Thursday, April 29, 2021

Biden's Cold War mentality detracts from his progressive initiatives

We’re in a competition with China and other countries to win the 21st Century. -- Pres. Biden's address to Congress last night 

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. -- Pres. Eisenhower, 1953

That last quote is from Eisenhower's Chance For Peace speech in 1953.  It took the former 4-Star General to warn us against the country's exploding post-war military budget. But as the Cold War deepened during his administration, political pressures for increased military spending mounted. By the time he left office in 1961, he felt it necessary to warn of the military-industrial complex in his farewell address.

I was reminded of Ike's warning last night, listening to Pres. Biden couch all of his ambitious (but not adequate) $6-trillion post-pandemic infrastructure rebuilding and jobs programs in jingoist, America First,  anti-China, Cold War rhetoric. 

Biden called on Congress to invest in infrastructure, education, child care, civil rights, and science calling them programs that will allow the U.S. to win a competition with China. Like Trump, Biden is committed to a distinctly anti-China global strategy rooted in fears of American decline.

Yes, those investments are exactly what we need. But not for the sake of winning some mythical and dangerous global race to the top. Remember, that was Arne Duncan's rationale for pushing testing madness and school privatization when he was Obama's ed secretary. My 4-year-old granddaughter doesn't need to be prepared in pre-school to compete with 4-year-olds in China or Switzerland for global hegemony, thank you. 

It's this kind of thinking that has led to the global vaccine wars when international cooperation in the fight against the pandemic could have saved millions of lives and prevented the current catastrophe in India. 

It has also led Biden to push for a bloated Pentagon budget that's even larger than Trump's. The rationale behind the push has to do with illusory U.S. imperial ambitions to impose its will on other countries and engage in regime change when it can. These ambitions leave me even more skeptical about his planned withdrawal of the remaining troops in Afghanistan. Are they really being brought home or simply being redeployed for continuing conflict in the region? Does a redeployment mean a new buildup of American military power to confront China and Iran?

Yes, according to a report in today's NYT:

The Pentagon is looking to place troops near Afghanistan to track and attack militant groups if they threaten the United States. Possibilities in the region include Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, but those countries are under the sway of Russia to one degree or another, Attack planes aboard aircraft carriers and long-range bombers flying from land bases along the Persian Gulf and even in the United States could strike insurgent fighters spotted by armed surveillance drones. 

Or is the China yellow-peril ("they're closing in on us") fearmongering simply being used as a way to appeal to resistant Trump Party members in a vain attempt to build "bipartisan" support for his new initiatives? If it is, it's a pipe dream. 

Biden recounted:

I also told President Xi that we will maintain a strong military presence in the Indo—Pacific just as we do with NATO in Europe – not to start conflict – but to prevent conflict." 

He failed to explain how putting U.S. warships in the South China Sea would prevent conflict rather than inevitably provoke a new one.  

China and other countries are closing in fast," warned Biden. "We have to develop and dominate the products and technologies of the future: advanced batteries, biotechnology, computer chips, and clean energy."

 Other countries "closing in" on us? What a myopic, paranoid, us-against-them view of the world.

Winning the 21st Century? What the hell does that even mean? Is the 21st Century a game? How do you know if you've won or lost? Who won the 20th?

Biden's guns-and-butter strategy is bound to bump heads with his progressive initiatives. That's too bad. They're worthwhile initiatives. 

Monday, April 26, 2021


 Multiple funeral pyres of those who died of COVID-19 burn in New Delhi.

Bill Gates

Directly asked during an interview with Sky News if he thought it "would be helpful" to have vaccine recipes be shared, Gates quickly answered: "No." -- Salon

Moustafa Bayoumi

Officials talk about “catch and release” as if they are chatting about fish when they’re really talking about people’s lives. -- Guardian 

Simon Balto

A single guilty verdict or a single justice department investigation do not in and of themselves have the capacity to topple and replace violently oppressive systems that are generations in the making. -- Guardian

Paul Krugman

“Change is coming, whether we seek it or not.”
So declares a remarkable document titled “Preserving Coal Country,” released Monday by the United Mine Workers of America. -- NY Times

Labor attorney Thomas Geoghegan 

...described the NLRB process which hampered the Amazon workers union drive, as akin to a “bloodless bureaucratic death squad.”  -- Capital & Main

"We are not a match..."

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Real reform vs. sham reform


Some readers misread my previous post on MN's sham police reform as an indictment of reform efforts in general. That certainly wasn't my intention. I know there are some who maintain that police reform (and all reform) is a waste of time and "has never worked". I'm not one of them. As I pointed out in that piece, there are meaningless, lollipop reforms that are simply diversions, as well genuine, deep-going, comprehensive reforms that arise directly from people's struggle and are worthy of our support. Consider the current George Floyd Justice in Policing Act

While the racist and repressive character of our criminal justice system remains a constant, the movement in the streets, combined with strong and committed political leadership, can drive change and force constraints on racist policing. A good example is Newark, where cops did not fire a single shot during  calendar year 2020, and where the city didn’t pay a single dime to settle police brutality cases. That’s never happened, at least in the city’s modern history.

From 2015 to 2019, the Newark Police Department killed eight Black men, according to The Washington Post, more than any other department in the state. 

The changes in Newark were partly the result of strong leadership from Mayor Ras Baraka and from the constant pressure applied by the city's historically strong community and youth organizations. Newark is also operating under also a federally enforced consent decree. Under Baraka, the police have met with community groups, giving residents some control over law enforcement. Pressure from below, from the Black Lives Matter movement, has constrained police shootings. Meanwhile, serious crime in Newark has dropped by 40% in the last five years dispelling the notion that constraining the cops will increase crime.

Larry Hamm, long-time Newark community organizer and  head of the People’s Organization for Progress, points out:  “Police brutality is still a problem, but it’s fair to say the consent decree has had a real impact." Hamm was a protege of the late Amiri Baraka, the writer/activist who helped shape Newark's modern history.

Hamm and the POP want state lawmakers to pass a bill that would make civilian complaint review boards with subpoena power possible for all municipalities in New Jersey. He also called on state legislators to pass another bill that would make police disciplinary records public.

The Star-Ledger reports:

The reforms are the results of a federal consent decree, the billy club used by the Department of Justice after a long investigation concluded in 2014 revealed the rot that had infested the department for decades. It found a rogue department that tolerated widespread brutality and racism, with no accountability, and zero training on how to de-escalate confrontations with civilians.

Questions remain as to whether the reforms in Newark can hold. Cops are still using force against Black residents, and activists remain split on the future of public safety there. Newark is a majority-Black city with a poverty level above 63%. Black people are still disproportionately stopped, frisked, and arrested. The new year also brought Newark’s streak to an abrupt end. At 12:03 a.m. on January 1, 2021, plainclothes cops shot and killed Carl Dorsey, a 39-year-old father. The state’s attorney general is investigating the incident. 

But it's wrong to ignore or minimize the gains that have been made and the victories won, especially in the aftermath of the George Floyd murder and a string of others. Yes, there's still a long, difficult road ahead but it's one worth taking. 

Friday, April 23, 2021

Minnesota's move to keep cops from joining white supremacist groups misses the point.

What's wrong with this picture?

"Minnesota faces a moment of reckoning, where the interests and needs of many converge. The watershed events of the last year make it clear that communities of color cannot go on like this. Police officers also cannot go on like this."
-- Gov. Tim Walz

The Star Tribune reports that Minnesota's police licensing board (POST) has agreed to pursue new rules for law enforcement responses to protests and a ban on officers affiliating with white supremacist groups. 

But it seems to me that the proposed ban begs at least two important questions. The first being, why are the state's police departments so rife with white supremacists that such a ban is necessary? The second being, why are openly white supremacist and fascist groups even allowed to exist legally across the state (and nation)?

It seems pointless to recruit thousands of racists into a militarized police force, heavily arm them, point them mainly at communities of color, and then make unenforceable rules forbidding them to join outside racist groups. Like a host of other empty police reforms, this one only offers a diversion from the necessary and inevitable examination of the historic role of policing itself.

I'm also wondering if the proposed rules would bar cops from joining the state's Republican Party which has once again exposed its own white supremacist character in response to the police murders of George Floyd and Daunte Wright and the Derek Chauvin trial. Party leaders did everything they could to use the trial and the protests outside to attack civil rights icon, Rep. Maxine Waters rather than the murderers themselves. 

That's not to say, as some of my lefty friends do, that reform isn't possible. It is. For example, The comprehensive George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is certainly worth our support.

Side note ~ If such a rule was proposed here in Chicago, they'd have to start by barring cops from joining their own union, the FOP, clearly the number-one white supremacist organization in the state. 

Monday, April 19, 2021


Benjamin Crump, civil rights attorney

“The outcome that we pray for and Derek Chauvin is for him to be held criminally liable for killing George Floyd, because we believe that could be a precedent,” Crump told ABC’s This Week on Sunday. “Finally making America live up to its promise of liberty and justice for all. That means all of us - Black people, Hispanic people, Native people - all of us.” -- Guardian

Dr. David Williams
Dr. David Williams, Harvard public health professor 

“There are racial disparities in health in the United States. Over 200 Black people die prematurely every single day." -- 60 Minutes

John Kerry and Xie Zhenhua 

"China and the United States are committed to cooperating with each other and with other countries to tackle the climate crisis." -- China-U.S. Joint Statement Addressing the Climate Crisis

Eliot Cohen, Dean of SAIS at Johns Hopkins

In important aspects of foreign and national-security policy, the Biden administration is really the Trump administration but with civilized manners. -- The Atlantic

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Is anybody buying this oft-told tale?

Following the police killing of 13-year-old Adam Toledo in Little Village on March 29th, CPD began spreading a story to local media alleging that a Chicago street gang was planning to avenge Toledo's death by murdering cops. Will this rumor be enough to legitimize Officer Eric Stillman's shooting of Toledo who had his hands up with no gun present at the moment he was gunned down.

In case the cops weren't already operating with a hair-trigger response mentality, CPD leaders immediately began issuing a “officer safety alerts” to street cops claiming that the department’s narcotics unit had learned that factions of the Latin Kings in the Ogden patrol district on the Southwest Side “were instructed by ranking members to shoot at unmarked Chicago police vehicles.”

They offered no evidence to back up this tale. Neither have any LK leaders been identified as part of the alleged conspiracy or charged. This was on April 3rd. Today is the 17th and still not one reported revenge shooting which leads me to believe the planted story was a load of FOP crap.

It's too soon to tell if the story is credible, you say. Give it time to see if any of these attacks actually occur.

Well actually, I have given it some time because this same story has been popping up after police shootings for years.

First, check out this NY Post story from Sept. 2020 where the FBI warns of a supposed plot by Chicago gangs to ambush cops.

Dozens of Chicago street gangs have made a pact to “shoot on-sight any cop that has a weapon drawn on any subject in public,” according to an FBI warning.

The FBI’s “Potential Activity Alert” warns that almost three dozen gangs have reached the agreement, including the Vice Lords, Black P Stones and Latin Kings, according to ABC7 Chicago, which obtained a copy.

Then there's this FOX News story from 2016

Leaders from three Chicago gangs reportedly met last week to discuss plans to kill police officers in response to the officer-involved shooting death of 18-year-old Paul O’Neal.

The Chicago Sun-Times, citing an alert issued to Chicago officers, reported Monday that the meeting took place on Thursday between the gangs Vice Lords, Black Disciples and Four Corner Hustlers.

According to the paper, the Four Corner Hustlers have “provided guns” and pinpointed a “sniper in place.” However, authorities are still unsure where the alleged sniper spot is placed. The gang is also funneling weapons to the other two gangs

 What is true is that dozens of cops have been shot in the line of duty. But so far there have been no verified links between any of those shootings and these alleged conspiracies. It's time to stop spreading these potentially deadly rumors. 

Friday, April 16, 2021

I'm holding my applause

Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga call for a "united front against China"
Democrats, including the party's left-wing, are wildly cheering Biden's announcement of a planned troop withdrawal from Afghanistan by September 11th. And who can blame them? Most Americans have long grown weary of this country's "eternal war on terrorism" which has dragged on now for two decades at great cost in human lives and taxpayer dollars. It was a war that Biden supported from the start.

Called a "smart war" (as opposed to the "dumb war" in Iraq) by President Obama, the Afghan war has been backed and underwritten by the leaders of both parties and cheered on in the press. All the while meeting little resistance from a once-powerful and militant, now-dormant anti-war movement. 

But now, the great majority of Americans from right to left, support an immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops. A poll from the right-leaning Concerned Veterans for America showed that 67% of veterans support a complete withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. 

So why am I, a long-time anti-war activist, withholding my applause for now? Two reasons: First, I'll wait until all the remaining 2,500 troops (plus thousands of U.S.-hired military contractors) are out of Afghanistan and the last missile is fired on Afghanis from a U.S. drone. You see, I've heard these withdrawal announcements before including the one made most recently by our previous president to withdraw all troops by May 1st. By delaying the withdrawal by 4 months, Biden is violating the agreement Trump made with the Afghanis. Second, I'm concerned that the announced withdrawal is really a repositioning of U.S. troops so they can be used to ramp up an even more dangerous U.S. war threat against China. 

I know that any criticism of Biden's foreign policy is difficult, if not impossible for Democrats to make right now. Just like it was when Obama was elected after the Bush years. After 4 years of Trump and with Biden's pandemic relief money flowing to cities, states, and schools, Biden deserves the ratings he's getting. 

But I'm still leery of the intentions of his new team of cold warriors now heading the State and Defense Departments just as I was of regime-changer Hillary Clinton and neocon, John McCain during the Obama years. 

It's unimaginable to me that in the midst of this global pandemic, Congress would approve a bloated ($715B) Pentagon budget with barely a note of dissent from regular democrats. This represents a leap well beyond Trump's giant gift to the warmakers. 

The day after... I started writing this post the day before yesterday's White House meeting between Biden and JapanesePrime Minister Yoshihide Suga. It was there that Biden confirmed my worst fears when he gave the clearest expression yet of his out-of-whack strategic foreign policy objective, echoing Sec. Anthony Blinken's call at last month's Alaska summit for a "united front against China."

The new strategic plan is a failed one that can only pull this country deeper into a new cold war and closer to a hot one as well. 

And if you thought the Afghan war was a dumb one...

Monday, April 12, 2021


R.I.P. Ramsey Clark

“A right is not what someone gives you; it’s what no one can take from you.” (1927-2001)

Honduran immigrant Maria Ana Mendez

“I have no idea where my daughter is,” Ms. Mendez said in an interview on March 26. “No one is telling me anything at all.” -- New York Times

Katie Wright

Daunte Wright's mother, Katie Wright

"He got out of the car, and his girlfriend said they shot him," she said. "He got back in the car, and he drove away and crashed and now he's dead on the ground since 1:47. ... Nobody will tell us anything. Nobody will talk to us. ... I said please take my son off the ground." -- Star Tribune

Fareed Zakaria

Welcome to the new age of bloated Pentagon budgets, all to be justified by the great Chinese threat...The U.S. has 20 times the number of nuclear warheads as China. -- CNN

Letter to Biden signed by more than 100 state and local officials 

Now is the time for your administration to fulfill its commitment to human rights and refugee protection; only then can we urge the global community to also do their part.” -- Washington Post 


Tuesday, April 6, 2021

McConnell warns corporate America to 'stay out of politics'. Now that's funny.

😎The funniest quote I heard today came from Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell who called actions of MLB, Coke, and Delta in opposition to Georgia's new Jim Crow voting law, "stupid." Now here's the funny part. McConnell, the long-time Trump, and corporate toady warned corporate America to "stay out of politics."

STAY OUT OF POLITICS, INDEED...Why do I think this is funny? Because McConnell takes more money from corporate CEOs than any senator. His re-election effort received a total of $258,880 from 37 chief executives whose companies are components of the S&P 500. 

Only one other candidate in the last competitive Senate race received more than $200,000 from S&P CEOs during the 2020 cycle -- as you might have guessed -- Republican Sen. David Perdue of Georgia.

Biggest S&P 500 CEO donors to Mitch McConnell's campaign


Monday, April 5, 2021


Time Magazine

There were 3,800 anti-Asian racist incidents, mostly against women, in the past year. A torrent of hate and violence against people of Asian descent around the U.S. began last spring, in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. Community leaders say the bigotry was spurred by the rhetoric of former President Trump, who referred to the coronavirus as the “China virus.”Amid the current upsurge in attacks on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and in reaction to the growing national movement against anti-Asian hate crimes, former Arkansas Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee seized the moment to post this dismissive, mocking tweet about people of Chinese ancestry in America. 

Mike Huckabee

“I’ve decided to ‘identify’ as Chinese,” Huckabee tweeted Saturday. “Coke will like me, Delta will agree with my ‘values’ and I’ll probably get shoes from Nike & tickets to @MLB games,” he added, in a reference to criticism against Georgia for its new law making it more difficult to vote. -- Huffington

 Congresswoman Ilhan Omar 

“It’s been really horrendous to watch the defense put George Floyd on trial instead of the former police officer who’s charged with his murder.” -- Guardian 

Former House Speaker, John Boehner

“P.S.: Ted Cruz, go fuck yourself!” -- Leaked audiobook

 Rebecca Solnit

My hope for a post-pandemic world is that the old excuses for doing nothing about climate – that it is impossible to change the status quo and too expensive to do so – have been stripped away. In response to the pandemic, we in the US have spent trillions of dollars and changed how we live and work. We need the will to do the same for the climate crisis.  -- Guardian

Sen. Bernie Sanders

“I have no problem with going to West Virginia, and I think we need a grassroots movement that makes it clear to Joe Manchin and everybody else in the United States Senate, including Republicans, that the progressive agenda is what the American people want." -- MSNBC