WHY THEY LOVE TRUMP

Trump is doing exactly what his supporters expect him to do

By Neil Steinberg/ Chicago Sun-Times/ July 18, 2017

Ah. Now I see. Finally, finally I get Donald Trump. It all makes sense to me now.

Took long enough.

He has been president for nearly six months — the grim half-year anniversary is Thursday — all the while I, along with the rest of the mainstream media, have been baffled, thickly pointing our trembling index fingers at all the promises he repeatedly made and then glibly broke. There would be no border wall, never mind one paid for by Mexico. No overturning Obamacare. No infrastructure renewal. Coal’s still dead, manufacturing still sputtering.

But when we document this to his supporters, they don’t care. They just shake their head and smile, or rather, sneer, pityingly at us, the lamestream media. “Sad!” they mocked, echoing their hero. They still love him.

How can this be? It’s easy to dismiss them as dupes, as ripped off, gulled, credulous marks who, pockets turned inside out, would rather hold tight to a fantasy than confront a difficult truth. And I did that for a while. But as the months clock on, castigation seems too simple. Too easy. Dismissing the other guys as mere idiots is what Republicans do. It makes a person feel good, perhaps, but leads nowhere. An empty high.

So I looked again. And realized that in one realm, Trump constantly and consistently delivers: invective, a steady stream of insult, against the media, against politicians like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, against elites and whatever unlucky individual falls under his basilisk gaze. Machine-gun chatter of “Disaster!”  Funny nicknames and repeated fabrications. This isn’t the sideshow. It’s the main act. Not a flaw but a feature.

That’s why he was elected. Donald the Destroyer, the scourge of liberals. And that dynamic makes perfect sense. The game was up, the world trotting toward its future. Part of the liberal miracle over the past 60 years is to take marginalized people — minorities, gays, women — and invite them into the tent. Good for them, bad for people who used to own the tent and now feel threatened by these interlopers. What about their hopes and dreams, of a white America that manufactures stuff out of iron? They were not going to be ignored.

So they elected Trump, to flay the infidels. They’ll hate me for saying it, but there’s a clear parallel between right-wing America and radical Islam. Both see themselves mooted by a world they can only lash out at as it flies by. Both spend their lives bitterly resenting who they aren’t rather than joyously being who they are. If you think America should be frozen in 1953, with Hispanic serfs hidden back in the kitchen, what do you do? The same as if you think any woman who isn’t veiled is a whore: extract vengeance.

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Trump never has to create a job or lay a brick. All he has to do is say he will, any moment now, and keep a constant bead on those already long demonized by Fox and Friends. The soil was prepared for him, turned and broken and fertilized. Ready for Trump to bloom.

The media has been slow to catch on. We are used to it playing news certain way — we keep reporting each new development in the Russian scandal, not realizing that Trump’s shape-shifting supporters simply morph. Big thumbs up to Putin and the Russian Federation, our new best friend in the world.

Then again, the media always tends to lag; newspapers still create a product out of mashed wood pulp that is thrown at customers houses every morning. We still print comic strips. If a giant meteor were discovered that would end the world tomorrow afternoon, we’d report it on the front page but the baseball schedule for the rest of the week would still be in the sports pages. Slow on the uptake.

And what would that headline be? “Earth to end today.” Too weak. “Rock shock!” Better, but a bit New York Post-y. “WE’RE DOOMED!” feels about right, though we might want to save that one for Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020.

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The Sorry Plight of the Worker

A 21st-Century Form of Indentured Servitude Has Already Penetrated Deep into the American Heartland

Corporations want to make sure that laborers never again have the power to tell big business how to treat them.

By Thom Hartmann/ AlterNet/ July 17,2017

Indentured servitude is back in a big way in the United States, and conservative corporatists want to make sure that labor never, ever again has the power to tell big business how to treat them.

Idaho [3], for example, recently passed a law that recognizes and rigorously enforces non-compete agreements in employment contracts, which means that if you want to move to a different, more highly paid, or better job, you can instead get wiped out financially by lawsuits and legal costs.

In a way, conservative/corporatists are just completing the circle back to the founding of this country.

Indentured servitude began in a big way in the early 1600s, when the British East India Company was establishing a beachhead [4] in the (newly stolen from the Indians) state of Virginia (named after the “virgin queen” Elizabeth I, who signed the charter of the BEIC creating the first modern corporation in 1601). Jamestown (named after King James, who followed Elizabeth I to the crown) wanted free labor, and the African slave trade wouldn’t start to crank up for another decade.

So the company made a deal with impoverished Europeans: Come to work for typically 4-7 years (some were lifetime indentures, although those were less common), legally as the property of the person or company holding your indenture, and we’ll pay for your transport across the Atlantic.

It was, at least philosophically, the logical extension of the feudal economic and political system that had ruled Europe for over 1,000 years. The rich have all the rights and own all the property; the serfs are purely exploitable free labor who could be disposed of (indentured servants [5], like slaves, were commonly whipped, hanged, imprisoned, or killed when they rebelled or were not sufficiently obedient).

This type of labor system has been the dream of conservative/corporatists, particularly since the “Reagan Revolution” kicked off a major federal war on the right of workers to organize for their own protection from corporate abuse.

Unions represented almost a third of American workers [6] when Reagan came into office (and, since union jobs set local labor standards, for every union job there was typically an identically-compensated non-union job, meaning about two-thirds of America had the benefits and pay associated with union jobs pre-Reagan).

Thanks to Reagan’s war on labor, today unions represent about 6 percent of the non-government workforce.

But that wasn’t enough for the acolytes of Ayn Rand, Ronald Reagan and Milton Friedman. They didn’t just want workers to lose their right to collectively bargain; they wanted employers to functionally own their employees.

Prior to the current Reaganomics era, non-compete agreements were pretty much limited to senior executives and scientists/engineers.

If you were a CEO or an engineer for a giant company, knowing all their processes, secrets and future plans, that knowledge had significant and consequential value—company value worth protecting with a contract that said you couldn’t just take that stuff to a competitor without either a massive payment to the left-behind company or a flat-out lawsuit.

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But should a guy who digs holes with a shovel or works on a drilling rig [7] be forced to sign a non-compete? What about a person who flips burgers or waits tables in a restaurant? Or the few factory workers we have left, since neoliberal trade policies have moved the jobs of tens of thousands of companies [8] overseas?

Turns out corporations are using non-competes to prevent even these types of employees from moving to newer or better jobs.

America today has the lowest minimum wage in nearly 50 years [9], adjusted for inflation. As a result, people are often looking for better jobs. But according to the New York Times [7], about 1 in 5 American workers is now locked in with a non-compete clause in an employment contract.

Before Reaganomics, employers didn’t keep their employees by threatening them with lawsuits; instead, they offered them benefits like insurance, paid vacations and decent wages. Large swaths of American workers could raise a family and have a decent retirement with a basic job ranging from manufacturing to construction to service industry work.

My dad [10] was one of them; he worked 40 years in a tool-and-die shop, and the machinist’s union made sure he could raise and put through school four boys, could take 2-3 weeks of paid vacation every year, and had full health insurance and a solid retirement until the day he died, which continued with my mom until she died years later. Most boomers (particularly white boomers) can tell you the same story.

That America has been largely destroyed by Reaganomics, and Americans know it. It’s why when Donald Trump told voters that the big corporations and banksters were screwing them, they voted for him and his party (not realizing that neither Trump nor the GOP had any intention of doing anything to help working people).

And now the conservatives/corporatists are going in for the kill, for their top goal: the final destruction of any remnant of labor rights in America.

Why would they do this? Two reasons: An impoverished citizenry is a politically impotent citizenry, and in the process of destroying the former middle class, the 1 percent make themselves trillions of dollars richer. 

The New York Times has done some great reporting on this problem, with an article last May [7] and a more recent piece [11] about how the state of Idaho has made it nearly impossible for many workers to escape their servitude.

Historically, indentured servants had their food, health care, housing, and clothing provided to them by their “employers.” Today’s new serfs can hardly afford these basics of life, and when you add in modern necessities like transportation, education and child-care, the American labor landscape is looking more and more like old-fashioned servitude.

Nonetheless, conservatives/corporatists in Congress and state-houses across the nation are working hard to hold down minimum wages. Missouri’s Republican legislature just made it illegal for St. Louis to raise their minimum wage to $10/hour, throwing workers back down to $7.70. More preemption laws [12] like this are on the books or on their way.

At the same time, these conservatives/corporatists are working to roll back health care protections for Americans, roll back environmental protections that keep us and our children from being poisoned, and even roll back simple workplace, food and toy safety standards.

The only way these predators will be stopped is by massive political action leading to the rollback of Reaganism/neoliberalism.

And the conservatives/corporatists who largely own the Republican Party know it, which is why they’re purging voting lists [13], fighting to keep in place easily hacked voting machines [14], and throwing billions of dollars into think tanks, right-wing radio, TV, and online media.

If they succeed, America will revert to a very old form of economy and politics: the one described so well in Charles Dickens’ books when Britain had “maximum wage laws [15]” and “Poor Laws” to prevent a strong and politically active middle class from emerging.

Conservatives/corporatists know well that this type of neo-feudalism [16] is actually a very stable political and economic system, and one that’s hard to challenge. China has put it into place in large part, and other countries from Turkey to the Philippines to Brazil and Venezuela are falling under the thrall of the merger of corporate and state power.

So many of our individual rights have been stripped [17] from us, so much of America’s middle-class progress in the last century has been torn from us [18], while conservatives wage a brutal and oppressive war on dissenters and people of color under the rubrics of “security,” “tough on crime,” and the “war on drugs.”

As a result, America has 5 percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of the world’s prisoners [19], more than any other nation on earth, all while opiate epidemics are ravaging our nation. And what to do about it?

Scientists have proven that the likelihood the desires of the bottom 90 percent of Americans get enacted into law are now equal to statistical “random noise [20].” Functionally, most of us no longer have any real representation in state or federal legislative bodies: they now exist almost exclusively to serve the very wealthy.

The neo-feudal corporate/conservative elite are both politically and financially committed to replacing the last traces of worker power in America with a modern system of indentured servitude.

Only serious and committed political action can reverse this; we’re long past the point where complaining or sitting on the sidelines is an option.

As both Bernie Sanders and Barack Obama regularly said (and I’ve closed my radio show for 14 years with), “Democracy is not a spectator sport.”

Tag, you’re it.  

 

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and author of over 25 books in print [21]. 

 

Posted in corporations, economy, government, inequality, labor, politics | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

You Will Never Get Your Country Back

By Michael Starr Hopkins/ HuffPost/ July 6, 2017

I have spent much of my time writing for this publication talking about how complicated our politics are. Talking about the dangers of failing to acknowledge our complicated history and the need to be honest and open about how to move our country forward.

My need to bridge the divide is a product of having spent my entire life trying to see both sides of the argument. Trying to not fall into the trap of absolutes. Refusing to accept that the world we live in exists only in black and white. Doing my best to show my country that we could be more than the very things that separate us. At some point, enough is enough though. At some point, I can’t be a consensus builder. At some point, even I run out of excuses and explanations for people who can’t even be honest with themselves.

I’m a black man in America with graduate degrees on top of graduate degrees. I feel just as comfortable at a country concert as I do at a rap concert. My friends look like the big box of crayons and my family looks like the United Nations. I am the walking embodiment of this country’s progress, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit by silently and watch us go backwards. The costs are too high.

To the supporters and enablers of President Trump: please read carefully, because I don’t want you to miss a single word. You will never get your country back because it was never yours to have in the first place. America doesn’t belong to any one person. It belongs to Muslims in Detroit, Christians in Lubbock, Jews in New York City, and atheists in Los Angeles.

America belongs to Republicans just as much as America belongs to Democrats. That’s how these UNITED States work. To the uninformed and incompetent former mayor from Alaska, the knuckle-dragging bigot masquerading as a special advisor, and the race-baiting failure of a president that currently have the loudest voices in the Republican Party, you do not have a monopoly on this great country. You never will.

What’s ironic is that my family has been here a lot longer than many of the same people who claim to serve the “real America.” When did your family arrive here, Mr. President? I can trace my family lineage back to our nation’s original sin, but I still love this country more and more each day. In spite of its flaws, I love this country. In spite of the inequality and pockmarks, I love this country. In spite of all those that question my place in this country, I still love this country. This is just as much my country as anyone else’s. I still get goosebumps when the national anthem plays before football games and I still tear up when I hear stories of bravery and valor from our troops.

(And in case there was any confusion, our military isn’t some monolithic group of made up individuals that disappear as soon as we take our hand off of our hearts, it’s made up of real Americans of all races, religions, and beliefs. It’s made up of us.)

It’s easy to wave a flag in the air and call yourself a patriot. It’s easy to put a bumper sticker on your truck. It’s easy to put your hand over your heart and pledge allegiance, but that no more makes you an American than putting on a football helmet makes me Tom Brady. You have to earn it. You have to put in the work.

America is more than just a catchphrase or a collection of colors on a piece of cloth. America means liberty. America means freedom. Being American isn’t just a political term, it’s a way of life. It would serve many enablers and supporters of our President to stop going through the motions of calling themselves an American and ask themselves what it means to actually be an American. I think the term for that is personal responsibility. The time for party politics is over. Your nation, my nation, our nation is under attack. Not just from a foreign entity, but a domestic one as well.

Standing by this president makes you an embarrassment to all that is good in this country. It makes you a stain on the fabric of our nation. It makes you the antithesis of everything that your party purports to stand for. Simply put, it makes you un-American.

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( Why) The Resistance Is Losing

By Umair Haque/ Bad Words/ June 30, 2017

 

The Muslim ban is in effect. The info shock-troops are attacking journalists daily. There are open calls for violence from major national institutions like the NRA. Hate crimes are spiking.

Sorry. But: the resistance is losing. And it is losing badly.

Forgive me. This is going to be a brutal little essay. And it needs a disclaimer. As a brown person, it’s easy for me to be accused of being the enemy. Somehow, we always are. So let’s be clear. I don’t want authoritarianism to win.

And yet it is. How come? Because resistance isn’t nearly enough to defeat authoritarianism. A resistance is not an opposition. What’s the difference? Everything.

Let me give you a small parable.

Today I read a tweet from Jon Favreau. I think he was Obama’s former speechwriter or adviser, at any rate he’s a powerful Democrat. He said (to paraphrase): “the right wing is buying up the media! This is bad guys!”. Sure, it is. Now how are we to “resist” that? We can’t. We can only oppose it — with real policies. Media is a natural monopoly. Natural monopolies tend to be run by cutthroat capitalists. Have you ever heard of a left-wing media acquisition spree? Neither have I. Because of these simple economics, every other rich country in the world has two things. One, strong media antitrust laws. Two, strong public media, like the BBC or CBC. Without those, media naturally, inevitably, inescapably becomes monopoly, and monopoly soon enough becomes the institutional support authoritarians need to rise.

But Obama never backed any of that, did he? The Dems still don’t, do they? Resistance isn’t enough.

The question is whether a society can genuinely oppose authoritarianism. With a vibrant and inclusive and strong political opposition. That opposition has to stand for what prevents authoritarianism —what limits, circumscribes, and ultimately conquers it — not merely what resists it. Do you see the difference? Let’s make it clearer.

Authoritarianism rises in societies with broken social contracts, that are failing the average person. That’s America, where average incomes have shrunk in real terms since the 1970s. Broken social contracts reflect failed institutions. They mean that democracy isn’t working — political institutions aren’t working. They mean that real economic value isn’t being created and shared — financial institutions aren’t working. They mean that human potential is stuck and withering — social institutions like media and education and healthcare aren’t working. Thus, a social contract in its entirety comes to be broken.

The question authoritarianism raises is about building working institutions. A resistance is a loose network of people aimed at dissent. But that is not nearly enough to build working banks, corporations, schools, hospitals, and so on. Only a genuine political opposition can do that.

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Let’s make it even clearer.

What does opposition do that resistance doesn’t? It offers a positive agenda for a better social contract, embedded in institutional transformations. Like, for example, everything that Dems don’t ever propose: real universal healthcare, public media, public higher education, debt relief, real safety nets, and so on. A social contract — whole and full and true.

That better social contract is what has a chance — just a chance — to fight authoritarianism. People then have an alternative to the authoritarian demagogue’s anger and rage and fury. Without an alternative what is there but the abyss? More of the same, endlessly? That is why in country after country that has actually defeated authoritarianism, we have seen that it takes a genuine opposition, not just a resistance — whether Burma or Ukraine or even post-war Europe itself. The French resistance might have helped topple Hitler. But what really defeated authoritarianism was an opposition wise and brave enough to offer a better social contract — the EU.

No party or body in the US is offering a better social contract. Nobody. Offering people better healthcare, education, transport, incomes, savings, opportunities, chances to make the most of their inherent human potential. Yes, there’s Bernie. But Bernie proves the point — he’s rejected by all the political, social, and cultural institutions — from political parties to media to universities to schools etc.

There is not a single positive agenda for the American future accepted by its bodies social or politic.

Before you ask me what that looks like, it’s very simple, isn’t it? A Marshall Plan. A New New Deal. New institutions — or rebuilt old ones — that basically do one thing in different ways: invest in human beings at the average. That’s what, for example, the Reconstruction Finance Corporation did during the Depression.

And that is why the resistance is losing. Resistance is fine, nice, good. But it’s not enough once real authoritarianism sets in.

Resistances are needed during war time, when a nation is occupied. They lessen losses — and maybe sometimes they even win wars. But they do not win the peace. Not unless they mature into real oppositions. America is not an occupied nation. It is still some semblance of a democracy, in which a real political opposition is badly, desperately, urgently neeeded.

Umair Haque is the Director of the London-based Havas Media Lab and heads Bubblegeneration, a strategy lab that helps discover strategic innovation. He studies the economics of the future: the impact that new technologies, management innovations, and shifting consumer preferences will exert tomorrow on the industries and markets of today.
Posted in Donald Trump, government, politics, protest | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Is America Past the Point of No Return?

(It may be my imagination, but Thom Hartmann appears to be channeling and expanding on my June 25 Op-Ed…..)

Oligarchs representing monopolistic Big Pharma, Big Banks, and Big Retail/Fast Food are devastating us.

By Thom Hartmann/ AlterNet/ July 4, 2017

Have corporate/billionaire control of our republic reached such a point that it’s no longer reversible? Have we passed the tipping point where democracy dies?

A few years back, on my radio show, President Jimmy Carter said [3] that America, in large part because of Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United, has become “just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery.”  

He’s right. It’s the elephant in the room that everybody, particularly our corporate media, completely ignores.

While Republicans are doing the will of their oligarch owners, replacing [4] real scientists with industry lobbyists and shills everywhere from the White House to congressional science committees to the EPA, the media stubbornly refuses to report in depth on it, preferring instead to following the Worldwide Wrestling moves of our tweeter-in-chief.  

Red-shift [5]“ election fraud (called red because it helps only Republicans) has been flagrantly on display across the country since the privatization of our vote by GOP-leaning voter-machine companies in the 2000-2004 period. GOP voter suppression in nearly 30 states has now been institutionalized with Kris Kobach’s Interstate Crosscheck scam (now a presidential “commission”). Pre-poll and exit-poll results “flipped [6]“ in Georgia’s 6th district in a way that caused us to decry similar vote-rigging in the Ukraine [7] (the result, like in Georgia’s 6th, was measurably off from the exit polls).

Yet in the face of all this, enough to provoke revolution in countries like Egypt and Ukraine, our press instead focuses on the oligarchs’ unproven and well-debunked [8] claim that “illegals” are voting to help Democrats.

While climate change is ravaging the world, the administration of billionaire oligarch Donald Trump has pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate change agreement and is rolling back climate-protecting rules on behalf other oligarchs in the oil, coal and gas business so they can continue to use our atmosphere as a sewer.

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While billionaire-owned Republicans frantically work to roll back the 3.8% tax on investment income (for families with over $250,000 in investment income/year) their oligarch owners so despise, cutting millions of Americans off any hope of affordable healthcare access, the television media usually plays this tax-cut story [9] as if it were about healthcare.

From trying to destroy the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (which has returned to consumers billions of dollars in ill-gotten gains from our country’s banksters), to gutting environmental laws, to preventing students from even declaring bankruptcy when their efforts to join the middle class by going to college don’t work out, the oligarchs who now largely run America are solidifying their power and their wealth.

This is rule by the rich. It’s here. It’s now.

As Vice President Henry Wallace predicted [10] in a prescient New York Times op-ed in 1944:

“They [the super-wealthy] claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest.

“Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.” 

Have they finally reached that goal which, in Wallace’s day, they could only hunger for?

In 1944, the dream of the oligarchs to once again control America the way they did during the Gilded Age of the 1880-’90s was just that, a dream. Wallace’s president, FDR, had called them out, repeatedly, calling them “economic royalists” and damning their efforts to corrupt American democracy.  

“These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America,” Franklin Roosevelt proclaimed in 1936. “What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power.” 

But, he thundered [11] in that speech, “Our allegiance to American institutions requires the overthrow of this kind of power!” 

FDR kept them in check, as did Truman and Eisenhower. The latter, a Republican president who ran for office on the 1952 platform of ending the Korean War (“Vote for peace, vote for Eisenhower” said the TV ads), even wrote to his right-wing brother [12], Edgar Eisenhower, about the very wealthy oil oligarchs who wanted to end the American experiment of a strong middle class:  

“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.”

That was back when Eisenhower/Nixon ran for re-election in 1956 on a platform [13] of having expanded Social Security, increased union membership, raised taxes on rich people, and built thousands of miles of freeway, hundreds of schools and hospitals, and radically increased funding for public education.

It all changed in the 1970s. As I outline in detail in my book The Crash of 2016 [14], the modern oligarchic takeover of America began in a serious way in 1971 when Lewis Powell outlined in a memo how the very, very wealthy and corporate America should launch a massive, well-funded program to take over American media, takeover our schools and colleges, takeover our courts, takeover our economy, and ultimately take over every branch of our government.

In 1976, Powell had his chance to put it all in motion in a big way.  From 1776 until 1976, giving money to politicians in exchange for political favors had been considered a behavior (and often considered a corrupt behavior) that could be regulated by government.  

But in the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo Supreme Court decision, Powell, who had been put on the court by Richard Nixon in 1972, wrote that giving money to politicians wasn’t a “behavior” subject to regulation, but, instead, was merely an “exercise in free speech.” Free speech protected by the First Amendment.

This major rewrite of American law, sweeping in its breadth and reach, has echoed forward into our time with Citizens United and McCutcheon, among others. The result is that today right-wing billionaires not only own Fox and much of the rest of our media, but they are also largely determining the result of our elections.

In the 2016 election cycle, just the Koch network pledged over $800 million to elect billionaire-friendly Republicans. They succeeded, taking the House and the Senate, and with the efforts of their pliant shill Mitch McConnell, in blocking President Obama’s middle-of-the-road SCOTUS nominee, Merrick Garland, from ever taking his rightful seat on the court. It’s reported that they’re planning to “invest” $400 billion, more or less, over the next 16 months.

Neil Gorsuch is more hostile to the interest of working-class Americans, minorities and traditional American egalitarian values than any member of the Court since the Lochner era. Billionaire-funded right-wing judicial groups like the Federalist Society are salivating at the chance to replace Anthony Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, cementing their control of the Court for as much as the next two generations.

This is the greatest crisis for democracy since Henry Wallace’s era during World War II. Similar assaults against democracy are taking place all over the world, from Poland to Hungary to the Phillippines. 

Will America see its way back to the expressed values of this country’s founding? Having used those values as a guidepost, we’ve ended slavery, enfranchised women and created a social safety net that, at least until the era of Reagan, was still capable of offering life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to working American citizens.  

Now, instead, we’re seeing the values expressed by the dark underbelly of the American Revolution—the oligarchs who owned plantations in the South—ascendant.  

Violent policing, more people in prison than any other country on earth, and the destruction of competition and entrepreneurial opportunity by monopoly are all the new normal. Corporate power is now being used not just to advocate for corporate interests, but to prop up faux populists like Trump and Scott Walker.

The effort, launched in the wake of the Brown v Board decision in 1954 (as so brilliantly documented by Nancy MacLean in her new book Democracy in Chains [15]), to take over the institutions of American governance has been largely successful. And to solidify their gains, some among the very, very wealthy are aggressively supporting Republican efforts to gerrymander and vote-suppress the Democratic Party into oblivion.  

In Crash, I pointed out how each of our nation’s major reboots (each leading to a huge progressive leap forward) happened after an economic crisis. The economic crisis of 1772 [16] (which led to the Tea Act, and then the American Revolution), the Great Crash of 1856-’57 [17] (which even wiped out Abraham Lincoln and led to the Civil War), and what was then referred to as the Republican Great Depression [18] of the 1930s (which led to World War II) all led to major changes in America.  

Will it take another Great Crash to bring about a reformation of our government? Or have our oligarchs so deeply embedded themselves and their shills into our institutions of government that it’s no longer possible for us to pull back from our headlong rush into neo-feudalism/neo-fascism?

The answer to both questions will probably become evident in the next three years.

But if America is to truly become the land of the free and the home of the brave, a place where any person can make it, a land clean and protected from corporate predation, it’s going to take a massive mobilization of people who currently aren’t even bothering to vote or run for office.

The Republican Party’s behavior today eerily parallels the day in 1936 when Roosevelt said [19], “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.” 

In 1932, the pain from GOP policies was so great that Americans turned out in huge numbers for FDR. Disgust with the Republican embrace of America’s robber barons was so thorough that, outside of 1947-’48, Republicans didn’t hold majority control of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1933 to 1995.  

Today, even the phrases “robber barons” or “economic royalists” are likely to produce a “Huh?” response, particularly among those who watch oligarch billionaire Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News or listen to right-wing hate radio.

Americans are in crisis. From opiates to student loan debt to underemployment, oligarchs representing monopolistic Big Pharma, Big Banks, and Big Retail/Fast Food are devastating us. Our courts are largely taken over by shills loyal to billionaire wealth and corporate power, as have the majority of our state governments. And our land and food supplies are poisoned daily by frakkers, polluters, and agricultural chemical companies.

And our ascendant political party, the GOP, is working as hard as it can to transfer trillions more dollars of wealth from working people to its patrons in the top 1%.

As Eldridge Cleaver said, “There is no more neutrality in the world. You either have to be part of the solution, or you’re going to be part of the problem.”

It’s truer today than ever before. And it’s not like we weren’t warned.

 

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and author of over 25 books in print [20]

 

Posted in America, economy, government, inequality, politics, Republican Party, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Next Stop: Fascism?

Trump and the War on the Media: On the road to Fascism

By  Steven Jonas/ OpEdNews/ July 4, 2017

 

Trump’s attacks on the media are getting evermore virulent. Much is known and has been written about the “what.” Not too much about the “why.” It’s not because Trump is a nut, an ego-maniac, the knowledge-free leader of the most powerful nation on Earth. Yes, he is, but the primary reason for the media-assault is to help pave the way for the establishment of a 21st-century form of fascism in the U.S. The media is the last major institution standing in the Trumpites’ way.

From flickr.com: Fascism is so 1930s. {MID-139072}
Fascism is so 1930s.
(Image by alisdare1)
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In great detail, many have written about the Trumpite’s increasingly ferocious attacks on the media and how horrendous they are, in one sense or another. That is the “what” of this topic. But we also must look at the “why?” Why are the Trumpites doing this? After the election, there were two main sets of institutions that could have stood between the Trumpites and the establishment of some form of 21stcentury fascism, the increasingly obvious principal goal of the Trumpites: the Judiciary and the media (see below). Congress is in their pocket. The public is widely split. With the Republican Senate, the stealing of the Garland seat by Mitch McConnell and 135 Appellate and District Court seats (that Mitch McConnell preserved for Trump to fill), the Judiciary is falling fast. So now the Trumpites are going after the media.

This is happening not because Trump is an ego-maniac (he is, but that’s not the reason). It’s not that he knows nothing but attacking the media gives him something to do (he doesn’t know much, and does have fun doing what he is doing to Joe and Mika et al. But that’s not the reason either). It’s not because he is “crazy.” In my view, this man is crazy like a fox; he knows exactly what he is doing and is delighted to elicit the response he is eliciting. He is indeed the master of not one but two sets of WMD’s. The one here is the Weapons of Mass Distraction. His campaign is indeed helping him rally “his people” to his cause even if they don’t know yet what his cause is and how it will hurt some (his working-class supporters) — but certainly not all (his petit bourgeois supporters) — in the long run. But that’s not its primary purpose either.

The Trumpite attack on the media is rather because to eventually make the US into a fascist country of one form or another (that has yet to be fully defined — but it will be some 21stcentury variantwhich, in this country, will likely be made to appear Constitutional) he must destroy the media. He must get them out of the way. While he himself is a rampant liar,he must get them out of the way. He must destroy their credibility. He must artificially create so much mis-trust in them that many people on the Right (and indeed some on the Left too as they already are) will automatically repeat the Trumpian phrase — “fake news,” “fake news,” over and over again until they actually believe it. It matters not how many lies Trump tells.

In this space, I have written many timesabout Trumpand fascism. Unlike certain other of my colleagues on the Left, I have been convinced that Trump, in practice if not in mind, is a fascist, of the 21stCentury variety. And with Steve Bannon in his ear, Trump does not have to know much, if anything at all, about fascist theory and practice. For Bannon is an acolyte of the Italian post-World War II Mussolini hanger-on Julius Evola. Despite the 20thcentury experience with fascism in many countries around the world in addition to the Big Three World War II Axis Powers — Germany, Italy and Japan — one can add, for example, Spain, Portugal, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, and Hungary —, Evola thought it was just a great system. And so, apparently, does Bannon.

Since Trump ran his companies like a personal fascist empire, from one-man control to a complete disregard for ethics and morality in business, to working around the law as often as he could, and etc., he is the ideal pawn for Bannon and the proto-21stcentury fascists. And he certainly has exhibited fascist/authoritarian wishes/tendencies since he came into office, from the spewing of executive orders to the idiotic scene of having cabinet members bow down to him in allegiance.

In the United States, the economically dominant wing of the ruling class, which rallied around Trump towards the end of the election campaign, apparently feels that things are getting out of control. Life is getting worse for the majority of the U.S. people and, they think, sooner rather than later, that people is going to begin to rise u, they are going to realize that bourgeois democracy and the bourgeois rule of the ruling class simply aren’t working for them anymore. Obviously, although it may not be obvious to many of us, that is what some significant element of the U.S. ruling class has concluded now. Ergo Trump (and Bannon/Evola). And so, what is to be done, by them?

Unlike many political commentators who use the term, I like to define it. In the past, I have offered lengthy definitions of fascism. Here is a more compact one:

Fascism is:

A system of government in service of a capitalist ruling class, which controls all State Power. In that system, there is no separation of the three fundamental governmental areas of authority: executive, legislative, and judicial.

There is full Executive control of all functions of government.

There no body of law, that is a Constitution, standing above the unitary power of the Executive.

There are no fundamental rights, of speech, media, assembly, due process before the law.

There is a single national ideology, enforced by the use of the criminal law.

There is the massive and regular use of hate, fear, racial and religious prejudice, the

Big Lie technique, mob psychology, mob actions and ultimately individual and

collective violence to achieve political and economic ends.

The end of the separation of powers and the ability to ignore the basic concepts of Constitutional government are primary goals of any fascist regime. Trump is an obvious authoritarian who is well on way to doing that. And so, what does Trump have so far to facilitate the passage? A) a compliant Congress, with no indication that the Repubs. Are going to turn against him any time soon. He is accomplishing too much for their mutual bosses. Not through the legislative route of course, but through the demolition of regulation he is achieving one of the two most recurrent Republican goals since the time of Goldwater, with amazing rapidity too. B) He is well on his way to taking over the Federal judiciary, at all three levels: Gorsuch (described by one left-wing critic as “worse than Scalia,” if you can imagine that), whoever is next for the Supreme Court and about 135 Appeals and District Court Federal judges that Mitch McConnell prevented Pres. Obama from appointing. C) They are going after voting rights with a vengeance. They are getting very significant opposition to the Kobach initiative for massive voter fraud/intimidation, (the voting fraud being created by intimidation by the Kobachers who would go after the non-existent variety), but who knows how long that will last.

And then we come once again to the media. As noted, the two most significant hurdles that Trump/Bannon faced for creating a fascist takeover when they came into office were the courts and the media. The courts they have gotten out of the way very quickly. But then: “Adolf Hitler [had] advocated total control of the press for many years before he was elected Fuhrer. Almost immediately after he assumed power in 1932, Hitler began writing new laws and regulations that totally exorcised all freedoms from the German press.” Hitler had had the “Luegenpresse” (the “lying press” [sound familiar?] for years). This is where they are going folks. They want to so denigrate/discredit the media (not theirmedia of course) that when Congress passes the Emergency Powers Act (after McConnell has done away with the filibuster rule for such “emergency” legislation), that Trump will be proposing down-the-line on some pretext or another (who knows how many US lives will be lost in that one) the Courts will not be there to stop him. Only the media would be left. It is this, not simply endless attacks on the mediafor the sake of attacking, that is the goal of the Trumpites. And indeed, some White House aides already think that they are winningthe War on the Media.

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Postscript:

The media attack has another major function, only slightly less important the one described in detail above. It is Trump’s major Weapon of Mass Distraction (also mentioned briefly above). While the War on the Media is underway, full force, all the other wars that Trump is conducting at the same time, foreign and domestic, receive less and less attention. The fact that his Administration is woefully understaffed receives very little attention. The fact that he is engaging in a variety of provocative actionsagainst foreign powers all around the world receives less attention. The fact that a War on the US Poor at many levels is underway receives less attention. His plan for dealing with climate change — make it worse — receives less attention. His wars on public education, on the remaining, tattered, rights of labor, on the regulation of the nuclear energy industry, on the Federal civil service, starting with the EPA, and here’s one egregious instanceat Justice, and so on and so forth — all receive less attention. For good reason. Trump has his own WMD, and uses them with great effectiveness.

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Steven Jonas, MD, MPH, MS is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at StonyBrookMedicine (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 35 books. In addition to his position on OpEdNews as a “Trusted Author,” he is a Senior Editor, Politics, for The Greanville Post; a Contributor for American Politics to The Planetary Movement;a contributor to the “Writing for Godot” section of Reader Supported News; and a contributor to From The G-Man. Furthermore, he is an occasional contributor to BuzzFlash Commentary Headlines and The Harder Stuff. He is also a triathlete (34 seasons, 251 multi-sport races).

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The Death Economy

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THE AMERICAN PEOPLE NEVER WIN–HERE’S WHY

**Headline and first line changed from prior posting

**Headlined at OpEd News, June 28

By Arlen Grossman

There’s a reason most Americans don’t get what they want.

Billionaires and Large Corporations own this country. Period.

They make the rules and reap the benefits. They control the politicians and thus the laws. What they want, they get.

Which is why even though Republicans number between one-quarter and one-third of the electorate, they control the presidency, both houses of Congress, the Supreme Court, and most state governments.

Which is why polls show that even though most Americans want universal health care, more social security, stricter gun laws, stronger environmental laws, more spending on social services and less on the military, they never get them.

The majority of the American people also want debt-free college education for all students, a higher minimum wage, a massive infrastructure spending program, higher taxes on the wealthy, and fair trade that protects American workers and the environment. Those things don’t happen because it doesn’t matter what the people want.

George Carlin summed it up well: “The real owners are the big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions. Forget the politicians, they’re an irrelevancy. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don’t. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything.”

The rich and corporations have always had undue influence in our government. But it was the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision that put the final nail on the coffin of American democracy. That ruling essentially allowed the rich to spend unlimited amounts of money on elections. That made it easy to control politicians and buy elections, thus ensuring they get the laws that benefit them.

Our government is run by legalized bribery, and unless you are wealthy you are out of the game. Republicans especially, but Democrats too, play by these rules.

A 2014 study from Princeton and Northwestern University concluded that the U.S. is dominated by its economic elite. The wealthy dictate national policy, while average Americans are essentially powerless. According to the report: “When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the US political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.”

Meanwhile, the rich keep getting richer, and consequently more powerful. According to The New York Times, the “richest 1 percent in the United States now own more wealth than the bottom 90 percent.”  UC Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez estimates that between 2009 and 2012, the top 1 percent captured 95 percent of total income growth. This country has the highest wealth inequality among industrialized nations, higher than any time since 1928, the year before the Great Stock Market Crash and the beginning of the Great Depression.

How can we change this? It won’t be easy. When conditions get bad enough, and Americans take to the streets in massive numbers, when and if they vote in candidates who believe in grass roots democracy, only then can the system be changed and the views of average Americans matter. That is unlikely to happen anytime soon, because the billionaires and big corporations–who own most of the mass media–like the status quo.

It should be evident to all that America is an oligarchy, a country run by a small group of wealthy individuals. Those who pretend otherwise are not paying attention and deluding themselves. The future of our country, and the world, depends on our finding the path back to democracy. Unfortunately, the obstacles have never been greater.

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Immoral Decisions

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Losing My Religion For Equality

By Jimmy Carter/The Age/ April 27, 2017

Women and girls have been discriminated against for too long in a twisted interpretation of the word of God.

I HAVE been a practising Christian all my life and a deacon and Bible teacher for many years. My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the world. So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the convention’s leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be “subservient” to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.

This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women’s equal rights across the world for centuries.

At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities.

The impact of these religious beliefs touches every aspect of our lives. They help explain why in many countries boys are educated before girls; why girls are told when and whom they must marry; and why many face enormous and unacceptable risks in pregnancy and childbirth because their basic health needs are not met.

religion 
 

In some Islamic nations, women are restricted in their movements, punished for permitting the exposure of an arm or ankle, deprived of education, prohibited from driving a car or competing with men for a job. If a woman is raped, she is often most severely punished as the guilty party in the crime.

The same discriminatory thinking lies behind the continuing gender gap in pay and why there are still so few women in office in the West. The root of this prejudice lies deep in our histories, but its impact is felt every day. It is not women and girls alone who suffer. It damages all of us. The evidence shows that investing in women and girls delivers major benefits for society. An educated woman has healthier children. She is more likely to send them to school. She earns more and invests what she earns in her family.

It is simply self-defeating for any community to discriminate against half its population. We need to challenge these self-serving and outdated attitudes and practices – as we are seeing in Iran where women are at the forefront of the battle for democracy and freedom.

 

I understand, however, why many political leaders can be reluctant about stepping into this minefield. Religion, and tradition, are powerful and sensitive areas to challenge. But my fellow Elders and I, who come from many faiths and backgrounds, no longer need to worry about winning votes or avoiding controversy – and we are deeply committed to challenging injustice wherever we see it.

The Elders are an independent group of eminent global leaders, brought together by former South African president Nelson Mandela, who offer their influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity. We have decided to draw particular attention to the responsibility of religious and traditional leaders in ensuring equality and human rights and have recently published a statement that declares: “The justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority, is unacceptable.”

We are calling on all leaders to challenge and change the harmful teachings and practices, no matter how ingrained, which justify discrimination against women. We ask, in particular, that leaders of all religions have the courage to acknowledge and emphasise the positive messages of dignity and equality that all the world’s major faiths share.

The carefully selected verses found in the Holy Scriptures to justify the superiority of men owe more to time and place – and the determination of male leaders to hold onto their influence – than eternal truths. Similar biblical excerpts could be found to support the approval of slavery and the timid acquiescence to oppressive rulers.

I am also familiar with vivid descriptions in the same Scriptures in which women are revered as pre-eminent leaders. During the years of the early Christian church women served as deacons, priests, bishops, apostles, teachers and prophets. It wasn’t until the fourth century that dominant Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distorted Holy Scriptures to perpetuate their ascendant positions within the religious hierarchy.

The truth is that male religious leaders have had – and still have – an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions – all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views.

OBSERVER

Jimmy Carter was president of the United States from 1977 to 1981.

 
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