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Terrible. But here is one solution to the ubiquitous and most un-Islamic terrorist problem: offer rewards for information leading to the prevention of major incidents. These should be life-changing rewards – say five million dollars – accompanied by witness-protection deals. The suicide-bombers are probably too deranged or brain-washed to be of any use; but their brothers, cousins, sisters and other relatives probably aren’t. They’re usually relatively young – some, like Salman Abidi, ate just kids – and the prospect of a life of ease is bound to entice someone to rat on what must seem to any sane person a fruitless and pointless endeavor, and one that will bring grief to many not so concerned with the grievances. Oh, I know there are grievances – the drone killings of innocents here and there – but they are surely not so keenly felt by people brought up in the comfort and security of Manchester? It’s not a guaranteed solution, true, but it ought to be tried; and it does seem better than the streets of England under virtual marshal law, no? These are not probably the most upstanding citizens; and any result would be worth far more than five million dollars spent on police and intelligence activity.

Paul William Roberts


 The Independence of Money


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In 1990 income from the US financial sector comprised 14% of the whole economy; by 2002 it had climbed to 40%. So close on half of GDP is derived from an industry that produces nothing except money and fiscal instruments, including mortgages and rentier income. When money was gold and silver coinage, it was actually worth, or estimated to be worth, what you bought with it. Even when paper money was still backed by gold reserves there was some assurance of worth; but now it relies entirely in our faith in the issuing authority – In God we trust… In Canada today we see that faith flagging slightly, as Mooney’s downgrades our banks on its list of reliable places in which foreigners can invest – the real estate bubble is to blame, because all bubbles can do is burst. When China first tried to float a paper currency, no one wanted it; the government had to impose a death penalty on anyone refusing to deal in paper. All the same, when the Mandate of Heaven ran out on that ruling dynasty, the paper money vanished with it. As western economies writhe and heave in their death throes, however, money, which used to be merely a tool to facilitate barter, has taken on a life of its own. It has gained its independence from the real world and exists in a spectral realm only understood by Wall Street or Bay Street – and evidently not even by them.


No western economy has been remotely in a state of equilibrium since the late sixties, when the post-war boom finally settled down, and then entered a catastrophic period. The seventies saw runaway inflation, cured by raising interest rates to 20%. The eighties saw mounting public debt, assuaged by privatizing it, raising taxes and making citizens pay for such things as education, welfare and healthcare. Therefore the nineties saw a steep rise in private or personal debt – which inevitably led to the sub-prime cataclysm and financial melt-down of 2008, when banks failed and the stock market crashed. Each economic crisis brought a solution which created another crisis.


The critics of capitalism have always pointed to the flaws in a system based upon the concept of infinite growth in a finite world. It is definitely an excellent way of raising funds to start or expand a business; yet its scope of vision fails when a company or corporation reaches maturity. I saw this first-hand when my late wife’s company was gobbled up by the Rogers media empire. She went from producing a good product, a magazine, to producing an income for Rogers; and no matter how much income the magazine now produced, the next financial year’s target was always set higher – and she was urged to consider taking advertorial money (advertisements disguised as articles), a practice she considered unethical. I had never really dwelt on the matter before, but when I did it seemed transparently obvious that growth cannot continue indefinitely; and the fallacy of a stock markets depends entirely on this impossibility being possible. Stock values, the very viability of a company, depend on it – and it is a mirage.


There are those who say capitalism is collapsing, and there is Wolfgang Streik, Director of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Society, who says it is dead, and we are merely left with the stench of its rotting corpse (I recommend the CBC Radio show Ideas on this subject). I think Streik is correct when he says we are now in an interregnum between capitalism and whatever will replace it, forced to hunker down and watch as the world around us grows increasingly bizarre and unrecognizable, with the success of executives rewarded inordinately and workers unable to rely on regular employment in a market threatened on all sides by technocratic change. Streik describes the attitude of such times as “coping, hoping, doping and shopping.” With both parents working just to make ends meet, the modern family copes as best it can, hoping the situation will improve. The steep rise in drug use indicates two forms of despair: drugs essentially either help you increase performance, or else numb in order to help you endure defeat. The rest of us go shopping, just to keep up with a culture which is about nothing but consumerism. But all of this is beginning to have calamitous effects on society. In European countries on the southern shores of the Mediterranean, like Greece, Italy and Spain, for example, the very structure of the family is changing. These countries have effectively lost control of their own money, and are now enslaved to the IMF and World Bank, forced to repay bail-out loans by drastically cutting social services and so on; jobs are now scarce. This has meant that the youth there can no  longer afford to leave home and start lives of their own; as a result they can no longer marry, which has caused a catastrophic decline in the birthrate, causing it to fall into a negative statistic that may well prove impossible to correct. The levels of social unrest all over have given rise to populist political movements which reflect nothing but discontent. Terms like post-capitalism or post-truth tell us little beyond the fact that we’re pre-something that has yet to appear. What will it be?


No one knows, of course, but the financial titans of this world certainly understand that something fundamental has changed. The stock and bond markets are no longer the reliable places to invest capital that they once were. There is a scramble to invest in tangible assets, like real estate, which is now vastly overvalued everywhere in the west. Streik tells of a man who purchased a disused nuclear missile silo in the Midwest. The place was resistant to an atomic attack; so he built a series of ultra-expensive apartments inside it, all of which sold out in days to financial and tech barons. They clearly expect the worst. There has been a similar run on luxury items, from jewelry to high-end automobiles and Pacific  or Caribbean islands. An astounding number of huge western corporations have their headquarters in some of the Gulf emirates, where a feudal system has always been in place – and where there’s no tax. Shelter from the storm. Yet the storm does not have to be. What does have to happen, however, is the complete overhaul of a broken system, from governments to the means of production, with an emphasis on local governance, a syndicalist workplace with equitable profit-sharing (and loss-sharing, if the need arises), as well as the distribution of wealth by merit alone. Extreme measures to be sure; but the alternative is a neo-feudal world, where corporate barons with private armies ensure their own welfare over that of subservient masses desperate to survive in a state where the means of livelihood are controlled by a handful of oligarchs. We are now increasingly encouraged to believe in the divisions of society – the Indigenous, LGBTQ, women’s rights, religious differences, political stripes and so on – yet these divisions are smokescreens. All rights would be settled by an overhauling of society into something equitable for all. To do this, however, requires unity of purpose. Let us forget our petty differences and unite to achieve the greater goal, which will bring us our individual needs anyway. As always, the future is in your hands if you would but realize it.


Paul William Roberts   

War and Law


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Half of Canadians will disagree vehemently with the following, but those people ought to examine carefully the arguments herein, and also their own consciences, lest they become a problem they wish to avoid.


This Sunday will be the 100th anniversary of the battle for Vimy Ridge, and terms like “valor” and “courage” will be bandied around. No one in the mainstream media will ever talk about the piddling meaninglessness of this battle to claim a few hundred yards of hillside, whose only importance was that German troops had encamped there to gain a strategic advantage of higher ground. Similarly, no one will mention the pointlessness of a war that killed 30 million or more, ought never to have been fought, and at the very least could and should have been over long before 1917. I know about the First World War. My grandfather was in the cavalry, and I grew up on his stories of the horror. Men drank their own blood; they cut off frostbitten fingers to eat them; they coughed up segments of lung fried by mustard gas. And those who managed to survive, to return home, vowed to change a world that had sent mainly its poor to fight in a conflict that only the rich wanted. They failed in this, but the cause is nonetheless noble, and still crying out for a champion.


Benjamin Ferencz has been one such champion, but he is 97 now, and though still volubly active, is not about to lead the masses in an effort to detox our governments’ addiction to war as a means of settling disputes. Seventy years ago, he was a chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials, where he specialized in convicting members of the Einsatzgruppen – the first Nazis to embark on the Holocaust in the Baltic states – all of whom he sent to the scaffold. He knows about the cost of war. He also knows that most of the Nazi hierarchy escaped retribution, and many even started working for the Allies against a new enemy in Russia. Ferencz realizes that politics is a ballgame, and that war is the ball. We should pay heed.


The glorification of war is a sickness in sore need of a cure. Our monuments do not record the man who hid inside the belly of a dead cow to avoid capture, eating torn-off hanks of putrefying flesh to stay alive. They do not record the sergeant who trudged all night through mud to report back at HQ holding his severed arm. They do not record the thousands and thousands blinded or lame for life. They do not record the futility, expense and pointlessness of every war. They record the names of those who “gave their lives” to protect us. Those lives were really stolen not given, and the tragedy protected no one. As Aldous Huxley said, a war to defend democracy sounds reasonable. But the exigencies of war require a centralized command, forced conscription, suspension of basic rights, and so on. Before you know it, you don’t have a democracy to defend. In Canada we have a unique opportunity to demonstrate for the world how a pacifist system can function. We have no enemies (and even if we did, the question of how an attack works when there is no one to attack is part of another discussion). We have no obligation to participate in the wars of our allies. How can we possibly justify the billions spent on devices whose sole purpose is to kill other people? As we plunge ever deeper into debt, this question is increasingly relevant. Abandoning war would give us the money to invest in those things that we really need: education, housing and healthcare. Yet these anniversaries of bloodbaths always try to persuade us that it is sweet and noble to die in conflicts no one really understands. “The old lie,” as Wilfred Owen called it, “dulce et decorum est pro patria mori…”


The United Nations charter is committed to solving international conflicts and disputes peacefully. It doesn’t do this because the Security Council – an aberration giving the great powers control over proceedings – always acts as a barrier to global equanimity. But this doesn’t have to be so. The UN could be overhauled and made into what it purports to be: a world government.


War may once have been a noble profession, when kings and potentates charged into the fray with pistol and sabre; but now it is shameful, the generals sitting with coffee before video screens, exterminating strangers as they stir in sugar. We have surely evolved beyond this barbarism. As Tolstoy says, war is the greatest crime of all, containing, as it does, all other crimes: murder, arson, rape, theft, and even counterfeiting. The Law is supposed to counter all crimes. And there are international laws that, if utilized, would act in the place of armies. I was in Iraq in 2003. I saw where a trillion dollars went. It went to destroy another trillion dollars in property and life. It went nowhere, and it has achieved nothing. Just as we’re legalizing marijuana, we could criminalize war. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain. The whole world would take an invaluable lesson from it too. Because, if we all do not give up this atavistic game, we shall all surely perish; atomic weapons are not swords and arrows. Sooner or later, someone is bound to press a button marked The End.


Paul William Roberts

Neo Neo: Con


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Leo Strauss, a German Jew, was obliged to leave the Reich in the Thirties, when the Nazi tyranny became overtly anti-Semitic. But the  sponsor behind his emigration to the United States was Carl Schmidt, who fashioned Hitler’s judiciary. Indeed, Strauss was a committed fascist, until the position became untenable. Settling in the US, at the University of Chicago, he would become the godfather of Neoconservatism, with such luminaries as Paul Wolfowitz among his eager students. Some of these students would go on to form the American Enterprise Institute, whose members were the chief proponents of the disastrous Iraq invasion (see my book, A War Against Truth). In Canada, Neocons first settled around the University of Toronto, where they were most unwelcome. They eventually moved to the University of Calgary, where acolytes of the new-old political philosophy included Stephen Harper and some of his cronies, including several journalistic hacks who would now deny the connection. The American Enterprise Institute remained strangely silent for years after the catastrophe in Iraq, and is effectively defunct. But is Neoconservatism dead? No, it is not. But it has resurfaced in a new and more pernicious form – a form more in keeping with its roots in fascist Europe nearly a century ago. This form is also spreading across the world in so-called popular movements, as it did back then.


If you read the turgid, crepuscular works of Leo Strauss – and I pity those who try – you will find many recommendations currently being put into practice on three continents. Any act is justified to win an election, says Strauss (and remember Hitler was initially elected by a seemingly democratic vote). Such acts include lying to the public; and we are being lied to now more than ever. They include staging actions to sway public opinion – and it’s anyone’s guess if these are in progress. They include treating the public like the enemy, using the old maxim of divide and conquer. We are being divided, by gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religious beliefs and class. These divisions make us easier to rule. But we are in truth not divided thus. We are all human beings, with similar hopes and aspirations. When someone divides you by gender, beware. When someone divides you by sexual orientation, deny it. You are just human; your quirks or peccadillos are just human nature. Do not allow yourself to be placed in a caste. The only caste is that of humanity.


One of the Straussian methods for gaining absolute control is fear. The most fearful populations always have the strongest governments. No doubt this is true. The question ought to be: is the fear justifiiable? As this post-neo Neoconservatism creeps around us, and truth cannot be discerned from lies, we should remember whence it springs, and ask ourselves if we are just being manipulated by the same nefariously simple techniques that spawned the Holocaust.


Paul William Roberts

  Shallows of the Deep State


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The Deep State is not a conspiracy of dark forces but rather the branches of government that do not change with each new administration. Their heads may change but the core staff does not. Prominent among these in the US – and the main reason for suspicion – are the security-intelligence agencies, all seventeen of them. It is from some of these agencies that we are now hearing and seeing a marked reaction against the shambles that is Donald Trump’s administration. This reaction has already resulted in the discovery that Trump’s campaign chair, Attorney General, and his Secretary of Defense took and lied about meetings with staffers at the Russian Embassy, both during and subsequent to the election. Jeff Sessions, Attorney General, met with the Russian Ambassador just three days after President Obama announced sanctions to punish Russian cyber malfeasance. We have learned today that present at a meeting denied by Defense Secretary Flynn was Mr. Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and now a kind of roving diplomat without any conspicuous credentials. The net is tightening around the President – who has now been shown unambiguously lying about his own relationship with Russian premier Putin – and I am told investigators are trying to ascertain whether or not the Trump team was colluding with Russian operatives to interfere in the election. Mere contact is not sufficient for charges to be laid. Collusion, however, is treason – a death sentence,  or life in jail at the very least. Some of those in the deep state are convinced collusion has occurred and believe they will be able to prove it.


Whenever Trump most complains about “fake news” it is over the stories circulating about this Russian involvement. Why? Because, if proven, it would potentially and probably chop up support in his base. Such people may like the bombast and racist innuendo, but many of them will not be able to tolerate the idea of a covert alliance with America’s traditional enemy. Some perhaps even think of the Soviets still, and the Red Peril. And we know how the President likes to play to his base almost exclusively.


Tuesday’s address to the Congress was a striking example of this administration’s proclivity for staging events that can only be compared with the Nazi Nuremberg rallies of the 1930s – crowd-pleasing spectacles designed to glorify and magnify the Fuhrer. The address said nothing, besides a wish-list of prospective actions phrased to sound like accomplishments, yet each hollow statement was greeted with fantastically overdone applause. Bereaved or unusually accomplished ordinary citizens – unusual because of race or class and the concomitant adversity – were shamelessly dragged in for emotional effect. What was supposed to be a serious talk outlining propositions to an assembly of serious people was a mere carnival. The large number of members not supporting Trump – less still the demonstrators outside – were invisible, except for the odd person looking glum and not clapping. This was a spectacle staged to present the American TV audience with an image of the President wholeheartedly supported and adored by a united House. It was in effect fake news. CBC Radio, however, chose largely to ignore the address, and certainly didn’t dissect the speech for its accuracy or vacuity. The CBC has been particularly thin on US news of late, and I hear the Government of Trudeau le Petit has pressured the Corp to lay off Trump to protect our American trade. If true, this is beneath contempt.


Major voices on the Right in the US are speaking out fearlessly. One was even interviewed on the CBC, presumably because no one here is allowed to do it. David Frum, senior editor of the Atlantic magazine, ex-speech writer for George W. Bush, ex-Canadian, active supporter of the Iraq catastrophe, is no bleeding-heart liberal. He says the allegations of Russian collusion in election meddling are going to be provably true. Far from overreacting to this story, as we are told is happening by some news agencies, we ought to beware of underreacting. It is probably the most devastating incident in American political history – if true, of course. Richard Nixon spied on the Democratic Party, but at least he used American agents to do it. In Mr. Frum’s opinion, Trump is heading down the road to autocracy. The 21str-century version won’t be like Stalin or Hitler, he says. Violence and coercion will be replaced by “deceit and corruption”. These are very serious issues, yet the CBC glosses over them or ignores them, dredging up the usual trivia and, sports, entertainment and local flim-flam. It’s sad, and it’s irritating when our powerful neighbor is on the verge of what could well be a new civil war.


Unsurprisingly, Trump never once mentioned the most damaging issue dogging his administration during his autohagiography to Congress. Not a word about Russia – nyet. Not a peep. One might well ask how the Russians are taking all these allegations and accusations. You can’t really discover that, however, since Czar Putin controls all the media. But you can discover what he, Putin, is thinking – or what he wants us to think he’s thinking. A recent newspaper headline bemoaned the state of America since Trump’s election, calling it “a madhouse”. True enough. One headline today read, “Time to End the Honeymoon with Trump?” This is clearly Moscow telling the world it has no special ties to Trump, is dismayed by his first month in office, and will be content to work with whomever replaces him. Other recent press articles complain about Russia being used as a punching-bag in Washington. Putin is creating a distance between himself and the White House. Why? Probably because he’s fairly certain that the shit will soon hit Trump’s fan, and, knowing that shit as intimately as Putin indubitably does, he must be well aware of the consequences that must inevitably follow any exposure of Russian collusion in election tampering or possibly even worse high crimes and misdemeanors. These consequences will of course leave any Russian nationals unscathed, and, wearing his Teflon suit, Putin can deny all knowledge of this crazy Yankee fantasy. But Deep State officials know it is not a fantasy. The CIA has said so, and if the NSA – which has the metadata on every phone call made every minute of every day in the entire world – cannot come up with some irrefutably conclusive evidence against this administration, well, then their trillion-dollar budget should be kicked down to Langley. Some months ago I cited examples of Russian interference in previous US and other elections. There is no doubt that they do it. There’s no doubt that America indulges in some shady cyber activities too. But Russia does have a long relationship with computer crimes. Back in the nineties, Moscow hand-picked the best and brightest techno-geeks, furnished them with state-of-the-art equipment, installed them somewhere deep in the remotest Urals, and instructed them to wait for the most glorious and secret project. This project never arrived, though. It was not a good time for the Kremlin. Putin was just another KGB agent, and the post-Communist nation was floundering under a crew of oligarchic kleptocrats who stripped Russia’s assets and bought the lot themselves for a few kopecs. Meanwhile, back in the Urals, our techno-geeks were amusing themselves playing havoc on the Internet. They hacked anything worth hacking. They went shopping on your credit cards. And they wrote the first really destructive viruses and worms. Objectively, they did brilliant work. Subjectively, I had to buy two new desktops inside a year. When highly gifted or inordinately intelligent people are allowed to play, not only do they learn what no one is teaching, they also come up with ideas and discoveries no one else could have possibly stumbled upon. With this isolated group of brainy nerds the whole concept of Russian cyber warfare was developed far in advance of any Pentagon efforts. If Russians did hack Democratic Party computers, you can be sure it would be a very sophisticated job, hard to detect, and perhaps impossible to trace to any specific server, less still any individual. I think the Deep State already knows this, and has thus shifted its attention towards the physical meetings. As I write this, the Secretary of State has been linked to a Russian bank specializing in money-laundering. That is now the four most important offices in Trump’s administration linked to shadowy dealings with Moscow. No wonder that Putin, the master strategist – and apparently a great chess player – is edging Trump to where he can be easily thrown under the bus. But let’s not rush to judgement. Is there anything to suggest that Russia might be innocent in all of this?


Well, yes and no. Most of the contentious meetings were with Sergei Kisliak, the Russian Ambassador in Washington. He’s an amiable man, laid-back, and well-liked by all. He knows almost everyone on the Hill, is very sociable, so if you’ve been in town for a while you will probably have met him. Unlike Putin and his cronies, who all come out of the intelligence services, Kisliak was originally a physicist, a background that initially made him useful in Washington as a knowledgeable negotiator in arms-reduction talks. It is of course part of a diplomat’s job in any embassy to identify and meet up-and-coming politicians, people who may well form a future administration, so there is ostensibly nothing dramatically unusual in the meetings with men slated to be Trump’s most senior officials. Nothing that is, except the uniform lying by those officials about the meetings. If it is all so innocent and routine, why lie? The only possible reason is that an official meeting would require someone to take minutes, and then a report on what was discussed in detail to be written up. The meeting would almost certainly be recorded too, whether overtly or covertly. By claiming their meetings were just casual chats – about what precisely no one seems to remember clearly – the three officials obviate the need for these formal requirements. It is of course what was discussed that lies at the heart of this major debacle. If Russian cyber spooks were at work in the US – even if based elsewhere – Sergei Kisliak would almost certainly know about it. It’s his job. As said, he’s companionable, highly social and well-known. He regularly meets sociably with politicians and diplomats of all stripes from all over the globe. If you’re seen slurping a cappuccino with him in the mall or some club, no one will think twice about it. But the meetings in question were not casual socializing. They were formal and held in private, at the embassy itself or in an office nearby. Thus they are unquestionably official unofficial affairs and ought to have been documented for future reference and posterity. They were not. The Attorney General claims he talked with Kisliak about terrorism, religion, war, and things he can’t remember. You do not schedule an official meeting to have such a fantastically general and risibly rambling yack. You do that over drinks or coffee somewhere, or on the phone – where calls are recorded or can be retrieved by NSA tech wizardry. It seems that whatever was discussed had to be discussed face to face, in private, at a secure location (secure for the Russians at least), and ideally in secret.  Since the accused officials have already been caught lying, there is no reason to expect a word of truth from them regarding the nature of these meetings, one of which, as I pointed out above, came 72 hours after the Obama sanctions against Moscow. Naturally, Putin and his countrymen would like the punitive sanctions lifted, and no one would blame them for pursuing any promising route to do this. If Trump intended to lift the sanctions, though, what was there to discuss? Obviously, a quid pro quo was involved – we will lift the sanctions if you… The question is what, if you what? Since most meetings occurred after the election, the what cannot have been more Dem-hacking. Hail-fellow-well-met Mr. Kisliak most certainly is, but what else is he, besides a former physicist and career diplomat, that is? The answer is interesting. He is known in intelligence circles – most notably MI6 – to be a skilled spymaster, able to recruit and run highly sophisticated networks engaged in various forms of advanced espionage and black ops. One of these forms is the undetectable international transfer of enormous amounts of money, to be used, one assumes, for nefarious purposes – or possibly just moved offshore to render the loot invisible. Another related form is plain old money-laundering. These networks span the underworld, from gangland, through narco-lords, to the major crime syndicates, and, as is the norm in espionage, many of those involved have no idea for whom they are really working. You are recruited to work for, say, the Mossad, so you believe you’re with the Israelis. You can’t go anywhere to inquire, to check out your control’s legitimacy. It’s spying – it’s all a secret. You drop off whatever you’re supposed to ferret out or spy into. You pick up your cash payments from a left-luggage locker, or somewhere. Chances are you will never find out you were working for the Russians all this time. It’s the stuff of novels, yet it also goes on in reality – although these days the computer has mostly replaced lock-picks, firearms and hidden micro-transmitters. This is the sort of work Sergei Kisliak probably thinks of as his day job.. If you’re the Russian Embassy, of course, for a start you have diplomatic immunity, but you’re also at liberty to perform financial transactions that, for a US citizen, would have red flags waving and alarm bells ringing. We now know the Secretary of State has had ties to a Russian bank notorious for money-laundering. So is it stretching the imagination to suggest that the other three officials, as well as Mr. Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, were meeting Kisliak in connection with his expertise in fiduciary legerdemain? Why would Kushner even attend such a meeting if it were not on his father-in-law’s account? He has no brief or mandate of any kind to be dealing with the Russians over anything at all – lest it be on behalf of the Trump empire, or on matters too secret for anyone to discover. Since we know that some kind of quid pro quo is being haggled over regarding the lifting of sanctions – not yet lifted, you will note – the only question left would seem to be one of money. Is it coming in as payment, or going out as a tax dodge? These are extremely rich men with sticky fingers in many pies, including the vast pastry known as organized crime. They will have hundreds of millions to hide. But they may also have tens of millions to use for illicit political machinations, including the construction of a media conglomerate to overshadow and then oust the old fashioned networks which peddle outmoded virtues like integrity, accuracy and reliability. Steve Bannon as William Randolph Hearst and Ted Turner combined. The news operation will be cheap too, since you don’t need reporters in the field when all you broadcast are opinions and fiction. More money for the execs. It will be a winner. Fear not for the grave new future, however, for, as we have said, Czar Putin knows something, and he’s the great dark spider at the centre of this web. What he seems to know is that Trump’s star is not just waning – it’s shooting down through the sky into the deep dark ocean. I predict that the Oval Office will have a new occupant by summer, but we have five rocky months ahead still. This would make a great video or board game. And it is surely comforting to know that Trump is very expendable in Moscow. Ra-Ra-Vlad-Putin, lover of succession scenes.…  


Paul William Roberts

The Mad House


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It is really quite impossible to ignore the situation in Washington, in the vain hope that it gets better, or evens out at least. It appears to get worse by the day, and follows a course that is increasingly erratic and uneven.


The Huffington Post today ran a piece quoting an unnamed member of the White House staff who claimed that President Trump is mentally unbalanced and unfit to occupy the executive office – which means unfit to lead the country. The source is anonymous for obvious reasons, but the Post seemed sure of his authenticity, and it has always been a reliable news source. It is deeply worrying. The staffer cited many incidents of Trump’s emotional instability and wild mood swings, saying that it was hard to work for him as a consequence. He is incapable of absorbing the advice from briefings and incorporating them in his decisions. Briefing papers are usually several pages long, but Trump has demanded that they be no more than a page, with bullet-points listing the issues, and no more than nine points on the page. The source said that the President ignored the complexities involved in major issues, yet would fly off the handle over the most trivial things. He issued a bulletin, for example, ordering the hand-towels on Airforce One to be changed for softer versions. His excessive and often explosive reactions to petty criticisms of him, or the ridiculing which is now fresh meat for comedians, was deeply unsettling. All of it, said the staffer, pointed to a malignant narcissist unable to perceive a reality beyond himself. It led to the tortured relationship with the media, still hatching out, and was sure to lead to far more dangerous and disruptive situations. His staff were deeply unhappy, concerned that they would one day be blamed for his enormities – which was why they were now speaking out. This is not anything we have ever seen before. Richard Nixon, at his most deluded and deceitful during Watergate, was a babe in arms compared with what we now hear daily of Trump. The talk-shows and comics can poke fun all they want – and God knows there is so much to poke at – but this is far darker than they seem to appreciate.


Perhaps Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, Dr. Strangelove, depicted a madman in the White House, but it is not an idea that has really been explored much before. The fact that Trump is portrayed by much media as a characiture is one thing, but the fact that he consistently acts like one without seemingly being aware of it is something else altogether. I have tended not to entirely dismiss his claims of a hostile and biased media – there’s mutual hatred, it’s not surprising – but increasingly I see journalists with integrity uncertain how to deal with an administration that brutalizes the truth. Trump says it is not a Muslim ban, for instance, and yet we find that effectually it is. Two Canadians of Moroccan descent were turned away at the border today. Their cell phones were taken and they were interrogated for several hours before being denied entry. Morocco is not one of the seven nations listed in the allegedly temporary ban. The questions asked them were all about their religious beliefs: Which mosque do you attend? Who’s the Imam? What does he say in his sermons? And, outrageously, What do you think of President Trump? Border guards have clearly been instructed to keep out Muslims. They do not act on their own initiative. The President is therefore lying – and such a ban on religious beliefs is unconstitutional. Courts are now striving to overtuirn it, but we find in these legal hassles that Trump’s officials are trying to insist that a Presidential executive order cannot be denied. This too is unconstitutional. With a President so thin-skinned and reactive to any perceived slight, one wonders what the Republican party is up to. They surely knew what they were getting some time ago, so why is there so little resistance?


We must remember that George W. Bush was ridiculed in office before September 11th, 2001. The War On Terror changed all that in a trice. A TV series lampooning the Bushes was cancelled. Everything became very serious, and the public forgot how they’d scorned George II. They even voted him in for a second term. It will not take that much for the Oval Office Buffoon to become King Donald the Brave. And a war, I suspect, is something very attaractive to him. As Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, a president’s powers are vastly increased, and a wartime populace is far more pliable. Who will it be? Iran? North Korea? Take your pick. It won’t be China, though – too complicated and possibly unwinnable.


Since the late sixties, many have been predicting that America would become a totalitarian regime, a police state. Is this what the more nefarious Republicans have in mind? How can we tell? Well, there’s the erosion of civil liberties – we may see that with Jeff Sessions and the new Supreme Court. There’s the stricter control of education and what can and what cannot be taught in schools. Judging by the calibre and record of those now in charge of this area, we may see that too. There’s vastly heightened security everywhere, and we’ve been seeing that for some time. There’s control of the media, and we know Trump would like to have that. Then there is the gradual dismantling of the justice system to allow arbitrary arrests, suspension of habeas corpus, and the imprisonment of dissidents. The US has been accused of trying to achieve these goals for decades, and good people have so far managed to fend off the assaults to some degree. But has the US Constitution got what is needed to avoid a tyranny usurping the government? Alexis de Tocqueville was of the opinion that it did not. Admittedly, his observations were made in the 1830s, yet the Constitution hasn’t changed much substantially since then. It is in fact a sadly atavistic document. The mosr convincing sign of a tyranny in the making is, of course, when the leader decrees his position to be one for life.


Both Napoleon and Hitler were voted into office by a reasonably fair ballot. First, Napoleon elevated himself from one of three consuls to the invented position of First Consul. Next he was First Consul for life. Then he was Emperor. Hitler was elected Chancellor, and a year later became Fuhrer, a nebulous term but a lifetime post. In both cases, there were no more real elections, and the countries were effectively dictatorships until the dictator died. But somehow I do not see Trump as Fuhrer material. No one laughed at Napoleon or Hitler – they should have, but they didn’t. So either the American system is hopelessly dysfunctional, allowing the election of a demagogue unwanted really by both parties, or the Republican elites have a plan to turn all this to their own advantage.


It is usually a mistake to take the surface events for what is really going on. And it is a fundamental error to forget that the US is really controlled by giant multinational corporations, particularly those in the arms and military supply industry. President Eisenhower warned of it in his farewell address – look it up, it’s chilling – and it was George Bush the First who privatized the military, ensuring that irresistibly vast profits awaited the next war, and the one after that. Since there hasn’t been a lack of small US conflicts since Korea in the fifties, these corporations have become inordinately wealthy. Halliburton, for example, once run by George W’s vice-president, Dick Cheney, is now headquartered in tax-free Dubai, although it is still one of the principal suppliers to the US Military, flogging them everything from meals-in-a-bag to private security personnel, who are not answerable to the Government in Washington. The mass-murder of Iraqi civilians a decade or so ago by men working for the Halliburton division, Blackwater, has never been brought to justice. There are many more examples. But the chief head of this hydra is avarice, the raking in of enormous profits no matter what their cost in human life. Such are the men who control America, and it is hard to think of them perspiring with anxiety over the current Oval Office occupant. Such people do not hesitate to kill – or to pay someone else to do it – when their interests are threatened. One must therefore conclude that their interests are not now being threatened.


Paul William Roberts




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President Trump’s ban on various people entering the US doesn’t affect me. I have been banned from entering the country since 2006, just after my first-hand account of the Iraq invasion, A War Against Truth, was published. I had been invited to a peace conference at the University of Colorado, Boulder, campus, and was told at US Customs in Toronto that I was inadmissible. No reason given by the Homeland Security official who went off with my passport until the flight I was due to catch had left. Since 1969, I had freely entered the USA, often spending months there. My literary agent was in New York, as was my publisher at that time. These arguments had no effect, although the official refused to state why I was inadmissible, saying he was not obliged to do so. Subsequently, I deduced that there was something in my book that severely aggravated the Pentagon, for neo-conservative cabals in Canada and the US waged a concerted war on my war against truth, eventually coming up with a flimsy argument accusing me of plagiarism. It was just a few sentences that I confessed were merely the result of shoddy note-taking in a war-zone, but it was enough for my gutless – or perhaps complicit – publisher to pulp the book, destroying over two years’ work and much of my career. It is still available on Amazon, however, but the loss of my eyesight prevented me from fighting the issue for many years. It did teach me, though, that there are powers with which one cannot easily contend. What was it that so offended elements of the US Government? I think it was documented evidence given in the book proving that the US Military in Iraq were using cluster-bombs in which the bomblets scattered were disguised as childrens’ toys. It’s not difficult to see that this would be hard to explain to the American public. I am still banned from entering the country, and will probably always be banned – these orders are nearly impossible to get rescinded.


America has a long history of banning undesirables, however. In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act kept out Chinese nationals for petty reasons. Long considered the harshest act of its kind, it still permitted the admission of students, academics and persons with business commitments. But, as with later bans – the Phillipinos, the east European Jews, the Japanese – there was blowback. In 1905, the Chinese government issued a boycott of all US goods in the country. Similar reactions were caused by other bans, but the real effect was on US global prestige. The nation claiming exceptionalism does not enhance its claim by exclusionalism – not to mention the oxymoronic nature of exceptionalism, which states that we are exceptional and you should be like us.

I promised to avoid commenting on the kakristocracy forming down in Washington, so I will restrain myself to one thought. As amusing as Trump and his cohorts’ “alternative facts” may be to the media, we ought not to forget that his base takes them seriously. Such people hear a few times that the media are covering up terrorist attacks, and they believe it. Why they believe the lyging media that tell them this is another question. America has the least-well-educated population in the western world – and herein lies the problem. Propganda only works on those who do not perceive it as propaganda, where a lie repeated becomes the truth. If I were an editor or an executive producer of news programming, I would be very careful about printing or broadcasting any statement issued by the White House before it was thoroughly fact-checked and vetted. To not do so is pouring gasoline on this already-raging fire.


Paul William Roberts

The Terror Comes to Quebec


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The response of Canada in general and Quebec in particular to the murder of five men and the wounding of many more in a Quebec City mosque has been deeply gratifying, and it defines the difference between this country and the United States. The violence of a self-professed white supremecitst neo-Nazi, along with his guns, is clearly very alien here – and so it should be – shocking the entire nation merely by its appearance, which is a quotidian affair down south. For the first time, Prime Minister Trudeau Le Petit proved he is not the invertebrate he has seemed to be over the past year, delivering a number of impassioned speeches – remarkably free of his usual neurotic gasps and ahs – that hit precisely the right note of unification within diversity, of a common identity despite trivial differences, of neighbourliness, mutual assistance in troubled times, and a common understanding that overrides all the hateful actions of a miniscule minority. This may well be Trudeau’s Winston-Churchill-Moment, his Finest Hour, his Blitz. Despite snide comments from the useless Opposition Party leaders, he has continued to walk the fine line between Canada’s vital trade with the US and the need to uphold and protect our values as an open and welcoming nation for refugees and immigrants, no matter where they come from or what faith they profess. Given the recent and interminable provocations from the White House, this is no easy thing for someone of such avowedly liberal inclinations. As leader of the not-always-so-liberal Liberal Party, it is a balancing-act requiring enormously deft skill. If Trudeau emerges unbloodied from his soon-to-be meeting with the new American President, and if our trading relationship is still intact — $ 2 billion crosses that border daily – then his stature will be increased manifold, the once-concealed titanium backbone visible for all to see. After the gamboling and shilly-shallying of this past year, it is remarkable to find that Le Petit has a much deeper and stronger core in him, and can at times seem to understand truly what he talks about – or maybe it is just a matter of truly caring about that of which he talks?


It is fortunate that the Quebec City shooter proved to be a lone wolf. Early reports had stated that there were two assailants, one with a Muslim name – a claim that Fox News was still posting three days later, 72 hours after it had been disavowed by the police here. More kudos to Trudeau for a letter from his office accusing Fox of “playing identity politics” and demanding that the post come down — which it duly did, complete with a rare apology. Trudeau termed the mosque murders “a terrorist attack”, which was true enough, but it may have made the more feeble-minded media fixate upon the usual terrorist act, which to them is so-called Islamist agents mowing down us infidels wherever we gather. It is more complicated than this, of course, but terrorism is also US drone attacks that “inadvertently” slaughter hundreds of innocent civilians. It is the invasion of sovereign states too, and the CIA financing or fomenting of rebellions against democratically-elected governments all over the globe. Since September 11th 2001, there have been less than 50 citizens killed in the US by identifiable terrorists working on behalf of an “Islamist” organization – and those few killers were all US-born American citizens, who only imagined they were Muslims. Worldwide, the death-toll of innocents as a direct result of US covert operations is unknown – the Pentagon openly states that “we don’t do body-counts” – but it is believed to number, over the past decade, in the high six figures. So the balance of terror is well in Washington’s favour, or to its shame – and this is what principally motivates those we view, rightly or wrongly, as the Enemy. What happened in Quebec City does not therefore easily compute in the minds of all too many journalists, who are now focussing like hungry vultures on all the grief and heartbreak, as well as, with immense satisfaction, on all the national peace and love, all the weeping vigils, the flowers and gift-baskets. The term “lone wolf” equals “homicidal psychopath” – nearly impossible to predict or prevent – which means his motives are not worth seeking out, because insanity is its own impermeable motivation.


I cannot help thinking, however, how different the reactions of Canadians would be had the victims in Quebec been us, the white majority, and the murderers self-alleged Muslims. People forget that western Islamic communities are also much in need of support, comfort and sheer neighbourliness after such events as the Paris attacks or the Brussels bombings, when they feel most unsafe and fearful. What they most fear and feel unsafe about is what just happened in a Quebec mosque. It is good that we are finally hearing this from the lips of Canadian Muslims, many of whom now tell of more minor hate-crimes they’ve experienced, or the random hostility of strangers that makes wives, daughters and mothers afraid to walk the streets in daylight. But we must remember all of this when next we hear of Islamist terror attacks.



The Islam of 99.999 percent of Muslims is a religion of peace, compassion and fraternity — period. And Muslims are, after all is said and done, only 0.3 of Canada’s population. If we took in a million more refugees – which we could do and should do – they would only amount to 0.6 of the population. Nothing.



Just as the Torah, Tanakh and the Gospels contain passages of an horrendously bloodthirty or hateful nature, so, unfortunately, does the Holy Koran. But these texts were all written by and for a nomadic and clannishly warlike peoples many hundreds of years ago – yet all orthodox believers contend that they are the words of God, and thus cannot be edited or revised. The Kabbalists, just like the Sufis and Christian mystics, have found an interpretive way around this dilemma, and it is to be hoped that the mainstream of all three monotheisms will eventually follow suit. The Koran (which means “recited verses”) is, as its name suggests, meant to be chanted aloud, not read in silence. The classical Arabic in which it was written makes a good third of the text impossible to understand with any certainty, because, at its earliest stage, the written language more closely resembles a mnemonic device to aid those chanting the suras from memory – as the faithful are urged to do, because the words are, if often opaque in meaning, surpassingly beautiful to hear. This linguistic difficulty also means that all translations are necessarily interpretations, just as all interpretations are not necessarily accurate transmissions of meaning. Any devout Muslim scanning a terrorist website – many of which are funded by the fabulously wealthy and heretical Saudi Arabian Wahhabite sect – will instantly recognize quotations taken out of context, or drawn from writings other than the Koran and posted without any ascription. But the untutored youthful rebel looking for a cause will not know this. We must now remember that the radicalized Muslim kid is no different than Alexandre Bissonette, the 27-year-old Quebec neo-Nazi shooter – except you don’t really have to sift through or take out of context anything in the rantings of Adolf Hitler to find something suitably repulsive, hateful and violent for a causus belli.


The Province of Quebec, where I live, seems to be embarrassed or shamed by this horrible act, and she protesteth too much methinks. Such a strong showing of many thousandsturning out in support of the Muslim community, and many politicians, both provincial and federal – including the Prime Minister – joining them, belies the fact that Quebec has a darker and uglier side. You know this is true when the Premier denies it is true – not to mention the revelation that French radio shock-jocks in the province often broadcast racist rants. I don’t listen to French radio, but obviously someone does – and not a few someones, either, if advertising incomes are to be profitable enough to warrant keeping the shouters on air. Mordechai Richler recalled seeing hotel signs in the fifties reading No Jews or Dogs, and we still often hear of defiled mosques, synagogues, religious community centres, and of desecrated Jewish cemetaries. There are no Muslim cenetaries here – yet. The simple truth is that hate-crime stats in Quebec are far higher than those for the rest of this country. As Jean-Paul Sartre observed, the Jew exists only in the mind of the anti-semite – and it follows that the Muslim only exists in the mind of the Islamophobe. This glimpse of real Quebec Muslims that we are now getting, curtesy of their immense tragedy, ought to dispel the fantasy-images based on fear and ignorance. As Premier Cuillard wishfully stated, perhaps this is a turning-point in Quebec history. But, if it is merely hinged upon the nature of another terrorist attack, perhaps it is not.


French Canadiens imagine they have a long history of grievances against the English – whom they also imagine dominate federal government and are imposing multiculturalism on them – when in fact the British, after their 1759 consquest, could hardly have treated them more equitably. They kept their language, their legal system and the Catholic faith, when the norms of conquest dictated that English language and law should be imposed. No one in Britain at the time was allowed to practice Catholicism, so the Quebecois were in effect treated more liberally than British citizens. But a conquered people are never allowed to be content – it’s human nature. They complain endlessly, just as the Israelites in the Wilderness complained to Moses about everything. A largely imaginary grudge has now festered here for something short of 300 years, and it views anything deemed alien as an imposition by the despised English, who are believed to run everything with malign intentions – even though no government can be elected without the vast Quebecois vote. Despite the fact that Canada declares itself to be a multicultural country in the Charter of Rights, Quebec, which is even recognized by Ottawa as a “nation”, officially announces that it is proudly not multicultural. Everyone just shrugs: c’est les Francais. Many hardliners here, always seeking referenda to separate from Canada and be a litral sovereign nation, view such things as Indigeneous reservations and rights, as well as the current high immigration stats to be malignant impositions by the English-speaking majority, and designed to undermine or erode Quebecois values. Hardly anyone in the whole country denies their right to speak French, more or less, or pursue a unique and somewhat French-like culture, more or less. I for one find it an oasis of charm and politesse in the North American desert. But the Internet and social media are slowly eroding this from within, and young Quebecois are becoming increasingly bilingual, cognizant of their place in a still largely Anglo continent. This is bound to suffer blowback – and so it is. Just as the advent of Donald Trump is really all about a yearning for simpler, greater, whiter times, so the rise of Quebecois racism is really all about Francophile xenophobia and the pipe-dream of sovereignty – which is rapidly fading in the harsh light of a new day. But much of Quebec remains a backwater of startlingly primitive and ignorant communities, sheltered from North American realities by a media of stunningly narrow and parochial concerns. It is not unlike conditions in rural areas of the southern US states, fed on Fox Opinions and the intemperate tirades of Trump, along with the mad barrage of right-wing radio and fundamentalist Christian televangelists. Education is of course the only answer to this woeful condition, and education in Quebec – as it is in much of the US – has deteriorated into a muddle of confusion and nonsense, depriving first to sixth-graders of the bilingualism they most need and which could be most easily taught as conversation to kids of that age. Not a few here believe that this failure in the school system is designed to prevent the Quebecois from exploring the Big World, and thus retaining their Anglophobia, which will enslave them to atavistic sovereignist values and concerns. It will not and cannot work, for human beings are inevitably drawn to a critical mass – and what happened in that mosque does seem to be forming a new mass-opinion of some considerable size.


It is also trashing the vain hopes of Canada’s Francophobic wannabe Trump, Kevin O’Leary – who actually seems to live mostly in America. True to the idiotically insensitive form of his role-model, Kev – wealthy entrepreneur of dubious ethics, and abusive reality-TV co-host – posted online a video of himself laughing maniacally as he fired off a machine-gun in a Florida shooting range. You might say this was somewhat lacking in empathy after the Quebec slaughter – and many did say it. So many indeed that one of his lackies apologetically took down the offending video. But Kev had to lie, saying he took it down “out of respect” for the slain. Well, it was what Trump would have done, wasn’t it? What Trump wouldn’t have done, however, is run for the leadership of a party three years away from any general election. Perhaps Kev miscalculated this? In the unlikely event that he wins, he will have to spend over two years as Opposition Leader in the terminally boring House of Parliament – and show up nearly every day for even more terminally boring and stultifyingly trivial or petty debates. The media will be watching. He can’t return to his Big American Life, can he? Worse still, he can’t be sure of winning the 2019 eklection either – especially if sunny-boy Le Petit retains his backbone. Worse than that is the gambit of modelling himself after Trump, and thus being tied to the Trump fortunes – which even the most flamboyant bookmakers are currently not giving good odds on. The Puritanical dinosaur, Mike Pence, is by far the favourite in this race to avoid a  common doom. No, Kev has not thought this through at all. At what point will he say it’s all rigged? In fact it is rigged in my opinion – rigged to end in preposterous confusion whatever happens. Like the US system, ours is broken beyond repair. It’s an 18th-century relic that belongs in a museum of governance. But you cannot replace it by running as a candidate who will dismantle government, can you? The only question worth asking is: can it be done peacefully, and then what will replace it? I suggest a look at the Vedic texts on this subject, and a study of the Torah’s social laws. Wise men always knew how best to organize and govern any society. It has been unwise men who’ve fouled the nest.


Paul William Roberts





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I have often wondered what happens to old gods when their worshippers move on to greener Elyssian fields, Where do they go, and what do they do? But perhaps they are just patient? We all know that so-called paganism, especially in the hybrid form of Wicca, has enjoyed a little resurgence in bosky groves and ancient stone circles in the West. Yet it would seem that Icelandic pagans have gone one better. For the first time in a thousand years – when Iceland was very forcibly converted to Christianity – a new temple to the thunder god, Thor, has been constructed there and is, by all accounts, now doing a brisk business. Although a chicken was ritually slaughtered on the altar during opening ceremonies, blood sacrifices are apparently not to be a regular feature – although Thor once liked them to be. But feasting still plays a major role, as it always did back in the mead halls of yore. Horse flesh is consumed in large quantities, as are “sour testicles” and “rotten shark”. Well, if the god can’t have his human sacrifices, I suppose one cannot begrudge him a few favourite delicacies. A spokesperson for the temple told the CBC that interest in the old gods has been growing over recent years, because the standard religions are too wrapped up with corrupt corporate and political interests. Frey and Freya – a husband and wife team of divinities, ostensibly for war and love – have devotees similarly hoping to build them a fine new temple. The Pope can’t be happy, and Martin Luther must be ranting away furiously in Hell – but it strikes me as a harmless and beneficial trend. Those old religions are so refreshingly free of dogma and so deeply connected to realities, like cycles of nature and the sanctity of Mother Earth. Whereas orthodox Christianity and Islam in particular can all too often seem to be political appendages of the state, with an unseemly interest in wars and obesience.


Talking of which, what most surprised me about Donald Trump’s inauguration speech was not the groaning banality or the ranting jingoism but the numerous references to “God”. Correct me if I’m wrong, but he’s not a religious man, and God never came up on the campaign trail – except, perhaps, for the one who is always perfunctorily urged to bless America, yet never required to respond. Suddenly, however, we have a God who looks over America and will protect her, a God who will bless possibly all Trump supporters – less possibly all listeners – and of course a God who is told in no uncertain terms to bless America. Twice – for the Donald never says anything important once. Is he so vacuously cynical that he just threw in Amerigod along with all the other emotive claptrap about pride, wealth, safety and greatness, because his purpose was merely to please those who believed in him more than they did in God? “I will never, never let you down,” he said, telling all those whose voices had been ignored that they would never, never be ignored in future – that the great country and its government was theirs again. Again? Theirs and the three billionaires and numerous millionaires now running it, alongside people of – how shall we put it? – rather dubious and suddenly furtive intent. I thought, man, O man, if ever words were custom designed to come back and haunt you nightly like Marley’s ghost, these were they – but then I realized that this was Trump. He’ll just deny he said it, or that his words were taken out of context – the media are all liars, terrible, terrible people, the news is fake, it’s all fake, and everything is rigged against him. If he even talks to most media by then. I dislike the expression “post-truth”, since truth is an absolute. This must then be the Age of the Liar, no? No, because, as I.F. Stone used to say, “All politicians lie about everything all the time.” When I heard Stone say that at the opening of a talk in the seventies, I thought he was exaggerating for effect. I’ve since realized he wasn’t.

The only slight attraction Trump held for me was the prospect of a new broom in Washington. It is clear that much of the public has wanted a change for years – it was, after all, the clarion call of Obama’s campaign message – and that they have now decided politicians cannot effect change. But billionaire businessmen can and will? Surely this is not getting rid of “elites”? I didn’t like Hilary Clinton’s reference to “deplorables” either – and I didn’t like her – but you have to admit that anyone who believes Trump can achieve even a few percent of what he promised upon taking the oath of office is… well, quite a lot naïve. And that includes him – if, that is, he believes it. Despite relying heavily on a healthy economy, a nation is not a business, and it cannot be run like one to generate quick profits. None of Trump’s much-advertized plans for domestic or foreign policy will be quick or easy to achieve – and many are not even remotely viable. He must know this, so is he lying?

Is this why he’s suddenly set his sights on a more manageable goal? From a very reliable source – although I haven’t personally verified it yet– I am told that he now intends to close down National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting System – much as the Harper government here sorely wished they could dismantle the CBC. Why? The short answer is that public broadcasting is independent, not tied to vested corporate interests, and presents a reasonably balanced version of current affairs. In other words, it isn’t Fox News or the Rebel – and it cannot be. It has to represent the public as a whole, and virtually all coherent political views. This would seem to be a principal criterion of the news media in general – yet it is not. For whatever reasons – and I don’t dispute their right to it – some people prefer the news to reflect only their political opinions – which is to say they do not really want the truth. This would be no problem at all in a healthily diverse media market, such as the one in which I grew up in England during the fifties and sixties. In North America today, however – and this cannot be stated too often – all major media are owned and controlled by corporate interests which have much invested in a certain political outlook that favours them and their future prosperity. It amounts to an attack on free speech. In the recent US election, most mainstream media initially favoured Clinton, because her outlook was seen to guarantee business as usual. Trump was seen as a wild card, the Uncertainty Principle – and business hates undertainty. But something changed the corporate mind, and the stock market mysteriously rose after his electoral win. The opinion of media changed too, to one of it won’t be as bad as you think. This can only mean that corporate Titans and media-owners were reassured, during the many recent covert and overt meetings in Trump Tower, that the new President would be on their side.

For a long time, the lines have been tenuously drawn – the 99 percent against the one percent – but nothing tangible has emerged from this sloganeering. Yet something other than impotent outrage ought to emerge. The Constitution that Trump swore to uphold and defend, from enemies foreign or domestic, was written at a time when the structure of American society could hardly have been different from what it is now. Then, 95 percent of the population was self-employed – now only five percent is. There was no standing army, just a militia – which thus needed everyone to be familiar with firearms. 95 percent of the gross national income was from farming or manufacturing, and only five percent was from rentier sources, or other non-productive activities. These figures are now reversed, with most income derived from various forms of ownership and non-productive investment – much of it in the stock, bond and commodity markets, which, as any honest financier will admit, are a gigantic scam that only benefits a small handful of people, and actually harms many businesses and, most all, the smaller farmers. The America for which that Constitution was written has long gone, along with its relevance to anything. Like most state rituals, they are just hollow words.

As Leonard Cohen would say, everybody knows this – that the boat is sinking but the rich get richer – yet no one is able to, or capable of acting to change it. Perhaps, as Karl Marx said, action only occurs when all that is solid melts into air? And the only possible actors are the proletariat.

In this light, destroying public broadcasting is a very canny move. Who listens to or watches it? Liberal middle-class intellectuals, for the most part. In that sense, it would be like destroying Harper’s magazine – which, as I noticed in Iraq, didn’t bother US authorities at all, because it was only read by a few hundred thousand bookworms. What the mainstream national media did, or where they went, bothered the commandants a lot, however – because their audience is tens of millions of average citizens. So this move – if indeed it is to be – is just a spiteful lashing-out at that small minority Trump knows beyond all doubt despise him.

The Women’s March today was too decorus and generally-focussed to have any real impact as a protest – and do well-organized and well-behaved protests really ever have anything beyond a symbolic effect? It remains to be seen if the disaffected half of America will or can do anything truly pragmatic and transformative about a situation that they all, though in vastly differing ways, find intolerable. But, at least in Marxian terms, the country has not been more ripe for revolution since the late sixties. As always, though, it depends upon a small cadre of people who know what they are doing, and, ultimately, on which way the army decides to go – and, with the number of blacks and Hispanics in the armed forces, this is by no means certain anymore. It is true, though, that an overthrow of the status quo is nothing like as easy today as it was for the Paris mob in 1789, or for a rural middle-class in mid-17th=century England. Ironically enough, Trump, as he now still is, reminds me of an Oliver Cromwell, with business as a religion, and manufactured outrage as zeal. The question is will he turn out to have unpredicted qualities of genius in areas of endeavour he has never tackled before? Cromwell went with amazing agility from farmer to political activist to impressive military leader and to admired statesman. Can Trump go from entrepreneurial huckster to reality-TV star and thence to globally-renowned statesman? Nothing is impossible.

Unless something too awful to ignore emerges, however, I have resolved to give him six months before deciding that the revolution must happen before we’re all sunk…and everybody knows this too…


Paul William Roberts


The Tyranny of the Majority


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Alexis de Tocqueville, a French aristocrat and social historian, who visited America in the 1830s, made some remarkably astute and percipient observations about US society and the nature of its democracy just over fifty years after Independence from England. His social rank opened doors in New York, Boston and Philadelphia, but he also travelled to the frontier lands of Michigan, and sailed down the Mississippi on a steamboat, and he met many, if not most of the key figures during that time. Three things struck him most forcefully. Firstly there was the cupidity and sheer greed of the general populace, all of whom reveled in the idea that anyone could become very rich – and that wealth equaled fame, prominence and thence power. He was distressed that the line between public and private life was blurred, and that it was accepted that private financial skullduggery should transmute into public corruption. At a high-society gathering, he was warned not to mention the subject of bankruptcy, since half the men there had been bankrupt at least once in their lives – for this was how one achieved financial success in spite of past failures. It was the American Way. Secondly, Tocqueville closely examined the structures of American democracy, admiring some aspects, but having grave reservations about others. Most grave of all his reservations was his belief that the US Constitution had no adequate protection against the advent of a tyrannical rule. All that was required to create such an administration was a majority vote, and, in his view, most voters were too ignorant to know in any real sense for what or whom they were casting ballots. Thirdly, he marveled at the profusion and influence of newspapers, which he termed a “living jury” judging issues of the day and those involved with them. At that time, there were 1,300 entirely unrestricted papers in the US, compared with 300 tightly censored ones in France, whose population was then not much smaller than that of America. Tocqueville focusses on these three issues – money, democracy, and the media – arriving at conclusions that are eerily relevant today.


The equation of wealth with success and thence power, he decided, was dangerous, and led to the disturbing tendency he saw in people to view wealth as a validation for anyone seeking high governmental office. It alarmed him to find there were no impediments to someone without any political experience running for and obtaining positions of immense systemic power. Among the important people he met was President Andrew Jackson, a wealthy entrepreneur with no experience of public service, and thus someone in the Executive Office who most closely resembles Donald Trump. Jackson was elected, Tocqueville observed, precisely because he had a proven track-record of financial wizardry, and absolutely no experience in politics. Obviously without any idea where media would be headed in 200 years, Tocqueville still saw that, lacking any controlling authority, newspapers were able to plant opinions and ideas in the minds of those too busy or tired trying to get rich to think over issues for themselves. He observed that journalists – who, on the whole, he regarded as uneducated and ignorant – dealt far more with emotions than with ideas or facts – and that emotions far more determined how people voted than reason did. While being a bastion of freedom, these newspapers are also, he tells us, a threat to public order – because there is no established class or social group to guide their editors and contributors in portraying correctly a stable course for the evolution of society. They promoted their own interests and prejudices over the general welfare of society. This would result in what Tocqueville called “the tyranny of the majority”, a right of those least qualified for the task to elect people least qualified for the office for which they run. This is known as a kakristocracy – and we are about to see one in action, for Mr. Trump has placed in the highest offices men who are extravagantly ill-qualified for such positions. Since half of the electorate clearly felt that politics should not be in the hands of politicians, we and they will find out how correct this idea is.


Of course, Tocqueville saw the press then as an epitome of independent free speech. Every town had at least one newspaper, and each day it printed whatever came into the editor’s head the night before. Back then it was impossible to envision that one day great monied interests would almost entirely dominate the media and selectively control their content of news and opinions. Yet, nonetheless, Tocqueville perceived the hazards involved in journalists, who are not politicians, boosting the virtues of business Titans, who are also not politicians. The public life is not remotely like the private life. An experience of governance, he says, makes it impossible, or at least reprehensible to make the kind of election promises that unexperienced and less credible candidates tend to broadcast in order to get elected. While he had a restrained admiration for the new and supposedly classless society, he also saw its pitfalls. An overclass is bound to emerge, but its values will probably not be fructifying or even sound – and people of doubtful character, unschooled in tradition, in the value and importance of social structures or institutions, will be able to assume the highest offices solely because an ignorant media sanctions them through manipulating the emotional aspects of their campaign messages. Where reason is abandoned, he says, the suffrage is worthless.


Anyone interested in a quick appraisal of Tocqueville could do worse than find a two-part podcast about him by the exceptional CBC Radio program, Ideas – CBC. ca/ideas. Anyone not interested can switch the remote back to Fox News.


Paul William Roberts