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Propaganda Film Shows How North Korea Might Like Trump’s Visit to Go

March 9, 2018 in History

By Becky Little

The movie poster for the propaganda film 'The Country I Saw' in Kaesong, North Korea, 2012. (Credit: Eric Lafforgue/Art In All Of Us/Corbis/Getty Images)

Donald Trump shocked the world on March 8, 2018 by announcing that he would visit North Korea to meet with its dictator Kim Jong-un, making him the first president to visit the “hermit kingdom.” It’s a move that many, including members of the State Department, couldn’t have predicted.

But the North Korean population has already seen a version of this: in a five-part propaganda series with this exact same triumphant ending.

“North Korea has been seeking a summit with an American president for more than twenty years … Kim Jong Il invited Bill Clinton,” tweeted Jeffrey Lewis, the director of the East Asia nonproliferation program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, after Trump’s announcement. He believes the aim of the meeting is to elevate North Korea on the world stage, rather than to discuss disarmament, as Trump hopes.

“This is literally how the North Korean film The Country I Saw ends,” Lewis wrote. “An American President visits Pyongyang, compelled by North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs to treat a Kim as an equal.”

The movie poster for the propaganda film ‘The Country I Saw’ in Kaesong, North Korea, 2012. (Credit: Eric Lafforgue/Art In All Of Us/Corbis/Getty Images)

The Country I Saw is a five-part propaganda film series that aired its first episode in 1988 and the rest around 2012. The first film focused on a Japanese journalist who travels to North Korea to investigate whether it was really as bad as everyone said. Unsurprisingly, he discovers that everything in the country is great. He meets an artist who rose out of poverty, a bunch of people donating blood, and a group of siblings whom Kim Jong-il supposedly became a father to after they were orphaned by World War II. The journalist leaves North Korea with a positive impression of the country, and writes about his experiences in an article.

Like the first part, the other films in the series focus on outsiders who become overwhelmed by the evidence of North Korea’s success and might. The major foreign players are the U.S. and Japan, two countries that constantly underestimate North Korea only to be awed by its capabilities. In the film, two North Korean nuclear tests force the U.S. to re-enter talks with the …read more


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‘Our Health Care Crisis Won’t Be Solved Until We Get Private Insurance Out’

March 9, 2018 in Blogs

By Janine Jackson, FAIR

CounterSpin interview with Margaret Flowers on undermining single-payer.

Janine Jackson interviewed Margaret Flowers about undermining single-payer healthcare for the March 2, 2018, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.

MP3 Link

New York Times: A Better Single-Payer Plan

New York Times (2/22/18)

Janine Jackson: When you hear that Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett and Jamie Dimon have a plan to “fix” healthcare, questions, shall we say, naturally arise about how transformative it’s likely to be, this plan of super-wealthy corporate executives that they insist would be “free from profit-making incentives and constraints.”

But if the plan comes from a group represented as liberal, and its spokespeople talk about “universal coverage” and “healthcare as a right,” and the New York Times declares it “a better single-payer plan,” well, what are you to think?

Here to help us see what’s going on in a new healthcare proposal that you will be hearing about is Margaret Flowers. Margaret Flowers is co-director of Popular Resistance and coordinator of the national Health Over Profit for Everyone campaign. She joins us now by phone. Welcome back to CounterSpin, Margaret Flowers.

Margaret Flowers: Thank you so much for having me.

JJ: I guess I have a straightforward question: What is it, this “Medicare Extra for All” plan? It certainly sounds good.

MF: Sure. To people who are not policy wonks, it sounds great, because it uses the language that the movement for a single-payer healthcare plan has been using for a long time, “Medicare for All.” But the plan that the Center for American Progress is proposing is actually just another try at the public option that was put out there back in 2008, 2009, during the time when we had the health reform process in Congress, under the Obama administration. So it’s just creating an opportunity for people to join Medicare, including the private insurance portion of Medicare, which is known as the Medicare Advantage Plan. It’s another attempt at incremental health reform that doesn’t actually get at the root of the problems, but uses the language of the movement for health reform.

CAP: Medicare Extra for All

Center for American Progress (2/22/18)

JJ: When I read accounts, I …read more


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Wakanda in Schools: The 'Black Panther' Curriculum Makes Its Debut

March 9, 2018 in Blogs

By Shaima Shamdeen, YES! Magazine

How a Chicago teacher inspired by the blockbuster black superhero movie is using the movie to teach about race and colonialism in America.

From moviegoers showing up in traditional African garb to Black communities fundraising for private screenings and viewing parties, the release of Black Panther has demonstrated a political consciousness unlike other recent cinematic releases. So when Chicago sixth-grade teacher Tess Raser shared her Wakanda Curriculum on Twitter, it was no surprise that it, too, would be celebrated.

The film, which opened Feb. 16, offers a celebration of Black culture, empowerment, ingenuity and beauty in a fictional African nation unburdened with systemic racism and oppression.

Raser’s two-part curriculum provides a creative opportunity for educators to leverage the film and discuss African colonialism and American racism separate from the Eurocentric history typically taught in American classrooms. Students are given the space to digest heavy topics, such as global anti-Blackness, and learn about the effects of colonialism through the experience of Wakanda, an African country that escaped the emotional, societal, and political trauma of White imperialism.

“After seeing Black Panther, I started to think about how students could analyze the movie as they would with a piece of literature,” Raser said. “It was a good way for them to make connections to their community and to prepare them to be change makers.”

Raser leads a classroom of 30 Black students at the Dulles School of Excellence on the South Side of Chicago, an area that she said is often referred to as “Chicago’s most violent block.”

“There’s just so much that teachers have to deal with,” she says. “I think the response I’ve received really highlights a need that teachers have for meaningful radical curriculum that’s created for Black children.”

Due to high-stakes standardized testing and district pressures to do well on math and reading assessments, many students in Chicago Public Schools receive minimal exposure to social studies, she said. Many of her students over her five years in the district have had little to no preparation in these subjects.

On Feb. 28, The Chicago Sun-Times reported that the school board would be closing four high schools and one …read more


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The Creepy Vacation That Gave Birth to ‘Frankenstein’

March 9, 2018 in History

By Erin Blakemore

Mary Shelley, 1831. (Credit: Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

Thunder, lightning and flickering candles. It sounds like the stuff of a horror story—and for Mary Shelley, it was. She wrote her masterpiece Frankenstein when she was just 19 years old, and the dark, stormy summer nights that helped bring her monstrous creation to life were nearly as dramatic as the novel itself.

Strangely enough, the saga of Frankenstein started not with a vision but with a volcano. In 1815, a gigantic volcanic eruption at Mount Tambora in Indonesia choked the air with ash and dust. The eruption killed roughly 100,000 people in its immediate aftermath, but the overall toll ended up being much higher—it is now considered to be the deadliest volcano eruption in history.

The next summer, the warm growing season never came. Instead of sunshine, most of Europe was covered in fog and even frost. Crop failures stretched across Europe, Asia and even North America for three years afterward. Famines, epidemics and political revolts followed. Historians estimate that at least a million people starved in the aftermath of Tambora’s eruption, while tens of millions died from a global cholera pandemic that it unleashed.

Mary Shelley, 1831. (Credit: Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

During those three years of darkness and famine, some of Europe’s greatest artists created their darkest and most enduring works. Mary Shelley was among them—but when she arrived at Lake Geneva in May 1816, she was looking for a vacation, not literary inspiration. Unfortunately the weather was so ghastly in Switzerland that she was trapped inside nearly the entire time.

Mary traveled with her lover, poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, their four-month-old baby and her stepsister, Claire Clairmont. At the time, Claire was pregnant with a child by Lord Byron, the groundbreaking poet whose personal affairs had made him one of England’s most divisive celebrities. Most recently he had divorced his wife and, rumor had it, continued an affair with his half-sister. Plagued by gossip and debt, he decided to leave Europe.

After Byron’s departure, the obsessed Claire convinced Mary and Percy to travel to Geneva with her. A few days later, Byron—clearly unaware that Claire would be there—arrived in town. Mary, who had eloped with her married husband<span style="font-weight: …read more


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'We're Going to Burn Down Your Store!': Trump Supporters Caught on Camera Threatening California Bookshop

March 9, 2018 in Blogs

By Brad Reed, Raw Story

They also called the woman who worked at the bookstore an “anti-white racist piece of sh*t.”

A pair of Trump supporters were caught on camera this past weekend issuing unhinged threats to a progressive bookstore in Berkeley, California.

The video, which was posted on YouTube by Berkeley’s Revolution Books, shows the Trump supporters coming into the store and confronting people working there.

The video begins with a woman Trump supporter asking a store staff member if she really thinks “I’m racist because I support our president?”

“Yes, basically, yes,” the staff member replies.

A male Trump supporter, wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat, called the staffer “commie scum” and told her that “we’re going to burn down your bookstore.”

The staffer informed them that she had video of them threatening to burn down the store and told them to “please leave” the premises.

“This is America, f*ck you!” the man shouted at her.

Later in the video, the man can be seen telling people outside the store that, “Trump is going to get rid of all you pieces of sh*t.”

He called the woman who worked at the book store an “anti-white racist piece of sh*t” and said that the only people who shopped at the store were “Antifa pieces of sh*t.”

Watch the video below.

Related Stories

…read more


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West Virginia Teachers Win—Will the Legislature Try to Undercut Their Victory?

March 9, 2018 in Blogs

By Kalena Thomhave, The American Prospect

West Virginia’s teachers won a 5 percent pay raise for all state employees. But will the legislature’s corporate tax cuts slash public services to pay for the raise?

The West Virginia teachers’ strike, which had become the longest in the state’s history at nine days, ended Tuesday with a deal to increase the pay of teachers as well as all state employees by 5 percent. (Previously, union leaders had struck a deal for a 5 percent pay raise of teachers with only a 3 percent raise for state employees. With the Republican state Senate initially balking at the deal, rank-and-file teachers were rightfully skeptical that the legislature would agree to the raise, and continued striking.) The increasing costs of the teachers’ health insurance was another driver of the strike; Republican Governor Jim Justice has promised to set up a task force to look at the state’s program.

The teachers, who continually referenced the state’s strong labor history in their strike, deserve to celebrate their victory. But the cause of their strike—the undervaluation and underfunding of their labor—is a symptom of the trickle-down disaster that has devastated services in states across the country, as well as nationally.

In 2006, Democratic Governor Joe Manchin signed into law bipartisan tax cuts in order to make West Virginia, as he said then, “more economically competitive.” Along with a flurry of other smaller cuts, the legislature reduced the corporate net income tax rate, the sales tax on food, and the business franchise tax rate.

Back then, according to Ted Boettner, director of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, the state was running a surplus, which “masked the problems with the tax cuts.” Tax rates continued to decrease under Democratic Governor Earl Ray Tomblin when his tenure began in 2010.

Soon afterward, however, revenue from coal and natural gas began to decline—and the tax cuts were reducing state revenue by $425 millionper year. Before passing the budget for fiscal year 2018, the state was facing a budget shortfall of nearly half a billion dollars. Lawmakers cut education, health care, and canceled a teacher pay raise to help bridge that gap. Teacher salaries …read more


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Are Republicans Finally Turning on Trump?

March 9, 2018 in Blogs

By Heather Digby Parton, Salon

Republicans fear Trump’s “trade war”—but the real danger is that he finally understands presidential power.

One of the more revealing dramas of the past year has been the spectacle of the Republican Party weakly wrestling with the Donald Trump phenomenon and then deciding to accommodate this erratic incompetent in the hopes that they could steer him toward pillaging the nation's shared wealth, their raison d'être. Republicans have so far been unable to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but they have successfully sabotaged it in numerous ways. Most important of all, they got their big beautiful tax cuts and have set federal agencies to stripping the nation of rules and regulations that serve the common good, so they have been more than satisfied with their decision.

Nonetheless, Trump is very high-maintenance, with all the craziness and misbehavior and legal problems. A handful of Republicans may even feel a bit restless at night, knowing they've enabled an immoral and unstable leader who is making America into a pariah nation, but for the most part they've made their peace with him for the sake of reckless economic plunder. There was no raging against the dying light of conservative movement ideology for them. And never say Republicans don't know how to compromise. They've compromised their entire so-called belief system.

Over the past couple of weeks, something has changed, however. The endless news stories and White House pandemonium has ended the tax cut euphoria. Trump has been even more erratic than usual, sending out disturbing tweets that simply say “WITCH HUNT!” and the constant drama and staff turnover has reached a crescendo. Still, GOP leaders were obviously prepared to deal with all that for the sake of shredding the safety net — at least until Trump finally went too far. He abruptly announced that he would follow through on his campaign promise to raise tariffs on imported steel and aluminum and make the rest of the world “stop laughing at us.”

Both Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell actually spoke up to object, however mildly, and Trump's top economic adviser, Gary Cohn — a former Goldman Sachs banker …read more


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India’s Lurch Towards Protectionism

March 9, 2018 in Economics

By Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar

Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar

At a Global Business Summit in New Delhi late last month, Indian
Prime Minister Narendra Modi aimed to enthuse foreign investors by
declaring that “India is open for business.” Yet India
has taken several protectionist steps over the last four months,
raising fears that the populist job pressures driving Trump in the
U.S. are beginning to animate Modi, too, now that he’s
entering his final year before the 2019 general election.

Optimists hope this is just a blip in the reform process that
will go away after the voting is over. But no government that
tom-toms protectionism as a job-creating blessing can easily
reverse it later.

revolutionized India’s economy. But under Narendra Modi, that may
be about to change.

Before liberalizing its economy in 1991, India had hundreds of
import duties on different items, some above 300 percent. High
tariffs aimed to accelerate industrialization, while widely
dispersed tariff rates across sectors reflected lobbying (and
kickbacks). The wide variation in tariffs on different items led to
false invoicing, tax evasion, and corruption. The results were slow
growth, uncompetitive industry, and empty government coffers when
oil prices exploded in 1990.

By contrast, liberalization led to steadily falling import
tariffs, with only occasional hiccups. In 1997, then-finance
minister Palaniappan Chidambaram declared that India would
gradually cut its tariffs to the levels of its Asian neighbors,
many of which had become miracle economies. In subsequent years,
different parties came to power, but all followed the same
approach. By 2007, India’s peak non-agricultural tariffs were
down to 10 percent, a smidgeon above those in other Asian
countries. The wide variation in duties ended.

The result: GDP growth accelerated to 8 percent per year after
2004, and India became a global export hub for small cars,
two-wheelers, and pharmaceuticals. Encouraged, Finance Minister
Ashok Jaitley pledged in 2015 to cut corporate tax rates to the
level of India’s Asian competitors, hoping to replicate their
path to success.

Now that paradigm is being upended. Last October, duties were raised on synthetic fabrics. Then
in December, import duties were raised to 20 percent on electronic items
ranging from mobile phones and TVs to digital cameras and microwave
ovens. Optimists felt this was a temporary aberration, and were
comforted when Modi went to Davos, sang the praises of
globalization, and slammed President Trump for “America
First” protectionism.

February’s budget shattered those hopes. Import duties
were raised on around 40 items “to provide adequate
protection to domestic industry,” and “promote creation
of more jobs.” Duties went up to 15 to 20 percent on items as
varied as auto parts, candles, kites, sunglasses, lamps, cigarette
lighters, toiletries, …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Teddy Roosevelt’s Bold (But Doomed) Battle to Change American Spelling

March 9, 2018 in History

By Greg Daugherty

1906 cartoon about Roosevelt's simplified spelling campaign sponsored by Carnegie from the Collier's Weekly. (Credit: Public Domain)

In August 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt issued an order from his summer residence in Oyster Bay, New York, that would soon be the talk of Washington—and the world beyond.

Addressing himself to the government printer, Roosevelt decreed that all documents issued by the White House should now follow the spellings advocated by an organization known as the Simplified Spelling Board.

Launched the previous March and financed by the steel baron Andrew Carnegie, the board wanted to strip the American language of its antiquated British baggage and create a clean and modern version for the 20th century.

Carnegie, who’d immigrated to the United States as a teenager with little formal education, had high hopes for the project. “Mr. Carnegie has long been convinced that English might be made the world language of the future, and thus one of the influences leading to universal peace,” the New York Times reported. “He believes that the chief obstacle to its speedy adoption is to be found in its contradictory and difficult spelling.”

At the time, written German, which had been simplified in 1901, seemed poised to become the “world language of the future”—a development that neither Carnegie nor Roosevelt, both intensely competitive men, could possibly have welcomed.

1906 cartoon about Roosevelt’s simplified spelling campaign sponsored by Carnegie from the Collier’s Weekly. (Credit: Public Domain)

Carnegie recruited a long list of luminaries to the cause, including the writer Mark Twain, the philosopher William James, Melvil Dewey of Dewey Decimal System fame, and the presidents of Columbia and Stanford universities, among others. If Carnegie’s “universal peace” seemed like a grandiose goal, they could point to other, more basic benefits. Spelling would be easier to teach in schools, possibly shaving a year or more off the curriculum, educators said. Business correspondence would be faster and cheaper to handle. Publishers could save on typesetting, ink, and paper costs.

In a September 1906 speech, Twain argued that the reforms would also help new immigrants assimilate. Traditional spelling, he maintained, “keeps them back and damages their citizenship for years until they learn to spell the language, if they ever do learn.”

As a first step, the board published a list of suggested substitutes for 300 words whose spelling it considered archaic. For example, it proposed that “although” be shortened to “altho,” “fixed” become “fixt,” and “thorough” be traded in for “thoro.”

Roosevelt forwarded the …read more


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The Angela Merkel Era Is Coming to an End

March 9, 2018 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Imagine being governed by both the center-left and center-right,
and you’ve got the idea behind the Grand Coalition (GroKo) in
Germany. The Social Democrats (SPD) have teamed up with the
conservatives after two thirds of them agreed to the GroKo, despite
a left-wing revolt. The new government will take office on March
14. For the third time in four terms, the once proud Marxist party
that traces its lineage back to Wilhelmine Germany and the
“iron” chancellorship of Otto von Bismarck will be a
secondary coalition partner. Some party members wonder if the SPD
will survive.

The status of the center-right Christian Democratic
Union/Christian Social Union (sister parties that act essentially
as one) may be a little better. Although the bigger vote-getter,
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition made significant
compromises to win SPD agreement. That’s brought about
conservative criticism, and now many are expecting her to make way
for new leadership before her term ends.

Germany’s chancellor
knows her fourth term will be her last—and her potential
successors are already jockeying for position.

Critics of the centrist governing cartel have been emboldened.
The populist Alternative for Germany received almost 13 percent of
the vote last fall and is set to become the official opposition,
which guarantees chairmanship of select Bundestag committees and
greater press attention. The party’s members reject the
traditional consensus on both substance and process, ensuring a
contentious four years under the new GroKo.

Also invigorated are the other opposition parties. As the
successor to East Germany’s communists, Die Linke represents
the hard left. The Greens are the cosmopolitan left, unreservedly
in favor of accepting migrants and refugees. The Free Democratic
Party has returned to the Bundestag after an absence of four years,
determined to separate itself from its former coalition partners,
the CDU/CSU. The FDP combines a more liberal (in a European sense),
business-friendly economic agenda with opposition to uncontrolled

The most important question is whether the continuing breakdown
of the two traditional governing parties will spark their renewal
or continued decline. Since the first GroKo in 2005, the governing
cartel has hemorrhaged votes. Just five years ago, the SPD-CDU/CSU
won two thirds of the electorate. Last fall that total was barely a
majority. As the parties negotiated a coalition agreement, the SPD,
which won only a fifth of the vote, saw its poll share fall to an
abysmal 15.5 percent, below that of the AfD. At that level another
GroKo could become impossible.

No doubt, this threatened slide to oblivion—a new election
was the most likely consequence of a coalition
collapse—encouraged some SPD members to vote yes. But the two
prior GroKos accelerated the party’s decline. After the 2005
election, …read more

Source: OP-EDS