zaterdag 1 juni 2019

Ralph Nader: American Society Is in Rapid Decay

Ralph Nader: American Society Is in Rapid Decay

Ralph Nader: American Society Is in Rapid Decay
Consumer rights advocate and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader. (Sage Ross / Flickr
Plutocrats like to control the range of permissible public dialogue. Plutocrats also like to shape what society values. If you want to see where a country’s priorities lie, look at how it allocates its money. While teachers and nurses earn comparatively little for performing critical jobs, corporate bosses including those who pollute our planet and bankrupt defenseless families, make millions more. Wells Fargo executives are cases in point. The vastly overpaid CEO of General Electric left his teetering company in shambles. In 2019, Boeing’s CEO got a bonus (despite the Lion Air Flight 610 737 Max 8 crash in 2018). Just days before a second deadly 737 Max 8 crash in Ethiopia.
This disparity is on full display in my profession. Public interest lawyers and public defenders, who fight daily for a more just and lawful society, are paid modest salaries. On the other hand, the most well compensated lawyers are corporate lawyers who regularly aid and abet corporate crime, fraud, and abuse. Many corporate lawyers line their pockets by shielding the powerful violators from accountability under the rule of law.
Physicians who minister to the needy poor and go to the risky regions, where Ebola or other deadly infectious diseases are prevalent, are paid far less than cosmetic surgeons catering to human vanities. Does any rational observer believe that the best movies and books are also the most rewarded? Too often the opposite is true. Stunningly gripping documentaries earn less than 1 percent of what is garnered by the violent, pornographic, and crude movies at the top of the ratings each week.
On my weekly radio show, I interview some of the most dedicated authors who accurately document perils to health and safety. The authors on my program expose pernicious actions and inactions that jeopardize people’s daily lives. These guests offer brilliant, practical solutions for our widespread woes (see Their important books, usually go unnoticed by the mass media, barely sell a few thousand copies, while the best-seller lists are dominated by celebrity biographies. Ask yourself, when preventable and foreseeable disasters occur, which books are more useful to society?
The monetary imbalance is especially jarring when it comes to hawks who beat the drums of war. For example, people who push for our government to start illegal wars (eg. John Bolton pushing for the war in Iraq) are rewarded with top appointments. Former government officials also get very rich when they take jobs in the defense industry. Do you remember anyone who opposed the catastrophic Iraq War getting such lucrative rewards?
The unknown and unrecognized people who harvest our food are on the lowest rung of the income ladder despite the critical role they play in our lives. Near the top of the income ladder are people who gamble on the prices of food via the commodities market and those who drain the nutrients out of natural foods and sell the junk food that remains, with a dose of harmful additives. Agribusiness tycoons profit from this plunder.
Those getting away with major billing fraud grow rich. While those people trying to get our government to do something about $350 billion dollars in health care billing fraud this year – like Harvard Professor Malcolm K. Sparrow – live on a college professor’s salary.
Hospital executives, who each make millions of dollars a year, preside over an industry where about 5,000 patients die every week from preventable problems in U.S. hospitals, according to physicians at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. The watchdogs who call out this deadly hazard live on a fraction of that amount as they try to save lives.
Even in sports, where people think the best athletes make the most money, the reverse is more often true. Just ask a red-faced Brian Cashman, the Yankees GM, who, over twenty years, has spent massive sums on athletes who failed miserably to produce compared to far lesser-paid baseball players. Look at today’s top ranked Yankees – whose fifteen “stars” are injured, while their replacements are playing spectacularly for much smaller compensation than their high priced teammates.
A major reason why our society’s best are so often last while our worst are first is the media’s infatuation with publicizing the worst and ignoring the best. Warmongers get press. The worst politicians are most frequently on the Sunday morning TV shows – not the good politicians or civic leaders with proven records bettering our society.
Ever see Congressman Pascrell (Dem. N.J.) on the Sunday morning news shows? Probably not. He’s a leader who is trying to reform Congress so that it is open, honest, capable and represents you the people. Surely you have heard of Senator Lindsey Graham (Rep. S.C.) who is making ugly excuses for Donald Trump, always pushing for war and bloated military budgets, often hating Muslims and Arabs and championing the lawless American Empire. He is always in the news, having his say.
Take the 162 people who participated in our Superbowl of Civic Action at Constitution Hall in Washington D.C. in May and September 2016. These people have and are changing America. They are working to make food, cars, drugs, air, water, medical devices, and drinking water safer. Abuses by corporations against consumers, workers and small taxpayers would be worse without them. Our knowledge of solutions and ways to treat people fairly and abolish poverty and advance public services is greater because of their courageous hard work. (see
The eight days of this Civic Superbowl got far less coverage than did Tiger Woods losing another tournament that year or the dismissive nicknames given by the foul-mouth Trump to his mostly wealthy Republican opponents on just one debate stage.
All societies need play, entertainment, and frivolity. But a media obsessed with giving 100 times the TV and radio time, using our public airwaves for free, to those activities than to serious matters crucial to the most basic functioning of our society is assuring that the worst is first and the best is last. Just look at your weekly TV Guide.
If the whole rotted-out edifice comes crashing down, there won’t be enough coerced taxpayer dollars anymore to save the Plutocrats, with their limitless greed and power. Maybe then the best can have a chance to be first.

Assange and the Fascist State

The Unrelenting State

We are seriously worried about the condition of Julian Assange. He was too unwell to appear in court yesterday, and his Swedish lawyer, Per Samuelson, found him in a state where he was unable to conduct a conversation and give instructions. There are very definite physical symptoms, particularly rapid weight loss, and we are not satisfied that genuine and sufficient diagnostic efforts are being made to determine the underlying cause.
Julian had been held for the last year in poor, highly confining and increasingly oppressive conditions in the Ecuadorean Embassy and his health was already deteriorating alarmingly before his expulsion and arrest. A number of conditions, including dental abcesses, can have very serious consequences if long term untreated, and the continual refusal by the British government and latterly the Ecuadoreans to permit him access to adequate healthcare while a political asylee was a callous denial of basic human rights.
I confess to feeling an amount of personal relief after his arrest that at least he would now get proper medical treatment. However there now seems to be no intention to provide that and indeed since he has been in Belmarsh his health problems have accelerated. I witnessed enough of the British state’s complicity in torture to know that this may be more than just the consequence of unintended neglect. That the most lucid man I know is now not capable of having a rational conversation is extremely alarming.Cypherpunks: Freedom a...Julian AssangeBest Price: $8.97Buy New $10.12(as of 11:00 EDT - Details)
There is no rational reason that Assange needs to be kept in a high security facility for terrorists and violent offenders. We are seeing the motive behind his unprecedented lengthy imprisonment for jumping police bail when he entered political asylum. As a convicted prisoner, Assange can be kept in a worse regime than if he were merely on remand for his extradition proceedings. In particular, his access to his lawyers is extremely restricted and for a man facing major legal proceedings in the UK, USA and Sweden it is impossible, even were he healthy, for his lawyers to have sufficient time with him adequately to prepare his cases while he is under the restrictions placed on a convict. Of course we know from the fact that, within three hours of being dragged from the Ecuadorean Embassy, he was already convicted and sentenced to a lengthy prison term, that the state has no intention that his lawyers should be able to prepare.
I have asked before and I ask again. If this were a dissident publisher in Russia, what would the UK political and media class be saying about his being dragged out by armed police, and convicted and sentenced to jail by a judge without a jury, just three hours later, after a farce of a “trial” in which the judge insulted him and called him a “narcissist” before he had said anything in his defence? The Western media would be up in arms if that happened in Russia. Here, they cheer it on.
Below is a photo of Julian in the Embassy in happier times, during the Correa Presidency, with a truly amazing and strong group of people, every one of whose stories we can follow and learn from:
Left to Right: Thomas Drake, Coleen Rowley, Julian Assange, Elizabeth Murray, Ray McGovern, Nadira, Ann Wright
I should add that I am currently trying to see Julian personally with two other close friends, but obviously access is extremely difficult.When Google Met WikiLeaksJulian AssangeBest Price: $10.46Buy New $3.14(as of 06:15 EDT - Details)
Julian’s personal possessions have been seized by the Ecuadoreans to be given to the US government. These include not only computers but his legal and medical papers. This is yet another example of completely illegal state action against him. Furthermore, any transfer must involve the stolen material physically transiting London, and the British government is taking no steps to prevent that, which is yet another of multiple signs of the degree of international governmental coordination behind the flimsy pretence of independent judicial action.
Julian is imprisoned for at least another five months, even with parole (which they will probably find an excuse not to grant). After that he will be held further on remand. There is therefore no need for rush. The refusal of the Swedish court to delay a hearing on a potential extradition warrant at all, to allow Julian to recover to the extent he can instruct his lawyer, and the very brief postponement of the US extradition hearing in London, with the intimation it may be held inside Belmarsh prison if Julian is too unwell to move, are both examples of an entirely unaccustomed and unnecessary haste with which the case is being rushed forward. The mills of God grind slowly; those of the Devil seem to spin dangerously fast.
Finally, for those who still believe that actions against Julian, particularly but not only in Sweden, are in any way motivated by a concern for justice, particularly justice for violated women, I do urge you to read this excellent account by Jonathan Cook. As a summary of the truly breathtaking series of legal abuses by states against Assange, that the corporate and state media has been deliberately distorting and hiding for a decade, it cannot be bettered.
Reprinted with the author’s permission.

Chutzpah, Corporate Media Style

Chutzpah, Corporate Media Style

Photograph Source: Jeff Maurone from Seattle, WA, USA – CC BY 2.0
American politics is awash in hypocrisy. It always has been, but the problem has become worse in recent years, mainly, but not only, since Donald Trump became president of the United States.
The level of hypocrisy surrounding, say, charges of Russian “meddling” in the 2016 election is staggering, but it seldom rises to the level of genuine, unadulterated chutzpah. There is a family resemblance, but the difference, though difficult to articulate, is readily discernibleLike “obscenity” for Justice Potter Stewart, you can’t define it, but you know it when you see it.
Therefore, it is not exactly news that“chutzpah” doesn’t translate well into English. “Unmitigated gall” doesn’t quite cut it, and that is about as close as the English language gets.
The term is usually explained not by definitions, but by stories: for example, the famous one about the little boy convicted of killing his parents who threw himself on the mercy of the court on the grounds that he is an orphan.
The run-up to Russiagate, and then Russiagate itself, provide other examples worth pondering.
To hear Democrats and their media flacks tell it, Russiagate was the big story of the 2016 election. They seem only to have discovered this in retrospect, however. As late as Election Day, the story line was only beginning to take shape.
It probably would have remained “formless and void,” like the heavens and earth before the Lord got to work on them, had Hillary Clinton not lost a sure thing to a psychologically damaged, morally and intellectually “challenged” ignoramus. That took some doing; Donald Trump was opposed, at first, by very nearly the entire American “power structure,” including the Republican Party establishment.
But the Queen of Chaos somehow managed to pull it off.
To be sure, Before Election Day, there was already talk of Russia becoming an “adversary nation.” This had been its role since the Bolshevik Revolution. However, it was widely assumed that this ended, along with the Soviet Union itself, some two and a half decades ago.
It is now clear, however, this this was mostly wishful thinking; that there were plenty of old Cold Warriors around who never gave up the faith. Clinton’s defeat got them going again.
They had their work cut out for them, however. It takes cunning to revive an old Cold War or to start a new one. Even for many hardcore Hillary supporters, the blame-the-Russians and blame Putin jibber-jabber of the early days of the Trump administration seemed overwrought and anachronistic. They had to be won over.
Lucky for them that History had not moved on quite as much as had been widely assumed; that Cold War thinking had not suffered the historical defeat that nearly everyone thought it had, but had only gone, as it were, into remission.
The tide began to turn when the Obama administration, and therefore “the West,” took a notion to bringing Ukraine lock stock and barrel into the West’s orbit, joining it to the EU, if not formally, because that would be too inflammatory, then at least substantively. The goal was ultimately to bring Ukraine into NATO too, establishing a garrison state with considerable heft right on Russia’s border.
The “satellite” nations of Eastern Europe had gone the EU-NATO route long ago, as had the Baltic republics. Russia’s buffer was largely gone in Asia too; and “color revolutions” in several former Soviet republics had already taken place.
Nevertheless, for both historical and geopolitical reasons, Obama’s and his Secretary of State Clinton’s meddling with Ukraine marked a major escalation.
Their machinations were obviously at odds with Russia’s national interests.
The idea that nations, as distinct from elite strata within nations, have interests is foundational in influential strains of international relations theory, and is widely assumed throughout the political culture.
Even so, it is problematic in societies riven through with fundamental divisions, as all modern societies are. It would be foolish, however, to rule it utterly without merit on that account. All I would say about this for now is that insofar as the idea of national interests is applicable at all, this would be a textbook case.
It is also a textbook case of geopolitical recklessness. Obama and Clinton took it upon themselves to provoke a major nuclear power — with all the risks that entails. Evidently, this mattered less to them and their neoconservative and liberal imperialist advisors than the fact that a renewed Cold War was yearned for throughout the military industrial complex they dutifully served.
Western meddling also accorded with the interests of many Ukrainians, especially in the western regions of that former Soviet republic and ancient province of the Russian empire. This too raises complicated questions – in part because, the broad Ukrainian nationalist tent covers more than a few fascists and proto-fascists.
Ukrainians whose first language is Russian and whose cultural and religious affiliations are Russian as well, abound in the eastern regions of Ukraine. Thus all the elements of a proxy war between Russia and the West, and ultimately a civil war, were in place and brewing.
Secessionist sentiments ran high in the east, as did support for (re)union with Russia. This was the case especially in the Crimea, a territory that had been part of Russia for centuries. Its largest city, Odessa, was the homeport of the Imperial, then the Soviet, and now, by treaty, the Russian navy. But in the fifties, Nikita Khrushchev turned it over to Ukraine. This was not a particularly momentous development at the time because both Russia and Ukraine were integral parts of the Soviet Union.
It was not a particularly transformative development either. To this day, Crimea and several neighboring regions have, by all accounts, remained Russian enclaves – not juridically, but in the hearts and minds of their inhabitants.
For better or worse, as the problem of Western encirclement intensified, Putin acceded to pressures to undo what Khrushchev had done.
And so, in public opinion in the United States and other Western countries, Russia abruptly changed. Formerly a friendly but generally useless partner in America’s wars on historically Muslim parts of the world and elsewhere, it became an “adversary” nation, led by a demon from Hell, Vladimir Putin.
Not very many years before that great and sudden transformation occurred, Bush 43 told the world that he had looked into Putin’s soul and found that he was good. W. may have begun to have second thoughts towards the end of his second term, but Putin’s metamorphosis is not on him. Standing on the shoulders of their predecessors, it was Obama’s and Clinton’s doing.
Around that time it became apparent, at least to me, that when U.S. based corporate media – MSNBC, CNN, worst of all NPR — would sneer at their Russian counterparts, especially RT, Russia Today, it was either because they knew nothing about what they were deriding, perhaps they had never even watched it, or because their hypocrisies had risen to the level of bona fide chutzpah, equal to or greater than that of the boy who killed his parents and then, because he was an orphan, threw himself on the mercy of the court.
Their complaint was not that RT’s production values weren’t up to par or that its focus was excessively parochial and therefore of little interest to people in the West. No one whose opinions were even slightly evidence-based could think that. Their complaint was that RT was not really a journalistic enterprise, but instead a propaganda outfit, a tool of Putin and the Russian state.
RT is owned by the Russian government; MSNBC is owned by Comcast, and CNN by Time Warner and therefore ultimately by AT&T. NPR’s ownership structure is more like RT’s. Do these differences account for differences in degrees of servility towards their respective governments?
Before Trump, No was a plausible answer.
But that was before the accumulated resentments of decades of neoliberal assaults on the well-being of all but the obscenely rich finally caused the American power structure to lose control of a large enough segment of the American population to make it possible for anyone, even someone as politically compromised and inept as Hillary Clinton back then or Joe Biden now, to lose an election to the likes of Donald Trump.
Corporate media and the capitalist malefactors behind them were so displeased by this turn of events, by the fact that for the first time in living memory they could not beat back challenges to their power, that their customary servility towards the government in place could no longer be sustained.
Indeed, nowadays, the news and information services of the self-described “center” (or center-right and center-left) actually outdo the real left in expunging any and all traces of servility to Trump and his administration.
On the other hand, when it comes to respect for the forces of law and order – to the bulwark institutions of the national security state – the situation is the same as it ever was, or worse. Like Rodney Dangerfield, the president and his underlings “can’t get any respect,” but FBI-men like Robert Mueller get all anyone, even a narcissist like Trump, could want and more.
The tragedy, of course, even beyond the unseemly, ahistorical veneration of perhaps the most anti-democratic component part of “the deep state” is that the good guys and gals were not the agents of change; the Forces of Darkness that crawled out from under the rocks Trump overturned were.
And so any good that could come from the dissolution of old pieties has been more than offset by the revivification of repressive state institutions that have been keeping real democracy at bay.
But even as “liberal” corporate media have gone to war against the Trump government, the impermanent part of it anyway, the part where Trump and his minions reside, their loyalty to the fundamental institutional arrangements of the existing order, to the regime, has, if anything been enhanced.
And so, corporate media are as much a part of the state, as distinct from the government, propaganda apparatus as ever.
For assessing the honesty of their journalism, or RT’s, the relevant question is how independent their respective managements are. It is worth recalling that back in the day when the BBC was a cut or two above other news outlets, it was owned by the British government, but its editorial independence was nearly absolute.
Its Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand counterparts were similarly insulated from government interference, as are the news services of most European nations, and of other countries around the world. This is also true of NPR, though they are so spineless there that an impartial observer might well be at a loss to detect it.
Public entities nearly always enjoy some degree of autonomy, just as the control rights that private ownership confers are seldom absolute. This is especially the case with highly regulated communications operations for which public trust is an indispensable asset.
There is therefore no way to determine levels of servility without actually examining the product.
People see what they want to see, and willful blindness is rife. But in this case it is hard to imagine how anyone, no matter how biased, could fail to rank American corporate media below RT in general. And it would be even harder to claim that RT is a propaganda operation, in any meaningful way that MSNBC and CNN are not.
And yet, that is just what we hear on corporate media, over and over again. Since it is difficult for most people to do an actual comparison, because most people can only access RT on line, not on cable or satellite news services, the idea has become a dogma of the ambient political culture.
However, this does not alter the fact that what is repeated is not only wrong, but obviously wrong; and that the corporate line is not just a matter of the pot calling the kettle black – it is chutzpah, pure and simple.
My point is not that RT is a paragon of journalistic excellence, and neither do I mean to suggest that letting “a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend,” as Chairman Mao, no friend of Russia back in the day, famously put it, comes easily to its management and staff.
Neither do I want to defend any of the subtle pro-Russian slants that might have slipped through RT’s lens. I would point out, though, that whatever RT does along those lines is a lot less blatant than the American-style boosterism that pervades corporate media in the United States.
The better and more widely the character of the propaganda system that generates and sustains American boosterism is understood, the better off we all will be. Comparisons with RT can be useful for that – not just for combatting dangerous warmongering, but also for understanding the nature and extent of the obstacles in democracy’s way.
* * *
When the history of our time is written, high on the list of shameful things for which the American political class and its media will be deemed culpable will surely be the treatment meted out to whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning and especially Julian Assange.
On this, as on everything else he touches, Trump has made the problem worse.
By focusing on publishers, not just their sources, he or rather his administration may even have put First Amendment protections for press freedom in mortal jeopardy. This would make the problem worse by many orders of magnitude.
Who will get the blame for that? The Grand Jury indictments on Assange appear to have been drawn up months ago, so perhaps it will be Trump’s Attorney General at the time, Jeff Sessions. Or perhaps not. Although he showed time and again that he would endure almost any humiliation to curry favor with Trump, there were limits to how much of his oath of office and how many moral and legal norms he would violate for Trump’s sake. His sycophancy therefore went unrequited, and so now he is gone.
His successor William Barr has been too busy being Trump’s stooge on the Mueller report to do much other harm.
Ultimately, of course, the buck stops at the Oval Office. However, Trump seems to have no settled views on the subject. His attitude towards Wikileaks and Assange varies according to what he believes will be useful to him each time that their names come up.
Obama and Hillary and the Clintonite scoundrels who still dominate the Democratic Party are even more culpable. They, not Trump, got the ball rolling, and they have stood by and reinforced what they began.
For Hillary and her cohort, it was because Wikileaks embarrassed them; and there was only so much lèse-majesté they could stand. For Obama, it was that too, but also, it sometimes seemed, that, having moved into the Oval Office, the Constitutional Law professor yearned in his heart of hearts for an Official Secrets Act.
Worst of all, though, was our vaunted free press itself. How could they stand idly by while a colleague was languishing under virtual house arrest in the Ecuadorian embassy in Central London for nearly seven years, deprived of fresh air, opportunities to exercise, and needed medical attention, and who is now being held by the British police awaiting extradition to the United States, where he could be subject to the death penalty, for doing more or less what they do – only doing it much better.
Hardly a peep out of them – about how, besides skipping bail, Assange’s only “crime” was not using a condom. It seems that that is a crime in Sweden, where the deed occurred, but not in either the UK, where Assange was arrested on an international warrant, nor the United States, which is lusting to get hold of him. Having unprotected sex with a woman who did not consent – to the absence of a condom, not to the sex itself — might make him a dick, but hardly a criminal; certainly not a criminal for whom the punishment is or ought to be vastly disproportional, by any reckoning, to the offense.
The United States wants to charge him under the Espionage Act, a law, legislated during World War I, so odious that it has almost never been used since.
Hardly a peep out of corporate media about that and even less about the utter presumptuousness of the United States claiming jurisdiction for a “crime” not committed in America, except perhaps in the “virtual” sense in which all cyber crimes are committed everywhere, or by an American citizen.
This is chutzpah in its own right. But it is nothing compared to what our corporate media have been up to since Assange was rearrested.
All of a sudden, commentators and editors from the quality press on down, have come to the realization that their silence doesn’t cut it anymore; that they have to speak up – if not for Assange, then against the enemies of Trump’s “enemies of the people. They realize that what is happening to Assange could happen to them – because whatever he is “guilty” of, they are too.
Bravo for that! But then, as if to justify their own acquiescence in a major assault not just on First Amendment rights but on a foundational principle of democracy itself, they dust off the old saws about how, for reasons of principle, even the loathsome must be defended.
It is the old Nazis in Skokie story – about the ACLU defending the rights of Nazis to march through a suburb of Chicago in which many Holocaust survivors lived. For decades, it has been a story civil libertarians have told themselves to keep their spirits high; how they “defended to the death” not the Nazis themselves, but their right, as it were, to be Nazis. Voltaire would be proud, and rightly so.
But just how does this apply to Assange? Apparently, because he is such a loathsome creature that, to do the right thing in his case, as with the Nazis in Skokie, good people must set their feeling aside and plunge ahead on their principles. The men and women of our “free press” have so far taken to describing their plight in blander terms, but this is the gist of what they have been saying.
Needless to say, there is even less reason to think that Assange is as horrible as all that than there is to maintain, as Democrats more or less imply, that, but for those Russian meddlers, aided and abetted by the propagandists at RT, Trump would not now be turning the world into a quasi-fascist dystopia.
The man is not foul or loathsome at all. Quite to the contrary. Somehow, despite the travails he has had to endure, he has managed to navigate his way through his situation more intelligently and with more integrity than most of his reluctant defenders could ever begin to understand
Indeed, it is hard to tell what is setting his detractors off. Is it that he is not nice to Democrats – the Joe Biden, not the AOC, kind? Well, good for him for that. And if he’s a little testy or ill humored after being kept confined in a small space with no exit for seven years, and with his health failing, good for him for that as well.
Or is it that, as Sarah Palin might put it, he “pals around” not with terrorists, like she claimed Obama did, but, worse still, with Ruskies? It is not even clear that he does; not that, as they say, “there would be anything wrong with that.”
Before his de facto incarceration, when he was asked on “Democracy Now” whether he favored Clinton or Trump, his answer, as best I recall, was spot on. He said that this is like asking whether he would prefer to die of one horrible disease or another. True enough.
For the most part, our propagandists demonize people who have more than a little that is demonic in them; Putin is a case in point. But Assange? That is more like demonizing a saint. Shame on the shallow, morally compromised liberals doing it; they are as awash in chutzpah as Democrats generally are in hypocrisy.
So for those for whom the little “orphan” boy story has gotten old, maybe the time has come for some of the talking heads on MSNBC and CNN to take his place.
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ANDREW LEVINE is the author most recently of THE AMERICAN IDEOLOGY (Routledge) and POLITICAL KEY WORDS (Blackwell) as well as of many other books and articles in political philosophy. His most recent book is In Bad Faith: What’s Wrong With the Opium of the People. He was a Professor (philosophy) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Research Professor (philosophy) at the University of Maryland-College Park.  He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

U.S. 'deal of century'

Sat Jun 1, 2019 08:26AM [Updated: Sat Jun 1, 2019 10:46AM ]

Protesters, including Lebanese nationals and Palestinian refugees, wave Palestinian and Lebanese flags during a demonstration in the medieval Beaufort Castle, known in Arabic as al-Shaqif Citadel, near Arnoun, Lebanon, May 15, 2018. (Photo by AFP)
Protesters, including Lebanese nationals and Palestinian refugees, wave Palestinian and Lebanese flags during a demonstration in the medieval Beaufort Castle, known in Arabic as al-Shaqif Citadel, near Arnoun, Lebanon, May 15, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

US President Donald Trump's "the deal of the century" wants Palestinian refugees to be naturalized and settled in several countries, including Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Iraq, Israeli daily Haaretz reports. 
As the world marked the International Quds Day on Friday, political leaders warned of mysterious aspects of the much-touted US plan and its ramifications for the future of Palestinians. 
Iran's Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said one definite prospect is that the plan seeks to do away with the issue of returning 6 million refugees to their homeland. 
"To realize this goal, America is about to arrange an economic deal and get its money from the miserable Persian Gulf countries," he said in Tehran. 
Haaretz said Washington is thought to be pressing Lebanon to grant citizenship to Palestinian refugees living in the country. 
"In the process, this is seen as defusing the issue of a right of return of refugees to Israel, which has been a major obstacle to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," the paper said. 
According to UNRWA, the UN's Palestinian refugee agency, about 450,000 Palestinian refugees live in Lebanon. 
Other reports have put the figure lower, prompting Lebanese groups to say that the census had been conducted under US pressure designed to underreport the real numbers because that way Lebanon could absorb a modest-sized population. 
The Lebanese constitution, however, provides that the country's territory is indivisible and that refugees living there are not to receive citizenship. 
The official reason for this is that the absorption of Palestinian refugees would impair their claim to a right of return.
However, the US has sugarcoated the plan with a lifeline to extract Lebanon from its economic crisis, where the country's debt is estimated at more than $85 billion (about 155 percent of GDP), Haaretz said. 
According to the Israeli paper, giving Palestinians citizenship is likely to prompt the roughly 1 million Syrian refugees in the country to demand similar status.
However, Lebanon isn't the only country concerned about Washington dictating a solution to the refugee problem.
Jordan is horrified over the prospect that the United States will demand it absorb hundreds of thousands or even a million Palestinian refugees in the country, Haaretz added.
The paper cited investigative journalist Vicky Ward recounting in her new book "Kushner Inc.: Greed. Ambition. Corruption" that the Trump administration's plan sees Jordan providing territory to the Palestinians and receiving Saudi territory in return.
The Saudis, for their part, would get the islands of Sanafir and Tiran from Egypt, it said. 
"Land swaps appear to be the magic formula that the Trump administration has adopted, and not just for Jordan," Haaretz said.
According to Ward, it has been suggested that Egypt give up territory along the Sinai coast between Gaza and el-Arish, to which some of the Gaza population would be transferred. In return, Israel would give Egypt territory of equivalent size in the western Negev.
Haaretz, meanwhile, revealed lucrative projects to be funded by European countries, the US and wealthy Arab states, including an underwater tunnel which Israel would allow to be dug between Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Egypt, the paper said, has been promised a whopping $65 billion to help boost its economy which is currently in shambles.
The plan also says Palestinian refugees in Syria, Iraq and other Arab countries would receive citizenship in exchange for generous assistance to the host countries. 
The Israeli paper, however, cast doubt on the viability of the "plan of generous financial compensation and empty tracts of land for new housing". 
"The problem is that the Palestinian refugees are the supreme symbols of Palestinian nationhood," it said.
"An American deal that blatantly relies on buying up that symbol for cash, even lots of it, can't be acceptable to the Palestinian leaders in the West Bank and Gaza," it added. 
The Trump administration is set to unveil the economic portion of the so-called “deal of the century” during a conference in Manama, Bahrain, on June 25-26. 
All Palestinian factions have boycotted the event, accusing Washington of offering financial rewards for accepting the Israeli occupation.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE have said they will send delegations to the Manama forum and Israel’s Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon has said he intends to attend.