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It's North Korea's Kim Jong-un, not Trump, who Forced the US to the Negotiating Table

Credit where credit's due

 

North Korea's Kim Jong-un inspects a new H-bomb while US troops in South Korea prepare for war (US Army photo)North Korea's Kim Jong-un inspects a new H-bomb while US troops in South Korea prepare for war (US Army photo)
 

I'm no fan of police states or of dictators, whether in Russia, China, North Korea or under development here in the United States, but let's at least be honest about what's behind the news that President Trump has agreed to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the man he has been calling "fat" and "Rocket Man."

The corporate media in the US have been lavishing at times grudging praise on Trump, claiming that it was his "harsh sanctions" and threatening military moves around the Korean Peninsula, and leaked White House talk of "bloody nose" incursions into North Korea, or threats to destroy that country that forced Kim to agree to talks.

The reality is quite the opposite, though. While we may be loath to admit it, that truth is that it has been Kim's dogged persistence, in the face of US sanctions, boycotts and threats, in testing and developing both a credible nuclear arsenal of atomic and thermonuclear weapons, and in demonstrating that he has missiles that can reach US targets, probably including the lower 48 states.

With as many as 60 such deliverable weapons, according to some estimates, Kim's North Korea has reached a point where the only way the US could hope to undo his accomplishment would be an all-out war against the North and his one-million-man army, its dug-in artillery. And even then the chances of doing this without North Korea launching at least some of its nukes would be slim.

Credit should go also to South Korea's President Moon Jae-in, who has defied the US by reaching out to Kim, first by inviting North Korea to participate in the Winter Olympics just completed successfully in South Korea (including the fielding of a joint North and South Korean women's hockey team), and then offering to meet directly in the North with Kim. Moon later had his national security advisor deliver to the White House Kim's invitation to meet with President Trump.

Learning the Power of Protest, Confrontation and Collective Action, Where Will America’s Students Go from Here?

The kids are rising!

 

A salute to the kids of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida!

After experiencing a terrifying attack on their school by a tragically unhinged former student armed with an assault-style rifle who killed 14 of their classmates and three teachers and seriously injured another 14, they didn’t retreat into fear and victimhood. Instead they are taking to the streets, taking to buses to the state capital in Tallahassee, and are using social media to organize a national youth campaign to get assault weapons and large-capacity magazines banned.

In refusing to be silenced by the National Rifle Assn. and political charlatans like Florida Sen. Marc Rubio or President Trump, or co-opted by Democratic politicians eager to use the issue of gun control to win points in next November’s congressional elections, these students and the tens of thousands of high school kids who have joined them across the country in states blue, red and purple, they have in one stroke revived the idea of mass political action.

Students from the Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School may have sparked a national student protest movementStudents from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School may have sparked a national student protest movement
 

These kids are not being polite. When someone like Sen. Rubio or Florida Gov. Rick Scott or the Florida state legislature comes up with an excuse like blaming the shooting on mental illness rather than the easy availability of mass-killing military-style weapons, they shout “BS!” When they’re told the answer is to arm teachers, they shout “BS!” When they’re accused of being “paid crisis actors” or manipulated, they shout “BS!” And when the Florida legislature insults them by ignoring their mass trip to the state capital to demand a hearing on gun legislation, they mass in front of the statehouse, shout “BS!” and demand to be heard.

The whole political battleground over gun ownership in the US has just undergone a tectonic shift as great as if a 9-point tremor had struck. For the first time in memory, huge corporations like Delta Airlines are abandoning their backing for the NRA, dropping lucrative and once popular marketing discount programs for NRA members on pain of being boycotted — a threat that has even gigantic companies like Apple and Amazon worried. No wonder the NRA had their latest version of spokesman Charlton Heston, Dana Loesh, put out a short ad in which,looking like the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz, she poses in black with a giant hourglass, darkly warning the “lying media,” Hollywood “phonies,” unpatriotic athletes, politicians who “watch America burn” and late night hosts,” that “Your time is running out — the clock starts now.”

The gun lobby making this threat is suddenly running scared. Like that other top lobbying organization, the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, which was stood up and ignored by Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in 2016, their bluff has been called. Once cowed politicians are realizing they can stand up to such lobbies and still retain or maybe even gain support among voters, it’s their days that are numbered.

Will the student movement, on this once sacred issue of gun rights, succeed? I’m guessing it will. It already has on some level. Perhaps they’ll get AR-15 style weapons banned and also large magazines for semi-automatic weapons. Maybe they’ll only get the guns themselves banned for sale to people under 21. But they’ll get something.

And that raises the crucial question: is this the beginning of something bigger? Sure this issue of stopping the sale of instruments of slaughter has tremendous resonance following such a horrific shooting, and thanks to the spontaneous rising of a nation of angry students — teens in high schools and 20-somethings in college — but are these once polite and agreeable students going to take their new found in-your-face, “up-against-the-wall” political activism and apply it to other issues?

Black Panther: An Amazing Moment for People of Color, An Okay Moment for Women

Black Panther’s forward movement On race makes Its patriarchy tolerable

  
As a queer woman, when it comes to film, I fulfill pretty much all of the stereotypes. I don’t really like action films. I am underwhelmed by special effects and action sequences. As my wife once complained, “All the movies you like… nothing happens in them.” My undergraduate thesis was on documentary film theory. I am, absolutely, one of those insufferable film snobs.

I love Black Panther.

Even as I state that, I feel confused. It’s just an action flick, which superficially doesn’t really have much to write home about. The acting was fine. Nothing particularly stand-out, but no cringe-worthy moments either. The action sequences were similar. Fun special effects, but really nothing revolutionary.

But of course, we all know that given the world we live in, Black Panther is so much more. The entire film is like a live-action Kehinde Wiley exhibit and it was just as emotionally powerful.

As you’re introduced to the nation of Wakanda, it’s the first time you’ve ever seen elements of African culture embedded in an empowered society. As if that were how it always was. For once, you’re not given a choice between poverty and beautiful, colorful textiles and armbands. It’s a breath of fresh air when you didn’t even know you were suffocating.

Literally, simply the setting of the film choked up my chest and brought tears to my eyes. My right foot, left arm, and whole face started tingling. Wondering if I was losing circulation, I uncrossed my legs and tried to spread out my arms. Nope. Still tingling. Those images are just that powerful. Cathartic in so many ways, I was saddened when it all came to an end. Never in my lifetime did I think that I would get to witness a white man being called “colonizer” as a joke in a mainstream, Hollywood film. There’s even a token white character who has the refreshing role of taking orders and being willing to sacrifice his life in pursuit of the greater good!

As I sat there, reveling in the images, I couldn’t help but yearn for my own version. I thought, it would be so incredible to see an Asian movie like this!

Like any good action film, it plays with larger philosophical issues in between stunts and guns. The eternal debate between liberation by “any means necessary” and non-violence is the crux of the conflict in the film. I appreciated the poignancy of N’Jadaka’s character, played by Michael B. Jordan, illustrating intergenerational trauma. It reminds us that even if we were able to miraculously stop the pervasive mass incarceration and over-policing of Black communities tomorrow, the psychological impacts would exist for generations to come.

But a third of the way through the film, I still couldn’t help but wonder to myself: “Don’t men know how to do anything besides fight and wage civil wars?” The entire conflict, climax, and resolution of the movie revolve around a battle for the throne from two men in the royal bloodline. The king is dead and the privileged but kind-hearted and wise son, T’Challa, played by Chadwick Boseman, takes his place. Just as this happens an unknown son of the bloodline, N’Jadaka (aka Erik “Killmonger” Stevens), resurfaces after being abandoned in the slums of Oakland, CA.  

Idiocy 101: Arming Teachers To Stop Mass Shootings In Schools

NRA Stooges like Trump twist Second Amendment meaning

 

So President Donald Trump now pontificates that he would run into a school building to save students during a mass shooting attack even if he was “unarmed!”

This empty boast is from the same Trump who failed the bravery test during the Vietnam War by dodging the draft -- not for principle but because the poor guy had "bone spurs" on one foot (he can't remember which).

Yes, that braggadocio is on top of other asinine blather from the Oval Office occupant. Trump for example made that boast while taking another shot at the police who failed to rush into that south Florida high school during the Valentine’s Day 2018 massacre that left 17 dead including 14 students.

The unwillingness of armed cops outside that Parkland high school to rush inside to confront an assault rifle firing shooter didn’t stop pseudo Tough Guy Trump from pushing the asinine proposal to arm teachers to help stop mass school shootings.

The Trump who wants to pay teachers to carry guns in schools is the same Trump who wants to slash billions of dollars in federal funding for education.
 

Arming teachers is a big pay day for gunmakers. It doesn't make America great or safe.Arming teachers is a big pay day for gunmakers. It doesn't make America great or safe.
 

Since Trump never lets facts stand in the way of his fantasies, he doesn’t care that a study conducted by his hometown police force – - the New York City Police Department –- found police only had an 18 percent success rate in hitting a person they were shooting at if that person was shooting back at them.

That begs the question: In arming teachers, does Trump accept that teachers will almost inevitably accidentally kill a few students while trying to shoot a mass shooter, given the NYPD certified fact that even trained police, who are regularly retrained on shooting guns accurately, have such a poor ‘good shoot’ percentage in shootout situations?

Washington has Long Engaged in Information Warfare, Including Fake News and Trolling

I've been a target of US government propaganda attacks

 

The howling in government and the corporate media and among many liberals about an alleged Russian information war, with bots, trolls and fake news being placed in social media to mislead and incite Americans against each other, might lead one think, like Sen John McCain, that we are practically at war with Russia. Yet it's all actually pretty silly. After all, our own government has been playing this game for decades, both abroad, and also right here inside the "Land of the Free and Home of the Brave" and against us American citizens.

I know. I was a victim of such an attack, though initially I didn't realize what was happening.

Back on August 25, 2005, I published a piece in In These Times titled Radioactive Wounds of War about the devastating damage caused by the US military's use of depleted uranium weapons in its brutal assault leveling Fallujah, the Iraqi city of 300,000 people that was destroyed by US marines in 2004 as retribution for the killing of four US contractors by the Iraqi insurgents who at the time controlled the city, and for their humiliating defeat of a smaller Marine assault on the city earlier in the year.

At the time I was and had been a contributing editor at ITT, a publication for which I had written regularly since it was founded back in 1978, and was listed on its masthead as such.

(DOD photo)(DOD photo)

As I recount in an article published in Counterpunch on November 19, 2005 titled R.I.P In These Times, the left-liberal news magazine had been promptly bombarded with letters criticizing my article after it came out. The critiques were not about the main topic of the article, which was evidence discovered in medical studies done on returning Iraq veterans from a unit of New York National Guard soldiers, funded by the New York Daily News and reported on by Juan Gonzalez, which had found evidence of exposure to depleted uranium dust that was causing serious health damage in these soldiers, and even birth defects in their young children. Those findings were undeniable. What attracted the critical mail, which would now be called trolling, was my reporting on how much depleted uranium weapons had been dumped on Iraq by invading and occupying US forces.

Based on my research into reports, mostly by European sources, I had written in that article:
 

U.S. forces first used DU in the 1991 Gulf War, when some 300 tons of depleted uranium–the waste product of nuclear power plants and weapons facilities–were used in tank shells and shells fired by A-10 jets. A lesser amount was deployed by US and NATO forces during the Balkans conflict. But in the current wars in Afghanistan and, especially, Iraq, DU has become the weapon of choice, with more than 1,000 tons used in Afghanistan and more than 3,000 tons used in Iraq. And while DU was fired mostly in the desert during the Gulf War, in the current war in Iraq, most of DU munitions are exploding in populated urban areas.

The Pentagon has expanded DU beyond tank and A-10 shells, for use in bunker-busting bombs, which can spew out more than half a ton of DU in one explosion, in anti-personnel bomblets, and even in M-16 and pistol shells. The military loves DU for its unique penetration capability–it cuts through steel or concrete like they’re butter.
 

In later years, I've done more reporting on the US military's use of depleted uranium, which the Pentagon loves because of its unique ability to penetrate even thick solid steel tank armor and reinforced concrete bunkers with ease, bursting into intense flame on impact and spreading super toxic uranium oxide dust in the aftermath. There is no dispute about the use of these weapons by US forces. But in 2005, the Pentagon was fighting a brutal rear-guard battle to claim the stuff is safe and at the same time that it was not being used in populated urban areas. Both claims were official lies.

America's High School Yearbook: 2018

 

 2018 (Creative Commons 2.0 copyright by Andy Myer, andymyer.com)American High School Yearbook: 2018 (Creative Commons 2.0 copyright by Andy Myer, andymyer.com)
 

Here we are again. Another massacre in a school, this time in Parkland, Florida. Before we ultimately resign ourselves to this obscene state of affairs, shouldn't we at least see the actual crime scene photos? It's an argument made recently in Slate. Don't we deserve to have all relevant information and visual material as we debate the issue of guns in this country?

It's unlikely. In the meantime, let's close our eyes and imagine what the bodies of youngsters in Sandy Hook Elementary torn apart by assault weapon ammunition really look like. Conjure up the slumped figures peppered with slugs in the pews of the Sutherland Springs Church, the dead and wounded littering the campus of Virginia Tech, the concert grounds in Las Vegas, and the hallways and classrooms of Columbine and Stoneman Douglass High School. Think of the thousands of shattered families, whose lives surely will never be the same.

While we're at it, consider the injured survivors, some of whom will have lifelong disabilities, medical needs, and unalterably changed futures. Go on to contemplate the emotional distress of witnesses and first responders who may be physically unscathed, but will suffer PTSD for months, years, perhaps their entire lifetimes.

Don't stop there! Think of the millions of American schools students (elementary to high school) who are forced to participate in active shooter drills. They become wonderfully proficient in immediate responses to alarms, barricading doorways, picking up objects to hurl at an armed intruder, where they should assemble after the terror subsides, and how to properly exit their buildings in full view of heavily armed SWAT teams. Sweet dreams, kids!

AR-15

 
 
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you,
me,
a random student,
mother,
teacher,
uncle,
friend . . .
 
Again.
Again.
Again.
America.
 

--Gary Lindorff

McMaster of War

Unrealistic war experience leads to Trump advisor overconfidence

 

This article appears in the London Review of Books
 

A number of military experts – including the defense secretary, James Mattis – have warned that a US war against North Korea would be hard, incredibly destructive and bloody, with civilian casualties in the millions, and could go badly for US forces. But Lt. Gen. Herbert Raymond McMaster, President Trump’s national security adviser, is apparently insistent that ‘a military strike be considered as a serious option’.

One of Gen. McMaster’s claims to fame is a Silver Star he was awarded for a tank ‘battle’ he led in the desert during the so-called Gulf War of 1991. As a young captain leading a troop with nine new Abrams M1A1 battle tanks, McMaster destroyed 28 Iraqi tanks in 23 minutes without losing any of his own or suffering any casualties.

 Capt. McMaster's vastly superior Abrams tanks were able to destroy Iraqi tanks at a distance, out of range of any Iraqi returning fire, makinTurkey shoot: Capt. McMaster's vastly superior Abrams tanks were able to destroy these dug-in Iraqi tanks at a distance, out of range of any Iraqi returning fire
 

McMaster’s exploit (later embellished with a name, the ‘Battle of 73 Easting’) was little more than a case of his having dramatically better equipment. His tanks were several generations ahead of the antique Russian-built T-72s of his Iraqi opponents. They were protected by depleted uranium armour – a dense metal virtually impenetrable by conventional tank shells, anti-tank rockets and RPGs – and carried anti-tank munitions tipped with depleted uranium penetrators, which can punch through steel armour as if it were cardboard. They then ignite a tank’s interior, exploding any ordnance inside and incinerating the crew. The Abrams main cannon also has a significantly longer range than the tanks McMaster was confronting, meaning he and his men were able to pick off the Iraqi tanks while the shells fired back at them all fell short...
 

For the rest of this article in the LRB, please go to: London Review of Books

Ostrich's lament

New poem:

 
 
The sand underground is very dark
But I’ve learned to open my inner eye.
I’ve become quite the dreamer!
Been dreaming up a new world.
 
It used to be dark down here
All by myself, hiding
From everything that is going on, everything
Swirling around the United States of the Ostrich Farm.
 
Sure I miss running with my fellow birds.
But I don’t miss it much!
Nobody takes us seriously.
We’re sort of the muppets of nature.
 
Big eyes, long eyelashes, long scaly legs.
Fluffy butt feathers.
Nobody cares that I can run as fast as a horse
And that I have three stomachs
 
Which is helpful in a world where
There is so much junk to digest.
Did you know that I can see clearly
For over 2 miles with my Disney eyes?
 
What an irony that my sensitivities
Force me to keep my sight sequestered
In this underworld of sand and darkness,
Dreaming for a better day.

US Mass Killers Crucially Abetted by Nuts Who Won’t Ban Assault Weapons and High-Capacity Clips

The nuts aren’t just the ones doing the shooting

 

Something is clearly sick in America.

The latest shooting in Broward County Florida was no surprise. Like almost all the school shootings that are now weekly events in the United States, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where it took place was in not some violence-plagued, over-crowded, mostly non-white urban school, but rather was located in the town of Parkland, an upscale suburban community. The school had an “A” rating from the state, as a top-performing high school.

According to Census statistics, Parkland’s over 24,000 people are 84% white, 13% Latino, 7% black and 6 percent black. Median income all the way back in 2008 was reported as $278,000 and the median home value that same year was just under $1 million. This was a wealthy community, not some “shithole” one, as our president might say.

All this is so common to the school shooting profile of most of these deadly incidents that we have to ask, what the hell is going on?

In the case of the suspect, 19-year-old Nickolas Cruz was unusual in that he had been adopted, along with his younger brother, by a couple who were childless and wanted children. Nothing unusual there. As the father of an adopted son I can say that there is really no fundamental difference between a biologically born and an adopted child in terms of the love and care that parents put into their development. In fact, because of the intentional efforts that go into doing an adoption there may often be even more attention and affection poured on an adopted child.

We don’t know about Cruz’s early childhood, so it’s possible he suffered at a very young age or perhaps was damaged in the womb if his birth-mother had a drug or drinking problem. That’s always a risk, just as it can be a risk with a children who are the biological offspring of their parents.

What we do know is that Cruz, who was diagnosed as depressive and possibly on the autism spectrum, was expelled Marjory Stoneman Douglas right around the time that his adoptive mother, to whom he was very attached, died at the age of 68 (his adoptive father had died much earlier). So this young man was depressed, deprived of his parents, and dumped by his school.

I almost think that at this point we don’t need to think to hard to see what went wrong. Technically an adult, and reportedly living of late in the home of a kind friend of his parents, he slipped through the cracks of a larger society that doesn’t really care much about what happens to a kid once she or he hits 18 (if they care much about them even at a younger age).

Obviously, a lot of people dropped the ball with this kid. The school, which had warned teachers about him, washed its hands of him, the friend of his late mother, who took him in, allowed him to bring along his AR-15, although she at least required him to keep it locked up albeit with him having the key (why would any adult allow a visiting kid to do that?), and nobody, like a social worker, appears to have followed up when he stopped going to the mental health clinic where he was being treated.
AR-15 Assault rifle with loaded clipAR-15 Assault rifle with loaded clip

 

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