Trump Blasts Back After Iran Warns U.S.

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump warned Iranian President Hassan Rouhani early Monday that he will face dire consequences for threatening the United States.

Trump tweeted about the dangers to Iran of making hostile threats after Rouhani said Sunday “American must understand well that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace and war with Iran is the mother of all wars.” Trump responded with a tweet that warned: “NEVER EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKE OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE.”

Trump earlier this year pulled the United States out of the international deal meant to prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon and ordered increased American sanctions.

Rouhani had warned Trump Sunday to stop “playing with the lion’s tail” and threatening Iran, “or else you will regret it.”

Trump has suggested Iranian leaders are “going to call me and say ‘let’s make a deal'” but Iran has rejected talks.

Rouhani has previously lashed out against Trump for threatening to re-impose the sanctions, as well as for moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and banning travel to the U.S. from certain Muslim-majority countries.

Trump’s tweet suggested he has little patience with the trading of hostile messages with Iran, using exceptionally strong language and writing an all-capitalized tweet.

“WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!,” he wrote.

Trump has a history of firing off heated tweets that seem to quickly escalate long-standing disputes with leaders of nations at odds with the U.S.

In the case of North Korea, the public war of words cooled quickly and gradually led to the high profile summit and denuclearization talks.

On Sunday in California, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was strongly critical of Iran.

He called the religious leaders of Iran “hypocritical holy men” who amassed vast sums of wealth while allowing their people to suffer, part of a highly critical broadside issued as the republic approached the 40th anniversary of its Islamic revolution and the U.S. prepared to reimpose the economic sanctions.

In a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, Pompeo castigated Iran’s political, judicial and military leaders, too, accusing several by name of participating in widespread corruption. He also said the government has “heartlessly repressed its own people’s human rights, dignity and fundamental freedoms.”

He said despite poor treatment by their leaders, “the proud Iranian people are not staying silent about their government’s many abuses,” Pompeo said.

“And the United States under President Trump will not stay silent either. In light of these protests and 40 years of regime tyranny, I have a message for the people of Iran: The United States hears you,” he said. “The United States supports you. The United States is with you.”

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The Arrest of Julian Assange Appears Near

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<a href=”https://theintercept.com/2018/07/21/ecuador-will-imminently-withdraw-asylum-for-julian-assange-and-hand-him-over-to-the-uk-what-comes-next/”>The Intercept</a> and other media outlets are reporting that the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has had sanctuary in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since 2012, is imminent.

In light of this breaking news, Truthdig is reposting a July 15 article (at bottom here) by vacationing Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges that explores the persecution of Assange.

We also call to your attention a few of the other articles on Assange that have been posted or reposted on Truthdig:

“<a href=”https://www.truthdig.com/articles/where-is-the-outrage-about-julian-assanges-silencing/”>Where Is the Outrage Against Julian Assange’s Silencing?</a>” by Teodrose Fikre, April 3, 2018

“<a href=”https://www.truthdig.com/articles/in-defense-of-julian-assange-and-free-speech/”>In Defense of Julian Assange and Free Speech</a>” by John Pilger, March 31, 2018

“<a href=”https://www.truthdig.com/articles/sweden-drops-rape-inquiry-against-julian-assange/”>Sweden Drops Rape Inquiry Against Julian Assange</a>” by Donald Kaufman, May 19, 2017

“<a href=”https://www.truthdig.com/articles/julian-assange-strikes-back-at-the-cia-director-wikileaks-is-not-omnipotent-audio/”>Julian Assange Strikes Back at the CIA Director: WikiLeaks Is Not ‘Omnipotent</a>’&nbsp;” by Eric Ortiz, April 20, 2017

“<a href=”https://www.truthdig.com/articles/truthdigger-of-the-week-julian-assange-publisher-of-the-clinton-campaign-emails/”>Truthdigger of the Week: Julian Assange, Publisher of the Clinton Campaign Emails</a>” by Alexander Reed Kelly, Oct. 23, 2016

“<a href=”https://www.truthdig.com/articles/julian-assange-explains-why-voting-for-hillary-clinton-will-spread-terrorism/”>Julian Assange Explains Why Voting for Hillary Clinton Will ‘Spread Terrorism'</a> ” by Natasha Hakimi Zapata, Feb. 24, 2016

“<a href=”https://www.truthdig.com/articles/julian-assange-the-untold-story-of-an-epic-struggle-for-justice/”>Julian Assange: The Untold Story of an Epic Struggle for Justice</a>” by John Pilger, Aug. 4, 2015

“<a href=”https://www.truthdig.com/dig/the-death-of-truth/”>The Death of Truth</a>” by Chris Hedges, May 6, 2013

“<a href=”https://www.truthdig.com/articles/listen-chris-hedges-interviews-julian-assange/”>Listen: Chris Hedges Interviews Julian Assange</a>,” May 6, 2013

Here’s a repost of Chris Hedges’ most recent column, titled “The War on Assange Is a War on Press Freedom”:

The failure on the part of establishment media to defend Julian Assange, who has been trapped in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since 2012, has been denied communication with the outside world since March and appears to be facing imminent expulsion and arrest, is astonishing. The extradition of the publisher—the maniacal goal of the U.S. government—would set a legal precedent that would criminalize any journalistic oversight or investigation of the corporate state. It would turn leaks and whistleblowing into treason. It would shroud in total secrecy the actions of the ruling global elites. If Assange is extradited to the United States and sentenced, The New York Times, The Washington Post and every other media organization, no matter how tepid their coverage of the corporate state, would be subject to the same draconian censorship. Under the precedent set, Donald Trump’s Supreme Court would enthusiastically uphold the arrest and imprisonment of any publisher, editor or reporter in the name of national security.

There are growing signs that the Ecuadorean government of Lenín Moreno is preparing to evict Assange and turn him over to British police. Moreno and his foreign minister, José Valencia, have confirmed they are in negotiations with the British government to “resolve” the fate of Assange. Moreno, who will visit Britain in a few weeks, calls Assange an “inherited problem” and “a stone in the shoe” and has referred to him as a “hacker.” It appears that under a Moreno government Assange is no longer welcome in Ecuador. His only hope now is safe passage to his native Australia or another country willing to give him asylum.

“Ecuador has been looking for a solution to this problem,” Valencia commented on television. “The refuge is not forever, you cannot expect it to last for years without us reviewing this situation, including because this violates the rights of the refugee.”

Moreno’s predecessor as president, Rafael Correa, who granted Assange asylum in the embassy and made him an Ecuadorean citizen last year, warned that Assange’s “days were numbered.” He charged that Moreno—who cut off Assange’s communications the day after Moreno welcomed a delegation from the U.S. Southern Command—would “throw him out of the embassy at the first pressure from the United States.”

Assange, who reportedly is in ill health, took asylum in the embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden to answer questions about sexual offense charges. He feared that once in Swedish custody for these charges, which he said were false, he would be extradited to the United States. The Swedish prosecutors’ office ended its “investigation” and extradition request to Britain in May 2017 and did not file sexual offense charges against Assange. But the British government said Assange would nevertheless be arrested and jailed for breaching his bail conditions.

The persecution of Assange is part of a broad assault against anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist news organizations. The ruling elites, who refuse to accept responsibility for profound social inequality or the crimes of empire, have no ideological veneer left to justify their greed, ineptitude and pillage. Global capitalism and its ideological justification, neoliberalism, are discredited as forces for democracy and the equitable distribution of wealth. The corporate-controlled economic and political system is as hated by right-wing populists as it is by the rest of the population. This makes the critics of corporatism and imperialism—journalists, writers, dissidents and intellectuals already pushed to the margins of the media landscape—dangerous and it makes them prime targets. Assange is at the top of the list.

I took part with dozens of others, including Daniel Ellsberg, William Binney, Craig Murray, Peter Van Buren, Slavoj Zizek, George Galloway and Cian Westmoreland, a week ago in a 36-hour international online vigil demanding freedom for the WikiLeaks publisher. The vigil was organized by the New Zealand Internet Party leader Suzie Dawson. It was the third Unity4J vigil since all of Assange’s communication with the outside world was severed by the Ecuadorean authorities and visits with him were suspended in March, part of the increased pressure the United States has brought on the Ecuadorean government. Assange has since March been allowed to meet only with his attorneys and consular officials from the Australian Embassy.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled Friday that those seeking political asylum have the right to take refuge in embassies and diplomatic compounds. The court stated that governments are obliged to provide safe passage out of the country to those granted asylum. The ruling did not name Assange, but it was a powerful rebuke to the British government, which has refused to allow the WikiLeaks co-founder safe passage to the airport.

The ruling elites no longer have a counterargument to their critics. They have resorted to cruder forms of control. These include censorship, slander and character assassination (which in the case of Assange has sadly been successful), blacklisting, financial strangulation, intimidation, imprisonment under the Espionage Act and branding critics and dissidents as agents of a foreign power and purveyors of fake news. The corporate media amplifies these charges, which have no credibility but which become part of the common vernacular through constant repetition. The blacklisting, imprisonment and deportation of tens of thousands of people of conscience during the Red Scares of the 1920s and 1950s are back with a vengeance. It is a New McCarthyism.

Did Russia attempt to influence the election? Undoubtedly. This is what governments do. The United States interfered in 81 elections from 1945 to 2000, according to professor Dov Levin of Carnegie Mellon University. His statistics do not include the numerous coups we orchestrated in countries such as Greece, Iran, Guatemala and Chile or the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba. We indirectly bankrolled the re-election campaign of Russia’s buffoonish Boris Yeltsin to the tune of $2.5 billion.

But did Russia, as the Democratic Party establishment claims, swing the election to Trump? No. Trump is not Vladimir Putin’s puppet. He is part of the wave of right-wing populists, from Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson in Britain to Viktor Orbán in Hungary, who have harnessed the rage and frustration born of an economic and political system dominated by global capitalism and under which the rights and aspirations of working men and women do not matter.

The Democratic Party establishment, like the liberal elites in most of the rest of the industrialized world, would be swept from power in an open political process devoid of corporate money. The party elite, including Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, is a creation of the corporate state. Campaign finance and electoral reform are the last things the party hierarchy intends to champion. It will not call for social and political programs that will alienate its corporate masters. This myopia and naked self-interest may ensure a second term for Donald Trump; it may further empower the lunatic fringe that is loyal to Trump; it may continue to erode the credibility of the political system. But the choice before the Democratic Party elites is clear: political oblivion or enduring the rule of a demagogue. They have chosen the latter. They are not interested in reform. They are determined to silence anyone, like Assange, who exposes the rot within the ruling class.

The Democratic Party establishment benefits from our system of legalized bribery. It benefits from deregulating Wall Street and the fossil fuel industry. It benefits from the endless wars. It benefits from the curtailment of civil liberties, including the right to privacy and due process. It benefits from militarized police. It benefits from austerity programs. It benefits from mass incarceration. It is an enabler of tyranny, not an impediment.

Demagogues like Trump, Farage and Johnson, of course, have no intention of altering the system of corporate pillage. Rather, they accelerate the pillage, which is what happened with the passage of the massive U.S. tax cut for corporations. They divert the public’s anger toward demonized groups such as Muslims, undocumented workers, people of color, liberals, intellectuals, artists, feminists, the LGBT community and the press. The demonized are blamed for the social and economic dysfunction, much as Jews were falsely blamed for Germany’s defeat in World War I and the economic collapse that followed. Corporations such as Goldman Sachs, in the midst of the decay, continue to make a financial killing.

The corporate titans, who often come out of elite universities and are groomed in institutions like Harvard Business School, find these demagogues crude and vulgar. They are embarrassed by their imbecility, megalomania and incompetence. But they endure their presence rather than permit socialists or leftist politicians to impede their profits and divert government spending to social programs and away from weapons manufacturers, the military, private prisons, big banks and hedge funds, the fossil fuel industry, charter schools, private paramilitary forces, private intelligence companies and pet programs designed to allow corporations to cannibalize the state.

The irony is that there was serious meddling in the presidential election, but it did not come from Russia. The Democratic Party, outdoing any of the dirty tricks employed by Richard Nixon, purged hundreds of thousands of primary voters from the rolls, denied those registered as independents the right to vote in primaries, used superdelegates to swing the vote to Hillary Clinton, hijacked the Democratic National Committee to serve the Clinton campaign, controlled the message of media outlets such as MSNBC and The New York Times, stole the Nevada caucus, spent hundreds of millions of dollars of “dark” corporate money on the Clinton campaign and fixed the primary debates. This meddling, which stole the nomination from Bernie Sanders, who probably could have defeated Trump, is unmentioned. The party hierarchy will do nothing to reform its corrupt nominating process.

WikiLeaks exposed much of this corruption when it published tens of thousands of messages hacked from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s email account. The messages brought to light the efforts by the Democratic Party leadership to thwart the nomination of Sanders, and they disclosed Clinton’s close ties with Wall Street, including her lucrative Wall Street speeches. They also raised serious questions about conflicts of interest with the Clinton Foundation and whether Clinton received advance information on primary-debate questions.

The Democratic National Committee, for this reason, is leading the Russia hysteria and the persecution of Assange. It filed a lawsuit that names WikiLeaks and Assange as co-conspirators with Russia and the Trump campaign in an alleged effort to steal the presidential election.

But it is not only Assange and WikiLeaks that are being attacked as Russian pawns. For example, The Washington Post, which has sided with the Democratic Party in the war against Trump, without critical analysis published a report on a blacklist posted by the anonymous website PropOrNot. The blacklist was composed of 199 sites that PropOrNot alleged, with no evidence, “reliably echo Russian propaganda.” More than half of those sites were far-right, conspiracy-driven ones. But about 20 of the sites were major progressive outlets including AlterNet, Black Agenda Report, Democracy Now!, Naked Capitalism, Truthdig, Truthout, CounterPunch and the World Socialist Web Site. PropOrNot, short for Propaganda or Not, accused these sites of disseminating “fake news” on behalf of Russia. The Post’s headline was unequivocal: “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during the election, experts say.”

In addition to offering no evidence, PropOrNot never even disclosed who ran the website. Even so, its charge was used to justify the imposition of algorithms by Google, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon to direct traffic away from the targeted sites. These algorithms, or filters, overseen by thousands of “evaluators,” many hired from the military and security and surveillance apparatus, hunt for keywords such as “U.S. military,” “inequality” and “socialism,” along with personal names such as Julian Assange and Laura Poitras. The keywords are known as “impressions.” Before the imposition of the algorithms, a reader could type in the name Julian Assange and be directed to an article on one of the targeted sites. After the algorithms were put in place, these impressions directed readers only to mainstream sites such as The Washington Post. Referral traffic from the impressions at most of the targeted sites has plummeted, often by more than half. This isolation will be compounded by the abolition of net neutrality.

Any news or media outlet that addresses the reality of our failed democracy and exposes the crimes of empire will be targeted. The January 2017 Director of National Intelligence Report spent seven pages on RT America, where I have a show, “On Contact.” The report does not accuse RT America of disseminating Russian propaganda, but it does allege the network exploits divisions within American society by giving airtime to dissidents and critics including whistleblowers, anti-imperialists, anti-capitalists, Black Lives Matter activists, anti-fracking campaigners and the third-party candidates the establishment is seeking to mute.

If the United States had a public broadcasting system free from corporate money or a commercial press that was not under corporate control, these dissident voices would be included in the mainstream discourse. But we don’t. Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, Malcolm X, Sheldon Wolin, Ralph Nader, James Baldwin, Susan Sontag, Angela Davis and Edward Said once appeared regularly on public broadcasting. Now critics like these are banned, replaced with vapid courtiers such as columnist David Brooks. RT America was forced to register under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA). This act requires Americans who work for a foreign party to register as foreign agents. The FARA registration is part of the broader assault on all independent media, including the effort to silence Assange.

WikiLeak’s publication in 2017 of 8,761 CIA files, known as Vault 7, appeared to be the final indignity. Vault 7 included a description of the cyber tools used by the CIA to hack into computer systems and devices such as smartphones. Former CIA software engineer Joshua Adam Schulte was indicted on charges of violating the Espionage Act by allegedly leaking the documents.

The publication of Vault 7 saw the United States significantly increase its pressure on the Ecuadorean government to isolate and eject Assange from the embassy. Mike Pompeo, then the CIA director, said in response to the leaks that the U.S. government “can no longer allow Assange and his colleagues the latitude to use free speech values against us.” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Assange’s arrest was a “priority.”

It is up to us to mobilize to protect Assange. His life is in jeopardy. The Ecuadorean government, violating his fundamental rights, has transformed his asylum into a form of incarceration. By cutting off his access to the internet, it has deprived him of the ability to communicate and follow world events. The aim of this isolation is to pressure Assange out of the embassy so he can be seized by London police, thrown into a British jail and then delivered into the hands of Pompeo, John Bolton and the CIA’s torturer in chief, Gina Haspel.

Assange is a courageous and fearless publisher who is being persecuted for exposing the crimes of the corporate state and imperialism. His defense is the cutting edge of the fight against government suppression of our most important and fundamental democratic rights. The government of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia, where Assange was born, must be pressured to provide him with the protection to which he is entitled as a citizen. It must intercede to stop the illegal persecution of the journalist by the British, American and Ecuadorean governments. It must secure his safe return to Australia. If we fail to protect Assange, we fail to protect ourselves.

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FBI Warrant Application Called Ex-Adviser to Trump an Agent for Russia

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Truthdig editor’s note: The redacted documents obtained by the media Saturday can be viewed by clicking here. One of the documents, a 2016 warrant application to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, says Carter Page “is an agent of a foreign power” and that “[t]he FBI believes Page has been the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian government. …”

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Saturday released a set of documents once deemed top secret relating to the wiretapping of a onetime adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

The New York Times reported that the documents involving former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page were released to the Times and several other media organizations that had filed Freedom of Information Act lawsuits to obtain them. The FBI later posted the documents to its FOIA website online.

The materials include an October 2016 application to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to wiretap Page as well as several renewal applications, the Times reported. It is highly unusual for documents related to FISA wiretap applications to be released.

While the documents were heavily redacted in places, the Times reported that visible portions of the documents show the FBI telling the intelligence court that Page “has been collaborating and conspiring with the Russian government.” The agency also told the court that “the FBI believes Page has been the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian government.”

Page has denied being a Russian agent.

After a redaction, the Times reported that the application to wiretap Page included a partial sentence: “… undermine and influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election in violation of U.S. criminal law.”

The surveillance of Page became a contentious matter between Republican and Democratic lawmakers earlier this year. Republicans alleged the FBI had abused its surveillance powers and improperly obtained the warrant, a charge that Democrats rebutted as both sides characterized the documents in different ways. The documents, meanwhile, remained out of public view.

House Democrats were quick to say that the documents bolstered their arguments.

“For more than a year, House Republicans have bullied the Department of Justice and FBI to release highly sensitive documents to derail the Special Counsel’s and other legitimate national security investigations and cover for the President,” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. “For the sake of our national security and our democracy, these vital investigations must be allowed to continue unhindered by Republican interference. The GOP must cease their attacks on our law enforcement and intelligence communities, and finally decide where their loyalty lies.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, the California Democrat who is the ranking member of the House intelligence committee, said the documents underscore the “legitimate concern” the FBI had about Page’s activities. Yet Schiff said the materials shouldn’t have been released during an ongoing investigation because of national security. He blamed Trump for making public House Republicans’ initial memo about the FISA applications, a move by Trump that the congressman called “nakedly political and self-interested, and designed to to (sic) interfere with the Special Counsel’s investigation.”

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FBI Warrant Application Called Ex-Adviser to Trump an Agent for Russia

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by The Associated Press.

Truthdig editor’s note: The redacted documents obtained by the media Saturday can be viewed by clicking here. One of the documents, a 2016 warrant application to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, says Carter Page “is an agent of a foreign power” and that “[t]he FBI believes Page has been the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian government. …”

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Saturday released a set of documents once deemed top secret relating to the wiretapping of a onetime adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

The New York Times reported that the documents involving former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page were released to the Times and several other media organizations that had filed Freedom of Information Act lawsuits to obtain them. The FBI later posted the documents to its FOIA website online.

The materials include an October 2016 application to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to wiretap Page as well as several renewal applications, the Times reported. It is highly unusual for documents related to FISA wiretap applications to be released.

While the documents were heavily redacted in places, the Times reported that visible portions of the documents show the FBI telling the intelligence court that Page “has been collaborating and conspiring with the Russian government.” The agency also told the court that “the FBI believes Page has been the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian government.”

Page has denied being a Russian agent.

After a redaction, the Times reported that the application to wiretap Page included a partial sentence: “… undermine and influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election in violation of U.S. criminal law.”

The surveillance of Page became a contentious matter between Republican and Democratic lawmakers earlier this year. Republicans alleged the FBI had abused its surveillance powers and improperly obtained the warrant, a charge that Democrats rebutted as both sides characterized the documents in different ways. The documents, meanwhile, remained out of public view.

House Democrats were quick to say that the documents bolstered their arguments.

“For more than a year, House Republicans have bullied the Department of Justice and FBI to release highly sensitive documents to derail the Special Counsel’s and other legitimate national security investigations and cover for the President,” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. “For the sake of our national security and our democracy, these vital investigations must be allowed to continue unhindered by Republican interference. The GOP must cease their attacks on our law enforcement and intelligence communities, and finally decide where their loyalty lies.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, the California Democrat who is the ranking member of the House intelligence committee, said the documents underscore the “legitimate concern” the FBI had about Page’s activities. Yet Schiff said the materials shouldn’t have been released during an ongoing investigation because of national security. He blamed Trump for making public House Republicans’ initial memo about the FISA applications, a move by Trump that the congressman called “nakedly political and self-interested, and designed to to (sic) interfere with the Special Counsel’s investigation.”

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Trump Invites Putin to Visit Washington in the Fall

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WASHINGTON — The Latest on President Donald Trump and Russia (all times local):

7:55 p.m.

President Donald Trump has invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to the White House this fall for a second get-together, even as cleanup from the first continues with no letup.

A White House meeting would be a dramatic extension of legitimacy to the Russian leader, who has long been isolated by the West for activities in Ukraine, Syria and beyond.

No Russian leader has visited the White House in nearly a decade.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says Trump has asked National Security Adviser John Bolton to invite Putin, and “those discussions are already underway.”

Trump tweeted earlier that he looked forward to “our second meeting” as he defended his performance at Monday’s summit.

__

4 p.m.

President Donald Trump has asked national security adviser John Bolton to invite Russian President Vladimir Putin to Washington in the fall.

That’s the latest update Thursday from White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders following Trump’s meeting with Putin earlier this week in Finland.

Sanders says “those discussions are already underway” for a fall meeting between the two presidents.

It presumably would take place at the White House, but Sanders did not say where Trump and Putin would meet.

In a tweet about Putin earlier Thursday, Trump said, “I look forward to our second meeting.”

___

3:20 p.m.

The Senate has overwhelmingly approved a resolution against allowing Russia to question former U.S. ambassador Michael McFaul or other U.S. officials. It was a formal rebuke to President Donald Trump, who touted the offer at the Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hastily arranged the vote on the nonbinding resolution after Democrats proposed the measure in response to what Trump had called Putin’s “incredible offer.”

Putin offered to allow the U.S. to question 12 Russians accused of interfering in the 2016 election in exchange for permitting Russia to interview Americans the Kremlin accuses of unspecified crimes.

Facing a backlash of bipartisan criticism, the White House on Thursday said Trump “disagrees” with Putin’s offer. That statement came moments before the Senate vote.

Senators voted 98-0, with all Democrats and most Republicans supporting the resolution.

__

1:50 p.m.

The White House says President Donald Trump “disagrees” with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s offer to allow the U.S. access to Russians accused of interfering in the 2016 election, in exchange for interviews of Americans the Kremlin accuses of unspecified crimes.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says the proposal was “made in sincerity” by Putin but Trump “disagrees with it.” She says the U.S. still hopes Putin will have the 12 Russians indicted on charges brought by the Justice Department “come to the United States to prove their innocence or guilt.”

Putin made what Trump called an “incredible offer” during their summit Monday in Helsinki.

The White House had said Wednesday that offer was under consideration, even though the State Department called Russia’s allegations against the Americans “absurd.”

Last week, the Justice Department announced indictments against 12 Russian military intelligence officers for their role in hacking Democratic groups during the 2016 campaign.

__

12:50 p.m.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen says she has not seen evidence that the Russians meddled in the 2016 election to help elect Trump, countering the U.S. intelligence agencies assessment on the issue.

Intelligence agencies concluded in early 2017 that President Vladimir Putin ordered “an influence campaign” aimed at helping the Trump campaign and harming his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.

Nielsen said: “I haven’t seen any evidence that the attempts to interfere in our election infrastructure was to favor a particular party.”

And yet Nielsen still says she stands behind the intelligence agencies’ assessment that Russia meddled in the election. She added that Russia’s influence operations were aimed at causing chaos on both sides.

Nielsen spoke Thursday at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.

___

12:30 p.m.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says the Senate will vote Thursday on a resolution opposing the questioning of U.S. diplomats and other American officials by a foreign government.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer sponsored the resolution. Russian President Vladimir Putin (POO’-tihn) has suggested that he wants to interview Americans accused by the Kremlin of unspecified crimes. The White House says President Donald Trump is weighing the offer.

Russian officials have said they want to interview Kremlin critics Bill Browder and Michael McFaul, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia.

Republicans blocked two other resolutions Thursday backing intelligence community findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 election and calling for other responses to the meddling. One was sponsored by Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona.

The resolutions come in the wake of Trump’s meeting with Putin.

___

12:20 p.m.

A Republican senator has blocked a symbolic Democratic effort to have the Senate protect U.S. elections systems from Russian interference.

The resolution from Sen. Bernie Sanders also said President Donald Trump had to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. And Sanders wanted to put the Senate on record as standing by U.S. intelligence agencies’ assessment that Russia intervened in the election that put Trump in the White House.

Republican Sen. Rand Paul says “Trump derangement syndrome has fully come to the Senate.” He’s accusing Sanders and Democrats of acting on “hatred of the president” to block Russian diplomacy.

Sanders was trying to advance his proposal by unanimous consent, but that means it takes only one senator’s objection can block it.

Sanders’ resolution comes in the wake of comments by Trump questioning the extent of Russian interference.

___

11:30 a.m.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has asked two committees to hold hearings on Russian sanctions in the wake of President Donald Trump’s questioning of the extent of Moscow’s interference in U.S. elections.

McConnell says the hearings are part of congressional efforts to respond to meddling by Russia or others in the upcoming November elections.

U.S. intelligence agencies have warned that Russians will strike back in 2018 after interfering in 2016.

On Wednesday, Trump appeared to question that, but the White House later said that he does believe that Russia may try it again.

McConnell says intelligence assessments are clear that Russian leader Vladimir Putin “ordered an influence campaign.”

McConnell says the Senate committees would consider sanctions and recommend additional measures to deter Russian interference.

___

11:25 a.m.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer says Democrats will offer a nonbinding resolution that would put the Senate on record as opposing giving foreign governments the ability to question U.S. diplomats and other American officials.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (POO’-tihn) has suggested that he wants Russian interviews of Americans who are accused by the Kremlin of unspecified crimes. The White House says Trump is weighing the offer.

Russian officials have said they want to interview Kremlin critics Bill Browder and Michael McFaul, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia.

Schumer calls it “bewildering” that Trump would even consider such a request.

___

11:20 a.m.

Sen. Bernie Sanders is introducing a resolution that calls on the Senate to protect U.S. elections systems and would require President Donald Trump to cooperate with the special counsel investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 election.

The nonbinding resolution also says the Senate stands by the assessment of the U.S. intelligence agencies on Russia and says the Senate won’t accept any interference with special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.

Lawmakers are pushing several responses to Trump’s Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the White House’s shifting commentary about it.

___

11 a.m.

A top GOP senator says President Donald Trump needs to understand that he’s “misjudging” Russian leader Vladimir Putin (POO’-tihn).

Sen. Lindsey Graham says Trump’s had a “bad week” when it comes to Russia in the wake of the Trump-Putin summit Monday in Helsinki.

Here’s what the South Carolina lawmaker says about Trump: “I think it’s imperative that he understand that he’s misjudging Putin. I don’t think he was prepared as well as he should have been.”

Trump has come under heavy criticism since the Putin meeting, where he declined to challenge Putin on Russian interference in U.S. elections.

Graham says Trump is right to criticize previous American administrations for their handling of Russia. But he says Trump “is not making the problem better. He’s making it worse.”

He adds that Trump “has the potential to make it better, and I hope he will.”

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10:50 a.m.

The Republican-controlled House is moving ahead with a spending bill that eliminates new money for election security grants to states.

That’s drawing from protests by Democrats who say Republicans aren’t doing enough to prevent Russian meddling in U.S. elections.

Democratic Rep. Mike Quigley of Illinois says “Russians attacked our democracy. They will be back. The president is not willing to meet this challenge. We must be willing to meet the challenge.”

Congress approved $380 million in the current budget for a grant program overseen by the federal Election Assistance Commission. Democrats want to continue the money through 2019, but Republicans say there’s still money available to states and new spending isn’t needed.

A Democratic amendment to extend the money has come up short — with 182 yes votes and 232 no votes.

___

7:45 a.m.

President Donald Trump is claiming that the “Fake News Media wants so badly to see a major confrontation with Russia, even a confrontation that could lead to war.”

Here’s what Trump has tweeted: “They are pushing so recklessly hard and hate the fact that I’ll probably have a good relationship with Putin,” referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump adds that “We are doing MUCH better than any other country!”

It’s his latest tweet to push back against criticism following his meeting with Putin in Finland on Monday. Trump has given shifting statements on whether he believes Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election — which is what U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded.

Trump has said the meeting with Putin will result in improved U.S.-Russia relations.

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12:55 a.m.

President Donald Trump is taking a tougher tone on Russia. He says in an interview with CBS that he told Vladimir Putin to stay out of America’s elections.

That’s a change from Trump’s initial upbeat description of his meeting with Russia’s president. The shifting stance came Wednesday as Trump spent more time managing the fallout from his widely criticized summit with Putin in Helsinki.

Trump backtracked on whether Russia is currently targeting U.S. elections. When asked the question Wednesday, he answered “no,” a reply that put him sharply at odds with recent public warnings from his own intelligence chief.

Hours later, the White House stepped in to say Trump’s answer wasn’t what it appeared.

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Rules for Handling Toxic Coal Ash Eased

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by MATTHEW BROWN / The Associated Press.

DENVER — The Trump administration on Wednesday eased rules for handling toxic coal ash from more than 400 U.S. coal-fired power plants after utilities pushed back against regulations adopted under former President Barack Obama.

Environmental Protection Agency acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the changes would save utilities roughly $30 million annually.

The move represents the latest action by Trump’s EPA to boost the struggling coal industry by rolling back environmental and public health protections enacted under his predecessor.

It pushes back the deadline to close problematic ash dumps and gives state regulators flexibility in how they deal with the massive waste piles that result from burning coal for electricity.

Wheeler, a former coal industry lobbyist, signed the order a week after taking the helm of the agency following the resignation of former administrator Scott Pruitt amid ethics investigations.

Environmentalists argue the administration is endangering the health of people living near power plants and ash storage sites, while industry representatives welcomed the announcement.

U.S. coal plants produce about 100 million tons annually of ash and other waste, much of which ends up in unlined disposal ponds prone to leak. Some have been in use for decades.

Data released by utilities in March under an EPA mandate showed widespread evidence of groundwater contamination at coal plants. Heightened levels of pollutants — including arsenic and radium in some cases — were documented at plants in numerous states, from Virginia to Alaska.

EPA documents show most savings for utilities from the new rules will come from extending by 18 months the deadline to close ash dumps that don’t meet water protection standards. The new deadline is Oct. 31, 2020.

The utility industry said the changes give “regulatory certainty” for ash dump operators. That’s in part because it aligns the closure requirements with upcoming guidelines limiting the levels of toxic metals in wastewater discharged from power plants.

The changes also give state regulators the power to suspend monitoring requirements for dumps that don’t meet water quality standards.

“It’s not like EPA has granted us free pass here. It just gives us additional time to operate those facilities and better synch them up” with the upcoming wastewater guidelines, said James Roewer, executive director of the Utility Solid Waste Advisory Group, an industry organization that had pushed for the changes.

The original, Obama-era rule, adopted in 2015, came in response to a massive 2008 coal ash spill in Kingston, Tennessee. A containment dike burst at a Tennessee Valley Authority power plant and released 5.4 million cubic yards of ash.

The accident dumped waste into two nearby rivers, destroyed homes and brought national attention to the issue.

Attorney Larissa Liebmann with the Waterkeeper Alliance said the costs saved by utilities won’t simply go away. Instead, she said, they’ll be borne by communities that are forced to deal with contaminated water.

“We think it’s fundamentally unfair, Liebmann said. “The rules that were created in 2015 were already very much to the bare minimum.”

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Gun-Rights Activist Is Charged as a Secret Agent for Russia

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by CHAD DAY / The Associated Press.

WASHINGTON — A 29-year-old gun-rights activist served as a covert Russian agent while living in Washington, gathering intelligence on American officials and political organizations and working to establish back-channel lines of communications for the Kremlin, federal prosecutors charged Monday.

The announcement of the arrest of Maria Butina came just hours after President Donald Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and just days after special counsel Robert Mueller charged 12 Russian intelligence officials with directing a sprawling hacking effort aimed at swaying the 2016 election.

Mueller didn’t file the charge against Butina, but court papers show her activities revolved around American politics during the 2016 campaign and included efforts to use contacts with the National Rifle Association to develop relationships with U.S. politicians and gather intelligence for Russia.

Court papers also reveal that an unnamed American who worked with Butina claimed to have been involved in setting up a “private line of communication” ahead of the 2016 election between the Kremlin and “key” officials in an American political party through the NRA.

The court papers do not name the political party mentioned in the October 2016 message, but they contain details that appear to refer to the Republican Party. The documents don’t say whether the back channel was ever established.

The NRA, which has previously been connected to Butina in public reporting and information released by members of Congress, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Butina, a Russian national who has been living in the U.S., was charged with conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of the Russian government. A federal judge in Washington ordered her jailed until a hearing set for Wednesday, according to a statement from the Justice Department and Jessie Liu, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.

In a statement, Butina’s attorney, Robert Driscoll, called the allegations “overblown” and said prosecutors had criminalized mundane networking opportunities. Driscoll said Butina was not an agent of the Russian Federation but was instead in the U.S. on a student visa, graduating from American University with a master’s degree in international relations.

“There is simply no indication of Ms. Butina seeking to influence or undermine any specific policy or law or the United States — only at most to promote a better relationship between the two nations,” Driscoll said in a statement. “The complaint is simply a misuse of the Foreign Agent statute, which is designed to punish covert propaganda, not open and public networking by foreign students.”

He said Butina’s Washington apartment was raided by the FBI in April, and said she had offered to answer questions from the Justice Department and Mueller’s team but the special counsel’s office “has not expressed interest.”

Court papers filed in support of Butina’s arrest accuse her of participating in a conspiracy that began in 2015 in which an unnamed senior Russian official “tasked” her with working to infiltrate American political organizations with the goal of “reporting back to Moscow” what she had learned.

The charging documents include several emails and Twitter direct message conversations in which she refers to the need to keep her work secret or, in one case, “incognito.”

Authorities did not name the Kremlin official accused of directing Butina’s efforts, but details in the court papers match the description of Alexander Torshin, a Russian official who has been publicly connected to her.

Torshin, who became an NRA life member in 2012, was among a group of Russian oligarchs and officials targeted in April with Treasury Department sanctions for their associations with Putin and their roles in “advancing Russia’s malign activities.” Torshin, who was listed as “State Secretary-deputy Governor of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation,” was designated under the sanctions as a Russian official.

The sanctions affect the targeted Russians by freezing all of their assets subject to U.S. jurisdiction and banning Americans and U.S. businesses from conducting transactions with them.

Prosecutors say Butina, at the official’s direction, met with U.S. politicians and candidates, attended events sponsored by special interest groups — including two National Prayer Breakfast events — and organized Russian-American “friendship and dialogue” dinners in Washington as part of her work.

Court papers also show that after the 2016 election, Butina worked to set up a Russian delegation’s visit to the 2017 National Prayer Breakfast, describing it in an email as an effort to “establish a back channel of communication.” After the visit, Butina emailed the organizer of the breakfast thanking him for a gift and “for the very private meeting” that followed the breakfast.

“A new relationship between two countries always begins better when it begins in faith,” Butina wrote, saying she had “important information” that would further the new relationship.

Two days later, she emailed another American who had been involved in some of the email communication surrounding the prayer breakfast and her efforts to arrange several dinners between Russians and people involved in U.S. politics.

“Our delegation cannot stop chatting about your wonderful dinner,” Butina wrote. “My dearest President has received ‘the message’ about your group initiatives and your constructive and kind attention to the Russians.”

Butina has previously surfaced in U.S. media reports related to her gun-rights advocacy.

In 2011, she founded a pro-gun organization in Russia, the Right to Bear Arms, and she has been involved in coordinating between American gun rights activists and their Russian counterparts, according to reports in The New York Times, Time and the Daily Beast.

Butina hosted several leading NRA executives and pro-gun conservatives at her group’s annual meeting in 2015, according to those reports. Among those who attended were former NRA President David Keene, conservative political operative Paul Erickson and former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, later a strong Trump supporter.

Butina also says she met with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker at his presidential campaign launch event in 2015, according to a report by Mother Jones magazine earlier this year.

___

Associated Press writers Eric Tucker, Stephen Braun, Scott Bauer and Desmond Butler contributed to this report.

___

Read the criminal complaint: http://apne.ws/fqKOKjU

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The War on Assange Is a War on Press Freedom

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Chris Hedges.

The failure on the part of establishment media to defend Julian Assange, who has been trapped in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since 2012, has been denied communication with the outside world since March and appears to be facing imminent expulsion and arrest, is astonishing. The extradition of the publisher—the maniacal goal of the U.S. government—would set a legal precedent that would criminalize any journalistic oversight or investigation of the corporate state. It would turn leaks and whistleblowing into treason. It would shroud in total secrecy the actions of the ruling global elites. If Assange is extradited to the United States and sentenced, The New York Times, The Washington Post and every other media organization, no matter how tepid their coverage of the corporate state, would be subject to the same draconian censorship. Under the precedent set, Donald Trump’s Supreme Court would enthusiastically uphold the arrest and imprisonment of any publisher, editor or reporter in the name of national security.

There are growing signs that the Ecuadorean government of Lenín Moreno is preparing to evict Assange and turn him over to British police. Moreno and his foreign minister, José Valencia, have confirmed they are in negotiations with the British government to “resolve” the fate of Assange. Moreno, who will visit Britain in a few weeks, calls Assange an “inherited problem” and “a stone in the shoe” and has referred to him as a “hacker.” It appears that under a Moreno government Assange is no longer welcome in Ecuador. His only hope now is safe passage to his native Australia or another country willing to give him asylum.

“Ecuador has been looking for a solution to this problem,” Valencia commented on television. “The refuge is not forever, you cannot expect it to last for years without us reviewing this situation, including because this violates the rights of the refugee.”

Moreno’s predecessor as president, Rafael Correa, who granted Assange asylum in the embassy and made him an Ecuadorean citizen last year, warned that Assange’s “days were numbered.” He charged that Moreno—who cut off Assange’s communications the day after Moreno welcomed a delegation from the U.S. Southern Command—would “throw him out of the embassy at the first pressure from the United States.”

Assange, who reportedly is in ill health, took asylum in the embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden to answer questions about sexual offense charges. He feared that once in Swedish custody for these charges, which he said were false, he would be extradited to the United States. The Swedish prosecutors’ office ended its “investigation” and extradition request to Britain in May 2017 and did not file sexual offense charges against Assange. But the British government said Assange would nevertheless be arrested and jailed for breaching his bail conditions.

The persecution of Assange is part of a broad assault against anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist news organizations. The ruling elites, who refuse to accept responsibility for profound social inequality or the crimes of empire, have no ideological veneer left to justify their greed, ineptitude and pillage. Global capitalism and its ideological justification, neoliberalism, are discredited as forces for democracy and the equitable distribution of wealth. The corporate-controlled economic and political system is as hated by right-wing populists as it is by the rest of the population. This makes the critics of corporatism and imperialism—journalists, writers, dissidents and intellectuals already pushed to the margins of the media landscape—dangerous and it makes them prime targets. Assange is at the top of the list.

I took part with dozens of others, including Daniel Ellsberg, William Binney, Craig Murray, Peter Van Buren, Slavoj Zizek, George Galloway and Cian Westmoreland, a week ago in a 36-hour international online vigil demanding freedom for the WikiLeaks publisher. The vigil was organized by the New Zealand Internet Party leader Suzie Dawson. It was the third Unity4J vigil since all of Assange’s communication with the outside world was severed by the Ecuadorean authorities and visits with him were suspended in March, part of the increased pressure the United States has brought on the Ecuadorean government. Assange has since March been allowed to meet only with his attorneys and consular officials from the Australian Embassy.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled Friday that those seeking political asylum have the right to take refuge in embassies and diplomatic compounds. The court stated that governments are obliged to provide safe passage out of the country to those granted asylum. The ruling did not name Assange, but it was a powerful rebuke to the British government, which has refused to allow the WikiLeaks co-founder safe passage to the airport.

The ruling elites no longer have a counterargument to their critics. They have resorted to cruder forms of control. These include censorship, slander and character assassination (which in the case of Assange has sadly been successful), blacklisting, financial strangulation, intimidation, imprisonment under the Espionage Act and branding critics and dissidents as agents of a foreign power and purveyors of fake news. The corporate media amplifies these charges, which have no credibility but which become part of the common vernacular through constant repetition. The blacklisting, imprisonment and deportation of tens of thousands of people of conscience during the Red Scares of the 1920s and 1950s are back with a vengeance. It is a New McCarthyism.

Did Russia attempt to influence the election? Undoubtedly. This is what governments do. The United States interfered in 81 elections between 1945 and 2000, according to professor Dov Levin of Carnegie Mellon University. His statistics do not include the numerous coups we orchestrated in countries such as Greece, Iran, Guatemala and Chile or the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba. We indirectly bankrolled the re-election campaign of Russia’s buffoonish Boris Yeltsin to the tune of $2.5 billion.

But did Russia, as the Democratic Party establishment claims, swing the election to Trump? No. Trump is not Vladimir Putin’s puppet. He is part of the wave of right-wing populists, from Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson in Britain to Viktor Orbán in Hungary, who have harnessed the rage and frustration born of an economic and political system dominated by global capitalism and under which the rights and aspirations of working men and women do not matter.

The Democratic Party establishment, like the liberal elites in most of the rest of the industrialized world, would be swept from power in an open political process devoid of corporate money. The party elite, including Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, is a creation of the corporate state. Campaign finance and electoral reform are the last things the party hierarchy intends to champion. It will not call for social and political programs that will alienate its corporate masters. This myopia and naked self-interest may ensure a second term for Donald Trump; it may further empower the lunatic fringe that is loyal to Trump; it may continue to erode the credibility of the political system. But the choice before the Democratic Party elites is clear: political oblivion or enduring the rule of a demagogue. They have chosen the latter. They are not interested in reform. They are determined to silence anyone, like Assange, who exposes the rot within the ruling class.

The Democratic Party establishment benefits from our system of legalized bribery. It benefits from deregulating Wall Street and the fossil fuel industry. It benefits from the endless wars. It benefits from the curtailment of civil liberties including the right to privacy and due process. It benefits from militarized police. It benefits from austerity programs. It benefits from mass incarceration. It is an enabler of tyranny, not an impediment.

Demagogues like Trump, Farage and Johnson, of course, have no intention of altering the system of corporate pillage. Rather, they accelerate the pillage, which is what happened with the passage of the massive U.S. tax cut for corporations. They divert the public’s anger toward demonized groups such as Muslims, undocumented workers, people of color, liberals, intellectuals, artists, feminists, the LGBT community and the press. The demonized are blamed for the social and economic dysfunction, much as Jews were falsely blamed for Germany’s defeat in World War I and the economic collapse that followed. Corporations such as Goldman Sachs, in the midst of the decay, continue to make a financial killing.

The corporate titans, who often come out of elite universities and are groomed in institutions like Harvard Business School, find these demagogues crude and vulgar. They are embarrassed by their imbecility, megalomania and incompetence. But they endure their presence rather than permit socialists or leftist politicians to impede their profits and divert government spending to social programs and away from weapons manufacturers, the military, private prisons, big banks and hedge funds, the fossil fuel industry, charter schools, private paramilitary forces, private intelligence companies and other pet programs designed to allow corporations to cannibalize the state.

The irony is that there was serious meddling in the presidential election, but it did not come from Russia. The Democratic Party, outdoing any of the dirty tricks employed by Richard Nixon, purged hundreds of thousands of primary voters from the rolls, denied those registered as independents the right to vote in primaries, used superdelegates to swing the vote to Hillary Clinton, hijacked the Democratic National Committee to serve the Clinton campaign, controlled the message of media outlets such as MSNBC and The New York Times, stole the Nevada caucus, spent hundreds of millions of dollars of “dark” corporate money on the Clinton campaign and fixed the primary debates. This meddling, which stole the nomination from Bernie Sanders, who probably could have defeated Trump, is unmentioned. The party hierarchy will do nothing to reform its corrupt nominating process.

WikiLeaks exposed much of this corruption when it published tens of thousands of messages hacked from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s email account. The messages brought to light the efforts by the Democratic Party leadership to thwart the nomination of Sanders, and they disclosed Clinton’s close ties with Wall Street, including her lucrative Wall Street speeches. They also raised serious questions about conflicts of interest with the Clinton Foundation and whether Clinton received advance information on primary-debate questions.

The Democratic National Committee, for this reason, is leading the Russia hysteria and the persecution of Assange. It filed a lawsuit that names WikiLeaks and Assange as co-conspirators with Russia and the Trump campaign in an alleged effort to steal the presidential election.

But it is not only Assange and WikiLeaks that are being attacked as Russian pawns. For example, The Washington Post, which has sided with the Democratic Party in the war against Trump, without critical analysis published a report on a blacklist posted by the anonymous website PropOrNot. The blacklist was composed of 199 sites that PropOrNot alleged, with no evidence, “reliably echo Russian propaganda.” More than half of those sites were far-right, conspiracy-driven ones. But about 20 of the sites were major progressive outlets including AlterNet, Black Agenda Report, Democracy Now!, Naked Capitalism, Truthdig, Truthout, CounterPunch and the World Socialist Web Site. PropOrNot, short for Propaganda or Not, accused these sites of disseminating “fake news” on behalf of Russia. The Post’s headline was unequivocal: “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during the election, experts say.”

In addition to offering no evidence, PropOrNot never even disclosed who ran the website. Even so, its charge was used to justify the imposition of algorithms by Google, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon to direct traffic away from the targeted sites. These algorithms, or filters, overseen by thousands of “evaluators,” many hired from the military and security and surveillance apparatus, hunt for keywords such as “U.S. military,” “inequality” and “socialism,” along with personal names such as Julian Assange and Laura Poitras. These keywords are known as “impressions.” Before the imposition of the algorithms, a reader could type in the name Julian Assange and be directed to an article on one of these targeted sites. After the algorithms were put in place, these impressions directed readers only to mainstream sites such as The Washington Post. Referral traffic from these impressions at most of the targeted sites has plummeted, often by more than half. Challenged by these algorithms and the abolition of net neutrality, these sites will be pushed further and further to the outer reaches of the media.

Any news or media outlet that addresses the reality of our failed democracy and exposes the crimes of empire will be targeted. The January 2017 Director of National Intelligence Report spent seven pages on RT America, where I have a show, “On Contact.” The report does not accuse RT America of disseminating Russian propaganda, but it does allege the network exploits divisions within American society by giving airtime to dissidents and critics including whistleblowers, anti-imperialists, anti-capitalists, Black Lives Matter activists, anti-fracking campaigners and the third-party candidates the establishment is seeking to mute.

If the United States had a public broadcasting system free from corporate money or a commercial press that was not under corporate control, these dissident voices would be included in the mainstream discourse. But we don’t. Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, Malcolm X, Sheldon Wolin, Ralph Nader, James Baldwin, Susan Sontag, Angela Davis and Edward Said once appeared regularly on public broadcasting. Now critics like these are banned, replaced with vapid courtiers such as columnist David Brooks. RT America was forced to register under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA). This act requires Americans who work for a foreign party to register as foreign agents. The FARA registration is part of the broader assault on all independent media, including the effort to silence Assange.

WikiLeak’s publication in 2017 of 8,761 CIA files, known as Vault 7, appeared to be the final indignity. Vault 7 included a description of the cyber tools used by the CIA to hack into computer systems and devices such as smartphones. Former CIA software engineer Joshua Adam Schulte was indicted on charges of violating the Espionage Act by allegedly leaking the documents.

The publication of Vault 7 saw the United States significantly increase its pressure on the Ecuadorean government to isolate and eject Assange from the embassy. Mike Pompeo, then the CIA director, said in response to the leaks that the U.S. government “can no longer allow Assange and his colleagues the latitude to use free speech values against us.” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Assange’s arrest was a “priority.”

It is up to us to mobilize to protect Assange. His life is in jeopardy. The Ecuadorean government, violating his fundamental rights, has transformed his asylum into a form of incarceration. By cutting off his access to the internet, it has deprived him of the ability to communicate and follow world events. The aim of this isolation is to pressure Assange out of the embassy so he can be seized by London police, thrown into a British jail and then delivered into the hands of Pompeo, John Bolton and the CIA’s torturer in chief, Gina Haspel.

Assange is a courageous and fearless publisher who is being persecuted for exposing the atrocities of the corporate state and imperialism. His defense is the cutting edge of the fight against government suppression of our most important and fundamental democratic rights. The government of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia, where Assange was born, must be pressured to provide him with the protection to which he is entitled as a citizen. It must intercede to stop the illegal persecution of the journalist by the British, American and Ecuadorean governments. It must secure his safe return to Australia. If we fail to protect Assange, we fail to protect ourselves.

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American History for Truthdiggers: Birth of an ‘Era of Revolutions’

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Maj. Danny Sjursen.

Editor’s note: The past is prologue. The stories we tell about ourselves and our forebears inform the sort of country we think we are and help determine public policy. As our current president promises to “Make America great again,” this moment is an appropriate time to reconsider our past, look back at various eras of United States history and re-evaluate America’s origins. When, exactly, were we “great”?

Below is the 13th installment of the “American History for Truthdiggers” series, a pull-no-punches appraisal of our shared, if flawed, past. The author of the series, Danny Sjursen, an active-duty major in the U.S. Army, served military tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and taught the nation’s checkered, often inspiring past when he was an assistant professor of history at West Point. His war experiences, his scholarship, his skill as a writer and his patriotism illuminate these Truthdig posts.

Part 13 of “American History for Truthdiggers.”

See: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7; Part 8; Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12.

* * *

It was a time of great change. And, as always, a picture—or in this case a painting—is worth a thousand words. In the portrait above, Patrick Lyon of Philadelphia is depicted as a blacksmith hard at work at the forge. He wears an apron and a shirt that shows his muscular forearms. This portrait was commissioned by Lyon himself, and it depicts a man proud of his labor, toil and strength. Here was a <i>working</i> man—blue-collar chic!

This is stranger than it may appear to modern eyes. After all, in the 18th and early 19th centuries, men who could afford to commission such paintings usually preferred to be portrayed in formal dress, adorned in powdered wig and leggings and surrounded by the expensive objects that implied an aristocratic status. Something had changed.

Lyon may appear to be the quintessential workingman in this painting, but he was also something else—one of the wealthiest men in Philadelphia. He was a leading businessman, an inventor and, yes, long before, a blacksmith. Pat Lyon possessed more than the requisite means to commission the ubiquitous aristocratic portrait, yet instead chose to be represented as a simple—yet proud—blacksmith. In contrast to his aristocratic peers and forebears, Lyon explicitly told the artist, John Neagle (1796-1865), that he did “not wish to be represented as what I am not—a gentleman.”

There was something profound afoot in American society in the three decades following the War of 1812, a veritable revolution of revolutions—massive changes in economics, politics and society. Neagle’s portrait of Pat Lyon in many respects depicts them all. The United States was becoming more commercialized, more egalitarian (at least for white males) and, to a certain extent, <i>populist</i>. The Federalists, seen as the party of aristocracy, had faded from the political scene, and new factions of the Republican Party would lead America through this time of turmoil.

Technology, infrastructure, government investment and communications: These would all permanently change. Quality of life for most Americans increased, but others, as always, were left behind—victims of a society moving too far too fast. This and the next two volumes of this series should be seen as interacting parts of the same holistic volume, about an era of revolution. 

<strong>Lessons of War: Madison, Republicans and the Hypocrisy of ‘New Nationalism’</strong>

The War of 1812 was at best a draw, at worst an embarrassing debacle. It demonstrated the unpreparedness of American arms, government and infrastructure for conflict with a major world power. The United States, despite major efforts, couldn’t even conquer <i>Canada</i> and was lucky to maintain its own territorial integrity.

Nonetheless, James Madison (in the presidency from 1809 to 1817) and most Americans, especially Republicans, decided to publicly rebrand the war as a decisive victory, a Second War of Independence. What we know as nationalism—a term not in use until the 1830s—exploded in the aftermath of this indecisive war. If America could defeat mighty Great Britain, <i>again</i>, what couldn’t it do? The entire continent seemed ripe for the taking, and, in due time, for the improving. In time Spanish Florida would be illegally invaded by Gen. Andrew Jackson and eventually would be sold to the U.S. by a Spain that did not have much choice in the matter. The Pacific Northwest would be divided and shared between Britain and the U.S., making America a two-ocean power and cutting the Spanish and Russians out of the deal. All, it seemed, was part and parcel of America’s unmistakable destiny.

Yet the men who had stood atop the federal government throughout the war privately knew better. They were aware of the debacle that had ensued and how near disaster had been. The war had been fought on a shoestring and, generally, under the republican ideology of limited government. The Republicans, from Thomas Jefferson to Madison, had espoused a minimalist approach to federal power, but that would change.

Soon the only party that had any real power—the Republican Party—began to fragment into opposing factions and eventually would become nearly unrecognizable. Suddenly Madison and the “new nationalists” began calling for internal improvements (canals and roads), military preparedness (this time the Army would not be completely demobilized), a protective tariff to benefit manufacturers, and even a re-chartering of the National Bank. Every one of these demands had recently been anathema to the doctrinaire Republicans, including the father of the party, Jefferson. What’s amazing is how quickly most—including the sage of Monticello—embraced the changes and accepted the increase in federal power and jurisdiction.

Wars change societies; they always have and surely always will. Things are gained—efficiency, technological innovations and federal powerbut things are also lost, such as civil liberties, ideological purity and, in the case of America, modesty. 

<strong>A Society Forever Changed: The Transportation and Commercial Revolutions</strong> 

“We are under the most imperious obligations to counteract every tendency of disunion. … Let us, then, bind the republic together with a perfect system of roads and canals. Let us conquer space.” —Congressman John C. Calhoun of South Carolina

It is ironic how many modern conservatives tend to blame government action for all problems and extol the virtue of private entrepreneurship and innovation. How rarely are those two sections of society so discrete and separate. The transportation and commercial revolutions that unfolded in 19th-century America did forever alter (usually for the better) life in these United States. Commodity costs dropped, travel became affordable, information proliferated and living standards rose. This—under the 16 years of Madison and Monroe’s administrations—was possible only through the combination of Republican governmental investment and prioritization of private innovation. The once laissez-faire Republicans ever so quickly pivoted from small government to the funding and application of technological inventions in cooperation with the private sector.

This was a team effort, and it forever altered life in America. Nearly everyone was affected by the proliferation of steamboats, canals, roads and technological advances. Everyone, even Native Americans, became more tied to the commercial economy. Fewer farmers were needed, and other occupations and professions opened up. There were now both more wage laborers and commercial entrepreneurs. This meant that property ownership—once the signal indicator of wealth and status—became less influential in economic and political life. It wasn’t long before most states eliminated property qualifications for voting.

A prime example of innovation, government investment and societal change unfolded in New York. In the 1820s, after years of work, the Erie Canal was completed. Running 363 miles from the Hudson River to Lake Erie, the 40-foot-wide canal connected the farms of the Great Lakes and Midwest with the trading port of New York City. Almost overnight the population of that city, and of western New York state, exploded. New York became, forever, the singular commercial hub of the United States. Local farmers and merchants were now plugged into a nationwide and international economy. As the historian Daniel Walker Howe noted, “New York had redrawn the economic map of the United States and placed itself at the center.”

The commercial and transportation revolutions set off a communications revolution that sped up time and the flow of information. Mail traveled exponentially more quickly and so did newspapers, the primary items of mail in those days. The number and diversity of papers expanded, bringing politics and international affairs into the daily lives of more and more Americans. But there was, undoubtedly, a dark side to this information propagation. Most newspapers in this era were little more than organs of particular political parties or factions, rather than objective news sources. These papers relied, oftentimes, on wealthy benefactors or government printing contracts from the party in power. The next time someone complains about the <i>unprecedented</i> partisanship and corporate influence on today’s media space, remind them of this era of the Market Revolution, the period of intense economic and communication revolutions in the years following 1815.

<STRONG>Winners and Losers: The Uneven Effects of the Market Revolution</STRONG> 

“And if we look to the condition of individuals what a proud spectacle does it exhibit! On whom has oppression fallen in any quarter of our Union? Who has been deprived of any right of person or property?”—President James Madison

The crazy part is Madison probably <i>meant</i> it. As the chief executive waxed eloquently on the triumphs of technology and his own administration in the above quote, he seemed truly and honestly unaware of how obtuse a statement this was in the second decade of the 19th century. This was, however, a time when few would respond to the president by pointing out the hypocrisy of holding some 1.5 million blacks in chains, keeping several million women trapped in the paternalistic home, and having stolen the lands of hundreds of thousands of Native Americans.

Such was the spirit of the times that a “republican” such as President Madison would scoff at such critiques—after all, <i>those</i> folks didn’t count in his visions of democratic utopia. And so, left behind in this great rising market tide were natives, blacks, many women and some impoverished white workers.

Native Americans, once again, can be seen as some of the great losers in the Market Revolution era. More roads, more canals and quicker transportation meant, simply, more white settlers expropriating their tribal lands even faster. The technology and transportation were <I>not for them.</I>

In some cases, even natives living beyond the borders of the United States were affected by American triumphalism. The “hero” of the War of 1812, Andrew Jackson, had during the conflict seized lands from the Creek Indians, even those who had fought on his side. This opened Alabama and Mississippi for immediate settlement. Only this wasn’t enough. In 1818, President James Monroe sent him on a punitive expedition (with unclear orders) into Spanish Florida, to punish natives and allied runaway slaves who had exploited the international border to raid American settlements. The weakened Spanish Empire was powerless to stop him.

Jackson’s main opponent was a breakaway sect of Creeks who had moved south and intermixed with runaway slaves and marooned blacks to form the famous Seminole tribe. Jackson burned settlements, chased the warriors south, seized some Spanish forts (without a fight) and then refused to leave! He even arrested and executed two British traders as “spies” in contravention of international law and caused a diplomatic scandal. Eventually, of course, the Spanish ceded the Floridas to the U.S., and, of course, native power was forever broken in the old Southwest (the present states of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana).

Blacks, slaves, <I>fed</I> the new market economy; they rarely benefitted from it. Contrary to popular conception, Eli Whitney’s invention of the cotton gin (short for “engine”) did not lessen the burden of slave pickers but instead increased their expected yield and workload. Now that the seeds could be separated from raw cotton more quickly, the cotton demand exploded. Furthermore, the temperate climate and limitless land in what was then considered the southwest (stolen from the Creek and other native tribes) made the United States the top producer of cotton in the world by 1820. It was cotton that made America, and the South, “king.” It fed the textile plants of England and Massachusetts alike, and the demand seemed insatiable.

Slaves were expected to work harder, rest less often and produce more. Worse still, the massive migration southward and westward (one of the most significant in American history) of farmers and planters from Virginia, Maryland and the Carolinas to Alabama and Mississippi also meant the concurrent shift of slaves. With Virginia tobacco less profitable, Chesapeake planters had less need for their slaves. Thus, over the proceeding decades—and up until the Civil War—men from the Upper South sold slaves, broke up their families and fed the “Alabama fever,” as it was known. The black experience, of forced migration and family separation, cannot be detached from the triumphs of the Market Revolution.

* * *

 “I went in among the young girls [at the Lowell Mills in Massachusetts] … not one expressed herself as tired of her employment, or oppressed with work … all looked healthy … and I could not help observing that they kept the prettiest inside. … Here were thousands … enjoying all the blessings of freedom, with the prospect before them of future comfort and respectability.”—Colonel and Congressman Davy Crockett, on visiting the Lowell Mills textile plants

Crockett, the veritable “King of the Wild Frontier,” was right about one thing. In Lowell, Mass., and other urban (usually Northern) settings, women were, increasingly, leaving the home and entering the workspace. What is interesting, and instructive, is the language this frontiersman used to describe these toiling women. They were, he said, <i>free</i>! This seems an odd way for a man of the wilderness, of the vast hardy Western frontier, to describe the life of dirty, cramped factory workers held (see below) to a rigorous dictatorship of the clock.

A timetable and life schedule for the workers of the Lowell Mills in Massachusetts. A line at the top declares that the timetable is “arranged to make the working time throughout the year average 11 hours per day.”

In the era of market and transportation revolutions, there was indeed now more economic opportunity, but there also grew a greater disparity between rich and poor (sound familiar?). For all the talk in this era of “self-made men,” most white males still toiled as small farmers or wage laborers. Only a tiny fraction accumulated immense wealth.

Some small farmers, often those who found themselves unluckily located away from the roads and canals, saw their business dwindle as the revolutions of commerce, transportation and economics literally passed them by. Many a part of New England and upstate New York became littered with ghost towns and abandoned farms. Many merchants and artisans went bankrupt, unable to deal with the competition of goods shipped in from afar.

There was also, some felt, a loss of independence, community and fulfillment produced by the market shift. Jefferson’s utopian dream of small, independent farmers from the Atlantic to the Pacific simply hadn’t panned out (as Jefferson woefully acknowledged late in his life). This, as we will see in a later volume of this series, led to an explosion of religious, social and temperance revivals—attempts to reconnect a world on the move with the cherished values of the “old way.” This, too, seems a natural outgrowth of all such economic and political revolutions in American history.

   * * *

It was a strange time; one of speed and change; of winners and losers; of growth and of pain. It was the time of Pat Lyon—the rich man who had himself painted as a blacksmith—and of dislocated slaves pushed ever harder in the cotton fields. This was the era of a rising tide of wealth but also of child labor and the crowded women at the Lowell Mills.

What’s certain is that the economic, political and societal revolutions of 1815-1845 (which will be covered in the next two volumes) cannot be studied in isolation. This was an <i>era</i> of revolutions that interacted to forever change antebellum American society. Some prospered as others withered, but all were affected in kind.

   * * *

To learn more about this topic, consider the following scholarly works:

• James West Davidson, Brian DeLay, Christine Leigh Heyrman, Mark H. Lytle and Michael B. Stoff, “Experience History: Interpreting America’s Past,” Chapter 10: “The Opening of America, 1815-1850” (2011).

•Daniel Walker Howe, “What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848” (2007).

• Gordon Wood, “Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815” (2009).

Maj. Danny Sjursen, a regular contributor to Truthdig, is a U.S. Army officer and former history instructor at West Point. He served tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has written a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, “Ghost Riders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge.” He lives with his wife and four sons in Lawrence, Kan. Follow him on Twitter at @SkepticalVet and check out his new podcast, “Fortress on a Hill,” co-hosted with fellow vet Chris “Henri” Henrikson.</i>

The views expressed in this article are those of the author, expressed in an unofficial capacity, and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.

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The Con of Diversity

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Chris Hedges.

In 1970, when black students occupied the dean’s office at Harvard Divinity School to protest against the absence of African-American scholars on the school’s faculty, the white administration was forced to respond and interview black candidates. It asked James Cone, the greatest theologian of his generation, to come to Cambridge, Mass., for a meeting. But the white power structure had no intention of offering Cone a job. To be black, in its eyes, was bad enough. To be black, brilliant and fiercely independent was unpalatable. And so the job was given to a pliable African-American candidate who had never written a book, a condition that would remain unchanged for the more than three decades he taught at Harvard.

Harvard got what it wanted. Mediocrity in the name of diversity. It was a classic example of how the white power structure plays people of color. It decides whom to promote and whom to silence. When then-Maj. Colin Powell helped cover up the 1968 massacre of some 500 civilians at My Lai in Vietnam he was assured a glittering career in the Army. When Barack Obama proved obedient to the Chicago political machine, Wall Street and the Democratic Party establishment he was promoted to the U.S. Senate and the presidency.

Diversity in the hands of the white power elites—political and corporate—is an advertising gimmick. A new face, a brand, gets pushed out front, accompanied by the lavish financial rewards that come with serving the white power structure, as long as the game is played. There is no shortage of women (Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi and Donna Brazile), Latinos (Tom Perez and Marco Rubio) or blacks (Vernon Jordan, Clarence Thomas and Ben Carson) who sell their souls for a taste of power.

Ta-Nehisi Coates in his book “We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy” writes that “Barack Obama is directly responsible for the rise of a crop of black writers and journalists who achieved prominence during his two terms.” But this was true only for those black writers like Coates and Michael Eric Dyson who were obsequious cheerleaders for Obama. If, like Cornel West, you were black and criticized Obama you were isolated and attacked by Obama surrogates as a race traitor.

“For those who didn’t support Obama it was the lonely time,” said Glen Ford, the executive editor of the Black Agenda Report, when we spoke recently. “It’s like A.D. and B.C. Before Obama time, my politics reflected that of a black commentator, probably within a respectable black political spectrum. I’m looking at a fax, ‘NAACP September 8, 2007. NAACP regional leader.’ I got this after giving a keynote speech in Little Rock, Ark., in commemoration of the events in Little Rock in ’57. You see what I’m saying? I could do that, even as late as 2007. Then Obama happened. It was a wonderful time for people who endorsed Obama. If you didn’t endorse Obama, you were verboten in the community. All of a sudden you were ostracized.”

The absence of genuine political content in our national discourse has degraded it to one between racists and people who don’t want to be identified as racists. The only winners in this self-destructive cat fight are corporations such as Goldman Sachs, whose interests no American can vote against, along with elite institutions dedicated to perpetuating the plutocracy. Drew G. Faust, the first woman president of Harvard University, whose appointment represented a triumph for diversity, upon her retirement was appointed to the board of Goldman Sachs, a role for which she will receive compensation totaling over half a million dollars a year. A new and “diverse” group of Democratic Party candidates, over half of whom have been recruited from the military, the CIA, the National Security Council and the State Department, is hoping to rise to political power based on the old con.

“It’s an insult to the organized movements of people these institutions claim to want to include,” Ford said. “These institutions write the script. It’s their drama. They choose the actors, whatever black, brown, yellow, red faces they want.”

“I don’t think a black left should be investing any political capital or energy into getting Barack Obamas into a Harvard,” Ford said, “or believing it can transform Harvard or any of these ruling-class universities from the inside out, any more than it can transform the Democratic Party from the inside out.”

Ford points out that “diversity” has been substituted by the white power elites for “affirmative action.” And, he argues, diversity and affirmative action are radically different. The replacement of affirmative action with diversity, he says, effectively “negates African-American history as a legal basis for redress.”

Once the Supreme Court in its 1978 Bakke decision outlawed “quotas” for racial minorities, ruling institutions were freed from having to establish affirmative action programs that would have guaranteed a space for those traditionally excluded. The Trump administration’s recent reversal of an Obama-era policy that called on universities to consider race as a factor in admissions is an attempt to eradicate even diversity. President Trump and his racist enablers, including Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, are resegregating America.

“You do not take a man who for years has been hobbled by chains, liberate him, bring him to the starting line of a race, saying, ‘You are free to compete with all the others,’ and still justly believe you have been completely fair … ,” President Lyndon Johnson said in 1965 to the graduating class of Howard University. “This is the next and more profound stage of the battle for civil rights. We seek not just freedom but opportunity—not just legal equity but human ability—not just equality as a right and a theory, but equality as a fact and as a result.”

Johnson’s call, along with that of Martin Luther King Jr., was swiftly sabotaged by white, liberal elites, who divorced racial justice from economic justice. White liberals could live with laws prohibiting desegregation but not with giving up some of their financial and social privilege.

“White liberals are not seeking justice,” Ford said. “They’re seeking absolution. Anything that absolves them of responsibility for what this society has done, they welcome it. They’re hungry for it.”

“The legal, as well as moral, basis for affirmative action lay in the culpability of the United States and all of its layers of government in the enslavement and Jim Crow ‘hobbling’ of African-Americans—a unique history of oppression of a specific people that requires institutional redress,” Ford has written. “Otherwise, the legacies of these crimes will reproduce themselves, in mutating forms, into infinity. Once the specificity of the Black American grievance was abandoned, affirmative action became a general catch-all of various historical wrongs. Stripped of its core, affirmative action morphed into ‘diversity,’ a vessel for various aggrieved groups that was politically versatile (and especially useful to the emerging Black deal makers of electoral and corporate politics), but no longer rooted in Black realities. The affirmative action of Dr. King and President Johnson was a species of reparations, a form of redress for specific and eminently documentable harms done to African Americans, <i>as a people</i>. It was understood as a social debt <i>owed to a defined class</i>.”

“ ‘Diversity,’ ” Ford wrote, “recognizes no such debt to a particular people, or to any people at all. Rather, its legal basis is the ‘compelling interest’ of public institutions in a diversified student body (or faculty).”

Diversity does not force the white power structure to address racial injustice or produce results within the black underclass. This feint to diversity was abetted, Ford points out, by black elitists who found positions for themselves in the power structure in exchange for walking away from the poor and marginalized.

Ford calls these black elitists “representationalists” who “want to see some black people represented in all sectors of leadership, in all sectors of society. They want black scientists. They want black movie stars. They want black scholars at Harvard. They want blacks on Wall Street. But it’s just representation. That’s it.”

The plague of diversity lies at the core of our political dysfunction. The Democratic Party embraces it. Donald Trump’s Republican Party repudiates it. But as a policy it is a diversion. Diversity has done little to ameliorate the suffering of the black underclass. Most blacks are worse off than when King marched in Selma. African-Americans have lost over half of their wealth since the financial collapse of 2008 because of falling homeownership rates and job loss. They have the highest rate of poverty at 27.4 percent, followed by Hispanics at 26.6 percent and whites at 9.9 percent. And 45.8 percent of black children under 6 live in poverty, compared with 14.5 percent of white children in that age group. Forty percent of the nation’s homeless are African-Americans although blacks make up only 13 percent of our population. African-Americans are incarcerated at more than five times the rate of whites.

Diversity does not halt the stripping away of our civil liberties, the assault on our ecosystem or the punishing effects of mandated austerity and deindustrialization. It does not confront imperialism. Diversity is part of the mechanics of colonialism. A genuine revolutionary, Patrice Lumumba, was replaced with the pliant and corrupt Mobutu Sese Seko. Both were black. But one fought the colonial tyrants and the other served them. A political agenda built solely around “diversity” is a smokescreen for injustice.

The victory by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over the powerful Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley in a Democratic primary in Brooklyn last month is not a victory for diversity, although Ocasio-Cortez is a woman of color. It is a victory of political substance over the empty rhetoric of the Democratic Party. Ocasio-Cortez defied the party establishment as an avowed member of the Democratic Socialists of America. She could not even get a pre-election endorsement from Bernie Sanders, her mentor. She calls for Medicare for all, the abolishment of ICE, a federal jobs program and an end to the wars in the Middle East and has denounced Israel’s massacre of unarmed Palestinians. She stands for something. And it is only when we stand for something, including reparations for African-Americans, that we have a chance to dismantle corporate tyranny.

“I’ve always felt, in the early ’60s when I was just a kid, that the silent partner, sometimes reluctant although still a partner, in the civil rights movement were the corporations who wanted a unified market,” Ford said. “Jim Crow was a big anomaly in terms of creating a more unified market in the United States. You can’t have an Atlanta skyline, with its magnificent elevators, with Jim Crow. Not only would Atlanta not be an international city, it couldn’t be a national city with Jim Crow. The corporate forces wanted to break down Jim Crow and explicit color discrimination. It standardized the market. This is what capitalists do. The Democratic Party is not behaving any differently than the corporations over the past 50 years.”

“I’m not worried by the Trump phenomenon,” Ford said. “That doesn’t scare me. It’s disconcerting. But it doesn’t scare me. I’m far more afraid of the space that it gives to the corporatists. It’s to their advantage. Trump defines the white man’s party’s space. It’s big. It’s no joke. It can win presidential elections. It can win again. It needs money from corporate Republicans, but it doesn’t need anything else from them. The white man’s party more clearly defines the space the Democrats claim. It’s everybody who is not an overt racist.”

“I don’t think Trump will ever beat Obama’s records in terms of deportation,” Ford went on. “We should be fighting U.S. immigration policy. But that isn’t Trump. We should be organizing against Amazon taking over a whole city. But that isn’t Trump. Will Trump’s next pick for the Supreme Court be different from any pick that a Republican would make? In fact, because he’s crazy, he might fuck up and make a bad pick for himself. He ain’t deep enough to pick the worst guy. He hasn’t read the Federalist Papers.”

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