Friday, March 29, 2019

Mueller report upends Rachel Maddow and a Democratic Party establishment that paved the way for a demagogue's victory

(Hillary Clinton)

Julian Assange, the head of WikiLeaks, made it clear to New Yorker writer Raffi Khachadourian back in 2017 what he thought of claims his organization was manipulated in a “coordinated propaganda effort” to defeat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential elections.

Assange “has turned the official assessment—at best, a declaration that he had been used--into a symbol of American failure, establishment mendacity, Democratic hysteria, neo-McCarthyism, and fake news,” Khachadourian wrote.

It was through WikiLeaks that the world learned the Democratic Party leadership had worked to scuttle Bernie Sanders’ candidacy to clear the way for Clinton’s nomination and path to defeat Republican Donald Trump. We all know what happened. Trump won, and the Clinton establishment, desperate for a scapegoat, blamed the Russians, raising the specter of collusion with the Trump campaign.

After two long years, the Mueller Report, named after special counsel Robert Mueller, is out and puts to rest claims that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians in defeating Hillary Clinton. The Russians may have interfered in the campaign but not in direct cahoots with Trump.

Journalists like MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow may never recover. Once respected for her insightful commentary, Maddow invested herself nearly totally in the collusion conspiracy theory and hammered away on it night after night for more than two years. She compromised her journalistic integrity, ignoring other important issues to obsess about this one. Once a fan, I stopped watching her long ago.

The Democratic Party establishment deserves much of the blame for the disaster of the Trump Administration, pushing a deeply flawed candidate, undermining a much better one, and paving the road for the victory of a demagogue. Even today, it doesn’t accept its complicity in this tragedy, and that’s why its continued disconnect with reality even after the Mueller Report dashed its conspiracy hopes.

As Khatchadourian wrote, Assange saw Clinton as “corrupt, pathetically driven by personal ambition, a neoliberal interventionist destined to take the United States into war—the epitome of a political establishment that deserved to be permanently ousted.”

He was right.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Embattled Trump rattling sabers at Venezuela in a classic demagogic distraction while Venezuelans are saying "Yankee Go Home!"

(Photo from Frogsprog, 2007)

President Trump is feeling pressure. Plans for his wall across the U.S.-Mexican border are stalling. His former lawyer told members of Congress and the nation that he is a racist and a cheat. His party lost the U.S. House in the last election, and a growing number of Republicans are bucking his rule. His poll numbers are down.

So what’s a demagogue to do to get back on the public’s good side? Let’s rattle some sabers and talk about war, of course! Why not Venezuela? It’s what George W. Bush did with the invasion of Iraq back in 2003, what Reagan did in Grenada in 1983, and what other presidents have done before them.

Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently warned that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s “days (are) numbered.” With other warmongers like John Bolton and Elliott Abrams close to the President’s ear, Trump has to be wondering how he can best pull this off despite the American public’s weariness of war after nearly two decades of it in Iraq and Afghanistan. We live in a nation that’s permanently at war. Why not a third one?

Here’s what National Security Advisor Bolton told Fox News in January: “We’re in conversations with major American companies now. … It will make a big difference to the United States economically if we could have American oil companies really invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela.”

Bolton said the Trump Administration is closely watching not only Venezuela but also its fellow “troika of tyranny” members Cuba and Nicaragua.

The horrible economic and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela is partly of Maduro’s making, he and his mentor, the late Hugo Chavez. For an  example, they failed to diversify Venezuela’s oil-centered economy, and when oil prices dropped so did the nation’s economic well-being. However, Chavez was indeed “the poor people’s president,” as the National Catholic Reporter’s Bart Jones called him back in 2013. He was bound and determined to refocus Venezuela’s energies back on its legions of poor, and in doing so, he “offended people in high places and was a threat to the established order,” Jones wrote.

That “established order” included the United States and Wall Street with their long history of exploiting Latin America’s resources and upholding murderous right-wing dictatorships so long as they didn’t challenge the power of the U.S. oil industry or corporations like the United Fruit Company, later called Chiquita. Chavez nationalized banks, declaring the banking industry as a “public service” and he passed legislation declaring that 5 percent of their profits go toward community building. He won election after election, and so did his successor in 2016.

U.S. tentacles are all over Latin America these days, helping to turn left-leaning governments in Honduras, Brazil, Argentina and elsewhere to the right, and they’re closing in on Venezuela. The Trump Administration even has its own puppet in line to take over once Maduro is gone, National Assembly head and self-declared president Juan Guaido. U.S. troops indeed have been sent to the Caribbean in anticipation of another coup in Venezuela such as the one the United States helped orchestrate against Chavez in 2002. After Chavez’s kidnapping in that coup, his thousands of supporters filled the streets of Caracas and demanded his return. The anti-Chavez media “showed Hollywood movies” instead of reporting on the demonstrations, reporter Bart Jones said.

U.S. media haven’t been much different in their treatment of Chavez’s “Bolivarian Revolution” (after Venezuelan-born independence hero Simón Bolívar), Maduro and Venezuela.  Even the liberal New Yorker headlined Jon Lee Anderson’s 2013 piece on Chavez, “Slumlord”. There’s little on television or in the print media in the United States that has detailed the devastating effects of U.S. sanctions on the Venezuelan economy and people.

Still some writers have written effectively on this and related issues. Writer Michael Fox described the sad and tragic tradition of U.S. presidential meddling and Trump’s potential complicity in it in a recent piece for Salon and The Progressive Populist.

Back in September 2018, Labor South described at some length the sordid history of U.S. interference in the affairs of other nations, particularly Latin America. It looks like Trump would like to repeat that history, but this time Americans may be so weary of war that they’ll joined countless generations of Latin Americans who’ve loudly cried “Yankee Go Home”, and maybe the American Yankee this time will.

Friday, March 1, 2019

The neo-liberals want to remove Eva Peron's image from the Buenos Aires skyline, but her image and legacy can never be removed from the hearts of workers and the poor

(To the right, Eva Perón, in 1952, greeting her followers but in such ill health her husband Juan  Perón has to brace her)

Eva Duarte Perón, also known as Evita, still hovers over the city skyline of Buenos Aires as well as in the minds of millions of the porteños who live there. The former actress, born out of wedlock in a poor, remote village, who became the First Lady of Argentina during the reign of Juan Perón from 1946 to 1955, was “more Peronist than Perón himself,” as writer Joseph A. Page once said.

Well, Darío Lopérfido, longtime cultural arbiter, artistic director at the Teatro Colón and the nation’s former Secretary of Culture and Communications, has called for the removal of Evita’s image from the high-rise Edificio del Ministerio de Obras Públicas (Ministry of Public Works building) in the heart of Buenos Aires.

(Eva's image on the Edificio del Ministerio de Obras Públicas in Buenos Aires. A photograph I took during a visit in 2015)

“It is a fascist symbol,” Lopérfido proclaimed in television interviews and elsewhere. “It is comparable to Stalinism. Peronism is a political travesty.”

Certainly Lopérfido’s campaign brings a smile to the face of Mauricio Macri, Argentine’s neo-liberal, Big Business-loving, union-baiting leader since 2015, a darling of Trump-world regime-changers whose minions have done their best to put his predecessor, Peronist Christina Fernández de Kirchner in prison. This is classic Latin American right-wing politics—win election and then get your rival behind bars, kind of like what presidential candidate Donald Trump wanted to do to Hillary Clinton once elected.

Eva Perón remains an unforgettable presence in Argentine history and one of the most dynamic women on the world political stage in her time, and perhaps any time. From her humble origins, she rose to be a major power behind the throne of her husband, an affable-but-politically unreliable colonel who had studied and served in Mussolini’s fascist Italy but rose to power in Argentina as a pro-union hero of the working class. Evita loved her husband desperately but made sure he kept his commitments to the workers, the “descamisados” (shirtless ones) who had rarely had much of a voice in Argentine politics with its ruling oligarchy of wealthy industrialists and cattle barons.

“I love the descamisados, the women, the workers of my people too much,” she wrote in her book and deathbed testimonial Mi Mensaje (My Message), “and, by extension, I love all the world’s exploited people, condemned to death by imperialisms and the privileges of land ownership, too much. The suffering of the poor, the humble, the great pain of so much of humanity without sun and without sky hurts me too much to keep quiet.”

She put action to her words. She established a foundation that helped build 12 hospitals, a thousand schools, medical centers, clinics, transit homes for the homeless, homes for abandoned children, homes for the elderly. She helped secure the vote for the women of Argentina. Days on end, she personally met with endless lines of the poor who came to her with their cries and pleas. They called her “The Workers Plentipotentiary”,  “The Lady of Hope”, and, though childless herself, the “Mother of the Innocents”.

Beautiful but frail in health, she was destined for a short life, but she never gave up her fight and her ferocious war against the “oligarchy”, a term that became a curse word in her mouth, and she could indeed be ferocious and authoritarian in her attacks on her enemies. She died of cancer in 1952 at the age of 33. Her body was later stolen and not return to her husband until many years later.

Peronism remains a strong political force in Argentina today, and its pro-working class ideals owe more to Evita’s legacy than that of her husband.

Still, her enemies, both in Argentina and beyond, would love to destroy her memory. It’s an old story. 

Argentina’s most famous writer, the aristocratic, conservative, virulently anti-Peronist Jorge Luis Borges, called Evita a “common prostitute,” echoing the widespread mantra of the anti-Peronists that the literati all too readily embraced. “She was the macho’s ideal victim-woman—don’t those red lips still speak to the Argentine macho of her reputed skill in fellatio?” V.S. Naipaul once wrote from his Olympian heights in the world of distinguished writers.

She was the woman “who tamed El Presidente with sexual skills learned on her knees in a hundred waterfront bars,” reads the back cover of Paul L. Montgomery’s 1979 biography Eva, Evita: The Life of Eva Perón. Even Mike Wallace, the USA’s premier investigative TV reporter-celebrity, skewered her as having “the ruthlessness of a demagogue” in an ill-informed, distorted broadcast decades ago that surely won a stamp of approval from the CIA and Republican establishment in Washington, D.C. The 1996 film Evita starring Madonna bought into this image of Eva Perón.

If the real-life image of Evita does indeed come down from the Edificio del Ministerio de Obras Públicas, the neo-liberals undoubtedly will uncork their champagne and celebrate, but the poor and the working class of Argentina will know she lives on in their hearts. That’s something beyond the power of the oligarchy’s cranes and bulldozers.