Trump and GOP Cook Up Scheme for Global Extortion Racket - The Friday AM Quickie 5/3/24

Wild orangutans know how to make medicine from forest plants. Which suggests that not only are animals smarter than people give them credit for, they have better access to healthcare than many Americans. - Corey

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World-Class Shakedown Artist Feigns Victimhood

According to some idiot writing for the New York Times opinion section, indicted racketeer Donald Trump represents the "outlaw hero, a figure of defiance with deep roots in American culture who exposes the injustices and hypocrisies of a corrupt system." This insufferable pseud likens Trump, a real estate tycoon born with a silver spoon who frequently orders the cops to brutalize the peasantry, to Robin Hood, the mythical outlaw who robbed from the rich and gave to the poor. But Trump knows better the tradition from whence he comes. He compares himself to "the late, great gangster" Al Capone, an entirely different criminal archetype, one who stole from common people to serve his own greed, bending the very state to his will.

At his criminal hush money trial yesterday in New York, Trump's lawyers argued that he was the innocent victim of a "shakedown" by the state's witnesses, his own former employees and associates. Sad! But jurors also heard Trump's voice on tape telling his estranged former fixer, Michael Cohen, to "pay with cash" when he reimbursed the National Enquirer for the corrupt "catch and kill" arrangement he made to keep damaging stories out of the headlines and benefit his 2016 presidential campaign.

Certainly, if anyone understands the art of the shakedown, it's Trump, an adoring protege of mob lawyer Roy Cohn. And even while he tries to play the victim in court, he is, with the help of Congressional Republicans, planning to transform the U.S. government into a global shakedown machine. NBC News reports that Trump and GOP allies recently cooked up a scheme whereby the U.S. would no longer supply Ukraine with aid, but rather "loans" backed by Ukraine's vast wealth in rare earth minerals; "and if he wins the election, some envision a new model taking hold in which the U.S. structures foreign aid not as grants, but instead as loans with countries putting up natural resources or other valuable assets as collateral.

"Such an arrangement smacks of colonialism and is unlikely to endear the U.S. to nations forced to part with singular natural resources in return for valuable aid, one analyst said."

No kidding. This idea of rebranding the U.S. State Department as the world's biggest loan sharking outfit represents a bureaucratic evolution of Trump's threats to take Iraq's oil or turn Europe over to Russia. It is a serious policy proposal for a mafia model of foreign relations. And if it ever takes hold, you can bet that Trump, his family, and his most loyal cronies will find a way to claim a big piece of the pie for themselves.

Wider Middle East War Watch: $50 Billion Needed to Rebuild Gaza, UN Estimates

  • Netanyahu and His Cabinet Fear the International Criminal Court Will Soon Call for Their Arrest Meanwhile, Turkey halted all trade with Israel "until the Israeli government allows an uninterrupted and sufficient flow of humanitarian aid to Gaza." via BBC News and the Guardian.
  • Biden Scolds Student Protesters, Saying 'Order Must Prevail'; Youth Shrug "In our point of view, it's not just good policy to oppose the genocide; it's good politics. He has done neither, and we're really disappointed to see that," says Hasan Pyarali, a senior at North Carolina's Wake Forest University and Muslim Caucus chair for College Democrats of America. via the Associated Press and Al Jazeera.
  • NYPD Officer Accidentally Fired His Gun While Storming Columbia; 209 Arrested at UCLA as Cops Tear Down Solidarity Encampment "You have groups of ultra-nationalists or classical fascists attacking students while the police [are] present and doing nothing. And then the police come and sweeps up and arrest the students who are attacked, rather than arresting the attackers themselves," UCLA anthropology professor Can Açiksöz says of the violent crackdown on that campus. "This is the playbook of authoritarianism everywhere, from Egypt to Israel to Turkey to India." via the City NYC and the Los Angeles Times.
  • Student Protesters in Washington State, Minnesota, Illinois and Rhode Island Win Concessions from Unversities "We're incredibly happy that everyone is safe and that we were able to get through this process without our students having to face police violence," says Alex Marshall, a student at (my alma mater) The Evergreen State College in Olympia, who signed an agreement with administrators this week to explore divestment from companies that profit from Israeli occupation. via the Seattle Times and HuffPost.

Anti-China Panic in Congress Kills Rural Cell Service

Four years after Congress ordered U.S. telecom companies to remove all equipment made by the Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE, in a froth over "security risks" that coincided with the spread of insane conspiracy theories about 5G networks, large swathes of rural America now risk losing cell service entirely because the Congress did not appropriate enough funds to replace the equipment it banned. The Washington Post reports:

"In a letter sent Thursday to Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said 40 percent of local network operators cannot complete the removal of Huawei and ZTE equipment without more money and that some risked shutdown of their operations.

Congress initially approved $1.9 billion for the xenophobic "rip and replace" program; the current shortfall amounts to $3 billion. Native American nations will be among the areas hardest-hit by the loss of cellular coverage. China, meanwhile, will today launch the first mission from any country to recover samples from the far side of the moon.


  • With Gulf of Mexico Sea Levels Rising at Twice the Global Rate, Floods Force Mandatory Evacuations in South Texas "'The phenomenon is so new, we still don’t necessarily even have the vocabulary for it,' Christopher Piecuch, a sea level scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, said of the unrelenting nature of flooding confronting more and more communities. "This is something that quite literally didn't happen two decades ago." via the Washington Post, NBC News and the New York Times.
  • Awkward: Russian Military Moves in to Niger Air Base Still Hosting U.S. Troops An anonymous U.S. military official says the rival powers' troops are not mingling and describes the situation as "not great but, in the short-term, manageable." via Reuters.
  • Second Boeing Whistleblower Dies Former quality auditor Joshua Dean, 45, succumbed to a "sudden, fast-spreading infection"; he had filed a Department of Labor complaint saying Boeing supplier Spirit AeroSystems fired him in retaliation for raising safety concerns. via NBC News and the Seattle Times.
  • Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson Turned Away from Polling Place Thanks to His Own Voter ID Law "Johnson's fellow Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg, who was also part of the government that introduced the restriction, admitted in 2023 that the rules had been an attempt to 'gerrymander' future elections for the Conservatives — but that they had backfired because older people, who are more likely to vote Conservative, were also less likely to be aware of the changes." via Politico and the Guardian.



That's how many American children would be lifted out of poverty by a modest $100 expansion to the child tax credit. As the Washington Post reports, Senate Republicans plan to kill the benefit expansion, which passed the House with a large majority earlier this year. Democratic Senate finance committee chair Ron Wyden and others are urging Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to bring the matter to a floor vote and dare Republicans to put their opposition to the popular program on record.


5/3: It's Casual Friday! Sam and Emma speak with Mehdi Hasan, founder, CEO, and editor-in-chief of the new media company Zeteo, to discuss the biggest stories of the week and his new venture.


'An Absolute Raging Disgrace': Western Media Continues to Fail the People of Gaza

Emma speaks with British political commentator Owen Jones.

How to Argue FOR Social Security

Sam plugs Social Security Works and the official Trustees Reports.


"We might not have received justice yet in our just case today, but what is more important is that we made it to trial and spoke up so the world could hear from us directly. This will not be the final word; what happened in Abu Ghraib is engraved into our memories and will never be forgotten in history."

-- Salah Al-Ejaili, an Iraqi civilian tortured on the orders of U.S. military contractors at Abu Ghraib prison 20 years ago, speaking yesterday after a federal judge in Virginia declared a mistrial in a lawsuit he and two other torture victims filed against the contractor, CACI Premier Technology. Al-Ejaili was working as an Al Jazeera journalist when he was taken prisoner; U.S. troops repeatedly beat him, threatened him with dogs, covered his head with a bag and forced him to crawl on his stomach until his legs bled, and left him naked and shackled in a "stress position" all night, then ordered him to clean up his vomit in the morning. He and the other plaintiffs will seek a retrial.

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