Monday, January 8, 2018

Today's Links

1--The removal of Trump through the methods of scandal-mongering and conspiracy would contribute nothing to the political education and mobilization of the working class. On the contrary, the efforts of the Democrats and their media supporters are aimed at blocking any independent movement from below that would threaten not only the Trump administration, but the corporate-controlled two-party structure and the capitalist system as a whole.

The furor over the Wolff book is a continuation and extension of the efforts of the Democratic Party, backed by much of the media, to engineer Trump’s removal through the methods of Washington intrigue and scandal-mongering. The charges of mental “unfitness” supplement the ongoing campaign around the investigation headed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 elections.

Given the political configuration in the House and Senate, Trump’s Democratic opponents think it unlikely they can impeach him. They have increasingly focused on an alternate pathway, the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, which allows the vice president and a majority of the cabinet to remove a president deemed by them to be incapable of fulfilling his duties for reasons of health, including mental health.
In an appearance Sunday on the NBC News program “Meet the Press,” Wolff made clear the political purpose of his book, claiming that the 25th Amendment to the Constitution was the stuff of daily discussions within the Trump White House, with top aides commenting on whether a particular statement or action by the president would put them in “25th Amendment territory.”
There is not the slightest progressive or democratic content to this campaign to remove Donald Trump from the presidency on the grounds of alleged mental incapacity. It is only the latest attempt by the ruling class opponents of Trump to hijack the growing popular opposition to the right-wing policies of his administration and divert it into safe channels.

The Democrats avoid raising issues that would have popular resonance and appeal in any way to the growth of opposition to war, domestic repression and social inequality. They would like to orchestrate Trump’s removal by the methods of a palace coup, without the intervention of American working people

The ruling class opposition to Trump centers on issues of foreign policy, in particular, objections to any lessening of the ferocious anti-Russian stance adopted under Clinton and Obama. This is joined with a deeper concern that the president’s erratic and provocative conduct is undermining the world position of US imperialism and making it more difficult for him to rally public support in the event of war or a major social crisis at home.
Hence the character of the criticisms directed at Trump by the Democrats, from the anti-Russia campaign, to the allegations of sexual harassment, to the current furor over Trump’s alleged mental incapacity. All are aimed at undercutting Trump’s support within the state, the political establishment and Wall Street. None are aimed at winning support from working people.

The Democrats have made preparations to call demonstrations across the country in the event Trump fires Russia investigator Mueller. They made no such calls to mobilize against the passage of Trump’s massively unpopular tax bonanza for the corporations and the wealthy. Nor have they made any appeal to popular opposition to his travel ban against Muslims and refugees, his persecution of immigrants, his cozying up to the fascist alt-right or his threats of nuclear war in Korea.
While Trump is portrayed as an evil interloper, his policies of militarism, tax cuts for the wealthy and austerity for workers only continue and intensify the program of the American financial aristocracy, prosecuted by Democratic and Republican presidents over the past four decades

Economic inequality has reached the point where three US billionaires own more wealth than the poorest 60 percent of the American population. The living standards of the great majority of working people have stagnated or declined for more than 40 years. American youth have grown up under conditions of endless imperialist wars abroad and deteriorating social conditions at home. There is mass disaffection with both capitalist parties, neither of which offers the slightest prospect of progressive change.

3--Semi-colonial bondage? Iran: Anti-government protests abate in face of mass repression

A key aim of the anti-working class austerity policies of the current Iranian government led by President Hassan Rouhani is to woo European and ultimately US investment. Since coming to power in August 2013, the Rouhani administration has accelerated privatization and slashed social spending, while rewriting the rules governing investment in the oil sector to satisfy Total, Shell, Eni, and other European energy giants.
The government’s proposed budget for next year would cut $5.3 billion in income support for poorer Iranians, raise gasoline (petrol) prices by as much as 50 percent, expand privatization of education and cut infrastructure spending by $3.1 billion. This in a country where, according to a report published in the IRGC’s own political organ, Sobhe Sadeq, 50 percent of the people live below the poverty line.
A study conducted by BBC Persian found Iranians are 15 percent poorer than they were a decade ago. The consumption of bread, milk and red meat has dropped by 30 to 50 percent, as growing numbers of families can no longer afford them. Meanwhile, as around the world, the income and wealth chasm between the richest 1 and 10 percent of Iranians and the rest of the population has widened...

The Islamic Republic was consolidated though the derailing of the mass anti-imperialist movement that overthrew the blood-soaked, US-sponsored regime of the Shah in 1979. After executing a few exemplars of the Shah’s tyrannical rule, the Ayatollah Khomeini and his supporters concentrated their energies on defusing the threat from the working class of socialist revolution. While some social concessions were made, this operation principally and increasingly took the form of savage suppression of all socialist and left parties and of the workers’ councils that had emerged in the many worker-occupied factories.

The Iranian regime responded to the protests, which were driven by anger over food-price increases, mass joblessness, pervasive social inequality and years of government austerity, with repression. Over 20 people were killed and hundreds more arrested in the crackdown by police and security forces.
The government has justified the security crackdown with spurious claims US imperialism and its allies fomented and manipulated the unrest....

The efforts of the billionaire would-be despot Trump to cast himself as a friend of the Iranian people would be risible were the US demonization of the Islamic Republic not bound up with its predatory war plans against Iran. Not only has Trump moved to blow up the Iran civil nuclear deal with the world’s major powers, the recently released US National Security Strategy places Iran on a par with North Korea as a “threat” to American dominance that must be countered and vanquished.

Trump’s self-righteous claims to defend the right to protest in Iran are sheer hypocrisy. There is no greater violator of human rights on the planet than the United States. Trump himself is the most deeply anti-democratic and authoritarian figure ever to assume the US presidency.
Even as he was bloviating about democratic rights, his government was carrying out a political trial against peaceful protesters in a brazen attack on the freedom of speech and assembly guaranteed by the US Constitution. The first act of his administration was to collaborate in a police crackdown and launch a legal witch-hunt against people who protested his inauguration on January 20 of last year. The “Disrupt J20” protests were legitimate, democratic expressions of opposition to Trump’s pro-corporate, xenophobic and war-mongering policies.
Washington DC police “kettled” protesters, employed indiscriminate violence and arrested hundreds. They fired on the crowd with chemical agents, pepper spray, rubber bullets and crowd control grenades. Protesters claim the police sexually assaulted detainees. An American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit currently underway against the DC police alleges that officers knocked a ten-year-old boy to the ground and pepper-sprayed his mother.
A document obtained by Democracy In Crisis and The Real News Network through a Freedom of Information Act request shows that police deployed weapons on at least 191 occasions over the course of the day. Police fired 74 sting ball grenades, a type of “non-lethal” explosive that ejects rubber balls in a radius surrounding the device's point of impact. A total of 230 people were arrested.
The police crackdown occurred under the purview of the outgoing Obama administration, and the new Trump administration wasted no time attempting to make an example of the protesters. Prosecutors initially charged 214 of the arrested with “felony rioting,” a charge that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. In April, a grand jury issued additional charges...

This case, made by the prosecution with Trump’s blessing, stands in direct violation of the First Amendment of the US Constitution, which prohibits “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The government’s case is also in violation of international law. The concept of collective punishment is characterized as a war crime under the 1949 Geneva Convention.
The first round of trials underscored the alliance of the police with fascistic elements. The prosecution presented doctored video footage from known far-right extremist groups such as Project Veritas and the Oath Keepers militia. It also has become clear that police infiltrators attended Disrupt J20 meetings prior to the day of the protest. Investigators have since begun spying on social media accounts of individuals who “liked,” interacted with, or even visited the Disrupt J20 Facebook page....

From the outset of his administration, Trump has time and time again expressed his utter contempt for the right to freedom of expression. He has on numerous occasions threatened to ban individual reporters and even entire news organizations that published material presenting him in an unfavorable light. Last September, he called on the National Football League to fire any “son of a bitch” who kneeled in protest of police violence and racism during the pledge of allegiance.
In July of last year, Trump told police and immigration agents in Long Island, New York that he loved watching criminal suspects “get thrown into the back of a paddy wagon.” He urged them to rough up people being detained, saying, “Please don’t be too nice.”

5--Watch Oprah Winfrey’s Powerful Lifetime Achievement Award Acceptance Speech at Golden Globes

Would Oprah be as eager to sit with Kaepernick during the National Anthem as she is to stand with Hollywood's richest moguls and superstars?

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