"From the point of view of U.S. power, (Trump) is harming it, but from the point of view of U.S. elites, he's giving them everything they want," Chomsky said, describing the current administration as a "two-level wrecking ball."
The political activist and cognitive scientist went on to describe the incumbent U.S. president as a "con man."
"Everyday there's one insane thing after the other... and while this show is going on in public, in the background, the wrecking crew is working.
"What they're doing is systematically dismantling every aspect of government that works for the benefit of the population. This goes from workers' rights to pollution of the environment, rules for protecting consumers, anything you can think of is being dismantled."
Chomsky reasoned that the ultra-wealthy, Wall Street and the constituents of those in power couldn't be more pleased with efforts made to increase their fortunes.
"That's why the stock market goes up: the stock market has not much to do with the economy, but it keeps booming because that's the rich people."
Chomsky pointed out that the decline of the United States, a trend tacitly expressed whenever Trump vows to "make America great again," began not recently but back in 1949 when China became independent.
The loss of China was followed, Chomsky said, by "McCarthyism, repression and the destruction of unions." It continued under President John F. Kennedy when he was weighing whether to escalate in Vietnam and said: "I don't want to be responsible for the loss of Indochina."
The decline of the U.S. empire further accelerated when Europe and other industrial societies reconstructed in the wake of World War II: "decolonization took place" and the empire has yet to recover, Chomsky said.
President Donald Trump’s executive order-based travel ban against people from six Muslim majority countries violates the US Constitution by discriminating against people on the basis of religion, Virginia's 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals said in a ruling on Thursday.
In a 9-4 decision, judges from the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals said that its examination of the executive order, along with official statements by the president and other officials were "unconstitutionally tainted with animus toward Islam."
The ruling was the second by a federal appeals court to challenge the travel ban, signed by President Trump last fall.
The US Supreme Court agreed to allow the executive order's restrictions to go into effect amid ongoing litigation, but is expected to hear arguments on its legality starting in April. The court is expected to rule on the matter in late June.
Presidential Proclamation 9645, signed by Trump in September, restricts entry into the US for persons from eight countries, including Chad, Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Somalia, as well as North Korea and Venezuela.
In December 2017, the San Francisco-based US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that President Trump's third immigration order exceeded the scope of his authority. According to the court, the president's interpretation of Article 8 of the Immigration and Nationality Act deviated from legislative history and prior executive practice, and the president did not have the constitutional powers to adopt the order.
ICE carried out more than 140,000 arrests that year after Trump authorized federal agents to target all immigrants regardless of criminal record.
Arrests of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. rose by 30 percent in 2017 compared to a year earlier under the administration of Donald Trump who has expanded the authority of immigration agents and ramped up anti-immigration policies in the United States, an analysis by the Pew Research Center showed Thursday.
Data from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, shows that it made 143,470 arrests over the course of 2017 and that the biggest percentage increases of arrests were in Florida, northern Texas and Oklahoma.
Meanwhile from Jan. 20, when Trump was inaugurated, to the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30 ICE made 110,568 arrests, 42 percent more than over the same time period in 2016, according to the research center.
“Recent immigration arrest patterns demonstrate a growing emphasis by federal authorities on interior enforcement efforts,” the center said meaning that ICE federal agents are targeting undocumented immigrants who live in cities around the U.S. rather than those around border areas with Mexico or Canada.
The rise in arrests stems from a Trump executive order signed shortly after he came to office expanding ICE enforcement to include all undocumented immigrants instead of the limits that had been placed on the agency by his predecessor Barack Obama to focus on those who committed serious crimes.
However, the research center points out that the number of arrests made in 2017 is far less than those made in Obama’s first year in office. ICE arrested almost 300,000 undocumented immigrants in 2009, which had prompted pro-immigration activists to call Obama “deporter-in-chief”.
Also the 2017 record of arrests is only the highest over the past three years, meaning that arrests during Obama’s presidency were still higher the first few years of his eight-year tenure before declining towards the end of his presidency.
Official data shows that between 2009 and 2015 his administration deported more than 2.5 million people through immigration orders.
However, Trump might manage to beat Obama’s record as he has signed several orders in recent months that could see the the deportation of hundreds of thousands of immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and other countries.
Some of the ICE arrests in recent months generated large backlash in the U.S. as they targeted immigration activists and immigrants who have been living in the country for decades with families and jobs and had not committed any crimes.
Jorge Garcia made international headlines last month when pictures of him hugging his family at the airport as he was being deported by ICE agents despite having lived in the U.S. for 30 years, paying taxes and having children in the country with no criminal record. The 39-year-old came to the U.S. when he was 10-years-old from Mexico and had sought legal status for years without luck.
Also last month, Jean Montrevil, Haitian immigrant rights activist and co-founder of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City, was deported back to his country less than two weeks after he was arrested by ICE, agents, despite having lived in the U.S. for more than 30 years and having no criminal record.
The Yitzhar settlers, who received money from a foundation directed by Trump’s son-in-law, are considered extreme by Israel itself.
Extremist Jewish settlers in the West Bank attempted to kidnap two Palestinian children aged 10 and 14 from a West Bank village during the presence of Israeli occupation forces, local news outlets reported Thursday.
Locals at the village of Madma south of Nablus managed to thwart the attempt as the Yitzhar settlers tried to kidnap the two kids while they were attending to sheep on the outskirts of the village, Quds Press reported. The extremist settlers then retreated to their illegal settlement before Israeli forces began to throw tear gas at the local Palestinians.
Yitzhar settlement by the Palestinian city Nablus is home to the radical “Od Yosef Chai” group, which has received funds from the Kushner foundation directed by Jared Kushner, the son-in-law and senior advisor of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump.
Those Jewish settlers are even seen as radicals by the Israeli government itself. Yitzhar is seen as the birthplace of the settler movement "price tag," which calls for attacks against Palestinians in retaliation for actions of the Israeli government against West Bank settlements that are not sanctioned by Israeli authorities.
“This particular yeshiva has served as a base for launching violent attacks against nearby Palestinians villages and Israeli security forces, as well; as a result, it no longer receives funding from the Israeli government,” Israeli left-leaning newspaper Haaretz said in a report about their activities.
Extremist settlers believe that the West Bank must be part of a greater biblical Israel that was promised to the Jewish people that stretches between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean sea. They reject the fact that the Israeli state entertains the mere rhetorical possibility of a Palestinian state.
Yitzhar settlers are notorious for their fanaticism and violent acts against Palestinians as they routinely destroy Palestinian olive groves and vandalize Palestinian property.
The news comes as the West Bank and Gaza have been rocked with unrest over the past two months over the Dec. 6 decision of the U.S. administration to recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel, breaking with international accords stating that the fate of the city should be decided as part of a final peace agreement between Israel and Palestine.
Trump’s move has been welcomed by far-right pro-settlements figures within the Israeli government who have also publicly expressed their opposition to the establishment of a Palestinian state, arguing that Palestinian people do not exist and are just simply Arabs from other countries who have no roots in Palestine.
In the Trump speech last night, there were no fewer than twelve such ‘gallery scenes’ to break up the mesmerizing stop-rise-clap-sit down nonsense.
Presidents’ State of the Union speeches used to report on accomplishments of the past year and proposals for new programs and policy changes for the next. Just as the country we once knew, those days are long gone.
In the 21st century, the format is mostly theatrical: The president offers a short sentence about how wonderful America is, cuts his sentence short, and waits for applause. The Congress rises and claps longer than the spoken sentence that brought them to their feet. This goes on every 15 seconds. Sometimes less. Up and down, up and down. Turn off the volume, and it’s similar to canned laughter in a TV situation comedy—with the visual effect of bouncing butts replacing the canned laughter. Except it’s all more tragic than it is comedic.
A stranger viewing for the first time must conclude that something anatomically must be wrong with their backsides. Up-down, up-down. But when the incessant pattern of ‘short phrase, rise and clap too long, sit down’ threatens to become too repetitive, a new theatrical effect is introduced. Now it’s the president introducing staged character actors in the gallery above the floor, each introduction providing an appeal to the tv audience’s emotions. In the Trump speech last night, there were no fewer than twelve such ‘gallery scenes’ to break up the mesmerizing stop-rise-clap-sit down nonsense.
First, there was ‘Ashley, the helicopter lady,’ then ‘Dolberg the firefighter,’ Congressman Scalise, whose only claim to fame was he got himself shot (definitely not on the level of the other ‘heroes’), followed. And how about the 12-year-old ‘Preston the flag boy,’ with whom Trump said he had a great conversation before the speech. (I’m sure it was of comparable intellect).
But clever by far was the next gallery event, the four parents whose kids were killed by MS13 gang members in Long Island, NY. All four were black, apparently to blunt the racist appeal by Trump injected into the scene, suggesting that all immigrants were gang members who came here as a result of ‘chained migration’ family policy. I guess MS13 gangsters never killed whites.
Not surprisingly, the next gallery scene was the ICE agent, a guy named Martinez who heroically smashed the MS13 gangsters. Of course, he too was Hispanic.
Both theatrical scenes dealing with ‘immigrant gangsters arriving by chained migration’ provided Trump a nice segway into describing his ‘4 pillars’ immigration bill, the only policy proposal he actually spelled out in his nearly hour and a half speech.
For a pathway to citizenship that would take 12 years for ‘Dreamer’ kids, Trump would have his $30 billion-plus border wall, a new immigration policy based on ‘merit’ (welcome Norwegians), as well as an end to family ‘chained migration policy’ (which somehow would also protect the nuclear family, according to Trump). The message: white folks’ nuclear families good; immigrant folks’ (especially Latino) extended families bad, was the suggested logic.
What it all added up to? If Democrats agreed to his pillars 2-4 right now, maybe there would be citizenship for Dreamers sometime by 2030! What a deal. But who knows, maybe the Democrats will take it, given that they retreated from their prior ‘line in the sand’ of pass DACA and dreamers or they’ll shut down the government.
The next theater event was no less interesting than the immigration scenes in the Trump play that was the presidential State of the Union address last night. In typical Trumpian worship of the police and military, Trump (the draft dodger) introduced an Albuquerque policeman in the gallery who had talked a pregnant woman on drugs from committing suicide. Seems the woman was desperate about bringing a kid into the world she’d be unable to afford to raise. The solution by the policeman was to offer to adopt her baby if she didn’t kill herself. It worked. The kid and mother were saved, and the policeman adopted the child. The policeman’s wife accompanied him in the gallery—with an infant in her arms of course. Not sure whose it was but no matter. Now that was double theater, a scene within a scene. Shakespeare would have been proud.
That impressive bit of theater, perhaps the high point of all the ‘gallery effects’ of the evening, was the intro to Trump’s solution to the Opioid crisis in America, where 60,000 a year now die from overdoses. In his speech, Trump’s solution to the opioid crisis was ‘let’s get tougher on drug dealers’. He failed to mention, of course, that the drug dealers in question most responsible for launching the opioid crisis were the prescription drug companies themselves who pushed their products like Fentanyl and Percoset on doctors a decade ago, telling them the drugs weren’t addictive.
As for the even larger prescription drug problem in American—i.e., the runaway cost of drugs that are killing unknown thousands of Americans who can’t afford them because of price gouging—Trump merely said “prices will come down substantially…just watch!” That solution echoed his press conference of several weeks ago when he publicly addressed the opioid crisis…but offered no solution specifics how. Watching Trump solve the opioid crisis will be slower than watching grass grow…in winter!
Trump’s speech was not all theater. Much of it was factual—except the facts were mostly misrepresentations and outright lies.
Like unemployment is at a record low. But not when part time, temp, contract and gig work is added to full time. More than 13 million are still officially jobless. The rate is still close to 10%. And that doesn’t count the 5-10 million workers who have dropped out of the labor force altogether since 2008, leading to record lows in labor force participate rates and employment to population ratios. That rate and ratio hasn’t changed under Trump.
Another lie was that wages are finally starting to rise. Whose wages? If you want to count average wages and salaries of the 30 million managers, supervisors, and self-employed, maybe so. But according to US Labor department data, real average hourly earnings for all non-farm workers in the US in 2017 rose by a whopping 4 cents!
Trump cited again his Treasury Secretary, Mnuchin’s, ridiculous figure that the average family income household would realize $4,000 a year in tax cuts. But no economist I know believes that absurd claim.
Perhaps the biggest facts manipulation occurred with Trump’s references to his recent tax cuts. He cited a list of so-called middle class tax cuts, leaving out wealthy individual tax cuts measures. Typical was his claim of doubling the standard deduction, worth $800 billion in tax cuts for the working poor below $24k a year in income. But he failed to mention the additional $2.1 trillion hikes on the middle class. (Or the $2 trillion in corresponding cuts for wealthiest households.) Independent studies show the middle class may get some tax cuts initially, but those end by the seventh year, and then rise rapidly thereafter by year ten. In contrast, the corporate, business, and wealthy household cuts keep going—beyond the tenth year.
What Trump conveniently left out in his speech regarding taxes also qualifies as lie by omission. He noted the corporate tax rate was reduced from 35% to 21% and the non-corporate business income deductions were increased by 20%. That was $1.5 trillion and $310 billion, respectively.
Or that the Obamacare mandate repeal saved businesses another $300 billion. And multinational corporations would reap the lion’s share of $1 trillion in tax cuts, at minimum. And all that still doesn’t account for accelerated depreciation under the Act. Or abolition of the corporate Alternative Minimum Tax. Or continuation of the infamous corporate loopholes, like carried interest, corporate offshore ‘inversions’, or gimmicks that corporate tax lawyers joke about—like the ‘dutch sandwich’ and ‘double Irish’.
Then there were the Trump jokes. I don’t mean anything actually funny. Nonsense statements like “beautiful clean coal” (the oxymoron statement of the year). Or that US companies offshore are “roaring coming back to where the action is”. And car companies are bringing jobs back (while laying off in thousands). “Americans (white) are dreamers too”. Or the phony infrastructure program that’s coming, where companies will be subsidized by the federal government in ‘public-private partnership’ deals. And his unexplained reference to ‘prison reform’ (really?). Perfunctory references to trade, job training, another non-starter.
Hidden between the lines were other serious references, however. Like his ominous threat to “remove government employees” who ‘fail the American people’ or ‘undermine American trust’, which sounded like a warning from Trump to the bureaucracy not to cross him or else. Or his slap at National Football League players for not saluting the flag. Or plans to expand Guantanamo and the US nuclear arsenal. Or reaffirmation of the definition of ‘enemy combatants’ (which may include US citizens). Trump re-established the fact of his threat to civil liberties.
On the foreign policy front it was mostly threats as well, new and old: To withhold UN funding. Renewed support for new sanctions against Cuba and Venezuela. But North Korea was left for last. Here the return to theater was among the most dramatic. The last ‘gallery scene’ involved a legless defector from North Korea, Seong Ho, brought all the way from So. Korea just for the speech. This was theater with props; applause was sustained as Mr. Ho raised and shook his crutches above his head after Trump’s introduction.
Trump then rode the emotional wave to conclusion with his closing theme that the American people themselves are what’s great about America. Too bad he doesn’t mean all Americans.
So far as Trump speeches go, it was a ‘safe speech’, a teleprompter speech. But typically Trump. Lots of false facts. Emphasis on dividing the country. Long on Theater and emotional appeals to ‘enemies within and without’. And short on policy specifics. But after all, apart from tax cuts and deregulation for corporations and the rich, and a failed Obamacare repeal, not much was achieved in 2017 for him to talk about. And so far as new ideas for 2018 are concerned, there’s ‘no there there’ as well.
President Trump said the US might decrease aid to Palestine during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
“When they disrespected us a week ago by not allowing our great vice president to see them, and we give them hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and support, tremendous numbers, numbers that nobody understands – that money is on the table and that money is not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace," Trump said.
“And they [Palestinians] are going to have to want to make peace too, or we’re going to have nothing to do with it any longer,” he added.
Earlier in the week, a brawl erupted in Israel's Knesset after Arab lawmakers protested US Vice President Mike Pence's speech. The MPs – who were holding signs which read "Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine" – were removed from the building.
AlterNet senior writer Max Blumenthal called Pence’s speech “deeply offensive” to Palestinians.
“Mike Pence was the first vice president to visit the Israeli Knesset. He is a Christian Evangelical who pounded the Bible before the Knesset, essentially staking Israel’s claim to all of Jerusalem on the Bible, which is even from Biblical historical perspectives false,” he told RT.
Earlier, Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas branded Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “the slap of the century.”
According to Blumenthal, this move signaled a “break with decades of American policy and an explosion, a detonation of the two-state solution.” It is natural that Abbas responded this way and refused to meet with Pence, he added.
In Blumenthal’s view, the real reason why Trump threatened to suspend aid to the Palestinian Authority “is because he is being controlled by his son-in-law, the ‘American Crown Prince’ Jared Kushner.” He added that Kushner’s family has a deep relationship with Israeli PM Netanyahu.
“Their family foundation has donated to Israeli settlements, they are very pro-Israel,” the writer told RT.
Blumenthal cited a diplomat he interviewed who attended meetings with the Trump administration on Palestine. “Kushner is seeking to withhold funding to the Palestinians and drain the main Palestinian refugee aid agency ANERA (American Near East Refugee Aid) in order to force the Palestinians into a deal, in which they would essentially give up Palestinian statehood, give up the refugee question, and allow Israel to consolidate its permanent control over the West Bank."
“So that is really what’s happening here – they are strangling the Palestinians and trying to make them say uncle.”
Meanwhile, the Palestinians through Abbas are looking for other partners in Russia, China and Europe, Blumenthal told RT, adding that “the US has lost its influence.”
According to the journalist, “for anyone who believes in peace in the Holy Land, removing the US or weakening its role in negotiations should be a goal.”
In Blumenthal’s opinion, the US and its policy on Israel-Palestine is almost entirely controlled by two elements in Washington – the pro-Israeli lobby and the arms industry, “which sells billions and billions of weapons to Israel in the form of US loans.”
“The US role in Palestine has basically been as the kind of puppeteer of colonization, of moving 350,000 settlers into the West Bank, walling off the Gaza Strip and now transforming Jerusalem – as an international city – into Israel’s capital,” he told RT.
“Unfortunately the US dictates what happens on the ground,” Blumenthal told RT.
Commenting on how the situation may develop further, the writer said that there are many possible nightmare scenarios.
“One is that Israel attempts to push the Palestinians to violence in order to further entrench its control in the West Bank,” Blumenthal said.
Another possible scenario, according to Blumenthal, would be a war on Israel’s northern border with Hezbollah, “which is something that the Saudi, Israeli, United Arab Emirates (UAE) axis along with Trump and Kushner have been trying to provoke.”
Blumenthal argues that “could expand into Gaza, where Hamas – which is an ally of Iran and Hezbollah – is in control.” “You could see mass deaths in the besieged Gaza Strip, which is experiencing the worst conditions ever along with unprecedented destruction and destabilization in Lebanon,” he added.
According to Blumenthal, the Israeli defense chief and some senior Israeli military intelligence officials “threaten to completely level Beirut if there is an escalation with Hezbollah.”
He also told RT that Hezbollah had become stronger after the experience it gained in Syria.
“We’re looking at a tinderbox with the Trump administration not doing anything to put red lines on Israeli activity in the West Bank or Israel’s bellicose threats towards Lebanon and the Gaza Strip,” he warned.
Police estimated that there were approximately 2,000 demonstrators in Zurich on Tuesday, according to Reuters. People held banners that read ‘Smash WEF!’ and ‘Trump at WEF. Sad!’ and ‘No Trump, no coal, no gas, no fossil fuels.’
At least one protester was seen carrying a placard reading “Who was the sh*thole?” in reference to Trump’s remarks about Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations, which the president strongly denied making.
The World Economic Forum delivered a strong warning about Donald Trump’s go-it-alone approach to tackling climate change as it highlighted the growing threat of environmental collapse in its annual assessment of the risks facing the international community.
In the run-up to the US president’s speech to its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, next week, the WEF avoided mentioning Trump by name but said “nation-state unilateralism” would make it harder to tackle global warming and ecological damage.
The WEF’s global risks perception survey showed Trump’s arrival in the White House in 2017 had coincided with a marked increase in concern about the environment among experts polled by the Swiss-based organisation.
t said all five environmental risks covered by the survey – extreme weather events, natural disasters, failure of climate-change mitigation and adaptation, biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse, and human-made natural disasters – had become more prominent.
“This follows a year characterised by high-impact hurricanes, extreme temperatures and the first rise in CO2 emissions for four years. We have been pushing our planet to the brink and the damage is becoming increasingly clear.
“Biodiversity is being lost at mass-extinction rates, agricultural systems are under strain, and pollution of the air and sea has become an increasingly pressing threat to human health.”
Other states have said they will keep to the pledges made in Paris, an approach supported by the WEF.
“A trend towards nation-state unilateralism may make it more difficult to sustain the long-term, multilateral responses that are required to counter global warming and the degradation of the global environment,” it said.
The survey said the extreme weather events in 2017 included unusually frequent Atlantic hurricanes, with September the most intense month on record. It was also the most expensive hurricane season.
It added that when data was finalised, 2017 would be among the three hottest years on record, and the hottest without an El Niño, the Pacific Ocean climate cycle that affects the world’s weather.
Biodiversity loss was occurring at mass-extinction rates, the WEF said, noting that the populations of vertebrate species declined by an estimated 58% between 1970 and 2012.
“Globally, the primary driver of biodiversity loss is the human destruction of habitats including forests – which are home to approximately 80% of the world’s land-based animals, plants and insects – for farming, mining, infrastructure development and oil and gas production.”
Stronger than expected growth in 2017 meant economic risks were seen as less pressing, but the WEF said the upbeat picture masked continuing underlying concerns, including unsustainable asset prices; high levels of indebtedness, particularly in China; and continuing strains in the global financial system.
The International Monetary Fund is likely to raise its forecast for global growth when it gives its latest economic update in Davos next Monday, and the WEF survey said the recovery underway in all major economies had to led to a sharp improvement in sentiment.
But it expressed concern that the swing to optimism might lead to complacency and a blind spot to economic risks. “There are certainly reasons to be cautious: one does not have to look far for signs of economic and financial strain”, the WEF added, calling for greater attention to be paid to the risks of another crisis erupting.
The survey warned there would be limited policy firepower in the event of a new crisis. It also warned of the disruption caused by automation, noting that “for the foreseeable future, automation and digitalisation can be expected to push down on levels of employment and wages, and contribute to increases in income and wealth at the top of the distribution.”
It also highlighted the buildup of protectionist pressures against a backdrop of rising nationalist and populist politics and growing cybersecurity risks.
The WEF said cyber attacks against businesses had almost doubled in five years, and that the financial impact of cybersecurity breaches was rising.