A German View of the Gaza War

Victor Grossman, the German columnist, begins his current item on the Israeli attack on Gaza with the question whether it might be too controversial. After exposing a one-sided pro-Israeli slant of the German media and politicians in power, he rejects the charge that criticism of Israeli policy equals anti-Semitism. He concludes — and this is the “controversial” part — that it would be useful if the existing Jewish mainstream organizations were to clearly disassociate themselves from “all repression of Palestinians  in the West Bank, in Israel and in Gaza, its rejection of the accelerated settlement of West Bank areas, the discrimination of the Arab language within Israel, and the isolation and suffocation of Gaza – all policies of Netanyahu, his Likkud and other parties – and thus make clear that these are not “Jewish policies” and should not be Israeli policies.”

Any German view of Israeli politics labors under the weight of Germany’s historic crimes. It’s all too easy for the targets of current criticism to link the critic with the legacy of genocide. For a long time I, as person born in Germany, felt constrained by this burden to speak softly and rarely. However, the latest situation is completely out of bounds. A politician on trial for corruption provokes a war and slaughters hundreds as a distraction to save his political career. This outrage is supposed to win our sympathies? I think Victor Grossman’s column is quite restrained and moderate. When I look at what the Israeli government has done, I’m reminded of the psychological observation that the victims of child abuse often grow up to become abusers themselves. The Israeli ruling elite in their youth learned politics from the Nazis. That’s what they know and all they know. Bombardment of civilian centers — Guernica, Rotterdam, London — that’s Israeli politics in Gaza today. Racist mob rule to destroy undesirable ethnic establishments — Kristallnacht — that’s the “Death to Arabs” mobs organized on social media and terrorizing Palestinian residents. Thank God there is resistance and retaliation to a degree not available to the Jews in German-occupied lands. Thank God there is worldwide public opinion. Without that, Netanyahu and his gang would commit a massive Shoa against the Palestinians. What they are committing is genocide on the installment plan. I thank my German parents that they were anti-Nazi, that they both spent time in Nazi prisons. For many years afterward it seemed that to be anti-Nazi meant to support the policies of the state of Israel. Today, after decades of Israeli occupation and repression, and given the obscenity of the Netanyahu government, to be anti-Nazi means to stand up for the Palestinians.

That’s my personal opinion. Now here’s the more moderate, restrained column by Victor Grossman.


BERLIN BULLETIN NO. 189  May 23 2021

Victor Grossman

(This is far too long. Is it also too controversial?)

It’s no great surprise that most German media, reporting on the Israel-Palestine war, was one-sided, bigoted and misleading! There were samples of fairer treatment at first, showing the demolition of Palestinian homes, the shutdown of a meeting place for young people, the far-rightist gangs marching in East Jerusalem chanting “Death to Arabs,” the invasion of al-Aqsa Mosque at the height of Ramadan with stun grenades, tear gas and “skunk-fluid” spray. And even timid hints that Netanyahu’s provocations aimed at distracting attention, gaining popularity and avoiding a prison term, even if it led, as he certainly knew and planned, to a major round of violence.

But the fairer reports dwindled as the media returned to “Israel’s need for self-defense, the right of every country” – with no mention of any similar Palestinian need. It equated rockets fired from Gaza, or those ten percent which pierced Israel’s protective “Iron Dome” and did then wreck homes and cause deaths, with the constant, hour-long torrents of death and destruction blasted by one of the strongest military forces in the world into a small, densely populated confine, which could in no way  deter the fighter-bombers and missiles, the drones circling low, night and day, over homes and families, for Gaza had no “Iron Domes” sent over by US arms producers. The media seemed largely to accept the huge disproportion, showing  the mourning and heartbreak when  a Jewish child was tragically killed by a rocket, but remaining almost silent about Palestinian children.

Ibrahim al-Talaa, 17, told of feeling it was the end for himself and his family.

“The Israeli warplanes bombed many different places in my area with more than 40 consecutive missiles, without issuing the prior warnings they used to issue in the past three wars. The sound of the bombing and shelling was so terrifying that I cannot describe it… As the bombs fell heavy and close, the house was shaking as if it would fall on our heads… My nerves collapsed and I was about to cry out, but I tried to restrain myself, just to give my family some strength. I saw my 13-year-old sister crying in silence. I hugged her for a while trying to cheer her up.”

Maha Saher, 27, a mother of two daughters, Sara, 4, and Rama, five months old, told how, during the heaviest of attacks, her daughter Sara wept uncontrollably, asking for her father to return home.

“I don’t fear death itself. But I fear to lose one of my children – or they to lose me…I fear they will target my apartment while we are sleeping, as they did with the al-Wehda street massacre.”

Israeli warplanes had bombed three houses on al-Wehda street on Sunday, killing 42 civilians, mostly children and women. “They then destroyed the street itself to prevent the ambulances and fire trucks from reaching the destroyed buildings and wounded people,” she said.

It was Al Jazeera which quoted one father: “We awoke in the middle of the night to the sound of the bombardment… Now only two of our family are alive. 14 members, women, children and men, are gone. Six are still under the rubble.”

For much of the world, the sixty-six dead Palestinian children remained little more than numbers, like the daily count of new Covid cases. There almost seemed to be media rules for one-sided reporting.

Ongoing descriptions of conditions in Gaza were equally rare. Unlike Ashgerod or Bathsheeba in Israel there was a water shortage, an almost total lack of clean water. We were not told what three or less irregular hours of electricity meant for people with Covid whose oxygen containers need electricity – or incubator babies when generators stopped working. And aside from the days and nights of bombing, how many were told of the decades of enforced shortages, joblessness, isolation, hopelessness and abiding fear in Gaza?

Such one-sidedness might be blamed only on Israel for not permitting journalists to enter Gaza. For the few already there, at Associated Press and Al-Jazeera, bombs aimed at their building, after a 60- minute warning, destroyed equipment and prevented further pictures of Gaza from their rooftop.

However, German media bias is part of a larger picture with a long history.

Back in 1949 the newly-founded Federal Republic of Germany soon grasped that the worsening Cold War enabled it to welcome back all but the most notorious Nazis in every field: schools, courtrooms, the police, universities, top military posts, diplomatic service, all political levels, even as chancellor or president and, in the most essential, basic power positions, the same economic titans who built up Hitler and fattened on war profits achieved with mass slave labor.

But there were two conditions for acceptance in the western community of nations. One was loud espousal of democracy and freedom, with elections and a variety of political parties, as long as they were not too conspicuously pro-Nazi – and safely supported western free-market rule.

The second obligation was a repeated, wordy repudiation of anti-Semitism and total approval of anything said or done by the government of newly-founded Israel.

It has held to this exercise in bonding.  A key episode was the Eichmann Trial in 1961. Israel refrained from any finger-pointing at active former Nazis and Shoah-leaders, most notably Hans Globke, known as “the second most important man in West Germany”. In gratitude, Globke’s protective boss Konrad Adenauer agreed to help finance and build up Israel militarily, with 2 billion marks for a starter.

This policy, praised as admirable repentance, cemented West German rebirth as an industrial, political, military bastion and attack base against the “Bolshevik East”. But the obligations remained! Did Israel support Guatemalan killer troops with Galil rifles und Uzi machine guns, and all bloody dictators in Central America with weapons and surveillance equipment? Was it eagerly supportive of apartheid South Africa, also in weapons development? Was it the last remaining supporter in the UN of Washington’s illegal blockade of Cuba after even semi-colonies like Palau backed away? Take care! While progressive Jewish journalists in Israel opposed their reactionary government, the mildest utterer of criticism in Germany was quickly condemned as an anti-Semite! Or if Jewish as a “self-hater!” Ignore that rule at your peril – of almost total censorship and ostracism!

This applied most strictly to the expanding settlement of the West Bank. Roads shut down for Palestinians, with roadblocks and checkpoints at every turn, ever smaller shares of limited water supplies, family ties between Arabs in Israel, Gaza or the West Bank restricted by walls and Israeli soldiers, West Bank children jailed, even tortured for throwing stones, homes with panicked children smashed into at all hours and the recurring bombing of Gaza recalling World War Two (or Korea and Vietnam) – it was all defended, even welcomed by nearly every political leader, publication and journalist as “necessary self-defense of our eternal friend” – through thick and thin.

As the polemics against “Palestinian terrorists” increased, whose violent or non-violent rebellion against occupation justified every countermeasure, I turned, always a history buff, to a speech by President Andrew Jackson in 1833, when he asserted that the Indians “…established in the midst of another and a superior race… must necessarily yield to the force of circumstances and ere long disappear.” They soon did; the U.S. Army moved 60,000 Indians to arid territory west of the Mississippi, with thousands dying in the “Trail of Tears.” Are there no parallels today?

In November 1868 George Custer and his Seventh Cavalry attacked the Cheyennes and Arapahos and slaughtered 103 warriors, plus women and children. He reported “a great victory … the Indians were asleep… the women and children offered little resistance.” He boasted: “The Seventh can handle anything it meets … there are not enough Indians in the world to defeat the Seventh Cavalry.” We know what happened to him.

No, Hamas is not modeled after Sitting Bull or Crazy Horse. But don’t Custer’s boasts find echoes in loud words heard in the Knesset? And again we must face the question: Which are the terrorists?

In Pontecorvo’s film The Battle of Algiers about the fight for independence after 130 years of French oppression, explosives concealed in baskets kill innocent French civilians. To a bitter rebuke, the Algerian response was: “Give us your bombers and you can have our baskets.” Desperate desires for freedom and equality, with no available peaceful response to torture and repression, lead almost inevitably to violent responses – anti-apartheid bombs in South Africa or the explosive derailment of German trains, even with civilians, by antifascist French partisans. Rockets from Gaza were nasty and bloody, but what else was available against fighter-bombers? And with 12 Israelis killed, two of them children, but almost 250 Gazans, 66 of them children, I must again ponder: “Who are terrorists?”.

The world is grateful for the ceasefire, but the price for it was heavy. Beyond the tragedy of any human loss or maiming on either side, airstrikes in Gaza hit 17 hospitals and clinics, wrecked the only Covid testing laboratory. Fifty schools were damaged or closed, three mosques were leveled and 72,000 Gazans lost or had to leave wrecked homes. Water, electricity, sewage disposal are now almost hopelessly crippled, far worse than before.

As those eleven terrible days ground on, the German media (as in the USA and elsewhere) found it increasingly difficult to distort or ignore what was really happening. More and more people questioned the almost total support for Netanyahu by every party except the LINKE (and even it was sadly split on some aspects). As a result, as if by command, the focus was altered. Not Gaza’s rockets became Germany’s main enemy but again anti-Semitism.

Of course it existed and, as always, had to be fought, relentlessly, as part of a century-long struggle. Anti-Semitic attacks or actions had indeed increased in recent years – committed mostly by Germanic Nazi-types who hate Muslim “foreigners” as much or more than they hate Jews. In fact, “anti-Islam” attacks were in the majority, if only because so many more Muslims live in Germany than Jews. But also, perhaps, because there are neo-fascist nests ensconced in the ranks of the police, the armed forces – even in some of the high positions which they wholly dominated in postwar years.

Of course, Palestinian desperation inevitably spread to Germany among sons, daughters or cousins of those killed or again homeless in Gaza or suffering under repression in the West Bank and Israel.

A week ago I took part in a demonstration to oppose the bombing of Gaza, alongside many thousands, mostly young Palestinians and other Arabs living in the West Berlin borough of  Kreuzberg. Anti-Israeli feelings prevailed in countless signs, most of them hand-made on cardboard. But I saw and heard not one example of an anti-Jewish nature, I saw no crossing of the line to racism. The atmosphere was determined but peaceful; the sunny weather lent almost a picnic aspect.

After two hours my feet gave out and I left for home. Then, in the evening news, I learned that at the end of the march some group had indeed shouted anti-Semitic slogans. This caused the police to step in – hard! Or was it because the huge crowd, though dutifully wearing the obligatory face masks, could hardly keep to full social distancing in the crowded streets? So the march, one of three in Berlin alone that day, ended in violence and many arrests. As for the shouters, it seems that some may have been far-right Turkish groups. Long experience also leads to a suspicion that they included, in part, some hastily recruited provocateurs, so at least the closing minutes of what had been a peaceful demonstration would provide the media and the politicians just what they wanted. They did. And the sober, fair description of the event by a journalist on Berlin’s official TV channel was quickly deleted – and replaced by an amazingly abject apology for “biased reporting”!

This disturbed march became the centerpiece of a campaign fed by excited reports about stones thrown at a synagogue, anti-Semitic smearing of a few plaques, burning of Israeli flags in two cities, a punch to someone wearing a kippa. All nasty, but not very hard proof of what the media shouted: “Alarming Antisemitism on the Rise!!!” Yet under the klieg lights the politicians outdid themselves in their warnings, while always adding their defense of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state – but now tending to avoid direct mention of Benjamin Netanyahu. Who could admire him?

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer of the right-wing Christian Social Union, notorious for his efforts against refugees and immigrants, demanded “the full force of the law” against anti-Semitism.

Annalena Baerbock, the Greens’ candidate to be next German chancellor, interrupted her attacks on détente with Russia to visit a synagogue and declare that “I am shaken to hear that Israeli flags are being burned in Germany…In these difficult hours we stand firmly at the side of Israeli women and men…Israel’s security is part of German state reality“.

Armin Laschet, her Christian Democratic rival in the race for top office, not wanting to be outdone, demanded that the flag of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) be forbidden in Germany – although this secular, pro-Marxist organization rejects anti-Semitism.

A counter-demonstration was quickly organized at the Brandenburg Gate, where more political leaders added their anxious voices, denouncing burnt or torn flags and stones and again stressing Germany’s unalterable  support for Israel’s right to protect itself. The dead children of Gaza went unmentioned.

It was a professor with Palestinian background who noted sadly: “I believe it is time for the people of Germany and the German elite to stop making Palestinian children in Gaza pay for the crimes of the German people against European Jews.” No halls were available for people with such ideas.

And as for those Arabs demonstrating in Berlin; most of them, born here, could not be deported. But they had better watch their step! I could not help but recall the months after Pearl Harbor and how Japanese-Americans were depicted – and how they were treated! Or some Asian-Americans today!

So many people confuse the views and policies of some fanatics and some leaders, whether fundamentalist Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus or Buddhists, with large groups of very varied human beings in each category. To counteract this, in Germany, I would offer two suggestions – though without much hope of great success (except perhaps on a local scale):

Why couldn’t the Jewish Community in Germany state its disavowal of all repression of Palestinians  in the West Bank, in Israel and in Gaza, its rejection of the accelerated settlement of West Bank areas, the discrimination of the Arab language within Israel, and the isolation and suffocation of Gaza – all policies of Netanyahu, his Likkud and other parties – and thus make clear that these are not “Jewish policies” and should not be Israeli policies. It could then call for a united front of both Jewish and Muslim groups and people in Germany to oppose all forms of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia or attacks against anyone because of color, religion or cultural differences. This might be the best way to oppose the sinister elements which have troubled Germany for so long, most terribly when in control, still sinister when underground. It could be a model for all of Europe and beyond it.  ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Previous Berlin Bulletins, a bio, photo and a list of my books, in English and German, are available at:


Was John Brown Right?

On the morning of his execution by the State of Virginia on December 2, 1859, John Brown penned these words:

I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood. I had, as I now think, vainly flattered myself that without very much bloodshed it might be done


Not many years passed before the Civil War unleashed such a purge of blood as this nation had not seen before and has not, since. But the crimes of which he spoke were not washed away. Far from it. The legacy of slavery, almost the slavery itself, remain alive. In the words of William Faulkner, this past is not dead; it is not even past. The new Legacy Museum with its national lynching memorial only covers up to 1950. It needs an expansive annex to include the state-sponsored and -enabled murders of the past seventy years. George Floyd’s name is only among the most recent links in a long chain of innocent men, women, and children martyred by domestic terrorism.

As so many times in the past — think the aftermath of the murders of Martin Luther King, Rodney King, Malcolm X, Michael Brown — American cities exploded and burned. Irrepressible flareups of anger filled the streets with shouting voices and raised, unarmed hands. As always, the mainstream of peaceful protest rubbed against a narrow margin of vandalism, arson, and looting, and the media, following an old established playbook, blew up that sideshow into the main event. Next in the playbook comes the curfew and more police brutality, and the National Guard, and the cities turn into military fronts, where the establishment makes war on the people.

Shut the f**k up, America, about Hong Kong. Shut up about Venezuela. Shut up about Iran, and Russia, and every other country that doesn’t meet your imaginary standards of democracy. Hong Kong, Venezuela, Iran, Russia, all of them are right here. The moral high ground has long worn a veil of hypocrisy. Now once again, the veil is shredded. We stand here naked, bloody, covered in excrement, leering with sanctimony, every word a lie, every act a crime, everything we touch, corrupt and dead.

This is not about Donald Trump. He stands apart not for his resort to military repression — they all did that — but for his personal cowardice, hiding in the bunker as peaceful demonstrators massed outside the White House. Are there any voices with moral courage among the clubs of billionaires that own and run the country? If there are leaders of the establishment who can not only speak the necessary words, but begin the required actions to demolish the monstrous mausoleum of injustice that weighs on the country, they are silent.

Hope then shifts to the Democrats. What a pathetic lot. Joe Biden, who owes his status as presumptive nominee to the Black voters of South Carolina, has no vision beyond restoring normalcy. What does normalcy mean? Normalcy for many decades has meant not only police brutality, but job discrimination, housing discrimination, medical discrimination, school discrimination — racism in every dimension and every moment of life from conception to burial. Biden is likely to ride a tide of national disgust with Trump into office. But little, if anything, will improve, and many things will get worse.

This is a time when the whole edifice of government and the economic structure have lost their legitimacy. It’s not only that we have a climate where cops and white vigilantes can murder black people with impunity. It’s a life where authorities can order people to avoid the virus, but don’t provide them with masks, gloves, shields, or gowns to carry out that directive. It’s a system where employers can order millions of people not to come to work, but don’t provide them with the money to survive. They order other people to show up and work extra hours, but don’t provide them with protective equipment on the job, or with sick leave. In the greatest health crisis this country has known in a century, millions of people have lost even basic health care coverage, and the medical system is in tatters. The powers on high have pushed tens of millions of Americans off a cliff. And you wonder why there are mass demonstrations, and why there was also looting, despair, open defiance of authority all across the country. Government only endures with the consent of the governed, and this consent has worn out.

This is one of those historical moments when America desperately needs a revolution. Among the wealthy classes some see “mobs with pitchforks” on the horizon, and have prepped their getaways, hideouts, safe rooms, and arsenals. On the other side we hear revolutionary voices calling for the overthrow of the imperialist ruling class and the establishment of socialism, but these phrases remain abstract.

Bernie, Elizabeth, and the “squad” have the right idea. Concrete proposals: free and universal health care, free and universal education, for starters. But that doesn’t go nearly far enough. The math doesn’t work: how to pay for those things, if everything else stays the same? And what exactly will begin to level the bleeding gaps of income and wealth between the classes and the races?

We need to think pragmatically. There is enormous, unimaginable wealth, but it’s in the hands of a tiny club of private owners. It’s time for a capital levy, followed by a steeply progressive wealth tax, levied at the corporate sources. Both are reasonably well understood economic measures with historic precedents, capable of generating the revenue needed for social reconstruction.

A massive campaign to rebuild America offers the staircase for elevating communities of color to parity. Begin with free schools for hundreds of thousands of men and women of color to learn the construction business: carpentry, plumbing, electrical, iron, sheet metal, computer aided design, architecture, civil engineering, project management, AI and everything else required for a huge popular DIY mobilization to clean up, upgrade, renovate, restore, rebuild and/or build new housing, new industry, and the infrastructure to support it, in America’s depressed urban and rural communities. The reward, besides a living wage, will be equity. Workers will become owners of the rebuilt or newbuilt apartments and houses. The wealth gap between the races will narrow and vanish in one generation.

To solve the education gap, there needs to be a huge make-up investment in black colleges and universities until their endowments equal or surpass those of the big ivies, and in black high schools and lower grades right through to preschool until their facilities, assets, and staffing equal or surpass those of the best white suburban schools. When that is done, in two generations the attainment gaps in education, and segregation itself, will fade into history.

But to make any of those measures work, there has to be a thorough purge and turnover of our machineries of government. Too many police departments are saturated with Klan ideology; they must be re–educated or weeded out. Too many “public servants” are whores for wealthy donors. The revolving door between public office and private profit has turned the headquarters of many, perhaps all government agencies into cesspools of corruption and conspiracy against the public interest. Nothing useful can be achieved with this kind of governmental apparatus. It must be cleansed and reoriented, and in some cases smashed entirely and rebuilt from scratch. A thorough purge of the state machinery at all levels is the precondition of progress in every other area.

If this vision, broad as it is, can be made real by deep democratic reforms, then John Brown’s gallows prophecy will prove to be hollow. But if all that comes out of the current upheavals is a return to “normalcy,” then God help America. This normalcy is a knee on the neck not only of African-Americans, but of all Americans whose dream is to breathe free. If “normalcy” prevails, we will come out of the emergency more divided, with greater wealth in fewer hands, with greater poverty and sickness, with less security and protection from governmental abuse, and in an atmosphere more saturated with deadly poisons of the body and the mind than before.

Demographics is the foundation of hope for America. We are becoming more diverse, more free thinking, tolerant, clear eyed, primed for change, angry, and willing to take action. The current power surge of rich racist old white men is a rear guard action. It will not last. The only question is whether a brighter, cleaner, fairer, authentic, and secure America can be won through methods that are mainly peaceful, or whether we must reach the future in the manner foretold by the great emancipator John Brown.

John Brown’s Christmas raid into Missouri 1858, freeing 11 slaves. Unsigned painting, 1940, Kansas State Capitol Building.

Note from Norway

From Mike Seltzer, Oslo, April 21 2020

A short note about how things are developing here in the Nordic countries, specifically Norway, Denmark, and Finland, with a side look at Sweden.

Norway, Denmark, and Finland went on lockdown — schools, restaurants, drinking places, cinemas, etc. — on about March 11 or 12. All except those in vital occupations — medicine, transport, drugstores and supermarkets — were told to stay at home. Since then the spread and impact of the coronavirus in all three countries have followed the same pattern.

Our infections and deaths peaked about the same time and have now been steadily going down each day. Consequently, all kindergartens in Norway opened yesterday and next week later the first four grades of primary schools will be opening, and one week after that barbers and hair salons, physical therapists and related occupations will be free to go back to work. That is more or less what is taking place in Denmark.

But meanwhile in Sweden the death rate per million populations is currently four times that of Norway and I think of Denmark too.  Here is a link to a statistical site we check each day. And here as in the other Nordic countries deaths have been tightly concentrated among elderly people — mainly those with preexisting conditions like diabetes, heart conditions, etc.

Since March, many of us here in the North have been deeply troubled with what has  been taking place in Sweden. There, they have as state epidemiologist, a man named Anders Tegnell, who got his job being the protege of the former state epidemiologist. For those with a few years in academe behind us, it is a rather familiar story where the protege, i.e. the favored candidate with the fewest qualifications gets the position. The keyword is “lovende” which translate into “she/he is promising”. At any rate, this man, never questioned critically by Swedish journalists at daily press conferences, has kept schools and high schools, bars and restaurants open, and what we see on Swedish television of life in the streets and eating and drinking places is like watching a movie about life on another planet.

Finally, last week, 38 professors in fields like virology and bacteriology publicly attacked Tegnell and in good Swedish understatement characterized him as being “utan talang” which translates as totally lacking talent. And they have called for a radical change in Swedish policy making it more like that of Denmark, Norway and Finland. By the way, Norway has closed its borders to Sweden and any Norwegian coming across from Sweden is to go into voluntary quarantine for 14 days – and this morning the Norwegian police announced that they had jailed someone who broke the quarantine and they are hitting him with a big fine.

As it looks now, if the virus does not resurge, Norway in midsummer, always a big holiday, may be back to normal – again if the virus does not resurge.  Even then, the Norwegian government is advising us to stay in Norway during July when everyone gets four weeks of vacation.

I hope that what Norwegians, Danes and Finns have experienced gives you some hope in the dark times you all are now experiencing. Of course, we have here three things lacking in the US: a rational response by the government, a well functioning and FREE medical system headed by a national institute of health and nationalized radio and television system dealing in facts, not opinions.

I cannot for the life of me understand after watching weeks of Trump that Fauci does not simply take the mike and say: ” Do not believe this man. He knows nothing. And everything he says leads to more deaths.” Fauci resigns, gets a pension, and like the captain of the Theodore Roosevelt, I am sure there would be a massive public outcry if Trump and the Trumpsters went after him. And it is so nice these days to watching your California governor – and in fact all the Dem governors.

Finally if you have not seen this, please share. It will help bring a smile even as the Donald prepares for the next so-called press conference.

 If Trump were captain of the Titanic, here are his announcements in chronological order.

  • There isn’t any iceberg.
  • There was an iceberg but it’s in a totally different ocean.
  • The iceberg is in this ocean but it will melt very soon.
  • There is an iceberg but we didn’t hit the iceberg.
  • We hit the iceberg, but the damage will be repaired very shortly.
  • The iceberg is a Chinese iceberg.
  • We are taking on water but every passenger who wants a lifeboat can get a lifeboat, and they are beautiful lifeboats.
  • Look, passengers need to ask nicely for the lifeboats if they want them.
  • We don’t have any lifeboats, we’re not lifeboat distributors.
  • Passengers should have planned for icebergs and brought their own lifeboats.
  • I really don’t think we need that many lifeboats.
  • We have lifeboats and they’re supposed to be our lifeboats, not the passengers’ lifeboats.
  • The lifeboats were left on shore by the last captain of this ship.
  • Nobody could have foreseen the iceberg.

A Laugh and a Song

The Covid-19 pandemic is no laughing matter. But in this grim situation a laugh is more needed than ever. Here is a YouTube video that cracked me up.

And here’s a follow-up in the same vein. Hats off to the producers and talent, these are well done.

In a different mood, here’s a beautifully done one-artist production by friend Chet Gardiner:

It’s true that the virus doesn’t discriminate, but whether “poor and rich end up in the ditch” depends. Item: this item from the NY Post, forwarded by friend Mike Seltzer in Norway. The rich are using their elbows to push the poor into the ditch. When it comes to rich and poor, we’ve got social distancing big time. Hardly even in the same world.

Here, thanks to David Tam, is another YouTube song performance that gets it right:

Is Pete Buttigieg Just a Shill for Corporations and the Donor Class?

Why has Buttigieg flipped from being a putative progressive to being perhaps the most conservative, pro-corporate Democrat remaining in the field? A good place to start would be to follow the money.

By Miles Mogulescu Reposted from Common Dreams 11/22/19

Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaking with attendees at the 2019 California Democratic Party State Convention at the George R. Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, California on June 1, 2019. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr/cc)
Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaking with attendees at the 2019 California Democratic Party State Convention at the George R. Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, California on June 1, 2019. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr/cc)

Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, the fourth-largest town in Indiana, is the shiny new object in the race to become the Democrats’ candidate for president in 2020. Coming from almost nowhere, he’s finished first in several recent Iowa polls.

Superficially, there’s a lot that’s appealing about Mayor Pete: He’s articulate, quick on his feet, can speak in full paragraphs—sometimes in Norwegian—and projects a sense of optimism. But when you scratch below the service, it’s hard to find Buttigieg’s core convictions, and and he now appears to have put himself up for sale to corporate interests.

Buttigieg’s Flip-Flop On Progressive Policies

As a virtual unknown, Buttigieg started his campaign backing progressive policies. In February, he called the Green New Deal “the right beginning.” He called for structural reforms, like adding Justices to the Supreme Court and abolishing the Electoral College. He said he was “all for” a single payer health care system and tweeted, “I, Pete Buttigieg, politician, do henceforth and forthwith declare, most affirmatively and indubitably, unto the ages, that I do favor Medicare for All.”

“As things stand today, Mayor Pete is the candidate most likely to ensure that no reforms seriously threaten the interests of these oligarchs.”

Buttigieg has flip-flopped on all of these policies. He has now become the most outspoken Democratic candidate in opposing Medicare for All. It would be one thing if his opposition were merely tactical. (While I support Medicare for All, there’s at least a principled argument that it’s not achievable right away and that a slower approach meant to move towards Medicare for All in the medium range is more politically practical.) But Buttigieg has started parroting Republican talking points opposing Medicare for All on principle because it takes away people’s “free choice” to choose private insurance.

Buttigieg’s “Medicare for All Who Want It” is a slick campaign slogan, but bad policy as a long-term solution. Rep. Ro Khanna (D. CA.) said Buttigieg’s plan “won’t bring the administrative costs down of private insurers or maximize negotiation with Big Pharma and hospitals…This means higher premiums, higher drug costs, higher deductibles, and more denied claims for the middle class.” The New Republic‘s Libby Watson called Buttigieg’s health care plan “the worst yet,” saying it was “deeply stupid.”

The plan, wrote Watson, “betrays a terminal case of Democrat Brain; it is a faux-technocratic fantasia soaked in the utterly meaningless jargon of Access and Affordability that won’t even accomplish the things it pretends to want. It is an insult.” And Buttigieg has taken to attacking other Democrats for being too generous in their proposals to make higher education free.

Buttigieg and the Donor Class

Why has Buttigieg flipped from being a putative progressive to being perhaps the most conservative, pro-corporate Democrat remaining in the field? A good place to start would be to follow the money.

Buttigieg has become one of the biggest recipients of contributions from the health care, financial services, and big tech industries. Under the proposals advanced by Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, Buttigieg’s big money donors are the ones who would have to pay higher taxes to support things like free college tuition and universal health care. In Buttigieg, they’ve found a candidate to speak up for their interests.

Buttigieg is the second-largest recipient of contributions from the health care industry, after only Donald Trump. Buttigieg donors include the chief corporate affairs officer at Pfizer, the president of Astex Pharmaceuticals, a state lobbyist for Biogen, a vice president of public policy at Novartis, and the deputy vice president at the nation’s largest pharmaceutical trade association, PhRMA, plus lawyer for AbbVie, Johnson & Johnson, and Merck.

Meanwhile, top executives of the largest tech companies have flocked to contribute to Buttigieg. Among those holding fundraisers for Buttigieg are Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, Nest Lab’s co-founder Matt Rogers, and Uber director of product communications, Chelsea Kohler. Other rich big tech donors include Ron Conway, who has led San Francisco mayors to back tech-friendly policies; Scott Belsky, the chief product officer and executive vice president at Adobe Inc; Tony Xu, CEO of Doordash Inc.; David Marcus, the head of Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency project; and Wendy Schmidt, wife of former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

Zuckerberg’s Secret Help

Moreover, according to Bloomberg News, Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, privately contacted Buttigieg to recommend campaign staff. Two of their “suggestions” were hired.

With Facebook, Google, and other high-tech oligopolies facing increasing public criticism, how likely will Buttigieg be to bring them under control, or even, as Elizabeth Warren has suggested, use anti-trust laws to break them up?

And the hits just keep on coming. Buttigieg has become a favorite of Wall Street donors. For example, Tony James, the executive vice chairman of Blackstone, the world’s largest private-equity firm, hosted a fundraiser for Buttigieg. James was a top contender for Treasury Secretary if Hillary Clinton got elected, and his fundraising for Buttigieg may be a new play for a top cabinet position, from which he could protect his Wall Street cronies from significant tax increases.

Buttigieg as Corporate Consultant

Buttigieg should be quite comfortable in the company of financial elites. As In These Times journalist Nathan Robinson points out, after graduating from Oxford and Harvard, Buttigieg could have found almost any job he wanted. He chose McKinsey & Company, which Robinson describes as a “cult-like management consulting firm.” McKinsey, Robinson continues, “may be the single greatest legitimizer of mass layoffs. Its advice: Identify your bottom 10 percent or 25 percent or 33 percent, and get rid of them as soon as possible.”

McKinsey has also advised dictatorships like Saudi Arabia and consulted with Purdue Pharma LP, which just went bankrupt because of lawsuits over its role in the opioid crisis. As a former McKinsey consultant writes anonymously in Current Affairs, describing the firm as “capital’s willing executioners:”

I came into my job as a McKinsey consultant hoping to change the world from the inside, believing that the best way to make progress is through influencing those who control the levers of power. Instead of being a force for good, I found myself party to the most damaging forces affecting the world: the resurgence of authoritarianism and the continued creep of markets into all parts of life…. McKinsey serves 90 of the top 100 corporations worldwide. It has acted as a catalyst and accelerant to every trend in the world economy: firm consolidation, the rise of advertising, runaway executive compensation, globalization, automation, and corporate restructuring and strategy.

We can only guess as to whether Mayor Pete has also had a change of heart about his time with McKinsey, as this former consultant did. But while Buttigieg no longer puts McKinsey at the top of his resumé, as he did during his run for mayor of South Bend, he calls his stint at the management consulting firm his most “intellectually informing experience.”

American politics are a money pit, so we should not be surprised that powerful corporations and CEOs like Zuckerberg are constantly seeking ways to maximize their influence. But why have they now singled out Buttigieg, who only recently espoused bold reforms, to be the top spokesman for the donor class in the Democratic primary? It’s because as things stand today, Mayor Pete is the candidate most likely to ensure that no reforms seriously threaten the interests of these oligarchs.

I will do everything I can to encourage the Democrats to nominate a candidate who can not only defeat Trump, but address the structural problems that led to his rise. But because Trump and those who now seek his mantle, like Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo, pose an existential threat to the future of the nation and the world, I will do everything I can to defeat Trump and encourage others to do the same—even if the Democratic nominee is ultimately a corporate centrist like Buttigieg or Biden.

Miles Mogulescu

Miles Mogulescu is an entertainment attorney/business affairs executive, producer, political activist and writer.Our work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Feel free to republish and share widely.

The Wall 30 Years Later

By Victor Grossman

Media jubilation reaches a climax on November 9th, thirty years after the bumbling, perhaps even misunderstood decision to open the gate for all East Germans to stream through, hasten to the nearest West Berlin bank for their “welcome present“ of 100 prized West German marks, and taste the joys of the western free market system. Within less than a year they would end the experiment known as the German Democratic Republic to join, and fully enjoy, the wealthy, healthy, prosperous united Germany, with its freedom of the press, speech, travel and consumer bliss.

The jubilation thirty years ago is easy to understand and to sympathize with. Alone the ability, whenever and as often as desired, to meet and celebrate with friends and relatives, sufficed to bring tears to many, many eyes and the almost universal cries of „Wahnsinn!“ – “Simply crazy!“

But moving as those scenes were, and happy to so many in their recollections, a history-based, sterner evaluation awakens doubts that, despite the paeans in the world media, this was not purely  a peaceful  revolution, a choice of freedom by the masses, another successful victory for freedom and justice  as in past centuries. We recall that even revolutions are complex, that the American Revolution was followed by Shay‘s Rebellion, a bolstering of slavery and a bloody six year war which forced most Indians from Ohio. The short era of Robespierre meant almost a year in prison for Tom Paine. And enthusiastic crowds can also make very false judgements.

East Germans soon learned that freedom of the press was for those who owned the presses, that freedom of speech helped most those who ruled over studios and cable connections. Most tellingly, they learned very quickly that those 100 West-marks were soon spent and new ones, for all those glistening commodities and travels, had somehow to be earned, while over 95 % of the industry they had built up was taken over by Westerners and, robbed of any machinery of value, for the most part shut down. It was now very simple to move westwards; several million did, now not for freedom, consumer goods or better-paid jobs but for any job at all. Professors, teachers, scientists, journalists, administrators at every level were thrown out, replaced by second and third string West Germans who were certain they could do everything better – and got “bush bonuses“ for making the sacrifice of taking over East Germany. For workers, the wage level is still below that in the West, while jobless figures and the work week  for those now finding a job are both above the figures in the West.

The victory thirty years ago brought other changes. The old GDR had, until the end, no drug problem, almost no AIDS, no organized crime, no school shootings, none of the free food pantries now so prevalent, since people n the GDR, while lacking food items like oranges, bananas and other southern imports, all had enough to eat. Nor was there anyone in those years begging or sleeping in the streets, since there were always jobs a-plenty and evictions were illegal. So was any discrimination against women, who got equal pay, at least a half-year paid maternal leave, free abortions, cheap summer vacations and summer camps, and one paid day off a month for household duties.

Oh yes, there were blunders a-plenty, stupidity, careerism, dogmatism. Envy and greed could not be eradicated  from the human soul, but with almost no feverish competition they were lessened, as the polls found. True, where people gained positions of power they  were as capable of misusing it as elsewhere. Nor could all the remnants of fascist poison be erased from 16 million heads in one or two generations. But they were forbidden – and those with racist thoughts and prejudices kept them to themselves or within their closest circles, while truly masterful films, books and plays endeavored to combat them. Today, nazi thugs march every weekend , and the pro-fascist Alternative for Germany party has 94 seats in the Bundestag and won second place in three state elections.

             Here we hit on the main problem with the breaking down of the Berlin Wall. The GDR had thrown out – lock, stock and barrel – all the giant cartels and monopolies which profited from World War One, built up Hitler when, during the Depression, working people became rebellious, then earned billions from slave labor during World War Two and, after 1945,  regained immense wealth and power. In the West! Bayer and BASF, major perpetrators of Auschwitz, are on top of the chemical pile, world-wide now with Monsanto. Powerful old fascist fat cats like Daimler (Mercedes) and Quandt (BMW) are cheating the environmentalists, Rheinmetall and Heckler & Co. are again making billions with their tanks and guns and missiles. All their properties were confiscated by the GDR – which is why they hated it and conspired against it, successfully. Also because the GDR, as opposed to its rival in Bonn, supported the Algerians in their fight for freedom, Allende against the Pinochets, Mandela and the ANC and SWAPO, Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam and freedom fighters from Nicaragua to Aden.

             The very existence of the GDR represented a barrier against further expansion by the Bayers with their control of ever more seed sources and their destruction of natural life, from frogs and butterflies to orchids, cacti and rain forests, but also against weapons makers who desire nothing more than further world  tension, especially with Russia and China, the two main remaining barriers to world hegemony of the billionaires. They demand the use and replacement of their products. After 1945 and until 1990 no uniformed Germans were shooting presumed enemies anywhere in the world. With  the GDR out of the way the Bundeswehr flew missions and dropped bombs in the mountains of Afghanistan and trained soldiers in the desert sands of Mali – after beginning by bombing Serbia, repeating  Germany‘s crimes in two world wars.

              United Germany’s Minister of Defense, who hopes to become chancellor, has demanded that Germany play a far bigger role in today’s world – and plans a big build-up of weapons to achieve this. She has found smiling support from Secretary of State Pompeo, who came to Berlin and joined in the hallelujahs for the victory of democracy thirty years earlier.  Yes, Pompeo!

             The GDR had countless  faults and limitations, caused by poor leadership – mostly aged anti-fascist fighters, trying to save the endeavor to achieve socialism in at least this small corner of Germany, but overtaken by modern developments and never able to find rapport with large sections of a vacillating population tempted by daily TV images of a wonderful world in the Golden West, which had been built up to become one of the world’s richest countries. The GDR was battered by a world of problems from all sides, domestic and foreign, pressured into “arming itself to death“ militarily, limited by the giant costs of the new electronic, computer age, with no help from the east and a boycott by the west, plus its giant humanitarian project – supplying good, modern homes for everyone while keeping rents to about one tenth of income.

              In the end the odds were against it. But just as a World Series victory by the Washington Nationals did not mean that team was morally better  but simply that at the time it was stronger, the defeat of the GDR did not mean that the system it was trying to develop, strengthen and improve – socialism – was proven false by its defeat.

             The opening of the Berlin War was seen then and is still regarded by many as a wonderful victory. Looking around today’s deteriorating situation in Germany and much of Europe, with fascist movements on the rise and world-destroying weapons deployed and maneuvering dangerously, one might well recall the words of the Greek general Pyrrhus. After beating the Romans in the Battle of Asculum in 279 BCE, but with terrible losses for his own troops, he is quoted  as saying: “Another such victory and we are lost!“

Victor Grossman’s latest book, A Socialist Defector: From Harvard to Karl-Marx-Allee is available from Monthly Review Press.

San Francisco Labor Council says: NO to the U.S. Intervention and Attempted Coup in Venezuela!

The following resolution was adopted by the Delegates Meeting of the San Francisco Labor Council (AFL-CIO) on Monday, February 11, 2019.]

Whereas, Trump administration officials have openly declared their intention to overthrow the democratically elected government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro; and
Whereas, the U.S. has tightened economic sanctions, including the seizure of Venezuela’s oil properties in the United States, increasing the hardship on the people of Venezuela; and

Whereas, Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world, and leading Trump administration foreign policy officials have made clear their intention to privatize Venezuela’s oil and open it to exploitation by the U.S. oil companies if their coup strategy succeeds; and

Whereas, Elliott Abrams has been named Special Envoy to Venezuela and is notorious for his central role in the Iran-Contra scheme and arming of the Nicaraguan contras, the Salvadoran death squad government, and the genocidal regime in Guatemala responsible for the massacres of hundreds of thousands of indigenous people in that country; and

Whereas, the U.S. campaign of regime change in Venezuela is against the interests of the people of Venezuela, Latin America or the people of the United States; and

Whereas, the San Francisco Labor Council resolved on May 12, 2014, to “support the sovereignty of the Venezuelan people to continue their political and social process free from foreign intervention,” demanding “that the U.S. government refrain from intervention in the internal affairs of Venezuela.” 

Therefore Be It Resolved, that the San Francisco Labor Council endorse and support (1) the February 23 Emergency Bay Area Hands Off Venezuela protest action; (2) the March 16 National March on the White House to say “Hands Off Venezuela, No War, No Sanctions, No Coup,” which in the Bay Area will be held on Saturday, March 9; and (3) the Hands Off Venezuela National Action, which in the Bay Area will be held on March 31.

Be It Further Resolved, that this resolution will be sent to the California Labor Federation and to Bay Area Congress members.

(Adopted unanimously minus one abstention)Respectfully submitted by• Gloria La Riva, delegate, Pacific Media Workers Guild Local 39521• Alan Benjamin, delegate, OPEIU Local 29• David Welsh, delegate, NALC Branch 214.

Thanks to David Welsh for forwarding this item.