Military Contractors Steal from Us

According to a NYT op-ed by Peter Navarro, an assistant to the president and the director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, published March 19th, 2019, argues that hundreds of billions of dollars being spent on the American military is justified for two reasons:

  • It assuages adversaries from threatening American interests , and
  • 2) Defense spending helps keep some manufacturing jobs alive.

As to the first point, America spent $610 billion dollars on defense in 2017, the largest amount of any nation. How much did the second-most on the list spend? $228 billion in China. What does that reason? It shows that America has no adversary abroad who could contend with our hegemony. It is beyond any argument that we need to spend this much when we already have a military so advanced. Some have even argued that since America has such an advanced nuclear arsenal it serves enough as a deterrent against others’ aggression, alone. Who needs tanks in a nuclear conflict?

As to point number two, the bloated defense budget is keeping some jobs here in the United States alive. But what we must focus on is the profits being made by companies making military equipment and providing defense services. It is well known that no-bid contracts are awarded more than often to companies by the government by the Dept. of Defense. But also, the heads of these companies are often former government officials who make the decisions about how that $610 billion dollars is spent. For example, V.P. Cheney first worked in the Department of Defense under Pres. Reagan then, once the regime had changed, Cheney went to sit on the board at Halliburton. When Cheney was picked by George W. Bush to be his V.P., and they conducted the invasion of Iraq, Halliburton received many no-bid contracts from the government for various services. Positions of government officials in the defense dept. have a revolving door between their time as so-called “servants of the people” and a private company’s board of directors.

The horrible crime is that even a small amount of $610 billion would be better spent elsewhere. We could rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, solve the housing crisis, fight the opioid epidemic, or even relocate and retrain the former manufacturing employees once their plants closedown. Just a thought…

Real Reason for The West’s Interest in Venezuela’s Suffering

Venezuela is in deep economic trouble and has a resulting humanitarian crisis on their hands. According to mainstream media reports (even though some contrary anecdotal evidence has been offered up by some far left sources that I am skeptical of; 3 million people not leave their homes for another country for no reason) relay stories of starvation, water shortages, and blackouts. And a ten million-percent inflation on the way by 2020, things look dire for the Latin American country.

What does the West want out of this situation with their sanctions? They want regime change to an oligarchy that get loans from the World Bank (WB), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and ascending entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) allowing Western influences upon the affairs of Venezuelan black crude.

But first things first, the American government is trying through sanctions to force out Pres. Nicolas Maduro, a Chavista socialist with the interests of the poor at the fore and replacing him with self-declared interim president Juan Guaido. America wants Guaido to come in and overthrow the peoples’ leader Maduro with an oligarchy that would kowtow to anything Washington orders. American leaders are the puppet masters behind the International sanctions against Venezuela causing most of the peoples pain. This is the reason for the resulting humanitarian crisis in the Bolivarian Republic.

In the interest of credibility here though let me state that these sanctions alone have not created the current economic situation in Venezuela entirely. Previous leader Hugo Chavez spent the money of the Venezuelan people on the poor quite loosely. New schools, new health clinics, new services everywhere were created. But that was all before the price of oil fell precipitously. Oil is the main export of the country and there were no funds saved by Chavez for a “rainy day.” This caused a large deal of the collapse. But the sanctions have further exacerbated all the problems when they were implemented before Chavez’s death and Maduro’s ascension. They have just now been tightened like a vice on the people in the South American nation to an extreme extent.

Venezuela needs a multi-billion-dollar investment to get back on its feet. The U.S. aid trucks sitting in Colombia are nothing but show pieces for Guaido because it would take thousands upon thousands of trucks to make a dent in the Venezuelan crisis. The only real, if I can use that word, solution to the crisis would be loans from the WB, the IMF, and entrance into the WTO. But let me tell you how this will work against the poor of Venezuela.

These financial organizations will demand in return for their loans the smashing of unions and the implementation of neo-liberal and globalist policies. They will only develop oil as the source of revenue Venezuela and will not allow the nation to create a self-sustaining economy. Globalizing small, poor countries with WB/IMF loans produces single exports to sale on the world market, e.g., if Venezuela’s people want to produce rice for the people themselves, the WB/IMF will not allow them saying they could import in from other poor WTO countries, like in Indochina WTO members who are a singular product economy also. And what happens in most cases is that member countries take loans from the WB/IMF, they cannot pay them back. So what happens? They take out further loans and these crooked institutions make further demands upon the member/leant against countries, like further privatizing sectors of industries, and undermining further progressive initiatives. And this repeats. Therefore Maduro insists there is no crisis in his country. He knows that the admitting of this situation would put too much pressure on the people to fool them into letting in these neo-liberal institutions into the country. That is what is at heart of the Venezuelan crisis.

Oh, and on another note, millions upon millions of Venezuela dollars are frozen here in American financial institutions as part of the sanctions. The Trump administration has stated that they will be released if Guaido’s coup succeeds. Now who cares about the suffering masses now?

New Home for STL Image Gallery!

I have removed the image gallery widget on the right-hand menu because it was going to be taking up too much space. Therefore, I have started using Google Photos to create a gallery.

All of the previously posted images are included in the gallery and I’ll be adding five new images every week. Follow the link below:

https://photos.app.goo.gl/gJxFpfNx64P41f1t6

Criticizing Israel Does Not Make You A White Supremacist!

The ugly head that conflates the criticism of Israel’s actions towards the dislodged people of Palestine with anti-Semitism, has risen again. And most of it surrounds a few statements from a Muslim-refugee, who wears a head scarf within the Capitol building, representing Minnesota’s 5th District, Rep. Ilhan Omar.

Rep. Omar is a freshmen Rep who has joined the caucus of new female House members setting the U.S. political and cultural norms on fire. Along with others, such as Rep. Alexandria Ocazio-Cortez (D-NY), and Rep, Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich), she supports new progressive proposals like the Green New Deal and the BDS movement. But what really caught the ire of Republicans and most Democratic leaders, are a few comments that Omar made recently criticizing Israel. For example, referring to AIPAC,


“I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country. And I want to ask, Why is it ok for me to talk about the influence of the NRA, of fossil fuel industries, or Big Pharma, and not talk about a powerful lobby … that is influencing policy


(PHYLLIS BENNIS, In These Times, March 4th, 2019,
Why False Accusations of Anti-Semitism Against Ilhan Omar Are So Harmful )

Statements like these have people screaming anti-Semitism. They say Omar is reinforcing anti-Semitic tropes, such as that Jews have dual-loyalty to both America and Israel, and that Jews are controlling the world with their money. But this couldn’t be more untrue. A criticism of lobbying groups such as AIPAC, and America’s fanatical loyalty to Israel, are true concerns. In the U.S., if you say or do anything out of line regarding Israel’s foreign policy, you are labelled as a bigot towards Jews.

Now, we know that the blind allegiance to Israel is based on three reasons:

  1. Zionism (Jewish nationalist movement that has had as its goal the creation and support of a Jewish national state in Palestine, the ancient homeland of the Jews (Hebrew: Eretz Yisraʾel, “the Land of Israel”) is exceptionally strong among American Christians, and especially Evangelicals. They believe that the second-coming of Christ will not take place until Jews return to their homeland in Palestine.
  2. Secondly, according to In These Times, America got mixed up in the Cold War in the region when most Arab states were loyal to the U.S.S.R.
  3. And lastly, according to Chomsky (Who Rules The World, 2016), Israel serves as an available landing station for American forces if their were to be a catastrophic conflict in the Mid-East.

It has nothing to do with all that nonsense about being the only democratic state in the Middle East, or having some sort of special relationship between us and Israel.

In conclusion, another quote from the ITT’s March 4th piece sums it up in one statement:


“…(F)alse accusations of anti-Semitism—usually linked to criticism of Israel or Israel’s supporters in the United States—are on the rise as well. And we need to be clear: It is not anti-Semitic to support Palestinian rights, demand a change in U.S. policy towards Israel, expose the kind of pressure that the pro-Israel lobby brings to bear on elected officials, or call out Israel’s violations of human rights and international law.­­ “


PHYLLIS BENNIS, In These Times, March 4th, 2019,
Why False Accusations of Anti-Semitism Against Ilhan Omar Are So Harmful )

So get out there to support Rep. Omar, support the BDS movement, and form an activist group in your locality to contribute to the cause. And remember, critiques of Israeli crimes against humanity do not equate you with being anti-Semitic. That’s just a convenient and false construction used to silence the cries of the Palestinians. Don’t let it stop you. You are not a white supremacist.

Media Post: Why Flee El Salvador, and The French ‘Yellow Vests.”

A short post today with two important video reports from The Guardian and The New York Times showing why Salvadoran migrants are leaving their homes to apply for asylum here in the U.S. (hint: Washington’s crimes), and the latest on the French “yellow vests” movement

Gramsci, Cultural Hegemony, and Why it’s So Vital for Our Liberation

Antonio Gramsci is one of the most influential Marxist thinkers of the twentieth-century (born Jan. 23, 1891, Ales, Sardinia, Italy—died April 27, 1937, Rome). Both an intellectual and a politician, he founded the Italian Communist Party. But after his party was outlawed by Benito Mussolini’s fascists, Gramsci was arrested and imprisoned (1926). At his trial the fascist prosecutor argued, “We must stop his brain from working for 20 years.” In prison, despite rigorous censorship, Gramsci carried out an extraordinary and wide-ranging historical and theoretical study of Italian society and possible strategies for change. Extracts of Gramsci’s prison writings were published for the first time in the mid-20th century; the complete Quaderni del carcere (Prison Notebooks) appeared in 1975.

Gramsci’s greatest contributionto the far-left theoretical tradition is his writings on hegemony, or, as laterdeemed, cultural hegemony. Though he did not label his concept under any onename at the time, his closest characterization of the idea was,

“…(T)he ‘spontaneous’consent given by the great masses of the population to the general directionimposed on social life by the dominant fundamental group; this consent is ‘historically’caused by the prestige (and consequent confidence) which the dominant group enjoysbecause of its position and function in the world of production.”

What that does all thatmean? With a further analysis of Gramsci’s work included, it means that thedominant group in society has been so instrumentally constructing a worldview intheir favor that it has become the ruling worldview, or culture, of our society.Those in charge have created a point-of-view that everyone perceives as the onlyway to see the world. And they have so accomplished this feat they have us believethat it is the natural order, not that it is just man-made. Therefore, we endup oppressing ourselves.

You could easily relate to a dominant hegemonic system like the “divine rights of kings” in which the people once believed that the aristocrats were in their position for God decided so. But that was the previous hegemonic culture. After the French Revolution and its spread of liberal ideals, the hegemonic culture became capitalism. That’s why Gramsci was so concerned with the concept: capitalism has engrained itself so deeply into our perception of reality, as created by the powerful, that the masses cannot think outside of it. People just believe that this is just how the world works and there are no options otherwise. Since the “divine right of kings” worldview is now replaced by a capitalist cultural hegemony, we perceive that period as incorrect. But it seemed just as valid during those times as capitalism does now.

The importance ofthe analysis of hegemony by Marxist theorists is that even though capitalism asinstilled into our every worldview, thereare alternatives, namely, radical leftism.  If we could just expose the people to adifferent, fairer, and the better ideology of socialism, communism, etc., wecan realize that another world is possible, and the hegemony of capitalism canbe discarded just as the divine rights of king was once discarded as false consciousness.

It will be very difficultfor the masses to ever think outside of the capitalist-created ideology withoutmuch hard work by activists and leaders. But let’s show the people thatcapitalism is not the world.

Save Far Left Ideologies from the Trash Heap of History!

Ancient Athens is revered as the birthplace of both democracy and all of Western civilization. During its democratic period of the 5th and 4th century B.C. both its power and cultural achievements were at their height. Even the word “democracy” (demokratia, literally “people power”) is rooted in the Classical Greek language. But in 338, Phillip II of Macedonia (Alexander the Great’s father) conquered Athens and much of the rest of Greek world. It was under Macedonian rule off and on until 228, and democracy was never to take hold again in the Greek classical period.

Also, Ancient Rome was first ruled by a king but then also moved to a democratic, republic-form of government. But in the latter stages, power struggles amongst the elite led to the tyrannical rule of Julius Caesar. And you know what that led to from the pages of The 12 Caesars.

So, what is the point of this shockingly short and incomplete summary of the democratic periods of both ancient Athens and Rome? The reason is that the American Founding Framers took their inspiration from the Classical period in creating and founding the United States of America. They did not say, “Democracy failed in Athens and Rome, therefore we should throw into the dustbin of history.” No, they saw the good and bad parts of each period and drew from the best of their ancient liberal values.

The most often used criticism of radical leftist political philosophies is, “Communism failed in the USSR. It will never work.” But does that mean we should throw way the whole model? I do not believe so. The Founding Framers learned from the failures of the ancient democratic regimes of both Athens and Rome. Therefore, should we never try to install a radical leftist government again if we learn the lessons of the failed Communist experiments of the past?

I hope you answer, “NO!”

Yes, Ms. Burns, Let’s Tax the Hell Out of the Rich!

The headline reads above an article from the leftist publication “In These Times”, published on February 8th, 2019, by Rebecca Burns, “Tax the Hell Out of the Rich, When They’re Alive and When They’re Dead.” Without saying, I was already on-board.

What the article outlines is a comparison of the three proposed ways that Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Sen. Bernie Sanders want to create a fairer tax system for the 99%. Here’s the rundown:

First Warren’s plan

…(A) 1 percent tax on the wealthiest 0.1 percent, or those with assets of over $20 million. Warren’s proposal would tax fewer people—those with more than $50 million in assets, an estimated 75,000 families—but she would bump up the rate to 2 percent. Households with more than $1 billion in assets would get a 3 percent rate.

Yet,

Where Warren’s proposal would probably be insufficient on its own is that it wouldn’t offer a particularly aggressive corrective to inequality over time. It would raise trillions for social programs, which is crucially important and would certainly have other beneficial political effects. But, as a result of the tax, the fabulously wealthy would be only slightly less fabulously so.

But right now, correcting the immense rate of economic inequality in American society is not going to fix itself with one tax plan. So, don’t get down, writer Rebecca Burns. That’s going to take something truly radical to happen (hint, hint).

Second, AOC’s plan as outlined in a “60 Minutes” interview,

“You look at our tax rates back in the ’60s and when you have a progressive tax rate system. Your tax rate, you know, let’s say, from zero to $75,000 may be ten percent or 15 percent, et cetera. But once you get to, like, the tippy tops—on your 10 millionth dollar—sometimes you see tax rates as high as 60 or 70 percent.”

But,

By even the most optimistic estimates, this would bring in only a quarter of the revenues Warren’s plan would generate.

So, once again, it will not cure the economic inequality in our society as Warren’s will neither. Yet, it is a starting point and one that may be more palatable to everyday-progressives.

And lastly, the Sander’s plan,

Bernie Sanders’ plan involves restoring top marginal tax rates on inheritances to where they were in the 1970s: 77 percent for estates over $1 billion.

The plan would also decrease the threshold for the inheritance tax from $11.18 million to $3.5 million and impose a 45 percent rate on this lower (but still very rich by any normal standard) tier. Even with this new threshold, just 0.2 percent of Americans would ever pay an estate tax. Thus, in the style of Occupy, the plan is called “For the 99.8 Percent Act.”

Yet,

Again, Sanders’ plan would probably raise less revenue than Warren’s: About $315 billion over a decade.

Then it continues,

But by taking aim at the ultra-rich as a class, it also singles out the kind of dynastic wealth that allows a few families to wreak havoc on our political system. Just three families with multi-generational wealth—the Waltons, the Kochs, and the Mars—have a combined fortune of $343 billion, more than 3.5 million times the median wealth of U.S. families. And they use that wealth to fund all manner of right-wing policies.

The Sanders plan makes the least revenue for the government and will not even come within seeing distance to the eradication of the exspanse of inequality in the United States. But it could be the most acceptable not only to progressives but even centrists if the argument is framed properly by Sanders.

What I am trying to do up above is, first and foremost, to educate everyone on the strides made by modern politicians (two of the three deeming themselves so-called “socialists”) towards income equality which would have been unimaginable 10 years ago. It’s almost amazing, when you really think about it.

Yet my main point comes out of the analysis of the Warren plan, namely, that her plan is the most effective regarding a shrinking of the income gap in this country, but it does not really even make a scratch. As Burns was writing above, “the fabulously wealthy would be only slightly less fabulously so.” That’s all. And this is the reason why we need real change in this nation. We need real radical leftists in power, not just democratic socialists, but real revolutionary thinkers. That is the only way to get any immediate help with the income gap in the U.S. and, later, around the world.

So, I am greatly impressed with the ITT article by Burns in that, first, it has a cool title and, secondly, she respects that even these so-called sweeping tax plans will not truly affect the disparity between the rich and the poor in this nation.

But it’s a start…now let us take advantage of it.

Slaves for Fashion “Prison-Made Brand Carcel Reimagines Fashion From The Inside Out”

Brand CEO Veronica D’Souza on creating a ‘different ecosystem’ in fashion and the launch of a new Thai silk collection made in a maximum-security prison
— Read on www.forbes.com/sites/maryjanewiltsher/2019/01/28/prison-made-brand-carcel-reimagines-fashion-from-the-inside-out/amp/

What are so-called “fair wages”? Is there any choice not to produce clothing for the rich?

Prison work is slavery. It is not dignifying.

“‘It’s Cold as Hell’: Inside a Brooklyn Jail’s Weeklong Collapse”: Treated Worse Than Animals

nyti.ms/2E41MeL

Pet owners who would treat their dogs or cats like this would be jailed for animal cruelty.

Tell me, will there be charges?