. Also, in a sub-story, Bart doesn’t get all he wants either as he thinks his popularity will push him forward to be class president, when everyone but him treats it like a joke, showing that his “popularity” is only constructed, not real, almost a facade, in a sense.
  • Episodes such as Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington show Lisa as a person who stands up for what’s right
  • Lisa trying to impress people with her “beauty” before she realizes it is a scam to promote Laramie Cigarettes, yet another poke at corporate advertising like “Duff Beer” (Lisa the Beauty Queen)
  • There’s also Ralph Wiggum’s short-lived relationship with Lisa (I Love Lisa)
  • One great episode about gender roles in society (Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy)
  • Lisa faces a rival in class, Allison Taylor, which angers her so much he compromises her values, but this doesn’t matter because Ralph wins for his Star Wars action figures (Lisa’s Rival)
  • Lisa’s cruel tricks on her brother and Homer swearing off beer for a month (Duffless)
  • Lisa is thrown into a tizzy when the teachers go on strike (The PTA Disbands)
  • Lisa becomes sad about the death of Bleeding Gums Murphy, but plays with his ghost in the clouds (‘Round Springfield)
  • After a trip to see a cute lamb, Lisa decides she cannot eat meat anymore and becomes a vegetarian, working to stick to her view (Lisa the Vegetarian)
  • Lisa discovers the real truth behind the founder of Springfield and works to try and reveal it (Lisa the Iconoclast)
  • Lisa leaving behind her “nerdy” self to fit in with those on the beach (Summer of 4 Ft. 2)
Bart, Lisa, and Maggie subdue the “Babysitter Bandit” (Some Enchanted Evening)

In a sort of related theme, there’s family togetherness as manifested in these episodes:

  • family togetherness (The Call of the Simpsons)
  • Homer’s ineptness in letting the “Babysitter Bandit” get away who the Simpson children had bound up to protect themselves in a “Home Alone” style (Some Enchanted Evening)
  • Santa’s Little Helper becoming more part of the family than before while mirroring Bart’s school troubles at the beginning of the season (Bart’s Dog Gets and F)
  • love of family and togetherness (Lisa’s Pony and Saturdays of Thunder)
  • family is more important than gambling by far (Lisa the Greek)
  • Herb forgiving Homer for ruining his auto business in “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” while showing that people can be forgiving even after people have been cruel to them in the past (Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?)
  • Selma trying to test her maternal instincts as Lisa gets drunk for the first time in the show, which is pretty hilarious to say the least, after Homer eats a spoiled sandwich which he treats like a person (Selma’s Choice)
  • tensions between Bart and Homer getting a boiling point (Brother from the Same Planet)
  • Homer tries to connect with Bart by getting him an elephant (Bart Gets an Elephant)
  • Abe Simpson falls in love with Marge’s Mother (Lady Bouvier’s Lover)
  • The Simpsons family is brought together by the vacation at Itchy & Scratchy Land
  • Lisa and Bart face each other on the ice, but it ends with an unexpected twist (Lisa on Ice)
  • Abe and Homer Simpson worth together to produce a tonic (Grampa vs. Sexual Inadequacy)
  • The story about Maggie’s birth, which brings the family together (And Maggie Makes Three)
  • Homer has to ask Patty and Selma for a loan, which he tries to keep secret from Marge (Homer vs. Patty and Selma)
  • The Simpson kids are put in the custody of the Flanders Family, with Homer and Marge having to save them from being baptized (Home Sweet Homediddly-Dum-Doodily)
  • Mona Simpson, Homer’s Mother, makes her debut in the series, with the backstory her her escape as a hippie in 1969 explained (Mother Simpson)
  • Selma marries Troy McClure, a reality show personality, but it doesn’t go as she thought it would (A Fish Called Selma)
Marge plays Blanche DuBois in “A Streetcar Named Desire” (A Streetcar Named Marge)

One related theme is Marge being devalued, just like Lisa:

  • Homer seems to fall into the role of Marge as a mother (Homer Alone)
  • Others focus on how Marge is not being valued at home, threatening Homer’s social standing in the family, and mocking Ayn Rand’s ideas directly, represented by the daycare provider (A Streetcar Named Marge)
  • Marge getting her first job of the series other than homemaker as a worker at the nuclear plant (Marge Gets a Job)
  • the importance of Marge in the town’s social life (Marge in Chains)
  • Marge as an outlaw with Ruth Powers (Marge on the Lam)
  • Secrets of a Successful Marriage focuses on marital tensions between Homer and Marge, with the latter forgiving him
  • Marge has to come to grips with her secret fear of flying
  • Marge gets a job as a police officer, which seems to “threaten” Homer’s manhood (The Springfield Connection)
Homer dances with Princess Kashmir in Homer’s Night Out.

A related theme is Homer trying to maintain his middle-class standing and status as a male rolemodel, “man of the house” for his children:

  • seductions of another man pulling Marge in but she still comes back to Homer, showing their lifelong bond, while Homer’s role as an effective “male role model” is clearly shown as a facade (Life on the Fast Lane)
  • This bond is challenged in Homer’s Night Out, which some people as I know from watching some YouTube video which claimed to tell the “worst Simpsons episode,” did not like, in which Marge doesn’t like the picture of Homer with Princess Kashmir because it says that Homer doesn’t respect women, which he makes up by the end of the episode.
  • an episode about Homer dancing for attention (Dancin’ Homer)
  • a golf competition to maintain his middle-class status (Dead Putting Society), poking at how many see the “American Dream” as something that should continually strive to
  • Homer’s drunkenness, selfishness, and working to maintain his marital ties (The War of the Simpsons)
  • When Flanders Failed shows that Homer has a redeeming quality despite the fact that he is still envious of the Flanders Family for seemingly being “better off” than the Simpsons.
  • Homer’s ineptness “saving” the day showing him an imbecile, “gaining” him a phrase and “entry” in the visualized dictionary, with this episode showing more about who Homer is as a person (Homer Defined)
  • Homer being tempted by pretty woman, Lureen Lumpkin, while also parodying country music effectively (Colonel Homer)
  • the cruelties of Homer’s treatment of Bart by not letting him see the new Itchy and Scratchy movie (Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie)
  • The one about Homer going to college (Homer Goes to College) is one of my favorites. I say that not only because it includes the great scenes about the mystery box but it shows how Homer doesn’t care about school at all, basically treating it like an utter joke. While I personally wasn’t that type of student, I did watch this one again after graduating last year, so it still has holding power.
  • Homer proves himself as a father figure (Boy-Scoutz ‘n the Hood) after Bart becomes a junior camper, saving the day by bringing a Krusty map with him, eating at a restaurant on an offshore oil rig
  • Homer resisting his exact doppleganger, Mindy Simmons, and staying with Marge (The Last Temptation of Homer)
  • There’s the episode which seems to be the Simpsons version of Clockwork Orange, with Homer and others becoming a vigilante (Homer the Vigilante)
  • Homer helping Apu out after getting him fired, showing the former to be an utter jerk (Homer and Apu)
  • Homer going into space as an astronaut “by default” after Barney drank non-alcoholic champagne, along with the infamous line by Kent Brockman “welcoming our new insect overlords” showing him to be too hasty and sensationalized nature of the news media (Deep Space Homer)
  • Homer breaking from his usual routine of disliking Flanders to treating him as a friend, which Ned eventually detests so much to separate himself (Homer Loves Flanders)
  • When Homer is falsely accused of molesting a woman, he tries to defend himself, but the sensationalized media treats him like a perpetrator until someone unexpected comes to try and prove his innocence (Homer Badman)
  • Homer becomes the leader of the Stonecutters, but not everything goes the way that he would have expected it (Homer the Great)
  • Homer becomes a clown but runs into trouble with the mob (Homie the Clown)
  • Homer becomes fat to avoid getting on the plants exercise program and barely saves the town from catastrophic meltdown (King-Size Homer)
  • Homer brings together a baseball team as school rules clampdown (Team Homer)
  • Homer takes the role of Smithers, leading Mr. Burns to become self-reliant (Homer the Smithers)
  • Homer traveling with a music festival (Homerpalooza)
Sideshow Bob is arrested for his tomfoolery, mainly with framing Krusty for a crime he didn’t commit, and vows revenge on Bart (Krusty Gets Busted)

Then there’s the running villain throughout the series, Sideshow Bob, along with other related themes like the evilness of Mr. Burns and funny “horror” episodes:

A classic poster from Itchy & Scratchy & Marge which shows how people are misled in their thinking about cartoon violence.

There’s others that poke at social conservatives, shifty lawyers, morals, and much more, along with those that provide necessary background. These include poking at a socially conservative response to cartoon violence (Itchy & Scratchy & Marge), about living life to the fullest (One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish), and stealing from the cable companies contrasting with morals Lisa professes (Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th commandment). Others focuson how wealth can come and go in flash and provides commentary on the failing “big three” automakers in Detroit (Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?), inheritance of money and discrimination of the elderly (Old Money), importance of artistry and artistic impressions even if they aren’t popular, showing that everyone is a human being regardless of class (Brush with Greatness), and helping out those in need even if they have a higher status than you (Blood Feud). More beyond this focus on the importance of sharing rather than infighting over material goods (Three Men and a Comic Book), the power of the mob in society (Bart the Murderer), Moe’s shifty, selfish nature (Flaming Moe’s), the relation of dogs to humans who can brainwash them for their own interests (Dog of Death), and how people are false religious figures, heretics, like Homer in once case (Homer the Heretic). Some episodes are heartwarming, talking about Lisa’s First Word, while others Homer’s horrible eating habits causing him to have a heart attack and necessary surgery (Homer’s Triple Bypass). Then there’s others about Otto’s shifty behavior is noted, while highlighting his important role in the community as a bus driver for the schoolchildren (The Otto Show), a creative, well-written show about cartoon writers (The Front), and the town coming together as “Bart’s Comet” threatens the town, the Springfield community working to get their beloved lemon tree back (Lemon of Troy). 22 Short Films About Springfield is be one of my favorite episodes because it connects the stories of other Springfieldians, telling the story of many minor characters who don’t get much airtime. Another great episode is one against animal cruelty episode which shows that whacking snakes should be condemned, with Lisa morally on the right side with Bart helping her (Whacking Day). There’s also one which shows the faultiness of anti-immigration measures (Much Apu About Nothing), and the Simpsons moving to Cypress Creek with the James Bond villain Hank Scorpio (You Only Move Twice). Tacked on are the flashbacks about Homer and Marge (I Married Marge and The Way We Was), three which are “clip shows” (So It’s Come To This: A Simpsons Clip Show, Another Simpsons Clip Show, and The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular), one which is a flash forward about Lisa’s Wedding (this is not canon).

Flanders snaps for the first time in the series, calling out Marge, Bart, Lisa, Moe, Krusty the Clown, Lenny, and Homer for “treating him badly” showing that he has bottled up rage, a problem seemingly solved by the end of the episode (Hurricane Neddy)

When we get to season 8, there are episodes about Homer boxing and failing (The Homer They Fall), Mr. Burn’s half-witted brother Larry (why?) (Burns, Baby Burns), Bart working at a local burlesque house angering the uptight people in Springfield (Bart After Dark), division in the Milhouse family (A Milhouse Divided), Lisa dating Nelson (Lisa’s Date with Density), Flanders showing that he has been repressing uncontrollable rage since childhood (Hurricane Neddy), and Homer realizing after a long journey that Marge is his soulmate (El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer (The Mysterious Voyage of Homer)). If that isn’t enough, there are episodes parodying the X-Files (The Springfield Files), Marge getting in the business of selling pretzels, becoming petty bourgeois (The Twisted World of Marge Simpson), Mr. Burns and Homer facing off when trapped in a cabin the woods (Mountain of Madness), parodying Mary Poppins (Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious), and showing the desperate nature of some cartoon shows to create a new, unnecessary character to raise viewer interest (The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show). Then there’s the classic one that counters Homer’s homophobic tendencies (Homer’s Phobia), Sideshow Bob returning on the scene (Brother from Another Series), Lisa’s babysitting reputation ruined by Bart which isn’t the best episode (My Sister, My Sitter), commentary on prohibition of alcohol (Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment), the relationship between Skinner and Edna (Grade School Confidential), and the Simpsons abandoning Santa’s Little Helper (The Canine Mutiny). Apart from the non-canon Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase, Lisa’s stint in military school (The Secret War of Lisa Simpson), showing that Mr. Burns is evil even if he tries to do “good” (The Old Man and the Lisa), and possibly In Marge We Trust are reputable episodes. While some may disagree, I think that Homer’s Enemy is one of the more brilliant episodes because it shows how hard-working people would feel if they met Homer, who is lazy, takes breaks whenever, and doesn’t respect his boss in a sense even though he is a good family man. It could also be said that Frank Grimes, a hard-working individual, also represents those who don’t like the Simpsons show, facing up with the fans, but it is also true that what Grimes says in criticism of Homer is basically correct, with a few exceptions. Saying all of this, I don’t think it is right for those at the Dead Homer Society to put Season 8 within the “Mayday, Mayday, we’re going down!” category, meaning that it is part of the Simpsons decline.

Beyond the Golden Age

With Mike Scully coming to the fore in Season 9, the beginning of the Silver Age which lasted to Season 12, the Simpsons began its decline. Some, like the Dead Homer Society which was mentioned earlier, say that by Season 12, the Simpsons became the “Zombie Simpsons,” without a pulse. Instead of going into detail about this in the main text, I think it is best to put what I wrote into a footnote. [4]

Homer finds his mother dead in Mona Leaves-a.

With the end of the Silver Age or Mike Scully era, there was the inauguration of the  Bronze Age or Al Jean era, lasting from Seasons 13 to Season 28 (present). Since the Simpsons went downhill for so many episodes, it isn’t worth mentioning all the bad episodes. Instead, I’ll just put some of them in a footnote. [5] Even if there are some that are redeemable like She of Little Faith, Moe Baby Blues, My Mother the Carjacker, and  Mona Leaves-a. There are a number of episodes I listed in in footnote 5 which are “passable” but not redeemable. Hence, these episodes should not be taken as an indication that the Bronze Age episodes were “good” or “brilliant” but that there are some better than others. Then we get to The Simpsons Movie which is redeemable because many of the writers from the Golden Age came back to work on the movie, making it much better than the seasons up to that point.

A defense of the Simpson “Golden era” and why the current show stinks

The Dead Homer Society is completely right. The show has become inanimate, barren, cold, listless, mechanical, and weird. It has become a “Zombie Simpsons.” Even the Consequence of Sound site, in listing the “top 30” episodes of the series, chooses episodes that ALL fall within the Golden Age of the Simpsons (Season 1-8), calling the other seasons “bad” by comparison. Roughly the same goes for the “10 Most Heartfelt Moments” although they choose one from Season 12. Many YouTubers I’ve watched put it perfectly: the show has become hollow and run out of ideas, what you could call stale.

Recently, I watched a list of YouTube videos listing the movie references across the Simpsons history. There is no doubt that the Treehouse of Horror, even into the Silver and Bronze eras, continues to pay homage to cinema, but beyond that, there is much more. [6] Even the Simpsons Movie has its share of movie references. The tribute to cinema is rich in the early seasons. In the Treehouse of Horror episodes from Season 1 to 6, they hit many of the classics. [7] Looking at these movie tributes, there is an average of over seven per episode, which may even be low since many more likely exist:

Some of the classics featured in these episodes include: Frankenstein (1931) and Poltergeist (1982) [Treehouse of Horror I]; Robocop (1987) and The Thing With Two Heads (1972) [Treehouse of Horror II]; A Clockwork Orange (1971) and Gremlins (1984) [Treehouse of Horror III]; The Birds (1963) and Fantasia (1940) [Treehouse of Horror IV]; Jurassic Park (1993) and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) [Treehouse of Horror V]; A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and Predator (1987) [Treehouse of Horror VI]. And lots of references to The Twilight Show.
These references continue throughout the Simpsons’ Golden Era [8], with an average of x cinema references in Seasons 1 to 8:

I could go on and mention the interviews with the voice actors from the Simpsons which I watched recently or a host of other videos here, but it should be clear to any reader with some sense that the Golden Era of the Simpsons was the best they have offered, much better than episodes in the Silver or Bronze eras.

A Conclusion

I could go on with this, but I think you get the point. While I still think that The Simpsons can be cited, I personally refuse to watch any episode made after Season 13 ever again, and encourage those fans of the Simpsons to do the same. There is no reason to watch something which is dead and has no pulse. Why not take heed from what Bart says in Itchy & Scratchy and Marge when asked about watching the rest of the “cute cartoons” by Marge: “Nah…Maybe there’s something else to do on this planet.” Other than that, with the Simpsons going to Season 30 and beyond, it is worth watching episodes in the Golden Age or Silver Age (cumulatively up to Season 12), but anything beyond that is not worth anyone’s time. That’s the reality. I know that some may have found this post unnecessary but I think it needs to be discussed. I look forward to your comments as always.

Notes

[1] Dead Homer Society Manifesto; Rob Hunter, “The Golden Age of The Simpsons“; Rob Hunter, “The Goldener Age of The Simpsons“; Rob Hunter, “Golden Age Of The Simpsons: The Greatest Show of All Time“; Pop Matters, “The Complete Tenth Season“; Empire Online “The Simpsons Movie Review,” BBC, “The Simpsons: 10 classic episodes“; “What Do White Supremacists Think Of The Simpsons?“; “Best. Episodes. Ever. ‘The Simpsons’: Seasons 1-10“; “What is your ‘golden age’ of Simpsons, season-wise?,” The Simpsons subreddit; “Why Season 8 Is A Part of the Golden Age of The Simpsons“; “TruthMedia Review: The Simpsons: Golden Age“; “The Golden Age of The Simpsons“; “Simpsons: The Golden Age“; “The 40 Best Songs in The Simpsons History“, Paste Magazine; “‘The Simpsons’ Take on Climate Change,” Yale Climate Connections.

[2] The link to never off is a forum where one user says that “to me its not so much one episode that ends the Golden Age really, its more like the flow and feel of the season that determine it. The tenth season overall just felt off compared to past years. On my list I like to separate the show into three simple Ages: The Golden Age (1-9), The Bronze Age (10-12), and The Silver Age (13-26).”

[3] The exact numbers are 5.533676767676767225 for the average of millions of viewers for seasons 21 to season 28, 19.889416215144713675 for the average of millions of viewers for seasons 1 to 7. The most recent episode to surpass 20 million viewers was “Homer and Ned’s Hail Mary Pass” in 2004, THIRTEEN YEARS ago.

[4] Season 9 began badly. It began with the worthless and horrible “The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson” which was not only unfunny but it has no point, it is just about Homer being mad at New York despite the fact that the whole situation (his car ending up in New York) was caused originally by his drunkenness. The Principal and the Pauper was even worse, declaring that Principal Skinner is a fraud which not only guts previous storylines in the Golden Age about his time in Vietnam but it says that the audience dedication to this character is worthless. As I remember from one YouTube video, some say that it is with this episode that the Simpsons “died” in their view. I would venture to say that due to this, the episode is not canon in my view. Other episodes revolve around the destruction of Lisa’s Sax (why?), Homer getting a gun (The Cartridge Family), Homer’s favoritism to Bart on a neighborhood football team (Bart Star), Apu getting married (The Two Mrs. Nahasapeemapetilons), Lisa the Skeptic about a marketing company conning the town’s residents, and Realty Bites about Marge becoming an honest realty broker. While some of those are passable, the Miracle on Evergreen Terrace involves the Simpsons conning the town out of money, there’s yet another clip show (All Singing, All Dancing), the Simpsons get their house back from carnies (Bart Carny), well-intentioned criticism of cultish religions like Scientology (The Joy of Sect), parody of the Lord of the Flies (Das Bus), The Last Temptation of Krust about Krusty changing his comedic style, and one about Moe burning down his bar for insurance money (Dumbbell Indemnity) (not as strong as it could be). The season partially redeems itself with Lisa the Simpson which shows that only men have the defective “Simpsons Gene,” Homer making a fool of himself in Simpsons Tide with the wonderful gif of the marching Lenin and the return of the Soviet Union, Mr. Burns screwed over, ultimately, by the Cuban government (The Trouble with Trillions), one about kid’s news shows (Girly Edition), Homer becoming an over-enthusiastic commissioner of waste management (Trash of Titans), and climbing a mountain as a commercial promotion (King of the Hill). Then there’s four other episodes which I can’t recall their specifics too well, so I have a feeling they bring the season down (This Little Wiggy, Lost Our Lisa, and Natural Born Kissers). Season 10 is also a bit lackluster. There’s one about Lisa trying to become popular but strangely (Lard of the Dance), Homer’s strange, in-practical inventions (The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace), raising destructive lizards (Bart the Mother), Homer living with celebrities (When You Dish Upon a Star) (why?), Homer figuring out his middle name and trying to “live like a hippy” (D’Oh In the Wind), and Lisa cheating on a test with Skinner and Chalmers deceiving her (Lisa Gets an “A”). Even worse, there are ones where Homer is cruel to his father, causing his kidneys to burst (Homer Simpson in: “Kidney Trouble”) which is considered non-canon, Homer serving as a body guard for Mayor Quimby (Mayored to the Mob), an unnecessary trip to Las Vegas which adds nothing to the storyline (Viva Ned Flanders), Bart telling the town about secrets of its citizens (Wild Barts Can’t Be Broken), a worthless episode about the Superbowl (Sunday, Cruddy Sunday), and Homer weirdly changing his name to “Max Power” (Homer to the Max). If that isn’t enough, there are episodes about weird Valentine’s Day gifts (I’m With Cupid), Marge becoming an aggressive driver (Marge Simpson in: “Screaming Yellow Honkers”), Homer showing he doesn’t care about Lisa by building a cell phone tower in her room (Make Room for Lisa), Homer becoming a lazy truck driver (Maximum Homerdrive), the Simpsons version of Bible stories (Simpsons Bible Stories), Homer’s junk which people think is art (Mom and Pop Art). Other episodes this season focus on Bart working in the Springfield Retirement Home (The Old Man and the “C” Student), Mr. Burns trying to gain the town’s admiration (Monty Can’t Buy Me Love), the smartest people running the town in a temporary and short-lived “utopia” (They Saved Lisa’s Brain), and the Simpsons traveling to Tokyo in a strange vacation (Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo). We then come to Season 11. There’s a mediocre episode about films (Beyond Blunderdome), another about Bart becoming smart, even a “conspiracy theorist” (Brother’s Little Helper), Homer becoming a food critic (Guess Who’s Coming to Criticize Dinner?), Homer and the Simpsons growing “Tomacco” a cross-between Tomatoes and Tobacco, a sort of GMO in a sense (E-I-E-I-D’Oh), Homer becoming a local celebrity (Hello Gutter, Hello Fadder), showing that lots of children are bad apparently, an episode which is pretty weak (Eight Misbehavin’), Homer’s gang fighting with another gang of the same name (Take My Wife, Sleaze), and Homer trying to “save” the town from destructive toys (Grift of the Magi). Other episodes result in Lisa becoming the head of the family (Little Big Mom), Bart becoming a faith healer (Faith Off), the Simpsons in charge of Mr. Burns’s mansion (The Mansion Family), Homer and Bart involved in horse racing (Saddlesore Galactica), Maude dying because of Homer (Alone Again, Natura-Diddily), Homer as an incompetent missionary (Missionary: Impossible), Moe changing his appearance (Pygmoelian), and the often cited (because of Trump) non-canon Bart to the Future. Other episodes, such as Days of Wine and D’oh’ses, Kill the Alligator and Run, Last Tap Dance in Springfield, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Marge, and non-canon Behind the Laughter are as lackluster as the others in this. The last season within the Silver Era, Season 12, isn’t any better. There are episodes about Homer becoming a rocker in a divided Springfield (A Tale of Two Springfields), Krusty the Clown meeting his daughter Sophie (Insane Clown Poppy), Lisa trying to join “Dirt First” by camping in a redwood scheduled to be cut down (Lisa the Tree Hugger), Homer becoming Mr. Burns’s personal jester (Homer vs. Dignity), the bizarre The Computer Wore Menace Shoes which I would consider non-canon, the Simpsons conning people (The Great Money Caper), and children snowed into the elementary school (Skinner’s Sense of Snow). Beyond this, Homer is supposedly “dumb” because a crayon is lodged in his brain, which again seems to cut at the story of Homer established in previous episodes and is a bit cheap (Homr), Marge vouches for a prisoner (Pokey Mom), Bart and Milhouse taking over the comic book store in the “Worst Episode Ever,” and Homer becomes a tennis star (Tennis the Menace). In another bad plot, Sideshow Bob works to hypnotize Bart to kill Krusty on air (Day of the Jackanapes), the partially satirical pro-military songs by the boy band of Bart, Ralph, Nelson, and Milhouse (New Kinds on the Blecch), Homer’s worthless hunger strike (Hungry, Hungry Homer), bullying of Lisa (Bye Bye Nerdie), an unexpected safari for the Simpsons (Simpsons Safari), and Lisa getting into a relationship (Trilogy of Error). Then there’s Ned’s plan to open an amusement park (I’m Goin’ to Praiseland), Homer trying to recover from an injury (Children of a Lesser Clod), and other Simpsons version of certain “tall tales” (Simpson Tall Tales).

[5] See “The Parent Rap“, “Homer the Moe“, “Brawl in the Family“, “Sweet and Sour Marge“, “Jaws Wired Shut“, “Half Decent Proposal“, “The Bart Wants What It Wants“, “Blame It One Lisa” (the one that Brazil hated), “Weekend at Burnsie’s“, “I Am Furious (Yellow)“, “Little Girl in the Big Ten“, “The Frying Game” (about that dumb “Screamapillar”), and “Poppa’s Got a Brand New Badge” in Season 13, “How I Spent My Stummer Vacation“, “Large Marge“, “Helter Shelter“, “The Dad Who Knew Too Little“, “The Great Louse Detective” (cheapens Frank Grimes’s story), “Pray Anything“, “Barting Over“, “A Star Is Born-Again“, “Mr Spritz Goes to Washington“, “The Strong Arms of the Ma” (Marge has moved so far from her original self this isn’t even funny), “Three Gays of the Condo“,  “Dude, Where’s My Ranch?“, “Old Yeller Belly“, “Bart of War” in Season 14. “The President Wore Pearls“, “The Regina Monologues“, “The Fat and the Furriest“, “‘Tis the Fifteenth Season“, “Marge vs. Singles, Seniors, Childless Couples and Teens and Gays“, “I (Annoyed Grunt)-Bot“, “Diatribe of a Mad Housewife“, “Milhouse Doesn’t Live Here Anymore“, “Smart and Smarter“, “Co-Dependents Day“, “The Wandering Juvie“, “My Big Fat Geek Wedding“, “Catch ‘Em if You Can“, “The Way We Weren’t” (seems to mess with the previous flashback episodes in the Golden Age of the Simpsons and is a bit hard to believe) in Season 15. “All’s Fair in Oven War“, “She Used to Be My Girl“, “Fat Man and Little Boy“, “Midnight Rx“, “Homer and Ned’s Hail Mary Pass“, “Pranksta Rap“, “On  A Clear Day I Can’t See My Sister“, “Goo Goo Gai Pan” (pathetic jokes about China within), “Mobile Homer“, “The Heartbroke Kid“, “A Star Is Torn“, “Home Away from Homer“, “There’s Something About Marrying” in Season 16. “The Bonfire of the Manatees“, “The Girl Who Slept Too Little“, “Milhouse of Sand and Fog“, “The Last of the Red Hat Mamas“, “The Italian Bob“, “Homer’s Paternity Coot“, “We’re on the Road to D’ohwhere“, “The Seemingly Never-Ending Story“, “Bart Has Two Mommies“, “Homer Simpson, This Is Your Wife“, “Girls Just Want to Have Sums“, “Marge and Homer Turn a Couple Play” in Season 17. “The Mook, The Chef, The Wife and Her Homer“, “G.I. (Annoyed Grunt)“, “Moe’N’a Lisa“, “Ice Cream of Margie (with the Light Blue Hair)“, “Kil Gil, Volumes I & II“, “The Wife Aquatic“, “Springfield Up“, “Yokel Chords“, “Rome-Old and Julie-Eh“, “Homerazzi“, “The Boys of Bummer“, “Crook and Ladder“, “24 Minutes” (self-promotion of 24 on FOX, a bit cheap) in Season 18. “He Loves to Fly and He D’ohs“, “The Homer of Seville“, “Midnight Towboy“, “I Don’t Wanna Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” (almost seems like a parody of Scorpio but isn’t), “Little Orphan Millie“, “Husbands and Knives“, “Funeral for a Fiend“, “That ’90s Show” (messes again with the timeline in the Golden Age years of Marge & Homer’s relationship), “The Debarted“, “Dial “N” for Nerder“, “Smoke on the Daughter“, “Papa Don’t Leech“, “Any Given Sundance“, “All About Lisa“, “Sex, Pies, and Idiot Scrapes” in Season 19. “Double, Double, Boy in Trouble“, “Dangerous Curves” (again messing with the timeline of Marge & Homer’s relationship in weird ways), “Homer and Lisa Exchange Cross Words“, “The Burns and Bees“, “Lisa the Drama Queen“, “How the Test Was Won“, “Gone Maggie Gone“, “In the Name of the Grandfather“, “Wedding for Disaster“, “Father Knows Worst“, “Four Great Women and a Manicure“, “Coming to Homerica” (does not measure up with the episode in the Golden Ages, “Much Apu About Nothing” which is strongly against restrictions on immigration) in Season 20. “Homer the Whopper“, “The Great Wife Hope“, “The Devil Wears Nada“, “Rednecks and Broomsticks“, “O Brother, Where Bart Thou?“, “Thursdays with Abie“, “Million Dollar Maybe“, “Boy Meets Curl“, “Postcards from the Wedge“, “Stealing First Base“, “The Greatest Story Ever D’ohed“, “American History X-cellent“, “Chief of Hearts“, “Moe Letter Blues“, “The Bob Next Door“, “Judge Me Tender” in Season 21. “Elementary School Musical“, “Loan-a Lisa“, “Lisa Simpson, This Isn’t Your Life“, “The Fool Monty“, “The Fight Before Christmas“, “Donnie Fatso“, “Mom’s I’d Like to Forget“, “Flaming Moe” (very different than the much better Flaming Moe’s in Season 3), “Angry Dad: The Movie” (cheapens the show in a major way), “The Scorpion’s Tale“, “A Midsummer’s Nice Dream“, “Love is a Many Strangled Thing” (this episode is horrible in so many ways, especially how Bart tortures his father…how is this supposed to be funny?), “The Great Simpsina“, “The Real Housewives of Fat Tony“, “Homer Scissorhands“, “500 Keys“, and “The Ned-liest Catch” in Season 22. “The Falcon and the D’ohman” (this episode is a bit 24-ish and more ridiculous in its plot than funny), “Bart Stops to Smell the Roosevelts” (basically a Teddy Roosevelt promotion), “Replaceable You“, “The Food Wife“, “The Man in the Blue Flannel Pants“, “The Ten-Per-Cent Solution” (features Joan Rivers which you know is a bad sign), “Politically Inept, with Homer Simpson“, “Moe Goes from Rags to Riches“, “At Long Last Leave” (seems strange since they could have kicked out the Simpsons earlier, but why now? Are the townspeople that rash?), “Exit Through the Kwik-E-Mart“, “How I Wet Your Mother” (parody of Inception but almost a promotion of it too), “Them, Robot“, “Beware of My Cheating Bart“, “Lisa Goes Gaga” (one of the worst episodes yet, basically is a promotion for Gaga’s total bullshit, buys into the whole fad then, shows the town’s people to be very weak. This episode should have never been made) in Season 23. “Moonshine River” (to like this, you have to like Season 19 and onward), “Adventures in Baby-Getting“,  “Gone Abie Gone“, “Penny Wiseguys“, “The Day the Earth Stood Cool“, “To Cur, with Love” (reportedly this was one of the least watched episodes of the series), “Homer Goes to Prep School“, “Changing of the Guardian“, “Love Is a Many-Splintered Thing” (only seems good if you like Moonshine River), “Hardly Kirk-ing“, “Gorgeous Grampa“, “Dark Knight Court“, “What Animated Women Want“, “Whiskey Business” (too many stories intersecting in one episode, too busy), “Fabulous Faker Boy“,  “The Saga of Carl” (an unnecessary episode with a mediocre storyline) in Season 24. “Homerland“, “Four Regrettings and a Funeral“, “Yolo“, “Labor Pains“, “The Kid is All Right“, “Yellow Subterfuge“, “White Christmas Blues“,  “Steal This Episode“, “Married to the Blob“, “Specs and the City” (supposed to parody Google Glass but it isn’t funny), “Diggs“, “The Man Who Grew Too Much“, “The Winter of His Content“, “Luca$“, “Pay Pal“, “The Yellow Badge of Cowardge” in Season 25. “The Clown in the Dumps“,”The Wreck of the Relationship” (this episode is a total joke which is not portraying it positively), “Super Franchise Me“, “Opposes A-Frack” (good criticism of fracking but not really funny at all, basically a polemic), “Blazed and Confused” (a bit strange and weird, how is this funny?), “Bart’s New Friend“, “The Musk Who Fell To Earth” (basically an unmitigated promotion of Musk like the episode about Gaga), “Walking Big & Tall“, “The Princess Guide“, “Sky Police” (while the Sky Police tune is ok, the rest of this episode is horrid), “Waiting for Duffman“, “The Kids Are All Fight” (another worthless flashback episode), “Bull-E” in Season 26. “Cue Detective“, “Puffless“, “Halloween of Horror“, “Friend With Benefit“, “Lisa with an “S”” (supposed to say show business is bad, but really is a lackluster episode like Friend With Benefit, or any of the other mentioned her), “Paths of Glory” (why would Homer and Marge think Bart is a sociopath and then trust a test saying he is one?), “The Girl Code” (thinking back to this one, it is a strange one with a bizarre plot), “Teenage Mutant Milk-caused Hurdles” (its almost like they want to force older Lisa and Bart on us), “Much Apu About Something” (this is kinda of cheap), “Love Is in the N2-02-AR-CO2-Ne-He-CH4” (its good Frink has more of a role, but this is really stretching it), “Gal of Constant Sorrow“, “The Marge-ian Chronicles“, “The Burns Cage” (this episode in trying to “reveal” that Smithers is gay (which we all know) not only doesn’t do that but it has a weak plot), “How Lisa Got Her Marge Back“,  “Fland Canyon” (this one makes me very mad because it makes it seem that Lisa has only been a vegetarian for two years or less which cheapens Lisa the Vegetarian), “To Courier With Love“, “Simprovised“, “Orange is the New Yellow” (this episode has to be one of the worst EVER. It not only is not funny but its “parody” element is weak and tasteless) in Season 27. “Monty Burns’ Fleeing Circus” (this episode is not funny at all and is a weak story), “Friends and Family“, “The Town” (a very pathetic “criticism” of Boston which actually turns into a promotion), “Trust But Clarify“, “There Will Be Buds“, “Havana Wild Weekend” (thinking about it, this episode is pretty horrid and makes Cuba look even worse than in “Trouble for Trillions”), “Dad Behavior“, “The Last Traction Hero” (a strange story which makes the connection between Marge and Homer seem non-existent when it isn’t), “The Nightmare After Krustmas“, “Pork and Burns” (Spider Big returns and a they adopt a minimalistic style of living but not really), “The Great Phatsby” (one of the most horrible as it not only is unfunny but there is really no reason we should sympathize with Mr. Burns), “Fatzcarraldo” (this episode seemed passable, in reality it really isn’t, its the same as the others), “The Cad and the Hat” (this episode was cheap and pathetic about “guilt”), “Kamp Krustier” (this is no squeal to Kamp Krusty, it is horribly written, not funny, and shows how the show is not worth watching), “22 for 30” (The Simpsons tries to make an episode like a basketball show but it fails miserably), “A Father’s Watch” (A plot which makes little sense and is not funny), The Caper Chase (an episode which is supposed to poke at Trump University I guess but it isn’t even worth watching at this point), and many more. As for ‘Scuse Me While I Miss the Sky, Bart-Mangled Banner, Margical History Tour, Fraudcast News, Thanks God It’s Doomsday, See Homer Run, My Fair Laddy, Kiss Kiss Bang Bangalore, The Monkey Suit, Please Homer, Don’t Hammer ‘Em, The Haw-Hawed Couple, Little Big Girl, Marge Gamer, Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind, E. Pluribus Wiggum, Apocalypse Cow, Lost Verizon, Mypods and Broomsticks, Eeny Teeny Maya, Moe, The Color Yellow, To Surveil with Love, A Tree Grows in Springfield, Barthood, they are passable but not redeemable.

[6] See “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 4“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 5“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 6“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 7“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 8“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 9“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 10“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 11“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 12“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 13“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 14“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 15“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 16“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 17“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 18“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 19“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 20“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 21“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 22“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 23“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 24“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 25“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 26.”

[7] See “The Simpsons Tribute to Cinema – Treehouse of Horror” for information used in the chart.

[8] See “The Simpsons Tribute to Cinema: Part 1“; The Simpsons Tribute to Cinema: Part 2“; “The Simpsons Tribute to Cinema: Part 3“; “The Simpsons Tribute to Cinema: Part 4“; “The Simpsons Tribute to Cinema: Part 5“; “The Simpsons Tribute to Cinema: Part 6“; “The Simpsons Tribute to Cinema: Part 7“; “The Simpsons Tribute to Cinema: Part 8.”