John Chuckman



Donald Trump is something new to the American presidency. In style and language, he is the first president from Dogpatch, the fictional home of the old Sunday newspaper comics character, Li’l Abner. It is remarkable for a man who seems also to like dress-up occasions with tuxedos or tails and resorts and mansions, but there is just no denying the identifiable mindset and attitudes. It’s the Beverly Hillbillies living in an expensive Fifth Avenue apartment.

A Trump political base supporter has many Dogpatch qualities, especially in wanting little to do with international arrangements of any kind, except bombing, or real progress which necessarily entails uncomfortable change. The attitudes towards foreigners and minorities are what you’d find in Dogpatch, as well as the conviction that much of that ugly world out there just wants to take things from Americans.

Trump understands all of that in his gut. He is not thoughtful or at all intellectual or analytical, but he has the animal cunning and instinctive understanding of a high predator.

When Trump showily hugs a big, thick, satiny American flag to his cheek, posing for a photo with a slightly crazed smile as though he were under the spell of a drug or a sensuous woman, he’s providing a kind of American patriotic parody of a Russian Orthodox Church icon. That flag, for those Americans, hugged that way, captures their constellation of beliefs and dislikes, including providing a symbol of their home team ready to take on all foreigners. It absolutely does not represent rule of law, democratic values, and close regard for human rights.

Emerson wrote of most men “living lives of quiet desperation,” and I think there’s much truth in that, but I believe confusion is the state of a good portion of humanity, more than many people would care to admit. And Trump’s crowd is confused. That’s one of the reasons his supporters are so enthusiastic about him. He is confused, quite apparently about a good many things, and that makes a kind of brotherhood bond.

As does the fact that he refuses to admit to ever having any confusion, insisting on just stomping his feet and charging ahead like a bull. Confidence. Leadership. At least what his crowd understands as leadership.

Part of the confusion we see fairly widely in America represents a lack of critical education. America’s public-school system is risk-averse and politically extremely touchy. It has little tolerance for the kind of educators who impart genuine critical thinking.

Part of the confusion represents irrationality, mental imbalance, forms and shades of madness, conditions remarkably common in people. Think about all our biases and prejudices and fears, think about our superstitions, our religions, our politics, think of all our violent crimes and senseless vandalism, and you may agree with me that we are much less rational than we credit ourselves with being.

Trump’s supporters recognize their qualities reflected in him. Trump is not a man who reads, at all, and he is not a man to listen patiently to experts. He is in fact an extremely impatient man. Those, too, are defining characteristics for a goodly portion of America’s people, and he is their man. Expressions like, “He don’t take no guff!” and “She thinks her sh-t don’t stink!” are ones I’ve heard repeated many times through my life. They are “as American as cherry pie.”

Great leaders, and Trump is anything but, do not necessarily mirror the nature of their followers. Instead they are able to fashion a set of actions and policies with which many can identify or take pride in at least some portion. Putin is a very good example. I don’t think a great many Russians resemble him. He is an exceptional person in many qualities, but he is able to construct a program, parts of which most Russians can identify with and take pride in. That is sophisticated leadership. What Trump offers is more along the lines of nativism and tribalism.

Many years ago, journalist Tom Wicker wrote a book about Richard Nixon called “One of Us,” and that phrase captures what the people of Trump’s political base see in him. Never mind the wealthy status and resorts and tuxes and endless rounds of golf, he is one of us. That makes for a strong bond, such people relishing Trump’s exalted status combined with the crude way he enjoys it, a kind of bringing things down to their level, the kind of thing some old comedy teams, such as the Marx Brothers, used to do in movies.

No high-falutin airs. Likes watching television and eating hamburgers. Often believes he’s done something when he hasn’t, reminding one of that old American architype, the gracious and gentile Southern Colonel who in fact never was a Colonel.

Trump’s always ready with a new outpouring of words to defend what he has done badly. Never at a loss for words even when the words contradict what he’s already said. Confusion. Irrationality. “Bull sh-t baffles brains,” another phrase once commonly heard in America.

The confusion of people who would never think of taking “the Lord’s name in vain” supporting a man who does so regularly. The confusion of people who like wars and anything where America gets to come out on top supporting a man who avoided military service through a feeble excuse, a college basketball player incapacitated by heel spurs?

The confusion of people who for the most part do not like people who are not like themselves, as say, Muslims or Mexicans or Chinese. There’s no denying it, various strains of racism have always been part of the American social-political fabric, likely originating both in the long-lived institution of slavery and in the brutal wars on indigenous people that came with the long westward expansion. Related also are America’s Mexican and Spanish wars and hostilities and acts for limiting or preventing Chinese migration to the West Coast.

Perhaps, too, the great waves of earlier migration, mainly from poor parts of Europe, brought the prejudices of many different peoples, for it is fundamental part of human nature to have prejudices. Prejudice is not the property of any one people. It is society’s job to control its possible effects and to enforce fairness, but it cannot make prejudice go away. A President or any high official who gives off a sense of indulging prejudice, as Trump does even if he isn’t personally acting on it, is working against the proper duty of government. Some of Trump’s people love him for that.

Americans are people with a lot of resentments and anger. You can feel the anger in American society in many places just by walking around on the streets. Hard to get a good job and keep it. Hard to earn enough to have the things an American thinks he should have. It’s been like that while, for a good many years since the blindly happy days of “the American Dream.” It is, of course, just a symptom of America’s relative economic decline in the world. And whatever Trump says, fantasizing for his political supporters, there is little to be done for that but hard work and sacrifice and investment for the future.

But that hardly provides an attractive, snappy political program. Far more appealing are fantasies, like MAGA, and bellowing aggression towards those who are doing well because they do understand those principles, like the Chinese. And so much more readily embraced when the opponent is different. Differences enable people to visualize hatreds, much like statues of demons on Cathedrals.

It wouldn’t occur to many that all that borrowed money spent on the Pentagon and foreign wars could have been spent instead on the homeland equivalent of China’s New Silk Road, vast infrastructure improvements that would generate jobs for many years to come, improve the nation’s future competitiveness, and at least leave things of worth behind when the inevitable time comes to pay the bills for all the borrowing. But that’s just not the way most Americans were raised to think.

In reality, their political system makes it almost impossible for Americans to choose such a path. As I’ve explained elsewhere, the Pentagon and security services serve empire, and empire serves the establishment and the plutocracy. It generates careers and wealth for all the participants, and it’s just too bad for everyone else. The political system isn’t structured for change. No one with power wants change. And Trump’s delusions about grabbing from the rest of the world and giving it to Americans represents a one-way trip to nowhere. It represents, in effect, a continuation with new rhetoric and raises the risks of war and conflict along the way, but, of course, that’s music to the ears of much of the establishment.

No, the Pentagon is regarded much like the photo of Trump hugging the flag. A holy icon. It has been brainwashed into the society.

Posted January 14, 2020 by JOHN CHUCKMAN in Uncategorized

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John Chuckman



“I Wrote a Book Exposing Bill Browder’s Deceptions Because He Could Trigger a Major War With Russia

“Having experienced, first-hand, a vicious war in Yugoslavia, caused by the same kind lying Browder engages in, this author felt he had to speak up.”


This is a well-written piece. I hope it stimulates people to read the book.

“Today most westerners seem ready to believe that Putin is a tyrant, that he routinely has critics and political rivals assassinated, that he amassed a vast personal fortune and that he runs Russia as his own personal fiefdom.”

Yes, and why is that? Our newspapers and broadcasts are larded with negative stuff about Russia all the time. I can’t recall a time recently seeing a good story about Russia, a huge country with all kinds of diverse and interesting things going on. Some of the stories reach frightening levels of paranoia, as this, following, not long ago in The Guardian (I could cite many more from that truly threadbare excuse for a newspaper, but this one marks a peak in their relentless efforts):

When it isn’t actual accusations of some unproved event, such as Theresa May’s weird Skripal Affair, it is just a clear assumption and tone that our press – always following our dishonest politicians as closely as baby ducks imprinted to waddle behind their mothers – is speaking about a country that is somehow “other,” a country that doesn’t operate by the same rules good old America does.

But it really shouldn’t surprise anyone who has a little history and who observes and thinks about things.

First, we must always remember that America waged a 24 hour-a-day internal propaganda war for decades on the subjects of Russia and communism. The FBI worked tirelessly on the subject, as did the CIA, and the press simply was constantly putting attitudes and perspectives “out there” instead of news or facts.

I still remember, as a young man in my home town of Chicago, when Lyndon Johnson first started committing men towards what would literally become an American-created holocaust in Vietnam, seeing a disturbing editorial in one of the more “liberal” papers in the city, the Chicago Sun-Times – liberal, that is, only by comparison with something like the Chicago Tribune, an unrelenting advocate for all things on the extreme Right. The editorial was headlined, I still remember, “The Reds Are at the Gates!”

Well, decades of that kind of stuff does leave some toxic residue, even after the world has changed. That’s why Germany carried on a long and intense campaign against Nazism after the Hitler years. But voraciously anti-Russia, anti-communist America never has made any effort to expunge the memories and results of the likes of J. Edgar Hoover and Allen Dulles and James Jesus Angleton.

And, today, America’s establishment has new reasons for not doing so and indeed for re-igniting the old fires. It is determined to dominate the globe and force advantages from other nations as a means of avoiding its inevitable relative economic decline and the future change in political influence that that entails. The Neocon Wars in the Middle East have been only one part of an effort in many directions and through many means, including threats and sanctions and coups and attacking international organizations of every description.

Russia and China, naturally enough, are seen as barriers against this intense new effort, but Russia’s geography, touching, as it does, America’s unofficial satrapy of Europe and with proximity to the Middle East containing America’s much-privileged colony of Israel, plus its capacity to literally obliterate the United States, make it the greatest target of establishment hate. Russia today and a number of other states welcome a coming multi-polar world. America’s establishment regards it only with fear and loathing.

America has done nothing now abroad but bomb and kill people for over a decade and a half. I don’t know the actual number of deaths – American sources are very coy about how many people they kill, as we learned in the First Gulf War where the number of Iraqis killed was never offered, although we know it was huge with B-52s dropping full loads on sand forts in the desert – but I’m sure the total comes in at no less than two million.

They’ve destroyed, or attempted to destroy, a number of societies – Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Syria, and others. And they work away at threatening and manipulating still others, everywhere from Iran to Venezuela or Nicaragua. They also tolerate atrocities by Saudi Arabia and Israel, and, to somewhat a lesser extent, by Egypt, because those governments serve and support their overall purpose. Browbeaten governments like Britain and France work as willing helpers while constantly misrepresenting to their own people what it is they actually are doing, as with the cutthroats of ISIS or al Nusra in Syria, whom they have supported and assisted.

And then there are the millions of desperate refugees created by all that destruction, so many they nearly destabilized Europe, and discussion of refugees in the United States, in its politics and in some popular culture, has turned into a national festival of hate, as though refugees did nothing but rob and rape and kill. And I am not exaggerating in the least.

Trump has been a keen promoter of these views and attitudes, but his words do not go out to an unreceptive audience. There are large portions of American society very receptive to such stuff, just as they are receptive to crude stuff about Russia.

And, of course, we have a hi-tech state-operated extrajudicial killing machinery that carries on day and night murdering people no one even knows anything about. The victims are selected by the very folks doing the killing, the thugs and psychopaths at the CIA. And when I say “victims” I’m not even referring to the many innocents killed in the explosions of Hellfire missiles, deemed as “collateral damage,” I’m referring to the targets themselves, victims in every sense of the word, people condemned to be burned alive with no charges or lawyer or trial or rights of any kind.

Now, while all that inhumanity and brutality from their own government goes on, you would be hard put to find large numbers of Americans who know much about it. Their press and politicians never directly speak in such terms. Everything reported is couched in euphemism or they just recite downright lies. And there is the fact that Americans often take very little interest in what is going on abroad – in part because America is itself such a large and noisy and dynamic and time-consuming society. But it is an attitude which very much assists the government in its great volume of dirty work. Surprisingly few people abroad I think appreciate this important fact.

When George Bush was running for president, he once bragged and laughed over telling people he never read the international section of his newspaper. It was the kind of stupid joke you expect from a very stupid man, but the anecdote is notable in that Bush felt very comfortable in making it while appealing for votes. The irony of the presidency now being an office having more to do with events abroad (in the imperial wars and manipulations of others around the world) than events at home is lost on many Americans. Their attitudes are extremely naïve.

There is also the tendency in people – especially people with strong ideological beliefs as many Americans have, which work to insulate the mind against outside influence, exactly the way strong religious beliefs do – to not really see what they are looking at. The best example of many I could cite, is Israel’s current relentless slaughter of unarmed marchers in Gaza. Organized gangs of snipers behind fences, week after week, shoot into crowds of people demonstrating for some rights. Something like 18,000 have been injured and something like 180 killed in cold blood, including women and children and even well-marked medics. Yet, Americans see this atrocity and cling to the narrative that Israel is only defending itself from terror, even showing “restraint,” and their press and politicians faithfully work hard to reassure them of that.

Of course, all of this stresses the importance of the press abroad, Russia’s being extremely important today because the press in American-dominated places like Britain and France reads and sounds a great deal like the press in America, mostly making the same assumptions and promoting the same narratives. It is actually quite a distressing phenomenon to anyone seeking decent information or even a little different perspective on events.

No critically-minded person automatically accepts the truth of everything in the Russian press either. Russia has its own efforts at persuasion and motives for evasion at times, but on many international issues it is clear that some valid information is supplied by Russia. That can be confirmed in many ways, from the voices of truly independent, respectable journalists to the rare authoritative voice speaking out from within a country such as Britain or the United States.

And even where it cannot be confirmed, the time-honored analytical technique of comparing what two very different sources, like the United States and Russia, claim about a story can be quite helpful in revealing roughly where the truth is. After all, that’s precisely what judges and juries in our courts do all the time. It is a valid technique, but you must have that other side of the story to use it.

If you are someone in the United States or Britain, say, who relies, day-in, day-out, on some single news source such as CBS or The Washington Post or the BBC or The Guardian, I can absolutely assure you, at least on the matters discussed here, that you are misinformed.

That’s a sad reflection on our Western society, with its claims to Enlightenment and humanitarian principles, but I can’t think of another broad statement that is any truer. The motives for deception and the size of the stakes for doing so rise tremendously with the dirty work of empire and aggression, the very work in which the American government is now engaged full-time.

Posted September 25, 2018 by JOHN CHUCKMAN in Uncategorized

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