Al Jazeera Film Challenges Trump’s Election Win

Unfair Game

Al Jazeera (2018)

Film Review

The them of this documentary is that Trump used unfair tactics to win the 2016 electoral college vote, despite losing the popular vote by 3 million.

Most of the the film focuses on the California subsidiary of Cambridge Analytica, which purchased personal data from Facebook, Google, Twitter and other Internet data harvesting firms. It then used sophisticated algorithms to individually target potential Trump supporters in swing states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

According to filmmakers, Cambridge Analytica compiled 4,000 data points regarding the personal lives of 23 million voters. They then used the data to generate paid “dark posts” on Facebook. Dark posts are the weird personal ads and messages that pop up briefly on your Facebook news feed and then disappear.

Although it was intriguing to learn how Cambridge Analytica massaged personal data to identify and influence potential Trump voters, I objected to the way the documentary blames the Trump campaign for introducing microtargeting (potential supporters) to US elections. It was actually the Obama campaign that pioneered microtargeting, which is largely credited for his ability to overcome Republican vote rigging and vote suppression efforts in 2008 and 2012.

When the Obama campaign engaged in microtargeting, they were widely hailed as ingenious public relations innovators. When the Trump campaign does it, he’s branded as a liar and a thief. While I have no love for Donald Trump, the clear bias in this film really irritates me. I have no doubt that Hillary Clinton, who inherited many of Obama’s campaign staffers, also used microtargeting in her campaign.

That being said, I found it significant that Cambridge Analytica was actually an offshoot of the British Strategic Communications Laboratory, which was widely used by NATO, NSA, the State Department and other deep state actors to influence US and global opinion and meddle in foreign elections. I was previously unaware that the California branch of Cambridge Analytica was headed by Trump’s campaign manager Steve Bannon and mainly funded by Trump’s biggest campaign donor, Robert Mercer.

The first 15 minutes of the documentary in which, “mainstream” corporate journalists decry the unregulated dissemination of “fake news” by “ultra right wing” online publications, is frankly embarrassing.It was the collective decision by so-called “mainstream” media to become a propaganda mouthpiece for the CIA, State Department and Pentagon that led Americans to look to the Internet for alternative sources of information.

The Ugly History of the White Rights Movement

The People Against America

Al Jazeera (2017)

Film Review

This documentary traces the rise of the “white rights” movement that elected Donald Trump. This movement, of mainly white blue collar males, promotes the distorted image of white people as a disenfranchised minority. According to the filmmakers, it has its roots in Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign. By heavily emphasizing “states rights,” Goldwater successfully exploited the anxieties of Southerners over forced integration by the federal government. It would be the first time Southern states had voted Republican since the Civil War.

Nixon’s Southern Strategy

In 1968, the Nixon campaign built on Goldwater’s success by implementing a formal “southern strategy.” By reaching out to the “silent majority,” and emphasizing law and order in the face of race riots and anti-war protests, his campaign sought to win the votes of northern blue collar voters. In subsequent elections, Democratic Party strategists would seek to win back blue collar voters by recruiting two conservative governors to run for president (Carter and Clinton).

As the Watergate scandal undermined all Americans’ confidence in government, corporate oligarchs would build on growing anti-government sentiment by massively funding right wing think tanks, lobbying and conservative talk radio. This, in turn would lay the groundwork for Reagan’s 1980 massive deregulation and tax and public service cuts.

Corporate Giveaways By Clinton and Obama

When Clinton was elected in 1992, he quickly surpassed Reagan’s record of corporate giveaways, with his total deregulation of Wall Street, his Three Strikes and Omnibus Crime Bill (leading to mass incarceration of minorities) and his creation of the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). These free trade treaties resulted in the wholesale export of rust belt industries to Mexico and China, effectively ending any incentive for working class males to vote Democratic.

Obama, elected on the back of the 2008 financial collapse, would prove even more pro-corporate than Clinton or Bush. Instead of prosecuting the banks who caused the 2008 economic crash, he granted them massive bailouts, while ignoring the plight of millions of homeowners who lost their homes when these banks foreclosed on them. He also significantly increasing mass surveillance and aggressively prosecuting whistleblowers. He also effectively repealed posse comitatus* and habeus corpus.**

The Rise of Occupy and the Tea Party

Obama’s pro-corporate policies led to the rise of both left wing (Occupy Wall Street) and right wing (Tea Party) popular movements. The latter received major corporate backing (largely from the Koch brothers), enabling Tea Party Republicans to shift the blame for the loss of good paying industrial jobs from Wall Street to minorities, immigrants and women.

Is the US Moving to the Right?

For me, the highlight of the documentary is  commentary by former Black Panther Party president Elaine Brown, the only activist featured. Brown, who is highly critical of the left’s failure to acknowledge the problems of poor white people, is the only commentator to dispute that the US is “moving to the right.” She points out that prior Republican campaigns used coded language (such as “state rights,” “law and order”) to target racist fears of blue collar whites. Trump, in contrast, openly caters to these sentiments. Brown reports that some blacks welcome the end of political hypocrisy and greater openness about the pervasiveness of white racism.

She believes this new openness offers a good opportunity to build a genuine multiracial working class movement. She gives the example of successful collaboration in Chicago between black activists and the Young Patriots (a white separatist group) against corrupt landlords.


*The Posse Comitatus Act, enacted in 1878, prohibited the use of federal troops to enforce domestic policies within the US.

**The right of Habeus Corpus, guaranteed under Article I of the Constitution and the Fifth Amendment of the Bill of Rights, prevents government from illegal detaining US citizens without charging them.

 

Israel’s Secret 40-year War with Iran

The Secret with Iran: The 30-Year Covert Struggle for Control of a “Rogue” State

by Ronen Bergman

Translated by Ronnie Hope

Oneworld (2009)

Book Review

This is a very depressing book. The “secret war” referred to is the covert war Israeli intelligence has fought with Iran over the last [40] years. Most of The Secret War with Iran is an endless chronology of lawless tit-for-tat revenge killings, car bombings, kidnappings and extrajudicial assassinations Israeli intelligence and Hezbollah* impose on one another.

While most of the narrative seems historically accurate, the author’s clear pro-Zionist bias results in a number of troubling inconsistencies. Examples include persistent claims about Iran’s mythical nuclear weapons arsenal – despite verification by US intelligence (see Iran Doesn’t Have a Nuclear Weapons Program) that their nuclear weapons program ceased in 2003; a clear attempt to minimize the role of Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine in generating and perpetuating Middle East violence; repeated claims that Iran (rather than Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the CIA) was the key player in the birth of Al Qaeda; and an erroneous assertion that Saddam Hussein expelled UN nuclear inspectors in 1998 (Bill Clinton had them recalled so he could bomb Iraq – see Clinton’s Worst Crimes).

Despite these weaknesses, the book provides valuable insight about the Israeli origin of Iran bashing recently taken up by Trump and the Republican Congress. The book also contains important historical background on Ruhollah Khomeini and the 1979 Iranian revolution to overthrow the ruthless CIA-backed Shah. Prior to reading this book, I was unaware of the role Yassar Arafat and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) played in training Iran’s Revolutionary Guards nor the role of Iran in training, arming and funding Hezbollah, the Shi’ite militia group operating on the Israeli border in southern Lebanon.

After 1948 when the new state of Israel forcibly evicted millions of Palestinians from their lands, a sizeable proportion fled to southern Lebanon where they’re housed in refuge camps to this day. It was these camps that gave rise to the PLO.

After their UN-mandated expulsion from Lebanon in 1987, many PLO fighter returned to Palestine – where they launched the first Intifada.


*Hezbollah is a Shi’ite Islamist political party and milita group based in Lebanon. They enjoy strong support from Lebanon’s civilian population owing to their programs offering health, education and social services the Lebanese government is too poor to provide.

More Babies Die in Cleveland than in North Korea, Sri Lanka, Albania and Guatemala

Behind America’s Infant Mortality Crisis

Al Jazeera (2013)

Film Review

Since the mid-1990s, when Bill Clinton eliminated Aid For Dependent Children (AFDC), the US has enjoyed infant mortality rates among the highest in the world. Rust belt Midwestern cities lead the US in infant mortality. The loss of steel, auto and other manufacturing to third world sweatshops has virtually crushed many of these cities, leaving massive unemployment – particularly among African Americans.

Cleveland is the US city with the highest percentage of babies dying during the first year of life – with an infant mortality greater than third world countries like North Korea, Albania, Sri Lanka and Guatemala.

Trying to identify the cause of Cleveland’s skyrocketing infant mortality, filmmakers interview African American mothers and expectant mothers and neonatal specialists. The neonatologists identify prematurity as the number one cause of infant deaths. Factors that contribute to mothers delivering prematurely include homelessness and lack of access to healthy food (or money to pay for it) and prenatal care. Ohio is one of the states where Republican legislators declined federal funds to expand Medicaid (which pays for prenatal care) to the working poor.

The neonatologists also point out the false economy of this ideological stinginess. Ohio’s Medicaid program spends hundreds of millions of dollars trying to keep premature babies alive in state-of-the-art neonatal ICUs – it would cost taxpayers far less to prevent prematurity by ensuring expectant mothers have warm housing, healthy food and prenatal care.

Stealing Africa

Stealing Africa – Why Poverty

BBC (2012)

Film Review

Stealing Africa is about the Swiss corporation Glencore and how they have been ripping off Zambia’s copper for the last 16 years.

Despite exporting $29 billion worth of copper annually, Zambia remains one of the twentieth poorest countries in the world. The reason? A Swiss company called Glencore that keeps the vast majority of these profits for themselves. Thanks to creative bookkeeping and major tax evasion, Glencore pays less to the Zambian government in taxes than they pay to provide electricity to their mines.

Glencore has an interesting connection to the Clintons. The company was started in the 1970s by Marc Rich, an American white collar criminal who fled to Switzerland in 1983 to avoid imprisonment on money laundering, tax fraud and trading with the enemy* charges.

In 1994, the company changed their name from Marc Rich and Company to Glencore.- in 2000, Bill Clinton pardoned Rich in return for millions in campaign contributions and donations to the Clinton Library.

The Zambian copper mines were a state owned industry until 2000, when the global price of copper plummeted, leaving Zambia unable to repay its foreign debt. Allegedly under pressure from the International Monetary Fund, President Frederick Chiluba sold all Zambia’s copper mines to Glencore and other foreign companies. In 2007, a case in the British high court found Chiluba (who died in 2011) guilty of conspiracy to defraud.

In 2011, a confidential tax audit of Glencore’s Mopani mine was leaked to Friends of the Earth. It revealed that Glencore (with the collusion of Switzerland) was reducing their tax bill in Zambia by rigging the price of copper and fraudulent profit reporting. Following public release of the audit, the EU investment bank suspended further loans to Glencore. Sadly the company persists in their refusal to pay the tax demands of a government lacking the legal resources to take on a gigantic multinational corporation.

The result is a country in which 64% of the population live below the poverty line and residents adjacent to Glencore copper mines suffer major health problems. These relate mainly to the company’s refusal to abide by World Health Organization standards for sulfur dioxide emissions.

How Corporations Used Podesta to Corrupt the Clintons and Obama

The Empire Files: Abby Martin Exposes John Podesta

(2016)

This segment of The Empire Files focuses on the Wikileaks reveal about the obscenely corrupt relationship between John Podesta, the Clintons and Barack Obama. My immediate reaction on watching it was relief and gratitude that Hillary lost the presidency.

Hillary’s campaign manager John Podesta is, first and foremost, is a corporate lobbyist who highest loyalty is to his clients. The Podesta Group, which he owns with his brother, Tony, lobbies for the most powerful corporations in the world, as well as the brutal governments of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and al-Maliki (Iraqi prime minister 2006-2014). The Wikileaks emails reveal unequivocally that John Podesta systematically (and illegally) used high ranking positions in both the Clinton and Obama administration to advance the profit interests of his private clients.

Under Bill Clinton, it was also John Podesta’s role to covered up numerous instances in which Bill and Hillary Clinton used his position as Arkansas governor for personal financial gain.

When Obama became president, Podesta (who would become Obama’s senior White House advisor), allowed his client Citibank to dictate nearly all of Obama’s cabinet appointments. Podesta would go on to form the Center for American Progress, a supposedly non-profit group that illegal lobbied for private clients of the Podesta Group to receive federal subsidies and lax regulatory treatment.

Columbia: the Israel of Latin America

The Colombia Connection
Directed by Pablo Naverette (2012)

Film Review

The Colombia Connection is a Press TV documentary about the complex military alliance between the US and Colombia, which one local trade unionist describes as “the Israel” of Latin America.

The US has played a substantive role in funding and training Colombia’s military and intelligence service since the late forties. US advisers are strongly implicated in the assassination of reformist presidential candidate Jorge Gaitan in 1948 and the 1948-53 reign of terror (La Violencia) responsible for the murders of tens of thousands of civilians.

After World War II, Columbia joined other Latin American countries whose corrupted leaders colluded with the US government to drive peasants off their land for the benefit of US corporations. Liberal opposition leaders, trade unionists, human rights groups, judges, journalists and elected officials who opposed this process were violently suppressed via targeted assassination, forced disappearance and torture.

The US assisted in this process through the US Army School of the Americas, which operated in Panama between 1946 and 1984, when it was relocated to Fort Benning Georgia. The specific role of the School of the Americas is to train the paramilitary death squads of right wing Latin American governments in torture and other terror techniques. Convinced they had no legal or peaceful option for reclaiming their stolen land, poor Colombians began joining guerilla groups in large groups, with the FARC and the ELN (both formed in 1964) being the largest.

In 1998, starting with the election of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, numerous Latin American countries (Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay and Ecuador), began electing left of center governments. In response, in 2000 Bill Clinton launched Plan Colombia, which substantially increased direct US military involvement with the construction of seven military bases.

At present, US military aid to Columbia is the third largest ($7.5 billion between 2000 and 2010), after Israel and Egypt. The pretext is that US forces are helping the Colombian government eradicate cocaine production. However leaked Wikileaks cables indicate their real purpose is to attack rebel strongholds.

One example involves a Colombian paramilitary force the US secretly dispatched to Venezuela to try to assassinate Hugo Chavez.

Part 3 touches on candidate Obama’s promises to reign in Columbia’s human rights abuses by cutting military aid – as well as his 180 degree reversal the moment he took office.

Clinton Should Tell Obama To Withdraw TPP To Save Her Presidency

A new opinion piece by Tom Johnson in Common Dreams urges Hillary Clinton to ask Obama to end his push for his lame duck Congress to pass TPP.

Johnson writes

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton says she opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) but is having trouble convincing people to believe her. Imagine the trouble Hillary Clinton will have trying to build support for her effort to govern the country if TPP is ratified before her inauguration.

According to Politico’s Wednesday Morning Trade, the Obama administration is launching a “TPP blitz” push to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP),

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker last week said the administration is planning at least 30 trade events by the end of the month. That effort, similar to last year’s “all of Cabinet” push for trade promotion authority, is expected to shift to Capitol Hill in September when lawmakers return from their summer break.

In spite of the opposition of much of the public, both presidential candidates, all of labor, almost all Democrats, all progressive-aligned consumer, human rights, environmental and other organizations and even the Tea Party right, what is happening here is that Wall Street, the multinational corporations, most Republicans and unfortunately President Obama are preparing to insult democracy by pushing to ratify TPP. This undermine’s Clinton’s credibility while campaigning for election, and if it passes it harms her ability to govern if she is elected.

Johnson also notes that Trump is telling campaign rallies that Clinton is a closet Transpacific Partnership supporter and raising fears of a lame-duck vote on the “job-killing” TPP.

He encourages people to sign the CREDO petition: “Tell Sec. Clinton: Lead against lame-duck vote on TPP

Read full article here: Clinton should tell Obama withdraw TPP to Save Her Presidency

What Really Happened at Waco?

Waco: The Rules of Engagement

Directed by William Gazecki (1997)

Film Review

Waco is a long but well-made documentary about what was essentially an FBI coverup of an unlawful military assault on innocent civilians. What immediately struck me about the film are the obvious parallels between the military assault at Waco, the 1975 incident at Pine Ridge in which Leonard Peltier and other AIM activists were arrested for resisting an armed FBI assault and the FBI/Philadelphia police decision to bomb the MOVE compound in 1985 (see The Day Philadelphia Police Dropped a Bomb on 61 Families).

The documentary is anchored around a 1995 Congressional investigation which, unlike the whitewash of the JFK assassination, the Oklahoma City bombing and 9-11, successfully unearthed most of the sordid facts about the government’s illegal (and unconstitutional) military assault in Waco. Predictably the corporate media buried the investigation and its findings. Thus the systematic disinformation the Clinton administration disseminated about David, Koresh and the Branch Davidians is what remains uppermost in the public mind.

What surprised me most about the film was learning that the Branch Davidians weren’t a cult, that the Mount Carmel church where they lived wasn’t a bunker and that David Koresh himself wasn’t a deranged psychopath who buffaloed his followers into a virtual suicide pact.

The Branch Davidians were actually an old offshoot of the Seventh Day Adventist Church which relocated from Los Angeles to the Mount Carmel center at Waco in the 1930s. Koresh (born Vernon Howell) was raised there and eventually selected as the group’s spiritual leader.

Testimony given during the Congressional hearings establishes quite clearly that the initial ATF assault (in which the Branch Davidians defended themselves and killed four ATF agents) was a public relations stunt aimed at influencing upcoming ATF appropriations hearings.

The supposed justification for the assault was the presence of illegal weapons on the premises. As good Texans, the Branch Davidians visited a lot of gun shows and bought and sold weapons as a source of revenue. The search warrant accused them of illegally modifying automatic weapons – which Koresh denied. He invited the ATF to come and inspect their guns in mid-1992. The ATF declined to do so.

Most of the media attention (and the search warrant itself) focused on the fact that Koresh had multiple wives, included several who were underage teenagers. While both polygamy and child rape are illegal under Texas law, they in no way justify a full scale military assault that kills innocent civilians, including the rape victims themselves.

The FBI would follow up the failed ATF operation with a full scale military siege (with tanks) that lasted 51 days.

The evidence presented during the hearings includes intriguing clips from a video camera FBI negotiators gave the Branch Davidians to talk about themselves and their beliefs and infrared footage showing the FBI, Janet Reno and Bill Clinton lied through their teeth about not firing on the Branch Davidians and David Koresh deliberately starting the fire that destroyed the compound.

It also comes out that the FBI deliberately destroyed the crime scene (as Bush would later do at Ground Zero), as well as systematically obstructing efforts by the local medical examiner and the Texas Rangers to conduct independent investigations.

The Citizens Group that Blew Whistle on OKC Bombing

A Noble Lie

Directed by James Lane (2011)

Film Review

This documentary approaches the Oklahoma City bombing from a somewhat different angle, focusing on the citizens group that empaneled a grand jury to investigate Tim McVeigh’s accomplices, as well as his links to US intelligence. Oklahoma is one of the few states that allows citizens to convene their own grand jury.

The Oklahoma Bombing Investigation Committee was made up of Oklahoma City police and sheriff’s officers, bombing victims and their families, eyewitnesses and a supportive state legislator. Their findings showed clearly that at the time of the bombing McVeigh was still in the US Army (as indicated on his death certificate) and assigned to working with the FBI and ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) group PatCon to infiltrate militant right wing groups. The committee’s goal was to force Congress to investigate the FBI cover-up of the Oklahoma City bombing. When this failed, the published their findings two weeks prior to 9-11 in a book called The Final Report on the Bombing of the Alfred P Murrah Building.

A Noble Lie also zeroes in on the two eyewitnesses who were murdered as part of the FBI cover-up, the files the FBI and ATF removed from the Murrah federal building before they permitted search and rescue teams from entering the bomb site, and FBI memos obtained under the Freedom of Information Act about the involvement of McVeigh and various accomplices in PatCon. The latter was an undercover FBI operation to infiltrate right wing extremist groups.

This film also goes to great lengths to debunk the FBI claim that a truck bomb caused the Murrah Federal Building to collapse. Not only was the pattern of structural damage inconsistent with an external air blast, but a truck bomb (of the size claimed by the FBI) would have produced too much ammonia gas for rescuers to enter the building.

Independent forensic tests at an Air Force lab ascertained that the bombing had to result from explosive charges attached to one or more columns inside the building – exactly like the two bombs defused immediately after the blast. The activities of the Air Force bomb disposal squad were reported by numerous media outlets on the day.


*An Oklahoma sheriff got a tip off from Little Rock the day of the bombing that these records likely concerned the federal investigation into CIA drug running at the Mena Airport in Arkansas. Federal records related to the Whitewater investigation, another Clinton scandal, were also stored in the Murrah building and vanished the day of the bombing.