Let’s Talk about the Caravans…

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Taibbi: Why Did John McCain Continue to Support War?

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I was surprised to hear the great Stevie Wonder — the creator of the searing anti-war, anti-Vietnam song “Front Line” — paid tribute to John McCain in the middle of a concert this past weekend.

On one hand it made sense, as Wonder has always been about love and forgiveness, and he’s rarely had a bad word for anyone. But he is also a political voice, who sings passionately about America’s inability to reckon with its violent nature.

That 1983 song, “Front Line,” describes a phenomenon we don’t talk about much: Our unthinking worship of all things military, and our unparalleled ability to quickly forget military atrocities, so as to embrace the inevitable next invasion.

……………………………………………..

We leave smoldering ash-piles around the world, and instead of wondering why we’re hated in those places, we keep thinking it’s football and we’ll just call the right plays the next game. “We’ll get ‘em next time” became our official foreign policy, and McCain was long ago elevated as chief spokesperson.

McCain never changed his mind about Vietnam, in particular, and it colored his opinion of every war that followed. Here’s what McCain wrote in 2003, months into the invasion of Iraq:

We lost in Vietnam because we lost the will to fight, because we did not understand the nature of the war we were fighting and because we limited the tools at our disposal.

McCain added that Iraqis had less chance to “win” because they “do not enjoy the kind of sanctuary North Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos provided.”

Between 1963 and 1974, we dropped two million tons of ordnance on Laos — not North Vietnam, but Laos — which works out to “a planeload of bombs every eight minutes, 24 hours per day, for nine years.”

The death toll from that one country is said to be 70,000 (50,000 during the war, 20,000 who died later from unexploded bombs). Similar operations in North Vietnam are said to have killed 182,000 civilians, and estimates about bombing deaths in Cambodia range from 30,000 to 150,000.

Read on www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/mccain-support-war-716416/

Posted by Libergirl

In the Year of the Pig: The Real Vietnam War Heroes

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John McCain’s death triggered mass media regurgitations of Vietnam-era imperial racism and just plain idiocy, but also reminded us of those who risked everything to stop the war.

“There’s no doubt that the pig in the film is the US in Vietnam.”

I’ll be glad if I never hear John McCain’s name again, but his death made me look back and try once more to understand the US War with the Vietnamese People’s Army, whose anti-aircraft gunners shot him out of the sky during his 23 bombing raids over North Vietnam. On the “KPFA Radio “Sunday Sho w ,” Kevin Alexander Gray said, “The national mourning for John McCain is almost a referendum or a recasting of the Vietnam War, where every soldier is a hero even though they were fighting in wars they had no business fighting in. Everybody’s a hero.”

I don’t think “everybody’s a hero,” least of all the son of Admiral John S. McCain, Sr., but I hugely admire the soldiers who ended the Vietnam War by refusing to fight and even fragging—shooting or throwing grenades at the commanders urging them on. The antiwar movement at home supported those heroes, but they were the ones who made it impossible to continue the war. They told their story in the documentary film Sir, No Sir .

“I hugely admire the soldiers who ended the Vietnam War by refusing to fight and even fragging—shooting or throwing grenades at their commanders.”

I felt for the wounded foot soldiers writhing in agony in the final moments of Emile de Antonio’s brilliant Vietnam War documentary In the Year of the Pig,and I felt angry at the politicians and anti-communist ruling class who sent them off to suffer and die. I hadn’t watched In the Year of the Pigfor nearly 20 years, but it’s one of the most profound films I’ve seen about the USA’s Vietnam War, so I watched it again, and I recommend it to anyone reading this. Emile de Antonio doesn’t narrate the film; it’s simply his composition of documentary footage. It’s also one of the few documentaries made while the war was still going on.

In the Year of the Pigwas released in 1968, though the 20thCentury “Years of the Pig” in the Zodiac Calendar were 1935, 1959, 1971, 1983, and 1995, so there’s no doubt that the pig in the film is the US in Vietnam.

Most of the footage exposes the presidents, military officers and congressmen—and they were all men—who championed the war until the foot soldiers refused to fight. Its other subjects are the Vietnamese they knew next to nothing about.

Whether we like Ho Chi Minh or not, he is indeed considered by many as the George Washington of his country.”

Articulate opponents of the war also appear—an Oregon senator, Father Daniel Berrigan, a University of Missouri college professor of Southeast Asian Studies, and a few more. The most remarkable, to my mind, is Senator Thruston Ballard Morton, a Republican from Kentucky whom I’d never heard of before. His first words in the film, spoken with a southern drawl, are:

Now, the thing that I think we fail to recognize is that Ho Chi Minh, communist or what not, is considered by the people of Vietnam, and I’m speaking now of millions in South Vietnam, as the George Washington of his country. He’s the man that they think threw off the French, the colonialists. Just as we had our 1776, they had theirs in the 1940s. He also led an underground movement against the Japanese who had occupied Vietnam and the whole Indochina Peninsula during World War II.

And whether we like him or not, whether we like the particular economic system or social system that he might develop or not, we must remember that he is indeed considered by many—the peasants, the small people, the little people in South Vietnam and North Vietnam—as the George Washington of his country.”

From one empire to another

The film includes footage of British Major General Douglas Gracy sent to oversee the Japanese surrender in French Indochina south of the 16thparallel. When he went to Saigon, he realized that the French lacked the means to recapture it, so he transferred all the weaponry taken from the Japanese to the French. This enabled them to remain and fight the First Indochina War that ended in French defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954.

In mid-60s footage of President Lyndon Johnson, he says, “Every day someone jumps up and shouts and says, ‘Tell us what is happening in Vietnam, and why are we in Vietnam, and how did you get us into Vietnam?’ Well, I didn’t get you into Vietnam. You’ve been in Vietnam 10 years [since the French defeat].”

“Those who run the war machine know that they can’t reinstitute the draft or put American troops on the ground without backlash at home, so they fight drone wars and proxy wars.”

More footage is full of the bloodlust, racism, jingoism, ignorance, and imperial arrogance behind the Vietnam War. It had me asking myself what has changed, and I had to conclude not much, not the imperial essentials. The weaponry is more deadly, the racism less overt, and the press far more obedient.

Most significantly, those who run the war machine know that they can’t reinstitute the draft or put American troops on the ground without backlash at home, so they fight drone wars and proxy wars—including jihadist wars—with the help of US equipment, financing, and Special Forces.

The US elites who were so intent on destroying the will of the Vietnamese seemed to have no idea who they were. Again, Senator Thruston Bundy was a rare exception:

We’ve put about three million of ‘em into what I would call a concentration camp. They call it a refugee center. It’s got barbed wire around it. You can’t get out of it. We’ve taken these people from the graves of their ancestors, from their rice paddies. And we say, ‘Oh well, we’ve pacified X million people.’ Yeah, we pacified some more people by puttin’ em in these camps.”

The greatest Vietnam War heroes

The greatest Vietnam War heroes were of course the Vietnamese people and their leader Ho Chi Minh—Uncle Ho—the lifelong nationalist, anti-colonialist, and communist who wore cheap cotton clothing and lived in humble circumstances as they did. The North Vietnamese told Western visitors that the revolution meant they finally had enough to eat despite the empire’s best efforts to destroy them.

They were armed, men and women, in cities and in the countryside. Many of those handling the anti-aircraft weapons used to shoot down John McCain’s plane were women. The revolutionary government had consciously armed them so well that they could have taken it down in a day. That, they said, was the greatest testament to their belief that the government spoke for them.

By Emile de Antonio’s In the Year of the Pigis available in its entirety on the Internet Archive . Film/BlackAgendaReport

Posted by The NON-Conformist

‘Back to the Dark Ages’: Sessions’s asylum ruling reverses decades of women’s rights progress, critics say

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Aminta Cifuentes suffered weekly beatings at the hands of her husband. He broke her nose, burned her with paint thinner and raped her.

She called the police in her native Guatemala several times but was told they could not interfere in a domestic matter, according to a court ruling. When Cifuentes’s husband hit her in the head, leaving her bloody, police came to the home but refused to arrest him. He threatened to kill her if she called authorities again.

So in 2005, Cifuentes fled to the United States. “If I had stayed there, he would have killed me,” she told the Arizona Republic.

And after nearly a decade of waiting on an appeal, Cifuentes was granted asylum. The 2014 landmark decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals set the precedent that women fleeing domestic violence were eligible to apply for asylum. It established clarity in a long-running debate over whether asylum can be granted on the basis of violence perpetrated in the “private” sphere, according to Karen Musalo, director for the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies at the University of California Hastings College of the Law.

But on Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions overturned the precedent set in Cifuentes’s case, deciding that victims of domestic abuse and gang violence generally will not qualify for asylum under federal law. (Unlike the federal courts established under Article III of the Constitution, the immigration court system is part of the Justice Department.)

For critics, including former immigration judges, the unilateral decision undoes decades of carefully deliberated legal progress. For gender studies experts, such as Musalo, the move “basically throws us back to the Dark Ages, when we didn’t recognize that women’s rights were human rights.”

“If we say in the year 2018 that a woman has been beaten almost to death in a country that accepts that as almost the norm, and that we as a civilized society can deny her protection and send her to her death?” Musalo said. “I don’t see this as just an immigration issue … I see this as a women’s rights issue.”

Sessions’s decision reversed a 2016 ruling by the Justice Department’s Board of Immigration Appeals, the body responsible for interpreting U.S. asylum law, granting asylum to a Salvadoran woman who said she was abused by her husband. Musalo is co-counsel in the case.

Sessions’s reasoning hinged on the argument that domestic violence victims generally are not persecuted as members of a “particular social group,” according to his ruling. Under federal law, asylum applicants must show that either “race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion … was or will be at least one central reason” for their persecution.

In the precedent-setting Cifuentes case, the Board of Immigration Appeals held that an applicant can qualify for asylum as a member of a particular social group of “married women in Guatemala who are unable to leave their relationship.” To support its ruling, the board noted that Guatemala has a culture of “machismo and family violence.” Spousal rape is common and local police often fail to enforce domestic violence laws.

Sessions rejected that reasoning. “When private actors inflict violence based on a personal relationship with a victim,” Sessions wrote, “then the victim’s membership in a larger group may well not be ‘one central reason’ for the abuse.”

“The prototypical refugee flees her home country because the government has persecuted her,” Sessions wrote. “An alien may suffer threats and violence in a foreign country for any number of reasons relating to her social, economic, family, or other personal circumstances. Yet the asylum statute does not provide redress for all misfortune.”

As Kara Lynum, an immigration lawyer in Minnesota, tweeted, “Sessions thinks these women aren’t eligible for asylum because their husbands are only violent to them — not all women.”

A group of 15 retired immigration judges and former members of the Board of Immigration Appeals wrote a letter in response to Sessions’s decision, calling it an “affront to the rule of law.”

The Cifuentes case, they wrote, “was the culmination of a 15 year process” through the immigration courts and Board of Immigration Appeals. The issue was certified by three attorneys general, one Democrat and two Republican. The private bar and law enforcement agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, agreed with the final determination, the former judges wrote. The decision was also supported by asylum protections under international refugee treaties, they said.

“For reasons understood only by himself, the Attorney General today erased an important legal development that was universally agreed to be correct,” the former judges wrote.

Courts and attorneys general have debated the definition of a “particular social group” since the mid-1990s, according to Musalo.

“It took the refugee area a while to catch up with the human rights area of law,” Musalo said.

A series of cases led up to the Cifuentes decision. In 1996, the Board of Immigration Appeals established that women fleeing gender-based persecution could be eligible for asylum in the United States. The case, known as Matter of Kasinga, centered on a teenager who fled her home in Togo to escape female genital cutting and a forced polygamous marriage. Musalo was lead attorney in the case, which held that fear of female genital cutting could be used as a basis for asylum.

“Fundamentally the principle was the same,” as the one at stake in Sessions’s ruling, Musalo said. Female genital cutting, like domestic violence in the broader sense, generally takes place in the “private” sphere, inflicted behind closed doors by relatives of victims.

Musalo also represented Rody Alvarado, a Guatemalan woman who fled extreme domestic abuse and, in 2009, won an important asylum case after a 14-year legal fight. Her victory broke ground for other women seeking asylum on the basis of domestic violence.

Then, after years of incremental decisions, the Board of Immigration Appeals published its first precedent-setting opinion in the 2014 Cifuentes case, known as Matter of A-R-C-G.

“I actually thought that finally we had made some progress,” Musalo said. Although the impact wasn’t quite as pronounced as many experts had hoped, it was a step for women fleeing gender-based violence in Latin America and other parts of the world.

Now, Musalo says, Sessions is trying to undo all that and is doing so at a particularly monumental time for gender equality in the United States and worldwide.

“We’ve gone too far in society with the MeToo movement and all of the other advances in women’s rights to accept this principle,” Musalo said.

“It shows that there are these deeply entrenched attitudes toward gender and gender equality,” she added. “There are always those forces that are sort of the dying gasp of wanting to hold on to the way things were.”

Sessions assigned the 2016 case to himself under his power as attorney general and said the move will help reduce the growing backlog of 700,000 court cases.

He concluded his ruling by saying he does not intend to “minimize the vile abuse” that the Salvadoran woman suffered or the “harrowing experiences of many other victims of domestic violence around the world.” But the “asylum statute is not a general hardship statute,” Sessions wrote.

Relatively few refugees are granted asylum annually. In 2016, for example, nearly 62 percent of applicants were denied asylum, according to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.

Paul Wickham Schmidt, a retired immigration judge and former chairman of the Board of Immigration Appeals, wrote on his blog that Sessions sought to encourage immigration judges to “just find a way to say no as quickly as possible.” (Schmidt authored the decision in the Kasinga case extending asylum protection to victims of female genital mutilation.)

Sessions’s ruling is “likely to speed up the ‘deportation railway,’ ” Schmidt wrote. But it will also encourage immigration judges to “cut corners, and avoid having to analyze the entire case,” he argued.

“Sessions is likely to end up with sloppy work and lots of Circuit Court remands for ‘do overs,’ ” Schmidt wrote. “At a minimum, that’s going to add to the already out of control Immigration Court backlog.”

By Samantha Schmidt/WAPO

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Russia’s Putin and Israel’s Netanyahu negotiate . . . about what?

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Russia's Putin and Israel's Netanyahu negotiate . . . about what?

“Russia has friendly relations with Israel, and more than a million Russian Jews emigrated to Israel, but Iran is a strategic ally of Russia.”

Last week major state and corporate news outlets reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had met and agreed on removing Iranian troops from Syria and/or Iran’s border with Syria. Then, on June 3rd, Haaretz and other outlets reported that Israel had, for the first time, participated in a NATO “exercise” near the Russian border. I spoke to Rick Sterling, an investigative journalist specializing in Syria, about what could be behind these reports.

Ann Garrison: I’d like to go through some of these disparate reports about Russia and Israel one by one, but first, what do you think of Israel’s first ever participation in NATO war games near the Russian border?

Rick Sterling: The head of NATO recently confirmed that NATO would NOT get into a war involving Israel because Israel is not a NATO member. But Israel is a “partner,” and in 2014 the US Congress designated Israel as a “major strategic partner.” So I think Israel may be participating in the war maneuvers to demonstrate that it’s a good partner. Of course, Russia sees the NATO military exercises on its border as provocative. They are countering with their own military exercises, so it’s just a continuation in the wrong direction away from peace and mutual acceptance.

AG: OK, now to these reports about negotiations between Russia and Israel. Just before the news that Israel had participated in NATO war games near Russia, Bloomberg News reported that Israel was campaigning to break the alliance between Iran and Russia. What do you think of that?

RS: It’s certainly true that Israel is playing the diplomatic game and trying to drive a wedge between Russia and Iran, but the stories are highly exaggerated. They contain both contradictory information and outright disinformation. Russia has friendly relations with Israel, and more than a million Russian Jews emigrated to Israel. But Iran is a strategic ally of Russia.

AG: On June 2nd, the Times of Israel reported that Israel denies inking a deal with Russia on Iranian withdrawal from Syria. What about that?

RS:Well, I haven’t seen any written deal. So what we’re going on are media reports, which are spun in different directions. So, number one, I don’t know if there was a written agreement. Number two, it’s certainly the case that Israel is not only saying that they don’t want Iranian militia or advisors anywhere near the border with the Israeli occupied Golan Heights, but also that they want them all out of Syria.

“Israel exaggerates the Iranian involvement in Syria for its own purposes.”

Russia and Syria may have agreed to relocate some of the Iranian advisors or Iranian militias away from the Golan Heights border. There were reports that some of those forces were headed out to eastern Syria to do combat there against ISIS, which continues to hold an important area. But even if Israel is trying to insist that no Iranian advisors or militia be in Syria, I can’t see Syria or any sovereign state agreeing to such a demand. Israel exaggerates the Iranian involvement in Syria for its own purposes.

AG: Asharq Al-Aswat reported, also on June 2nd, that Russia and Israel had agreed to keep Iran away from Syria’s South.

RS: Asharq Al-Aswat is a Saudi-owned newspaper coming out of London, so the Saudi influence and heavy anti-Iran bias is evident. The one element of this story that may be true is that the US may actually be uncomfortable with any agreement regarding the US forces that control the area around Al Tanf, a Syrian border area with Iraq. That’s the main highway from Baghdad to Damascus, and it’s currently controlled by US military and various armed militants—including former ISIS fighters—who are trained and controlled by the US. The US doesn’t want to give that up, but the Syrian foreign minister is not mincing his words. He’s saying that all the US forces must leave Syria eventually, and specifically that they should leave that area at the Syria-Iraq border soon.

Al Tanf and the highway between Iraq and Syria is a flashpoint. The US has no right to be there but seems to be digging in while Syria is getting increasingly adamant that they must leave. Things may come to a head there.

AG: Al Monitor says that Russia is “trying a new playbook to calm the escalation between Israel and Iran.” How about that?

RS: I think that’s true. What we’ve seen emerge in the last several years is that the diplomat in the room is Russia. If you look at what’s going on there, the Russian diplomacy is quite impressive and at times quite surprising. Six or eight months ago, the Saudi monarch flew to Moscow for the very first time. Russia brought Iran and Turkey together at the Astana talks, and Russia is trying to soothe the tension and danger of conflict between Israel and Iran. So that story is probably accurate.

AG: Have you seen any reports about negotiations between Russia and Israel on RT, Russia’s state- sponsored English outlet?

RS: I’ve seen some RT coverage, both stories and photographs. They certainly don’t put the spin on it that some of the Western and Israeli media do.

The fundamental fact is that Russia doesn’t want to go to war with the US. They realize how dangerous the situation in Syria currently is. They are not going to give up their long-term alliance with Syria, but at the same time, they’re doing everything they can to cool things down and avoid a head-on conflict.

AG: OK, so we’ve gone through just a sample of the wildly disparate reports and commentary about this, but after reading a lot of it, I had the feeling that this is headed toward the Balkanization of Syria, which has been much discussed for a long time. What are your thoughts about that?

RS: Well, that’s the reality on the ground right now. Turkey is occupying part of the north. Israel and Israeli-supported terrorists are occupying part of the south. The US and the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) control big swathes of eastern Syria. So Balkanization is already the informal reality on the ground.

In early 2016, John Kerry called it “plan B,” dividing up Syria and partitioning it. He didn’t say it quite that explicitly, but he was clearly suggesting that that’s where things were headed. Now, in opposition to that, you’ve got the Syrian government saying that it will not allow partition and that the US has to leave Syria. Both Assad and the Syrian foreign minister are saying that increasingly forcefully. So we’ll have to see. At the same time it’s dangerous because there’s also threatening talk coming from the United States.

“John Kerry called it “plan B,” dividing up Syria and partitioning it.”

The US, Turkey, and Israel are, of course, violating international law codified in the UN Charter by their military presence in Syria, but the Syrian government seems to be taking things step by step with the support of Russia and Iran. Hopefully, progress can be made and the conflict can be wound down. That would certainly be to the benefit of all Americans as well as Syrians and other peoples of the Middle East.

AG: Do you think that Russia is opposed to Balkanization?

RS: Oh, absolutely. They’re opposed to it. They saw what happened with the war in Yugoslavia and the split, the separation into smaller, weaker states.

Russia also has its own experience with Western and Saudi-funded terrorism. If you look at a map, Syria is not that far from Russia, so of course they are very concerned with the situation there. They have a big stake in seeing the conflict wind down and a peaceful resolution, remote as that may seem. They’re taking the lead in helping to resolve it and working toward reconciliation, which is going to require concessions on the part of Damascus. Russia has explicitly talked about an internationally supervised election in Syria, and hopefully that’s where things will end rather than in World War III.

The question is whether the US and its allies, especially Israel and Saudi Arabia, will give up their goal of “regime change” in Syria. Or will they continue to finance and arm the opposition to further bleed Syria and its allies? The US and allies are prolonging the conflict behind a pretense of humanitarian concern. Meanwhile they ignore obvious travesties such as the Israeli killings at the Gaza border.

AG: And just one more point of clarification regarding the presence of Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah in Syria. Their presence is legal, according to international law, because they’re there at the request of the Syrian government. Right?

RS: Yes, that’s correct. Russia, Iran, and Lebanon’s Hezbollah are in Syria supporting Syrian sovereignty. The Iranian presence in the West tends to be wildly exaggerated, but they do have militia there. They also have advisors, and they’ve lent economic support to Syria. Both Lebanon and Iran know that their own governments are at risk there.

Of course, it was General Wesley Clark who said, back in 2007, that the US had a hit list of seven countries, and we’ve already seen several of them overthrown. Lebanon and Iran know they’re on that list. I’m sure they all realize that if the Syrian state is destroyed, if the government there is toppled and chaos reigns as it does in Libya, they’ll be the next targets. So they’re there for their own sake and for regional stability, not just to support their ally Syria.

By Ann Garrison/BAR

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Why Aren’t Liberals Celebrating Higher Gas Prices? It’s What They Want Democrats have spent the past two decades advocating for policies that artificially spike fossil fuel prices.

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With consumer confidence at a 17-year high and economic prospects looking relatively strong, congressional Democrats have taken to grousing about the gas pump as a midterm strategy. “These higher oil prices are translating directly to soaring gas prices,” declared Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, “something we know disproportionately hurts middle- and lower-income people.”

If this is true, then why have Democrats spent the past two decades advocating for policies that artificially spike fossil fuel prices? If higher energy costs hurt Americans—and thank you, senator, for conceding this point—why have liberals favored increasing gas taxes, inhibiting exploration for fossil fuels (including a ban on fracking for less environmentally damaging gas in a number of places), and capping imports? If higher gas prices disproportionately impact the working class and poor, then why do Democrats push for national schemes designed to create false demand through a fabricated marketplace?

Not a single reporter asked the Democrats who were performing at a press conference in front of an Exxon filling station the other day if higher gas prices might incentivize Americans to switch to subsidized “alternative” energy sources—even though this happens to be the prevailing theory driving much of their energy policy. Shouldn’t Democrats be celebrating the fact that fewer Americans were driving on Memorial Day? I thought we were facing an apocalyptic situation here.

Schumer conveniently blamed the United States’ exiting of the Iran nuclear deal for the spike—an agreement he supposedly opposed. Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz, a self-styled “climate hawk,” claimed, “There’s a straight line between Trump’s policies and the price of gasoline.” We can only now assume he believes the prevalence of cheap fossil fuels is imperative in the effort to alleviate poverty and create wealth. I concur. But don’t worry about Iran, senator; there’s plenty of oil elsewhere.

Politico maintains that Democrats have stolen a page from the “GOP playbook to attack Trump,” which is true, though the difference is that Republicans generally support proposals that make gas more affordable. The Obama administration, for example, benefited greatly from a recalcitrant GOP Congress’s committed obstruction of an untold number of terrible initiatives. We should recall that the energy secretary openly wrestled with ways “to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe.” When Obama was asked in 2008 if the $4-a-gallon gas prices at the time were beneficial for the American economy, the presidential candidate prevaricated, saying, “I think that I would have preferred a gradual adjustment.”

What is the gradual adjustment Democrats prefer today? A slow and steady move to $7? Right now U.S. gas prices are only a fraction of those in European nations, and yet Democrats acted as if Trump had triggered Armageddon when he decided to leave the Paris climate agreement. Do you want us to follow Norway’s lead or not?

Democrats had opposed the opening of pipeline projects, of new drilling, and allowed the Environmental Protection Agency to transform from a regulatory agency that was protecting the environment to a place where the administration could implement backdoor legislation that American voters had rejected. If Democrats hadn’t lost power in 2010, we might be living with those $4 per gallon prices today.

To understand how this policy manifests, just look at California, where gas prices are consistently among the highest in the nation—despite the fact that there are no constraining geographic or economic impediments to cheap energy. Last year, the legislature pushed through another gas tax (and an even larger one on diesel) and extra “fees” to help make one of the most regressive energy policies in the country even more onerous and expensive.

Now, obviously the entire spectacle is for show. Schumer says, “It’s time for the president to buck his oil executive buddies,” because lots of ignorant voters probably believe that the price of crude oil can be controlled by a few nefarious CEOs. The only question I have is: Why don’t these profit-mongering oligarchs keep prices high all the time?

Of course, in the real world, summertime typically brings a spike in prices—and despite Schumer’s forecast of “soaring gas prices,” prices are already dropping again. Given the fungibility of commodities and the track record of the Middle East, we’ll likely always have to deal with some painful fluctuations in the price of energy, regardless of what we do at home. But relying on market forces has, by every conceivable measurement, had a better track record than price controls.

So while Democrats have learned to be less open with their intentions, the policies speak for themselves. What do they plan on doing about oil prices when they win the election? Yell at some executives? Why doesn’t anyone with access ask these concerned senators if they believe cheap fossil fuels is preferable? Or do they still support policies that spike energy prices on purpose?

By David Harsanyi/Reason

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Art of the Dealbreaker: Trump’s Cancellation of the Summit with Kim

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Photo by Matt Brown | CC BY 2.0

Donald Trump writes Kim Jong Un that “based on the tremendous anger and open hostility expressed in your recent statement” he must cancel the planned Singapore summit.
The “recent statement” appears to be one from Choe Son Hui, North Korea’s vice minister of foreign affairs and nuclear negotiator (full text below). It was issued after Vice President Mike Pence told Fox News that North Korea could end up like Libya if it fails to make a nuclear deal with Washington.
This was a very stupid, provocative thing to say. Muammar Gaddafy gave up his small nuke program in 2003 but was overthrown by a NATO campaign in 2011 that destroyed his country and resulted in his brutal murder. The historical lesson is not: give up your nuclear program or weapons or get sodomized by a bayonet as you die (Gadaffy’s fate, which as you know Hillary Clinton found hilarious), but rather, give up your weapons and enjoy some respite from sanctions and normalized relations, etc., but eight years later face fire and fury, all the more vulnerable due to your earlier foolish capitulation.
Pence had declared: “There was some talk about the Libyan model last week, and you know, as the President made clear, this will only end like the Libyan model ended if Kim Jong Un doesn’t make a deal.” Asked if this could be interpreted as a threat, he replied, “Well, I think it’s more of a fact.” (This is after the odious National Security Advisor John Bolton had also compared U.S. intentions to those in Libya that resulted in the overthrow and murder of Gaddafi.)
Choe replied: “Vice President Pence has made unbridled and impudent remarks that North Korea might end like Libya, military option for North Korea never came off the table, the US needs complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization, and so on. As a person involved in the US affairs, I cannot suppress my surprise at such ignorant and stupid remarks gushing out from the mouth of the US vice president.”
Trump who calls people all kinds of insulting names all the time finds this unacceptable? Reason to cancel the meeting?
“In view of the remarks of the US high-ranking politicians who have not yet woken up to this stark reality and compare the DPRK to Libya that met a tragic fate, I come to think that they know too little about us. To borrow their words, we can also make the US taste an appalling tragedy it has neither experienced nor even imagined up to now. Before making such reckless threatening remarks without knowing exactly who he is facing, Pence should have seriously considered the terrible consequences of his words… Whether the US will meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown is entirely dependent upon the decision and behavior of the United States. In case the US offends against our goodwill and clings to unlawful and outrageous acts, I will put forward a suggestion to our supreme leadership for reconsidering the DPRK-US summit.”
Trump tells Kim, “If you change your mind about this important summit” be in touch. As though Kim was the one who had cancelled and changed his mind. There were some reports (maybe disinformation) about Kim’s concern that a coup might occur while he was out of the country, but other affirming the DPRK’s commitment to the Singapore date. It’s possible there’s been some coordination on postponement and Trump uses the easy excuse of being offended by the Koreans’ typically vituperative language.
Whether this is a temporary setback or the collapse of diplomatic efforts, Trump looks bad in this situation. He seems petulant and hypocritical. Yes the North Korean statement by a high-ranking woman in the Foreign Ministry is defiant, but many Koreans are like Trump in that when attacked rhetorically, they counterattack rhetorically. In this case the insulting language was intended to echo Trump’s language vis-a-vis the DPRK.
“To borrow their words, we can also make the US taste an appalling tragedy it has neither experienced nor even imagined up to now.” But this as she notes merely echoes Trump’s rhetoric at the United Nations when he warned that the U.S. would “totally destroy” North Korea if it didn’t denuclearize.
I sense this decision will meet with general disappointment throughout the world, and Trump not Kim will be blamed. People associate Trump himself with anger and hostility and will wonder why he’s made a big deal out of a Foreign Ministry statement (quite appropriately!) protesting the repeated references by top U.S. officials to the Libyan model. It will join the Paris Accord pullout, Iran deal pullout, and move of the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, as examples of Trump’s irrationality and indications that the U.S. has lost its way in the world.
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Full text of Choi Son Hui’s statement:
At an interview at Fox News on May 21, US Vice-President Pence made unbridled and impudent remarks that North Korea might end like Libya, military option for North Korea never came off the table, the US needs complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation, and so on.
As a person involved in the US affairs, I cannot suppress my surprise at such ignorant and stupid remarks gushing out from the mouth of the US vice-president.
If he is vice-president of “single superpower” as is in name, it will be proper for him to know even a little bit about the current state of global affairs and to sense to a certain degree the trends in dialogue and the climate of détente.
We could surmise more than enough what a political dummy he is as he is trying to compare the DPRK, a nuclear weapon state, to Libya that had simply installed a few items of equipment and fiddled around with them.
Soon after the White House National Security Adviser Bolton made the reckless remarks, Vice-President Pence has again spat out nonsense that the DPRK would follow in Libya’s footstep.
It is to be underlined, however, that in order not to follow in Libya’s footstep, we paid a heavy price to build up our powerful and reliable strength that can defend ourselves and safeguard peace and security in the Korean peninsula and the region.
In view of the remarks of the US high-ranking politicians who have not yet woken up to this stark reality and compare the DPRK to Libya that met a tragic fate, I come to think that they know too little about us.
To borrow their words, we can also make the US taste an appalling tragedy it has neither experienced nor even imagined up to now.
Before making such reckless threatening remarks without knowing exactly who he is facing, Pence should have seriously considered the terrible consequences of his words.
It is the US who has asked for dialogue, but now it is misleading the public opinion as if we have invited them to sit with us.
I only wonder what is the ulterior motive behind its move and what is it the US has calculated to gain from that.
We will neither beg the US for dialogue nor take the trouble to persuade them if they do not want to sit together with us.
Whether the US will meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown is entirely dependent upon the decision and behavior of the United States.
In case the US offends against our goodwill and clings to unlawful and outrageous acts, I will put forward a suggestion to our supreme leadership for reconsidering the DPRK-US summit.

by Gary Leupp/counterpunch

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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