Our Lowest Priority: People

By Arlen Grossman

There is one important reason this country has so many mass shootings, as well as so much suicide, opioid addiction, depression, anxiety, child abuse and a litany of other indicators of a dysfunctional, troubled society.

It comes down to this: the culture of the United States doesn’t care about people. This society mostly cares about money, profits, greed, power, consumerism, wars, and similar non-humanitarian values.

Here’s an example: we know our schools are inadequate. We clearly need smaller classes, art and music programs, counseling services, maintenance, etc. yet our political leaders (and sometimes, taxpayers) aren’t willing to make improving schools a priority. In contrast, there always seems to be substantial amounts of money available for an already bloated military, or tax cuts for the wealthy.

It’s the same for health care, retirement benefits, infrastructure, mental health services and many other people-benefiting expenditures. We’re not willing to spend the money needed to fix these human needs, but over a trillion dollars for modernization of our nuclear weapons program–not a problem.

It comes down to this. Our society reflects our values. Our priorities appear to be profits over people. No wonder we are in so much trouble.

cartoon

 

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Has It Gotten This Bad?

 

  • Trump’s Divide-and-Conquer Strategy

    By Robert Reich/ robertreich.org/ February 4, 2018

    If Robert Mueller finds that Trump colluded with Russia to fix the 2016 election, or even if Trump fires Mueller before he makes such a finding, Trump’s supporters will protect Trump from any political fallout.  

    Trump’s base will stand by him not because they believe Trump is on their side, but because they define themselves as being on his side.

    Trump has intentionally cleaved America into two warring camps: pro-Trump and anti-Trump. And he has convinced the pro-Trumps that his enemy is their enemy.

    Most Americans are not passionate conservatives or liberals, Republicans or Democrats. But they have become impassioned Trump supporters or Trump haters.

    Polls say 37 percent of Americans approve of him, and most disapprove. These numbers are the tips of two vast icebergs of intensity.

    Trump has forced all of us to take sides, and to despise those on the other. There’s no middle ground.

    The Republican Party used to stand for fiscal responsibility, state’s rights, free trade, and a hard line against Russian aggression. Now it just stands for Trump.

    Pro-Trump Republicans remain the majority in the GOP. As long as Trump can keep them riled up, and as long as Republicans remain in control of at least one chamber of Congress, he’s safe.

    trump cartoon big

     

    “Try to impeach him, just try it,” Roger Stone, Trump’s former campaign adviser, warned last summer. “You will have a spasm of violence in this country, an insurrection like you’ve never seen.”

    That’s probably an exaggeration, but Trump (with the assistance of his enablers in Congress) has convinced his followers that the Russian investigation is part of a giant conspiracy to unseat him, and that his enemies want to replace him with someone who will allow dangerous forces to overrun America.

    Sure, this paranoia is based on the same racism and xenophobia that has smoldered in America since its inception. Trump’s strategy is to stoke it daily.  

    Sure, American politics had polarized before Trump. Trump’s strategy is to exploit and enlarge these divisions.

    A few months ago I traveled to Kentucky and talked with a number of Trump supporters.

    They looked and sounded nothing like traditional conservative Republicans. Most were working class. Several were members of labor unions. All were passionate about Trump.

    Why do you support him? I asked. “He’s shaking Washington up,” was the typical response.

    I mentioned his lies. “He’s telling it like it is,” several told me. “He speaks his mind.”

    I talked about his attacks on democracy. “Every other politician is on the take,” they said. “He isn’t. He doesn’t need their money.”

    I asked about his campaign’s possible collusion with Russia. They told me they didn’t believe a word of it. “It’s a plot to get rid of him.”

    By making himself the center of an intensifying conflict, Trump grabs all the attention and fuels even greater passions on both sides.

    It’s what he did in the 2016 election, but on a far larger scale. Then, he sucked all the oxygen out of the race by making himself its biggest story. Now, he’s sucking all the oxygen out of America by making himself our national obsession.

    Trump received more coverage in the 2016 election than any presidential candidate in American history. Hillary Clinton got far less, and what she got was almost all about her emails.

    Schooled in reality television and New York tabloids, Trump knows how to keep both sides stirred up: Vilify, disparage, denounce, defame, and accuse the other side of conspiring against America. Do it continuously. Dominate every news cycle.

    Fox News is his propaganda arm, magnifying his tweets, rallies, and lies. The rest of the media also plays into Trump’s strategy by making him the defining controversy of America. Every particular dispute – DACA, the “wall,” North Korea, Mueller’s investigation, and so on – becomes another aspect of the larger national war over Trump.  

    It’s the divide-and-conquer strategy of a tyrant.

    Democracies require sufficient social trust that citizens regard the views of those they disagree with as worthy of equal consideration to their own. That way, they’ll accept political outcomes they dislike.

    Trump’s divide-and-conquer strategy is to destroy that trust.

    So if Mueller finds Trump colluded with Russia, or Trump fires Mueller before Mueller makes such a finding, the pro-Trumps will block any consequential challenge to his authority.

    Nothing could be more dangerous to our democracy and society.

 

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Electronic Oligarchy

Net Neutrality Means You Can Have The Internet Your Way

By Thom Hartmann/ ThomHartmann.com/ January 26, 2018

net

 

The international order is changing as a result of populism, and I would argue that the populism is a response to the disintegration all around the world in developed countries of the middle class, as the predatory class, the over class, the top 1% keeps taking more and more and more.

And one of the ways that the top 1% are going to cement their control, and certainly have in countries like China and Iran and Saudi Arabia, is by locking down the internet.

If you lock down the internet, you shut down the lines of communication. You can make it harder for people to use social media, you can limit the reach of social media, you make it harder for people to get their message out. You can even read everybody’s email, you can track everything everybody’s doing, you know all about them by what they’re searching on.

There’s so much you can learn about individuals that you can use against them or that you can keep them from knowing if you can control the Internet.

And that’s why when President Obama was president, Tom Wheeler, his FCC Commissioner, said we are going to establish that the Internet is a public utility and we are going to regulate it under the same provision that we regulate telephone companies.

So, if I call Louise, my phone company does not have the legal right to listen in on my conversation, they don’t have the legal right to say, “hey, they’re talking about business, we’re going to raise the cost of that call, we’re going to start charging them 3 cents a minute.” They don’t have the legal right to say to me, if I’m going to call my wife versus somebody else who I know, that call is going to cost more than this call, or that call is going to go faster, this call is going to go slower, that kind of thing.

They don’t have that legal right because they’re regulated under title 2 of the Telecommunications Act, phone companies are, and what Tom Wheeler said was internet companies will be regulated under that too. Internet service providers, the equivalent of the phone company, the company that brings the Internet into your home, they cannot mess with your internet. They cannot monitor your internet. All they can do is charge you for how much of it you use, just like the phone company can charge you for how much you use. Arguably most of them have gone to unlimited minutes, but they can charge you for how often or how long you talk. That’s it.

And of course Ajit Pai, the former Verizon lawyer who is now the chairman of the FCC, blew that up and said no – Comcast and AT&T and every other company, they can do whatever they want, they can throttle you, they can jack up your price, they can slow down your service unless you pay extra.

And there is a way out of this. And the way out of this is by having Congress overrule the FCC Commissioner and it takes 51 votes in the Senate and 218 votes, I think, in the house. That’s all it takes. And the votes are there. Susan Collins just provided the 50th vote in the Senate and in the House, it would be every every Democrat and probably a third if not a half of the Republicans.

But Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan are refusing to bring it – it’s called a congressional resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act. Congress can reverse the actions of any of the departments in the executive branch, including the FCC. They can simply say, “Ajit Pai, we don’t like what you did, it’s undone. We go back to what we had the rules that we had under Tom Wheeler.”

And I think it’s really interesting that this is picking up so much steam now, that big transnational corporations like Burger King are jumping on the bandwagon, trying to explain net neutrality to Americans. In this new ad that Burger King has rolled out, it blows my mind that that net neutrality has become something you can sell Whoppers with.

In this new ad they start out by asking a bunch of people, what do you know about net neutrality? And of course, every single person has no idea what net neutrality means. And then they do to burgers what Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and whatnot want to do to your internet, which is you pay more, you get you get it faster. If you pay less, you get it slower. We’re going to filter this.

And then at the very end, of course, everybody says, “oh, now I get it.” And it’s just great.

And this is what we need to be doing, contacting our members of Congress. Now, like I said, we’ve got enough in the Senate but Mitch McConnell won’t allow a vote because the Republicans are in the pockets of the big corporations. Big corporations are making them rich. Mitch McConnell won’t allow a vote, Paul Ryan won’t allow a vote.

We need to absolutely raise hell about this because it will pass. It would pass right now. Congress would overturn Ajit Pai, the Verizon lawyer who now runs the FCC.

Trump is putting industry people in virtually every every position. They just made the head of HSS the guy who used to run Eli Lilly. It’s just pick an industry. If you’ve got a regulatory agency that overlooks coal and oil, they put a coal and oil executive in there, or somebody beholden to one. And on and on it goes. They did the same thing with the FCC. It’s so corrupt.

The Trump administration is blindingly corrupt. They are more corrupt even than the most corrupt administration in the history the United States – the Reagan administration, that had more senior officials prosecuted and convicted for crimes than any other Administration in the history of the United States.

I predict that the Trump administration is going to beat Reagan’s record in terms of corruption and the only thing frankly that I believe that we can do is to push back at the level of our politicians, which means calling your members of Congress – calling your members of the House and calling your members of the Senate – and saying we want that vote on that resolution for disapproval. Vote to bring back net neutrality.

This is the phrase: vote to disapprove the FCC under the Congressional Review Act.

It’s Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell blocking this thing. Give them a call and just say we want net neutrality. This is like the last media thread that is hanging before basically everything is overwhelmed by basically six companies who right now own the vast majority of the newspapers, magazines, radio stations, television stations and networks in the United States. Six corporations, and in the internet world it’s basically three large corporations. Probably one day soon it’ll be two or one. But basically even when you’re down to three that’s functionally a monopoly if it’s not literally a monopoly, a triopoly.

There’s no competition there.

*Boldface by TBPR editor

Dave Granlund / www.politicalcartoons.com

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4th Amendment? What’s That?

Letter in the Sunday Monterey Herald, January 20, 2018

With the help of 65 Democrats, the House of Representatives voted 256-164 last week to support a controversial bill to renew the National Security Agency’s warrantless surveillance program. Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Act (FISA) would allow Donald Trump and the government to continue spying on the emails, text messages, and other electronic communications of Americans and foreigners without a warrant. President Trump has promised to sign the bill after a vote in the Senate, where it is expected to pass. Regrettably, one of the House Democrats voting yea, and ignoring Fourth Amendment privacy concerns, was local congressman Jimmy Panetta.

–Arlen Grossman

privacy

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The Real “Shithole Country”

by Chris Hedges/ Truthdig/ January 14, 2018

truthdigI covered the war in El Salvador for five years. It was a peasant uprising by the dispossessed against the 14 ruling families and the handful of American corporations that ran El Salvador as if it was a plantation. Half of the population was landless. Laborers worked as serfs in the coffee plantations, the sugar cane fields and the cotton fields in appalling poverty. Attempts to organize and protest peacefully to combat the huge social inequality were met with violence, including fire from machine guns mounted on the tops of buildings in downtown San Salvador that rained down bullets indiscriminately on crowds of demonstrators. Peasant, labor, church and university leaders were kidnapped by death squads, brutally tortured and murdered, their mutilated bodies often left on roadsides for public view. When I arrived, the death squads were killing between 700 and 1,000 people a month.

An insurgent army arose, the Farabundo Mart National Liberation Front (known by the Spanish-language abbreviation FMLN), named for the leader of a peasant uprising in 1932 that was crushed through the slaughter of thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, many of them killed in summary executions. The FMLN seized huge parts of the country from the corrupt and demoralized military. In the fall of 1983, the rebels, supplied with weapons from the Sandinista government in Nicaragua, were on the verge of capturing the country’s second largest city. I did not, at first, travel with the army. It was too dangerous. It was far safer to go into combat with the FMLN. Without outside intervention, the rebels would have seized control of El Salvador within months and ousted the oligarchs.

But, far to the north, was a shithole country ruled by a former B-list movie actor who had starred in “Bedtime for Bonzo” and who was in the early stages of dementia. This shithole country, which saw the world in black and white, communist and capitalist, was determined to thwart the aspirations of the poor and the landless. It would not permit the profits of its companies, such as United Fruit, or the power of the pliant oligarch class that did its bidding in El Salvador, to be impeded. It had disdain for the aspirations of the poor, especially the poor of Latin American or Africa, the wretched of the earth, as writer Frantz Fanon called them, people who in the eyes of those who ruled the shithole country should toil in misery all their lives for the oligarchs and the big American companies allied with them. Let the poor, brown and black people go hungry, watch their children die of sickness or be murdered. Power and wealth, those who ruled this shithole country believed, was theirs by divine right. They, as the lords of shithole-dom, were endowed with special attributes. God blessed shithole countries.

The Chilean poet Pablo Neruda understood how those who ruled the shithole country looked at the wretched of the earth. He wrote:

“When the trumpet sounded, it was
all prepared on the earth,
the Jehovah parceled out the earth
to Coca Cola, Inc., Anaconda,
Ford Motors, and other entities:
The Fruit Company, Inc.
reserved for itself the most succulent,
the central coast of my land,
the delicate waist of America.

“It rechristened its territories
as the ‘Banana Republics’
and over the sleeping dead,
over the restless heroes,
who brought about the greatness, the liberty and the flags,
it established the comic opera:
Abolished independencies,
presented crowns of Caesar,
unsheathed envy, attracted
the dictatorship of flies.”

The dictatorship of flies had its downside. It elevated the imbecilic and the inept, men whose main attributes were brutality, mendacity and thievery. They were uniformly unpleasant creatures. Anastasio “Tachito” Somoza in Nicaragua. The Duvaliers in Haiti. Augusto Pinochet in Chile. Efran Ros Montt in Guatemala. These flies did the bidding of the shithole country. They would murder their own people without compunction and, for hefty bribes, would allow the corporations to exploit and pillage. Yes, they had their eccentricities. The depraved often do.

Gen. Maximiliano Herna’ndez Martnez, who came to power in a military coup, led the government in El Salvador that carried out the 1932 massacres known as La Matanza. The general, a recluse who rarely appeared in public, was a believer in the occult and held se’ances in the presidential residence. He was one of the models for Gabriel Garca Ma’rquez’s portrait of a Latin American tyrant in “The Autumn of the Patriarch.” Martnez styled himself after the Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. He barred all immigration by Arabs, Hindus, Chinese and blacks. He once announced: “It is good that children go barefoot. That way they can better receive the beneficial effluvia of the planet, the vibrations of the earth. Plants and animals don’t use shoes.” And he said it was a greater crime to kill an ant than a human being “because a man who dies is reincarnated while an ant dies forever.” His solution to a measles epidemic was to order the streetlights wrapped in cellophane to purify the air. He believed that colored water could cure most illnesses.

How surprised the leaders of the shithole country would be if they knew about the poets, the writers and the artists, the intellectuals and the men and women of great moral probity, such as the Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, who in 1980 was assassinated with a bullet shipped down to the killers from the shithole country. The leaders of the shithole country do not see the people of Latin America or Africa as fully human. But then they are not great readers, especially of poetry by the lesser breeds of the earth. They have not heard the truth of the Salvadoran poet Roque Dalton, who wrote:

“Take care, you’re worth your weight in gold.
Because in capitalism only the owners
of gold are worth their weight in gold.”

The shithole country poured $1 million a day in aid and weapons into the land. They sent down their most ruthless killers, including Fe’lix Rodrguez, the CIA agent and Bay of Pigs veteran who had overseen the hunt for Che Guevara in Bolivia, presided over his execution and proudly wore the wristwatch he had taken from the martyred revolutionary’s body. At night you could see the killers sent to El Salvador by the shithole country, usually with their Vietnamese wives, sitting around the pool at the Sheraton Hotel. They had perfected the dark arts of infiltrating, torturing, interrogating, disappearing and murdering through practice on the people of Vietnam during the war there. They could teach you how to strangle someone with piano wire so there would be no noise as the victim choked to death. They brought many such skills with them to Central America. They directed the death squads to wipe out the resistance leaders, priests and nuns working in poor communities, teachers, journalists, labor organizers, student leaders, professors and intellectuals who denounced the barbarity. They trained and equipped new soldiers for the oligarchs. They formed mercenary units with hundreds of soldiers recruited from countries such as Honduras, Venezuela and Chile. They called these military units, which were secret, Unilaterally Controlled Latino Assets. They sent them to fight the FMLN because the Salvadoran military was so unreliable. They provided fleets of helicopters to hunt the insurgents by air. It was an orgy of militarism.

By the time the shithole country was done, it had spent $4 billion to crush the uprising. And while it was orchestrating the bloodbath in El Salvador it provided $1 billion to the thugs and killers known as the Contras in Nicaragua, where 50,000 people were murdered. It also quietly assisted the killers of Guatemala, where 200,000 were slain. The poor peasants did not stand a chance. Mass graves dotted the Central American isthmus, a testament to their work.

Dalton wrote:

“The dead are more insolent than ever.

“It used to be easy:
we gave them a starched collar a flower
we placed their names on an honor roll:
the length and breath of our land
the illustrious shades of yesteryear
the monstrous statue.

“The cadaver signed on memory’s dotted line
joined the rank and file once more
and marched to the beat of our worn out music

“But what are you gonna do
the dead
just ain’t what they used to be.

“These days they get ironic
ask questions.

“Seems to me they’re starting to figure out
that they are the majority.”

The leaders of the shithole country would oversee the murder of 80,000 people and 8,000 disappeared in El Salvador. Intelligence officials from the shithole country were, it appears, complicit in the 1980 assassination of Archbishop Romero, organized by a former Salvadoran army officer named Roberto D’Aubuisson — known affectionately as “Blowtorch Bob” — who was one of the shithole country’s favorite killers. The shithole country protected those who ordered the murder and rape of four American churchwomen in December 1980. They protected the officers of the Atlacatl Brigade — which in 1981 had massacred more than 700 civilians in El Mozote — when in 1989 they gunned down six Spanish Jesuit priests, one of whom was the rector of the University of Central America, plus their housekeeper and her teenage daughter, on the university campus.

The Salvadoran officers who oversaw these massacres, and countless others, had been selected and trained in the shithole country’s U.S. Army School of the Americas. The war would destroy much of the infrastructure. El Salvador never recovered. It is awash in weapons. It experiences a murder every one and a half hours. Let the blood flow, the leaders of the shithole country said. The blood of brown and black people does not matter.

A shithole country depends on your perspective.

economic and strategic interests in the region.

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Time to Overthrow Our Rulers

By Thom Hartmann/ AlterNet/ January 8, 2018

 

Is it time to bring a monarchy to the United States? Or is it time to end one?

The New York Times recently ran a fascinating article [3] by Leslie Wayne putting forth arguments from the International Monarchist League [4]. Summarizing them, Wayne wrote, “Their core arguments: Countries with monarchies are better off because royal families act as a unifying force and a powerful symbol; monarchies rise above politics; and nations with royalty are generally richer and more stable.” 

What the author misses is that we already have an aristocracy here in the United States: rule by the rich. In fact, much of American history is the story of the battle between the interests of the “general welfare” of our citizens, and the interests of the #MorbidlyRich.

Here’s where we are right now:

  • A billionaire oligarch programs his very own entire television news network to promote the interests of the billionaire class, with such effectiveness that average working people are repeating billionaire-helpful memes like “cut regulations,” “shrink government,” and “cut taxes” – policies that will cause more working people and their children to get sick and/or die, will transfer more money and power from “we the people” to a few oligarchs, and will lower [5] working-class wages over time.  
  • A small group of billionaires have funneled so much money into our political sphere that “normal” Republicans like Jeff Flake and Bob Corker point out that they couldn’t get elected in today’s environment because they’d face rightwing-billionaire-funded primary challengers. 
  • The corporate media (including online media), heavily influenced by the roughly billion dollars the Koch Network, Adelson, Mercers, etc. poured through their advertising coffers and into their profits in the last election, won’t even mention in their “news” reporting that billionaire oligarchs are mainly calling the tunes in American politics, particularly in the GOP. 
  • Former President Jimmy Carter pointed out [6] on my radio show that the US “is now an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery,” in part as a result of the right-wing Supreme Court decision in Citizens United. 
  • Nobody in corporate media, even on the “corporate left,” is willing to explicitly point out how billionaires and the companies that made them rich control and define the boundaries of “acceptable” political debate in our country. 
  • Thus, there’s no honest discussion in American media of why the GOP denies climate change (to profit petro-billionaires), no discussion of the daily damage being done to our consumer and workplace protections, and no discussion of the horrors being inflicted on our public lands and environment by Zinke and Pruitt, the guys billionaire-toady Mike Pence chose to run Interior and the EPA. There’s not even a discussion of the major issue animating American politics just one century ago: corporate mergers and how they damage small business and small towns. 

It’s been this way before in American history, though not in our lifetimes. The last time the morbidly rich had this much power in American politics was the 1920s, when an orgy of tax-cutting and deregulation of banking led to the Republican Great Depression. 

Franklin Delano Roosevelt stepped up to challenge those he called the Economic Royalists, explicitly calling them out [7]. In 1936, FDR said: 

“For out of this modern civilization economic royalists carved new dynasties. New kingdoms were built upon concentration of control over material things. Through new uses of corporations, banks and securities, new machinery of industry and agriculture, of labor and capital—all undreamed of by the Fathers—the whole structure of modern life was impressed into this royal service.

“There was no place among this royalty for our many thousands of small business men and merchants who sought to make a worthy use of the American system of initiative and profit…

“It was natural and perhaps human that the privileged princes of these new economic dynasties, thirsting for power, reached out for control over Government itself. 

“They created a new despotism and wrapped it in the robes of legal sanction. In its service new mercenaries sought to regiment the people, their labor, and their property. 

“And as a result the average man once more confronts the problem that faced the Minute Man.” 

Roosevelt, then the president of the United States, even explicitly called for the “overthrow of this kind of power”:

“These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power. 

“Our allegiance to American institutions requires the overthrow of this kind of power. 

“In vain they seek to hide behind the Flag and the Constitution. In their blindness they forget what the Flag and the Constitution stand for. 

“Now, as always, they stand for democracy, not tyranny; for freedom, not subjection; and against a dictatorship by mob rule and the over-privileged alike.” 

The American people overwhelmingly agreed with FDR, particularly after they’d seen how badly “dictatorship by the over-privileged” worked out for us in 1929. The result was that from 1932 until 1980 American politicians knew how important it was for government, representing the best interests of both our nation and all of its people, to hold back the political power that the morbidly rich could marshal with their great wealth. 

This was such conventional wisdom in both parties that Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote to his brother Edgar [8] in 1956:

“Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. 

“There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”

And business knew it, too. Big corporations and wealthy businesspeople largely stayed away from politics from the 1930s onward, not wanting to draw the ire of the American people.

Until 1971. In August of that year, Lewis Powell, a lawyer who largely defended tobacco and the interests of Virginia’s upper classes, wrote an apocalyptic memo [9] to his neighbor and friend who was the head of the US Chamber of Commerce. In it, he suggested that America itself was under attack from “leftists” and people on “college campuses.” 

The solution, Powell proposed, was for a small group of very, very wealthy people to reshape American public opinion through think tanks, funding of universities and schools, and an all-out assault on the media. Take over the courts and at least one of the political parties, he suggested, and wrest control of our economy away from government regulation. 

As I noted in The Crash of 2016 [10]

Powell’s most indelible mark on the nation was not to be his fifteen-year tenure as a Supreme Court Justice, but instead that memo, which served as a declaration of war—a war by the Economic Royalists against both democracy and what they saw as an overgrown middle class. It would be a final war, a bellum omnium contra omnes, against everything the New Deal and the Great Society had accomplished.

It wasn’t until September 1972, 10 months after the Senate confirmed Powell to the Supreme Court, that the public first found out about the Powell Memo (the actual written document had the word “Confidential” stamped on it—a sign that Powell himself hoped it would never see daylight outside of the rarified circles of his rich friends). Although by then, however, it had already found its way to the desks of CEOs all across the nation and was, with millions in corporate and billionaire money, already being turned into real actions, policies, and institutions.

borrow

During its investigation into Powell as part of the nomination process, the FBI never found the memo, but investigative journalist Jack Anderson did, and he exposed it in a September 28th, 1972, column titled, “Powell’s Lesson to Business Aired [11].”

Anderson wrote, “Shortly before his appointment to the Supreme Court, Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. urged business leaders in a confidential memo to use the courts as a ‘social, economic, and political’ instrument.” 

Pointing out that how the memo wasn’t discovered until after Powell was confirmed by the Senate, Anderson wrote, “Senators…never got a chance to ask Powell whether he might use his position on the Supreme Court to put his ideas into practice and to influence the court in behalf of business interests.” 

This was an explosive charge being leveled at the nation’s rookie Supreme Court Justice, a man entrusted with interpreting the nation’s laws with complete impartiality.

But Jack Anderson was no stranger to taking on American authority, and no stranger to the consequences of his journalism. He’d exposed scandals from the Truman, Eisenhower, Nixon, and later the Reagan administrations. He was a true investigative journalist.

In his report on the memo, Anderson wrote, “[Powell] recommended a militant political action program, ranging from the courts to the campuses.”  (Continued)

(To read entire article, click HERE)

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6 Degrees of Vladimir Putin

clhart

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The Visionless Society

By Chris Hedges/ Truthdig/ December 31, 2017

Nader
Imagine yourself in early 2019. The Democrats, despite never articulating a political vision other than not being Donald Trump and refusing to roll back Republican legislation such as the 2017 tax bill, have regained the House of Representatives by a slim majority. They vote articles of impeachment. The Senate Republicans, pressured by many within their own party to abandon Trump because of his ineptitude, increasingly erratic behavior and corruption, call on the president to resign. Trump refuses. He uses the megaphone of his office to incite violence by his small, fanatic base. The military, whose deployment as a domestic police force is authorized by Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act, is called into the streets to quell unrest. The United States, by the time the violence is snuffed out, is a de facto military dictatorship.

That such a scenario is plausible to public figures such as Ralph Nader is a sign of the deep decay of democratic institutions. The two major political parties lack a coherent vision. They are subservient to corporate power. They have abandoned the common good. They have turned politics into burlesque. They have rendered the citizenry impotent. The press, especially the electronic press, has transformed news into a grotesque reality show filled with trivia, gossip and conjecture. The elites in both parties, along with the rich and corporations, profit from a naked kleptocracy. Everything is for sale, from public lands to public education. And the juggernaut of corporate power impoverishes the people as it willfully destroys the facade of the hollowed-out democratic state.

“There is no democracy,” Nader said when I reached him by phone in Connecticut. “The only democracy left in this country is they don’t haul you to jail for speaking out. What’s left of democracy is a significant due process, habeas corpus, freedom of speech and probable cause, and that’s violated when there’s a terrorist attack and people are rounded up, like Muslim Americans.

“Can there be a democracy when you don’t have a competitive electoral system?” he asked. “No. Can there be a democracy when people who come in second win the election? No. Can there be a democracy when it’s tougher to get on the ballot than in any other Western country in the world by an order of magnitude? No. Can there be a democracy when money rules? And not just the money that politicians raise, but the third-party money. No. Can there be a democracy when people have no influence on the military budget? No. It’s not subjected to hearings. It’s ratified on the floor of the House and Senate, but it doesn’t go through the appropriations process. It’s subject to the most anemic, pathetic, servile questioning you can imagine. The Congress has destroyed any kind of democratic participation … in the military and foreign policy. The Congress is [supposed to be] invested in the sovereignty of the people. They [those in Congress] do not comply with the Constitution and the declaration of war authority. They don’t comply with the appropriations process. They have increasingly less public hearings. They are cocooned on Capitol Hill with a force field of money, militarism and materialism. Self-interests block the American people, who can hardly call their member of Congress [because the calls are diverted to voicemail]. This is the latest racket.

“Trump is playing rope-a-dope with the Democrats,” Nader continued. “He’s such an inviting target — all the lies, the stupidity, the outrage, the racism, the misogyny — they can’t resist. As a result, they’re weakening themselves by not having an affirmative agenda. They’re still talking about how they can learn how to connect with the average person. Can you imagine? It’s now the end of 2017. They’re trying to figure out a message.”

House Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Nader noted, has adopted the mantra “money, message, and mobilization” for the party. “If you start with money, what kind of a message are you going to have?” he asked. “If you don’t have a message, what are you going to mobilize around? So here it is. They still haven’t learned because they will never learn. The party will always be weak, flabby, indentured and dialing for the same commercial dollars as long as the four-time losers continue to run the party…. The country is spinning into the abyss.”

The Democrats have never called for an audit of the Pentagon’s massive and bloated military budget. They do not address corporate crime, champion consumer protection, promote the rights of workers or demand a living wage or full Medicare for all. And because they stand for nothing other than the politesse of identity politics and high-blown liberal rhetoric they have been unable to protect the country from the worst generation of the Republican Party in the nation’s history.

“They don’t even know how to have sonorous political language,” Nader said. “They’re stealing from you — my fellow Americans. A handful of corporate, greedy bosses controlling your government on this national stage and local level, gouging out whole communities, sending industries to fascist communist regimes abroad. They have no loyalties to this country. They have no allegiance to communities other than to exploit them, abandon them. They rose to power on the backs of you, the workers. They were subsidized by Washington and state capitals, by you the taxpayer. The Marines bailed them out when they got into hot water, palling around with dictators and monarchs. Why do you allow them to rule you?”

 

democracy

Nader said the ruling elites have “lost the fear of the people.” This has given rise to “a multifaceted dictatorial government indentured to the plutocratic class symbolized by Wall Street.”

Corporations, enjoying a new tax code that reduces corporate income taxes to 21 percent while individuals pay up to 37 percent, have been awarded the constitutional rights of individuals while individuals have been stripped of their rights.

“The Constitution is increasingly a dead letter,” Nader said.

Corporate media companies view the news division as a revenue stream. They collude with Trump in the daily Gong Show that masquerades as news.

“Trump took the press from profanity to obscenity,” Nader said. “He learned some lessons from ‘The Apprentice.’ He realized the media, with a few exceptions, will do anything for ratings and money. What does he do? He goes down the sensuality ladder. He starts talking openly about racism, rapists and sex, grab them wherever you want and get away with it. They [the media] go wild. That destroyed all the opponents in the Republican primary. Knocked them out day after day, as the press went after sensuality. The coarseness, the brutishness. There’s always a novel attack. He kept them catching up with him. One day he goes after [Sen. Marco] Rubio. Another day, he goes after Hillary. Another day, a veteran family.

“When The New York Times has two pages of tiny print of Trump’s lies, what impact does it have unless there are remedies and mobilizations that use that material to strengthen the opposition to replace him?” Nader asked. “After a while, people just shrug their shoulders and go back to playing video games. The margin for the defeat of the Democrats by the Republicans can be attributed sufficiently to Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage and all these creeps. They have a massive soliloquy, day after day after day with no rebuttal. And they’ve got the blue-collar worker that way. What kind of a population on the left of center would have allowed that to happen? Using our public airwaves for free.”

Nader said he feared that the population was so effectively anesthetized by mass culture that it might not rise up against the elites. “The U.S. has developed a society with an almost indeterminate absorptive capacity for injustice, abuse and degradation,” Nader said. “There is no civic education in the schools. They don’t know what the Constitution is. They don’t know what the law of torts is. They don’t know where the town hall is. They’re living in virtual reality, swinging between big-screen TV and their cellphones. They’re wallowing in text messages. To an extent, they’re excited by the workings of the minds symbolized by Wall Street and Silicon Valley. That’s the young generation. Great changes start with people in their 20s. But look what you’ve got now. You’ve got 10 years of internet connection, cellphones available to any child.

“That’s one. The second is 24/7 entertainment. The third is the abandonment by the elderly generation. They’ve sort of given up. They don’t know the gadgetry. They don’t know the language. They have their own economic insecurity. They’re not extending any kind of historical experience to the young that contains severe warnings. Watch out. You don’t think it can happen again, [but] it can happen again and again. There’s no verbal, oral tradition between the generations. Less and less. Then you have the political system, which is deep-sinking the society. How are people going to mobilize themselves? Is there a strong union, a labor movement? No. A strong consumer movement? No. They’re losing their privacy. They’re losing their ability to use legal tender. The corporate coercion is, to a degree, now getting rid of cash. Marx never believed that could happen. Why do they want to get rid of cash? They want to drive everybody into an incarcerated penitentiary that is surrounded by mobile payments, credit cards, credit scores, credit ratings, debit cards, constant debt, invasion of privacy, and the ability to assess penalties, charges and unwanted purchases because they control people’s money. That’s Wells Fargo. Wells Fargo got away with 3 million forced, unknown and unwanted credit card sales, auto insurance sales, repairing their ratings. Some people lost their cars and their homes. They’re flipped over into bankruptcy. Nobody has been prosecuted yet.”

Compounding the decay is the collapse of the legal profession, a problem exacerbated by Trump’s stacking of the federal courts with incompetent and far-right judges selected by groups such as The Federalist Society. The courts, he said, have already destroyed the freedom of contract and the law of torts. They have repeatedly revoked constitutional rights by judicial fiat, ruling, for example, that unlimited campaign contributions by corporations is a form of free speech and the right to petition the government.

Wall Street and the big banks, bailed out in 2008, have returned to the games of speculation that led to the global financial collapse. And when the next collapse comes, the banks and Wall Street will again descend on the U.S. Treasury for trillions more in bailouts.

“The banks are making huge profits,” Nader said. “Therefore, they’re taking bigger risks. The consumer dollars are being transferred to corporate profits, that are now being transformed into stock buybacks in order to meet the criteria for higher compensation even if it’s against the interest of their own company.

“From 2005 to 2014, you had $3.9 trillion of stock buybacks, 50 percent of all corporate net profits,” he said. “Fifty percent of the top 500 corporations profited in that decade with stock buybacks. Not to better salaries or shoring up pension plans, not to dividends, not to research and development, not to productive capital and job creation. It’s to stock buybacks. The biggest story untold, or minimally told, in the American economy today. With all this money repatriating from overseas and more corporate offices, they’re planning more stock buybacks. It’s like burning money.

“Walmart, instead of raising wages for its wage-starved masses, has about $65 billion stock buybacks in the last seven years,” Nader said. “If you take a million Walmart workers and you give them a thousand dollars more a year, that’s $1 billion. Multiply that by 60 to 70 times.”

The speculation, which is trashing the country’s economy, will continue, Nader said, until the financial system collapses and the U.S. defaults on its bonds.

Nader worries that as long as “10 to 15 percent of the American people are well-off” the elites will have enough support to continue the assault.

“Societies have been repressed by far smaller members of well-instituted upper classes,” he said. “That’s what we forget. Eighteenth-, 19th-, 20th-century Europe. A tiny clique controlled them. When there’s any problem it flips over to dictatorship. As long as the contented classes are not upset, the system of control is in lock, like connecting gears.

“The corruption never ends,” he said. “We’re a gambling society. We bet on the future. We don’t build the future. You’ve got casinos everywhere, video gambling. They’re pushing for gambling on your mobile phone. They’re pushing for legalization of gambling in sports. Then you got marijuana. Day after day there are stories about the legalization of marijuana. What’s going to happen? It’s already a big business. The paraphernalia. They don’t write anything about legalizing industrial hemp. Which could be a significant industry in the country. All the farmers want it, and even the paper companies want it. And the DEA has still got it on a proscribed list. You got [Sen.] Rand Paul and [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell supporting legalization of hemp. It’s not being pushed in Congress by the Democrats.”

Resistance, Nader said, must be local. First we need to organize to take back our own communities, he said. Congressional seats have to be contested by grass-roots organizations that use the power of numbers to overwhelm mass media and corporate money. And we can expect the corporate state to attempt to shut out our message.

“Living wage, taxes, universal health insurance, that have 70 percent support or higher,” Nader said in listing campaign issues. “Breaking up big banks, 90 percent support. Cracking down on corporate crime, similar. People need to give corporate crime a face. This is what happens to your credit. This is what happens to your home. This is what happens to your job. This is what happens to you if you have cancer. This is what happens in the hospital. This is what happens when you’re denied health insurance; you can’t cover your kids. It’s pretty crazy when you can’t make this kind of a pitch to a large audience.”

The greed of the corporate state leaves us unprepared for the ravages of climate change, he warned. And by the time the elites respond it may be too late.

“It’s a race,” Nader said. “Once Miami gets inundated, especially Fisher Island, it might bring the wealthy class to their senses. The problem with solar is it needs a network. Solar panels are fine, but if you’re going to have solar electricity you need a different type of grid system. That requires infrastructure investment.

“Justice needs money,” he concluded, calling on enlightened elites to spend a billion dollars to fund resistance movements outside the Democratic Party. “The abolition movement needed money. The suffrage movement needed money. They got it from wealthy people. Civil rights movement. The Curry family. The Stern family. The early 1950s, 1960s. Environmental movements got money from rich people.

“Don’t wait for the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party is an instrument. On the first round you’ve got to use it and control it. On the third round, when you’re mobilized, you can throw it aside. It’s a hollowed feature that is a part of the duopoly. But it’s there. These parties are very vulnerable. They’re shells that rest on money and television ads that nobody likes. Unrebuttable right-wing talk radio. All these can be circumvented neighborhood by neighborhood, but you’ve got to have money. Labor halls are unoccupied. Veteran halls are unoccupied. Libraries are unoccupied. There are a lot of meeting places around. A lot of empty stores can be rented.”

(Boldface by TBPR editor)

Submitters Bio:

Chris Hedges spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years.

Posted in America, civil liberties, government, politics | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Real Coup Plot Is Trump’s

By Jascha Mounk/ New York Times/ December 20, 2017

When Donald Trump’s campaign was accused of spreading “fake news,” he quickly appropriated the term for himself. The true purveyors of fake news, he claimed, were television networks like CNN and newspapers like this one.

Now, as Mr. Trump and his allies seem on the verge of staging a coup against independent institutions and the rule of law — maligning the special counsel Robert Mueller and threatening a purge at the F.B.I. — the president’s supporters are appropriating yet another word for themselves. Mr. Mueller’s investigation aims to “destroy” the Trump presidency “for partisan political purposes and to disenfranchise millions of American voters,” the Fox News host Jesse Watters claimed on Saturday. “We have a coup on our hands in America.”

This marks a new era in American politics. The Republican Party is no longer just obfuscating the truth or defending the president when he is accused of wrongdoing. Rather, Mr. Trump, Fox News and Republicans in Congress seem to be actively using falsehoods to prepare an assault on the institutions that allow American democracy to function.

In all democracies, politicians occasionally lie to cover up scandals or exaggerate their legislative accomplishments. In the United States, the rise of the right-wing news media in recent decades has tempted politicians to play to their own supporters without worrying whether their rhetoric is inflammatory or fair. But the construction of an alternate reality that obviates the very possibility of conducting politics on the basis of truth is a novelty in this country. And it is increasingly becoming obvious that it will serve a clear purpose: to prepare the ground for egregious violations of basic democratic norms.

Once any string of words is considered as true as any other, any course of action comes to seem as legitimate as any other. One moment, Mr. Mueller is a respected civil servant leading an important investigation at the behest of the Justice Department. The next, he is plotting a coup — potentially committing treason, a felony for which the law demands the death penalty. By the same token, Mr. Trump would, at one moment, be scandalously overstepping the bounds of his rightful authority in firing Mr. Mueller or pardoning his closest associates. The next moment, he would be valiantly defending the Republic.

The basic playbook is now familiar. At first, the most extreme partisans — like Mr. Watters of Fox News — float an outlandish idea. Then, supporters of the president who affect an air of moderation debate whether this idea is true in a seemingly evenhanded manner. Before long, Mr. Trump himself is spreading the claim, saying something like “many people are asking questions” about it.

One person telling one lie is easily shown to be a liar. But a hundred people telling a thousand lies quickly exhaust the ability of news outlets to disprove each claim, and of citizens to keep track of all the real and invented scandals. Overwhelmed by the noise, they take refuge in believing whatever their own team tells them. As a result, the public sphere quickly degenerates into a battleground in which opposing tribes string together words to wield as a weapon.

This is the same strategy that authoritarian populists have long used to attack democratic institutions. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, for example, has spent the past year calling journalists criminals, terrorists and coup-plotters. Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India recently accused Manmohan Singh, a former prime minister, of being in league with Pakistan. And Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary has portrayed his opponents as pawns in the billionaire philanthropist George Soros’s supposed scheme to use refugees to subjugate his country (a claim that is increasingly being echoed on the farther reaches of the American right).

The rapid degeneration of the public sphere in Turkey, India and Hungary can teach us two important lessons: First, up can become down and legitimate investigations can turn into supposed coups only if a few politicians and journalists are shameless enough to repeat blatant lies over and over again. Second, and more important, these lies can justify a power grab by the executive only if many more politicians and journalists are willing to stand by instead of calling those outrageous calumnies what they are.

This is why the pundits and politicians who have helped to delegitimize Mr. Mueller and his investigation over the past weeks are making themselves active accomplices in a deliberate assault on our democracy. But it is also why those who have failed to condemn these attacks — like Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, and Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader — are equally to blame.

The only effective way to stop the creation of an alternative reality that justifies any action whatsoever is for politicians who are trusted by their own side to call out shameless falsehoods. That is precisely what most mainstream conservatives are failing to do.

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DEVOLUTION

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