It’s Time to Give Socialism a Try

By Elizabeth Bruenig/ Washington Post/ March 6, 2017


In the United States, we’ve arrived at a pair of mutually exclusive convictions: that liberal, capitalist democracies are guaranteed by their nature to succeed and that in our Trumpist moment they seem to be failing in deeply unsettling ways. For liberals — and by this I mean inheritors of the long liberal tradition, not specifically those who might also be called progressives — efforts to square these two notions have typically combined expressions of high anxiety with reassurances that, if we only have the right attitude, everything will set itself aright.

Hanging on and hoping for the best is certainly one approach to rescuing the best of liberalism from its discontents, but my answer is admittedly more ambitious: It’s time to give socialism a try.

Contemporary supporters of liberalism are often subject, I think, to what I call “everyday Fukuyama-ism” — the idea, explicitly stated or not, that the end of the Cold War really signaled the end of history, and that we can only look forward to the unceasing rise of Western-style liberal-democratic capitalism. (As the leftist scholar Mark Fisher recounted: “It’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.”) This assumption is reflected in the blindsided, startled unease of liberals in the era of President Trump: “There are moments when everything I have come to believe in — reasoned deliberation, mutual toleration, liberal democracy, free speech, honesty, decency, and moderation — seem as if they are in eclipse,” Andrew Sullivan recently lamented in New York magazine. “For the foreseeable future, nationalism is likely to remain a defining political force,” Yascha Mounk fretted this weekend in the New York Times; “liberals should strive to make nationalism as inclusive as possible,” he warned. 

Against this backdrop of liberal disquietude, the notion that everything either will be or already is all right, granted the correct attitude —  that “we’re better than this,” as Joe Biden confidently declares on his newly launched political action committee’s website — appears particularly frail. It’s hard to square the late-Obama-era insistence that “America is already great” with the palpable sense that something — in the climate, in the economy, in society, in politics, in the wellspring of American ideas — is going badly wrong. What to do? Sullivan’s solution to liberalism’s peril is contemplative “self-doubt and self-knowledge”; Mounk’s is to “domesticate [nationalism] as best we can.”

But my sense is that while Sullivan, Mounk and all the other concerned liberal observers are right that something is wrong with the state of American liberalism, the problem is much deeper than they allow. I don’t think business-as-usual but better is enough to fix what’s broken here. I think the problem lies at the root of the thing, with capitalism itself.

In fact, both Sullivan’s and Mounk’s complaints — that Americans appear to be isolated, viciously competitive, suspicious of one another and spiritually shallow; and that we are anxiously looking for some kind of attachment to something real and profound in an age of decreasing trust and regard — seem to be emblematic of capitalism, which encourages and requires fierce individualism, self-interested disregard for the other, and resentment of arrangements into which one deposits more than he or she withdraws. (As a business-savvy friend once remarked: Nobody gets rich off of bilateral transactions where everybody knows what they’re doing.) Capitalism is an ideology that is far more encompassing than it admits, and one that turns every relationship into a calculable exchange. Bodies, time, energy, creativity, love — all become commodities to be priced and sold. Alienation reigns. There is no room for sustained contemplation and little interest in public morality; everything collapses down to the level of the atomized individual. 

That capitalism is inimical to the best of liberalism isn’t a new concern: It’s a long-standing critique, present in early socialist thought. That both capitalism and liberal governance have changed since those days without displacing the criticism suggests that it’s true in a foundational way.  

Not to be confused for a totalitarian nostalgist, I would support a kind of socialism that would be democratic and aimed primarily at decommodifying labor, reducing the vast inequality brought about by capitalism, and breaking capital’s stranglehold over politics and culture.

I don’t think that every problem can be traced back to capitalism: There were calamities and injustices long before capital, and I’ll venture to say there will be after. But it seems to me that it’s time for those who expected to enjoy the end of history to accept that, though they’re linked in certain respects, capitalism seems to be at odds with the harmonious, peaceful, stable liberalism of midcentury dreams. I don’t think we’ve reached the end of history yet, which means we still have the chance to shape the future we want. I suggest we take it. 

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It’s Time to Give Socialism a Try

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Foreign Meddling: We Do It, Too

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Our Lowest Priority: People

By Arlen Grossman

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

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

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

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

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



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Has It Gotten This Bad?


  • Trump’s Divide-and-Conquer Strategy

    By Robert Reich/ February 4, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    trump cartoon big


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Nothing could be more dangerous to our democracy and society.


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Electronic Oligarchy

Net Neutrality Means You Can Have The Internet Your Way

By Thom Hartmann/ January 26, 2018



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s no competition there.

*Boldface by TBPR editor

Dave Granlund /

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4th Amendment? What’s That?

Letter in the Sunday Monterey Herald, January 20, 2018

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

–Arlen Grossman


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The Real “Shithole Country”

by Chris Hedges/ Truthdig/ January 14, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dalton wrote:

“The dead are more insolent than ever.

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

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

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

“These days they get ironic
ask questions.

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

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

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

A shithole country depends on your perspective.

economic and strategic interests in the region.

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Time to Overthrow Our Rulers

By Thom Hartmann/ AlterNet/ January 8, 2018


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

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

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

Here’s where we are right now:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As I noted in The Crash of 2016 [10]

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

(To read entire article, click HERE)

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6 Degrees of Vladimir Putin


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