Saturday, April 29, 2017

Protecting Immigrant Communities: Municipal Policy to Confront Mass Deportation and Criminalization

Since the election of Donald Trump in 2016, the plight of immigrant communities in the United States has become dire. The new administration has already taken steps to radically increase the speed and scale of deportations while significantly expanding the power of immigration enforcement agencies. In the face of these threats, a large and growing movement of advocates, organizers and local governments are developing strategies to support their immigrant communities. These efforts are building on the longstanding work by local elected officials and advocates to advance policies that include and protect immigrants. Many jurisdictions around the country have passed policies to stop the federal government from co-opting local resources for the enforcement of immigration law— these localities have come to be known as sanctuary cities (or counties). It is clear this exercise of local power will be more vital than ever in the coming months and years. This toolkit is designed to help policymakers, at the local level, who wish to create or further strengthen sanctuary style laws and policies. The policy guidance in this toolkit is directly informed by the important lessons of cities and counties who have lead these efforts to date

Sunday, April 23, 2017

H-1B visa needs reform to make it fairer to migrant and American workers

Fact Sheet • By Daniel Costa • April 5, 2017

The H-1B program provides temporary, nonimmigrant U.S. work visas for college-educated workers and fashion models from abroad. While no one can deny the importance of attracting skilled, talented workers to the United States, the reality is that the biggest beneficiaries of the H-1B program are outsourcing companies that have hijacked the system—using between one-third to one-half of the visas—to replace thousands of U.S. workers with much-lower-paid H-1B workers while also sending tech jobs abroad. In addition, these outsourcing companies rarely provide H-1B employees with a path to permanent residence and citizenship. Outsourcing companies, however, are not the only abusers of the system: The vast majority of employers that hire H-1B workers pay them wages below the local average for the occupation.

We need to reform the H-1B program to make it:

  • Fairer to U.S. workers, who should have the first opportunity to apply for jobs in the United States
  • Fairer to H-1B workers, who deserve fair pay for their work according to U.S. wage standards and who should not have to fear retaliation and exploitation by employers

Major flaws in the H-1B program

U.S. employers don’t have to recruit U.S. workers before hiring H-1B workers. Employers and corporate lobby groups claim that they use the H-1B primarily to bring in the “best and brightest” workers from abroad to fill labor shortages in science, technology, engineering, and math fields (STEM). But despite this widely held belief, the contrary is true:
  • Employers are not required to recruit U.S. workers or prove they are experiencing a labor shortage before hiring H-1B workers.
  • “H-1B-dependent” employers (those filling 15 percent or more of their U.S. jobs with H-1B workers) are required to recruit U.S. workers first, but they get around the requirement with a cheap and easy loophole: they can hire an H-1B worker who holds a master’s degree or pay the H-1B worker an annual salary of over $60,000. For comparison, $60,000 is $21,000 lower than the national median wage for all workers employed in computer occupations ($81,430).
U.S. employers can legally underpay H-1B workers. Corporate lobbyists and other H-1B proponents claim that H-1B workers cannot be paid less than U.S. workers because employers must pay H-1B workers no less than the “prevailing wage.” That is true in theory but:
  • Employers have the option of paying the prevailing Level 1 “entry-level” wage or Level 2 wage, both of which are well below the average wage (Level 3) that local employers pay workers in similar jobs.
  • While the wage level is supposed to correspond to the H-1B worker’s education and experience, in practice the employer gets to choose the wage level and the government doesn’t check unless a lawsuit or a complaint is filed by a worker.
Here’s what wage savings can look like for H-1B employers: The average software developer in the Silicon Valley commands a salary of $147,000 per year, but an H-1B software developer earning the Level 1 wage is paid $102,000. That’s a savings of $45,000 per H-1B worker per year for up to six years.
The top 10 H1-B employers use the program for cheap, temporary labor rather than as a bridge to permanent immigration. The H-1B visa is considered a “dual-intent” visa, which means that employers have the option of sponsoring their H-1B workers for lawful permanent resident (LPR) status, which can then lead to citizenship. But the top 10 H-1B employers sponsor very few workers for LPR status. In 2014, Tata Consultancy Services, the top H-1B employer that year, hired 5,650 new H-1B workers but only filed for two permanent labor certifications.
H-1B workers are often exploited and often arrive in debt, and they are tied to their employers. The H-1B visa itself is owned and controlled by the employer; an H-1B worker who is fired or laid off for any reason becomes instantly deportable. H-1B workers often pay large fees to labor recruiters, which means that many arrive virtually indentured to their employer, fearing retaliation and termination if they speak out about workplace abuses or unpaid wages. And widespread abuses have been documented—even human trafficking and severe financial bondage.
Outsourcing companies are using the H-1B program to replace U.S. workers and send tech jobs abroad. The top 10 employers of H-1B workers are not innovative high-tech firms like Apple and Google. The biggest users of the H-1B visa are outsourcing/offshoring companies that specialize in information technology (IT). Typically, H-1B workers do computer and engineering work at the office of the U.S. employer but are employed by the offshoring company. The many reported cases of U.S. workers being laid off and replaced by H-1B workers have all been facilitated by this arrangement. In multiple incidents, the H-1B workers have been hired with annual wages around $40,000 less than the workers they have replaced. Before they are laid off, the U.S. workers are often forced to train their own H-1B replacements as a condition of their severance packages; this is euphemistically known as “knowledge transfer.” Major, profitable U.S. employers like Disney and Toys “R” Us—as well as public employers and institutions like the University of California and Southern California Edison—have laid off thousands of U.S. workers who were forced to train their own replacements. Eventually, many of these replacements and their jobs were moved offshore.

Simple reforms can fix the H-1B program and have been proposed in Congress

  • Require employers to recruit U.S. workers and offer jobs to any equally or better qualified U.S. workers before hiring H-1B workers.
  • Require employers who cannot find qualified U.S. workers to pay the H-1B workers they hire no less than the local average wage for the job (i.e., eliminate H-1B prevailing wage Levels 1 and 2).
  • Provide the Labor Department with additional legal authority to crack down on abuses and exploitation of U.S. and H-1B workers, and to conduct random audits of H-1B employers.
  • Appropriate more funding to the Labor Department to hire additional agents in the Wage and Hour Division and better scrutinize H-1B applications.
  • Provide H-1B workers with additional protections against employer retaliation and workplace abuse.
  • Ban employers from hiring additional H-1B workers if they have violated any wage and hour, labor, or immigration laws.
  • Reform the H-1B lottery to prioritize higher-paying employers and non-H-1B-dependent employers.

Quick facts on the H-1B program

  • An estimated 460,000 H-1B workers are employed in the United States.
  • 85,000+ new H-1B visas can be issued per year—65,000 plus 20,000 for workers who earned an advanced degree from a U.S. university plus an unlimited number for employers such as universities and nonprofit research organizations.
  • In 2015 there were 113,000 new H-1B workers and 162,000 H-1B workers extended their visas.
  • H-1B visas are valid for up to six years (for two three-year terms).
  • Over half of H-1B visa holders work in IT or other computer occupations.
  • H-1Bs also work in engineering, in medicine and health, and at universities.
  • H-1B workers can be up to 40 percent cheaper to employ than Americans.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Highlight Cuba's Environmental Achievements in Science Marches on April 22, and April 29, 2017

National Network on Cuba
There will be Science and Sustainability marches in Washington DC and various cities around the world on Earth Day, April 22 and on April 29, 1017  We hope that some of you will participate and use this opportunity to highlight the achievements that Cuba has achieved in this area.  Please see the information that follows from a flyer that we distributed at the NYC Climate march on 9/21/14 and that you may modify as appropriate.  We also had a beautiful banner proclaiming: 

"Change U.S. Climate Toward Cuba!"

Sustainability in Cuba

According to the World Wildlife Fund's Living Planet report in 2006 Cuba was the only country in the world to have achieved sustainable development(measured as the improvement of the quality of human life while living within the capacity of its ecosystem).

Cuba challenges the unsustainable pattern that presently dominates the world. Its models of sustainable development — especially in areas of food and health — are being replicated throughout Latin America. Cuba also leads the world in hurricane planning and as an island nation is acutely aware and already researching climate change vulnerability of coastal zones.

The U.S. has maintained an economic blockade of Cuba since revolutionary forces led by Fidel Castro successfully ousted Dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959 and turned the country away from capitalism. The Cuban people have withstood five decades of hostility from the United States.

Cuba's best form of resistance has not just been the assertion of national sovereignty, but also the creation of an alternative model of development that places ecology and humanity at its core. It has become a world leader in ecological, organic and urban agriculture.

Go see for yourself. Demand a lifting of the economic blockade and travel ban (which is still in place) imposed by the U.S. government.

For more information, go to  
National Network on Cuba
Our mailing address is: P.O. Box 22455, Oakland, CA 94609
Phone numbe
r: 617 254 9070
Our email address is:
VIsit our webpage:

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

US actions can see nuclear war ‘break out at any point’ – N. Korean UN envoy

US actions can see nuclear war ‘break out at any point’ – N. Korean UN envoy

US military drills and provocations risk destabilizing the Korean peninsula, North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations has warned, possibly plunging the region into a nuclear war. Pyongyang also vowed to continue its missile tests whenever it suits the country.
At a press conference in New York on Monday, Kim In Ryong, North Korean ambassador to the UN, accused the United States of disturbing global peace and stability, using “gangster-like logic” and being “hell-bent on dangerous saber rattling in South Korea.”
“The United States introducing in South Korea, on the Korean peninsula, the world’s biggest hotspot, huge nuclear strategic assets, seriously threatening the peace and security of the peninsula and pushing it to the brink of war,” Kim told reporters.
“It has created a dangerous situation in which nuclear war may break out at any moment on the peninsula and pose a serious threat to the world’s peace and security, to say nothing of those in northeast Asia.”
Recently, Pyongyang has been alarmed by the US deployment of the THAAD missile system in South Korea in early March. THAAD, or Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, is a weapon designed to intercept short-and-medium-range ballistic missiles as they begin their descent to their target. Russia and China too have criticized the deployment, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov describing it as “disproportionate.” Kim also sharply criticized the US and South Korea for staging “aggressive war exercises” on the Korean peninsula, which he said were the root causes of tension in the region.
“The US has to come to its senses and come to the preferred option,” he noted, stressing that DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] forces are ready to face any threat to the country’s sovereignty.
“If the United States dares opt for a military action," he added, "the DPRK is ready to react to any mode of war desired by the Americans."
During the press conference, Kim also answered questions about North Korea’s recent missile tests, which have raised serious concerns among some of Pyongyang’s neighbors. On April 5, the South Korean military reported a North Korea missile test in Sinpho, South Hamgyong province, after which the Japanese and South Korean governments both held emergency meetings.

"As far as another nuclear test is concerned… it is something that our headquarters decided,"
 Ryong added. "At the time and at the place where our headquarters deemed necessary it will take place."“Our missile test-fire is part of the normal process to go through for implementing the development of the self-defense capability and quality in order to defend our rights to self-existence and to safeguard peace and security in the Korean peninsula,”
 explained Kim, adding that North Korea’s missiles and nuclear arsenal are purely a response to American hostility, and the DPRK will conduct further tests if necessary.
Earlier Monday, US Vice President Mike Pence visited the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating North and South Korea as part of his 10-day trip around the Asia-Pacific region.
There he warned Pyongyang not to test the resolve of President Donald Trump, pointing to the recent US shows of force in Afghanistan and Syria. Earlier this month the US fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at an air base in Syria, ostensibly in retaliation for an alleged chemical weapons attack by government forces, and also dropped a massive device known as the “Mother of all Bombs” on a militant hideout in Afghanistan, killing 92 suspected jihadists.

Monday, April 17, 2017

The French Presidential Election and the Prospects for Peace

Jean Luc Melenchon  leads an alliance of the French Communist Party and other movements on the left. The movement seems to be gaining ground in the French election campaign which is alarming the Zionist right, hence the article in Canada’s leading right wing tabloid posing as a newspaper, the National Post.

A more reliable read on what is happening is L’Humanite’s English web page.

What is happening in France could be significant for politics in Europe and open the path to a more vigorous struggle for peace and against the reactionary EU-NATO alliance.  

Melenchon seems to be attracting sections of the youth. A careful read would indicate that the alliance is also the most direct response to the Euro-skeptics as represented by Le Pen.

The left alliance is calling for withdrawing from NATO and renegotiating France’s membership in the EU. It has a good position on the struggle of the Palestinians. The alliance calls for nationalization of the banks and challenges the autocratic presidential system in France that dates to the De Gaulle era.

Sylvia and I were in the GDR in 1968 attending the 150 Anniversary celebrations of the birth of Karl Marx, May 8th 1818 just as the student working class uprising in Paris took place in May 1968. De Gaulle and the military surrounded Paris with tanks out of fear of revolution. There was a revolutionary situation and there was much debate at the time as to why the French Communist Party was unable to lead it to a higher level.

What is happening today is a far cry from those days in 1968. However the events unfolding in the French election deserve the close attention of all those who consider peace and socialism as indivisible. The revolutionary traditions of the French people and working class run deep and the anti-fascist heroism of the French Communists in WW2 is well known.

The last time I looked and my information may now be out of date, France was the third largest in the amount spent by European monopoly imperialist states on the military after Britain and Germany. France continues  to be a powerful nuclear armed imperial power in the post-colonial era with French finance capital heavily involved in neo-colonialist exploitation of Africa and the French military is routinely employed to protect French capital including regime change interventions.

A return of the left to French electoral politics is encouraging and will strengthen the militant labour and peace forces.

Putin’s Russia appears to be engaged with Malcon, a candidate of a section of monopoly capital in France, who has made some anti-Trump statements and about the importance of renewing the French Russian relationship. That would indicate some joint interests between French and Russian finance capital that will alarm US interests and their EU allies.  That is inter-capitalist politics and more evidence of the instability afflicting ruling elites in all of the G7 NATO states.

For those of us who consider that what the working class, the overwhelming majority does as primary in capitalist politics, the events unfolding in France bear scrutiny. If the unexpected should happen that Melenchon can make it to the run-off stage of the election it would be as a result of a shift in working class voters and would set European politics on the boil.

The leader of the French Trade Union  movement appears to be anti-communist which would suggest that the once mighty Communist led French trade union movement is now in the hands of the right wing social democrats and will support Hollande socialists.

Right wing social reformism is nothing if not predictable.

The CLC supports the NDP,  the AFL-CIO supported Hillary Clinton and the French TU supports Hollande. Jeremy Corbyn is being pilloried by the right wing in the Labour Party for condemning the US missile attack on Syria. Bernie Sanders was ousted by the Obama-Clinton cabal with the support of the AFL-CIO.

When an avowed left leader comes to the fore in France openly allied with the Communist Party we should look at that situation from a clear eyed working class standpoint.

Don Currie Editor FOS

Thursday, April 13, 2017

White House claims on Syria chemical attack ‘obviously false’ – MIT professor

View image on Twitter

(Story courtesy of Joseph Jamison, ML Today
A professor who challenged the 2013 claims of a chemical attack in Syria is now questioning the Trump administration’s narrative blaming the Assad government for the April 4 attack in the Idlib province town of Khan Shaykhun.
On Tuesday, the White House released a declassified intelligence brief accusing Syrian President Bashar Assad of ordering and organizing the attack, in which Syrian planes allegedly dropped chemical ordnance on civilians in the rebel-held town.
The report “contains absolutely no evidence that this attack was the result of a munition being dropped from an aircraft,” wrote Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Professor Theodore Postol, who reviewed it and put together a 14-page assessment, which he provided to RT on Wednesday.

Postol was not convinced by such evidence.
“Any competent analyst would have had questions about whether the debris in the crater was staged or real,” he wrote. “No competent analyst would miss the fact that the alleged sarin canister was forcefully crushed from above, rather than exploded by a munition within it.”
Instead, “the most plausible conclusion is that the sarin was dispensed by an improvised dispersal device made from a 122mm section of rocket tube filled with sarin and capped on both sides.”
“We again have a situation where the White House has issued an obviously false, misleading and amateurish intelligence report,” he concluded, recalling the 2013 situation when the Obama administration claimed Assad had used chemical weapons against the rebels in Ghouta, near Damascus.
“What the country is now being told by the White House cannot be true,” Postol wrote, “and the fact that this information has been provided in this format raises the most serious questions about the handling of our national security.”
On Tuesday, Russian General Staff spokesman Colonel-General Sergey Rudskoy questioned the “authenticity” of media reports concerning the attack. He said that using social media to reconstruct the course of events raised “serious doubts” not only among the Russian military but also “among many respected experts and organizations.”
Rudskoy noted that, under the 2013 agreement to give up its chemical weapons, the Syrian government destroyed its stockpiles at 10 sites that were under its control. This was verified by the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). However, the remaining two facilities were in territory controlled by the rebels, he said, and it remains unclear what happened to the chemicals stored there.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Spoils of War: Trump Lavished With Media and Bipartisan Praise For Bombing Syria

Glenn Greenwald
Image result for the intercept                                                                                                          IN EVERY TYPE of government, nothing unites people behind the leader more quickly, reflexively or reliably than war. Donald Trump now sees how true that is, as the same establishment leaders in U.S. politics and media who have spent months denouncing him as a mentally unstable and inept authoritarian and unprecedented threat to democracy are standing and applauding him as he launches bombs at Syrian government targets.
Trump, on Thursday night, ordered an attack that the Pentagon said included the launching of 59 Tomahawk missiles which “targeted aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems, and radars.” The governor of Homs, the Syrian province where the attack occurred, said early this morning that the bombs killed seven civilians and wounded nine.
The Pentagon’s statement said the attack was “in retaliation for the regime of Bashar Assad using nerve agents to attack his own people.” Both Syria and Russia vehemently deny that the Syrian military used chemical weapons.
When asked about this yesterday by the Globe and Mail’s Joanna Slater, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged an investigation to determine what actually happened before any action was contemplated, citing what he called “continuing questions about who is responsible”:

But U.S. war fever waits for nothing. Once the tidal wave of American war frenzy is unleashed, questioning the casus belli is impermissible. Wanting conclusive evidence before bombing commences is vilified as sympathy with and support for the foreign villain (the same way that asking for evidence of claims against Russia instantly converts one into a “Kremlin agent” or “stooge”).
That the Syrian government deliberately used chemical weapons to bomb civilians became absolute truth in U.S. discourse within less than 24 hours – even though Trudeau urged an investigation, even though it was denied in multiple capitals around the world, and even though Susan Rice just two months ago boasted to NPR: “We were able to get the Syrian government to voluntarily and verifiably give up its chemical weapons stockpile.”
Whatever happened with this event, the Syrian government has killed hundreds of thousands of people over the past five years in what began as a citizen uprising in the spirit of the Arab Spring, and then morphed into a complex proxy war involving foreign fighters, multiple regional powers, ISIS, Al Qaeda, and Russia.
The CIA has spent more than a billion dollars a year to arm anti-Assad rebels for years, and the U.S. began bombing Syria in 2014 – the 7th predominantly Muslim country bombed by Obama – and never stopped. Trump had already escalated that bombing campaign, culminating in a strike last month that Syrians say destroyed a mosque and killed dozens. What makes this latest attack new is that rather than allegedly targeting terrorist sites of ISIS and Al Qaeda, it targets the Syrian government – something Obama threatened to do in 2013 but never did.
Leading Congressional Democrats – including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi – quickly praised Trump’s bombing while raising concerns about process. Hours before the bombing commenced, as it was known Trump was planning it, Hillary Clinton – who has been critical of Obama for years for not attacking Assad – appeared at an event and offered her categorical support for what Trump was planning:

The Trump White House is preliminarily indicating that this was a limited strike, designed to punish Assad for his use of chemical weapons, rather than a new war to remove him. But such aggression, once unleashed, is often difficult to contain. The Russian and Iranian governments, both supportive of Assad, have bitterly denounced Trump for the attack, with a Putin spokesman calling it a “significant blow” for U.S.-Russian relations. Russia already announced retaliation in the form of suspending cooperation agreements.
Even if it is contained, there are endless implications from Trump’s initiation of military force against the Syrian Government. For now, here are ten critical points highlighted by all of this:

1. New wars will always strengthen Trump: as they do for every leader.

The instant elevation of Trump into a serious and respected war leader was palpable. Already, the New York Times is gushing that “in launching a military strike just 77 days into his administration, President Trump has the opportunity, but hardly a guarantee, to change the perception of disarray in his administration.”
Political leaders across the spectrum rushed to praise Trump and support his bombing campaign. Media coverage was overwhelmingly positive. One consummate establishment spokesman accurately observed:
Among US political establishment, attacks on Assad the most popular action Trump has taken to date as President.

New wars trigger the worst in people: their jingoism, their tribal loyalties, their instinct to submit to authority and leaders. The incentive scheme here is as obvious as it is frightening: great rewards await political leaders who start new wars. In Federalist 4, John Jay warned of all the personal benefits a leader obtains from starting a new war – which is the reason it was supposed to be difficult for U.S. Presidents to do it:
It is too true, however disgraceful it may be to human nature, that nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it; nay, absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for the purposes and objects merely personal, such as thirst for military glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition, or private compacts to aggrandize or support their particular families or partisans. These and a variety of other motives, which affect only the mind of the sovereign, often lead him to engage in wars not sanctified by justice or the voice and interests of his people.
Trump is going to see – and feel – the establishment and media respect he craves, the sensations of strength he most lacks, by dropping bombs. Every person, let alone Trump, would be tempted to keep pursuing war as a result of this warped incentive framework. Indeed, Trump himself has long been aware of this motivation as he accused Obama in 2012 of preparing to start a new war in response to falling poll numbers:
Now that Obama’s poll numbers are in tailspin – watch for him to launch a strike in Libya or Iran. He is desperate.

Those who instantly fall in line behind Trump as he bombs people are ensuring that he will keep doing it. As the instantly popular post-9/11 George W. Bush showed, those praising Trump for bombing Syria are also building him up in general so that he becomes stronger with everything else he wants to do.

2. Democrats’ jingoistic rhetoric has left them no ability – or desire – to oppose Trump’s wars.

Democrats have spent months wrapping themselves in extremely nationalistic and militaristic rhetoric. They have constantly accused Trump of being a traitor to the U.S., a puppet of Putin, and unwilling to defend U.S. interests. They have specifically tried to exploit Assad’s crimes by tying the Syrian leader to Trump, insisting that Trump would never confront Assad because doing so would anger his Kremlin masters. They have embraced a framework whereby anyone who refuses to confront Putin or Assad is deemed a sympathizer of, or a servant to, foreign enemies.
Having pushed those tactics and themes, Democrats have painted themselves into a corner. How could they possibly do anything but cheer as Trump bombs Syria? They can’t. And cheering is thus exactly what they’re doing.
For months, those of us who have urged skepticism and restraint on the Russia rhetoric have highlighted the risk that this fixation on depicting him as a tool of the Kremlin could goad Trump – dare him or even force him – to seek confrontation with Moscow. Some Democrats reacted with rage yesterday at the suggestion that their political tactics were now bearing this fruit, but that’s how politics works.
Much as George H.W. Bush was motivated to shed his “wimp” image by invading Panama, of course Trump will be motivated to prove he’s not controlled by Putin via blackmail by seeking confrontation with the Russian leader. And that’s exactly what he just did. War is the classic weapon U.S. Presidents use to show they are strong, patriotic and deserving of respect; the more those attributes are called in question, the greater that compulsion becomes:
Trump is the prime author of his wars, and of this bombing in Syria. He, and he alone, bears primary responsibility for it. But Trump is not an island of agency; he operates in the climate of Washington. A major reason why it’s so dangerous to ratchet up rhetorical tension between two major nuclear-armed powers is because of the ease with which those tensions can translate into actual conflict, and the motivation it can create for Trump to use war to prove he’s a patriot after all.
Whatever else is true, Democrats – with very few exceptions such as Rep. Ted Lieu and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard – have refrained from criticizing Trump’s bombing campaign on the merits (as opposed to process issues). Indeed, Democratic Party leaders have explicitly praised Trump’s bombing. They will have to continue to do so even if Trump expands this war. That’s what the Democratic Party has turned itself into to; indeed, it’s what it has been for a long time.

3. In wartime, US television instantly converts into state media.

As it always does, the U.S. media last night was an almost equal mix of excitement and reverence as the bombs fell. People who dissent from this bombing campaign – who opposed it on the merits – were almost entirely disappeared, as they always are in such moments of high patriotism (MSNBC’s Chris Hayes had two guests on after midnight who opposed it, but they were rare). Claims from the U.S. government and military are immediately vested with unquestioned truth and accuracy, while claims from foreign adversaries such as Russia and Syria are reflexively scorned as lies and propaganda.
For all the recent hysteria over RT being a propaganda outlet for the state, U.S. media coverage is barely distinguishable in times of war (which is, for the U.S., the permanent state of affairs). More systematic analysis will surely be forthcoming of last night’s coverage, but for now, here is Brian Williams – in all of his military-revering majesty – showing how state TV functions in the United States:
Trump is the prime author of his wars, and of this bombing in Syria. He, and he alone, bears primary responsibility for it. But Trump is not an island of agency; he operates in the climate of Washington. A major reason why it’s so dangerous to ratchet up rhetorical tension between two major nuclear-armed powers is because of the ease with which those tensions can translate into actual conflict, and the motivation it can create for Trump to use war to prove he’s a patriot after all.
Whatever else is true, Democrats – with very few exceptions such as Rep. Ted Lieu and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard – have refrained from criticizing Trump’s bombing campaign on the merits (as opposed to process issues). Indeed, Democratic Party leaders have explicitly praised Trump’s bombing. They will have to continue to do so even if Trump expands this war. That’s what the Democratic Party has turned itself into to; indeed, it’s what it has been for a long time.

3. In wartime, US television instantly converts into state media.

As it always does, the U.S. media last night was an almost equal mix of excitement and reverence as the bombs fell. People who dissent from this bombing campaign – who opposed it on the merits – were almost entirely disappeared, as they always are in such moments of high patriotism (MSNBC’s Chris Hayes had two guests on after midnight who opposed it, but they were rare). Claims from the U.S. government and military are immediately vested with unquestioned truth and accuracy, while claims from foreign adversaries such as Russia and Syria are reflexively scorned as lies and propaganda.
For all the recent hysteria over RT being a propaganda outlet for the state, U.S. media coverage is barely distinguishable in times of war (which is, for the U.S., the permanent state of affairs). More systematic analysis will surely be forthcoming of last night’s coverage, but for now, here is Brian Williams – in all of his military-revering majesty – showing how state TV functions in the United States:
And here’s Fareed Zakaria declaring on CNN that Donald Trump has now been instantly transformed into the President of the United States in all of the loftiest and most regal senses of the term:

4. Trump’s bombing is illegal, but presidents are now omnipotent.

It should be startling and infuriating that Trump is able to order a new attack on the Syrian Government without any democratic debate, let alone Congressional approval. At least when Obama started bombing Syria without Congress, he had the excuse that it was authorized by the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force, since his ostensible targets were terrorist groups (even though ISIS did not exist until years after that was enacted and is hardly “affiliated” with Al Qaeda). But since there’s no self-defense pretext to what Trump just did, what possible legal rationale exists for this? None.
But nobody in Washington really cares about such legalities. Indeed, we have purposely created an omnipotent presidency. Recall that in 2011, Obama went to war in Libya not just without Congressional approval, but even after Congress rejected such authorization.
What happened to Obama as a result of involving the U.S in a war that Congress had rejected? Absolutely nothing, because Congress, due to political cowardice, wants to abdicate war-making powers to the President. As a country, we have decided we want an all-powerful president – one who can bomb, and spy, and detain, and invade with virtually no limits. That’s the machinery of the imperial presidency that both parties have jointly built and have now handed to President Trump.
Indeed, in 2013, Obama explicitly argued that he had the right to bomb Assad without Congressional approval – a precedent the Trump White House will now use.

5. How can those who view Trump as an Inept Fascist now trust him to wage war?

Perhaps the most bizarre aspect of the last 24 hours has been watching those who have vilified Trump as an Evil Fascist and Bumbling Clown and Unstable Sociopath suddenly decide that they want him to bomb Syria. Even if you’re someone who in the abstract wanted the U.S. to attack Assad, shouldn’t your view that Trump is a completely unstable and incompetent monster prevent you from endorsing this war, with Trump as the Commander-in-Chief?
What happened to all the warnings about Trump’s towering incompetence and core evil? Where are all the grave predictions that he’s leading the world on a path of authoritarianism, fascism and blood and soil nationalism? They all gave way to War Fever:
Donald Trump has done the right thing on Syria. Finally!! After years of useless handwringing in the face of hideous atrocities.

Guest after guest is gushing. From MSNBC to CNN, Trump is receiving his best night of press so far. And all he had to do was start a war.

I'm a Dem and I oppose 's policies, but I will fully support appropriate retaliation against 's war crimes in .

During the campaign, Trump explicitly vowed to commit war crimes: to torture detainees and purposely murder the families of terrorists. Back in April of last year, I summarized Trump’s mindset this way: “he favors fewer wars, but advocates more monstrous, war-criminal tactics for the ones US does fight.”
Given everything that has been claimed about Trump by his critics, how can any of them justify cheering for a bombing campaign led by him? Do they experience no cognitive dissonance at all in having spent months depicting Trump as a lying, deceitful fascist, only to now turn around and trust him to bomb other countries with care, humanitarianism and efficacy?

6. Like all good conspiracy theories, no evidence can kill the Kremlin-controls-Trump tale.

Central to the conspiracy theories woven for months by Democrats is the claim that Putin wields power over Trump in the form of blackmail, debts or other leverage. As a result, this conspiracy theory goes, the Kremlin has now infiltrated American institutions of power and controls the U.S. Government, because Trump is unwilling – indeed, unable – to defy Putin’s orders.
Yet here is Trump – less than three months after being inaugurated – bombing one of the Kremlin’s closest allies, in a country where Russia has spent more than a year fighting to preserve his government. Will any of this undermine or dilute the conspiracy theory that the Kremlin controls the White House? Of course not. Warped conspiracy theorists are not only immune to evidence that disproves their theories but, worse, find ways to convert such evidence into further proof of their conspiracies.
Already, the most obsessive Democratic conspiracists have cited the fact that the U.S. military advised Russia in advance of the strikes – something they would have been incredibly reckless not to do – as innuendo showing that Trump serves Putin. If Trump tomorrow bombed Red Square, Democrats – after cheering him – would quickly announce that he only did so to throw everyone off the trail of his collusion with Putin.

7. The fraud of humanitarianism works every time for (and on) American elites.

In the last two months, Trump has ordered a commando raid in Yemen that has massacred children and dozens of innocent people, bombed Mosul and killed scores of civilians, and bombed a mosque near Aleppo that killed dozens. During the campaign, he vowed to murder the family members of alleged terrorists. He shut America’s doors to Syrian refugees, and is deporting people who have lived in the U.S. since childhood despite committing no crimes.
Given all that, could American elites possibly believe him when he says that he is motivated by humanitarianism – deep-seated anger over seeing Syrian children harmed – in bombing Syria? Yes, they could, and they are. That’s because American elites always want to believe – or at least want others to believe – that the U.S. bombs countries over and over not out of aggression or dominance but out of love, freedom, democracy and humanitarian concern.
The U.S. Government does not wage war, and the U.S. military does not blow things up, out of humanitarianism. It does so when it believes there is some benefit to be obtained for itself. Again, Federalist 4 warned us: “nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it.”
If humanitarianism is what motivated the U.S. in Syria, it would take in massive numbers of refugees, but it hasn’t. If humanitarianism is what motivated the U.S. bombing of Libya, it would have given large amounts of aid to that country in the aftermath to help it deal with the ensuing anarchy and misery, but it didn’t. That’s because humanitarianism is the pretext for U.S. wars, not the actual motive.
But the psychological comfort of believing that the only reason your government bombs more countries by far than any other is because your country is just so uniquely devoted to humanitarian love is so powerful that it overrides all rational faculties. That’s why all wars – even the most malicious and aggressive – are wrapped in humanitarian packaging. And no matter how many times we see that this packaging is a lie – in Vietnam, in Iraq, in Libya – we keep wanting to believe that, this time, our bombs will be filled with love, help and freedom.

8. Support for Trump’s Bombing Shows Two Toxic U.S. Conceits: “Do Something” and “Look Strong”

Those who oppose Trump’s new bombing campaign – or any U.S. bombing campaign – are instantly met with the predictable objection: we must “Do Something” about Syria. This mentality is predicated on a terribly false, and terribly dangerous, premise: that the U.S. military can and should solve every world evil.
But sometimes, the U.S. lacks the ability to solve other problems. Often, having the U.S. drop bombs exacerbates suffering, rather than alleviates it. As upsetting as it is to accept, sometimes doing nothing is the least bad of all the options. Again, if humanitarianism really were the motive, there are many things the U.S. could do besides bombing Syria and killing civilians, such as giving refuge and humanitarian aid. But the idea that a war can be justified by appealing to the vague imperative that we must “do something” is incredibly irrational and immoral.
The same is true – indeed even more so – of this horribly toxic premise long endorsed by the world of U.S think tanks that a President must go to war to preserve “credibility” – meaning that he must drop bombs and kill people to show the world that he, and the country he leads, is “strong.” To see that hideous premise in action, look at how the New York Times gloriously depicted Bush 41’s senseless invasion of Panama in the above article, or how the NYT yesterday described the view of “experts” about Trump’s need to bomb Syria:
There may be some things more evil and immoral than starting a new war based on the desire to avoid “looking weak,” but it’s hard to think of many things that qualify. And yet this belief continues to be gospel among America’s war-loving think tank and Foreign Policy Community.

9. Obama’s refusal to bomb Assad hovers over everything.

Despite insisting that he had the power to do so without Congress, Obama resisted bipartisan demands to use military force against Assad. I personally view this as one of Obama’s smartest and best decisions and, according to today’s New York Times, so does he: “Mr. Obama said he was ‘very proud of that moment’ because he had stepped back from the Washington establishment’s warnings. Few of his top foreign policy advisers agreed.” Indeed, by the end of his presidency, the U.S. stopped claiming it was even seeking regime change.
But those who insist that the U.S. has a moral obligation to remove Assad or at least bomb him become tongue-tied when it comes to assessing Obama. If, as many claim, Assad is our generation’s Hitlerian figure – and recall how many recent foreign leaders were depicted as The New Hitler when some wanted them attacked –  does that make Obama this generation’s Neville Chamberlain for his refusal to attack Assad? And does it mean that Trump has acted more morally than Obama by doing what Obama refused to do?
Again, I side with Obama in this dispute because I never believed that U.S. military had any positive role to play in Syria. But those who have long insisted that U.S. military action against Assad is morally imperative should follow those premises through to their conclusions when it comes to Obama and Trump.

10. None of this disproves, obviously, that Hillary Clinton was also a dangerous hawk.

Every time Trump drops another bomb, Democratic pundits declare vindication over those always-unnamed people who they claim argued during the campaign that Trump was more anti-war than Clinton:
You people who were warning that HRC was the “real hawk”: Go to hell.

Who are the people who argued that Trump would be more anti-war than Clinton? Their numbers were tiny; Maureen Dowd is one of the very people with a prominent platform to claim this. Trump expressly vowed to bomb more frequently and more aggressively, as was often pointed out.
It’s certainly true that any attempt by Trump to remove Assad would violate his oft-stated campaign vows. But whatever else is true, this specific bombing campaign is a bizarre instance to try to defend Clinton given that Clinton, for years – and again yesterday – endorsed this military action. Indeed, Clinton has long endorsed far more extensive military action in Syria than what Trump yesterday ordered, often advocating a no-fly-zone over parts of Syria – which would be a massive and incredibly dangerous military undertaking – and even yesterday calling for the destruction of Assad’s air force.
It’s certainly true that Trump vowed to involve the U.S. in fewer wars than Clinton wanted, and for a narrower range of reasons. And that may still end up happening. Indeed, many of Trump’s most vocal supporters yesterday were expressing anger even over this limited bombing campaign in Syria. But to take a military action that Clinton herself favored and try to use it to suggest that Clinton would have been less hawkish is just bizarre and deceitful beyond belief.
Ultimately, what is perhaps most depressing about all of this is how, yet again, we see the paucity of choice offered by American democracy. The leadership of both parties can barely contain themselves joining together to cheer the latest war. One candidate – the losing one – ran on a platform of launching this new war, while the other – the victor – repeatedly vowed to avoid it, only to launch it after being in office fewer than 100 days.
The one constant of American political life is that the U.S. loves war. Martin Luther King’s 1967 denunciation of the U.S. as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today” is more accurate than ever.

UPDATE: While Prime Minister Trudeau yesterday urged an investigation before any action is taken, once Trump’s bombs fell, he issued a statement expressing full support, directly contradicting his earlier statements: “President Assad’s use of chemical weapons and the crimes the Syrian regime has committed against its own people cannot be ignored.”
Top photo: This photo provided by the U.S. Navy, shows the guided-missile destroyer USS Porter firing a Tomahawk land attack missile on April 7, 2017 in the Mediterranean Sea at a Syrian military airfield.