Archive for the ‘Abuse of Power’ Category

Biden’s new Disinformation Governance Board

May 3, 2022

The Biden Administration has created a Disinformation Governance Board, whose mission is to monitor political speech in the United States.

“Disinformation” is covert intelligence jargon for propaganda (not necessarily false) that helps the enemy.  So the board’s name in a way is even more ominous that if it were called a Ministry of Truth, because the criterion is not truth or falsehood, but who benefits from the message.

This is a good idea only if you trust others to decide in advance what you should be allowed to hear about and read about.

Meanwhile self-described liberals are panicking because they fear Elon Musk may restore traditional free speech standards to Twitter.  If only!

LINKS

Homeland Security’s Disinformation Board Is Even More Pernicious Than It Seems by Glenn Greenwald.  [Added 05/05/2022]

Video of Nina Jankowicz, the head of the new Disinformation Governance Board.

Disinformation Governance Board to tackle spread of misinformation in U.S., focusing on Russia and U.S.-Mexican border by Caitlin O’Kane for CBS News.

The Sweet Sound of Censorship: the Biden Administration Seeks the Perfect Pitch for Disinformation Governance by Jonathan Turley.

Oh, God, It’s Going to Get So Much Worse by Caitlin Johnstone.

Paypal’s IndyMedia Wipeout by Matt Taibbi on TK News.

Twitter accepts Elon Musk’s $44B acquisition offer by Ingrid Lundgren and Taylor Hatmaker for TechCrunch.

Twitter’s Chickens Come Home to Roost by Matt Taibbi on TK News.

Savor the Great Musk Panic by Matt Taibbi on TK News.

Elon Musk Isn’t a Threat to Society’s Health | All Billionaires Are by Jonathan Cook for Mint Press News.

An Intellectual No-Fly Zone: Online Censorship of Ukraine Dissent Is Becoming the New Norm by Alan MacLeod for Mint Press News.

Former Intelligence Officials, Citing Russia, Say Big Tech Monopoly Power Is Vital to National Security by Glenn Greenwald.

American Commissars by Chris Hedges for The Chris Hedges Report.

Life and death in Ukraine under Nazi rule

April 26, 2022

HARVEST OF DESPAIR: Life and Death in Ukraine Under Nazi Rule by Karel C. Berkhoff (2004)

Ukraine was the scene of two of the most murderous episodes of 20th century history.

The first was the Holodomor, which was the systematic starvation of Ukrainian and other peasants by Joseph Stalin in 1929-1933 as part of the drive to collectivize agriculture, combined with the suppression of Ukrainian culture.  Nobody knows for sure how many people died as a result, but the consensus is that they numbered more than 3 million.  Robert Conquest’s Harvest of Sorrow documents this event in its full horror.

The second was the Nazi occupation of Ukraine in 1941-1944.  The Nazis’ immediate objective in Ukraine was to use it as a breadbasket to feed the German army and people.  Its long-range objective was to depopulate Ukraine, by means of starvation and killing, so as to open it up for German pioneer settlers, with only a remnant of the Ukrainian people left to serve as slaves of the occupiers.

That story is told in Karel C. Berkhoff’s Harvest of Despair,  a history of Reichskommissariat Ukraine, the short-lived colony the Nazis set up on Ukrainian soil.

Berkhoff’s best estimate is that one million civilians and prisoners of war were deliberately killed or starved to death by the Nazi occupiers of Ukraine.

The dead mainly included (1) Jews and Roma (gypsies), (2) prisoners of war, (3) urban populations the Nazis deemed useless and (4) people killed during the German retreat in 1944 as part of a scorched earth policy.

Of course these killings are a small part of what would have happened if Nazi rule had become permanent.

I had a notion that this book would provide an explanation of present-day Ukrainians’ admiration for the Nazi-like Stepan Bandera.  My idea was that Ukrainians’ hatred for Russians arose during the Holodomor and was the reason for their admiration for Bandera, a nationalist who thought he could use the Nazis to create an independent Ukrainian state.

Berkhoff’s book provides no support whatsoever for my notion.  He said the basic attitudes of Ukrainians, despite their great suffering, were unchanged during the period he wrote about.

Ukrainians were so demoralized by Soviet rule that most of them were incapable of organized resistance.  Stalin’s rule had created a culture of mistrust and denunciation.  Anybody could denounce anybody else for what they allegedly said or did.   You could not trust anyone outside your immediate family or your closest friends.  This universal suspicion continued under Nazi rule.

Ukrainians during this period did not hate Russians, but regarded them as fellow victims of Soviets and Nazis, Berkhoff wrote.  When they spoke of “our people,” they meant both Ukrainians and Russians.

(more…)

Navalny in prison, but his work goes on

April 21, 2022

Alexei Navalny and his Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) team are among the best investigative reporters of our time.

They have documented the extreme corruption of Russian politicians and oligarchs, which goes beyond anything I would have imagined. The one on Vladimir Putin’s billion-dollar palace, financed through graft, is just one example.

It is no wonder that Putin fears Navalny, and has railroaded him into prison on trumped-up charges.  

Russians are among the poorest people in Europe, the Russian government is among the most corrupt, and the gap between rich and poor is one of the highest of any advanced nation.

There is nothing more potentially explosive that showing the struggling Russian common people the extreme wealth and luxury in which their rulers live.

Of course rankings change year-by-year, and Ukraine also has extremes of poverty, corruption and inequality.  The point is that such conditions may become intolerable when Russians are asked to make more sacrifices for the sake of winning a war of choice led by their government.

Navalny started the FBK in 2011.  In 2013, he was indicted and convicted of embezzlement from his own foundation and given a suspended sentence.  Most human rights organizations regard the changes as bogus.

In 2020, he was poisoned and received treatment in Germany.  The FBK produced a documentary showing the Russian government was behind the poisoning.  He returned to Russia in January, 2021, and was arrested for parole violation.  He was tried in March on additional charges of embezzlement and sentenced to nine years in prison.  He is appealing that sentence.

Meanwhile the FBK had been shut down and some of its workers arrested on charges of extremism.  But it is continuing to produce videos, most of them with English subtitles, evidently from outside Russia.  The independent Meduza news service has relocated to Latvia and The Moscow Times to the Netherlands.

I worked on newspapers for 24 years, and I especially enjoy FBK videos as great examples of investigative reporting—the ingenuity with which the investigators track down the facts, their professionalism in document the facts, and the clarity and wit with which they present the facts.

(more…)

Julian Assange got married

March 25, 2022

Julian Assange got married in prison Wednesday. His friend Craig Murray wrote a moving account of it. I take the liberty of copying the highlights.

It was a cheap, white, trestle table, its thin top slightly bowed down in the middle, of the type made of a weetabix of sawdust and glue with a sheet of plastic glued on top and plastic strips glued to the sides, held up on four narrow, tubular, black metal legs. On it was a register. In front of it stood Stella Moris, looking beautiful and serene with delight. She wore a stunning gown in a light lilac, designed for her by Vivienne Westwood. It had a mild satin shimmer, and appeared both sumptuous and tightly tailored, with an expansively lapeled jacket section diving in to a wasp waist, that the apparently soft billows never intruded upon, no matter how she moved. 

Stella Moris

Close up, the details on the dress were extraordinary. The cloisonne buttons were uniquely designed and commissioned by Vivienne for this gown, and she had herself embroidered a message of solidarity, love and support on one panel. The long veil was hand embroidered, with bright multicoloured words striding across the gauze. These were words chosen by Julian as descriptive of the Power of Love, and they were in the handwriting of close friends and family who were not able to be inside the jail, including Stella’s 91 year old father. I am proud to say one of those handwritings was mine, with the word “inexorable”. It really was embroidered on looking exactly as I wrote it, as witness the fact nobody could tell what it said. Julian’s chosen motif for the wedding was “free, enduring love”.

By Stella’s side stood Julian Assange, whom she described to me as “simply the love of my life”, resplendent in a kilt, shirt, tie, and waistcoat, again specially designed by Vivienne Westwood in a purple based tartan, and featuring hand embroidery, lacing and cloisonne buttons. Unlike Stella’s dress, which she later showed us in detail, I have not seen the kilt but am told the design is relatively traditional.

There was a two minute delay at the start of the ceremony as Julian had no sporran, and his brother Gabriel, resplendent in full highland dress for the first time, removed his own sporran and put it on Julian. Both Julian and Gabriel are proud of their Scottish heritage, in each case through their respective mothers.

The British authorities had done everything they could firstly to prevent, and then to mess up, this wedding.  Permission to marry had first been formally requested of the prison service in 2020, and in the end was only granted by involving lawyers and threatening legal action.  There followed a whole list of antagonisms on which I shall not dwell, one minor example of which was banning me from the wedding and then lying about it.

But now, on the wedding day, the ordinary, working staff of the prison were delighted to be hosting such a happy event.  The searches of the bride were distinctly token and friendly.  At the security checks, Julian and Stella’s three year old son Max managed to tangle himself so comprehensively around the legs of one guard that he fell over, and the large guard and small boy then had a hilarious mock wrestle on the floor. The guards who conducted Stella through the jail did so as though they were the escort of a Queen.

(more…)

How the U.S. turned being in debt into power

March 22, 2022

SUPER IMPERIALISM: The Economic Strategy of American Empire by Michael Hudson (1972, 2003, 2021)

You’ve shown how the United States has run rings around Britain and every other empire-building nation in history.  We’ve pulled off the greatest rip-off ever achieved.  [==Herman Kahn to the author, in 1972]

The USA as a nation  consumes more than it produces, borrows more than it saves and imports more than it exports.

All the supposed laws of economics say that we should be bankrupt.  But instead we are the world’s dominant economic power.

Michael Hudson’s Super-Imperialism, written 50 years ago, explained how this came to be.  Almost everything he described is still in place today.

U.S. Treasury bonds have replaced gold as the world’s store of value.  The bonds don’t have to be repaid because they are treated as valuable in themselves.

Americans buy oil from Saudi Arabia or electronics from China, and pay for them with dollars.  The only thing of value these dollars represent is Treasury bonds.  So the dollars come back to the United States in the form of Treasury bond purchases, which makes it possible to sustain the twin deficits—the U.S. government budget deficit, and the trade deficit.

It is as if I could go to the grocery store or hardware store, pay for my purchases with IOUs and get the world to use the IOUs as if they were money without ever paying the IOUs off.

So as long as the world is willing to use the U.S. dollar as its basic currency, there is no upper limit on the United States ability to issue money to pay for its wars or bail out its failed businesses.

This has gone on for 50 years, and counting.  It stands to reason that it can’t go on forever.

∞∞∞ 

Hudson’s book is in three parts.

The first part, covering 1917 to 1946, shows how the United States used its position as the world’s leading creditor nation to undermine its economic rivals, especially the British Empire.

The middle part shows how the United States set up the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and other international economic institutions so as to lock in its dominance of the world financial structure..

The last part shows how the United States went from world’s leading creditor to world’s leading debtor, but in a kind of economic jiu-jitsu, leveraged its debtor status to maintain its economic supremacy.

There are brief epilogues bringing the story up to date, and an introduction that summarizes the main points of the book.  If you just read the introduction, you’ll understand the gist of the book.

(more…)

Why are Nazis acceptable in Ukraine?

March 4, 2022

Azov Battaltion insignia and Nazi symbols

One of Vladimir Putin’s demands is that Ukraine “de-Nazify.”

These days the word “Nazi” is often a general purpose insult with no specific meaning. except “very, very evil.” But there are Nazis in Ukraine, and they are the real thing.

I don’t want to exaggerate.  

Ukrainian neo-Nazis are few in number. Most estimates put hardo-core Nazis at less than 2 percent of the population.  The extreme nationalist Svoboda and Right Sector parties each received less than 2 percent of the vote in recent presidential elections.  

Volodymyr Zelensky, the current President of Ukraine, is Jewish, and he received more than 72 percent of the vote.  Most of the rest went to the incumbent.

On the other hand the neo-Nazi parties are part of the Ukraine’s governing coalition.  The Azov Battalion, whose members are openly neo-Nazi, is an important part of Ukraine’s fighting force.  The “Overton window”—the range of ideas that are acceptable to discuss—includes neo-Nazis.

To understand how this can be, you have to know about the Holodomor, also known as the Terror-Famine or Great Famine, imposed by Joseph Stalin on Ukraine from 1929 to 1933.  

It was one of the 20th century’s greatest crimes against humanity.  A United Nations report estimates it cost the lives of 3 million to 10 million Ukrainians.  It is officially recognized as genocide by Ukraine and 16  other countries.

Joseph Stalin forced millions in Ukraine and other parts of the Soviet Union to starve to death in order to force the peasants into collective farms and gain control of the food supply.  He also suppressed Ukrainian cultural institutions.

Most historians interpret this as the Soviet Communist Party preemptively destroying all potential sources of resistance to the regime, including farmers who owned their land and individuals loyal to non-Russian cultures.

But there are those who see the Holodomor as an attempt by “the Russians” to destroy the Ukrainian race.  I’ve come across this meme serval times over the years while doing Internet research.  And I’ve also come across the meme that it was an attempt by “the Jews” to destroy the Ukrainian race.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let’s first look at the Ukraine terror-famine in all its horror.

(more…)

Once Vladimir Putin was ‘our bastard’

March 1, 2022

Vladimir Putin, second from left, in 1999 as President Boris Yeltsin, right, left office. Source: Consortium News.

Franklin Roosevelt is said to have once remarked that Cuba’s dictator Fulgencio Bastista or the Dominican Republic’s Rafael Trujillo “may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.”

Matt Taibbi was in Russia during Putin’s rise to power. He wrote a great post about how Vladimir Putin was once regarded as “our bastard,” but then he became his own bastard.

Once, Putin’s KGB past, far from being seen as a negative, was viewed with relief by the American diplomatic community, which had been exhausted by the organizational incompetence of our vodka-soaked first partner, Boris Yeltsin.  Putin by contrast was “a man with whom we could do business,” a “liberal, humane, and decent European” of “alert, controlled poise” and “well-briefed acuity,” who was open to anything, even Russia joining NATO.  “I don’t see why not,” Putin said. “I would not rule out such a possibility.” [snip]

Putin didn’t start out as a revanchist.  He rose as a member of Our Team, a thief of his own accord but also a bagman to fake, wealth-extracting “democrats.” This began with [St. Petersburg Mayor Anatoly] Sobchak, the man the Washington Post mourned as a “reformist” and “intellectual” upon his 1996 loss.  

Westerners fawned over the former university professor like he was Vaclav Havel, beaming over his impassioned speeches denouncing the Soviet system, endlessly flattering his Jeffersonian contributions to Russian democracy (he is said to have been the primary author of the Russian Federation’s first constitution).  

Sobchak however ended up acquiring a reputation as an autocrat and was dogged by accusations that he’d privatized apartments into the hands of friends and relatives.  [snip]

It is true that Sobchak had powerful political enemies, and how trumped up or not some of these charges were remains in dispute. What’s not in dispute is that Putin’s aid in helping Sobchak escape prosecution proved to be his big break, as Boris Yeltsin somewhat incredibly admitted in the last of his “autobiographies,” Midnight Diaries.  As the New York Times later put it, “Mr. Putin’s star rose in Mr. Yeltsin’s eyes… because he was willing to circumvent the law when his mentor, the former St. Petersburg mayor, Anatoly Sobchak, was under criminal investigation.”

Taibbi went on to tell how Putin was designated Boris Yeltsin’s successor in return for helping Yeltsin get out of Russia with his ill-gotten gains, and how he stayed in power through rigged elections and the support of Russian oligarchs.  All this while he had the strong support of the U.S. government.

(more…)

What I think about the Canadian trucker protests

February 17, 2022

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s emergency order is a radical violation of the principle of the rule of law.

He ordered Canadian banks and financial institutions to stop serving any participant or supporter of the Canadian trucker protests.

That means they’ll freeze their checking accounts, cancel their credit cards, cut off their insurance and refuse to issue them loans.

Of course the Canadian government was fully justified in making arrests of persons who unlawfully occupied their capital or blocked international bridge crossings.

But this doesn’t justify extreme actions against persons who haven’t been charged with any crime or, in many cases, have not violated any laws now on the books.

The Canadian trucker protest is an example of the uneven enforcement of laws against protesters.

Here in the USA, some kinds of protests are treated very harshly and others very leniently.  Sometimes it will protesters will be treated brutally by local authorities and coddled by federal authorities; sometimes it is just the reverse.

In Ottawa, it seems as if the truckers are being treated leniently by the local police, in contrast to the draconian policy of the national government.

I don’t think there will be a civil war in the USA, much less Canada, but if there is, it will have been possible because elements of the police and military support different sides.

I somewhat disagree with the truckers on the merits of their complaints.

The truckers initially protested requirements that they show proof of vaccination upon leaving Canada and and that they be subject to a two-week quarantine if they try to return unvaccinated.

Trying to prevent the spread of a deadly contagious disease is not tyranny.  The Canadian government has the right and duty to stop the spread of the virus

But vaccine passports, in my opinion, are not the best way to do this, because a vaccinated person can still be infectious and an unvaccinated person can be free from the disease.

It would be better to ask the truckers to show recent covid virus tests.  Or take their temperatures when they approach the border and, if they run a fever, ask them to take a virus test.

Where people stand on the truckers largely reflects where they stand on larger conflicts.

Team Red is largely pro-trucker and Team Blue is largely anti-trucker.  Rural people and people who work with their hands seem pre-disposed to be pro-trucker.  Urban people and college-educated professionals seem predisposed to be anti-trucker.

I’m not sure the protesters are representative of Canadian working people, or even of truckers as a whole.  But I see no particular reason to think the truckers are particularly racist.

LINKS

Banks are moving to freeze accounts linked to convoy protests | Here’s what you need to know by John Paul Tasker for CBC News.

Trudeau’s Money Heist: Emergencies Act Allows Seizure of Bank Accounts, Securities, Crypto of Those Suspected of “Links” to Convoy Members Without Court Order by Yves Smith for Naked Capitalism.

Squad member Ilhan Omar defends Ottawa cafe owner who donated to Canadian Freedom Convoy truckers by Ronny Reyes and James Gordon for The Daily Mail (London)

Why the Left Doesn’t Copy the Truck Protests by Ian Welsh.

What About the Canadian Truckers? by Rod Dreher for The American Conservative.

Thoughts on the Canadian Trucker “Freedom Convoys” by Lambert Strether for Naked Capitalism.

Reality Honks Back by N.S. Lyons for The Upheaval.

War threat’s purpose is to keep U.S. allies in line

February 7, 2022

Click to enlarge.

U.S. policy for the past 10 or so years has been hard for me to understand. Our government has driven Russia, the world’s largest nuclear weapons power, into the arms of China, the world’s largest or second largest industrial power.

Since 2014, our leaders have talked about the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, but, as Scott Ritter has pointed out, they never tried to create a military force in or near Ukraine capable of resisting a Russian invasion.

The economist Michael Hudson has an answer.  U.S. war policy is not primarily about Ukraine or Russia.  Rather it is about the need for a war threat to keep U.S. allies in line.

Economic sanctions are not being imposed for strategic reasons, Hudson wrote recently. Rather the geopolitical struggle is an excuse for cutting off U.S. allies from trade with Russia, China and other designated U.S. enemies.

The U.S. is not pressuring Germany to stop Nord Stream 2 in order to block Russia in Ukraine.  It is whipping up war fever over Ukraine in order to block Nord Stream 2.

Here’s how he put it:

What worries American diplomats is that Germany, other NATO nations and countries along the Belt and Road route understand the gains that can be made by opening up peaceful trade and investment.

If there is no Russian or Chinese plan to invade or bomb them, what is the need for NATO?  And if there is no inherently adversarial relationship, why do foreign countries need to sacrifice their own trade and financial interests by relying exclusively on U.S. exporters and investors?

These are the concerns that have prompted French Prime Minister Macron to call forth the ghost of Charles de Gaulle and urge Europe to turn away from what he calls NATO’s “brain-dead” Cold War and beak with the pro-U.S. trade arrangements that are imposing rising costs on Europe while denying it potential gains from trade with Eurasia.

Even Germany is balking at demands that it freeze by this coming March by going without Russian gas.

Instead of a real military threat from Russia and China, the problem for American strategists is the absence of such a threat.

All countries have come to realize that the world has reached a point at which no industrial economy has the manpower and political ability to mobilize a standing army of the size that would be needed to invade or even wage a major battle with a significant adversary.

That political cost makes it uneconomic for Russia to retaliate against NATO adventurism prodding at its western border trying to incite a military response. It’s just not worth taking over Ukraine.

(more…)

Jeffrey Epstein and his protectors, exposed

February 2, 2022

PERVERSION OF JUSTICE: The Jeffrey Epstein Story by Julie K. Brown (2021)

Jeffrey Epstein was a rapist and a pimp.  He sexually abused young girls and trafficked them out to be abused by others.  

Yet for years he was shielded from criminal charges by his wealth and by his network of rich and powerful protectors.  

We the public may never know the names of Epstein’s clients.  But thanks to the reporting of Julie K. Brown of the Miami Herald, we do know some other things..

Her book, Perversion of Justice, touches on many aspects of the Epstein case, but the high points are how he used his wealth and connections to shield himself from prosecution for his crimes, and how he used seduction, blackmail and threats to trap young girls into sexual bondage.

She began her investigation in 2017 when Alex Acosta was nominated by President Trump to be Secretary of Labor.  Back in 2008, when Acosta was U.S. attorney for southern Florida, he signed a non-prosecution agreement that allowed Epstein to get off with a wrist slap in return to pleading guilty to trafficking young girls.

The fact that Epstein was prosecuted at all was due to the dogged persistence of Palm Beach Chief of Police and Detective Joe Recarey (who is deceased).  When they began to interview young girls victimized by Epstein, it seemed like an open-and-shut case, but they met resistance every step of the way.

Epstein was a social friend of the mayor of Palm Beach.  He donated expensive equipment to the Palm Beach Police Department and created a scholarship fund for children of police.  He was one of the leading members of the city’s social elite, and he was a lavish giver of gifts and donations to charity..

Epstein’s legal team consisted of Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard law professor and high-profile lawyer; Kenneth Starr, the former special prosecutor who brought about the impeachment of President Bill Clinton; and Jay Lefkowitz, a former senior adviser to both Presidents Bush.

He also hired a local lawyer, Jack Goldberger.  That resulted in an aggressive prosecutor, Dahlia Weiss, being pushed off the case, because her husband was one of Goldberger’s law partners.

The defense team gathered information about the girls Epstein had seduced, often looking at their social media and visiting them at their homes, trying to paint them as the seducers or at least as willing.  

One young woman phoned Recarey and told him Epstein’s investigators asked her about things that she had told him that she thought were confidential.  How did the investigator get access to that information? she asked. 

Reiter and Recarey got a search warrant for Epstein’s mansion, but when they got there, it had been stripped clean. Six computer hard drives had been removed.  Video surveillance cameras had been disconnected and the video recordings and other electronic data removed.  Nude photos of young girls that. had adorned the walls had been removed.

They never figured out who told Epstein of the warrant.

Palm Beach County prosecutor Barry Kirschner chose to take the case to a grand jury, although this wasn’t necessary.  He also chose to prosecute only one case, although Recarey had collected information on 14.

(more…)

The poisoning of Alexei Navalny

January 25, 2022

When Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was poisoned, I didn’t know what to think.  Not that I thought about it too deeply.

It seemed to me that if the Russian deep state had really wanted to kill him, they would have succeeded.  Also, I was hung up on the definition of “novichok.”  But most of all I didn’t pay attention because I was preoccupied with the lies of war hawks in the American deep state.

The video above shows detective work by Navalny, Maria Pevchikh and other Navalny supporters.  It proves that the Russian government was behind Navalny’s poisoning.  It is in Russian with English subtitles, and was released in June, 2021, but I only became aware of it a couple of days ago.  I’m posting it on my blog by I suspect most Americans aren’t aware of it either.

Navalny fell sick on an airplane flight from Tomsk to Moscow on August 20, 2020.  The plane was diverted to Omsk, where Navalny was rushed to a hospital for treatment.  After two days, he was transported to Berlin for medical treatment.

Hospital patients in Russia, as in most countries, have the right to see their medical records, but the Omsk hospital refused to release Navalny’s.  In November, two Navalny lawyers, Ivan Zhdanov and Vyacheslav Gimadi, bluffed their was into the Omsk records department and took unauthorized photographs of the records.

They indicated that a biochemical blood test showed that Navalny had a deficiency in cholinesterase, which is a neurotransmitter, and the presence of organophosphate agents, which are a cholinesterase inhibitor.  In other words, Navalny was poisoned with a nerve agent.

A month later, the Omsk hospital released what they said were Navalny’s medical records.  All references to cholinesterase and organophosphates had been scrubbed.

Poisoning by nerve agent was confirmed by physicians in Germany and by a Russian physician.  The German officials said it was a new type of nerve agent, deadly but slow-acting.  Navalny would be dead if the pilot hadn’t diverted the plane and his supporters hadn’t got him moved to Germany.

Navalny’s clothes were confiscated by the Omsk hospital and never returned.  Navalny tricked an FSB agent, Konstanin Kodryavstev, into confirming that his underpants were poisoned.  Impersonating an FSB official, Navalny phoned Kodryavstev and debriefed him on how he obtained Navalny’s clothes from the local police, carefully cleansed the underpants of any chemical agent and returned them.

The poison probably was added to Navalny’s underwear in his hotel room in Tomsk.  The room is under video surveillance, but no video footage of the room has been released.  There’s more evidence in the video, but you get the idea.

After having proved his government. had tried to murder him, Navalny returned to Russia in August, 2021.  To me, that was an incredibly brave thing to do.  He was promptly arrested, and is in prison now.

(more…)

Vladimir Putin’s billion-dollar secret palace

January 24, 2022

Over the weekend I watched two astonishing videos produced by Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s supporters.  Here is what I learned.

Vladimir Putin has a luxurious palace on the Black Sea on a 17,000-area tract of land, which allegedly cost $1.35 billion (in 2021 dollars) to build.

Construction was financed by money siphoned from Russian state-owned enterprises.  The land is owned by Russia’s Federal Security Service, but is leased to shell companies owned by Putin cronies.

The complex includes an amphitheater, , an underground hockey rink, an oyster farm, an arboretum that employs 40 gardeners, a Greek Orthodox Church that was dismantled and moved from Greece, two helipads

Inside the palace itself are in indoor swimming pool, a theater with a stage, backstage and dressing rooms, a hookah lounge, a casino, a slot machine room and what appears to be a pole-dancing stage.

The furniture comes from exclusive Italian manufacturers.  It includes a $19,700 chest of drawers, a $17,000 bed and $10,500 chairs—also $700 toilet brushes.

I hadn’t paid much attention to Alexei Navalny in the past, but now I see him as a hero, like Vaclav Havel or Julian Assange.  The top documentary was produced while he was in a hospital in Germany, recovering from a poisoning attempt.

He decided he would only release it after he returned to Russia, because it would be dishonorable to expose his reporting team to perils he himself did not share.  He did return.  He was promptly arrested and is still in prison.  That took a lot of guts.

Navalny, Maria Perchikh, Georgy Alburov and the other members of his team are not only brave dissidents.  They are outstanding investigative reporters.

They also have excellent presentation skills.  As a rule, long videos don’t hold my attention, but I couldn’t look away from the two I have embedded.

There had been reports and rumors about Putin’s palace going back to the early 2010s, but it took Navalny and his team to nail down the facts.

Their opportunity came in August, 2020, when the builders discovered that the whole structure was riddled with leaks and mold, and had to be completely remodeled.

Somebody sent Navalny architects’ drawings of the structure.  The drawings specified the furniture in each room.

Navalny’s team obtained catalogs from the furniture suppliers and manufacturers.  These enabled them to created computer-generated images of the various rooms.  This part starts at the 59-minute mark in the top video.

They could have got things completely wrong.  But workers sent pictures of the actual interiors and, according to Pevchikh and Alburov, they were surprisingly accurate.

Their update is in the second video.  Both videos are in Russian with English subtitles. The two reporters said that when they went wrong, it was in underestimating Putin’s lavishness and bad taste.

(more…)

Afterthoughts on Putin and Russia

January 15, 2022

The fundamental fallacy which is committed by almost everyone is this: “A and B hate each other, therefore one is good and the other is bad. [==Bertrand Russell, in 1956 letter]

Vladimir Putin

I oppose the war party in the United States, I don’t consider myself pro-Putin or pro-Russia.

Vladimir Putin is the authoritarian ruler of a corrupt oligarchy.  I never denied this.

I guess I am pro-Russia in that I sympathize with the long-suffering Russian people, but I’m not an admirer of their government.

Thomas Piketty, the French economist known for his studies of inequality, wrote that the degree of economic inequality in Russia is at least as great as it is in the USA.

He wrote that half of Russia’s financial assets are in tax havens abroad. The Pandora Papers revealed that a large chunk of those assets are held by a crony of Putin’s.

Alexei Navalny

A friend of mine with contacts in Russia told me of a businessman who has to make kickbacks to three entities—the tax collector, the FSB (Russian FBI) and local organized crime.

This friend also tells me that, except for Moscow and a few other big cities, Russia is a sea of misery and discontent.

Opponents of the regime have a way of dying mysteriously or being killed by unknown persons. I wrote five years ago that Putin is a killer, and I have no reason to take this back.  Admittedly, not all cases are clear-cut, but unmistakable victims include Anna Politovskaya, Alexander Litvenenko and Boris Nemtsov.

The big human rights issue currently in Russia is the poisoning and imprisonment of anti-corruption crusader Alexei Navalny.   He fell sick while on an airplane flight from Siberia to Moscow in 2020.  His supporters arranged for him to be flown to Germany, where he was placed in a medically-induced coma.  Medical authorities determined that he had been poisoned.  Later, Navalny said. he tricked Russian agents into admitting they placed toxins in his underpants.

Early in 2021 Navalny flew back to Russia, where he was imprisoned on charges of parole violations.  He had been convicted of embezzlement, which his supporters say is a bogus charge.

 But now the Russian authorities have reportedly labeled him a terrorist and “extremist,” and are  going after his supporters.  Evidently the Navalny movement has them worried..

(more…)

How worried should we be about a Trump coup?

October 29, 2021

Alfred W. McCoy, who’s observed many a military coup, thinks that a coup to keep President Donald Trump in power was, and still is, a real danger.

Trump’s attempt came in three stages, he wrote.

First there was a proposal by Michael Flynn, a former national security adviser, to invoke martial law to overturn the election.  

This was taken so seriously that all 10 living former Secretaries of Defense, including Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, issued an appeal to the armed forces to remain neutral in the coming struggle.  

Then a Trump loyalist in the Justice Department suggested the department intervene to challenge the legitimacy of the election result by charging fraud.  

When Acting Attorney-General Jeffrey Rosen refused, Trump threatened to replace him.  He only backed down when Trump’s own appointees at Justice, including the President’s counsel, threatened to resign as a group.

Finally there was an attempt to use the threat of force to prevent Vice President Mike Pence for certifying the election results.  A crowd of protesters broke through police lines to enter the Capitol (and in some cases were allowed in).  

The Defense Department refused a request by the Mayor of Washington, D.C., to send in the National Guard, which was on stand-by alert.  Finally the Secretary of the Army, bypassing the chain of command, gave permission for the Maryland National Guard to intervene.

Mike Pence, unable to find a legal justification for refusing to certify the vote, did his constitutional duty.

All this shows is that there is still respect for the rule of law in the USA, even among Trump appointees.  US American freedom and democracy aren’t quite dead, although they’re in bad shape. 

But the failure of the Trump coup also shows that he does not have the support of the types of people who support military coups in other countries.  I mean the top levels of the military, the “intelligence community,” the super-rich and the heads of big corporations.  

None of them have any reason to feel dissatisfied with Joe Biden.  I think the outcome would have been very different if the alternative to a Donald Trump had been someone such as Bernie Sanders, who threatened their power and wealth.

Then, too, conditions in the USA are much as if a kind of military coup has already taken place.  

The billionaire class is able to thwart popular and necessary legislation.  People live in fear of losing their livelihoods for saying the wrong thing.  A lawyer is going to prison for the crime of having won a lawsuit against a big oil company.  Torturers have impunity while truth-tellers are punished.

And yet, people whom I respect, argue that there is a real and present danger of something worse.  

And it’s true.  Things could be a lot worse than they are now.  Things haven’t reached the point where I, personally, think I have reason to fear—not yet.

LINKS

American Coup: a Recurring Nightmare? by Albert W. McCoy for Counterpunch.

The Whole Country Is the Reichstag by Adolph Reed Jr.

Tales of tyranny: links 10/22/2021

October 22, 2021

U.S. Treats Imprisoned Drone Whistleblower Like He’s a Terrorist by thedissenter.

Supreme Court hearings on Palestinian man anally raped and hung from hooks by CIA causes Biden administration to tremble by Erik Striker for National Justice.

Photos inside Riker’s Island expose hellish, deadly conditions by Gabrille Fonrouge for the New York Post.

42 Seconds After This Photo Was Taken, Police Shot 16-year-old Payton Ham Dead by Dave McKenna for Defector.

Biden’s DOJ uses a Trump tactic: Federal prosecutors label Black Lives Matter protesters terrorists by Rachel Barkow for the New York Daily News.

U.S. kidnaps Venezuelan diplomat for defying sanctions regime by Bill Van Auken for the World Socialist Web Site.

Rudyard Kipling and the reputation of empire

October 21, 2021

Rudyard  Kipling was a great writer, but his reputation under a cloud because he was an imperialist.  Empires are out of favor.

Most people in most periods of history would not have understood this.  Most people through the ages admired the great empire builders.  They thought that conquering and ruling other people was heroic.

The great conquerors—Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Charlemagne, Napoleon—were regarded as inspirations and role models.

Britons were proud that they ruled a quarter of humankind.  US Americans were proud of our frontiersmen and Indian fighters.

The same attitude prevails in non-Western cultures toward their own empires, past and present, but that’s a topic for another time.

The sun never set on the British Empire…

Rudyard Kipling began his writing career in his 20s, when the British Empire was at the height of its power.

He believed the British Empire was a force for good and that it would endure.  He also believed the British Empire was different from, and better than, other empires.

At the same time, he felt the need to justify empire.  His stories about India are full of devoted civil servants and military officers who selflessly do their duties for the greater good, without reward or appreciation.

This is because of the rise of liberalism—I mean liberalism in the broad sense, liberalism as belief that human beings have unalienable rights, or that society should be organized on the basis of liberty, equality and brotherhood.  You can’t consistently believe in these things, and also believe in the right to rule over other nations.

Kipling’s stories did include Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists who were the equals of the British in terms of both ability and character.  But he was not a liberal.  He did not believe they had an equal right to self-determination.

His core values were duty, honor and country, not respect for human rights.  He thought rebellion should be put down by any means necessary.

In stories about the Boer War, he ridiculed the idea of a Sahibs’ War, in which both sides observed civilized rules of war because  neither side was fighting for survival.

But his ideal of the self-sacrificing colonial administrator, being the white man’s burden, no doubt was reflected to some extent in real life.  Kipling probably influenced the British ruling class to try to live up to that ideal.

The least you can say for Kipling is that he preached an ethic of responsibility, which is very different from US American attitudes toward our non-empire empire.

……nor does the sun set on U.S. military bases.

When I began my own writing career, in my 20s, I believed that American world power was a force for good and that it would endure.  I thought the USA was different from and better than other would-be world powers.

(more…)

War, corruption and tyranny go together

October 7, 2021

The Big Business of Future Wars by Walter Bragman for The Daily Poster.

The Profits of War by William Hartung for TomDIspatch.

Instead of a Free Press by Patrick Lawrence for Consortium News.

Key US Witness Against Assange Arrested in Ireland by Joe Lauria for Consortium News.

The CIA plot to kidnap or kill Assange in London is a story that is being mistakenly ignored by Patrick Cockburn for The Independent.

CIA plan to poison Assange wasn’t needed | The US found a ‘lawful’ way to disappear him by Jonathan Cook.

Six-Month Sentence to Lawyer Who Took on Chevron Denounced as ‘International Outrage’ by Julia Conley for Common Dreams.

Steven Donziger Was Imprisoned by the 1 Percent’s Favorite Judge by Branko Marcetic for Jacobin.

Will the United States Officially Acknowledge That It Had a Secret Torture Site in Poland? by Raymond Bonner for ProPublica.

Truthteller Craig Murray goes to jail

August 4, 2021

We live in a world in which is you are more likely to be punished for exposing certain kinds of crimes than for committing those crimes.

LINKS

Keeping Freedom Alive by Craig Murray.

Craig Murray’s jailing is the latest move to snuff out independent journalism by Jonathan Cook.

(more…)

Student debt may be dischargeable in bankrupcy

July 22, 2021

‘The Trillion-Dollar Lie by Matt Taibbi for TK News.  “Universities built palaces and financiers made fortunes in part through a lie: that student loans can’t be discharged in bankruptcy.  But a series of court cases is helping unravel the scam.”

For years, it was believed that .. [the Bankruptcy Act of 2005] absolutely closed the door on bankruptcy for whole classes of borrowers, and one in particular: students.  Nearly fifteen years after the bill’s passage, journalists were still using language like, “The bill made it completely impossible to discharge student loan debt.”

Even I did this, writing multiple features about student loans stressing their absolute non-dischargeability, which is one of the reasons to write this now — I got this one wrong.

In 2017, I interviewed a 68 year-old named Veronica Martish who filed for personal bankruptcy — as I put it, “not to get free of student loans, of course, since bankruptcy protection isn’t available for students” — and described her being chased by collectors to her deathbed. “By the time I die, I will probably pay over $200,000 toward an $8,000 loan,” she said. “They chase you until you’re old, like me. They never stop. Ever.”

In fact, the bankruptcy situation was murky.  Beginning in the 2010s, judges all over the U.S. began handing down decisions …. that revealed lenders had essentially tricked the public into not asking basic questions, like: What is a “student loan”?  Is it anything a lender calls a student loan?  Is a school anything a lender calls a school?  Is a student anyone who takes a class?  Can lenders loan as much as they want, or can they only lend as much as school actually costs?  And so on.

(more…)

Why Trump supporters think 2020 was rigged

July 13, 2021

Last Friday a Twitter user named Darryl Cooper wrote a 35-tweet thread explaining the mindset of Trump supporters who think the 2020 election was rigged.

The thread was read verbatim on the Tucker Carlson show, and Cooper’s Twitter account went almost overnight from about 7,000 followers to about 70,000.

Glenn Greenwald invited him to write a summary of the thread for his Other Voices Substack account.  Although he did not agree 100 percent with Cooper, he thought Cooper’s viewpoint is important to understand. So do I.

Cooper said that for many years, most conservative Republicans, although they disagreed with the direction the country was moving, long had a basic confidence in the country’s institutions – the military, police and judiciary, the large corporations and even the press, which might be biased

This changed with the run-up to the 2016 elections and the victory Trump administration.  Intelligence agencies, Democratic politicians and the Washington press endorsed a conspiracy theory of Russian collusion which, it turned out, was based on opposition research conducted for the Hillary Clinton campaign.  Each of the claims were debunked one by one.

I happen to think Donald Trump was a terrible President.  But he was almost never attacked for the things he actually did wrong (nor was Hillary Clinton, for that matter).  Trump was attacked for his erratic statements, which didn’t matter, and for things he didn’t really do.

Cooper wrote:

Trump supporters know – I think everyone knows – that Donald Trump would have been impeached and probably indicted if Robert Mueller had proven that he’d paid a foreign spy to gather damaging information on Hillary Clinton from sources connected to Russian intelligence and disseminate that information in the press. Many of Trump’s own supporters wouldn’t have objected to his removal if that had happened.  [snip]

Trump supporters had gone from worrying the collusion might be real, to suspecting it might be fake, to seeing proof that it was all a scam. Then they watched as every institution – government agencies, the press, Congressional committees, academia – blew right past it and gas-lit them for another year.  [snip]

This is where people whose political identities have for decades been largely defined by a naive belief in what they learned in civics class began to see the outline of a Regime that crossed not only partisan, but all institutional boundaries. They’d been taught that America didn’t have Regimes, but what else was this thing they’d seen step out from the shadows to unite against their interloper president?

In the run-up to the 2020 campaign, the establishment press abandoned all pretense of neutrality, and, with the help of social media companies, imposed a news blackout on information that would help Donald Trump or hurt Joe Biden.

Is it any wonder, Cooper asked, that Trump supporters do not believe assurances from the Washington press corps and the Biden administration that the election was on the up-and-up?

(more…)

The new censorship

July 8, 2021

Brett Weinstein’s DarkHorse podcast was kicked off YouTube for discussing the potential of a drug called Ivermectin as a COVID treatment and possible problems with the rMNA vaccines. 

YouTube said its decision was based on consultation with “local and global health authorities.”

If YouTube is exercising censorship based on guidance from government agencies, and these agencies can be captured by private companies, then corporate money can suppress private criticism.

LINK

If Private Platforms Use Government Guidelines to Police Content, Is That State Censorship? by Matt Taibbi for TK News.

‘Domestic terrorism’ war planned before Jan. 6.

July 6, 2021

The USA Patriot Act was drafted, and in desk drawers, before the 9/11 attacks that supposedly were the reason for passing it.

The same is true of “war on domestic terrorism” legislation.  It was in the works before the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol. 

Neither of these “wars” were reactions to events.  They were the result of long-term plans.

As Kit Knightly of the OffGuardian reported back on January 8:

Soon-to-be-President Joe Biden promised a new “domestic terrorism bill” back in November, according to the Wall Street Journal.

That is why you’re seeing so much usage of the phrase “domestic terrorism” in the last couple of days. It’s the meme-phrase. The primary talking point for this whole exercise. It was underlined in all the memos sent out to all the media outlets.

That’s why Joe Biden went to such lengths to distinguish “domestic terrorists” from “protesters” in his speech following the riots.

That’s why the Council on Foreign Relations had an interview with a “counter-terrorism and national security expert” published within 24 hours of the incident, in which he spends 4 paragraphs arguing that the people who “stormed the capitol” were domestic terrorists.

That’s why the Washington Post has got an article dedicated to “lawmakers and experts” arguing that the Capitol Hill protest was an act of “domestic terrorism.” And so have Vox.  And Mother Jones.

That’s why ABC had an article about how “domestic terrorism and hate crimes” were a growing problem in America…a week before the riot took place.

And that’s why #TrumpisaDomesticTerrorist is trending on Twitter.

Georgetown University, a well-known spook college, published a paper in September 2020 titled the “The Need for a Specific Law Against Domestic Terrorism,” and op-ed pieces bemoaning the lack of such a law have been dotted through the press going back to last summer and even late 2019.

There was one published yesterday [Jan. 7], in which a “senior FBI official” says “more could have been done” if there had been a “specific law outlawing” domestic terrorism.

Knightly also had an excellent analysis a few days ago of the sweeping nature of the administration’s domestic terrorism strategy.

I don’t have any reason to think that either the 9/11 attacks or the 1/6 riots were anything other than what they appeared to be.

But both events were very convenient to powers that be, for stripping away civil liberties and drumming up support for the surveillance police state. 

And if they hadn’t happened, some other excuse would have been found for the continuing “global war on terror” and the new “domestic war on terror.”

What is the definition of “terror”?  Anything the government wants it to be.

LINKS

Prepare for the new “Domestic Terrorism Bill” by Kit Knightly for OffGuardian on Jan. 8, 2021

Inside Biden’s new “domestic terrorism” strategy by Kit Knightly for OffGuardian on July 1, 2021.

Who shall decide, when doctors disagree?

June 22, 2021

Brett Weinstein’s Dark Horse interviews with medical experts about COVID-19 have been taken down from YouTube, and there is a strong possibility that his whole Dark Horse podcast may be banned from YouTube for good.

One of Bertrand Russell’s rules for skeptics is that, when experts disagree, no non-expert opinion can be regarded as certain.

I don’t have any expertise of my own that would qualify me to judge which is the best treatment for COVID-19.  But what qualifies a social media company to judge?

Although experts disagree, the experts on opposing sides are not given equal voices.

There is pressure to focus on vaccines that are patented by big drug companies, and to suppress discussion of possible low-cost treatments that would not be profitable to the big companies.

The Catch-22 case against ivermectin, for example, is that, despite its apparent successes, (1) there have been no clinical trials by rich-country institutions meeting FDA standards and (2) there aren’t going to be any such trials, because there is no financial incentive to conduct them.

Maybe ivermectin is not all it’s cracked up to be.  Why not find out for sure?

LINKS

Why Has ‘Ivermectin’ Become a Dirty Word? by Matt Taibbi for TK News.

Meet the Censored: Brett Weinstein, an interview on TK News.

The mechanisms of action of Ivermectin against SARS-CoV-2: an evidence-based clinical review article by Asiya Delhani-Mobarki and Puya Delhani-Mobarki for the Journal of Antibiotics.

Global trends in clinical studies of ivermectin for COVID-19 by Morimasa Yagisawa, Patrick J. Foster, Hideaki Hanaki and Satoshi Omura for the Japanese Journal of Antibiotics.

Review of the Emerging Evidence Demonstrating the Efficacy of Ivermectin in the Prophylaxis and Treatment of COVID-19 by Drs. Paul Marik, Pierre Kory, Joseph Varon, Gianfranco Umberto Meduri, Jose Iglesias and five others for the Front Line Covid-19 Critical Care Alliance.

Testimony of Pierre Kory, M.D., on Dec. 8, 2020, before the Homeland Security Committee on early treatment of COVID-19.

Ivermectin: Much More Than You Wanted to Know by Scott Alexander Suskind for Astral Codex Ten.  [Added 11/17/2021].  The case for ivermectin skepticism.

Delta Force: Notes on Our Newest Variant of Concern by Lambert Strether for Naked Capitalism.   The disease is evolving and adapting.  Are we?

The shortages of catastrophe

June 22, 2021

Many people have noted how a tiny group of billionaires have increased their share of the world’s wealth during the coronavirus pademic.

A blogger named Umair Haque pointed out that this is no coincidence. There are shortages of all kinds of thing across the economy, driven by the pandemic.  This has driven up prices, mainly to the benefit of corporate monopolies and other big businesses, and of the multi-billionaires who control them.

The shortages ripping across the economy are forcing up prices dramatically — and weirdly. The prices, for example, of used cars are skyrocketing. Clothes and food have gotten dramatically more expensive, from what I can see. And of course electronics — well, good luck getting them.

But this isn’t inflation. Sorry, armchair economists. I know that American pundits love to spout seriously on this issue — but they’re wrong. Inflation is a “wage price spiral.” This is something very, very different. Your income isn’t going up, at least not nearly as much as prices are. And prices are going up because of what economists call an “exogenous shock” — an act of God, or in this case, at least, an act of humankind.

These are shortages of catastrophe. They’re caused by what Covid did to global supply chains. It happened something like this — I’ll oversimplify to make the point easy to grasp. For a year or so, the world plunged into lockdown. Demand ground to a halt for many, many things. Retail stores closed in a tidal wave.

And then as lockdown was lifted, demand began to rise. But by this point, global supply chains — which operate on a “just in time” principle — were wrecked, shut down for too long, unable to cope again with normal levels of wants and needs. 

[snip]

Covid’s ripped the global economy apart — but the next wave of shocks coming our way are going to be much, much bigger. Think about climate change. Electronics were already expensive due to microchip shortages as Covid increased demand, but then there was a fire at one of the main suppliers of microchips in the world.

What is climate change going to do? Cause megafires, megafloods, megatyphoons. And yet increasingly, our civilization’s production of stuff is centralized. Your iPhones come from a few megafactories, and so do all those big TVs, cars, even medicines, food, and clothes. That reflects the mega corporations who make megaprofits from all these products — centralization in production reflects centralisation in profits.

One fire took out the factory which supplies much of the world’s microchips. Now imagine what happens as climate change intensifies, and megafires, megafloods, and megatyphoons become the norm. All that centralised production is at severe risk. Maybe this year the iPhone factory burns down, maybe next year, the Tesla factory does. And so on.

But that — massive risk to production — is just one effect. There’s also a massive and heightened risk to distribution. Think how fast Covid shut down distribution — it’s one reason things are more expensive now. Sending things by boats and planes and trucks is harder in an age of lockdowns and checks and so forth. But now imagine what happens if a megatyphoon takes out this shipping lane, or that fleet of super carriers. Or what happens if a mega flood makes that entire region — which products have to travel through — impassable. Or what happens as ports begin to drown.

Disease, drought, floods and storms would disrupt international trade no matter what the trading system.  But global supply chains are much more fragile than they need to be because of the neoliberal drive to prioritize cost-cutting and short-term profits over stability and sustainability. 

In fact, there would probably be breakdowns in that delicate system even without climate- or disease-related crises.

(more…)

Book note: Used to Be UU

June 19, 2021

USED TO BE UU: The Systematic Attack on UU Liberalism by Frank Casper and Jay Kissel (2021)

This is the last of three books I recently read on the crisis of liberalism within the Unitarian Universalist Association, which is the abandonment by self-described liberals of historic liberal principles.

I think the UU crisis is the echo of a crisis of liberalism generally in the USA and other liberal democracies. As such, it may be of interest beyond UU membership.

Used to Be UU covers much the same ground as the Rev. Todd Eklof’s The Gadfly Papers and Anne Larason Schneider’s White Supremacy Culture, and goes more deeply into issues of UUA governance.

If you only have time to read one of the three books, Used to Be UU is the one I recommend.  If you don’t even have time to read one book, I recommend you check out the Fifth Principle Project web site.

+++

The first part of the book is an account of events that began in March, 2017 when Scott Tayler, the director of congregational life, filled the position of Southern Region director by appointing the Rev. Andy Burnette, a white man who lived outside the region, and passed over the Rev. Christina Rivera, a Hispanic woman who lived inside the region.

There was a great outcry by religious professionals of color, which was followed by the resignation of UUA President Peter Morales just two and a half months before the completion of his six-year term.

(Rev. Morales, for what it’s worth, is Hispanic, and his predecessor, the Rev. William Sinkford, is African-American)

The Board of Trustees met by Zoom on April 3, and determined that the UU culture harbored “structures and patterns that foster racism, oppression and and white supremacy.”

The board issued a formal call for a process to analyze structural racism and white supremacy within the UUA.

This action resulted in the creation of the Commission on Institutional Change, which delivered a report, Widening the Circle of Concern, to the 2020 virtual General Assembly.

Of course this didn’t come out of nowhere. It reflected tensions that had been building up in the denomination for some time.

But still: It was a major change in direction that was decided on at a 90-minute meeting without a vote or discussion by the UUA membership.

Furthermore it has being treated as an official doctrine from which you are not supposed to deviate.

It is to be discussed at the upcoming virtual UUA General Assembly June 23-27, but the current issue of UU World says “the UUA is already adopting its policies and practices to embody its antiracist and anti-oppressive commitments and urges congregations and other UU organizations to do the same.”

So evidently any General Assembly vote is just a formality to ratify something already decided on.

The board of trustees also created an Article II Study Commission, whose mission is to revise the portion of the UUA bylaws that have to do with the purpose of the association.

The board’s charge to the commission is that it is free to “revise, replace or restructure” all sections of Article II, including the Seven Principles.

An Eighth Principle, having to do with “accountable” diversity and multi-cuturalism, is under consideration.

(more…)