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Police Violence and Mass Policing in the U.S.

Police riot: Democratic Convention 1968 Photo credit: commondreams.org

Police Violence and Mass Policing in the U.S.

Published at CounterPunch on December 11, 2018

Wondering which side police in the U.S. are on…. left or right, is a more certain social science proposition than attempting to guess how many angels can safely fit on the head of a pin.

For those close to protest from the 1950s through today, including all facets of left protest, the broken and murdered bodies of protesters in the civil rights movement and the Vietnam antiwar movement, and movements beyond those heady days of protest are quite telling. Guns, fire hoses, batons, tear gas, fists, planting evidence, etc., have all been used viciously by police throughout the U.S. in doing the bidding of their political and financial overlords.

The militarization of the police began, not as a coincidence, in the 1970s. Special Weapons and Tactics (S.W.A.T.) “teams” were soon in evidence, as was the gathering of so-called intelligence by police units, a fact well known to Vietnam-era protesters, the movement to which mass policing responded. The dumping of military weapons and vehicles to the police was the direct result of the massive police mobilization during and following the Vietnam War. All that was needed was a globalized economy to begin the school to prison pipeline of which the police are an integral part.

Drug Abuse Resistance Education programs (D.A.R.E.), founded in Los Angeles in 1983, have been totally ineffective in stemming the tide of drug use in the U.S.  Indeed, D.A.R.E. has seen some police act as enforcers of discipline in schools in mostly poor neighborhoods and has furthered the school to prison pipeline in the U.S.

That many individual police have authoritarian leanings and behaviors comes as no surprise. The antipathy toward people of color in the civil rights era and beyond had its roots in the mass violence in the U.S. in which police were an integral part. That a member of the Black Panther Party would relate that violence is as “American as cherry pie” is no accident.

More recently, the repression by police, and especially the white shirts of the New York City police during the Occupy Wall Street movement, was effective in countering the push to begin to address the astronomical level of economic inequality that became pronounced as a result of the Great Recession, a recession largely caused by the globalization of trade, manufacturing, and the financial chicanery of the international banking establishment.

When antifascist protesters took to the streets of Washington, D.C. to protest the moron-in-chief’s inauguration, the police were aided by the liberal class in the U.S., including some in the mass media, who think that the power grab by the far right in the U.S. will end in some kind of genteel coffee klatch.

In August 2017, in Charlottesville, Virginia, police largely stood by while white supremacists and neo-Nazis beat up counter-protesters and finally killed Heather Heyer. The police response was reported by CNN in “Report on Charlottesville rally faults police over planning, failure to protect public,” (December 2, 2017).

When the police can’t get away with murder outright, they either resort to the tried and “true” technique of claiming they feared for their individual or collective safety, or as they did in Ferguson, Missouri in August 2014, falsely reporting that Michael Brown was some sort of dangerous criminal on the loose. When the police can’t get away with slander and libel, they sometimes shoot people in the back, or in similar ways, and those people turn out to be predominantly either black or brown.

In June 2016, as reported in the Guardian, white supremacists and neo-Nazis were allowed to get away with only very minor charges at the mayhem resulting from a far-right rally, while California officials “pursued criminal charges against eight anti-fascist activists who were stabbed or beaten…” Readers get the picture here without much embellishment of the facts. 

What shocks in much of this again is how some liberals join the right in condemning the actions of anti-fascists while the grotesque outrage of what is actually going on in the far right in the U.S. is often seen on an equal footing with the pushback on the part of some on the left. Indeed, many revisionists on the left bemoan the actions of radical protest and protesters during the late 1960s and early 1970s in reaction to the grotesqueness of the Vietnam War, a reality that allowed the right in the U.S. to rewrite the history of that war into the “noble cause” rhetoric of Ronald Reagan.

By taking part in this condemnation and fabrication of history, with its forces of murder on the right around the world and in the U.S., the stage is set for further bloodletting. Witness Trump’s campaign rallies in 2016, when he encouraged the violent among his followers to do physical harm to counterprotesters. How far behind could mass murder and intimidation be? 

“You had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.” In other words, Trump gave a wink and a nod to white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville. How hard do readers think it could be for police to pick up on this green light to align with the right while physically and “legally” punishing the left.

In a small town in Rhode Island during the 1968 presidential campaign, just outside of the local Eugene McCarthy for President campaign office, teenagers, who routinely congregated both inside and on the sidewalk outside of that office, were routinely harassed by police. On one night, a young man was arrested by police and beaten at the local police station for the crime of being outside of the campaign office and being brash. No matter that the young man was the son of a prominent local businessman. The latter made no difference to the police who acted with complete impunity even then. On the federal level, the national police, the F.B.I., had long been involved in its formal counterintelligence program (COINTELPRO) that included spying, harassment, and facilitating murder as standard operating procedures against protest and protesters. 

It is both a quaint and outdated idea that police will be neutral arbiters of the administrative branch of governments. It is most often the case that police will act in tandem with the judicial branch with violence and mass incarceration often being the predictable outcome.

Whether it was the police riots at the Democratic nominating convention in 1968 at the height of the Vietnam War, or a simple traffic stop, or incidents of police wilding, the authoritarian nature of policing in the U.S. is apparent. That such generally unchecked and ultimate power over life and death on the streets of the U.S. often leads to deadly results need not come as a surprise to a government and people with a growing political right and in many cases the extreme right.

Indeed, the left’s admirable commitment to nonviolence is remarkable in the face of such repression.

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer.

George H.W. Bush and the Vietnam Syndrome

George H.W. Bush and the Vietnam Syndrome
Published at CounterPunch on December 3, 2018

Nowhere in the so-called print/online major media was there any hint that the late George H.W. Bush was a bit of a public predator. The New York Times, the Boston Globe, and the Guardian lauded the late president as a man who guided the U.S. through a difficult transition of becoming the world’s sole superpower with the demise of the former Soviet Union. What was missing was any critique of how Bush set the stage for unbridled U.S. militarism and jettisoning the Vietnam Syndrome, something that his predecessor, The Great Communicator Reagan, had chipped away at with his low-intensity wars in Central America and his massive nuclear arms buildup that culminated in the insane pursuit of Star Wars space weapons and nuclear shields.

Bush began the endless wars with his attack against Iraq in 1990-1991, for Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. Operation Desert Storm… the Gulf War… (Aren’t the names of ruthless wars comforting?) was yet another in the long line of wars to support repressive regimes in nations like Kuwait that the U.S. has little strategic interest in, save its spot in the oil rich Middle East. Bush oversaw what would be called a “turkey shoot” by a U.S. flyer: the mass targeting of Iraqi troops from the air as they fled Kuwait. In any case, Bush gave his former ally Saddam Hussein a diplomatic wink and a nod, later reversed, to begin Iraq’s aggression against Kuwait, where Iraq claimed ownership of oil fields. The story of Iraqi soldiers throwing infants from incubators onto the floor of a hospital in Kuwait proved to be completely unfounded. Indeed, while there is absolute proof that Bush grabbed women’s asses publicly on several occasions over the years, there is no proof that Iraqi soldiers ever threw babies on the ground.

The Watson Institute at Brown University recently published a report that U.S. wars in the so-called War on Terror have cost U.S. taxpayers $5.9 trillion dollars. That’s a hell of a lot of programs of social uplift left in the dust by the penchant for wars and war profiteering that began under Reagan, but was made acceptable in Iraq by Bush. And then there was the attack on Panama that left an untold number of civilians dead in another bogus U.S. war, the failed war on drugs.

But it was Bush’s destruction of what was left of the Vietnam Syndrome that bothers most. Reagan began the long militaristic march to eradicate Vietnam Syndrome by declaring the Vietnam War a “noble cause.” Forget the three million or so dead in Southeast Asia and the 58,000 U.S. soldiers. The Vietnam War was revised into something noble and good, and that set the stage for the bellicose Bush to end it once and for all in the Middle East.

Since the U.S. government says that I developed Vietnam Syndrome while in the military during the Vietnam era, I’m a little sensitive about someone who destroyed the hesitancy of the people of the U.S., or at least those not asleep at the wheel, to balk at approving or endorsing wars of aggression. I still don’t understand how both a nation and individuals can suffer from the same affliction as the Vietnam Syndrome, but I’m somewhat satisfied that I’ve still got it, even though wars seem to be one of the only ways that people can still come together or have some consensus as a society.

None of this discussion goes to the role that Bush played as director of the C.I.A., a government agency that has spread U.S. hegemony and spying in the name of empire. Neither does it address Bush’s role as second in command for the The Great Communicator. But what is important here is how the U.S. got enough people to go along with the premise that war is a positive action on the part of the government and that trillions of dollars is a good way to spend the national treasure of empire while human needs go unmet and a relatively small number of the power elite are enriched beyond imagination.

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer.

The Day I Almost Went to Prison for Life

Photo credit: Boston Globe (the other current recreational marijuana facility)

The Day I Almost Went to Prison for Life
Published at CounterPunch on November 29, 2018

Larry and I took the bus from Augusta to Atlanta, Georgia on a Friday night in November 1969. We were at the halfway point of basic training at Fort Gordon and the first weekend pass was our reward for surviving the rigors of military training during the Vietnam era. We were both in the National Guard, and unlike some others in our training unit, we would get to go home in the early spring following the completion of both basic and advanced training in our military specialty.

I was completely against the Vietnam War, but that is not the subject of this essay. I read Martin Luther King’s Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? as the bus sped along the roads to Atlanta through the night. My first stop in Atlanta was at what would become King’s temporary tomb next to the church where he preached along with his father: Ebenezer Baptist.

In the evening of that Saturday, Larry and I were going to unwind, and since beer was about all we could get at the basic training PX, we would go out in search of some grass in the hippie enclave of Atlanta on Peachtree Street. It didn’t take long for us to make a connection, and we returned to our hotel and rolled a few joints and smoked them.

Soon after finishing the joint, I began what seemed like a paranoid trip. Looking back over forty-nine years I can be a bit more objective and conclude that it probably were forces that had little to do with the marijuana that put me in the mental state I experienced. I had trouble breathing and the room was doing all manner of distortions. Had I noticed Larry, who was uncontrollably smacking his lips, I probably could have concluded that it may have been a combination of basic training, homesickness, and whatever particular personality traits were at play that were causing such a strong reaction.

I told Larry that I was heading to a hospital to get checked out and away from the confines of our room and he accompanied me. The taxi that we hired took us to a hospital where we were quickly tossed out onto the sidewalk, the staff adding that this was a private facility and we were not welcome there.

We took a second taxi and landed in a public hospital, in a unit, or rather a large holding room, where what seemed to me to be a large number of people who were dealing with similar reactions from a variety of drugs and/or alcohol. While we waited, a man who was confined to a wheelchair in handcuffs began writhing violently and screaming… Within seconds, the wheelchair where he had sat was turned into small pieces of wood, detached wheels, and unrecognizable metal objects. I completely freaked out at that sight and the police were called and both Larry and I were put in the back of a cruiser.

At that point, Larry began giving me dirty looks and said that his license to practice law in California could be revoked given our current situation. The cop driving the cruiser said that we would end up in prison for life for our offense of smoking pot and we had better come clean and direct him to the people on Peachtree Street who had sold us the marijuana he now held as evidence of our criminality.

By this point, I was coming down from the trip and knew better than to turn anyone in for anything, and in any case to try to tell the difference between the folks who sold us the stash and the others who were walking along the street in the hippie district of Atlanta would have been impossible. Satisfied that we couldn’t help the police locate the people who had sold us the pot, we were dropped off at the door to our hotel and I spent the rest of the night, before falling asleep, dealing with Larry’s glares after he was brought so close to professional ruin. The police never asked for our names and we were never arrested or charged. We were simply intimidated and finally let go.

Fast forward forty-nine years later when I will get up before dawn, three days from now and drive a little over an hour to a retail marijuana shop in Northampton, Massachusetts on the first morning that recreational marijuana will be sold legally east of the Mississippi River. It’s not that I’m a pothead or major druggy or anything like that… Maybe I still would rather have an occasional beer as I recall Phil Ochs in Outside of a Small Circle of Friends: “Smoking marijuana is more fun than drinking beer, But a friend of ours was captured and they gave him thirty years.” I haven’t smoked marijuana since that night in any substantial way. Nixon supported the spraying of paraquat on marijuana fields and that freaked me out for a number of years. A next-door neighbor grew stuff that would have taken a barn full to make someone high, so I really have been disconnected from it all.

I’ll stand in line on Tuesday morning and an educated guess is that police will be directing traffic rather than looking to arrest anyone. Some might say that by doing this I’m subsidizing the marijuana industry and they may be right to a degree, but it means something to have voted for the recreational marijuana ballot initiative in 2016 and to be able to take advantage of a people’s movement in an angry and imperfect world that includes the untold thousands in jail for nonviolent drug charges and some people who have been murdered for similar reasons.

The way it actually turned out

Frigid weather, snow, rain, and Thanksgiving kept me from traveling to Northampton for six days. When my wife Jan and I finally arrived, the line was long and it took about an hour and a half to get into he marijuana facility.

Outside, while waiting, a young man stood in back of us with a friend and he seemed to know nearly everything there was to know about marijuana. Once inside, it took almost no time to make a purchase and the person who took our order and checked us out was friendly and remarked, “I’m glad that folks from your generation could see this happen,” I thought, if he only knew the story that stood behind his observation. Once outside of the facility, walking back to our car, someone on the street behind us said, “I wanted to come to see the social scene today.” It was, indeed, quite a scene as the cliche went during the 1960s and early 1970s.

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer. He is the author of Against the Wall: Memoir of a Vietnam-Era War Resister

The Long Road of Death and Destruction Between Manhattan in 2001 and Schoharie in 2018

Newburgh, New York Photo credit: government-ny.org

The Long Road of Death and Destruction Between Manhattan in 2001 and Schoharie in 2018

Published at The Greanville Post on November 21, 2018

The glow of the work lights of the World Trade Center seem surreal as seen from the rooftop of my graduate school dormitory at New York University in August 1970. The towers appear in that bath of light contrasted against the surrounding darkness… The two buildings are so mammoth that it seems that I could simply reach out from Washington Square South in Greenwich Village and touch them in lower Manhattan. They are far away in both time and space from the worn out streets of Newburgh, New York in 2008 and the intersection of routes 30 and 30A in Schoharie in 2018, a rural community of about 3,300 people west of the state capital in Albany.

In 2008, an FBI operative and perpetrator of fraud at the Albany, New York Department of Motor Vehicles, Shahed Hussain, showed up at Masjid al-Ikhlas mosque in Newburgh, New York using the name “Maqsood.” Hussain spoke about jihad, violence, and made misogynist statements. Many members of the mosque believed that Hussain was an informant: He was someone to avoid. By 2009, Hussain had encouraged, enlisted, and coaxed four Newburgh men into accepting three targets as part of a cooked-up plan of terrorism. The targets were Riverdale Temple, Riverdale Jewish Center, both in the Bronx, and a military plane or planes at nearby Stewart International Airport in Newburgh. The kingpin of the four was James Cromitie who later said of his accomplices: “(They were) Do[ing] it for the money. They’re not even thinking about the cause.” His accomplices were David Williams, Onta Williams, and Laguerre Payen.

Commenting on the FBI and the way it operated after the September 2001 attacks, Michae German, a former FBI undercover agent said that the “Rules don’t apply anymore,” in reference to how the FBI would function after 2001. In 2001, the FBI failed to pay adequate attention at its administrative level to credible information from an agent in the field that an attack against the U.S. by terrorists was imminent. George W. Bush had similar evidence that an attack would most likely involve aircraft and he failed to act on that information. Many believe that the new branding of the FBI following 2001, in a diminished role within the Department of Homeland Security, created added impetus to find terror plots even where they did not exist. Shahed Hussain fits “neatly” into that pattern and plan.

German continued in the HBO documentary “The Newburgh Sting” (2014): “Treat the entire Muslim community as suspect.” That line of reasoning is evident in a discussion of the Newburgh plan between Hussain and one of his FBI handlers: “Make sure they’re Muslims.” In terms of statistics, it is noteworthy that while there have been reportedly 15,000 FBI informants that agency has used since 2001, not one plot has been connected directly to a mosque. Not a single mosque has been named in an actual act of terror.. However, while the FBI used the tactic of enlisting people through the infiltration and surveillance of mosques and the use of informants including Hussain, major terror cases like the Times Square bomber, the Underwear bomber, and the Boston Marathon bombers have gone undiscovered by the FBI and other intelligence agencies. The infiltration of mosques was government policy and its knowledge travelled in a direct line between intelligence agencies, the attorney general, the FBI director, and the president. In other words, it was policy known and sanctioned at the highest levels of the U.S. government.

On May 6, 2009, the men enlisted in the Newburgh plot drove to Stamford, Connecticut to pick up three dummy backpack bombs and a phony Stinger surface-to-air guided missile. That action made the alleged offenses a federal crime because the men crossed state lines to procure dummy bombs and the missile to be used in the cooked-up terror plot. They purchased cellphones and cameras at a Walmart and a handgun in Brooklyn.

They drove three separate cars to the Bronx on May 20, 2009 and placed the fake bombs and were arrested returning to their cars. The scene of mayhem in the Bronx was notable for the fact that despite the knowledge of no real threat to the targets, a massive law enforcement presence was obvious, including the use of huge trucks to block roads.

Charged with conspiracy and weapons offenses, following their arrest on May 20, 2009, including conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction and conspiracy to acquire and use anti-aircraft missiles, their alleged offenses carried a maximum sentence of life in prison.

They pled not guilty in March 2010. Lawyers for the four men filed a motion to dismiss on grounds of entrapment. The proposed scheme by the informant Hussain suggested targets and provided the fake explosives and missile.

In an interview for the documentary, a relative of one of the Newburgh 4, said that the men were out to swindle Hussain, and that is a reasonable conclusion given that they were all poor and desperate for money.

At their trial in August 2010, Hussain raised the specter of anti-Semitism in regard to James Cromitie, and that would have been a powerful issue for the court given the memory of September 11, 2001, the fear of another attack on the city, and the ethnic-religious composition of New York.

The four men were sentenced on June 29, 2011. The trial judge called Cromitie “both bigoted and suggestible,” but having hate-filled sentiments and ideas alone is not enough to sentence someone to jail. The judge continued that the government “did not have to infiltrate and foil some nefarious plot— there was no nefarious plot to foil.” Indeed, the FBI’s informant, Hussain, told Cromitie, as recorded in the HBO documentary “The Newburgh Sting” that “I have lots of ideas for you.” Not only did Hussain have lots of ideas for the four men, but he also enticed Cromitie further with a promise of $250,000, cars, and vacations when Cromitie began to waver and went temporarily AWOL from the plan in 2009, after losing his night job at a local Walmart. One of the Newburgh 4, Onta Williams, had been a factory worker. These were all poor men in a decaying urban environment, and in the case of Payen, here was someone with substantial intellectual and mental health issues, who needed a job and professional treatment, and was regarded as unreliable by Cromitie. The FBI, according to the Newburgh 4 documentary, considered the four men incapable of carrying out an action on their own. There is no doubt that Cromitie held anti-Semitic hatreds, stating to Hussain: “Those fucking Jewish bastards,” but again, holding outrageous, hateful beliefs is a far cry from initiating violent actions against people and institutions that embody different beliefs. All four men were sentenced to 25 years in federal prison.

Prosecutors described the men as “extremely violent,” but they had no violent offenses on their records. The defense argued that men would have never joined the plot without goading by a paid informant. The four men are all now in separate federal prisons.

On August 23, 2013 a federal appeals court in Manhattan voted 2 to 1 to uphold the convictions of the four men. Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs dissented and stated that there was no pre intent and Cromitie was “badgered” into joining the plot. The appeals court also held that the government’s actions in supplying phony weapons and a plot “does not exceed due process limits.” Here existed a kind of governmental tortured logic.

The FBI “would have been derelict in their duties if they did not test how far Cromitie would go to carry out his desires. When a government agent encounters a muslim [sic] who volunteers that he wants to do something to America or die like a martyr, the agent is entitled to probe the attitudes of that person to learn whether his religious views have impelled him toward the violent brand of radical Islam that poses a dire threat to the United States.”

It was not uncommon, following the 2016 general election, to encounter people from all kinds of backgrounds whose sentiments and statements toward Donald Trump could have resulted in their being sent to federal prison given the tortured reasoning of the appeals court in the Newburgh case.

The Deadly Schoharie Limousine Crash

Unintended but foreseeable consequences can come about in a world in which violence and mayhem have become regular, if not the norm. It would have been impossible to predict wars lasting over 17 years as a result of the U.S. arming of the mujahideen in Afghanistan in the 1980s, or people so bent on destruction that thousands of innocent people would have been killed going about their daily routines in New York City in 2001.

At the time of a limousine crash in Schoharie, New York on October 6, 2018, Shahed Hussain appears to have been in his native country, Pakistan. A limousine carrying 17 people to a birthday party crashed at an intersection killing all of the occupants including the driver, who was not licensed to carry the number of people heading to the party. The limousine had previously failed official safety inspections and was not supposed to be on the road. The limousine was owned and operated by Prestige Limousine, a company whose day-to-day operations were overseen by Shahed Hussain’s son, Nauman, who has been charged as being “criminally negligent” in the deaths of the 20 people in the limo crash (“As community mourns, limo owner’s story emerges,” Times Union, October 14, 2018). The limousine company’s owner was Shahed Hussain.

The elder Hussain had carried out documented FBI stings. Now, the limo his company operated lay in a ditch beyond a Schoharie intersection.

The limousine that had failed several New York state safety inspections crashed at the intersection of routes 30 and 30A in October 2018, near a popular restaurant where two people in the restaurant’s parking lot were also killed by the speeding limo.

It may or may not be possible to trace the money paid to Hussain by the U.S. government for enlisting impoverished, black men into a conspiracy that they could not have dreamt of even in spectacular nightmares. Did the $95,000 of tax-free money that Hussain was paid get funneled into the limo service whose shoddy operation allegedly resulted in the deaths of so many innocent people? It is almost as if the U.S. arrived at a metaphorical crossroads in September 2001 and the horror of that day has resulted and reverberated in so many unanticipated and horrific outcomes. There could have been a choice made in the days following September 11, 2001, perhaps a police action to arrest and try Osama bin Laden and his co-conspirators rather than fighting endless wars, but this nation was already on a course set to double down on that terrorism in ways whose results were almost beyond comprehension.

Hussain’s previous involvement as an informant for the FBI is documented in Mother Jones “Wondering If Your “Jihadist” Friend Is With the FBI” (March 20, 2012), and provides riveting examples of Hussain’s actions in other FBI operations.

Creating terror plots where there were none was one way in which the consequences of national policy have played out. It is approximately 103 miles from Newburgh, New York to Schoharie, and about 68 miles from Manhattan to Newburgh. No one could have anticipated the insanity and death that would link these three places before September 11, 2001 and the thousands of lives that would be erased and fractured and the intersections of how those events reverberated into the present.

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer.

Notes: Calls to several offices went unanswered as I attempted to seek comments on both the Newburgh 4 and the Schoharie crash. The New York Conference of the NAACP would not comment, but referred me to the national headquarters of the NAACP, where my call to the media director of the organization was not returned. I had called the NAACP because neither of the numbers of the Albany and the Newburgh NAACP were working numbers. I attempted to get a comment from a representative of the Masjid al-Ikhlas mosque in Newburgh, and I received no response. I did speak with a staff writer for the Times Union who confirmed that Hussain’s whereabouts were not known at the time of the publication of that paper’s article cited above. Finally, I contacted the office of one of the attorneys for the Newburgh 4, Samuel Braverman, and received no comment.

We Still Don’t Get it on the Left

Ku Klux Klan 1921-1922 Photo credit: Library of Congress

We Still Don’t Get it on the Left

The messages via email began arriving in my inbox as midterm election results were still undecided in places such as Florida and Georgia. Some of the emails came from MoveOn and all of the appeals were in support of two local demonstrations/vigils to be held in support of Jeffrey Sessions who had just been fired by Donald Trump. Imagine leftists and liberals holding vigils for a racist whose last official act as attorney general was to make it impossible for the Justice Department to investigate local police departments. Here’s a guy who heaped praise on the Ku Klux Klan, but opined that their only flaw was that some members of that group smoked marijuana.

The Guardian ran an article, “National populism is unstoppable-and the left still doesn’t understand it” (November 8, 2018), by Matthew Goodwin, co-author of National Populism: The Revolt Against Liberal Democracy, in which he makes many cogent observations on the sweep of right-wing movements in several so-called liberal democracies in the West:

So what is really going on? National populism is revolving around four deep-rooted societal shifts: the “four Ds”. First, there are high levels of political distrust, which are being exacerbated by populist leaders who paint themselves and their followers as victims of a political system that has become less representative of key groups. Second, many people have strong and entrenched fears about the perceived destruction of national cultures, ways of life and values, amid unprecedented and rapid rates of immigration and ethnic change. Accompanying this distrust and fear are anxieties related to deprivation and the loss of jobs and income, along with a strong sense that they and their ethnic and social group are being left behind relative to others in society.

Finally, many political systems in the west are having to grapple with a new era of dealignment, in which bonds between voters and traditional parties are breaking down, and hence the path for new political challengers is much more open.

Many of Goodwin’s points have been made by other writers and social scientists using different assessments and terminology, but the outcome is the same in society after society with profound effects on the rest of us and the entire planet. They—populists of the far right—want simple or easy answers to difficult questions and they are sometimes eager and ready to use violence to achieve their ends.

While many pundits celebrated the results of Tuesday’s election as a stopgap against Trump, he hardly skipped a beat getting back to his hate-filled rhetoric and actions against immigrants and dropped a passing comment about praying for the victims of the latest national gun outrage in California.

Back to Goodwin: He’s accurate in his assessment that the far right juggernaut carries in it seeds of the culture wars that began in response to the movements for change in the 1960s across the globe. I don’t think that they’re stoppable at this point and the Sword of Damocles of nuclear war and the destruction of the natural environment hang in the balance. And while we’re waiting for this almost inevitable debacle, let’s get out there for Sessions!

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer.

“Let the music Keep our Spirits High”

Balloon and airplane over the Berkshires. Photo credit: Howard Lisnoff

“Let the music keep our spirits high
Let the buildings keep our children dry
Let creation reveal its secrets by and by, by and by
When the light that’s lost within us reaches the sky” Jackson Browne

Wake-up From the Nightmare

Protest March, January 21, 2017. Photo credit: Howard Lisnoff

As We Approach the 2018 Election

Protest March January 21, 2017 Photo credit: Howard Lisnoff

The New York City Skyline from the 215th Street Subway Station

The New York City Skyline from the 215th Street Subway Station Photo credit: Howard Lisnoff

In an Apartment in Brooklyn

Tree of Life synagogue Photo credit: Reuters

In An Apartment in Brooklyn
Published at CounterPunch November 1, 2018

Faige (a fictitious name) remains in her apartment in Brooklyn, New York and all of the fears that she felt as a teenager in Eastern Europe during the onslaught of Naziism in the lead-up to World War II have come back. It was Kristallnacht on the night of November 9-10, 1938. She witnessed the murder of family members and was saved only through the intervention of a family acquaintance who was a taxi driver. She was a 17-year-old with striking red hair and the taxi driver and his basic humanity and fearlessness are the only things that saved Faige from the Holocaust that would follow.

Now in her apartment in Brooklyn the scenes of the horror that she witnessed 80 years ago have come back to her, as the news of the horrific attack against members of the Jewish congregation in Pittsburgh at the Tree of Life congregation became known.

Faige sees two men in her apartment from the Nazi past who are not physically present, but are all-too real to her and their intent is to murder her, as they did to members of her immediate family. Although people who have come to visit and comfort her sit in the chairs where she imagines the Nazis are sitting, she cannot distinguish between, in the horror she continues to experience, those who have come to be with her to help and the horrific ghosts that haunt from the past. Her fear cannot be assuaged and it is difficult for her to calm down in the new horror in which she finds herself.

There are some with the expertise to analyze with some measure of precision what is happening to Faige, who has witnessed the unspeakable and now is immersed in the reports of what has happened in a place where she thought that she was safe. Indeed, most Jews in the U.S. felt safe until the alleged attack by Robert Bowers in the Jewish congregation in Pittsburgh where people came to worship. Although a degree of anti-Semitism has been present in U.S. society, along with racism and other forms of hatred against immigrants and against other religious persuasions, that hatred was seen in context as extremist views and was not accepted and encouraged by those at the highest levels of government in Washington, D.C. But now there is a free-for-all of hate that the President of the United States and some members of his administration have forcefully supported. And the anti-Semites and white supremacists are listening carefully and heeding those words. In Kentucky, an alleged murderer shot and killed two elderly black people after he was thwarted by a locked door in an attempted attack against a black church.

Indeed, when Donald Trump admonishes and condemns madmen and violent extremists like alleged bomb maker Cesar Sayoc and alleged gunman Robert Bowers, it is a simple task to Google the numerous instances in which Trump has encouraged and stoked the flames of hatred by his own statements in public places. He began his presidential campaign with attacks against immigrants and is so lacking in judgement that he held a campaign rally in the Midwest on the night of the slaughter in Pittsburgh and added a call for arming those in houses of worship as a remedy for racist and religious intolerance and hatred that he himself has supported. This narcissist can’t begin to understand how those in grief need empathy in a time of great suffering.

How does Trump think that the doctored video clip of him attacking a caricatured figure with an image of a head composed of the CNN logo outside of a wrestling ring would be seen to those lost at the fringes of society? Trump is a master at playing the media in a perverse Orwellian manner that appeals to lost and hateful souls and many of those who support and supported Trump and his fellow travelers in the Republican Party. It is all calculated and has had its intended effect on those of us of goodwill and a woman in an apartment in Brooklyn who has suffered so much! Trump finds that among these mass murderers and terrorists are some “very fine people.” It takes a lot of ignorance and bald-face meanness to terrorize a 97-year-old woman! These fascists know the lethal effects of their words. They represent a decaying social, political, and economic system that the power elite has learned how to play.

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