Corporate Democrats

Our broken political system demands that politicians look to big corporate donors in order to get elected. Corporate Democrats take the money and show their gratitude by voting in ways that please their benefactors. This video shows how it is done and names names! –TBPR Editor

 

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America the Failed State

By Chris Hedges/ Truthdig/ July 1, 2018

 

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Mr. Fish / Truthdig

TORONTO—Our “corporate coup d’état in slow motion,” as the writer John Ralston Saul calls it, has opened a Pandora’s box of evils that is transforming America into a failed state. The “unholy trinity of corruption, impunity and violence,” he said, can no longer be checked. The ruling elites abjectly serve corporate power to exploit and impoverish the citizenry. Democratic institutions, including thecourts, are mechanisms of corporate repression. Financial fraud and corporate crime are carried out with impunity. The decay is exacerbated by the state’s indiscriminate use of violence abroad and at home, where rogue law enforcement agencies harass and arrest citizens and the undocumented and often kill the unarmed. A depressed and enraged population, trapped by chronic unemployment and underemployment, is overdosing on opioids and beset by rising suicide rates. It engages in acts of nihilistic violence, including mass shootings. Hate groups proliferate. The savagery, mayhem and grotesque distortions familiar to those on the outer reaches of empire increasingly characterize American existence. And presiding over it all is the American version of Ubu Roi, playwright Alfred Jarry’s gluttonous, idiotic, vulgar, narcissistic and infantile king, who turned politics into burlesque.

 

“Congress works through corruption,” Saul, the author of books such as “Voltaire’s Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West” and “The Collapse of Globalism and the Reinvention of the World,” said when we spoke in Toronto. “I look at Congress and I see the British Parliament in the late 18th century, the rotten boroughs. Did they have elections? Yes. Were the elections exciting? Yes. They were extremely exciting.”

Rotten boroughs were the 19th-century version of gerrymandering. The British oligarchs created electoral maps through which depopulated boroughs—50 of them had fewer than 50 voters—were easily dominated by the rich to maintain control of the House of Commons. In the United States, our ruling class has done much the same, creating districts where incumbents, who often run unchallenged, return to Congress election after election. Only about 40 of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives are actually contested. And given the composition of the Supreme Court, especially with Donald Trump poised to install another justice, it will get worse.

The corruption of the British system was amended in what Saul called “a wave upwards.” The 1832 Reform Act abolished a practice in which oligarchs, such as Charles Howard, the 11th Duke of Norfolk, controlled the election results in 11 boroughs. The opening up of the British parliamentary system took nearly a century. In the United States, Saul said, the destruction of democracy is part of “a wave downwards.”

The two political parties are one party—the corporate party. They do not debate substantive issues. They each support the expansion of imperial wars, the bloated military budget, the dictates of global capitalism, the bailing out of Wall Street, punishing austerity measures, assaulting basic civil liberties through wholesale government surveillance and the abolition of due process, and an electoral process that has cemented into place a system of legalized bribery. They battle over cultural tropes such as abortion, gay rights and prayer in schools. We elect politicians based on how we are made to feel about them by the public relations industry. Politics is anti-politics.

The Republican Party built its political base in these culture wars around Christian fascists, nativists and white supremacists. The Democratic Party built its base around those who supported workers’ rights, multiculturalism, diversity and gender equality. The base of each party was used and manipulated by elites. The Republican Party elites had no intention of banning abortion or turning America into a “Christian nation.” The Democratic Party elites had no intention of protecting workers from predatory corporatism. Everyone was sold out. The ascendancy of a populist right, dominated by racists and bigots, is the inevitable product of the corporate coup d’état, Saul said. He warned we should not be complacent because of President Trump’s imbecility. Trump is immensely dangerous. “The insipid,”Thomas Mann wrote in “The Magic Mountain,” “is not synonymous with the harmless.”

“How could a civilization devoted to structure, expertise and answers evolve into other than a coalition of professional groups?” Saul asked in “Voltaire’s Bastards.” “How, then, could the individual citizen not be seen as a serious impediment to getting on with business? This has been obscured by the proposition of painfully simplified abstract notions which are divorced from any social reality and presented as values.”

“The rational elites, obsessed by structure, have become increasingly authoritarian in a modern, administrative way,” he wrote in another section of the book. “The citizens feel insulted and isolated. They look for someone to throw stones on their behalf. Any old stone will do. The cruder the better to crush the self-assurance of the obscure men and their obscure methods. The New Right, with its parody of democratic values, has been a crude but devastating stone with which to punish the modern elites.”

All despotic regimes, Saul said, carry out their final battle for control by contending against public officials and government bureaucrats, the so-called deep state, which views the rise to power of demagogues and their sleazy enablers with alarm. These traditional courtiers, often cynical, ambitious, amoral and subservient to corporate power, nevertheless engage in the decorum and language of democracy. A few with a conscience win minor skirmishes to slow the rise of tyranny. Despots see these courtiers and democratic institutions, no matter how anemic, as a threat. This explains the assaults on the State Department, the Justice Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Education and the courts. Despots use their appointees to undermine and destroy these institutions, mocking their existence and questioning the loyalty of the professionals who staff them. The reviled and neutered public employee surrenders or walks away in despair. Last year, the entire senior level of management officials resigned at the State Department. Resignations continue to bleed the diplomatic core, as they do at other agencies and departments, and last week included James D. Melville Jr., the U.S. ambassador to Estonia, and Susan Thornton, the nominee to be assistant secretary for East Asian affairs.

“For the President to say the EU was ‘set up to take advantage of the United States, to attack our piggy bank,’ or that ‘NATO is as bad as NAFTA’ is not only factually wrong, but proves to me that it’s time to go,” Melville said in the post that announced his resignation.

Once a process of deconstruction is complete, the system calcifies into tyranny. There remain no internal mechanisms, even in name, to carry out reform. This corrosive process is being played out daily in Trump’s Twitter rages, lies, smears and the barrage of insults he levels against public servants, including some of his own appointees, such as Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as well as institutions such as the FBI.

Witnessing this, Saul berates the American press too, which he said willingly plays its part in the charade for ratings and advertising dollars.

“Trump gives these astonishingly Mussolini-ish press conferences,” he said. “He says to the press, ‘Shut up. Stop!’ The press screams at him like a mob, a bunch of cattle. How can they be taken seriously? It is like the end of the Roman Republic. Important political leaders from the Senate, along with their rivals, would move around Rome with 50 people to protect them. Scenes, exactly like Trump’s interactions with the press, defined the end of the Roman Republic. Nobody knew what was going on. There was no dignity. You can’t have a democracy without a level of respect and dignity. You only have chaos. This chaos eventually leads to a call for autocratic order. Trump benefits from the confusion, even though he resembles a cartoonish figure out of a funny novel, a character from Jean Genet’s ‘The Balcony,’ although without the self-awareness.”

Trump’s decision to launch a trade war—Canada will impose punitive measures on $12.63 billion worth of imported American goods in response—is an example of the damage a despot who has little understanding of the economy, politics, international relations or law can do. These self-inflicted wounds, Saul warned, see despots intensify attacks on the demonized and the vulnerable, such as Muslims and the undocumented. Despots frantically scapegoat others for their mess, often inciting violence among their supporters to placate an inchoate rage.

“I’ve always opposed trade deals not because I oppose trade,” Saul said, “or because I thought they were about getting a fair balance in the trade, but because the trade deals were about something else. They were about deregulation. They were about handing power to corporations and banks. They weren’t about trade. Trump has again and again attacked the Canadian dairy system. Nobody has stopped to ask him, ‘Why are you opposing this instead of adopting it for yourself?’ A lot of American dairy farmers would like to have the Canadian system.”

“The free market approach to agriculture produces a surplus that drives prices down and destroys the income of farmers,” Saul said. “There are two ways of responding to this. One of them is subsidizing. Europe, following the old social democratic approach, subsidizes their agricultural sector. This drives down the income of farmers, so [the governments] subsidize [agriculture] more. They have enormous surpluses. Periodically, they’re throwing millions of tomatoes on the streets.”

“The United States claims it embraces the free market, but it does the same thing as the Europeans,” Saul said. “It too heavily subsidizes the agricultural industry. This leads to American dairy farmers producing too much milk. This economic argument says the way to win is to mass-produce cheap goods. This is the Walmart argument. You’re not selling your milk or cheese for enough to make a living. The end result is, even though you subsidize them, the farmers go bankrupt. They commit suicide. You have terrible unhappiness in the [U.S.] dairy community.”

“We have a very efficient management system in Canada that keeps the prices up, not so high that working-class people can’t buy milk and cheese, but it keeps the prices up high enough that farmers can make a proper living,” Saul said. “Because farmers can make a proper living they’re not committing suicide. What Trump is saying to Canadians is that they should give up a system that works so Canadian farmers can commit suicide with American farmers.”

“The problem with the Western world is surplus production,” Saul said. “We’re in surplus production in almost every area. But there is a terrible distribution system where people around the globe suffer and die from starvation. This is a distribution problem, not a production problem.”

Saul said the imposition of tariffs and the crude insults Trump uses against American allies—he called Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “dishonest and weak”—are rapidly destroying America’s clout and standing in the global hierarchy. This behavior is having very negative political, economic and social consequences for the United States.

“The whole world, the Western world in particular, invested enormously in the idea that the United States is the leader,” Saul said. “The idea that the United States is to be admired. What’s sad about it is Americans take it for granted that the world loves them. They’ve never analyzed the responsibilities that come with being the leader. It’s what you expect from a good parent. You act in a certain way. People want to identify with the United States. It’s been that way since the Second World War. All this is being thrown away. Like or dislike Obama, he rebuilt a great part of the world’s admiration for the United States. I know what his failures were. But I also know his strengths. He was a president who was capable of acting and talking like the intelligent, civilized American that everyone wants to admire.”

“But there’s always a shadow to the bright tower,” Saul went on. “Trump’s feeding that shadow. ‘Americans are stupid. Americans are corrupt. Americans are not educated. Americans can’t be trusted.’ The whole list. The longer the chaos goes on, the worse it gets.”

The collapse of the legislative and executive branches of government has now been accompanied by the collapse of the judiciary. The loss of an independent judiciary, Saul warned, is especially ominous.

“The biggest problem in the United States is a very powerful and deeply corrupted Supreme Court,” Saul said. “This will set patterns for decades. It will be hard to undo the evil being put into place.”

Saul despaired, at the same time, over the Trump administration’s attack on public education, which he called “the most fundamental service of government when it comes to a democracy.”

“What holds democracy up?” Saul asked. “What makes democracy work? Public education is number one. A well-educated citizen. [Secretary of Education] Betsy DeVos is undoing that. There is a special place for her in hell.”

U.S. trading partners and allies such as Canada and European states will, he said, reduce their dependence on the American market. The traditional strategic and political ties to Washington will be steadily weakened. And when the next financial crash comes, and Saul expects one to come, the United States will be bereft of partners when it needs them most.

“If you treat your closest allies as a threat, who is going to stand with you?” he asked.

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How Central Banks Rule the World

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Trump to Pick Supreme Court Justice

 

Letters to the Editor, Monterey Herald, July 1, and San Francisco Chronicle, July 3, 2018

Maybe President Trump will nominate a open-minded, non-partisan, even-handed and objective nominee to become the next Supreme Court justice. Maybe the tooth fairy will play basketball for the Warriors.

— Arlen Grossman Del Rey Oaks

Trump-supreme-court-seat-WEB

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ALL TRUMP, ALL THE TIME: RECIPE FOR DISASTER

(Revised and Expanded Version)

(Reprinted at OpedNews.com, 2300+ views, June 25, 2018)

By Arlen Grossman

How is it that President Trump is able to consistently maintain an approval rating over 40 percent despite the lies, chaos, mistakes and failures of his presidency? The answer should be obvious: The news media allow him to promote his message without countervailing views from the opposition party. As president, Donald Trump’s tweets are deserving of coverage, but they should be paired with responses, official or otherwise, from the opposing party, the Democrats. Otherwise the president’s distorted version of reality will be all many Americans will hear.

Just as the president’s State of the Union address is always followed by the opposition party’s response. President Trump’s tweets and rants, at least some or most of the time, should be accompanied by a Democratic reply.

Consider how the approval rating of Robert Mueller has plummeted, and for no apparent reason. According to a recent CNN poll, 36 percent of all registered voters view Mueller unfavorably, compared to the 23 percent who viewed him negatively eleven months ago. The special counsel doesn’t speak publicly, so what accounts for the drop in approval? Trump and his allies have been bashing Mueller and his probe constantly, and it has clearly taken a toll on his reputation. In fact, 53 percent of Republicans now have an unfavorable impression of Mueller, compared to just 27 percent who said the same a year ago. Trump’s relentless criticism of Mueller, combined with a lack of countervailing responses, has resulted in a negative public view of the once highly respected former director of the FBI.

There have been complaints from anti-Trump voters as to why Democrats aren’t speaking up after every Trump irrational claim. Why aren’t Schumer, Pelosi and other Democrats relentlessly criticizing Trump? In truth, Democratic politicians are talking to the public. They just aren’t getting even a fraction of the coverage that Trump and his outrageous tweets and rants are getting. The president speaks, the media comments, and Democrats are ignored. No wonder the president’s bizarre view of reality is taken seriously by many Americans.

The corporate news media needs to understand its role. The job of the press should not be the official transcriber of the current administration. Its primary function should be to inform the public. Allow the opposition party an equal opportunity to answer the astonishing falsehoods and distortions of the chief executive and I would expect the president’s approval rating to be closer to what he really deserves. In other words, a lot lower.

If the media continues as it has, there would be the frightening chance that President Trump would be reelected in 2020. And were that to happen, our country would likely never recover.

 

 

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Is Trump Winning?

Trump has turned words into weapons. And he’s winning the linguistic war

From ‘spygate’ to ‘fake news’, Trump is using language to frame – and win – debates. And the press operate like his marketing agency

By George P Lakoff and Gil Duran/ The Guardian/ June 13, 2018

‘Trump is subjecting American democracy to a brutal test. Our survival requires that the press halt its unwitting complicity in his power grab.’
‘Trump is subjecting American democracy to a brutal test. Our survival requires that the press halt its unwitting complicity in his power grab.’ Photograph: Michael Candelori/Rex/Shutterstock

Donald Trump has been a salesman for nearly half a century. He is now selling himself, his worldview and his self-serving views of the law and the truth. His principal tools are language and the media. By faithfully transmitting Trump’s words and ideas, the press helps him to attack, and thereby control, the press itself.

Trump knows the press has a strong instinct to repeat his most outrageous claims, and this allows him put the press to work as a marketing agency for his ideas. His lies reach millions of people through constant repetition in the press and social media. This poses an existential threat to democracy.

Language works by activating brain structures called “frame-circuits” used to understand experience. They get stronger when we hear the activating language. Enough repetition can make them permanent, changing how we view the world.

Even negating a frame-circuit activates and strengthens it, as when Nixon said “I am not a crook” and people thought of him as a crook.

Scientists, marketers, advertisers and salespeople understand these principles. So do Russian and Islamic State hackers. But most reporters and editors clearly don’t. So the press is at a disadvantage when dealing with a super salesman with an instinctive ability to manipulate thought by 1) framing first 2) repeating often, and 3) leading others to repeat his words by getting people to attack him within his own frame.

Language can shape the way we think. Trump knows this. Here are some of his favorite manipulation techniques.

First, he weaponizes words. The modifier “crooked” convicted Hillary Clinton without a trial. The media’s constant repetition sealed the verdict. “Fake news” proclaims that the news is fake. The use of “fake” is designed to delegitimize the press itself. Trump also uses strategic name-calling to undermine the Russia investigation, tagging it as a “witch-hunt” by the “deep state” in an attempt to shift blame. It’s false, but when the press repeats it, his narrative wins.

A possible immediate correction might have been to use “RussianSpyGate,” repeatedly focusing on the Russian contacts of Trump’s campaign aides Carter Page and George Papadopoulos, with the FBI informant checking on Russian spying in the Trump campaign. This would have had to be done over and over, with reporters bring it up whenever “spygate” was used. Not an easy fix.

Then there are what cognitive scientists call “salient exemplars” – well-publicized individual cases, where wide publicity leads the public to take them as having a high probability and typifying a whole class. Trump turns them into weaponized stereotypes. He is a master at defaming entire groups of people as liars, rapists, terrorists – or in the case of US law enforcement and intelligence agencies – agents of corruption.

He knows how to avoid taking responsibility for a claim. “Maybe.” “I don’t know.” “We’ll see.” Yet the claim has been made and stands, with no responsibility for it.

In The Art of the Deal, Trump discusses using “truthful hyperbole” – exaggerated claims suggesting a significant truth. His hyperbole can be either positive (“great”, “terrific”, “the best”) for what he likes or negative (“a disaster,” “the worst ever”) for what he dislikes. “The worst trade deal ever” frames trade agreements as “deals”, where “deals” are seen as zero-sum games that you either win or lose – and winning is the only good outcome. “Doesn’t it feel good to win!” “You’ll win so much, you’ll feel tired of winning!”

“Deal” and “winning” are not just words. They are central to his worldview. Those who win deserve to win; those who lose deserve to lose. Those who don’t win are “losers”. This is a version of individual responsibility, a cornerstone of conservative thought. There is a moral hierarchy. Those who win are better than those who lose.

“America first” means that America is better than other countries, as shown by its wealth and power. And that wealth and power should be used to win – to acquire more wealth and power in all its “deals” – even with our allies. Power includes the power to bully or punish – for example, to impose tariffs or pull out of treaty – or at least threaten if others don’t go along with him.

The White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, during the daily press briefing.
Pinterest
The White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, during the daily press briefing. Photograph: Shawn Thew/EPA

Trump’s tweets are not random, they are strategic. There are four types: 1) Pre-emptive framing, to get a framing advantage. 2) Diversion, to divert attention when news could embarrass him. 3) Deflection: Shift the blame to others. And 4) trial balloon – test how much you can get away with. Reporting, and therefore repeating, Trump’s tweets just gives him more power. There is an alternative. Report the true frames that he is trying to pre-empt. Report the truth that he is trying to divert attention from. Put the blame where it belongs. Bust the trial balloon. Report what the strategies are trying to hide.

Cornered by the Russia investigation, Trump is working overtime to twist the facts, the law, and reality in general, to benefit himself. As the indictments and the evidence pile up in favor of a case for Trump-Russia collusion in the 2016 election, he’s made it clear that he considers himself above both the law and the truth. As president of the United States, anything he says – true or false – is faithfully parroted by the press. This needs to change.

Trump is subjecting American democracy to a brutal test. Our survival requires that the press halt its unwitting complicity in his power grab. The press has become complicit with Trump by allowing itself to be used as an amplifier for his falsehoods and frames. When the press gives Trump absolute power to dictate coverage, it abdicates its role as a pillar of democracy.

How can the press do a better job? Here are some basic suggestions:

First, journalists must understand how propaganda works on the brain and grasp the cognitive science that marketers of propaganda have implicitly mastered: frames, metaphors, narratives and brain basics.

Second, keep a steely focus on the fact that American democracy is under attack by a foreign power, possibly with collusion from the sitting president’s campaign. This is a crisis. Certain rules don’t apply in a crisis, especially the rule that the press must amplify the president’s words, whatever they are.

Third, stop letting Trump control the news cycle. Newsgathering should be a serious affair controlled by editors whose power rivals any politician’s. Stop chasing his tweets and elevating every sideshow. Start every story with truth and the context of what’s really important to citizens in a democracy. More BBC, less TMZ.

Fourth, don’t spread lies. Don’t privilege Trump’s lies by putting their specific language in the headlines, the leads or the hashtags. Don’t repeat the lies assuming people will automatically know they’re lies. People need to know the president is lying, but be careful about repeating the lies because “a lie repeated often enough becomes the truth”. Repetition of lies spreads them.

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SCAPEGOATING IRAN

By Chris Hedges/ Truthdig/ June 11, 2018

The warmongers have no more of a plan for “regime change” in Iran than they had in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya or Syria. European allies, whom Trump alienated when he walked away from the Iranian nuclear agreement, are in no mood to cooperate with Washington.

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From Truthdig


(Image by Mr Fish/Truthdig)   Permission   Details   DMCA

NEW YORK–Seventeen years of war in the Middle East and what do we have to show for it? Iraq after our 2003 invasion and occupation is no longer a unified country. Its once modern infrastructure is largely destroyed, and the nation has fractured into warring enclaves. We have lost the war in Afghanistan. The Taliban is resurgent and has a presence in over 70 percent of the country. Libya is a failed state. Yemen after three years of relentless airstrikes and a blockade is enduring one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters. The 500 “moderate” rebels we funded and armed in Syria at a cost of $500 million are in retreat after instigating a lawless reign of terror. The military adventurism has cost a staggering $5.6 trillionas our infrastructure crumbles, austerity guts basic services and half the population of the United States lives at or near poverty levels. The endless wars in the Middle East are the biggest strategic blunder in American history and herald the death of the empire.

Someone has to be blamed for debacles that have resulted in hundreds of thousands of dead, including at least 200,000 civilians, and millions driven from their homes. Someone has to be blamed for the proliferation of radical jihadist groups throughout the Middle East, the continued worldwide terrorist attacks, the wholesale destruction of cities and towns under relentless airstrikes and the abject failure of U.S. and U.S.-backed forces to stanch the insurgencies. You can be sure it won’t be the generals, the politicians such as George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the rabid neocons such as Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and John Bolton who sold us the wars, the Central Intelligence Agency, the arms contractors who profit from perpetual war or the celebrity pundits on the airwaves and in newspapers who serve as cheerleaders for the mayhem.

“The failed policies, or lack of policies, of the United States, which violate international law, have left the Middle East in total chaos,” the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations, Gholamali Khoshroo, told me when we met in New York City. “The United States, to cover up these aggressive, reckless and costly policies, blames Iran. Iran is blamed for their failures in Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Lebanon.”

The Trump administration “is very naive about the Middle East and Iran,” the ambassador said. “It can only speak in the language of threats — pressure, sanctions, intervention. These policies have failed in the region. They are very risky and costly. Let the Americans deal with the problems of the countries they have already invaded and attacked. America lacks constructive power in the Middle East. It is unable to govern even a village in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen or Syria. All it can do is use force and destructive power. This U.S. administration wants the Middle East and the whole world to bow to it. This is not a policy conducive to sound relationships with sovereign states, especially those countries that have resisted American influence.”

“The plan to arm ‘moderate’ rebels in Syria was a cover to topple [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad,” the ambassador went on. “The Americans knew there were no ‘moderate’ rebels. They knew these weapons would get into the hands of terrorist groups like Daesh [Islamic State], Al-Nusra and their affiliates. Once again, the American policy failed. The Americans succeeded in destroying a country. They succeeded in creating bloodbaths. They succeeded in displacing millions of people. But they gained nothing. The sovereignty of Syria is expanding by the day. It is hard to imagine what President Trump is offering as a strategy in Syria. One day, he says, ‘I will move out of Syria very soon, very quickly.’ The next day he says, ‘If Iran is there, we should stay.’ I wonder if the American taxpayers know how much of their money has been wasted in Iraq, Syria and Yemen?”

Trump’s unilateral decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, although Iran was in compliance with the agreement, was the first salvo in this effort to divert attention from these failures to Iran. Bolton, the new national security adviser, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, along with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, advocate the overthrow of the Iranian government, with Giuliani saying last monththat Trump is “as committed to regime change as we [an inner circle of presidential advisers] are.”

“The Iran nuclear deal was possible following several letters by President Barack Obama assuring the Iranian leadership that America had no intention of violating Iranian sovereignty,” Ambassador Khoshroo said. “America said it wanted to engage in a serious dialogue on equal footing and mutual interests and concerns. These assurances led to the negotiations that concluded with the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action]. From the beginning, however, America was not forthcoming in its dealings with us on the JCPOA. President Obama wanted the agreement to be implemented, but he did not want it implemented in its full capacity. Congress, on the day JCPOA was implemented, passed a law warning Europeans that were doing business with Iran. The staffs of companies had to apply for a visa to the United States if they had traveled to Iran for business purposes. This began on the first day. The Americans were not always very forthcoming. OFAC [Office of Foreign Funds Control] gave ambiguous answers to many of the questions that companies had about sanctions, but at least in words the Obama administration supported the JCPOA and saw the agreement as the basis for our interactions.”

“President Trump, however, even as a candidate, called the agreement ‘the worst deal America ever made,'” the ambassador said. “He called this deal a source of embarrassment for America. Indeed, it was not the deal but America’s unilateral decision to walk away from an agreement that was supported by the United Nations Security Council, and in fact co-sponsored and drafted by the United States, that is the source of embarrassment for America. To walk away from an international agreement and then threaten a sovereign country is the real source of embarrassment since Iran was in full compliance while the U.S. never was.”

“In 2008, the Israelis told the world that Iran was only some days away from acquiring an atomic bomb,” he said. “The Israelis said there had to be a military strike to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. What has happened since? During the last two years, there have been 11 reports by the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] clearly confirming and demonstrating Iran’s full compliance with the JCPOA. All of the accusations [about] Iran using nuclear facilities for military purposes were refuted by the IAEA as well as by Europe, Russia, China, along with many other countries in Asia, Latin America, Africa. America is concerned about Iranian influence in the region and seeks to contain Iran because the U.S. administration realizes that America’s policies in the Middle East have failed. Their own statements about Iran repeatedly contradict each other. One day they say, ‘Iran is so weak it will collapse,’ and the next day they say, ‘Iran is governing several Arab capitals in the Middle East.'”

Iran announced recently that it has tentative plans to produce the feedstock for centrifuges, the machines that enrich uranium, if the nuclear deal is not salvaged by European members of the JCPOA. European countries, dismayed by Trump’s decision to withdraw from the agreement, are attempting to renegotiate the deal, which imposes restrictions on Iran’s nuclear development in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions.

Why go to war with a country that abides by an agreement it has signed with the United States? Why attack a government that is the mortal enemy of the Taliban, along with other jihadist groups, including al-Qaeda and Islamic State, that now threaten us after we created and armed them? Why shatter the de facto alliance we have with Iran in Iraq and Afghanistan? Why further destabilize a region already dangerously volatile?

The architects of these wars are in trouble. They have watched helplessly as the instability and political vacuum they caused, especially in Iraq, left Iran as the dominant power in the region. Washington, in essence, elevated its nemesis. It has no idea how to reverse its mistake, beyond attacking Iran. Those both in the U.S. and abroad who began or promoted these wars see a conflict with Iran as a solution to their foreign and increasingly domestic dilemmas.

For example, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, mired in corruption scandals, hopes that by fostering a conflict with Iran he can divert attention away from investigations into his abuse of power and the massacres Israel carries out against Palestinians, along with Israel’s accelerated seizure of Palestinian land.

“The most brutal regime is now in power in Israel,” the Iranian ambassador said. “It has no regard for international law or humanitarian law. It violates Security Council resolutions regarding settlements, its capital and occupation. Look at what Israel has done in Gaza in the last 30 days. On the same day America was unlawfully transferring its embassy to Jerusalem, 60 unarmed Palestinian protesters were killed by Israeli snipers. [Israelis] were dancing in Jerusalem while the blood of unarmed Palestinians was running in Gaza. The Trump administration gives total support and impunity to Israel. This angers many people in the Middle East, including many in Saudi Arabia. It is a Zionist project to portray Iran as the main threat to peace in the Middle East. Israel introducing Iran as a threat is an attempt to divert attention from the crimes this regime is committing, but these too are failed policies that will backfire. They are policies designed to cover weakness.”

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, facing internal unrest, launched the war in Yemen as a vanity project to bolster his credentials as a military leader. Now he desperately needs to deflect attention from the quagmire and humanitarian disaster he created.

“Saudi Arabia, as part of [the civil war in Yemen], has a tactical and strategic cooperation with Israel against Iran,” the ambassador said. “But the Saudi regime is defying the sentiments of its own people. How long will this be possible? For three years now, Saudi Arabia, assisted by the United States, has bombed the Yemeni people and imposed a total blockade that includes food and medicine. Nothing has been resolved. Once again, Iran is blamed for this failure by Saudi Arabia and the United States in Yemen. Even if Iran wanted to help the Yemenis, it is not possible due to the total blockade. The Yemeni people asked for peace negotiations from the first day of the war. But Saudi military adventurism and its desire to test its military resolve made any peaceful solution impossible. The U.S. and the U.K. provide military and logistical support, including cluster bombs to be used by the Saudis in Yemen. The Emiratis are bombing Yemen. All such actions are doomed to failure since there is no military solution in Yemen. There is only a political solution. Look at the targets of Saudi airstrikes in Yemen: funerals. Wedding ceremonies. Agricultural fields. Houses. Civilians. How do the Saudis expect the Yemeni people to greet those who bomb them? With hugs? The war has cost a lot of money, and Trump responds by saying [to Saudi Arabia], ‘Oh you have money. [Paraphrasing here.] Please buy our ‘beautiful weapons.’ They are killing beautiful children with these ‘beautiful’ weapons. It is a disaster. It is tragic.”

And then there is President Donald Trump, desperate for a global crusade he can use to mask his ineptitude, the rampant corruption of his administration and his status as an international pariah when he runs for re-election in 2020.

“Of course, blaming and threatening Iran is not new,” the ambassador said. “This has been going on for 40 years. The Iranian people and the Iranian government are accustomed to this nonsense. United States intervention in the internal affairs of Iran goes back a long time, including the [Iranian] war with Iraq, when the United States supported Saddam Hussein. Then America invaded Iraq in 2003 in their so-called ‘intervention for democracy and elimination of WMDs.’ Iran has always resisted and will always resist U.S. threats.”

“America was in Iran 40 years ago,” the ambassador said. “About 100,000 U.S. advisers were in Iran during the rule of the shah, who was among the closest allies of America. America was unable to keep this regime in power because the Iranian people revolted against such dependency and suppression. Since the fall of the shah in 1979, for 40 years, America continued to violate international law, especially the Algeria agreements it signed with Iran in 1981.”

The Algeria Declaration was a set of agreements between the United States and Iran that resolved the Iranian hostage crisis. It was brokered by the Algerian government. The U.S. committed itself in the Algeria Declaration to refrain from interference in Iranian internal affairs and to lift trade sanctions on Iran and a freeze on Iranian assets.

The warmongers have no more of a plan for “regime change” in Iran than they had in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya or Syria. European allies, whom Trump alienated when he walked away from the Iranian nuclear agreement, are in no mood to cooperate with Washington. The Pentagon, even if it wanted to, does not have the hundreds of thousands of troops it would need to attack and occupy Iran. And the idea — pushed by lunatic fringe figures like Bolton and Giuliani — that the marginal and discredited Iranian resistance group Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), which fought alongside Saddam Hussein in the war against Iran and is viewed by most Iranians as composed of traitors, is a viable counterforce to the Iranian government is ludicrous.

In all these equations the 80 million people in Iran are ignored just as the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria were ignored. Perhaps they would not welcome a war with the United States. Perhaps if attacked they would resist. Perhaps they don’t want to be occupied. Perhaps a war with Iran would be interpreted throughout the region as a war against Shiism. But these are calculations that the ideologues, who know little about the instrument of war and even less about the cultures or peoples they seek to dominate, are unable to fathom.

“The Middle East has many problems: insecurity, instability, problems with natural resources such as water, etc.,” Khoshroo said. “All of these problems have been made worse by foreign intervention as well as Israel’s lawlessness. The issue of Palestine is at the heart of turmoil in the Middle East for Muslims. Any delay in finding solutions to these wounds in the Middle East exposes this region to more dangerous threats. Americans say they want the Middle East to be free from violent extremism, but this will only happen when the Middle East is free from occupation and foreign intervention. The Americans are selling their weapons throughout the Middle East. They calculate how much money they can earn from destruction. They don’t care about human beings. They don’t care about security or democratic process or political process. This is worrisome.”

“What are the results of American policies in the Middle East?” he asked. “All of the American allies in the region are in turmoil. Only Iran is secure and stable. Why is this the case? Why, during the last 40 years, has Iran been stable? Is it because Iran has no relationship with America? Why is there hostility between Iran and America? Can’t the Americans see that Iran’s stability is important for the region? We are surrounded by Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen. What good would come from destabilizing Iran? What would America get out of that?”

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Dysfunctional Economics

 

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Critique of Liberals

Note from TBPR Editor: Does this conservative make some valid points?

Liberals, You’re Not as Smart as You Think

By Gerard Alexander/ New York Times/ May 12, 2018

Mr. Alexander is a professor of political science at the University of Virginia.

I know many liberals, and two of them really are my best friends. Liberals make good movies and television shows. Their idealism has been an inspiration for me and many others. Many liberals are very smart. But they are not as smart, or as persuasive, as they think.

And a backlash against liberals — a backlash that most liberals don’t seem to realize they’re causing — is going to get President Trump re-elected.

People often vote against things instead of voting for them: against ideas, candidates and parties. Democrats, like Republicans, appreciate this whenever they portray their opponents as negatively as possible. But members of political tribes seem to have trouble recognizing that they, too, can push people away and energize them to vote for the other side. Nowhere is this more on display today than in liberal control of the commanding heights of American culture.

Take the past few weeks. At the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in Washington, the comedian Michelle Wolf landed some punch lines that were funny and some that weren’t. But people reacted less to her talent and more to the liberal politics that she personified. For every viewer who loved her Trump bashing, there seemed to be at least one other put off by the one-sidedness of her routine. Then, when Kanye West publicly rethought his ideological commitments, prominent liberals criticized him for speaking on the topic at all. Maxine Waters, a Democratic congresswoman from California, remarked that “sometimes Kanye West talks out of turn” and should “maybe not have so much to say.”

Liberals dominate the entertainment industry, many of the most influential news sources and America’s universities. This means that people with progressive leanings are everywhere in the public eye — and are also on the college campuses attended by many people’s children or grandkids. These platforms come with a lot of power to express values, confer credibility and celebrity and start national conversations that others really can’t ignore.

But this makes liberals feel more powerful than they are. Or, more accurately, this kind of power is double-edged. Liberals often don’t realize how provocative or inflammatory they can be. In exercising their power, they regularly not only persuade and attract but also annoy and repel.

In fact, liberals may be more effective at causing resentment than in getting people to come their way. I’m not talking about the possibility that jokes at the 2011 correspondents’ association dinner may have pushed Mr. Trump to run for president to begin with. I mean that the “army of comedy” that Michael Moore thought would bring Mr. Trump down will instead be what builds him up in the minds of millions of voters.

Consider some ways liberals have used their cultural prominence in recent years. They have rightly become more sensitive to racism and sexism in American society. News reports, academic commentary and movies now regularly relate accounts of racism in American history and condemn racial bigotry. These exercises in consciousness-raising and criticism have surely nudged some Americans to rethink their views, and to reflect more deeply on the status and experience of women and members of minority groups in this country.

But accusers can paint with very wide brushes. Racist is pretty much the most damning label that can be slapped on anyone in America today, which means it should be applied firmly and carefully. Yet some people have cavalierly leveled the charge against huge numbers of Americans — specifically, the more than 60 million people who voted for Mr. Trump.

In their ranks are people who sincerely consider themselves not bigoted, who might be open to reconsidering ways they have done things for years, but who are likely to be put off if they feel smeared before that conversation even takes place.

It doesn’t help that our cultural mores are changing rapidly, and we rarely stop to consider this. Some liberals have gotten far out ahead of their fellow Americans but are nonetheless quick to criticize those who haven’t caught up with them.

Within just a few years, many liberals went from starting to talk about microaggressions to suggesting that it is racist even to question whether microaggressions are that important. “Gender identity disorder” was considered a form of mental illness until recently, but today anyone hesitant about transgender women using the ladies’ room is labeled a bigot. Liberals denounce “cultural appropriation” without, in many cases, doing the work of persuading people that there is anything wrong with, say, a teenager not of Chinese descent wearing a Chinese-style dress to prom or eating at a burrito cart run by two non-Latino women.

Pressing a political view from the Oscar stage, declaring a conservative campus speaker unacceptable, flatly categorizing huge segments of the country as misguided — these reveal a tremendous intellectual and moral self-confidence that smacks of superiority. It’s one thing to police your own language and a very different one to police other people’s. The former can set an example. The latter is domineering.

This judgmental tendency became stronger during the administration of President Barack Obama, though not necessarily because of anything Mr. Obama did. Feeling increasingly emboldened, liberals were more convinced than ever that conservatives were their intellectual and even moral inferiors. Discourses and theories once confined to academia were transmitted into workaday liberal political thinking, and college campuses — which many take to be what a world run by liberals would look like — seemed increasingly intolerant of free inquiry.

It was during these years that the University of California included the phrase “America is the land of opportunity” on a list of discouraged microaggressions. Liberal politicians portrayed conservative positions on immigration reform as presumptively racist; Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, once dubiously claimed that she had heard Republicans tell Irish visitors that “if it was you,” then immigration reform “would be easy.”

When Mr. Obama remarked, behind closed doors, during the presidential campaign in 2008, that Rust Belt voters “get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them,” it mattered not so much because he said it but because so many listeners figured that he was only saying what liberals were really thinking.

These are the sorts of events conservatives think of when they sometimes say, “Obama caused Trump.” Many liberals might interpret that phrase to mean that America’s first black president brought out the worst in some people. In this view, not only might liberals be unable to avoid provoking bigots, it’s not clear they should even try. After all, should they not have nominated and elected Mr. Obama? Should they regret doing the right thing just because it provoked the worst instincts in some people?

This is a limited view of the situation. Even if liberals think their opponents are backward, they don’t have to gratuitously drive people away, including voters who cast ballots once or even twice for Mr. Obama before supporting Mr. Trump in 2016.

Champions of inclusion can watch what they say and explain what they’re doing without presuming to regulate what words come out of other people’s mouths. Campus activists can allow invited visitors to speak and then, after that event, hold a teach-in discussing what they disagree with. After the Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that states had to allow same-sex marriage, the fight, in some quarters, turned to pizza places unwilling to cater such weddings. Maybe don’t pick that fight?

People determined to stand against racism can raise concerns about groups that espouse hate and problems like the racial achievement gap in schools without smearing huge numbers of Americans, many of whom might otherwise be Democrats by temperament.

Liberals can act as if they’re not so certain — and maybe actually not be so certain — that bigotry motivates people who disagree with them on issues like immigration. Without sacrificing their principles, liberals can come across as more respectful of others. Self-righteousness is rarely attractive, and even more rarely rewarded.

 

Self-righteousness can also get things wrong. Especially with the possibility of Mr. Trump’s re-election, many liberals seem primed to write off nearly half the country as irredeemable. Admittedly, the president doesn’t make it easy. As a candidate, Mr. Trump made derogatory comments about Mexicans, and as president described some African countries with a vulgar epithet. But it is an unjustified leap to conclude that anyone who supports him in any way is racist, just as it would be a leap to say that anyone who supported Hillary Clinton was racist because she once made veiled references to “superpredators.”

Liberals are trapped in a self-reinforcing cycle. When they use their positions in American culture to lecture, judge and disdain, they push more people into an opposing coalition that liberals are increasingly prone to think of as deplorable. That only validates their own worst prejudices about the other America.

Those prejudices will be validated even more if Mr. Trump wins re-election in 2020, especially if he wins a popular majority. That’s not impossible: The president’s current approval ratings are at 42 percent, up from just a few months ago.

Liberals are inadvertently making that outcome more likely. It’s not too late to stop.

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THE COMING COLLAPSE

By Chris Hedges/ Truthdig/ May 21, 2018

Donald Trump is the result of a long process of political, cultural and social decay. He is a product of our failed democracy. The longer we perpetuate the fiction that we live in a functioning democracy, that Trump and the political mutations around him are somehow an aberrant deviation that can be vanquished in the next election, the more we will hurtle toward tyranny.

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The Trump administration did not rise, prima facie, like Venus on a half shell from the sea. Donald Trump is the result of a long process of political, cultural and social decay. He is a product of our failed democracy. The longer we perpetuate the fiction that we live in a functioning democracy, that Trump and the political mutations around him are somehow an aberrant deviation that can be vanquished in the next election, the more we will hurtle toward tyranny. The problem is not Trump. It is a political system, dominated by corporate power and the mandarins of the two major political parties, in which we don’t count. We will wrest back political control by dismantling the corporate state, and this means massive and sustained civil disobedience, like that demonstrated by teachers around the country this year. If we do not stand up we will enter a new dark age.

The Democratic Party, which helped build our system of inverted totalitarianism, is once again held up by many on the left as the savior. Yet the party steadfastly refuses to address the social inequality that led to the election of Trump and the insurgency by Bernie Sanders. It is deaf, dumb and blind to the very real economic suffering that plagues over half the country. It will not fight to pay workers a living wage. It will not defy the pharmaceutical and insurance industries to provide Medicare for all. It will not curb the voracious appetite of the military that is disemboweling the country and promoting the prosecution of futile and costly foreign wars. It will not restore our lost civil liberties, including the right to privacy, freedom from government surveillance, and due process. It will not get corporate and dark money out of politics. It will not demilitarize our police and reform a prison system that has 25 percent of the world’s prisoners although the United States has only 5 percent of the world’s population. It plays to the margins, especially in election seasons, refusing to address substantive political and social problems and instead focusing on narrow cultural issues like gay rights, abortion and gun control in our peculiar species of anti-politics.

This is a doomed tactic, but one that is understandable. The leadership of the party, the Clintons, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Tom Perez, are creations of corporate America. In an open and democratic political process, one not dominated by party elites and corporate money, these people would not hold political power. They know this. They would rather implode the entire system than give up their positions of privilege. And that, I fear, is what will happen. The idea that the Democratic Party is in any way a bulwark against despotism defies the last three decades of its political activity. It is the guarantor of despotism.

Trump has tapped into the hatred that huge segments of the American public have for a political and economic system that has betrayed them. He may be inept, degenerate, dishonest and a narcissist, but he adeptly ridicules the system they despise. His cruel and demeaning taunts directed at government agencies, laws and the established elites resonate with people for whom these agencies, laws and elites have become hostile forces. And for many who see no shift in the political landscape to alleviate their suffering, Trump’s cruelty and invective are at least cathartic.

Trump, like all despots, has no ethical core. He chooses his allies and appointees based on their personal loyalty and fawning obsequiousness to him. He will sell anyone out. He is corrupt, amassing money for himself–he made $40 million from his Washington, D.C., hotel alone last year–and his corporate allies. He is dismantling government institutions that once provided some regulation and oversight. He is an enemy of the open society. This makes him dangerous. His turbocharged assault on the last vestiges of democratic institutions and norms means there will soon be nothing, even in name, to protect us from corporate totalitarianism.

But the warnings from the architects of our failed democracy against creeping fascism, Madeleine Albright among them, are risible. They show how disconnected the elites have become from the zeitgeist. None of these elites have credibility. They built the edifice of lies, deceit and corporate pillage that made Trump possible. And the more Trump demeans these elites, and the more they cry out like Cassandras, the more he salvages his disastrous presidency and enables the kleptocrats pillaging the country as it swiftly disintegrates.

The press is one of the principal pillars of Trump’s despotism. It chatters endlessly like 17th-century courtiers at the court of Versailles about the foibles of the monarch while the peasants lack bread. It drones on and on and on about empty topics such as Russian meddling and a payoff to a porn actress that have nothing to do with the daily hell that, for many, defines life in America. It refuses to critique or investigate the abuses by corporate power, which has destroyed our democracy and economy and orchestrated the largest transfer of wealth upward in American history. The corporate press is a decayed relic that, in exchange for money and access, committed cultural suicide. And when Trump attacks it over “fake news,” he expresses, once again, the deep hatred of all those the press ignores. The press worships the idol of Mammon as slavishly as Trump does. It loves the reality-show presidency. The press, especially the cable news shows, keeps the lights on and the cameras rolling so viewers will be glued to a 21st-century version of “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.” It is good for ratings. It is good for profits. But it accelerates the decline.

All this will soon be compounded by financial collapse. Wall Street banks have been handed $16 trillion in bailouts and other subsidies by the Federal Reserve and Congress at nearly zero percent interest since the 2008 financial collapse. They have used this money, as well as the money saved through the huge tax cuts imposed last year, to buy back their own stock, raising the compensation and bonuses of their managers and thrusting the society deeper into untenable debt peonage. Sheldon Adelson’s casino operations alone got a $670 million tax break under the 2017 legislation. The ratio of CEO to worker pay now averages 339 to 1, with the highest gap approaching 5,000 to 1. This circular use of money to make and hoard money is what Karl Marx called “fictitious capital.” The steady increase in public debt, corporate debt, credit card debt and student loan debt will ultimately lead, as Nomi Prins writes, to “a tipping point — when money coming in to furnish that debt, or available to borrow, simply won’t cover the interest payments. Then debt bubbles will pop, beginning with higher yielding bonds.”

An economy reliant on debt for its growth causes our interest rate to jump to 28 percent when we are late on a credit card payment. It is why our wages are stagnant or have declined in real terms — if we earned a sustainable income we would not have to borrow money to survive. It is why a university education, houses, medical bills and utilities cost so much. The system is designed so we can never free ourselves from debt.

However, the next financial crash, as Prins points out in her book “Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World,” won’t be like the last one. This is because, as she says, “there is no Plan B.” Interest rates can’t go any lower. There has been no growth in the real economy. The next time, there will be no way out. Once the economy crashes and the rage across the country explodes into a firestorm, the political freaks will appear, ones that will make Trump look sagacious and benign.

And so, to quote Vladimir Lenin, what must be done?

We must invest our energy in building parallel, popular institutions to protect ourselves and to pit power against power. These parallel institutions, including unions, community development organizations, local currencies, alternative political parties and food cooperatives, will have to be constructed town by town. The elites in a time of distress will retreat to their gated compounds and leave us to fend for ourselves. Basic services, from garbage collection to public transportation, food distribution and health care, will collapse. Massive unemployment and underemployment, triggering social unrest, will be dealt with not through government job creation but the brutality of militarized police and a complete suspension of civil liberties. Critics of the system, already pushed to the margins, will be silenced and attacked as enemies of the state.

The last vestiges of labor unions will be targeted for abolition, a process that will soon be accelerated given the expected ruling in a case before the Supreme Court that will cripple the ability of public-sector unions to represent workers. The dollar will stop being the world’s reserve currency, causing a steep devaluation. Banks will close. Global warming will extract heavier and heavier costs, especially on the coastal populations, farming and the infrastructure, costs that the depleted state will be unable to address. The corporate press, like the ruling elites, will go from burlesque to absurdism, its rhetoric so patently fictitious it will, as in all totalitarian states, be unmoored from reality. The media outlets will all sound as fatuous as Trump. And, to quote W.H. Auden, “the little children will die in the streets.”

As a foreign correspondent I covered collapsed societies, including the former Yugoslavia. It is impossible for any doomed population to grasp how fragile the decayed financial, social and political system is on the eve of implosion. All the harbingers of collapse are visible: crumbling infrastructure; chronic underemployment and unemployment; the indiscriminate use of lethal force by police; political paralysis and stagnation; an economy built on the scaffolding of debt; nihilistic mass shootings in schools, universities, workplaces, malls, concert venues and movie theaters; opioid overdoses that kill some 64,000 people a year; an epidemic of suicides; unsustainable military expansion; gambling as a desperate tool of economic development and government revenue; the capture of power by a tiny, corrupt clique; censorship; the physical diminishing of public institutions ranging from schools and libraries to courts and medical facilities; the incessant bombardment by electronic hallucinations to divert us from the depressing sight that has become America and keep us trapped in illusions.

We suffer the usual pathologies of impending death. I would be happy to be wrong. But I have seen this before. I know the warning signs. All I can say is get ready.

decline

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