KeyWiki.org: Trevor Loudon’s comprehensive online blacklist of left activists

[Cross posted from Patreon]

If you’ve browsed or searched for anything relating to left-wing activism, you may have encountered a site called KeyWiki.org. It bills itself as a “bipartisan knowledge base focusing primarily on corruption and the covert side of politics in the United States and globally.” In reality, the site is nothing but a modern-day blacklist of left-wing activists with a disturbing amount of its information gleaned from private Facebook groups. While many of its 80,000+ entries are nothing but stubs based on names found in petitions or subscription lists, an increasingly large amount of its pages boast comprehensive details about associations and occasional information about family members.

Needless to say, the prominent display of numerous activists’ online trail neatly listed under their real name on a publicly accessible wiki is a cause for concern. The site can be seen as an extension of the private right-wing surveillance and blacklisting groups established after the fall from grace of Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), such as the Western Goals Foundation and the Church League of America. Indeed, many of the source notes on KeyWiki refer back to a defunct publication known as Information Digest, run by private spy and Congressional aide John Rees and which counted numerous law enforcement agencies among its subscribers. It is clear that whoever is compiling this wiki has access to a large archive of right-wing sources on the left that goes back at least half a century.

The webmaster is a self-proclaimed “libertarian” from New Zealand named Trevor Loudon. It is intriguing to note that someone with the identical full name is listed as a representative for the Sugar Industry Central Board in apartheid-era South Africa. It could be someone with the same name, it could be someone related to him or it could be him. Either way, Loudon has an apparent interest in demonizing Nelson Mandela and KeyWiki approvingly links to a blog that accuses the ANC of being “black-nationalist” and “racist.” Is something more personal going on here?

Quote of the Day

Senior Kuwaiti and Saudi officials now argue privately and sometimes publicly that the partition of Iraq into several entities — Shiites in the south, Kurds in the north and Sunnis in the center — may be the key to neutralizing a country whose population is increasingly viewed by oil-rich gulf Arab states as inherently aggressive.
[…]
A senior Saudi intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity about this evolving position in a recent interview in Paris, said that Saudi Arabia was less concerned now about what impact a breakup of Iraq’s 17 million people would have. “This possibility may in fact be a better solution than the present situation,” the official noted.
[…]
“What we need to do is what the Americans did in Japan and Germany after World War II,” the Saudi official said. “We must go into Iraq and change the whole setup, the whole mentality, including the social structure of that country which permits dictators like Saddam to resurface there with regularity every 20 years or so. “To do that,” he said, “we may need several small entities to deal with instead of attempting to preserve one Iraqi nation.”
[…]
In Kuwait, a similar sentiment is expressed more openly now in newspaper editorials.
[…]
“We must substitute a state with a wholly different state, a major surgical operation that will take much time to execute,” wrote Ahmad Jarallah, publisher of the pro-Saudi Kuwaiti daily, Al Siyassah, in a front-page commentary on the eve of the second anniversary of the Iraqi invasion. “In the process, however, we must prepare to coexist with a new Iraq in the post-Saddam era that will be for at least 20 years the scene of much internal strife and settlement of accounts.”

“Let us say it clearly: It is not not enough to bring down Saddam or kill him alone to give the world a rest from his problems,” Mr. Jarallah said today. “What is necessary is to cut the roots of the entire Iraqi regime with all its infrastructure, its various support elements, its executive instruments, its spies and its agents.”

–Youssef M. Ibrahim, “Gulf Arabs Thinking of a Divided Iraq,” NYT, 2 Aug. 1992

Five reasons why Democrats should stop obsessing over Russia

1. It is rehabilitating neoconservatism
Some of the biggest proponents of the effort to tie Trump to the Kremlin are the same neocons who sold us the 2003 war of aggression against Iraq and are still campaigning to sabotage the Iran deal, one of the few foreign policy successes of the Obama administration. One only need to look at recent editorials by self-proclaimed imperialism apologist Max Boot and efforts by the ghoul none other than Dick Cheney to “reach out” to liberals and take on the Russian menace. I’ve seen many prominent liberals these days promote the anti-Russian rantings of this guy:

Not a good look, to say the least.

2. It feeds into national chauvinism and jingoism
According to liberals, their own tradition on foreign affairs is one that favors diplomacy over militarism and reconciliation over needless belligerance. Yet much of the rhetoric targeting Trump sounds like the right-wing arguments against Obama’s foreign policy: that he isn’t “tough enough” on America’s Enemies. As an example, Trump is being accused of acting as an agent of the Kremlin simply for proposing a relaxation of economic sanctions against Russia. This sounds perilously similar to what we heard from the right, and indeed Trump himself, when Obama administration relaxed sanctions on Iran and Cuba.

It also feeds into the myth of American exceptionalism, which once again I thought liberals claimed to oppose. There are many “takes” among liberal “thinkfluencers” these days about how America is a naturally progressive and benevolent force for good and this is contrasted with Russia, which is demonized as backwards and cruel even beyond Putin’s leadership. Many of these same personalities have, in other contexts, acknowledged various truths about America being founded on slavery and genocide and it being sustained by imperialist plunder to this very day. One need not be a Maoist Third Worldist to recognize as ridiculously self-acquitting the idea that the US needed Putin’s nefarious influence to elect an overt white supremacist like Trump.

3. It is a diversion from more pressing matters
Just recently the GOP proposed gutting Medicaid in order to finance a patchwork of tax cuts that would disproportionately benefit the incredibly wealthy. Thankfully, extremist elements within the GOP helped shoot the proposal down, presumably for not being cruel enough. Medicaid is a very popular program that Trump promised not to cut. Its beneficiaries include many elderly and disabled individuals and the GOP would’ve had a challenging time portraying them as freeloaders to the American people. Instead of spending more time celebrating this defeat and exploiting the opportunity to present a genuinely progressive vision for health care, the Democrats largely allowed the news cycle to drop this story in order to focus on Trump’s ties to Russia.

This is inconceivable to me. When polls are showing increased willingness for a single-payer system, the Democrats are willing to switch the script and make common cause with neocons in pursuit of a more antagonistic foreign policy. Additional Trumpian monstrosities such as the proposed cuts to the EPA and an end to local police reform efforts are also taking a back seat in media coverage. One has to ask: what is the end goal here? One likely consequence of this hysteria is that the Trump administration will be pressured into adopting an even more hostile policy towards Russia and its allies. It will under no circumstances lead to a more progressive vision at home or abroad.

4. It will bite liberals and Democrats in the ass in the end
The moment Democrats are back in the saddle and decide to promote detente with Russia or any other foreign power viewed as a rival, they will be attacked as hypocrites for so long leading a crusade based on the idea that hostility towards Russia should be the norm. If you go to some of the archives of liberal writers and bloggers currently beating this story to death, you will find that many of them in the past recognized the dangerous warmongering delusions of the anti-Russia neocons. During the 2008 Georgia-Russia War, it was acknowledged by liberals that neocons were promoting a reckless policy of confrontation with Russia. How on Earth can American liberalism credibly switch tack after this current round of Russia-bashing?

I’ve seen it said by conservatives that if Russia really is that dangerous that we should massively increase our defense spending. Others have accused the Democrats of being hypocrites for promoting hostility to Russia while also calling for reapproachment with Iran. If anything, if the Democrats succeed in making Russia a matter of national concern among the general population, it will benefit the neocon wing of the GOP much more than the Democratic Party.

5. It risks damaging long term prospects for peace with Russia
This is the most important reason by far. If the US political atmosphere becomes increasingly anti-Russia as the Democrats want it to be, it will be nearly impossible to come to any sort of diplomatic understanding with Russia in the near future. Use of the US military and intelligence agencies to “solve” global conflicts will be more palatable to the general public. Support for penetrating foreign interventionism will become a kind of litmus test as it was in the immediate post-9/11 hysteria of mindless patriotism that enabled the Iraq War.

Is this really what liberals want? I have to come to the conclusion that for many of them it is. Others who are on the fence about Trump/Russia scandalmongering should take note. If you want to avoid an aggressive foreign policy in the future, it is definitely not a scandal you want to promote.

The overrepresentation of Sunni right-wing in Muslim-American leadership

The following appalling Tweet was sent out today by the executive director of CAIR for the Los Angeles region:

russian-jet

I think a discussion is long overdue in the role the most prominent Muslim American organizations play in legitimizing both US imperialism in the Middle East and Sunni supremacy. If the above tweet occurred in a vacuum, it might be brushed aside as an fringe view by one official. Unfortunately, it fits into a wider pattern.

As the largest and most well-known Muslim American organization, the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), has an inconsistent record (to be charitable) when it comes to condemning US and Israeli intervention in the Muslim world. While it has admirably opposed Obama’s drone assassinationsIsrael’s repression of the Palestinians and the US invasion of Iraq, it also has lobbied for no fly zones (i.e. air support for regime change) in both Libya in 2011 and Syria in 2015. It has largely remained silent on the Saudi air campaign targeting Shia regions of Yemen. The only press release by the organization I can find refers to US citizens stuck in Yemen but makes no criticism or condemnation of the Saudi air strikes responsible for most civilian deaths. When put next to its strongly worded condemnations of the Assad government over the Syrian civil war, this strongly suggests a sectarian double standard.

Now, in all fairness, it should be noted that CAIR appears to have had a better record on relations with Shia Muslims before the chaos that has unfolded in Syria in the past five years. It condemned sanctions against Syria in 2002 as well as the IDF’s 2006 rampage against Shia regions of Lebanon.

Yet the above tweet by Hussam Ayloush (who actually applauds the US military in other tweets, it should be noted) cannot be excused under any circumstances. At a bare minimum, CAIR’s national headquarters should repudiate the views expressed in the tweet.

Further Reading From Ikhras.com

Letter From A Reader: U.S. Muslim And CAIR Supporter Rejects Call For “No-Fly Zone” Over Syria
CAIR Hypocrisy On Full Display After Terrorism Hits Beirut And Paris

Bernie is better than Hillary on racial issues

There was once a time on Twitter when bringing up Obama’s warmongering and widespread NSA surveillance got you labeled a “white dudebro.” Today these same people are doing everything they can to give Hillary Clinton the Democratic nomination through the use of weaponized Sociology 101 terms and she gave them a brief shout-out at her speech in Harlem.

The current Narrative is this: Bernie Sanders is a racially aloof white man who cares too much about economic issues and will somehow screw over the black community specifically. There is plenty to be frustrated with Bernie Sanders about, he is after all a right-social democrat, not a socialist as he often claims. It’s also hard to deny that he can come across as awkward and not “with it” (as if Hillary is?). But many of his loudest detractors are not even hiding their affinity for Team Hillary anymore. It can be a frustrating spectacle to watch as Bernie is put through the ringer by neo-liberal and pro-war shills who cynically exploit misread buzzwords like “intersectionality” to make themselves look like radicals rather than the reactionaries they are. Beyond all this bluster there is a noticeable lack of discussion of one thing: the actual policy proposals of both candidates. You would think this would be the most obvious thing to discuss, but we live in an age when style’s triumph over substance is outright celebrated in pseudo-intellectual think pieces rather than bemoaned.

The fact of the matter is that when it comes to racial issues, Bernie is indeed far superior to Hillary. Let me list a few of the differences in the racial justice pages on both their campaign sites:

Bernie Sanders is much more serious about combating police brutality
Hillary’s plan on police reform reads like a vague “let’s work together” statement that would put little to no pressure on police departments and their officers to stop abusing people. Admittedly, Bernie has many of the same tame ideas as Hillary such as body cameras and investments in “community policing” (*cringe*). But his page also asserts that:

We must ensure police departments are not abusing avenues of due process to shield bad actors from accountability. Local governments and police management must show zero tolerance for abuses of police power at all levels. All employees of any kind deserve due process protections, but it must be clear that departments will vigorously investigate and, if necessary, prosecute every allegation of wrongdoing to the fullest extent.

Police departments must investigate all allegations of wrongdoing, especially those involving the use of force, and prosecute aggressively, if necessary. If departments are unwilling or unable to conduct such investigations, the Department of Justice must step in and handle it for them. 

States and localities that make progress in this area should get more federal justice grant money. Those that do not should get their funding slashed. 

By contrast, Hillary’s statement on police reform reads like someone unwilling to rock the boat:

Strengthen bonds of trust between communities and police. African American men are far more likely to be stopped and searched by police, charged with crimes, and sentenced to longer prison terms than white men found guilty of the same offenses. From Ferguson to Staten Island to Baltimore, the patterns have become unmistakable and undeniable. Black lives matter. Everyone in this country should stand firmly behind that. Hillary believes that effective policing and constitutional policing go hand-in-hand—we can and must do both. As president, Hillary will invest in law enforcement training programs on issues such as implicit bias, use of force, and de-escalation. She will also create national guidelines for use of force, provide federal matching funds to make body cameras available to every police department in America, and support legislation to ban racial profiling by federal, state, and local law enforcement officials.

So the biggest stick Hillary brags about wanting to promote is legislation that bans racial profiling, a welcome proposal to be sure. But the overarching language is of someone who lacks a desire for confrontation with various law enforcement agencies. Bernie twice mentions the necessity of prosecuting bad cops and suggests cutting federal funding to police departments that are particularly abusive. Nothing revolutionary, to be sure, but Hillary makes zero mention of prosecuting cops on her page and puts much less emphasis on federal actions that might be seen as infringing on “states rights.”

Bernie supports much more comprehensive sentencing and prison reform
A perfect example: Bernie wants to abolish mandatory minimums altogether while Hillary wants to cut them in half. Consider it a kind of microcosm of what this primary is about: meaningful reform vs. reform that is intentionally incremental for the sake of being incremental. Bernie also proposes to “ban” privatized prisons while Hillary simply wants to “move away” from them. This language difference may seem trivial to some but to me it suggests that Hillary wants more flexibility in approaching what to other progressives is  a no-brainer: that prisons run for profit is one of the most wretched of wretched ideas that create a perverse incentive to imprison more people and should be banned at all levels and in all forms.

Bernie has a much more ambitious plan to combat poverty
Hillary herself said that economic and racial issues “intersect” so it should follow naturally that the candidate that is better on economic issues is probably better on racial issues. I mean, let’s not mince words here: black people in America have been screwed over massively by the US’ economic system. They brought here as slaves and created much of its early wealth under the brute savagery of the whip. Today they still face massive discrimination in jobs and housing. As a result of this legacy of malign neglect in the best of times and genocidal terror in the worst of times, the black community still faces massive impoverishment. Bernie’s plans for single-payer health care, a $15/hour minimum wage and a more expansive welfare state may not specifically target black poverty, but considering the disproportionate levels of poverty in the black community they sure as hell would help. According to his racial justice page, his proposed minimum wage policy alone would “increase the wages of about half of African-Americans and nearly 60 percent of Latinos” if enacted.

Bernie also endorses a $1 trillion dollar plan to rebuild America’s crumbling infrastructure and create jobs while Hillary’s plan only calls for $125 billion. For the record, the American Society of Civil Engineers gives a number of $3.6 trillion needed to fix America’s infrastructure by 2020. Needless to say, Bernie’s plan comes much closer to this number and has a much greater chance of preventing future tragedies similar to the Flint water crisis.

On a side note: Hating Wall Street isn’t just a “white” thing…
One of the most bizarre and enraging talking points being bandied about by Hillary supporters is that Bernie’s focus on malfeasance by large financial institutions is an obsession among upper-class white progressive and generally not a sentiment shared by the poorer and darker-skinned. In the real world, the recent foreclosure crisis that accompanied the financial crisis hit America’s marginalized minorities the absolute hardest and severely reduced their net wealth. So, a candidate that accepts more money from big banks and has a history of being more open to liberalizing financial regulations may, in fact, be worse for black Americans. I mean, duh!

So, uh, yeah. All of this should be incredibly obvious to anyone who doesn’t prioritize fancy photo-ops and endless posturing about “authenticity” over the gritty details of public policy. I mean, Bernie is far more progressive than Hillary on most issues, except for guns, maybe.

What the fuck? How are we even having this debate?

Recommended Reading:
Hillary Clinton’s cynical race appeals: The revenge of neoliberal identity politics” by Daniel Denvir

 

Bernie Sanders’ public statements on Gulf War I

It’s no secret that Bernie Sanders is making Hillary Clinton’s vote in favor of the invasion of Iraq a big issue on the campaign trail and at Democratic primary debates. However, this commitment to a supposed antiwar position is a bit iffy when you look at his record on other US interventions. Indeed, during the first Democratic debate he openly bragged about his support for NATO’s bombing of Serbia in 1999. I feel that the issue of Iraq prior to the 2003 invasion needs to be looked at to get a greater feel of the candidate’s stance on war and peace. In this post, I will address his stance on the First Gulf War.

In early 1991, Sanders made numerous statements into the Congressional Record about his opposition to a US-led military solution to the Iraq-Kuwait crisis. It is clear from these statements he was adamantly opposed to any sort of military action but believed that sanctions could and should be maintained to pressure Saddam’s regime to leave Kuwait. In fairness, many antiwar activists held this pro-sanctions position at the time but later changed their minds when it became clear that the combined effects of the embargo and the Coalition bombings were causing a humanitarian crisis. He also made a number of statements that connected US’ willingness to go to war to protect “feudalistic dictatorships as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait” with its unwillingness to take care of its own domestic population. Once and a while he did touch upon the suffering among Iraqi civilians that the war would inevitably create:

What I don’t agree with, however, is that war–and the potential loss of thousands of young American, lives and tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi women and children–is the only means by which we can achieve our goals.

It seems to me, however, that the challenge of our time is not simply to begin a war which will result in the deaths of tens and tens of thousands of people, young Americans, innocent women and children in Iraq, but the real challenge of our time is to see how we can stop aggression, how we can stop evil in a new way, in a nonviolent way.

He also contrasted the eagerness to go to war with the hesitance to combat Third World poverty:

Today, 30,000 children starve to death in the Third World, and all over the planet people were saying, ‘Finally, now we can begin to address those problems, deal with the needs for helping the Eastern European countries that are becoming democratic.’ There is rejoicing. Then suddenly once more we heard that as soon as we took a deep breath that the cold war was over, there is another war upon the world.

While the condemnations are likely far beyond what most anti-war members of Congress could muster at the time, they still far short of anything a Marxist–or even a committed anti-imperialist–would have said.

But credit where credit is due: Sanders voted against the Gulf War and forcefully spoke out against it. Perhaps more impressively, he was one of only six brave Congress members to vote against a resolution that “supported the United States presence in the Persian Gulf.” The text of the resolution was boilerplate “Support Our Troops” stuff that far too many anti-war voices find inoffensive. So props for that one.

In my next post I will address his (relatively hard to find) stances on the sanctions against Iraq.

Sanders Statements (1991):
Public opinion supports continuing sanctions, rejects war (January 09)
Avoiding war in the Persian Gulf (January 09)
Unions urge president to let the sanctions work (January 10)
Four Minutes during a debate (January 11)
Reflections on my views (January 15)
A tragic day for humanity (January 17)
An appeal to the White House to stop the bombing (January 17)
Why I voted ‘no’ on the resolution (January 18)
The Persian Gulf War (February 06)

Millionaire Ezra Klein thinks raising taxes on the rich is Bad Now

Vox’s Ezra Klein on Bernie Sanders health care plan (bolding mine):

Clinton’s third attack was that Sanders’s plan would raise taxes on the middle class. In response, Sanders gets very detailed on the financing of his plan. It would raise taxes on the middle class — in part through a 2.2 percent tax increase on all income, and in part by a 6.2 percent “income-based premium” on employers (which would, in turn, get passed onto workers through lower wages and higher prices).

The rest of the financing would come through a raft of new taxes on the rich. Sanders would raise marginal rates on income over $250,000, he would raise the tax rate on capital gains and dividend income, he would hike the estate tax, and he would close sundry deductions and loopholes.

In general, I’m comfortable with higher taxes on the rich — though they’ve risen substantially in the Obama era already — but tax increases of the scale Sanders proposes here would begin to have real economic drawbacks. European countries tend to pay for their health-care systems through more broad-based, economically efficient taxes like VATs; Sanders’s effort to fund a universal health-care system so heavily on the backs of the wealthy would be unprecedented.

The highest tax rate under Sanders’ plan, for the record, is 52% for incomes exceeding $10 million a year. Now I certainly realize that 52% sounds like a big chunk of anything, but once you hear the “FOR INCOMES OVER TEN FUCKING MILLION DOLLARS PER YEAR” any such concern should dry up. I mean seriously, if you honestly feel the slightest bit of sympathy for someone making over $10 million in a year because they face paying more in taxes to support health care for all Americans, you shouldn’t get to call yourself a “liberal” (and I realize how diluted that term has become already). You are a moderate libertarian.

I really wish Klein and his crew of “wonky” moderate libertarians would just fuck off already. It’s bad enough that self-proclaimed “liberal Democrats” are shitting on the very concept of single-payer health care because Hillary is against it. Now we’re supposed to believe that taxing the rich can Go Too Far because everyone’s favorite millionaire boy genius says it could be “inefficient.”

And for the record: I don’t even like Bernie. I’ve loathed him since I heard him lauding the bombing of Serbia at the first Democratic debate. In addition to warmongering, his brand of social democracy aims at middle class respectability far too much. But good god, if establishment progressives are now convinced that taxing multi-millionaires at a rate only slightly above half is “too much” then things are even worse than I could have imagined.