Never Mind the Real Russia, It’s All about Trump: An Interview with David Swanson

By Ann Garrison at Black Agenda Report
Anti-war activist and author David Swanson told the author that party partisanship fuels the anti-Russian obsession among rank and file Democrats. “If the Democratic Party had made a grand cause of friendship with Russia and disarmament and ending nuclear weapons madness, then liberal supporters of the Democratic Party would be out there saying, ‘Let’s be friends with Russia.’”

Never Mind the Real Russia, It’s All about Trump: An Interview with David Swanson


by Ann Garrison



“Russians have absolutely no idea that hatred of Russia can be driven by hatred of Trump.”

In American politics, Donald Trump has been so effectively identified with Russia that hostility or friendship toward Russia is now driven by feelings about Trump. David Swanson, founder of World Beyond War and author of “War is a Lie” and “War Is Never Just,” was on a friendship tour in Russia when a Tiki torch-bearing crowd protested the removal of a Confederate monument in his hometown and chanted “Russia is our friend.” I spoke to David Swanson upon his return.

Ann Garrison: On May 13, in your hometown—Charlottesville, Virginia—a Tiki torch-bearing crowd protested the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The protesters chanted “Blood and Soil,” a well-known Nazi slogan invoking the bloodline of a people and its territory, and “Russia is our friend.” You were in Russia at that time on a friendship tour, so could you tell us how Russians perceived this? Continue reading “Never Mind the Real Russia, It’s All about Trump: An Interview with David Swanson”

Talk Nation Radio: Deirdre Enright on Freeing Innocent People from Prison

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-deirdre-enright-on-freeing-innocent-people-from-prison

Deirdre Enright is director of investigation for the University of Virginia Law School’s Innocence Project Clinic. Enright previously worked at the Virginia Capital Representation Resource Center, where she represented clients and consulted on cases in all stages of capital litigation, with primary focus on federal and state post-conviction proceedings and Supreme Court certiorari review. After graduating from the University of Virginia Law School in 1992, Enright worked as a staff attorney at the Mississippi Capital Defense Resource Center. We discuss the work of freeing innocent people from prison.
 
Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from LetsTryDemocracy or Archive.

Pacifica stations can also download from Audioport.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://TalkNationRadio.org

and at
https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

Talk Nation Radio: Dale Brumfield on the State of Virginia's History of Murder

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-dale-brumfield-on-the-state-of-virginias-history-of-murder

Dale Brumfield is an Adjunct English Professor and the author of seven books. His last two, Richmond Independent Press (2013) and Independent Press in D.C and Virginia: An Underground History (2015) were both nominated for Library of Virginia Literary Awards in nonfiction. Dale is a weekly history columnist for the Staunton News Leader, and is a frequent contributor to Richmond Magazine, Style Weekly and North of the James magazines. His work has also appeared in the Richmond Free Press, Richmond Times-Dispatch and USA Today. His next book, a history of the Virginia Penitentiary, will be published fall, 2017. We discuss the history of state murder in Virginia.

See http://dalebrumfield.net

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from LetsTryDemocracy or Archive.

Pacifica stations can also download from Audioport.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://TalkNationRadio.org

and at
https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

Don't Be a United Airlines Passenger

Do not sit still like a United Airlines passenger in a video when an injustice is happening. If the other passengers had simply blocked the aisles, corporate thugs could not have dragged their fellow passenger away. If everyone on board had demanded that the airline offer higher compensation until someone volunteered to take a later flight, rather than being violently “reaccommodated,” then it would have done so.

Passivity in the face of injustice is the greatest danger we face. This fact does not mean I’m “blaming the victims.” Of course United Airlines should be shamed, sued, boycotted, and compelled to reform or “reaccommodate” itself out of our lives entirely. So should the government that has deregulated the industry. So should every police department that has come to view the public as an enemy in a war.

But one should expect corporations and their thugs to behave barbarically. They are designed to do so. One should expect corrupt governments that lack popular influence or control to abuse power. The question is whether people will sit back and take it, resist with some nonviolent skills, or disastrously resort to violence themselves. (I’ve not searched yet for proposals to arm airline passengers, because I really don’t look forward to reading them.)

The one nonviolent skill that seems to be advancing most encouragingly is videotaping and livestreaming. People have got that down. When police blatantly lie, such as by claiming to have carried a passenger who fell, rather than dragging a passenger whom they assaulted, video sets the record straight. But we often lack video of events far away that the U.S. military blatantly lies about, events locked out of sight that prison guards blatantly lie about, and events that happen over long periods — such as the willful destruction of the earth’s climate.

When it comes to those injustices that can’t be videotaped or sued in court, too often people fail to act entirely. This is extremely dangerous behavior. We’re collectively being dragged down an airplane aisle, and we’re failing to act. A U.S.-Saudi war is threatening millions with starvation in Yemen. In Syria, the U.S. is risking a nuclear confrontation with Russia. The Pentagon is considering attacking North Korea. Baby steps toward slowing down the destruction if the earth’s climate are being reversed. Warrantless spying, lawless imprisonment, and presidential drone murder have been normalized.

What can we do?

We can educate and organize. We can confront Congress members while they’re home. We can pass local resolutions. We can divest from horrible businesses. We can build global alliances. We can go and stand in the way of deportations, of weapons shipments, or of the broadcasting of corporate “news.” We can put a stop to injustice wherever we see it and require diplomatic negotiation and resolution from dying domestic industries and killing foreign service officials alike.

Civil disobedience is not something we should shy away from.

Civil obedience should horrify us. There is an epidemic.

Let Trump Golf, Let the Public Draft the Budget

One idea behind a representative government is to approximate what the public as a whole would do if it had the time to sit down and consider each matter itself. Of course the entire U.S. public does not have that time. But when a random sample of the public is asked to take the time on one topic, its results typically line up with opinion polls, not to mention basic human decency, far more closely than does the work of the Congress or the White House.

An example is found in the matter of the fiscal year 2018 federal budget. This can be a tricky topic to poll the public on, principally because most of the public has little idea what the budget looks like, and most discussions of the budget only make matters worse. Passionate pleas not to cut this or that valuable program leave people imagining that such programs make up a significant part of the budget, and that the White House proposal would shrink the government by cutting such programs.

In fact, only one item makes up a significant part of the discretionary budget — over half of it, in fact — and President Donald Trump’s proposal is for the same size government, but with funding moved out of virtually everywhere else and into this one budget item: the military. Trump’s budget proposal would push military spending up to above 60% of discretionary spending (not counting secret budgets, of course).

What would be the point of asking for budget recommendations from people who believe that military spending is 10% and foreign aid 20% of the budget? How responsible would that be? If the public were to decree that we must “increase” military spending to 15% of the budget, how would we implement that policy?

A democratic solution to this conundrum, short of an improved communications system, has been found by the staff of the Program for Public Consultation at the University of Maryland. They simply show people the current 2017 budget, so that they know what it is, and ask them how to improve it. The results would only shock an elected “representative.”

“By far the biggest gap,” the researchers report, “is for … military spending. Overall the Trump administration favors a $53.4 billion increase while the public favors a $41 billion cut – a $94.4 billion gap.” And, of course, Trump favors cuts to pay for his militarism that the public opposes: on education, public housing, the State Department, medical research, the environment, and mass transit.

I’m with the public on this and every other topic I know of. A sample of informed public opinion should override any veto, filibuster, house resolution, or executive order as far as I’m concerned. We’d all be better off.

Dumping $700 billion into a never-audited department named “defense,” against the will of the public, is certainly not defensive of democracy. Neither is it defensive of anything else. Only 20 countries reach $10 billion in annual military spending, nine of them NATO members, 8 more U.S. allies, and 3 potential allies if not treated with such hostility. One of them, Russia, has cut its military in the past 3 years from $70 billion to $48 billion. Somehow that’s the government considered so terrifying in Washington, D.C., that all you’d have to do to stop Trump’s budget would be to claim 1,000 times on television that a Russian wrote it.

That’s going to be my Plan B. First let’s try this. I suggest we cut the President some slack. Let him go golfing more often. The public can handle the government just fine.

Liberalism's Communications Problem

Liberals in the United States are relatively educated, yet extremely inarticulate when it comes to Trump, his budget proposal, or the U.S. military.

In a typical email, Moveon.org sent out the message this week that nobody should confirm a Supreme Court nominee until it’s determined that Trump is a “legitimate president.” Until then, the U.S. military should go on slaughtering families for him? And once he’s “legitimate” then a horrible fascist Supreme Court nominee should be approved? And what would it take for Trump to become “legitimate.” According to the email, it would take proving that Trump didn’t collaborate with Putin to rig the U.S. election. According to the linked video, it would take that plus seeing Trump’s tax returns, plus proving that Trump is not violating the foreign emoluments clause. All three demands are given a xenophobic slant.

Of course Trump is blatantly violating the foreign and the stronger domestic emoluments clauses. That’s not a question to be investigated or doubted. But there has been zero evidence made public by anyone that he and Putin “rigged” his election. However, examining what Robert Reich in the video linked above, and others, mean by “rigged” points to one of numerous reasons that considering the election “legitimate” would be ridiculous. What they mean is that there exists the slimmest possibility that Trump sent Putin and Putin sent WikiLeaks the emails that added extra evidence to the transparent sabotaging by the Democratic Party of its own strongest candidate. Under those known circumstances, the election is already knowable as illegitimate. Add to that Trump’s losing the popular vote, Trump’s openly intimidating and threatening voters, Trump’s court battles against counting paper ballots where they existed, the absence of verifiable ballots in many places, the exclusion of voters by Republican Secretaries of State stripping them from the rolls, the exclusion of voters with ID requirements, the nomination of Trump by the corporate media through disproportionate coverage, the open and never-denied system of bribery used to fund all the campaigns, etc. Suggesting that explaining away a xenophobic fantasy would make such an election legitimate is disgusting.

The idea that Trump could be a legitimate president if he had been fairly and properly elected is equally outrageous. He’s murdering people in large numbers in numerous countries. He’s creating so-called laws through executive orders. These include unconstitutional acts of discrimination. He is opposed by the vast majority of the public. He is protected in Congress by the Democrats’ weakness and inability to communicate honestly, but also by an election system rigged in many of the ways noted above, plus gerrymandering in the extreme.

As I have been pointing out, the liberal line on Trump’s budget proposal is dangerously dishonest. Trump doesn’t propose cutting anything at all. He proposes moving money from everything else to the military. Denouncing supposed “cuts” while avoiding mention of the military stirs up the “small government” advocates in favor of the supposedly smaller budget. It also licenses an infinite military. The current proposal plus an expected supplemental puts the military at 60% to 65% of discretionary spending. Every indication is that it could reach 100% before liberals would mention it, at which point they would cease mentioning the federal budget at all.

As Dave Lindorff notes, even when a liberal economist like Dean Baker claims to be explaining the budget and correcting misunderstandings, he just states what a small percentage of the budget various good but relatively tiny programs are, without ever mentioning the existence of the U.S. military. The reader is left to assume that every big government program is just 1% or 2% of the budget because, of course, there are hundreds of big government programs. The idea that the military costs money, much less the majority of the money, never enters awareness.

Saturday evening I attended a panel discussion that was part of the Virginia Festival of the Book, attended by hundreds of people in the old Paramount Theater in Charlottesville, Virginia. The director of the festival opened by denouncing Trump’s supposed cuts to the arts, never hinting that Trump’s proposal is actually to move the money to the military. She also declared a welcome to all immigrants — which had nothing to do with the event at hand. One of the authors during the discussion brought up “alternative facts.” This was clearly a forum in which it was not verboten to mention horrible crises that are upon us or to badmouth a U.S. president. And yet, nobody would ever mention where the money was moving or what would be done with it.

In fact, one of the books under discussion was related to work that had been funded by the U.S. military. More such work might be funded under Trump’s budget than under the current budget. And many more people might die as a result. That uncomfortable situation was totally avoided. That African American women were able to work on rockets after World War II was discussed — and the whole event was quite intelligent and positive and fascinating — without ever mentioning the leading rocket makers and former utilizers of slave labor who came through Operation Paperclip, without even mentioning all the people and villages blown up over the years by the rockets. When a woman asked a question about the good work of other women mathematicians who helped create nukes at Los Alamos, only positive responses were heard. Sounds like another great book to be written, commented the moderator.

What 2017 U.S. liberalism fails to grasp, I think, is that — while racism and misogyny are indeed outrageous — other outrages do exist. The people Trump is murdering by the hundreds are mostly dark-skinned women, children, and the elderly. I spoke on a panel on Thursday on which one of the other speakers described a mass-murder operation in Yemen thusly: “We lost a naval officer.” When did morality die? Nobody was lost. A participant in a mass-slaughter of families was killed in action. That’s horrific. But so are all the deaths he helped cause, and all the deaths that will result from the cycle of violence to follow. And “we” suffer all of those deaths, not just the ones in U.S. uniforms.

If inventing nuclear bombs is noble because women were involved, if Trump’s funding for “more usable” nukes is unworthy of comment because pretending he’s shrinking the budget is the best way to fail and Democrats are addicted to failure, if wars no longer outrage, I can only draw this conclusion, which ought to thrill every liberal soul: Hillary Clinton has won after all.

 

 

 

 

Mike Signer: Profile in Cowardice

A footnote to the City of Charlottesville’s courageous passing of a resolution this week asking Congress to move money from the military to human and environmental needs, rather than the reverse, was the cowardly abstention of Mayor Mike Signer from the vote.

I don’t always agree with the other four city council members on everything, or even know enough to have an opinion on much of what they do, but they have all repeatedly been willing to stick their necks out for things they apparently care about for moral reasons. Even Council Member Kathy Galvin, who in my view marred Monday’s resolution by adding to it some nonsense about U.S. troops fighting to protect you and your rights (even as we’re poorer and have fewer rights with every new war started and never ended) believed things had gotten so bad she would vote aye.

(The Council would have passed the resolution 3-0 without the rah-rah-troops bit that garnered Galvin’s vote. I asked Council Member Kristin Szakos whether she herself believed that bit, and she said she imagined most of the troops did. By that logic, the City Council should also declare climate change to be a myth and angels to be real.)

Bob Fenwick and Kristin Szakos had the courage and decency to speak against war and military spending, and Wes Bellamy — who has never been afraid to speak on anything — publicly challenged the Mayor on his abstention and the apparent hypocrisy in it. Signer had previously declared Charlottesville a “capital of the resistance” to Trump. But when an opportunity arose to ask Congress to resist Trump’s agenda, Signer weaseled out of it.

What were Signer’s reasons? They were not what he told us. Szakos had explained publicly at Monday’s meeting and at the meeting two weeks earlier what the City Council’s policy was on passing resolutions on issues larger than Charlottesville. Signer claimed on Monday not to know about that policy. Clearly he hadn’t wanted to know about it, or he would have looked into it during the past two weeks. He declared on Monday that passing a resolution on a national issue would open the door to an endless string of them. So he abstained. And then, within five minutes of the 4-0 vote without him, he joined in a 5-0 vote for a different resolution urging Congress to fund the Department of Housing and Urban Development — a resolution that did not mention the military but opened the very same door that Signer pretended to be in horror of opening.

Signer also said that he objected to a footnote to a clause that had been in a previous version of the resolution. The fact that the clause was no longer in there ought to have eliminated this objection. In addition, the objection was nothing more than Signer’s utter failure to comprehend the report in the footnote. This was the already-deleted clause:

“Whereas economists at the University of Massachusetts have documented that military spending is an economic drain rather than a jobs program.”

This was the footnote: “‘The U.S. Employment Effects of Military and Domestic Spending Priorities: 2011 Update,’ Political Economy Research Institute,https://www.peri.umass.edu/publication/item/449-the-u-s-employment-effects-of-military-and-domestic-spending-priorities-2011-update “

Signer’s objection was that military spending does produce some jobs, as if the assertion had been that military jobs are not real. Had Signer bothered to ask for guidance he would have learned that the point, rather, was that military spending produces fewer jobs than tax cuts (as well as many fewer jobs than other types of spending). It’s literally worse than nothing economically (as well as morally, pragmatically, etc.).

But if Signer’s stated reasons for abstaining were transparent nonsense, what were his real reasons? Why would he blissfully ignore Martin Niemöller’s famous quote, read to the Council by Adele Roof?

At first glance, one might say that he was courageously defying public opinion, as if anti-democratic stances are noble. Most of the people in the meeting on Monday stood when I asked for a show of support. National polls show support for the position taken in the resolution.

But Signer, I suspect, has a different constituency from the other City Council Members. And I don’t just mean his deference to those who funded his high-end campaign, and whose taxes he is so eager to lower (and those in need be damned). I mean that Signer clearly has ambitions for higher office, and he has them within the terminally corrupted Democratic Party.

The elite in this party milk rhetorical opposition to Trump for all it’s worth but would clearly prefer 8 years of Trump to replacing him with anyone resembling Bernie Sanders. The elite in this party and their funders are steadfastly speaking against budget cuts to social programs while refusing to mention even the existence of the U.S. military. This inept “resistance” is what led a Trump fan to stumble into Monday’s meeting and declare his opposition to big gummint, despite the fact that Trump’s budget proposal proposes the same size government as last year. How would anyone know any different, with the people Signer aspires to join denouncing cuts rather than opposing the moving of money from everything decent and good to the military?

When the Titanic was going down, the band continued to play music, and a handful of political ancestors of our mayor maneuvered to get themselves front-row seats for the concert, contented grins on their faces.