Tuesday, October 04, 2022

Are they ready for the mid-terms?

As C.I. notes in today's snapshot, it's as though Joe Biden isn't even aware that midterms are in a matter of weeks.  The whole party seems confused.  Sam Broadey (DAILY BEAST) observes:

Ask 10 Democratic lawmakers what their top legislative priority should be if they control Congress next year, and you’ll get 10 different answers.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), for instance, said protecting abortion rights was “obviously at the top of my agenda next year.”

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) referenced the party’s economic agenda, saying Democrats “have to keep fighting to lower the cost of living for people,” which he called “our No. 1 priority.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) pointed to “unfinished business”—namely, provisions that fell out of Democrats’ ambitious Build Back Better agenda this session—like home- and community-based services for seniors and the disabled.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) said the party’s top legislative priority should be “enact[ing] the provisions to protect our democracy more fully.”

Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) said Democrats should think about climate change “holistically” and develop “an actionable plan from now for the next 40 years.”

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), who’s running for U.S. Senate, called for a “permanent working-class tax cut” to be the party’s top priority.

That's not on message.  After two years in control of both houses of Congress, they still don't know what they're doing?  THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER states:

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is unleashing a flood of advertising attacks on Republicans in contested districts as House Democrats scramble to defend their slim majority ahead of the midterm elections.

The DCCC is running new television spots in at least 10 House districts across the country, from New Hampshire to Georgia, Michigan to New Mexico, Virginia to California, Pennsylvania to Arizona, and points in between. Seven of the 10 have one thing in common: Incumbent Democrats vying to fend off aggressive Republican challenges in the face of political headwinds.

Gallup’s latest data shows that 48% of Americans believe the Republican Party is best equipped, while 37% believe it is the Democratic Party.

This 11-point Republican edge is one of the best they have ever had. Looking at 20 midterm elections since 1946 when this question was asked, only once has the Republican Party had a larger advantage on this question. That was in 1946 when Republicans had a 17 point lead on the Democrats.

Republicans had a net gain of 55 House seats in the 1946 election. And while the correlation is far from perfect (+0.7 on a scale of -1 to 1) between House seats won by the Republican Party and how they stood against the Democrats on the most important issue question, it is very much existent.
Are they even ready for the election?  FOX offers:
A Monday New York Times article declared Democratic Party challenges in Nevada could mirror issues the left face nationwide as inflation and the economy overshadow "nearly every other concern" ahead of November’s midterm elections.
Politics reporter Jennifer Medina and congressional correspondent Jonathan Weisman penned the article headlined, "Democrats’ Troubles in Nevada Are a Microcosm of Nationwide Headwinds," that noted "inflation and a rocky economy are bolstering Republicans" in their races against incumbent Democrats.
"The Culinary Workers Union members who are knocking on doors to get out the vote are on the cursed-at front lines of the Democratic Party’s midterm battle. Most voters do not open their doors. And when some do answer, the canvassers might wish they hadn’t," the Times reporters wrote before quoting a voter who said, "You think I am going to vote for those Democrats after all they’ve done to ruin the economy?"
The Times spoke to other Nevada residents with similar feelings.

Democratic leads in two battleground states are slipping away ahead of next month's midterm Senate elections where progressive candidates are accused of being too progressive. 
In Wisconsin, GOP Sen. Ron Johnson is now up almost two points over Democrat Mandela Barnes - 48.6 to 46.7 - according to the latest wave of public polling. 

In Pennsylvania, recent polling shows Democrat John Fetterman has gone from double digit leads in August to just four points ahead of Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz, a statistical tie in the race for GOP Sen. Pat Toomey's seat. 

If Republicans hold onto Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, along with all other states Donald Trump carried in 2020, they would need to flip one Democrat-held seat to take control of the Senate. 

In Wisconsin, voters find both the Republican and the Democratic candidate 'too extreme.' 

Go read Elaine's "Idiot of the week." Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

 Tuesday, October 4, 2022.  The 'answer' to inflation is to up unemployment according to 'experts,' Iraq sees more protests and the US State Dept screws up again.

Jake Johnson (COMMON DREAMS) reports:

An analysis published Tuesday shows that the top executives of the largest corporations in the United States have seen their pay soar by nearly 1,500% over the past 43 years, helping to fuel a massive surge in inequality as workers' wages lag.

Between 1978 and 2021, according to new research from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), CEO compensation at the 350 largest publicly traded U.S. companies rose by an inflation-adjusted 1,460%, far outstripping the 18.1% pay increase that the nation's typical worker saw during that period.

The trend of soaring CEO pay has continued during the coronavirus pandemic, which caused mass economic chaos and job loss among ordinary workers. EPI found that "while millions lost jobs in the first year of the pandemic and suffered real wage declines due to inflation in the second year, CEOs' realized compensation jumped 30.3% between 2019 and 2021."

"Typical worker compensation among those who remained employed rose 3.9% over the same time span," note EPI's Josh Bivens and Jori Kandra, the authors of the new report.

The findings come amid mounting fears of a global recession triggered by central banks' attempts to fight inflation via increasingly aggressive interest rate hikes, a strategy aimed at crushing economic demand.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, the world's most powerful central banker, has been forthright about the primary goals of rate hikes: A weaker labor market and lower wages. According to the Fed's own projections, rate increases could throw around 1.5 million people in the U.S. out of work by the end of next year.

And where's Joe Biden.  He's president and this all happened under his watch.  Now there's a good chance he doesn't know what's going on.  That's always a risk for a man of his age.  


And right on queue, you have The Brookings Institute offering a podcast this morning calling for higher unemployment:

While President Biden has officially declared the COVID-19 pandemic “over,” America now faces a new challenge in the form of an overheating economy and high inflation, and the prospect of a Federal Reserve-induced recession is looming. In the latest Brookings Podcast on Economic Activity, David Wessel, director of the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy, spoke with Laurence Ball of Johns Hopkins University about his new paper, “Understanding U.S. inflation during the COVID era.” In the study, Ball and his co-authors find that the Fed may need to push unemployment higher than its 4.1% projection to return inflation to the 2% target.

In a world like this, when unemployment is seen as the 'answer,' you need real leaders.  Will Lehman is running to become president of the United Auto Workers union.  WSWS reports:

On Saturday, Will Lehman, socialist candidate for president of the United Auto Workers (UAW), held an online meeting to bring his campaign to graduate student workers and other university employees in the UAW. The meeting was attended by grad students and tenured faculty, as well as workers and supporters of Lehman’s campaign from around the US.

The meeting took place amid ongoing struggles of university workers in both California and New York. As of September 30, 48,000 UAW members across the University of California (UC) system—including graduate student workers, academic researchers, tutors, postdoctoral scholars (postdocs) and other academic employees—are working either without a contract or under a contract that had been extended. There is also an ongoing strike authorization vote of adjuncts at New York University (NYU), where the UAW extended the previous contract by two months, with the new expiration set for October 30.

At the start of the meeting, Lehman—who is a second-tier worker at Mack Trucks in Macungie, Pennsylvania, and the only socialist candidate in the UAW election—summed up his campaign’s call to abolish the corrupt UAW apparatus and put power in the hands of workers.

The UAW is comprised of two distinct layers, he explained: The rank-and-file workers within the factories and other workplaces who pay dues, versus a bureaucracy sitting on $1.1 billion in assets that enforces sellout contracts and keeps workers divided. The UAW bureaucracy accepts capitalism and is deeply tied to the companies it claims to be fighting against. Two of the last four UAW presidents were jailed as part of a far-reaching corruption scandal, in which large sections of the union’s leadership were shown to be accepting bribes or embezzling dues.

The bureaucrats, Lehman said, “operate within the framework of capitalism and believe they can win that way. They are absolutely wrong. That is why we need to force our own way forward, and that comes with linking up, and it might not be a traditional way.”

As part of the fight to unify and empower workers, Lehman advocated the formation of rank-and-file committees as a means of staying informed and coordinating actions with other workers, whether they are UAW members or not. Workers need a means to share information and unify their struggles, he said, and break out of the isolation imposed by the UAW apparatus.

“I’ll give the example of the HarperCollins workers earlier this year,” Lehman stated. “Their CEO is billionaire Rupert Murdoch. Nobody was informed of the HarperCollins one-day strike by the UAW, and they should have been, we all should have been. They should have been on strike until their needs were met. They’re making $30 an hour, but living in New York City. And I’m sure that workers from the University of California could relate to that, with one of the highest cost of living in the country.”

Responding to a comment from a UC student worker that UAW Local 5810 (which includes postdocs and academic researchers) had reportedly again extended its previous contract with the university for another month to October 31, Lehman said, “They’re being strung out on contract extensions. And this is a typical UAW play. When a contract runs out, they keep workers on the job, while they’re also appealing to the Democratic Party, which has absolutely no interest in advancing anything for the working class. The Democratic and Republican parties both are not representative of the working class.”

He added, “The way forward won’t be found in an appeal to any Democratic Party politician or any politician from either of the two parties of the ruling class. It’s going to be through struggle.”

A graduate student at New York University (NYU), Karsten, spoke during the meeting about the UAW’s betrayal of the NYU grad workers’ strike in 2021.

“Last year, we struck for three weeks,” Karsten said. “And we were not only in a struggle up against the university, but the UAW as well, which isolated the strike and forced through a completely rotten contract, which has been promoted widely as this ‘historic agreement.’ But really, this is an agreement that did not meet any of the demands of graduate student workers. It’s a six-year agreement with a no strike clause.

“There was a big hullabaloo made over the fact that the wage increases for hourly workers went from $20 per hour to $26 per hour for the 2020 to 2021 year. But this is $20 or more under what is a living wage in New York City, one of the most expensive cities in the world, and a wage cut essentially, with inflation at over 8 percent.

“Most significantly, the union dropped the demand for ‘unit erosion,’ which would have essentially prevented the university from cutting positions. So any raises in wages that the university made won’t have an impact on the university’s coffers, because they’ll be able to cut positions. And the same was true at Columbia University, which graduate students struck at the same time, but our struggles were isolated from one another by the UAW.”

Worthless Joe does nothing but send the country's tax dollars to Ukraine.  He loves supporting racist regimes because it reminds him of the good old days when he'd pull a chain on Cock Roach.  While he does nothing but stare into space and drool, people might want to look to see what California is doing.  

Kaitlyn Koterbski (FORTUNE) reports:

Qualifying Californians will begin receiving relief payments of up to $1,050 this week to soften the blow of inflation. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a $308 billion state budget in June to deliver direct tax refunds to 23 million Californians as they struggle with inflation, which jumped 8.3% year over year. 

“California’s budget addresses the state’s most pressing needs and prioritizes getting dollars back into the pockets of millions of Californians who are grappling with global inflation and rising prices of everything from gas to groceries,” said Gov. Newsom, Senate President Pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins, and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon in a joint statement

It's a one time payment which, honestly, isn't enough.  But it's still more than Joe Biden's managed to do for any US citizen -- unless he's thinking Ukraine is the 51st state of America.  CNN notes:

Several states are sending taxpayers money to help them cope with inflation, but some economists warn that the payments will do little to alleviate the pain of rising costs and could further fuel inflation.

In California, for example, about 23 million qualifying taxpayers are expected to receive up to $1,500, with smaller payments going to higher earners. The payments, which are technically tax refunds, will start going out October 7 and are meant "to help address rising costs," according to Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom's office.

In Georgia, taxpayers received up to $500 in one-time tax refunds over the summer.

"As hardworking Georgians face rising inflation caused by failed federal government policies, we are doing what we can to provide relief by returning their money back into their pockets," said Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in a May statement.

In other places, like Colorado, states are required by law to return excess state revenue to taxpayers. Tax rebates that went out this summer are worth $750 for individual tax filers and $1,500 for joint filers. Labeled as a "Cash Back" program, Democratic Gov. Jared Polis said the state moved up sending the refunds out by about a year "because they need it now," according to an interview with Colorado Public Radio in August.

Yet Joe Biden does nothing.

Emma Kinery (CNBC) notes:

Economic issues like inflation are of top mind for midterm voters a month out from Election Day, giving Republicans a slight edge over Democrats in a new poll released Monday by Monmouth University.

For the first time since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision overturned the constitutional right to abortion, a majority of voters polled by Monmouth say they think Republicans should take back control of Congress.

The poll found 47% of voters want or prefer Republicans to control Congress compared with 44% who want or prefer Democrats. It’s a 4 percentage point gain for Republicans, up from 43% in August, and a 6 percentage point loss for Democrats, down from 50%.

The poll was conducted from Sept. 21 to 25 and has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.

While Democrats care about a variety of issues from climate change to abortion and Republicans home in on inflation and immigration, the poll found independent voters are primarily concerned with rising prices.

Overall, 82% of Americans ranked inflation as an extremely or very important issue, compared with 56% who ranked abortion as a top worry and 32% who said the coronavirus pandemic was a big concern. More broadly, anxiety about the economy and cost of living supersede concerns about losing fundamental rights or threats to democracy 54% to 38% among all Americans.

Yet Joe Biden does nothing.

Mid-term elections are next month, yet Joe Biden does nothing.

Is there a strategy or do they just thinking having a Brit go around endorsing in US elections is a plan.  Someone tell pop king Harry that membership in One Direction does not qualify for political expertise and that this country fought revolution to ensure that the British didn't tell us what to do.  And no one was waiting for you to release your political opinions.  No one thinks you're smart enough -- or that anyone is -- to become an insta-expert on another country's voting system and on various candidates running for election.

If people are kind enough to enjoy the art you produce, you shouldn't abuse the relationship by attempting to tell them how to vote -- especially when you can't vote in this country, you do not this country's system and you're just a visitor.  

I will endorse and have -- but only in races I can vote in.  

I'm very happy with my non-C.I. fan base and I don't abuse them by telling them to do this or to do that.  I don't mistake our relationship for master-servant.  Clearly, Harry's under the belief that the British empire continues and that we are his subjects.  

If he wants to do his civic duty, he can take his ass back to England which is dealing with a number of issues and problems.

At CNN, Linda Stewart writes:

       One year into the pandemic lockdown, I retired from my job of 14 years as program coordinator and academic adviser at the University of New Mexico’s School of Engineering. I loved the work I did, but it was time to move on. I was in my early 60s, and being old enough to retire suddenly made that option more appealing. Finances would be a little tight for a while, but some outside projects would supplement my income, so I felt confident I would be able to handle it.

But by the end of the second year of lockdown, inflation started taking a toll and money was getting uncomfortably tight. Soon I was in the red each month, just trying to keep up. The usual suspects were groceries and gas, which meant cutting back on some of the more expensive food items and cooking meals at home.

I stopped driving for anything other than essentials. And with the continuing drought here in the Southwest, utility bills went through the ceiling. I cut back on watering my garden and turned the furnace down a few degrees in the winter and the air conditioning up a few in the summer. I switched to washing clothes mostly in cold water and only running the dishwasher once a week.      

       I also take care of my elderly mother, who lives alone, and we are both on fixed incomes. My freelance projects slowed down during lockdown, so my income did, too. The COLA (cost of living adjustment) for our Social Security benefits was very welcome, but it certainly didn’t cover price increases elsewhere.

Everything medical jumped at the beginning of the year. Co-pays went from $35 to $45. Prescription prices rose from $10 for a 90-day supply of medicine to $20 for a 90-day supply. Meanwhile, insurance benefits dropped from covering 90% of surgery costs to 80%.

My mother now hesitates to go to a doctor until it’s really necessary due to her higher co-pays, and I’ve switched all of my medications to generic brands that my insurance fully covers. They only cover the name brand of my asthma medicine.    

And Joe does nothing.

When his administration does manage to get around to action, they still manage to screw it up.

Yesterday, the US State Dept issued the following:

On behalf of the Government of the United States of America, I offer Prime Minister Kadhimi and the Iraqi people congratulations on their National Day, October 3.

This is a day to reflect on and be proud of Iraq’s achievements and the perseverance of its people. For 90 years, Iraq has endeavored through adversity to foster a more inclusive and equitable society for its citizens and for future generations of Iraqis.

The United States remains firmly committed to its strategic partnership with Iraq and to deepening and strengthening our relations under the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement. I look forward to continuing our work together on our shared priorities and enhancing the bond between our peoples.

I wish the people of Iraq best wishes and prosperity in the coming year.

They issued it at 1:00 pm EST.  Which means it was nine p.m. in Baghdad with the workday over.  Has there been a more incompetent Secretary of State than Tony Blinken? 

You kinda picture Tony's 16-year-old child all excited all day looking around.  Then, after dinner, the child gets less excited.  Eventually, it's 8:30 and the child turns in.  About 20 minutes later, Tony turns to his wife and asks, "Is today a birthday?"  They rush to the kitchen, slap a candle on a Twinkie and wake up the kid while singing "Happy Birthday" and insisting, "We didn't forget!"

"Late or never" -- the two speeds he works in.

Meanwhile Haydar Karaalp (ANADOLU AGENCEY) reports:

Protesters set fire to a government building Monday in Dhi Qar Governorate, Iraq, according to security sources.

A group of masked men took to the streets of the city center of Nasiriyah to stage demonstrations, the sources said.

The demonstrators then set fire to the governor's office with Molotov cocktails, they added.

A curfew was declared in the city over the incident.

Nasiriyah, located 350 kilometers (217 miles) south of the capital Baghdad, is mired in poverty and plagued by poor infrastructure and joblessness, especially among young people.

Daniel Stewart (360 NEWS) adds:

Shortly after, the governor of Di Qar, Muhamad Hadi al Gazi, announced a curfew and stressed that "the situation is under control", as reported by the INA news agency.

On the other hand, during the last hours armed clashes have been reported in Basra (south), with no information so far on possible casualties. Witnesses quoted by the Kurdish television channel Rudaw have indicated that hostilities have broken out due to the arrest of several people by the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), a coalition of pro-Iranian militias.

The arrests took place on Monday as part of protests in the province, during which security forces used tear gas. The governor of Basra, Asaad al-Eidani, then tried to meet with the protesters, who refused and criticized the intervention of the officers to suppress the demonstrations.

Iraq has been the scene in recent days of new mobilizations, coinciding with the third anniversary of the October 2019 protests, which resulted in at least 600 deaths across the country due to the reaction of the Iraqi Police and pro-Iranian militias. The protests were active for several months to demand an end to the system of government in place since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, an end to corruption, better basic services and employment.

The protests led to the resignation of the then prime minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, who was replaced - after the rejection of several nominees - by Mostafa al-Kazemi, who initiated a series of reforms and called for early elections, held on October 10, 2021.

The following sites updated:

Monday, October 03, 2022

BROS, a liar and we don't need to end the world with nukes

BROS is a great film.  Make a point to see it.  It's hilarious and you'll be gasping for breath throughout.  It's the best comedy of the year.  If you haven't seen it, go see it this week.  

Now did you see this:

A man who was shot by Kyle Rittenhouse during a 2020 protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, wants to change his name after enduring death threats for two years. 

Gaige Grosskreutz filed a secret petition to change his legal name on Tuesday, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

In a statement made through his lawyer, Grosskreutz said: "Yes, after two years of death threats from right-wing lunatics I made the difficult decision to change my name for the protection of me and my family."

Grosskreutz told CNN in September of 2020 that he and his family members — including his 65-year-old grandmother — were receiving death threats from supporters of Rittenhouse.

"But the real story here isn't that I am seeking to change my name, but that a process that is supposed to protect and shield those in danger was undermined and sealed information was released to the right-wing media within hours of my filing," the statement continued.

I think the real story here is that he lied to the police and claimed he'd dropped his gun but revealed on the stand that he was in fact aiming his gun at Rittenhouse when he got shot.  I remember the video where the prosecutor;s face goes down and he grabs his face with his right hand just shaking his head at Grosskreutz's remark on the stand.  

The real story here is that a liar gets called out for lying.  That happens.  That's why our parents tell us not to lie.  Maybe the medic or ACLU watcher or whatever he claimed to be to the media from one moment to the next should work on getting honest?

There were so many lies being told.  I think Grosskreutz owes the people of America an apology.  And changing his name is not going to change what he did.  Too bad for Grosskreutz that I'm left-wing so he can't continue to pretend that it's only the right-wing that's disgusted with him.

As always, the imperialist warmongers who are denouncing Putin’s threats to use nuclear weapons as an unprecedented breach of Great Power morality exhibit an astonishing forgetfulness about their own past actions. But it is a matter of historical fact that the United States has not only used nuclear weapons (against the defenseless populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki), but it and other imperialist powers came close to using nuclear weapons when threatened with military defeat.

In 1950, General Douglas MacArthur sought authorization to use as many as 30 atomic bombs against Chinese troops crossing the border into Korea. In 1954, France pleaded with US President Eisenhower to use nuclear bombs to save its encircled troops at Dien Bien Phu. In 1962, Kennedy himself threatened to use nuclear weapons during the Cuban Missile Crisis. In 1973, Israel, facing defeat during the initial days of the Yom Kippur War, came close to using nuclear weapons against Egypt.

Desperation and recklessness may describe the moods gripping Washington and Moscow, but not their source. A political explanation must be found for this behavior.

The desperation of the Putin regime arises from the fact that it is confronted with the consequences of the dissolution of the USSR, a historic betrayal that set into motion all the subsequent socioeconomic and political disasters. In dissolving the Soviet Union, the Stalinist bureaucracy deluded itself into believing that Lenin’s analysis of imperialism was nothing more than a Marxian myth. But this “myth” has proven to be true. Thirty years after the collapse of the USSR, Russia is confronted with a war by the imperialist powers aimed at dismembering it. 

We're playing with our lives.  This needs to stop.  A peace needs to be negotiated and the US government needs to stop trying to prevent closure.  

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Monday, October 3, 2022.  We're being pushed to the brink of nuclear war, The October Revolution returns in Iraq, and much more.

Starting with Kevin Alexander Gray's column at COUNTERPUNCH:

Reverend Frank Watkins, a tremendous activist and a wonderful human being, died on September 16, one day shy of his 80th birthday.

Frank was one of those people whose names many don’t know but who had a profound impact on our politics. Most prominent as a political strategist and collaborator with the Rev. Jesse Jackson during the latter’s 1980s campaigns for the Democratic presidential nomination, Frank was a son, servant, thinker, writer, strategist, mentor, teacher, organizer, commentator, athlete, friend, educational benefactor to countless folks who needed help‑ and a teetotaler.

I could list hundreds of famous and not so famous people and those just trying to get to another day that he gave support, advice and intellectual grounding to. But I’d still leave scores out.

Frank had a quiet, deliberate, thoughtful, unassuming manner. He never came across as a know-it-all or spoke down to people. When someone asked him a question that they were uncertain about the answer or felt they needed validation, Frank would often respond, “Well, you don’t need me to answer that question, you know the answer.” Or, “You should think that through.”

He was an avid Chicago Bulls fan and lifelong St. Louis Cardinals fan. If you visited his DC apartment, you were greeted by a life-sized cutout of Michael Jordan and a basketball signed by many players from the 1991 championship team. One of his favorite moments was getting his mom a Cardinals jersey with her name and the number 100 for her 100th birthday. He was disappointed that he couldn’t get Willard Scott to announce her 100th birthday on his Smucker’s Jam milestone birthday segment on the Today Show.

[. . .]

Before his death, Frank set up a fund to bolster a public education and lobby campaign to expand voter rights and push for a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to vote, issues on which he had been working tirelessly.

Those wishing to advance these goals may send a donation to: The Trust of Frank E. Watkins,
P.O. Box 70925,
Washington, DC 20024.

We started with Kevin because if truth matters to you, Kevin matters to you.  The 2008 election was one where truth went out the window repeatedly.  Kevin was one of the few who never lost his core values or betrayed his beliefs.  So many others cannot say the same.

And truth matters.   As the editorial board of the WSWS observes:

Not since October 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, has the world come so close to nuclear war as today. 

It is not necessary to glorify the Stalinist leader Nikita Khrushchev, let alone the imperialist president of the United States, John F. Kennedy, to note that there is a profound difference between the reaction to that crisis and the one gripping the world today.

In a recently published book on the Cuban Missile Crisis, Nuclear Folly, historian Serhii Plokhy wrote that, despite enormous miscalculations and misjudgments on both sides, “The crisis did not develop into a shooting war because Kennedy and Khrushchev both feared nuclear weapons and dreaded the very idea of their use.”

Plokhy adds that Kennedy and Khrushchev “did not step into the traps so masterfully created by themselves because they did not believe they could win a nuclear war, nor were they prepared to pay a price for such a victory. It is hard to imagine what the outcome of the Cuban crisis might have been if the two leaders had a more cavalier attitude toward the use of nuclear arms.”

In the midst of a new global nuclear crisis, the United States/NATO and Russia seem to be proceeding in a manner aimed at demonstrating what this outcome would be.

Having launched the invasion of Ukraine with the na├»ve and desperate assumption that he could compel his Western “partners” to negotiate, Russian President Vladimir Putin confronts the staggering failure of his bankrupt and reactionary strategy in Ukraine. The Russian military has suffered a series of defeats in recent weeks, including the debacle in Kharkiv followed by further advances of the Ukrainian military into territory that Russia now claims as its own.

Russia was goaded by the United States into a war for which it was unprepared, underestimating the agenda of the United States and NATO. Facing internal crisis and recriminations within the Russian oligarchy, the Putin regime is responding with unmistakable threats to use nuclear weapons.

On the other hand, the United States and NATO, determined to press their advantage in pursuit of their geopolitical objectives, are making statements that they will not be “deterred” by the threat of nuclear war. 

In American newspapers and on television programs, there is open discussion about the possibility of nuclear war. The New York Times, under the headline, “Putin’s threats stir growing alarm in Washington,” wrote on Sunday: “Officials in Washington are gaming out scenarios should President Vladimir V. Putin decide to use a tactical nuclear weapon to make up for the failings of Russian troops in Ukraine… A range of officials suggested that if Russia detonated a tactical nuclear weapon on Ukrainian soil, the options included … some kind of military response.”

Asked by ABC’s “Face the Nation” what the United States would do if Russia used a nuclear weapon, former CIA Director David Petraeus replied, “We would respond by leading a NATO, a collective effort, that would take out every Russian conventional force that we can see and identify on the battlefield in Ukraine and also in Crimea and every ship in the Black Sea.”

The general seems to believe that the United States and NATO can wipe out Russian military forces, causing hundreds of thousands of deaths, without retaliation. Would anyone believe that such an action would not put the populations of London, Berlin, Paris, New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago in danger of nuclear annihilation? 


Nuclear weapons are the most lethal weapons. If an incontrollable nuclear war breaks out, it will bring human society into the abyss of destruction. A recently released study shows that a full-scale nuclear war between the US and Russia would lead to deaths of more than 5 billion people worldwide. 

Now, a dangerous signal is emerging: Whether or not the parties are venting anger or talking big, the frequency of discussions on nuclear weapons is increasing. But nuclear weapons are by no means a grenade that can be tied up on the waist, and taken out to show off at one's whim to scare people. The spiral escalation of war is often unpredictable. On the issue of nuclear war, there is no pill for regret.

Therefore, it is imperative for relevant parties to cool down the situation as soon as possible and create conditions for promoting peace talks. It should be noted that the current "nuclear tension" stems from a strong sense of insecurity in geopolitical games. An important reason is that the possibility of conflict between major powers is on the rise, and global strategic stability is being swayed rapidly. And a simple truth is that the more peaceful and stable the environment is, the thicker the dust will be on nuclear weapons. But once the world is caught in the vicious circle of "seeking greater security - becoming less secure - wishing more for absolute security," nuclear weapons will be likely taken out and polished.

INFORMATION CLEARING HOUSE offers Finian Cunnigham's interview of Helen Caldicott:

Helen Caldicott: Yes, we have never been closer to nuclear annihilation now since the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. I knew Robert McNamara who was President Kennedy’s secretary of defense and was in the Oval Office at the time of the crisis, and he later said to me, “Helen, we came so close, to within three minutes of nuclear war.”

Question: What factors do you see as increasing the risk of a world war and nuclear conflagration?

Helen Caldicott: Well, for the first time since the Cuban missile crisis, the two nuclear powers, each armed with thousands of nuclear weapons, many on hair-trigger alert, are opposing each other on the battle field, and as the United States has refused to negotiate with Russian President Vladimir Putin who asked that the Ukraine not join NATO and for the U.S. to remove the missiles placed in the NATO countries, targeted on Russia, Putin has his back to the wall, and at some point, as he has suggested, could use a small tactical nuclear bomb which would vaporize and burn hundreds and thousands of people with many more dying of acute radiation illness, and that action could well trigger a nuclear response from the U.S., which could then escalate into full-scale nuclear war.

However, I will add here that Putin’s invasion of the Ukraine and the dreadful killing that is going on makes my heart sick.

Question: Do you view the United States as having an onerous responsibility for undermining world peace given that it is the U.S. that has primarily abandoned key arms-control treaties, such as the ABM, INF, and Open Skies Treaty?

Helen Caldicott: Yes, I do. I do not understand their motivation except that if one examines the neocons who have always hated Russia even though it is now a capitalist country, including Victoria Nuland, Robert Kagan, Antony Blinken and others whom Biden has elevated to his cabinet, we are in serious trouble. These people are well funded by the ever-powerful military-industrial complex which profits enormously from all wars including of course the Ukraine.

Question: More than 30 years after the supposed end of the Cold War between the United States and the former Soviet Union – and high promises back then of historic “peace dividends” – the world seems to be polarizing under the U.S.-led NATO military bloc. What accounts for this seeming anachronism and lack of global peace dividend?

Helen Caldicott: Well, the end of the Cold War did not suit the American military-industrial complex at all, so Norman Augustine, head of Lockheed Martin, set off on a crusade to persuade the newly liberated countries to join NATO and to become “democracies”, and in so doing they each had to spend millions of dollars equipping themselves with weapons, purchased of course from Lockheed Martin et al. So the peace dividend disappeared. And NATO, which is actually the US, has surrounded the southern border of Russia with missiles targeting Russia. No wonder Putin is deeply concerned. Guess what the U.S. would do if the Warsaw Pact had set up a similar situation on its northern border in Canada. It probably would blow up the world as it came close to doing during the Cuban missile crisis.

Question: U.S. President Joe Biden recently made his first trip to the Asia-Pacific region, or what Washington now refers to as “Indo-Pacific”. Are you reassured by Biden’s declaration of the U.S. defending the “rules-based order”?

Helen Caldicott: I don’t even know what the so-called rules-based order is. Obviously, something dreamt up by the US. Somehow America thinks in its naivety, stupidity and arrogance that it needs to control the world militarily. It now has over 800 military bases in 80 countries and has metastasized like cancer throughout the world

At ANTIWAR.COM, Walt Zlotow notes some truths:

First, the US, NATO and Ukraine have been provoking this war for 14 years, beginning with the 2008 pledge to expand NATO into Ukraine up to Russia’s borders. That provocation dramatically expanded in 2014 when the US supported the coup that toppled democratically elected, Russian leaning Ukraine president Victor Yanukovych, setting off a civil war resulting in secession by Russian speaking Ukrainians in Ukraine’s Donbas region.

Second, DePetris also ignores how the West is choosing to prolong the war funneling over $60 billion in weaponry to Ukraine rather than promote negotiations to end it. Even worse is his suppression of US and UK emissaries’ direct demands to Ukraine president Zelensky to abort the potential peace agreement in the war’s first month.

Here's another truth: There's always money for war.  The United States is suffering, the people are suffering and instead of focusing resources here at home, Joe Biden keeps sending billions to Ukraine.  Patrick Martin (WSWS) reports, "The Democratic-controlled Congress completed voting on a bill to authorize federal spending through December 16 and President Joe Biden signed it into law. The measure provides an additional $12.3 billion for the war against Russia in Ukraine, but nothing for public health measures against an impending fall and winter surge of the coronavirus pandemic." We're getting close to 80 billion US tax dollars sent to Ukraine since February.  It's outrageous.

The government of the United States is great at starting wars, it just doesn't seem to know how to put an end to a war.  Look at Iraq.

Iraq, there, as Margaret Griffis (ANTIWAR.COM) notes:

During September at least 179 people were killed, and two bodies were found in an old mass grave. Another 294 people were wounded. At least 168 were killed, and 788 more were wounded across the country during August; much of that violence was due to protests.

Militant-related violence left at least 19 civilians, seven security personnel, and 62 militants dead. Another 36 civilians and 49 security personnel were wounded. Two people were found in an old mass grave.

Saturday, The October Revolution returned to Tahrir Square.

This was the return of The October Revolution.  Some wrongly tried to attribute the protest to Moqtada al-Sadr.  That happened back then too, remember?  No, this was not Moqtada's protest.  But in a sign of his ever weaking hold on his cult, some of his supporters did participate.

That was against Moqtada's orders.  For those who have forgotten, Moqtada does not believe women should protest with men.  He had a big hissy fit over that in 2020 as he tried to lecture The October Revolution and order them around.  Their response was to ridicule him at the next protest.

In October 2019, the October Revolution began their protesting and they toppled a sitting prime minister, forced his resignation.  They did so with most of the world ignoring them.  It doesn't matter, they don't require the world's approval to act or to make change.

AFP0 noted:

The latest protests in Baghdad come as Iraq has been mired in political paralysis since elections in October last year that have failed to bring in a new president, prime minister or government.

Protesters were heard chanting "the people demand the fall of the regime" as thousands gathered on Saturday in Baghdad’s iconic Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the protest movement, an AFP correspondent said.

They quote activist Ali al-Habib stating, "Today, it is essential to confront power.  All the bridges and roads are blocked because the authorities are afraid of the protesters."  We'll note this Tweet.

Our correspondent in #Iraq tells that there was a large demonstration Saturday in #Baghdad marking the third anniversary of major unrest on this day in 2019. Today's protest was broken up by security forces using tear gas and rubber bullets. 5:30 PM local time:

It was a real protest which means it didn't have anything to do with Moqtada al-Sadr or his cult so it will get far less press.  Or worse, it'll be credited to him -- like an idiot did not long ago did claiming Moqtada led the 2019 protests.  He didn't.  The October Revolution was initially by Moqtada, then he saw it was popular not just with young Shi'ites but with middle-aged and older Shi'ites.  Then he tried to jump on the bandwagon but the protesters made clear to him that he was not running anything.  He demanded that women not be allowed at the marches and they then carried signs mocking him.  Then he started his verbal attacks on the protesters.

And that's the other way you know it was a real protest: the attacks on them carried out by Iraqi security forces.

Remember when Moqtada's cult broke into the Green Zone and weren't stopped.  Remember how they then broke into the Parliament and weren't stopped.  Remember how they occupied for days and got away with it?

Yeah, that's because Mustafa al-Kahmini is a puppet for Moqtada.  When Moqtada's cult 'protests,' he orders a stand down so that Iraq's security forces won't harm a hair on the head of the zealots and let those men dry hump one another in the Parliament all night.  

DW notes:

Medical and security sources told the Reuters news agency that the scuffles left some 64 people wounded, 26 of whom belonging to the security forces. Thirty-eight of the hundreds of protesters who took to the streets were hit by rubber bullets. 

Some protests were also reported in the provinces of Basra and Nasiriyah. This year's protest anniversary comes at a turbulent time in Iraq, with tension between its rival Shiite blocs bringing the state to the brink of a civil war on more than one occasion.

Iraq: Injuries as protesters mark mass protests anniversary amid Shiite tensions dlvr.it/SZLZkv

I don't have time for too much on this, I'm trying to finish the snapshot, but THE NEW YORK TIMES is stating BROS failed at the box office.

Did it?

I believe the theaters failed BROS.  That's what I was saying -- and warning about -- before the film was released.

No City, USA has 7 theaters.  All carry SMILE and BROS for opening weekend.  But they show SMILES repeatedly -- eight to nine times -- a day while only showing BROS three times.  Due to the lack of showings, BROS is, in fact, in what is known as limited release.

I wrote about this in the gina & krista round-robin and Stan posted about our conversation on this topic in "BROS will get screwed due to poor metrics" which went up Thursday.

I'm not at all surprised that it came in fourth.  I also don't see that as a failure.  The predictions were way off for a number of reasons including that it's not a 'youth' picture.

It'll be interesting to see what the box office on BROS is during this week.

It's a great film.  One you should see.  But homophobia -- on the part of theater chains -- was apparent before it opened.  There's other homophobia at play as well.

For example?  Let's take the tale of some walking out on one scene.  

Billy and Luke Macfarlane have finally talked and spent time together.  Both have commitment issues.  But Billy wants Luke to come up to his place.  Luke's been seeing two guys -- he's in a thruple -- and wants Billy to go with him there.  They bicker.  Then we cut to the two of them seated.  We see them from the neck up.  Billy, looking strained, says he's going to go ahead and leave.  The camera goes wide and we see two guys in front of Luke's lower body.  They're servicing him.  Despite the fact that no peen or balls are shown, some were grossed out by that.


I seem to remember a much bigger oral scene involving dozens in THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY.  Does no one else remember that?  Nobody walked out on that.

The difference was that in MARY, those gay men were an object of ridicule.

So if it's ridicule, some ticket buyers are happy to stay seated and laugh at the gay men.

BROS is a great movie.

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